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Letters To LeRoy Butler


Hey LeRoy, it's great to see you still involved with the Packers! It seems Ahmad Carroll has improved rapidly the last few weeks. He went from having trouble covering Eddie Berlin to hanging tough with Laveranues Coles last week. He seems more physical and confident in his cover skills. What have you seen in his development? Thanks. - Brian (Chicago, IL)

I've seen that Ahmad is starting to learn and understand all of the different things that are part of playing defense at this level. You have a lot of audibles and different assignments that you must be prepared to perform at any time.

He's starting to understand the importance of playing both man-to-man coverage and zone coverage. Coming out of college, he predominantly played man-to-man and could rely on his athletic ability, but in the pros you have to play a combination of both. It depends on the formation and what you're trying to do as an entire defense.

I look for him to make a strong push in this second half and try to get to where everyone in the organization wants him to be and thinks he can be.

My question with the Packers has always been in regards to the safety position, I'm a firm believer in a hard-hitting secondary to rattle receivers of opposing offenses. Do you think that in it self helps a defense as a hole with hard hitting tacklers out on the field? - Chuck (Rugby, ND)

Absolutely, whenever you let a receiver know that if you're going to come across the middle of the field, you're going to hit hard, or let a running back know that if he gets into the secondary he's going to take a punishing hit, that's always going to stick in their minds and make them think twice when they get in that area of the field.

Even better than that, though, if you can get players in the secondary that are great tacklers, that could be even more beneficial. Big hitters sometimes end up going for the big hit and missing the tackle, but if you have players that will always make the stop, you won't have to worry about so many big plays.

LeRoy, I've heard a lot about the West Coast Offense, and the teams that are using it. However, I've yet to hear what exactly it is. Could you please be the first, and explain what exactly the West Coast Offense is? - Kevin (Butler, NJ)

The West Coast Offense is a ball-control offense which is based on running the ball effectively and a high completion percentage from the quarterback throwing to many different receivers. The key to the offense is timing, and the terminology of the West Coast Offense as compared to some other schemes is tremendous.

To run the West Coast Offense well, you have to have a smart quarterback and an accurate quarterback. Listening to Brett Favre call a play in the huddle, sometimes you'd think that he was reading a book there are so many words coming out of his mouth, but they are all important. Every call lists everyone's assignment, from the blocking of the line, to the receivers' routes, and the pass protection or run call for the running backs.

The reason why it's called the West Coast Offense is because it was developed in California by Bill Walsh, the great coach of the San Francisco 49ers in the '80s. It's a confusing offense for the defense because there are always so many options for the QB to throw to - generally two backs and three receivers or tight ends. It can also be a very difficult offense for a quarterback to learn because it is so complicated.

Dear LeRoy.....over the last few years Kabeer has been a great pass-rush threat on defense although he is not as big as most defensive linemen. I was noticing some of the sizes of linebackers around the league and it seemed like he could of been a great linebacker especially with the great speed and agility he has. Do you know if he ever played linebacker before? What do you think about this? - Kevin (Austintown, OH)

I think Kabeer is a speed-rusher and that's what he likes to do best. He likes having his hand on the ground and rushing the quarterback out of a three-point stance.

I think he's a very good athlete and could play linebacker if he wanted to, but he would probably get bored dropping in coverage all the time. He really just wants to get after the quarterback.

If you'll notice, Kabeer is a finisher. He'll finish these last eight games with a lot of sacks, caused turnovers and things of that nature. If you're at linebacker, some of those things you just can't do all the time.

Hi Leroy, My question is with two weeks to get ready for the Vikings and Moss (a game breaker type) might play might not does a team come up with two different game plans on defense, one with him in and on without him? - Joe (Pittsville, WI)

No, there's no way you put in two separate game plans based around one player. I know Randy Moss is a great receiver, but you're going to run your defense no matter what the other team has on the field from a personnel standpoint. You keep your same scheme and if he's in the game, you probably run certain defenses more often than others, but you don't change your whole game plan based on one guy.

The only way you might ever have a situation like that where you would put in two separate game plans is if the team you're facing has two different quarterbacks with completely different styles and you're not sure which one you'll be going up against. If they have a strong, pocket-passing quarterback and another guy who is more of a runner than a thrower, then you might have to put in two separate packages for your defense.

Can you shed some light on the concept of scripting the first 15 (or so) plays? I understand that it makes sense from a proactive standpoint, and it allows you to strategically find out how the defense is going to line up and respond to your different offensive formations. But on the other hand, I would imagine that the plays that are called and run are somewhat dictated by field position and down-and-distance scenarios. - Tom (Clifton, VA)

You can have the first 15 or so plays scripted just to be ready, but that doesn't mean that those plays will always be run in that order. You can always jump around on that list. If you get into a short-yardage situation or a play you want to be aggressive on, you can jump around, you don't always have to go in order.

Scripting the first 15 plays is just another way for the offense to be prepared to come out of the blocks hot. Those plays are often the plays that the quarterback and the offense are the most comfortable running, and they should help to get a team off to a good start, which is always important.

I was just wondering why a lot of pass defenses in the NFL don't use "bump and run" coverage that often. With timing being such a huge part of offenses this just seems to me to be a no-brainer. Giving a receiver a 10-yard cushion at the snap just doesn't make any sense. The way i see it, if the defender is playing off for the fear of getting beat, maybe he shouldn't be out there. Am I wrong? - David (Springfield, MO)

I agree with you that running bump and run coverage can be very effective in throwing off the timing of an opposing offense. If you can knock a receiver off his route by just a second or so, or move him to where he's not running to an exact spot on the field, that can be enough to throw off an entire play.

One reason why more teams don't use bump and run more often is the fact that not all cornerbacks have the ability to dominate the receivers at the line of scrimmage. If you try to jam a guy at the line and you miss or he blows past you, that's going to be a touchdown or a big play almost every time.

Not only do you have to be physical as a corner in bump and run coverage, but you've also got to have the speed to recover if you do get behind by a step. There's not that many cornerbacks in the NFL that can do that, especially with the big, strong athletic receivers that most teams have these days.

Hi LeRoy, You said earlier that you didn't think it was coincidence that the defense is playing better now that Grady Jackson is back. I don't either, and I think it's a bit concerning. What if Grady gets hurt again? Why is he such a big difference? Is it just his size or is it his talent? Thanks for the good insight. - Jonathan (Hednesford, England)

The reason why Grady makes such a big difference to this defense is that he's a penetrator. He's always looking to go up the field and disrupt blocking schemes. His size is a big part of it, since he often commands a double-team block, but the fact that he's so big and still very fast is why offenses have to pay so much attention to him.

As far as him getting hurt, that's just a part of the game. You could say the same thing about many different players on almost every team that if they were to lose them to injury, that team would have great difficulty in performing at the same level.

What has to happen when a player of Grady's magnitude goes down is that everyone on the team must step up and make an extra effort to take over his spot. No matter who's on the field, somebody still has to make plays.

Hi LeRoy, I look forward every week to your insightful columns. You mentioned Ryan Longwell's kickoffs this week; I had noticed that he's been kicking the ball deeper this season pretty consistently. Is this something he specifically worked on in camp and the preseason? Does it depend on leg strength or technique, or both? Thanks! I'm looking forward to the second half of the season, and seeing this team realize its potential! - Bill (Waynesville, OH)

I think it's a combination of leg strength, technique, and mental approach. Ryan's doing a great job of not only kicking the ball deep, but also placing the ball on the kickoffs so that the coverage team has a chance to get to the returner when he's pinned close to the sideline and only has one way to go.

He's having a great year and I think another part of that is special teams coach John Bonamego is doing a great job of letting him kind of dictate what he wants to do. Any time a player has input on how he can make himself perform better, I think that helps.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,*

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