Za'Darius Smith has earned 'instant respect'

LB Za'Darius Smith
LB Za'Darius Smith

GREEN BAY -- The Packers' three coordinators met with the media on Thursday. Here's a summary of their key comments.

Special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga

(on the return game without Davis)

We’ll have Tre Smith and Darrius Shepherd…We’ve got some options back there. We’re going to see what those guys can do. They’re young players looking to make their mark on the league. They’re hungry and ready to go.

It’s been a busy 24 hours, but the good thing with Tre, coming from Kansas City, we’re kind of in the same family with special teams. He’ll probably be able to hit the ground running a little faster than it he’d be coming from somewhere else.

(on what makes a good kickoff returner)

Vision is always key. Being able to set your blocks up and feel where the coverage is taking you. We’ve talked before having that NASCAR mentality on kickoff return, where it may be a cloudy picture and you come out the other side.

(on Brown’s blocked PAT)

It was great by him as far as timing it up and laying out. He has that natural knack. He felt he was getting a good jump on the ball just watching them snap it, and he told me that on the sidelines. It was a big point in the game and got our guys excited.

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine

(on the Broncos)

They have some playmakers and they do a pretty good job of getting the ball to them. We’re facing another good pair of wideouts in Sutton and Sanders. The two backs, Lindsay and Freeman, the tape doesn’t lie. They’re not well-known guys, but hopefully our guys know about them. Freeman is up over 4 yards after first contact. These are guys we have to be aware of. This past week we didn’t do a good enough job against the run, so that’s something we’re talking about this week to make sure we improve.

(on Alexander and King as a tandem)

I think they’re both extremely gifted. They’re locked in and on point, playing their technique. They’re two guys very difficult to get away from. Just look at what Jaire did throughout training camp. He didn’t want to cover anybody else but Davante, and I thought that was great for both of them. Kevin, to his credit, missed a big chunk of time but stayed in the meetings and has a good understanding of what we’re doing. He has a history of availability, but when he’s available, we know what he’s capable of.

(on Savage being able to perform right away)

We had a pretty good sense of it just going through the draft process. When you first meet him, it’s obvious just how high his football IQ is. When we meet a guy, we want to know how much this guy loves football and how much does he know? It was clear he was off the charts on both those fronts. He understands it, he sees it, but he can get from A to B pretty quick.

(on Za’Darius Smith’s leadership)

It’s as real as it gets. It’s instant respect. One of the reasons he is as respected as he is, just watch him practice. He and Adrian (Amos) are probably two of the best practice players I’ve been around. That’s a credit to them, where they were before. Great habits, they’re going full speed, they finish plays. They don’t take plays off. You don’t see them loafing on the back side or anything like that. The players can sense the leadership piece pretty quickly. For him to be elected captain as a first-year guy here speaks to the quality of his leadership.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett

(on Bakhtiari and Bulaga handling tough bookend rushers)

They really have done a nice job. It’s funny you get ready all year for the Bears, in come the Vikings and now Denver. You can’t even take a breath. They’ve stepped up to the challenge. It’s no secret who they have to go against every week.

(on more guys getting involved for Rodgers)

You always go in with a plan to try to spread the ball around as much as possible, and sometimes it goes a different way than you think. It comes down to the adjustments you make on the field.

It’s awesome to watch his demand of those guys. Everything has to be perfect. As a coach, we coach everything, from the alignments to how they break the huddle. It’s one thing when it comes from us, but when it comes from Aaron it means so much. They want to do it the way we want it, but also the way Aaron wants it because he’s the one throwing the ball to them.

(on getting the close plays to go your way)

When you get that opportunity and it’s right there, the cliché is it’s a game of inches. If we can get it to those inches, that allows them to continue to develop and start making those plays, whether it’s throw the ball a little left, or go up more aggressively, or block a little longer. As long as the guys see how close they are to exploding a little more, it’s huge.

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