Cory's Corner: Pressure's On Mike Pettine

I’ve said for a while that the Packers’ defensive talent hasn’t been good enough since 2010. That’s also the last time Green Bay has been ranked in the top 10 in either points or yards. 

Things changed in a hurry this offseason. The Packers got three, and maybe four, new defensive starters. Za’Darius Smith from the defensive end, Preston Smith from the outside linebacker and Adrian Amos at free safety. I also see rookie Darnell Savage, Jr. starting at strong safety because his lightning speed cannot be contained. 

Many have said that all that defensive depth means that more pressure is now on Aaron Rodgers. I disagree. Rodgers is expected to play at a very high level, but now all eyes are on defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. 

Last year, the Packers were tied for eighth in the NFL in sacks with 44 and that’s with Clay Matthews, the franchise leader in sacks, only registering 3½. Pettine somehow squeezed out 10½ sacks out of Kyler Fackrell. The reason that was so surprising was because his previous high water mark was three in his sophomore season of 2017.

If the Packers are going to win the NFC North for the first time since 2016, it will be up to Pettine. This defense is going to be very good and it’s going to be strongest on the back end. Amos and Savage, Jr. are the perfect complements to each other and shutdown corner Jaire Alexander will soon be called Alexander Island. He’s that good.

Now it all comes down to how quick Pettine can get to the passer. And judging from what we saw this past season, that shouldn’t that tough of a task right? 

But it isn’t that easy. The Packers had solid pressure last year and still were ranked 22ndin points. The reason was extended drives. The Packers gave up 79 third down conversions last year — tied for 18thand were ranked 26thby giving up 12 fourth downs. 

Pettine’s biggest job will be to get this unit off the field. Whether that means to take more chances on first and second down which could lead to more third and longs. Remember when Pettine got to Green Bay? Everyone thought that his aggressive exotic style that showed up as the Jets and Bills defensive coordinator, would show up with the Packers. However, Pettine’s blitz percentage was actually lower than Dom Capers last year. 

This secondary shouldn’t get exposed as much as it has in the past. (Putting LaDarius Gunter on Julio Jones in the NFC Championship Game immediately comes to mind.) And because of that, Pettine has an open door to take more risks. Even if opposing quarterbacks don’t get sacked, they will be forced to make less platform throws, which will allow the secondary to grab the interception. 

Rodgers makes everything go, but all the pressure remains on Pettine. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (68)

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

May 04, 2019 at 07:26 am

The pressure was on Pettine last year. This year, he is going to have fun dialing up exotic plays. Cant wait!

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Coldworld's picture

May 04, 2019 at 07:33 am

I think we all need to remember that this D is likely to take time to hit its stride. A lot of new parts and, at least in my expectations, a different look enabled by the new pieces.

If, under the somewhat sensationalized headline, the point is that by season end we will be able to see what Pettine has done with a credible roster as opposed to one filled with holes to start off with, then yes, I think that is fair.

As far as I see it, the roster ness he inherited, exacerbated by ridiculous injury luck, last year means that this is year zero. Pettine should be evaluated on what happens from this point.

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Gort's picture

May 04, 2019 at 07:28 am

Pressure with only the front 4 is a key. Really strong defenses use blitz packages sparingly. If you blitz too often, there is no surprise to the chess game.
Bugs Bunny called it stragedy.

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Coldworld's picture

May 04, 2019 at 07:37 am

True, however, I hope it will be better described as the ability to confuse and surprise to pressure while rushing 4 from within the front 7.

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Gort's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:46 am

The "front 4" does not necessarily mean the traditional 4 positions.
Could be any position, just rush 4 guys not 6 on every snap.

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The TKstinator's picture

May 04, 2019 at 07:40 am

It’s been fun y’all, but adios.

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Bearmeat's picture

May 04, 2019 at 07:57 am

Y U Leaving? :(

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Since'61's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:02 am

TK - where have you been lately and more importantly why adios? I hope that all is well. Thanks, Since ‘61

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:13 am

I hope your back, but if not good luck.

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Spock's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:20 am

TK, Say it isn't so. If you go this place will be no pun at all. :(

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dobber's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:26 am

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

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Gort's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:58 am

Say it ain't so, TK. say it ain't so!

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Jonathan Spader's picture

May 04, 2019 at 01:46 pm

TK's Packer CHTV stat line

4,378 comments
11,460 thumb ups
2,269 thumb downs

Gives TK an average of a little over 5 to 1. Making him one of the most beloved commentors in CHTV history. His 5 to 1 ratio of likeableness will be next to impossible to replace. The name The TKstinator will be retired by CHTV in his honor!

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

May 04, 2019 at 03:33 pm

He's been around a long time. Probably longer that me.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 05, 2019 at 01:42 am

I was going to give TK a dislike because I didn't like his message, but that didn't seem right. I'm sooo confused.

You will be sorely missed.

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Guam's picture

May 05, 2019 at 08:07 am

I hope all is well with you. Your levity and insightful comments will be missed on CHTV. Take care.

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Bearmeat's picture

May 04, 2019 at 07:45 am

When did LeTroy Guion match up on Julio Jones???

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Spock's picture

May 04, 2019 at 07:47 am

Bearmeat, I'm guessing he meant Gunter not Guion. :)

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Bearmeat's picture

May 04, 2019 at 07:54 am

That's what I was thinking. lol. That said, Gunter wasn't Capers fault. He's a CB4. That was TT's fault for sucking from 2011-2017.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:37 am

I personally wonder just how long TTs health issues have been going on.

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CoryJennerjohn's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:56 pm

My fault. Wrote it quite late. Good catch Bearmeat.

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Rak47's picture

May 04, 2019 at 09:41 pm

"The Packers gave up 79 third down conversions last year — tied for 18thand were ranked 26thby giving up 12 fourth downs. "
While this statement may very well be accurate it doesn't account for % of third downs given up. In 2017 Capers defense gave up 1st downs off of 3rd down at a 43% rate which was 30th overall in the league. Last year, lining up the same guys Capers essentially had, Pettines defense gave up 1st downs off of 3rd downs at a 37% rate which was tied for 10th in the league with four other teams. I'd say Pettine did a remarkable job all things considered.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 05, 2019 at 01:53 am

Yeah, maybe so. I looked for a conversion rate on first and second down without success. Something doesn't compute since the defense in terms of points allowed and/or yards allowed really didn't improve very much in terms of rankings and was worse in terms of raw numbers.

GB allowed 24 pts/gm (26th) in 2017 and 25 pts/gm (22nd) in 2018. So, the ranking improved a bit even though the raw number was worse. GB allowed 354 yds/gm (18th) in 2018 and 348 yds/gm (22nd) in 2017. It looks like the NFL might scoring more and gaining more yards, unless there is a hiccup in the data.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 06, 2019 at 11:55 am

So out of 100 third downs...about 6-8 games....Capers unit in 2017 gave up 6 more first downs than Pettine. Doesn’t really seem monumental to me.

Look at the defensive starters on Opening Day. Look at who was on the field in December.

Daniels, Clark, Wilkerson, Perry, King, Brice, Dix. Seven defensive starters gone. It’s a miracle that we ever stopped anybody.

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Spock's picture

May 04, 2019 at 07:46 am

Pettine said when he was introduced that he believes in "stopping the run" more than "stopping the pass" on early downs because runs can eat up more consistant yardage and make for easy third down yardage. With the "Big Uglies" he's now got in the middle I'm expecting to see a LOT more three and outs this year. What's exciting is the amount of sacks/pressures his defense got last year with, let's face it, not an overly talented bunch. I'm excited to see his defense with talent and MLF's offense this year! Go, Pack, Go!

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NickPerry's picture

May 05, 2019 at 05:12 am

Hey Spock... Wasn't it the other way around? Didn't he say the pass would get you down the field and beat a lot faster so he wanted on pass defense?

Either way I think this year the Packers will be much better equipped to stop both.

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Spock's picture

May 05, 2019 at 07:32 am

NP, Well, my memory is not getting any better, lol, and I think you're right and I got that mixed up. Now that I think about it the articles said Pettine was unusual in that he emphasized stopping the Pass over the Run because the Pass could hurt you faster and with longer yardage. Good catch, I totally blew that comment. :( Thanks for correcting me!

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Bearmeat's picture

May 04, 2019 at 07:53 am

And Corey, good coaching is a must. GB has mostly not had that on the defensive side of the ball since 2005 IMO. But bad coaches can look really good with great talent. Talent wins ballgames. Bad coaching loses them. But bad talent makes even good coaching irrelevant.

I think Pettine fell in that last category during the 18 season. Look at what he had to work with, even before the injury epidemic.

Gute knew he needed to get close to completing the defensive personnel overhaul. Now we get to see if Pettine is all that and a bag of chips.

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CAG123's picture

May 04, 2019 at 05:21 pm

2005...? They went 4-12 that year right?

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Leatherhead's picture

May 04, 2019 at 06:09 pm

Yeah, but the defense was better than average in quite a few categories. It was the 36 turnovers by ONE GUY that mostly accounted for the 12 losses.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 05, 2019 at 01:59 am

If you think the defensive assistant coaches were bad, then that's on MM and by extension, MM (Mark Murphy). Either way, it is the fault of MM. [Missing TK already!]

But I am not quite clear if that is what you meant.

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Bearmeat's picture

May 05, 2019 at 09:05 am

I do think Capers and the coaching staff staying past 2011 was MM's fault. But I also think that since 2012, the talent has largely stunk on defense at FS, CB (misused talent in that case) OLB certainly, NT until Clark... I mean... you can't do much with that.

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Since'61's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:28 am

I'm looking forward to watching this defense have some speed for once hopefully combined with some nasty attitude. Playing with reckless abandon has been missing for far too long. The time to play like tackling is legal is long overdue. Thanks, Since '61

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Coldworld's picture

May 04, 2019 at 09:23 am

It would be so nice to watch an attacking D that can put an offense in the back foot. D can be, should be, fun to watch! Not bend not break waiting for the oops.

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Since'61's picture

May 04, 2019 at 10:09 am

Exactly. It would be nice to have a defense that can get off the field before they give up a score. Thanks, Since ‘61

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:33 am

I'm hoping this wholesale change to the ~6'4" 280lbs body type is to fill exactly what Pettine is asking for. I expect it is. It's a relief to have a GM that seams to be listening to what the coaches need.

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Spock's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:42 am

"...seams to be listening..." So, you're saying this is a "seamless" transition between coach and GM? :)

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Lphill's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:48 am

I don’t think there’s anymore added pressure on Pettine, the defense is already improved it’s just a matter of knowing how to get the most out of it . Pettine I think has the ability to maximize their potential, getting third down stops was a problem , it shouldn’t be now , how great it will be to keep feeding the offense back the ball , Rodgers will take care of the rest.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

May 04, 2019 at 09:00 am

This line of thinking makes NO SENSE to me. MLF gets a pass because he's a 1st year HC and Rodgers gets a pass because it's his 1st year in a new system? Pettine has to succeed because his entire defensive starters except Daniels, Clark, Jackson, and Alexander changed?

If anything there's more consistency on the offensive side of the ball. Sure there's a new playbook but there was supposedly a "scrub brush" taken to the old one in 2018. Rookies trio of WRs have a year of experience in an NFL system. RB depth got added. OL had a high draft pick added, Madison returning, and Turner signed.

Rodger's contract means the pressure is on Rodgers. If MLF gets a pass than so should Pettine. Murphy made all these changes so the pressure is on him as well.

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Samson's picture

May 04, 2019 at 09:31 am

Five out of the first seven games are at home..... That would be the time for the "new D" to get up to speed.... No doubt the pressure will be on Pettine but also on the entire new regime. --- The "O" may have the most to gain from an improved defensive game.

I'm guessing that by season's end---- the Pack "D" will be top-ten. (It'll be poetry in motion)

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CoachJV's picture

May 04, 2019 at 09:24 am

I don't mean to throw a dead cat in the party room, but I am still not too confident in our back end. I feel a lot better at Safety, but we don't have much depth at Corner.
I know everyone love King, but we cannot depend on him to be on the field. He hasn't even played 16 games in two seasons. And since we lost Breeland, we are very thin before the season even starts.

I hope we can get to the passer faster and more often now to relieve the pressure on the back end.

We will see.

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PeteK's picture

May 04, 2019 at 10:30 am

Important season for King, Brown, Jones, and Jackson. Very difficult to predict who our nickel and dime backs will be.

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porupack's picture

May 04, 2019 at 01:07 pm

Coach, what would you have done different in the draft of FA, in light of the opportunity cost to do so? Get a FA CB instead of a Smith, or OL? Draft one higher instead of who?

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CoachJV's picture

May 04, 2019 at 02:25 pm

Great question!

I have a couple of things that I would've done differently. And thanks for asking.

My first choice, I would have given Billy Turners money to Breeland. He played in 7 games for us last year, had 2INT's and a pick 6. He's a proven ballhawk during his time with Washington. And he isn't afraid to tackle.

Then I would've traded back from 12 and pick an OL in the 1st instead of Gary. (I dig the Savage pick though, so that I would keep). And still picking up Jenkins in 2.

If FA worked out exactly the same, and I was only relying on the draft, I would've traded back and get Savage and try to pick up Greedy Williams while adding a few extra picks.

But hindsight is 20/20...

I hate to say it, but I think we might need to cut someone... maybe Crosby... to pick up a bit of space and sign a decent-to-good CB when one gets cast off soon.

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CoryJennerjohn's picture

May 04, 2019 at 08:59 pm

Completely fair to wonder this. One of the biggest question in all of the NFL is what can the Packers expect out of Kevin King? He's been marred by injuries but has looked like he can be a player in limited action. Tough to gauge.

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Rak47's picture

May 04, 2019 at 09:21 pm

Not resigning Breeland was a head scratcher for me, especially considering what he signed for in K.C. The Chiefs got a steal on a starting caliber CB.

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Coldworld's picture

May 05, 2019 at 07:07 am

I am a little bemused at the corner back fear. We are deep at corner in numbers and, it seems, in the opinion of the team in terms of talent. Brown looks like a find at DB, they are high on Jamerson. Redmond, if truly over his injury was pegged to be a shut down corner, that’s in addition to Alexander, Jackson, King. At safety you have now got Amos, Savage and Greene plus It is more likely that we see more cover backer. Williams will be around for depth at all secondary positions.

In my view, they believe in the talent already in camp. I tend to agree that it is a lot higher than it has been and goes a lot deeper. Right now we have eight CBs ( inc Williams and Hollman) and 3 safeties excluding Williams, Tray Matthews—whom I know little about other than that more of a box type—and Jones, whom I see as an ILB only. Nor am I including any UDFAs from this year.

Overall, I’m not seeing how Breeland helps in anything but the short term, at the cost of developing players mentioned above. Moreover, I’m not sure that an opportunity Breeland would have wanted. He used last year’s partial experience to leverage an opportunity to start to reestablish value as a true starter. He landed with a team that has a real opening. I’m sure that affected his price.

Given the above and the clear belief in the player group, I’m glad we didn’t throw FA money at it. Low return on $ in terms of improvement. We will see if the team’s assessment is right but the more one looks at it. The more bringing Breeland back doesn’t look like an optimal move for either side or the future from my perspective.

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Wilment's picture

May 04, 2019 at 09:27 am

Pressure is on everyone this year....two straight sub five hundred losing seasons, two straight years missing the playoffs....last year Pettine gets a mulligan because, lets face it, by years end we had guys playing on D that had been cut from 7-11's practice squad. This year, motivated free agents, our own healthy quality vets, and hopefully some contributions from some of the rookies should push this D group into the top ten this year, and if that happens, turnovers will be created, and Rodgers and Co. will be working on shorter fields again to put up points. Im pretty excited to see this come together. GOPACKGO!

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Montana's picture

May 04, 2019 at 09:41 am

"I’ve said for a while that the Packers’ defensive talent hasn’t been good enough since 2010. That’s also the last time Green Bay has been ranked in the top 10 in either points or yards."

Cory...... I've been beating this drum since 2010. I am optimistic about the defensive potential this year and believe we are at least on the right path to a top ten defense.

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porupack's picture

May 04, 2019 at 01:18 pm

It still is one of those 'who gets the greatest share of the blame'; coach or GM?

I lost faith in coach well before I did in TT, since guys just often weren't prepared for big games, perhaps most games; missing assignments, choking on 4th and 26, or the Seattle meltdown etc. Yielding a 4th and 26 is not a talent issue, it is a coaching issue.
Then...somewhere around 2016, I agree, that talent wasn't sufficient to compensate for other deficiencies in coach and injury bug.

But one lingering question
if Pettine was so successful in getting 10.5 sacks out of Fackrell, how come he didn't get more sacks out of Matthews?

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Jonathan Spader's picture

May 04, 2019 at 01:49 pm

Penalties took away 2-3 sacks from CM3. Then the fear of being penalized contributed to how CM3 played. Daniel's hugged the QB and let him go to avoid a penalty. CM3 is also older and has had a history of leg injuries. He still got pressure and tried hard and helped open some of those lanes for the faster Sackrel.

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Coldworld's picture

May 05, 2019 at 07:13 am

Matthews was used differently. Fackrell got essentially the same number of sacks as pressures. Matthews was used more traditionally. It was all part of scheming.

Who cares who gets the sacks anyway? What matters is that the team gets sacks (and hopefully a lot more pressures).

If one player causes opportunity through disruption or draws coverage from others (from which Fackrell benefitted greatly) and the team has a sack fest then we should all be laughing. Sacks are a team achievement most of the time these days and that has been an inherent principle of Pettine Ds.

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LambeauPlain's picture

May 04, 2019 at 10:50 am

When Pettine arrived last year he said his D would focus heavily on 3rd down, red zone and goal line situations in practice. While he said 1st and 2nd down are important, the other 3 situations are far more impactful to winning games.

What Pettine lacked last year was more top shelf starting talent, quality depth and keeping his studs on the field.

The lack of these three needs resulting in the lousy 3rd down stats. But part of that was due to the O having too many three and outs and putting the D back on the field. By games end, the D was gassed.

If the O can stay on the field for more long clock chewing scoring drives...that helps the D too.

But so will the talent infusion...especially in the front 7 and at Safety.

Pettine now has more starting talent, quality depth is looking a lot better, and let’s hope the injury bug has been exterminated.

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Rak47's picture

May 04, 2019 at 09:32 pm

"The lack of these three needs resulting in the lousy 3rd down stats."
You say lousy third down stats but it's all relative. I remember thinking all last year, 'finally a defense that can get off the field on third down". The reason I remember thinking that was because they ranked 30th, nearly dead last the year before in 3rd down %. While Pettine didn't have enough talent to work with last year his defense still showed marked improvement from Capers defense the year before.

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CheesyTex's picture

May 04, 2019 at 10:52 am

Hope springs eternal, especially in May.

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Gman1976's picture

May 04, 2019 at 11:06 am

Pressure on Pettine?
No, the Pressure is going to be on Opposing Offenses!!!

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Leatherhead's picture

May 04, 2019 at 11:28 am

Our secondary is pretty thin, we have nothing at ILB other than Martinez, and a few injuries could easily turn this into a mediocre unit.

On paper, there’s reason for optimism, but we do not play games on paper.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

May 04, 2019 at 12:25 pm

Take it you're not a fan of dungeons and dragons Old School. ~~~~~~~~

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Leatherhead's picture

May 04, 2019 at 03:05 pm

Never played it. But every summer I’d look at what I thought my team could be if nobody got hurt or became academically ineligible, and now I see the Packers the same way.

A team, like a chain, is as strong as the weakest link. I like our starters at every position on both sides of the ball, but a few injuries at the wrong positions could torpedo this season.

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Coldworld's picture

May 05, 2019 at 07:18 am

Old School, I do not agree with your statement as to depth at DB and I think the team firstly believes in Burks and secondly that you will not see ILB usage in the same way as you have in the past, particularly after the recent draft.

Times are a changing. That may not prove to be successful but, equally, one has to assess from the perspective of the present.

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Leatherhead's picture

May 05, 2019 at 09:27 am

Ok....our starters at safety are Savage and Amos. Who’s next? Josh Jones.

At CB, we start Alexander and King, and Jackson comes in on the nickel. First injury puts Tramon on the field. Second injury?

At ILB, we use two in the base. Martinez and ??? If Martinez is injured? Burks is more of a coverage backer than a run plugger.

That’s my perspective of the present.

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LambeauPlain's picture

May 04, 2019 at 12:27 pm

I would not be surprised if Pettine moved JJ to full time ILB now that Savage and Amos are in the fold.

Josh is 6’2” and 220....he could easily add 10-15 lbs and still have his speed and tackling and coverage on TEs alongside Martinez.

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Coldworld's picture

May 05, 2019 at 07:23 am

it’s the only way the roster balance works and the only hope Jones has of succeeding in my view. If we opt to put two Conventional ILB formations on the field I expect it to be Martinez backed up by Summers/Carpenter and Burks/Jones competing for the other.

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NickPerry's picture

May 04, 2019 at 12:36 pm

Sorry David but I just don't think Pettine is under that much pressure. Matter of fact I think it's this defense who carries this team the first half of the season until the offense really starts humming.

Alexander will be better and I think a of season of watching tape on himself and training will only make Josh Jackson that much better. I also really like Tony Brown. Outside those 2 stupid plays he made when he first started playing, Brown showed some real talent. With a healthy King (fingers crossed), Alexander, Brown, and even Hollman the Packers have some VERY fast CB's where Jackson doesn't need to be the fastest but he does have to be SMART which I think he can be. Plus we still have Tramon back there like a 2nd coach. Williams is a damn smart CB who can only help these youngsters.

Where this defense will be different than ANY defense we've seen here in years is the sheer number of pass rushers they can throw at you for 60 minutes. Whether it's at OLB standing up or on the DL, the Packers finally have a GROUP of guys in the front 7 who can get after the CB. With all those options Pettine will be like a mad scientist with his schemes... This season will be fun to watch. Hell with a new man in charge of strength and conditioning they might even stay somewhat healthy too!

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Johnblood27's picture

May 04, 2019 at 01:18 pm

If either side of the ball is "gassed" in the 4th Q, I recommend a LOT MORE up-downs starting in July.

These are supposed to be world class athletes. Train for a 75 minute game, then excel at the 60 minute ones.

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porupack's picture

May 04, 2019 at 02:11 pm

I tend to agree a bit with Cory; if the D does not address the issues of yielding 3rd and 4th down conversions in particular, he will face pressure.

Yes, Pettine gets a 'sliding grade' in 2018. But for 2019, with 2 offseasons focused on D and clear that the FAs and draft picks were to fit Pettine's schemes and style of play. No excuses now.

MLF and OC absolutely gets no excuses either; not with the talent of Rodgers, DAdams, Bahk, Bulaga, Lindsley, a pair of RBs, and proven (even if declining TE pair), and then talented year 2 trio of WRs, and a decent offseason acquisitions; BTurner and CMadison and EJenkins included. No excuses on Offense. MLF should know very well when he accepted the job that there was a lot of pressure. He was brought in with one clear mandate to overhaul scheme and preparation and turn this around.

No pressure on Rodgers? Well, yeah...kind of him too after the breakup with MM, eyes are watching to see some bump up in performance. No excuses that WRs aren't running the routes. He better sense pressure.

Only ones that should not feel pressure are those that weren't re-signed this year, or those who agreed to work for a stipend.

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sam1's picture

May 05, 2019 at 07:26 am

Know will get thumbs down but sure seems like a lot of optimism for n unproved product who have yet even practiced together as well as brought together as a final result yet! Who even knows how many will be not injured and make it through practice?

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

May 05, 2019 at 08:14 am

Why is there pressure on Pentine? Capers was defensive Coordinator for 8 years. Pentine did good last year and now there is pressure on him. Good Grief. He has a lot of young player s on Defense.

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