GREEN BAY—It wasn’t quite the “big letters” proclamation about the running game he made last year, but – intentionally or not – Mike McCarthy on Monday thrust the all-but-guaranteed improvement label on pressuring the quarterback in 2014.
“It looks good,” McCarthy said when asked about the defense’s pass-rush abilities heading into Thursday’s opener in Seattle. “We’re a better pass-rush team today than we’ve been in a long time.”
The Packers are banking on a healthy
Players have also talked about the tweaks Dom Capers has made to his scheme. Those adjustments have been under wraps and not on display through the preseason. Matthews talked about “unleashing” them in this first game with a more mature cast of characters.
“We feel good. We feel like we’ve got some talent out there,” said Matthews, who led the defense with 7 ½ sacks last season despite missing five games and playing hindered in several others.
Back then, the Packers were among the league’s best at stopping the run, and they get a major test in that department immediately on Thursday in Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch.
A powerful, tackle-breaking workhorse of a back, Lynch has piled up more than 4,000 yards on the ground and rushed for 35 TDs over the last three regular seasons.
Up front, the Packers have replaced run stuffers Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson and Johnny Jolly with smaller but more active linemen such as Daniels and Jones, while
Even without the personnel turnover, though, the Packers knew when the schedule was released in April for whom to prepare in Week 1.
Due to injuries, Harvin has played in just 10 games over the past two seasons, but the Packers are plenty familiar with the speedy, all-everything receiver from his early years with the Vikings. He returned five kickoffs for scores in 3 ½ seasons with the NFC North rival. Against the Packers, he had a 51-yard TD catch as a rookie in 2009 and a 17-yard TD run in 2010.
“The ol’ Minnesota days,” cornerback
Peppers had the transition to make, to a new team and a new outside linebacker position, and he talked in the preseason about it being a gradual process. A man of few words with the media, Peppers was asked again about that process.
“I’m fine,” he said. “I’m ready to go.”
He feels the same way about the defense as a whole, that it grew as he grew into his role. There’s plenty of anticipation surrounding just what Green Bay’s defense will look like with such a high-profile new addition.
“I think we’re ready to get out there,” veteran linebacker
As for what would constitute success with whatever form this defensive debut takes on Thursday, Peppers had even fewer words.
“A win,” he said. “That’s it.”
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - SEPT. 1