The Green Bay Packers’ decision to hire former Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley as their next defensive coordinator has been big news over the past few weeks. There will be a lot of changes with Hafley calling the shots opposite Matt LaFleur, schematically and from a technique standpoint.
One of Hafley and LaFleur’s first changes to overhaul the defensive side of the ball was bringing in the Miami Dolphins linebackers coach Anthony Campanile to coach Green Bay’s linebackers. He will also be the run-game coordinator on offense, meaning he could benefit both sides of the ball.
After spending his last four seasons in South Florida, Campanile was a candidate to become the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator after Vic Fangio left to take the Philadelphia Eagles’ DC job. But Miami hired Anthony Weaver, and Campanile will ply his trade in the frozen tundra.
Campanile has an interesting track record and coaching tree. His first big break came with Boston College, just like Hafley. Campanile served as BC’s defensive backs coach from 2016 to 2017, and they promoted him to co-defensive coordinator in 2018.
Under Campanile in 2018, Boston College’s defense ranked 65th nationally in total defense, 49th in rushing defense, and 29th in defensive efficiency. The Golden Eagles also ranked 11th nationally in total takeaways, tying for the ACC lead in interceptions with 18 against a talented conference with Trevor Lawrence and Kenny Pickett. Plus, recruiting talented players to Boston College is more difficult than many other schools due to their high academic standards.
In 2019, the University of Michigan hired Campanile as their linebackers coach. Under coordinator Don Brown, Michigan’s defense finished 11th nationally in total defense. After this one-year stint in Ann Arbor, the Dolphins hired Campanile as their linebackers coach.
Miami has had a top-10 run defense in the last four years. Last season, the Dolphins finished seventh in run defense, allowing only 97.1 rushing yards per game and 3.81 yards per carry. Campanile served under Fangio last year, who has produced great defenses during his time with the San Francisco 49ers from 2011 to 2014 and the Denver Broncos from 2019 to 2021.
Learning from Vangio’s defensive scheme and techniques should have helped Campanile build his portfolio as an assistant coach and a defensive mind.
By moving to a 4-3 scheme, Hafley is playing to the strengths of Green Bay’s linebackers. Outside linebackers Preston Smith and Rashan Gary will move to the defensive line as edge rushers and assist Lukas Van Ness, Kenny Clark, and Devonte Wyatt in the pass rush.
The middle linebackers will need to cover more ground, but Hafley’s 4-3 scheme allows them to play more freely. Quay Walker has immense speed and strength, so covering more of the field will help him grow as a player.
Regarding the other inside linebackers, Isaiah McDuffie will most likely be responsible for the middle of the field, between the tackle boxes or being the quarterback spy. But Green Bay should still consider drafting another linebacker or picking one up in free agency because McDuffie will have a massive hole to fill after De’Vondre Campbell’s departure.
Campanile should improve Green Bay’s defense in a 4-3 scheme. But he’s also the run-game coordinator and should also help improve the Packers’ offensive productivity.
Green Bay’s ground game was good last year. Aaron Jones is a reliable running back, and the Packers ran the ball effectively in the second half of the season.
But having a linebackers coach design the ground game can open it up in new ways. Linebackers block the holes and gaps that running backs aim to get through, and no one knows linebackers better than their position coach.
With Campanile’s experience coaching linebackers and knowing how that position operates, he can scheme blocking techniques with the offensive line to negate the linebackers and create new holes and gaps for Jones and Dillon to expose.
He also knows the linebackers’ techniques to make plays in the open field. Therefore, he can help running backs coach Ben Sirmans develop techniques to counter the practices that linebackers throughout the league have adopted.
Linebackers are the next level of defense once a running back gets past the line of scrimmage on a carry. So, who would know how to beat linebackers in the ground game better than the linebackers coach?
With the complete overhaul of the defensive coaching staff in Green Bay, Campanile is the most promising piece. He can bring physicality to the linebacking unit and help on offense. After LaFleur has introduced him as the final piece of the defensive puzzle, the Packers’ defense has a lot of promise for the first time in a long time.