After an unprecedented purge of defensive coaching staff, after much hemming and hawing and after much speculation, the Green Bay Packers have settled on former Houston Texans coach Dom Capers as their new defensive coordinator.
I’m not sure how I feel about this.
On one hand, I like the hire. Dom Capers brings the type of gravitas that only a NFL head coach (even former) can. He also has a legendary work ethic, with some claiming that his workday is 17 hours long. That has to rub off on the players and the rest of the staff, right?
On the other hand, the NFL’s playing style and strategy is morphing day to day, evolving faster than it ever has before. Young coaches are thriving and it’s because they shift and bring new ideas and schemes to the table. They win because they are innovative, not because they maintain the status quo. I fear that Dom Capers is simply a “safe” choice for a coach and GM still reeling from a disastrous season, due in large part to mistakes made by them.
For the Packers to turn around their defense, they need a true rebirth, and complete reinvigoration. Is it Dom Capers that can inspire that type of improvement? Or is he just a stopgap?
Perhaps he and Mike McCarthy made their intentions known when they announced they’d be switching from the old 4-3 defense, to the harder-to-predict, zone-based 3-4. Now, I like the 3-4. A lot.
Who runs it? Two of the best defenses in the league – Baltimore and Pittsburgh. It’s a shifty, as I said, hard-to-predict, aggressive defense. It’s fun to watch and when applied well, forces a lot of turnovers and sacks. Its success is predicated on matching the right personnel with the scheme.
Green Bay currently does not have the right personnel. In fact, most of the Packers best players will probably struggle to adjust to the 3-4.
The Packers vaunted veteran cornerbacks, Al Harris and Charles Woodson, play aggressive bump-and-run coverage. They loath zone coverage and will have to make significant changes in their game to fit in. The Packers best defensive lineman, Aaron Kampman, is built as an outside rusher. He lacks the speed to play outside linebacker, so he will probably be asked to bulk up to play as a 3-4 end, forcing him to play inside more than he’d like. A.J. Hawk’s mobility problems will be exposed even further, as he will be asked to drop into pass coverage more than ever. Ditto for Brady Poppinga, who can’t be asked to cover anyone anyway.
Who do I think will thrive in this system? Nick Collins, for one. He’s already a playmaker and he will be put into similar situations as Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. Brandon Chillar is well suited for the zone coverage duties and Nick Barnett may respond well to the change. Other than that, the Packers may wind up seeing some new faces and more likely than not, some growing pains.