The Green Bay Packers' Switch to a 4-3 Could Be Easier Than You Think
After watching the debacle Saturday that was the Green Bay Packers defense, I decided to reserve judgement until the emotions wore off.
Well, it's officially been over 48 hours, and I still believe the same thing—it's time for a change.
Dom Capers and his 3-4 defense is like a new fad diet: You have great initial success, so you stay on the diet way longer than you should, trying to replicate that early achievement, and in the end, you end up weighing more than when you started.
This is exactly where the Packers are now with Capers. The defense is worse than when he took over in 2009.
While Capers' defense has been successful at sacking the quarterback, that has been the only part that has improved from 2008. Almost every other category in every other year, Capers' 3-4 defense has underperformed.
This has been especially true in the playoffs. Aside from that run in 2010, the Capers' defense has been horrible against any offense not quarterbacked by Joe Webb.
The most glaring was against Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback with only seven starts under his belt, who thoroughly embarrassed the Packers in a record-breaking performance.
So what is the remedy?
It's time to call up an old friend, the 4-3. While completely changing defensive philosophy for a team with championship aspirations is not ideal, the transition would be easier than you think.
Right DE - Nick Perry
Many people, including Nick Perry himself felt he would be a better fit in a 4-3 defense. In fact, Perry even went as far as to gain 10 pounds of lean muscle in hopes of convincing the scouts he could play defensive end in the NFL.
As a 3-4 linebacker, he has been pretty average. He did well at times, but he seemed to rely on his athletic ability far too often and lacked the instincts of a player who has to play in space.
Quite simply, he would be more comfortable and happier with his hand on the ground.
Left DE - Open Competition
C.J. Wilson could be in the rotation at defensive end. He has great size, strength and likes to battle. Mike Daniels could also get a look. He has the size to be an end, but he is probably better suited long term on the inside at tackle.
Eventually, an upgrade either through free agency or the draft would be needed.
Nose Tackle - B.J. Raji
Coming out of college, many felt that Raji had the ability to be outstanding in any defensive scheme. Some even wondered if his talents would be minimized as a 3-4 end.
He has ideal size and all the tools to excel in the 4-3. He is used to taking on double-teams on a regular basis and usually gets a great push off the line of scrimmage.
Defensive Tackle (three tech) - Jerel Worthy
Many scouts felt that Worthy would be a great three technique in the NFL. He is smaller than Raji but quicker. He can explode off the ball and get pressure on the quarterback.
Most of his issues center around his motor, however, the Packers would have a great rotation with Ryan Pickett and Mike Neal, so that would not be as much of an issue.
Weak Side - A.J. Hawk
Believe it or not, at one point Hawk was a pretty good linebacker. As a rookie in Green Bay’s 4-3 system, he had more solo tackles than all but two people in the entire NFL. He also had 3.5 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. In the end, Hawk finished third in voting for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
While those days may seem a lifetime away to some Packers fans, one should remember Hawk had to completely switch assignments in Capers' system. He could be much better in a system that plays to his strengths.
Middle - Desmond Bishop
This would be a seamless transition for Bishop. He was a backup middle linebacker his first two years in Green Bay. He possesses the ideal strength, speed and instincts to be very effective in the 4-3 scheme.
Strong Side - Clay Matthews
Matthews would excel in any position, on any scheme—he is that good.
In the 4-3, he would be used much like the Denver Bronco's use Von Miller. When Miller was drafted, many questioned whether the switch to a 4-3 would affect him. Well, with 30 sacks and eight forced fumbles in two years, the answer was no.
The defensive backs would remain relatively unchanged unless the new defensive coordinator switched to a cover-two scheme.
In this system, the safeties each take a half of the field and play deep, while the cornerbacks play closer to the line of scrimmage and must be sure tacklers.
This could be exactly what the Packers need. If your tackling technique is suspect, you cannot play in the old Tampa 2. Thus, Packers GM Ted Thompson and his new defensive coordinator would have to reevaluate their entire defensive backfield.
Obviously, there is talent there as well as potential, but it needs to all start with good tackling technique and a coach who will focus on that.
The New Coach
How awesome would it be for a former Chicago Bears coach to help bring home the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay?
Smith would be perfect. He runs the Tampa 2 and the 4-3. He has had great defenses wherever he has coached, and he has done well with far less talent then in Green Bay.
He's available and probably more motivated than ever. He has also studied many of the players on this Packers team. He knows their strengths and more importantly, their weaknesses.
I understand he is still interviewing for head coaching positions and is a long shot to come to Green Bay. However, this is a offensive-driven league, with most jobs right now going to offensive-minded guys, so anything is possible.
Just imagine a Packers team with a Mike McCarthy offense and a Lovie Smith defense—the entire NFL would be on notice.