GREEN BAY — As Eli Manning ran out the clock on the Green Bay Packers' once-indelible season one kneel-down after another, Tramon Williams didn't need any reassurances.
Sure, the loss — a 37-20 heartbreaker to the New York Giants in the NFC divisional playoff round in January — may have been the epitome of a season of struggles for the Packers' defense, but Williams believed deep down it wasn't the true measure of the unit.
In Williams' mind, he was thinking about the 2012 season and how the defense could turn things around after surrendering a league-high 411.6 yards per game in 2011.
In the months that have followed, the Packers cornerback hasn't backed down from that notion.
"I was convinced when we finished the season, the day that we lost I was convinced," Williams said of his belief the defense will improve this coming season. "Obviously, we know that the guys upstairs were going to get us some help, and they did that. We're excited about the guys we brought in. To sit here and watch them practice every day, they open up eyes with something every day."
The adjustments that were made aligned perfectly with the trademarks of Packers general manager Ted Thompson — a draft pick here, an undrafted signee there.
Green Bay, which allowed the most passing yards in NFL history, will rely on the maturation of youngsters Sam Shields, Davon House and M.D. Jennings as well as the development of rookies Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian.
More than any other factor, however, the defense's resurgence starts with Williams, who struggled to replicate his 2010 Pro Bowl season after suffering a shoulder injury during a collision with Nick Collins in last year's opener against New Orleans.
Matters only got worse the following week when the Packers lost Collins for the season after he suffered a herniated disk in his neck, resulting in single-level cervical fusion surgery. The three-time Pro Bowl safety was released prior to April's NFL draft.
Williams' injury, which included nerve damage, cost him only one game on the ledger, but forced him to alter his style from challenging wide receivers on the line to playing off in coverage. He surrendered 1,120 yards vs. 533 the previous year.
Williams insists his health is improving. He said he's pain-free and looked the part of an impact corner during organized team activities and minicamp — a role that grows exponentially in importance if the Packers continue to favor playing Charles Woodson at safety in their base defense.
"I believe if he's healthy, he's going to be as good as there is in the league," Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said of Williams during OTAs.
From missed tackles to big plays, the Packers had their share of defensive misfortunes last season, but the unit still led the league in interceptions (31) for the second time in three seasons.
"Obviously, I couldn't do what I want to do," Williams said. "But at the end of the day, (did) we have a terrible defense? Yeah, we did, but we were productive out there.
"We did what we've always done. We turned the ball over. We have some things to build off now. We have some more pieces to the puzzle and we're excited about it, and just ready to get back out there now."