Green Bay Packers: Winston Moss

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and the Green Bay Packers' first training camp practice on Saturday, we will break down each position group.

Next up, linebackers.

Returning players: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Mike Neal, Nate Palmer, Andy Mulumba, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington

Gone from last season: Victory Aiyewa, Robert Francois

New this season: Julius Peppers (free agent), Carl Bradford (fourth-round pick), Jake Doughty (undrafted rookie), Joe Thomas (undrafted rookie), Jayrone Elliott (undrafted rookie), Adrian Hubbard (undrafted rookie), Shaun Lewis (undrafted rookie)

Position coach: Winston Moss (ninth season)

Biggest issue: The Packers are banking on the 34-year-old Peppers to give them another pass-rushing threat. To do so, they plan to play him at outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. It's the first time they have had a bona fide pass-rushing threat opposite Matthews. What does that mean for Neal and Perry, who combined to play nearly 1,200 snaps at outside linebacker last season? Defensive coordinator Dom Capers might be wise to find a healthy rotation between Peppers, Perry and Neal in order to keep them fresh and effective.

Player to watch: The Packers gave Lattimore the lowest restricted free agent tender offer ($1.431 million), but that does not mean he's an afterthought. Capers would like to get the fourth-year pro more involved in certain packages even if he sticks with Hawk and Jones as his starting inside linebackers.

Medical report: Matthews sat out all of the offseason practices while recovering from the second of two surgeries on his broken right thumb. Perry, who missed time last season because of foot and ankle injuries, also did not practice at all this offseason.

Help wanted: While there may not be any starting jobs up for grabs, the competition will be heated, especially at outside linebacker. In addition to Peppers, Matthews, Neal and Perry, the Packers have two other players -- Palmer and Mulumba -- who saw playing time last season. Combine that with the addition of Bradford and Hubbard, and it looks like a loaded group.

Quotable: "There’s only two guys on the field at a time, and it'll be the best two," Moss said of the outside linebackers. "Those other guys are going to have to fight for it. That's why we have an offseason. That's why we have a process. That's why we have a training camp. The guys that prove themselves and are reliable and make plays, they'll be the guys that are going to play."

Previous installments

July 14: Quarterbacks

July 15: Running backs

July 16: Receivers

July 17: Tight ends

July 18: Offensive line

July 21: Defensive line
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After looking at the Green Bay Packers' offensive depth chart on Monday, it's time to take a look at the defensive side of the ball.

Remember, this is an unofficial assessment, but it is based on observations during organized team activities and minicamp practices combined with interviews with assistant coaches and scouts.

Defensive line: Ends -- Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Khyri Thornton, Jerel Worthy, Carlos Gray, Luther Robinson. Tackles -- B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, Mike Pennel.

Notes: Raji, who returned on a one-year, $4 million contract, will move back to nose tackle in the base 3-4 defense. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers plans to pair Jones and Daniels together as the inside rushers in nickel and dime situations. Guion should provide some run-stopping bulk up front that was lost when the Packers chose not to re-sign Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly.

Outside linebackers: Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, Nick Perry, Carl Bradford, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer, Adrian Hubbard, Jayrone Elliott, Shaun Lewis.

Notes: The Packers plan to move around Peppers, but he played almost exclusively out of a two-point stance during OTAs and minicamp practices that were open. Matthews and Perry did not practice all offseason because of lingering injuries. Bradford, a fourth-round pick, flashed some pass-rush ability, while undrafted rookie Hubbard brings some added size (6-foot-6, 257 pounds) to the position.

Inside linebackers: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Jake Doughty, Joe Thomas.

Notes: Linebackers coach Winston Moss insisted this offseason that Brad Jones remains one of the two starters despite an inconsistent 2013 season, and there was nothing in the offseason practices to suggest Jones' job is in jeopardy. However, the Packers want to get Lattimore more involved, so look for them to carve out a role for him.

Cornerbacks: Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Demetri Goodson, Ryan White, Jumal Rolle.

Notes: The importance of Hayward's return from the hamstring injury that limited him to just three games last season was evident during minicamp, when the third-year cornerback picked off a pass in the end zone. The Packers remain high on House, who stepped in for Shields in the playoff game against the 49ers and performed well. Goodson, a sixth-round pick, brings athleticism to the group.

Safeties: Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Sean Richardson, Chris Banjo, Charles Clay, Tanner Miller.

Notes: Hyde, who played as a slot cornerback last season as a rookie, has looked natural in his conversion to safety and played ahead of Clinton-Dix, the first-round pick, with the defensive starters. Richardson also had a strong offseason.
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.
Demovsky: If organized team activities and minicamp are any indication -- and considering they are practices in shorts and helmets, they may not be -- it would appear rookie Richard Rodgers might have the inside track. His size (6-foot-4, 257 pounds) and athleticism stood out during the offseason practices. At least once a practice, he made an eye-catching play in the passing game, and coach Mike McCarthy said of Rodgers at the conclusion of minicamp this week that "if there was one thing that jumped off for a rookie in the offseason program, I would say he was very productive." Now, he got more reps because returning starter Andrew Quarless did not practice at all this offseason, but Rodgers took advantage. He will have to show that he can be an effective blocker once the pads come on in training camp, but at this point he might be in the lead. Demovsky: That is one of the great mysteries of this offseason, along with why linebacker Nick Perry was sidelined. Quarless indeed finished last season healthy and was the starter after Jermichael Finley's early-season injury. Quarless never made an appearance in the locker room during the media availability periods, and McCarthy does not have to disclose injury information -- and usually does not -- during the offseason. We may have to wait until training camp to find out. Demovsky: It has to be the secondary, right? Anytime you add a first-round pick at a position, he better make an impact, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix looks the part so far. Even if Clinton-Dix does not start right away, the feeling is that the safety position will be upgraded if for no other reason than M.D. Jennings, who started the last 26 games at free safety, is out. Most feel Micah Hyde would be an upgrade at safety, too. Plus, the entire cornerback group has returned. If there's one major question on defense, it has to be whether the inside linebacker group can improve without any significant personnel additions. Demovsky: It's highly unlikely Randall Cobb would agree to such a deal. His agent surely knows what Cobb could attract on the open market. In fact, a recent sampling of opinions around the league by colleague Mike Sando found that Cobb would be one of the most coveted receivers in a deep free-agent class, so why would Cobb settle for that kind of contract? Now, things could change if he were to sustain another injury before he signs his next deal but at this point, it appears he will be in line for a deal with significant up-front money. Note: There will be no mailbag next week because I will be on vacation. Mailbags may be sporadic between now and the start of training camp, but there will be fresh content every day on the Packers' page so please check in on a daily basis. 
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's one thing for a proven player like Clay Matthews to miss the entire offseason program while recovering from his twice broken thumb.

Matthews has turned in Pro Bowl seasons before while missing major parts of the offseason and training camp because of hamstring injuries.

But for a player like Nick Perry, the Green Bay Packers outside linebacker who has yet to perform like the first-round pick that he was in 2012, the fact that he has been unable to participate in any on-field activities this offseason could prove to be another detriment to his development.

"I don't think it helps any player to miss a whole offseason," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday following the first practice of minicamp. "I talked about it last week with the staff. I told the team about it today. Our coaching staff took a different approach. You're accustomed to being a 15-week program. Obviously we're in a nine-week program going on here in Year 4 [of the new CBA]. To get all that work done, nothing changes. You have a season to get ready for. You have this much work. And to do it all in a nine-week period, and for a player to miss all of it, obviously it's not a good situation to be in.

"I think any of the players who did not take advantage of this nine-week opportunity or due to injury is definitely something they're going to have to work harder to catch up once training camp starts."

McCarthy would not specify the reason for Perry’s absence, but Perry missed five games last season because of foot and ankle injuries.

"I mean, he's injured, so. ..." McCarthy said.

There is frustration throughout the organization about Perry's inability to get on the field. He missed nearly half (15) of the 32 regular-season games in his two NFL seasons.

When asked what Perry is missing by being unable to practice, linebackers coach Winston Moss said: "Everything. Everything."

"It's unfortunate," Moss said. "It's disappointing."

In addition to Matthews and Perry, three other former draft picks have been unable to participate this offseason: defensive end Jerel Worthy, tight end Andrew Quarless and running back Johnathan Franklin.

Perhaps the biggest concern is about Franklin, the fourth-round pick from UCLA who finished his rookie season last year on injured reserve following a neck injury. The Packers are worried that Franklin's neck injury might be career-threatening. According to two people with knowledge of his situation, the Packers are putting Franklin through more tests to determine whether it's safe for him to continue playing.

Worthy, who last season played in only two games after coming off a torn ACL in the 2012 regular-season finale, missed the first two weeks of OTAs following the accidental shooting death of his grandmother in Ohio, but he also is dealing with an unspecified injury that is not believed to be related to his knee.

Quarless, who signed a two-year, $3 million contract to return to the Packers, also has not practiced. He missed all of the 2012 season because of a knee injury in 2011 but returned to play in every game last season, including 10 starts.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If you watched our NFL Nation Buzz Video from this week, you heard about how coach Mike McCarthy was encouraged by the fact that the Green Bay Packers have several players who have come back strong after significant injuries last season.

Let's take a closer look at the Packers' health situation as they wrap up the third week of organized team activity practices and head into next week's mandatory minicamp.

We'll put the players into three categories -- those who have returned from injuries that prevented them from finishing last season, those who are still out and those who have been injured this offseason.

Let's look at the first category now and the others in a separate posting coming later on Friday.

Returned from injuries

1. Bryan Bulaga: After missing all of last season with a torn ACL in his left knee -- an injury he sustained last August in the annual Family Night scrimmage – Bulaga is back at right tackle (he was slated to move to left tackle last season) with the number one offensive line. Although he is wearing a large brace on his left knee, he appears to be moving well and taking a full load of snaps in practice. It will be interesting to see whether Bulaga will be limited when the pads go on in training camp. It's an important year because Bulaga has missed all or parts of the last two seasons because of injuries (a hip cost him the final seven games of 2012).

"Bryan Bulaga looks good," McCarthy said. "We're in the OTA practices and I think our pass-under-pressure drill has been good, so we're getting some work there with the sets. So the individual work is what our offensive line coaches do a great job of, so he's getting exactly what he needs. He's stronger. He weighs a little more than he has in the past. So he's having a heck of a spring."

2. DuJuan Harris: Like Bulaga, Harris missed the entire 2013 season because of a knee injury, but his was not an ACL reconstruction. Harris had a patellar tendon injury that bothered him throughout the offseason and flared up in training camp. Before his injury, McCarthy had planned to use Harris in combination with Eddie Lacy as a one-two running back punch. Instead, James Starks became Lacy's primary backup and excelled in the role. It's now a crowded backfield with those three plus Johnathan Franklin (more on him later today), Michael Hill plus undrafted rookies Rajion Neal and LaDarius Perkins.

"I feel good; I feel ready to go, man," Harris said. "Got to get back in the mental department, but I'll be ready."

3. Casey Hayward: A hamstring injury that he sustained while working out on his own last July ruined his second season. It recurred two more times and limited him to just three games. The Packers were expecting big things from Hayward after he picked off six passes (most among NFL rookies) in 2012. He has returned to his slot cornerback position this offseason although it may take time for him to get back to where he was in 2012.

"If I can get out there and be 90 percent, which I'm feeling great out there right now, if I can get to training camp and be 100 percent, I'll be fine," Hayward said. "I'll be ready to go."

4. Sam Barrington: A seventh-round draft pick from South Florida in 2013, Barrington was active for seven of the first eight games and played on special teams until a hamstring injury ended his rookie season. Barrington has tried to work his way back into the rotation at inside linebacker this offseason.

"Sam came in and tried to establish what he can bring to the table before anything he tweaked his [hamstring] a little bit ... and we ended up putting him on IR so there's a lot of still unknowns about him," linebackers coach Winston Moss said. "He's working hard, great attitude, all of our guys are working hard and trying to get the right thing done on a day-to-day basis. The only thing with Sam is you can just continue to give him as much opportunities as possible so that at the end of the day there's going to be an opportunity to evaluate him."

5. Brandon Bostick: The second-year tight end missed the first two weeks of OTAs while waiting for clearance to return from foot surgery. He finally returned this week. Bostick, a former college receiver, showed some signs of playmaking ability late last season after Jermichael Finley's season-ending neck injury. He averaged 17.1 yards on seven receptions before landing on injured reserve in December. Bostick had a screw placed in his foot to repair a broken bone.

"I thought Brandon made some real strides by the end of the season," tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said earlier this offseason. "His effort level was really high. He seemed to have a better understanding of what he was being asked to do. As with everything, great effort can overcome a lot of bad technique. In his case that was happening at a much greater level as his technique improved. Obviously, it's a setback, being not able to practice and getting the timing with the quarterback, getting the timing with the blocking unit up front and getting in protection mode. So he's going to have some hurdles when he gets back and he's able to go full speed just to get his body angles right, his alignment in order and being able to trust his fundamentals again. I think it's going to take some time. The sooner we get him back, the better."

6. Kevin Dorsey: The seventh-round pick in 2012 missed all of last season because of a toe injury and has returned to a crowded receiver group. The Packers drafted three receivers -- Davante Adams (second round), Jared Abbrederis (fifth round) and Jeff Janis (seventh round) -- and return three of their top-four receivers from last season. Dorsey has been able to participate in all of the OTAs so far.

7. Myles White: After being promoted from the practice squad in Week 7 last season after Randall Cobb went on the temporary IR list, the former undrafted rookie played in seven games and caught nine passes for 66 yards before a knee injury ended his season. White said it was a meniscus tear that would not require surgery, and he has shown no signs that it has limited him this offseason.
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- We've known for several months that changes are coming for the Green Bay Packers' defense.

Coach Mike McCarthy first hinted at such shortly after the season, when he said: "You don't ever stay the same. I'll set the vision for the defense. Dom Capers and the defensive staff will carry it out."

He expanded on that several weeks later at the NFL scouting combine, when he said: "There's some things that I feel we need to change."

But here we are in mid-April, and not even the players know the full extent of those changes yet.

"I'm not sure," linebacker Brad Jones said this week before he hit the road as part of the team's five-day Tailgate Tour through northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Jones and his teammates will get the first significant dose of those changes next week, when the Packers' offseason program kicks off on Tuesday.

Jones and the rest of the linebackers already know their position group will be expanded. With the departure of outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, who resigned shortly after last season, both the inside and outside linebackers will come together under assistant coach Winston Moss, who previously coached only the inside linebackers.

"I think with coach Moss coaching the whole pack there, I think it will be some good stuff honestly," said Jones, who started all but four games last season. "Honestly, I don't know the exact changes, but I'm excited. I'm definitely excited."

Last offseason, Jones signed a three-year, $11.75 million contract that included a $3 million signing bonus. A year later, he could be fighting for his starting job after an inconsistent season.

"I think every year is a competition, every year you have to go back out and prove yourself like you did the year before," Jones said. "I don't think anything changes."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- You can finally order your Julius Peppers jersey.

Nearly a month after the All-Pro pass-rusher signed with the Green Bay Packers, the team announced on Monday that he will wear number 56.

Peppers has worn number 90 his entire NFL career with the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears.

When he signed with the Packers on March 15, that number was not available because nose tackle B.J. Raji, who has worn 90 since he was drafted in 2009, had re-signed one day earlier.

The last Packers player to wear 56 was linebacker Terrell Manning, who played one season (2012) and then was released at the end of training camp last year. Linebacker Nick Barnett wore the number from 2003-10.

It has traditionally been a linebacker number. Although Peppers has played defensive end his entire NFL career, the Packers plan to use him as a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker that they are calling an elephant position. Coach Mike McCarthy said Peppers will work with linebackers coach Winston Moss rather than defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, who coached Peppers in Carolina.

As of late last week, an associate at the Packers Pro Shop said they were not selling Peppers' jerseys because they had not yet been informed by the team what number he would be wearing.

The Packers' other recent free-agent signing, defensive tackle Letroy Guion, will wear number 98.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With the bulk of the free-agent work done, it's a good time to recheck the Green Bay Packers' depth chart leading up to the May 8-10 NFL draft.

On Thursday, we broke down the way things look on offense.

Next up is the defense:

Defensive end: Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Jerel Worthy.

[+] EnlargeDatone Jones
AP Photo/Morry GashThe Packers are counting on defensive end Datone Jones to rebound in his second season.
Analysis: The Packers have high hopes for Jones despite a disappointing rookie season in which the former first-round pick was slowed by an ankle injury and recorded just 3.5 sacks (two of which came in one game). "I feel he's one of those second-year players who [can] take a huge jump," coach Mike McCarthy said of Jones earlier this offseason. "That will be my expectations for him." Boyd, a fifth-round pick, actually saw more playing time late last season than Jones. Worthy played in only two games a year after he blew out his knee.

Defensive tackle: B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion.

Analysis: Moving Raji back to nose tackle on a full-time basis should help his production, which declined sharply over the last three years following a move to defensive end. Daniels was perhaps the team's most improved player last season, which should lead to an even bigger role this season. Guion, who was cut the Minnesota Vikings, will have to battle for a roster spot.

Elephant: Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Mike Neal.

Analysis: Elephant is a catch-all term for the multiple positions this trio will play. They will be part outside linebacker, part defensive end and part defensive tackle. The addition of Peppers, who was signed last month after being released by the Chicago Bears, should boost the pass rush. Expect Perry to play more on the right side this season, where he was far more impactful last season. These players will actually be tutored by linebackers coach Winston Moss.

Inside linebacker: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Victor Aiyewa.

Analysis: Hawk had perhaps his best season last year, but Jones was a disappointment after signing a three-year, $11.75 million contract and could be on shaky ground for a starting job. Lattimore, a restricted free agent who has yet to sign his tender, got some playing time last year while Jones was hurt and could push for the starting job. So could Barrington, a promising rookie who missed the second half of the season because of a hamstring injury.

Outside linebacker: Clay Matthews, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer, Chase Thomas.

Analysis: Neal and Perry played almost exclusively at outside linebacker last season, so there's a good chance they'll be a big part of this group again. But behind Matthews are a couple of second-year players, Mulumba and Palmer, who played more than anyone expected last year as a rookies. Mulumba, an undrafted free agent, played better than Palmer, a sixth-round pick. Thomas was signed early in the offseason off the street after spending most of last season on the Atlanta Falcons' practice squad.

Safeties: Morgan Burnett, Sean Richardson, Chris Banjo.

Analysis: Easily the thinnest position on the roster, there's still likely to be several additions here, probably via the draft. However, McCarthy said cornerback Micah Hyde will get some work at safety. Whether he's a candidate to start next to Burnett (a strong safety), however, remains to be seen. Burnett needs to bounce back from a disappointing season, but there's little reason to think his job is in jeopardy. Richardson returned late last season from a serious neck injury and showed promise. Banjo played more early in the season than he did late last year.

Cornerbacks: Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Jarrett Bush, Davon House, James Nixon, Jumel Rolle, Antonio Dennard.

Analysis: This is among the Packers' deepest positions thanks to the return of Shields, who signed a four-year, $39 million contract, and Hayward, who is expected to be healthy after a hamstring injury limited him to just three games last season. Williams closed the season playing perhaps as well as he did during the Super Bowl season of 2010, which is why they kept him despite a $7.5 million salary. Bush had his best season in coverage last year, while House was a disappointment. Nixon's speed makes him an intriguing prospect. Rolle was promoted from the practice squad late last season, while Dennard joined the practice squad late last season.

Monthly review: Green Bay Packers

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- We've come to the end of the first month without football in 2014 for the Green Bay Packers.

Free agency is still more than a week away. The NFL draft is more than two months away. Yet as usual in the NFL, plenty of business was conducted in February. On the final day of the month, it's a good time to review what we learned about the Packers over the last four weeks.

Finley not done yet?: Thoughts of tight end Jermichael Finley's demise in Green Bay may have been premature. For those who thought Finley would be cast aside just like safety Nick Collins was following his neck injury in 2011, coach Mike McCarthy said that although Finley had the same fusion surgery that Collins had, there were some differences that have left the Packers' medical staff feeling more optimistic about a return.

Cap space galore: With the salary cap likely to be at least $132 million this season, the Packers will have the sixth-most cap space to use, as of figures compiled this week.

Position changes: Every year, McCarthy and his staff seem to tweak a position or two, and this year appears to be no different. McCarthy said recently that in an effort to get cornerback Micah Hyde on the field more, he could play some safety this season. Also, outside linebacker Nick Perry may get the chance to play a new position that the Packers are developing in their defense, an elephant end spot.

No deals, no cuts: While talks with cornerback Sam Shields intensified last week at the combine and remain ongoing, the Packers did not sign any of their 17 unrestricted free agents to be. With free agency set to begin on March 11, the Packers still have plenty of work to do in order to retain some of their key players. The Packers also didn't make any salary-cap related cuts.

New coaches, new roles: McCarthy finalized his coaching staff changes, and perhaps the most noticeable change was how the linebackers will be coached. The resignation of outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene last month prompted McCarthy to bring both the outside and inside linebackers together under assistant head coach Winston Moss, who previously coached inside linebackers.

More involvement: McCarthy also hinted that he will be more involved in the defense, at least in the offseason, in an effort to improve it over last season, when it ranked 25th in the NFL in yards allowed. McCarthy said he would "set the vision for the defense, [and] Dom Capers and the defensive staff will carry it out."

Capers understands Greene's decision

February, 23, 2014
Feb 23
INDIANAPOLIS – Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has known Kevin Greene since he coached the former outside linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the early 1990s.

So he knows Greene operates only one way -- full throttle.

That’s why Capers said he understood why Greene resigned as the Packers outside linebackers coach last month after five seasons on the job. Greene cited the desire to spend more time with his wife and teenage children as his reasons.

“I’ve always believed in this business family comes first, and I truly believe it was a family decision for Kevin,” Capers said. “Both of his children are in high school and whether you like it or not in this business, we spend a lot of time in that stadium. It’s always tough, especially if your son is a player and you aren’t getting a chance to experience those things with him. Knowing Kevin, once he commits to something he’s committed to it, and his family’s extremely important to him.”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he wasn’t surprised by Greene’s decision.

“I clearly understand and respect it,” McCarthy said.

However, when asked whether he asked Capers to make changes on his defensive staff, McCarthy would not comment.

“I wouldn’t discuss that if I did anyway,” McCarthy said. “But for the record, I control the coaching staff. Dom doesn’t control the defensive staff.”

Upon Greene’s departure, the Packers brought together all the linebackers under assistant head coach Winston Moss, who previously coached only the inside linebackers. Scott McCurley was promoted to assistant linebackers coach and will help Moss handle the entire group.

“Having Winston oversee the whole group, I think the communication there just from a structure standpoint will improve,” McCarthy said. “It’s nothing against Kevin or the other guys, it’s just the fact now you’ve got all those body types in one room if you do want to have more flexibility. Scott has been preparing, I’ve been preparing Scott for this opportunity for a long time, so this was all part of the potential options for the future planning of the coaching staff.”

Greene, a 15-year NFL player who had never been on a coaching staff before he joined the Packers, resigned after five years on the job -- the minimum to be vested in the coaches’ retirement plan. The Packers still participate in that plan even though in 2009 several NFL teams opted out.

Meet the coaches: Winston Moss

February, 14, 2014
Feb 14
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Last week, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy announced changes to his coaching staff.

This week, some of the new coaches and some of the returning ones with new responsibilities met with reporters.

We'll introduce you to them throughout the week. First, there was running backs coach Sam Gash followed by assistant special teams coach Ron Zook and then assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley.

Next up is assistant head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss, who added outside linebackers to his duties.

The 48-year-old former NFL linebacker for 11 seasons with the Buccaneers, Raiders and Seahawks has been on McCarthy's staff since the beginning. In 2006 he was the linebackers coach before being promoted to assistant head coach the following season.

When Dom Capers was hired as defensive coordinator in 2009 and converted the Packers from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme, Moss worked exclusively with the inside linebackers. But with the resignation of outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene last month, Moss took over all of the linebackers, along with help from McCurley.

Here's what Moss had to say on:

Consolidating the linebackers into one group: "I'm sure that dynamic will take care of itself. If you've noticed, those guys really get along well. A.J. [Hawk] has really developed as far as being a very good communicator and interacted extremely well with the defense this past year. Now, those guys just being in the same room, I think that they'll really be able to share more than anything. And so, that should really help out, just the continuity, just the chemistry and camaraderie. Those are all positive things."

Evolving as a coach: "I think there's an experience factor. I think I keep it very, very simple. I'm very demanding. I'm very consistent. I'm very fair. The main thing that I focus on is identifying what each and every single person goes about their skill-set and goes about their way differently. I try to identify and I try to push their buttons. I think that I would try to coach A.J. differently than I would try to coach Brad [Jones]. I think that I would speak to Jamari Lattimore differently than the way I spoke to Robert [Francois]. I have experience with Clay [Matthews] and [Nick] Perry and the rest of those [outside linebackers]. Obviously, once I have that one-on-one relationship with them to where on a day-to-basis that I can focus on them, then I will be able to grow with them and find out. It's all going to be a relationship in which it's going to be based upon trusting one another and getting to know one another. From there, we would anticipate everything working out very well."

His interaction with the outside linebackers in the past: "No more than any other position. I think the outside linebackers, as much as the outside linebackers have a coordination with the inside guys, you can say the same thing about the defensive line, the safeties and the corners. I think I have been able to interact with all positions very well, so the outside linebackers will be just one part of my [job]."

This being a good career move: "I wish I can give you a great answer but to be perfectly honest with you, my focus right now has been expanded not to two positions but in essence four positions. So my focus is clearly to get those guys to play at the highest level possible."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Assistant special teams coaches in the NFL are usually neophyte coaches or former players trying to break into the business.

Rarely are they 59-year-olds who have held head coaching jobs at two prominent top-level colleges and also NFL coordinator jobs.

It wasn't lost on Ron Zook that his new position as the Green Bay Packers assistant special teams coach was a bit unusual, when he met with reporters on Monday for the first time since he was hired last week.

[+] EnlargeRon Zook
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Packers will turn to Ron Zook to help with special teams.
“Coaching's coaching; I wanted the opportunity to get back in the profession, I really did,” said Zook, the former Florida and Illinois head coach who had been out of football since he was fired in 2011 after seven seasons with the Illini.

“The first year out, I probably needed it just to kind of collect your thoughts and so forth. This past year, I really began to miss it. I told some people, one of the most exciting things for me is getting back into coaching for the reasons I got into coaching: because I love the game, I love the camaraderie, I love being around the players and the coaches and trying to help get everybody on the same page trying to do the same thing.”

Even Zook isn't quite sure exactly what his role will be, but coach Mike McCarthy knows he wants more attention paid to special teams, which struggled at times last season. McCarthy didn't feel that the problems warranted a complete change, which is why he retained special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum, but he appears set on dedicating more resources to it. He also has assigned Jason Simmons, a coaching administrator the last three seasons, to assist with special teams.

“I wanted to put more of an emphasis on that area,” McCarthy said. “One of our challenges ever year with youth, some of the injuries we've had with younger players playing early, there's a lot of one-on-one time that goes into special teams coaching. Everybody in the league goes through it. We just want to maximize that structure as far as to make sure our players are getting the one-on-one time, and I thought Ron brought a whole different dimension to the room.”

Zook was a natural fit for McCarthy. The two worked together with the New Orleans Saints for two seasons (2000 and 2001) when McCarthy was the offensive coordinator and Zook the defensive coordinator before Zook returned to the college ranks to coach the Gators.

In fact, Zook and McCarthy lived together during their early days with the Saints before Zook's family moved to New Orleans. Even after Zook's wife and kids joined him, they lived down the street from McCarthy.

Packers assistant head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss also was with them in New Orleans, and Zook coached Packers safeties coach Darren Perry during their days with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where Zook was the special teams coach from 1996-98.

“So you've got guys that you know and everybody's looking for the same thing, and that's to win,” Zook said. “That was what was important to me, being in a situation where you had a chance to win and being around good people.”

McCarthy mentioned Zook's energy and enthusiasm, something that was apparent throughout his 20-minute session with reporters on Monday. Zook spoke openly about both his successes, most notably the 2007 Rose Bowl team at Illinois; and his failures, being fired by both Florida and Illinois.

Zook also explained how he has spent the past two years out of football, working part-time as an analyst for CBS and also at a bank in Florida.

But perhaps it was what he did in his free time that was instrumental in his return to the NFL. He would make regular trips across the state to Tampa, Fla., where he would spend time watching film with ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden.

“I've spent I can't tell you how many hours, spent an awful lot of time with Jon Gruden,” Zook said. “I'd drive to Tampa, and we'd study football. We'd get ready for the draft, study programs that way, what's going on in both college and the NFL. So I was able to stay involved with the game in terms of the X's and O's part of it. But you miss the relationship side of it."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There are alterations coming to the Green Bay Packers’ defense but nothing dramatic like a switch from the 3-4 as their base scheme.

Despite changes to the structure of defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ coaching staff that seemingly could have made it easy to transition to a 4-3 scheme, the Packers are not headed in that direction.

“Our defense is going to change some,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “You don’t ever stay the same. I’ll set the vision for the defense. Dom Capers and the defensive staff will carry it out.”

[+] EnlargeDom Capers
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsDom Capers' defense struggled at times last season amid a rash of injuries to key players.
The biggest change -- so far -- is how the linebackers will be coached. Last week, McCarthy announced that assistant head coach Winston Moss, who previously coached inside linebackers, will add outside linebackers to his duties following the resignation of Kevin Greene.

Under that coaching structure, it would have made it possible for McCarthy to integrate more 4-3 principles into the defense.

While not all of the defensive changes have been hammered out, that will not be one of them.

“The only thing that I’ve been instructed is basically the structure’s going to stay the same as far as the 3-4,” Moss said. “If anything changes there, then that has not been made available to me so I’m moving forward that we’ll be structurally the same. Obviously my approach will just naturally bring some different philosophies and different approaches from the standpoint that I like to have a sense of those guys just doing a lot of things well.”

The Packers slipped to 25th in the NFL in yards allowed last season, down from 11th in 2012, and reverted to the form of 2011, when it finished last in the league. In Capers’ first two seasons as the Packers’ defensive coordinator, his units ranked second and fifth.

Injuries to key defensive players -- most notably outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry and cornerback Casey Hayward -- prevented Capers from using some of the myriad packages and concepts in his playbook last season.

From the sound of it, McCarthy wants to get back to being more versatile on defense.

“We were not as multiple maybe this year as we’ve been in prior years really because of the stress of injuries on that unit so we want to get back to some of the things that we did very well in the past and make sure we’re carrying enough packages to utilize all of our players,” McCarthy said. “We obviously need to get better on defense, and I think these moves that we’ve made on defense will definitely put us on that path.”

McCarthy said Capers, who has run a 3-4 system his entire NFL coaching career, has previously utilized one coach to oversee both the inside and outside linebackers even though he has never done so in Green Bay. Plus, Moss will have an assistant, Scott McCurley, who was promoted from defensive quality control coach.

While the responsibilities of the inside and outside linebackers differ significantly in Capers’ scheme, the voice in front of the position meeting room will be the same.

“You know, Winston, he’s really going to be the leader of the group,” McCurley said. “I think the players have a huge amount of respect for Winston’s leadership, and what he brings to the table there, and from there, I’m there to assist him, whether it be inside guys or outside guys.”
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.