Mike McCarthy Has Shown His Hand-Will Dom Capers Fold (Again)?

The Packers have developed a reputation professional football teams want to avoid.

They have been categorized as being soft.

Since their most recent playoff failure, the Packers have been scrutinized up and down for not being physical enough to compete with the elite teams of the NFL. That their style of play is not capable of winning another Super Bowl, because they lack the ability to punch their opponents in the mouth

Their offense is too dome like, focusing on a down the field passing attack, with little help coming from a substandard running game.

Their defense relying too much on the big play to keep them in games. Giving up goo gobs of yards has become the norm for the Packers defense, only occasionally showing the capability of stopping some of the better offenses in the league.

Being called soft a mere two years after winning the Super Bowl with nearly the entire roster in tact must have echoed very loudly in the halls at 1265 Lombardi Avenue leading up to the NFL Draft. And a definite shift in approach seems to be on the horizon.

The drafting of bruising running back Eddie Lacy gives the Packers they have not had since the Ryan Grant era-a running back capable of carrying the ball 20-25 games. This will take substantial pressure off the passing game, giving the Packers a two dimensional threat, both through the air and on the ground.

Lacy is expected to, along with Jonathan Franklin and incumbent DuJuan Harris, provide the Packers with something else-the ability to grind out the final minutes of a game, when managing the clock is so critical. The running back by committee approach the Packers have employed over the past several seasons has been a failure, partially because of their inability to perform in this situation.

Shuffling the offensive line is also expected to show the Packers are intent on becoming more physical.

packers 2013 o line
Packers 2013 O Line (photo courtesy: JS Online)

By putting their two best linemen on the same side to protect their $110 million investment, McCarthy is sending a message to the rest of the league, and the message is simple: their offense is not going to be pushed around anymore.

McCarthy has showed his cards for how the offense will look different in 2013. That leaves one huge question still to be answered: what about the defense?

Criticism aimed at Dom Capers has not gone unwarranted. His defenses have failed at the most inopportune of times, helping aid the soft label. And deservedly so.

Playing defensive backs nine yards off receivers when it is third and seven is not playing soft-it’s playing stupid.

Consistently rushing two defensive linemen when it is third and long does not help shed the soft label.

Getting spanked in the playoffs three out of the past four seasons has damaged Capers’ reputation as a defensive genius, and caused much of the Packer faithful to question his ability to lead the defense.

Something has to change on defense if this team is going to get back to being an elite team.

Drafting Datone Jones in the first round should provide something the Packers have not seen since Cullen Jenkins was still wearing green and gold: a defensive lineman with a knack of getting to the quarterback.

Getting tough nosed Desmond Bishop should help the beleaguered defense.

Maybe getting Johnny Jolly back will help too.

But the real question is whether Capers will be able to make the changes this defense needs in order to become a powerhouse again. After meltdowns in the playoffs the past two seasons, that is the biggest question surrounding the defense heading into 2013.

Mike McCarthy has shown his cards as to what the Packers will look like on offense in 2013. He is determined to shed the soft label from the offense.

Will Dom Capers show his cards at some point? Or will he do what he has done far too consistently in big games since 2010-fold under pressure?

The cards have been dealt.

John Rehor is a writer at PackersTalk.com and co-host of Cheesehead Radio. To contact John follow him on Twitter @jrehor or email johnrehor@yahoo.com

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  • Tarynfor12

    ‘Lacy is expected to, along with Jonathan Franklin and incumbent DuJuan Harris, provide the Packers with something else-the ability to grind out the final minutes of a game, when managing the clock is so critical.”

    This is important but the need for the run game during our offensive possessions is much more paramount to even getting to the end-game clock killing via the run.

    Enabling longer time consuming drives via a run game opens up not only a better deep pass success ratio but enables our defense to pin its ears back and not be in a ‘prevent defense’ for a vast majority of the game,hence a larger separation of the score to begin with as we all know it should be.

    A good and wisely used run game eliminates a large number of 3 and outs on offense,which damages a defense in many ways as seen with ours far too much last season,but that run game is only good and wise if those runners are put in ‘winnable’ situations and achieve those wins,much less than the “we are running and try to stop us spots” which we can only as yet hope to present to an opponent.

    Many have called for Capers head for the defensive struggles but how much of those struggles needs to be directed at the all too often ‘very shortcomings’ of the offensive play and calls,which falls to McCarthy.

    I believe neither is truly at fault to a higher degree of each other,but when one hand washes another..neither have a hand in the basin and both stay dirty.

    • IMO, McCarthy gets a free pass far too often for the playcalling. By abandoning the run too early and going “Air McCarthy” early in games, he puts so much pressure on the defense to stop the opponent.

      Anytime the offense goes 3 and out, the defense has to trot back out on the field after a brief rest. It’s no wonder they look (and play) exhausted so often.

      Now that MM has what appears to be a somewhat solid running game, hopefully they will be able to mix the high powered passing attack with some good old fashioned ground and pound, and give the defense a break.

      Of course, having the defense better prepared for games might help too. Right Dom? 🙂

    • IMO, McCarthy gets a free pass far too often for the playcalling. By abandoning the run too early and going “Air McCarthy” early in games, he puts so much pressure on the defense to stop the opponent.

      Anytime the offense goes 3 and out, the defense has to trot back out on the field after a brief rest. It’s no wonder they look (and play) exhausted so often.

      Now that MM has what appears to be a somewhat solid running game, hopefully they will be able to mix the high powered passing attack with some good old fashioned ground and pound, and give the defense a break.

      Of course, having the defense better prepared for games might help too. Right Dom? 🙂

  • Hank Scorpio

    I’ve been banging the drum about that dumb 2 DL formation Capers overuses for quite a long time now. It was a creative solution to the problem of the Packers not having enough quality DL to form an effective rotation and weather an injury or two. I didn’t necessarily fault Capers for the solution, even though I thought it put the Packers at a competitive disadvantage vs both run and pass. When he first came up with it, there was not many better options.

    It seems to me that problem has been solved. Raji & Pickett can rotate at NT. Datone Jones, CJ Wilson, Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels & Mike Neal can rotate at DE. Even if Worthy starts the season on the PUP, there is still a 4 man DE rotation. For short yardage or obvious pass rush situations, mixing and matching across positions works just fine.

    If Capers still goes heavily to the 2 man DL formations, I think he’ll deserve every bit of the growing chorus of criticism he is facing. And I’ll join in calling for his dismissal.

    Either way, it is hardly surprising that a defense that plays 2 linemen vs 5 linemen on a consistent basis is viewed as “not physical enough”. It is a simple matter of physics. 250 lb guys will get eaten up by 300+ lb guys way more often than not.

  • Defense wins championships! It always has and will.

  • The lack of defense is the same problem we had in the Sherman era. The offense with Favre was good enough to win it all but the defense was not. Does 4th and 26 ring a bell?

    • Good call Mark. Not going to go so far and say the Packers have had one play that stands out as much as 4th and 26 does. But their playoff failures since 2009 rest primarily on the defense.

      2009-Lost to the Cardinals, scored 45 points.

      2011-Lost to the Giants, scored 20 points in what was Rodgers’ worst playoff game performance to date (26-46, 264 yds, 2 TDs, but a pitiful 5.7 YPA)

      2012-Lost to the 49ers, scored 31 points

      Except for the Giants game, the offense more than did their part to win the game. As for the defense…

      2009-gave up 51 points

      2011-gave up 37 points

      2012-gave up 45 points

      Not going to win that many games giving up that many points.