Green Bay Packers: Joe Whitt

Starter Pack: Too many blocked kicks

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
12:10
PM ET
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Before this season, the last time the Packers had a punt blocked was Oct. 14, 2012. The last time they had an extra point attempt blocked was Dec. 11, 2011. The last time they had a field goal attempt blocked was Nov. 7, 2010.

They're not even through an entire season yet, and they have allowed all three to happen this year.

The latest example was a blocked extra point attempt in Monday night's 43-37 victory against Atlanta. In all, the Packers have had five kicks blocked -- two extra point attempts, two punts and a field goal attempt -- in 13 games this season.

"For me, as the special teams coach, that's unacceptable," Shawn Slocum said.

Falcons defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hagemen slipped between Josh Boyd and Lane Taylor to block a fourth-quarter extra point attempt. Normally, T.J. Lang would have been in one of those spots on the right side of the protection unit, but the Packers removed both him and fellow starting guard Josh Sitton, who usually manned the left side, from special teams following the bye week to reduce their load as they have played through injuries.

"Whoever's in there's got to step up and get it done," Slocum said. "We've been really solid with our field goal protection with Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang there side by side. We had Oakland jump over us and block either an extra point in a [2011] game that was out of hand, and other than that, Julius Peppers blocked one a few years ago, but we've been solid for a long time in there. It's something that we haven't done this year acceptable to me, and you shouldn't have kicks blocked."

Slocum knows that teams will come after kicker Mason Crosby and punter Tim Masthay now that they've shown vulnerability in protection.

"You don't even have to have a kick blocked for teams to come after you," Slocum said. "Once you show a weakness in protection, particularly in a field goal protection or punt protection, you better fix it. Even if they don't block it, if you show something, it better be fixed that week or it's going to get exposed."

In case you missed it from ESPN.com: Best of the rest:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Joe Whitt has an actual list, although he did not say whether it was handwritten or a printout, of receivers he considers studs. He keeps it in his office at Lambeau Field and uses it as one way to measure how the Green Bay Packers' cornerbacks, the position he has coached since 2009, perform against the NFL's elite.

[+] EnlargeJones
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsJulio Jones had a career day Monday against the Packers, who remain confident in their cornerbacks.
Whitt said through 13 games this season there have been probably 18 receivers on his "stud list" -- yes, that's really what he calls it -- and only two have gone over 100 yards. One of those, however, topped the 200-yard mark, and it was Julio Jones' 11-catch, 259-yard game Monday night that was the last thing anyone remembers about the Packers' defense.

"We've done really well all year," Whitt said Thursday before pausing to calculate how many of those so-called stud receivers the Packers have faced this season.

"So is one half of football going to change the confidence level? The guy had a really good day. Everybody has career days at some point. Julio had his on us."

Jones already had 100 yards on five catches in the first half but with the Packers ahead of the Falcons 31-7, there was little concern. And then on the first play of the second half, Jones broke behind cornerback Tramon Williams for a 79-yard catch and run that broke the dyke. The Packers had to hang on for a 43-37 victory.

It wasn't until the coaches threw Davon House into the mix for the final 21 snaps in place of struggling starter Sam Shields that anyone could slow down Jones, who couldn't finish the game because of a hip injury after a collision with House in the end zone. House, who broke up the pass, also injured his shoulder on that play despite finishing the game but looks unlikely to play Sunday at Buffalo.

"None of us did good, other than House," Whitt said. "None of us. I didn't coach it well enough. We all equally took that career day from Julio. Everybody."

The Packers were ranked 11th in the NFL against the pass last week. As they prepare for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, they rank 20th.

"The challenge is, we've got to get back on track," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "I feel like that was our poorest half since the bye week, but I feel like we can. They're very correctable errors, and we've got to find a way to make plays."

Veteran outside linebacker Julius Peppers doesn't see that as a problem.

"We'll be fine; we'll be fine," he repeated. "We had a bad half of football, and that's what it is. It's nothing more than that. The good thing is, there's no carryover to this game. We're going to start fast this game, and we're going to finish this game. Like I said, we'll be fine."

If it's a one-man wrecking crew like Jones that is worrisome as the playoffs approach, then the success the Packers have had against Whitt's list perhaps will calm the nerves. The only other "stud-list" receiver to light them up was Brandon Marshall, who caught eight passes for 112 yards and a touchdown but it came in the Packers' 55-14 route in Week 10.

The Packers have allowed only one other 100-yard game by a receiver, Philadelphia rookie Jordan Matthews, who isn't on Whitt’s list -- at least he wasn't at the time. Two tight ends (Chicago's Martellus Bennett and Carolina's Greg Olsen) also have gone over 100 yards against them this season.

But they're not done with Whitt's stud-list receivers yet. They face one this week, Buffalo Bills rookie Sammy Watkins.

"We've got some more," Whitt said. "This [number] 14 [Watkins], he's a player. Detroit has two [Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate]. Tampa, hell they have two [Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans]."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Clay Matthews wants his shot. So does Micah Hyde.

Both almost certainly will get the chance on Sunday against the New England Patriots.

But there's nothing on film to suggest that either of those Green Bay Packers' defensive players will be able to shut down – or even slow down – tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Whether it's a linebacker such as Matthews or a slot cover guy like Hyde – or even a safety or a cornerback – it does not seem to matter. Oh, the Packers will surely try some of all of those combinations, but ...

[+] EnlargeGronkowski
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesPatriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is a matchup nightmare for any team, and keeping him in check is much easier said than done.
"I don't know that a lot of people have had great success covering him," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Friday. "He can go vertical. He's a big guy. He's got a big wing span. You've seen him catch a ball thrown behind him and pull it in. He likes the physical part of the game. He's going to challenge you in terms of tackling. If you go up on his upper body, the guy's big and strong. Tacklers bounce off of him.

"You've got to have a plan to try to get the second and third guy there. He obviously gives them a matchup issue. And then Tom Brady's always aware of who's matched up on him."

After a slow start during which he was working his way back into form following ACL surgery, no tight end in the league has been more productive than Gronkowski. Since Week 5, he has 45 catches for 665 yards and six touchdowns. That's nine more catches and 200 more yards than any other tight end during that span, which encompasses the Patriots' current seven-game winning streak.

None of the Packers' three position coaches – Winston Moss (linebackers), Darren Perry (safeties) and Joe Whitt (cornerbacks) – whose players could conceivably be used in coverage against the Patriots' 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end -- could identify one type of player who has had the most success defending Gronkowski this season.

Said Moss: "It requires a mindset to where the entire defense has to be ready to handle their assignments."

Said Perry: "No, this guy just makes plays. It seems to not even matter who's covering him. He's going to find a way to make plays and we've just got to hopefully slow him down a little bit. He's a great player."

Said Whitt: "He's very hard on little guys because little guys can't bring him down. He's very hard on big guys because he can separate from them. So he's a dynamic player, and he plays with a great play speed and effort."

That sounds like what defenders used to say about former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley.

"I think you could say that," Whitt said. "He's a matchup issue; he really is."

So who will it be on Gronkowski?

Maybe Matthews.

"There could potentially be some opportunities in the game where I'm matched up against him," Matthews said this week. "Yeah, we'll see. Obviously, I enjoy those opportunities to kind of showcase my talents, especially at something that is not my normal pass rushing."

Perhaps Hyde.

"I didn't go to the coach and say, 'I want him,' but at the same time I think it will be fun," Hyde said. "Whoever is lined up against him, I have confidence in any one of our guys that lines up against him, and it's going to be a good opportunity."

And don't forget about outside linebacker Julius Peppers, who has dropped into coverage more this year than in perhaps his first 12 NFL seasons combined. He has a pair of interceptions, both returned for touchdowns, to show for it.

"I've had a little success with it this year," Peppers said. "It's something that I wanted to do, and I've been able to do it since I've been here."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If Dom Capers' defensive system can be boiled down to a basic principal, it's this: Blitz as often as necessary to disrupt the rhythm and timing of an opponent's offense.

So it should come as no surprise that since he came to Green Bay as defensive coordinator in 2009, the Green Bay Packers have ranked as one of the NFL's most frequent blitz teams (see accompanying chart).

But there's much more that goes into it than just turning linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks loose.

Some of Capers' best defenses in Green Bay have been those that have blitzed the least (see 2009 and 2010).

"I'd say we're probably normally [blitzing at] around 38 to 40 percent of the time," Capers said.

But with worst defense he fielded, the 2011 unit that ranked last in the league, he blitzed the most.

"We couldn't get any pressure on the quarterback that year," Capers said.

That trend is hardly universal.

Take this season, for example. One of the best defensive performances came in Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings. In the Packers' 42-10 victory, Capers blitzed on 47.2 percent of the Vikings’ dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information (which defines a blitz as sending five or more pass-rushers at the quarterback). Only three other times this season has Capers blitzed at a higher rate -- at Miami in Week 6 (53.1 percent), against Carolina in Week 7 (50 percent) and against the New York Jets in Week 2 (47.3 percent). All were victories

Then there was 19-7 loss against the Detroit Lions in Week 2, when the defense allowed just 10 points. Capers blitzed a season-low 12.8 percent of the time.

This season, the Packers' defense ranks just 25th in yards, but second in takeaways (22), tied for eighth in Total QBR (50.4) and 11th in sack percentage (7.0).

Here is a look at the Capers' philosophy through the eyes of some of his coaches and players:

Offensive coordinator Tom Clements

Before they were on the same side, Clements coached against Capers. One game stands out: Dec. 8, 2002 in Pittsburgh. Clements was the Steelers' quarterbacks coach, and Capers was the Houston Texans head coach.

"That was a weird game," Clements said. "Our defense held them to about a total of 60 yards. We had about 400 yards, and they beat us by three touchdowns."

[+] EnlargeDom Capers
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsDefensive coordinator Dom Capers has made his mark by adapting his calls to each opponent.
Actually, the numbers were these: The Steelers had 422 yards and the Texans had 47. Houston's defense scored three times, two interception returns and a recovered fumble return, in a 24-6 upset.

Which goes to show that when preparing for a Capers' defense, anything is possible.

"Multiple looks, multiple pressures," Clements said. "It requires a lot of film study by the coaches and the players, because you never know what you’re going to get."

Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac

Trgovac, the Panthers defensive coordinator from 2003-2008, knows what it's like to call plays.

He says it's an oversimplification to simply call Capers a blitzer.

"Just to call 100 blitzes, when you start getting in that rhythm of the game, that's actually the easiest part of the game to call," Trgovac said. "The hard part is trying to pick the blitzes based on what you're seeing in the game. You have something set in your mind early and have to adjust from there."

Trgovac says he often finds Capers alone in his office or a film room calling a mock game to try to anticipate those situations.

"He puts in the hours that's required to have knowledge to make a play call," Trgovac said.

Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt

Whitt, who like Trgovac has been with Capers since 2009 in Green Bay, also says it's unfair to label their defense as just a blitzing scheme.

"I wouldn't say that," Whitt said. "I would say it's a week-to-week deal, but we're going to try to do anything we can to win that week. If we have to bring five or six guys, we will."

But then Whitt pointed to one of the biggest defensive plays in last Sunday's win against the Eagles, Julius Peppers' 52-yard interception return for a touchdown. Capers rushed only three players -- defensive linemen Datone Jones, Josh Boyd and Mike Neal -- and dropped Peppers, Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk into coverage.

"It's whatever's needed," Whitt said.

Outside linebacker Peppers

The 13-year NFL veteran has never been used like this. In his eight seasons in Carolina and four in Chicago, he more or less had one job: put his hand on the ground and rush the quarterback as a defensive end.

"They wanted me to rush for the majority of the time," Pepper said. "Every now and then there was a fire-zone call where I was dropping, but primarily I was rushing."

Perhaps said that's why Eagles coach Chip Kelly said they weren't expecting Peppers to drop into coverage. He said it was "a great call" by Capers.

"I don't think it's anything new," said Peppers, who leads the Packers with 5.0 sacks and is tied for second on the team with two interceptions. "He's been doing that since he's been here as far as I'm concerned."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Jordy Nelson doesn't want you to know everything about the ins and outs of the back-shoulder play, except he's quick to point out one thing.

"First and foremost, it's not a play," the Green Bay Packers receiver said. "For us, it's a complete reaction."

There is no signal or pre-snap adjustment.

[+] EnlargeJordy Nelson; Aaron Rodgers
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesJordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers have the on-field chemistry necessary to execute the back-shoulder fade, one of the NFL's toughest passes to defend.
Not even Nelson, one of the NFL's best at executing the play -- check that, the pass -- knows it's coming until the ball sails off the hand of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"It's all on the quarterback and what they decide to do and where they want to place the ball," Nelson said. "For us, it's just, run our routes. The main thing would be to make sure you get your head around and are able to adjust to the ball."

If the receiver doesn't even know it's coming, what's a helpless cornerback or safety in coverage supposed to do about it?

"If you have a quarterback that can throw it, the quarterback typically throws it at the defender's head," Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "So you never see the ball."

It goes against everything coaches like Whitt teach their defensive backs, whose first priority is always to take away the deep throw. The back-shoulder fade -- which is essentially a purposefully underthrown pass -- is the perfect counteraction to a defender intent on taking away the go, or fly, route.

"As a secondary player, you're always taught to be on top of a route, control the deep routes," Packers safety Micah Hyde said. "When you get on top, to have to react to a ball that's underthrown, that's the hardest thing for the DB."

But not just any receiver can pull it off. The bigger and longer the receiver, the easier it is to execute. At 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds, Nelson might have the perfect build to do so. It's why you won't see Rodgers throw it very often -- if ever -- to his No. 2 receiver, Randall Cobb, who at 5-foot-10 and 192 pounds is better-suited to play in the slot.

Then there is the experience factor. Someday, rookie receiver Davante Adams (6-1, 215) might see that throw from Rodgers. But until Rodgers knows Adams can react to the ball in the air the way Nelson can, it's not likely to happen.

"It comes with experience," Hyde said. "You've got to have chemistry with the quarterback, because it's a hard throw. To throw the ball before the receiver even stops, it's hard. I played quarterback back in the day [in high school]. It was hard then, and I'm sure it's 10 times harder now with these fast receivers. You've got to have a lot of chemistry, and I think some guys in the NFL, a lot of guys in the NFL, don’t have that experience that A-Rod and Jordy have."

As if it wasn't difficult enough to defend, oftentimes it comes with a subtle shove from the receiver.

"And boom, it's never being called," Whitt said. "It's a good play."

Except that it's not a play.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Davon House stood at his locker at Lambeau Field this week and looked around at the neighboring cornerbacks who occupy one wall in the Green Bay Packers' changing area.

One after another, he rattled off the players the Packers have at his position.

Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Demetri Goodson, Jarrett Bush.

[+] EnlargeGreen Bay's Davon House
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsDavon House could be the next Packer in line for a contract extension.
It's no wonder the Packers have not even approached House about a contract extension.

"If they decided not to go my way, they've still got all those guys," said House, who has emerged early this season as one of the team's top playmakers in the secondary.

When told the 31-year-old Williams is in the final year of his contract, House appeared surprised.

"Oh, OK," he said. "I think J.B. is in his last year, too."

Indeed, both Williams and the 30-year-old Bush are working under contracts that expire after this season, which is all the more reason to think House could be next in line for a contract extension. Yet, according to House, there has been nothing but crickets from the Packers’ financial people.

"Not even discussed," he said.

If House keeps playing like he has the past two weeks, that will surely change. He is the final year of his rookie contract, the one he signed after the Packers drafted him in the fourth round out of New Mexico State in 2011.

While the consensus is receiver Randall Cobb is next in line for a new deal, the Packers have plenty of room under the salary cap -- $8,570,906 in unused space, according to the latest figures from ESPN Stats & Information -- to do more than one extension.

After not even getting on the field in Week 1 because cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt went with Hayward in the nickel package, House, who has played sparingly on defense his first three seasons in part because of injuries, moved into that role in Week 2 against the Jets. He threw himself into the spotlight with an interception last Sunday against the Lions on a Matthew Stafford deep ball that was intended for Calvin Johnson. The 6-foot, 195-pound House took his share of snaps against Johnson, who caught just one ball for 15 yards in three targets against him.

Lest you think House has come out of the blue the past two weeks, Whitt is quick to say otherwise. He mentioned House’s offseason workouts with Bush, his study time with Williams and the time he spent honing his skills with veteran cornerback Darrelle Revis this past summer as signs of House's progression.

"Everything we've asked him to do, you're seeing the fruits of it," Whitt said. "He's playing in the pass game the way we want him to play. He has to tighten up his run-game support and the tackling. Once he does that, we'll have a complete football player that's going to play high-level football. I'm excited to see what he can be because he has a skill set that is different than everybody else in the room."

That skill set Whitt referred to is House's size and strength. He reminds Whitt of former Packers cornerback Al Harris, one of the strongest press-cover corners the team has ever had.

"I've coached three men that had hands like bricks -- Al Harris, him and another guy named Antoine Sharp, who you've never heard of but I coached him at Louisville," Whitt said. "But when they put their hands on you, it feels like bricks on you and they can redirect people. And they're fast enough."

If you're wondering how Whitt knows their hands are like bricks, well, he has the bruises to prove it.

"During the first couple of days of training camp, I am black and blue because I allow them to punch me because I want to feel their hand placement," Whitt said. “And the very first time he put his hands on me, oh my goodness. Him and Al, their hands feel like bricks."
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Packers will be at a distinct size disadvantage against the Bears receivers, but cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt isn't worried about that.

As long as the officials don't let Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall get away with anything illegal, that it is.

Whitt believes any of his corners, including 5-foot-11 starters Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, can handle the 6-3 Jeffery and the 6-4 Marshall.

"If they don't grab and pull, Sam and Tramon can be as effective [as a taller corner]," Whitt said. "I'm excited about the emphasis of the OPI [offensive pass interference], especially with this game. We'll see how that's taken into account because they're a grab-and-pull type operation. If they don't [allow them to] do that, I'm very confident in what we do."

To this day, Whitt still brings up the 2010 game against Marshall, when he was with the Miami Dolphins. Marshall caught 10 passes for 127 yards and, in Whitt's opinion, got away with excessive and illegal contact against his cornerbacks.

"He threw Tramon down," Whitt said.

In case you missed it from ESPN.com: Best of the rest:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- You could see it in Al Harris' eyes that day back in January 2008. It was the NFC Championship game against the New York Giants, and the Green Bay Packers' Pro Bowl cornerback was amped up for the challenge of covering receiver Plaxico Burress.

Too amped up, as it turned out.

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AP Photo/Carlos OsorioCalvin Johnson has put up his best numbers against Green Bay, but the Packers' Sam Shields is up to the challenge.
Burress used Harris' overly aggressive, physical style against him and burned the Packers for 11 catches, 151 yards and a touchdown in the Giants' upset win at Lambeau Field.

That was a full year before defensive coordinator Dom Capers and most of his current staff came to Green Bay, but it's a lesson that might be worth reminding their cornerbacks this week when they prepare for a megasized challenge in the Detroit Lions' Calvin Johnson.

"It's important for our guys, particularly our corners, to play with their technique and play with their leverage and just play football," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week. "Anytime you go up against a top-notch player like Calvin, you can't let players like that take you out of your technique."

Surely, that message has been conveyed to Sam Shields, Tramon Williams and the rest of the Packers' secondary this week. Shields is most likely to draw Johnson the most, although Capers has said repeatedly that you can't cover him with the same defensive back all the time. The Packers say they aren't worried about a guy like Shields, who signed a four-year, $39 million contract this offseason, trying to go out and justify his contract by trying to shut down Johnson.

If anything, Shields should be confident in knowing that he has done it in the recent past. Shields covered Johnson for most of last year's Thanksgiving game at Ford Field. Although the Lions won in a 40-10 blowout, Shields held Megatron to just three catches for 46 yards in seven targets when he was in coverage, although Johnson still managed six catches for 101 yards overall for the day.

"At the end of the day, it's all competition, and he's a big challenge," Shields said. "You know a guy like that, you want that. In the NFL, all eyes on you, everybody wants to see what you're going to do against Calvin Johnson. So you know, like I said, do the right things, do my keys, my techniques right, everything will be good."

The same goes for Williams, who has had success -- and seen others have success -- against Johnson. In 2012, Williams' primary job was to cover Johnson, and he held him to four catches for 54 yards without a touchdown in a game at Lambeau Field. However, Williams did not have him the entire time, and Johnson still managed a 100-yard game. And he saw Charles Woodson hold Johnson, in his worst game against the Packers, to two catches for 10 yards for an entire game in 2009.

However, those were not the norms for Johnson, who in 12 career games against the Packers has 71 catches for 1,163 yards and 12 touchdowns -- the most catches, yards and touchdowns he has against any one opponent.

Williams remembers the Harris-Burress situation and, for one, doesn't think Harris played as poorly as most thought.

"I went back and looked at that game, he was in some good positions, and at the end of the day, you battle a guy like that, and he's just making plays for his team, you can live with that," Williams said.

But he and others also do not think the same circumstances apply to a player they know as well as Johnson, their divisional foe.

"We play him twice a year, so it's not anything new," Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "It's not like we’re on a team that might see him once every two or three years, we see him so much that we understand the challenge, and the challenge is huge."

CB depth keeps House on bench for now

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
12:10
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Given how deep the Green Bay Packers were at cornerback, it was worth wondering how they would get Davon House on the field.

The answer, at least in the opener, was that they won't.

House
 Despite having the best training camp and preseason of his NFL career, House did not play a single snap on defense in last week's season-opening loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Casey Hayward got the call as the fifth defensive back in the nickel package, and Micah Hyde, who started at safety, played as the dime (sixth) defensive back when rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix replaced him at safety.

However, that doesn't mean the fourth-year cornerback will be relegated only to special teams duty until an injury opens up a spot in the secondary.

"No, there doesn't have to be an injury; there's a possibility he could play this week," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "I said early on, and I said it in the [cornerbacks] room, there's going to be some uncomfortable moments, and everybody's not going to be happy, and that's just what it's going to be. Last week, he was not the happy the one. This week, we’ll see. One of them won’t be happy."

Whitt, however, said House handled the news that he wouldn't be in the regular defensive rotation with class.

"I know it's part of the business," House said. "Everyone wants to be the guy. I figured it'd be either me or Casey. The ball pointed to me. I've just got to do my job and keep my head up high."

It's a tough spot for House, who is in the final year of his rookie contract. He wants to be able to be able to show that he can carry over in the regular season what he showed in the preseason.

House is somewhat limited by the fact that he has only played on the outside at cornerback, while Hayward, Tramon Williams and Jarrett Bush all have played both outside and in the slot.

"I was always told you've got to learn how to follow before you lead, so I need to learn how to follow Tramon, J.B. and the starters before I get out there," House said.

According to defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the personnel in certain packages could change week to week. Given how many different formations and packages the New York Jets use, perhaps there's a way to get House on the field this week.

"I think you'll see Davon play a lot of football for us; you just will," Capers said. "Some games it works that way; some games it doesn't. But we've got a lot of confidence in Davon. We like what he's done in the preseason, so you'll see Davon play a lot of football for us."

House still made an impact on special teams against Seattle. He made a heads-up play when he more or less baited Richard Sherman into blocking him in to Seahawks punt returner Earl Thomas, who then muffed the ball that the Packers recovered.

"I thought it was a real smart play on his part when he went into Richard Sherman and that collision ended up getting in the way of the returner catching the ball," special teams coach Shawn Slocum said.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Nearly a month into training camp, it is apparent that at least two healthy members of the Green Bay Packers' recent draft class won't be able to help them much -- if at all -- this season.

So what does general manager Ted Thompson do with linebacker Carl Bradford and cornerback Demetri Goodson?

He might be willing to hang onto the fourth- and sixth-round picks, respectively, anyway.

When asked this week whether he's more inclined to give a draft pick a little longer to develop than he would a player off the street, Thompson admitted: "Maybe a smidgen."

Thompson has cut ties with only one fourth-pick pick as a rookie, receiver Cory Rodgers in 2006, and he has kept 11 of his 14 sixth-round picks as rookies.

However, a realistic look at the depth chart at both positions would indicate that Bradford might be no better than the eighth outside linebacker on the roster. The Packers likely won't keep more than 10 linebackers combined counting both inside and outside backers. It goes without saying that Bradford ranks behind Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal and Nick Perry. Based on playing time, Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer also rank ahead of him. And based on production, undrafted rookies Jayrone Elliott and Adrian Hubbard might be as well.

"I believe in the kid," Packers linebackers coach Winston Moss said Tuesday. "He works hard. He's a great guy. He has a skill set that can help us out. It's only a matter of time before he shows up, and what you're going to anticipate seeing is a guy that can play the run very, very well and a guy that can be an effort-determined rusher to get to the passer. I think that's going to show up before it's all over."

From the moment the Packers drafted Bradford at No. 121 overall out of Arizona State, it seemed he might be better suited to play inside linebacker. At 6-foot-1 and 252 pounds, he is the shortest outside linebacker on the roster and the second lightest among those he's competing against for a spot.

To date, however, Bradford has not taken a single snap at inside linebacker.

Still, that could end up being his eventual position. Moss would not rule it out.

"I can't judge what position he's going to be playing, I'll leave it at that," Moss said. "He's working hard. I think we've done well in the past being able to convert outside backers to the inside, but we'll see what happens."

And then there's Goodson, who played three years of college basketball at Gonzaga before he transferred to Baylor to play football. The Packers picked him at No. 197 overall knowing full well that he will need time to develop, but he might be further away than they thought.

"He has a ways to go," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "He's still a young player. We're in the work phase with him, teaching him the defense, teaching him just the base parts of it."

There are at least five cornerbacks -- Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Davon House and Jarrett Bush -- ahead of Goodson. It's possible a sixth, Jumal Rolle, might be, too.

"But the great thing is we don't need him to play right now," Whitt said. "He has time to grow."

Still, Thompson will have to decide whether he can afford to let players develop while taking up a spot on the 53-man roster. Other than sixth-round pick Jared Abbrederis, the receiver who will be placed on injured reserve because of his knee injury, the Packers likely will keep the rest of their draft picks on the roster.

It might be a risk to cut Bradford or Goodson with the hope of getting them back on the practice squad. The other 31 teams would have a chance to put in a waiver claim before the Packers could do so.

"Most of the people outside this building are going to care if we win or lose," Thompson said. "So we better keep the best ones."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The last time Tom Clements was on the sideline for an NFL game, the temperature at kickoff was 5 degrees with a wind-chill of minus-10.

No wonder the Green Bay Packers' offensive coordinator has decided to move from the sideline to the coaches' box for games this season.

"I didn't want to get cold in the winter," the 61-year-old Clements said Thursday, referring to the Packers' playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers last January at Lambeau Field.

The change, which will make its debut in Saturday's preseason opener at the Tennessee Titans, comes on the heels of some shuffling of duties on coach Mike McCarthy's staff. New quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt will coach from the sideline on game days even though his predecessor, Ben McAdoo, the New York Giants' new offensive coordinator, coached last year from upstairs.

Clements last worked from the box in 2006, the first of his six seasons as Packers' quarterbacks coach. He moved down to the field the next season and remained there even when was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2012 after Joe Philbin left to become the Miami Dolphins coach. Philbin, incidentally, worked from the press box when he was the offensive coordinator.

"I just thought I'd have a better viewpoint up there and be more helpful," Clements said.

Rodgers
It will be the first time since quarterback Aaron Rodgers became a starter in 2008 that he won't have Clements at his side on game day.

"Tom has been a great supporter, a great ally, a great teacher for so many years," Rodgers said. "It will be a different role. But I'm sure that Alex and I and the quarterbacks would kind of look at the pictures together, talk about them and kind of make the adjustments."

It means Clements will not be able to go over the still-frame pictures that quarterbacks view between series.

"It's a change for Aaron, so we'll take the preseason to evaluate it, but Tom has great eyes," said Van Pelt, who also worked from the field last year when he was running backs coach. "Obviously, [Clements has] great knowledge of the system. He'll be a great source up in the box, you know seeing it from up top. You know I've always been on the sideline with the players, quarterbacks, running backs, so obviously it's nothing that will be different for me."

The Packers will have seven coaches in the box on game days: Clements, defensive coordinator Dom Capers, offensive assistant Luke Getsy, assistant offensive line coach Steve Marshall, defensive assistant John Rushing, defensive/special teams assistant Jason Simmons and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt.

There will be something new for the coaches on the sideline this season. They will be able to use electronic tablets during games to view still-shots of plays in addition to traditional paper photos. Although they will not be able to play video through the tablets, they can use them to zoom in on certain players.

"The Hall of Fame game, I saw them using those," Van Pelt said. "Just reading some blurbs, I thought [Bills] Coach [Doug] Marrone [said] his didn't work at first or something, but then he really liked it once it started working. So I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays. Rain games, how is that going to affect it, sunny days, is that going to affect the screen? So there’s some bugs in the preseason."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With the preseason opener looming on Saturday at Tennessee, the Green Bay Packers released their first depth chart of the season.

It was labeled "unofficial."

And there were few, if any, surprises.

At almost every position where there is even a hint of competition, the more experienced player was listed first.

Keep in mind that a year ago, the first depth chart of the season listed Eddie Lacy as the No. 4 running back behind DuJuan Harris, Alex Green and James Starks. Harris never played a down because of a knee injury, Green got cut at the end of camp and Lacy became the NFL's offensive rookie of the year. The same chart listed Marshall Newhouse as the starting right tackle and Bryan Bulaga as the left tackle. By then, Bulaga had already blown out his knee, and Newhouse did not start a game until Week 11.

Nevertheless, here's what stood out on the first edition of this year's depth chart:
  • Without Jermichael Finley, the order at tight end was Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, rookie Richard Rodgers and Jake Stoneburner.
  • Although coach Mike McCarthy said he has not decided how the backup quarterback reps will be divided up against the Titans, Matt Flynn was listed as No. 2 and Scott Tolzien No. 3 behind Aaron Rodgers.
  • At running back, James Starks was listed as the No. 2 behind Lacy. DuJuan Harris was third followed by Michael Hill, Rajion Neal and LaDarius Perkins.
  • JC Tretter was the top center ahead of rookie Corey Linsley.
  • The No. 2 outside linebacker combination behind starters Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers was Mike Neal and Nick Perry. Neal was the backup to Matthews on the right side, while Perry was behind Peppers on the left even though Perry has been more productive on the other side.
  • Morgan Burnett and Micah Hyde were listed as the starting safety duo with Sean Richardson behind Burnett and first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix behind Hyde.
  • At right cornerback, former practice-squader Jumal Rolle was No. 3 (behind Sam Shields and Casey Hayward) ahead of rookie sixth-round pick Demetri Goodson, who has struggled so far.
  • At kickoff returner, it was Hyde followed by Harris, Cobb and rookie Jeff Janis. The punt returners were Hyde and Cobb.
  • The depth chart also included the assistant coaches' locations on game days, and there was one major change. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements is going to the coaches box after previously working from the sideline. He will be joined in the box by defensive coordinator Dom Capers, offensive quality control assistant Luke Getsy, assistant offensive line coach Steve Marshall, defensive/special teams assistant Jason Simmons and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Dom Capers and Tramon Williams aren't suggesting the NFL is not serious about its mandate that referees call receiver-defensive back contact more closely this season, but the Green Bay Packers veteran defensive coordinator and the eighth-year cornerback know one thing:

"As many flags as we've had out there the last two days," Capers said Friday afternoon, "it might be a six-hour game."

[+] EnlargeTramon Williams
Al Bello/Getty ImagesTramon Williams and the rest of the Packers secondary have gotten a crash course this week on the new emphasis on contact in coverage.
A few hours earlier Friday, after referee Ed Hochuli and part of his crew worked practice for the second straight day, Williams made almost the exact same statement.

"If they want to throw flags every day like they did at practice," Williams said, "we're just going to have to play a six-hour game."

Capers, who is in his 29th NFL season and sixth with the Packers, said he has seen different rules emphasis come and go so many times he has lost count.

Does that mean this too shall pass?

"We'll see," Capers said.

For now, Williams said he's going to keep doing what he has done throughout his seven-year career.

"You have to," he said. "Obviously it's an adjustment period, but you have to put yourself in that situation to see how they're going to call it. If they're going to call it different, then you make that adjustment. But if they're not going to call it different, then there's no adjustment to be made."

Based on the way the rest of the Packers' defensive backs have been practicing, they're following Williams' lead. Although there were fewer flags on Friday than Thursday, when Hochuli said perhaps only half-joking that his crew flagged 10 of the first 10 receiver-defensive back one-on-one plays, the emphasis on holding, illegal contact and pass interference remained apparent.

"What they're stressing right now is any tug of the jersey, [it's] PI, period," said Williams, referring to pass interference. "That's why you've been seeing so many flags out there. It doesn't matter where it is, they say you can be running down the field just with your hands on the receiver, chances are they're going to emphasize PI right now. It might be called right now, which is a little ridiculous, but it's emphasis time, so that's what they have to do."

Part of the emphasis also is on policing what receivers and tight ends try to do to defensive players. As long as that remains part of the focus, Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said he will have no issues.

If Whitt is skeptical, it's probably with good reason. Dating back to 2009, when the Packers lost to the Arizona Cardinals 51-45 in a wild-card playoff, he has been vocal in his displeasure about the way receivers such as Larry Fitzgerald have been allowed to get physical with his players.

"The Fitzgerald plays back in 2009, I showed them those plays, when he pushed [Charles Woodson] down," Whitt said of his meeting with Hochuli. "I said, 'This is why we play the way we play, because we're not going to allow 14 points.' In my opinion, that was our best football team, and we lost that game because we allowed 14 points. So you asked us to trust you then. We're going to trust you again, all right? But it has to be called. It has to be called both ways. As long as it's called evenly, there is no issue. There is no issue. And I believe the officials are trying to get it right. They're trying to get it right. But they have to call the OPIs and have it go both ways."

As you might expect, the feeling was different on the offensive side of the locker room.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, thinking ahead to the season opener and the Seattle Seahawks' physical defense, said, "Different crews will interpret things differently obviously, but I was joking with this crew that we might want them to head up to the Pacific Northwest in about a month."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and the Green Bay Packers' first training camp practice Saturday, we will break down each position group.

Next up is cornerbacks.

Returning players: Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Jumal Rolle, Antonio Dennard.

Gone from last season: James Nixon.

New this season: Demetri Goodson (sixth-round pick), Ryan White (undrafted rookie).

Position coach: Joe Whitt (sixth season, also spent one season as a defensive quality control coach).

Biggest issue: Halfway through last season, it was starting to look like Williams' days with the Packers -- at least under his current contract structure -- might be coming to an end. In the middle of his seventh NFL season, Williams' game had still not returned to its 2010 form, when he was a key player on the Super Bowl-winning defense. But over the course of the second half of the season, Williams closed with the kind of play that prompted the Packers to sign him to a four-year, $33 million contract extension in the first place. Williams now is in the final year of that contract and is slated to make $7.5 million this season. Although it's highly unlikely, if the Packers were to cut Williams before the season started they would remove his base salary of $6.9 million off their books and would have to count only $2 million of his remaining prorated signing bonus on their salary cap.

House
Player to watch: The last two offseasons have been the same for House. He has shown up big in practice, but those results have not transferred to the regular season. Once again this year, the former fourth-round pick has stood out in OTA and minicamp practices. Now entering the final year of his rookie contract, House must show that he can take the next step to warrant consistent playing time, another contract and possibly a shot at a starting job someday.

Medical report: On the eve of training camp last season, Hayward pulled his hamstring. He was never the same. He played in only three regular-season games last year before landing on injured reserve. He was a regular participant in the offseason practices this spring and has shown no signs that the hamstring will continue to be an issue.

Help wanted: The Packers want to get Hyde on the field as much as possible but with Hayward returning as the likely nickel defensive back and Shields and Williams seemingly entrenched as starters, his best chance might be at safety. Although he is still listed as a cornerback on the roster, Hyde spent most of this offseason playing safety, where he regularly lined up as a starter next to Morgan Burnett.

Quotable: "As a cornerback group, I believe we were eighth in the league in interceptions [last season] with nine," Whitt said. "In the [last] five years, I know we're No. 1. We've got to be top-five as a cornerback group in interceptions. I think we had nine last year; we need to be around 12. We just have to catch the football when it's thrown to us."

Previous installments

July 14: Quarterbacks

July 15: Running backs

July 16: Receivers

July 17: Tight ends

July 18: Offensive line

July 21: Defensive line

July 22: Linebackers
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Sam Shields was all set to board a plane for Cleveland, Ohio, the minute NFL free agency was scheduled to open on March 11.

His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, had been talking to the Browns -- among other teams -- early in the three-day negotiating period before teams could visit or sign with new teams.

[+] EnlargeSam Shields
AP Photo/Joe RobbinsSam Shields signed a four-year, $39 million deal to remain in Green Bay this offseason.
That's how close the Green Bay Packers came to losing perhaps their best cornerback.

Shields said Tuesday, in his first interview since signing a four-year, $39 million deal to return to the Packers, that things would have happened quickly with the Browns -- and perhaps other teams -- had he not come to terms with the Packers.

But it never came to that.

"Most of the time I was scared because, like I said, I wanted to be a Packer," Shields said. "You know how that business goes. It's kind of scary at first, but they came with it. I'm happy to be back."

Although the final week of negotiations was frantic, it a yearlong process that last offseason saw Shields skip all the voluntary workouts while Rosenhaus tried to get a long-term deal done with the Packers. The agent even flew to Green Bay last June before the team's mandatory minicamp, but he left a meeting with the Packers only to see Shields sign his $2.023 million restricted free-agent tender.

And then Shields turned in the best season of his four-year career, which began unceremoniously as an undrafted free agent, setting him up for a deal that made him the fifth-highest paid cornerback in the NFL based on his $9.75 million average per year. His signing bonus was $12.5 million.

Not bad for someone who did not play cornerback until his senior year at the University of Miami, where he played his first three years as a receiver.

"I'm really happy because Sam's best football is still in front of him," Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "I honestly believe he has two more years of ascending and then he's going to play at that level for another four years. That's six years of just really good football ahead of him and by then he's 32. He might have more, I don't know what he's going to have after that, but I see two more years of getting better and four more of holding that type of high-quality play."

If there's any fear that the first big long-term contract -- Shields' original rookie deal contained just a $7,500 signing bonus -- will impede the progress that Whitt sees for him, Shields insisted it would not. That he has been in Green Bay for all of the voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) is one tangible sign that it won't.

Another might be the fact that he said his only major purchase since his new deal was a house in Florida -- not for him, but for his mother.

"It's like I tell everybody, it's just the beginning," Shields said. "Like I said, I'm going to keep continuing to work my butt off, make plays and hopefully down the line get another one. It's just the beginning."

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