Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, one of the two biggest names of the last 20 years on the defensive side of the ball, is defined by his stats. He believes in their validity. In his mind, they don’t lie.
Why have so many teams abandoned the time-honored 4-3 defense and made the move to the 3-4 Capers has helped define?
“Look at who the top five defensive teams are,” Capers said. “It’s a copy-cat league and it goes in cycles.”
Those top five defenses, by the way, include the Packers, Saints, Jets and Steelers. Four of the league’s top five defenses were in the postseason; two of them were in the Super Bowl.
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In one year’s time, Capers turned a Steelers defense that was 22nd in points allowed in 1991 to second in the same category in ’92.
As head coach of the expansion Carolina Panthers, his defense was eighth in the league in points allowed in the team’s inaugural season. A year later, it was number two.
In 1999, he took a Jaguars defense that was 17th in points allowed and 26th in sacks the previous season and made it number one in both categories. By the way, that was in a 4-3 scheme.
As Packers defensive coordinator, Capers took a defense that was 24th in points allowed in ’08 and brought it to number seven in ’09 and to number two in ’10.
“Today, the formula for me is you have to have a good quarterback and you have to have a good defense,” Capers said.
The Packers, of course, have both, which is largely the reason they are the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Always mindful of statistical trends, Capers has locked onto a new one. It’s a Capers original: passer rating differential. Capers points to the plus-41 passer rating the Packers enjoyed in the postseason. It’s similar to the passer rating differential the Saints enjoyed the previous season.
“The encouraging thing to me is we have a 27-year-old quarterback that went through the playoffs with a 109 passer rating. I just like the formula we have for this football team in this day and age,” Capers said.
Yeah, a good quarterback and a strong defense. Capers has a good feeling about holding up his end of the formula.
With 2010 draft picks Mike Neal and Morgan Burnett coming off injured reserve, Capers envisions a Packers defense that’ll be even stronger than the one that sacked its way through the NFC last season.
“If we get a guy or two in the draft, it would be like having two drafts,” Capers said.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Steelers running game poked holes in the Packers defense in the Super Bowl. It might have sounded alarm bells for need on the defensive line.
“I felt confident going into the game that we could stop the run. I was concerned in the third quarter when they ran the ball five straight times and went down the field and scored,” Capers said.
Scouting combine workouts for defensive linemen will be conducted on Monday at Lucas Oil Stadium. The defensive line crop is thought to be significant.
“I’ll be interested to watch the workout,” Capers said. “It’s always been we have to stop the run. If we can do that and make it a one-dimensional game, there are a lot of things we can do. If they keep you in second-and-5 all day, you can’t use (those blitzes.)”
The Packers were 18th in the league against the run in 2010. If there’s a facet of the Packers defense that could stand improvement, that’s probably it. Another run-stuffer up front might make the Packers even better than the stats say they are.