Packers Playbook Introduction: Basic Defensive Formations

Packers Playbook LogoWelcome to the offseason, where news runs as slow as molasses in northern Wisconsin during winter. As a way to pass the time and still get a healthy dose of Green Bay Packers football, we’ve put together a series detailing some defensive formations utilized by Dom Capers.

Every day this week we’ll bring you a breakdown of a particular Packers’ defensive formation. Hopefully it will help you build a better eye for the game and get you to see things you might never have noticed before.

When the Packers fired Bob Sanders and hired Dom Capers in 2009, it signified a fundamental shift in defensive philosophy. Mike McCarthy wanted to transition from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense, and Capers had a history of making these changes work, as well as being a founding father of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ legendary scheme.

“I’m big believer in the 3-4 defense for a number of different reasons,” McCarthy explained after hiring Capers.  “From an offensive standpoint, it gives you targeting problems and allows you as a defense to [better] use your personnel.  It really cuts the menu of the offense in half of what you would normally do against a 4-man front.”

But as we’ve seen, games are not merely played in 4-3 or 3-4 fronts. In fact, the Green Bay Packers have mostly used “nickel” formations the past few seasons, which primarily consist of two defensive linemen and four linebackers. It’s a response to the modern NFL and its pass-heavy tendencies. However, it also shows that there is more to a defense than just its “base” formation.

Below is a basic list of the defensive packages employed by Dom Capers and the Packers:

  • Okie and Eagle (3-4-4)
  • Nickel (2-4-5)
  • Psycho (1-5-5)
  • Dime (2-3-6)
  • Bat (1-4-6)
  • Prevent (1-3-7, 1-2-8)
  • Hippo (4-4-3)

Many fans should have an understanding of what those numbers mean following each formation, but as a point of reference, I’ll explain them briefly.

The first number in the set refers to the number of defensive linemen on the field. The second number represents the number of linebackers (inside and outside), and the third number represents the number of defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties). Obviously, these three numbers will add up to eleven, since that’s how many players are allowed on the field for a play. That said, you can also omit the third number, which would then be implied based on the sum of the first two numbers.



Packers Playbook: Randall Cobb on the Reverse?

Randall Cobb

Could we see Packers KR/WR Randall Cobb on the reverse in 2012?

I was wandering around my usually Green Bay Packers news and blog sites the other day, when I happened across this article on Bleacher Report from our very own Michael Dulka. It’s a list of “5 Ways to Utilize Randall Cobb’s Skill Set,” and one way in particular really intrigued me. This is what Michael had to say about Cobb being used in the running game:

Cobb is undeniably fast. The Packers can take advantage of his speed by directly handing him the ball. With a weak running game, this is a way to give the defense a different look and force them to adapt to a non-passing look.

In the past, Donald Driver has had success running reverses because his speediness allows him to get to the edge quickly. Cobb perfectly fits the mold of a receiver ideal for running reverses. Any way to get Cobb in space should be effective.

Last season, Cobb had two running opportunities, though none of them actually came on a reverse. His first chance was on a handoff from Rodgers in the shotgun formation. It was during a Week 7 game against the Minnesota Vikings, and it only managed to gain the offense a yard. (Though to be honest, having Cobb motion to the backfield was kind of a giveaway.)

Cobb got another shot at running the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15. It was the Packers’ second play of the third quarter, and Cobb received a direct handoff as the quarterback (Rodgers was on the sidelines). The Packers were in a Wildcat/Joker formation with four wideouts (including TE Tom Crabtree) and TE D.J. Williams lined up as a fullback. They managed 4 yards on the play as Cobb took off running directly after the snap.

Though none of these plays highlighted Cobb on a reverse route, Michael makes a great point about Cobb’s speed. Along with instinctive vision for finding running holes, this could make him a big play threat on the reverse.

But why stop there? As a part-time Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I can’t help but recall a play from Super Bowl XL that could fit Cobb’s skillset. Here’s the video from YouTube: