The Packers' shift from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4 reminds me of a comment made when Lindy Infante was in charge of the Green and Gold.
Infante was an offensive guru who liked to create “space” between players on the field. He also had a running back who was pretty good at carrying the rock, but not very good at catching it in Brent Fullwood.
After many struggles, Infante was asked about Fullwood fitting into a pass-oriented offense. The coach's response? “It's like fitting a square peg into a round hole.”
And that would seem to apply a bit to the Packers' switch to the 3-4 defense under new coordinator Dom Capers, which begins in earnest this week with organized team activities. Not as a whole, but in particular with one of their top players, Aaron Kampman. The one-time fifth-round draft pick has blossomed into one of the Packers' top defenders, but that was from defensive end, where he could use his speed to get past bulky offensive tackles.
In the new scheme, Kampman's primary position will be left outside linebacker (essentially, the strongside, lining up near the opposing right tackle). He will still rush the passer, but will often do so from a different angle and stance. Kampan, however, will have more pass-coverage responsibilities, too. He is perhaps the most important player in this transition. At 265 pounds, he is light enough to handle the move.
With the additions of lineman B.J. Raji and linebacker Clay Matthews in the first round of this year's draft, the Capers and the Packers have plenty of depth to make this switch work. In fact, Raji's strength and quickness could even mean he moves to an end position (over Johnny Jolly or Cullen Jenkins) instead of nose tackle. Matthews can already be penciled in at the right (weakside) outside linebacker as Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk will man the inside linebacker spots.
Sure, there are questions about how cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson will respond to playing off the line of scrimmage and how safeties Atari Bigby and Nick Collins adjust. But it all comes down to Aaron Kampman's ability to transform into a pass-rushing linebacker (luckily, his position coach is Kevin Greene).
Will Kampman be a round peg or a square one?
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Written by Steve Drumwright