Hunter goes quarterback hunting

Special-teams standout Jason Hunter hopes his improved pass-rushing skills will be an asset to a defense short on QB chasers.

If Jason Hunter's career path continues to climb, he might be an answer to the Packers' pass-rushing dilemma.

In 2006, as an undrafted rookie out of Division I-AA national champion Appalachian State, Hunter was just a guy playing special teams. In 2007, he recorded 25 special-teams tackles, the most by a Packers player since 1985.

This year, Hunter hopes he can become a bigger contributor on defense, too.

"Definitely, I feel like I've taken a step forward," Hunter said. "I feel like that my first two years in the league, I was kind of getting my feet wet in the NFL. I feel like I'm having a pretty good camp so far. I'm just trying to focus on things that I need to correct and improve, and the things that I do well, get better at them."

Hunter, who entered the league weighing about 250 pounds, is listed at 271. His power has provided a complement to the speed that has made him such an intriguing pass-rushing prospect. Aside from Aaron Kampman, he's been perhaps the Packers' best pass rusher during one-on-one drills. A quick inside move has been added to his outside speed rush.

"That's just something I've been working on since I've been in the NFL is my pass-rushing ability," said Hunter, who has zero career sacks. "I'm trying to work on being a dominant pass rusher. That way, I can help this team on third downs. We have a good group of pass rushers, but if I can be an extra addition, that will make us even stronger."

That the Packers have a good group of pass rushers is up for debate. Kampman posted a team-high 12 sacks with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila chipping in 10. With Corey Williams and his seven sacks jettisoned to Cleveland, the Packers don't have a lineman on the roster who had more than one sack last season.

To take advantage of Hunter's speed, improving technique and motor, the Packers have used him as a defensive tackle at times in their nickel an dime defensive packages.

"Just being quick and agile off the ball, sometimes I've underestimated myself and that held me back," Hunter said. "This year, I'm letting it all go. I feel like, with my abilities, I can definitely be a dominant pass rusher on third down."

Hunter's season was defined by two plays: His escort of Tramon Williams during a 94-yard punt return touchdown against Carolina and a forced fumble on an Oakland punt return that Will Blackmon recovered for a touchdown. Special teams remains a priority; asked what his goal was for Monday night's preseason opener against Cleveland, Hunter said special teams before he mentioned hoping to collect a couple of sacks.

Hunter takes pride in his special teams. He also takes pride in his alma mater, which famously upset Michigan 34-32 to kick off last year's college football season.

"That was great. It brought tears to my eyes, because I know how hard Coach (Jerry) Moore prepared those guys," Hunter said. "I know the passion and enthusiasm that those guys work with. I can imagine what those guys were going through during two-a-days, just the emotion and the intensity and the heart. To go down there and put up an upset like that, it was something that we can still celebrate."

In a clash of defending national champions, Appalachian State begins this season at LSU.

"Death Valley, that's going to be a tough game for those guys, but those guys come prepared to play," Hunter said. "I know in 2005, we went out there and almost shocked LSU. But Appalachian's definitely not sneaking up on LSU. LSU's waiting on them. I'm sure they'll be preparing really, really hard after seeing what Appalachian did to Michigan."

Bill Huber writes for Packer Report. E-mail him at

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