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4 Green Bay Packers

Sept. 04, 2006
Sept. 04, 2006

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Sept. 4, 2006

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4 Green Bay Packers

Brett Favre takes one more shot, but glory will be elusive unless the line, the back and the wideouts all come through

THE BELIEF
Brett Favre will reprise the climactic movie scene in The Natural, playing afootball version of Roy Hobbs in Packers jersey number 4. Ahman Green will befully recovered from quadriceps surgery that cut short his 2005 season and willrush for at least 1,300 yards. Rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk, the fifth pick inthe draft, and free-agent corner Charles Woodson will make a respectabledefense better. New coach Mike McCarthy's sunny disposition will help expungethe memory of last year's dismal 4--12 campaign, Green Bay's first losingseason since 1991.

This is an article from the Sept. 4, 2006 issue Original Layout

THE REALITY
There is plenty of juice left in Favre's Hall of Fame right wing. "Believeme, guys still have to get their hands up in front of their faces coming out oftheir breaks," says Donald Driver, the Packers' leading receiver in threeof the last four years. How much is left in Favre's heart, gut andsoon-to-be-37-year-old legs is another issue. McCarthy and his staff are in aticklish position, building their first season around an old quarterback whowill be gone before they are. During off-season workouts that focused onsecond-year quarterback Aaron Rodgers, new offensive coordinator JeffJagodzinski told McCarthy, "We're getting ready for A.F.--AfterFavre."

In the present,Favre is coming off a year in which he had a career-high 29 interceptions and acareer-low 70.9 quarterback rating. Then he came to training camp andimplausibly called this team the most talented in his tenure. More correctly,it's a team of question marks. Green didn't start hitting until midway throughcamp. He and Favre will work behind a retooled line that includes rookie guardsTony Moll (fifth round, Nevada) and Jason Spitz (third, Louisville).

Nevertheless, therunning game has to keep the Packers out of third-and-long, the situations inwhich Favre, these days, is inclined to gamble. The trouble is that thereceivers are scarcely more diverse than a year ago. Wideout Javon Walker, whocaught 89 balls in 2004 but blew out his right ACL in the '05 opener, wastraded to Denver. The reliable Driver returns, and the next-best receiver couldbe rookie Greg Jennings, a second-round pick from Western Michigan.

The defenseranked seventh in the NFL last year, but the Packers were minus-24 inturnovers. McCarthy's new coordinator, Bob Sanders, has not changed Jim Bates'smatchup-zone system. "For the most part, we know what we can do and we knowwhat's expected of us," says end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.

Much is expectedof Woodson (seven years, $39 million, a three-time All-Pro from Oakland) andHawk (six years, $37.5 million, out of Ohio State). The 6'1", 245-poundHawk has to develop quickly into the dynamic playmaker he was in college, wherehe specialized in sideline-to-sideline pursuit and swift coverage drops."We think he can get on the edge and rush the passer, too," saysMcCarthy, increasing the load on his rookie. Hawk welcomes the heat. "Theyhave high expectations," he says. "I have high expectationstoo."

Yet the Packers'season could be defined by their ability to avoid a severe drop in morale, likethe one that led to embarrassing defeats in the second half of '05. "As acoach, I can say we're over going 4--12," says McCarthy. "But I'm notnaive; we need to start fast, or all those negative emotions will come rightback."

2006 SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER

10 CHICAGO

17 NEWORLEANS

24 at Detroit

OCTOBER

2 at Philadelphia(M)

8 ST. LOUIS

15 Bye

22 at Miami

29 ARIZONA

NOVEMBER

5 at Buffalo

12 atMinnesota

19 NEWENGLAND

27 at Seattle(M)

DECEMBER

3 N.Y. JETS

10 at SanFrancisco

17 DETROIT

21 MINNESOTA(T)

31 at Chicago

(M) Monday (T)Thursday

SCHEDULESTRENGTH
NFL rank 31
Opponents' 2005 winning percentage .449
Games against playoff teams 4

ENEMY LINES
AN OPPOSING TEAM'S SCOUT SIZES UP THE PACKERS

> This is mydark-horse team to have a solid year. Brett Favre is still good, just a littleinconsistent. But he's still got the arm and he's a tough guy at heart.

> If theythought Aaron Rodgers was ready, they wouldn't have tried to get Favre back andwaited so long for him to make up his mind.

> It was agood move getting rid of Javon Walker. Big-time receivers want the ball all thetime, and they tear up the locker room.

> One playeron this team who is overrated is Aaron Kampman. Green Bay re-signed him for alot of money [four years, $21 million], but he's just a try-hard defensive endwho doesn't make any plays.

> I think theoffensive line will be all right, but the Packers aren't deep there and can'tafford any injuries--or they'll be in trouble.

New defensivetackle Ryan Pickett plays his best against the good teams, which is unusual inthis league.

BREAKOUTPLAYER
Nick Barnett
LINEBACKER

The Packerscredited the fourth-year middle linebacker with a team-record 194 tackles in2005. Typical of the quick, smallish (6'2", 232) linebackers who controlsome of the NFL's most effective D's with pursuit and sure tackling, Barnetthas missed just one game in three years. Flanked by talented rookie A.J. Hawk(and possibly another rookie, Abdul Hodge from Iowa), Barnett, the team'sfirst-round draft pick out of Oregon State in 2003, should ascend to the elitelevel at his position after two years as a Pro Bowl alternate.

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PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP

WITH 2005STATISTICS

COACH MIKEMCCARTHY (0--0 in NFL), first season with Green Bay

OFFENSE

DONALD DRIVER
POS WR 
REC 86 
YARDS 1,221
TD 5

AHMAN GREEN
POS RB 
RUSH 77 
YARDS 255
TD 0

BRETT FAVRE
POS QB 
ATT 607
COMP 372 
PCT 61.3
YARDS 3,881 
TD 20 
INT 29 
RATING 70.9

WILLIAMHENDERSON
POS FB
REC 30 
YARDS 264
TD 0

ROBERT FERGUSON
POS WR 
REC 27 
YARDS 366 
TD 3

DAVE RAYNER (NewAcquisition)
POS K
FG 0-1
POINTS 0

BUBBA FRANKS
POS TE
REC 25 
YARDS 207 
TD 1

CHAD CLIFTON
POS LT
HT 6'5"
WT 330 
G 16

JASON SPITZ (R)(New Acquisition)
POS LG 
HT 6'4" 
WT 313 
G 12

SCOTT WELLS
POS C 
HT 6'2" 
WT 304 
G 16

TONY MOLL (R)(New Acquisition)
POS RG 
HT 6'5" 
WT 308 
G 12

MARK TAUSCHER
POS RT
HT 6'4" 
WT 315
G 16

DEFENSE

A.J. HAWK (R) (New Acquisition)
POS WLB 
TACKLES 121 
SACKS 9 1/2 
INT 1

AARON KAMPMAN
POS LE
TACKLES 81 
SACKS 6 1/2

RYAN PICKETT (NewAcquisition)
POS LT
TACKLES 65
SACKS 2

COREY WILLIAMS
POS RT
TACKLES 17
SACKS 2

KABEERGBAJA-BIAMILA
POS RE
TACKLES 51
SACKS 8

BEN TAYLOR (NewAcquisition)
POS SLB
TACKLES 113 
SACKS 0
INT 0

JON RYAN* (R)(New Acquisition)
POS P 
PUNTS 118 
AVG 50.6

AL HARRIS
POS CB
TACKLES 53  
SACKS 3
INT 3

MARQUAND MANUEL(New Acquisition)
POS SS 
TACKLES 71
SACKS 0
INT 0

NICK BARNETT
POS MLB 
TACKLES 138
SACKS 1
INT 1

NICK COLLINS
POS FS 
TACKLES 84 
SACKS 0 
INT 1

CHARLES WOODSON(New Acquisition)
POS CB
TACKLES 30 
INT 1

(R) Rookie(college statistics) *CFL stats

2005 RECORD4--12
NFL RANK (RUSH/PASS/TOTAL) OFFENSE 30/7/18 DEFENSE 23/1/7

PHOTOROBERT SKEOCH/WIREIMAGE.COMPICKETTPHOTOHEINZ KLUETMEIERRISK MANAGEMENT The Pack must minimize third-and-longs, when Favre has tended to gamble too much.PHOTODEHOOG/TDPTWO PHOTOSPHOTOHELMET PHOTO BY DAVID N. BERKWITZ