Fixing the Packers Defense up the Middle
Doesn’t it seem like the middle of the field is 20 yards wider whenever the Packers defense is out there?
Packers defenders always seem a step behind covering a receiver down the middle and off-balance when trying to make an open-field tackle between the hash marks. If teels like there’s too much space for them to cover.
Green Bay struggled to cover the middle of the field last season, even before Nick Collins got hurt. So far this preseason, it doesn’t look like much has improved.
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s early, but man, I don’t think I can handle another season of Packers’ corners giving receivers a 10-yard cushion, then looking helpless as opposing teams pick apart the middle.
I realize the middle of the field is difficult to defend for all teams, not just the Packers. I also realize that every offense tries to attack the middle, especially in this day and age of rules that favor offense, tight ends that can’t be covered and quarterbacks that are as accurate in real life as they are in the Madden football video game.
If the Packers want to shore up how they defend the middle of the field, here’s what needs to happen:
- Pass rush. Specifically, get pressure up the middle. QB pressure cures a lot of problems, but getting pressure up the middle is one of the few things that seems to rattle today’s quarterbacks. Teams need to find ways to prevent quarterbacks from stepping into their throws and staying in rhythm. A pass rush from the outside definitely helps, but it doesn’t take much for an athletic QB to make one move, slip away, and make plays outside the pocket. A pass rush up the middle helps keep the QB contained. Losing Desmond Bishop hurt the Packers pass rush up the middle, but hopefully Jerel Worthy can generate some pressure. Otherwise, it will be up to Dom Capers to scheme something.
- Charles Woodson. We’ll see how the Woodson at safety experiment plays out. Either way the Packers need him down the middle. Woodson isn’t scared to stick his nose in there and be physical, and with Bishop out, I’m not sure who else can cover a good tight end. Let’s not forget about tackling, either. Watching the Packers try to tackle in the open field resembles a clown show. Woodson’s tackling is nothing to laugh at, though, and it needs to stay that way.
- Defensive scheme. I’m not going to pretend that I’m an X’s and O’s expert, but I have a hard time believing that the Packers struggles up the middle don’t have at least something to do with scheme. Teams continually attacked Capers’ defense up the middle last season, and it didn’t seem like he ever adjusted (I don’t consider moving your corners even further off the line to be much of an adjustment). A consistent pass rush, sound tackling and fundamentally sound DBs will make any scheme look good, but some of this falls on Capers as well. Players need to be put in the proper position in order to succeed. Specifically what types of adjustments should Capers be making? Hey, I’m just a blogger. That’s up to Capers to figure out.
It’s not rocket science. Rushing the passer, tackling and making schematic adjustments seem like obvious fixes to any defensive struggles, but if the Packers can just improve in one of these areas, they’ll be better on defense, especially up the middle.
(Honorable mention improvements that I left off the list: B.J. Raji returning to form, A.J. Hawk recreating his 2009 season and another step forward for Morgan Burnett.)——————