McCarthy: 'I feel very good about our defense'

Weston Hodkiewicz
Press-Gazette Media
The Green Bay Packers take the field for their first minicamp practice on Tuesday.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy is bullish on his defense, which is farther along now than in previous years, he said Tuesday.

McCarthy spoke to the media after Tuesday's mandatory minicamp practice. Here are some highlights:

♦ (Guard) Josh Sitton was excused from Tuesday's practice and meetings.

♦ I really don't have any injury updates for you (on tight end Jermichael Finley). Last time I talked to Jermichael, nothing has really changed from the communication given to me back then.

♦ (Rookie wide receiver) Jeff Janis is a big athlete. He's everything we thought coming out of the draft. I thought he did a heck of a job in the kickoff return today. It's a new system for him. He's a part of a very good classroom.

♦ (Injured linebacker) Clay Matthews is coming along. He's part of the group that isn't practicing.

♦ (Asked about injured linebacker Nick Perry.) I don't think it helps any player to miss the whole offseason. I talked about it last week with the staff and told the team today. Our coaches took a different approach. You have a season to get ready for. To do it all in a nine-week period and for a player to miss all of it, obviously, that's not a good situation to be in. I think any of the players who didn't take advantage of this nine-week opportunity, it's something they'll have to catch up on.

♦ (Tight end) Brandon Bostick needs to be a consistent player on offense. He did some good things on special teams. His body type is a challenge for his opponent. I think he definitely took a step last year and would like to see him do the same. I thought he did some good things blocking. The things that have been our biggest challenge? Availability needs to be at a premium. That's something we have to be in tune with. He's out there every day and gets better.

♦ I think you get excited about your new players. I think that's a normal process that the coaching staff and personnel department, veterans go through. You're able to see the athletic ability, strength, balance. I think that's the case in the tight end group. I've been very pleased with the variations each guy gives us.

♦ (Rookie tight end) Richard Rodgers has had a very good spring. There haven't been too many days where we've walked off the field and viewed the film. The game is natural to him with the responsibility we have at tight end and moving around. I've been very pleased with Richard.

♦ I want (running back) DuJuan Harris to be the best he can be. He's taken time catching balls after practice on (kickoff) returns. It's new to him. His size, strength and explosiveness makes him unique.

♦ (Asked about former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll, who died Friday.) Chuck Noll, his toughness, consistency. Obviously as a young man, everyone looked up to him. He gave direction of the Steelers teams. I want to emulate him. After getting into coaching, I appreciated him that much more. Very consistent, driven champion. Never met him.

♦ (Cornerback) Casey Hayward has made plays all spring. He's very competitive, instinctive. I think he eased into it the first week of OTAs, but the last couple of weeks he's been making a lot of plays out there.

♦ The second year players we're talking about are guys who didn't do a lot in year one. (Left tackle) David Bakhtiari and (cornerback) Micah Hyde, we're excited about production. Now the challenge is opponents know them now. Their biggest challenge is that they're now a known commodity.

♦ 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.

♦ (Quarterback) Aaron Rodgers has had probably his best spring if I'm ranking them. He's in great shape. We changed a lot of things to make things easier for some of the newer players coming in, and I don't think when you're in year 9 of offense the biggest change was for Aaron, but it was the best thing for the group. He probably had a little more studying to do this year than prior years. His ball efficiency and emphasis has been excellent. I think Aaron is in a great place and had an exceptional spring.

♦ Nobody knows our offense better than Aaron. Frankly, he's driving this machine. It's not only better for the rest of our offense, it's better for him, too. He welcomed the adjustments.

♦ The most important thing for what we went through at quarterback is we have all of our quarterbacks playing in games. Hopefully, Aaron plays in all the games. To have that many games and snaps with quarterbacks who weren't in the offseason program, that's difficult. Competition has really heated up the last few practices.

♦ 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 terms set by) the new (collective bargaining agreement). Feel good about the amount of work that we got done.