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Packers Preach, But Don’t Practice, Fundamentals

With the draft now concluded, fans can start looking forward to some actual football activity. The Green Bay Packers will conduct their organized team activities (OTAs) on May 22-24, May 31, June 1-2 and June 6-9. The mandatory minicamp is scheduled for June 13-15, with training camp getting underway in July.

These are the times that fundamentals should be drilled into the heads of the players. Coach Mike McCarthy is constantly stressing fundamentals, but there is more to it than just “pad level.”

If you are a perfectionist, a detail person, you probably have your own list of pet peeves when it comes to the Packers failing to execute the fundamentals. What follows is a list I just threw together, which I’m sure I could expand on with some more head-scratching.

6. Tip Drill

Ten years ago, it seems like all NFL teams regularly practiced a tip drill, in which defensive backs who could reach, but not catch, a pass would (intentionally) tip the ball up in the air or toward a teammate who would then make the interception. I have no idea if the Packers regularly practice this drill, but I can’t recall a time in the last decade that the Packers have made an interception via a tip drill maneuver.

5. Hands Up

Based on my observations, there are several NFL defensive lines that knock down passes two or three times per game. My guess would be that the Packers’ defensive line and linebackers seldom bat down an opponent’s pass at or near the line of scrimmage multiple times in a game. I believe this is ever-so- slowly improving, but think about it: a knocked down pass can be considerably more impactful than a sack, as it might well prevent a long pass completion or a touchdown throw.

4. Ball Fakes

This one is mostly on Aaron Rodgers. When Rodgers executes a play-action pass, he usually does a nice job of concealing where the ball is. But when he hands off to his running back, he usually stops and watches the progress of the run. Instead, he should be proceeding to drop back to pass and positioning his body so defenders can’t tell if he has the ball or not. The running backs also need to do their part on fake handoffs, by trying to conceal whether or not they have the ball and by continuing to carry out an apparent run play.

3. Punching the Ball Out

Teams that rank high year after year in fumbles caused do this by design, not luck. Particularly in gang tackling situations, defenders arriving late should be concentrating on knocking the ball loose before the offensive player is down or the whistle is blown. Punching the ball loose is highly effective, as is hooking one’s hand in and prying the ball away.

In last year’s playoff game against Atlanta, Aaron Ripkowski had about five tacklers trying to drag him down as he neared the end zone. Jalen Collins alertly got his hand on the ball and eventually pried it loose, causing a fumble, a touchback and an enormous momentum swing. Though outweighed by about 50 pounds, good fundamentals by the Atlanta cornerback created a decisive play in this season-ending game for the Packers.

The Bears’ Charles Tillman was the master at causing fumbles. In his 13-year career he is credited with 44 forced fumbles. The only two Green Bay players I’ve noticed in recent years with some propensity for forcing fumbles are Charles Woodson and Julius Peppers – and both honed their skills with other teams.

2. Protecting the Football

Though the Packers as a team seldom have an unusual number of fumbles lost, certain players lack good fundamentals in this area. James Starks probably has topped the list in the last several years, and his teammate Eddie Lacy also had ball protection issues, but they have both departed. Finally, Aaron Rodgers, when dancing around in the pocket, all too often holds the ball in one hand and way out from his body as he tries to evade defenders – a bad habit that has led to several turnovers over the years.

1. Tackling Low

Almost without exception, members of the Packers’ defensive unit simply display poor tackling technique. I sounded off on this topic at length back in mid-February. Almost no one tackles from the knees to the ankles – they just try to bear-hug people.

It’s a common enough league-wide problem, but there must be a few teams whose coaching staffs have had more success than the Packers at getting their defensive players to use proper tackling techniques. Of current Green Bay defenders, I’d credit Morgan Burnett with having the team’s best tackling techniques, but I sure miss the days when Willie Wood roamed Green Bay’s secondary.

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Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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8 Comments

  1. Cynthia May 8, 2017

    I’m fairly certain you get paid by the word, and don’t actually watch this team. Their defense wasn’t great last year, but these fundamentals are stressed, and the team usually is great at takeaways and batting down passes. It’s obvious you didn’t do any research, but just winged it based on your assumptions. Cheers.

    1. Xlvordie May 8, 2017

      You’re high on crack

    2. ay hombre May 9, 2017

      I suppose they’re great tacklers too. Please.

      Where’s your research Cynthia or are you just winging it?

  2. Kato May 8, 2017

    Tackling is so poor across the entire league. Particularly among defensive backs.

  3. Pack Attack May 8, 2017

    Somebody obviously didnt watch this d last year.

  4. Howard May 8, 2017

    The Packers must have practiced the tip drill before the Seattle game last year and the 2014 NFCC game.

    It also bugs me that the pass rushers do not get their hands up as often as they could if they cannot reach the QB. A few other things on the defensive side that bother me to no end.

    I have seen Matthews and Barrington hit receivers or tight ends crossing the shallow middle of the field, but do not recall the other ILBs doing so. To me it is a sin for an ILB to not knock a receiver down or off his route when crossing an ILBs turf.

    The defensive lineman and/or OLBs very seldom if ever knock a running back or tight end off there routes when rushing the passer. If you are rushing past those receivers at least slow them down a little.

    Some drills on when a corner in zone should drop coverage and a safety should pick up coverage would be nice to time that process a lot better.

    Probably can’t practice this with the new rules, but what ever happened to DBs coming up and taking out lineman low on run plays to the edge.

    1. ay hombre May 9, 2017

      Howard you’re the man. The Packers had a tough as nails corner on the roster for the Falcons game and then decided he wasn’t worth activating before sending him packing from the practice squad a few days after the season ended for GB.

      His name is Bene Benwikere and he is one tough motherfucker. I fell in love with him when (with the Panthers) he took on a lead block from a charging 300+ lineman and didn’t back down an inch. He did his job on the play and after it popped up, got in the face of the dude who towered over him and started talking shit in his face.

      Benwikere got cut after Julio Jones lit up the Panthers for 300 and they thought he could man up on Julio. And that was HIS fault?

      Mark my words. You’re going to hear from this guy again and the Packers had him, didn’t play him and then let him walk.

  5. Bill May 8, 2017

    This statement simply doesn’t follow from a logic point of view:

    …”but think about it: a knocked down pass can be considerably more impactful than a sack, as it might well prevent a long pass completion or a touchdown throw.”

    When you sack the quarterback, by definition they didn’t complete a pass and no one scored a touchdown. Your wording was “knock it down” which seems to imply incomplete pass, but I will grant the possibility they knock it downward and someone catches it anyway. Either way, both meet your “might well prevent a long pass completion or a touchdown throw”.

    Second, with a sack, they not only don’t complete a pass, or score a touchdown, but again, by definition, they also lose yardage.

    So how exactly is knocking a pass down more impactful than a sack?