GREEN BAY — This group likes to swarm to the ball, breaking up passes, picking a few off.
To the Packers defense, there’s no better place to be than around the pigskin. They’ve shown as much through the first three weeks of training camp.
Green Bay had two interceptions in its preseason opener against Houston last Thursday, and it came as no surprise to the team’s defensive backs.
“Hard work shows through outcomes, so we’ve become a results-oriented group,” said cornerback Tony Brown. “We try to get the ball, it’s all about the ball. Ball awareness, ball hawking. We want to be the most ball-hawking defense.”
In addition to the two interceptions, the Packers had four passes defensed in last Thursday’s win.
Through the first few weeks of training camp, the defense has emerged victorious in 11-on-11 drills more often than not. Some of that could be attributed to the offense’s adjustment period to first-year head coach Matt LaFleur’s new system, but the players on the other side of the ball are pleased with the progress they’re making regardless.
Tight coverage has been a big part of that.
“We don’t want to give them anything easy,” said safety Adrian Amos. “If they make the play, they just made a great play. That’s the name of the game in the secondary.”
That’s a common thought among the group.
“From a corner’s perspective, sometimes things go wrong, sometimes things go good. It’s a mental game. It’s a mind thing with the defense as a whole,” Brown said.
There are plenty of new faces in the defensive back meeting room, including safeties Amos — who signed as a free agent after playing for Chicago last year — and first-round draft pick Darnell Savage.
Despite being flush with newcomers, the group has gelled quickly.
“We’re a really tight-knit group,” Brown said. “We work together on a lot of the technical details of what we do.”
The Texans were still able to move the ball through the air on Thursday — Joe Webb passed for 274 yards — but the secondary was able to keep Houston out of the end zone for the most part. Only one of their three touchdowns came on a pass.
Forcing turnovers was a huge problem for Green Bay in a dismal 2018 season. The Packers only intercepted seven passes all year, tying for the second-worst total in the league.
A turnaround of fortunes in that category would figure to help steady what has been a shaky defense over the last several years.
“We got a lot of turnovers (Thursday),” Amos said. “There’s a lot of things to correct as well. So for us as a whole, we just have to see what we can improve in our approach, in our fundamentals, our techniques. But it’s promising that we’re getting takeaways.”
It’s promising, but there’s still work to be done. Still, there aren’t too many complaints with how the defense is faring in practice right now.
“I feel good about our defensive back group as a whole,” LaFleur said. “We’ve got a lot of good corners out there. You can never have enough of those guys, especially with some of the man coverages we’re going to put them in.”
Tramon Williams is the only cornerback with more than two years of experience in the league on the Packers’ roster. But the group doesn’t feel like youth is necessarily a bad thing.
“We have a young defense that feeds off each other’s energy,” Brown said. “If one guy’s talking, everybody starts talking and we have a great day.”