GREEN BAY -
Green Bay could always count on Za'Darius and Preston Smith to bring down the quarterback last season, but defensive coordinator Mike Pettine would like to see a few more snaps without them on the field this year.
"I do think at times that Preston and Z play maybe a little too much to where we want to take something off their plate," Pettine said.
Nose tackle Kenny Clark is also in the group of players that needs some more down time.
"I don't think it was any secret, I mean, we've talked about it and felt like Kenny played too many plays," Pettine said.
All three players saw the field for more than 80 percent of the Packers' total snaps, which sometimes led to a worn-out defense late in the game.
"I think we relied on those three too much last year," Pettine said.
In order to give his stars a rest, Pettine will need the young guys to contribute; specifically, second-year pass rusher Rashan Gary.
"He needs to take a big jump," Pettine said. "And when you go back and look at last year's tape, he did some really good things for us, the time that he was in there."
Pettine is optimistic that his young guns are up to the challenge.
"We're looking forward to getting our guys out there, especially the new guys, and seeing what they can do," Pettine said.
The defensive coordinator also spoke about the NFC Championship game loss to the San Francisco 49ers, a game in which his run defense gave up 285 total yards.
Pettine was extremely disappointed, saying that his defense "played their worst game at the worst time."
Afterward, Matt LaFleur did not publicly commit to bringing Pettine back on staff for the 2020-'21 season. However, there was never a doubt in Pettine's mind that he would return.
"It was much ado about nothing. There was never a moment where I felt I would be anywhere other than Green Bay. I know he addressed it at the combine, but at the meeting we had, even before his interview, he and I have been full speed ahead."