It’s become almost a running gag on Twitter if you follow along during Green Bay Packers games.
It’s a hashtag guaranteed to come out at least once, if not multiple times depending on the performance of the defense.
This is of course, #FireDomCapers.
That hashtag has been used so many times from 2012 onward, it’s almost become a tradition. The difference is that the past three years, it’s been used with deadly serious intent behind it. The Packers struggled often on defense and that has led to a decent size of their passionate fan base to call for the removal of Dom Capers, Green Bay’s oft-embattled defensive coordinator.
#FireDomCapers has returned for the 2015 season, except for one caveat—it’s now a term of endearment. The sudden resurgence of the Packers’ defense has left fans previously calling for Capers’ ouster speechless and even perhaps applauding the return of his unit to a top ten standing in the NFL.
Indeed it is time to give Capers some credit for what he has done with the Green Bay defense. The 2015 season is only 25% complete, but the improvement on the defensive side of the ball has been noticeable. The unit is no longer a liability and the offense is no longer relied on to score 30+ points a game to increase Green Bay’s chances of victory.
Capers took a lot of blame when things were not going right, so logically speaking he should get a lot of credit when things are going well. His scheme is sound. Players are in the right positions to make plays. Capers deserves praise for that.
So what is behind the return of the dominant Green Bay defense?
Capers finally has the same players each week. The unit has not been beleaguered by injuries as it has in the past and that has helped the defensive coordinator put together more consistent game plans. Capers over the years has constantly had to move players around when injuries would occur and it’s hard to put together a solid game plan week to week when you almost have a revolving door of players at some positions.
Another reason is that Capers has been moving his best pass rusher, Clay Matthews, all over the field. Some of this has been by necessity since the Packers continue to lack a true talented inside linebacker, but it’s also a brilliant strategy move. By putting Matthews all over the place, opposing offenses have to look and account for Matthews on every snap. By not keeping him in one spot, this could cause the offense to adjust on the fly and play right into the defense’s hands.
While Matthews has been inside quite a bit this season, he has still been as effective as when he strictly was an outside linebacker. Matthews was probably not too keen on learning the inside job, but now he seems like a natural and is enjoying it. That’s a credit to Capers and his staff.
Speaking of the pass rush, that has been crucial to the defense’s success thus far. The team is no longer solely relying on Matthews to bring the heat on opposing quarterbacks. With Mike Daniels leading the charge along the defensive line, multiple Packers are getting shots at the quarterback. Look at the game against the 49ers. Nick Perry (x2), Jayrone Elliott, Mike Neal and even B.J. Raji got sacks of Colin Kaepernick.
Capers has never been afraid to call the heat when it comes to blitzing, but with the way the defensive line has been performing so far he should have no issues getting creative in sending different players at different times to stymie quarterbacks.
It’s a long season, but the defense is well on its way to making amends for its lackluster performances the past four seasons. They are much more aggressive and willing to get physical. The trash talk after the play shows a swagger has returned to the unit and that extra fire might just have been what the defense needed to get back on course. (For the record, Kaepernick is indeed no Russell Wilson).
The 2015 season has gotten off to a great start for Capers. His challenge now is to, as head coach Mike McCarthy would say, "stack success" and continue to keep the defense moving forward.
If he can continue the pace the defense is it at, it might be time for a new hashtag.
Instead of #FireDomCapers, maybe it’s time to #ToastDomCapers. (You know, like the toast at a wedding. Not toasting him like setting him ablaze).