Capers working wonders with Packers' thinned defense unit

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Capers working wonders with Packers' thinned defense unit - JSOnline

Green Bay — C.J. Wilson slid off a block and met Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in the hole Sunday night. The force of the collision messed up something inside Wilson's helmet and he started running to the sideline, pointing to his face mask.


There was just one problem: The Green Bay Packers had no one to replace him at defensive end.
"It was kind of funny," said defensive line coach Mike Trgovac. "I could see a little white strip hanging down there (in Wilson's helmet). He was trying to come off the field and I said, 'You can't. We've only got three.' "


A series of injuries has forced defensive coordinator Dom Capers to come up with creative adjustments all season, but the craziness reached new heights Sunday when end Cullen Jenkins - already playing with a broken hand - strained a calf muscle during pregame warm-ups and couldn't play.


Then, early in the game, end Ryan Pickett aggravated a sprained ankle and could go just seven snaps before heading to the sideline for good.


That left Capers with three healthy defensive lineman, one of them (Wilson) a rookie seventh-round draft pick and another (Jarius Wynn) released Sept. 4 and re-signed one week later after Justin Harrell went down.


Though the Vikings gashed the Packers for 196 rushing yards, including 131 by Peterson, Green Bay's defense came up with three game-changing interceptions of Brett Favre in the second half and survived a late Minnesota drive to win, 28-24.


"When you plan all week and you have your plan in place and an hour before you take the field you find out you're going to have to readjust that plan, in a game like last night. . . " Capers said Monday. "This is 25 years in the league; I don't think it's ever happened to me before.


"Those three (ends Wilson and Wynn and nose tackle B.J. Raji) played an awful lot and I'll give credit to those young guys. They fought their tails off in there."


It's also a credit to Capers, whose coordinating skills have been put to the test. He's lost two starters and two key backups to season-ending injuries. Three other starters and two key situational substitutes have missed at least one game.


That list doesn't even count former starters Atari Bigby (safety) and Al Harris (cornerback), who began the season on the physically unable to perform list and returned to practice just last week.


"Well, we always tell our guys if they're sitting in that meeting room they've got to be ready to go out there and play," Capers said. "They owe it to everybody in that room. We've certainly experienced that this year. We've had some guys go out and play well. I like the way our backup players have performed. They've had to."


Capers planned to use a combination of the base 3-4 defense and sub defenses against the Vikings but had to scrap the base completely when Jenkins hurt his calf while warming up on his own. Because the list of inactive players had been turned in, the Packers went into the game with just 44 players.


"I didn't really have time to be nervous," Trgovac said. "It happened so fast. I was sitting at my locker putting my pants on when they told me Cullen could possibly go down. I had no indication of that whatsoever."


Out of necessity, rookie free-agent linebacker Frank Zombo took some snaps at defensive end and offensive lineman T.J. Lang also got some snaps on defense for the second consecutive week.


But most of the heavy lifting was done by Raji, Wilson and Wynn. They turned in heroic efforts, with the 340-pound Raji playing 65 of 68 snaps, according to Trgovac.


"I can't say enough about Mike Trgovac and that young defensive line group," said coach Mike McCarthy. "Those three young men played the whole game. . . . It was their plan to run right at us. We kept them out of the end zone, and those three guys were a big part of it."


Favre had never been sacked by his former team until Wynn pulled him down with 1 minute 19 seconds left in the game.


"We gave up a lot of rushing yards and some of it was on us, so there's obviously some things we can improve upon," Trgovac said. "But I felt like both (Wynn and Wilson) competed really hard and were put in a tough spot coming into the game, not really knowing you're going to be playing that much and then all of a sudden you're the main focus of the game.


"You just kind of go with the flow and deal with what you've got."


Capers and Trgovac can only hope Jenkins' injury isn't serious and Pickett's ankle heals enough so that he can stay on the field.


"We have three tough (offensive) lines coming in a row here, with Minnesota and New York and then Dallas," Trgovac said. "I don't even know who's after that. I'm not worried about it."


Told the bye week followed the Nov. 7 game against the Cowboys, he said, "Well, good, we've never lost a bye yet."
 

PackerFanLV

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Good read, man Jenkins,Pickett,al,bigby back against the jets gives me a good feeling for our D. Dom can open up them blitz play book. :)
 

Mack_20

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Yeah very good read, Hopefully we get Al and Bigby back and Cullen and Pick can play.. Nice to see we may eventually have unbelievable depth all around though!
 

PackersRS

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Great read.

Trgovac is the unsung hero of the position coaches. Thought that way last year, with the improvement in the run D, and with the personel he had (Jolly and Pickett were average to bad DTs in the 4-3), but the DL lacked explosion to collapse the pocket.

This season, we're seeing these guys really pressure the QB. Of course, much of that is CM3 (we saw when he wasn't active what happened), but the DL may be the best unit on a D that has CM3, Nick Collins and Charles Woodson...
 

DergaSmash

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As far as I know you can only have 45 men active from your 53 man roster for games, but I am not sure. As for the D, they are hanging tough. That defense gives superhuman efforts every game even though they are banged up or short on players. The Packer Offensive players better be buying all kinds of dinners and stuff for those guys because they have kept us in every game this year. Its very impressive.
 

PackersRS

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As far as I know you can only have 45 men active from your 53 man roster for games, but I am not sure. As for the D, they are hanging tough. That defense gives superhuman efforts every game even though they are banged up or short on players. The Packer Offensive players better be buying all kinds of dinners and stuff for those guys because they have kept us in every game this year. Its very impressive.
Correct on the 45.

And completely agree on the D. The O should be embarassed of themselves.
 

Forget Favre

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Good article, great post.

My favorite line: Favre had never been sacked by his former team until Wynn pulled him down with 1 minute 19 seconds left in the game.
 

DergaSmash

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Yeah, the O has to step it up for sure. Longer drives late in the game would make a huge difference. Otherwise some back to back scoring drives after the defense forced some punts is always good.
 

cantstop12to85

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Yea having our veteran players back for the Jets game is crucial, with them we have a much better chance to force turnovers and just play better all around on D (more chemistry and experience). Im excited to see them all in action if all goes well, should be a great game I think our offense is gonna end up being what makes or breaks us. Hopefully ARod shows up and comes up big on Sunday.
 

Murgen

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The more I see of C.J. Wilson on the field, the more I like the guy! He's gonna be a hell of a player for us. Mark my words.
 

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