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Packers load up on defense in NFL draft

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GREEN BAY (AP) — After giving up way too many big plays last year, the Green Bay Packers wanted their defense to get deeper, faster and better at tackling.

General manager Ted Thompson kept busy Saturday, April 28th, taking Iowa defensive lineman Mike Daniels and Maine safety Jerron McMillian with a pair of compensatory picks at the end of the fourth round, then traded up to take North Carolina State linebacker Terrell Manning in the fifth round.

With those moves, the Packers went defense with each of their first six picks. Last year, the Packers took offensive players with five of their first six selections.Thompson said neither pattern happened on purpose, joking that some of his coaches were giving him funny looks this year.“I got that last year from the defensive guys,” Thompson said. “Last year, there was no intent to do it that way, this year there was no intent. We try to stick with our ratings and look at value.”

Even if it wasn’t the plan, it certainly couldn’t hurt that the Packers walked away from the draft with so much defensive help.

Coach Mike McCarthy said the Packers’ ability to score quickly and often on offense last season might have put an unexpected amount of strain on the defense, creating a need for more depth.

“The fact that we did score so many points quite often put stresses on our defense that we had not had before,” McCarthy said. “So that’s something that we spent a lot of time looking as a coaching staff and feeling we could do a better job of being more creative.”

Coaches acknowledge the need for improvement. Asked about McMillian’s tackling ability, Packers safeties coach Darren Perry made a larger point about the defense.

“He’s an excellent tackler, and you guys know what our tackling looked like last year,” Perry said. “So that’s going to be a point of emphasis.”

When asked about Daniels, defensive coordinator Dom Capers talked about the Packers trying to get faster.

“I think both of the defensive linemen we added have excellent in-line quickness, which I think that you have to have in this day and age in order to beat a one-on-one block,” Capers said.

And to get pressure on the quarterback, something first-round pick Nick Perry — who runs a 40-yard dash in the 4.5 range at 271 pounds — will be counted on to do from the outside linebacker spot.

“We hope we helped all aspects of defense,” Thompson said. “Certainly pass rush is a very vital thing in the National Football League because of the proliferation of the passing game. And we’ll see. We hope so.”

Well aware of his conservative reputation, Thompson joked about making three trades up in the draft.

“It’s horrible,” Thompson said. “I told them I was ashamed. I’m not my father’s son anymore because my father’s very frugal. It’s pathetic. But in this case, I felt like it was appropriate. I feel like we have a good, solid team, and I felt like where we knew we felt like we were getting quality, we should try to do it.”

The Packers came into this year’s draft with 12 picks but ended up with eight, apparently emphasizing quality over quantity.

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