The Dom Capers era in Green Bay got off to a booming start in 2009 when the defensive whiz turned a sluggish 4-3 unit into one of the NFC’s best. Without taking away from Capers’ accomplishments, the coordinator had a lot to work with. The Packers boasted at least five pro bowl-worthy defensive players in 2009 and 2010. Over the past two seasons, however, talent has seemingly disappeared from that side of the ball.
Green Bay Packer Defense: Key Concerns
The secondary has suffered the most severe demise, with noticeable declines in production out of Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams over the past two seasons. The aging Woodson has since been let go and effectively replaced in the slot by emerging youngster Casey Hayward. While Hayward has shown serious potential, the Packers are yet to capitalize on the type of play that made Woodson the league’s defensive player of the year in 2009.
Perhaps the bigger concern is Williams, who was one of the league’s premier cornerbacks in 2010 but showed next to nothing in 2011 when a shoulder injury limited his physicality versus bigger receivers. Williams received a contract extension in late 2010 but proceeded to turn in very pedestrian 2011 and 2012 seasons. The Packers have a similar type of burner in Sam Shields but have not shown enough confidence in the former Miami Hurricane to make him a regular in the starting lineup.
Biggest Loss on the Packer Defense
Arguably the biggest loss to the defense over the past two seasons has been that of Nick Collins, who suffered a career-ending injury in Week 2 of the 2011 season. Green Bay hasn’t had the same type of production from the safety position since Collins’ absence. Fourth-year safety Morgan Burnett has shown promise but can’t seem to bring out his playmaking ability without a superior talent playing beside him. The Packers are unlikely to get much out of stopgaps Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings.
Like the secondary, talent has vanished from the once-dominant defensive line. Ted Thompson continues to search for a defensive end to replace Cullen Jenkins, who signed with the Eagles during the 2011 offseason. The Packers GM added Datone Jones in this April’s draft to compete with Jerel Worthy and Mike Neal at defensive end. To make matters worse, the play of nose tackle B.J. Raji has simply regressed since becoming a star in the 2010 season.
It’s safe to say that the Packers are in rebuilding mode on defense, with the departures of Woodson, Jenkins and Collins. The defensive coaching staff will look to young guns like Nick Perry, Casey Hayward and Datone Jones to bring the unit back into dominant form. The other piece of the equation is getting players like Raji and Williams back on track.