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McCarthy counting on youth to step up

Coach not concerned about voids at cornerback, inside linebacker


PHOENIX—Mike McCarthy spoke on Sunday of the need for several young Packers players to elevate their game in 2015, especially as it would pertain to positions of need, inside linebacker and cornerback.

"We're going to coach the guys that are here and they're going to be better players because of it," McCarthy told a group of reporters at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, where the NFL's annual meeting began.

A young team is likely to get younger in 2015. Gone are veterans A.J. Hawk and Tramon Williams, likely to be replaced by young players such as Sam Barrington and Casey Hayward. There will be others in the competition, too.

McCarthy attributed the Packers' success in 2014 to the team's willingness to advance young players, which included rookie center Corey Linsley. Expect the same in 2015.

"We stayed the course. We relied on young players earlier in the season. You have to keep growing from within," McCarthy said.

"Youth will be served" might be a good slogan for the 2015 Packers.

"That 1-3 years, that's where the biggest improvement comes. We have to focus on the guys we have," McCarthy said of a group of corners and linebackers that would include Hayward, Demetri Goodson, Barrington and Carl Bradford, among others.

"He's definitely got a chance to take a step," McCarthy said of Hayward. "There's going to be a big opportunity there for all of our young corners."

Hawk and starting inside linebacker Brad Jones are gone, which makes inside linebacker the most critical position of replacement. Barrington made the most of playing time in 2014. Bradford was drafted last year as an outside linebacker, but McCarthy said Bradford will be in the mix on the inside this year.

"Carl needs to take a huge jump this year. He's definitely in the category of taking a jump from year one to year two. It helps in our scheme if you train them from outside to inside. He has the ability to take that big step and compete for defensive playing time," McCarthy said.

Quarterback Scott Tolzien is another young player on whom McCarthy is depending on growth.

"I'm curious to see if he can take a couple of steps in different areas," McCarthy said.

"You gotta coach the ones that are here. We're drafting 30th," the coach added.

McCarthy addressed several subjects during his chat with a handful of reporters on the veranda of the exclusive Arizona resort. In the background, Camelback Mountain glistened in the sunshine.

Yes, spring has sprung in the NFL. Everything is wonderful; every team is going to the Super Bowl. The atmosphere helped soothe harsh memories. It's a new season.

"We're not going to come up with some slogan, 'Remember Seattle,' " McCarthy said.

"We'll see what happens between now and the draft. We lean on the draft. I'm not concerned," McCarthy said about the voids at cornerback and inside linebacker.

McCarthy was more concerned about the Packers' ability to retain key starters Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga, both of whom said they accepted less money to stay in Green Bay than they would've earned in free agency.

"You want to sign your own guys. You know your guys better than anybody. It's all about information and evaluation," McCarthy said. "The game of football starts up front. We all know that. We've had a standard that's been set offensively and we're going to hold to that standard.

"Randall had a great year. He gives us a lot of flexibility. He needs to see the ball. He gives you a number of different ways to give him the football. They're definitely in the place they should be," McCarthy added of Cobb and Bulaga.

It was a beautiful place to be on a spring day in Arizona. It was a place of hope. McCarthy was brimming with it.

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