otball,” Lewis said.
Clay Matthews is learning new playbook terminology this spring under a new defensive coordinator Ryan O'Reilly Jersey
, though his overall goals haven’t changed.
It’s more important than ever for the Green Bay Packers‘ long-haired linebacker to get to the quarterback.
The Packers didn’t add a potential game-changing edge rusher in free agency or via the draft. They focused on another defensive priority and replenished the cornerback position with veteran Tramon Williams and draft picks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson.
That leaves Matthews and Nick Perry as leaders of a pass rush that had trouble getting consistent pressure last year.
”Well, I wasn’t surprised with the first two picks. … But obviously, you look at the depth at the outside linebacker position, and it’s not that great,” Matthews said. ”That’s not a slight to the guys who are behind Nick and myself, but you look around the league, a lot of times they’re rotating in pass rushers.”
The Packers had veteran Julius Peppers in the mix on the edge a couple seasons ago, but he returned to Carolina in 2017. Second-year player Kyler Fackrell and veteran Ahmad Brooks, who combined for 4 sacks, were the primary backups outside.
Matthews and Perry each missed time last season with injuries. With a lack of production from the bench, getting fresh blood seemed to make sense.
Matthews said he understands that signings don’t always go as planned for the front office. There are only so many draft picks to make. The salary cap limits spending.
”I’m happy with the picks they made, and at the same time it does show … their confidence in Nick and myself Alex Pietrangelo Jersey Kids
, as well as the guys we have,” Matthews said. ”At some time I’m sure it will be addressed, but for the time being the guys we have here are the guys who have to hold up their end of the bargain.”
It would help if Fackrell and second-year player Vince Biegel became more productive. Biegel missed the first seven games last season because of a foot injury.
”The biggest gains we’ve always made have been from our returning players, particularly the second, third year players,” coach Mike McCarthy said after the draft about outside linebacker depth.
The pass rush could get more productive if other areas of the defense also improve.
Tighter pass coverage could give edge rushers more time to get to the quarterback. Green Bay also hopes to get more push up front from free agent signee Muhammad Wilkerson, who has 44 1/2 career sacks.
He joins Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry on the line, which should be the strength of new coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense. Pettine was the New York Jets‘ defensive coordinator in Wilkerson’s first two years in the league in 2011-12.
”Everybody’s learning, some of the wording is a little different from back years ago when I was with Pettine,” Wilkerson said. ”We’re all getting through it.”
Matthews knows that Pettine wants to be aggressive, though there is plenty of time to figure out exactly what role he’ll play this fall. It’s quite possible that it doesn’t change much after Matthews showed the flexibility to play both outside and inside the last few years.
Pettine replaced Dom Capers Morgan Rielly Jersey
, who was fired after the 7-9 season. Capers had been Matthews’ only defensive coordinator since the linebacker entered the league in 2009.
”Like I said, someone needed to fall on the knife. I think it’s all done to get better results, and that’s exactly what we’re here for,” Matthews said. ”In the new defense we’re getting ready to hit this season strong and, like I said, hold up our end of the bargain.”
While the Bengals defense settles in to learn a new system during training camp, linebacker Vontaze Burfict is just passing through town.
He’ll miss the start of the season for a third year in a row, this time on a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancers. It’s a conundrum for the Bengals , who have remained loyal to Burfict despite his history of misconduct and suspensions.
His absence will be especially noteworthy this year as the Bengals adjust to a new defense under first-year coordinator Teryl Austin.
When camp opens with the first practice on Thursday, they’ll be teaching him the system while also preparing everyone else to play without him for the first month.
”Unfortunately, we’re probably too experienced at it,” coach Marvin Lewis said.
The results so far haven’t been all that encouraging.
Burfict was suspended for the first three games in 2016 because of his history of egregious hits during games Troy Brouwer Jersey
, including his blow to Antonio Brown’s head during the Steelers’ first-round playoff victory the previous season. The Bengals lost two of three and finished with a losing record.
Last year, Burfict got another three-game suspension from the league for his egregious hit on Kansas City’s Anthony Sherman during a preseason game. Undeterred, the Bengals gave Burfict a three-year contract extension and got off to an 0-3 start and another losing season.
Burfict is one of the most vocal leaders on the defense. He’ll practice with the team until the preseason ends and his suspension begins, preventing him from being around the team for a month.
”We’re going to miss the heck out of Vontaze,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said Wednesday.
Coaches liken it to missing an injured player, though it’s not an exact comparison. When a player gets hurt, someone else steps into the job full time. In this case, the Bengals have to get the defense on the same page of the new playbook, while also getting it ready to function without one of its leaders for a significant part of the season.
They signed linebacker Preston Brown to a one-year deal in March, bringing in a player from Buffalo who can help them get through that first month without Burfict.
”We have to have the other guys assume the leadership, the communication, everything that way http://www.officialblues.com/authentic-adidas-dmitrij-jaskin-jersey
,” Lewis said. ”He’s such a dominant personality that we almost have to stifle him in order to do that.”
Lewis declined to say whether he would hold Burfict out of the preseason games, as he’s done in the past when the linebacker faced a season-opening suspension. Austin plans to give Burfict a lot of practice time.
”I anticipate him practicing like nothing is going on and then when we get toward the end and he has to take a break, then he has to take a break,” Austin said.
Burfict will miss the season opener at Indianapolis followed by a Thursday night home game against AFC North rival Baltimore and road games against Carolina and Atlanta. He can return for an Oct. 7 game against Miami at Paul Brown Stadium, which is followed by another home game against the Steelers.
He has a history of getting back to speed quickly after returning from a suspension.
”One thing to his credit: He’s been able to come back to playing as though he’s been playing football,” Lewis said.
”If we say he’s going to play 20 snaps, he plays 40. If we say 30 snaps, he plays 50. He won’t come out once he’s in there, and then all he’ll do afterward is tell you guys how he’s winded and we made him play too much. But he’s the one who won’t come off the field.”
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