Create Account

Or log in with Facebook


Log in

Or log in with Facebook

More Base Defense, Fewer Subpackages Could Be In Store

By Category

More Base Defense, Fewer Subpackages Could Be In Store

Labeling the defense the Green Bay Packers run as a 3-4 is kind of a misnomer.

They spend far less time in their base defense of three defensive lineman and four linebackers than they do their subpackages, primarily the nickel package where they substitue a defensive lineman to get an extra defensive back on the field.

With high-powered passing offenses dominating the NFL, it's necessary to get more secondary players on the field, but perhaps the Packers did it a little too often in 2011.

It might have been part of the reason they gave up among the most passing yards in NFL history and finished near the bottom of the NFL in sack efficiency.

Of course, with such an explosive offense of their own, giving up yards by the bushel was partially due to teams playing catch-up with the Packers.

Regardless, it looks like changes are in store for the Packers defense, according to head coach Mike McCarthy while meeting with the media at the NFL's owners meeting on Wednesday morning in Palm Beach, Fla.

“I always go back to the fundamentals,” McCarthy told Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “We were not a very good tackling team last year. That will change. Those are the things we’re clearly focused on, situation defense, how much you’re playing base and stuff. There’s a whole list of secondary things we want to change the vision of how we look and how we play. Frankly, we were so explosive on offense, maybe we weren’t ready, maybe we went to too much sub. These are the things we went back to… we played so much sub defense that last couple of years, we’d like to get back to playing more base and doing some of the things this defense was built on.”

The Packers knew heading into the offseason they need help on the front seven on defense, particularly at outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews and on the defensive line where they never could adequately replace the production of Cullen Jenkins who left via free agency to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Those are two positions that are responsible for providing much of the pass rush in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' system.

More active than they've been in free agency in years, the Packers appear to be researching every avenue for help in the front seven.

They signed defensive lineman Daniel Muir to add to the defensive line last week and are courting at least two other free agents.

The Packers had Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove in for a free agent visit last week and will be bringing in New York Giants defensive end Dave Tollefson for a visit beginning on Thursday, according to several media outlets.

That's in addition to flirting with linebacker Manny Lawson before he ultimately decided to re-sign with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The other avenue the Packers have of bolstering their defense is through the Draft in April, and with 12 draft at their disposal, they have plenty of ammunition to add new defensive lineman and linebackers.

Only B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett are sure things to see heavy playing time on the defensive line in Green Bay.

With Mike Neal suspended by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy for the first four games of the 2012 season and Howard Green still unsigned as a free agent, there's an opportunity for any defensive lineman to see plenty of playing time if McCarthy holds true to playing more out of his base 3-4 defense more often.

Players like Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson have been average during their time in Green Bay, although there's always a chance the light bulb will go on as they mature. And perhaps even a player like Lawrence Guy could surprise. Guy was a seventh-round draft choice of the Packers last year who spent the entire year on injured reserve after sustaining a concussion in training camp.

Whether it's the holdovers or the rookies, it appears there will be increased opportunities for defensive linemen in 2012.


  • Like Like
  • 0 points

Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (27) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

Well, there couldn't have been less opportunities for DL and LB's last year. Everyone but Pickett and CM3 sucked so bad all year long that by the 7th game, Capers just threw his hands up in the air and said: "Well, let's try to get 2 turnovers, cause we can't stop anyone any other way."

It was so poor all year. It has to get better, if for no other reason, simply because the odds of two such bad seasons happening consecutively is astronomically low.

cole's picture

This actually leads me to think that even TT can't ignore the gaping holes at DE and OLB, he has to/will draft at least two of each and likely with the first two picks. As much as people say he drafts best value, and maybe he does, it seems that he also fills needs. Clifton retiring (Bulaga), then no answer at LT (Sherrod). No return game (Cobb). Switch to 3-4 (two most critical spots in CM3 and Raji). Favre on the way out (Rodgers).

PackersRS's picture

I don't get this move.

Bearmeat's picture

What move specifically RS?

PackersRS's picture

More base defense when the front 7 is the weakness of the defense, when our LBs don't cover well, when we've had trouble against the passing game, when so many TEs are uncoverable with a LB, and when Woodson is at his best playing nickel.

Bearmeat's picture

I get that RS, but the thing is:

RDE AND ROLB WERE JUST AWFUL LAST YEAR. They couldn't rush the passer. They couldn't cover. They couldn't stop the run.

So Raji got tired b/c of overuse. He tried to do too much. Hawk couldn't get off blocks cause the DL wasn't protecting his lack of speed.

We flat out need more talent in the front 7. And if not talent, than at least capability/bodies.

Didn't have that last year outside of CM3/Pick/Bish.....

But I agree about Wood. He just can't play outside anymore...

CSS's picture

The other reason it doesn't make a lot of sense: There are dozens of pass rushers available in the draft with smaller frames that you can play in nickle and ask them to get up-field, be disruptive.

You can count on one hand (often less) how many legitimate 5 technique lineman there are.

True 3-4 personnel are a rarity. I don't get it either.

philip's picture

"You can count on one hand (often less) how many legitimate 5 technique lineman there are.

True 3-4 personnel are a rarity."

As far as the D-line is concerned, I disagree. Nearly any 4-3 DT can play any position along the DL in the 3-4.

The real rarity are OLBs. It seems very difficult to find tweeners who are explosive enough to rush the passer and agile enough to drop into coverage. For some reason though, teams like Baltimore continue to find these types of guys every year.

PackersRS's picture

"Nearly any 4-3 DT can play any position along the DL in the 3-4."

Just so wrong. Start off that most of the 3-4 (base) ask the DL to play 2 gap, which is COMPLETELY different from playing the one gap most 4-3 defenses use. Not only that, but playing the 0 gap is completely different than any other gap in the line, it requires 330+ pounds (or ridiculous strenght), which most DTs don't have. So is playing the 5 as a 3-4 DE, you're no longer facing the guards and centers, you're working on taller, heavier OTs.

Go ask Warren Sap about it.

I really don't get where this notion that DLinemen are all the same. This is not Madden.

CSS is dead on. We have Watt, Dockett, Ngata, Justin Smith as elite 3-4 DEs, and that's it. Aaron Smith from Pitt was excellent, not to mention Seymour, but one is retired and the other is a full DT.

Finding a guy that can anchor and play 2 gap responsabilities, as well as be able to disrupt and get to the QB playing 1 gap is extremely difficult. Much easier to find a great 4-3 DT than a 3-4 DE.

Oh, and Baltimore plays more 4-3 than 3-4, and they have only 1 good pass rusher outside, Suggs, and he plays more 4-3 DE (under IIRC) than OLB.

lmills's picture

What was the reason behind putting Guy on IR so early last year? Did they know he was going to be a developmental prospect and wasn't going to contribute in year 1 so they stashed him on IR?

Bearmeat's picture

Yep. That, and the fact that he'd shown enough to possibly get poached off of GB's Practice squad.

Hopefully he'll help us out this year.

pkrNboro's picture

His IR was a result of a concussion during camp -- about the same time as Pickett & Saine.

I hope he was "stashed" and not some kind of concussion-prone injury worry -- geez, he didn't even make it to a real game.

pkrNboro's picture

Despite the need at OLB, and if this is not a smoke-screen, then I could see GB picking a DL first -- because they really don't have three starting caliber players on the line.

Walden (as starter) > Wynn, or Wilson (as starter)

cow42's picture


Bearmeat's picture

Could be. We'll see.

If we got Ingram though... I'd be stoked.

pkrNboro's picture

as RS mentions -- Walden's not on the roster at this point.

Time for GB to do that "reach-out" Free Agency thing...

PackersRS's picture

Not the Walden that played against KC.

Besides, Walden is not on the roster.

pkrNboro's picture

Green's not on the roster either -- and as was the case last year, there were some players that were simply never mentioned again. Talk about fading away !

cole's picture

We are one Aldon Smith and one JJ Watt from being dominant again.

PackersRS's picture

So we're far off. Those kind of guys, rookies that make an impact as they did, come around once in a while.

Let alone getting both.

philip's picture

re: PackersRS's reply to my post

you can teach technique. you cannot teach physical frame and body size. i stand by my comments that nearly any 4-3 DT CAN play 3-4 DL. Or better stated, can be TAUGHT to play 3-4 DL. the reason is they have the right body type.

And if you're "working on taller, heavier" O-lineman, that is usually to your advantage. You can get more leverage.

as far as Baltimore is concerned, they play multiple fronts like New England. They have found players for the DL and OLB corps that are scheme versatile. in past years when they ran the 3-4 exclusively, they were always finding guys who could rush the passer at OLB. Now they find guys who play 3-4 DE, 4-3 DE and 3-4 OLB who can rush the passer.

PackersRS's picture

The technique and ability requirements for playing one gap and two gap are completely different. Pickett would be a terrible DT in a wide 9 front, because he can't get to the QB at all, but he's an excellent NT and 3 gap DE in a 3-4, he can take on double teams and hold the point really well.

It's a rarity in the NFL guys that are strong enough to take on double teams and nimble enough to rush 1 gap.

As for Baltimore, they've had Suggs and Jarrett Johnson as the OLBs when they play the 3-4 for a long time (Bart Scott was the OLB in the 4-3 under). Adalius Thomas played before Johnson.

That's it. 3 guys, 1 playing more DE than anything. They did find a good one in Paul Kruger, but overall it's been just 3 guys. Given, good 3 guys (Johnson was never good at rushing the passer).

philip's picture

again, with baltimore, you have a short memory. they were playing 3-4 before it was popular to play 3-4. i'm not talking about stars either, i'm just talking about guys who could get pressure from the OLB spot. we have trouble finding even those guys.

I understand your point about Pickett. The wide 9 is an extreme example though. Pick was a good DT in a 4-3 before the conversion to the 3-4. The wide-9 isn't employed by many teams. Most teams that employ a 4-3 have players at DT that we could use at 5-tech (i.e. Richard Seymour was a great 5-tech before being traded to Oakland, where he is a 4-3 DT). Ask any personnel man in the NFL. How do you think 5-techs are found? There aren't many college teams running a 3-4. When looking for a 5-tech, yes there are certain attributes like strength you are looking for, but strength can be developed. Physical frame cannot be developed. You're either 6-4 or you're not. You either have the capability of sustaining 300 lbs on your frame throughout an NFL season or you do not.

That said, you've made good points and I've learned a thing or two. I'm still not completely wrong. I'm not even half wrong.

PackersRS's picture

Yeah, you're not wrong. I get the idea you're trying to pass, and it is right. Similar body types. And some 4-3 and some 3-4 do ask their interior Dlineman to do similar tasks. And a few monsters like Seymour and Ngata are, indeed, able to play anywhere in any scheme and excel.

I just contend that, nowadays, schemes are so diverse and specific that only a handful of players are able to perform at an elite level in any scheme.

I go back to Sapp. Sapp was a hall of famer, maybe best of all time DT playing in the Tampa 2 scheme. But he was an average DE and NT in the 3-4. It's not that he wasn't good, but what made him different from the rest in the Tampa 2 is very specific of the Tampa 2.

philip's picture

it's difficult to compare tampa's tampa-2 sapp to oakland's 3-4 sapp because he may have been washed up anyways by the time he signed in oakland. i would have loved to have seen sapp in a 3-4 in his prime. then this comparison would be stronger.

i think more players than you think can play both schemes.

pkrNboro's picture

I remember when the argument of going with a 3-4 defense was that there were more quality linebacker-type bodies as compared to defensive-line-type bodies.

But now its morphed into where you need a 270 pound blitzing/tackling safety at OLB and a 6-6 325, 48in-armed super-freak on the end of the line.

Whadda ya say: go back to the 4-3 ?

Cuz we really don't have a fourth linebacker anyway.

Then we could just draft 12 dLinemen.

BTF's picture

I may be way off base here but part of the problem as I see it is that we haven't really ever run a standard 3-4 with the bulk of the pass rush coming from the OLB due to our problems getting a bookend for Matthews.

There is a lot of talk about replacing Jenkins but he to me is a better fit as a 4-3 DT rather than a 3-4 DE-which is why we looked to replace him in running situations with the likes of Green in the SB season. The bad thing is that as it stands we are reliant on pass rush from the DL due to the weakness at OLB.

I agree that genuine 5 techniques that can create a pass rush are probably rarer than hens teeth but maybe we can find players who can be stout against the run and eat up blocks either lower down in the draft, in FA (Muir ?) or from improvement from our roster (Guy Wilson) and use our top pick to find a genuine bookend ?

That leaves the question of Woodson being better in nickel and that I can't answer...

Log in to comment, upload your game day photos and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.

Or log in with Facebook



"A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall. "
"The Bears still suck!"
"I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious."