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Broaddus: Packers Pose 3-4 Problems With Hefty Middle

Posted Dec 11, 2013


Three of the Cowboys six loses this season, have come against teams that run a 3-4 scheme which the Packers use. Over the years, Dom Capers has been a master of this style of defense and the way that it needs to be played. When you study the Packers, you see a combination of a large three man line with speed at the linebackers.

For Capers, it all starts with BJ Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly upfront and their ability to control the line of scrimmage. Where these guys put the pressure on an offensive line is having to try and move them in the running game. These guys like to anchor down and two gap blockers at the point of attack. What also makes these guys hard to deal with, it that they are not just slugs that take up space but have the ability to work on the move when they read the play to get in position to make plays.

Of the three, I feel like Raji is the one that can cause the most problems because of his combination of quickness and power. Jolly is not playing at the level that he once was but he can still be a handful. Where offensive linemen have had some success against them is not blocking them straight up but blocking them on the edge and shielding them from the play and trying to get the ball to the outside of them. When these guys have to face blockers head up, they can work against that all day.

When they pass rush, you are going to see guys that don’t have many pass rush moves but going to try and push the pocket with power. All three of them can walk linemen back into the quarterback with their strength and power. When they go to their backups, Josh Boyd comes in to play at the nose and Mike Daniels at end. Daniels is interesting because he is shorter and lighter than the others and you see much more quickness off the ball along with better mobility. He is clearly different in the way he plays than the starters.

At linebacker, I really do like who they have on the outside in Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. It has been a switch from what we have seen from Matthews in the past were he has played on the left side or strong side. Perry has now taken that spot and Matthews has been shifted to the weak side. There will be several opportunities in this game where Tyron Smith will get the chance to match up against Matthews and see if he can hold him in check much like he has several of the top rushers in the league. Matthews still plays with that relentless effort that we have seen from him over the years. He is not going to give Smith a very big hitting surface, so Smith will need to be ready for a wide variety of spin moves and adjustments up the field. Nick Perry is a good young player that plays well with his hands at the point of attack and being a former defensive end at USC, knows how to rush the passer. He is becoming more of a complete linebacker because you see him handle situations in coverage as well.

On the inside, AJ Hawk and Brad Jones are very aggressive and at times, a little too aggressive in the way they play. Both tend to bite on play action fakes and you will often see them step forward and the ball go in behind them. Both can fight blocks but there are times where they do struggle with the shed and the ball gets past them. If Garrett and Callahan can get the running game going, play action passes have a great shot at being successful in this game.     

In the secondary, Tramon Williams a better player than Sam Shields at cornerback. If the Packers were to match a corner on Dez Bryant in this game, I feel like Williams would be that guy. He plays with a great deal of savvy and brashness. At times he will cover down in the slot, so that tells you that Capers has a great deal of confidence in his ability to handle two way goes and receivers with quickness. Williams is the type of corner that will not back away from a challenge and if he is matched up against Bryant, it will be an all-day battle for him. Williams doesn’t give much space and he is a hard guy to escape.

If the Cowboys are going to attack a player in this secondary on the outside, I would go after Sam Shields. In watching him in the Lions game, they went his way several times on slants for good reason. He really has a hard time when you take him down inside and make him have to cut that receiver off inside. The best trait that Shields does have is his catch up speed. He can cover some ground when the receiver gets by him. Of Williams and Shields, Shields is the weaker of the tacklers.

In the nickel, the Packers have shown a couple of different looks. Rookie cornerback Micah Hyde and Jarrett Bush both saw action against the Falcons, while Williams played in the slot the previous week against the Lions. At safety, Morgan Burnett and MD Jennings are the starters. What Capers likes to do with his safeties is to walk them down in the box late to help in the running game. It was clear that he was worried about Reggie Bush and Steven Jackson in these last two games. What Dez Bryant and the Cowboys coaches have to be careful in this game is when you get in the red zone against the Packers, Capers will pair Jennings with Williams on your best receiver in this area. Bryant saw this type of coverage against the Saints when Rob Ryan treated him like a flyer on the punt team. I expect we will see Capers do something similar to Bryant down in the red zone.     

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