Getting Jay Cutler made news in Chicago. Getting Brett Favre made news in Minnesota. In Green Bay, the big news had nothing to do with the QB. They’re set for a long time with Aaron Rodgers. This off-season the Packers have installed a new 3-4 Defense and brought in Dom Capers to design it. They’ve spent a lot of time trying to fit some square pegs into round holes to make it work. Sunday against the Bears will be it’s regular season debut, but how much will the Packers play their new signature defense against the Bears?
When I asked Bears players about the 3-4, a couple of things became clear: Pre-snap reads are going to be critical for Jay Cutler. As I’m told, the splits that the 3-down Linemen take has a significant effect on what the pass protection is for a particular play. One player told me that the difference can be as small as 1-foot and that would change where the protection slides or the play that’s called. So Jay Cutler and the Olin Kreutz are gonna have to be on their game with recognition. If they aren’t the plays could be blown up.
The key for the Bears is determining who the Middle Linebacker (Mike)* is on each play. In a 3-4, most teams make one of their 4 Linebackers a rusher. Figuring out who that guy is on each play can be difficult and is why some teams don’t have success against a 3-4. Finding the “Mike” on each play makes it easier to find who the Rush Linebacker is.
*side note: players told me that with the 3-4 they added a name to psuedonyms for each of the Linebacking spot: Mike (MLB), Sam (SLB), Will (WLB) and for some strange reason, “Ted” for the second inside guy. The Packers call their 2 inside guys: “Mack” and “Buck”.
The Packers have some decisions to make. Bears players told me to go back over the 2 games from last year to see how the Packers played the Bears. I was surprised to see that the Packers spent the majority of time in a Nickel package. They ran a 4-2-5. 4 Linenmen, 2 Linebakcers and 5 Defensive Backs. So, that left Corners covering Greg Olsen. In the 2 games Greg Olsen had 9 catches for 94 yards and a TD. Now overall, the Packers had success with this package. They buried the Bears in the first game 37-3 and lost in overtime in the second game. It’s important to note that the Bears have had a significant upgrade at the QB spot, that could change the Packers philosophy.
So what will they do? If they run the 4-2-5 package, it negates all the work and installation of their new 3-4. If they play a 3-4 the Bears have an advantage because who’s going to cover their Tight Ends? I think the Bears would love to have Greg Olsen and Dez Clark matched up on Aaron Kampman, Brady Poppinga or Jeremy Thompson. The advantage for the Packers in the 3-4 is that they would look to match up one of those guys against Matt Forte. Not in coverage, but in pass protection.
This chess game is going to be a very interesting one to watch…