The Packers have allowed the 2nd fewest passing yards in the NFL.
The Packers have also allowed the most passing yards on crossing routes in the NFL.
Basically, the Packers pass defense is great except for defending crossing routes.
Why is this?
Well, a lot has been made about the Packers soft zone coverage.
Is zone coverage especially vulnerable to crossing routes?
No. Absolutely not.
Man coverage is vulnerable to crossing routes. When defenses play tight man coverage, offenses adjust by running crossing routes to get picks and break receivers free horizontally.
Defenses react by going into a zone so that defender spacing makes it harder for crossing routes to get any kind of distance separation.
So why are the Packers, who frustratingly sit back in zone all game, having problems defending crossing routes?
Because receivers will always get open when defenders are 10 yards off the line.
This effectively limits big plays, but lets guys run free on shallow routes and try to slice between stationary defenders for yards after the catch.
The Packers aren’t playing zone as much as they’re playing a form of light prevent. If they played zone with their corners 3 yards off the line (or 1 yard off the line like the did for much of the game against Tampa), the crossing routes get a lot more contested and it’s harder to get open in big gaping windows like Justin Jefferson did.
Of course, if you have a shutdown corner like Jaire Alexander or a sticky speed cover man like Eric Stokes, you can just play man and not have to worry about what kind of routes your opponent is running.
And if you out a ridiculous fast safety like Darnell Savage behind them, it doesn’t matter if he makes the wrong reads, he can still use his speed to make up for any coverage breakdowns from the man scheme.
So, the Packers have the personnel to run man, but they could also be effective in zone if they weren’t so passive with their approach.
The moral of the story: it doesn’t matter what the Packers defense runs, they just have to run it aggressively.
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