Packers Playbook Introduction: Basic Defensive Formations
Welcome to the offseason, where news runs as slow as molasses in northern Wisconsin during winter. As a way to pass the time and still get a healthy dose of Green Bay Packers football, we’ve put together a series detailing some defensive formations utilized by Dom Capers.
Every day this week we’ll bring you a breakdown of a particular Packers’ defensive formation. Hopefully it will help you build a better eye for the game and get you to see things you might never have noticed before.
When the Packers fired Bob Sanders and hired Dom Capers in 2009, it signified a fundamental shift in defensive philosophy. Mike McCarthy wanted to transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense, and Capers had a history of making these changes work, as well as being a founding father of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ legendary scheme.
“I’m big believer in the 3-4 defense for a number of different reasons,” McCarthy explained after hiring Capers. “From an offensive standpoint, it gives you targeting problems and allows you as a defense to [better] use your personnel. It really cuts the menu of the offense in half of what you would normally do against a 4-man front.”
But as we’ve seen, games are not merely played in 4-3 or 3-4 fronts. In fact, the Green Bay Packers have mostly used “nickel” formations the past few seasons, which primarily consist of two defensive linemen and four linebackers. It’s a response to the modern NFL and its pass-heavy tendencies. However, it also shows that there is more to a defense than just its “base” formation.
Below is a basic list of the defensive packages employed by Dom Capers and the Packers:
- Okie and Eagle (3-4-4)
- Nickel (2-4-5)
- Psycho (1-5-5)
- Dime (2-3-6)
- Bat (1-4-6)
- Prevent (1-3-7, 1-2-8)
- Hippo (4-4-3)
Many fans should have an understanding of what those numbers mean following each formation, but as a point of reference, I’ll explain them briefly.
The first number in the set refers to the number of defensive linemen on the field. The second number represents the number of linebackers (inside and outside), and the third number represents the number of defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties). Obviously, these three numbers will add up to eleven, since that’s how many players are allowed on the field for a play. That said, you can also omit the third number, which would then be implied based on the sum of the first two numbers.
It also demonstrates the fundamental difference between a “4-3” and a “3-4” defense. The former uses four linemen and three linebackers, while the latter uses only three linemen and four linebackers. They refer to the base defensive front, and though each one has a seven-man front, the personnel difference leads to a significant change in scheme and strategy.
In this series, we are going to highlight each of the above formations found in the Dom Capers defense and explain them in detail. We will also provide some video examples and analysis of these formations in action. So continue to check back in over the next couple weeks as we dive into the Packers playbook. You might just learn something! (And even if you don’t, you still get to talk some football during these slow news weeks.)——————Follow @ChadToporski