Everything about the defense will center around Bob Sanders and his philosophy. Sanders comes from the vanilla defensive approach and I'm wondering just what might be going through his mind. Is he thinking that maybe he could be more aggressive because of the speed the defense will have on the field this year? Or is he saying, ‘This is my first coordinator job so I better play it safe and play the bend, but don't really break defense.' He might even be sitting back and saying, ‘How can I sit back and play conservative with two shutdown corners in Al Harris and Charles Woodson?'
I'm sure Sanders saw how things went last year when the Packers got beat by backup quarterbacks that were allowed to sit back and throw without any consistent pressure. He doesn't want that to happen under his watch. I would bet that he understands even with the Packers' defense finishing in the top 10 that the statistics were misleading for a number of reasons. I would imagine he's thinking, ‘How am I going to put people in the right packages to help this team be successful on this side of the ball?' He must be thinking how much does he put on A.J. Hawk's plate because even if he can grasp it all, he's still a rookie and he will be overwhelmed. Then there is the balancing act with Nick Barnett. What do you take away from him, especially in nickel and dime situations and where do Abdul Hodge, Ben Taylor and Brady Poppinga fit in? As I see it Bob Sanders has a good problem but it's still a problem. His job will be to find roles for all the players that he is counting on to make this defense better, so I can imagine him having some sleepless nights. He is also probably wondering with all these plans, ‘Who's going to show up when the pads come on?'
Now let's look at some of the players and what they might be thinking:
What do you think might be going through Hawk's mind? I imagine he is feeling all the pressure a first rounder should be feeling. Whether he says it or not, he has to be thinking he has to come in and be SUPERMAN and show no weakness. He's trying to prepare himself for everything he will face being a marked man because all eyes will be on him. Not just the coaches' eyes but his teammates as well. I'm sure he has talked to some of his friends that already play the professional game to get some advice on what to expect and he's done his homework, but training camp is training camp you can't explain it. You have to experience it and then you understand it. So I bet his thinking is to take it one day at a time. Then you have a guy like Aaron Kampman who has been through his share of camps, but never with the high expectations that will be placed on him this year. With the big money that was given to him he's probably thinking that he still has to prove to people that he still has hunger. He doesn't want to be like other Green Bay Packers that when they finally got the big money they got lazy.
Then there is Nick Barnett. He's probably thinking that he has to prove that he is still the Packers' best linebacker and that he deserves to stay at middle linebacker. He must be thinking that he has to be more physical this training camp then ever before and he wants the world to know that the off-the-field distractions won't affect his play on the field.
Of course, there is the Al Harris situation. He is thinking that he should get paid what Charles Woodson got which means the caliber of play at cornerback should be outstanding.
Then I'm wondering what is going through Ahmad Carroll's head? Is he looking forward to playing the ‘nickel' or ‘dime' back opposed to being a starter? What about Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila do you think he is starting to feel the pressure of not being an everydown defensive end, or is he thinking that he has to prove that he can play every play? Or is Mike Montgomery thinking his opportunity to make a name for himself is this training camp. Talking about opportunity, what about Ryan Pickett? As much as some might have not liked Grady Jackson, Ryan has some shoes to fill. Grady Jackson and the living legend Gilbert Brown were solid run-stoppers up the middle and they didn't get the big money Pickett did. Last but not least: What is Woodson really thinking? He was a no show for OTA's and he's supposed to be the free agent impact player, but no one knows how good he will be so he must be thinking it's time to prove to everyone that he still has it.
So as you can see THERE IS A LOT TO THINK ABOUT ON DEFENSE!!!!!!!!!!!
Editor's note: Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. If you have a question for Harry, e-mail it to PackerReport.com managing editor Todd Korth at firstname.lastname@example.org, and it will be forwarded to him.