Another article on Capers and our "new" defense

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Another article on Capers and our "new" defense

Postby glorydays » Tue Nov 18, 2014 4:19 pm

Green Bay — As the Green Bay Packers move toward the final six games of the schedule, defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his staff will need to deal with being caught on video.

They are two games into their bold expedition with linebacker Clay Matthews in the middle and word of it has spread through the digital universe and into every future opponent's offensive meeting room.

After two solid defensive performances in which the Packers have allowed a total of 34 points the next move belongs to the Minnesota Vikings.

They will have to figure out what the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears didn't in their losses to the streaking Packers. Having a pair of games to study video puts them in a much better position than the others. And with three games, the New England Patriots should have plenty of footage for their Nov. 30 meeting at Lambeau Field.

So, while the Vikings look for some counter measures to introduce on Sunday, Capers needs to find a way to stay ahead of the curve with Matthews.

"We have plenty of different ways," Capers said Monday, after his team gave up 429 yards but held the Eagles to 20 points. "It's just figuring out what's going to work and what's going to give them the most problems. But we've got a lot of different packages."

Capers changed the emphasis Sunday from Matthews playing mostly next to A.J. Hawk in the middle to Matthews coming down to the line of scrimmage and forming a five-man front. It was a different look than he had given the Bears, and there were times that the Eagles didn't handle it well.

The impact of the Packers offense scoring 24 points in the first 20 minutes should never be discounted when considering the defense's success. The Eagles had to play catch-up very early, and the Packers were content with letting them eat up real estate between the 20-yard lines.

Still, there was evidence that Capers' use of Matthews is paying off, and that he is finding different ways to stress the opposition's weakest areas and exploit their tendencies.

Matthews finished with five tackles, a sack, a quarterback knocked down and a pass batted. That's after having 11 tackles and a sack against the Bears. The defense ranks 25th in yards allowed but ranks 17th in points.

The best example of Matthews creating confusion Sunday night was on linebacker Julius Pepper's 52-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Matthews lined up on the right side as a hybrid linebacker/end with Peppers on the left and three defensive linemen in the middle. When cornerback Casey Hayward came to the line on Matthews' side, it gave the impression of a weak-side blitz.

At the snap, however, Matthews and Hayward dropped into coverage. Normally, Peppers would rush, but Capers had him drop into coverage, too. Quarterback Mark Sanchez reacted to the first look and threw to the guy he normally would in that situation, tight end Brent Celek.

But Peppers was standing right in front of him.

"He did make a mistake when Peppers dropped into coverage," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said of Sanchez during his Monday news conference. "Usually he (Peppers) doesn't drop into coverage, but good call. Give Dom Capers credit for making a good call."

How teams counter with Matthews' new alignments remains to be seen, but the Patriots might have shed some light when they lined up in power formations against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night and ran it down their throats.

The Packers have played a heavy dose of nickel defense with two defensive linemen, Peppers and outside linebacker Nick Perry serving as the front four. Dropping Matthews down as a fifth is fine until you consider that Hawk is the only linebacker behind them.

"I think as you look at your defense, it should be based off of personnel — where you want to get the matchups, trying to get what you feel is your best group on the field and trying to match it up to their personnel," Capers said. "For example, the Eagles, you know it's going to be fast pace, a lot of tempo and a lot of quick passes on the outside.

"You saw us at times drop more people out than what we had when you're getting all those quick screens and out routes and everything."

In other words, bringing Matthews down to the line to form a five-man front made the Eagles want to throw the ball. Dropping Matthews back into coverage from that line position was an adjustment to make sure the defense was able to play both run and pass.

Putting Matthews in positions where the offense can't predict whether he's playing the run, rushing the passer or dropping into coverage is the essence of what Capers is trying to accomplish. If he can do it in conjunction with setting up Peppers, Mike Neal, Perry and others with favorable matchups, then he's ahead of the game.

That's what happened when Matthews stepped up to the line from his inside position.

"He can still do all the things that we've done with him, moving him from outside to inside," Capers said. "In that package (against the Eagles) he starts inside and moves outside.

"It does give you some versatility and I think flexibility. They have to do decide how they're going to define him. Are they going to define him as a 'Mike' (middle linebacker) or define him as a defensive end? You try to tie that into your packages that maybe creates a little more for them, puts more on their plate."

Coach Mike McCarthy warned that there are some pitfalls to varying the attack too much in the middle of the season, which can be the tendency when a team is playing at a high level. He said it's important not to try to do so much that you end up diluting the things you're doing so well.

Capers said his main concern is to keep the defense as a whole moving forward.

"I've said around here, we play our best defense in the second half of the season if you look over the time that we've been here," Capers said. "So you want to just keep working to keep that arrow pointing up because we know that November and December are the critical times you've got to be playing your best football."
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