28

March

Xs and Os: Do the Packers Have an Elephant in the Room?

Julius Peppers hopes to be a disruptive force for the Green Bay Packers defense.

Julius Peppers hopes to be a disruptive force for the Green Bay Packers defense.

When the Green Bay Packers signed defensive end Julius Peppers in free agency, lots of speculation about his future role with the team erupted.

We heard rumors circulating about a possible deployment of a “hybrid defense” and the “elephant end” position.

The reason for this speculation is Packers’ defensive Dom Capers employs a base 3-4 defense, which utilizes 3 defensive linemen and 4 linebackers.

However, Peppers is a 4-3 defensive end. The 4-3 defense utilizes 4 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers.

Because of this alignment difference, the defensive ends between both schemes have different body types and responsibilities.

Typically, 4-3 defensive ends are usually between 260-285 pounds and are long, fluid athletes. On the other hand, 3-4 defensive ends are between 300-340 pounds and are more of the wrecking ball type.

The reason for these different body types has to do with defensive gap control.

Gap control is how the defense puts its players in proper position, mainly for stopping the running game, but also secondarily when establishing pass rushing lanes.

The 3-4 defense typically uses a double gap system, meaning that each defender in the front 7 is responsible for defending 2 gaps in the offensive formation.

This is very much a read and react system where each player anticipates where the ball will go and move to that location as the play develops. At the snap of the ball, the defensive linemen stand up their blockers, clog the position, and move to the lane where the ball is.

Linebackers also have double control and flow to the ball as the runner hits the lane.

Legend: T = Tackle G = Guard C = Center TE = Tight end DE = Defensive end NT = Nose tackle S = Sam (strong side linebacker) M = Mike (middle linebacker) W = Will (weak side linebacker) J = Jack linebacker

Legend:
T = Tackle, G = Guard, C = Center, TE = Tight end, DE = Defensive end, NT = Nose tackle, S = Sam (strong side linebacker), M = Mike (middle linebacker), W = Will (weak side linebacker), J = Jack linebacker

The 3-4 defense relies on strength to control the gaps, which is why the defensive linemen are large. However, the Jack linebacker, such as Clay Matthews, is free to roam and do damage over a large portion of the field, including rushing the passer.

In contrast, the 4-3 defense is traditionally a single gap defense, which means each front 7 defender controls only 1 lane.

Legend: DT = Defensive tackle

Legend:
DT = Defensive tackle

13

February

World to Spin Backwards, Packers Ted Thompson to Delve into Free Agency

Packers GM Ted Thompson

Packers GM Ted Thompson

A report last night from NFL Insider Ian Rappaport claims sources within the Packers have told him Green Bay will reverse course this off-season and look to put together a more dynamic defense via free agent signings.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport said Wednesday on “NFL Total Access” that the Packers plan to take advantage of their nearly $30 million in cap space and acquire outside free agents, according to sources informed of the team’s thinking. Rapoport reported on NFL Network that the Packerscould sign as many as five players, which would be the most for the team since 2006.

 And who will Green Bay target? According to Rapoport, the team is committed to rebuilding its defense in a way that best suits the philosophy of defensive coordinator Dom Capers. That means getting more athletic and versatile along the defensive line. A major goal is to improve their ability to blitz and get after the quarterback. Green Bay finished with 44 sacks last season, tied for eighth in the league.

FULL ARTICLE HERE

My initial reaction is: NOW you want to tailor your defense to Dom Capers’ philosophy? So what have we been doing since the Super Bowl win? Is this saying that the drafting of such players as Mike Neal, Morgan Burnett, Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, etc, has been a mistake?

Is this purely a reactionary move after watching the dynamic Seattle defense destroy the Broncos? As in, “yeah, that’s what we should do?”

Then there’s the question of how accurate this information is. And what level of free agency are we talking about? Will the Packers actually participate on day one or two?

I suppose if this is true, I should just be happy. But I can’t shake the feeling that things got a bit too comfortable for everyone the last few seasons and opportunities were squandered.

In any case, time for everyone to man the battle stations – we’re sailing through uncharted waters here…

Without this becoming a flaming Ted Thompson hate fest, I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts:

——————

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

27

January

Jarrett Bush 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers CB Jarrett Bush

Packers CB Jarrett Bush

1) Introduction: Despite being a special teams ace and, along with Tramon Williams, a veteran presence among a young group of cornerbacks, Bush wasn’t necessarily a lock to make the team in 2013. The Packers spent a fifth-round pick on what they thought was a NFL-ready corner in Micah Hyde, and they were already stacked at the position with Williams, Sam Shields and Casey Hayward. But as always seems to be the case, Bush was asked to play a fairly prominent role on defense at several points throughout the season. That said, Bush’s time in Green Bay may be waning, as the veteran defensive back will turn 30 before the 2014 season kicks off.

2) Profile: Jarrett Bush

  • Age: 29
  • Born: 5/21/1984 in Vacaville , CA
  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 200
  • College: Utah State
  • Rookie Year: 2006
  • NFL Experience: 8 year

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: While probably not the most popular player among the Packers’ fan base, most, at this point, know Bush is what he is. He’s a guy who prepares as well as anyone in the locker room and can play a defensive role if need be, but his primary impact would come on special teams. Once Bush made the roster, his expectations for the upcoming season were a carbon copy of what they are every season.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: If there’s one highlight that came out of Bush’s 2013-14 season, it’s his clutch interception of Matt Ryan on the Atlanta Falcons’ final possession. The way the Packers’ season had been going at the time, it looked like the Falcons may be on the verge of a Hail Mary road win, but Bush put an end to that. The Falcons game (+1.4) was Bush’s best of the season, according to Pro Football Focus, while the Vikings game in Minnesota (-1.1) was his worst.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Jarrett Bush was Jarrett Bush. He played a lot on special teams and a little on defense; never more than 23 defensive snaps in a game and never less than zero. Bush, however, missed four games in 2013 after missing just two in his first seven seasons.

27

January

Davon House 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers CB Davon House

Packers CB Davon House

1) Introduction: Since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, House, while often showing flashes in training camp, had only suited up for 11 games in his first two seasons. Part of a crowded group of cornerbacks along with Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde, the injury bug forced House into the lineup, as he was able to avoid the training room in his third year, appearing in all 16 games for the Packers. House is cut out of the Al Harris mold–from his 6’1″ frame to his No. 31 and dreadlocks. House could be a beneficiary of the trickle-down effect should Williams and/or Shields move on from Green Bay.

2) Profile: Davon House

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 7/10/1989 in Van Nuys , CA
  • Height: 6’1″
  • Weight: 195
  • College: New Mexico State
  • Rookie Year: 2011
  • NFL Experience: 3 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Before the season, the rookie (Hyde) wasn’t expected to play a significant role on defense, so the three “starters” were expected to come out of a four-man battle fought between House, Williams, Shields and Hayward. Obviously, Hayward’s bid for early-season playing time was exterminated by injury, and Hyde stepped up to the plate. After not winning a starting job to start the season, the outlook for House’s season was cloudy.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Pro Football Focus would say House played the best game of his career against the Cleveland Browns in October. He helped blanket breakout-star Josh Gordon, limiting the All-Pro to just two catches on the day; House, himself, caught a pass, as he intercepted Brandon Weeden on fourth down. But while appearing in all 16 games was a big step for House, he went through a rough patch late in the season. After playing 67 snaps on Thanksgiving against the Detroit Lions, House’s playing time fizzled as the regular season wrapped up, playing just five snaps over the course of the final four games. At one point, the coaching staff opted for Jarrett Bush over House.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: House failed the earn a starting job in training camp, but opportunities were plentiful as the season went on. With Shields out of the lineup for two games, Hayward on the sideline for all but 88 plays and Hyde still a rookie, House played more than he may have anticipated and did a solid job overall. Did he do enough to make the front office and coaching staff believe he’s a starting-caliber player? Probably not, but we’ll find out.

26

January

Casey Hayward 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers CB Casey Hayward

Packers CB Casey Hayward

1) Introduction: After a great rookie season in which he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 4 cornerback, Hayward appeared poised to take on an even larger role in 2013 with Charles Woodson playing elsewhere. But a bum hamstring hampered Hayward (shoutout to alliterations) throughout training camp and into the season. As a result, Hayward was only on the field for 88 snaps in his second season. The Packers dipped to 26th in the league in interceptions without Hayward–who led the team with six interceptions as a rookie in 2012. It’ll be interesting to see a healthy Hayward on the field next summer at training camp.

2) Profile: Casey Hayward

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 9/9/1989 in Perry, GA
  • Height: 5’11″
  • Weight: 192
  • College: Vanderbilt
  • Rookie Year: 2012
  • NFL Experience: 2 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: As a rookie, Hayward was clearly the Packers’ top slot cover man. So with Woodson playing in Oakland, the need for a “turnover creator” was pressing, and Hayward was the most logical choice on the roster. The Packers had big expectations for Hayward coming into the season.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Hayward played a season-high 42 snaps Nov. 4 against the Chicago Bears and made five tackles. That’s about it for his highlights. As far as low-lights, it’s pretty easy. Hayward was hobbled by his hammy literally from summer through the winter, and the result was a lost season.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Hayward was rusty–certainly not in top form–as he battled through his hamstring injury, and 88 snaps can only elicit so much in terms of a contribution.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Hayward ended up on the I.R. and didn’t appear in the playoffs. If you’re keeping score at home and/or looking for reason to be optimistic about the Packers’ chances against the 49ers, Hayward didn’t play a snap in either game against San Francisco this season and both games were decided by one possession. In fact, Hayward has played a total of 35 snaps in four games against the 49ers.

Season Report Card:

(N/A) Level of expectations met during the season

(N/A) Contributions to team’s overall success

(N/A) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: LS (Lost Season)

26

January

Micah Hyde 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers CB Micah Hyde

Packers CB Micah Hyde

1) Introduction: Despite being named B1G Defensive Back of the Year following his senior year at Iowa, Hyde fell all the way to the fifth round in the draft. As a rookie, Hyde was expected to contribute primarily on special teams; few foresaw the rookie playing 448 snaps on defense, but that’s what happened. Now, as the team weighs its options with Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, guys like Hyde, Casey Hayward and Davon House may be forced into a larger role moving forward. Hyde certainly exceeded expectations for his rookie year.

2) Profile: Micah Hyde

  • Age: 23
  • Born: 12/31/1990 in Toledo, OH
  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 197
  • College: Iowa
  • Rookie Year: 2013
  • NFL Experience: 1 year

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: With the ability to return punts and kicks, Hyde was mentioned as a possible replacement for Randall Cobb, whose days as a primary return man were thought to be numbered. A versatile defender capable of playing the perimeter or the slot, some thought Hyde could find the field in some capacity during his first season. Still, expectations were limited for the fifth-round rookie. But when Hayward’s hamstring issue lingered, Hyde became the Packers’ best option covering the slot.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Everyone remembers at least one of each for Hyde. Of course, he had the punt-return touchdown in Minnesota. We remember that as highlight, although it was nearly a low-light, as Hyde stumbled as he approached the end zone. Hyde later told me he was “trying to be too cool” on the play. Nonetheless, the play was a turning point for the Packers in that game. On the flip side, Packers fans will remember Hyde’s dropped interception in the playoffs for a long, long time. Hyde’s best game as a rookie came Oct. 13 in Baltimore, in which he registered seven tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Hyde had big shoes to fill (in part) with Casey Hayward’s ongoing hamstring battle, which first flared up in training camp. Straight up as a football player, Hyde wasn’t Hayward. But for a rookie picked in the fifth round, Hyde performed admirably and, on defense, filled in for Hayward and Sam Shields–who missed two games–and on special teams, Hyde helped mask the midseason loss of Randall Cobb as the primary return man. All in all, Hyde was one of the team’s key contributors from Week 1 to season’s end.

25

January

Tramon Williams 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers CB Tramon Williams

Packers CB Tramon Williams

1) Introduction: For running backs, perhaps the most demanding position in football, hitting age 30 can be the death blow to a player’s career. But for Tramon Williams, a cornerback in his age-30 season, the veteran remained relatively consistent before a late-season surge that now may have the Packers rethinking their stance on the cornerback this offseason. Prior to the season, it looked as if this past year may be Williams’ last in Green Bay, but he was undoubtedly one of the team’s best defenders late in the season. Along with the uncertain future of Sam Shields, the Packers face several question marks at what may be one of their deepest positions.

2) Profile: Tramon Williams

  • Age: 30
  • Born: 3/16/83 in Houma, LA
  • Height: 5’11″
  • Weight: 191
  • College: Louisiana Tech
  • Rookie Year: 2006
  • NFL Experience: 8 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Williams was a big question mark for the Packers coming into the 2013-14 season. Since his breakout season in 2010, Williams was up-and-down through the subsequent two seasons as he battled a shoulder injury. With a crowded group of cornerbacks (Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House and Micah Hyde) geared up for the season, it was unknown how Williams’ playing time would be affected. If at all.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: While not the All-Pro caliber player he was in 2010, Williams may have been the Packers’ best defensive player in the late-season stretch run that landed them in the playoffs as the NFC North champions. Against the Dallas Cowboys, Williams intercepted Tony Romo on the Cowboys’ final possession to clinch the Packers’ one-point victory, setting up a division-deciding game against the Chicago Bears. After beating the Bears, Williams intercepted San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, proving that No. 7 in red was, in fact, human. The first half of the season was different for Williams, as he wasn’t a reliable tackler and struggled to handle slot duties in Hayward’s absence.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: There have been plenty of knocks on Williams for his post-2010 play, but nobody can question is durability. Not even you. Since becoming a member of the Packers’ 53-man roster in 2007, Williams has missed one game. One. So while the injury bug bit the position, Williams was a crutch for the Packers to lean on. Was this his best season? No, but he showed significant improvement this year from his previous two seasons and was on the field every Sunday. And he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 39th-best cornerback, which was up from No. 61 in 2012.