Green Bay Packers: Poor Tackling Among CBs Hurt Defense in 2011

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Receivers often gained yards after the catch against the Packers because of poor tackling.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look back on the Green Bay Packers 2011 season and identify the obvious reasons for their defensive collapse.

Cullen Jenkins was sorely missed at right defensive end, little to no production was received from outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews and Nick Collins’ season-ending neck injury handicapped the back end.

But one factor that gets overlooked is just how poor the tackling was for the Packers defense, especially in the secondary.

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus effectively laid out just how bad it was for the Packers secondary in 2011.

According to the site, which reviews and grades every single play for every single player, the Packers trio of cornerbacks—Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields—was the worst tackling cornerback trio in the NFL.

And believe it not, the numbers weren’t even close.

Woodson missed 15 tackles on 87 attempts, Williams missed 16 on 80 attempts and Shields missed 10 on 40 attempts. Altogether, the three missed 41 tackles in 2011—a number that ranks them significantly above any other cornerback trio in the NFL.

The Philadelphia Eagles were the first team that came to mind in comparison, but their trio of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie only missed 27 tackles last season.

All three of the Packers cornerbacks ranked in the bottom 20 of tackling efficiency, too.

Woodson has always been a player that missed his fair share of tackles, mostly because his fearlessness of playing near the line of scrimmage. Still, his 16 came at a higher rate than the 14 he had in 2010 in 20 games and the nine he missed during his Defensive Player of the Year season in 2009.

Williams allowed 68 catches in 2011, so his opportunities for missed tackles were obviously increased. During 2010, a year in which Williams established himself as a top-flight cover corner, he missed just nine. A shoulder injury suffered in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints certainly had an impact on how physical Williams was both in coverage and as a tackler.

Shields is the most worrisome case, and you don’t need the numbers to tell you how poorly he tackled last season. He consistently showed poor technique and effort as a tackler in 2011. For whatever reason, it was almost if Shields avoided playing physical during his sophomore season. Maybe that’s to be expected from a guy still learning the position, but Shields has a long ways to go. Of the 101 eligible cornerbacks last season, Shields ranked 96th in tackling efficiency. His regression from 2010 to 2011 was enough to make you wonder what kind of future he really has at the position. Missing one in every five tackle attempts is not acceptable for a player that was in on over 702 defensive snaps.

Overall, tackling in the secondary was undoubtedly a contributing factor to why the Packers defense allowed passing yards at a historic rate in 2011. While there was no pass rush to help the secondary, once passes were completed, receivers and tight ends often chewed up more yards than they should have because of poor tackling from the cornerbacks.

Tackling can be improved and sharpened with coaching, and it is now cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt’s job to improve that area leading into next season.

An awful showing like 2011 can’t be accepted. And the Packers can’t get back to being a top-five NFL defense without a better effort from the three cornerbacks that are consistently on the field.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • JimR_in_DC

    It really was a horrendous year for our secondary. I’m not positive, but I think the safeties were pretty bad, too.

  • Tarynfor 12

    Having to play as off/far as they either had to or needed to will increase the chance of missed tackles as with giving the offensive player that much more open field to juke you…which they did.
    Plus the amount of times they go for the INT in lieu of the sure tackle and possible forced drop via the hit again increases missed tackles and reason One for the ridiculous YAC against the Packers defense.
    The cure…DL,DL,DL…pass rush and EGO checking for personal stats/records…ala Woodson.

    • Ron LC

      That was a big, very big part of the problem. YAC from the underneath pass was huge.

  • Ron LC

    Tackling was terrible and I believe part of that can be attributed to Capers. He refused to play the aggresive defense he played the previous two years. The Corners started virtually every play going away from the line of scrimage as fast as they could. Capers had no confidence in his defense for the whole damn year. In the few games they did play an aggressive style they seemed to do much better.

    By the time the Corners reacted to the underneath throw the receiver had a head of steam up and had the advantage. YAC for the oppenents clearly was at record levels. Note to Capers – MLB’s can’t cover today’s TE’s one on one.

    Dline, LB’s, and Safties all added to the ultimate overall defensive performance. TT, MM and Capers have the off-season to put this problem in order. Falling from 1,2,3,and 4 rankings in the previous 2 years to last or near last in yardage in 2011 = Fail.

    Time to accept the responsibility and move on. The players deserve their share, buy let’s not exclude the coaches. They found no answers for a whole year. I have confidence given the whole off-season that they will fix it. That is, if they don’t ignore it.

    • JimR_in_DC

      Well said, Ron. Even though you don’t have the players you want/need, you can’t coach scared.

      • Lucas

        You can’t coach scared, but you also cannot coach stupid. If you don’t have the cards, you can’t play ‘em. Capers knew, KNEW, he didn’t have the players to be as aggressive. Yeah…I was on the “what is Capers doing?” wagon. But Capers coached to help the Packers win with the defense he had, and that meant hanging on for the offensive bailout package and DBs going for the pick. Remember when Bob Sanders tried to go blitz crazy without the horses? Disaster. Thank you, Dom, for giving us a chance!

        • Zack

          I agree with Lucas on this. You play your players strong points. Our DB’s were poor at fundamentals this year but they are exceptional atheletes (except for charlie peprah O.o) with clutch playmaking abilities therefore playing it safe and not getting interceptions gives the opposing offense more of a chance to take advantage of our defense’s weaknesses… Getting interceptions means taking the ball out of the opposing offenses hands and not allowing them more opportunities to take advantage of our flaws. it seems like you guys have forgotten about our insane turnover ratio…(+25 or something crazy like that? not sure on that number.) 31 of our take aways came from interceptions. The reason we had so many interceptions is because our personnel took chances. You take away the “go for it” mentallity that our DB’s practiced and we probably would have been a 10-6 team as opposed to a 15-1 that we came away with. I think that we can expect MUCH better fundamentals with a full off season to prepare but considering the lockout Capers did the best that he could with what he had.

        • Zack

          that statement was probably better directed at tarynfor. but I do agree with lucas on not blitzing if it isn’t working.

  • Mojo

    The only point of contention I have with your article Zach is where you state; “But one factor that gets overlooked is just how poor the tackling was for the Packers defense, especially in the secondary.” I noticed and I believe a lot of others noticed even early in the year how bad the tackling was. Especially from the secondary.

    From early on it looked as though Shields wanted no part of physical play. He rarely form tackled and didn’t show much vigor when he did his push-out-of bounds or weak attempts at arm tackling. I was probably more disappointed with him than anyone else from what I deemed a lack of heart.

    I do think Tramons early season injury set the tone for him the rest of the year. It’s hard to throw you shoulder into someone considering the nerve damage he suffered in the opener. I’ll withhold some criticism of Tramon because I do believe that was the dominating factor in his performance last year.

    Does anyone in the NFL slip as much as CWood? I believe a lot of that is due to him gambling and reacting to plays in front of him which often requires sharp cutting angles. If he would play tighter, more conventional defense instead of gambling I think he would be alright. He should realize his teammates aren’t very good at covering for his mistakes.

    Maybe this group will never be a good at tackling Their strength might be reacting to the thrown ball, but when the reception is made in front of them watch-out. And with such a weak pass rush last year they had plenty of plays to react to.

  • Bearmeat

    The Packers suck at tackling. And in other news, the world is actually not flat. Moving on…. ;)

  • Savage57

    CB’s were playing out of position all season. They are not off cover guys with a lot of makeup speed. They are (or at least were) press coverage guys who used early disruption to throw off timing, routes etc., but then if beat are not trailing the play by five yards.

    • Lucas

      I think that says a lot of Caper’s trust in the safety help.