Green Bay Packers: Brandon Mebane

SEATTLE -- The noise from the boisterous crowd at CenturyLink Stadium did not bother Green Bay Packers rookie center Corey Linsley, and neither did Bruce Irvin or any of the other Seahawks defenders.

The way it turned out, Linsley was the least of the Packers' troubles in their 36-16 loss on Thursday night.

Linsley
Even Irvin, who earlier in the week said he would pray for Linsley because "it's going to be a long night, man," came away impressed by how well the fifth-round draft pick from Ohio State performed under difficult circumstances.

"He actually played a good game," Irvin said. "Even [Seattle defensive tackle Brandon] Mebane said he played well. So I take my hat off to him."

But for one miscommunication with Aaron Rodgers, who fortunately called a timeout just before Linsley prematurely snapped the ball, things ran smoothly between the two who had never worked together in a game before Thursday night. Rodgers lit into Linsley for his mistake, and the rookie understood.

"Obviously, he got on me like a leader should," Linsley said. "And I think that was our only one."

The Packers were not flagged for a single false-start penalty, which is a remarkable feat in one of the NFL's loudest stadiums.

"Corey did a great job," Rodgers said. "He did a really good job of protection. I thought the protection was really good inside and snaps were solid. He's learning. This is his first start, he’s a rookie, but I thought he held his own well. I think he can do a good job for us."

ESPN Seahawks reporter Terry Blount contributed to this report.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – If Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin is trying to intimidate Green Bay Packers center Corey Linsley, he might be messing with the wrong rookie.

There's no getting around the fact that Linsley, a fifth-round draft pick, will be making his NFL debut on Thursday against the Seattle Seahawks.

And he'll do it without having ever snapped a ball in a preseason game to quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

And he'll do it against the Seahawks' Legion of Boom defense.

And he'll do it in one of the loudest stadiums anywhere.

But time and again in the two weeks since Linsley inherited the starting job after JC Tretter's knee injury, his Packers coaches and teammates have raved about Linsley's toughness – both physically and mentally.

[+] EnlargeCorey Linsley
AP Photo/Mike RoemerRookie Corey Linsley stepped right in as the first-team center and impressed his Green Bay Packers teammates.
So when the Seahawks' Irvin said he's going to pray for Linsley because “it’s going to be a long night, man. We've just got to take advantage of it," don't be surprised if Linsley was unaffected.

He has handled everything else just fine so far, something backup quarterback Matt Flynn noticed when the coaches moved Linsley into the starting lineup.

"They're like, 'All right, you're the starter,' so he just quietly walked up there and started taking reps," Flynn said. "He's been impressive."

When Mike McCarthy announced Linsley as the starter, without a burble in his voice he pronounced: "He's going to do a heck of a job."

In fact, it started even before Linsley became a starter. In the first two weeks of training camp, when the Packers conducted the one-on-one pass blocking/pass rushing drill day after day, Linsley took on all comers and lost only two of 10 reps in the drill.

Linsley's task on Thursday at CenturyLink Field will be two-fold: Dealing with the crowd noise and handling the Seahawks' defensive front, specifically nose tackle Brandon Mebane – something that apparently Irvin thinks should make Linsley shudder.

"All the weaknesses that [Linsley] shows us, we've got to expose it," Irvin told reporters in Seattle this week. "Hopefully, ‘Bane’ is going to do what I know he's going to do to him. So, we've just got to be ready."

If you ask the Packers, Linsley will be ready, too. He will have Rodgers and two established guards in T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton to help him along.

"He's a guy we're confident in, and I know he's got a lot of confidence in himself and you never want to put too much pressure on a guy, especially a rookie making his first start, but he's doing a solid job for us," Packers guard T.J. Lang said. "He's making all the right calls, doing all the right things. We have high expectations for him, and he's going to do a lot of good things."

Packers could learn from Seahawks

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
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INDIANAPOLIS -- You'll never see a picture of a shirtless Ted Thompson wearing a championship belt, but the Green Bay Packers' general manager might do well to emulate his counterpart with the Seattle Seahawks, John Schneider.

And we're not talking about questionable fashion decisions.

[+] EnlargeTed Thompson
AP Photo/Morry GashAt 61 years old, Ted Thompson said he's not ready to retire as Packers GM anytime soon. "I'm feeling good and ready to go," he said.
For five years in Green Bay, Thompson listened to Schneider's opinions about all things personnel -- free agency, the draft, trades, waiver claims ... you name it. Not that Thompson, conservative by nature, always acted on Schneider's suggestions, but it was the protege's job to offer opinions and suggestions from his office down the hall at Lambeau Field.

Now, they sit more than 1,900 miles apart, competitors, not colleagues. Yet as Thompson faces one of the most important offseasons since he took over the Packers' personnel department in 2005, there are things he could learn from the man who put together a Super Bowl-winning roster.

Not that Thompson doesn't know how to do that; he built much of the roster that won Super Bowl XVL. But since the Packers' last championship, they have won just one playoff game -- against the Minnesota Vikings, who were forced to start backup quarterback Joe Webb at the last minute.

If there's a common denominator in their playoff exits, it's that their defenses failed them.

With salary-cap space to use and holes to be filled, Thompson might want to examine how Schneider built the Seahawks' top-ranked defense.

Although Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said shortly after the Super Bowl that it would be unrealistic to expect the Packers -- or any other NFL team -- to play at the same level as the Seahawks did last season and in their 43-8 destruction of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, there are some things Thompson might be able to do to help bridge the gap between the Seahawks' dominating defense and the Packers' half-broken unit that slipped to 25th last season.

"If you're able to acquire players that can run fast and are big and are good-looking, then you've got a shot," Schneider said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine.

The Schneider formula for acquiring speed and size on defense goes like this:

  • Make your early-round draft picks count -- see outside linebacker Bruce Irvin (2012 first round), inside linebacker Bobby Wagner (2012 second round) and safety Earl Thomas (2010 first round).
  • Find gems in the middle and late rounds -- see cornerback Richard Sherman (2011 fifth round) and safety Kam Chancellor (2010 fifth round).
  • Retain key players before they hit free agency -- see defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, a third-round pick by the previous administration who in 2011 signed a five-year, $25 million contract extension.
  • Dip into the free-agent market but don't break the bank -- see defensive ends Michael Bennett, who signed a one-year, $5 million contract, and Cliff Avril, who signed a two-year, $13 million deal.
  • Work some trades -- see defensive end Chris Clemons, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Thompson has tried to employ some of those strategies. He used his first six draft picks in 2012 on defensive players with only minimal success. He signed safety Morgan Burnett to a four-year, $24.75 million contract last offseason only to see Burnett fail to come up with a single interception last season. But he hasn't touched free agency in any significant way since 2006, when he signed Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett.

With the 21st pick in this year's draft, Thompson could be looking at defensive players again. Given the copycat nature of the NFL, it's worth wondering if another team, say the Packers, could duplicate what Schneider and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll have done on that side of the ball.

"It wouldn't be very hard, I don't think," Schneider said. "Just [get] more speed. It's just about having guys that are willing to teach and play young players, and [the Packers] have that. They have a young team. They have good teachers."

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said last week defensive coordinator Dom Capers' unit "is going to change some" and that he would "set the vision for the defense and Dom Capers and the defensive staff will carry it out."

To do so, Thompson might have to take more aggressive measures to rebuild a defense that in the Super Bowl season of 2010 ranked fifth in the NFL and ranked second in 2009.

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