He’s helped lead the team to a championship, he’s helped develop stars like Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, and Sam Shields. He’s found ways to utilize players’ strengths while putting together game plans that have helped the Packers win.
But coming off a season where the team finished in the mid-20s of defensive rankings against both the run and the pass, Capers is on a seemingly short lease by head coach Mike McCarthy.
Publicly, McCarthy has provided only total support for Capers. Behind closed doors, we’re not sure what’s being thought and said, but our feeling is that the Packers are counting on Capers to turn this defense around.
To do that, General Manager Ted Thompson has pulled the strings to give Capers the tools to improve the defense. He went out in free agency and pulled Canton-bound defensive lineman Julius Peppers off the street, he re-signed the team’s best cornerback in Sam Shields and also brought back defensive lineman B.J. Raji, albeit on a single-year “prove it” contract.
In addition, Thompson used the draft to shore up the back end of the defense by selecting safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. With the Alabama product expected to add needed depth and talent at safety, Clinton-Dix could end up as a starter in one of the more intriguing training camp positional competitions on the horizon.
With Casey Hayward and Clay Matthews set to come back from injury and with a defensive line that has been cleared of the old veterans (at least for now), Capers has a unit that should certainly show statistical improvement.
Coupled with the fact that Aaron Rodgers is expected back as strong as ever, the defense should be able to register a sigh of relief. You might remember how the defense found itself on the field and worn down by injury and play count last season when the offense had trouble staying on the field. The results were not pretty during the back half of the 2013 campaign.
Needless to say, there’s no excuse as to why the Packers defense shouldn’t show significant improvement in 2014.
That’s why Capers is our X-factor in 2014.
There are no excuses and it’s time for him to step up and provide the leadership and guidance the team needs. We all expect him to utilize Peppers in new and unpredictable ways. We expect him to dial up defenses that strike fear into offensive coordinators and their quarterbacks. We expect a renewed energy and ferocity from the pass rush and from the pass coverage. We expect the defensive line to control the line of scrimmage and the linebackers to maintain the gaps. We expect the Packers to contain the run games – they need to hold the likes of Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush and Matt Forte in check.
And while those are lofty expectations, they are realistic goals that must be met if the Packers have any chance to once again win the NFC North Division.
For if the defense can contain offenses, they will provide the window of opportunity for the offense and Aaron Rodgers to do their thing.
That’s why Capers in our X-factor in 2014.