The Packers' defensive and special teams assistant coaches met with the media at Lambeau Field on Wednesday. Here's a summary of their key comments.
Special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga
(on how much teaching vs. evaluating right now)
"It goes hand in hand. We’re installing tings and getting the base fundamentals and base knowledge down, but we’re always evaluating how guys learn and seeing their athleticism in drills. On a daily basis, you’re seeing how guys learn and move. We always tell them, you’re being evaluated every day, so bring you’re a game every day."
(on Crosby and avoiding those bad games)
"He’s a pro’s pro. He knows his swing better than anybody. It’s all part of the snap and the hold to help the kick. They all have to work together. I’m confident in his ability, and he’s obviously confident. He goes in thinking he’s going to make every kick and so do I."
(on the return game)
"We’re trying a whole host of guys. We’re giving everybody an opportunity who’s done it. This is really the first opportunity they’ve had to catch a ball off JUGS and off a foot. We’re throwing a lot of guys back there and evaluating a whole bunch of guys."
"He’s learning how to go through a 16-game season, through the preseason, how to pace himself through the week. As young guys become older guys, they learn how to progress. We’re just continuing to work his direction and his hang time, forcing fair catches. That’s really with any punter."
(on finding key leaders on special teams)
"I think it would be huge. You’re always trying to develop leadership. It can be anybody. You go out and make plays and you’ll earn respect in that room. Lead by example first and then we’ll try to find those vocal leaders. We’ll try to identify who those guys are and it doesn’t matter what year you are. A leader is a leader."
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine
(On new additions on defense)
As part of the free agency and undrafted process, we’re given assignments by Gutey’s staff, a list of players at each position to write up. The education part of it last year, the more your’e together, the more there’s an understanding of the type of player you’re looking for. Last year, there were a lot fewer players that we were far apart on. I didn’t have to tell him after the season. He knew what the deficiencies were.
(On the Za’Darius and Preston Smith)
It’s a mix. We have the two veteran players in Preston and Z. Two guys who have played a lot in this league, but have different skill sets. Preston can drop, a little more finesse. Za’Darius is a power type rusher. He has the flexibility to move him around. If you look at how the Ravens used him, it’ll be very similar. You can move him over to guard and rush over center. What I like about the room is it’s not the same guy. We’re encouraged about that room.
(On Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos)
It’s nice having those guys. If you have to say, Adrian would lean towards a strong safety and Darnell leaning towards free, but they’re interchangeable. You want them to major in what they’re best at, but both of them can do it all. You’ve seen Adrian in his time at Chicago, he had no problem being around the ball. We’ve all seen Darnell’s college tape, with the speed and the rage. He was a good blitzer, not an issue for him to play inside, as well. … Gutey and I met right at the end of the season and we were very much on the same page about what needed to be done moving forward.
(Was there an emphasis on adding size?)
I think so. This is a size and speed league. You look at teams that player similar to what we do, that have a lot of five man fronts and the edges are standing up, big and explosive is the way to go. They still have to be able to win rushing the passer. I’m used to having guys like that based on the places I’ve been. Rashan Gary is a big guy, but his skill set is different from Za’Darius and other guys in the room.
(On how the job is different under Matt LaFleur)
Matt has been great, fully of energy, smart, very detailed. Having gone through it and some of the things he’s going through, I laugh and tell him, ‘Been there, done that.’ He came in with a plan, but he’s also very receptive. He’s relied on the coordinators for a lot of the planning stuff.
Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti
"We’ve been working with him on his sight lines, where to put his eyes, and to move more efficiently. He’s done a very good job with trying to be efficient with his feet, efficient with his angles, and putting his eyes in the right place."
"Blake’s next step is being in front of plays. He does a really good job of running the defense, getting everybody lined up, but the next step now is to be in front of everybody. He wants to dig himself into it. He’s a football junkie. He’s fun to be around, and he never wants to be surprised on the football field. We want Blake to make the plays Blake makes. If he’s a consistent player, he will help our defense."
"James is a guy that, he kind of bounced around, played a bunch of different positions here last year. We’ve settled him in a little bit at the inside linebacker spot, and he’s learning the defense through the inside linebacker spot. You have to know what’s going on pretty much everywhere around you, and that’s an advantage for him. He’s a prideful guy, but he’s soft-spoken."
Outside linebackers coach Mike Smith
(On Rashan Gary)
It’s unbelievable. A guy that size with that speed and that athleticism, I’ve never seen it. I’ve been in the league for 11 years. I had Dee Ford, great get off. Justin Houston was a big strong guy. Gary is both of them. … I thought he was going to go before 12. I had him as the best outside linebacker in the draft. I was excited. I was running down the hallway.
(On evaluating college production)
I care about pressure, affecting the quarterback. Dee Ford and Justin Houston, we never talked about sacks. (Gary) had 60-some pressures the last couple years. He played a lot of six-technique. That’s hard to rush the quarterback as a six-technique. At one point, someone said he doesn’t rush to the football. You talk to any coach at Michigan and I talked to all of them – he gives it his all.
(On Kyler Fackrell and the OLBs)
Everybody has to get better. He had a great year last year with the sacks. Outside linebackers are important to this defense. The guys we picked up, they’re big, versatile guys. There’s going to be times when we have four outside linebackers on the field. It’s a lot of ‘11’ personnel now. It’s 50/50. You have to have guys who can affect the quarterback. … He has a big edge on everybody with the dropping stuff. He’s a guy who can rush and get back.
(On working with defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery)
Jerry and I talk every morning. There’s times when I tell ‘Z and Gary to go to the d-line for first part of individual. We get into that sub-stuff, it’s a four-man front, running games. It might be the best relationship I’ve had with a coach. He’s a damn good coach.
Secondary coach Jason Simmons
(on having the DBs all meeting together now)
"It allows for greater continuity on the back end, for the corners and the safeties to be on the same page. That's the biggest thing, because everybody knows where the strengths and weaknesses are with all the coverages. What we’ve found is the best way to do it, with this staff and this defense, is to be together."
(on Amos and Savage at safety)
"They’re both intelligent football players, that’s the main thing. You don’t have a guy that has to carry the other guy. They have the call command to be able to command the whole back end. Both of those guys are professionals, the way they approach it. With Darnell, he has a long way to go. He’s not ready at this point, but the best thing is he realizes that. He has guys who are willing to put their arms around him and help him. For splash plays (with Amos), he makes really good plays as a safety. He’s consistent, and that’s what I like about him."
(on the opportunity Raven Greene has at safety)
"He has the same one everybody else has. I can’t say one guy has more of a chance than anybody else if what I’m preaching is competitiveness, and people are competing for jobs."
Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery
(On Kenny Clark)
Since Day 1, he’s a pro. He comes to work every day and does exactly what you ask him, exactly how you ask him to do it. He’s going to be his best him. I think if he finishes out the year healthy, his production in the run game was tremendous. He goes about his business every single day.
(On working with Mike Smith)
I’ve taken some of the outside backers and worked run fundamentals, and he’s taken some of the bigs and worked some of the pass rush stuff. We’ve mixed and matched a little bit. There’s guys who will play inside on certain downs. I’m a run-first guy and he’s a pass-first guy. You got the best of both worlds.
(On Za’Darius Smith)
You go back to his college film when he was at UK. He played a four-technique there. He’s big, strong and an athletic guy who can do a bunch of different things.
(On Montravius Adams)
He was a lot different player last year than he was the year before. He’s taken the right steps. The guy came back in tremendous shape. He looks a lot different body wise than he does a year ago. He understands this is how he provides for his family and I need to do everything I can do to be the best player I can be.
(On Mike Daniels)
He’s still a dominant player. He was a little beat up, but at the end of the day, he’s a guy who is a dominant guy in the trenches. When the room gets deeper, you don’t have to play him 60 snaps a game. We had a ton of reps with Kenny, Dean and Mike D at the beginning of the year. Then, slowly but surely, you develop Tyler Lancaster. You get a fresh group of five or six – the deeper the room, the more competitive it is.