Packers Defense Not Built to Stop the Run

Colin Kaepernick, Packers-49ers

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was out of the Green Bay Packers’ reach all game.

Colin Kaepernick killed the Green Bay Packers defense on Saturday night. It was a one-man show, and he was unstoppable.

“We thought that passing-wise, we would be alright, regardless of how he was throwing,” said veteran safety Charles Woodson, as quoted by Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin. “What we didn’t anticipate was him running and getting out of the pocket the way he did. Those things killed us. Broke our backs.”

He also seemed to break their souls, sucking the hope right out of the defense. Every time the defense would make good stops on first and second down, Kaepernick would come right back and burn them on third-and-long. The 49ers were 8-of-13 on third down, for a 62% conversion rate.

On the eight third down conversion, each play went for at least 12 yards. In total, the 49ers made 153 yards for an average gain of 19.1 yards. Five of them were running plays, and two of them went for touchdowns. And in looking at yards-to-go, five of those eight third downs needed at least 8 yards to convert.

The big question on everyone’s mind is: Why couldn’t the Packers stop Kaepernick and his running attack? Whether it was the option read or a scramble, he gashed them repeatedly for gigantic chunks of yardage.

Many people are pointing the finger at Dom Capers, and rightly so. His play calling and game plan did nothing to stop what the 49ers were doing. In fact, it almost seemed like he was completely unprepared for what Kaepernick was capable of. Spies were used minimally, and when the blitz was called, there was no one left on the back end for clean-up duty when Kaepernick escaped.

But was it all Capers’ fault? Our own Adam Czech suggests that this problem goes beyond the defensive coordinator. San Francisco, he writes, was simply “bigger, stronger, faster and tougher than the Packers.” And he’s right. The 49ers out-muscled Green Bay’s defense the entire game.

Let’s take a trip back in time, though. Think back to last season and what we were saying about the Packers defense. While the offense was having an historic season, the defense was struggling to be even mediocre. They kept getting burned by veteran quarterbacks and made the rookies look like veterans. The defense relied on the turnover to make their stops and was otherwise a sieve through the air.



Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks Part I

NFL Draft Logo Image

2012 NFL Draft

So now that the NFL draft is officially over, tons of fans will converge on Packers web sites to air their grievances about not drafting a particular player or reaching for another.  They will hand out grades to teams and players alike; argue with other fans about what should have happened, and how the analysts have no idea what they are talking about.

I frankly am uninterested in such things; you’re typically not going to find out how good a draft class or a player is for 3-5 years and a player’s success has a lot to do with the team and the environment they get drafted in.

Nevertheless, every team drafts a player with a role in mind, and in this article I hope to analyze what role I think each player was drafted for; I am not concerning myself with what I think will likely happen, I have not placed a grade or an analysis of each player’s potential for a reason.  I’ve also included who I think the rookies will be replacing, keep in mind I don’t necessarily think that a rookie will take a veteran’s spot (for instance I have Casey Hayward replacing Charles Woodson) only what type of role that rookie is like to take.

Nick Perry – Projected Outside Linebacker – Round 1, Pick 28 (#28 overall) – Replaces Erik Walden

Rationale: With no pass rushers taken until #15 (Bruce Irvin to Seattle), Ted Thompson probably just sat on his hands and waited for players to drop to him.  From a schematic standpoint I think Perry offers a good foil for fellow Trojan Clay Matthews III; Perry showed impressive strength (which is supposed to translate to explosion) at the combine with 38.5 inch vertical (tied for 2nd among defensive linemen and linebackers) and 35 bench reps (tied for 6th among defensive linemen and linebackers, though really he’s tied for 1st when you exclude defensive tackles) and while that didn’t translate to much of a power game on the field (though it could be argued when you are as fast around the edge as Perry is you’d probably neglect the power game as well), rookies typically get much “functionally” stronger with NFL weight rooms and trainers so Perry could be very good at setting the edge in the future.



Packers Defense Will Utilize Best Players Available

Oh yeah. I've got this.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I couldn’t be more excited about the 2012 Green Bay Packers draft class. I thought Ted Thompson did a great job targeting needed position players and acquiring them at a good value. For a GM who has scraped the bottom of the barrel for outside linebackers the past two years, it’s refreshing to see him pick a prospect like Nick Perry in the first round.

Of course, draft picks usually come with some baggage, and Perry is definitely no exception. Draftniks have identified a couple question marks when it comes to Perry’s future as an outside linebacker for the Packers:

1. Is he the right fit for a 3-4 OLB, or should he be playing as a DE in a 4-3 system? His body size seems to be large for an OLB, and he has expressed minimal enthusiasm about switching positions.

2. Does his motor run consistently enough for the professional level? Scouts have called him “a little soft” and noted that he has a tendency to take plays off.

These are valid concerns, but I would challenge you to find an NFL draft pick (or even current player!) with no flaws or uncertainties about them. The question becomes how the coaches work to correct these deficiencies and implement the player in the defensive scheme.

The Packers’ second pick of the draft, DL Jerel Worthy, was also questioned about his fit into a 3-4 system. His trouble shedding blocks and projection as merely a one-gap type lineman gave cause for some reservations about the selection. But again, the draft is not an exact science. Players who are expected to thrive in the NFL can fail just as easily as a questionable prospect can succeed. Nobody ever gets it 100% right.

What we all really have to remember, though, is that Mike McCarthy, Dom Capers, and the rest of the Green Bay coaching staff will find a way to get their best players onto the field and in the most effective way.

The 3-4 defensive philosophy is based on versatility and confusion. In fact, even the term “3-4” is a bit of a misnomer these days, as the teams who run such systems are outside of their base personnel more often than not. Teams like the Patriots, Dolphins, and Ravens have shifted towards the so-called “hybrid defense,” where the base lineman can change between 3 and 4 players, depending on the play, and gap responsibilities aren’t dictated in the traditional manners.