Well in the last post, we talked about the starting offense and how James Starks and the offensive line showed the dominance that we expect from this team in the run game. Also, it showed that our second string running back can average over 8 yards a carry against a starting defense. Pretty cool.
But a LOT of the anticipation for this year’s team has been about how the defense will improve after a lackluster showing last year. Well, here is a little point/counterpoint with myself (well, I don’t have anyone but myself to argue with at 8:00 in the morning!) about the defense and I will also share with you the one picture that, while I didn’t get it on film, it is burned into my memory because it was SO exciting!
Point: The starting defense played well
The Packers starting defense allowed only one first down in the first two Tennessee attempts. The interior line was getting upfield on passing downs and gave chase to the quarterback on several occasions. The defense set the edge well and generally didn’t get beat outside. Part of this had to do with Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews being on the field together (lined up in various places) and part of it had to do with the rain, which makes turning the corner much more difficult.
All in all, I was happy with the first team defense.
Counterpoint: If the defense played so well, how come we got gashed in the run game?
Remember last season, when we did a good job opening day against Frank Gore but then gave up scads of rushing yards up the middle for the rest of the season? This game reminded me of that. The one glaring weakness that we did NOT address in the draft was the position of inside linebacker. We basically have the same guys and we see the same results. Nobody we brought in seems to be stepping up and the ILB position is going to be crucial because:
- Teams know that it is possibly the last weak spot in this defense.
- Dom Capers is letting our talented D-linemen go upfield more – an adjustment to his 3-4 defense, and this puts more pressure on the ILB’s to get upfield and make plays.
- In the NFC North, our ILB’s are not only going to have to get upfield and be stout in run defense, but also will be called upon in coverage against some very good tight ends and pass catching running backs like Reggie Bush and Matt Forte. This means they can’t always hedge their bet and play up, crowding the line.
I was NOT happy to see this team look like one of those weird strawberry candies that grandma used to get…hard on the outside but with a gooey center. If the 3 front-men in this scheme are going to be allowed up-field, they are going to sacrifice some gap-soundness. This exposes our soft underbelly. Opposing coaches know it, and they know they can throw over it and render those guys ineffective.
The addition of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on the backend of this defense seems to already be paying off and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ha Ha and Hyde aren’t the starters for this season. The addition of Julius Peppers will give us an added dimension not just in the pass rush but in a veteran guy who will be in position all the time. But the inside linebackers still have not shown themselves to be dominant…or even sound at times. Now it is only fair to say that I saw some things out of AJ last year that I LOVED. You can read about that here and again, we’ve only seen one preseason game in torrential rain so there is still plenty of time for the inside linebackers to prove themselves but for now…I gotta wonder a bit.
The best pic that I DID’T get at the game
So we’ve been talking about the defense and yes, I think there is some cause for concern that one of the old woes of 2013 MAY revisit the Pack this season. But here’s one thing I LOVE:
I didn’t see the down and distance on the play but it doesn’t matter…The Titans hand off to Battle just off the hip of the left guard. Battle immediately re-routes because BJ Raji is already in his face. He bounces out and all he has in front of him is Julius Peppers who has stuffed two would-be blockers, gotten upfield and has set the edge outside. Behind Battle is Clay Matthews, who has broken through the line and is coming down it…hard! Tackle for loss.
I can’t get enough of those kinds of plays and if our inside linebackers step up, this defense is going to give a lot of offensive coordinators nightmares….starting with Darrell Bevell in Seattle.