Packers Film Room: Front “Penny”, defense against the losing race and use of Sammy Watkins

The Green Bay Packers defense performed better in week two than their opening game, dropping just 10 points in a 27-10 win over division rival the Chicago Bears. Passing runners Preston Smith and Rashan Gary recorded three total sacks (Smith with two and Gary with one) while Jaire Alexander recorded an interception.

The defense hero brings quarterback Justin Fields to just seven completes out of 11 attempts for 70 yards. In the running game, however, they surrendered 160 yards out of 19 attempts between the Bears’ two running backs David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert.

The defense of the race was a bit alarming and it is right now an area of ​​concern that we will look into later in this article. Also we’ll take a look at Sammy Watkins’ use. First, let’s take a look at how the Packers were able to fire Justin Fields and what covers and fronts they played to run it almost perfectly.

Penny face and shell

The Packers rely on fronts commonly associated with Vic Fangio and Brandon Staley. Many of the principles of defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s scheme are borrowed from his time working with Brandon Staley in 2020 with the Los Angeles Rams. While they aren’t exclusively from that tree, there are a lot of similarities mainly because they fit the Packers’ defensive personnel.

One similarity is their use of the “penny” front, a subpackage front that allows a defense to play the race effectively with two deep safes. The front is a 5-1 front and the staff pool is short of a 3-3-5 group (three defenders, three defenders, five defenders).

The front is based on a “3-0-3” defensive line alignment, which consists of two defensive ends in the B-gap and a nose tackle on the center (bear front) or sometimes a “tite” frontal alignment with a 4i -0- 4i alignment, the “4i” is a shadow over the inside shoulder of the tackle.

Outside of the three down linemen there are two pass rusher, usually linebackers standing in a wide-5 or wide-9 lineup of technique (wide-5 is out of contrast with no tight end and wide-9 is out of tight end ). This front 5 allows the defense to play comfortably with two-depth safeties against the run, but also limits the pass attack downstream. The cover typically rotates down with a security that does not have a single stroke suitability assignment and can adapt to the stroke as needed.

Against the pass, give the defensive front five 1-on-1 singles matches with the offensive line. And on two occasions, the defense was able to fire Justin Fields through a combination of sticky and 1-on-1 cover.

First dismissal, 2nd quarter 14:47, 1st and 10th @ CHI 20

The Bears come out in 11 staff here (one running back, one tight end) and line up in a 3×1 trip. Nub indicates the narrow end in line on the scrimmage line instead of in a flexed out position. They are running a sail / flood concept of free-course travel action game, a corner course from number 3 and a post course from number 2. The narrow end runs a shallow cruiser from the other side for ” flood “the area.

The Packers are in a 3-3-5 penny front with 6 back coverage, 2 coverage on the narrow side, quarter sides on the outings. The away defenders are playing, the defender nickel and the corner. Safety Darnell Savage (# 26) rotates up to the box as buzz safety.

Savage’s rotation to the flat quarters area allows him to go under the corner street and mess with Fields’ progression reading. Fields probably wanted the corner path here, as it is common to throw because the post and clearing path lift the cover. The defense of the passage was ready for this. Savage undermines the course by removing the launch lane.

In attack, the Bears’ offensive line holds up well enough, but when Fields pulls the ball down to climb, Preston Smith is able to chase Fields by circling his pocket to fire him.

Lot two, 3rd quarter 14:24, 2nd and 3 @ CHI 29

With this sack, Rashan Gary (# 52) shows why he is one of the best pass rusher in the league. He is lined up far outside the Bears tight end in a super wide-9 lineup. This is an advantageous position from which to run the passerby and is rushing into the right tackle of the Bears Larry Borom (# 75).

The Bears are lined up in a formation of trips escaping cover again for the pivot route below from receiver # 1. 3 in the trips. They need three yards and that’s the best way to get it back, with Darnell Mooney (# 11) 1-on-1 with linebacker DeVondre Campbell (# 59). But Campbell is a great linebacker and sticks to Mooney all the way.

Pass coverage is Cover-1 and with each course covered, Fields has nowhere to escape, especially as Gary collapses the right side of the pocket with good speed to power up the bull run on Borom. He pushes Borom back into Fields before disengaging and firing the quarterback.

Packer’s race defense struggles

The Packers race defense struggled in week one against the Vikings and delivered 126 yards on 28 carries. That trend continued and worsened in the second week against the Bears, whose two running backs ran 19 times in total for 160 yards. David Montgomery, who ran most of those transports and yards (15/122) averaged 8.1 yards per transport and Khalil Herbert (4/38) averaged 9.5 yards per transport.

Neither running back scored a single touchdown, but the defense left some gaps due to missed assignments or a lack of aggression in adapting the run.

Firstly, rookie Quay Walker has been out of position on a few runs and didn’t fit well into his gap assignments early in this match. Run Fit changes with the Run action. Linebackers adapt to the interior spaces of inside runs or hammer the full-back / advantage puller or blocker on both sides to bring the ball carrier down. In outside runs, they slide fast and act as a force and knock players over to the edge to force and overthrow the defender on the inside.

On cuts, the linebacker away from the call must read the running back and for this inside run, Walker would follow the inside shoulder of the running back, keeping his inside shoulder on the running back. When Montgomery cuts back, Walker does everything right until he lets Montgomery come out as he folds back to take the cut.

Falls back or “bends” into the C-gap on the back but stops trying to make a tackle. Since he stopped his feet, he allowed the catcher to block him to the side, allowing the running back to cut this lever and gain yardage.

In the same drive, on an outside sweep run to the left of the defense, Walker is again the linebacker away from the call and therefore has to swipe over the top to fill.

Can’t get trapped in traffic and take an underground running back path. It is cut off from the center that works on the second tier and should already be off and above the center in the second tier. These are beginner mistakes that will be corrected over time.

Even in the running game, while the penny front above was great against passing, it didn’t go so well against running, which he should do with ease. But the players were out of position and slow to react.

The gap assignments in the penny front allow the defense to adapt to running from two deep safes or at least remove one safety from the adaptation to allow it to read and refill as needed. To do this, the defenders in front have to play an extra half of a gap depending on where the race goes. The 3-tech defensive ends in the B-gap play a “gap and a half” by playing the B-gaps and squeezing the outer half of the A-gaps while the 2-gap nose tackle is the inner half of both A-gaps.

The idea is to clog the center while still being able to get past the defense on the edges by playing their primary spaces and allowing the linebackers and safes to fill in as needed.

That’s not what happens here. Kingsley Enagbare (# 55) sets the limit and stays in range C while the defensive end of the gap and a half Dean Lowry (# 94) puts pressure on the range B and the defense from the edge knocks the ball carrier to the interior of Jarran Guidavo.

Jarran Reed (# 90) has a great opportunity as his defense turns to the ball carrier to tackle him for minimal gain, but he completely misses the tackle.

Whether it was the Penny front or the 3-4 base defense, the Packers were gassed due to bad running attacks and poor tackling. This needs to be cleaned up in the future.

Sammy Watkins’ role becomes a little clearer

Before the first week, I wrote an article for Acme Packing Company explaining how I thought the Packers could use wide receiver Sammy Watkins in the passing game. In it, I showed which routes he was primarily successful with Matt LaFleur when they were both with the Rams in 2017.

Through the use of game action “drift / strike” paths, quick tilt of the run-pass option, deep shots and RPO in various goal line situations, it became clear that the Packers were looking for someone who could replicate. part of the production lost when Davante Adams chose to sign with the Raiders. On Sunday night, he appeared in at least three of the concepts I covered.


Watkins received two drift / strike passes, a gameplay concept designed to take advantage of a quick attack path in the center at a depth of approximately 10 yards in the space behind linebackers reading the mock run.

One passage came out of the rifle and the other came from under the center. Regardless of how it is performed, it is arguably the simplest and most effective game action concept that Shanahan’s coach tree performs on a regular basis.

RPO dart

The RPO dart is another way to engage Watkins and his speed in passing play.

Rodgers reads the pre-snap, takes the snap and immediately throws the ball to Watkins on the left of the attack but fails to bring the pass as it falls incomplete.

Corner post

Rodgers threw a deep shot towards the end of the game at Watkins on a corner post path where Watkins sells the corner path for a couple of passes before breaking through the field.

Rodgers found him deep for a 55-yard completion when the only high security tried to cut the crossing path from top to bottom and Watkins ran past him.

Overall, it’s been a better week for the Packers offense and defense, although there are some issues that need to be cleaned up. The passing game found a much better pace and the defense strengthened when it was needed, although they have yet to find ways to fill in the gaps in the race and make the tackles that were there. There is nothing easier with the Packers away to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers 2-0.

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