Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy addressed the media after Tuesday’s opening practice at mandatory minicamp and said he feels “very good about” the revamped defense about a month before training camp is set to begin.
It was one of a variety of topics McCarthy touched on during his session with the press.
“I feel very good about our defense. We’ve never been this far as far as the mental consistency. I think the volume probably helped. Our defense as far as communication and clearness of getting in and out of personnel groups is as good as I’ve remembered.”
McCarthy pointed to what he sees as two problems the defense has had to deal with in recent seasons.
“Defense wasn’t that big of a change. We have two big issues. We’re always going to be young and our availability hasn’t been very good.
“We’re preparing if we have 26 defensive players, all 26 have to be prepared to contribute and we can tailor it better to their abilities.
“The coaching staff has done a great job. A lot of long nights in February and March. Our players are able to get through all the installation two times. We haven’t been able to do that in [practices under the terms of] the new [collective bargaining agreement.]
“Feel good about the amount of work that we got done.”
There are some new faces on the defense for 2014 and not all of them are young.
Former Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers brings his eight Pro Bowl berths and 118.5 career sacks to Green Bay as a free agent and will see time as a stand-up rush linebacker in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme.
The team also drafted former Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round and while he is working with the second unit, he is expected to push Micah Hyde at free safety. Free agent nose tackle Letroy Guion also came over from a divisional rival, the Minnesota Vikings, in March.
The Packers won the NFC North for the third straight season in 2013, but finished just 8-7-1 after finishing 24th in the NFL in scoring defense and 25th in total defense.
That division title was a product of Green Bay going 3-1 after a Thanksgiving Day disaster in Detroit, but it was also a product of the Lions going 0-4 after the 40-7 drubbing of the Pack.
The Green Bay defense was equally generous against the run and the pass, finishing 24th in the NFL in passing yards allowed and 25th in rushing yards surrendered.
One of the biggest problems the unit had last year was getting opposing offenses off the field. Green Bay allowed 2.19 points and 33.1 yards per drive last season, both of which ranked 28th in the NFL.
The mandatory minicamp opened Tuesday and continues Wednesday and Thursday.