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Friday, March 6, 2009
Packers adjusting defense on back end, too

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

A few of you might be wondering why Green Bay feels obligated to find a safety with experience in playing a 3-4 defense, as noted earlier Friday. After all, what does it matter to a safety how many linemen and linebackers are on the field?

The answer is not too much, at least not directly. But the reality is the Packers aren't just moving to a different alignment for their front seven. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers also will be adding new coverage schemes to supplement the pure bump-and-run approach they used the past three seasons under former coordinator Bob Sanders.

Here's how coach Mike McCarthy described the adjustment last month at the combine:

"I think our secondary does a very good job, particularly at the corner position, of playing bump-and-run," McCarthy said. "But if you play something every single snap, obviously you should be better at it than the other techniques that you play. But also from an offensive perspective of calling plays in this league, when you know you are getting something all of the time, whether the help is coming over the top or inside or outside, it makes you a little better playcaller. I think it will definitely help our corners from a vision standpoint, changing it up from not being in a press man-to-man situation as high as a percentage as we have been in the past."

I think most people would agree with McCarthy: Predictable coverage schemes make it easier for opposing offenses to call plays. But if you relieve your cornerbacks of some straight-man responsibilities, you need your safeties and nickel backs to take on a bigger role in coverage. Starters Nick Collins and Atari Bigby regularly have been in "help" situations, but when the Packers play a zone scheme, they will have to stay with receivers on their own.

Are they up to it? Very possibly, but the Packers seem interested in hedging their bets a bit during free agency.