Whitt on Corners: We're Going To Play Better

Last season couldn't have gone worse for the Packers' cornerbacks, who were victimized by a record-setting aerial assault. From a renewed focus to increased competition, the Packers expect much better from their cornerbacks this season.

The Green Bay Packers' secondary will play better in 2012.

And not just because there's nowhere to go but up for the worst pass defense in NFL history.

"We're going to be a lot stronger because our approach is going to be (better)," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt told Packer Report on Wednesday. "The way we played last year — everybody's got to look at themselves, and that's my group and I take responsibility for it. The additions, I don't care if we add anybody or don't add anybody. We're going to play better. Period. We're going to get back to playing like we played in the past. That will happen."

Last year, the Packers' defense ...

— Allowed a league-worst 299.8 passing yards per game and 4,796 yards through the air.

— Finished 32nd with 246 first downs allowed through the air.

— Finished 31st with 71 passing plays allowed of at least 20 yards.

— Tied for 27th with 29 touchdown passes allowed.

— Tied for 26th with 7.8 yards allowed per passing attempt.

— Were one of six teams tied for 17th with 10 passing plays allowed of at least 40 yards.

Several factors point to the Packers' pass defense making a significant jump in the rankings.

First, the pass rush should be stronger with the additions of first-round pick Nick Perry, second-round pick Jerel Worthy, fourth-round pick Mike Daniels and free-agent addition Anthony Hargrove. The rookies, right off the bat, and Hargrove, after his eight-game suspension, should provide some juice for a defense that ranked last in the league by getting a sack on 4.28 percent of passing attempts.

Second, Whitt said Tramon Williams is looking "really good" after struggling through most of last season with a shoulder injury that damaged nerves and took away his ability to be physical.

"When he's 100 percent, there's nobody better," Whitt said.

Third, Sam Shields took a step backward after a superb season as an undrafted rookie in 2010. He lost his starting job to Jarrett Bush in the playoff game against the Giants, and he's started this offseason behind Bush, as well.

It's not just Bush that Shields has to contend with to get back into the lineup. The addition of second-round pick Casey Hayward and a more experienced Davon House (fourth round, 2011) have improved the Packers' depth tremendously. As a rookie, Whitt confidently called Shields the most talented cornerback in that draft class. Playing up to his coach's bold talk, Shields rose from the bottom of the depth chart to earn what in essence was a starting job as the third cornerback. In 2011, Shields basically was handed the No. 3 cornerback job. Between that and the lack of offseason, Shields failed to play up to expectations.

"I've got to do a better job of getting Sam going," Whitt said. "He has all the ability. I said Sam's first year: If he doesn't play well, it's on me. That hasn't changed. Just because he played well that year, it meant that I didn't do a good enough job (in 2011). He has the ability. I have to do a better job with him. He'll play at a high level. I'm confident in his ability. There's a lot of competition in the room. House is there and we drafted Casey and you've got Brandian Ross, who's done a very, very nice job. The competition is going to make sure that everybody is focused and playing at a high level."

Whitt is the kind of coach who credits the players for doing the job well but takes the blame when they fail. In that light, Whitt said it's his job to be "demanding enough" to bring the best out of his talented group.

"We know what it looks like to be good and we know what it looks like not to be good," Whitt saoid. "We've been there, we know the blueprint. We just have to get back to it."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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