Packers have more versatility on defense

Packers have more versatility on defense
  1. Packers have more versatility on defense
    Superior TelegramDespite needs at multiple positions entering last month’s draft, the Green Bay Packers used their top two picks — both second-rounders — on defensive backs…
    All Sports
By Superior Telegram Today at 10:49 a.m. Green Bay Packers safety Josh Jones (27) during the Green Bay Packers rookie orientation. (Mark Hoffman/Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports)

Tom Oates

The Wisconsin State Journal

Despite needs at multiple positions entering last month’s draft, the Green Bay Packers used their top two picks — both second-rounders — on defensive backs.

Still, assuming cornerback Kevin King and safety Josh Jones possess NFL-caliber talent, the Packers’ preoccupation with upgrading their secondary could be a stroke of genius, perhaps as soon as this season, because it will allow them to alter their approach.

It’s pretty simple: The NFL has become a volume passing league and the Packers defense hasn’t kept pace.

In the NFL last season, more than 60 percent of the snaps came from the shotgun formation, with the quarterback lined up well behind the center. Meanwhile, the Packers used their base 3-4 defense on fewer than 20 percent of the snaps. Those pass-oriented trends don’t figure to stop there, either.

It all came to a head for the Packers last season when cornerback Sam Shields suffered a career-ending injury in the opener and cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins — the team’s top two draft picks in 2015 — battled nagging groin injuries. Slow and short-handed, the pass defense was no match for elite wide receivers and high-powered passing attacks.

The selections of King and Jones, along with the return of free agent cornerback Davon House, indicate the Packers are ready to abandon conventional thinking on pass defense and start trying to match up more effectively with today’s spread offenses.

The key to that is personnel, and the newcomers will give defensive coordinator Dom Capers more size, speed and versatility to work with. Especially versatility.

“Just the way we’ve been able to play with versatility with Micah Hyde and Morgan Burnett, I don’t think you can have enough of those kinds of players,” coach Mike McCarthy said Monday at the American Family Children’s Hospital. “Pro football, it’s (played) so much more in space than it was probably 10, 15 years ago, so the ability to have players play multiple positions to take advantage of matchups and still to be aggressive schematically and fundamentally is obviously a focus that we want to build on each and every year.”

This year more than most.

McCarthy was in Madison to visit the children at the hospital and promote his annual fundraiser — celebrity dinner June 11, golf invitational June 12 — that has raised more than $2 million for the hospital since he and his wife, Jessica, got involved eight years ago. As usual, though, the talk turned to football.

Last season, Capers was handcuffed by injuries and a lack of speed in the secondary. In essence this season, King will replace Shields and Jones will replace Hyde, the nickel back who departed in free agency.

In addition, the Packers have four cornerbacks — House, Randall, Rollins and LaDarius Gunter — with considerable starting experience and two excellent safeties in Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Several young players who were pressed into emergency duty last year also are around, giving Capers a pretty full deck.

He can use the help. It’s getting increasingly difficult for conventional defenses to match up with offenses that routinely use four and five wide receivers or employ tight ends and running backs built strictly for the passing game.

Linebackers in particular are struggling to cover those fast backs and tight ends, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Packers flood the field with defensive backs.

Fans have been clamoring for an inside linebacker who can cover, but it seems more likely the Packers will play bigger safeties near the line of scrimmage more often and cut down on their use of inside linebackers. Burnett played extensively at the line last season and Jones, who weighs 220 pounds, played there some in the team’s rookie orientation camp.

McCarthy said King and Jones looked good in the camp…

  1. Patrick-Swift, 4 SFU players honored with ECAC awards - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:35
    After leading the St. Francis softball squad to its first NEC title and NCAA Tournament berth, coach Jennifer Patrick-Swift was named ECAC coach of the year on Thursday. Four St. Francis players were selected as all-ECAC, led by first-team…
  2. Indy 500 winners Castroneves, Kanaan face uncertain futures - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:29
    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves watched from afar as NASCAR stars Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart retired and Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced that he will step away after the s…
  3. Boston's Price set to make season debut Monday at White Sox - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:29
    BOSTON (AP) — Red Sox pitcher David Price is set to make his season debut for Boston on Monday at the Chicago White S…
  4. Giolito's no-hitter carries Charlotte to 4-0 win over Syracuse - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:29
    CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Lucas Giolito pitched a no-hitter, leading the Charlotte Knights to a 4-0 victory over the Syracuse Chiefs in the first game of a doubleheader on…
  5. Jets sign White, 3rd-rounder Stewart; Estime waived/injured - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:29
    NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Jets have signed veteran cornerback Corey White and waived/injured wide receiver Brisly E…
  6. Knight hits walk-off double in ninth, Dunedin beats Fort Myers 5-4 - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:29
    DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) -- Nash Knight had a walk-off double with two outs in the ninth inning, as the Dunedin Blue Jays beat the Fort Myers Miracle 5-4 in the first game of a doubleheader on…
  7. NBA: Kerr not yet ready to return to bench - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:29
    OAKLAND, Calif. — Steve Kerr is involved in just about everything but the actual game-day coaching for the Golden State Warriors — film session, coaches meetings, game-planning and pra…
  8. INDY 500: Alomania takes center stage at Indy 500 - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:29
    INDIANAPOLIS — It was opening day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Fernando Alonso chose a skateboard as his means of transportation through the p…
  9. MLB: Bryant, Heyward, Zobrist homer as Cubs win - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:29
    CHICAGO — It looks like the Chicago Cubs have got their groove b…
  10. Notes: 10 years and counting for Ryan Braun since he made his debut with the Brewers - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:28
    Thursday marked the 10-year anniversary of Ryan Braun making his debut with the…
  11. Miami receiver Ivan Thomas holds off on Iowa commitment for now - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:27
    Miami receiver Ivan Thomas announced his commitment to Iowa on Twitter Thursday night, then deleted the tweet an hour later. Hawkeye Report’s Blair Sanderson and Hawkeye Nation’s…
  12. PREP BOYS TENNIS: Tigers’ No. 1 seeded doubles entry rolls in Day 1 - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:23
    Edwardsville’s Alex Gray and Zach Trimpe played up to their top seed in the opening day of the three-day Class 2A state tournament on Thursday. The first Tigers entry ever to earn a No. 1 seed at state posted 6-0, 6-0 and 6-1, 6-0 victories in the first two rounds of douvbles play to advance…
  13. Duke upsets Virginia, will play either FSU or U of L in ACC semifinals - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:23
    The Blue Devils will to play either FSU or U of L in this weekend's ACC tournament…
  14. What to know for Friday at the ACC Baseball Tournament - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:23
    Friday sets up an a mouth-watering day of ACC baseball, with each of the four games carrying…
  15. BUSTED: College football recruit doesn't exist - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:22
    Unique Brissett fooled ESPN and everyone else -- until a couple days…
  16. Jets sign White, 3rd-rounder Stewart; Estime waived/injured - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:22
    NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Jets have signed veteran cornerback Corey White and waived/injured wide receiver Brisly Estime. The team also a…
  17. Harvick wins Charlotte pole; Cup leader Larson starts last - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:22
    CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Harvick was all smiles at qualifying Thursday night at Charlotte, while NASCAR Cup Series points leader Kyle L…
  18. Larry Robinson won’t return to Sharks next season - All Sports
    05.26 / 01:22
    SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Larry Robinson will not be back with the San Jose Sharks next season. A team spokesman confirmed Thursday that R…
  19. Maddon knows MLB sellers will have an eye on elite prospects Sporst
    05.26 / 01:03
    The Cubs have made no secret that they are going to be buyers when the trade market thaws and other teams around MLB have taken note. With the Cubs' system rich with both elite prospects and major league-ready talent, it's no surprise that many of manager Joe Maddon's players have come up in trade rumors, especially when it comes to young players like Ian Happ, Kyle Schwarber and Javier…
  20. Closer look at Chicago White Sox's lengthy injury list Sporst
    05.26 / 01:03
    The Chicago White Sox have 7 players on the disabled list, but most of them are on the road to recovery. That includes starters Carlos Rodon, who has not pitched this season, and James Shields, who went down with a lat strain after 3…