Packer Rundown: McCarthy on improving the run, Favre?, personnel needs
Green Bay Packers' Head Coach Mike McCarthy says one of his biggest off-season priorities will be to boost the running game.
"The identity of our football team will always be built around our offensive and defensive line, and we need to improve the run-blocking. That will be a primary focus of ours in the off-season," McCarthy told reporters at his season-closing press conference on Wednesday.
The Packers finished 21st in the NFL in total rushing yards, even though Ryan Grant ranked second among individuals in the second half of the season.
Green Bay only managed 28 rushing yards in 14 carries in the NFC Championship loss to the New York Giants.
McCarthy said he and general manager Ted Thompson will spend a lot of time this off-season evaluating the offensive line with the main goal to improve the run-blocking.
The coach said overall he was pretty happy with the offensive line and they should be even better next year.
"I like the body type of our offensive line. The positive is they're all young. They're all going to get stronger, they're going to get bigger, they're going to be smarter, their fundamentals are going to improve," McCarthy said.
"We have so much in front of us. I'm extremely pleased with our ability to pass protect," he added.
McCarthy said he was thinks the core group of young running backs is also a plus for the team.
He noted that even though Ryan only joined the team in week one of the season he was able to grasp the Packer offense and produce results. He also said that Grant should only get better as he gets more time with the team.
"Think about all the reps in OTAs and all the reps in training camp," McCarthy said. "So he's just going to be that much better player, more in tune with the run-blocking unit, the pass protection. He can improve on the check downs, he can be more involved in the passing game. There's a number of little things he can improve on."
One back that McCarthy was excited about was the progress of rookie Brandon Jackson, especially his special teams play.
"Brandon Jackson, my goodness, he took every snap in training camp and then started playing special teams in the middle of the year," McCarthy said. "So I look for Brandon Jackson to be a core special teams player, probably one of our better players next year, and he never played on special teams until halfway through the season."
McCarthy also said the Packers would try to resign all six of their unrestricted free agents including defensive tackle Corey Williams, who appears the most likely to leave.
"I thought Corey had a heck of a year. It'd be great to have him back," McCarthy said.
McCarthy told reporters that he had talked to Brett Favre this week and said that Favre will head back to Mississippi and go through the same decision-making process he did last year.
The two agreed that Favre should take a couple of weeks and take both the positive and negative emotions out of the decision in order to make the best decision about the quarterback's future.
"I told him I'd call him or he'd call me in the next seven or 10 days. That's really how we did it the last two years. We'll talk probably every seven to 10 days and see where he is," McCarthy said.
One area that McCarthy said he wasn't ready to comment on yet is what the specific needs of the team are and what personnel moves can be expected in the off-season.
"I'm not there yet. I'll spend the rest of the week, I'm actually meeting with the coordinators, I probably won't have a chance to meet with the assistant coaches until I get back from the Pro Bowl," McCarthy said.
"Ted (Thompson) left for the Senior Bowl on Tuesday, so we had some preliminary talks just about personnel, but I'm not really ready to answer that question," he added.
Also, McCarthy could not say if there will be any more changes to his coaching staff.
Defensive quality control assistant Eric Lewis is leaving to become the secondary coach at the University of Louisville.
Clifton to Pro Bowl
Offensive tackle Chad Clifton has been added to the NFC Pro Bowl team.
Clifton will take the place of Walter Jones of Seattle. He'll be joined by fellow Packers Donald Driver, Aaron Kampman and Al Harris.