There was talk during the offseason about the Green Bay Packers going for a new body type along their defensive line, and that seems accurate right now.
Gone are players like 340-pound Ryan Pickett and 325-pound Johnny Jolly. They have been replaced in the base defense so far in camp by Datone Jones and Mike Daniels, who weigh 285 pounds and 300 pounds respectively. B.J. Raji will move from defensive end back to nose tackle where he played during the 2010 championship season. Raji felt that his talents were being wasted taking up blockers to give the linebackers space to roam, so now he should get more pass rushing opportunities.
There seems to be more of an emphasis on getting the defensive lineman to move more actively to the quarterback rather than just taking up space. These are called “Jet” plays in Green Bay’s scheme. Jones and Daniels fit that mold as guys who are very quick off the line and have a solid array of pass rushing moves to get to the quarterback.
The Packers thought that Jolly and Pickett would be able to stop the run for them on running downs, and then they could have their nickel package rush the quarterback. However, the Packers could not stop the run or the pass. They were 29th in the NFL giving up 4.6 yards per carry and 27th in the NFL allowing 7.8 yards per attempt in the air. So, if the Packers were not going to stop the run with Pickett and Jolly in the lineup it did not make sense to keep them.
Green Bay hopes that the quicker and more athletic defensive line will help them solve their defensive woes. In addition to that, defensive e coordinator Dom Capers will be employing his linebackers in a new way as well.
Capers has some excellent talent and depth to work with at outside linebacker once Mike Neal and Nick Perry return from their injuries. Clay Matthews finally has a suitable running mate in Julius Peppers, at least he does in name value. The Packers clearly disagreed with the notion that he had a down season last year and they think that he is the missing link to their defense.
“You look at my last year, was it one of my better years?” Peppers said. “Probably not, you know, statistically. But if you compare it to a lot of the guys who played last year, it was better than a lot of guys. So I don’t really think I need to revitalize anything, just improve upon what I did last year. That’s not going to be easy to do. I should be able to do it.”
Peppers will not be playing over 1,000 snaps like he did with Chicago, since keeping him fresh is important at age 34. That will give Neal and Perry plenty of chances to make an impact. Peppers and Neal should also get some snaps with their hands in the dirt in nickel. You can see all the moving parts that Capers has to work with.
Another thing to look for is Matthews replacing one of the inside linebackers and blitzing up the middle. It is something that Capers used to employ a lot a few years ago, but many injuries to outside linebackers has forced Matthews to stay there. It became very predictable where he was coming from, so it was easy to send a double team at him. Anything that gets Brad Jones or A.J. Hawk off the field more cannot be a bad thing.
With all these moving parts that Capers has to work with the unpredictable nature of his defensive scheme should return. The personnel changes in the front seven will give this Packers defense a whole new look.——————