Packers playing team defense

PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence broke down Thursday's defensive effort against Jacksonville. What he saw was a defense doing all the little things that add up to a superb effort.

The Green Bay Packers are going to have a great defense this season.

It's not just because they have a bunch of very good players, though that is true.

Nor is it just because of coordinator Bob Sanders' scheme, though it seems sound.

Nor is it because Atari Bigby will make more plays than Marquand Manuel or because Cullen Jenkins is a better every-down player than Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, though both position changes are upgrades.

I'll tell you why this is going to be a great unit: Because this group knows the meaning of team defense.

It helps to have playmakers like Al Harris, Charles Woodson, A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett and Aaron Kampman, but the Packers can't do without unsung players like Brady Poppinga, either.

Green Bay's No. 1 defense was stellar against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. A review of the tape showed me why.

On Jacksonville's first drive, the Jaguars faced a third-and-4 from Green Bay's 32-yard line. The Jaguars ran a draw to Maurice Jones-Drew, but Barnett sniffed it out and met fullback Greg Jones in the hole. That created a pileup at the point of attack, and Jones-Drew was swarmed at the line of scrimmage.

On fourth down, the Jaguars elected to pass. Byron Leftwich tried to hit Jones-Drew over the middle, but Barnett was there to force an incompletion. What you may not have seen, however, was Barnett initially breaking outside to double team the tight end. For a split second, Jones-Drew was open, and it would have been an easy completion and big gainer had defensive tackle Johnny Jolly, thwarted in his attempt as a pass rusher, not dropped back into coverage. Jolly forced Leftwich to hold onto the ball for an extra blink of an eye, and that allowed Barnett time to recover.

On Jacksonville's next drive, an end-around went nowhere because safety Nick Collins flew toward the line of scrimmage — not in an attempt to make a tackle but to take out the lead blocker, 323-pound guard Dennis Norman. That forced Reggie Williams to break the run to the inside, where he was tackled by Barnett for a 1-yard gain.

On second-and-9, Fox's replays showed Jenkins stopping his pass rush so he could nail running back Fred Taylor and interrupt his route. Leftwich scrambled for 8 yards, though, setting up a third-and-1 run to Jones-Drew. Poppinga stopped the play, not by tackling Jones-Drew but by slamming into Jones, the lead blocker, with his left shoulder. That technique was important in that by keeping his right shoulder free, Poppinga didn't allow Jones-Drew to break outside. Thus, Jones-Drew went up the middle and was stuffed by Barnett.

The fourth-and-1 play was practically a replay. Again, Poppinga took on the lead blocker with his left shoulder, then shoved him inside. That created a huge pileup at the point of attack that didn't allow Jones-Drew to cut inside. Meanwhile, defensive tackles Colin Cole and Ryan Pickett handled Jacksonville's interior line. All of that allowed Barnett to run free. When Jones-Drew bounced the run to the outside, Barnett was there again.

Barnett was a star of the game, making five tackles in barely more than a quarter. Barnett couldn't have done it, though, without the play of guys like Poppinga.

Football is the ultimate team sport, and the Packers are playing superb team defense.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


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