GREEN BAY—In discussing what needs to improve with the Packers defense moving forward, Winston Moss kept referring to the word “consistency.”
Now that the responsibility for coaching both the inside and outside linebackers has been conferred to Moss, the Packers assistant head coach hopes that having all of the linebackers in the same meeting room together will help generate that consistency.
“Those guys really get along well,” Moss said, referring to the inside linebacker group led by A.J. Hawk and the outside linebacker group led by Clay Matthews. Moss met with the media on Monday for the first time with his expanded job title, which came about following the departure of Kevin Greene from the coaching staff.
“Now, those guys just being in the same room, I think they’ll really be able to share, more than anything. That should really help out, just the continuity, the chemistry, the camaraderie. Those are all positive things.”
Scott McCurley will assist Moss with the linebackers, and for the first time since Dom Capers brought his 3-4 defense to Green Bay in 2009, the inside and outside linebackers will have the same position coaches.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Capers has used this structure in the past, so it’s not a huge departure for the veteran coordinator. As the coaching staff continues with its annual scheme evaluation from this past season, McCarthy said one focus is to become more “multiple” again, a trait that faded last season as injuries on defense mounted.
“Our defense is going to change some. You don’t ever stay the same,” McCarthy said. “I’ll set the vision for the defense, Dom Capers and the defensive staff will carry it out. There will be some adjustments. I don’t know if you’ll notice them or not. Based on our personnel, too, that always plays in.
Moss emphasized that under Green Bay’s draft-and-develop philosophy, improvement in young players from one year to the next is a must, and that’s what he must continue to demand from the entire position group.
“It’s very important that the guys we work with understand that they’ve got to grow,” Moss said. “They’ve got to get into this scheme, they’ve got to be able to comprehend it, and they’ve got to be able to work very, very hard. At the end of the day, it’s going to be about production and consistency. That’s the bottom line.”
As for new quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, the bottom line is McCarthy brought him to Green Bay two years ago with an eye toward replacing Ben McAdoo, whom McCarthy strongly believed would soon be moving up the coaching ranks.
With McAdoo taking the offensive coordinator job with the New York Giants, Van Pelt’s time is now.
Calling Van Pelt “a damn good football coach that was out there” when he hired him to coach the Packers running backs in 2011, McCarthy believes the former quarterback he coached at Pitt a quarter century ago can bring even more to his more natural job now.
“I think it definitely has broadened his horizons as far as coaching offense,” McCarthy said of Van Pelt’s two years at a different position. “But he’s a quarterback coach. You’re talking about a very talented football coach, played the position, knows this offense. I learned the offense with Alex back in 1989. We’ve learned the foundation together.”
Van Pelt said he learned “the game as it’s played through the running back’s eyes” over the past two seasons, which will blend well in the QB room given the offense’s newfound running game in 2013.
Given the Packers’ struggles last season when Aaron Rodgers missed seven starts due to a broken collarbone, one of Van Pelt’s key duties will be solidifying the backup QB spot. He spoke of Matt Flynn’s “understanding of the system” and Scott Tolzien’s “toughness” in a difficult situation as components to build on with them, provided Flynn returns to the team. He’s a pending free agent.
“I think that position is undervalued until it’s needed,” said Van Pelt, a backup QB for most of his nine-year playing career in Buffalo, one of two places he also coached quarterbacks, the other being Tampa Bay. “Obviously that’s the case throughout the league. It’s critical.”
Equally challenging for Van Pelt will be pushing the right motivational buttons with Rodgers, which McAdoo was very good at. Rodgers has often said he wants his position coach to help him get as prepared as possible for every game, which at times requires new approaches and new ways of looking at things.
“It’s tough to say you’re going to teach Aaron Rodgers how to go out and throw the football,” Van Pelt said. “For a guy like Aaron, it’s really just to continually challenge him, and make him come to work and have to think differently than he has in the past, to stimulate him and keep him growing as a quarterback.
“I can’t wait to get in the room and get down to some football with him.” Additional coverage - Feb. 10