2013 DRAFT GUIDE
Packers put substance ahead of style on defense

By NANCY ARMOUR - AP National Writer
    2013-01-10 17:45

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - The Green Bay Packers could have filled an entire highlight reel with their interceptions last year.

Good thing, because the rest of their defense wasn't worth watching.

A year after finishing with the NFL's worst defense, the Packers have traded the excitement of those big turnovers for consistency. And the change could be the difference between another early exit from the playoffs and a deep run that could last all the way to the Super Bowl.

``I'd prefer our defense this year to last year's,'' defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.

The Packers (12-5) play at San Francisco (11-4-1) on Saturday night in an NFC divisional game.

Green Bay rolled through the regular season in 2011 with a defense every bit as explosive as its high-powered offense. The Packers led the league with 31 interceptions, and no quarterback - rookie or veteran - was safe from their sticky hands. Four of the picks were returned for touchdowns.

Even as the Packers cruised to a 15-1 record and the NFC's No. 1 seed, however, there were signs of trouble with the defense. Green Bay ranked dead last in the NFL in both yardage (almost 412 per game) and yards passing (almost 300). Their 6,585 yards allowed was the worst in team history, as were the pass attempts (637), completions (390) and yards passing (4,796).

And all those flaws were exposed when Green Bay played the New York Giants in the divisional round. Eli Manning threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns and Hakeem Nicks had seven catches for 165 yards as the Giants tossed the defending Super Bowl champions out of the playoffs with a 37-20 win.

The Packers don't have nearly as many takeaways this time - they finished the regular season with 18 - but they're no longer pushovers, either. They jumped to 11th in total defense, and their average of 337 yards allowed per game is a 75-yard improvement. Opponents passed for an average of 218 yards against Green Bay, also 11th best in the NFL.

They ranked in the top half of the NFC in every defensive category except run defense. And you can thank Adrian Peterson for that.

``I don't know what the answer is,'' B.J. Raji said. ``I just know we left last year in the past and took the approach that this is a different year and we wanted to improve our ranking.''

The Packers have done all this despite losing Charles Woodson for half the season with a broken right collarbone. Clay Matthews (hamstring) and C.J. Wilson (knee) also missed four games each.

But the injuries also forced Green Bay to play its young guys, and their speed and athleticism has turned out to be a boon for the Packers.

``We're just a more consistent, more multiple defense this year,'' Capers said. ``I think we can attack you in different ways. I think we've got more athletic ability on our defense this year than we had. I think these young guys have given us more athletic ability, more speed, more pass rush ability.

``You look at our sack numbers in terms of from last year to this year, there's a big difference,'' Capers added. ``And our style of play, we need to do that.''

Only Denver and St. Louis (52 each) and Cincinnati (51) had more sacks than Green Bay (47), and it's a good bet the Packers would have led the league had Matthews not been hurt.

Even with missing four games, Matthews finished with 13 sacks, a half-sack off his career high. Only the 49ers' Aldon Smith had more in the NFC.

``They're just playing good defense,'' San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. ``Sound defense, good team defense, not allowing the big plays that showed up last year.''

Now, just because this Green Bay defense is sound doesn't mean it's stodgy or boring.

Quite the contrary.

Rookie Casey Hayward tied for fifth in the NFL with six interceptions. Jay Cutler is no doubt thrilled he's got at least seven months before he has to see a Packers defensive back.

But substance matters as much as style, and Green Bay has it this year.

``No doubt about it,'' cornerback Tramon Williams said. ``I'm pretty sure that's not hard to see that we're a better defense from last year.''

Notes: WR Randall Cobb returned to practice Thursday despite still feeling under the weather. ``He's going to go,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ``I don't have any questions about that.'' ... McCarthy described the Packers' last practice before they leave for San Francisco as ``very spirited, to say the least. They have too much energy and I think that's common for this time of year,'' he said. ``I feel very good the way the last three days of practice have gone.'' ... The Packers aren't concerned with the state of Candlestick Park, where the field is dry and patchy in some spots, soggy in others. ``A lot of the grass fields are that way toward the end of the season. It'll be the same for everyone,'' Jordy Nelson said. ``You just have to feel it out. In pregame, make sure you have the right cleats on, what you feel comfortable in.'' ... WR Jarrett Boykin (ankle) is improving but won't be ready to play this week.

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

LaMichael JamesApr 17 10:04a

According to a league source, the San Francisco 49ers have been shopping RB LaMichael James. He finds himself behind RBs Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and perhaps Marcus Lattimore on [ More ]

Mike BrownApr 16 11:33p

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Mike Brown signed his exclusive-rights free agent deal Wednesday, April 16.

Eli ManningApr 16 11:33p

Former New York Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said in a radio interview this week that it is 'ludicrous' to say QB Eli Manning is declining. 'There's been no [ More ]

Sidney RiceApr 16 08:03p

The Seattle Seahawks are re-signing WR Sidney Rice to an undisclosed one-year deal Wednesday, April 16, according to sources.

Dwayne BoweApr 16 07:03p

Kansas City Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe pleaded guilty Wednesday, April 16, after being arrested last November for marijuana possession. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges of littering and defective [ More ]

Arian FosterApr 16 04:53p

The Houston Texans may consider selecting a running back during the middle rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft that could become RB Arian Foster's backup in the future.

Chris JohnsonApr 16 04:43p

The New York Jets signed RB Chris Johnson to a two-year deal worth $8 million, with another $1 million in incentives available.

Terrelle PryorApr 16 04:33p

The Oakland Raiders hope to trade QB Terrelle Pryor before the start of the offseason program Monday, April 21.

Clay MatthewsApr 16 04:13p

Green Bay Packers LB Clay Matthews (thumb) said he likely will be limited during offseason workouts because of his surgically repaired thumb.

Chris JohnsonApr 16 03:53p

The New York Jets will use RBs Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory as a tandem this upcoming season and have them split carries. RB Bilal Powell will be the team's No. 3 running back.

Dan SkutaApr 16 03:33p

San Francisco 49ers LB Dan Skuta (foot) is not expected to need surgery on the foot injury that bothered him during the 2013 season. Skuta met with a foot [ More ]

Gus BradleyApr 16 02:53p

Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley watched Georgia QB Aaron Murray participate in his pro day Wednesday, April 16.

Reggie BushApr 16 02:13p

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said RBs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell likely will receive similar workloads this upcoming season than they did during the 2013 season. Bush [ More ]

Cheta OzougwuApr 16 01:53p

The Chicago Bears have waived DE Cheta Ozougwu.

Mike JamesApr 16 12:53p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Mike James (ankle) said he is happy with the progress he has made in his recovery from an ankle injury and that he has been [ More ]

Carson PalmerApr 16 12:43p

Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer said he would understand if the team selects a quarterback during the 2014 NFL Draft, because he knows the team has to think about [ More ]

Josh FreemanApr 16 12:23p

The New York Giants have agreed to terms with free-agent QB Josh Freeman (Vikings). Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Rolando McClainApr 16 12:13p

Updating previous reports, retired LB Rolando McClain failed his conditioning tests during his workout with the Baltimore Ravens. The test consisted of six timed 150-yard runs.

Golden TateApr 16 10:53a

Detroit Lions WR Golden Tate said he thinks he can be a 'more explosive Lance Moore,' referring to the former New Orleans Saints receiver. Moore caught 65 passes for [ More ]

Matt FlynnApr 16 10:01a

Green Bay Packers QB Matt Flynn is expected to compete with QB Scott Tolzien for the backup quarterback job, but head coach Mike McCarthy anticipates keeping three QBs on [ More ]

Rolando McClainApr 16 12:03a

Retired LB Rolando McClain (Ravens) worked out for the Baltimore Ravens Tuesday, April 15, as he attempts a comeback. The workout wasn't a smooth one in terms of conditioning, [ More ]

Chris JohnsonApr 16 12:03a

The New York Jets are sticking to their budget/value system. While they want free-agent RB Chris Johnson (Titans), they will not 'overpay' for him. The depressed running back market [ More ]

Aldon SmithApr 16 12:03a

San Francisco 49ers LB Aldon Smith hasn't only lost the benefit of the doubt with the team, but he probably won't play with the team in 2014, according to [ More ]

Malcom FloydApr 15 11:53p

San Diego Chargers WR Malcom Floyd (neck) continues his rehab from a neck injury, but his status is still uncertain. When the team begins voluntary workouts April 22, Floyd [ More ]

Chris JohnsonApr 15 07:53p

Free-agent RB Chris Johnson's (Titans) visit with the New York Jets reportedly went well Tuesday, April 15, but he left without a deal. Other teams are involved with him, too.

Rolando McClainApr 15 07:53p

The Baltimore Ravens worked out LB Rolando McClain, and it reportedly wasn't a success. McClain didn't finish his conditioning test and didn't perform drills.

Terrell ManningApr 15 05:43p

The Minnesota Vikings claimed LB Terrell Manning off waivers from the San Diego Chargers Tuesday, April 15.

Adam PodleshApr 15 05:13p

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed free-agent P Adam Podlesh (Bears) to an undisclosed one-year deal Tuesday, April 15.

Allen ReisnerApr 15 03:53p

The Minnesota Vikings announced Tuesday, April 15, that they've signed free-agent TE Allen Reisner (Jaguars) to an undisclosed deal.

Daniel KilgoreApr 15 03:23p

San Francisco 49ers OG Daniel Kilgore was found not guilty of public intoxication related to his arrest in January in Tennessee. His case was dismissed following his appearance in [ More ]

Matt FlynnApr 15 02:23p

The Green Bay Packers agreed to terms on an undisclosed deal to re-sign QB Matt Flynn Tuesday, April 15, according to a source.

Dion JordanApr 15 01:53p

Miami Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey is expecting big things from DE Dion Jordan in his second season this year. He's a very talented player and this is a [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group