The Packers need one more good pass-rusher. That, it would seem, might make the difference for a defense that is trying to peak its game for the postseason.
“We’re a better ‘nickel’ defense than we are an ‘Okie,’” Capers said on Friday.
What that statement means is that the five-defensive back “nickel” has become the Packers’ new base, instead of the 3-4 for which Capers is famous. Why so much “nickel?” Because the Packers are a faster team in pass-coverage when they’re playing “nickel,” and cover is what you have to do when rushing the passer isn’t your strength.
“Our four-man rush, we didn’t get enough,” Capers said.
Five-man rush schemes are up from 35 percent in 2010 to 43 percent this season, yet, sacks are down, from 47 in ’10 to 27 through 14 games this season. In other words, Capers has gotten more aggressive in trying to get to the quarterback this season, but with less success.
“We’re making the same calls; they’re just not working as well,” Capers said. “The scheme hasn’t changed much; we just haven’t executed it as well.”
That might all change, of course, should Capers find that elusive extra pass-rusher to complement linebacker Clay Matthews. An extra rusher would help take blockers off Matthews and free him up to be the sack star he was a year ago.
Might linebacker Desmond Bishop be that extra rusher? He’s expected to return to action this Sunday against the Bears, since sustaining a calf injury in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.
“Bishop is one of our best playmakers. I hope Bishop coming back will give us another guy that can make plays,” Capers said.
Might rookie linebacker Vic So’oto be that extra rusher? So’oto was a sack sensation in the preseason, but he’s gotten almost no playing time since then, his regular season having been compromised by a nagging back injury.
“I’ve got hope for Vic. It hasn’t materialized but that doesn’t mean that with a young guy it doesn’t all of a sudden kick in and go,” Capers said.
The big question, of course, is: What if the Packers don’t find that extra rusher? The answer is obvious: They’ll have to make do with what they have.
“We have to make plays. That’s what we’ve been this year. I’d much rather play like we did last year, but the fact of the matter is we’re 14 games into the season. With where we are, we have to take the ball away,” Capers said.
The Packers defense has made up for yardage allowed by forcing turnovers. The Packers are 31st in the league in yards allowed and second in takeaways, 32.
“That’s been our strength. We’ve taken the ball away, and we haven’t been penalized much,” Capers said.
Can you win that way in the postseason, he was asked?
“With our offense and if we take the ball away, sure,” he added.
The verdict is that the Packers defense is what it is and it has to be true to its identity, which means force turnovers, which it didn’t do last Sunday in the team’s only loss of the season. Meanwhile, Capers will keep looking for that missing extra rusher. Additional coverage - Dec. 23