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Capers says competition at highest level

Posted Jun 12, 2012

The Packers defensive coaches spoke of increased competition on their side of the ball. One man, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, wanted to talk about tackling.

“We’re going to put our face in people. We will tackle,” Whitt said when asked if the Packers will actually practice the art of tackling each other in training camp. “We will get that solved. Guys who tackle will be out there. Guys who don’t won’t.”

Clearly, the Packers defense is dedicating itself to vast improvement in 2012, following a season at the bottom of the league’s rankings: Last in overall defense, last in pass defense, last in sacks per pass play. If, to a man, Packers defense coaches sound a bit terse in their comments, it’s understandable.

“We’re going to have good competition out there. We’ll have better competition on the defense since I’ve been here,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said.

Capers, of course, arrived in Green Bay in 2009 and immediately transformed a bad defense into one of the league’s best. It stayed that way through the 2010 season, and then came last year’s fall.

A draft class heavy with defensive players has heightened the competition on that side of the ball: First-round pick Nick Perry is already a fixture at left outside linebacker. It’s the development of a couple of young holdovers, however, that might be offering the greatest hope for improvement.

Cornerbacks Sam Shields and Davon House are putting the finishing touches this week on very strong spring practice performances. They were featured in Tuesday’s minicamp opener.

“They’ve gotten an awful lot of work. Both of them have made progress, gotten a better feel for man and zone concepts,” Capers said.

Shields was a rookie sensation in 2010 who fell off his game in ’11. He had company, and that might’ve been a big part of the problem.

“He had to play a lot more on first and second down in run or pass situations. He was a little more of a specialist in 2010. Going into his third year, we hope he can become a little more of a complete corner,” Capers said of Shields.

Whitt blamed himself.

“Sam’s problem is me. I did a poor job with Sam. It was some of the run-pass things. I’m not going to make any excuses. I did a poor job with him,” Whitt said.

Improved tackling would seem to be at the core of Shields' to-do list, and Whitt said, “I’m going to give him every opportunity when we put pads on.”

Starting cornerback Tramon Williams intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass in the end zone on Tuesday. It harkened memories of Williams’ big plays as the Packers charged toward the Super Bowl XLV title two years ago.

Williams spent most of last season, however, trying to steel himself against a significant shoulder injury. He lost strength and was unable to jam receivers. It was a problem.

“Tramon is an unselfish man. He put the football team above what he should do for his body. Guys don’t do that in this era,” Whitt said. “With a healthy Tramon Williams, the way he played in 2010 is what you’ll see in 2012.”

The Packers’ defensive coaches are dedicated to returning the Packers defense to that same level of play.

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