Last season's pass rush didn't look like it did in Wednesday's practice for the Packers.
It was an active day getting after the quarterback in the last of six morning workouts at Ray Nitschke Field. The outside linebackers, who are the playmakers in a 3-4 scheme, shined the most, particularly Clay Matthews.
Matthews consistently pressured quarterback Aaron Rodgers from his blind side, so much so that after one pass, Rodgers playfully chased Matthews back to the other side of the line of scrimmage.
"We felt it was important to crank it up today," Mike McCarthy said. "Today was a blitz emphasis. It was a heavy pressure day today, heavy third down. It's great work for both sides."
The outside backers' success started in the one-on-one pass-rush drills with the offensive linemen, and then carried over to the team periods. Matthews put a spin move on backup tackle Herb Taylor that drew some hoots and hollers.
Not to be outdone, first-round draft pick Nick Perry got into the act, too, beating the heretofore unbeatable Bryan Bulaga with an inside move. Erik Walden had a successful rep that drew praise from position coach Kevin Greene, as well.
In the team drills, McCarthy said the defense was installing a large number of pressure packages, sounding as though he expected the pass rushers to have the upper hand in challenging the offense's protection schemes. Nonetheless, it was a promising showing for a defense that plummeted to last in the league in sacks per pass play in 2011.
"You can see there was a lot of one-on-one pass-rush opportunities with the offense working against the defense, so it was quality work today," McCarthy said.
"This was a good football day today. I thought it was a more physical practice. The tempo is getting better. Hopefully, when we correct it, the mental errors aren't what they have been. We're getting better."
As a new star emerges in the highly competitive secondary on a daily basis, Wednesday was probably rookie cornerback Casey Hayward's day. In a one-on-one rep against Tori Gurley, Hayward closed quickly on a slightly underthrown deep ball and made a leaping interception.
Later, Hayward broke up a Coleman pass from behind on Gurley in the team drills, and he came down with an interception on a ball that deflected off either receiver Diondre Borel or cornerback Brandian Ross as the two converged.
In addition, Jarrett Bush emerged after a couple of quiet days with a forced fumble against receiver Randall Cobb, and Davon House was once again mentioned for his physical play. He was matched up often with receiver Greg Jennings, who returned to practice from his elbow injury.
McCarthy noted the cornerbacks as a group held up well under the stress that goes hand in hand with committing more bodies to pressure up front, but he wasn't going to proclaim anything decided in the heated secondary competition.
"When we get to the games," he said. "They're getting better. I think that's evident to everybody."
The team's schedule now shifts to evening workouts beginning Thursday and continuing with the Family Night scrimmage on Friday. McCarthy reiterated that the shift in timing is intentional because two of the team's first four regular-season games are in prime time.
"It's not a popular transition," he said. "I think everybody would rather get up and get going and get the heavy lifting done in the morning. But there's a reason why we're doing this."
Injury update: Fullback John Kuhn and linebacker Desmond Bishop practiced for the first time in camp, but in shells only. They will have to practice in shells twice before putting on pads.
Defensive linemen Ryan Pickett (knee) and Mike Daniels (knee, groin), along with running back Marc Tyler (shoulder) all missed practice and are day to day. Undrafted rookie receiver Curenski Gilleylen (quad) was held out of practice, and Gurley (groin) left the workout early. Related links