Packers' Capers wants consistency in 3-4 alignment
Now it's just a question of doing everything right on every down.
"I think that we aren't nearly as consistent right now as we need to be, but you see signs of good things," Capers said. This isn't Capers' first time trying to build a competent defense essentially from scratch. He was the first head coach for the expansion Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans, so history has taught him to expect inconsistency.
Nose tackle Ryan Pickett agreed with Capers' first impressions.
"We definitely have to knock out some wrinkles, but I think we're progressing really well in this defense," Pickett said. "I don't think it's going to be a (steep) learning curve. We're playing to win this year. We're not trying to get better, and then perfect it next year. We're trying to perfect it this year."
After injuries to several key players last season, the Packers' defense fell apart and the team finished a disappointing 6-10. Head coach Mike McCarthy fired most of his defensive coaching staff and brought in Capers, who was a defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and Miami in addition to his two head coaching stints.
Speaking to reporters for the first time at camp, Capers said Tuesday that players are showing enthusiasm for the new scheme, and the critical on-field communication needed to make the defense work properly seems to be coming more quickly.
Early on, the pass rush and secondary have given the Packers' first-team offense fits at times in practice. It's tougher to get a read on the run defense until the Packers do more live tackling drills.
The biggest defensive question coming into camp was the development of Aaron Kampman, who must make the transition from being a star 4-3 defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker. Kampman remains a fierce pass rusher, but his ability to drop into pass coverage — a requirement in the 3-4 — is a work in progress.
Kampman continues to deflect questions about his perceived discomfort with the new scheme. Asked whether it still felt strange to stand up at the line of scrimmage instead of lining up in a three-point stance, he said only, "It doesn't matter."
But Kampman speaks highly of Capers.
"I think he's very professional," Kampman said. "He wants to hold the defense to a high standard. Obviously, he has quite a pedigree for being successful — so I think those are all good things. He brings a lot to the table."
Capers said Kampman is wired in a way that will allow him to master his new responsibilities.
"I think it helps if you've got the kind of intelligence and work ethic and professionalism that Aaron has," Capers said. "He's a perfectionist, and if there's something that isn't just exactly sure of, then he's going to ask."
For now, Kampman is reserving judgment on the transition.
"It just depends on how steep the learning curve is," Kampman said. "But we'll see. I'll answer that question in six weeks."
Despite the inconsistency, Capers isn't taking things slow.
"We're challenging them," Capers said. "We aren't slowing down on the installations. So every day, they have a lot of new defense that's going in. We probably won't know that until we get ready to play games, where we are, but they appear to be picking things up — some guys better than others. As long as they continue to work at it, our job's to figure out what they can do."