GREEN BAY—Dom Capers grew up as a young, fast-rising coach for defensive-minded head coaches steeped in the philosophy of run-the-ball, shorten-the-game and force your opponent to play from behind.
In his first coordinator’s job, Capers rose to the top of the coaching ranks as Bill Cowher’s defensive genius in a zone-blitz scheme that benefited from an offense that led the league in rushing and dominated time of possession. It got Capers hired as the first coach of the Carolina Panthers, and he used that same philosophy to lead the Panthers to the NFC title game in just the franchise’s second year of existence.
The game has changed dramatically for Capers, who is now the defensive coordinator for an offensive-minded coach whose style is the polar opposite of that which brought Capers to prominence.
“Running the football is important, but at the end of the day, the offense’s responsibility is scoring points,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said when asked if recent changes in how the game is played has lessened the importance of the running game. “You have to score as many points as you can.
“I don’t play keep away. I want to play as fast as we can, throw as many punches as we can and beat you as bad as we can,” McCarthy said.
That’s the new game. That’s how the good offenses play; that’s how the winning teams play. Even the Baltimore Ravens have joined those ranks, which might be the reason they’re the reigning Super Bowl champions.
It’s a style of football, however, that makes Capers’ job and any defensive coordinator’s job more difficult because it adds plays to the game and sets the scoring bar higher for the opponent.
“What you do has to complement whatever your team’s philosophy is. It has to tie in with the head coach’s philosophy. When you have a quarterback like Aaron (Rodgers), you’re going to try to play to the strength of your personnel,” Capers said.
Taking the ball away is the key. That’s what the good defenses do in today’s game, and that’s why Capers is emphasizing a need for his Packers defense to force more fumbles this year. The Packers were tied for third from the bottom of the league in fumble takeaways last season. That won’t work in today’s game.
Wednesday’s minicamp practice was another example of the Packers’ emphasis on creating takeaways, especially fumbles. Any time the ball has left the grasp of an offensive player and has reached the ground, whether it be outside on Clarke Hinkle Field or inside the Don Hutson Center, Packers defenders have rejoiced loudly.
Energy levels are peaking as summer nears. A Packers defense brimming with youth is also giving Capers a youthful glow, as he speaks enthusiastically of the young talent on his defense.
“We’ve got a group of big guys and a group of not-so-big athletic guys. It’ll be interesting to see how that combination works out,” Capers said. “A young guy like Datone Jones … one of the things about him that’s appealing is you can see he has a lot of athletic ability for a guy his size.”
Wednesday, Jones nearly intercepted a pass, as he dropped into coverage from his defensive end position. Was that Capers’ famed zone-blitz Jones was executing? Yes, it was.
“Our No. 1 goal is always going to be to lead the league in scoring defense. We’ve got to create more fumbles,” he said.
Meanwhile, McCarthy guides an offense that has the league’s top quarterback and a stable of receivers with dreams of catching a hundred passes, each.
“I hope they all catch a hundred balls,” McCarthy said, then adding, “but we have to run the ball, of course.”
It got a chuckle from the media.
McCarthy told reporters running back DuJuan Harris would not be available for anymore practices this spring, which amounts to just two OTA practices next week. McCarthy would not disclose the specific nature of Harris’ injury.
Thursday’s third and final day of minicamp will be spent mainly on a team-building activity, which McCarthy said was still undecided as of his meeting with the media on Wednesday. Additional minicamp coverage