Packers Playbook Wrap-Up: All Defensive Sub-Packages and Personnel

Packers Playbook LogoWell, that concludes the look at a lot of the defensive packages used by Dom Capers and the Green Bay Packers. This was obviously not an exhaustive list, but it does highlight some of the most important formations used in the Packers’ defense. As you watch the games this upcoming season, hopefully you can start to recognize what Capers is doing and how it responds to the opposing offense.

For those of you who haven’t read all of the installments, here are some final links to them:

Before we conclude this series, though, I just want to wrap up a couple items. First and foremost is the terminology I’ve been using. In honest confession, I have tended to use some general terms interchangeably, even when there are slight technical differences. Words like “defense,” “formation,” and “package” aren’t exact synonyms.

In reality, anything outside of the base defense for a team is considered a “sub-package.” Hence, the nickel, psycho, dime, bat, etc., are all sub-packages, because the Packers run a 3-4 as their base package. That said, the modern day NFL seems to be forcing out this concept. When teams like the Packers are running a 2-4-5 set more often than a 3-4-4 set, can it truly be considered a “sub” package?

The terminology will stick in football jargon, but it’s something worth considering. The 3-4 base does help to drive the overarching philosophy for what Dom Capers does, but when it comes to defensive packages, it’s taking a backseat. We’ve all seen how the passing game is evolving among offenses, and it’s only logical that the defenses change to scheme against it.

Finally, we can’t ignore the impact that players have on which defensive packages are used. Outside of things like the opposing offense’s personnel grouping, down and distance, and field position, the defensive coordinator picks his packages to best suit the strengths of his roster. Ted Thompson works to pick players that fit the scheme, but Dom Capers works to create defensive packages to fit the personnel.



Packers Defense: Why Tricky Does Not Mean Complex

Mike Tanier has written a follow-up to his previous article on MSNBC, focusing on the defense this time. As I wrote a response to the previous article, it only seems fitting to write a follow-up on the follow-up.

In summary, Tanier’s previous article suggested that “tricky” offenses might suffer this year since there won’t be the same amount of time to prepare due to the lockout. My argument was that teams have spent years building an offensive philosophy (which they should not abandon for just one year) and that complexity has more to do with offensive philosophy and personnel rather than the learning capacity of players.

In this article, Tanier suggests that defenses will also be affected by the lockout, but to a lesser extent since “confusion favors the defense.”  On one hand, defenses require less overall communication; each defensive player typically only works in conjunction with a couple other players (cornerbacks work with safeties but not really with defensive linemen for example).

Offensive players are more inherently required to communicate between the whole squad (wide receivers need to know who to block on running plays and running backs need to know who to block or where to go for passing plays).  On the other hand, as I have previously mentioned, a lot can go wrong on a offensive play and still net positive yards, but it only takes one confused defensive player for a play to end in a big gain or a touchdown.

Tanier goes on the premise that one metric of defensive “trickiness” is the number of blitzers and the standard deviation in the number of blitzers.  Again to me this seems a little simplistic:

  1. Personnel factors heavily into the play selection: One of the basic defensive premises of teams such as the Detroit Lions or the Chicago Bears is that a dominant front 4 should be able to generate all the pass rush needed to get to the quarterback.  When a team invests big money into the likes of Ndamukong Suh or Julius Peppers basically they are saying that they don’t need fancy “pew pew” blitzes, the defensive line should be able to beat any offensive line straight on; and it works, the Bears and Lions generate lots of pass rush without having to rely on blitzing a lot of players.  So really it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Lions and Bears show up as some of the “simplest” defenses based on this metric since it’s not in their defensive philosophies to blitz more than 4 the majority of the time.