The success of the 3-4 defensive scheme that defensive coordinator Dom Capers utilizes for the Green Bay Packers hinges on pressuring the quarterback.
First, the defense has to stop the run and force a team to pass. Once that happens, Capers wants one of four things to happen.
One, sack the quarterback and cause a fumble.
Two, just sack the quarterback.
Three, create enough pressure on the quarterback to force an interception.
Four, rush the quarterback enough to offset the timing of the pass pattern and cause an incompletion.
Since Capers arrived in Green Bay in 2009, he has presided over four defenses. In 2009, the Packers were ranked second in the NFL in total defense. The Packers were ranked first against the run and fifth versus the pass that year. They also were 11th in the NFL with 37 sacks as a team.
The overwhelming statistic that stood out that year for the Packers defensively was the amount of turnovers they caused. The Packers had 30 interceptions (three were returned for touchdowns), which led the NFL. They also forced 12 fumbles and recovered 10 of them (one for a touchdown).
In 2010, Capers saw his defense ranked fifth overall in total defense. The team was ranked 18th against the run and fifth against the pass. The Packers were ranked second in the NFL that year in sacks with 47.
The Packers were once again a turnover-machine that Super Bowl-winning year, as the team was second in the NFL with 24 picks (three for touchdowns). The team also forced 15 fumbles and recovered eight of them (one for a touchdown).
In 2011, even though the team was 15-1, Capers' defense was ranked dead-last in total defense. The team was ranked 14th versus the run and 32nd against the pass. The team also had only 29 sacks, which ranked 27th in the NFL.
Once again, though, even with those sorry stats defensively, the team created a mountain of turnovers. The Packers led the NFL with 31 interceptions (four for touchdowns). They also forced 13 fumbles and recovered seven of them (one for a touchdown).
Last season, Capers saw his "D" bounce back to become the 11th-ranked team in total defense. The Packers were ranked 16th against the run and 22nd versus the pass. The team was ranked fourth in the NFL with 47 sacks.
The turnovers were not as plentiful last season as they have been in the past under Capers. The Packers were only ranked eighth in the NFL with 18 interceptions (one for a touchdown). They also only forced eight fumbles and recovered five of them (one for a touchdown).
In the postseason—except for 2010, when they won Super Bowl XLV—the defenses under Capers have failed miserably.
In 2009, the Packers allowed the Arizona Cardinals to score 51 points and roll up 531 yards.
In 2011, the Packers allowed 37 points to the New York Giants and allowed 420 total yards.
In 2012, the Packers gave up 45 points to the San Francisco 49ers and allowed a whopping 579 total yards.
Did I mention that the Packers lost all of those games, even though they scored 45, 20 and 35 points respectively?
Capers wants to see a consistent defense in the regular season and the postseason. He has seen that only once in four years.
Stopping the run and rushing the quarterback are the key ingredients.
So, how many sacks will the Packers get in 2013, with Clay Matthews, Datone Jones, Nick Perry, Mike Neal and company rushing the passer? I believe the team has a chance to break the all-time regular-season sack record, which was set in 2001 with 52 sacks.
Three sacks a game will get a team to 48 sacks for the season. I think this team can average four sacks a game. That would get the team to 64 sacks for the season.
That's a lofty goal, but the talent is there. Matthews won't see as many double teams thanks to the other pass-rushing threats the Packers now possess.
The key for the Packers in 2013 in terms of rushing the passer is for their younger players to step up. Guys like Perry, Neal and Jones have to play up to their ability. You know Matthews will have another Pro Bowl year and perhaps even a Defensive Player of the Year type of campaign.
Bottom line, I expect the Packers to set a new team record in terms of sacks in 2013. They may not average four sacks a game, but it will be close.
If that happens, you can also expect a big year for the team regarding overall success. But that needs to happen in both the regular season and especially the postseason.