In 2009, the Green Bay Packers finished 29th in Red Zone Scoring Defense, allowing their opponents to score 76 percent of the time. To make matters worse, the Packers allowed a touchdown 61 percent of the time when their opponent made it inside their 20 yard line. That landed them 28th in the league.
All of this, of course, has Dom Capers seeing “red.”
As quoted in a recent article by Mike Spofford on Packers.com, Capers said, “…when people get down in the red zone—if they’re going to get there—you have to keep them kicking field goals rather than scoring touchdowns.”
Capers went on to vow that red zone defense would be a major emphasis for the team in the classroom and on the field during OTAs, mini-camp, and, most importantly, training camp. When the pads are on, Capers plans a lot of very spirited red zone drills against the Packers red zone offense, one of the best in the NFL last season.
And it’s that performance by the red zone offense last season that can give us confidence that the red zone defense will be much better in 2010.
Why is that, you ask?
Because in 2009, Packers coach Mike McCarthy made the red zone offense a major point of emphasis in camp—and the improvement was noticeable.
I recall McCarthy talking about it several times in his press conferences leading up to the 2009 season. The extra work brought results. Last season the Packers registered to score 87 percent (54 of 62) of the time when they penetrated the opponent's 20 yard line. They would still like to improve their TD percentage (60 percent), but that’s a different article.
Where were the problems with the red zone defense? Two words: pass defense. The Packers allowed a total of only five rushing TDs in 2009 (all in the red zone), but allowed 23 red zone passing touchdowns.
“You have to play differently down there,” Capers said. “The field is shrunk, the ball is out much faster, things happen a lot quicker, and you can’t have any hesitation. You have to respond very quickly down there.”
And you saw it happen repeatedly, especially in the second half of the season, with the Packers secondary injuries forcing them to put some inexperienced players out on the field. Just a moment of indecision or confusion (reference Arizona playoff game) can lead to easy touchdowns. And it did.
Now, 2010 gives the Packers back their secondary at near full strength (Al Harris is still a question), and a major emphasis is being placed on red zone D in training camp. With these two factors in play, I believe Packer fans can expect to see significant red zone defense improvement in 2010.
In fact, I think they should demand it.
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Jersey Al Bracco is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.