GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In his starting front three, Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has size, experience and wisdom.
Together, the group weighs exactly 1,000 pounds if you go by the team's listings. It has 20 seasons of NFL experience. Its average age is 30.
If Capers is going to have the kind of 3-4 defense that wins championships, he needs that group to form a foundation so immovable that no matter what demands he piles on it, the result is the same.
It must stop the run.
The Packers have more depth on the defensive line then they've had in coach Mike McCarthy's entire tenure, but starters Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji and Johnny Jolly will be required to do the heaviest lifting this season.
It was evident in the 34-28 loss to the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday when Raji played 50 of 77 snaps (65 percent), Pickett played 49 (64 percent) and Jolly, making his debut following a three-year suspension, played 35 (45 percent).
They are in there for one reason. It has been drilled into them since the day they arrived for off-season workouts and it will continue to be drilled into them until the final play of the season.
They must stop the run.
"It's a job," Jolly said. "You have to take care of business. If you don't do your job, you won't be out there. Do your job, do it because they ask you. Have faith in what they're giving us.
"That's a big part of it. I think Dom gives us a great scheme, so we have to go out and execute."
Against the 49ers, the three slugged it out with one of the most physical offensive lines in all of football, a unit that guided San Francisco's run game to top-10 rankings each of the past two years (fourth in 2012 and eighth in '11).
Their job was to eat up blocks, to make sure they held their position, even when double-teamed, and made it difficult for the offensive linemen to reach their linebackers. In other words, they sacrificed themselves for the good of the defense.
The result was impressive.
After giving up 323 yards rushing in an NFC divisional playoff loss in January, including an NFL-record 181 by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the defense held San Francisco to under 100 yards and a dismal per-carry average of 2.6 yards.
"We've played good run defense around here before, but if you would have told me before the game that they would have 34 rushes for 90 yards, including Kaepernick, I would have told you the outcome would be different," Raji said. "Their No. 1 objective was to run the ball. They continued with the read-option: we took that away."
It would have been a spectacular display had the 49ers not destroyed them with their passing game to the tune of 412 yards and three touchdowns. It was a victory in one sense of the word, but a defeat in a much bigger arena.
Its significance is that there are 15 more games to go.
What Capers must find out starting with the game Sunday against Washington is whether this kind of run-stopping dominance can carry over through the rest of the season. When they won the Super Bowl in 2010, the defense forced 32 turnovers, which made up for a lot of soft spots elsewhere, including a 15th- ranked run defense.
This season, Capers doesn't want to rely on turnovers as much as he wants to stop the run.
As the season goes on, he won't play as much three-man fronts as he did against the power-oriented 49ers. But the objective will be the same whether it's Pickett, Raji and Jolly, rookie Datone Jones and Mike Neal or some combination of those five plus C.J. Wilson and Josh Boyd.
"We have good players upfront, we have good linebackers," Raji said. "We played well last Sunday. It wasn't enough, but we try to take the positive away from the game. I think that if we continue to play like this I think we'll win games."
To some, the challenge this week is similar to what the defense faced last week with Kaepernick. Washington's Robert Griffin III also runs the read-option in coach Mike Shanahan's offense and is a dangerous scrambler.
But to say San Francisco and Washington get things done the same way would be inaccurate, especially when it comes to running the ball.
This will be a completely different challenge for the Packers because Shanahan runs the same zone run game that bedeviled the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII and features lots of lateral movement and cut blocks.
"This is more a typical Shanahan zone team where the running back is looking for a cutback, looking to hit it downhill," Raji said. "The 49ers are more of a trap, double-team to the linebacker type of team.
"It's a little different because you still have RGIII as a factor."
If the Packers are going to be a top run-defending team, they're going to have to show they can plug up holes against a run-scheme that starts out moving laterally as well as they did against one that is full-steam in your face.
Keeping RGIII contained will be a key objective, but running back Alfred Morris can be just as dangerous if you don't account for him. Morris finished second in the NFL in rushing as a rookie last year, compiling 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns on 335 carries.
"Downhill," Pickett said when asked about the 5-10, 218-pound Morris. "He's a one-cut guy. He makes his cut and his decision to get downhill and he gets downhill fast. He's also tough, so you have to bring it when you tackle him because he gets out of the first tackle a lot. He's a good back, has a great vision."
Stopping the run wasn't good enough last week against the 49ers, but Capers is banking on it being a successful recipe as the season wears on. He'll know a lot more about whether this was a one-game fluke or a sign of things to come after facing Washington.
The goal, regardless of the outcome, is to lead the league in run defense.
"Why not?" Jolly said. "I'm pretty sure every defense in the league wants to be No. 1 in the league. We just have to continue to work. Just play the whole season like we've played and we'll be fine.
"That's all we can do. Just focus on this game first. We can't take care of that (the ranking) now. We have to go week by week. At the end of the year, if that's how it comes, that's how it comes."
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