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Packers will rely on young defense

Associated Press Modified: September 8, 2012 at 2:47 am •  Published: September 8, 2012
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — After more than 20 years as a head coach or defensive coordinator in the NFL, Dom Capers knows some statistics are more telling than others.

One stat, in particular, caught his attention.

The Packers' defensive guru's first impression of the revamped San Francisco 49ers offense, the one he will see Sunday in the season opener, is summed up by the number 1 — it is loaded with first-round draft picks.

From quarterback Alex Smith to tight end Vernon Davis to the receiving duo of Michael Crabtree and veteran addition Randy Moss. Capers has concerns about how his defense stacks up against the 49ers in this matchup of NFC heavyweights.

"(And) you have three of them in the offensive line," Capers said Friday. "You pick that high (year after year), you're going to get pretty good."

As for the Packers, they have been accustomed to picking at or near the bottom of the first round because they have been one of the NFL's premier teams in recent years. Yet they had the league's worst defense and set a record last season for most yards passing allowed. And they go into the start of this season with several young players penciled in for key roles.

"If you look, there's a lot of youth all over that defense," Capers said. "It used to be back, 15 years ago, you drafted guys and then you gave them a year or two to develop and then played them. We're bringing them in now and putting them out there. It'll be exciting to watch how they perform, how they play."

Outside linebacker Nick Perry, the team's first-round draft pick this year, will be an opening-day starter. Jerel Worthy, a second-round selection, figures to have an extensive role paired with Pro Bowl nose tackle B.J. Raji.

Capers is also looking at an infusion of youth in the secondary to compensate for the offseason move of 35-year-old cornerback Charles Woodson to safety.

Pro Bowl cornerback Tramon Williams, who is 29, laughed when asked after practice whether he feels like one of the older players on the team. Jarrett Bush, primarily a backup the last six years with the Packers, and returning nickel back Sam Shields look to be the top candidates to start opposite Williams at cornerback.

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