Packers Strategic Changes Needed

The draft has come and gone for the Green Bay Packers. We’re all excited about the influx of young talent on the roster. It’s that wonderful time of year where everyone thinks, “This is the class that will push the Lombardi trophy back home!” They were also active enough in free agency to the point where people were close to pinching themselves to be certain they weren’t dreaming, drinking, or both. “You mean, they’re not going to solely rely on a 5th rounder from Middle Tennessee State to replace the second All-Pro guard they have let walk in the past seven months?! A veteran (Jahri Evans) with several years of success has been brought in to ease that transition?!”

So, the personnel overhaul has largely been completed going into next season. The other realm calling for revision is the strategic one. The Packers organization has delivered surprises with personnel decisions. Are they going to continue that with strategic ones? If they dare to traverse such territory, here are some changes that merit consideration.

 

Scrap the slow-developing HB toss play out of the shotgun

Any casual observer of the Packers in the past several years knows how this goes: Rodgers takes the snap out of the shotgun, tosses the rock to what was usually Lacy or Starks, several linemen pull toward the ball to start clearing real estate, and finally the carrier is tackled for a loss or a short gain at most. This was the result about 98% of the time this play was called. This was for several reasons:

  1. Lacy and Starks were not the shifty, elusive type that could rely on speed to improvise on a slow-developing play
  2. The O-line is constructed for zone run blocking, not with maulers who thrive on pulling across the line for backs.
  3. This type of play is better suited for a matchup of Elk Mound vs. Oostburg in the WIAA Division 5 state semi-finals.

There was one time last year where this toss play netted maybe 8 or 9 yards because of a Herculean effort by Lacy, but that’s about it. This toss play has never been effective. Let’s toss the toss play in the scrap heap.

 

Stop publicly committing to the run game

Year after year, Mike McCarthy stresses the importance of establishing the run game. Then, the pass/run ratio in the first half of the following game is 23/7. Someone with close contact to Coach Mike can tell him everyone understands that he has a legend at QB, and that throwing the ball a ton is an acceptable option. We understand that balance is a great thing to have, but if the running game isn’t gaining steam, then relying on your hall of fame QB’s arm is an acceptable alternative. Rodgers has publicly stated he would be fine with a pass play called on 100% of the snaps anyway.

If the new stable of running backs results in a reliable running game, then great! Naturally, that will stretch the field and create more dangerous play action situations. This would be fantastic. If not, then it’s not the end of the world. The offense has been elite for years under a pass heavy scheme.

 

Enough with the soft zone coverage on D

With a healthy and productive personnel group, this can work. It’s the “bend but don’t break” philosophy that will sacrifice medium gains to prevent the bigger ones. In 2015, the pass defense ranked 6th with solid depth at DB and an effective pass rush from Peppers and Nick Perry. In 2016, only Perry could provide a reliable pass rush while the secondary was decimated by injury, regression, and lack of discipline. Therefore, a soft secondary coverage scheme that still allowed big plays was deployed, thus becoming the worst of both worlds.

The culmination of this flawed scheme was on full display in the NFC title game in Atlanta. This was most evident when Julio Jones ran a crossing pattern where LaDarius Gunter covered him until he turned toward the middle of the field, where Gunter halted his coverage while pointing toward the middle of the field to apparently signal to the middle zone to cover. The problem was, nobody wearing a white jersey was visible in the area that the Fox Sports cameras could pan. This type of coverage has been frequent enough to create a legion of Capers haters (the guy, not the food). With added talent and speed in the secondary now, a more aggressive scheme should be deployed, and the defensive coordinator with the Lego Man haircut will avoid much of the heat that has fired his way.

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John Piotrowski is a UW-Eau Claire alum, spending most of his life in western WI. He makes the trek east to Lambeau whenever possible. Follow him on twitter at @piosGBP.

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  • Nick Perry

    Hmmm….3 very reasonable changes and ALL for the greater good of the GBP, especially numbers 1 & 3!

  • Old School

    I think the soft zone and the zone blitz and stuff is all gimmicky. Rush with four, cover man to man, and your safeties provide help over the top. You’re not going to pitch shutouts, but if you can hold teams to under 25 points you’ve got a great chance. Packers scored 25 or more 12 times and went 10-2 in those games.

  • ROBERT SUNDBERG

    yes I agree, its about time we look for another defensive coach somebody who is aggressive and attacks not that laid back get chewed up defense of capers all this preventive crap you know what they say preventive defense all it does is prevent you from winning

  • shavager

    RUN Balance is NEEDED to be successful in passing game, FACT! Put Rodgers back there throwing 75% of more–Packers have a LOSING RECORD, FACT! ESPN and Packers own facts prove it. It tires the defense because too many short drives and too much time on field for defense, FACT. As for the HB toss–Lacy, Starks ARE SIX-EIGHT YARDS DEEP when Rodgers drops back, they CAN’T get into open quick enough for the line to provide blocks or holes! They’re ALREADY IN NEGATIVE YARDAGE BEHIND THE LINE WHEN THEY GET THE BALL! HB toss works IF McCarthy CHANGES the play to more effective HB lining up closer to line, get OPEN for the ball instead of expecting a poor RUN blocking O-line to open holes. As for DUMB Capers defense–‘bend but don’t break’ DON’T WORK, PERIOD!! Packers LB, secondary across the middle have been a BIG HOLE FOR SIX YEARS NOW–the playoff game vs. Cardinals in 2015 should’ve exposed for EVERYBODY–the weakness in Pack’s SOFT ZONES OVER MIDDLE!!! Capers ABANDONED man to man in MIDDLE of 3rd quarter in playoffs vs. Cards in ’15–fans WATCHED Cards DOMINATE in passing game–including a 75 YARD PASS that began with a 10-15 yd throw by Carson Palmer to a WIDE OPEN Larry Fitzgerald–there was NO DB within 30 YARDS of Fitzgerald because of those soft zones–the defenders followed WR’s over middle, downfield. Two plays later and THIRD consecutive play to Fitzgerald–Cards BEAT Packers in OT to advance to Title game. DUMB Capers couldn’t build a DEFENSE for a Pop Warner team, much less win playoffs anymore. Capers defenses: GAVE UP, the MOST, Second most, Third most points than ANY Packers playoff team in 96 YEAR HISTORY of Packers–that’s just in EIGHT years. His defenses AVERAGED giving up MORE POINTS, MORE Total yds, MORE Pass yds, MORE Run yds—in past SIX playoff seasons than McCarthy/Rodgers offense has generated in that period–THAT’S LOSING FOOTBALL, NO MATTER WHAT LEVEL OF COMPETITION! McCarthy/Capers have accomplished something NO other HC/DC has ever done in Packers history of 96 years–LOST TWO CONSECUTIVE TITLE GAMES! How’s that for success? WHY would a team KEEP a DC who BEATS the offense in playoffs year after year?