The Green Bay Packers addressed their struggling defense by drafting a variety of talented players in the 2012 NFL Draft last month, but finding the new players' ideal positions and molding them to fit their responsibilities will be the next challenge facing Dom Capers and his position coaches. The players themselves appear to be up to the challenge of learning new schemes, and in some cases, new positions.
Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel interviewed several of the young defenders when they arrived in Green Bay for rookie mini-camp earlier this week. First up was first-round choice Nick Perry, who talked about his pass-rushing abilities:
I have the raw skills and the mind to do it. I think I have a lot to bring to the table. There's a lot of potential that needs to be taken out of me. I'm going to Green Bay, to a great tradition that's going to help me improve my game and become a better player for years to come.
Perry certainly is confident in his ability to get to the quarterback, but he also sounds like a young man who's eager to learn and to put in the work necessary to become an impact player at the outside linebacker position. As Dunne notes, Perry showed some hesitation about moving from defensive end before the draft, but now that he's a Packer, it appears that he's ready to put in the work to change positions.
In his interview, Jerel Worthy sounds like a player who's genuinely looking to impress his new coaching staff and teammates.
What I have to do is just study the scheme of the Green Bay Packers and how they want the techniques and things like that played up front. I'm just going to go in the lab. I'm going to continuously work to perfect my techniques and perfect myself as a player. I'm going to develop into the person that Dom Capers saw and the person that he wants me to be. And I'm going to make him proud.
From these comments, it seems to me that Worthy has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder for slipping into the middle of the second round, but at the same time he appears to acknowledge that the Packers liked his skill set enough to move up to draft him. The desire to prove other teams wrong while proving your current team right can be a powerful combination, and hopefully Worthy will use it to motivate himself to become an immediate force on the defense.
Casey Hayward, while not interviewed by Dunne, may be the rookie with the most potential to force Capers to shake up the existing players' roles on the defense. His play in camp very well could determine whether Charles Woodson moves to safety and if Sam Shields continues to see as much playing time as he did in 2011. Dunne did interview Hayward's defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt, who had this to say about the corner:
He has that weird kind of smart where he has that savvy and instinct where he can just see things as they develop on the football field and put himself in a position to be successful. That was really neat. Trust me when I tell you this, that wasn't him being coached. That guy has the 'it' factor.
I'm liking the Hayward pick more and more every day, and my guess is that this year he will play plenty of snaps matched up on some very good wide receivers.