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Defensive Dreams...

Defensive Dreams...




As the Packers’ 2009 training camp continues, here are the developments I want to see on the defensive side of the ball by the time the Packers break camp.






Developments I want to see on Defense:

More defensive line depth: HELP!  Even before training camp started, I thought this was an area of concern for the Packers. The potential backups were Johnny Jolly, Justin Harrell, Mike Montgomery, Alfred Malone, Dean Muhtadi, Anthony Toribio and draft pick Jarius Wynn. There isn’t one name on that list that makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

Now that we are almost two weeks in, it’s a BIG concern. Projected starter BJ Raji is just getting into camp, Justin Harrell is again trapped in his injury hell and Johnny Jolly (who takes too many plays off for my liking, anyway) is banged up. The only bright spot on the line is Cullen Jenkins looking like his old self while coming back from his injury. Ryan Pickett is a solid player and is now surely the starter at nose tackle.

Having watched a lot of the New York Giants defense for the last few years, what makes them so good is the depth they have at DL. They can run reserves onto the field that are fresh and almost as talented as their starters. Opposing offensive linemen have to deal with a seemingly never-ending string of big, nasty defensive linemen. It wears the offensive linemen out and saps them of some of their strength as the game progresses. This is how the Giant’s defense is able to shut down opposing offenses late in games.

In my opinion, the Packers could really use another veteran on the DL to provide some depth. Ebenezer Ekuban, Kevin Carter, Vonnie Holliday and others are still out there and unsigned. Shouldn’t we have brought one of these guys in instead of Stryker Sulak? Sure, it would have cost more money, but isn’t there a bigger need at DL than there is at outside LB?

Al Harris moves to nickel back: Let me make this perfectly clear, I have nothing against Al Harris. This is really more about Tramon Williams than it is about Al Harris. While Al Harris may have lost a step and isn’t the greatest tackler,  he is still in the top 20% of cornerbacks around the league. If the Packers break camp with Harris at the nickel, that means Williams had a GREAT camp and the coaches feel he is ready for NFL success. I’m looking for Tramon to take that next big step and show us all that the flashes we’ve seen have been no accident.

Admittedly, this is a long shot. Deposing Al Harris would be no small feat, and the Packers coaches would surely be reluctant to make the move. Another factor is that Williams is probably better suited to the nickel position than Harris is. But who’s to say that in nickel situations, we don’t bring Harris in to play corner and move Williams to nickel?   Is this type of move something that’s ever done by NFL coaches? I have no idea, just thinking out loud here.  Regardless, my wish is to get Tramon Williams on the field for every defensive down.

Aaron Kampman: By the end of training camp, I just want to see Aaron Kampman be one thing:  Comfortable.  If Kampman is able to grasp the responsibilities of his new position well enough to be able to play without having to over-think, then he will be just fine. Will he become a great cover linebacker? Probably not. Can he become a great rushing linebacker? Probably yes.

I trust Dom Capers to use Kampman in the best way and maximize his effectiveness. He will surely attempt to limit the game situations when Kampman will be called upon to cover one-on-one. Kampman will be protected by schemes in which he will get help from corners or safeties. And you can expect Kampman to be turned loose in passing situations, often in sub packages, where he will play as an end in a three-point stance.

I also trust that Capers and Kevin Greene have gotten Kampman to “buy-in” to the change and have worked tirelessly to make him feel good about it. To Kampman’s credit, he has been a model student. Kampman has spent a great deal of time in Green Bay since Capers and his crew were hired. He has studied the playbook extensively and worked one-on-one with Greene for much of the off-season.

Now that training camp is underway, I mainly want to see Kampman become comfortable with the schemes and know what his responsibilities are in each situation. If he has that part mastered, I’m confidant his ability will take care of the rest.

Defense is ready for game 1: I started writing this article a few days before the first preseason game. When I referred to game 1, I was talking about the first game of the regular season. Little did I know, the defense would be ready by the first preseason game - a shutout! But seriously, I’m not reading anything into this first game against the awful Browns, other than our reserve DBs and LBs played well.

Getting back to my point, if the Packers are to have a winning season, it’s imperative the new defense is humming and ready to go to start the season. Tthe way the Packers’ schedule shakes out, the early games are where the wins are there for the taking. The Packers’ first six games are against Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Minnesota, Detroit, Cleveland. Even if we give the Packers a loss to one of their division rivals, that’s still 5 games they should put in the win column. But only if the defense is ready.

I’ve seen this scenario before, firsthand. In 2006, the Packers had fired Mike Sherman and brought in a new coaching staff headed by Mike McCarthy. The opening game of the season was against Chicago, and it happened to be my first ever visit to Lambeau Field. unfortunately, my day was ruined as the Packers were a disorganized mess. Nobody was on the same page, there were missed assignments galore and it seemed like on every play there was a Bear receiver open by 10 yards. I’ll swear on anything you like, that day, they made Rex Grossman look like Joe Montana. The final score was 26-0, but it could have easily been 40-0.

In any case, my point is that the Packers coaches simply had done a poor job getting the team ready for the start of the season. In fact, it took the better part of the season that year before the Packers started to look like a football team. With a new defensive staff and scheme, the Packers can’t afford to repeat that mistake. The good news is that Dom Capers is no Bob Sanders. Capers’ track record has me hoping he will get the job done in time.


Check back for the next installment when I will cover some remaining miscellaneous topics. You can also read the previous installments on the kicking game and the offense.

You can find more of Jersey Al Bracco’s articles on several sports websites: Jersey Al’s Blog, Packers Lounge, NFL Touchdown and of course, Bleacher Report.

You can also follow Jersey Al on twitter (assuming it’s not being hacked).

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (15) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Max's picture

I doubt anyone would take Al Harris from starting CB role. I think a lot of people look back at the NFC Championship game and think he's getting slow but Al's still got a ton of ability.

Tramon is coming on well but I think remaining in the Nickel position will continue to push him further. I'd love to see Pat Lee become a more involved CB, but he keeps getting injured. He was to be our other future replacement for Harris and Woodson. Looks like we'll be waiting a while longer.

Jersey Al's picture

Doubt it also, but for it to happen would mean that Tramon is playing unbelievably well - and that would be a very good thing...

Asshalo's picture

"Having watched a lot of the New York Giants defense for the last few years"

NYG stockpile DL like we stockpile WRs. I like the Sulak signing esp with our OLB injuries, but I would like us to sign Holliday. Also, as Brohm continues to prove he's a bust, that C. Willaims trade becomes all the more painful

Jersey Al's picture

"NYG stockpile DL like we stockpile WRs" - good comparison.

Now that the Lounge is shutting it's doors, what will your primary Packers destination be?

I've grown to enjoy your comments, even though we got off on the wrong foot - my fault for being too sensitive, but hey, it was my first article and some stranger was ripping me.

Asshalo's picture

haha, no I can be a bit of a dick with this stuff. Thanks though, I've really enjoyed reading your posts. I never checked out your other sites, but now that this place is closing, I'm going to have to step it up. Don't know why I didn't before. Also I'll keep frequenting CheeseheadTV, RBC, but...

I want to start up a Funny or Die type packer site where packer fans (especially regular posters from PL) can post their own articles, fan videos and whatever in a fashion similiar to Packerslounge. Anyone could post and the most popular/controversial would probably rise to the top. I'm looking for someone to start it with though, because I'm a bit slow with this stuff ([email protected]). I just don't want this to end. I posted a similiar item in the "Toast" topic.

PackersRS's picture

Don't know about the DL. I know it's just preseason, and it's the Browns, but Jolly IMO was outsanding. Throw in Jenkins, Pickett, Raji, and (yes) Harrell, that's 5 very good DLs. Add that Kampman will probably play some DE in nickel and dime situations, and I'm not too worried about the DL. Would like to see a veteran in the roster? Yeah, it's like you said, when it comes to the DL, the more the better. But it won't be the thing that'll keep us out of the playoffs IMO.
Agree on the Harris subject. But won't happen. And if indeed happens, it'll NOT be because Tramon outplayed Harris. It'll be either because Al (the Harris one) is injuried or have just been a liability in the zone. And I doubt either will happen.
Tottally agree with you. IMO the main reason we're not playing with our DEs with the hand on the ground on nickel and dime is so that Kampman can get used to playing standing up more quickly.
Just one phrase to say about this topic, and the post in general: IN DOM WE TRUST.

Jersey Al's picture

Where will you be hanging out now that the Lounge is going away?

Throw out Harrell...


PackersRS's picture

I'm allways at and cheeseheadtv. Those and here was were I used to actually post. But RBC and the majors are daily reads to me. I've posted once or twice over at RBC, but nothing lengthy... Will try to follow you on your blog, but I'm so used to read you here that I've never actually been there. Probably will be posting out there (Don't know if it is a good thing). I don't post much on the major sites because there're only children in there (packerforum has a lot too, but there are some good fans posting in there. D. Levends aka Jeremiah Johnson is there. But there are good posters...). And RBC gives me more info and less opinion most of the time...

Max's picture

I like the idea of starting a blog where anyone can post. Could start up a small one on Blogger and see how it goes.

There just isn't another Packers site like PL. Booze n Broads had that same fun approach ...... before it shut its doors.

Ruppert's picture

Love the thought of Al Harris at nickel corner....agree almost completely with everything you wrote on that. The only point I question is that part about Tramon Williams being better suited for the nickel back role. I'm not sure exactly why that would it size, speed, something else? Don't forget Al Harris played nickel corner in Philly pretty much the entire time he was there, and he did an excellent job. While he might be a bit rusty, I would think Harris would certainly have more experience at the nickel. And Harris is 6 foot. A taller nickel corner makes for a nice matchup against that 6' 4" backup WR that many teams have (i.e., Ruvell Martin for the Pack). Of course it all hinges on whether Williams can unseat him or not. If he can, it will be great for the defensive backfield.

Jersey Al's picture

I was just thinking that Tramon has better speed to cover the slot receiver.

Tramon is 5'11, Harris is 6' Not much difference and we all saw how much Al's height helped him against Plaxico...

Greg C.'s picture

I agree with PackersRS about the defensive line. I don't think the depth is that bad, at least not when you compare it to other teams. I like our starters, and to have a player as good as Jolly as a backup is pretty darn good. Things do get shaky after that, but in the salary cap era, this is typical. The Giants are an anomaly in this regard. One thing I like about the 3-4 is that, by definition, it makes DL depth less of an issue.

I don't see Al Harris getting beaten out at all, and I'm puzzled why so many people want that to happen. He's a damn good CB and a lot more consistent than Tramon Williams is at this point in his career. People always say that Harris is slow, but all he ever does is stick to opposing receivers like glue. He's got football speed. Like Antonio Freeman used to have.

I couldn't agree more on Kampman. He needs to get comfortable playing in space. I'm not sure he will. He looks a bit slow turning his body when a pass is thrown, so that he is susceptible to getting beaten by quick throws into the flat. Maybe Capers can keep opposing QB's honest by having a DB sneak into Kampman's zone a few times a game to try picking off one of those quick throws. The good news is that he will mostly be rushing the passer anyway.

I think the defense will be ready on opening day because we have a lot of veteran players. I love the fact that, except for Raji and Matthews, everyone got a year older and more experienced.

Thanks for all of your great articles, Al. I will try and catch you somewhere else on the Internet.

Jersey Al's picture

Greg, I really enjoy your comments, so I hope you do keep reading. Thanks to my shameless self-promotion, you know where to find me. Where can I find your articles?

If I find the time to get a real blog going, I'll be sure to contact you.


Greg C.'s picture

For now, I'm posting on I'm not yet sure if I'll be writing any articles. I'm going to wait a few days and see how things shake out. Also, I'll be in Kalamazoo from Friday through Monday, with little or no Internet access.

Max's picture


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