Green Bay Packers employ ‘beefy front’ on defensive line to kill run game : Packers Insider

Green Bay Packers employ ‘beefy front’ on defensive line to kill run game

November 13, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Nov 13, 2010 ~ by Pete Dougherty, Press-Gazette

~The Green Bay Packers’ three-nose-tackle defensive line could end up just a blip on their season.

Then again, that new personnel grouping could become another change-of-pace package for defensive coordinator Dom Capers against several run-oriented opponents in the season’s stretch drive.

Capers unveiled the new grouping last week against Dallas. It’s his base 3-4 defense, only with recently acquired Howard Green at defensive end in place of Cullen Jenkins. That defensive front is especially difficult to run against because there are in essence three nose tackles in the middle of the line: B.J. Raji (337 pounds) over center, and Ryan Pickett (340 pounds) and Green (360 pounds) over the offensive tackles.

“Nothing to me from a defensive standpoint is more frustrating,” Capers said this week, “than if a team can keep running the ball in there, keep pounding you, because you don’t have an answer. Then you have to seek ways of moving guys and blitzing to try to stop them, and that only works for so long.

hard to believe, but NT BJ Raji (337 pounds) is sometimes the lighest guy on the Packers 3-4 Defensive Line

But if you have big guys in there that you can discourage them from running the ball, then it helps you dictate the flow of the game more.”

Capers used the grouping on only two snaps against the Cowboys before Pickett aggravated an ankle injury and left the game. On the first, a first-and-10 early in the second quarter, the Packers stopped halfback Felix Jones for a one-yard gain. On the second, quarterback Jon Kitna overthrew open receiver Miles Austin on a deep ball.

But Capers could be intrigued by that glimpse and consider it a good change-of-pace. After this weekend’s bye, he has games coming up next week against Minnesota halfback Adrian Peterson (857 yards rushing, 4.8-yard average), Nov. 28 against Atlanta’s Michael Turner (694 yards, 4.5-yard average), Dec. 5 against San Francisco’s Frank Gore (691 yards, 4.2-yard average), and Dec. 26 against the New York Giants’ duo of Ahmad Bradshaw (765 yards, 5.0-yard average) and Brandon Jacobs (360 yards, 5.3-yard average). The Falcons and Giants are teams anyone in the NFC probably will have to go through to get to the Super Bowl.

“If you’re facing a team you think is going to be a power running team, having (Pickett) and Howard (Green) and B.J. (Raji) in there, that’s a pretty beefy front,” Capers said. “Those linebackers I know like it.”

As with many scheme adjustments both big and small, there’s an accidental element to this new look. Pickett has been in and out of the lineup – mostly out – since injuring his ankle Oct. 10 at Washington, and since then, several additional injuries left the Packers dangerously short-handed on the defensive line. When rookie Mike Neal went on injured reserve Oct. 26, the Packers had a dire need for another defensive lineman, and that same week the New York Jets waived Green because, facing an ultimatum, he reportedly failed to make weight after the Jets’ bye.

The Packers claimed him, and that week, coincidentally against the Jets and with Pickett out because of his injury, Green held up well as a space and block eater in extensive playing time. The Packers were happy enough to keep Green on the roster, which gave them three defensive linemen of 335 pounds or more, instead of the usual two (Pickett and Raji).

With Pickett cleared to play against the Cowboys, Capers experimented with playing all three at the same time against a Dallas team that has two accomplished running backs in Jones and Marion Barber. Capers has been working in 3-4 defenses in the NFL since 1986, and in that time he’s never used three players of that size at the same time except in short yardage and on the goal line.

Green, who is at least 360 pounds, is substantially bigger than any of the alternatives: Jenkins (305), C.J. Wilson (290) and Jarius Wynn (280).

“Hopefully we’re going to eat up more (blockers) in there,” defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “Double teams will have less movement on them when you’re trying to move a big guy, just like in the Minnesota game (three weeks ago) when (Wynn) got double teamed a couple times. He’s 280 pounds, you’re going to move him further than you are (Pickett) and B.J. and Howard. It just creates less holes for the backs to hit.”

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