NFL Nation: Sam Barrington

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It looks like Ron Zook will be the Green Bay Packers' new special teams coach.

Although there was no official announcement from the team, Packers linebacker Sam Barrington broke the news via Twitter on Thursday.

 

The move comes less than a week after coach Mike McCarthy fired special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum following a disastrous special teams season that culminated with two key mistakes in the NFC Championship Game loss, when they allowed the Seattle Seahawks to execute a fake field goal for a touchdown and then botched an onside kick recovery in the final minutes.

Slocum had run the Packers special teams since 2009, but Zook, a former college head coach at Florida and Illinois, joined the Packers last season as Slocum's assistant. The 60-year-old Zook previously was the special teams coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1996-98.

Slocum took over the job under similar circumstances. He was the assistant special teams coach for three years and was promoted after Mike Stock was forced out.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The meetings might not have been fun, but they were productive.

It was the bye week, and Dom Capers' defense had just come off a shelling at the hands of the New Orleans Saints. Sure, Capers was missing two starters in the secondary -- safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Sam Shields -- but that can't explain how the Green Bay Packers allowed Mark Ingram to rush for 172 yards.

In one game, the Packers went from bad (31st out of the 32 teams) against the run to the worst.

[+] EnlargeClay Matthews
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesThe insertion of Clay Matthews at middle linebacker in certain packages helped Green Bay's rushing defense improve considerably in the second half of the season.
Capers and head coach Mike McCarthy met at length that week to sort through what went wrong in the first half of the season and to hash out a plan to fix it.

Maybe you think McCarthy, an offensive-minded head coach, doesn't know much about defense. Capers will tell you differently.

"Let me tell you, any good offensive coach knows defense as well," Capers said. "A good defensive coach better know offense, too. And when you've got somebody that's an expert across the ball, you want to always gather as much information as you can."

By now, everyone knows the turnaround the Packers made in the second half of the season.

How it came together, though, is just coming into focus as the Packers prepare for Sunday's NFC Championship Game at the Seattle Seahawks.

"Ah, the bye week," McCarthy said. "We went through everything -- offense, defense, special teams. I think I had four, five topics that we looked at on defense, and then Dom and I got together. As I recall, there was three things that I felt needed to be addressed and the direction and the vision that I felt we needed to go, and the defensive staff made it happen."

McCarthy wouldn't say what those three things were but based on the way the Packers played since the bye, it all centered around Clay Matthews' move to inside linebacker in some packages. They had experimented with moving Matthews off the line of scrimmage early in the season in a 4-3 alignment, but they junked that after only three games before restarting it after the bye. Restarting that also marked the beginning of linebacker Sam Barrington's increased role, which coincided with linebacker A.J. Hawk's reduction in snaps.

"We needed to fix the problems area of our defense," Matthews said this week. "Obviously, we had given up way to much in the run game. I think that was essential to what we were trying to stop."

Matthews wasn't sure whose idea it was, but he figures McCarthy had a hand in it.

"I don’t know what happens behinds the scenes," Matthews said. "But yeah, what the head man says goes, so I'm sure he’s very much involved."

And Capers, a veteran of 29 NFL seasons as a coach, said he had no issue with that.

"As always, Mike's going to give his input on things," said Capers, a two-time NFL head coach. "We tried to respond in a way to where we had a little extra time to do some things to give ourselves the chance to get better. We didn't want to stay the same.

"Mike's a tremendous guy to work for, and you have a great appreciation for that. Being in that position for nine years myself, you just understand when you're working for a guy who's very competent and very good and if you're working in an organization like this, yeah I appreciate that."

When the players returned from the bye week, McCarthy stood in front of them in the first team meeting and shared his vision for the second half of the season.

"As soon as we got back, we understood that we had to get better," defensive back Micah Hyde said. "Coach came into the team meeting room to talk about it. Dom, in the defensive team meeting, talked about it. We all knew what we needed to do."

McCarthy then left Capers, his assistants and the players to implement it.

"Coach Mike lets him do his job," Hyde said. "He'll never come into our defensive meeting room and try to show up Dom or anything like that. I think they work well together. Whatever coach brings to Dom, he presents to us. I really respect that they can work together because I know it's not like that everywhere. Coach will come in every now and then, but he lets Dom do his stuff."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers are sticking to their plan with Aaron Rodgers. He skipped practice Saturday for the second straight day because of his strained left calf.

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On Friday, coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers was not expected to practice until Thursday at the earliest.

Though Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien handled all the quarterback reps for the second straight day, several players said they were not concerned that Rodgers' absence from practice this week would hamper their preparation for next week's playoff opener.

Receiver Jordy Nelson missed practice for the second straight day while tending to a personal matter. Backup cornerback Demetri Goodson (illness) was the only other player to miss practice.

Linebacker Sam Barrington returned after missing Friday's practice because of an illness that several players said was going around the team.

Packers not done with defensive tweaks

December, 31, 2014
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers used their bye week in November to fix their defense, so what will they do during their playoff bye?

"I'm excited about some of the new wrinkles that we may move forward with and what we'll be able to do in the playoffs," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

That defensive coordinator Dom Capers can spend this week cooking up something new rather than fixing the old shows just how much progress his unit made since the halfway point of the season.


The Packers' defense was in shambles when they reached their bye in Week 9. Capers' unit had just allowed the New Orleans Saints to ring up 495 yards of total offense, including 193 on the ground in the Packers’ 44-23 loss.

McCarthy put it as bluntly as possible when he said at the time that the Packers "need to be more than a football team that just has to rely on winning the turnover ratio."

If that was his way of putting Capers and the defense on notice, he has to be pleased with the response in the second half of the season. A team that could not stop the run – it ranked dead last in the NFL through eight games, when all eight opponents rushed for at least 100 yards – was one of the best run-stopping units in the second half of the season.

Outside of one troubling half against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14, when the Packers allowed 304 yards in the second half alone and let Julio Jones catch 11 passes for 259 yards (the most ever against the Packers) for the game, there was little to quibble with in the second half of the season, except that perhaps it wasn't against a murders' row of powerhouse offenses. Of their eight second-half opponents, four finished 21st or lower in total offense and just two (the Philadelphia Eagles and Falcons) ranked in the top 10.

"I think it's not how you start, it's how you finish," defensive tackle Letroy Guion said. "That's probably the best way I can sum that up. Some teams have to get going. Some teams come out [fast]. Some teams can't finish strong. You have all different types of ways that teams come together or break apart."

What led to the turnaround? Consider these factors:
Still, there's one question that looms about the defense as the Packers head into the postseason: Is it good enough to succeed where the previous three incarnations failed? In the 2011 playoff loss to the New York Giants and the consecutive postseason losses to the San Francisco 49ers in 2012 and 2013, the defense failed to do enough to win the game.

Not since the run to Super Bowl XLV has Capers' unit delivered with a big game in the playoffs (and the 2012 wild-card win over the Minnesota Vikings with backup Joe Webb as the quarterback doesn't count).

"I think our health is better and I think our confidence level is good," Capers said. "I think those two things are important. Momentum, you've heard me say that you want to keep that arrow pointing up, and the only little bump in the road we had was that second half of the Atlanta game where you didn't feel good coming out of that.

"You want confidence and guys feeling good about where you are and carry that into this time of the year. It's a big part of it. We all know this is a game of momentum."

Said McCarthy: "You want momentum built throughout your whole football team, and I think our defense has played exceptional football really since the bye week."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Maybe A.J. Hawk is just another accomplished NFL player nearing the end of his career.

Or at least the end of his time with the Green Bay Packers.

How else can you describe the nine-year veteran's diminished playing time the last two weeks?

He continues to insist that he's not hurt, just as he did when first asked about it on Thanksgiving and then again Thursday after his closest friend on the team, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, suggested this week on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show that Hawk has been playing hurt and dealing with "a body that hasn’t been responding, I think, as well as he wanted it to at times this year."

[+] EnlargeA.J. Hawk
AP photo/Jim MahoneyA.J. Hawk has 80 tackles this season, but no interceptions or forced fumbles.
"No, I'm not hurt. My body has bounced back every week," Hawk said Thursday after being told of Rodgers' comments. "I feel better older than I did younger. I think he was just trying to be supportive of a friend or teammate --I don't know."

Less than a month ago, Hawk played all 78 defensive snaps against the Philadelphia Eagles. A week later, he still played the majority – 55 of 68 snaps – against the Minnesota Vikings. But two weeks ago, his role was slashed. He took the field for less than half of the plays – 26 of 56 – against the New England Patriots. And on Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons, old No. 50 trotted out for just eight of 67 plays.

The last two weeks, defensive coordinator Dom Capers gave Hawk snaps in only one defensive package – his base 3-4, which he rarely employs anymore. Hawk, who used to play in both the nickel and dime package, has seen his role diminish in favor of Sam Barrington, Clay Matthews and even Brad Jones, depending on the game plan.

"I think he's probably better now that we aren't playing him [every snap]," Capers said. "There were a couple games he played 70 plays. We're always concerned about not overplaying our guys to where hopefully we can have him as healthy as we can have him through the month of December and hopefully a chance to play after that. I think A.J.'s fine now. I think he's better right now with the fact that he hasn't played 70 plays the last couple weeks. I think that will bode well for us moving forward."

The 30-year-old Hawk has spent his entire career with the team that drafted him fifth overall in 2006, although they did cut him once, in March 2011, only to sign him back under different terms one day later. He's one of the most insightful players on the team on the rare occasion that he shows up in the locker room during the week of a game, but he has never been comfortable talking about himself.

"It doesn't matter; no one cares," Hawk said at his locker. "Everyone is in their own life, and they should be. This team is playing really well. That's why I was hesitant to even come in here. Nothing is about me. It shouldn't be about me. It's dumb to talk about me. We're 10-3."

Hawk said he has thought about the end of his career but doesn't believe he's at that point yet. He has one more year remaining on his current contract, which pays him $3.5 million in salary and bonuses this season and calls for him to make the same next season.

"I've been preparing since the day I walked in here for the day I get cut," Hawk said. "I've been cut before, so whenever they decide to let me roll, that's something I've been preparing for since I was 21 basically, when I got drafted. But I have no idea. I can't predict the future; I definitely don't try to. I don't deal in hypotheticals, that's for sure. They can tap me on the shoulder right now and get me out of here. So our contracts aren't real contracts like that. They're not obliged to keep me here through the end of, what, next year, I guess, my contract is.

"So I don't think I let like my mind wander or anything towards what could happen. That's not up to me, but try to hopefully get another ring, at least, before they give me the boot."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers might have solved their two biggest problems on defense with one move.

Or maybe it was just a one-week wonder that caught the Chicago Bears off guard.

But on Sunday night, they filled their need for a playmaking inside linebacker and fixed their leaky run defense all at once.

Matthews
Yes, that was No. 52 lined up next to A.J. Hawk in the middle of the defense at a spot where defensive coordinator Dom Capers has tried -- and moved on from -- Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington.

Meet the Packers' new inside linebacker, Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews.

In a defense cooked up during last week's bye, Matthews opened the game at inside linebacker and stayed there during most of Sunday's 55-14 victory against the Bears, except when Capers used his dime package on third-and-long situations. The rest of the night, Matthews played next to Hawk in a nickel alignment that served as the primary defense. Nick Perry started in Matthews' place at right outside linebacker.

Producing a team- and career-high 11 tackles (including nine solo stops) later -- and one sack, which came from his old outside linebacker spot -- Matthews' move was an instant success that took half a season to discover. He had never had more than eight tackles in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"We'll see what it means moving forward," Matthews said. "Obviously it's a little premature to say there's a switch to middle linebacker or whatever you want to call it, but I think as we've shown throughout the years, throughout this season as well, we try to find a little more versatility for myself."

The Packers came into the game ranked last in the NFL in rushing defense, giving up 153.5 yards per game. They held the Bears, who rushed for 235 against them in Week 4, to just 55 yards on 24 attempts. It was the first time all season the Packers have held anyone to less than 100 yards in a game.

Now, for just the second time in seven weeks, they are not ranked last in the league in rushing defense. They climbed two spots to 30th, matching their highest ranking of the season.

"During the bye week, it's like everything, you have a chance to kind of reboot, to reset yourself for the second half of the season," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Playing Clay at different areas, a different position, to create targeting problems for the offense was something that we spent the whole offseason highlighting it, and this was kind of the next step. Great job by our defensive staff with the creativity, and Clay stepped in there and played at an extremely high level. I thought he was outstanding."

And what kind of inside linebacker does Hawk think his new partner made?

"Tonight, obviously, a pretty good one," Hawk said after the game. "I think being on the move, different times rushing off the edge or coming back and being in the box, that adds something that the offense hasn't seen until tonight, really."

The Film Don't Lie: Packers

October, 28, 2014
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A weekly look at what the Green Bay Packers must fix:

The Packers have started three different players at the inside linebacker spot next to A.J. Hawk this season, and they have not gotten enough production out of any of them.

During this week's bye and before the Packers return to action on Nov. 9 against the Chicago Bears, defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have to decide whether to continue using both Sam Barrington and Jamari Lattimore in the spot that actually belonged to Brad Jones to start the season. Jones played poorly in Week 1 against Seattle and then went down with a quad injury. Although he has returned to action, he has not reclaimed a regular role on defense.

In Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints, Barrington made his second straight start and played in the base and nickel packages alongside the veteran Hawk. But in the dime package, which used only one inside linebacker, Lattimore got the call.

It's unusual for the dime backer not to play in the other defensive packages. If the Packers had a player like they truly liked at that spot, they would play him on all three downs.

If the Packers could get more impact plays from their inside linebackers, perhaps it would help their struggling run defense, which has fallen back to last in the league after giving up 193 yards to the Saints.

"We've got different packages, and we'll constantly look at what we feel is going to give us the best chance to get things stopped," Capers said. "So obviously after a game like [Sunday] night, you go back and you're going to look at your run defensive stuff and try to make sure you get that corrected."

Packers will be without Datone Jones

October, 12, 2014
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Late last week, Datone Jones was optimistic about his chances of playing in Sunday's game at the Miami Dolphins, but the ankle injury the Green Bay Packers defensive end sustained 10 days ago against the Minnesota Vikings apparently did not allow for that.

Jones was among the Packers' seven inactives.

It's unclear whether Jones took part in the Packers' light practice Saturday, but on Friday -- a day the Packers did not practice -- coach Mike McCarthy said: "I would hope if we were practicing today, he would've been out there in some form or fashion."

Second-year pro Josh Boyd, who missed the Vikings game because of a knee injury, will start in Jones' place, but it also could mean another sizeable role for Luther Robinson, who was promoted from the practice squad the day of the Vikings game and played 35 snaps.

Receiver Kevin Dorsey, who was promoted from the practice Monday, is active.

There were no other surprises among the inactives.

Here's the full list:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The long weekend off was not long enough for receiver Jarrett Boykin and defensive end Datone Jones.

Neither was able to return to practice Wednesday, when the Green Bay Packers hit the field for the first time since last Thursday's 42-10 win over the Minnesota Vikings, leaving their status in doubt for Sunday's game at the Miami Dolphins.

Boykin has missed the last two games because of a groin injury, and the fact that the Packers promoted receiver Kevin Dorsey from the practice squad Monday could be an indication Boykin is no closer to returning.

Jones sustained a sprained ankle in the first half against the Vikings and did not return.

They were the only two players not practicing Wednesday during the portion that was open to reporters.

Defensive end Josh Boyd (knee) and linebacker Sam Barrington (hamstring) both returned to practice after missing the Vikings game.

The full injury report will be available following practice.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Coaches and players alike say it all the time, that the bye week comes at just the right time.

They usually say so because of their injury situation.

This past weekend wasn't the Green Bay Packers' bye -- that comes Nov. 2 -- but they had what coach Mike McCarthy called a "mini bye" after playing last Thursday against the Minnesota Vikings.

And given the Packers' relatively low injury count at this point, maybe the mini bye was not even needed.

"I don't know why we've got to talk about that,” said McCarthy, ever leery of discussing injuries.

Here's a look at the few lingering injury issues the Packers are dealing with heading into Sunday's game at the Miami Dolphins:
  • Datone Jones: The starting defensive end left the game against the Vikings with a sprained ankle and did not return. After the game, Jones appeared to be walking fine on his way out of the locker room. He said someone rolled on his ankle during a second-quarter screen pass. "Obviously you can see I'm not hurt, so it was just one of those scary situations," Jones said after the game. "I don't really know what happened, but I'm OK." However, on Friday, McCarthy said he was unsure whether Jones would be able to practice when on-field preparation for the Dolphins begins Wednesday.
  • Josh Boyd: The defensive end was inactive against the Vikings after he sustained a knee injury against the Chicago Bears Sept. 28. His injury prompted the Packers to promote rookie Luther Robinson from the practice squad the day of the Vikings game. McCarthy said he was hopeful Boyd would be able to practice Wednesday.
  • Brad Jones: The inside linebacker actually returned against the Vikings but did not reclaim his starting spot from Jamari Lattimore. Jones, who missed three games because of a quadriceps injury, played just nine snaps on defense, and all but one came during the late stages of the blowout victory. Said McCarthy: "We're going to need more than 11 [players on defense]. It's good to have Brad back out there, and Jamari's doing an excellent job."
  • Jarrett Boykin: McCarthy was less optimistic about the No. 3 receiver's chances of practicing Wednesday. Boykin missed the last two games because of a groin injury he sustained in practice leading up to the Bears game. Boykin also had been listed on the injury report with a knee injury that week. Rookie Davante Adams has taken over as the No. 3 receiver, and in those two games he has three catches for 39 yards and one touchdown (the first of his career).
  • Sam Barrington: The backup linebacker missed Thursday's game because of a hamstring injury, which is especially concerning because his rookie season last year ended because of the same injury in Week 9.
  • JC Tretter: The projected starting center remains on the temporary injured reserve list but is eligible to begin practicing Oct. 13 and could return to play following the bye week. Tretter sustained a fracture in his knee during the Aug. 22 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. However, it's not a given that Tretter would get his starting job back considering how well rookie Corey Linsley has performed.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers had Clay Matthews on a limited snap count in Sunday’s game at the Chicago Bears.

Matthews
And it would have been that way even if the Packers did not have a Thursday game against the Minnesota Vikings to follow this week.

"I'm not saving players for anyone," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "That's not the way we operate."

But the fact Matthews came out of the victory over the Bears without any lingering issues from the groin injury that limited him to 52 of the 78 defensive plays worked out well for this week.

Although the Packers did not practice on Monday, they still had to submit an official injury report for Thursday's game against the Vikings. Here's the full report:

Here’s the full injury report*:
*Participation levels were estimates because the Packers did not practice.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers might have erred last week when they decided to play linebacker Brad Jones, who was nursing a hamstring injury.

Jones
It sounds like that decision will be much easier to make this week. Jones did not practice again on Thursday, making it unlikely he will play Sunday against the New York Jets. Jones had one of his worst games in last week's loss to Seattle, tying for the team lead with three missed tackles.

It opens the door for Jamari Lattimore to move into Jones' spot in the starting lineup but also likely means more snaps for fellow starter A.J. Hawk.

Jones played all 70 snaps against the Seahawks and served as the signal caller on defense. Hawk did not play in the dime package but likely will take over that role this week rather than putting too much on Lattimore, although it's possible the Packers could use Sam Barrington as the dime linebacker.

"The game this week's going to be a game where they switch personnel groups almost every down and they use every one in the books, I think experience is the one of the key factors there," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "You want your signal caller to be a confident guy, so experience factors into that as opposed to putting a guy out there that really hasn't done a lot of it against a team that's going to give you multiple personnel groups and a fast-paced tempo."

That would seem to indicate Hawk will take on that role.

Jones was the only player who did not practice on Thursday.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga practiced in pads on Thursday on a limited basis, but the Packers weren't ready to pronounce him ready to start against the Jets after he left the opener with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Bulaga appeared to move better than he did on Wednesday, when his gait seemed off.

"The biggest thing is just the movement," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Thursday's practice. "I'm not really looking for him to take the whole team drills or anything like that, because he's not ready for that. How he feels tomorrow and if he can go on Saturday will be the final test."

Details on the Jets' injury situation, including an update on cornerback Dee Milliner, can be found here.

Here is the Packers' full injury report:
  • TE Brandon Bostick (fibula, limited participation)
  • RT Bryan Bulaga (knee, limited participation)
  • CB Demetri Goodson (concussion, full participation)
  • LB Brad Jones (quadriceps, did not practice)
  • RB Eddie Lacy (concussion, full participation)

Packers must correct tackling problem

September, 8, 2014
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The short view is that the Green Bay Packers have a tackling problem -- again.

Of the 28 teams that have played in Week 1 so far, only one missed more tackles than the Packers did in their 36-16 season-opening loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Packers whiffed 18 times against the Seahawks. The New Orleans Saints, in their loss to the Atlanta Falcons, missed 23 (see accompanying chart).

In the long run, however, it might be too soon to say missed tackles will doom the Packers once again. They have corrected the problem in the past. In 2011, they missed 101 tackles. The next season, they cut that number to a manageable 68 – or about four per game. Last season, it spiked to 116 – or about seven per game – which was their highest total since Dom Capers took over as defensive coordinator in 2009. The Packers are not going to miss 18 tackles every week but if they did, they would finish the year with 288.

When coach Mike McCarthy stood at the podium the day after the game and offered his review of the Seahawks' loss, tackling was the second thing he mentioned.

"The one that jumps off the page at you is tackling," McCarthy said. "We had way too many missed tackles and the fundamentals of footwork and the things that go into that that's practiced every day didn't carry onto the field."

The worst offenders were inside linebacker Brad Jones and rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Each missed three tackles. Clinton-Dix missed one that would have saved a touchdown in the second quarter. He dove at the legs of Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette at the Packers 14-yard line, and Lockette easily avoided him on the way to a 33-yard touchdown.

"Our footwork was poor," McCarthy said. "When you start leaving your feet to tackle people, it puts you in a compromising position. The biggest part of our tackling issue was the fundamentals of footwork and running through the near hip and the ability to come to balance in stressful situations. We just didn't do a very good job of it."

Maybe the coaches will give Clinton-Dix a pass because it was his first NFL game, but Jones deserves no such exoneration. As the only inside linebacker who played all 70 snaps, Jones, who missed only seven tackles in 13 games (including playoffs) last season, must be better or risk losing playing time to A.J. Hawk (66 snaps), Sam Barrington (zero snaps) or Jamari Lattimore (zero snaps).

"Brad didn't have his best game," McCarthy said.

How important was tackling to winning in Week 1? In 12 of the 14 games played so far, the team with fewer missed tackles was the victor. The only exceptions were the Buffalo Bills, who won despite 12 missed tackles to the Chicago Bears' 6, and the San Francisco 49ers, who won despite 13 missed tackles to the Dallas Cowboys’ 11.

The Packers' next opponent, the New York Jets, was one of the most sure-handed tackling teams of Week 1. They missed only three in their victory over the Oakland Raiders (10 missed tackles).

"You are what you are, and after one game, we've put out there our performance," McCarthy said. "And our next opponent will stress us in those areas that we did not perform very well in."
Examining the Green Bay Packers' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)
The Packers have not kept three quarterbacks on their opening-day roster since 2008, but they might be inclined to do so this season in order to avoid a situation like last year, when Rodgers broke his collarbone. Coach Mike McCarthy is high on Tolzien, who made two starts last season, but Flynn has proved he can win as a backup in Green Bay.

Running backs (4)

The return of Harris, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury, gives the Packers insurance behind Lacy and Starks. Kuhn is valuable both as a fullback and on special teams. It's possible they'll keep a fourth halfback, but the loss of Johnathan Franklin to a career-ending neck injury has left them without a strong in-house candidate for that spot.

Receivers (6)

The Packers often keep only five receivers, but given that they drafted three -- Adams (second round), Abbrederis (fifth round) and Janis (seventh round) -- there's a good chance they will keep six. Abbrederis and Janis will not only have to show they're better prospects than second-year pros Myles White and Chris Harper, but they also could help themselves if they can return kicks.

Tight ends (4)

McCarthy likes tight ends (he has kept five before), and the wild card is undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla.

Offensive linemen (8)

The Packers typically only activate seven offensive linemen on game day, so they can get away with keeping just eight on the roster. Barclay's ability to play all five positions also allows them some freedom. Lane Taylor could be the ninth lineman if they go that route.

Defensive line (7)

Worthy and Guion have work to do to make the roster, but there's room for them if you count Julius Peppers and Mike Neal among the outside linebackers, which is where they lined up more often in the offseason.

Linebackers (8)

There will be some tough cuts here. Second-year pros Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba both played last year as rookie outside linebackers. It also may be tough for highly touted undrafted rookie Adrian Hubbard to make it.

Cornerbacks (6)

Hayward's return from last season's hamstring injury means he likely will return as the slot cornerback in the nickel package, a role played last year by Micah Hyde (who may primarily play safety this year).

Safeties (4)

The major question here is whether Hyde or Clinton-Dix will be the starter alongside Burnett. Chris Banjo, who played primarily on special teams last season, might be the odd man out.

Specialists (3)

There's no competition at any of these spots.

Packers offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple months away, we assess the Green Bay Packers' offseason moves.

[+] EnlargeDom Capers
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsDespite the Packers' defense ranking in the bottom third of the league at the end of the 2013 season, the team has decided to keep coordinator Dom Capers.
Best move: Sometimes, the best moves are ones that do not get made. In this case, not firing defensive coordinator Dom Capers, whose defense collapsed late last season, could prove to be the best thing the Packers did this offseason. Instead, he and coach Mike McCarthy spent several months examining every aspect of the Packers' scheme and personnel and made some changes that could turn out to be successful. They made a commitment to becoming more multiple rather than just playing base on first down, nickel on second down and dime on third down as they did so often last season. McCarthy said he and Capers have installed safeguards that will allow them to vary their defensive packages even if injuries hit as they did last season. That's a far better plan than junking everything Capers built over the past five years and starting over.

Riskiest move: Again, this is something the Packers did not do -- upgrade their inside linebackers. To be fair, the two players in the draft best suited to do that -- Ohio State's Ryan Shazier and Alabama's C.J. Mosley -- were gone by the time the Packers picked at No. 21 in the first round. Last year, the Packers stood pat at the safety position and hoped that they'd find a player among the returning group of M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian and Sean Richardson. It never happened, and the defense suffered because of it. Unless Jamari Lattimore or Sam Barrington made a big jump, it looks as though the Packers are going to stick with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones on the inside.

Most surprising move: You can count on two things from general manager Ted Thompson -- he does not sign flashy, expensive free agents and he will always wheel and deal on draft weekend, usually to acquire more picks. Not anymore. Two months after Thompson wrote a check for a $7.5 million signing bonus to bring in pass-rusher Julius Peppers, he stood pat and used all nine of his original selections during the draft.

Most underrated move: For a team beset by injuries three of the past four seasons, perhaps the most important thing the Packers did this offseason was enter into an agreement with the tech firm Catapult Sports, which helps teams to compile data on athletic exertion as it relates to fatigue/preventable injuries. More than a dozen NFL teams are using Catapult or a similar GPS-based system to monitor players during practice.

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