A year ago, Packers defensive coaches spent the offseason talking about tackling.
This year, they have a new emphasis, and it’s changing the way practice looks.
Unhappy with the number of fumbles they’re creating, the Packers are treating every ball in OTAs as if it’s a live ball, diving on dropped passes and swarming to the ball.
“You see us going to the ball with a little more intensity, you see everybody poking at the ball, trying to get the ball out,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said, via Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com. “We’re just trying to get them conditioned mentally. You see us every time the ball is on the ground, you see someone scooping it. We’re treating it like it’s [a live ball] just to condition everybody to get to that ball, scoop the ball and to try to get the mentality of taking the ball away.
“In four years, we’re No. 1 in interceptions but we aren’t close in caused and recovered fumbles.”
Since 2006 when coach Mike McCarthy took over, the Packers have recovered 55 fumbles, tied with the Jaguars for fewest in the league over that span. The Bears (who employed the same aggressive practice habits under coach Lovie Smith) had 107, nearly double their division rivals.
Of course, forced fumbles are often a creation of pass-rush, and the unusual part is the Packers have been good there, ranking 11th or better in the league in sacks three of the last four years. But they forced just eight fumbles last year (recovering just four), and they’re determined to change it.
“You would think with our style of play – we moved back into the top five in sacks – you’d think that as many shots as we get on quarterbacks, we’d get the ball out. And we’re trying,” Capers said. “I’ll say this: Throughout my career, and even here, when we’ve put an emphasis on something, when we’ve said, ‘All right guys, this is a point of emphasis,’ we’ve improved.”
Taking Charles Woodson out of the back of the secondary won’t help that goal, but they’re hoping the extra work in practice puts it in the front of players’ minds, and it becomes a habit in the fall.