It’s finally time again…sort of. We are back to Packers football! How great is it that we can finally sit in our living rooms, turn on the TV, and know that the Packers are going to be playing a live game? As fans, we live for any moment that we can watch the Green Bay Packers play football. Week 2 is approaching in the preseason, and we will take a brief look at what Dom Capers and the Packers defense can do to slow down the Washington Redskins.

First, lets take a look at some of the offensive sets that coach Matt Cavanaugh – the Redskins offensive coordinator – will be running at the Packers on Thursday.

Defensing 3X1 Sets

We will take a look at a similar defense run by Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees in a game against Washington last season. 3X1 sets are some of the hardest to defend and scheme against. There are so many variables and things that go in to it. This can often be a tough set for coordinators to adjust to. In Dom Capers’ defense there are often many checks to a 3X1 set; that is, one coverage will be called, and the defense must “check” out of it into a different coverage.

Here, we see the Redskins come out in a trey set; that is, an attached tight end, a slot receiver, and a split receiver. This is different than a trips formation, in which the tight end is not attached to the formation. In the Dom Capers defense, he will often call cover 23. The defense will show a Cover 2 look vs. pro sets (2 backs, 1 tight end) with no slot receiver. If the offense shows a 3X1 set, the defense will automatically check out of Cover 2 to Cover 3. Cover 3 is one of the best ways to defend 3X1 sets. In a Cover 3 look, you would have a corner in a deep third of the field, a safety in the middle third, and the strong safety in the flats – the area between the sidelines and and the tackle – about 10 yards in length. Its all about numbers. The question that many defensive coordinators ask is “Do we have the numbers to match up against their numbers?”

In the above video clip, the Ravens go with a Cover 0 look; that is, there are no free defenders. Every defender has a man. This is a good look in defending 3X1 sets. The biggest upside is that the keys are very easy to read. The corners, safeties and linebackers have one read, and that is their man. Many fans think that the corners just simply drop to an area and read if anyone is in their zone. The truth is, the defensive backs will actually pattern match the offensive receivers.

When I attended Packers training camp this year, the defense ran many pattern match drills. For example, if the defense is running Cover 2, the corner will actually have his eyes on the #2 receiver. If you remember from my first article, in order to identify and number offensive receivers, you count from the outside in. If the #2 receiver runs in the flats – the area the corner is responsible for in Cover 2 – the corner will play the #2 receiver and the safety will get his eyes on the #1 receiver. Basically, the #2 receiver – be it a tight end or slot – will not mislead a defender as to what offensive rout combinations they are running. Against Washington, watch the #2 certain sets and see if you can identify routes as well.

Defending the Short-pass Game

Here is another clip of the Redskins offense vs. Dean Pees defense. The thing that makes Pees so similar to Capers is their love for sending pressure on the offense. Here we see example of a fire zone stunt vs. a 2X2 set. One thing you must immediately think of when the ball is on the hash mark like this is that the play is going to the wide side of the field. Not many teams are going to run to the short side of the field. A fire zone stunt is simple; it is 5 man pressure with 3 deep defenders and 3 underneath defenders. The fire zone stunt is effective in getting pressure on the quarterback and forcing bad throws. In a 10 personnel set like this (1 back, 0 tight ends) sending an extra rusher will help you match numbers up front with the offense. This could be a reason why Washington was running shorter routes in this game due to the pressure that Baltimore was applying.

The most important aspects of defending the short-pass game is making sure that everything stays in front of the secondary. One of the most helpless feelings can be when a receiver gets behind your secondary and you know pressure is being sent. What you might see is an inside linebacker – either the Mac (strongside inside linebacker) or Buc (weakside inside linebacker) – rushing with a strong safety spinning down to play a seam/flat area. If the Redskins #2 receiver runs vertically, the strong safety must take him. The other inside linebacker will drop to a hook/curl area as well as the Sam/Will linebacker. Both corners will play a third of the field as well as the free safety. Look for Capers to really defend these shorts routes by sending pressure.

Defending the “Black Zone”

Many fans know what the red zone is: it is the area inside the opponents 20 yard line (when looking at it from an offensive perspective). The black zone, however, is when your opponent is backed up inside their own 15 yard line. Play calling on defense can change drastically when the offense is backed up in the black zone. This is a clip from the Packers/Redskins game from this past year. Notice here that Capers is coming out in his nickel package. This may look like a 4-3, but actually it is Capers 3-4 “stack” look.

The 3 tech and the shade are the two interior defensive lineman, with both Sam and Will on the edge. Mac and Buc are in their 30 technique. The strong safety will roll down and play as an outside linebacker. The nickel is lined on the #2 receiver with the free safety over the top. The Redskins come out here in a twins set (2 wide) with an H back behind the tackle. The Redskins bring their flanker in motion to fake the end around. This could potentially freeze the safety and possibly the linebackers. An important thing to remember is that the linebackers must have their eyes on their key, which is the guards. Their key will never lie, and should take them directly to the play. The offense is running a stretch concept in this clip. The H back should seal off the backside with each lineman taking a lateral step and finding a man in their zone. Notice how Joe Thomas gets a good read, rips through, and makes a solid play in the backfield. He beat the guard on his “rip” and made a good play.

One important concept in defending teams in the black zone is trusting your read key and getting in position quickly. Linebackers, corners, and safeties must trust their read keys because there have been a number of times where the Redskins – as well as other teams – will keep defenses honest by throwing while backed up in the black zone.

Know The Numbers

Numbers are important when looking at a team. I’m not a guy who buys into how good a team is by just looking at numbers. Preferably, I like to look at numbers that indicate offensive tenancies. In the last matchup between Green Bay and Washington, the Redskins threw the ball 30 times for 364 yards. They also ran the ball 30 times for 151 yards. It doesn’t get more balanced than that. This could really affect play calling for Capers. Since the offense is so balanced, we could see a lot of 5 and 6 man pressure. This would play in favor in stopping the run and also getting constant pressure on the quarterback. In order for the Packers to be successful, they must stop the run. Giving up 151 yards on the ground can be pretty disheartening for a defense. The defense must always think run first against a team like Washington. Because this is a preseason game, we might see more running than passing anyway. We can’t get too carried away with numbers from their last game since playcalling differs greatly in these preseason games. Many coaches simply want to see how their offense plays in certain situations.

What To Watch For

  • One back sets. A lot of 11 and 12 personnel sets. Here is an example of a 12 personnel set, known as an ace set.

  • Balanced offense. Run may be favored more due to lack of experience from younger players.
  • Constant pressure dialed up by Dom Capers and the Packers defense.

It’s going to be a fun game to watch. Not necessarily to see who wins, but rather to see some of the backup players get some reps in and see how they will do against the offensive sets that we reviewed earlier.

The Packers look to go 2-0 in preseason after a win over the Philadelphia Eagles.