GREEN BAY — The Packers are back at home for the first time in four games and for just the second time in their last six games, and Head Coach Mike McCarthy hopes the crowd can provide the home-field advantage Green Bay has come to expect over the years.
That hasn’t always been the case this season, as the home fans have expressed frustration at times, particularly in the last home game vs. Indianapolis, but the Packers are hoping their big Monday night win in Philadelphia that kept their postseason hopes alive will help energize the crowd on Sunday vs. Houston.
“When the crowd is into the game, crowd noise is important,” McCarthy said on Friday. “The game of football is done with a lot of communication, so if you can challenge the communication of the opponent, it’s obviously an advantage to the home team. We want the crowd noise to be higher than ever.”
As for the latest injury update, McCarthy said QB Aaron Rodgers “looked good” in his limited reps due to a hamstring injury during Thursday’s practice, while LBs Clay Matthews (shoulder) and Jake Ryan (ankle) did what was expected of them in practice, and LB Blake Martinez (knee) actually did more.
“We’ll see how he comes through today,” McCarthy said of Martinez. “Tomorrow will be key for all those guys.”
G T.J. Lang (foot) and C/G JC Tretter (knee) will have to clear “a big hurdle” in order to return this week, McCarthy added.
Saturday’s practice will be a bit longer than normal, as McCarthy moved a period or two from Thursday’s workout to Saturday’s because the team is coming off a Monday night game.
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GREEN BAY — The Packers’ coordinators and offensive assistant coaches met with the media late on Thursday after practice. Here’s a sampling of some of their key comments.
Special teams coordinator Ron Zook
(on Texans PR Will Fuller)
“He’s fast. Real fast. They have very, very good skill guys on the edge to keep you from getting down there. We have to place the ball extremely well and make sure he doesn’t have a chance to get going.”
(on coverage teams vs. Philly)
“We challenged them and I thought they took the challenged. We placed the ball well, and they went and covered well. This time of year, we have to play every game like that.”
(on if the return team can break one)
“We’ve been so close. I told the guys (in meetings) I’m so sick of coming in here and there’s one little thing here or one little things there that keep us from taking it where we want to go. You keep working, and then it takes a little lady luck there.”
Offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett
(on Spriggs playing the full game at RG)
“It wasn’t always picture-perfect, but he did a really good job. Overall, it’s about results, and he got the job done. You look at the tape, and you see the effort. We can correct the fundamental and technique errors, but you see the effort.”
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers
(on Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins)
“He’s an elite receiver, obviously. He’s really strong. You probably see more pass interference penalties on Hopkins than anybody else. You see the flags come out because he’s physical. People try to double him, and they do a good job of moving him around where they can get him in one-on-one situations.”
(on Texans RB Lamar Miller)
“He’s got explosive speed. He can really cut and get in and out of his breaks. He’s got such acceleration, if you give him a seam in the defense, he can take it all the way. They utilize him a lot. He’s carried the ball over 200 times and has 30 receptions or so.”
(on the possible return of LBs Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez)
“We’d love to have them both back. You prepare for the worst, and if you get good news, you’re happy about that. This past week, moving Clay inside was the right move in terms of getting our best personnel on the field.”
Wide receivers coach Luke Getsy
(on WR Davante Adams)
“He understands a lot more of what we’re trying to do and how to do it. Three years under his belt helps. Getting more exposure, not just lining up in one spot, he’s taking advantage of it. I like where his mindset it.
“For every single route, he has an idea what he wants to accomplish. He’s going full speed, and his play speed and tempo are really good right now. He’s attacking. You’re not seeing mental errors, you’re not seeing drops. You’re seeing a guy who has a plan for each person he’s going to line up against.”
Offensive line coach James Campen
(on preparing for the Texans D-line)
“They’re going to roll out a different game plan for everything. You have to watch more tape, more games, more sequences of games. You watch teams that do similar things to us.”
(on Jason Spriggs at RG vs. Fletcher Cox in Philly)
“He had his moments, which you would expect for a first start when he’s never played guard. You have a 6-6 ½ guy in there at guard, I’ll say this, the guy battled. He used his strengths, which is good for him, and he’ll only improve from that experience regardless if he’s playing guard or tackle. When you play against one of the premier players in the league your first start, you have to look at that as a great opportunity and a great learning experience. I know he’ll take that experience and apply it to the next game.”
Associate head coach/offense Tom Clements
(on the third-down success in Philly)
“I think what happened primarily is we got the first third down converted, so we felt good about that, but we were in a lot of manageable situations. We were in third-and-short a number of times, not too many third-and-longs. That’s what we said going in the game. Guys made plays. Aaron ran for two or three first downs. That’s always a bonus. He was on, the guys were catching the ball, and the line was blocking. Everybody was doing what they were supposed to be doing.”
Quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt
(on Rodgers’ performance in Philly)
“I thought it was his best performance of the year. He was locked in. He was almost perfect with the ball. He did everything we ask him to do. He operated at a high level. This last month, he’s played outstanding. Hopefully we continue to keep that trend going.”
(on the effect on himself of his comments before the game)
“When he makes a statement, he backs it up. That’s my experience with him over the last few years.”
(on Rodgers’ release time on the quick throws)
“That’s a unique trait of his. From the time he gets it to the time it comes out, it’s lightning quick. Sometimes he’ll throw it by an unblocked defensive end, and he won’t even see it because it comes out so fast.”
(on Rodgers vs. the blitz)
“Best I’ve been around, by far. He understands it. He sees it before it happens sometimes. He studies it. He’s dialed in as well as anybody I’ve ever seen.”
Tight ends coach Brian Angelichio
(on Cook’s impact on defenses)
“They have to make a decision with the safeties, which way they’re going to lean. I think that showed up a little bit in the Washington game. But we’ll see a little bit as we move forward.
“Targets are dictated where the coverage goes and where the progression goes. With this offense, it can go to any of the receivers. Some weeks it might be this position, or this receiver in the plan, other weeks it might be others.”
Running backs coach Ben Sirmans
(on Starks, pass protection, and taking the most reps in Philly)
“Sometimes dealing with a guy who’s seasoned in a role, particularly in a game like that, you have a tendency as a coach to go with your comfort level. Christine has gotten a lot more reps this week, so we should be able to get him in there a lot more.”
(on Lacy, now that he won’t be coming off IR)
“He’s still in the meetings. He’s still involved. It’s good for him, good to be around the guys. They like his presence in there, and it keeps him around football.”
(on Michael picking up the offense)
“I think he’s learning the offense pretty well. Some of the things we do, there’s some carryover. Maybe some terminology is different. We’ve been spending some extra time together. The quarterbacks have been working with him. The other running backs, if he has a question on something or we’re going through a walk-through, they’ll come in and say this is what we’re talking about. Somebody is always interacting with him. He’s a sponge learning. He wants to play, and he knows the only way to play is to understand the offense.”
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GREEN BAY — Head Coach Mike McCarthy confessed on Thursday that he wants to get more of the Packers’ running backs involved in the offense.
On Monday in Philadelphia, RB James Starks had 17 carries, while Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael had just one apiece. That wasn’t the plan going in, and it won’t be the plan going forward, based on what he said before Thursday’s practice.
“We need to find a healthy flow there,” McCarthy said. “That’s what the week of practice is for.
“James knows the offense inside and out, so you don’t blink when he’s in there. I feel the same about Ty. Christine Michael has picked it up really fast. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen there.”
With the calendar turning to December, McCarthy feels there needs to be more focus on running the ball.
“We have to figure out ways to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands,” he said. “We need to run the ball more as a football team, not only for our offense but also for our defense. Hitting the 35 (minute) mark in time of possession last week, you’d like to be there every week ideally. It’s a part of the offense we haven’t been able to use as a primary focus. It’s important to get that going.”
McCarthy also expects the Houston Texans to come to Lambeau Field on Sunday wanting to run the ball with RB Lamar Miller “and keep running it. We need to stop the run.”
On the injury front, G T.J. Lang (foot) and LB Blake Martinez (knee) are making progress and could practice on Thursday in a limited fashion, but their status hadn’t been determined yet. They were going to start in the rehab group and see how things go from there. Both rookie Jason Spriggs and Don Barclay would continue to work in practice at right guard throughout the week in Lang’s stead.
Packers.com will have more following practice and locker room interviews.
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GREEN BAY — Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy didn’t have an update on the health of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews other than both are expected to play Sunday against the Houston Texans.
Rodgers tweaked his hamstring in the third quarter of Monday night’s 27-13 win over Philadelphia, but finished the game. He said afterward he thought he’d be “good to go” for this week despite the injury.
Asked on Monday whether the muscle injury could limit Rodgers like the calf strain late in the 2014 season, McCarthy said: “I don’t think we’re back in 2014.”
“There will be a lot of communication,” said McCarthy about the plan for Rodgers against Houston. “I’m in all the meetings. We’ll be talking about the game plan as we go. There was a lot of conversation last night with (quarterbacks coach) Alex Van Pelt and Aaron. The calf injury was a big injury. We made a ton of adjustments. For him to play through that was extraordinary.”
Matthews left briefly in the first quarter with a shoulder injury against the Eagles, but returned and played 44 defensive snaps.
The Packers won’t practice on Wednesday due to the short week and coming off back-to-back night games. Instead, they’ll conduct their walkthrough in their conditioning, rehab and instruction center.
McCarthy said this week is the team’s “biggest challenge” given the schedule and the fact the Packers are playing Houston for the first time in four years.
“When you look at schedule, we’re not only coming off a Monday night game on the east Coast, it was a Sunday night game on the road,” McCarthy said. “Stress adds up. This plan was in place in the spring when the schedule came out. We knew this was going to be a unique stretch. We’re fortunate to have the CRIC, so we’ll work exclusively in-house. We moved it back, gave those guys a chance to sleep in. They had weight room this morning.”
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