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Thompson did what he had to do

Posted Apr 28, 2012


Ted Thompson was out of character. Who was this guy that was tossing around draft picks as though they were poker chips, instead of manhole covers?

“For Ted to trade up three times in one draft, it was fun to sit next to him and watch him growl through it,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said moments after the Packers capped their 2012 draft class by selecting Tennessee-Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman, one of only two offensive players the Packers picked in this draft. The other one, tackle Andrew Datko, came two picks earlier, with the 241st overall selection.

Yeah, all six of the other picks were made for the defensive side of the ball.

“It seemed like, at times, our board was definitely tilted toward defense,” McCarthy, a coach whose interests have always been titled toward offense, added.

Good thing it just happened that the Packers’ board favored defense, because the Packers’ defense needed it badly.

Actually, Thompson made it happen that way, by trading up to where defensive players fit the team’s needs, while also fitting Thompson’s dedication to drafting the best available player. Of course, trading up has its cost and it cost Thompson to lose four of the 12 picks with which he began the draft.

“I’m ashamed. I’m not my father’s son any more. My father was very frugal. It’s pathetic,” Thompson said of his uncontrolled spending.

To put it into perspective, Thompson had only traded up three times in his first seven drafts as Packers general manager. One of those trade-ups yielded Clay Matthews, which might’ve helped Thompson swallow as he said yes three times to trade-up agreements in this draft.

He traded up and got the young defensive end the Packers needed. He traded up and got the young cornerback the Packers needed. He did it one more time and got a young linebacker Thompson thought was too good a prospect to let another team have.

As tough as it is for the frugal Thompson, a man renowned for trading back and adding draft picks, to give picks away, Packers fans will forgive him, and he might even forgive himself, should all of this serve to repair a defense that inexplicably fell to last in the league last season.

It had to be fixed. It’s just that simple. You can’t expect to win championships with a defense that gives up yards in chunks, and the thought of wasting any portion of the career of the best quarterback in the game today had to be an even more galling thought than turning 12 picks into eight.

Dom Capers wasn’t complaining. With each selection of a defensive player, Capers joyfully came down the hall to the media auditorium to talk to reporters, until he had made the trek so many times that one more time would’ve been embarrassing.

In one of his trips down the hallway, Capers described the additions on defense as “some of the things we needed to become a quicker, faster defense. We’ll adjust to what we do to get the best players on the field,” he said.

Capers is synonymous with 3-4 defense. The zone-blitz has long been his calling card, but the times are a changing and all of his many blitz schemes couldn’t fix a Packers defense last season that lacked speed in coverage and, of course, a pass rush that would reduce the time Packers defenders had to hold their coverage.

First-round pick Nick Perry is expected to improve the pass rush. Second-round pick Jerel Worthy might provide assistance, too. Third-round pick Casey Hayward might send Charles Woodson to safety, where the Packers face the daunting task of having to replace Nick Collins. All of that, of course, is wishful thinking, but it must also qualify as an expectation for this draft class.

Capers needed more players who would provide more pass rush and more speed in coverage so Capers might have the talent available to him to match creativity for creativity. Last year, he was handcuffed.

“You have to install that, you have to have that,” he said of his base 3-4 defensive scheme, “but the way the game is now, you’re not going to be playing much of your base defense. We played the Saints and didn’t play one snap of our base defense.

“I feel pretty good. I feel like we’ve added some depth and core and competition.”

Clearly, the Packers targeted their needs on defense, and then Thompson jockeyed into position to pick the players he needed. His system gets the credit for having acquired so many draft picks; without the picks, none of this would’ve been possible.

“You have three ways to improve your football team in the offseason: free agency, offseason program and the draft. It’ll be great to get this draft class in here. Our offseason program is the foundation of our success and it’ll be great to add these young men to it,” McCarthy said.

“I expect the individuals selected the last three days to improve our football team. It’s important to keep the reality of expectations in line.”

The reality of expectations is that six consecutive picks for the defensive side of the ball should make the Packers a better football team. The reality of expectations is that the team’s offense is so good it didn’t need a lot of help from the draft. The reality of expectations is that if the players picked on defense in this year’s draft help return the Packers to any semblance of the the kind of defense they played in 2010, then expectations need not be suppressed.

As much as it hurt Thompson to part with all of those draft picks, he was doing it for a good cause. He was doing it for the Green Bay Packers and whatever hope they have of raising another championship banner over Lambeau Field.

He had to do it.

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