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Notebook: 'Explosive Plays' Are Defense's Achilles Heel


Head Coach Mike McCarthy refers to them as "explosive plays," and he defines them as runs of 12 yards or more, or pass completions of 16 yards or more.

Quite simply, the Packers have given up too many of them in the season's first two games, and McCarthy and his players feel that's the key element holding them back from being a productive defense.

An analysis of the statistics bears that out. The Packers have given up 14 explosive plays (seven in each game) in a total of 131 defensive snaps, meaning 11 percent of the plays have accounted for 55 percent of the opposing team's total yards (406 of 741).

"That's the stuff we need to eliminate and take away," McCarthy said. "We need to cut that by about 30 or 40 percent and I think we'll be playing very good defense."

Explosive plays also have produced four of the five touchdowns the defense has surrendered. Perhaps even more revealing, the Bears and Saints gained just 335 yards on the other 117 snaps, a stingy average of just 2.9 yards per play.

In other words, the defensive ability is evident, but it's momentary breakdowns that are proving costly.

"It's one person each time that's out of position, and we're giving up the big play," defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. "The big play has been killing us. We have to minimize the big plays."

There's no magic formula for doing so. It's a matter of covering all the details every day in practice so it carries over to the game.

"By watching film, getting to know each other better on defense, getting the camaraderie down, knowing this person is going to be here, trusting the calls and things like that, just knowing where we have to be," Pickett said. "If we do that, we're going to be better and better."

Getting the new guys in

McCarthy said receiver Koren Robinson's primary role will continue to be as a kick returner, but he is in the receiver rotation and continues to learn the offense.

How much he would be called upon to contribute on offense isn't clear at this point.

"We're trying to get him ready to play, particularly in the sub groups and things like that," McCarthy said. "I talked to him today, and he feels very comfortable with the process. He's going to start working out with quarterbacks and get the timing and everything that's necessary."

Running back Vernand Morency may be more ready to contribute on offense in addition to special teams. The Packers see Morency as a third-down, change-of-pace back, and McCarthy noted he's been particularly adept at picking up blitzes, a requirement in that type of role.

"I think you'll see some more of him this week," McCarthy said. "He's picked it up very fast. I thought he did well today in practice with his opportunities. I'm very happy with him, I think he's been a good addition. We'll look to use him and get some productivity out of him this week."

Working on crowd noise

Practicing on Clarke Hinkle Field on Wednesday, the Packers had some crowd noise blaring through the speaker system to try to prepare them for playing indoors at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday.

McCarthy said practice would be moved inside the Don Hutson Center at least once this week to get a workout in on the field turf, but for the most part he prefers to practice on grass for the benefit of the players' health.

Other TEs to play FB if needed

With tight end David Martin questionable with a knee injury, the Packers continue to work fellow tight ends Tory Humphrey and Donald Lee as backup fullbacks to fill that role if needed. Among the tight ends, Martin had received the most extensive work at fullback and took several snaps there last Sunday.

"We're fortunate having four tight ends," McCarthy said. "We feel very comfortable with the depth we have at that position."

Injury update

Other than Martin, cornerback Will Blackmon (foot), guard Jason Spitz (thigh) and cornerback Al Harris (shoulder) also are listed as questionable on the injury report. Offensive lineman Junius Coston (knee) is doubtful.

Of those players, only Harris practiced on Wednesday, and he was wearing a red no-contact jersey to protect his shoulder.

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