New staff to move Kampman
Transitioning from the 4-3 press-coverage scheme favored by Bob Sanders and Jim Bates to the multiple 3-4 preferred by Capers might appear daunting, but McCarthy and his staff are embracing the change.
“Change creates excitement,” McCarthy said. “There’s definitely a ton of energy (in the Packers’ offices) right now. Today’s exciting, we’re finally all back, everybody’s here. Our staff is complete and you can just tell from the response of the players and the people close to the football team that everyone’s excited about our new direction.”
Change will start with perhaps the Packers’ best defensive player, Aaron Kampman. After putting up 37 sacks the last three seasons—third-most in the league during that stretch— playing at left end, Kampman will move to outside linebacker in the new scheme.
“When we line up the first base defense, yes, Aaron will be an outside linebacker,” McCarthy said of a move that was expected but not definitively stated.
McCarthy and Capers have no qualms about standing up the 6-foot-4, 265-pound Kampman, who has been reluctant to switch sides in the past.
“Aaron Kampman knows how to rush the passer and the first responsibility for the outside linebacker position in the base personnel is to rush the passer,” McCarthy said. “Aaron Kampman is going to be an excellent fit for what we’re going to try to do as we move forward with this new scheme.”
Outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, who played Kampman’s new position for Capers on two teams, will help with Kampman’s transition.
“Obviously we’ve got some good players on this defense so we’re going to put them in position to be better,” Greene said. “And we have no plans to harm anybody. We have plans to make everybody better and play at a higher level.
”Aaron has the skills to play the position.“
Kampman certainly will not be the only Packer dealing with a tough transition. They all will, starting with the terminology.
”They’re learning a new language,“ McCarthy said.
Perhaps the most pressure will be on the safeties—Nick Collins, Atari Bigby, Aaron Rouse and others—because they will be making all the calls with the new terminology and different keys for what they look for in the offense.
”The biggest thing is us being on the same page and how we call things, how we see things,“ safeties coach Darren Perry said. ”Those guys will have to be very confident in terms of getting things communicated across the board to everybody.“
Some of the Packers’ biggest breakdowns last season came in the secondary on passing plays. It was probably wise, then, that McCarthy and Capers hired Perry, who spent 12 years as a player or coach in the 3-4 defense. Perry was Capers’ starting safety with Pittsburgh and made all the calls as a rookie.
The Packers’ cornerbacks, including established veterans Al Harris and Charles Woodson, will be tutored in new techniques for more zone coverages. They’ll have to adjust how they move their hands, feet and eyes.
”The techniques might change a little bit but basically coverages will be close to the same,“ cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. said. ‘’We might not be on the line of scrimmage as much. Eye control, we’ll have to teach a little bit better because your eyes will be in different places than when you’re in (bump-and-run coverage). Things like that we’ll have to teach more of.“
The three down linemen will go from being relied upon to generate pressure on the quarterback and stuffing the run, to oftentimes just holding the point of attack.
”I don’t know if it’s sacrifice or unselfishness,“ line coach Mike Trgovac said. ”You have to have players that are very unselfish in the 3-4 front.“
The inside linebackers will have to be much more flexible in Capers’ scheme. Under Sanders, they were rarely asked to blitz. They will be expected to wear many different hats now.
Same could be said for the entire defense.
”They’re going to have to be ready to embrace change,“ Perry said. ”Change can be a little uncomfortable because we’re creatures of habit and people don’t like change. That’s just human nature. I think the sooner they buy in—not just the guys on the back end but the whole defensive side of the ball—as soon as they take to learning and coaching, we’ll be able to evolve.
“The system is proven, it works and it can be a great system if everybody gets on the same page, if you have a bunch of unselfish guys that are willing to just do their part.”