'Across-the-hall' meetings help Packers reset, refocus

Coaching staff used Week 7 bye to tailor game plans to its own players, schemes

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GREEN BAY – It's been five or six years since Mike McCarthy took an idea rooted in self-scout and brought it into existence as a post-bye exercise for the Packers' players and coaching staff.

The concept, commonly referred to as "across-the-hall meetings," is quite simple. McCarthy and his coaching staff use the team's annual bye week to break down film, formulate game plans for how they would attack the opposite side of the ball and prepare presentations for players once they return.

On Monday, the Packers' offensive coaches revealed their findings to defensive players and vice versa during an 85-minute meeting that McCarthy estimated covered "probably 200 snaps," with each individual player getting a personal evaluation.

Seventh-year linebacker Nick Perry finds the routine to be enlightening since coaches give honest feedback on what players are doing well and what they need to work on entering the final 10 games of the regular season.

The suggestions usually center on topics players and coaches on the opposite side of the ball don't get to discuss during a normal game week. In Perry's case, it can range from how to get a better step off the snap or how to defeat a particular block.

"Every year there's something new or different," Perry said. "The growth around that, it'll make you into an even more well-rounded player. You're able to take some of those things that you've learned and apply it through film study, and all those things to help you develop and see things a little bit better as you move forward into the season."

The Packers also hold across-the-hall meetings during the offseason program and training camp, but having an early slate of meaningful games to review makes the in-season sessions the most valuable and detailed.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari has been proactive throughout his career about getting advice from his peers. Starting his rookie year in 2013, the two-time All-Pro would ask Clay Matthews about different techniques the six-time Pro Bowler used against Bakhtiari in practice and one-on-one drills.

In the past, Bakhtiari's brother, Eric, a former NFL linebacker, would review games and give his two cents on techniques opposing pass rushers were using against his little brother.

The "across-the-hall" meetings bring one more perspective with associate head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss giving Bakhtiari input he might not typically receive in his own position room.

"They're breaking down if they were to play us this week, 'This is how I'd approach you. This is what I'm seeing on film,'" Bakhtiari said. "It's a different viewpoint instead of just your offensive line coach. I'm hearing it from the outside linebackers coach, who has a defensive mentality in what he sees."

While the practice has become commonplace for the Packers' returning veterans, it's a new concept to many of the rookies and first-year players in Green Bay's locker room.

After sitting in meetings with the receivers, rookie second-round pick Josh Jackson's biggest takeaway from meeting with the Packers' receiver coaches was all the logistics that go into the decision-making process for Pro Bowl receivers such as Davante Adams and Randall Cobb after playing against some of the NFL's premier cornerbacks.

Although he had some idea of the amount of detail that goes into every play, Jackson found it eye-opening to hear how they line up against certain schemes and what kind of release they look for at the line of scrimmage.

Cornerback Jaire Alexander, the Packers' first-round pick this past spring, said he's never been through an exercise quite like the meetings, which reinforced the importance of film study throughout the season.

"It actually was pretty surprising," Alexander said. "I thought I had it all figured out. They informed me that I was wrong. It definitely gave some good information."

Rookie linebacker Oren Burks said he went through a similar review process during his time at Vanderbilt, frequently meeting with the Commodores' running backs coach on how the offense attacks particular plays and fronts.

Burks has seen his role in the defense gradually increase after missing the first two games due to a shoulder injury. Having started back-to-back games before the bye, the rookie third-round pick enjoyed getting a chance to review with running backs coach Ben Sirmans in the meetings.

"It was really beneficial to get a different perspective of your game and see how other teams are scouting you, how they're trying to attack you," Burks said. "For me, it was really beneficial having a coach who's seen us in camp and knows the nitty gritty, what you do well, what you don't do well. Taking that and learning from it, and keep it going."

McCarthy's objective with the meetings is to tailor his program to the players in a variety of different teaching methods. Yes, the presentations are important, but it's also about creating dialogue that lasts past the 1½ hours the groups spend together.

Under McCarthy, the Packers are 9-3 coming out of the bye week. Refreshed and refocused, the Packers hope to take all the knowledge they've gained over the past week and translate it into a road victory against the undefeated Los Angeles Rams this Sunday.

"I think it's a good exchange," Adams said. "It's a good way to connect and learn more about our teammates as well as learn more about the other positions and tendencies, and different things like that."

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