With NFL teams kicking off their preseason schedule this past week, many fans are hoping and dreaming of how far their favorite teams will go this coming season. For some fans, it might be just a pipe dream to believe that their teams will go far. But for others, their teams actually have a very viable chance to get into the playoffs and possibly get to the Super Bowl. One of those teams that have a very viable chance to earn success this season are the Green Bay Packers. There is no doubt that the biggest force behind this possible success is that the Packers have Aaron Rodgers, arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, lining up under center for them. But Rodgers can only do so much; his supporting cast also needs to get the job done if the Packers are going to make it back to the Super Bowl – especially if they are going to raise another Lombardi trophy. There is one unit that will determine how far the Packers go this season – The Green Bay Packers defense will determine the season’s path.
Green Bay Packers Defense Will Determine How Far They Go This Season
The Ted Thompson Problem
It isn’t too bold of a statement to say that the Packers defense will determine how far the Packers will go this season. It is very well known, not just to Packers fans, but around the NFL that the weak link of the Packers have been their defense. But amongst Packers fans, there is a split to whom should be blamed for the Packer defensive ineffectiveness. On the one side, there is a group that blames Packers general manager Ted Thompson. Those people, most of whom blame Thompson for about everything going wrong in today’s world, believe that Thompson’s lack of moves in free agency have hindered the Packers defense and especially what Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers can do on that side of the ball.
Those critics do have a point. Capers runs a complicated 3-4 defense, and in most cases, the best personnel to be a part of that scheme are veterans, not younger players. Thompson has brought in a few veteran defensive players as of late, like former Packer Julius Peppers and current Packers Davon House and Ricky Jean-Francois, but not on a consistent basis.
It is asking a lot to expect a rookie and other younger players to learn such a complicated defense and to contribute right away, but that is what Thompson has forced Capers to do. By leaning so heavily on younger players, and the expectation they will contribute right away, Thompson and his scouting staff have to hit on a majority of their draft picks.
Problems occur when the Packers top picks struggle, last year was a great example of that. When second year cornerbacks, who are former first and second round draft picks, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins struggled with injuries and their play last season, hurting the Packers pass defense. Already without their top cornerback Sam Shields, who was lost to a concussion, the struggles of Randall and Rollins created massive issues for the Packers pass defense. The Packers didn’t have the luxury of having an experienced cornerback to help with Rollins and Randall’s struggles, illustrating that Thompson’s belief of building a roster with youth can hurt a team.
They are hoping that the addition of the veteran House this season will help if they are faced with the same issues. Still, one veteran might not be enough if the young Packers secondary struggles once again this season.
The Dom Capers Problem
Although some point to Thompson and his lack of moves in free agency on the defensive side being the culprit to the problems, others point to Capers. If you are a Packers fan who spends time on Twitter, you know that a popular Twitter handle for Packers fans is #FireCapers. The veteran defensive coordinator has been a lightning rod for criticism from certain Packers fans.
Many believe that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy’s loyalty to Capers has hurt the team’s defensive efforts. As with the Thompson critics, those who are critical of Capers also have a good point.
With an offense that is as explosive as the Packers, it shouldn’t be too difficult for a defensive coordinator to lead a defense that can protect a lead. But Capers has failed to do just this. Although he has had to deal with younger players struggling to find their way in the NFL, it isn’t like this is a new concept for Capers and the Packers. The Packers have been a draft and develop team under Thompson’s guidance since he became the Packers general manager. But instead of adapting to his young personnel, Capers seems stuck in his ways and the Packers have struggled adapting.
For most Packers fans, it has been excruciating watching the Packers third down defense under Capers. It seems that every time the Packers need a stop on third down, the opposing offense easily executes, earning a first down and keeping the Packers defense on the field. For many fans, they believe that Capers is holding the Packers back from getting back to the Super Bowl. But unfortunately for those fans, it seems that Capers isn’t going anywhere as long as McCarthy is the Packers head coach.
The End Result
For the most part, the Packers offense have held up their end for getting the Packers back to the Super Bowl. Rodgers has shown that he is Hall of Fame worthy and that he gets the most out of his offensive teammates. But until the defense can show at the very least they are capable of playing just average defense, the Packers chances of heading back to the Super Bowl are very slim.
The NFL is an offensive dominated league, that won’t be changing anytime soon. But as the New England Patriots have shown, you still need at least an average defense that is capable of stopping the opposing team’s offense on third downs and cause the occasional turnover. It appears that Ted Thompson isn’t going anywhere, so the way the Packers build their roster isn’t going to change anytime soon. In the end, it will be up to the 67 year old Capers to make the changes necessary to get the defense to play at least respectable. If he doesn’t do so, expect the same results, which will once again lead Packers fans to point the finger at either Thompson or Capers for the defense’s failures.