GREEN BAY – The focus will be on the Packers’ run defense.
“We’ve got to be able to stop the run. It’s going to be important for us early in the season,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said, with an eye toward Thursday night’s preseason finale, and the first three games of the regular season.
The Packers will face running backs Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles in the first three games of the season, at a time when the Packers will be without nose tackle Letroy Guion.
Through three games of the preseason, the Packers defense has allowed only the one long (55 yards) run, in New England. Packers opponents are averaging 3.2 yards per rushing attempt in the preseason, and Capers wants to go into the opener in Chicago off a strong performance against the Saints on Thursday.
“The best thing we’ve done is we’ve played the run well,” Capers said. “The thing we didn’t do (last) Saturday night is we didn’t disrupt the quarterback.”
Defensive Line Coach Mike Trgovac continues to work with young defensive linemen being asked to pick up the slack while Guion and defensive end Datone Jones serve three and one-game suspensions at the start of the regular season.
“I want to see guys improve on mistakes they made in the last game. (The Saints) test you with double-teams and stretch plays,” Trgovac said.
Trgovac said stopping the run is especially important “in our division, with John Fox coming in there. We have one of the best backs of all time (Adrian Peterson), and Detroit was more committed to running the ball last year than they had been in the past. It’s a big thing in our division to run the ball.”
Cornerbacks Coach Joe Whitt will take a long, hard look at his rookies on Thursday. Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter have been three of the most impressive players on the Packers roster in this preseason. Thursday’s game provides one more opportunity for them to compete for playing time.
“This is a hard game for them because they’re going to get a lot of snaps and they’re going to play special teams. Who can play tired?” Whitt said.
Will Whitt be able to say his players are ready to begin the season?
“To say we’re ready, that comes when you play real games. This is about who’s going to be the fourth, fifth and sixth guy in the room. This is about the bottom half,” Whitt said.
Along the defensive line, the bottom half will play a big role on opening day.
Photos: Packers thank fans at final open camp practice