Interesting article here from Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune. Pompei essentially argues that of all the off-season activity in the NFC North, the Packers hiring of Dom Capers may have the biggest impact. I think he may be right – and of course, I really hope he’s right.
In January, I argued that the Pack ought to move to a 3-4 defense. I’ve felt this way for a while now primarily because it’s been quite a while since a Packers defense has been really good several years in a row (and we’ve played a 4-3 now for years). I think there are several advantages to moving to a 3-4 – and I’ll throw it out there again, so does LeRoy Butler (who remains a close follower of the team). One big advantage, as Capers notes in this article, is that there are only a few NFC teams right now playing a 3-4. So, for most weeks, NFC teams will be preparing for 4-3 defenses, which may make having to prepare for our unique/hybrid 3-4 a bit more challenging – especially in its first year when opponents won’t have the luxury of hours of tape and a sense for our defensive tendencies.
As Pompei also writes, Packer fans should take some comfort in the fact that Capers has had solid success in helping 4-3 defenses transition to 3-4 defenses. My guess is that at least part of that success is attributable to his willingness to be flexible. As he notes in the article, forcing your existing players into a certain scheme is not the way to go about this. Instead, he and the staff need to flex some and figure out ways for the existing personnel to contribute their strengths to a 3-4 scheme that is not rigid.
That said, one thing I do wonder about is how flexible he will be with Harris and Woodson. His quote in the article (indicating that it’s easier to learn zone coverage after playing man-to-man than the other way around) suggests to me that he actually is planning to play Harris and Woodson a lot in zone coverage. Maybe Harris and Woodson will do fine with that – they are gifted, instinctual players. But I’d be a bit concerned about pushing them too far away from something they are uniquely good at – bump and run man-to-man coverage.
We’ll see in the end – but I am beginning to think we’ll see a very active defense that will rotate a good number of players in and out keeping everyone fresh. My guess is that it won’t take long for this defense to come together and be quite effective (especially if Raji can adapt well enough to start at DE within the first few games). I can envision a few coverage lapses due to uncertain communication in the first few games, but I also can see that Capers will make sure that gets cleaned up (vs. the previous defenses led by Sanders who had communication issues right through to game 16 of last year). I also believe that Capers will prove he is capable at making adjustments on the fly (far more capable as a D-Coordinator than he was as a head coach).