Packers debut own changes on defense vs. Bears

By GENARO C. ARMAS

AP Sports Writer

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers are debuting their own defensive changes this weekend against the Bears, even if they may not initially make as much of a splash as Chicago’s acquisition of star linebacker Khalil Mack.

But the effectiveness of those new wrinkles could be just as important to the fortunes of a team looking to return to the playoffs.

After playing it safe in the preseason, new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine can finally take the wraps off the Packers’ revamped scheme when the Bears visit Lambeau Field tonight.

“It just opens up everything,” linebacker Nick Perry said Thursday about the new defense. “I think from attacking it off the edge, attacking it inside, you have more options to attack.”

The Packers ranked 22nd in defense last year. It was especially a problem given that quarterback Aaron Rodgers was limited to seven games because of a collarbone injury.

Rodgers has the talent to be able cover up deficiencies in other areas of the team. With Rodgers out, everyone else had to step up. Instead, the Packers finished 7-9 and had its streak of eight straight postseason appearances snapped.

Changes in the organization included the firing of longtime defensive coordinator Dom Capers. He was replaced by Pettine, the former head coach of the Cleveland Browns, who stuck with the 3-4 defense as the base scheme.

So far, so good for the transition.

“I know in preseason, we’re keeping it basic,” inside linebacker Blake Martinez said. “So it’ll be cool to kind of dive into the playbook on Sunday and see how we kind of compete and get the job done.”

They will be expected to get pressure with just four outside linebackers on the roster. Perry and fellow veteran Clay Matthews will be backed up by Reggie Gilbert, who emerged in the preseason to become the top reserve; and Kyler Fackrell, a third-round draft pick in 2016.