3-4 Defense a Big Change For the Pack, But a Good One

Scott KirstContributor IMay 29, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - MAY 1:  Defensive lineman B.J. Raji #90 runs as he participates in practice drills during Green Bay Packers Minicamp at Don Hutson Center on May 1, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

When I first heard Dom Capers was hired as the Packers' new defensive coordinator and he wanted to bring the 3-4 defense along with him, I thought one thing: Good move.

This is a huge change for the franchise because the defense will have to learn a whole new scheme and throw away almost everything they've been taught since arriving to the Pack.

"We kind of have a step-by-step plan in terms of installing the system, and this is a big step for us," Capers told Packers.com. "There's a lot to learn, and there's a lot to get done.

"The sooner the guys can become comfortable with what they're doing, the better opportunity it gives them to show their abilities. This is a game where there can't be a lot of thinking. This is a game of a lot of quick, violent action and reaction. There can't be a lot of gray area in your mind in terms of what your assignment is or how you're expected to do it, or you won't play at the type of tempo or speed that it takes."

One of the bigger changes from the 4-3 to the 3-4 is that defensive lineman will have to learn how to drop back in coverage instead of always rushing the quarterback.

A player that will be going through the biggest change in the coverage department is Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Kampman moving to outside linebacker.

"He's done a great job," linebacker A.J. Hawk said after practice May 28 to Packers.com. "It was different seeing him stand up and drop into coverages, but he's done a great job. I think he's enjoying it now and he's done some good stuff these last couple days. He's really transitioned well."

I'll take Hawk's word for it, but seeing Kampman in coverage doesn't exactly put my mind at ease like outside linebacker Brandon Chillar would.

There should be a lot of depth at the outside linebacker position as Chillar, Brady Poppinga, Jeremy Thompson, Desmond Bishop and rookie Clay Matthews, Jr. will all be vying for that spot.

The Packers should be able to do a lot with the defensive line as many of the defensive linemen could play multiple spots. For instance, even though rookie defensive tackle B.J. Raji was drafted as a defensive tackle, the Packers have been trying him at defensive end.

Cullen Jenkins is another player that could play either position. While he will be used more as a defensive end, I wouldn't be surprised if they lined him up in the nosetackle spot here and there.

As I've said before, there are a few reasons bringing the 3-4 to Green Bay is a great move.

Reason No. 1: The Packers will be the only team in the NFC North using the 3-4.

This is very advantageous to the Packers because the Bears, Lions and Vikings aren't normally used to playing against it. Therefore, blocking assignments are more likely to be missed or guys will be confused as to who they should block. This should also lead to more pressure, which leads me to reason No. 2.

Reason No. 2: It should put more pressure on the quarterback in passing situations.

The Packers finished 25th in the entire National Football League by sacking the quarterback 27 times, nine and a half of them coming from Kampman. Putting more pressure on the quarterback will not only raise the number of sacks, but lead to more turnovers and getting the ball back in the offense's hands.

Reason No. 3: It gets rid of the apparent lack of depth on the defensive line.

With one less defensive lineman on the field, the Packers won't have to worry about their possible lack of depth at the position, which became exposed last year via how terrible the run defense was. How Harrell will perform is a question mark, as well as how Raji will transition from college. The future of defensive tackle Johnny Jolly is also in question as he goes through his legal troubles. With one less defensive lineman on the field, it's one less guy to have to worry about.

In order to make a smoother transition to the 3-4, the Packers hired an entirely new defensive coaching staff, with the exeption of Inside Linebackers Coach Winston Moss.

Former National Football League linebacker Kevin Greene, who played under Capers, was one of the new coaches hired. Greene was a 15-year player and finished third all-time in sacks and first among linebackers with 160, so he knows how to get to the quarterback from the linebacker position.

"He's great," Hawk told Packers.com. "He brings a ton of energy, a lot of positive energy, which is good. He's a great guy to have around and I think this whole staff gets along really well."

It will certainly be an odd feeling watching the defense line up in different spots on the field after watching them play a certain way for so long, but I'll enjoy every second of it.