Category Archives: Defensive Coaches

26

February

Dom Capers: 2012 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Dom Capers

Dom Capers

1) Introduction:  Many expected 2012 to be a rebound season for the Packers defense.  The unit was the team’s Achilles heel in 2011 and it cost them a shot at a second straight Super Bowl.  Ted Thompson reloaded the team with talent via the 2012 NFL Draft,  so it was up to Dom Capers to turn the defense around.  Capers was expected to get the unit closer to 2010 form when it was one of the best defenses in the NFL.

2) Profile:

Ernest Dominic “Dom” Capers

  • Age: 62
  • Born: 08/07/1950, in Cambridge, OH
  • Rookie Year: 1986 (defensive backs coach with the Saints)
  • NFL Coaching Experience: 36 years

Biography and more

(3) Expectations coming into the season:  In a word: improvement.  The defense was bad in 2011, but a lot of those flaws were covered up by the record-setting offense the Packers had that year.  When the offense finally had a bad game, in the playoffs of all times, how bad the defense really was became clear.

Thompson infused the defense with youth via the draft and Capers was expected to get the youngsters ready to push some of the veterans.  The defense was not expected to be the liability it was in 2011.

4)Overachievements/Underachievements:  If we were to go by players, Capers got a lot out of rookie Casey Hayward. In fact, Hayward has done the impossible and made it likely the team can survive without the recently released Charles Woodson and in fact maybe even thrive.  Hayward also made Tramon Williams a better player and Williams improved over his atrocious 2011.

The linebacking corps would be considered an underachievement, but injuries took their toll with Desmond Bishop, DJ Smith and Nick Perry all finishing the season on injured reserve. Clay Matthews had another stellar season, but the linebackers struggled overall.

Perhaps the biggest failure the defense had (in the regular season anyway) was giving up over 400 yards to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson had a great year and is a very talented back, but anytime a running back gains roughly 20% of his season total on your defense in two games, something is wrong.

20

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Outside Linebacker

Clay Matthews and Nick Perry

Matthews and Perry will anchor the Outside Linebacker spots in 2013

Packers Outside Linebackers:  This is a group that had a lot of promise heading into 2o12 but after an injury to rookie Nick Perry and an underwhelming season from 2011 incumbent Erik Walden, there wasn’t nearly as much production as the defense needed nor wanted.  The Green Bay Packers enter the 2013 offseason with some questions at this vital position.

(Note: Listen to the combined linebackers podcast at the end of this article:)

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

Clay Matthews III (1st round)

Nick Perry (1st round)

Erik Walden (UDFA)

Dezman Moses (UDFA)

Frank Zombo (UDFA)

Jamari Lattimore (UDFA)

Matthews was, once again, the steady rock of this group.  He had has second-best season, posting 13 sacks despite missing several games with a hamstring injury.  Not much more can be said of Matthews other than he makes the entire Packers defense better and he has to be a top priority of the team to retain when his contract expires at the end of the 2013 season.

Perry had high expectations after being drafted in the first round.  He showed some flash early in the season but was shelved after just six games due to an injured wrist ligament that required surgery.  It’s hard to say what Perry’s impact would have been but the team will enter the 2013 season program with him slated to start at left outside linebacker.

Walden stepped in as the starter when Perry went down and played very marginally.  He missed the first game due to a suspension for an off-field incident during the 2011 season.  After that, he posted two interceptions and a handful of sacks, but he was largely ineffective in games thata mattered most.  He was virtually non-existent during the playoffs and is now an unrestricted free agent.  He is likely low on the Packers list of priorities to bring back, if even at all.

Moses is another undrafted free agent who made a splash during the 2012 OTA’s and training camp.  He earned a roster spot and platooned with Walden and Zombo when Perry and Matthews were injured.  He wasn’t very flashy and while he surely be in training camp this season, his roster spot is all but locked in.

14

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Defensive Line

Next up in the AllGreenBayPackers.com’s positional group analysis is the defensive line, who while showed some improvement from their disastrous 2011 season was still probably the reason behind their playoff collapse this year.

Where Are We Now

Here are the current suspects;

  • BJ Raji (1st round, 2009)
  • Ryan Pickett (1st round, 2001)
  • Mike Neal (2nd round, 2010)
  • CJ Wilson (7th round, 2010)
  • Jerel Worthy (2nd round, 2012)
  • Mike Daniels (4th round, 2012)
  • Philip Merling (2nd round, 2008, cut week 4)

So that’s where we are.  Thompson has made quite an effort to shore up his defensive line, with three 1st or 2nd rounders in the last four years.  However, despite Thompson’s focus on the defensive line, not much good has happened.  BJ Raji hasn’t been as dominant a force as he was in the 2010 Superbowl season, Mike Neal is essentially starting his sophomore campaign with all the injuries he suffered and rookie Jerel Worthy looked like a raw rookie before suffering an ACL injury.

  • Raji: Raji spent considerably more time as a defensive end this year than as a nose tackle (536 snaps at DE vs. 123 at NT) and overall as I’ve written in my previous articles this is probably the best move for the Packers as defensive ends are much more important to a 3-4 defense than nose tackles.  While Raji definitely had a better season than his lackluster 2011 campaign, it still pales in comparison to his 2010 season where he earned the nickname “the freezer”.  One distinct possibility is that Raji is starting to wear down due to all the snaps that he’s had to take since there were no other viable DL around, but the addition of Worthy, Neal and Daniels will hopefully allow the Packers to have a decent DL rotation.
  • Pickett: Pickett again was a consistent performer in the middle, while he’s never going to really get the sacks or tackles to make fans notice, he does hold up double teams and do the dirty work for the rest of the defensive linemen and linebackers.  However at 33 Pickett is certainly in the twilight of his career but surprisingly is playing more snaps ever year since 2009; this obviously can’t continue to happen for a guy at his age and size so chances are good with Raji perhaps spending the majority of time at DE, we could see the Packers look for a replacement at nose tackle.
28

January

The Statistical Reason Why The Packers Defense Has Declined

 

While doing research on my last article, I noticed one very interesting fact: Dominant 3-4 defenses tended to have a star 5-technique defense end.  The 3 best 3-4 defenses in terms of Advanced NFL Stats’ dEPA (defensive expected points added) in the NFL right now are San Francisco, Arizona and Houston and each team boasts impact 5-technique defensive linemen like Justin Smith, Calais Campbell and JJ Watt, each of which is among the top five 5-technique defensive linemen according to ProFootballFocus.  This got me to thinking: everyone knows that the quarterback effects offensive success more than any other position on the field (hence why Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning can keep winning games without good offensive lines and running backs), but is there a position on a 3-4 defense that is most important to defensive success?

Traditionally, the hallmarks of a good 3-4 defense has been it’s nose tackle and outside linebackers; indeed in 2009 when Green Bay switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, general manager Ted Thompson drafted nose tackle BJ Raji with the 9th overall pick and then traded up back into the 1st round for outside linebacker Clay Matthews III.  The argument has always been made that a dominant nose tackle that can eat up multiple blockers and outside linebackers who are athletic enough to rush the passer are the keys to a dominant 3-4 defense.  You could argue that Green Bay seems have both positions covered, both Clay Matthews III and BJ Raji are both dominant players but while that seemed to have translated to success in 2009 and 2010, it didn’t seem to matter much in 2011 and 2012.

What I’ve done is a correlation analysis using ProFootballFocus’ player grades and comparing them to overall defensive efficiency measured in dEPA.  I’ve flipped the signs for dEPA to just to avoid making it an inverse correlation.  I’ve included both Pearson’s r and chi2, I’m not really much of a statistics guy so I have no idea what the difference is between them, but if you happen to know more about this, leave a comment and I can adjust my analysis if needed.  Overall, the way to read these figures is that a value of 0 means there is no correlation at all while a value of 1 means that there is perfect correlation.  So for this case, the higher the number the more “valuable” that position is to defensive efficiency.  I’ve also included a positive control by correlating dEPA vs. dDVOA (from Football outsiders) and they are 91% correlated, which basically means this analysis holds for both metrics.  Finally, I’ve included a negative control by looking at the correlation between how well the offensive center plays versus how well the defense does; presumably how well the center plays has no relationship to how well the defense plays.

16

January

Lovie Smith, 4-3 Defense Not Right for Packers

Lovie Smith

Lovie Smith and the 4-3 defense for the Packers? I don’t think so.

There has been a lot of talk among Green Bay Packers fans regarding Dom Capers and his future as the team’s defensive coordinator. Saturday’s postseason loss to the San Francisco 49ers was the anvil that broke the camel’s back after a 2011 season of defensive agony, despite their overall improvement in 2012.

Tangential to this discussion is the consideration of who would take Dom Capers’ place. Some people brought up Rob Ryan’s name, though apparently the St. Louis Rams have already snatched him up. There are other gurus of the 3-4 defense, though, that could still be candidates, as well as the option of “promoting from within,” which the Packers are fond of doing.

Meanwhile, some fans are calling for a complete overhaul of the defense. They’d rather see a return to the 4-3 scheme that Green Bay ran before hiring Capers. Names like Lovie Smith have been tossed around as options, and some have even offered up way to reposition the current players to fit the scheme.

And I just can’t help but be dumbfounded by these opinions.

I understand the desire for a change. (Really, I do.) But there are a number of reasons why switching back to the 4-3 or hiring a coach like Lovie Smith just won’t work for this Packers team. Here are a few major ones:

1) No More Clay Matthews

Despite drafting some players in 2012 that appeared to be better suited for a 4-3 scheme (Worthy, Perry), the best player on the defense would lose his effectiveness. Clay Matthews is a 3-4 outside linebacker, and he has been training his entire professional career to become a damn good one. He makes his money on the speed edge rush, which wouldn’t be nearly as effective coming from a defensive end position with his hand in the dirt. Likewise, though Matthews is good in pass coverage, moving him to a 4-3 OLB position would remove him from the pass rush (excepting blitzes). And why would we take him away from his greatest asset?

As Zach Heilprin said on Green and Gold Today during Monday’s show, Matthews would essentially become the Aaron Kampman of a scheme switch – a great player whose best qualities wouldn’t fit the new scheme.

2) Missing a Tampa 2 Middle Linebacker

12

December

Packers-Bears: Brandon Marshall adds fuel to the fire

Bears WR Brandon Marshall

Bears WR Brandon Marshall

The Packers-Bears rivalry has been going on for 91 years. The Bears have won 92 of those games, the Packers have won 87, and they’ve played to six ties since the rivalry began in 1921.

When the Bears named Lovie Smith head coach in 2004, he clearly stated that his team’s No.1 goal would be to beat Green Bay.

But recently, the Packers have owned the rivalry. Green Bay has won seven of the past eight matchups, including a victory in the NFC Championship at Soldier Field in the 2010 season.

The most recent chapter of the longstanding rivalry was week two this year when the Packers dominated the Bears 23-10 at Lambeau Field. The offense was crisp, and the defense was stellar.

The Green Bay defense was tough against the run and the secondary silenced the Bears’ top receiver–Brandon Marshall.

Marshall caught just two passes for 24 yards in the first meeting. And after the game, Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson were vocal in their assessment of the Bears’ offense, and mainly, quarterback Jay Cutler.

“It’s the same old Jay,” Woodson said after the game. ”We don’t need luck, Jay will throw us the ball. Proof is in the pudding.”

Cutler, of course, publicly wished the Packers’ secondary “good luck” before the two teams met at Lambeau Field. It seems Cutler’s well wishes turned out well for the Packers, as cornerback Tramon Williams caught as many passes from Cutler as Marshall did–two.

And on Wednesday morning, it was clear that there was no love lost between Marshall and the Packers. Tyler Dunne, of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentiel, got the scoop from Marshall’s time at the podium.

To that comment, one might ask this question–who really cares who Marshall wants to give the credit to? Dom Capers dialed up the scheme, and the players made it happen. Williams shadowed Marshall for most of the night, and Capers opted to have safety help over the top with either Charles Woodson or Morgan Burnett.

Marshall is the Bears’ only true game-breaker on the perimeter, so what else is Capers supposed to do? From coaching to execution, the Packers did their job. Period.

Oh yeah, and Marshall dropped a wide open touchdown in the game as well. But anyways. What’s next?

18

October

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 6 at Texans

I think it’s time to do a Hobbjective Analysis on a group that has always been overlooked: linemen.  I’m guilty of it myself; line play is very complicated and nuanced and I will be the first to admit that I don’t know very much about it; if you want to see what sort of technicians and athletes these guys truly are, I highly recommend you check out the “Word of Muth” column over at Football Outsiders (one of my favorite columns by the way).  Nevertheless, I personally think that while Aaron Rodgers throwing 6 touchdowns probably was a big factor as to why the Packers were able to clobber the Houston Texans, I think the defensive line deserves even more credit than Rodgers in winning the game for the Packers.

The Situation: It’s 11:44 in the second quarter with the Packers taking the early lead in with a 14-0 advantage.  Early in the game the Texans had curiously attempted to get their offense started with a pass-heavy strategy but ended up with quarterback Matt Schaub running for his life.  By the time the second quarter rolls around, it appears as if the Texans have abandoned this idea and go back to their bread and butter strategy of getting good down and distance situations with All-Pro RB Arian Foster, and setting up the play action pass with QB Matt Schaub and All-Pro WR Andre Johnson.

 

 

The formation: The Texans come out in a 2-1-2 formation (2WR-1TE-2RB) with WR Johnson aligned out wide to the left and WR Kevin Walter aligned in the slot to the right.  TE Owen Daniels lines up inline along side the right tackle while RB Foster is 7 yards directly behind QB Schaub with FB James Casey forming a offset I formation.  The Packers respond with their base 3-4 alignment.  The Packers come out with their standard linebacking core of ROLB Clay Matthews, ILB AJ Hawk, ILB DJ Smith and LOLB Erik Walden.  With NT BJ Raji out of the game due to an injury sustained versus the Colts, DE Ryan Pickett takes his place and lines up as the 0-technique (to the open side shoulder of the center), while DE CJ Wilson aligns to the right of Pickett and plays the 4-technique (between the guard and tackle), while DE Jerel Worthy aligns to Pickett’s left and plays the 3-technique (directly infront of the guard; I admit it’s rather hard to judge the defensive line’s alignment due to the camera angle, traditionally the NT plays the 0 technique while the DEs play the 5 technique).    I’ve excluded labeling the secondary as their are extraneous in this play, especially with SS Charles Woodson outside the box.