Packers Playbook, Part 5: The Dime Defense

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Packers Playbook LogoIn our fifth part of this series, we are going to take a look at the Green Bay Packers’ basic dime defense. Adding another defensive back to the secondary, this formation is used in obvious passing situations and where speed is necessary. We’ve seen this more against teams like the Detroit Lions who employ a spread offense and are often in the shotgun.

Explaining the Formation

We move on from the nickel formations to the dime, which adds another defensive back to the secondary by sacrificing an inside linebacker. A little run support is given up to focus more on shutting down receivers in coverage. In Dom Capers’ defense, the basic dime package is a 2-3-6 formation.

Most teams don’t use their dime packages with a lot of frequency, but it is becoming more popular as the passing game grows. You won’t usually see a dime formation against offenses with less than three wide receivers on the field, because it’s not very effective against the running game. It’s meant to stop the passing attack, so defensive coordinators don’t want to put their players in situations where they can be left vulnerable.

The dime is generally only used in the more obvious passing situations, or where the offense is showing certain personnel groupings that try to take advantage of speed. Aside from four wide receiver sets, teams that often send their faster running backs and tight ends into passing routes will see more dime defenses used against them. Defenses don’t want to have a slower linebacker covering a faster back, so they replace him with a defensive back who can keep up.

In the Packers’ basic dime formation, the front four looks pretty much the same as the base nickel, where they have two defensive linemen and two outside linebackers. As a pass-stopping defense, the coordinator will generally put his best pass rushing linemen and linebackers onto the field. Similarly, the lone inside linebacker will need to be strong in coverage and quick on his feet. (This is why Brad Jones rather than A.J. Hawk was the dime linebacker in 2012.)

The common combination of the remaining six defensive backs is four cornerbacks and two safeties; however, sometimes you will see an even split of three each. This simply depends on the offensive personnel and how the defensive coordinator wants to utilize the strengths of his available players.

The Dime Defense in Action

Our example of the Packers using their dime defense comes from the Week 5 game against the Indianapolis Colts. It’s three and a half minutes into the second quarter, and the Packers are up 14-0. The Colts have the ball on their own 25-yard line. It’s 3rd-and-5, and they’re looking to get some momentum going.

(PS: This is the play where Nick Perry got his big sack . . . and subsequent penalty.)

Breaking Down the Play

In 2012, the Indianapolis Colts were ninth overall in passing play percentage, and against the Green Bay Packers in Week 5, they made 55 total passing attempts. So it’s no wonder that, even though they come out in an 11 personnel grouping (1 RB–1 TE–3 WR), the Packers decide to go with the dime over the nickel. Add the fact that it’s third down, and Capers was probably certain they were going to try to pass it for the first.

The Colts are in the shotgun with their receivers in a “trips left” formation, often used to exploit zone coverage. On the right side of the formation, the tight end is inline as a blocker, while the running back is beside and slightly in front of the quarterback. It’s setting up what will become a seven-man protection, which should allow the play to develop and give Andrew Luck time to find an open receiver.

The Packers counter with a rather interesting setup of their dime package. Clay Matthews ends up playing off of the line of scrimmage in coverage, leaving a three-man front. Sam Shields is creeping up on the outside of Nick Perry, threatening a corner blitz. At the last moment, Casey Hayward bails into a deep zone and Burnett and McMillian begin to rotate their coverage.

Here’s what happens at the snap:

dime_cb

What we get from the defense is a look that is honestly beyond my vocabulary. It appears to be some type of Cover 2 with Hayward and Burnett forming the two-deep shell. Underneath, Tramon Williams mans up against the Z receiver (Donnie Avery) on the outside, who runs a shallow crossing route. Woodson ends up taking middle receiver, and oddly enough, Matthews takes the split end on the inside (though based on what happens on the receiver’s break, Matthews could be in a zone coverage).

In addition to all that, Capers is a sending a 5-man blitz that includes ILB D.J. Smith and CB Sam Shields overloading the right side. As for Jerron McMillian, it looks like he’s ready to play the curl/flat zone of the field should the tight end or running back release into a route.

With how they’re aligned, the Packers appear to be disguising their coverage until the last second to throw off Andrew Luck. Of course, it’s the corner blitz from the strong side of the formation that ends up being the dagger in this play. It’s hard to say whether it’s the tight end or right tackle that messed up their assignment, but their inability to properly adjust for Perry and Shields is what allowed the free sack to happen.

(Sorry, Perry fans, but his sack was more scheme and offensive ineptitude than talent. Although, you do have to enjoy the hit he laid on Luck.)

You do have to appreciate the route combination drawn up by the Colts in this situation, though. They use the deep routes to “rub” or create a moving pick for the shallow cross, while the deep out and post route create further complications for the coverage. There’s a good chance that Luck would have connected with the out route receiver with a little more time.

The 2-3-6 dime is a basic package, but hopefully this example has demonstrated how a simple personnel grouping can be used in creative ways. (You also saw how the offense can throw out similarly complex looks.) Offenses are trying to create mismatches, and defenses are trying to limit them. The dime is just one more way to do this with a little extra speed on their side.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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  • Batavia Greg

    YAWN . . . Ho-Hum.

    Hey, Chad, Let’s start a rumor to stir-up some controversy to wake-up the readers bored by the dreaded football summer doldrums. How about . . . TT is considering Stanford Keglar to replace Desmond Bishop at ILB. That would be a great one.

    • Chad Toporski

      Hahaha… Well I’ve heard that Randall Cobb is going to be holding out for a new contract and they’re thinking of playing A.J. Hawk at tight end!

      • Batavia Greg

        I like yours better than mine. Yours are much more plausible. Hawk at TE!!! What a fantastic idea! If Mike Neal can play ILB, why not? Imagine all of the Hawk-haters on this site going into a rage the moment he drops his first pass.

        By-the-way, I truly appreciate your analyses and explanations in this series about the various Packer defenses. I’m looking forward to the start of the season because I’ll have a greater awareness and understanding — thanks to you — of the complexities of Dom Capers’ defense.

        • steve cheez

          Yeah, just please don’t give away all our secrets!

  • Slaal

    Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this series. While I’m an avid Packer fan, I’ve never played organized football so a lot of this is new to me. I love it!

    Thanks!