Packers May Have Method To Roster "Madness"
by Mike Conklin
September 13, 2013
When the Packers announced their 53-man roster two weeks ago, there were a few surprises.
Letting go of Vince Young grabbed the headlines. Cutting ties with Alex Green turned some heads. Saying goodbye to Dezman Moses raised a few eyebrows.
When the dust settled, perhaps the most surprising outcome of the day was that the Packers had 27 defensive players, versus only 23 offensive players. That was a first for Mike McCarthy.
"From 27 (on defense) to 23 on offense is the biggest discrepancy I've ever been through," McCarthy told the Journal-Sentinel's Bob McGinn.
"And I'm perfectly fine with it."
It is definitely a departure for the Packers. McGinn also noted that in the first four years the team ran a 3-4 defense, they kept six defensive linemen on the roster. This time around, the Packers kept eight. (That includes Mike Neal, who is also splitting time at outside linebacker.)
During the preseason it seemed clear there was better depth on the defensive side of the ball, and the reason for the disparity may be as simple as that.
But upon further examination, it seems possible that there may be something else behind that decision.
We wrote earlier about the possibility that Mike McCarthy will be trying to speed up the offense and play more no-huddle than ever. The Packers showed a glimpse of that last week against the 49ers.
During that game, McCarthy's offense had four touchdown-scoring drives. Each of the drives traveled the length of the field, covering an average of 72 yards.
None of those scoring drives lasted even three minutes. In fact, not a single drive all day lasted three minutes.
When the Packers weren't punting or turning the ball over, they worked at a very fast clip. When they did huddle, it wasn't for long. Their longest drive of the day, covering 80 yards, didn't even last two minutes.
On the day, the Packers possessed the ball seventeen fewer minutes than the 49ers. As great of a disparity as that may be, it may not have come as that much of a surprise.
If our previous supposition is correct that the Packers are making a concerted effort to speed up their offense, then they would be well aware that their defense may be on the field a great deal as a result.
Combine that with the fact that even the Packers players describe themselves as a bend-but-don't-break defense, and the team may have a pretty good idea that their defenders could have a few long days in their future, even in winning efforts.
With this formula, even if the Packers evolve into an elite team there is a chance that time of possession may not be a Packers-friendly statistic this season.
With that in mind, should it come as a surprise that the Packers kept more defensive players on their roster than ever before?
As a general rule, nobody shows signs of fatigue on the field more than defensive linemen. The big guys expend a lot of energy trying to get around offensive linemen play after play. Because the Packers are keeping an extra defensive lineman (a second "extra" lineman will likely be inactive on game days), they will have the ability to rotate players in and out of the lineup like never before.
When the Packers first announced their final roster, it seemed perplexing that a team that played about two-thirds of their defense in a nickel formation last year would keep more defensive linemen than ever before. But if Mike McCarthy is going to go "all in" with the hurry up offense, it begins to make sense.
It may not have been clear two weeks ago, but perhaps there is a method to the roster "madness" after all.
Photo Credit: Associated Press