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New Players Will Only Help Capers So Much

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New Players Will Only Help Capers So Much

With the NFL Draft only three days away, Packer fans everywhere have visions of new linebackers and defensive backs being added to the roster and making a not-inconsiderable difference right away, most hopefully in the area of pass defense, what with the much-publicized problems Dom Capers' unit had against "veteran quarterbacks" that spread the team out and threw all over the yard last year.

Some new players will help, it's true. But more importantly, Capers having a full offseaon to evaluate the talent on hand and match their talents to what he asks them to do will  have just as much, if not more of an impact.

As indicated above, Packer fans can recite by rote the phrase that appears in almost every season recap of the 2009 Green Bay Packers - "they had trouble against teams with savvy veteran quarterbacks that spread the field". This is true of course, but going back and rewatching the season (as I am prone to do) something jumped out at me.

First of all, the problems to come were foreshadowed in the 49er game especially after Al Harris went down. And as far as I know, Alex Smith has never been confused with a "savvy veteran".  Now, yes, it's hard to blame Capers for what guys like Jarrett Bush and Brandon Underwood do or don't do well when thrown into the middle of a game and where he is forced to gameplan on the fly knowing what he does about their capabilities. But watching that game again, I was reminded how Capers, at times, could really struggle to find a playcalling rhythm once Harris went out. And it may have affected his ability to recognize what the 49ers were doing.

For instance, earlier in the game, Capers had Woodson blanketing Vernon Davis, effectively shutting down the talented tight end. The few times he took Woodson off Davis the result was almost an automatic big completion, with Smith hitting him twice down the seam for big gains, first against Hawk and then against Jarrett Bush. Then, we witnessed the following:

Simply put, this was the 49ers favorite pass play last year, a trips to one side, three vertical with Davis running the inside seam. I remember shouting at the TV that it was coming because I had the two plays below burned in my brain from earlier in the season:

Now, if I knew that play was coming, Dom Capers had to have known. Yet he chose to have Woodson blitz from the far slot rather than keep him man on Davis. (Yes, its a bit of a damned if you do, damned if you don't for any defensive coordinator. If you blitz and get burned, it's "Why did you blitz!" If you sit back and give the quarterback time, it's "Why didn't you blitz!") And of course, Davis promptly scored.

One play in that Niner game that really foretold the problems to come was the Frank Gore touchdown.

It's all there.

Crossing patterns. Confusion. Two guys taking one man while another roams free. Absolute bedlam. Once that play was on film, it was all over but the crying. Any halfway decent coordinator with an experienced quarterback could see the problems the young guys in the secondary would be having and how guys like Woodson and Barnett would have to try and compensate for the problems they knew the defense would have.

It's Capers job to figure out where those breakdowns occurred and to ensure that his system is clear to EVERY member of the defense coming out of training camp. If that means drilling rookies and second year players more in camps and preseason, so be it. If that means running crossing routes until their eyes are crossed, so be it. It's all well and good to have a playbook that is larger than a Manhattan phone book (yes, an antiquated reference) but it's little more than fodder for the shredder unless it is grasped and understood by every single member of the defense.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (21) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

packsmack25's picture

So to summarize: Jarrett Bush sucks.

packeraaron's picture

That truly made me LOL. Thanks.

Chelsea's picture

Great work Nagler.

NickGBP's picture

Where do you get access to all of this game footage? I had NFL Rewind and that **** expires as soon as the season ends :(. Have to buy an offseason subscription, then a regular season subscription, then a playoffs subscription, etc etc. I usually wait till a few games into the season when they give it half price. Still such a ripoff though...

Anyway great point. I think a lot of these issues will be corrected. Not only are these guys young but they had to learn a completely new system in an offseason. I think communication will naturally increase as they finally will understand their individual roles without having to think about it.

BlaqShady's picture

Quality post, Aaron. The tears are flowing anew...

NickGBP's picture

And I think your SF example proves another great point. It's not necessarily the's just a spread offense where the zones really open up in this style of defense if you're not on your game.

Dilligaff's picture

Again I love the video, excellent for debates like this.

I am a harsh critic of Hawk, yet he is not on the field on either of those plays.

First video shows what must not happen when we rush only 3 people, Jolly should not be one of them, I believe the other 2 are Jenkins and Poppinga, Mathews drops back in coverage and gives up the touch down. In a situation like that next year Raji should be there (not Jolly, he has no pass rush) and I am not sure if you want Mathews playing the ILB position and having a guy like Poppinga rush. This is where a guy like McClain will be so valuable to the Packers.

The biggest problem for the Packers is the pass rush from all the positions of our defensive line, OLB, and ILB. Again on that play Poppinga and Jolly are not the ones you want when you are only rushing 3.

PackersRS's picture

Like I said to Jersey Al, as much as some of our guys completely suck, they shoul've been more prepared to all the freaking bunch and motion plays that teams tossed at us... Who's fault is that?

A trully ELITE DC would've prepared better, even with the poor talent we had, to at least prevent a 45 point game.

Do I think he was the main responsible? I thought before, but don't now. The players and the refs are more to blame.

But for all the angry at Cel. Sanders for lack of adaptability, Capers should be getting some fire for it, too. But it was his first season...

NickGBP's picture

Capers has definitely gotten fire for it from the staff according to reports. MM was LIVID at Capers after the post season game and apparently really grilled him. Who knows if that's true but I tend to think it is. And I'm glad MM would be willing to do that to a guy like Capers when it needs to be done.

PackersRS's picture

I loved the hire when it happened. I'm glad with Capers. And if it is like you're saying, then if he can pick his game up, then the better.

But I've seen too much of Slocum and Campen in this team, you know? Too much of noone being accounted for... Not trying to overreact or something here...

Ron LC's picture

Capers made great strides over 2008. We all expected, or at least, had doubts about the transition from 43 to 34. Capers D did an admirable job of improving the D. EXCEPT, for 6 or 7 games whn they failed to respond to the Ofensive tactics used by Minn (2 Games), Pitt, Cards (playoff), Cinncinati, and Tampa. I'll throw in the ist Bear game too. It was turnovers that saved their butts in that game and many other games last year.
So far, nothing has has changed on the personnel side of the equation. At best Capers will have some untried rookies to fill the gaps that became so obvious when Harris went down. So any improvement this year will have to come from Capers' ability to adapt his defense to the oposition or acutally be able to make real football players out of his pathetic hospital ward bakups.

Dilligaff's picture

Second video I believe is more of a break down of our secondary, yet we rush 4 and two of them is Jolly/Poppinga. I like Jolly but he needs players that complement him, Poppinga is not one of them. This is where Raji and even if Justin Harrell heals himself would greatly help that secondary if we get a better rush from those 4.

In some ways if a stud DE were to drop to the 23 pick for some reason, I can see TT going in that direction, the same with McClain at the ILB position.

Ron LC's picture

TT has answered this question to some degree. According to a news release, "The GB Packers will be concentrating on OT and DB in this years' draft."
Of course, this could be a diversionary tactic!

AdaminEngland's picture

I remember watching SF games last year and watching nearly every team they played get picked apart by Davis running the seam/skinny post route. With the development of Crabtree and other improvements they make this offseason on that side of the ball (no I don't count Ginn in that) I can't imagine the pain Davis is going to cause this year.

Glorious80s's picture

If it's an issue of team preparation and fundamentals, maybe the coaches should review those old Lombardi training tapes. :>)

Jersey Al's picture

Nice work. The surprising thing for me was that in the last video, it was C-Wood in a mis-communication with Barnett. Not Bush, Underwood, Bell, Giordano, etc. At the beginning of the play, Barnett is seen telling Woodson to take the left slot, but Woodson waves him, off. Then he freezes as the Davis is coming at him and ignores Gore. VERY UN-C-WOOD-LIKE...

packeraaron's picture

Exactly - and I think a lot of that is him just trying to be everywhere and do everything.

JerseyAl's picture


FITZCORE1252's picture

"it was all over but the crying."

Can't argue that ('cause you know I would :-))

I don't see any way that another off-season learning the intricacies of Dom's 3-4 can't improve/lessen breakdowns like those shown above.

It's been shown (on average)that the biggest jump players make is from year one to year two. I'm anticipating that same trend to manifest in our defense, going from year one to year two. I'm expecting a MUCH more 'consistent' group, not near as many peaks-and-valley's (fingers crossed).


nerdmann's picture

I still don't blame the defense for either the Pittsburgh game OR the Cardinals game.
Did the defense give up two turnovers in it's first three plays to start the game. HELL no.
Did the defense lose the game in overtime? NO.
Let's be real. There's room for improvement on the defense, but how many NFL defenses can withstand losing that many CBs and still NOT be responsible for losses?

Chicago Hooligan's picture

Other than Hughes from TCU (dunno if he lasts to 23) I can't see any defensive rookies good enough to get into this lineup or contribute much this year. But what the hell do I know.

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