Mike Pettine's Packers defense finally can turn up the pressure against Bears

Jim Owczarski
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine watches during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Friday, August 3, 2018, in Ashwaubenon, Wis.

GREEN BAY – At a certain point, Kevin King and Kenny Clark just had to give up.

Wave after wave of questions about the new offense Chicago and quarterback Mitch Trubisky are bringing to Lambeau Field – and how the Green Bay Packers were going to prepare for it – built to a crest and just broke the pair.

“I think they’re going to come out and … honestly, I can’t tell you anything on him,” King said with a smile. “I’m trying to make up s--- up here.”

During his session with the media, Clark eventually took a breath.

“Honestly, you really don’t know what to expect from both sides,” he said, reaching for some kind of life preserver to get him out of talking about things he, well, couldn’t speak on or know about.

“Honestly. You gotta just go out there and play.”

That’s the intriguing element to Sunday night, the relative unknowns.

Yes, the Bears' offense is new. Matt Nagy comes from Kansas City and has installed his system, which the Packers are doing their best to replicate through cutups from the Chiefs and five Bears preseason games. Chicago receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel (and to a degree, the oft-injured Kevin White) are new. Tight end Trey Burton is new. How Nagy uses Tarik Cohen will likely be new.

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But on the flip side, the Packers know that new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has left his playbook unspoiled after four preseason games. Clay Matthews estimated they used 5 percent of it.

“We’re not trying to tip our hats to anybody and the same goes with Chicago, they’re not going to run anything of worth that they want a team to scout,” Matthews said. “We definitely have a number of pressures, base defenses, little wrinkles that we like to think will play in our favor.”

And the Packers feel their “new” will be worth the wait.

“I think everybody’s going to see Sunday night,” King said. “That’s when it’s going to unravel.”

It is the feeling throughout the defensive room.

“I think it’s going to be great,” inside linebacker Blake Martinez said. “I think it’s going to be awesome. One, to just go out there and see it all kind of unfold and putting it all out there. In preseason we’re keeping it basic, so it will be cool to kind of dive into the playbook on Sunday and see how we kind of compete and get the job done.”

What those pages of the playbook will look like in three dimensions will remain a relative mystery until kickoff, save for an observation Aaron Rodgers provided early in training camp – at least one unencumbered rusher will be sent at Trubisky.

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“There is a lot of opportunities to have guys run free and no one is going to see them if we kind of execute the right way,” Martinez said. “I think that’s the most exciting part. There’s going to be a lot of shots and a lot of game-changing opportunities if we can go right.”

And if Rodgers felt there could be some heat, just in practice, what might Trubisky feel Sunday?

“I ain’t going to say nothing,” Clark said. “I’m thinking it.”

But pressures won’t be new, per se – it’s a staple of Pettine’s. But it will be how, when, and from where that is yet to be determined. Especially when it comes to bringing additional bodies on a blitz.

“We want to affect quarterbacks,” Pettine said. “Some games we’re going to go in and we don’t want to pressure a lot. We like our rush getting there. As a defensive coach, you don’t want to blitz too much. I always wanted to be more calculated than reckless. I didn’t want to blitz just for the sake of it. So that’s an important part of it, but the easy answer is however much it takes to win. So, I mean, pressure is certainly a part of what we do and it’s nice having the full range of having max coverage all the way to max pressure.”

Clark did allow that camp practices, and what they did run in the preseason, built the group’s collective confidence in the entire scheme and there is a belief that if they could make Rodgers work, “you can imagine how other quarterbacks will struggle with it.”

To date, though, it’s been unveiled in practice only.

Sunday is the defense’s first true test to see if it will embark on a path that leads the unit into the top 10 in the league for the first time since 2010. Action, in this case, will definitely speak louder than any words this week.

“I don’t know if I can say too much,” Martinez said. “I’m just excited to see it all unfold and have us just go out there and play fast and get the job done.”


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