Monday, January 19, 2009

Thank Goodness

An experienced defensive hand has arrived in Packerland-- Dom Capers. My best memory of Capers was his blitz-heavy Carolina Panthers team that the Packers beat in the '97 NFC championship game. He head-coached that surprising squad, taking an expansion team and turning it into a contender in just a few years. Anyhow, Capers has a pretty solid career record as a defensive mind, coordinating defenses in Pittsburgh, Miami and Jacksonville. His record as a head coach is not so great, having helmed two expansion teams in Carolina and Houston. But whatever. This is exactly the kind of guy I wanted-- an old hand, a guy who's happy as a coordinator, and someone who has a huge body of work and experience to inform his decisions.

What's especially interesting is the announcement, made today at McCarthy's press conference, that the Packers will run a 3-4 system under Capers. That will definitely shake-up the team's front seven, and perhaps change the Packers' drafting and free agent philosophy. The 3-4 depends on having a big run-stopping, block-absorbing, nose guard. Looks like that role will be Ryan Pickett's, though the team will immediately enter the market for a capable back-up. Smaller DTs like Colin Cole, Johnny Jolly, and Justin Harrell may switch to ends in a 3-4, as those guys tend to be bigger and serve more as designated run-stoppers than pass rushers. What will happen to the team's ends, specifically Aaron Kampman, Cullen Jenkins, and Jeremy Thompson, remains to be seen, however. Then there's the linebacker jumble. Will it be Hawk and Barnett (or Bishop, if Nick's unable) in the middle, with Poppinga and Chillar on the outside? Surprisingly, this Packers' press release has a good outline of the personnel issues raised by the implementation of the new scheme. Then there's this concern--good 3-4 defenses seem to have a stud-hybrid rusher, like Kevin Greene on the Panthers, Jason Taylor on the Dolphins, or Terrell Suggs on the Ravens, and the Packers don't have anyone like that right now. Then again, I think Suggs might become a free agent in a few weeks.

Anyhow, I take this as a big positive development. Grizzled, well-respected former head coach and coordinator signs up with the Pack, and looks to bring in a more versatile style of defense. Changes are afoot and it'll be fascinating to see what happens.

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