Offseason Program Pivotal For Defense


The Packers' annual offseason program always has been an important time for players to improve their strength and conditioning and take advantage of teaching time with their position coaches.

That importance is increased on the defensive side of the ball this year, because the offseason program will serve as the beginning of the transition to the defense's new 3-4 scheme for many.

Players return for offseason workouts beginning next Monday, and while most have at a minimum met or spoken with their position coaches, the offseason program will give them the chance to work one-on-one with that coach to begin laying the foundation for the new scheme.

"I think there's an awful lot that they can learn," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "To me, that's got to be one of the top priorities, for us new members of the staff to become familiar with the players, get to know them. And then start the process of teaching them the philosophy and the techniques, the assignments of the system."

The offseason program has its own progression, concluding with the organized team activities (OTAs) and full-squad mini-camp in late June, and the Packers will utilize that progression to teach the players the new defense.

It starts with the individual position work, or IPWs, which coincide with the players' strength and conditioning work during roughly the first two months of the offseason program. Players can watch film and perform drills with their position coach, focusing on the fundamentals of the system, any changes to their defensive role and the skills needed to execute it.

"It starts with things such as the calls and communication that are involved, because there are different positions that have to make various calls in communication," Capers said. "Then, it's alignments, stance, footwork, responsibility.

"The first thing I think is learning what they have to do, what the assignment part of things are, and then the next phase is tying in the types of technique, or how to do it. Every assignment has a certain technique that goes along with it."

Capers has overseen a successful transition to the 3-4 in other coaching stops in his career, most notably in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars went from 25th in the league in yards allowed and 17th in points allowed to fourth and first, respectively, in Capers' first season as defensive coordinator there in 1999. Last year, the Packers finished 20th in yards allowed and 22nd in points allowed.

To Capers, it's paramount that players start with the basics and go step-by-step through the process, particularly those learning a new position. Defensive ends Aaron Kampman and Jeremy Thompson are slated to become outside linebackers, for instance, while the roles for defensive ends and tackles in this system will differ from the 4-3 alignment.

Film study will be different during this offseason program as well. Normally at this time, players go back through nearly all of their snaps from the previous season on film, critiquing them with their position coach and pinpointing areas to improve upon.

But with the defensive transition, players won't be watching nearly as much film of themselves as of others who play their position in the 3-4. Those "teaching tapes" then become film of the Packers themselves when they take the field as a group in late May/early June for the OTAs.

{sportsad300}"Anything that we can get done now before we go on the field will enable us to be much more productive and successful I think in our OTAs," Capers said. "And anything we get done in the OTAs will help us in the mini-camp and then on into training camp."

Players have been slotted into spots on a preliminary depth chart, but that's a starting point for now and isn't set by any means. Position battles will be waged during training camp beginning in late July, when players are in full pads and playing preseason games, but that doesn't mean preparing to play the new defense starts then.

It starts on Monday.

"I think every step is important in terms of them having a base understanding of the things we want to try to get done," Capers said.

"Football is such a game of quick reaction, and you certainly can't move at the type of speed you have to move if you're doing much thinking. So you hope guys start to feel comfortable with their assignments to where they can go out and really show you (in camp) what they're capable of doing."

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