GREEN BAY – The Packers' coordinators and defensive assistants met with the media over the past couple of days. Here's a sampling of their key comments:
Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia
On Chargers punt returner Derius Davis:
He's got tremendous speed. He was really good coming out of college. He had a touchdown in preseason and now he's had a touchdown in the regular season, so he's kind of fearless back there. He makes good decisions and so right now, that's the biggest challenge.
On smoothing out the ups and downs:
That's critical for us if we're really trying to play, as we talk about, complementary football. I think we have a good coverage team and to put the (kickoff) out of bounds, put our defense at the 40-yard line, it's just not good. No different than we get tackled on the 13 on the kickoff return and now we're behind the 8-ball, and we start the second half with a big return out the plus-44 and then in the second half, we downed a punt inside the 20 at the 9-yard line. I just think our consistency right now is a little bit of the detractor to playing complementary football when we can. We have to do a little bit better job of that.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry
On what went wrong in Pittsburgh:
When you have three defensive penalties that kept drives going on third down, when you give up three explosive runs – a 24-yard run, a 20-yard run, a 16-yard run – that's usually not going to be good. That's really what it comes down to 60 minutes later in a football game, when it is a close game, when it is a tight game. You usually can draw back to five, six, seven plays individually that really affected the game. And those six plays did.
On the struggles with run defense:
The thing that was disappointing about those explosive runs we gave up, we were in what we refer to as solo gap defense, meaning we're bringing a safety down. When an offense is in a one-back formation, to the tight end side, there's four gaps you have to defend. Away from the tight end side, there's three gaps. There's seven gaps that you have to defend. Well, if you have four down linemen, two inside 'backers and a safety down, you have seven men for seven gaps. And that was the thing that was a bummer, on those explosive runs we were gapped out, as we call it. When we missed tackles – we missed, we had the most missed tackles of any game Sunday – that's a bad combination.
On deciding how to match personnel to defend the run:
We always try to mix. If you go back on early downs, even in that game, we chose to go base versus 11 (three-WR personnel) a handful of times. I firmly believe that when you are in nickel and you're in solo gap defense, you should be able to stop the run. But you still got to get off blocks. You've still got to keep your feet. You still have to, when an opportunity comes about, you have to tackle.
Offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich
On the Chargers' defense:
They do a phenomenal job at all levels but especially their secondary really ripping at the ball and getting it out. So, obviously ball security's paramount this week, just like it is every week. Their pass rush, (Joey) Bosa, Khalil (Mack), both really good players. They do an excellent job with their load fronts, overloading sides, working games, using the linebackers to pick, really getting 1-on-1 matchups. They'll move Bosa inside to wherever they think they can get an advantage inside, so it's going to be a task across the board for all of us up front to do a good job of protecting the quarterback.
On AJ Dillon coming on strong of late:
It's kind of a microcosm of our offense right now. It's like, he started off not so hot, but as we keep going, you kind of see him do his thing and if you just keep feeding those guys eventually good things are going to happen. We saw that this last week with AJ busting that 40-yard run and being very consistent in the run game for us right now. And we need him. We need him. He's a powerful runner, and as the weather gets colder, as we all know, those runners really come alive in Lambeau. So I'm excited to see him as this season goes on.
On facing so much zone coverage and how to get defenses out of that:
We have a lot of explosive players and it's just maybe defenses just want to play more conservatively and maybe contain the offense, things like that. So we just have to be more patient, kind of earn our way down the field as opposed to (defenses) giving up big plays. That's kind of what I think.
You've just got to run the ball better. They're playing shell, you've got to do a good job running the ball, force them to bring an extra hat in the box and … go from there.
Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti
On Isaiah McDuffie:
Isaiah, he plays extremely hard, he's kind of 'finish at the football.' He'll run, he's explosive, he tries to do things the right way and play the right way. Those are the things that I think show up and are evident. My wife's like, 'I like the way he plays.' It's pretty obvious when you look at it.
Back when we first got him, nobody got into the playbook and taught himself the playbook as well as (him). Isaiah did the best job of anybody I've ever been around. Just being completely immersed in that process and it has paid off in his progression because he knew exactly what to do by the book, and then from there it's been just adding the experiences.
Defensive passing game coordinator Greg Williams
He's a coachable kid. That's the good thing when you get rookies in, they're all sponges and he's been one of them. He takes coaching. He actually has a mental maturity level where he really tries to apply what you're asking him to do. He'll go out there, he'll ask for feedback, and he just learns from his mistakes. That's a testament to him, and who he is as a person. He allows himself to be coached, and then he tries to apply it, and he trusts me to give him the tools to try to win when he goes out there. The more he wins and the more success he has, the more comfortable he is with his techniques.
To play that position, you do have to have self-confidence, and that's one thing he does have. It's not falsely generated. It is truly who he is. He is confident in what he can do. To a confident person, once you have prepared the proper way, now your confidence can truly go sky-high.
On Corey Ballentine:
Corey's an ultimate pro. He's so calm on the sidelines. Obviously Corey's been in this league, been on a couple teams. For him, he's one of those guys that can come into a game with minimal reps in practice, because he prepares like a pro, he prepares like a starter, every day. He's one that sits near the front row, always listening, always taking notes. So for him, to see some of the plays that he made was not shocking, and he's another one that doesn't get bothered by a couple completions here and there.
Defensive backs coach Ryan Downard
On Anthony Johnson Jr. when he started vs. the Rams two weeks ago:
I was really proud of Anthony, the way he went out there. It wasn't surprising to me. There's an unknown factor with rookies, of course. But he did a great job doing his job, like I always talk about plus-ing on the grade sheet. His play style is good. He was rewarded with that interception, a great play by Ja. It was awesome to see all his work that he's put in, from the spring. He's put so much in. I can't say enough things about the time he spends in this building, writing in that darn notebook. So it was good. I was proud of him. But there's still things we have to clean up. He's raw. He's got a lot of talent, so he's just growing every single day. There's something new every day of things that he's learning.
On Jonathan Owens:
He's a very smart individual, very instinctual. Tackling has been his strength since he's had play time. You look at his tape last year, tackling numbers are off the chart. He leads the younger ones in the meeting room. He has handled his situation since he's been here – I have not been around a guy who handles it as professionally as he does, with such enthusiasm. Even if he was a two, or when we were rotating those guys as threes (in training camp), it's been the same JO. I'm good coach, I know how this thing goes, I've been in the league long enough. His struggle, I'll say, his journey through the league has built him up to handle those adverse situations. He's been phenomenal.
Defensive line/running game coordinator Jerry Montgomery
On the ups and downs with the run defense:
There's been weeks this year where all 11 have been on point and have played some really good football and played some really good run defense. And then there's some weeks where eh, it could be the front, it could be the 'backers, it could be the back end, we're not going to point fingers; that's not what it's about. We've just got to consistently, consistently, have all 11 guys do their job. I believe in that, and we just got to be more consistent. Period and point blank. Every call we have, there's strengths and weaknesses to it. but as a player in that defense, you know the defense well enough to know 1) what your job is, what your keys are, and 2) where its strengths and weaknesses are. You've got to counteract those things.
On rookie Karl Brooks' deflected passes:
With his evaluation, the kid has always been around the ball. And he's got a knack for it. When the ball is around him, he gets a hand up. Some things are natural, just come naturally, natural instincts and awareness. That's just one of those deals. He's got a good feel for it, he sees it, he gets a hand up, he gets two up.
Pass rush specialist Jason Rebrovich
On what the edge defenders can do better vs. the run:
One thing that we've got to consistently do is we've got to tackle better. There's a few opportunities for us whether we're chasing something around the edge or playing an edge and getting off a tight end or a tackle, we've just got to consistently tackle better. You know, we're 'bleeding' a lot of yards. A guy makes a tackle, fall forward for another 1 or 2. So that's something we've been trying to harp on.
On Lukas Van Ness:
Luke's playing a lot more in base situations, more first and second down. We're gearing up some things schematically for him, with some pass-rush situations. He's developing through his first year in the NFL for longevity, (and) in this process he's continuing to get better. I was talking to somebody the other day, it's pretty much half of our squad in a week from now is preparing for a bowl game a year ago. Put that in perspective. So a lot of these guys are starting to get into understanding what the rigors of the NFL are, on a week-to-week basis. So, is Lukas coming along? Absolutely he is.
On Chargers QB Justin Herbert:
The guy we're about to play has a strong arm, can reach all the way down the field. His pocket presence is really, really good, he's got a really good understanding of where his escape lanes are or where he can step up, push up the pocket left or right, whatever it needs to be.