Greene On Kampman: Be Objective

Neither outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene nor defensive coordinator Dom Capers are worried about Aaron Kampman's production. And the stats back up the premise that Kampman's talents are not necessarily being wasted at his new position. We talked to Greene in the linebackers meeting room on Friday.

The Aaron Kampman story has taken on a life of its own.

With one sack in four games, the logic goes, the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end's skills are being wasted as an outside linebacker in the new 3-4 scheme.

Taking that logic further, with the trade deadline coming on Tuesday and with Kampman set to be a free agent after this season, the Packers should trade him to a playoff contender who could use a dominant pass-rushing defensive end. After all, why would Kampman re-sign with a team that no longer is using him to the best of his ability?

To that logic, outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene offers a sharp rebuke: "I think you just need to be objective when you watch him."

According to Greene and defensive coordinator Dom Capers, Kampman is adjusting to his new role quite nicely.

"He's doing fine," Greene told Packer Report during a sit-down interview in the linebackers' meeting room on Friday. "Aaron is the highest productive outside backer we've got. We have asked him to do a wide variety of things. We just don't have him rushing on every pass. He knows that. That's just the life of an outside backer in a 3-4, so his opportunities have been a little bit less than, say, a 4-3 defensive end who rushes pretty much every pass play. Aaron now does the entire gamut of an outside linebacker. Think about the skill set that encompasses him to do the following job. One play, you've got to carry a wide receiver vertical up the seam for 20, 25 yards. The next play, you've got to be rushing against a 330-pound offensive tackle. Think about what that encompasses. I think Aaron's doing great."

With 37 sacks from 2006 through 2008, Kampman entered this season with the third-most sacks in the NFL over that span. Surely, the reason why he has only one sack in four games is because of the scheme. Because he's standing up rather than being down in a three-point stance. Because he's dropping into coverage on about 30 percent of opponent pass plays.

Well, not so fast.

As Capers pointed out, sacks come in bunches. Last year, for instance, Kampman finished with 9.5 sacks. Those sacks came in just six games, though. He had two four-game stretches with two sacks (both times, those two sacks came in the same game), another four game stretch with 1.5 sacks (all in the same game) and one four-game stretch with no sacks.

In 2007, when Kampman made his second Pro Bowl after posting 12 sacks, he had sacks in only two of the final 10 games, including the playoffs. He had just one sack in the final six games.

In 2006, when he posted a career-high 15.5 sacks, Kampman had a five-game stretch in which he recorded only one sack.

In 2005, he had just one-half sack during a five-game stretch and didn't record any sacks in the final six games.

"I'd say that we've been in kind of a transition stage," Capers said. "We've asked Aaron to do a lot of things he hasn't done before, but I think he's totally capable of doing them. What we've asked him to do, I think he's done a good job of. I'm not overly concerned about the production right at this point in time. The bottom line is, at the end of the season, you'll see he has good production."


Aaron Kampman has just one sack in four games. Doug Pensinger/Getty

Sacks are just part of the game, regardless of scheme. In terms of tackles, Kampman is on pace for the best season of his career. Greene grew animated when talking about a play against Minnesota in which Kampman took on two blockers and still made the tackle.

"Really?" I replied in equal parts shock and awe.

"I think you just need to see how he plays the whole game," Greene said. "When he plays the run, not only does he take his block, but he takes another blocker. He's constantly taking two blockers. I don't think people should get all caught up in sacks. ‘If you're not getting sacks, what's up with Aaron Kampman?' That's clearly not the case per the job description of an outside backer."

Coming out of the bye, it will be interesting to see if Capers uses Kampman differently. Ever since Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila suddenly lost his explosive first step, Kampman has been the Packers' only legitimate pass rusher. That in itself at least partially explains why Kampman is in a sack slump now and had three of them last season.

But as the only pass rusher, do the Packers need to send Kampman more frequently? At first blush, the answer is yes, but the hallmark of Capers' defense is its unpredictability. One of the key plays in Super Bowl XLIII was when the Steelers' James Harrison intercepted Kurt Warner just before halftime and raced the length of the field for a touchdown. On third-and-goal, of course the Steelers would blitz the NFL's defensive player of the year. Right? Warner certainly thought so.

Harrison is the game's best 3-4 outside linebacker. In the first three games this season, he had one sack. Now, he has six.

If Kampman is shut out in these next two games, then the concerns will be much more dire. Sunday's opponent, Detroit, has allowed the third-most sacks in the NFL (17). Next week's opponent, Cleveland, has allowed the seventh-most sacks (14).

For his part, Kampman had little to say on the subject this week.

"We'll see," he said when asked if he'll be asked to blitz more often this week. "It's obviously one of those things, whatever is called, I'll execute it to the very best of my ability."


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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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