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Using Jenkins At OLB In Subpackages Makes Sense

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Using Jenkins At OLB In Subpackages Makes Sense

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers caused a minor stir when–in the wake of the Detroit Lions win–called for the offense to have its best players on the field. Now, with news that safety Morgan Burnett is lost for the season and inside linebackers Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar possibly missing an extended period of time, the defense is faced with the same dilemma.

What amounted to a training camp-like audition for the outside linebackers in Week 4 with Frank Zombo, Brady Poppinga and Brad Jones all sharing time, the Packers have all but admitted they don't have an unquestioned starter opposite Clay Matthews.

And what may follow could be an attempt by defensive coordinator Dom Capers to get the best players on the field and put the Packers in the best position for a Super Bowl run, the same goal of any NFL franchise.

The best pass rusher aside from Matthews has been Cullen Jenkins, both this year and for some time before that. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Jenkins start playing opposite Matthews, at least in subpackages.

Jenkins has 26 career sacks and is in a contract season, meaning he has a major incentive to continue to play at a high level. One could also make the argument that his performance will only get better once he loses his club-like cast in a couple weeks.

Several factors would play into a situation in which Jenkins would basically assume an outside linebacker role in subpackages. Chief among those reasons is the return of Mike Neal from injury uncertainty.

The Packers already have to be concerned with B.J. Raji's high snap count, but with some combination of Neal and Pickett to rotate among the interior defensive tackle position in "sub," Jenkins can afford to play more snaps at outside linebacker.

And no, no one is suggesting a full-on outside linebacker role for Jenkins. The Packers experimented with such a situation to an extent in both the offseason and during training camp. Jenkins can not handle dropping into coverage any more than once or twice per game when it catches the offense by surprise.

But there's no reason to think he couldn't be used at outside linebacker strictly in subpackages on a limited basis.

In two weeks, with the possible additions of Al Harris and Atari Bigby to the team, one could easily make the argument that the best 11 players on defense would be part of some nickel or dime subpackage.

Imagine a nickel defense with Jenkins, Raji, Neal and Matthews along the line of scrimmage, your choice of any two healthy inside linebackers, and then Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Nick Collins, Harris and Bigby in the secondary.

Take it a step futher and imagine a dime defensive package with the same personnel except substitute Sam Shields for one of the inside linebackers. Given the defense's struggles–particularly by the linebackers–to keep up with the much faster perimeter players of the Lions, heavier use of the dime may be a wise choice going forward, particularly against pass-heavy offenses.

How far the Packers get this season may depend how they respond to adversity. It's up to Capers to use all his resources and get even more creative to put the team in the best position to win.

And getting the best pass rush available opposite Clay Matthews will have the added effect of benefiting the secondary as well.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (24) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

bogmon's picture

this seemed ludicrous in the off-season when they were trying this out at camp.
Well, I guess now the coaches show us why they get paid to do what they do.
Worst case scenario has arisen and now they have a plan set in place.
I hope it works.

Tarynfor12's picture

Before the season started I remember some rantings somewhat to the tune "don't worry about our defense,we'll just OUTSCORE everyone with OUR OFFENSE". Well the time has come for that to begin on a much more potent show of what has been...a tad above anemic for us.

The defense is in the very disarray we had hoped would not come at all, lest this early in the season.

I hear alot of chompers being licked at the very thought of going up against what we have left on defense,and these guys can put up some numbers.

Mr.Nagler,a boastful speaker of the "we have Rodgers and can out score everyone" I truly hope I'm wrong,but I feel you maybe eating alot of that Boast for a Roast for dinners.

Where exactly is MR.Nick"SUPER BOWL or DIE" Barnett guy now.Well,my thoughts for him would said now cast the wrist and suck it up and perhaps MORAL will not dissappear.
Call it "STYLE POINTS" and show your style
or forever hold your tongue.

Graffin's picture

Wow, that's some real unwarranted venom directed towards Barnett. Guy was asked a question by media media and responded a bit boldly. What if he had answered "Maybe we can make the superbowl or maybe we can't, I'm not sure."? Would the Pack be be 4-0? Would their be less injured players and would we have dominated the Lions? C'mon, Barnett has been a solid player and leader for years, just got hurt, and this were you go with conversation? I Feel bad for him, and the Packers cuase he's not on the field.

Brady Augustine's picture

With you, Graffin. I wouldn't want a competitor on my team to say anything else. The passion to win a Super Bowl is great to hear from a guy like Nick. He's not complaining about a contract, he's ready to play, one game at a time, to get to the ultimate goal.

packeraaron's picture

Taryn - why are you a Packer fan when you clearly hate the Packers?

PkrNboro's picture

I know it was kinda personal, but Tfor12 is just frustrated -- as we all are.

I think everyone got sucked into the media whirlpool, with the Super Bowl confetti shower all but set in stone.

But, we've started flat with many injuries -- and many questions about management, personnel, etc.

At this point, I think we should all follow this sage advice:
"Please keep your hands and feet inside the car until the ride has come to a complete stop"

Tarynfor12's picture

Aaron,I do not on any level hate the Packers.What I dislike is blind love,and those that tell you,how does it's raining while their actually pissing on your boots.

Urlacker went out with the wrist for the Bears last year but their year was over before it started,ours isn't and Barnett needs to cast up,man up,and play up for this team and to stand by his words.He gets alot of money and now at times like these you show your team mates why.

Brian Carriveau's picture

Can you tell us your medical credentials, Taryn? You seem to know what's best for Barnett.

packeraaron's picture

So a winning record and a share of first place is "pissing on your boots" Got it.

Brady Augustine's picture

Seems to me the point of your article was to highlight potential adjustments that we may see Capers make (which we know from training camp are a possibility) and your thoughts on what personnel groups will be successful moving forward...a reasoned discourse and to me, viable.

Taryn's "blind love" argument, on the other hand, is just a statement off the point of the post and with no supporting facts.

My only concern with Cullen is that we will get the "Aaron Kampman" effect. I think he will lose leverage coming from a two-point and in that respect, not be as effective a pass rusher. I also think offensive coordinators will exploit his limitations as a LB - mostly that he can't beat an RB to the edges. I would be tempted, even on third and long, to streak a WR down the numbers to draw off the CB, and run a counter underneath to Jenkins' side. I think that area of the field becomes very vulnerable. But like you say, it is an adjustment that is a. limited and b. temporary. And this is the key to our success moving forward. Thanks for the post.

And hey, weren't you calling for the Pack to trade Jenkins this past offseason???

Josh's picture

the more mike neal the better

packeraaron's picture


Tarynfor12's picture

Ok Nagler,AMEN.
Looking forward the GBP version of the defensive "wildcat".The Redskins are already feeling as though their being circled and attacked.

PkrNboro's picture


Now we've (only) been hit with 4 IR situations in the last 48 hours. I think everyone has the right to be a little testy at the moment.

However, I must disagree with the notion of putting Jenkins at OLB. Without the pod attached to his arm -- maybe. With the "globe" attached -- I say no way.

What I'm wondering about is Tauscher -- if he plays, he'll likely be in some kind of Hannibal-Lecter harness, with range of motion extremely limited. Otherwise, it's Bulaga -- although I'd like to keep him on the left.

Does anybody know if Newhouse has had reps on the right? because if he and Bulaga ever play together, don't ya think Bulaga is on the left side? (I just don't see a 1st rounder playing right, and a 5th rounder playing left).

Also, what do we know about Lang? I didn't know he had a pin inserted in the surgically-repaired wrist. Is he ready?

As far as best players on the field? if so, we need Matthews and Woodson, on offense, in the backfield.

...about as much as a 300lb man -- with a bucket arm -- trying to cover a running back, or tight end...

Black Hawk's picture

Man up Green and Gold, injuries are part of the game and the NFC is wide open!

MLecl0001's picture

I was actually wondering why we wouldnt try a 3-3-5 scheme. Considering our injuries, and honestly lack of talent at LB. We have 4 healthy DL now, just rotate them into a 3 man line. Use 3 LB, when Shields is healthy put him in the perimeter and Tramon on the other side, then Woodson on the slot or TE.

JerseyPackFan's picture
zub_a_dub's picture

It is still way too early to say we don't have an OLB opposite of Mathews, we had much more Patience with Kampman.

Zombo is still a rookie and Jones just needs to get healthy, yet IMO both of these players are further along than Kampman was at week 4 last year.

OUR PROBLEMS ARE AT THE ILB POSITIONS. A combination where Jenkins plays OLB with Jones or Zombo with Clay Mathews lining up at one of the ILB positions gets your best players on the field.

Zombo/Jones > Hawk/Bishop

davyjones's picture

Is it up to Nick whether he plays, or the Medical Staff?? He doesn't strike me as one who won't play if he can.

bomdad's picture

Jenkins at DE in a 4-3 alignment, and go back to more man coverage in the backfield.

Brady Augustine's picture

I guess, by "you" I mean Cheesehead TV. I don't remember who called for Jenkins to be traded, maybe it was Aaron.

packeraaron's picture

CHTV didn't, but one of our commenters did. I believe he first broached the subject during a chat with Tom Pelissero - I was not adverse to the idea, no.

CSS's picture

It was me, and I wasn't advocating for it. He was turning 31 in a contract year and, arguably a better 4-3 fit. Never doubted his skills, there's just potentially value there that could be lost. Also remember, Jolly and Harrell were part of the equation and, at the time it looked like D-line were among the deepest in the league..

PackersRS's picture

Jenkins at the outside on nickel and dime, with Raji and Neal = YES

Jenkins standing up = HELL NO

That makes sense?

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