Old Faces, New Blood Shape The Green Bay Coaching Staff In '09
Following an explosive season offensively and a very mediocre one on defense, the Green Bay Packers maintained the status quo with their offensive staff, while understandably revamping their defensive staff for 2009.
The Packers offense will look to flourish yet again under the play-calling of head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, while the defense gets face-lifted by veteran 3-4 coordinator Dom Capers.
Here are some of the key figures on each side of the ball, and what Packer fans can look forward to from them in 2009.
The Packers enjoyed a solid offensive campaign in 2008 and look poised to put up points in bunches again in 2009.
Head coach Mike McCarthy, who is the primary play-caller on offense, and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin were able to seamlessly integrate the offense with Rodgers at the helm by utilizing his athletic ability and strong arm.
McCarthy, long-respected for his tutelage of quarterbacks and excellent offensive mind, used a great deal of play-action and bootlegs to buy Rodgers the time to fire downfield to big-play receiver Greg Jennings, and No. 12 responded by passing for over 4,000 yards in a Pro Bowl caliber year.
Favre was great on bootlegs as well, but at his advanced age, he was no longer able to buy the kind of time that the more athletic Rodgers can to look downfield.
That play-action should be even more effective in 2009, with starting running back Ryan Grant slated to be in camp from day one.
Grant missed seven days of training camp in 2008 as a holdout, and had a slow start to the season, making the Packers one-dimensional at times early in the year.
While he lacks the big-play ability of an elite back, Grant recovered to rush for over 1,200 yards.
Entering his third season as coordinator, Philbin has guided one of the most explosive offenses in football over his tenure in Green Bay, as only New England has put up more points than the Packers in his two years heading the offense.
He has steadily ascended within the Packers coaching ranks since becoming the assistant offensive line coach under Mike Sherman in 2003. His knowledge of the Packers zone-blocking schemes and expertise along the offensive line helped Philbin ascend within the coaching ranks.
After helping mold one of the youngest offensive lines in football in the mid-2000s, he was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2006 and has been building gameplans with head coach Mike McCarthy ever since.
Quarterbacks coach Tom Clements also deserves a great deal of credit for revitalizing Brett Favre's career in 2006 and 2007, and also for guiding Rodgers to an excellent first year as a starter.
Clements boasts an impressive resume of coaxing the finest seasons out of some otherwise mediocre quarterbacks.
Elvis Grbac and Kordell Stewart both made Pro Bowls under Clements, and Tommy Maddox had a breakout season with Clements leading him in Pittsburgh.
He looks to help Rodgers improve his two-minute offense in 2009, as the Green Bay offense hopes to finish games stronger after several near-misses a year ago.
To help revamp the poor defensive unit of 2008, general manager Ted Thompson tabbed veteran 3-4 guru Dom Capers to work his magic on the Packers' D.
Capers brings a lengthy resume of success as a defensive coordinator to Green Bay, having turned around defenses in Miami and Jacksonville, while also serving as the mind behind the dominant Pittsburgh defenses of the early 1990s.
Packer fans no doubt also remember Capers as Carolina's head coach when he brought his Panthers to the NFC Championship game against Green Bay in 1996.
Capers has been especially efficient in significantly upgrading his defenses over a very short period of time.
Miami finished fourth in total defense under Capers in 2006, after having the No. 18 ranked unit the season before his arrival. He also helped Jacksonville jump from No. 25 to No. 4 upon taking the reigns for the Jaguar defense.
While the 3-4 is generally more difficult for opponents to run against, Capers favors a more aggressive, pressure-based scheme that results in a great number of sacks and takeaways.
Capers is a master of mixing up schemes and has been known to bring blitzes from every angle. He will likely utilize a mix of zone and standard blitzes to keep opposing quarterbacks guessing.
Capers will also have a great deal of pieces to work with in Green Bay, especially along the front seven.
Look for converted outside linebacker Aaron Kampman to continue his success as a devastating pass-rusher in the mold of a Kevin Greene or Lamar Lathon, two big linebackers who excelled under Capers at getting after the quarterback.
Linebacker Brady Poppinga is another player to watch, as he excelled in the 3-4 as a pass-rushing hybrid end/linebacker in college, and has struggled in coverage in the NFL.
If Capers can accentuate Poppinga's talents as a rusher and mask his deficiencies in coverage, the unit will be extremely deep and impactful in 2009.
Speaking of Greene, he will be contributing his knowledge and expertise of the 3-4 defense as the outside linebackers coach, and he should make a tremendous impact on the unit.
Bringing the fiery passion and intensity that he displayed as a 3-4 linebacker under Capers in Pittsburgh and Carolina, Greene's contributions will be felt as much emotionally as they will be in the X's and O's aspect of the game.
Players are already raving about his energy level, and his experience in the system and passion for the game should breathe life into a talented linebacking corps that has played below expectations in recent years.
In spite of a lack of coaching experieince, bringing in a guy so familiar with Capers scheme, and one that has been known to head-butt players without his helmet on, is a welcome infusion of passion to any defensive unit.
Assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Winston Moss is the only significant holdover from the defensive staff from a year ago and commands a great deal of respect from his players, as well as McCarthy.
Moss was solid in weathering the injury to middle linebacker Nick Barnett last season and helps maintain a bit of continuity on defense with the players.
He is known as a strong leader in the locker room and should help provide a bit of stability in a staff that was otherwise completely turned over from a year ago.
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