Senior writer jclombardi profiles DC Capers, LBC Greene, and TE Quarless.
Capers defense successful despite Packers many injuries: The rise of the Green Bay Packers to the top rung in scoring defense despite a maelstrom of injuries is a tribute to the players, the coaches and the scheme. Above all, it is a tribute to Dom Capers, who has held firm to his fire-zone scheme and reaped the benefits in Year 2 as defensive coordinator in Green Bay. “He’s done an outstanding job,” said Mike Trgovac, the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinator from 2003-’08 who joined Capers as defensive line coach last year. “As an ex-coordinator, the one thing I’m most impressed with Dom is he stays the course. He’s never too high. He’s never too low. He never panics. He believes in his system.” After allowing merely 30 points in the last four games, they lead the National Football League in points allowed with 166. The ranking is a source of pride within the organization, which hasn’t finished a season allowing the fewest points since its last championship in 1996 (210). The combination of rush and coverage has enabled the defense to rank second behind only Chicago in opponents’ passer rating (70.0). Moreover, Green Bay is tied for seventh in take-aways with 21. Based on rankings, the fall of a run defense from No. 1 in 2009 to No. 18 this year might appear to be a serious blemish. But the yields of 112.6 and 4.50 per carry would be 90.2 and 4.05 if the composite quarterbacks’ rushing totals (30-246-8.2) were eliminated. If Capers has said it once in interviews he has said it 100 times, stopping the run is at the core of what he seeks to do each week. “It’s a hard team to run against because they play physical up front, they fly to the football and they got a bunch of big bodies,” an NFL personnel director said at midweek. “They’re smart, they’re tough and they’re big. “Dom does a great job of mixing up his blitzes and getting to the quarterback. I think they’re well-coached. They get more out of less.
Greene focuses on coaching: After his playing career ended, Greene was reluctant to get into coaching. It wasn’t until 2009, when the Packers hired Dom Capers as their defensive coordinator, that Greene got serious about coaching. Greene decided it was the right time to give coaching a shot. He’s turned out to be a perfect mentor for OLB Matthews as well as for young up-and-comers. He’s an intense coach, but also fiercely defends his “kids” at every turn. Greene said of coaching, “(As a player), you’re in the flame and you get burned and you feel that. (As a coach), you’re standing next to the fire and you feel its warmth. It feels good. There’s adrenaline and it feels good. “You just be yourself, and coach from your heart. That’s what I think. Obviously the scheme and everything, I know the scheme and can teach it to the kids. But I think you just coach from the heart. I know a lot of little nuances of the position that I can bring to light for some of these kids that another coach may not see.” Every Friday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy has one of the assistant coaches address the team. Friday was Greene’s turn, and according to Zombo, the message was “a reality check to everybody on the team. ‘How hard are you really working, on the field, off the field?’ You could tell a lot of guys took it to heart.” McCarthy acknowledged that there was some uncertainty when he interviewed Greene at Capers’ recommendation because of Greene’s limited coaching work, but McCarthy left the interview very impressed and has continued to be impressed ever since. “To me, a lot of the hiring of a staff is about fit,” McCarthy explained Friday. “He had not coached in a full-time position before, but did a number of the internships, so there were a lot of positive recommendations that came Kevin’s way as far as his ability to coach and what he experienced in those training camps. Definitely, the potential was there. It jumped right out at you. “You can see growth all the way through his development as a coach. We were right, and he brings a lot of passion and he’s very good at what he does. It’s very natural for him.”
Maturity: Andrew Quarless has changed so much that the Green Bay Packers rookie tight end has even changed his name. “Drew. That’s what everybody calls me,” Quarless said. It’s his game that’s changed for the better. “He’s grown up a lot,” Packers coach McCarthy. “I think since the bye week, you really see him starting to make a move. He’s in better shape. His awareness is improving every week. We’re definitely counting on him to contribute here down the stretch.” QB Rodgers was counting on him last Sunday, before the Packers’ 16-play, 90-yard touchdown drive tied the game. Rodgers told Quarless so before the offense went onto the field. Quarless delivered with 11- and 19-yard catches. “He still has a ways to go. He reminds me of a young Jermichael Finley in that he doesn’t quite fully understand the offense yet,” Rodgers said. “But I feel he’s getting better. I went to him on the sidelines before the last drive and I said, ‘Hey, I need at least one big play out of you this drive,’ and he made a big play to get us a first down. Those are the kinds of things you like to see from him. I still think he has a lot of untapped potential that he can dig into if he really dedicates himself to the game plan and getting better each day in practice.” Those comments from Rodgers are similar to the thoughts he had on Finley as a rookie. He struggled to grasp the offense and to gain Rodgers’ faith, something Quarless is doing bit-by-bit now. “That meant a lot to me, for him to have that confidence and that faith in me to say, ‘I’m looking for you,’” Quarless said. “I say it all the time: I was thrown in the fire. I’m just trying to make it out and get better.”