Category Archives: Dom Capers

19

January

Packers, Capers really missed Casey Hayward in 2013

Casey Hayward wasn't the Packers' only missing link in 2013, but he was certainly missed. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Casey Hayward wasn’t the Packers’ only missing link in 2013, but he was certainly missed. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

As a rookie in 2012, Packers cornerback Casey Hayward was one of three finalists for the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best cornerback–the second-round pick trailed only established veterans Antoine Winfield, Richard Sherman and Charles Tillman.

After Hayward intercepted a team-best six passes and holding opposing passers to an abysmal 31.1 passer rating, the Packers had high hopes for Hayward, as they cut ties with their veteran leader and turnover-creator Charles Woodson following the 2012 season.

But Hayward’s encore was disrupted by a recurring hamstring issue, limiting him to appearing in just three games. He played 88 snaps.

With Woodson playing in Oakland and Hayward on the sideline, the Packers were left searching for a solution in the slot early last season. Sam Shields and Tramon Williams had fine seasons, but both are better suited for the perimeter. Micah Hyde didn’t play like a rookie, as he took over as the primary punt returner while proving to be a reliable run defender and a versatile cover man.

All things considered, the Packers’ cornerbacks fared well, but they were seriously lacking in one area.

For as long as Dom Capers has served as defensive coordinator in Green Bay, the Packers defense has relied heavily on takeaways. Woodson intercepted 19 passes and forced 11 fumbles during Capers’ tenure, which began in 2009. When Capers served as defensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992-1994, he had another Woodson (Rod), who intercepted 16 passes in three seasons with Capers.

But for the first time since taking over in Green Bay, Capers was without his X-Factor in 2013. He didn’t have a play-maker. He certainly didn’t have a Woodson.

For a defense that had grown accustomed to bending but not breaking, losing its turnover-creating wild card would be like throwing Capers in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean without a raft. Hayward’s 88 snaps were a makeshift life vest, but Capers and the defense remained stranded and searching for answers.

It would be foolish to assume Hayward’s career will unfold like Woodson’s, but you don’t let go of your high-school sweetheart without a winner on deck. The Packers had a plan for Life After Woodson, but that plan (Hayward) fell by the wayside thanks to the injury bug.

16

January

Safety First: Packers’ offseason needs start in secondary

Morgan Burnett had a disappointing 2013 season, and the starting spot alongside him is very much up for grabs.

Morgan Burnett had a disappointing 2013 season, and the starting spot alongside him is very much up for grabs.

Injuries, Ted Thompson, Dom Capers, Nick Collins and more injuries. The reasons identified for the Green Bay Packers’ struggles at safety are plentiful, but the current state of the position leaves little room for debate.

The Packers are in less-than-ideal shape at safety. And it’s debatably the team’s most glaring need this offseason.

After missing the first three games of the season, Morgan Burnett was, as usual, an every-down player for the Packers, leading the safeties with 874 snaps played. M.D. Jennings, prior to seeing a reduction in playing time late in the season, finished second among the team’s safeties, as he was on the field for 809 snaps. But with Jennings’ future in doubt as he hits unrestricted free agency, the 2014 depth chart is foggy.

It may be unlikely but still possible that the Packers’ opening-day starter opposite Morgan Burnett is already on the roster, however he’s probably not currently listed as a safety.

Casey Hayward, who missed all of the 2013-14 season except for 88 plays, is set to return in 2014, which brings Micah Hyde’s situation into light. Hayward graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 4 cornerback as a rookie in 2012 and is at his best operating from the slot–the same spot Hyde saw most of his action this past season.

When he’s healthy, Hayward will be on the field. Given the Packers’ state at safety, Hyde’s best chance to see significant playing time may be at safety. Remember you’re living in a world in which Mike Neal plays outside linebacker.

Despite dropping what would have been a career-defining interception against the 49ers in crunch time a couple weeks ago, Hyde had a terrific rookie season, one in which he proved capable of playing all over the formation. If the Packers give him a full offseason of preparation, perhaps Hyde could be “the guy” alongside Burnett.

Of course, Hyde’s transition to safety hinges on the uncertain futures of cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. And both could be playing elsewhere next season.

Ideally, the Packers want two players who can play both free and strong safety. By committing to Morgan Burnett with a long-term contract, the Packers feel they have one such player already. But other than Burnett, the Packers have just Chris Banjo–and his 192 snaps played in 2013–and Sean Richardson (156) set to return next season at safety, and neither player has proven to be anything more than a solid run defender.

14

January

So You Want To Fire Dom Capers?

A lot of fans have been clamoring for the head of Dom Capers, the perceived problem to all of the Packers woes.  Some have argued that Dom Capers is getting too old to be coaching, his defensive philosophy and schemes too outdated and too complex for players to handle and perhaps most puzzling his lack of coaching causing injuries, missed assignments and miscommunication between the defensive unit.  However, before you start cleaning out his office, you have to have a plan B; namely if the Packers did fire Dom Capers, who would be the new 3-4 defensive coordinator?  Before all of you shout “I don’t care, anyone would be better than Dom Capers”, you and I are “anyone” and we all know that anyone that comments on this site would make a terrible defensive coordinator (let’s not even pretend).  With that in mind, I’ve created a list of the some of the potential coaching candidates that could replace Dom Capers

In House Options:

  1. Mike Trgovac: Trgovac has the most experience among the assistant coaches and is the only one with previous defensive coordinator experience having been the DC for the Carolina Panthers from 2003-2008. However in Carolina the Panthers ran a 4-3 alignment so it’s unclear how much experience he has with the 3-4 defense as a whole.  Furthermore, Trgovac turned down a 2-year contract extension with Carolina in order to take the Packers defensive line coaching position, which is interesting in itself considering Trgovac essentially took a pay cut and dropped down a rung on the coaching ladder to work for the Packers, which might be an indication that he doesn’t have an interest in being a defensive coordinator any more.  Of the in house choices, Trgovac probably has the best chance of being promoted to defensive coordinator; while he has turned down several coordinator interviews over the last couple years stating that he doesn’t want to move his family, obviously becoming the defensive coordinator for the Packers would not have this issue.  Furthermore, 3-4 defensive line production is largely a stat less critique, which would likely help Trgovac hide some of the poor performances the defensive line has had over the years.
12

January

I Don’t Want to Hear About Dom Capers’ Defense being too Complicated

Dom Capers coached the defense that finished ranked 25th in total defense.

Dom Capers

The debate about whether Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers should be fired has been swirling for over two seasons and won’t go away until Capers himself goes away or the Packers defense improves.

Now, another narrative has emerged to push back against those who want Capers canned: Dom’s defense is just too complicated for young players to understand.

Capers’ defense might very well be complicated — maybe even too complicated for young players to fully grasp. If that is, indeed, the case, then it’s yet another reason why Capers should be fired, not an excuse to keep him around and forgive the Packers defensive shortcomings.

If Capers’ defense is too complicated, then he needs to make the appropriate adjustments and simplify things as necessary to help his young, injury-ravaged defense. We’ve seen the same mistakes occur over and over again in the Packers secondary under Capers watch: big passing plays downfield as two Packers defensive backs point at each other and argue about who was supposed to be where.

I understand that you can’t just overhaul and make drastic changes to a defense on the fly, but the same breakdowns have been happening for a long time now. There has been plenty of time to make adjustments to try and cover some of the Packers inexperience. Instead, it seems like Capers tried to fit the square peg of his young players into the round of hole of his complicated scheme.

The issue of Capers’ defense being too complicated for young players also raises questions about his fit for the Packers. If Capers’ defense requires veterans to grasp and execute it, then why is he the defensive coordinator on a team that doesn’t sign veteran free agents and relies heavily on rookies every season, some of which aren’t even drafted?

I’m non entirely on the fire Capers bandwagon. I agree that the Packers problems on defense go beyond the coordinator. But the new talking point about the Packers defense being too young to understand Capers’ scheme is maddening.

If Capers’ players on defense just aren’t getting the scheme, he needs to make adjustments. Youth is not a valid excuse for the underperformance of Capers’ defense the last three seasons.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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9

January

Is the Packers’ Glass Half Empty Or Half Full?

Beer

Packers and Beer.

Players, coaches, the media and most often the fans like to say “every season that didn’t include a Super Bowl Victory is a failure”.  I get the sentiment, as long as your team wins the Super Bowl, everything is forgiven; it doesn’t matter how many mistakes were made or how many games were lost, as long as your team takes the Lombardi trophy at home, everything else is forgiven.  However, this is really a shortsighted assessment of any team’s season; would anyone argue that the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans had equally failed seasons because neither will win the Super Bowl this year?  Of course not, the Chiefs saw a massive rebound from the worse record in 2012 to one of the best and saw jumps in all analytics to boot.  On the other hand, the Texans were predicted by many pundits to be a Super Bowl contender but lost 15 games in a row and saw their head coach fired mid-season.  Furthermore, fans of the New England Patriots can realistically expect to be in contention for a Super Bowl every year for the foreseeable future, but the same cannot be said for the Oakland Raiders, who are still in the middle of a massive rebuilding process; getting into the playoffs but not the Super Bowl might be considered a failure for the Patriots, but just getting into the playoffs should be considered a successful season for the Raiders.

All that basically points back to the 2013 Packers; should we consider this season a success or a failure?  Or more realistically, do you see the Packers season as a glass half empty or a glass half full?

The Packers were an average team (8-7-1)

Glass half empty: The Packers took a major nose dive this season after posting a 11-5 season in 2012, 15-1 season in 2011 and winning the Super Bowl in 2010.  Especially in the middle of the season it looked like the team was lost and without a goal as they were man handled by the Eagles, Giants and most notably the Lions.  The defense again fell apart and the Packers were forced to learn how to run the ball behind Eddie Lacy, which didn’t happen overnight.  Hell, they couldn’t even truly beat the Minnesota Vikings who threw Christian Ponder back in a quarterback.  Finally, the Packers again proved that they are incapable of beating the 49ers with the 3rd consecutive loss.

8

January

Packers Outplayed, Not Outcoached in Loss to 49ers

Packers 49ers Wild Card KaepernickAs we become farther and farther removed from the Super Bowl XLV championship season, the microscope on Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, and Dom Capers becomes increasingly magnified. And for a good reason. The Green Bay Packers have arguably the best quarterback in the league on their team, yet for the past three postseasons, they have come up far short of the Super Bowl. They haven’t even reached the NFC Conference Championship in that time span.

I even wrote a controversial post back in November about how Dom Capers is under-utilizing the talent on the defense, suggesting that he be let go in the offseason in favor of someone new. And many of us were carefully scrutinizing the defense during the Wild Card game against the San Francisco 49ers, since they had been the weak link in many of the postseason failures. Could Capers redeem himself and finally put a stop to Colin Kaepernick?

The strange thing about this game, though, was that blaming the coaches for the loss just didn’t seem right. In fact, it wouldn’t be right, because this game came down to missed opportunities by the Packers. There were a number of times where they could have taken control of the game, yet failed to.

We’ll start with the final drive by the 49ers, because it’s where the biggest and most costly miscues were made.

On 2nd-and-10 at the San Francisco 31-yard line, Micah Hyde makes the most heart-wrenching drop of the game, because that interception would have easily been taken to the house. The Packers would have been up 27-20, and the final four minutes would have unraveled much differently. But even on the ensuing 3rd-and-10, Kaepernick is able to escape the pocket and hit Michael Crabtree for 17 yards.

Then, with just over a minute left, the 49ers once again convert a 3rd-and-8 when Kaepernick escapes a Cover 0 blitz and runs for the first down. Jarrett Bush fails to contain, Ryan Pickett gets pushed to the inside, and Andy Mulumba just can’t run fast enough to save the play.

Those were the missed opportunities that stick in our head the most; however, there were others throughout the game that made a difference.

7

January

Game Balls and Lame Calls: 49ers 23, Packers 20

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers couldn't get past the 49ers, so their focus now shifts to 2014.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers couldn’t get past the 49ers, so their focus now shifts to 2014.

It was a different final score but the same result for the Green Bay Packers when their season clock expired Jan. 5 against the San Francisco 49ers.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick didn’t have 181 rushing yards, as he did in last year’s playoffs. But he had 98 on just seven carries.

Kaepernick fell short of the second 400-yard passing day of his career after racking up 412 in September’s season opener. But he moved the chains through the air and threw a dart to Vernon Davis for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter en route to extending his record against Green Bay to 3-0.

As things currently stand, the San Francisco 49ers of the 2010s are to the Green Bay Packers what the Dallas Cowboys were in the 1990s. Sunday’s game was a nail biter. In fact, it wasn’t decided until Phil Dawson’s field goal snuck through Davon House’s arms and inside the right goal post as time expired. But the win over the Packers was the 49ers’ fourth in two seasons. It was Green Bay’s second postseason loss to the 49ers in as many seasons.

But, top to bottom, the NFL is probably the most competitive of the major sports on a weekly basis. Anyone can beat anyone, and the Packers–yes, the same team that has allowed 132 points in its last four games against San Francisco–can beat Kaepernick and the 49ers.

They just haven’t yet.

While much of Packer Nation continues to reflect on the 2013-14 season and wonder what might have been, let’s look ahead at the future. And despite some obvious holes on the defensive side of the ball and the likely reappearance of Packer the Injury Bug, the team’s future is bright.

Because the offense has the potential to be phenomenal.

The Packers took a giant step forward this season by relying on a steady running game behind Rookie of the Year candidate Eddie Lacy. The Packers’ second-round pick shouldered the load all season, as he carried the ball at least 20 times in 10 games. Due to injuries at the quarterback position, Lacy became the focal point of the Packers’ offense, and they managed to squeak into the playoffs.