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Dom Capers Hot Seat Watch: First Quarterly Report

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Dom Capers' seat is currently: Comfortably Warm

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Before the Green Bay Packers even began the 2014 regular season, all eyes were on the defense.

The previous three seasons all saw disappointing results from the Dom Capers-led unit and last season was particularly troubling given all the new talent general manager Ted Thompson infused on that side of the ball via the draft.

The defense, like the rest of the team, was decimated by injuries but that didn't stop fans from calling once again for Capers to be fired after Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers once again had their way with Green Bay in last year's wild card game and sent the Packers home early.

This offseason, Thompson stepped outside his comfort zone and brought in defensive end Julius Peppers via free agency to help shore up the Packers' pass rush and take some pressure off of Clay Matthews in carrying the load.  Thompson then drafted Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round of the NFL Draft to strengthen the weakest position on the Green Bay defense.

It seemed like there were no more excuses for Capers and his staff.  Thompson had restocked the cupboards with new talent and if the defense wasn't improved, then the Packers would be looking for a new defensive coordinator since Capers took over for Bob Sanders in 2009.

The "Capers Hot Seat Watch" is going to be a season-long discussion amongst fans so with one quarter of the 2014 season complete, what is the current temperature on the seat upon which Capers sits?

"Comfortably warm" about covers it.

The defense has had its ups and downs, particularly in the run defense, but has shown enough that the "Fire Capers!" crowd has been quieted a bit.

The Packers defense was shredded by the Seahawks in Week 1.  In a game in which they knew the offense would have trouble scoring points against a stellar Seattle defense, Green Bay was absolutely manhandled all over the field as they gave up 398 yards.  Worse yet, it was yet another read-option quarterback in Russell Wilson that the Packers could not stop.

The putrid defensive play carried over into the first half of the next game at home against the New York Jets.  Green Bay fell behind 21-3 before the offense finally came to life and the defense only gave up three points in the second half of the 31-24 win.  The defense again gave up 390 yards but the second half showed some hope that the unit had turned the corner.

Week 3 saw the Bizarro Packers as the offense struggled against a weak Detroit Lions secondary but the defense shut down the potent Detroit offense.  They gave up 353 yards but kept the Lions out of the end zone until the fourth quarter.  Seeing the defense string together a full game was again a promising sign.

Then came Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears.  The defense stalled out of the gate (especially in run defense) as the teams matched each other point for point in the first half and the Packers led 21-17 at halftime.  Much like the Jets game, the defense was much improved in the second half and this time pitched a shutout as the Packers rolled to a 38-17 victory.

So what makes Capers' seat "comfortably warm" at this point in the season?

Let's start with the good news.  The secondary appears much improved with competent safety play from Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett.  Clinton-Dix against Detroit had the first interception by a Packers safety since December of 2012.  He also appears to have helped elevate Burnett's play which is a welcome sign after his 2013 season alongside M.D. Jennings.

The pass rush also seems to be improved thanks to the addition of Peppers.  Matthews is being moved all over the field and his interception of Cutler was one of his best plays in awhile.  The pass rush isn't always getting home, but the additional pressure will help create turnover opportunities the improved secondary is more than willing to take advantage of.

Now comes the bad news.  The defense is continued to be plagued by inconsistency.  The games against the Jets and the Bears are great examples of that.  How can the unit look so bad in one half and then look so good in the next? Capers is at least making the proper adjustments in the locker room and as the game goes on, but would it be so much to ask for a complete game out of the defense? (see: the Lions game).

Oh and the Packers' run defense? It's currently dead last in the NFL.  This has as much to do with missing B.J. Raji as it does the poor play of Letroy Guion.  To be fair, facing Marshawn Lynch, Reggie Bush and Matt Forte in three of the first four games isn't an ideal way to break in a new nose tackle.  There is nowhere else to go but up and they really have no choice but to get better here as temperatures drop.  They don't really face a big rushing threat aside from Bush and Forte again, so hopefully this stat will improve as the season goes on.

Then there is the poor tackling.  The players are often in position to make a play yet can't seem to bring the ball carrier to the ground.  This can't all be on the coaches. Sometimes the players just have to execute and they haven't been at times this year.

The other concern regarding the defense is they continue to struggle against the read-option.  They were destroyed by the Seahawks and the Jets occasionally used Geno Smith in some option plays as well.  Packers head coach Mike McCarthy sent his defensive staff to Texas A&M after the 2012 season to study the read-option but nothing seems to have clicked.  If the Packers have to play the Seahawks or 49ers in the playoffs, it will real tough for them to advance given what they have shown the past couple seasons.

If a letter grade were to be assigned to Capers' performance, it'd have to be a C+.  It's not been the best start to the season, but the issues facing the Green Bay defense are currently not worth firing a coordinator over.  That could change if the defense collapses down the stretch again, but  after a four game sample size the defense is better in some areas but has to improve in others.

We'll check in after each quarter mark of the season to see if Capers' seat has gotten warmer or colder, but right now it's warm but comfortable.

Will his seat get hotter as the calendar gets colder?

Stay tuned.