It is widely noted that the Packers’ defense was their Achilles heel this season. Pressure was good early on in the season, but then the injury bug bit and the Packers were doing all they could to put together a backfield while teams were throwing over pressure four quarters at a time. The flip-side of that coin, however, is the coverage sack. Teams that cover well assist their pass-rushers to get to the quarterback by forcing opposing quarterbacks to their second and third reads. The Packers haven’t seen a coverage sack since Charles Woodson was a Packer. But pinpointing the problem doesn’t make it go away. Many in PackerNation believe that change is necessary if the Packers are going to get over the hump. That change could come in several key areas:
1. Defensive Coordinator
Many believe that Dom Capers’ scheme is passe and we need fresh blood at the coordinator position. Change, whether for good or bad, puts stress on a team and one stress that may come the Packers’ way with a new defensive coordinator is the possibility of going back to a 4-3 defense. That kind of philosophical change could bend a defense to the breaking point. On the other hand, it could be just the ticket to getting our best rushers in the face of opposing quarterbacks, something that was sadly absent other than a couple of times in the playoff game at Lambeau against the New York Giants.
Another obvious question if Dom Capers is out is…”Who will replace him?”. One name that has quickly hit the waiver wire in PackerNation is Rex Ryan. The argument is usually that while Ryan failed as a head coach, he could bring a winning attitude to the Packers defense as defensive coordinator. But the blush has been off Ryan’s rose for a long time and most believe that Ryan’s big talk hasn’t come with any walk since his days with the Jets. Feel free to comment your favorite candidate in the comments below or back on the Facebook Fan-page if your poll selection includes a change at coordinator.
2. General Manager
Ted Thompson was described by Mark Murphy as “key” to our success and success is exactly what Packers fans have seen for several decades. No other team but the Patriots has more consistent appearances in the playoffs in the last decade. But Packers fans want what Packers players want…a Super Bowl win. Thompson is a grinder in the film room with a remarkable ability to find diamonds in the rough in terms of undrafted free agents in particular.
But Thompson’s first round picks in particular are often head-scratchers with the latest addition Kenny Clark (who played admirably but was far from dominant) being the most recent. Add to that the picks of Randall and Rollins two years ago, two players who underachieved admirably this year and were largely responsible (either by their absence due to injury or their presence on the field) for the Packers setting a playoff record third down conversions against our defense in the NFC Championship game against the Falcons. Add Ladarious Gunter to the mix of Ted’s choices to man up on the outside against elite receivers and the picture looks like a watercolor that someone spilled hot coffee on.
The obvious fan-favorite, if Thompson were to go would be Eliot Wolf, son of Hall of Famer Ron Wolf. Eliot has moved up through the ranks of the Packers’ brass and recently interviewed for the GM position with the 49’ers. But John Dorsey has gotten a lot of love as well and with two years on Thompson’s contract, the Packers may wait to make a change, by which time it may be too late for either one of these two. Will Murphy pull the trigger now? I have serious doubts. But that is what off-season polls are for…no?
3. Strength and Conditioning staff
The Packers struggled to field healthy players both on offense and defense this year. And once again in the playoffs, when it mattered…the Packers lost several starters in the championship game. When Letroy Guion has to trot out on the field to play on the Packers’ O-line, there is a serious problem. My opinion is that most of these injuries are leverage injuries that are not as tied to strength and conditioning. But strong muscles support ligaments and bones and the Packers team has been seeing too many injuries for too many years. Also, fatigue affects coordination and one mis-planted foot or splayed leg at the wrong time becomes a risk of injury.
Should there be wholesale changes in the strength and conditioning staff?
It’s time for PackerNation to weigh in on this issue. However, there is one caveat, you have to chose only one of the above changes to try to help the Packers defense get over the hump. It is unrealistic to think that all three would happen (though I know some out there want that) so which will make the most difference. Which key change is critical to next year’s Packers defense, and the defense going forward, to become a dominant complement to a dominant offense?
You must choose…choose wisely.