September 12, 2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers signed Julius Peppers to get to the quarterback.

To get better at that, the veteran pass rusher realizes the defense has to get better at stopping the run first.

Allowing 207 yards on the ground, which is what Green Bay gave up last week to Seattle, might not cut it against the New York Jets in the home opener Sunday.

''You've got to stop the run to be able to have a chance to rush the passer, so that's where our focus is,'' Peppers said Thursday.

It sounds like a sound plan against a Jets team that ran for 212 yards in a win over Oakland last week. Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory provide a solid one-two punch, and Geno Smith is a mobile threat at quarterback.

The Packers expect to see some read-option, just like in Seattle. What the Jets don't immediately present is an all-purpose threat like receiver Percy Harvin, who beat the Packers on sweeps and through the air.

Poor tackling was an issue, a problem that also hampered the Packers at times last year. This week, much of the talk in the locker room was about technique and fundamentals.

''Just basically just keep trusting our technique. Trust the defense, and it will put us in position to make plays, and we'll be fine,'' safety Morgan Burnett said.

Up front, defensive line coach Mike Trgovac scoffs at the notion that a lighter front line might get pushed around more by blockers. The 339-pound Ryan Pickett and 325-pound Johnny Jolly weren't re-signed from last season, and 337-pound nose tackle B.J Raji was lost for the year in preseason with a biceps injury.

Lighter guys theoretically will be more athletic in space after shedding blockers. This fits with coach Mike McCarthy's offseason goal to build a quicker, playmaking defense. The Packers still average about 300 pounds across its defensive front with 285-pound Datone Jones and 305-pound Mike Daniels sandwiching 315-pound nose tackle Letroy Guion.

''People around here are so used to us being 340 across the board, which is rare in the league,'' Trgovac said. ''So it's not like we're absolutely sitting there with 270-pound players. I think our size will be fine.''

Capers indicated Thursday that he might turn to 332-pound nose tackle Mike Pennel in certain situations. Pennel is an undrafted rookie free agent who impressed in training camp.

The Jets have experience in the middle of the line with center Nick Mangold and right guard Willie Colon, plus 320-pound Brian Winters at left guard.

''If you're going against a big physical line, you've got to be able to match that up at times,'' Capers said. ''This time ... they've got a very veteran line.''

But no one on the defense is relying on excuses. An emphasis was placed on tackling this week. Improvement is expected.

''First of all, any time you face a good back, you can't miss tackles like we did, OK?'' Trgovac said. ''We've just got to keep chopping wood and keep getting better. That's what we did this week. I think we've got a good group, and I think we'll be OK there.''

Also Thursday, inside linebacker Brad Jones missed practice again with a quad injury. Jamari Lattimore would take his place if Jones can't play.


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