Thursday, September 13, 2012
Bears-Packers I: Press coverage? Riiiiight
By Kevin Seifert
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As we count down the hours until the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers kick off at Lambeau Field, it's worth revisiting Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's challenge (and alleged diss) of the Packers' defense.
Responding to a question about the Packers' history of aggressive press coverage, Cutler said: "We've got some dudes that, if you're going to get up in their face, even our speed guys are going to get around them, and our big guys are going to throw and go. So we invite press coverage. We invite man [coverage]. If we get that type of game, our guys outside have to make some plays for us."
Cutler, in fact, wished the Packers "good luck" if they try to press them.
Oh no. Oh my gosh. Not that. Anything but that.
Tramon Williams said being too aggressive with big wideouts like Chicago's Brandon Marshall plays right into their hands.
OK, it's true. In the entire 185-game history of this rivalry, the Bears have probably never brought an offense to Green Bay with the size and skill level of their current pass-catchers. Receivers Brandon Marshall (6-foot-4) and Alshon Jeffery (6-foot-3) combined for 12 receptions, 199 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears' season-opening victory over the Indianapolis Colts, and 6-foot-7 tight end Kellen Davis didn't even get in on the act.
But here is something that is equally true: The Packers aren't a press team anymore, not by a long shot, and they really haven't been since the 2009 transition to defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Their reputation for press coverage dates back to the days when Charles Woodson (6-foot) and Al Harris (6-foot-1) were their starting cornerbacks in a now-scrapped defensive scheme.
These days, Woodson plays as a safety in the Packers' base scheme and in the slot when they are in the nickel. He might occasionally get physical with a receiver, but the Packers' top cover man is now cornerback Tramon Williams. And let me remind you what Williams said this summer for our post on how smaller cornerbacks should defend big receivers like Marshall:
"A guy that big, you don't want to be too aggressive with him," Williams said. "You want to feel him, but you don't want him to feel you. As a big receiver, he wants you to be aggressive. That's his thing. He can push you off and do things like that. He can get separation and get you off your stride. So you don't want to be too aggressive with guys like that."
The Packers' next two cornerbacks, after Williams and Woodson, are likely to be Sam Shields and Jarrett Bush. I'm not sure who will play ahead of the other Thursday night, but if it's Shields, you can assume he will emulate Williams' approach. Shields has speed and ball skills but will never be mistaken for a physical enforcer. Bush is a bit bigger and might be more inclined to mix it up.
In the end, Cutler's challenge was built on a hopeful but likely false presence. Of course the Bears would have an advantage if the Packers try to muscle up. That's why they almost certainly won't try it.