Packers secondary turns to tennis for more interceptions

Weston Hodkiewicz
Press-Gazette Media;
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There were a lot of issues that plagued the Packers' defense last season, but perhaps the most alarmingly was the secondary’s inability to consistently generate interceptions.

Through the ups and downs, the Packers always have been able to turn the ball over during Dom Capers’ tenure as defensive coordinator. Even when Green Bay ranked last in total defense in 2011, its defense still led the NFL with interceptions (31).

Last year, the secondary fell into a rut and the defense finished the year with only 11, which tied for 26th in the NFL and was the fewest recorded in a season by a Packers’ team since 2005.

The coaching staff hasn’t made any drastic changes to the offseason program to produce more picks, but the defensive backs have taken it upon themselves to get creative.

For the last month, cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House have been working with lobster machines usually reserved for tennis practice to build hand-eye coordination.

House caught his first career interception in a 31-13 win over Cleveland on Oct. 20, but felt he left a few others on the field.

“It’s tough since no footballs are allowed I think before OTAs started, so we were catching tennis balls from the lobster machine shooting at us,” House said. “There’s variations and ways we were doing it, laying down on our back and once we heard the ball shoot out picking your head up and looking for the ball. Try to track the ball. To me, so far it’s been good. Does it really work? I don’t know. It’s been working for me. I like it.”

One factor that should help the Packers in the play-making department is the return of Casey Hayward from a recurring hamstring issue that limited him to three games in 2013. A year earlier, Hayward led the Packers’ defense with six interceptions en route to being a candidate for defensive rookie of the year.

It’s not just on Hayward, though. The Packers need a safety to emerge as a play-maker while getting more consistency from Williams and House, who played well in spurts last season.

It starts with turnovers and a basic principle: if you can catch a tennis ball, you can catch an interception.

“To me, it’s just a confidence thing,” House said. “Last year, I wasn’t really confident with my hands. I felt a lot of balls touched my hands and I didn’t come down with them but this year I’ve been working a lot with my hands. My mindset this year is I’m the same person but with different hands. I’m catching everything that’s thrown my way.”

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