GREEN BAY – The Packers' coordinators and defensive assistant coaches met with the media over the past couple of days. Here's a sampling of their key comments.
Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia
On Daniel Whelan pinning opponents deep:
He's playing better in the red zone and in the fringe red zone. I go back to the Atlanta game, we had that ball at the plus-39 or plus-38, and he kicked a touchback. So he certainly has progressed from there. He's worked extremely hard at it, and I think our protection team is doing a good job as well. Then we've made some plays for him on the outside. Rudy's (Ford) made a play, Scooter's (Robert Rochell) made a play down there. That's all part of it. Hopefully it'll continue.
On Anders Carlson's clutch kick in the fourth quarter:
He came through for us. We talked about it, I told him at the beginning of the year, everybody loved you, you were making a lot of kicks. We missed some PATs, nobody likes you anymore, and now we made a couple kicks and everybody likes you again. It's part of the position, right. It's the consistency of what we're trying to see in practice hopefully keeps transpiring over to how he plays in the game, and I think that's what we saw last week. He had a really good week of practice, here in the breeze a little bit, and he had a good day yesterday, hopefully it continues tomorrow, and hopefully it'll keep showing up on the positive end of games.
On the Giants' special teams:
Multi-formational punt team from them. They're doing all kinds of different punt formations, (depending on) maybe where they are on the field a little bit. It's a lefty punter, first one this year we've faced. He's working some rugby-rollout punts to both sides, so (we have) to get prepared for those formations. He's done a good job with not giving up a lot of return yards. I think they've got four exceptional players in their coverage unit, so for us to have a chance to block them and make a play will be difficult. We'll see what it looks like.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry
On the best statistical measures:
To me, the biggest stat is the frickin' scoreboard when the clock hits zero. The situational statistics I think are huge, red zone, third down. Everyone talks about you've got to stop the run, you've got to win on third down, you've got to win in the red zone. But the No. 1 stat in football is at the end of the game, they have one less point than you have, so that's the most important.
On the sacks in the red zone vs. KC:
Every week we go in there with a plan to be able to be multiple and do different things, whether we rush four, five, six. We have that ability to do that every single week. The nice thing last week was we were able to play coverage and rush four, which I think anybody will tell you – when you can deploy seven people in coverage and rush four and consistently win, that's the best thing, but every single week, we have the ability to bring four, five, six, even we have the ability on the call sheet every week to bring seven if we need to.
On the progress of Lukas Van Ness:
Every single guy is different. Every single guy is unique in his own journey. Rookies, some guys come in and they have unbelievable rookie years. Some guys it takes some time. I think Lukas, his progression … you've got to remember, I think he had a birthday and turned 21 like when we went to training camp. Lukas really should be getting ready for a bowl game at Iowa right now in the grand scheme of things, the natural progression. But I'll tell you the one thing, he is a grinder, he is a worker and he comes in (as) a lunch pail guy every single day. You know exactly what you're going to get and I think he's naturally stacking blocks – as I call it. Every single week you want to be better than the previous week. Was happy for him last week, he got that big sack. I think the progression and the course that Lukas is on is good right now.
Offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich
On Malik Heath:
He's done a great job and we were kind of hoping he'd turn into what he's turning into as far as blocking. He's a more physical wide receiver, strong hands, and just somebody who can kind of be your utility guy. Great energy, he really works hard and I'm excited about him.
On improving vs. the blitz:
We're going to get tested again. Wink's (Martindale) got his plethora of blitz packages that they do a great job (with). Just like Spags (Steve Spagnuolo) does. So it's going to be a challenge, it's going to obviously be a road environment so we'll see how that atmosphere is. We've faced a lot of teams like this, this year. There's been a bunch this season that will bring their all-out pressures at any minute, so it's been good for us training the guys into that and it's been really good for Jordan of just different answers that he can get into, whether it's protection or working different routes down the field. It's good for all them just to keep progressing and keep communicating and seeing different things.
Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti
On how to tackle better and prevent all the yards after contact the Chiefs got:
The biggest thing is having a good base underneath you, being able to hit, strike and wrap up. And it's never a one-on-one tackle. Everybody gets to the ball. On some of those occasions, everybody was at the ball and it became a rugby scrum and everybody was pushing one way or the other. Tackling usually is technique, effort and then a swarm. The other thing is to get his legs out of the ground, so one way or another if his legs aren't in the ground, it's hard for anybody else to push him. Need to get that part of it done also.
On getting De'Vondre Campbell back in the lineup:
It's always nice to have everybody available and ready to go. De'Vondre brings a level of leadership and experience to the entire team. He's always going to play hard and set a standard that way. It's always nice to have him running around out there.
Defensive passing game coordinator Greg Williams
On Keisean Nixon's INT vs. KC:
Keisean, he's another guy who puts in time. Keisean is here every Wednesday night in Justin Hood's office for an hour from 8-9 p.m. after we've gotten done game-planning for the night. I'm talking about every Wednesday, religiously. He puts that time in as far as watching tape and taking the reps and things of that nature. He knew it. We always talk about hitting your pitch. When you study something and you see something and you have a chance to hit your pitch, when you see all the stars align and you see that it's going to be a fastball in the left part of the plate, it's time to choke up on the bat and take a swing at it, and that's what he did. He was able to catch it and it was a heck of a catch.
On getting so many new guys up to speed lately:
It's actually fun. I get to coach. Doing a lot of coaching because everybody comes in new, so I'm practicing coaching a lot. I get to start over from square one to teach them the basics, the fundamentals of what we're doing. But the good thing about that, everybody at this point is a sponge. All they want is the information. When I can talk and get people to listen to me coach and talk about ball, that's a good thing. I'm enjoying it. The young guys that we have in there, too, they're bringing so much energy, bringing more energy out of myself included. It's been fun.
Defensive backs coach Ryan Downard
On Darnell Savage's return and his leadership while he was injured:
I was real excited to have 2-6 back. I know he was rarin' and ready to go. I saw that fifth gear again when he was on the practice field, coming out of the post a couple times. And that's not to say he had lost it before then, but the grind of the season, the guys who have fresh legs and come back, you can see a difference.
I've always seen that in him. My approach has been to encourage him, continue to encourage him, to facilitate his leadership within the room, to let him carry the message for the group and to give him that platform to speak on, and he's done that. He's done that with his actions, he's done that with his play style, he's done that with buying into what we're trying to get done with him when we place him in different spots, different positions. He's really taken those young guys under his wing, too. I can't say enough good things. I did see that even when he was young in the league, you could see that he had that in him. It was just a matter of, c'mon now, it's your time, and he's done a great job.
He's exciting to watch. He's got a great skill set. He made a play today out of the post, I'm like wow, he's got some range. I've said this to our guys too on the staff, every rep that he takes whether it's practice or game, it builds him. I know that's the case with every player, but his reps are so valuable, probably because of the lack of experience at the position, and obviously at this level with him being young. But he makes it so important when he gets coached, to write that coaching point down in his notebook, and then I'll come back and reference it like 3 ½ week later. Or just give him a look when I make a coaching point, he knows exactly what I'm talking about. So he's got a good ability to retain, and it's fun to coach a guy like that. We've got to keep going and developing him.
Defensive line/running game coordinator Jerry Montgomery
On Giants RB Saquon Barkley:
Explosive back. We found that out last year, right? He broke the big Wildcat run, and then had some explosive pass receptions. He's an in-and-out runner, so you've got to be really gap sound. You've got to make sure guys are doing their job, and then rally to the football. You've got to have all 11 guys. He's not an easy tackle. Good back. He's been proven. Explosive. So, good challenge.
On T.J. Slaton:
He's a big man, and I've said it since he's been here, when he does it right, it's tough. It's tough to block him, when he plays with good pad level, when he plays with good hands. He can eat up two (blockers) most of the time, and what that does it allows 'backers to not have to play off of blocks as much and let those guys go play football. Anytime you have a big guy inside that can eat up blocks like that, I think it helps your defense on early downs. He's done a good job and been a ton more consistent. He's grown each year and gotten better. He's finally establishing himself as a guy. But it's never perfect and he's still a work in progress, but he's made a huge, huge jump for us.
On playing better run defense up front:
It's not just our five guys. It's never just our five. It's the front seven, right? You can't say the front five without the 'backers. It all correlates. You can have 'backers triggering and hitting their spot and you can have a D-lineman out of a gap. You can have D-linemen attack and knocking back the line of scrimmage and have people fit in the wrong gaps. It takes all of the front seven to be correlated.
Everything starts with alignment, assignment and key. What does your key tell you? Do you have good eyes or bad eyes? I'm a firm believer in our fundamentals. If you're not looking at the right things, you're not going to be able to play what you're supposed to play as fast as you're supposed to play it, and that goes for all 11 guys.
Pass rush specialist Jason Rebrovich
On setting an edge vs. Barkley:
He is an unbelievable back. He's a perimeter bouncer. We have to have two numbers in our gap or outside the man that's trying to block us, to be able to show color in our gap or that edge, to either keep that thing bubbling closer and closer to the sideline – because we know that's the surest tackler in America is the sideline, he's never missed one. We have those built in to our ability as we're trying to set an edge, but we have our hands full with the one we're about to play here on Monday night, there's no doubt about it.
On running more stunts up front than previously:
It goes back to knowing your clientele, knowing who they are. We've got fast, agile, penetrating players, as opposed to the old-school 6-6, 350 that's going to sit his rear end in there and just absorb blocks. We're going to use our quickness hopefully to our advantage. So yes, are we working some stunts and picks and moves and changing the picture for an offense? Absolutely.