Coming into this season, I think everyone was wondering what the Packers new 3-4 defense would be like. After an electric preseason the anticipation has been building to see how Dom Capers squad would perform when the games really counted. The Pack has had a 4-3 scheme as long as I can remember and didn't seem to have the personel in place to make such a big change so I guess you could say I was a skeptic. Here 5 thoughts I've had while watching this defense over the first 6 weeks of the NFL season.
One of the major story lines coming into this year for Green Bay was how Aaron Kampman would adjust to the new defensive scheme. Kampman has worked his butt off trying to learn how to be more of a tweener, sometimes linebacker sometimes lineman, and for that I'll give him credit. The proof is in the pudding though and Kampman just looks lost in coverage. He needs his hand down in the dirt, where he's comfortable. He is an elite pass rusher, and gives the Packers that threat on the line that they lack when they pull him back into coverage only to get exploited by a running back or tight end. If they don't use him how he should be utilized, Green Bay should have traded him for some picks, god knows Ted Thompson loves piling up the draft picks.
With the change in the scheme the corners play way less bump and run coverage, something they took pride in for so many years. This season I feel like Al Harris has looked ordinary a lot of the time, but Woodson continues to look like the star that he is. He has adjusted well and still looks comfortable as ever,the man is 33 years old and he is still a ball hawk and a terror on D. He ranks third on the team with 23 tackles(22 solo), leads the team with 3 interceptions, and has a returned interception for a touchdown. He's so versitile playing corner, covering the run(3 tackles for loss),playing safety at times, and even returning punts. He's one of the very few free agents Ted Thompson has actually brought to Green Bay and continues to be an absolute beast.
It's time for the Pack to jump ship on A.J. Hawk. Sure the guy had a great rookie season but he hasn't lived up to the hype and he never will. He has shown he's too slow and too vanilla for this defensive scheme. He hasn't been making many plays since that 2006 season and after investing the #5 pick in him, the Packers have been steadily reducing his playing time in favor of Brandon Chillar and Nick Barnett. This year he has only 21 tackles, no sacks, no interceptions, no passes defended, no fumbles caused or recovered, and no quarterback pressures, hardly dominant. Ther Packers defense destroyed the Lions and Hawk only played 9 snaps from scrimmage the entire game. Hawk's critics are getting louder and louder, and it seems as if he will be out the door ASAP.
Ted Thompson, the man that will forever be known for trading Brett Favre away to the Jets, is underappreciated. Before all the Packers fans in Wisconsin laugh in my face let me make my case. Ted Thompson believes that you build a successful team through the draft. Just look at the defensive players this guy has taken in the draft: Nick Collins(2nd round), Johnny Jolly(6th round), Clay Matthews(1st round), Brady Poppinga(4th round), and B.J. Raji(1st round). All of these guys are solid contributors and Collins was a Pro Bowler last year. Ya ya he also drafted Justin Harrell(1st round) but is that really worse than when Mike Sherman picked Ahmad Carrol(1st round)? This year Thompson made bold moves bringing in Matthews and Raji, trading up to get Matthews and passing up Michael Crabtree to get Raji. Both players have looked like they will be excellent pros. He also brought in Dom Capers to try and solidify a defense that was lacking, and a new linebackers coach name Kevin Greene who has proved that he can teach what he learned from being a dominant LB/DE in the NFL, and teach it very affectively. I have a feeling Greene will be a coaching star. I have not always been positive about all of Thompson's moves but in the end if you look at the results, they almost always are the right moves.
To say I was disappointed at the defense's inconsistent start to the season after an amazing preseason is an understatement. The transition to a 3-4 has been tough for this squad. Losing to the Bengals, and especially the loss to the Vikings were tough to take. The defense looked lifeless against St. Louis who almost came back with Kyle Boller under center....scary. It was sad because they showed how good they could be in the preseason, when they were getting to the quarterback, being disruptive, and making plays. Lately though, I feel things changing in Green Bay and it seems like the defense got its swaggar back against the Lions last week. Shutting out the Lions looked like the cure for what ailed this defense and taking on the Browns this week, the defense is definitely looking to continue to dominate. Rookie Clay Matthews,now a starter, has been a sparkplug and really put himself on the map ripping the ball out of Adrian Peterson's hands and returning it for a score on Monday Night Football. Aaaron Kampman has shown why he's a Pro-Bowler and has been disruptive when he's been given the chance to rush the passer, which seems like more and more lately. The secondary seems more confident and are starting to make plays. All signs are good coming from the Packers defense, and if they can get everyone on the same page the sky is the limit for this group.