Packers Talkback: Assessing future of Capers, Dietrich-Smith

Jan. 24, 2014
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. File/USA Today
Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. File/USA Today

Keep those cards, letters, emails and tweets coming. I love your feedback and enjoy sharing it with the rest of our readership. I don't always agree and will say so, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate your input.

My column on why the Packers should keep defensive coordinator Dom Capers ( is still generating reaction, as well as my piece on which players the Packers should keep in free agency and which should be sent packing (

Don Myers

Capers will never lead us to another Superbowl ... his lack of performance on coaching basic fundamentals hasn't improved 1 iota or changed in 3 seasons ... he sits up in his ivory tower while his defense continues to embarrass the fans meanwhile our quality players continue to age ... open you eyes for God's sakes Lombardi would have put him on a train 2 years ago!

My response

My eyes are wide open, and I obviously see a much different picture than you do when it comes to Capers. So what youíre saying is that Capers, who helped the Packers win a Super Bowl title a mere three years ago, has at some point in the last 36 months lost it? That he woke up one morning and no longer knew how to run a defense? You might be selling that line of thought, but Iím not buying.

Capers in my mind is just as capable now as he was three years ago, when lo and behold, he had a few more playmakers to work with on defense. Besides Clay Matthews, the Packers boasted Charles Woodson and Nick Collins as bona fide difference makers on their Super Bowl winning team. I maintain that if you have two or three of those type of players, and no major holes at other starting positions, your defense can function at a high level.

What the Packers defense featured this season was no Woodson and no Collins, and no Matthews for a good chunk of the season. Morgan Burnett and A.J. Hawk were serviceable, but they had no running mates at their respective positions to lean on. Those holes forced Capers to get by with subpar talent, but you can only cover those deficiencies for so long before it catches up to you.

I am not suggesting that Capers should be immune to criticism. Capers has to find a way to get more out of the available talent. But the bulk of the blame for the defensive shortcomings has to fall on Ted Thompson and his inability to supply enough talent.


Mike, enjoyed your article this morning. Thanks.

One angle I have not seen detailed to date, and maybe itís because Iím an idiot, is regarding the situation at center. Quite honestly, Iím not so sure the Packers need to re-sign EDS. True, he knows the offense and has experience, but he is also a bit under-sized and arguably the worst run blocker along the line. Certainly he is the weak link of the 3 interior line positions.

Yes, it may be risky going into 2014 with all hopes resting on an unproven JC Tretter. I also believe the last several weeks of the season were very much an audition for Tretter, allowing MM/TT to better scheme their plans for the 2014 version of the offensive line. It would not be a huge surprise to see Tretter lining up at center on opening day, especially since there are so many other holes on the roster to fill.

However, aside from Tretter there other players under contract who could be viable contenders at center.

From worst to first I start with Garth Gerhart. Undersized and unproven but under contract for 2014 to compete for a roster spot, right? If he were just a camp body, well, weíve already seen him and it would make more sense to find a new camp body from the latest batch of soon-to-be college free agents.

At the onset of last season, one player who looked as though he could make a jump was Greg Van Roten. He has a little better size than EDS and was possibly on his way to becoming at least a consistent ďgame day activeĒ at center/guard in 2013 before injury derailed him. I understand he probably gets cut if Tretter were available last season and he may have a difficult time landing a spot on the 2014 roster.

With the hoped for return of Bulaga and Sherrod in 2014 a couple other possibilities may open up at center. Remote perhaps, but possibilities nonetheless.

At points during the past season, Don Barclay was taking practice snaps at center. Whether he was viewed as an emergency replacement only or a viable center is hard to say, but Barclay has certainly proven he belongs. He has good size, whistle to whistle nastiness and 2 seasons of experience in the offense. If Bulaga is able to snatch a starting tackle spot, center could be Barclayís new home.

Lastly, what about (insert drum roll here) TJ Lang? Size? Yes. Knowledge of the offense? Yes. Experience? Yes. Again, if Bulaga reclaims his right tackle spot, perhaps Barclay moves to right guard, freeing up Lang to move to center. We then have Tretter as a backup center/guard and Sherrod as the primary backup at tackle.

One more angle possibly tied to the center position may be re-signing John Kuhn. His importance to the team seemingly increases if the Packers go with an inexperienced center in 2014. Then again, if EDS remains the weak link in the starting front five, Kuhn still has valuable, making line calls and cleaning up after whiffed blocks.

Ehhh, just one idiotís thoughts as we head into the darkness of the NFL off-season ...

My response

You make some interesting points, and I wouldnít completely put it past the Packers to let Evan Dietrich-Smith walk.

But if they do that, the Packers risk having an unproven commodity at an important position and allowing the offense to slip back in production. I put EDS on the keeper list because I believe it would be a mistake to mess with an offense that ranked No. 3 in the entire NFL despite the loss of Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb for major chunks of time last season.

I thought the line formed a cohesive unit and performed relatively well, as evidenced by a rejuvenated run game.

For what itís worth, the good folks at Pro Football Focus rated EDS as the eighth-best center in the NFL. I realize thatís a subjective judgment and others might see it differently, but EDS received positive overall marks for the 2013 season at both pass-blocking and run-blocking.

As it usually does, the decision on EDS will come down to money. If the Packers can get him at a relatively decent price, that would buy them some time to develop younger players for the position, namely Tretter. But throwing Tretter into a starterís role, after he missed almost his entire rookie season with an injury, would be a major gamble.

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