GREEN BAY – The Packers' coordinators and defensive assistants met with the media over the past couple of days. Here's a summary of their key comments:
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett
On Aaron Jones' late-season production:
I'll tell you, he's special. When it comes to his size, you don't think that he would have that power that he has, but his balance is unbelievable and his ability to have his foot in the ground and still be able to take impacts and bounce off people, it's pretty incredible. He's got this innate slashing ability to put his foot in the ground, get downhill and get positive yards. He does get better as the season goes, and that's what you're looking for. You're looking for everybody to be playing at a high level in December and winning football games as you move closer to the playoffs.
On the value of a franchise LT like David Bakhtiari:
It allows the offensive coordinator to sleep well at night, along with the quarterback. To have a guy like David there, you can secure that blind side for a quarterback, it's just a great sense of relief. He steps up to the challenge every day. He's a true pro. He's good in the run game, good in pass protection. It just allows you to do some more things, maybe be a little more aggressive. It's a security. It's a comfort level.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine
On the improved run defense of late:
Do we feel good about it? Yeah, at times. But there are other times where we have a ways to go. To me, it starts with the technique part of it. It doesn't matter what you're in schematically, if you can't get off on the ball and win your 1-on-1, knock the guy back across from you and have that sense of timing, get separation from a block, and then violently release from it … They're going to find a way to get a helmet on a helmet. We know we're going to get blocked. The key is not staying blocked. That's something we've emphasized all year. I'm glad that we're trending the right way. But we haven't faced a rushing attack like this. So it's a challenge for us and it's something I think our guys are looking forward to.
On the Titans' well-rounded offense:
That's what makes this offense so difficult to defend. You think of it as one-dimensional and it really isn't. Because it starts with the run, and then the run opens everything up. The play-pass, some of the wide-open looks they've been able to get — that's just a credit to how well they run the football, that if you're not locked in and flying downhill and reacting to these run looks, you're going to get gashed in the run game.
Special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga
On the improved coverage last week:
Obviously better. Had some tackles inside the 25, you had the one that got out to the 29 on a little bit of a shorter kick but felt like our guys did a better job fitting and being more physical and making tackles. Then obviously made some tackles on the punt that we needed to make. So happier with how it went.
On which of Mason Crosby's two long kicks the past two games was more impressive:
Shoot, I don't know if I want to pick one. They were both huge for us, especially in that situation in the game. That 51-yarder, when it's colder like that, the ball doesn't travel as much or as well. Mason continues to come up big and we've got all the confidence in the world in him.
Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti
On Krys Barnes:
He's obviously a guy that has made plays when he's gotten in in the game. He works extremely hard, communicates well, can play ahead of plays. He's still a rookie in a lot of ways, and he is a mature rookie, and he is a mature player even if he wasn't a rookie. He's just a mature guy. The even temperament he has, though good plays and bad plays, he has a pretty even pulse all the time.
On tackling Derrick Henry:
We have a tackle plan every week on the running backs that we have talked about, the best ways to tackle them, and look, sometimes they're going to be ugly tackles no matter who you're tackling. The biggest thing is to be efficient within the play, and then when you get there, to do the fundamentals of a tackle. Try to get your pads under their pads, bring your arms, wrap your feet, step on their toes, all the things we talk about every week. If you're trying to cram for a test a little bit on Derrick Henry, it's not going to go well.
Outside linebackers coach Mike Smith
On Za'Darius Smith making the Pro Bowl:
Z's always worked hard and the thing about that is you approach (him) the next day, you wouldn't have even thought he got voted to the Pro Bowl. He knows what the big picture is and that's the Super Bowl and getting there. But obviously all these players, they do want to get credit for how hard they work and so I'm sure it meant a lot to him. It just shows that it pays off.
On defending Derrick Henry:
Obviously he's a big back, but he's also a bounce runner, and you don't realize how fast he is. He's big and he's going to be a straight downhill type guy, so you've got to be disciplined with your eyes. We've got to hold the edge and not declare until the back has declared inside, and if you peek and don't have your eyes or hips outside, he's going to hurt you.
Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray
On his memories of Kevin Greene:
We basically came in the league together. What's funny is that I got a chance to play against him in college. He was at Auburn, I was at Texas and coincidentally we played Auburn up in Alabama my sophomore year and then we played in Austin my junior year. So, that was like a two-game deal. And then in '85 we get a chance to get drafted together to the Rams. Just little things that you remember about him, on the practice field, it was always upbeat, having fun. Then in the games, one of the biggest things he'd always tell the DBs was, 'Hey, just cover for one more second and give me a chance to get there.' So, we kind of laughed about that because every defensive lineman is kind of the same. Just cover 'em enough where I can get a sack. But it was good, though. It was in good spirits.
On Jaire Alexander making the Pro Bowl:
This happened when I got hired here, I talked with each individual guy and I tried to set goals for 'em and I said, 'This is what you have to do.' You can't just show up one day and think you're going to be good. It's a process and I'm really proud of him of going through the process of what it takes to become a really good corner in this league. And it's not just going to happen during the season. It's an offseason thing. You have to really work hard in the offseason. We learned how to play off technique. You know, he wanted to really learn that and what that meant. We know he can really press and run with guys. But I thought adding off technique to it, to himself, made him a lot better corner.
Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery
On newcomer Anthony Rush:
He's getting better each week. He just got here so he's learning the system, getting more comfortable. I do wish I could have got him in the game a little bit more but, again, you get in those situations sometimes and your starters are ready to go, you've got to give them the nod. He's definitely getting better. He shows up at practice each day. I see his role slowly but surely adding reps.
On Tennessee's run scheme vs. Green Bay's:
Very similar to what we do. The foundation is very, very, very close. Ultimately, everybody's got their own little niche. These guys are really good, their big back, of perimeter runs that will cut back. If you don't set the edge, it'll bounce. They get you to move laterally and then they run downhill at you. And then they put your corners in positions to have to make plays on a bigger back. Guys have to do a great job of believing in what they see. Off of that, they do a great job of their play-action game; looks identical to their first- and second-down run game. Guys have to be dialed in and more focused than ever. If we can do the little things right fundamentally, we'll have a chance.
The Green Bay Packers practiced on Clarke Hinkle Field on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020.