A season of disappointment for the Packers defense was punctuated by Hakeem Nicks’ Hail-Mary touchdown catch on the final play of the first half of Sunday’s playoff game, and almost certainly sends the Packers into an offseason dedicated to rebuilding a defense that fell to No. 32 in the league this past season.
“We’re very disappointed in the way we played,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said on Monday, less than 24 hours after the Packers’ season ended with a 37-20 loss to the New York Giants.
Capers was referring to his unit’s performance on Sunday, but his words would also apply to the season in general. Following two seasons of defensive dominance, the Packers sunk to a level to which Capers’ defenses are not accustomed.
Reconstruction, it would seem, will begin with repairing a pass-rush that fell from third in the league in 2010 to last in the league this season. In the age of high-powered, pass-happy offense, not rushing the passer is not a formula for victory.
“It’s going to be one of the main issues. That area fell off. We’ve got to get those sack numbers and pressures back up,” Capers said.
The Packers’ pass-defense numbers also need to improve. Yeah, the Packers led the league in interceptions, but they also led the league in yards passing allowed, as in the most yards passing allowed.
Do the Packers need more speed on defense, Capers was asked?
“With where our game is, it probably jumps out at you this year. You look at all of those offenses that can spread you out, it becomes more of a basketball game on grass and you have to be able to match up. Speed is more important than it ever has been,” Capers said.
An improved pass-rush and more speed in coverage would help reduce the number of big plays the Packers allowed in the 2011 season. Sunday’s loss to the Giants produced two more game-changers, the Hail Mary, of course, which was preceded by Nicks’ 66-yard, catch-and-run touchdown in the first quarter.
“When you give up big plays, it’s going to end up on the scoreboard and that’s been the case too much this year,” Capers said. “When we come back here in a couple of weeks, we’re going to evaluate everything top to bottom to get back to where we were the previous two seasons.”
One decision that’ll be made during the offseason involves the career of safety Nick Collins, who was lost for the season to a neck injury in Week 2. Collins underwent fusion surgery and will decide during the offseason whether or not to continue his career.
“We’ll have to wait and see what Nick’s status is. Right now, I don’t have any idea,” Capers said.
The Packers will scout new talent at next week’s Senior Bowl practices and game, likely with change on defense in mind.
Additional coverage - Jan. 16