With Julius Peppers added to an outside linebacker group headlined by Clay Matthews, and with defensive tackle Mike Daniels coming off a breakout season, the Packers have plenty of options to rush the passer.
Against the Vikings, the pass-rushing carnage was six sacks and, according to the coaches’ film review, 15 quarterback hits.
“I think we’ve got some studs on the defensive side,” Matthews said on Thursday.
The Packers will take aim at Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill on Sunday. Since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2012, Tannehill has been sacked a league-high 102 times. To provide better protection, the Dolphins added bookend tackles during the offseason. They signed left tackle Branden Albert away from Kansas City and used their first-round pick on right tackle Ja’wuan James. Albert is a proven veteran who is off to a tremendous start. Thus, it will be James wearing the bull’s-eye.
“I think I’ve said this before,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin told reporters in Miami on Thursday, “probably when I got into the NFL in 2003, the pass rushers were usually over your left tackle. Today, in the last few years, it seems like the defensive coordinators do a great job and move people all over the place. In (James’) position, he’s going to be facing outstanding rushers almost every single week and this is certainly no different. I think Peppers obviously has a great track record. He’s an excellent football player. Clay Matthews had double-digit sacks for a bunch of years. He’s got a great motor. I’m sure they are probably going to take turns and get different guys over there. That’s just the nature. Dom (Capers) does a great job of moving guys around. (James) is going to have to be ready. He’s going to have to bump it up, but I don’t know if that’s all that different this week from any other week.”
The six sacks tied for the third-most of Capers’ tenure as defensive coordinator, which dates to 2009. The Packers had seven vs. Chicago in Week 2 of the 2012 season and vs. Tennessee in Week 16 of the 2012 season. Other six-sack games came against Philadelphia in Week 1 of 2010, Chicago in Week 17 of 2010 and Minnesota in last year’s tie.
According to the stats kept live during the game, the Packers finished with 16 quarterback hits. That was the highest total since Mike McCarthy took over as coach in 2006 and the second-highest total in the league this season, according to a member of the league’s statistical service.
The coaches only came up with 15. Since Capers took over as coordinator, that was the second-highest total. Green Bay had 19 quarterback hits against Washington in Week 5 of the 2010 season. The big pass-rushing games of Capers’ tenure:
19: Week 5, 2010, vs. Washington
16: Week 5, 2012, vs. Indianapolis; Week 16, 2012, vs. Tennessee; wild-card round, 2012, vs. Minnesota.
15: Week 5, 2014, vs. Minnesota; Week 2, 2012, vs. Chicago.
14: Week 3, 2010, vs. Chicago
13: Week 3, 2011, vs. Chicago; Week 8, 2011, vs. San Diego; Week 2, 2010, vs. Buffalo; Week 6, 2009, vs. Detroit.
12: Nine times (most recently, Week 2, 2014. vs. the Jets).
Green Bay had just six sacks and 24 quarterback hits in the first four games. That doesn’t mean the rush hasn’t been effective. The firepower the Packers can trot onto the field in passing situations is exceptional. Opponents react accordingly with extra protection. That means fewer receivers in the rout, which is one reason why Green Bay boasts the NFL’s second-best defensive passer rating.
“Some offenses (say), let’s start on the premise that we aren’t going to let you sack our quarterback because we’re going to get the ball out quick,” Capers said. “But if you do know that, then you play accordingly with your coverage and you’re going to play tighter coverage if that’s the case. What you’re getting nowadays is a lot of max-protection, keeping extra people in. It might be two- or three-receiver routes to try to throw the ball downfield and max up,. We do see a lot of that because they don’t want to end up (getting sacked). They want to give help off the edges to guys like Clay and Julius.”
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Fishing Green Bay with retired Packer Bryce Paup