Potent Packers searching for answers on defense
The Green Bay Packers didn’t necessarily need to get better on
offense to contend for the Super Bowl this season. They did anyway,
signing veteran free agent running back Cedric Benson in the middle
But the Packers clearly needed to improve on defense. And with
their Sept. 9 opener against San Francisco in sight, it’s not clear
how much progress they’ve made on the other side of the ball.
Linebacker Desmond Bishop is out after tearing his right
hamstring in the first preseason game, costing the Packers a
critical cog in their defense. Beyond that, the secondary remains
”By the time we get ready for that opener, we’ll have a pretty
good feel,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. ”Some of these
young guys, as we go along, you’ll see them visibly improve.
They’ve improved a lot to this point and they’ll continue to
improve just because of the nature of being a rookie and not having
The Packers clearly tried to fix their defense in the draft,
using their first six picks on defensive players. It’s still not
clear how much those players will be able to contribute right
First-rounder Nick Perry has shown the ability to bolster the
team’s pass rush opposite Clay Matthews, a critical shortcoming
last season. But as might be expected for a rookie making the
transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, he could be
exposed when asked to drop into pass coverage.
A pair of rookie defensive linemen, second-rounder Jerel Worthy
and fourth-rounder Mike Daniels, could be asked to take significant
roles. And the Packers could need major contributions from
second-round cornerback Casey Hayward and fourth-round safety
Morgan Burnett is one starter at safety, and Charles Woodson is
expected to play safety in the Packers’ base defense. But when
Woodson moves to cover the slot receiver in passing situations, the
Packers need someone to play alongside Burnett.
The Packers have Tramon Williams at one outside cornerback spot.
Second-year player Davon House seemed poised to take the other
cornerback spot, but he hurt his shoulder in the preseason and it’s
not clear if he’ll be ready for the opener.
Capers doesn’t think there’s too much pressure being placed on
”Once you get out there and start playing, it’s just playing
football,” Capers said. ”I think that you can’t be influenced
much by outside expectations. You’ve got to challenge yourself and
be more demanding of yourself than anybody else would be. What I’ve
seen out of our young guys in this class, I think they’re all
pretty demanding on themselves.”
There’s far more certainty on offense, where reigning MVP Aaron
Rodgers directs perhaps the most dangerous passing attack in the
The Packers could use even more no-huddle to keep opposing
offenses off balance this year, especially given new center Jeff
Saturday’s experience with calling plays at the line of scrimmage
”It’s a tempo thing for us,” Rodgers said. ”We want to raise
the tempo up a little bit on offense, get more plays in. Mike
(McCarthy) is always preaching being a 70-plus play team on
offense, and to do that, you probably need to run some up-tempo
stuff. We’ve used that as a change-up at times in the past, and
depending on how we start, that may or may not be a bigger part of
our offense. We’re still trying to work the kinks out.”
The Packers’ two biggest offensive concerns in the preseason
have been offensive line depth and backup quarterback, where Graham
Harrell has struggled.
Then there’s the addition of Benson, who was surprised to find
himself without a job going into camp despite rushing for
1,000-plus yards each of the past three seasons in Cincinnati.
”I just put all that behind me and am just going to make the
best of the situation I’m in,” Benson said. ”I feel it’s a true
blessing. I’m healthy, I’m happy, and I’m going to make the most of
If Benson can make the Packers a better running team, it can
open up more play-action opportunities for Rodgers.
”I don’t know how you would like to quantify it, but anytime
you have another weapon on your offense, it certainly helps,”
And Rodgers said he hopes the attitude Benson has shown in his
first few weeks with the team rubs off on other players as the
Packers try to stay hungry.
”Hopefully young guys are taking notes, how much it means to
him,” Rodgers said. ”I don’t know if this is a second chance for
him and he’s viewing it like that and he wants to do some of the
things that he hasn’t done in the past, or maybe this is normal for
him. But we love it.”
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