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X's and 0's: Capers? Or the Players?

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X's and 0's: Capers? Or the Players?

Regular Cheesehead TV reader (and all-too-infrequent commenter) "Paul Ott Carruth", a former player and coach who wishes to remain anonymous, breaks down different aspects of the Packers from an X's and O's standpoint. Today he takes a look at the Packers' issues on the defensive side of the ball.


Some simple axioms in football are this:  “Play as deep as the deepest man.”  “Maintain your contain.”  “Never get leveraged.”  “Know where your help is located.”

These are tried and true from Pop Warner up through the professional ranks.  For all the complexity football can entail it usually comes down to the simplest of elements we are taught as young children playing this game.  The Packer defense could have used a refresher course last Sunday.  To the diagrams we go.



The coverage executed on this play is pure man free coverage (commonly referred to as Cover 1).  The corners, in this case Williams and Shields are playing man coverage on the #1 receivers to their respective sides of the formation.  Prior to the snap MD Jennings screws down in to the box and at the snap he will blitz off the edge.  He is easily picked up by the LT.  With Jennings inserting in to the rush the Packers are bringing 5 men.  Eagles TE, Brent Celek, releases to the flat where Brad Jones pursues in coverage.

Casey Hayward is playing man coverage in the slot to the left of the defensive structure and covers his man as he runs a deep crossing route across the formation.  AJ Hawk zones off to help underneath on Hayward’s man.

Should the back release it would be Hawk’s responsibility to cover.  The back inserts in to the protection so he can now zone and help on inside breaking routes.  At the snap Shields maintains inside leverage on his man, using the sideline as another defender.  Williams, on the other hand, turns opens his hips and allows Jackson to release on a vertical stem inside of him (Williams has his butt to the sideline).

Williams has low outside leverage on Jackson.  This is important because if Williams wasn’t expecting help he would not allow himself to be leveraged inside at the snap.  Williams is expecting Burnett to provide high inside leveraged coverage on Jackson.  In essence, this has become bracket coverage on Jackson, with Williams low and outside of a Jackson and Burnett high and inside of Jackson.

Williams does his job.  Burnett does not.

Burnett does not remain high in the coverage as he is supposed to.   Had Burnett done his job this could have been an easy interception for him.  As it was, Williams made a great effort to break up the pass only to be knocked off by a chasing Burnett who didn’t execute the coverage.

The coverage on this play is debatable only in that it might be Cover 1 or Cover 7 (matchup zone on the interior).  My hunch is that it is Cover 1 based on the play of Shields.  Jackson motions to a closed position in the Eagles formation.  This immediately sounds off alarms because a deep crossing route is usually the result of this type of closed split (very common in the professional game).

As it is, Jackson takes off on the deep cross (aka Over Route).  Shields is in coverage on him across the field.  Williams and Burnett are both in the “box” giving the Packers an 8 man front.  The Eagles TE does not release in to the route structure and therefore Williams simply zones off.  Should the TE release, Williams would have him in coverage with help from AJ Hawk working an inside/outside bracket.

Like Williams, Burnett, Hawk and Jones all zone off (spot drop while looking for shallow crossers & safety outlets).  The back releases to the flat after a run fake but this is essentially a two man route by the Eagles.  Davon House is in man coverage on Cooper.  At the snap he, like Williams on the Jackson TD, opens his hips and allows Cooper inside leverage.  This tells me House was expecting inside top help on Cooper from the middle safety, who , in this case, was MD Jennings.  Again, like Burnett on the Jackson TD, Jennings is caught creeping up in the intermediate hole.  His responsibility was the deep middle.  Had he been where he was supposed to be this too would have been an interception.

Much has been said about the ball hanging in the air and this is true.  However, had the ball been thrown much better it would have still resulted in a TD because Jennings was out of place.

Cooper’s 2nd TD appeared to be against a form of Cover 2 known as 2 Man.  However, it is possible it might have simply been 2 Read (Corner reads release of #2 receiver and covers #2 on an immediate release outside to him).  Either way, Burnett was beaten badly.

This was more a performance error rather than a coverage breakdown in my opinion.  Frankly, the Eagles used a Cover 2 beater at the right time.  The issue I have with this play is the play of Hawk and and Williams.

First of all, Hawk takes an improper path towards the back.  ILBers are taught to track the back, that, is, take a similar path.  The back went to Hawk’s right and Hawk closed downhill to his left.  After the fake, the back released to the flat where Williams picked him up in coverage.  Yet, I can’t help but wonder had Hawk taken the appropriate path would Williams ran up the seam with Cooper and let Hawk take the back.  If you watch the film, it’s as if Hawk realizes his mistake and quickly tries to run in the back’s direction.

Not sure on this one.  Either way, Burnett didn’t physically perform well on the play.

This is the first of a series of slides showing a  McCoy 30 yard run.  I want to show this to you because this is the epitome of bad defense even before the snap is made.  To the left of the Eagles formation is Avant, Celek and a LG.  That’s it.  In football terms, the Eagles have presented the Packers a 2 man surface (blocking surface) to that side.  Avant doesn’t count.  He’s a receiver.  Heck, in my opinion, Celek doesn’t even count.  Yes, I know TEs have to block but folks…..they’re not your best run blockers by comparison to linemen.

Yet, inexplicably, to that side, the Packers have 5 guys in alignment.  To the other side of the Eagles formation you have 3 offensive linemen (arrows) (LT and Celek switched sides) presenting a 3 man surface and the Packers have only 3 guys by alignment to that side (yellow numbered players).   Hawk could even be considered only a ½ player since he’s essentially able to play both sides of the formation.  House and Shields (yellow boxes) do not count as men in the run structure because they are in man coverage.  At best they are secondary contain players.

To the bottom, Morgan Burnett is the force player (ie. forces the ball to go back inside on any outside run).  On the top, Mike Neal is the force player.  Here is what is even more disturbing.  If I were to ask you which players could receive a pass if the Eagles did such a thing, how many would you say were eligible?  Standard formations and personnel always have 5 eligible whether all 5 release or not.

In this case, Celek isn’t even eligible to receive a pass because he’s covered up by the outside receiver. That leaves 4 receiving threats to cover should it be a pass.  This formation should have immediately tipped off the Packers it was a run play.  McCoy ends up running this ball in to the alley (Lombardi would be proud).


As the ball is snapped the Center an RG pull.  The other linemen to that side execute simple down blocks.  The key to the play, however, is Mike Neal.  Remember, it’s his job to force the ball back inside to the pursuit.  He doesn’t.  he slips inside the OT and with pullers in front of him, McCoy is about to go off to the races.


Neal has now disappeared inside and Pickett is sealed off with a down block.  The edge of the Packer defense has been collapsed.  The Center will pull short inside to cut off Hawk, which he does successfully.  That leaves McCoy with the RG as an escort.

The RG is about to cut off Jones who is in pursuit but because of the short edge and McCoy’s speed he continues up field to cut off back side pursuit defenders.  Jones is a non-factor in the play.  McCoy has 30 easy yards with very little effort.


I’m not saying Capers isn’t responsible but at what level?  Capers coordinates the defense.  Yes, I know his track record isn’t the best the longer he stays at a place but at what point do you expect your players to execute the scheme called.  Did Capers tell Burnett and Jennings to forgo their responsibilities in the coverage structure?  Did he not have them prepared to see the strong running formation that led to a big run?  Maybe he did.  Maybe it is time for Capers to move on after the season.  But maybe it’s time for players to stand up and be accountable.

Here is the problem, as I see it, for the defense.  Who is the Charles Woodson of this defense?  Not in talent but in leadership.  Who is that guy now?  Rodgers is the leader of the team but he doesn’t play defense.  He’s not in the defensive meeting rooms.  Who is that guy?  For as much as Woodson would talk and question the coaching staff his play would back it up on the field.  Is Matthews now that guy?  Is it Pickett?  Is it Raji?  Hawk?  Anyone?

Maybe the players are sick and tired of Capers as the coordinator but how do you speak out vocally against your coordinator when your play doesn’t give you the right?  Woodson could talk because he had the backside to cash the checks.  Who has it now?  Capers has to do a better job of putting players in to position to make plays but at the end of the day it’s up to the players to make the plays when they are put in situations to win.

No miracle by a Rex Ryan protégé or Lovie Smith himself will fill the leadership and accountability void the Packer defense now faces.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (37) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

jeremy's picture

Interesting article Paul! I love the descriptions.

But, you haven't converted me back to a Capers supporter. Only he can do that, namely by not calling dime defenses with two man lines in the middle of the second half of close games. If I were an opposing Offensive Coordinator that is exactly what I'd want to see, so I could run the ball and dink and dunk away the clock with McCarthy's offense on the sideline where they can't hurt me. Capers is way too conservative, and his scheme's aren't fooling anyone anymore. He has 6 first round picks in his front seven so he doesn't really have a lot of excuses for the record breaking bad defenses IMO.

Mr Smith's picture

Nailed it. Absolutely nailed my thoughts on the matter. I was conversing with someone the other day about the lack of creativity. Capers used to have it... but it's gone. We used to crank up some cool ass blitzes. Now it's 1 down lineman with two ILB's blitzing into Guards that outweigh them by 80 pounds. Needless to say, it doesn't work.

4thand1's picture

As Vic Ketchman always says, players not plays. Paul maybe you should throw your name in the hat for a coaching position. I'm sure the staff sees everything you've pointed out, and its coming down to mistakes and poor execution by the players. A good old fashioned ass kicking is in order. Lombardi kept it simple, its all about blocking and tackling.Its time MM quits blaming himself and make players accountable. Maybe in his own way he's saying ,"I put these bad players on the field."

Katsuya's picture

Maybe the schemes are just too complicated, therefore leading to too many mistakes by the players.

Bert's picture

I think a lot of the defenses problems are that not all of the players maintain a high level of discipline when under the pressure of a game situation. To win consistently it takes a bunch of guys that can maintain discipline in any and all situations. That was a big key to the 60's Packers and later Patriots success for many years. They were not always the best athletes but they had great discipline and executed flawlessly. Not so with the Packers D. Too many guys out of position too often. Not always the coaches fault either as some guys just don't get it.

PackerPete's picture

This is excellent, Paul.

In the end players don't execute. Burnett is not an elite player and will never be. He is not even close to Nick Collins' ability. MD Jennings shouldn't be in the league, period. But it tells more about McMillian that he can't even see the field for non-ST.

Next year's draft will be S, TE, and C. Not necessarily in that order, but those are huge areas of need.

jack in jersey city's picture

you mean CB instead of C right? evan dietrich smith is a solid center and there are probably enough guys on the roster who could be a decent backup

Nick Perry's picture

So who's fault is it? The payers, Capers, TT? The Giants game this weekend makes 43 games without replacing Collins. Thompson, knowing he has a average Safety in Burrnett had to overpay him because of the mess he's created by failing to replace Collins. This years draft was loaded at safety, maybe instead of making all those stupid trades in the 3rd round he could have drafted one. I like this years draft, don't get me wrong. But iyou look at Teds first trade in the 3rd round and what he got back, it was horrible. Another team later that round traded it's pick and got MORE back for their 3rd and it was AFTER the Packers first trade. I get it, Ted loves his 7th round picks and UDFA but damn, at what point do you stop asking Rodgers to clean up EVERY mess.

4thand1's picture

Every year it seems there's a different elephant in the room that becomes a glaring issue. 2011 tons of yardage given up. 2012, no running game, 2013 defensive breakdowns, mainly on the backend. This year I give them a pass because of olb injuries, a very small pass. It has to get better.

Chad Toporski's picture

I applaud the effort to show that it's not the play calls, but the execution that is the problem. So often people simply blame the play calling when stuff goes wrong, but without understanding the calls and responsibilities of the players, that criticism is baseless.

Nevertheless, the defensive coordinator's job isn't limited to calling plays. It's his responsibility – as well as the assistants' – to coach the players on what they're doing wrong. They have to fix the execution of the plays if there are problems.

In my eyes, they are not doing that well enough. I don't know why or how it's not happening, but it's on that level that I would criticize Capers. Not for his play calling, but for his coaching of the players.

jack in jersey city's picture

mccarthy basically said just this in his presser on monday- it's the play on the ball, not the scheme. personally, i don't see dom capers going anywhere (just look how long they stuck with bob sanders!) but i could see the packers replacing perry and whitt in the offseason.

thanks P.O.C. for your excellent contributions to this site! i look foward to reading your posts each week

Katsuya's picture

Bob Sanders only had one bad year in 08 before getting fired. His 07 d was pretty good though. Capers is now going on his third year of inconsistency, so I don't think its comparable.

marcopo's picture

It takes time. Everyone forgets that this is anything but a veteran team. Last year there were 5-6 newbies every down. This year it's 1-2 more every down. What you're seeing is the product of inexperience, inconsistency. Guarantied, there will be bad games. BUT, everyone forgets that we've seen plenty of good play as well. It will never be as simple as plugging in a superstar somewhere because defense requires discipline and confidence that the guy next to you will do his job. That, my fellow fans, requires time. If you watch closely, you can see progress, but don't expect it to be linear. It will have bumps. Radical fixes won't help.

Cow42's picture

this is all so depressing.

window closed.

they are now the equivalent of the Texans/Cowboys/Chargers/Titans.

Evan's picture

I thought you were done with CHTV?

4thand1's picture

Thought the window was close before the season started.

Point Packer's picture

Cow42 pre-season quote: "Packers 0-4 to start the season."

How'd that go CowTard?

Cow42's picture

yeah - not a great prediction there.

but, you gotta admit - the 6-10'er's lookin' pretty strong.

PackerPete's picture

after the #12 injury. Otherwise, the record right now would be 7-2...

Cow42's picture

"Otherwise, the record right now would be 7-2…"

but it's not.

and it's not my fault that the team wasn't prepared for the loss of their starting qb. that was/is one of my biggest gripes... other than wr there is no QUALITY depth on this team.

larry valdes's picture

Ok mr tompson here is your last chance sign ed reed tonite ts

4thand1's picture

Oh Oh, didn't Ed Reed just blasted the coaches in Houston? Don't think the Packers and Capers want any criticism in the press. Maybe its whats needed.

marcopo's picture

Must be nuts! Every single time the Packers go south, 4 million junior general managers go apoplectic. Yeah, more criticism, season as needed.

KennyPayne's picture

Right now, the debate is talent versus scheme.

Funny, that has been going on for 3 years now.

I suspect no one will be held accountable after 2013 just like no one was held accountable after 2012 or 2011.

Keep denying reality and carry on.

Taco's picture

POC, thank you for taking the time to share your expertise. It's much appreciated.

There doesn't appear to be any easy solutions. I keep coming back to leadership on the field. We've been hearing how Hawk and Burnett are the QB's of the defense, yet this defense seems clueless too often. I think they need to groom an alternative soon. But it's hard to trade for one and rookies don't usually have the cred. Hyde has a demeanor and a future that has me hopeful, and I suspect he'll get some help from Daniels, who is becoming an emotional leader people can rally around.

Cow42's picture


Stroh's picture

And Jolly.

Brooklyn81's picture

Ed Reed

razor's picture

A whole bunch of average players that make a steaming pile of shit. How many years is it going to take the coaches to turn this pile of crap into winners? Hey, I know - we could draft and develop! And we could send them to D-school. And we could find some stellar UDFA's.

WOW - the future looks brighter already!

Mr Smith's picture

Great article Sir. I look forward to this segment and wish it happened more often.

Arkabsas Packer's picture

Excellent analysis by Paul. Before killing Capers remember he has been head coach two times and is respected in the league. That said I think a change is necessary. San Fran D-Line coach very good and respected. Until we get better and I am talking shut down like San Fran, Carolina, Sea hawks, K.C., we will always struggle against good offensive teams.

As long as we have Aaron at QB and healthy we have a chance. But he want last forever, and reality hit when he got hurt. Had we had a defense that rose to the occasion then we could have won the Chicago and Pilly games.

We need a safety like Thomas of the Sea Hawks. I like Hyde he actually can tackle. Williams to afraid to tackle, Shields does not know how, and MD Jennings needs to go. Hayward to small and injury prone.

Offensive line could be great next year. Would love to have a tall speed pass catcher. MM throw the darn ball to the backs more. Ever studied New Orleans approach with their backs. We have the guy in Franklin.

Love the super bowl win but Aaron with pin point passing won that one, MM needs to get back to TRUE west coast principals. Quit going vertical on short yardage, use your stud back and get a stud blocking fullback that blocks and can catch ball out of the backfield. And Ted would you PLEASE draft someone to complement Mathews on the outside.

It is time to let a few guys go and shake up the team. Coach and players. Live and die with the pack and have many years of watching, lets get back to the super bowl a few more times before Aaron is gone.

Ma Linger's picture

Thanks, again another fine article. I enjoy it and learned a lot. However, one thing I did figure out for myself over many years of football, some teams (Vikes for one) make it a point to draft smart players from div I teams. Hence they are one of the least penalized teams and the players really understand their roles, and the rules both.
Last year they had two rookies who made the pro bowl. Both played div I at top schools.
My point, these guys were well coached in college. These guys played at a high level their whole lives so the learning curve for them was small.
I watched the Lions over 35 years draft people from colleges you wouldn't know existed. They did it to save a buck I guess. They were the most penalized, played poorly, made the dumbest mistakes and there was a lot of turnover on the team.
I see Ted drafting similar type players in the late rounds. They are what they are. Smallish, slow, not well schooled in football and at times confused about formations. Maybe they can't be coached?

The TKstinator's picture

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama.

Hands's picture

When the Packers won their last SB, they had two blue chip players in Matthews and Woodson. This year they don't have anybody playing at a blue chip level.
The Packers have a young team but ANY team down to their third string OLBs will have problems holding the edge or even getting a rush on the QB. Youth is served when you see players in the right position but can't make the play. The secondary has looked very poor. I would suspect that the players are trying to make a play and finding themselves out of position vs. staying at home and keeping the play from happening.
If you ever wonder what a QB means to a team.....look at the Colts when they lost Manning and the Packers when they lost Rodgers.

Nerd's picture

Nick Collins too.

WKUPackFan's picture

Thanks POC, great analysis as always. These are the type of articles that make CHTV a great site.

Double D's picture

Paul, excellent article. My question is at what point is it Capers fault that they are late to make adjustments to over balanced lines. San Fran always 'surprises' us, Chicago did on Monday night game, now Philly. None were unscouted looks. Seems like poor preparation.

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