Will Pass Rush Be Unleashed vs. Bengals?

Green Bay had one of the best pass rushes last season but has fielded the least-productive rush of Dom Capers' tenure as defensive coordinator this season. The Packers might not have to fear Andy Dalton's running ability but he's been sacked just once.

The Green Bay Packers finished fourth in the NFL with 47 sacks last season.

Entering Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Packers rank 24th in the league with just three sacks.

Nonetheless, the Packers insist their pass rush isn't a source of concern.

"I felt good about it last week," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Friday. "I think you saw RG3 (Robert Griffin III) not able to step up many times last week because we had really good push up in his face. I think the first eight series, we had pretty good pressure on him in terms of disrupting his rhythm. We felt that was important because he's a real rhythm passer. If you don't disrupt it, then it gets to be tough. We kept him out of that through the first two series of the second half."

Obviously, the running ability of San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and Washington's Griffin played a role in the Packers' tepid pass rush the first two games. While coach Mike McCarthy called it "excuse football" to not get more production, it's undeniable that containing those quarterbacks' scrambling ability was of utmost importance after Kaepernick destroyed the Packers in last year's playoffs.

"In Week 1, I don't think we expected to get any sacks," said the Packers' best rusher, Clay Matthews. "Last week, we had some success in the first half and the second half, because of scheme, we weren't able to get after him too much. We'll see. Obviously, we strive for sacks around here and disrupting the quarterback. We'll see where we're at after this week. Obviously, we're getting back to a more traditional offense that we're used to seeing. So, it'll be a good test against a good quarterback, a good receiving group and a good O-line. We'll see where we're at after this game."

The Bengals' Andy Dalton is more of a traditional pocket passer. In 34 career games, he's rushed for 284 yards at a 3.2-yard clip. So, while it's true they'll be able to rush more aggressively, it's not as if he's an "iron deer in the lawn," to borrow a favorite phrase of former Vikings coach Brad Childress.

"I feel like we're all taking shots at their quarterback now," Matthews said after a few questions about going after Dalton, who's been sacked just once. "You have to understand, he's still a very good athlete, but their scheme doesn't require him to make the plays that other quarterbacks do with their legs. It allows us to be pass rushers a little bit more. We can never get too crazy out there and lose our distribution in regard to the rush lanes. But it brings a smile on my face."

Capers attacked Griffin with abandon last week and might consider doing so again. Dalton has done well against the blitz, completing 18-of-25 passes (72 percent), but is just 6-of-18 (33.3 percent) when under pressure, according to ProFootballFocus.com. His accuracy under pressure ranks 29th in the league. That's about in line with last season, when he completed 54.3 percent when blitzed but just 38.6 percent when pressured.

"He's a little surprising in that he'll fool with you with his ability to pull the ball down and run with it," Capers said. "I don't classify him as a running quarterback; he'd rather throw first and run second. But if you aren't disciplined in your rush lanes, he certainly has enough athletic ability to pull the ball down and make yardage on you. You're right, he's unlike the first two because those guys are rare runners. I think he's more your classic dropback quarterback with enough athletic ability to hurt you if have any flaws in your rush lanes."

So far, the rush is the worst in Capers' four-plus seasons as coordinator. In 2009, according to the coaches' numbers, the Packers had four sacks and 14 quarterback hits in the first two games, followed by 10 sacks and 22 quarterback hits in 2010, seven sacks and 15 quarterback hits in 2011 and 11 sacks and 25 quarterback hits in 2012.

Of course, Capers' defenses never had to face the likes of Kaepernick and Griffin to start a season.

"I think we've got to do a better job of getting on the right people in our run game and so forth, and I think the same thing — we've got to be sound in everything we do protection-wise," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said in a conference call with Packers beat reporters. "We're facing one of the best players in the NFL in Clay. This guy has just had a tremendous, tremendous career. He's an excellent player. We were coaching the opposite team at the Senior Bowl so I've gotten to know him and followed him and just was a great fan of his father. We've got to be buttoned up and do the things right. We're going to face a team that applies pressure, likes to pressure you."


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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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