Green Bay Packers: Defense is an odd entity


Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

After five weeks the Green Bay Packers defense is an odd entity. It is strong against the pass and very weak against the run.

The thing is there may just be a method to this madness.

Dom Capers is tasked with creating a scheme based upon the talent he is provided from General Manager Ted Thompson. Before the season started it was glaringly obvious that based on the talent on hand this 2014 squad would be strong on the outside, robust in the defensive backfield but soft as marshmallow up front. Thus far that has rung true.

When Thompson chose to move on from Ryan Pickett and not bring Johnny Jolly back and rely upon younger defensive lineman like Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, and Mike Daniels bring to the Green Bay defense?” there were certainly concerns that the run defense would suffer.

Jim Oxley photograph

 B.J.Raji of course didn’t help matters. In Raji’s place Letroy Guion has played well, but it is clear he would be a better rotation player than starter. Rookie nose tackle Mike Pennel is a big body who could blossom into a solid player. Momentarily he is learning on the job.

After five weeks the Packers defense ranks 22nd overall. But the sum of its parts is a tale of two teams. The run defense ranks dead last giving up 163 yards per game and 6 touchdowns. The passing defense, on the other hand, is ranked a very respectable seventh, surrendering a modest 208 yards per game and five touchdowns.

Success often comes down to knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t know. Dom Capers and everyone and their brother know the Packers have a hard time stopping the run. The question then becomes can the Packers win with a poor rushing defense?

There is no black and white response to this query, however it’s possible.

In an NFL where the passing is prolific and running the ball is often an ancillary part of the offense the Packers could get by. In years past the phrase that illustrated Dom Capers’ defense was “bend but don’t break.” In 2014 that expression could be fastened solely to the run defense. And thus far there is some truth to this theory.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

The defense gives up an average of 4.6 yards per carry. This isn’t ideal, but it’s also not horrendous. Then consider the long run. Through five games the Packers have given up three runs of 20 or more yards, but zero runs of 40 or more yards. The output is the opposing team’s offense can control the clock by running the ball and keeping the Packers potent offense on the sidelines. But opposing teams are not scoring a lot on the Packers defense.

The Packers have given up 106 points on the season for an average of 21.2 points per game. This matches the same totals of the second ranked defense in the league, the blasted San Francisco 49ers.

Given that the Packers offense averages 26.8 points per game, on paper they should be able to win despite a run defense that is less than adequate. It’s also worth noting that with the Packers high revved offense opposing teams may often find themselves playing from behind forcing them to pass the ball rather than run in an effort to catch up.

I think there is some method to Dom Capers’ madness. Granted I would prefer a well-rounded Packers defense in which the run and pass defense were both equally formidable. But in making the best of a less than ideal situation I’m OK with how things stand for now.

Additionally I’m optimistic that the young players up front will improve throughout the course of the season.

Come crunch time this defense may be a difference-maker.