Larry McCarren's Training Camp Report: Pack Moves Inside
Bad for the railbirds, a non-factor for the team, that was this morning's practice which was moved indoors due to heavy rain. The Hutson Center is big enough and tall enough to handle any practice as scripted. And yes, every drill and every play of a workout is scripted beforehand.
Today's script included tackling drills, most notably "form" tackling. That's where a player makes a picture perfect tackle on a human dummy at about half speed: head in the chest, wrapping up with the arms and following through with the hips. The human dummy isn't taken to the ground but instead is dumped on a large pad, similar to what a pole vaulter would land on.
Yesterday, the tackling drill du jour involved taking proper angles. Once again a human dummy heads towards the sideline and it's the tacklers job to take a proper angle, get the head across the bow and wrap up. All those good old fashioned fundamentals that anyone who played high school football can remember.
Tackling drills are nothing new for the Packers, they went through them almost every practice last season, but didn't get the desired results. Not by a longshot. A major factor in finishing as the league's worst defense was being one of the league's worst tackling teams. Normally, what's emphasized in practice translates to game performance, the perfect Packers example being turnover margin. They devoted drill time to take-aways and ball security everyday and the result was a second ranked plus-24 turnover margin. When it comes to emphasis, time invested and desired results, that's the way the coaching manual says it's supposed to work. The same approach didn't work at all with tackling. You're the coach, what do you do?
For starters, exactly what Mike McCarthy is doing. You re-emphasize it, you harp on it, you drill it and you drill it some more. You take those individual drills and broaden them to the unit as a whole with expectations that gang tackling and relentless pursuit are SOP, and today it was encouraging to see Morgan Burnett, Jarrett Bush and Mike Neal sprinting to catch a ball carrier who was well downfield. You also hold people accountable. Sam Shields was one of the worst offenders when it came to missed tackles last season, and as things stand now, he's lost his job as the nickel back.
For finishers, it's on the individual players. You can't "really" practice live tackling, the threat of injury is too great. Form tackles at less than full-go can only take you so far. The biggest step lies between the ears, as in want-to when it comes to tackling. The old coach used to say "tackling is an attitude", and, as usual, the old coach was right.
Back to the other two hours and fifteen minutes of practice where the play of the day was an Aaron Rodgers bomb to Randall Cobb over Tramon Williams. He also made a tough throw to Greg Jenninngs on the sideline despite tight coverage from Charles Woodson. That's one of the beauties of having a good team, which the Packers most certainly have. The training camp matchups aren't just competitive, they're productive. Talented player vs. talented player, and that's not just downfield. Do you think Marshall Newhouse can improve by going against Clay Matthews50 times a practice? How 'bout Nick Perry in his battles with Bryan Bulaga. The Packers are in a good spot.....now if they could just improve their tackling.
Coming Attraction: Full Pads!!! Tomorrow, 8:15 AM.