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Offseason Moves Point To More Man Coverage

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Offseason Moves Point To More Man Coverage

Lots of interesting chatter between myself and a few other Packer fans yesterday on Twitter regarding NFL Network's replay of the November 1st contest against the Vikings this past season.

John Rehor, who writes for, brought up a particularly good point:

Do holes in the zone D get fixed with a year of 3-4 under their belt?

It's an excellent question. There's a soft spot in the middle of the Packers' zone defense that has been there since preseason of last year. I remember speaking with both Greg Bedard and Jason Wilde about it during the season. And after the Arizona game, I said the biggest problem that I can see with Dom Capers and how he chooses to call his defense is that he has been given a collection of defensive backs that were all brought in to fit Bob Sanders press-man scheme and he is forcing them to play zone way, way too much.

Now, some of these "holes in the zone" are just part of doing buisness in this particular version of the 3-4 defense. Last season you saw the same void in the middle of the field open up repeatedly for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's a byproduct of sending guys and them not getting home. For the Steelers last year, a big part of it was missing the playmaking presence of Troy Polamalu. For the Packers, it seemed both safeties, but Atari Bigby in particular, were always a step or two behind where they needed to be, always arriving just after a completion for a sizable gain. It will be interesting to see if Morgan Burnett's athleticism makes any kind of difference in this regard.

Other than adding Burnett, Ted Thompson has done almost nothing to change the makeup of his defensive backfield. You have to think that, after going back and watching the defensive cut ups for the entire season, McCarthy sat down with Capers and said something along the lines of: "Look - I know we were in Year One of a new defense, but we were entirely too cautious. I want to turn up the heat this season" - and the best way for Capers to do that is to start mixing in some small doeses of what is known as Zero Coverage, where the defensive back field pressed up to their men on the line of scrimmage while some combination of defensive backs and linebackers blitz the quarterback, with no safety help. (Thus the zero...)

Now, I'm not saying Capers is suddenly going to morph into Rex Ryan. He won't become another person over the course of one offseason and last year his defense hardly ever blitzed more than five guys. But I just think, looking at where their weaknesses were, and the fact that almost everyone in the defensive backfield will be back, the adjustments that need to be made will come from Capers adjusting to his personnel, rather than making them do things they aren't all that good at.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (17) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Satori's picture

When GB was making the shift to the 3-4 last offseason, much was made of Al Harris' talents/ skills not being a good fit in the zone scheme.

To which Mr. Harris replied-
"playing man-press is significantly more difficult for a CB than playing zone. If I handled the more difficult part well, why are y'all worried about me in the easier zone coverage ?"

packeraaron's picture

And I agreed as much. But it's quite different for Al Harris, a long time veteran player, to make the adjustment and quite another thing for the likes of Tramon Williams, Will Blackmon and Pat Lee. Now, you'd like to think these guys could be molded to do it, and I'm sure that's what Thompson is counting on. I still think leaning on the strength of his personnel isn't the world's worst idea...

JerseyAl's picture

Excellent points. Having that year under his belt, Capers will be expected to further mold the defense to his personnel.

While you are correct to say Ted Thompson has done little to change the defensive backfield, remember that Will Blackmon and Pat Lee (hopefully) will be back. Add in Burnett and that's three additional players Capers has to work with in the secondary.

bleedsgreen's picture

Sorry to threadjack, but can't find a better place to reach you.
Two fun things to note:

1. Our dear Greg Jennings has a cameo on Criminal Minds:

2. The quickly approaching Packer Solstice! This year, early morning May 12 marks the point of the year furthest away from live "real" Packer football - exactly half way from the last moment of Packer Season 09/10 (10 Jan approx 18 45) and the opening kickoff of Packer Season 10/11 (12 Sep 15 15). Celebrations are in order - a lighting of the Yule Favre?

Wiscokid's picture

What a great idea! Which end do you light first? Never mind, we should just light the bonfire and through him on top.

FITZCORE1252's picture

Regarding #1.

Look guy, I'm sure you mean well, but, "this ain't Detroit man". Everyone on here probably still has it on their DVR. C'mon man!


PackerMax's picture

Wasn't it McCarthy last year who refused to let Capers run a hybrid 4-3 and 3-4? Didn't MM only want to run a 3-4 defense?

Point being, Capers' hands seem to be tied by McCarthy as to whether he can utilize players to their individual strengths.

Am I wrong on this?

packeraaron's picture

Hard to know for sure here. I've read the same thing, that McCarthy wanted a pure 3-4, etc. But that doesn't really make sense if he offered Greg Williams the job (which he did) who runs a 4-3. Besides, you can still run a "strict" 3-4 and run man concepts behind it.

CSS's picture

What does 'pure' 3-4 even mean? The majority of the NFL only runs out of their base about 60% of the time, with the majority being in 'nickle' defense as a byproduct of down, distance and opponent. Hell, nickle will be the prevelent sub-package across the board, and frequently, considering how the league continues to trend.

Is this way off?

NickGBP's picture

And if you want to be technical, basically noone uses the "pure" 3-4 these days anyway. The old system that was popular in the 80s with the Giants just isn't used anymore anyway.

I doubt MM would be as stupid as to limit the alignments his defense could be in. What would the benefit in that be? If he did do that then he's an idiot.

dgtalmn's picture

With the improvement from the prior season, last year's defense looked pretty good, except for a few games. I believe the foundation is good and we'll see improvements, from the drafted folks and Packers that are mending. Looks like TT is in the "the current roster has to step it up" mood.

Also seems like a lot of veteran players are out of work and are in a wait state. Is this caused by the CBA issues?

FITZCORE1252's picture

As I've stated before... "on average", individual players make the most noticeable strides year 1 to year 2. I really think we are going to see that same trend happen with our overall team D in this the 2nd year. Theoretically this defense should be leaps-and-bounds ahead at this point in time, compared to last year at this time. Leaps. And. Bounds.

Think of what the OTA's consisted of last year (all new terminology, alien playbook, Vet's learning new positions)and how now that all of the initial install is out of the way, what can be accomplished at the OTA's and on into camp this year.

Maybe I just keep telling myself all that so I believe it, but in my mind, that doesn't seem like to big of a reach.

Oh, and if that means more Zero, bring it.


FITZCORE1252's picture

too... dammit

PackersRS's picture

That's a great point, that the D will be "leaps-and-bounds ahead at this point in time, compared to last year at this time."

However, the question is, will it be, in the playoffs and in games against elite QBs where the team spreads the field, leaps and bounds ahead of last year, in those circumstances???

FITZCORE1252's picture

"will it be, in the playoffs"

Hope we get a chance to find out, I like our chances.

Looking at the schedule, I see 2 "elite" QB's we will face in the regular season, Brady and Ferve. If for some reason Brent decides to ride his tractor off into the sunset that leaves 1 regular season game facing stellar QB play vs. Brady in a game that I think we could quite possibly win.

But, as you said, none of it will mean much if our D pisses their collective pants in the post-season, again. Because to hoist 'our' trophy, sooner-or-later we're gonna have to beat a Brees, Ferbe, Rivers, Manning...

Tarynfor12's picture

The season opener will be the test for the "leaps and bounds" of the defense and the ability to adjust during that game.The first half of season is to our favor,but the real picture of the defense is week one.

FITZCORE1252's picture

Week 1, Really? I think Philly is gonna take a step back offensively next year, with the new QB and all. Not the offense I'd have circled as "the test", but, we'll see.


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