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Bates has heavy influence on Packers' defense

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Heatherthepackgirl, Oct 29, 2007.

  1. Heatherthepackgirl
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    Heatherthepackgirl Cheesehead

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    By TOM SILVERSTEIN
    tsilverstein@journalsentinel.com
    Posted: Oct. 28, 2007

    Jim Bates will look to stop the Packers' offense on Monday.

    But the vision Jim Bates had for the Green Bay Packers' defense has become a reality in its third year in practice.

    Thanks to the work of Bates' right-hand man, Bob Sanders, and the staff that stayed behind with him, the Packers are playing winning defense, keeping their team in every game and winning some when they have to. After two years of instability, the Packers' defense is the one constant in a 5-1 start.

    And so it may be with envy that Bates witnesses the Packers' defense from the other sideline tonight at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. Back in coaching a year after falling short of his bid to succeed Mike Sherman as head coach, Bates can't be anything but proud of what the current staff has accomplished.

    "I think so," said defensive tackles coach Robert Nunn, a longtime colleague and close friend of Bates'. "He keeps up with us. I talk with him often. He kept up with us last year and was constantly in touch with us.

    "It was funny how he could watch a game on TV and you would have thought he had watched the tape because he knew exactly what happened. He'd call us and say something like, 'What was that guy doing?' "

    The Packers have maintained Bates' match-coverage scheme as their defensive foundation but Bates himself is running a vastly different system as assistant head coach/defense of the Broncos. Those who have studied the defense say it appears to be more the blitzing style of Bob Slowik, another former Packers defensive coordinator who is on the Broncos' staff.

    When the teams take the field tonight, it's likely Bates' influence will show more on the Packers' side of the field than on the Broncos'.

    "It's all because of personnel," Nunn said. "You have to adjust to what you have. He's very good at doing that. We've kept it intact, but it's because of players. We have the players. We try to fit what we do with what we're able to do."

    The system, however, is what Nunn, Sanders and Bates all strongly believe in. They have believed in it since they were all together as part of the Miami Dolphins' defensive staff during the early part of the decade.

    Sanders worked with some pretty bright defensive minds at the University of Florida, including Bates, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Illinois coach Ron Zook, but he was attracted to the unique concept of the scheme Bates taught him in Miami. The roots of the system go back to the Dallas Cowboys of the Jimmy Johnson era when smaller, quicker linebackers became acceptable.

    Bates learned the system in Dallas under Johnson and Dave Wannstedt and then used it in Miami after Wannstedt brought him in to be his defensive coordinator.

    "This a very, very good system," Sanders said. "It causes offenses a lot of problems. Not a lot of people do it; not a lot of people really know how to do it. We're not a man-to-man team, we're a match team. It's been effective. It puts our guys in position to win. That's the object.

    "You try not to give up big plays in any defense, but the bottom line is not letting them score so you can win games. From that standpoint, it's been a very effective system."

    Entering play tonight, the Packers rank a respectable 15th in defense, but that clearly doesn't tell the whole story. They're 11th in points allowed, fifth in third-down efficiency, 11th in yards allowed per carry and have held opposing quarterbacks to a 56.7 completion percentage.

    They have allowed nine passing touchdowns but no reception longer than 40 yards.

    That's a vast improvement from two years ago - their first in the system - and a solid improvement from a year ago when they leaked big plays like a spaghetti strainer, giving up 14 plays of 40 yards or more and a dizzying 37 touchdowns. This year, they're on pace to give up eight plays of 40 yards or more and 29 touchdowns.

    "They needed time to grow into it and to learn what can hurt you," Nunn said of the transition to the new system. "One thing now when we get burned on something, our guys usually know what happened. When we first started out, we got burned it was, 'What happened?'

    "It's just experience running it and we have good personnel."

    General manager Ted Thompson has fed the Packers with a steady flow of players who fit the scheme and that has contributed greatly to the improvement of the defense. Only five starters are the same from the usual lineup Bates used in his one and only season as the Packers' defensive coordinator.

    The system doesn't ask the players to do more than they're able.

    Sanders' "match concept" features a combination of traditional man-to-man bump technique by the cornerbacks with a zone or "match" coverage by the linebackers and safeties. There is man-to-man defense played, but in most cases the defenders are in man-to-man only until a specified player leaves their zone; then they have help.

    Blitzing is used sparingly and often it's on run downs.

    The addition of cornerback Charles Woodson might have been the most important component of the team's success because now the Packers have two cornerbacks holding up opposing receivers.

    The defensive line plays a run-oriented two-gap system, but it benefits from the bump-and-run coverage because the quarterback can't always deliver the ball as fast as he would like.

    "It's a system that fits my philosophy of how you play football," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I believe to win the world championship you need to challenge the opponent. We have the ability to choke an opponent."

    The defense is far from a finished product but they're certainly a better defense than they were when Bates took over and pretty close to the model their architect designed.
  2. dhpackr
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    dhpackr Cheesehead

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    I thought Bates deserved a chance to coach the Packers!
  3. Danreb
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    Danreb Cheesehead

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    He did get a chance and he had an impressive interview, but it was ultimately McCarthy that got the job.
  4. tromadz
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    tromadz Cheesehead

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    Bates can barely walk now. He's too old for the job. Sorry, but that's how it is. Bates would have to waddle to the bathroom during a game like that one college coach. I forgot his name.

    I'm happy with how the coaching thing worked out. So should you. We're 5-1.

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