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Capers Sees Greene, Kampman As Productive Match


One of the first players new defensive coordinator Dom Capers met with upon arriving in Green Bay was Aaron Kampman, whose transition from defensive end in the old 4-3 scheme to outside linebacker in the new 3-4 will be pivotal for the Packers' defense in 2009.

In the getting-to-know-you meeting, Capers and Kampman discussed everything from the role itself to Kampman's weight, which Capers is leaving up to Kampman to determine "a natural weight he's going to be best at."

It didn't take long in those early talks, going over some of the finest of the fine points, for Capers to think he was chatting with another outside linebacker he coached for several years. And that player, Kevin Greene, just happens to be the guy who will be coaching Kampman through this significant transition.

"In my conversations with him, he kind of reminded me of Kevin Greene in terms of his obsessiveness of knowing all the little details," Capers told an enthused crowd during a Q & A session this past weekend at Fan Fest in the Lambeau Field Atrium. "So I think that will be a good marriage with Kevin coaching Aaron. They've already started meeting, and Aaron is a good football player, he's a bright football player. I think he'll do great."

Greene has been working under Capers as his outside linebackers coach for less than two months now, but he certainly knows him better than anyone else on the Packers' staff.

Greene played for the Steelers for two years (1993-94) when Capers was Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator, and Greene led the NFL in sacks in 1994. Capers, who became the expansion Carolina Panthers' head coach the following year, then brought Greene to Carolina in 1996, where he led the league in sacks again.

After one year in San Francisco, Greene returned to Carolina and played one more year for Capers in 1998, earning his fifth Pro Bowl bid. By the end of his career, Greene had recorded 160 sacks, most in league history by a linebacker.

This is Greene's first foray into full-time coaching, but from what he's seen so far, Capers has no doubt he'll be an asset to Kampman and the rest of the outside linebacker group, which will include Brady Poppinga, Brandon Chillar, Jeremy Thompson, Jason Hunter and any yet-to-be-determined offseason acquisitions.

"He's going to take the same approach to coaching as he did to playing," Capers said. "He's a real attention-to-detail guy. He studied more tape (than other players). He would know the offensive tackles he was rushing against, and quite frankly, he could call out run or pass based on their stance a high percentage of the time.

"He was a very, very valuable guy because he made everybody around him better as a player because he prepared. Right now he's down in his office because we're getting ready to have the players in to start the offseason program, and he's preparing the same way as a coach."

Capers is eager to see how Greene goes about molding the group, which very well could add a draft pick or two next month.

Capers said he hasn't studied the draft as much as he normally does because he's been focused on building the defensive playbook, but he got the impression at the annual NFL Scouting Combine last month that there's a fairly deep pool of college defensive ends who could project as outside linebackers in the 3-4.

That's somewhat expected, because defensive ends in college have been evolving into more lithe, athletic types as offenses continue to spread the field with speed.

"College football has become more of a spread, wide-open type of game, more of basketball on a football field," Capers said. "So you're seeing more of those undersized guys that can run around and drop in coverage and rush the passer."

{sportsad300}Doing that at the NFL level is a whole different matter, of course, but the process with teaching that position the new scheme will be no different than at any other spot. First, the focus is on the assignment, or "what" to do. Then, the coaches will add the "how," or the technique needed to execute the tasks.

"That will be an area where Kevin will be a real asset, because Kevin was a great technician," Capers said. "He took a lot of pride in it.

"Normally speaking, those players are going to reflect the person that's coaching them. They'll take on the attitude, the personality, and whatever you emphasize you normally get. You can't emphasize too many things, but if you say these are the 1-2-3 things that we want to be our identity, and you emphasize them, you normally see it."

So, can Kevin Greene help make Aaron Kampman the next version of, well, himself at outside linebacker? It's way too early to tell, obviously, as well as unfair to place those kinds of expectations on a first-year coach and a player changing positions in his eighth pro season.

But it's going to be worth watching what unfolds, particularly if the player-coach match between Kampman and Greene is as strong as Capers believes it is.

"I think Aaron is excited about it, and we're excited about Aaron," Capers said. "He certainly has all those intangible qualities you look for, and to me you can't underestimate those things. That's why guys normally produce, because they're going to have everything down from an assignment and technique standpoint, and they're going to give you great effort and try to do it in the way you're asking them to do it."

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