GREEN BAY – The Packers' coordinators and offensive assistant coaches met with the media over the past couple of days. Here's a summary of their key comments:
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett
On Tavon Austin:
It's a great addition. I mean, he brings a lot of juice to the group. Even two weeks ago on the sideline he was fired up, ready to rock, and just feeling that is awesome. Watching him as he slowly learned the system, he's still got a long ways to go from that standpoint, but it's an easier transition for him because of his familiarity with Matt. He's a dynamic football player and the faster he can learn it all, the faster that we can incorporate him.
On racking up time of possession vs. explosive plays:
You're always hunting the big plays and then from within that play call and how the quarterback makes his decision, is to make it an efficient play if it's not there. That's one thing that Aaron Rodgers's done such an awesome job with is not being overaggressive. The play calls might be overaggressive, but he knows when to make the right decision or take the proper shot or we get the look that we're looking for and still be able to get a positive gain. That's huge. That's what makes an offense go if you can be aggressive, but still efficient if it's not there.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine
On the struggles with the screen passes at Detroit:
We had an assignment error on one. The other one, they made a good play. They got on the perimeter. The way we coach screens is you treat it like a perimeter run. You treat it like a toss sweep that you always have somebody setting the edge and turn it back in. Most screens, if you want to play good screen defense, they're going to be stopped by your pursuit, your defensive line. I think that's one thing our guys do a really good job with doing when the ball is thrown, they turn and go. Unfortunately on the one, we ended up letting it bounce outside instead of being able to turn it back in, set the edge and force it back inside. It ended up giving up a little bit more of a chunk as a result. I hope that's an anomaly.
On facing the Panthers without McCaffrey and would he be a better playoff test:
We're not talking about, 'Hey, we're getting ready for the playoffs. Let's test our guys.' We want to win a football game. We're fortunate the way last weekend played out that we're sitting in the spot we want to be in. But we gotta earn that. We control it but we gotta go out and earn it. Mike Davis is a pretty good running back in his own right. He's done a really nice job when they fill him in. They use Curtis Samuel back there. They have some talent for sure at the skill positions. That is nowhere near what our mindset is as far as looking forward or looking to test guys or prep or any type of thing. We're all about winning football games.
Special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga
On the strategy for handling the onside kick in Detroit:
That's one of those when you put the ball on there like that, it's spinning and becomes a judgment call for the guys on the hands group. We give them certain parameters and things. If the ball is coming to them and it's not hot and they can field it, they're going to get down it. Otherwise, they're going to go block and not be hit by the ball. What's become kind of a popular thing is for them to kind of put it in that no man's land. Obviously Allen Lazard made the judgment he didn't think it was going to go 10, didn't field it, otherwise he can bat the ball sideways or backwards to get it out of bounds. It's a really good kick by them and it put you in a tough spot.
On the false start that moved the FG back 5 yards:
I had confidence in Mason Crosby. It's one of those deals where obviously you want to get the protection right and the operation right. I have the utmost confidence in him that he can make that. He makes those in pregame (when) we'll stretch it out. Being indoors like that, I had all the confidence in the world. I just wanted to make sure that we obviously protect it. The ball's going to come out in a lower trajectory.
Offensive line coach Adam Stenavich
On David Bakhtiari:
Dave's always been excellent in protection. He's got a good knack for it. He's very natural. He understands defensive linemen and what they do and he's able to put himself in a great position. The first probably half of last year, it took him awhile to get the fundamentals that we needed, talking about the play-pass protections and the run game. But, since then, he's been awesome. I don't know if there's a tackle in this league playing better than him right now. He's clicking on all cylinders and playing really high-level football.
On Simon Stepaniak's return from injury:
Great attitude, very football-smart, real intelligent guy, and when you see rookies who are or any player for that matter who get injured and they're not actually out there doing it, a lot of times they space out and just are not as focused as they would be if they were out there practicing. But it's pretty impressive, he's dialed in every single day. He's a strong guy, you can tell he's got some natural athleticism, twitch and stuff like that.
Passing-game coordinator/QB coach Luke Getsy
On Rodgers keeping INTs to a minimum:
He's that good, but it's an important part of our offense. We talk about taking care of the football every single day. We start off just about every meeting that we have as an offensive unit and as a team about the importance of us protecting the football and the defense taking the ball away. So it's a big emphasis. It's all over our walls in our building, so that's something we definitely emphasize and Aaron takes great pride in that.
On making play-action successful:
It starts with the emphasis of making everything appear to be the same to the defense. I think Aaron's energy getting away from center, his energy post-handoff in the run game, all that stuff adds up for successful play pass. And the next part of it is just the ability to know what's happening. When you turn your back to a defense, you've got to collect a lot of information prior to taking the snap so you've got a good understanding of what you think should happen, and then you turn your back to a defense and you do your action and you come up out of the fake and now you try to confirm or deny that data you collected.
Wide receivers coach Jason Vrable
On Marquez Valdes-Scantling when he wasn't as involved for a couple of games:
He's never said a word, he's worked and he's smiled and had a great attitude and effort. Even when there was some downs that maybe some outsiders might think, when we're in the meeting room and you watch every single play from the game, I still believe that he won on maybe 90% of his reps or 90% of the plays. I want him to be at 100% – that's chasing perfection – but there's still a lot of growth to him that's to be had out there. He knows it and he's working toward it. He's matured as a man and as a player. His future's bright.
On Allen Lazard coming back from his injury:
He's so competitive. I know one game, he might have played seven or eight plays in a row and it was early and he came off to the sideline, he was breathing heavy and he said to me something like, 'Oh, my gosh, that was a lot. Whoa.' It's probably just conditioning more than anything when you're out that long and being in game shape. I think he's done everything we've asked. He's thrown his body in there, he's blocked, he's created some big plays, he's caught the ball when it's thrown his way. Maybe not as many targets as it was early in the year but I think that's only going to go up as we get going into his role.
Tight ends coach Justin Outten
On Robert Tonyan getting extra attention:
You just stick to the plan and do what got you in this position from jump street. You gotta have a short memory, whether it's good or bad. Those situations are gonna happen and we've talked about this before – you could have three touchdowns. You could have none. You could have 10 targets. You could have one. Each game is gonna be different and I think he's doing a great job of handling the successes He's been a great pro since I've gotten here.
On Marcedes Lewis' leadership as the team chases the No. 1 seed:
It's a phenomenal opportunity to have him on this team and in that locker room because he keeps his head down and he grinds. He takes each day and treats it the same. He's got a routine and whether he opens his mouth or not people are paying attention to him and how he goes about his business. Having him and Aaron in those roles of being the leaders and the elders in that locker room on the offensive side of the ball is excellent. Last year, him going that far in the playoffs meant a lot to him and he got a taste of it his last year in Jacksonville, so he understands what it takes to get to those positions. Now it's, 'What can we do to further our opportunities?'
Running backs coach Ben Sirmans
On AJ Dillon's return:
I think the biggest thing is just making sure that physically he's able to get himself in shape, which he's done. We've been trying to control the amount of reps that he's had. In terms of understanding what's going on with the scheme, he's always been on top of that stuff, so that really hasn't been an issue. In terms of getting him back up to speed, initially we were taking this thing a little bit slow last week. This week we've increased it. He's done very well with everything.
On how the two-RB packages work:
I think it's because you've got some of your playmakers you depend on, you have those guys in the game at the same time and you can do different things. You can find, whether it's a matchup or whether it's a situation where they're keying on one guy, and now you can work the other. It kind of gives us the flexibility to do a number of things, especially the fact that those guys are pretty good receivers out of the backfield. It's interesting sometimes to see how a defense plans on defending those sets and those personnel groupings when we get in them.