Cory’s Corner: Packers’ season depends on stopping the run

The Packers have reached the halfway point of the season. The moment the 2014 schedule was released on April 23, I expected a 6-2 mark at the bye.

Nobody could’ve predicted that B.J. Raji and Don Barclay would be lost for the season, but a 5-3 record after playing three of the first four games on the road isn’t bad.

However, that doesn’t mean Green Bay doesn’t have its problems.

And as the weather turns throughout much of the nation, the Packers’ inability to stop the run will be its No. 1 issue. Many have said that if Raji were playing, the run defense would be better. I don’t disagree with that, but Raji isn’t a savior by any means.

The issue lies with the decision by general manager Ted Thompson in going small on the defensive line. And then when Raji did get hurt, he refused to bring in reinforcements, because the window to win an NFL title is finite.

On the surface it doesn’t appear that the run defense is all that bad. The unit has only allowed three running backs to crack the century mark.

But it’s how they’ve been able to do it. Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte and Mark Ingram gutted the Packers between the tackles. There hasn’t been an assortment of twists and jukes that would make unassuming defensive tackles or inside linebackers look silly.

Seven of the Packers’ next eight games could potentially be in cold weather. That includes trips to Minnesota and Buffalo. In order to get off the field and give the ball back to one of the most dangerous offense’s in the league, the defense is going to have to stop the run.

That is generally the rule, but even more so in the final two months of the season.

Packers Run Defense

153.5 yards per game, last in the NFL

Solving the problem has been precarious for defensive coordinator Dom Capers. He made a creative move by installing the NASCAR package in order to jumpstart the pass rush. But I don’t see a Formula 1 or ARCA package lurking up Capers’ sleeve to slow down the run.

And the inside linebackers must be more physical at the point of attack. It’s A.J. Hawk’s job to make running backs think twice about running the ball through the heart of the defense. There’s a line between physical play and things that are suited for the WWE. Having Hawk find a happy medium between the two by doling out punishment would be a welcome sign.

Since the defensive line cannot get a consistent push, maybe it’s time to move them around. Put more space between each player and force the offensive linemen to make a decision, allowing for more space to the playmaking linebackers.

The offense has also has had its heart palpitations with trust issues revolving around the young receiving corps in addition to getting Eddie Lacy running with momentum and confidence.

But the biggest issue with this team is stopping the run. With Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers are a virtual lock to make the playoffs.

And shutting down the run is the first step to deep postseason action.


Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn


19 thoughts on “Cory’s Corner: Packers’ season depends on stopping the run

  1. “And the inside linebackers must be more physical at the point of attack.”

    Something about ‘doling out punishment’

    “It’s A.J. Hawk’s job to make running backs think twice about running the ball through the heart of the defense. ”

    Something about ‘doling out punishment’

    “… allowing for more space to the playmaking linebackers.”

    Something about ‘doling out punishment’

    “And the inside linebackers must be more physical at the point of attack.”
    Something about ‘doling out punishment’

    This is a comedy script that turns into a horror drama after constant repeating….right?

    1. Hawk the working mans hero…slower than ever this year…i like how he gets stats by piling on after the guy is down…never an impact play from our ILB’s…

      1. Yes he likes to make sure the man is down and play is over. He is a disgrace. A defense MUST have a linebacker in the middle other teams at least worry about and fear, not laugh at.

  2. The only punishment Hawk doles out is to the people watching him play. Could someone find a smaller helmet for him? He spends more time putting his helmet back on after every play than doling out punishment. Maybe that is the whole problem, he just needs a smaller helmet. I figured it out, hey Dum Capers, just get a smaller helmet for Hawk and the defense is fixed…

  3. Couldn’t agree more Cory. Looking at the Packers remaining schedule, they face some of the weakest rushing teams in the league the last 4 weeks of the season, which gives them an opportunity to improve, but hopefully does not give a false sense of security. If they can’t hold those last 4 teams to under 100 yards rushing (or less) than they won’t last long in the playoffs.

    The schedule features teams ranked as follows for rushing offense:
    Bears (18th, 102.5 YPG) (Prediction: Win, 6-3)
    Eagles (14th, 115.1 YPG) (Prediction: Loss, 6-4)
    Vikings (11th, 121.8 YPG) (Prediction: Win, 7-4)
    Patriots (17th, 105.6 YPG) (Prediction: Loss, 7-5)
    Falcons (26th, 95.6 YPG) (Prediction: Win, 8-5)
    Bills (23rd, 98.9 YPG) (Prediction: Win, 9-5)
    Buccaneers (29th, 86.4 YPG) (Prediction: Win, 10-5)
    Lions (31st, 79.6 YPG). (Prediction: Win, 11-5)

      1. It’s never easy in the NFL, even against the teams that the Packers should beat. My hope is the Packers bring back Raji for cheap and have go back to old NT position as originally planned. I think it’d be worth trying to see if he recapture his old form.

        1. I don’t want Raji back at all. Guess I wouldn’t object at Vet. Min or so. I’d rather TT went out in FA and fixed the position rather than hoping Raji has something left for another year of Rodgers’ career. Maybe Pennel will develop. Guion is okay as a back-up rotational guy.

            1. Yes, though TT is unlikely to do it. That or move on in the draft. I don’t trust Raji’s desire to play football enough to give him any significant guaranteed money. Since that’s my hang-up with Raji, a pay as you go contract where he can be cut w/o much CAP pain would be alright.

  4. Cory – agree that stopping the run is job #1 for the Packers. They need more consistent play from the DL and the ILBs. They also need more consistent play from the OL, especially from Lang and both Tackles. Another issue is at TE where we can’t seem to find any who can block effectively. When the Packers lose, assuming that they don’t beat themselves, they lose to teams that out play them in the trenches. Seattle OL against our DL, Lions DL overwhelming our OL and New Orleans OL against our DL. The same has been true for all of the early playoff losses against SF twice in ’12 and ’13 and the NYG in 2011. We need to win in the trenches and I’m concerned that after the first 8 games this season we are still not capable of doing that against the top tier teams. Over the next 8 games the Eagles game is the biggest challenge until we face the Lions in the final game. The Patriots are a concern because of Brady but we should be able to move the ball and score on their defense and win at home. I still see the Pack going 12-4 or 11-5.

  5. Aj Hawk is the reason the ILB position is being gashed plain and simple! He is and always has been a mediocre line backer at best. Sure he is reliable and he knows how to put the right defense in place but he himself just is not fast enough to fill gaps at the line of attack. He has led in tackles but most of those are after the fact that the runner has gained 5 plus yard, Lattimore is better but not much, Barrington seems to have a better grasp on how to attack at the point but he needs more play time. Bottom line is they need to work Lattimore and Barrington into the game more with Bradford getting time as well so these guys can be the future at ILB. Hawk has never lived up to his draft status and really needs to be replaced along with Brad Jones. Ted also needs to break down and bring in big bodies for the run defense, Capers lighter and faster works fine for passing downs but they over penetrate on run plays and the runner gets into the flats before the likes of Hawk is to slow to get to them.

    1. Lighter and faster works with the personnel the Packers have **IF** they’re playing a 4-3 base defense. Now your 290 and 300 lb DL’s have a fighting chance and can penetrate to make plays (and if you drop a 330 lb Mike Pennel in there, you’ve got an anchor).

      AND…you only need one MLB in that base set. The responsibilities change radically in the front 7, sure, but the Packers are probably better suited to play the 4-3 at this point and how much base are they realistically going to play, anyway?

  6. Cory, you write:

    “It’s A.J. Hawk’s job to make running backs think twice about running the ball through the heart of the defense. There’s a line between physical play and things that are suited for the WWE. Having Hawk find a happy medium between the two by doling out punishment would be a welcome sign.”

    After 9 season of Charmin-soft play, what would possibly lead you to conclude that AJ Hawk is capable of doing anything other than getting offensive coordinators, QBs, and most especially RBs (including marginal ones) thrilled about the prospect of lining up across from him?

  7. I would suggest that the biggest disappointment is that none of the 2nd and 3rd year players have made a good-sized jump in their play. Not Datone, not Lacy, not Bakhtiari, not Hyde, not Boyd, not Barrington, and not Dorsey. From the year before, not Perry, not Hayward, and not Daniels (maybe a bit from Daniels). I could actually say the same thing about the 2010 (Bulaga, Neal, Burnett, Starks) and 2011 (Sherrod, Cobb, House) draft years as well. It is not completely bare: I do see some improvement from Burnett, Daniels, Perry, and a bit from Datone as a pass rusher. I also had high hopes for Bostick and Lattimore which have not been realized. Lacy has improved his blocking and receiving a lot and Cobb is back to playing at a high level.

  8. So, you’re gonna blame failures in run defense on Hawk in the middle when game after game I’ve seen Matthews get blocked inside on designs to run outside and it’s usually Hawk having to come over and attempt tackles 6-10 yds downfield? It’s NOT just Hawk, this D-line has regressed even more without Pickett and Jolly on the line–Pack may have speed on D-line but they don’t have the BEEF and are getting pushed pack except for some occasional plays by Letroy Guion and Daniels in the middle. No matter WHO is on the field, this defensive unit continues a 5 YEAR span of POOR TACKLING under Dom Capers and McCarthy–LEADERSHIP starts at the top and neither have stepped up and demanded execution of fundamental football–Capers teams have been notoriously poor tacklers and McCarthy’s offense hasn’t run or pass blocked since Chad Clifton was a roster starter. Can’t run or pass effectively against two deep safeties when line can’t get run production or keep Rodgers clean.

Comments are closed.