|by Ryan Messick
When you typically think of the Green Bay Packers, you think of Aaron Rodgers, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. Perhaps you remember the Brett Favre days, Mike Holmgren, or cheeseheads and the frozen tundra. This year, though, you should quickly picture Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Dom Capers and the number two scoring defense in the NFL.
Green Bay has allowed just 15 points per game and has 47 sacks, both second to Pittsburgh. It’s fitting, as Capers’ 3-4 defensive scheme with plenty of zone blitzes is not too far from Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 with the Steelers.
“Dom Capers is a fire zone, 3-4 personnel based guy that has had great success with that scheme, and he’s got players that fit each position within that scheme very well,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
The Packers employ the defense a little bit differently though, often using a nickel package as their base defense.
“They’re playing a lot of nickel, you know the old split six, so an eight man front,” said Mornhinweg. “They’ve got a good cover man with [Charles Woodson] down there who’s a very, very good tackler, so they sort of invite you to run the football into that base type personnel group however they’re very good.”
While that would normally be a successful strategy, Woodson’s ability to defend the run as a slot cornerback gives the defense some teeth.
“They feel very comfortable with him playing in that, which really is like a WILL linebacker position, he’s a physical guy,” said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. “He has great speed. He’s a great blitzer, great blitzer. So that’s how they use him.”
Mornhinweg said if Green Bay has trouble defending the run, they’ll switch back to a traditional 3-4 front. Either way, they use a fire zone defense, which is just another way of saying it’s a zone blitz scheme.
“You get your four man rushes and you get your five man rushes too,” said Mornhinweg. “Many of them are fire zone type situations and that’s part of them and you get into some six man blitzes and they’ve brought the house several times as well. It’s within realm there of a 3-4, fire zone team, so, Pittsburgh’s very similar.”
That means that the defense rotates its zone coverages in order to disguise things for the offense. In a basic zone blitz, five players rush the quarterback. Usually there’s an overload on one side, so you might see the outside and inside linebacker blitz from the same side in a 3-4. One safety can then step up into a linebacker’s zone while the other two linebacker’s play underneath zones. The two corners and the remaining safety drop into Cover 3.
With a base nickel look and Charles Woodson in the box, the Packers create additional problems. Woodson is fast enough to get to the quarterback in a hurry, but still strong enough to defend the run. Most of all, he’s a highly talented cover cornerback.
Regardless, the Eagles ability to recognize the blitz and where it’s coming from before the snap in order to set up the proper protection schemes will be paramount on Sunday. If they’re successful, they can pick apart the Packers defense when it blitzes. If not, they could fall victim to one of the league’s top defenses.