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Packers defense must rely on youth

"How fast can we get these guys ready to play?"


GREEN BAY – Thirty-one years of experience are gone from the Packers defense. Youth must be served.

"Our biggest challenge is how fast can we get these guys ready to play?" Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said.

Two players in particular, rookie cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, the Packers' first two picks of the draft, are being counted on for significant contributions. It's hoped Randall and Rollins can replace Tramon Williams and Davon House, both of whom were lost in free agency.

"Damarious has been pretty solid," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "He had a lot of chances to go against Aaron (Rodgers). Jordy (Nelson) got over the top of him yesterday. That was good for him to learn what real speed is. You can't give up deep balls. You can't give up touchdowns."

Randall also made a red-zone interception in training camp to date.

"(It shows) he can make a play when a play is needed," Whitt added.

Rollins missed the first three days of training camp practices and has just two under his belt.

Can Whitt bring the young corners around quickly enough for them to be ready to contribute at the start of the season?

"That's what we're working for. We haven't tackled anybody live. We're so early to know whether these guys can be ready," Whitt said.

Inside linebacker is certainly a concern. The Packers released last year's starting inside linebackers shortly after last season ended.

"All of them are working hard and all of them are looking to improve," linebackers coach Winston Moss said.

Third-year man Sam Barrington is thought to hold one starting job, and Clay Matthews is working on the inside, where he had success last season following a midseason move.

"He's worked inside a little more, but that's not to say what his role will be. Clay will play where we need him," Moss said.

A major concern on defense is for the defensive line in the opener in Chicago. Defensive end Datone Jones will miss that game to suspension, and the possibility exists nose tackle Letroy Guion will also face a suspension for that game.

"That's going to be a challenge. At a certain point, we're probably going to have to back their reps down. Some of those other linemen are going to have to be ready to step up and play at a high level," Capers said.

The degree to which the defense is able to address their challenges in this training camp could decide the Packers' quest for a fast start in 2015.

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