Packers Coaches Have Their New Buzzword
It had a helluva run, but I think we can all agree that “pad level” has pretty much run its course. It looked like “scheme” was its clear successor, but it’s only one syllable and it just doesn’t flow off the tongue very well.
So, it’s a great relief that Green Bay Packers coaches have settled on a new buzz word: pre-snap.
I’m pleased in part because I never did figure out what “scheme” meant. Pre-snap, on the other hand, is being used by the whole group, new and old, to describe the concept of setting up and moving around defenders as the offense goes into its formation.
Telegraphing one’s defensive intentions is bad pre-snap; disguising the defensive play call is good pre-snap.
After viewing hundreds or hours of film – or have they been reading Total Packers? – someone on the Green Bay staff apparently came up with the notion that the team’s defenders have been telegraphing their play calls to the opposing quarterback.
The same thought occurred to me. As I watched the safeties routinely lining up 16 yards off the line of scrimmage, it dawned on me they were not likely to blitz. When the Packers only put four, or sometimes only three, players near the line of scrimmage, I started to get the distinct impression the team was dropping a bunch of players into pass coverage.
You’ve probably also noticed, as I have, that the Packers’ blitzers tend to rush up to the line well before the ball is snapped. This often causes the QB to step back, yell out a play change or give some hand signals, and go to a different play. Nine times out of 10, the blitzer who has tipped his hand proceeds to blitz anyway.
The smarter quarterbacks and the more experienced receivers often don’t even need a play change. They know what portion of the secondary is being vacated, so they automatically target the open zone. This is mainly why you see so many wide-open opposing receivers when the Packers play.
You might have observed that the Packers’ defense gets eaten alive by the veteran QBs in the league. Guys like Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matthew Stafford routinely read the Packers’ formations and movements, and almost surgically cut through Green Bay’s defense. When you’ve seen opponents’ box scores of 70-plus completion percentages, and passing yards well beyond 300, you were most likely watching a quarterback keying off the Packers’ defensive alignments.
The good news regarding pre-snaps is that Green Bay isn’t the only team whose defenders give away the defensive play calls. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best at shredding defenses that are foolish enough to telegraph their plays during pre-snap. Pre-snap considerations therefore affect both defensive and offensive thinking.
Detroit 30, Green Bay 14
Here’s an example of what happens when pre-snap considerations are ignored. Back on November 9, following the Lions’ easy win at Lambeau, this was one of the tips I posted:
“Stop telegraphing the blitzes. All game long the Packers tipped off which linebackers or defensive backs were going to blitz. Stafford then knew every time which receiver or which portion of the field would be undefended. Capers also kept ordering up “all out” blitzes. That never works against a veteran with a quick release. Stafford just kept throwing to his unguarded receivers well before anyone got near him.”
Matthew Stafford’s completion rate for the game was 79 percent, and he threw for 361 yards, though only throwing 33 times.
New Coaching Emphasis
Here’s what the team website just reported:
“There’s specific areas where we need to improve on defense, starting with the pre-snap,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We need to do a better job of winning the pre-snap when you get into scheme and so forth” … (New defensive coordinator Mike) Pettine prioritizes pass defense and agrees with McCarthy’s assessment of pre-snap disguises. It’s an uphill battle for a defense if a quarterback knows what it’s doing before the ball is snapped.
I’ll say it again: pro football isn’t rocket science.