Odd Defensive Fits Turn Into Logical Draft

Nick Perry at linebacker? Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels at end? A linebacker who didn't think the Packers liked him? The Packers selected defenders as if they were running a 4-3 scheme, but truth is, they don't really run a 3-4 scheme. It should all work great when the season begins.

The Green Bay Packers run a 3-4 scheme.

Well, sort of.

Not only are the Packers making a sweeping transformation of their personnel on defense, but they're making changes to their scheme, as well.

Whether those changes are sweeping or mere tweaks is the great unknown, but there's little doubt the Packers are taking a proactive approach to fixing a defense that was chronically broken despite its playmaking propensity.

In the first round, the Packers selected USC's Nick Perry. Perry will play outside linebacker, even though most of the personnel people we talked to before the draft felt Perry was better suited as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.

In the second round, the Packers moved up to take Michigan State's Jerel Worthy. He'll play defensive end, even though most of the personnel people we talked to before the draft felt Worthy was better suited as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme.

In the fourth round, the Packers used the first of their free-agent compensatory picks on Mike Daniels. Daniels will play defensive end but was viewed by most as a 4-3 defensive tackle.

In the fifth round, the Packers selected Terrell Manning, who didn't think the Packers had a bit of interest in him.

What they all have in common – along with Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward (second round) and Maine safety Jerron McMillian (second of fourth-round compensatory picks) – is their ability to attack and make plays.

For the Packers, the 3-4 is merely their base defense, their starting point. Nickel, however, is how they're lined up the majority of the time. In that context, Green Bay's defensive class makes plenty of sense.

Perry has the ability to dominate because of his speed to beat offensive tackles around the corner and his brute strength to stop the run. He might not be the most natural in pass coverage, but that weakness is more than offset by his ability to dramatically upgrade the Packers' horrific pass rush.

"It'd be great to have another Clay Matthews," coach Mike McCarthy said. "But I don't think it's healthy. I don't think it's right to compare players. Nick will pave his own way in this league. He has an excellent position coach in Kevin Greene who knows that position better than anybody." Because so many teams have a pass-first mentality, the Packers run plenty of nickel on first-and-10. Worthy's size and athletic ability would allow him to pair with B.J. Raji as the defensive linemen in their "big nickel" package to provide a pass-rushing and run-stopping presence.

Daniels, like free-agent signing Anthony Hargrove, can excel as a nickel rusher on passing downs. He had nine sacks as a senior playing for a school that has a strong track record of producing pass-rushing defensive linemen, from Aaron Kampman to Adrian Claiborn and Karl Klug.

"I could see both of these guys come in and would play inside in our nickel and would give us the kind of quickness and explosiveness, some of the things we feel we needed to become a quicker, faster defense," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said of Worthy and Daniels. "One of the things on that, I think we have enough flexibility, we'll adjust what we're doing to get our best players on the field." Manning, with 10 sacks and six forced fumbles during his two years as a starter, adds a playmaker to the inside linebacker position. Wow, will it be interesting to see if Manning can take playing time away from highly paid A.J. Hawk, who had 1.5 sacks and wasn't involved in a turnover-producing play last season. As for Hayward, he has the ability to replace Charles Woodson as the nickel (slot) corner, which would allow Woodson to replace Charlie Peprah at safety. A source told Packer Report before the draft that Hayward was one of the press-man cornerbacks to come out of the draft since Woodson.

If Woodson's not moving to safety, maybe it's McMillian following in the footsteps of fellow small-school safety Nick Collins and immediately earning a spot in the starting lineup. Based purely on physical skills, McMillian has a chance – never mind that he played for Maine. Among the safeties, he had the fastest 40-yard dash and 10-yard split at the Scouting Combine, according to the official results that are given to teams, and he bettered those marks at his pro day.

 "One of things when you watch him on tape, some guys it takes a while to see him make splash plays, but it seemed like when you put the video on with this young man, he was always around the football," safeties coach Darren Perry said. "Tremendous effort. Some of the things they do are very similar to what we do scheme-wise, just visiting with him and talking technique, I don't think he'll have a problem coming in and picking it up and doing some of the things we'll ask him to do."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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