Packers Defense Will Utilize Best Players Available All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Oh yeah. I've got this.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I couldn’t be more excited about the 2012 Green Bay Packers draft class. I thought Ted Thompson did a great job targeting needed position players and acquiring them at a good value. For a GM who has scraped the bottom of the barrel for outside linebackers the past two years, it’s refreshing to see him pick a prospect like Nick Perry in the first round.

Of course, draft picks usually come with some baggage, and Perry is definitely no exception. Draftniks have identified a couple question marks when it comes to Perry’s future as an outside linebacker for the Packers:

1. Is he the right fit for a 3-4 OLB, or should he be playing as a DE in a 4-3 system? His body size seems to be large for an OLB, and he has expressed minimal enthusiasm about switching positions.

2. Does his motor run consistently enough for the professional level? Scouts have called him “a little soft” and noted that he has a tendency to take plays off.

These are valid concerns, but I would challenge you to find an NFL draft pick (or even current player!) with no flaws or uncertainties about them. The question becomes how the coaches work to correct these deficiencies and implement the player in the defensive scheme.

The Packers’ second pick of the draft, DL Jerel Worthy, was also questioned about his fit into a 3-4 system. His trouble shedding blocks and projection as merely a one-gap type lineman gave cause for some reservations about the selection. But again, the draft is not an exact science. Players who are expected to thrive in the NFL can fail just as easily as a questionable prospect can succeed. Nobody ever gets it 100% right.

What we all really have to remember, though, is that Mike McCarthy, Dom Capers, and the rest of the Green Bay coaching staff will find a way to get their best players onto the field and in the most effective way.

The 3-4 defensive philosophy is based on versatility and confusion. In fact, even the term “3-4” is a bit of a misnomer these days, as the teams who run such systems are outside of their base personnel more often than not. Teams like the Patriots, Dolphins, and Ravens have shifted towards the so-called “hybrid defense,” where the base lineman can change between 3 and 4 players, depending on the play, and gap responsibilities aren’t dictated in the traditional manners.

In this type of front, new guys like Perry and Worthy could line up on one side, with Pickett taking the nose and Raji on the opposite end. The gap responsibilities would then be suited for each player’s strengths.

(Brian Carriveau over at CheeseheadTV wrote an excellent article last month about the Packers possibly shifting to this type of defense. He also included a mock depth chart worth taking a look at.)

Regardless of what Dom Capers decides to do from a schematic and philosophical standpoint with his defense, he’s going to put his players in the best positions to succeed.

“I think we’ve got enough flexibility,” said Capers in his press conference after the draft. “We’ll adjust what we’re doing to try to get our best football players on the field.”

When Clay Matthews was drafted in 2009, he became an instant starter. His ability to get to the quarterback as a 3-4 outside linebacker was unmatched on the team. Despite his relative weakness against the run, he was always in the game. Matthews is a game changer, a field tilter, whatever you want to call it. And three years later, he has now become a more complete linebacker and a much bigger threat in stopping the run as well as the pass.

If the new rookies turn out to be the best players at their position, then they will be the starters, regardless of any technical deficiencies in specific areas. They will learn in time how to hone their skills. And in situations where those skill sets might not be needed, then the Packers have enough talent elsewhere to fill in the gaps.

I have faith in Ted Thompson’s ability to identify talent, I have confidence in the coaching staff’s ability to improve that talent, and I know that Dom Capers will put his best players in the best positions to make this 2012 Green Bay defense a success.


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


22 thoughts on “Packers Defense Will Utilize Best Players Available

  1. I couldn’t agree more:

    People who are worried about the new draftees are over-concerned in my opinion. Realistically speaking, will every single draft pick, and recent free agent we picked up turn out to be flop? That’s pretty unlikely.

    If even one player that’s added to that front seven can bring a new pass rush, that may be all we need. In theory, all we need is someone who will take attention away from Clay Matthews. Again, in theory.

  2. Totally agree. While you didn’t talk about it much, I think the same can go for the secondary. TT, DC, and MM will see what they have in the new rookies, see how the young players are progressing, and figure out who will be best where. If Hayward struggles with man coverage, maybe he’ll play safety. If McMillian plays best in the box, that’s where he’ll be. The coaching staff can then develop the players to play other schemes. Square pegs in square holes.

  3. Thanks for writing this article, Chad. I think it’s the hallmark of good coaching to use the players that you have, and build a scheme around it–not the other way around. Of course, when three is a massive shift in defensive philosophy (the shift from 4-3 to Dom’s schemes) key players needed to be acquired to fit the scheme, thus the drafting of Raji and Matthews. Now that GB has the foundation laid, they are free to draft for talent and tweak the scheme around the players to some extent.

    I’m excited to see what looks they bring in 2012–especially with the help of the proposed depth chart linked, above.

  4. Great post, Chad. I’m very excited about this year’s defense. I hope enough of these new players contribute this season to make a positive improvement over last season’s dismal performance.

  5. Perry also didn’t really express much reluctance to the switch either. Didn’t he say he really didn’t care as long as he was going after the QB? A lot is being read into his one comment that he prefers DE. I’m not concerned, especially with KG coaching him.

  6. You have it right on the money, Chad. I don’t know the actual stats on just how many plays the Packers do play a traditional 3-4 scheme? I have to guess it’s less than 50% of the D snaps.

    They picked up a number of talented guys that will add value to the D. Much like McGinn’s “fairy godscouts”, the psuedo-experts are blowing hot air to justify their self-proclaimed expert status. I have much more confidence in TT, MM, and Capers to be making that judgement than a bunch of pencil necks sitting on their couches trying to enhance their status in an imaginary world.

    It’s not unique to GB picks either. You should hear the Bear fans on the “SCORE” complaining about McClellin because Lovie insists he will be a strict 4-3 DE and nothing else.

    To steal a moto from our US currency – “In TT, MM, and Capers we trust.”

    Revenge 2012!

  7. Very well put.

    As for flops, there’s one already… Just when they go out and get a FA, the guy is suspended for 8 games…

    1. That means we get him for half his salary, right? Smack dab in TT’s wheel house!

  8. Great write up. I appreciated the link in the story to the Combo 4-3 with player names. That is what we will see in the 4th quarter for sure. Last year other teams knew there was no pass rush from the line. This year teams will know the rush is coming but not from where. All the gaps and players can shoot in on the QB. can’t wait

    go pack go!

  9. ALERT: Hargrove suspended for 8 games wo/pay. Two DE’s start the year on the suspended list. Very happy Worthy is there. At least the Pack doesn’t have to pay Hargrove while hs’s gone.

  10. No Hargrove stings a little, was looking forward to him being used in some of the rush packages. That being said, still excited to see how Dom uses all this fresh blood on D. At least he has some more speed/athl/ and options this year. I’d replace AJ Hawk today with either DJ Smith or Terrell Manning, that move alone would jump GB’s defense up from 32nd to 27th…

  11. that was an average draft at best, it wasn’t horrible but average.. they drafted two players that take plays off here and there (like Randy Moss) remember him.. TT should just copy the Patriots if he wants an incredible draft or the Steelers for that matter.

  12. anyonelse think we need a different strentgh and conditioning coach? We have more injuries than any other team in the league. Or are our guys just a little more wimpy……

    1. as i recall, our strength and conditioning coach recently won strength coach of the year or something. maybe a new training staff would be better suited…

  13. I think the hype over the defensive YPG stats is a little overblown. When Rodgers and Co. are hanging 30 points a game on the opposition, of course the other offense is going to go into passing mode.

    That said, they needed more pressure on the QB. These acquisitions addressed that need…..on paper. I think Perry was drafted to fit the hybrid 3-4 mentioned–big enough to put his hand in the dirt, fast enough to stand up on the edge and/or drop into coverage.

    My only worry about Worthy is his propensity to jump the snap count. I hope Capers really works on this mental facet of his game.

    If Woodson does move to safety, I’m stoked to see him play in the nickel with Burnett, Williams, Shields and Hayward/House. Look for more Woodson in the backfield, for sure.

  14. I’ll throw it in here, since it’s about the D, more precisely the rookies.

    This “hot and cold motor” thing doesn’t concern me one bit. With rotation and competition they won’t have the luxury.

    What does concern me, deeply, is their off the field behavior. If they’re gonna party every weekend, if they’re gonna eat junk, if they’re gonna sleep really late, they’re going to be busts.

    A lot of these guys just coast through college and rely on their athleticism to perform. It won’t fly in the NFL.

    I have no concern with illegal behavior, no concern with how they performed in college. If their work ethic is great, they’re going to be great picks, and great players. If not…

    1. One good thing about the Packers is that they work very hard to create the “right” lockeroom. The organization and the veterans will show the newbies how things should be done. Thompson’s busts have been due to injury, not lazy guys. Anyone who isn’t excited about this year’s defense is a Bears fan.

  15. with the hargrove suspension, you can bet the training staff is dusting off lawrence guy’s shoulder pads- his chances for making the cut just improved greatly.

    minor note- there’s a difference between the so-called hybrid defense the Pats utilized last season, and the “multiple” defenses employed by teams like the Ravens run. The ravens will play true 4-3, 3-4, and I believe they have been know to play 4-6 on occasion as well..? PAckers already fall into a that multiple front category- they line up in 3-4, 4-3, 1-5-5, 2-4-5, and two years ago I saw some 3-3-5 as well- clearly, the Packers like to be flexible in their nickle packages. but the Pats have employed something that isn’t quite like anything else in terms of personnel and gap responsibility.

  16. Overhyped statistics for YPG? Packers are lucky they didn’t play more efficient offenses like Brady, Eli more times last year or one loss in season would’ve mulitiplied. Lack of scoring by opponents didn’t overshadow opponents means of winning was ATTACK GB through the air–playing BEND or BREAK usually means defense BREAKS in critical games like playoffs. First step to improve was Thompson’s focus on defense and pressure, next on secondary. Give the Packers a very good run game and offense will be unstoppable, McCarthy said he didn’t scheme well enough for run game to succeed–playoffs prove Packers can’t win simply with the pass. Mix in 90-100 ypg rushing attack and an improved defense and Packers could be a SB juggernaut for several years.

    1. All the playoff game proved is you can’t turn the ball over 4 times and expect to win, which the Packers have been proving quite often the last decade (2001, 2002, 2004, 2009, 2011). The Packers more than certainly could have won the Super Bowl if they had maintained their turnover margin abilities they have displayed the last three years. How McCarthy designs feed into that, I can’t know. Suffice it to say all the free agent and draft alterations won’t mean a thing if the Packer O decides single elimination is the perfect time to turn the ball over 3,4,5,8 times.

  17. Good article. Defenses, all of them, have been way behind the curve in defending a strong QB with weapons. Match-upwise, the defense will lose virtually every single time. No team has 4 or 5 great cover guys. So everything starts and ends with an INSIDE push. You make the QB hurry, you take away his pocket. You can not allow him 3 checkdowns. The distinction between 34 and 43 is becoming more and more meaningless, especially for the Packers, so a single word about Perry not liking 34 is mere spit in the wind. Thompson knew what he was doing. Capers had no weapons last year in the inside rush department. Raji couldn’t do it singlehanded. Now watch what happens.

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