To get back to the playoffs T.J. Green Jersey , the Green Bay Packers' defense needs to improve against the pass.
Adding three tall receivers to the offense for quarterback Aaron Rodgers can't hurt either.
The two-time NFL MVP got help in the passing game on the third day of the NFL draft after the Packers prioritized pass defense in the early rounds.
They took Louisville's Jaire Alexander in the first round and Iowa's Josh Jackson, who led the nation with eight interceptions last year, in the second.
"Their ball skills are exceptional," coach Mike McCarthy said Saturday. "I think they're a great fit to how we want to play defense."
Pass defense was a problem again for a team that finished 7-9 last season. The Packers didn't make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
The setback set up an offseason of change. Longtime executive Brian Gutekunst was promoted to general manager to succeed the retired Ted Thompson in January. McCarthy overhauled the coaching staff, including the hiring of Mike Pettine to replace Dom Capers as defensive coordinator.
Cornerback was the top priority. Besides drafting Alexander and Jackson, the Packers brought Tramon Williams back as a free agent to add another presence in the secondary.
"With the competition in the cornerback room, and the defensive back room, it's vastly improved," McCarthy said.
The focus shifted to offense for the late rounds on Saturday. The passing attack slipped to 25th in the league last season after Rodgers was limited to seven games because of a broken collarbone.
Gutekunst drafted three wideouts, starting with Missouri's J'Mon Moore in the fourth round. The 6-foot-3 senior had team highs of 65 catches and 1,082 yards last season.
Opportunities abound in the receiving group behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb after veteran Jordy Nelson was cut in the offseason.
Other highlights from the Packers' draft class:
CATCHING ON: Besides Moore, the Packers also took two 6-5 receivers in South Florida's Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the fifth round and Notre Dame's Equanimeous St. Brown in the sixth round. Valdes-Scantling offers an intriguing blend of size and speed after he ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine at 4.37 seconds. Brown played with Packers backup quarterback DeShone Kizer for two seasons at Notre Dame.
CREATING COMPETION: By taking three receivers, the Packers stockpiled prospects to fill depth at a skill position for a second straight year. The strategy worked at running back in 2017, when fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams and fifth-rounder Aaron Jones emerged as solid contributors.
"You hope the guys embrace it and are pros about it and try to get better," scout Matt Malaspina said. "The whole group gets better as each guy gets better."
THAT'S SPECIAL: There might be competition at punter A. J. Cann Jersey , too, after the Packers drafted JK Scott from Alabama. Scott had just five punts returned as a senior, crediting the success to a renewed focus on hang time. Last year's punter, Justin Vogel, was seventh in the NFL in net punting average at 41.6 yards.
Green Bay also took a long snapper with the second of their three seventh-round picks in Mississippi State's Hunter Bradley.
LATE PICKS: The selection of offensive lineman Cole Madison from Washington State in the fifth round addressed another position of need. The 6-5 Madison played tackle in college. But the Packers like his versatility and plan to use him at guard. Green Bay has questions on the right side of the line.
Green Bay returned to defense with its two other seventh-round picks, selecting end James Looney from California and edge rusher Kendall Donnerson from Southeast Missouri State.
STILL NEED: Unless Looney or Donnerson prove to be late steals, the Packers will still need help in the pass rush. Clay Matthews turns 32 this year, while Nick Perry was limited to 12 games last season because of injuries. They could use more production out of third-year backup Kyler Fackrell. Vince Biegel should start the season healthy after missing the first seven games of his rookie season with a foot injury.
"The biggest gains that we've always made have been our returning players," McCarthy said.
Shaquille O’Neal called himself ”The Big Baryshnikov” and ”The Big Socrates” in his days in the NBA. Now he can add ”The Big Shakespeare.”
The basketball Hall-of-Famer, TNT TV analyst, commercial pitchman and onetime rapper is putting poetry on his lengthy resume as part of a new public television series.
He brings his best bard to a dramatic reading of a poem in his episode of the 12-part ”Poetry in America ,” then discusses it with Elisa New, a Harvard English professor who hosts the show.
”I’ve always been into poetry,” O’Neal said in an interview with The Associated Press in a sunlit conference room overlooking the Los Angeles skyline. ”I’ve been writing rhymes all my life.”
”Poetry in America,” distributed by American Public Television and presented by WGBH in Boston Todd Gurley Jersey , is airing at various times on local public TV stations. Some episodes, including Shaq’s, are already available to stream.
On the show the 46-year-old former All-Star from the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat recites ”Fast Break,” a poem by Edward Hirsch from his 1986 book ”Wild Gratitude.” It describes some very imperfect players who manage to put together a perfect basketball play.
”A hook shot kisses the rim and hangs there, helplessly, but doesn’t drop,” the poem begins, ”and for once our gangly starting center boxes out his man.”
O’Neal, whose 350-pound bulk would never be called ”gangly,” still related to the center in the verse, but said he initially missed the poem’s point.
”The first mistake I made was thinking it was about basketball,” he said. ”I read it real quick I said `fast break, shovel passes, sure, this is what I do.”’
He said New Jamie Collins Jersey , who sat next to O’Neal in the interview and like almost everyone is utterly dwarfed by him, gave him whole new insights that led to a fast friendship.
”When she broke it down intelligently for me, I was very astounded and very amazed,” O’Neal said.
The poem is written for a close friend and playing partner of Hirsch’s who had just died. That’s easy to miss if you skip past the dedication at the top, as most readers do.
”It’s fun that only later as you’re reading, you look back at that dedication,” New said. ”One line can change everything.”
Suddenly it becomes an examination of transcendent moments and human connections.
”It’s about friendship, it’s about caring, it’s about emotions,” O’Neal said. ”I had missed that.”
His latest learning experience took O’Neal’s thoughts back to high school, where he had a 69 percent in English after blowing a test during the basketball playoffs, and needed a 70 to stay eligible for sports.
The teacher allowed him a retest, and suggested a tutor.
”This guy, his name was McDougal, he was a geek Jordan Poyer Jersey , he saved my academic life,” O’Neal said. ”Everybody bullied him in school, except me.”
O’Neal said he took the work and ”broke it down, made it seem so simple.”
”I retook the test, got an 80, and we won the state championship,” O’Neal said.
”Now,” he said, ”I always tell kids I’m a geek.”
The professor had another name for him. ”He’s a learner!”
O’Neal partly looked the poet during the interview in a polo shirt and jeans, having traded his basketball sneakers for a pair of slip-on Toms shoes, size 22.
When he wanted them, a company executive told him ”it wouldn’t be worth it to make them in my size unless I bought 500 of them,” O’Neal said. ”I told him to give me 2,000.”
Online: Troy Brown Jr. Jersey ,