“We did not feel we were a good tackling team,” said Mike McCarthy after a training camp practice on August 2nd of 2010.
Players said it, too.
“[We need to] tackle better,” said linebacker Mike Neal last December 6th. Asked if it was as simple as that, he just said the team needed to, “tackle better, that's it.”
There are plenty more examples, but this year, Green Bay is confident tackling won’t be a recurring problem.
"I think we'll be better than last year,” said linebacker Clay Matthews. “Last year tackling, there was a lull in that. It's been a point of concern this camp. We put in extra time, extra tackling drills and I think we feel good about it.”
Though a bedrock of football, Matthews says tackling is even more of a focus now with spread and read option offenses striving to get defenders in one-on-one settings.
“The read, the option, the pistol, everything that goes along with that, puts stress on the defense, not just knowing where to be, having those one-on-one opportunities,” said Matthews. “It puts [tackling] into light, but that's football. It's one-on-one in front of you, you have to win that match-up.”
The Packers emphasis on getting ball-carriers on the ground extends past drills on the practice field. Several players pointed to offseason lessons by safeties coach Darren Perry on the subject, though he does not want to reveal his lesson plans.
"I'll let those guys tell you about that,” said Perry.
Perry added he enjoys working on that part of the game. Players said the offseason emphasis, with Perry’s instruction a part of it, put tackling front and center in their minds.
"We've even went as deep as emphasizing different levels of tackling,” said linebacker Sam Barrington. “Coach DP [Darren Perry] did a great job with that, some of our pre-practice and pre-camp meetings and what not."
Coaches want tackling to be a mentality, not just a physical skill. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers says, in his experience, when coaches emphasize a subject players normally respond.
"Watching the [Browns vs. Redskins] game last night, someone makes a good tackle, I'm kind of picturing myself in that position,” said Packers safety Micah Hyde. “Like, 'yeah, good tackle, good tackle.' That's just something that coaches kind of embedded in our heads, just to think about."
Hyde, like his teammates, is confident his team will be better at tackling on the whole this season. Knowing for sure if they’re better will take time, adding “week 10 shoot me that question” and he’d have a much better idea.