Fact Czech: The Packers Defense is Soft

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hawkWe’re less than three weeks away from the start of training camp, and already narratives are being formed and talking points are being accepted as fact about the 2013 Green Bay Packers.

From now until the start of camp, I’ll Fact Czech (see what I did there? Heh.) some of these narratives and presumed truths and use my unmatched Packers wisdom to see if they hold up.

Uh oh. I already noticed a statement that didn’t pass the Fact Czech test: My Packers wisdom is not unmatched. It is matched by many, and surpassed by many more. But that doesn’t stop me from appointing myself as the official Packers Fact Czecher of the Universe.

Here we go.

Statement: The Packers defense is soft.

Does it pass the Fact Czech test? No.

I get where people are coming from when they say the Packers defense is soft. I even say it myself, sometimes.

But when we say the Packers defense is soft, what we’re really saying is that the Packers defense is bad.

How many defenses in the history of football have been both good and soft? Zero, that’s how many.

When the defense goes out and lays another egg against New York or lets Colin Kapernick run all the way to Tomah, Wis. and back during a playoff game, we want an easy answer as to why that happened.

“Well, the Packers D is soft! That’s why it happened! If they were just tougher, they could stop these teams! Duh!”

What does it mean to be soft on defense? Does it mean players are scared to tackle the ballcarrier? Does it mean they run away when a lineman tries to block them? Does it mean they cry when Adrian Peterson dips his shoulder and tries to pick up a few extra yards? Does it mean they shudder in fear before running onto the field before the next defensive series?

Nobody know what makes a defense soft. It’s just a word that comes to mind when describing a bad defense.

What does it mean to be tough on defense? Typically, defenses that don’t let other teams score a lot of points — exactly what a good defense is supposed to do — are labelled as tough. Tough is another adjective for good. What makes a defense tough? Do they eat nails before the game? Do they cagefight each other for recreation? Do they wear short sleeves when temperatures dip below zero? Do they punch, kick, stomp and spit on opposing players?

Nobody knows what makes a defense tough. It’s just an easy word used to describe a good defense.

Sometimes defenses get beat because they’re not as good as the other team. The other team’s offensive line is bigger and stronger than the Packers’ defensive line. The tight ends and running backs are too much for the linebackers to handle. The quarterback is too accurate or fast to be stopped. The offensive coordinator is one or two steps ahead of the defensive coordinator.

Saying a defense is soft is akin to saying Team A got beat by Team B because Team B “wanted it more.” It’s silly. I’m sure Team A wanted it just as much as Team B, but they weren’t as good as Team B on a particular day and got beat by the better team.

Don’t say the Packers defense is soft, just say they’re bad. We don’t know what soft means. And if the Packers defense has a good season in 2013, don’t say they’re tough, just say they’re improved, or even good.

Saying the Packers defense is soft does not pass the Fact Czech.


Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .


32 thoughts on “Fact Czech: The Packers Defense is Soft

  1. People use all kinds of descriptors for this defense when we fail to stop the better teams. I don’t know that it is worthwhile rolling it up to one word. The 49ers repeatedly demonstrated that we didn’t win the one on one battles and that we got beat in the trenches. Does it really matter that we call it out-manned, soft or any other word.

    Good teams with good O and D lines are hard to stop because we don’t have particularly good O or D lines. It is not ‘soft’ or ‘tough’, it is lack of talent. And when they get through our D-line, the likes of Walden, Zombo, Smith and Hawk are there to plug the hole

  2. The Packers D was bad in 6 games last year:

    (SF, NO, @IND, @NYG, @MIN, @SF.)

    They were very good in 10:


    They were mediocre in the other 2.

    Answer: Distinctly mediocre. Not bad. Not soft. Not good. Not tough.

    With how good the O is going to be, the D has to improve to an above average D or better to have a chance to win it all this year.

    Can they do it? I know I do. Much depends on health, and young guys stepping up at SS and ROLB.

  3. The word we want is “Execution”. Not so much in the Lombardi sense, but in the actual play on the field. The way I see it, there were several games last year where the Packers couldn’t execute defensively.

    Razer hit some of those points above, but if you can’t execute on defense (which includes good tackling), you aren’t going to look good on the field. You’re going to be out of position, trying to arm tackle, take bad angles…which might translate to looking “soft”.

  4. Yes, the “soft” moniker is a bit abstract and nonsensical at this point although it’s indicative of the respect, or lack thereof, that the Packers’ defense gets across the league. This is a big problem.

    Other teams know that if they don’t prepare well, A-Rod will carve them up like a Thanksgiving day turkey leg. The offense puts the fear of God(gers) into people. When your defense is what the defense is you can do absurd things like a 40-some yard Flea-Flicker like the Broncos did in 2011.

    If we’re going with ‘S’ words to describe Green Bay’s defense I’d go with either “stupid” or “slow”. I think both are pretty self-explanatory but seeing how brevity is the soul of wit, I’ll elaborate.

    The 49ers game is a microcosm of the problems of the defensive side of the ball. The Packers didn’t prepare for them. Charles Woodson even said something along those lines if memory serves. That’s stupid.

    It’s particularly unintelligent because they played a similar style QB in 2010 when they played the Eagles. The dearly departed Desmond Bishop spied Vick often.

    Speaking of the above, it was a dumb move by Capers to go away from using Clay Matthews as a spy when that was clearly successful. Negates your pass rush, probably, but helped contain Kaep.

    The slow part, see all of the DL, Walden, Jones, and Woodson in that game. And of course, the pass rush was slow as season and especially when Matthews wasn’t there to tilt the field.

    The image that accompanies your article is the definition of “slow”. Hawk may rack up all the pointless tackle stats he wants but he’s always late to the ball. AJ Hawk is the Matthew Stafford of LBs.

    Anyway that’s all I got in this rant. PEACE.

  5. Gang tackles and turning a guy back, ringing the bell of any WR over the middle, going after it a little after the whistle…those are trademarks of “tough” defenses.
    Toughness is an attitude. It’s not an attitude the team has.

  6. This is an easy one.

    Yes – the Packer defense is soft.

    This article is just a bunch of gobbley-gook. Hiding behind words and semantics.

    They’re soft as shit.

    It doesn’t need to be defined. It can be seen. No team is intimidated by the Packers defense.

    1. I think we should wait and see this year. The Packers lost 108 games to injury from starters last season. 108!! To put that in perspective the 49ers lost a total of 16 games to injury for starters. 6 defensive players were selected in last years draft. While many think Jolly is a long shot to make it back on the 53, I don’t. I think before we label this defense soft, lets see what happens this year. Datone Jones and Perry will go a long ways in making this defense better. I also believe Raji will have a year similar to 2010 because of Jones. Raji needs a running mate on the defensive line to be truly effective. Just like he had in Jenkins. Jones is that guy, even better IMO.

      1. Datone and Perry alone should help a lot. Possibly immensely. If Jolly can get back on the roster, he will bring a toughness like he did in ’09 that would push the Pack to being an outstanding run D. Jolly was at the heart of the #1 ranked run D in ’09.

        Some say Wilson was a good run D, but he certainly didn’t elevate the run D, Like Jolly did! I’m excited to see what this D looks like this year. Definite chance to be Dominant! If it is SB bound baby!

    2. “It doesn’t need to be defined. It can be seen”

      If I don’t know what it is I’m looking for, it’s hard for me to see it. Similarly, if you can’t give me some quantifiable metrics by which to measure softness/hardness, then I’m not sure I know the meaning of this whole term we’re discussing.

  7. Anyone else tired of opinions by people who know less about football then you do. Anyone who knows anything about defense SHOULD be excited about the potential of this defense. We watched a defense with usually 6 newbies on the field progress beautifully last season. Yes, they were outgunned by scheme, surprise, and personel in the SF game. Not impossible fixes, but then the usual no-nothing cry babies lamenting woe is me, woe is me. I’m sick of it.

    1. Thanks for your input, but could I ask you to elaborate on how you FEEL?


      Just kiddin’, I know what you mean, it does get strenuous listening to the onslaught of vague complaints after every loss or poor performance by the defense. I guess people just need an outlet and/or scapegoat.

      One thing that becomes difficult for me to tolerate is all the talk some people do about players needing to instill fear, head hunt WR’s who cross over the middle, etc, and so forth.. These people apparently haven’t been paying too close of attention to the way the league has been enforcing the new rules (as well as the new way they are enforcing the old rules.) It makes it near impossible to play like a bruising defense of old without handing your opponent first downs and huge chunks of yardage via penalty, not to mention huge player fines and suspensions.

      The game has been, and is actively being, changed. The type of “tough” defenses people call for are simply becoming a thing of the past. These same fans will lambast a player and call for his benching when he DOES lay the wood and incurs a huge penalty resulting in a first down for the opponent.

      Can’t have it both ways. Hell, can’t really have it the old way at all anymore.

      1. I just want the defensive linemen to stop getting pushed out of the way.

        And a TFL by a linebacker once in awhile wouldn’t be so bad.

        Oh – while I’m making a “wish list” might as well ask for a corner who doesn’t jump the hell out of the way any time a running back heads his way.

  8. I’m old. I remember the REAl head hunters, and who didn’t like a big hit. But the game has changed big time for the defense. Now, it’s more important that the guy next to you is on the same page. Yeah, give it a dirty name like finesse, what are you going to do?

  9. Based on profootballreference’s DSRS (defensive simple rating system) the Packers had the 7th best defense last year (subjectively-good). Based on footballoutsiders’ DVOA ranking system, the defensive portion as 8th best (again-good). The Packers’ D had the 6th best ANY/A (adjusted net yards per attempt passing) surrendered (subjectively-very good). They were 11th in points surrendered (subjectively-fair). But they were 25th in yards per attempt rushing surrendered (subjectively-bad). Overall, on a great, very good, good, fair, mediocre, poor, bad, very bad, terrible scale, the Packers D last was high side fair to low side good, coupled with a great offense is more than enough to get it done. They just matched up poorly against the 49ers, and so meatballs have to rate the Packers at their worst in one match up in one game. This is 2013, so the idea that teams are going to be titanic on both sides of the ball is outdated. It’s about matchups in the post season, and hanging on to the ball to win the turnover margin. The Packers have been poor at turnover margin, and last year simply were outmatched strengths to weaknesses against one team. That’s life.

    1. …”and last year simply were outmatched strengths to weaknesses against one team. That’s life.”

      …and nothing’s changed since then regarding those matchup difficulties.

      1. Yeah, nothings changed huh? I guess drafting Datone Jones and getting Perry back instead of Walden won’t help at all?! Add a possibility of Jolly instilling a toughness/attitude and that could be already DONE!

        1. Stop with the Jolly thing.

          Which of the following DL’men won’t be on the team in order to keep Jolly?

          (Worthy on PUP)

          They won’t keep 8.

          1. Why is it you think Jolly won’t make it back. He’s only 30 years old. He’s got less wear and tear on his body, at least football related. Jolly could easily beat out Wilson. Jolly was excellent against the run which is the only reason that Wilson is on the roster and believe me, Wilson is nothing special, against the run or anything. Before you judge Johnny Jolly and determine if he can or can’t make the roster, lets see how he plays. Trust and believe he’ll play somewhere this year and I believe it will be with the Packers.

      2. “Nothings changed” ? First, that’s never a true statement, in life and in the NFL. Even if the players remained the same, the players themselves change. It’s common knowledge the biggest jump in performance is between year one and year two. Hayward, Worthy, McMillan, Perry,Barclay, Boykin, Manning, Moses, and effectively House. Then theres the fact that Capers spent the offseason educating himself and his staff on the “read offense”. Yeah, throw in Natrone Jones for measure and it could be an excellent defense.

    2. They don’t match up well w/ either SF or Minn. Which BTW have 2 of the best OL in the NFL. I can’t wait to see how Datone and Perry can help. They can make the run D much better. IF Jolly can return to anything close to what he was in ’09, you can put Jolly, Pickett and Raji/Datone on the field on run downs. That could be a tremendous boost to the D. Not worried much about pass D, we have that covered.

  10. The Packers will run the ball better this year. They’re going to use more multiple tight end sets, and they’ll pound on other teams a little bit. They’ll need to practice the run to be better at running the ball. The defense will practice against the run and will be better against the run because of it. I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s team in action. They have the right balance of talent, youth and experience to be a top team in the regular season. The commitment to the run will put them in position to be successful in the playoffs.

    1. This is the core of the issue. Hope either Lacy of Franklin keeps the D off the field and “The Franchise” off the injury list! Oh, and Dom, Wood killed us against the 9ers. McMillan spy would have kept the game close.

  11. Oh, haha, “Czech”… I get it!

    Yes, the D is soft. Perception is reality, and they are perceived to be a group that can be pushed around, ‘out-physicalled’ if you will. I think they have the personnel to change this perception, but for now, we have to live with our last memory being gashed by those pole smokers from the bay. When you give up those kind of rush #’s, it’s hard to argue.

    That being said, I’m jacked to see our D this year. I think they can be good. Woot!

    1. I respectfully disagree. Perception is perception. Reality is reality. Does anyone seriously believe an NFL DC operate on the premise of perception? I very much agree with the last sentence.

    2. Perception is what it is, perceived. Reality is fact. They are totally different and yet can be the same.

  12. This article is an obvious swipe at Bob McGinn, and is unconvincing. Everybody that watches football knows that some tough-guy defenses give up too many points, for a variety of reasons. Maybe they lack cover corners. Maybe they take too many chances. Maybe they go for too many blow-up shots. Maybe they are too penalized. Maybe they are just on the field too much. Czech’s thesis is that there is no such thing as a tough, ineffective defense. He is wrong.

  13. I think they are in between good and bad. I still think they need play makers on the D rather than bodies. Mathews is a play maker, Hawk is just a bodie in space.

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