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2 Green Bay Packers

Sept. 03, 2007
Sept. 03, 2007

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Sept. 3, 2007

SI Players: LIFE ON AND OFF THE FIELD
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2 Green Bay Packers

A beefy D and last year's big finish have the Green and Gold thinking it can challenge in the Black and Blue division

WHAT'S NEW

This is an article from the Sept. 3, 2007 issue

> A shut-downdefense. While all of football waits for Brett Favre to break the alltime marksfor touchdown passes (he needs seven), passing yards (he needs 3,862) andvictories by a quarterback (he needs two), the Packers' opponents have to thinkabout how to dent a resurgent Green Bay front four. That quartet helped key aterrific December in which the Pack won its last four games and held foes to anaverage of 10.5 points. Ends Aaron Kampman and Cullen Jenkins hold thepoint well on the run and just might combine for 30 sacks this year. RyanPickett and Corey Williams are strong middle-cloggers, and first-rounder JustinHarrell should eventually be a solid addition at tackle. If Green Bay can finda running back to replace Ahman Green (second-round pick Brandon Jackson orthird-year back Vernand Morency, who has had only one season of more than 140carries since his arrival at Oklahoma State) and survive a tough early schedule(four 2006 playoff teams in the first 29 days), this season won't be only theBrett Favre Race for the Records; it will be a playoff-contending year aswell.

WHERE THEY'REHEADED

> The biggestquestion around the Packers this summer: Was the 4-0 finish a mirage, withthree wins over teams going nowhere and a fourth coming against the Bears, ateam coasting into the postseason? Or was it an important jump on 2007,something that would carry over from December to September?

Of course, theplayers and coaches are going to say the momentum is still there, and it maywell be. The most important game of the four was the 26-7 night-game win overChicago on Dec. 31, and we'll never really know how much effort the Bears,having clinched home field advantage in the NFC, put into it. Chicago'sstarters played into the third quarter, except for Rex Grossman, who was pulledat halftime after throwing three interceptions that helped the Pack build a23-0 lead. (Grossman later admitted his focus was off because "it's thelast game, it's New Year's Eve.")

"That was ahuge game," says wide receiver Donald Driver. "They made the Super Bowllast year, but that day we beat them in all phases. We proved we were a betterteam than them that day." Asked if he thinks the Packers are better thanthe Bears today, Driver says yes: "Remember--we owned that division forthree years, before [2005]."

Now there's somebulletin-board fodder for their first meeting this year, a Sunday-nighter atLambeau on Oct. 7. For the Packers to have a prayer, though, they'd betterkeep Favre upright and safe from the fearsome Bears front. In the three gamesagainst Chicago before last year's finale, the Bears chased Favre all over thefield, sacked him seven times and picked off eight passes; he didn't throw atouchdown.

Favre, meanwhile,has put behind him an off-season in which he was at odds with the Packers'front office, and, at 37, he feels a bona fide hope that this can be a playoffyear. "I came back to win," he said during training camp. "I wasnever worried about the records before, and I certainly didn't come back tobreak them. I would be absolutely miserable if I ever played for records oranything other than to win ball games. I hope I don't need any records forpeople to remember me as a pretty good quarterback."

In the off-seasonhe felt general manager Ted Thompson didn't move quickly enough to trade forRandy Moss. The quarterback believed that teaming Moss with Driver, second-yearwideout Greg Jennings and glue-handed rookie James Jones could have made thePackers' receiving corps among the best in football. When Thompson dawdled, trying to get a better deal from the Raiders, the Patriots jumped in andsent a fourth-round pick to Oakland for Moss. "I was pretty upset aboutthat for a while," Favre said. "I'm still not sure why we didn't doit." Thompson admitted this summer that he might have been "a littletoo conservative."

At least this year,unlike the past several, Favre doesn't come in thinking he has to throw fourtouchdown passes in every game to win. In their 4-0 season-ending run, thePackers got terrific play from five cornerstone defenders--ends Jenkins andKampman, cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris, and linebacker A.J. Hawk.(Hawk had a Nitschke-like three-game stretch in November in which he made 39tackles.) "I feel so good about our first unit on defense," says coachMike McCarthy. "That'll be the catalyst of our team."

It's been a longtime since the catalyst in Green Bay was anything except Favre's play. It comesat a time when the quarterback would happily be a complementary player, if itjust meant the Packers were playing for something in Week 17.

PROJECTED STARTINGLINEUP

WITH 2006STATISTICS

COACH MIKE MCCARTHY(8-8 in NFL), second season with Packers

OFFENSE

DONALD DRIVER

POS WR

REC 92

YARDS 1,295

TD 8

 

BRANDON JACKSON (R)(New Aquisition)

POS RB

ATT 188

YARDS 989

AVG 5.3

REC 33

YARDS 313

AVG 9.5

TD 10

 

BRETT FAVRE

POS QB

ATT 613

COMP 343

PCT 56.0

YARDS 3,885

TD 18

INT 18

RATING 72.7

 

BRANDON MIREE

POS FB

ATT 0

YARDS 0

AVG --

REC 9

YARDS 57

AVG 6.3

TD 0

 

GREG JENNINGS

POS WR

REC 45

YARDS 632

TD 3

 

MARK TAUSCHER

POS RT

HT 6' 3"

WT 315

G 11

 

JASON SPITZ

POS RG

HT 6' 3"

WT 300

G 14

 

SCOTT WELLS

POS C

HT 6' 2"

WT 295

G 16

 

DARYN COLLEDGE

POS LG

HT 6'4"

WT 305

G 16

 

CHAD CLIFTON

POS LG

HT 6'5"

WT 320

G 15

 

DONALD LEE

POS TE

REC 10

YARDS 150

TD 0

 

DEFENSE

A.J. HAWK

POS WLB

TACKLES 119

SACKS 3 1/2

INT 2

 

AARON KAMPMAN

POS LE

TACKLES 89

SACKS 15 1/2

 

RYAN PICKETT

POS LT

TACKLES 64

SACKS 0

 

COREY WILLIAMS

POS RT

TACKLES 34

SACKS 7

 

CULLEN JENKINS

POS RE

TACKLES 32

SACKS 6 1/2

 

BRADY POPPINGA

POS SLB

TACKLES 60

SACKS 1

INT 1

 

CHARLESWOODSON

POS CB

TACKLES 59

INT 8

 

NICK COLLINS

POS FS

TACKLES 80

SACKS 0

INT 3

 

NICK BARNETT

POS MLB

TACKLES 105

SACKS 2

INT 2

 

ATARI BIGBY

POS SS

TACKLES 2

SACKS 0

INT 0

 

AL HARRIS

POS CB

TACKLES 41

INT 3


JON RYAN

POS P

PUNTS 84

AVG 44.5

 

MASON CROSBY (R)(New Aquisition)

POS K

FG 19-28

POINTS 76

 

NEW ACQUISITION(R) Rookie (college statistics)

> 2006 RECORD8-8 NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 23/8/9 DEFENSE 13/17/12

 

2007 SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER

9 PHILADELPHIA

16 at N.Y. Giants

23 SAN DIEGO

30 at Minnesota

OCTOBER

7 CHICAGO

14 WASHINGTON

21 Bye

29 at Denver (M)

NOVEMBER

4 at Kansas City

11 MINNESOTA

18 CAROLINA

22 at Detroit (T)

29 at Dallas (T)

DECEMBER

9 OAKLAND

16 at St. Louis

23 at Chicago

30 DETROIT

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank 23

Opponents' 2006winning percentage .492

Games againstplayoff teams 7

(M) Monday (T) Thursday

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PHOTOWALTER IOOSS JR. Insight
Favre takes aim at the alltime passing records with a strengthened supportingcast.
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