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Packers address defense; is it fixed?

Posted Apr 27, 2012

In order, they picked the young pass rusher they need, the young defensive end they need and the young cornerback they need. So, is the defense fixed?

That’s the question on the lips of every Packers fan, following the first two days of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Hayward. Fixed, fixed, fixed. Is it really that easy?

That’s to be determined next fall. What we know to be fact at this point is that Packers General Manager Ted Thompson used a portion of the 12 draft picks he stored up for this draft to target and vigorously attack the bitter memory of a 32nd-ranked defense that dogged and defeated the Packers’ efforts last season to defend their Super Bowl title.

A day after picking Perry in the first round, a pick most draft experts would agree addresses the Packers’ desperate need to fix a 32nd-ranked pass rush, Thompson traded up twice on Friday, the second time back into the bottom of the second round, to select Worthy and Hayward.

If they all turn out to be home-run picks, then Perry is Clay Matthews 2.0, Worthy is the next Cullen Jenkins and Hayward is, well, something close to Charles Woodson. OK, I know, that’s going too far.

But what if they’re all hits and not misses? Well, then the defense is fixed, and you know the rest.

“We feel we’ve added good young players at all levels of the defense,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said.

Take particular note of the words “all levels,” because it refers to the line, the linebackers and the secondary. That pretty much does it. Better against the run, better at rushing the passer and better at defending against the pass. They hope. We all hope.

Capers wasn’t about to make any proclamations about his defense having been fixed by the selection of three college football players, but his words to the media on the subject Friday did not ring hollow.

“They’re putting four wide receivers and sometimes five out there. That’s just the nature of the game nowadays. It’s pretty obvious that you better be able to cover and you better be able to rush the passer. People are going to line up and throw the ball 50-60 times, and if you can’t cover them, you’re going to be in for a long day,” he said.

Bingo, coach.

The selection of Hayward might even allow Woodson to move to safety, where the Packers need a replacement for Nick Collins.

“It’s not like it would be a radical move. We feel he could play any one of those positions and that’s one of the things he brings to the table, the flexibility that he can,” Capers said.

Worthy was the Packers’ first pick of day two. ESPN’s Jon Gruden didn’t like the pick and hammered at Worthy for a less-than-impressive performance in Michigan State’s bowl game against Georgia.

“I heard Gruden,” Packers Defensive Line Coach Mike Trgovac said. “I used to coach with him so I know a little bit about him. They had a little different package in the bowl game.

“I think he’ll add some juice to our front. He’ll be a defensive end. The big thing he’ll have to learn is the Okie end when we’re in a tight front,” Trgovac said of Worthy.

Worthy is a quick-twitch guy who specializes in shooting the gap. Can he play down the middle of a block, as is required by defensive ends in a 3-4? That would seem to be the major issue confronting Worthy.

Hayward, from Vanderbilt, faced the best wide receivers the best conference in the country threw at him, and that wasn’t Alabama’s defensive front he was playing behind.

“He can really smell routes and know what receivers are trying to do to him,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. said of Hayward. “Every game I put on I saw things I liked. He’s constantly making plays. He’s a mature football player at a young age. He has a complete game.”

They are three young players who are being challenged to make the Packers defense better by upgrading the positions they play. It’s just a simple fact of life in professional football.

“This is the NFL. Somebody wants your job. Somebody wants my job,” Whitt said.

But is it fixed, coach? That’s all Packers fans want to know.

What if it is?

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