Coaching Challenges Await Bennett, Greene

Edgar Bennett and Kevin Greene will be forced to turn some unheralded players into key performers. That'll be a change for Bennett, who's had a star-studden group. It will be more of the same for Greene, who's used to squeezing oil from turnips.

For Edgar Bennett, the challenge is quite different.

For Kevin Greene, it's the same old, same old.

In his first two seasons as the Green Bay Packers' receivers coach, Edgar Bennett had arguably the best and deepest quintet in the league at his disposal.

Donald Driver had been selected to four Pro Bowls and Greg Jennings to two. Driver had seven 1,000-yard seasons. Greg Jennings had three 1,000-yard seasons, and would have had two others if not for injuries. Jordy Nelson had one of the finest seasons in Packers history in 2011, and James Jones saw his name mentioned alongside Don Hutson while leading the NFL in touchdown catches in 2012. Randall Cobb emerged as the NFL's breakout star in 2012.

This season, the challenge will be very different for Bennett. Driver is enjoying retirement and joking about how he'd like to take the plunge on "Splash." Jennings is in Minnesota, where he — and his sister, no doubt — hopes the grass will be greener as the Vikings' clear-cut No. 1 receiver.

It will be up to Bennett to develop a large group of young receivers in hopes of finding one or two gems that allows coach Mike McCarthy to feel good about his four- and five-receiver packages.

Beyond the "Big Three" of Cobb, Jones and Nelson, there are nine other receivers on the roster. Second-year pro Jarrett Boykin, who was cut by Jacksonville after its rookie camp in 2012, has the only five receptions among the "Not-So-Big Nine." Jeremy Ross, who the Packers signed to their practice squad in mid-October, played in five games last year and didn't line up for a snap on offense. The other seven are rookies. The two most promising among them, seventh-rounders Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey, were rendered spectators for the offseason workouts due to undisclosed injuries.

Bennett, however, doesn't see it as pressure.

"It's like last year," he said. "You had quite a few veteran guys who unfortunately weren't able to play, and you saw younger guys step in and be extremely productive. As far as pressure, I don't really worry about that. My focus is to continue to teach, demand and communicate — to get our guys ready to go out and be productive and put them in a good situation so that they can be successful."

Greene, on the other hand, is used to coaxing as much as possible from an unheralded group of players.

While Clay Matthews is 4-for-4 in Pro Bowls since being selected in the first round in 2009, Greene has trotted out the likes of Erik Walden (street free agent, 2010, 26 starts), Brad Jones (seventh round, 2009, 13 starts), Frank Zombo (undrafted, 2010, nine starts) and Dezman Moses (undrafted, 2012, six starts). Robert Francois started the NFC Championship Game in 2010.

With Walden in Indianapolis, Zombo in Kansas City and Jones starting at inside linebacker, Greene will be put to the test again. Nick Perry, the 2012 first-round pick, remains a work in progress, especially after missing the final 10 games of his rookie season due to injuries. Greene's seven-man platoon consists of Matthews, Perry, Moses and four rookies. Nate Palmer was drafted in the sixth round, making him a blue-chip prospect compared to undrafted rookies Andy Mulumba, Jarvis Reed and Donte Savage. Oh, and he has to turn 290-ish pounds of Mike Neal into a part-time linebacker.

"I treat all my kids the same, and I think all my kids understand that I'm going to do everything I can to make sure they're successful," Greene, the NFL's all-time sacks leader by a linebacker, said. "I'm going to pour myself into them and give them the best I've got. I'm going to try to show them every little bitty trick of the trade and technique that helped me do some good things when I played. Show them all the stuff that truly works on the field. It's bigger than an Xs and Os kind of thing."

For Greene and Bennett, it's about teaching. Greene played the position at the highest of levels. Bennett, of course, was a running back and coached the position for six seasons before moving down the hallway to coach the receivers.

"At the beginning, it's really about teaching and communicating. That's our philosophy here," Bennett said, speaking for his philosophy but echoing Greene's. "The starting point's in the class room, teaching the concepts, so when they step out on the field they can apply it using the proper fundamentals and techniques that we teach. It's time to continue to learn, continue to grow, continue to get better and be fundamentally sound and do it all the time. That's what's expected. Not some of the time – be consistent, do it all of the time."


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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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