McCarthy Q&A on offense

Coach assesses Favre interceptions, offensive line's performance, expectations

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy responds to questions from reporters during a media session at the NFL Owners Meetings last week in Phoenix. Here are McCarthy's comments on areas he feels the team needs to improve in 2007, Brett Favre's interceptions and the performance of the offensive line:

Q: What's the area you'll make the most improvement?
Mike McCarthy:
My goal is wins. Obviously, you start with your record, but as you go through every part of our football team, starting with offense, defense and special teams, there's definitely improvement for that. I thought the ability of our players was excellent as far as the health of our football team. We had a high number of guys on IR, but for the most part I never felt like we were depleted as we went through the season. The accountability of every player I was pleased with. Now we're kind of into the focus of enhancing performance. That starts in the off-season program. I just see us getting better in every area.

I think the offensive line is probably the most improved group from the beginning of the season to the end and I look for it to be a strength of the football team. I thought the defensive line was the most consistent part of our football team beginning to end. I really like the way the perimeter group on defense came alive, particularly at the end. I thought their play-making ability was exceptional. They had a number of communication errors early and I think they showed what they were capable of doing when they're all on the same page and we're playing it at such a high level. In our offensive perimeter, I thought we started strong and did not finish strong. That needs to be improved, you look at the completion percentage and the statistical things that are identifiers, completion percentage, dropped balls, things like that. We need to improve in that area.

Q: What did you see in the Favre interception tape?
MM:
The thing I always look at from an interception tape, you look at the ones that the quarterback, the decision interceptions are the ones that kill you because those are the ones that should not happen. They're the ones you can definitely fix. You're going to have a ball tipped, you're going to have a defensive element, and I'm talking from a pure standpoint of the quarterback position. You might have a ball dropped. Those things you can't control, but the one thing that is constant year to year, you have to control the decision-making and the decision-making interceptions is what you're always fighting to improve on. He was much better than the year before, but that's not the goal. We need to improve that area. That's a yearly must in trying to improve.

Q: Late down the middle a problem?
MM:
Late down the middle there were a couple of those. I wouldn't say that was the major infraction. If you look at the decision-making, the one common theme in his decision interceptions was the point in the game when he did it. You're behind, you look at Seattle he takes a shot down the field. The other one he tries to pump it into the fade. Philadelphia, the one you're probably thinking about, he's trying to make a play down the middle. The two late ones in Chicago. You're looking at probably 80% of his decision-making interceptions were in the course of a game and you're two touchdowns down and you're in the fourth quarter and he's trying to make a play. That's a tough carrot not to bite into for any quarterback.

Q: What did you think about protection?
MM:
I thought we did a very good job schematically helping the people who needed to be helped appropriately. We took a protection-first mentality and I think the statistics as far as number of times we were sacked, second or third in the league, speaks for itself. Yes, we used more seven-man protection, but that's not… people talk about that like we're cheating. It's not cheating. A lot of people use seven-man protection. It's the most seven-man protection I've ever used, I'm not going to lie. So we'll be able to get back to more of the base six-man protections and maybe some of the five-man protections that we have used, but not very much.

I was very pleased with the protection, not from the aspect that I thought we had just a great year protection. I thought the coaches did a great job of putting the players in position week to week to be successful. If we had an unfavorable matchup, we had help in the right place. The guys understood it. I was pleased with it. It's clearly seven-man protection when you're building protection schemes; that's what you build off of because your six-mans come off that, your five-man… What I'm really pleased about is when push comes to shove you go back to that base protection, our guys have a great grasp of that, so we have an outstanding foundation to move into getting more people out and things like that.

Q: Where do you lack offensively with the seven-man?
MM:
It's more your underneath coverage because your backs or a back and tight end are involved in protection responsibility before they get out as opposed to getting out right now. That's really where it is.

Q: You're not occupying a linebacker then?
MM:
You're not stretching a linebacker right now. You still have the ability to occupy him based on if they don't come, the guy still gets out but what we did was wherever we needed protection helped he was tied to that. It's really a simple formula. When I talk to the offensive guys every Wednesday and we get into the meetings, A) they know the base rules. Every protection has a stress point and then with that you have a game plan, you have potential stress points based on personnel matchups. You fit your help to the stress point and with that then you get them out. As opposed to stretching them right now, they're releasing right now, and that can correlate some to completion percentage because your completion percentage, teams that throw for high completion percentages have a lot of underneath completions.

Q: When you use seven-man you're not as creative, right?
MM:
That's true to some point. You're not attacking with four guys into the defensive perimeter right now. There's only three. So you have potentially four or potentially five, but it's happening late. That's true to a point.

Q: So as the linemen get better, you can send more out?
MM:
Yeah. I thought our center was exceptional. Everybody talks about decision-making of the quarterback, our center is a big ingredient to our offensive schemes both in the run and protection. His decision-making was outstanding, especially for a first year. I'm very pleased with Scott Wells. I think we'll definitely be better this year.

Q: Looking at your three rookie offensive linemen, what do they need to do in the off-season to get better?
MM:
No. 1, we need to get stronger. All of our young guys need to get stronger. That's a natural maturation process that every individual is at in their career. That's where these nine weeks, particularly these nine weeks leading up to the first minicamp where they need to really attack the core lifts as we refer to them, you know the power cleans, the squats and the bench. We're doing a lot more functional movement things and more position-specific. We need to improve our overall strength. Because push comes to shove, yeah, we're a lead zone team, but you have to knock the other guy off the ball. That's one thing I want to improve in our run blocking and it's on both sides.

Q: What areas does Daryn Colledge, for instance, need to improve?
MM:
They all have fundamental things. (Offensive line coach James) Campen and (assistant line coach Jerry) Fontenot have done a very good job. Our scheme evaluation been as about as good as I've ever been around and I've had a certain format that I've always used and I think (offensive coordinator) Joe Philbin has taken it and detailed it to another level. Each position is clearly broke down and every player is clearly broke down to specific things they need to work on. You do that all the time, but just the way they formatted it I was very impressed.

I can't sit here and rattle each guy off the top of my head. They've been up in the office and that's what you want. It's amazing last year going through it, I've got Brett Favre comes in my office and he's walking around and he goes, ‘Well, I've never been up here.' If I had one, I had 20 guys tell me that. I want guys up on that third floor. I want that interaction between the coaches and players. You talk about relationship building, you talk about group dynamics, that's a key proponent of it.


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