GREEN BAY, Wis. — As the weekly editions of the Packers
Mailbag series have shown, defensive coordinator Dom Capers has become a very
unpopular person among Green Bay’s fan base. That frustration makes some sense,
too, as the Packers have fallen from the NFL’s 11th-ranked defense to 24th
overall in the past six weeks.
Players, however, have stood by Capers at every opportunity.
But on Thursday, there was a multiple-second pause from cornerback Tramon
Williams that, in reading between the lines, seemed to have spoken to a bit of
uncertainty from the team’s defensive players.
Williams was asked for his thoughts on Capers’ scheme and he
offered the following response, which began with a two-second pause.
“Um,” Williams said, before again pausing for
three seconds. “I mean, it’s been good. Obviously we won the Super Bowl
with it. It’s been around for a while. When you’re struggling you don’t know
what to think about it, and that’s anybody. That’s just part of the frustration
going on with things. We’re still buying into what’s going on.
“It’s going to be a struggle from both points, coaches
and players. It’s not going to be one of those things where we’re going to
point fingers at the scheme or it’s this. We’re not going to do that. We’re
going to finish it out the way we started. That’s together as a team whichever
way it goes. We’re going to be in it together.”
So, what began with some negativity did turn more positive
as Williams continued. But the early moments from Williams’ answer were the
only sign so far that perhaps some doubt has crept into the minds of Capers’
Green Bay gave up 40 points and 561 total yards to the
Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. Williams insisted, though, that players aren’t
looking to blame Capers or anyone else.
“I haven’t seen any guys pointing fingers at all,”
Williams said. “That’s the good thing about it. That’s the truth. A lot of
guys come up in here and say, ‘We’re not going to point fingers. We’re not going
to do that.’ Then behind the scenes the first thing you see a guy do is talk
about something. But it hasn’t been like that around here. Guys still feel that
we can get things done.
“We know we’re not down and out of it yet. We’re
probably going to need some help realistically (to get in the playoffs). That
could still happen. As long as we have hope, we’re going to continue to play
hard. And without hope, we’re still going to continue to play hard. It’s one of
those deals to where anytime you step on that field you want to put your best
foot forward no matter if you’re struggling or not. I don’t see how a guy can
step on the field and go half at it. I just don’t see how a guy could do that,
so we’re going to go hard every time we go on the field regardless of what
After a poor Week 1 performance on the road against the San
Francisco 49ers, the Packers’ defense began to perform quite well — with the
exception of a lack of interceptions. Before the midway point of the season,
Green Bay had played so well that its run defense was on a franchise-best pace
and was ranked third in the NFL. Then, Chicago’s Matt Forte, Philadelphia’s
LeSean McCoy, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Detroit’s Reggie Bush all gashed
the Packers for huge gains, sending Green Bay’s run defense all the way down to
where it currently stands at No. 26 in the league.
“Tackling, staying in the right gap and playing what’s
called and not trying to do more than what the defense calls for — things like
that,” defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. “We’ve kind of lost touch
of that these last four weeks. Then it snowballs and we’re where we’re at right
To entirely place blame on Capers or the players is not
realistic. It takes a collective group for things to have gone so wrong this
Part of the downfall certainly ties to the absence of
quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose ability to better control the time of
possession battle is one factor that makes a significant difference on both
sides of the ball.
And while it would likely take a major turnaround from the
Packers’ defense over the final four games this season to have Capers return in
2014, Williams’ initial hesitance Thursday was the only time in which players
haven’t shown complete trust in the defensive scheme being given to them.
“I still feel confident,” safety Morgan Burnett
said. “I got all the confidence in the world. We got great guys in this
locker room with a lot of talent. The scheme is great, because it allows
everyone to make their share of plays. The only thing we have to do is make the
plays when the opportunity presents itself. Just keep competing, and at this
point in time just keep grinding.”