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Packers stick with defense

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Chris Jenkins
April 28, 2012
— The Green Bay Packers didn’t pay much mind to their defense in the NFL draft a year ago, and those decisions may have contributed to their defensive struggles last season.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson made up for that in a big way in the first two days of this year’s draft.


After taking USC outside linebacker Nick Perry in Thursday’s first round, Thompson traded up twice Friday to take two more defensive players: Michigan State defensive lineman Jerel Worthy and Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward.


Aware of his conservative reputation, Thompson joked about his big moves.


“I’ve gone crazy,” Thompson said.


Thompson said he didn’t go into the draft fixated on defensive players, but it ended up being a big two days for Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. The Packers took offensive players with five of their first six picks in last year’s draft.


“It just tells you that patience is a virtue,” Capers said. “Last year was a long draft, all right. So this year’s been obviously a good, productive draft for us in terms of being able to get players at all three levels of our defense.”


The addition of Hayward, combined with the team’s decision to release veteran safety Nick Collins amid concerns about his return from a significant neck injury, sets up an interesting scenario for the Packers: Would they move veteran Charles Woodson to safety?


Capers didn’t rule it out, adding the caveat that Woodson already plays all over the field in the Packers’ scheme.


“Charles is a bright guy,” Capers said. “It’s not like it would be a radical move because of the way we’ve used him in the last three years, basically. We feel he can play any one of those positions. That’s one of the things he brings to the table is the flexibility that he gives you that he can.”


Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt noted that the versatile Woodson’s role already changes on a week-to-week basis, depending on the Packers’ defensive game plan.


“There’s been games where he’s lined up as a linebacker,” Whitt said. “You go back to the Philly playoff game, he lined up at MIKE linebacker. There’s been games where he lined up at safety already. There’s been games where he lines up at nickel, dime, corner. So the scheme and the game plan dictates where he lines up. That’s really a moot point, because he’s going to line up where we need him that week.”


No matter what happens, the Packers’ three new additions should help a defense that gave up far too many big plays last season.


The 6-foot-2, 308-pound Worthy had 12 sacks and 27.5 tackles for losses in three seasons for the Spartans. He’ll project as a defensive end in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme.


Worthy made it clear that he expected to go in the first round—and said the fact that he wasn’t will serve as motivation.


“I was humbled yesterday,” Worthy said. “I’m ready to work and I have a chip on my shoulder. I’m ready to come in and make an impact right away.”


In the run-up to the draft, Worthy did battle a reputation for taking plays off, although Packers assistant director of college scouting Shaun Herock said it’s unrealistic to expect any big lineman not to get worn down during a game.


“A big guy isn’t going to play 100 percent of the time,” Herock said. “At some point every big guy is going to wear down just because of the size.”


Worthy doesn’t see it as an issue.


“People criticize and say I may take a play off here or there,” Worthy said. “There’s nobody in the NFL game today or college or all the way down to peewee who plays every play full speed, full-go without getting tired. It’s impossible. All I can say is I’m going to come in and try to continue to work to be a lot more consistent.”


The 5-11, 192-pound Hayward had 15 interceptions in four seasons at Vanderbilt.


“He understands what the offense is trying to do to him at all times,” Whitt said. “He can really smell routes and knows what the receivers are doing.”


All those deals leave the Packers with fewer picks today.


Green Bay made a trade with Philadelphia to move up to No. 51 for Worthy in the second round, sending the No. 59 overall pick and its fourth-round pick, No. 123 overall, to the Eagles.


Then the Packers made a deal with New England, netting the No. 62 overall pick to get Hayward.


Green Bay gave up the No. 90 overall pick and its fifth-rounder, No. 163 overall.


After the trades, the Packers are scheduled to make seven picks in rounds 4-7 today, including four compensatory selections.



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