INDIANAPOLIS—Mike McCarthy is at the scouting combine with an eye on this year’s rookie class, but he spoke on Friday about the Packers’ first two picks in last year’s draft.
“At the end of the day, Datone Jones needs to be on the field and playing,” McCarthy said of the Packers’ 2013 first-round pick, whose playing time was limited as he made the transition from college to professional football.
McCarthy also spoke of injuries keeping the Packers from utilizing much of their defensive playbook last season. “We didn’t get to it,” the Packers head coach said. “I think we can do a better job of utilizing players in more than one role. That’ll be one of our primary focuses.
“Datone is a very talented young man. His injury at the end of training camp set him back. I’m looking forward to getting him back in the offseason. I think he’s one of those players that make a huge jump,” McCarthy added.
Second-round pick Eddie Lacy made that huge jump as a rookie. He gave the Packers a running game they had lacked since 2009, and it caused Lacy to be selected as the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year.
“Eddie’s focus will be on being a three-down player. If all of those guys,” McCarthy said of his running backs, including soon-to-become-free-agent James Starks, “are able to play every down, it makes your offense faster, fresher.”
Jonathan Franklin, a fourth-round pick last year who had a breakout game in Week 3 but didn’t log much playing time after that and finished the season on injured reserve, was also mentioned prominently by McCarthy.
“Jonathan did some very good things. One thing that stands out is his performance at Cincinnati. He’s a great fit for us. He definitely has impact player ability. We probably have to do a better job of getting him ready,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy addressed the media at the scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday. He spoke on several topics.
Veteran offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, who missed all of last season following a training camp knee injury?
“Bryan Bulaga is on time, he’s hit his targets,” McCarthy said of Bulaga’s rehab from knee surgery. “I told him I’ll let him know what our plans are for him, whether it’s the left side or the right side.”
Bulaga had been moved from right tackle to left tackle for last season. Rookie David Bakhtiari replaced Bulaga. So, does Bulaga go back to right tackle? That’ll be one of the hot topics of the spring.
Defense, of course, will be the No. 1 topic of the offseason. The Packers need to improve dramatically on defense for the team to be a true title contender.
“We will be a little different on defense, as far as how we use our players, especially up front,” McCarthy said.
It’s a comment that has raised speculation the Packers might opt for smaller, more mobile defensive linemen. McCarthy ended that speculation on Friday.
“We’re definitely not going to be smaller,” he said.
On offense, the issue is all about to what heights the Packers might reach.
“There’s a standard we have on offense in Green Bay and we look to get better every year. I thought the (run/pass) mix and the balance is as good as we’ve ever had. We definitely want to be better than we’ve ever been. This is the best group of (offensive) linemen we’ve had during my time in Green Bay,” McCarthy said. More from the scouting combine: