Dom Capers will control our defense. I'm happy McCarthy brought in a big name. He should be a significant upgrade over Bob Sanders, but he'll need players - in abundance. If we think that we have the arsenal to play a 3-4, we're fooling ourselves.
It should be noted that I wanted Gregg Williams. He says that he chose New Orleans over Green Bay. That tells me that either we didn't offer him enough money, he was not confident in McCarthy's plan or Green Bay is simply not an attractive place for an Assistant Coach to plan his future. All could be possible.
I have not seen the contract for both Williams and Capers. Clearly, Williams was McCarthy's first choice. He would have been mine as well. In his past, Williams has done a lot with a little. Capers has been the architect of some stellar defenses. He's also had terrific LB's when his defenses have been at the top of the NFL. He's pressured the QB. When he has not had an extraordinary front 7, it could be argued that Capers has failed. With our current roster, Capers will mightily struggle. With Carolina, he had Sam Mills, Lamar Lathon and Kevin Greene. With Pittsburgh, he had Levon Kirkland, Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene. He was wise to take Greene with him to Carolina. If I can recite this from memory 12-15 years after the fact, you know these defenders could play. I believe that all were Pro Bowlers at one stage of their career.
It'll be interesting to watch both the Saints and the Packers defenses this year. McCarthy vs. Payton. Capers vs. Williams.
Clearly, Capers has what it takes to bring our defense to an elite status. But, in order to to this, the Packers have to make investments via FA and the Draft. This investment has to be made in our Front 7. Capers needs his Kevin Greene. In fact, it'd be great to bring a guy like Kevin Greene into our program to partner alongside Capers. Sure, Greene does not have coaching experience, but he was a master in Capers system. And our organization could use his toughness.
Capers also needs his Sam Mills/Levon Kirkland. Both were tremendous in the middle of Capers' defense. They flourished in Capers defense. They pressured the QB. They stopped the run. They attacked the line of scrimmage and covered the field from sideline to sideline. They filled passing lanes. Our LB's have failed in each of this criteria.
Ted Thompson has some major decisions to make during this offseason. Does AK-74 fit in a 3-4? What about Cullen Jenkins? Ryan Pickett? Johnny Jolly? In a 3-4, is Colin Cole worth minimum wage? If McCarthy fails in '09, the media will be calling for both his and Thompson's head. While I disagree with this notion, '09 must be a success. In order for it to be, we need to focus on building a defense. And this starts in FA.
Terrell Suggs is a terrific 3-4 DE/OLB. He gets to the QB. He'd be one of the solutions to our most pressing problem. We were miserable at rushing the passer. I doubt that the Ravens will apply the franchise tag to Suggs as other valuable Ravens, such as Ray Lewis, are FA's. Although, I suppose, it depends on what happens between today and February 27th.
Obviously, I'd be stoked to see Peppers as a Packer. But, I would not give up the #9 pick to get him. A Franchise tag on Peppers would rule out my desire to bring him in.
If Karlos Dansby is not tagged, I'd aggressively pursue him. He can do it all. And would be a guy that our Front 7 could build around.
I'd also be excited to make a run at Thomas Howard. Two years ago, Howard had 6 picks. He also had 11 passes defensed. He finds the football. He plays sideline-to-sideline. He can play on the inside in a 3-4. He'd start immediately. He can be had at a reasonable cost.
Bart Scott is a proven commodity in a 3-4 defense. Can he play without Suggs and Ray Lewis on the same front? I'm not positive. But, I'd talk to him.
When healthy, Leroy Hill has also been a legitimate playmaker, but I'm not certain that he'd transition to a 3-4.
It's also worth talking to Michael Boley and Angelo Crowell.
I'd also bring in Mike Peterson for a visit. I'd see if he's still serious about playing football. Does he still have the legs? We know he'd bring the attitude and the physical presence. But, does he still have what it takes to be a premier NFL LB? If I'm not positive about it, I would not bring him in.
Also, at S, I'd love to complete the secondary with Oshiomogho Atogwe. He's a ball hawk. Plays the ball well in the air. He's looking for the strip when making the tackle. He'll come up and stop the ball carrier.
While I'd love Suggs, I'd be absolutely stoked with an offseason that would bring in Dansby and Atogwe. If Dansby is tagged, I'd be totally satisfied with an offseason that brought in Atogwe and Howard. Spend the money, Ted Thompson.
A quick updated look at the Mock Draft now shows:
1.) Michael Johnson. When I think 3-4, I think of guys like Kevin Greene, Greg Lloyd, Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips, James Harrison, DeMarcus Ware, Adalius Thomas, Willie McGinest, and Mike Vrabel. All these guys have the ability to rush the passer. They all could drop in coverage. They all are above average against the run. While Johnson is occasionally run over, I believe he has the physique in which he will put on upper body strength. Sure, the draft is 3 months away, but at this stage, Johnson is my overwhelming favorite to be our pick at #9. I'm interested to see how he performs at the combine, but if he performs like I think he will, he could be the guy that you build a defense around. But, again, since the draft is still 3 months away, I do reserve the right to change this pick as the draft nears. I will say that we cannot afford a bust at this pick and Johnson can disappear.
I'm also high on BJ Raji as there does not seem to be as much depth at the DT position once you drop below the 2nd round. Clearly, we need a steadying force to clog the middle Raji might be that guy. For as much as you need dominant edge rushers in the 3-4, you also need your Haloti Ngata. Raji would fit that role.
2.) Larry English, DE/OLB, Northern Illinois. Kevin Greene had Greg Lloyd. Then, he had Lamar Lathon. Shawne Merriman has Shaun Phillips. Harrison has Woodley. Suggs had Adalius Thomas during his best years. Joey Porter had Jason Gildon. DeMarcus Ware has Greg Ellis. People might not notice, but Ellis has over 20 sacks combined over the last 2 years.
As for English, I have not watched him play in a game. I've listened to the NFL Network's talking heads glow about him. I've seen him in pads. I watched him in some drills. He looks like the real deal. And his stats are outrageous. Can he drop in coverage?
I'd also consider Clay Matthews at this spot. It's in his genes.
3a) Sean Smith, CB, Utah. Saw him once. Was totally buzzed. But, he fully caught my eye. Grabbed my attention. I watched the game without volume, but everytime I looked at the TV screen, I felt that #4 was making plays. Big. Fast. Nose for the ball. This might be a little late for him as he could be a 2nd rounder.
3b.) Zach Follett, LB, Cal. This offseason is about getting the QB. Becoming a nasty defense. This guy punishes. Zach Follett will make plays at the next level. Follett, too, might be drafted before this when draft time arrives.
4.) Myron Pryor, DT, Kentucky. If Raji is not the pick in Round 1, I'd be excited to see him drafted in the middle rounds.
5.)Asher Allen, CB, Georgia. Pimp with a limp. I love his game. He'd be a potential steal at this spot. He's a bit small, but he makes up for it in heart. And he's got all the confidence in the world. I cannot believe that he's listed as being this low, but from what I see, he's not rated very high.
Interesting to note - for those that follow the blog - Bradley Fletcher is now listed as the #18 CB in the draft.
6a.) Phillip Hunt, DE/LB, Houston. I watched him in the East-West Shrine Game and I was not as impressed with him as I was when I first watched him. Nonetheless, his stats earn him street cred and the memory of his Bowl game continues to last in my mind. Again, I'll be interested to follow where he's projected come draft time.
6b.)Keith Fitzhugh, S, Mississippi St. Plays with attitude, totally intense. A mean competitor. Sometimes, he comes across as a punk. But, the guy believes in himself. And when he hits you, you feel it. Overshadowed on the field, at times, by his S mate, Derek Pegues. From what I saw, I thought he played well in the East-West Shrine Game. He's worth a look.
7.) Terrill Byrd, DT, Cincy. Everytime I watched him, he performed. He made a lasting impression. Sure, he's undersized. Still, he's slippery and might be a good inside rusher on passing downs.
Spend the $$$. Build a defense.