Packers’ rush defense determined


Dec 15, 2004
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Lambeau Midwest
Packers’ rush defense determined to put boot on ‘Cadillac’

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Posted: Sept. 22, 2005

Green Bay - There's usually not a lot of good news out of a 0-2 start, but here's one surprise among the gloom and doom:

The Green Bay defense has allowed 157 total rushing yards, in two games against Detroit and Cleveland. Only six other teams have allowed fewer yards.

It's obviously way too early to tell if the Packers will hold up in this area, but they agree that another major test is right around the corner, even if he is just a newcomer to the National Football League.

Carnell "Cadillac" Williams, Tampa Bay's first-round draft pick out of Auburn, leads the NFL with 276 yards.

That he ranks ahead of Willie Parker, Shaun Alexander and Edgerrin James and everyone else has generated enough buzz already, but the 5-foot-11, 217-pound back wasn't going to sneak up on the Packers anyway after they watched game films. Williams has already earned the respect of the Packers' four defensive tackles whose mission on Sunday will be to clog up the middle and halt the Buccaneers' run game, which starts with Williams.

"For a rookie, he is very explosive," defensive tackle Colin Cole said. "Some guys are more cutback guys, some guys are more downhill guys, some guys just flashers, but he brings all that to the table. He's a pretty good back and he'll get better as he gets older.

"At the same time, there's nothing so special about him that we can't contain him. He's not the second coming."

It could be a good matchup for both sides, however.

The Packers' defense has given up an average of 2.9 yards per carry; Williams averages 5.4 per carry.

The Packers have yet to give up a rushing touchdown; Williams has two.

The longest rushes the Packers have allowed are an 8-yard run to a running back and a 15-yarder to a quarterback. Williams has a 71-yard run, which he got in his 27th carry, late in the game against Minnesota in Week 1.

"Obviously, he has great ability," Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said. "I think what really makes this guy special is his competitiveness and his intense stamina. He has got great conditioning and he seems to get stronger as the game goes on. That's rare in most young players, particularly rookies."

Packers defensive tackle Corey Williams had to agree.

"He's everything they say he is," he said. "He runs with power, he can juke you, he can do all types of things. Everything you could ask a running back to do, he could do, basically."

The Packers' plan to defend this young phenomenon is three-fold. First, they are confident with the scheme they have worked on since training camp started. They plan to build on what has worked against Detroit and Cleveland.

Second, the Packers will to continue to divide the time among the four defensive tackles to keep everyone rested.

Third, they're going to try to keep middle linebacker Nick Barnett free so he can make plays.

On the first point, Cole said there was no reason to tinker with what is working so well.

"We look at Tampa Bay's rush offense and they really haven't been doing a whole lot to expose people," Cole said. "It's just shifting, stuff like that. When they played Minnesota, Minnesota pretty much had them in check except for two long runs, which put them over 100 yards.

"So, we're going to take our same approach, play our defense. There's no magic potion. We're not really going with anything different. We put in a couple new blitzes, but other than that there's nothing in this game plan that hasn't been in any other game plan."

Part of that plan is to find rest for the defensive tackles. Grady Jackson and Cullen Jenkins are the starters, playing half of the defensive plays in a game. Cole and Williams play the other half. They all seem to be fine with the fact that they rotate in and out constantly throughout the game.

It's not a package deal, either, where the pairs only play together.

"We stay strong and fresh in the middle so there's nobody getting blown off the ball from being tired," Cole said.

Finally, the tackles have to play within the scheme so that Barnett, playing behind them, is free to make a tackle in the open field.

"(Jackson, Jenkins, Cole and Corey Williams) direct blockers instead of throwing blockers up to me," Barnett said. "They don't let blockers come up to me. If they were to swim and shoot the gaps, the blockers could come straight up to me, and I wouldn't be able to run."

Barnett said the defensive tackles had fulfilled their roles, which is why the running defense has been so successful.

Jackson is especially critical to this part of the run defense. He still soaks up two blockers all on his own. The nine-year veteran also helps the younger Cole, Williams and Jenkins.

"He's real good on holding the double teams," Williams said. "We have to learn that. I still have to go to him now and then and ask, 'If I get this kind of block, what techniques do you use?' "

One thing Jenkins said was the key when facing Carnell Williams was to finish the tackle.

"He doesn't give up; he's always trying to fight through extra yards," Jenkins said. "So you've really got to make sure you get him down."

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