Let us be blunt, the Green Bay Packers defense stunk last year when it came to tackling and just about everything else when it mattered. So was this related to the number of injuries and lack of experience that the team was forced to use to plug the holes or was it the scheme? That question we do not and probably will not know the answer to.
What we do know is this, that calls for the dismissal of defensive coordinator Dom Capers from the masses were met with a wall of support (just as strong as the one that was given to Mason Crosby). Also, there was no movement on the free agent front to help resolve any questions or concerns with the defense.
Where does that leave us as off season workouts have started and the draft is right around the corner? Well pretty much where we were when the season ended, except that Charles Woodson has moved on and Johnny Jolly is trying to return. Plus, Coach Mike McCarthy is reviewing his processes for offseason and preseason workouts and training in an attempt to prevent the Green and Gold MASH unit from going to a code blue for next season. Finally there is also the hope that the injured players from last year will return.
Well here is my two cents worth, none of the above is going to really matter or factor into anything that happens next season if the defense does not improve in two simple areas. The first is tackling and the second is generating a sustained pass rush. I would guess that many of you agree with me on this as it does not take a rocket scientist to figure these two things out.
In analyzing this, we can then remove the portion of the equation that places blame on Dom Capers (though I still dislike his defensive schemes and lack of planning that was evident when we played any read-option team). Capers is not the one on the field and he is not the one who is executing the plays, the players are, so it rests with them.
I am also removing Ted Thompson from the discussion as his part is to provide players and these guys have been playing since pre-school for the most part and should know how to tackle and rush at this point in their careers. They all have the same skills and it is up to them to apply their abilities to their jobs, just like anyone in any employment environment has to.
Thus it is the players that need to step up. They (in my opinion) have no excuse in missing a tackle. Let’s be honest, how many whiffs and total misses did we see last year? I can get paid a million dollars to make those same misses, so maybe the Packers should sign me. I would save on the cap space and give them the same level of futility.
In looking at last season how many times was an opposing player wrapped up and yet managed to somehow break free and explode for a gain? How often did the defense fail in just doing the most basic thing they are supposed to do? The answer is a lot. Also, what is this pushing a guy out of bounds about? Lay a little smack down on them. Inflict some pain and punishment! This is not flag football.
Even though it is probably against some collective bargaining rule, I say the team should be allowed to implement a policy. Every time a tackle is missed, the player or players who misses are fined $100. If the missed tackle results in the offense scoring, the fine is $1,000. Or better yet for each missed tackle, they forfeit .01 percent of their salary. That would hurt the big money players and the low level guys equally. How quick do you think the tackling skills would improve then? I am guessing if you hurt a guy’s pocketbook things will improve quickly.
Now that I have solved the issues of missed tackles let’s move on to the pass rush. Granted Clay Matthews was out for a good portion of the season and this can account for a portion of the dropoff in what was expected. Yet again, this goes back to some basic principles. These guys have been playing a long time and they understand the skills and techniques that they need to employ to break through and inflict pressure and take the quarterback down.
Why is it that our defense made every offensive line look like they were the premier line in the NFL? Why can’t these guys provide the rush that is needed? If it is so difficult to do this on a continuous basis why is it that when I watched Super Bowl 31 the other night, Reggie White was able to on three separate occassions just walk through the line to sack Drew Bledsoe? Granted he was a phenomenal player but if he can do it, why can’t these younger guys give a little more?
Granted there were bright spots last year, but the consistency was lacking and you never knew what defense was going to show up. I blame this on the players only because that is the one factor over which they have control. Thus next season they need to be focused and resolve that their skills are better than what they have shown.
Now if I factor any players or undrafted signings into all of this, it changes nothing. Again, these guys are professionals and have been doing this for a long time. They know how to tackle and they know how to rush. They just need to apply those skills and do what they are paid to do. If we do not perform in our jobs we end up not having a job. Maybe it is time that we apply this logic to the players. You don’t do your job, you do not get paid and you do not play!
Having solved the defensive issues of the Packers, I think it is time to focus on other important issues that are more pressing, specifically how do we take back the tundra next season. That little article by Bob McGinn, over at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel calling the fans soft is still eating away at me.
Mr. McGinn, get ready cause I am a one-man wrecking machine ready to start the revolution to TAKE BACK THE TUNDRA!