Green Bay Packers facing defensive challenges


Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Perry knocks the football away from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field earlier this season. The Packers first round draft pick is one that needs to step up against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Every one knows with Aaron Rodgers back at quarterback the weak link for the Green Bay Packers is the defense and kick cover units. The three reasons being discussed about this weakness is bad luck with injuries, Dom Capers not getting the job done as defensive coordinator or Ted Thompson has not drafted well on that side of the ball.

First of all let’s be clear that the defense did play better last week for three of the four quarters, but the third quarter was really bad giving up 21 of the 28 points. I am crediting the TD five seconds into the fourth quarter to the third quarter since it was only one play and from the five yard line when the drive started back on the Bears 32 with four minutes to go in the third quarter.

To be fair, starting the third quarter the Packers went three and out punting from their own 29. The kick cover team did them no favor giving up the punt return all the way back to the Green Bay 30 setting up a very short field.

There is no doubt that injuries have played a role in the downfall of the defense. Not only were they dealing with their own injury issues, but Rodgers being out for seven weeks put a strain on the defense that it clearly could not handle. Not having the unit’s best player and leader, Clay Matthews, for half a season has been a major blow as well.

A.J. Hawk will be an important cog in the Green Bay Packers defense on Sunday.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Unfortunately every other linebacker other than A.J. Hawk, especially Nick Perry  OLB #2 and Mike Neal OLB #3, have also been battling injuries all year long. This left the Packers relying on undrafted rookie Anthony Mulumba and rookie sixth round pick Nate Palmer at times playing OLB even on the field at the same time.

Brad Jones, who was supposed to be the starter next to Hawk at ILB, missed four regular season games and was limited in others. In one game recently he went down with a game-ending injury and then the very next play his backup, Jamari Lattimore, went down. Once again the Packers had to turn to an undrafted rookie, Victor Aiyewa to play ILB.

Johnny Jolly played terrific for the Packers as a run-stopper on the D-line in his first year back after spending time in prison for drug issues. Unfortunately, he is now out for the season and has created a major hole in the Packers run defense.

Last year’s second round pick, Jerel Worthy, hurt his knee at the end of last year and was on the PUP list to start the season.

He has had no impact this year and has recorded only one tackle during 2013 campaign. Last year, rookie standout cornerback Casey Hayward only got to play in three games this year because of injury and is also on the IR list.

Now those who blame the drafting of Mr. Thompson can point to the fact that the Packers have been trying to draft impact defensive players for the past several years and very few of the high round draft picks are stepping up to become play makers.

Last year the Packers drafted Nick Perry in the first round and the previously mentioned Worthy in the second. Perry was lost for the season in game 6 last year and has only played in 11 of the 16 regular season games this year. This year’s first round pick Datone Jones has a grand total of 10 tackles. For using the two number ones and a number two in the last two years the Packers have not gotten the kind of production expected from any of these players.

There has been glimpses of star potential from Perry, but every time we see it he gets hurt. Last year he had a great play against Indy only to be lost immediately after that game for the rest of the year. Then he makes a great play in Baltimore this year while getting a sack and forcing a fumble only to be hurt on that very same play. He missed the next couple of games and has not been anywhere near full strength since.

Then there was the fourth round crazy pick of Jerron McMillan in 2012 to play safety when he was not even projected to be drafted by most experts and then the Packers followed up with trading up to get Terrell Manning the very next round. Less than a year and a half later both players have been cut from the team.

I bet if we were good friends with Ted and were sitting at a bar candidly talking some Packers football he would be the first to admit he and his staff have not done their best work on the defensive side of the ball. Don’t get me wrong he has not missed every pick on that side of the ball as I very much like Micah Hyde, Hayward, and Mike Daniels to name a few recent picks. In no way am I calling for Thompson to be fired or anything crazy like that. We just need him to really hit a home run on this upcoming first round draft pick on the defensive side of the ball.

Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Then you come to the lightning rod topic – Dom Capers.

This one is starting arguments all across Packers Nation if you mention that you think it is time for a change at the helm of the defense. There is just no getting around the fact that the Packers have not been very good on defense this year, which has followed up on the embarrassing playoff loss at San Francisco last year.  The defense has been in decline since the Super Bowl of 2010.

Those calling for the job of Capers believe that three straight years of mediocre to poor defense should be placed on the shoulders of the defensive coordinator.

Clearly we need the Packers to be more healthy and for the first time this year the team is relatively healthy leading into this playoff game. Other than Matthews being out for this game coach Mike McCarthy will be able to choose from all 52 other players to come up with the best 46 dressed.

The defense has another chance tomorrow to erase most of the past with four good quarters of football instead of three like last week. Perry, Jones and Worthy have another chance to make a major impact and justify their high round draft pick.

Maybe Capers has something up his very experienced sleeve that will work with this combination of players and conditions?

No one is expecting or demanding this defense to be near perfect tomorrow afternoon/evening, but they have a golden opportunity to silence their critics. The national experts predicting this game are dramatically calling for the Niners to win and they are stating very loudly it is because of the Packers defense.

It is time to see what these guys are made of and if they can rise to the challenge on this very unique occasion.