The Green Bay Packers probably are looking at significant changeover on their defense this offseason with starters Sam Shields, B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and Mike Neal among their unrestricted free agents.
Whether any changes will include their coaching staff, including coordinator Dom Capers, will be determined this week by coach Mike McCarthy. But in the Packers’ season-ending locker room session this morning, a couple of veteran players endorsed Capers and his 3-4 zone-blitz system.
“I think the world of Dom, truthfully,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “He’s a great guy. He’s a coach that whether something goes good or not, he’s always even keeled, never raises his voice, always teaching. As far as the scheme, I love the scheme. There’s so much you can do with it. You just have to tap into it. We haven’t tapped into it all the time, but at times we have.”
Williams said the Packers’ youth was one of the reasons Capers wasn’t able to get as much out of his scheme as he might with more veteran players.
The Packers had one rookie among their regulars in the secondary – Micah Hyde at nickel cornerback. Second-year pro Sean Richardson and rookie Chris Banjo also played in the safety rotation at different points in the season, as did 2012 fourth-round pick Jerron McMillian, who was cut in early December.
Several other rookies played regularly at other positions, including Andy Mulumba at outside linebacker and Datone Jones and Josh Boyd on the defensive line,
“With talented young guys,” Williams said, “they play but the game is still fast for them because they don’t understand what teams are trying to do. They don’t understand the scheme fully. They don’t understand what the scheme can do for them once they understand it. That’s what you’re faced with.
“Plus, the preparation. A lot of guys thought they know how to prepare when they were in college and whatnot, but then they get into the league and you find out that it’s a different level to preparation. That’s what you’re faced with young guys. Even though we always say it’s a young league, yeah, it’s a young league but it’s an old league, too, because the old guys make the league go. That’s the guys who’ve been there before, who know how to prepare, who mold the young guys. That’s what they’re there for.”
Mike Neal, who will be a free agent in the offseason, said he’d prefer to return to the Packers in part because he likes playing in Capers’ scheme. Neal moved from the defensive line to outside linebacker this season.
“I think (Capers) is a great coach,” Neal said. “Honestly. I read a little bit about what these people say about Dom, and people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. If you’ve never put the pads on, if you’ve never laced the cleats up, if you’ve never coached, if you’ve never sat in the room and understood the playbook, I don’t want to hear anything you’ve got to say about it. From that standpoint, I think Dom’s a great coach.”