Injuries hurting Packers defense

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Associated Press
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
— The Green Bay Packers are saving the most creative chapters of their defensive playbook for the regular season. And at least some of their key injured players should be healthy in time for the Sept. 12 opener at Philadelphia.

So maybe it’s not a big deal that their defense is giving up big plays in the preseason, continuing a disturbing trend from the end of last season.

Charles Woodson

isn’t interested in excuses.

“I think we’re as good as what we’ve shown, and I don’t think it’s all that great,” Woodson said. “There’s improvements for us to make.

“Hopefully, by the time the first game gets here, we’ll have some things ironed out and know who’s going to be in there and those sort of things and just take off running.”

Still, going into Thursday night’s final preseason game at Kansas City, Packers coach Mike McCarthy says he wants to see more from several young players who could be forced into important roles if the team’s injury situation doesn’t clear up soon.

“Thursday night is a big night for a number of players,” McCarthy said. “It is our responsibility as coaches to make sure we give them the opportunities to show what they can do.”

For all their offensive brilliance in last Thursday’s 59-24 preseason rout of the Indianapolis Colts, the first-team defense had issues. They gave up two touchdowns and a field goal in a little more than a quarter and several big plays, including a 49-yard run on the Colts’ first play from scrimmage and three pass plays of 24 yards or more.

The Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks—two teams not expected to rank among the league’s most dynamic offenses this season—also moved the ball effectively in the Packers’ first two preseason games.

“You can be better, you can be worse. It’s up to us,” said defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who is sitting out with a calf injury but expects to be ready for the regular season. “We decide how it is. And we definitely have the ability to be better, it’s just up to us to go out there, prepare for it and then go out and do it.”

For now, Green Bay’s offense seems more than capable of winning its share of shootout games, but Woodson doesn’t want the season to play out that way.

“I love to play on a team with a high-powered offense, but at some point during the season, they’re going to need us to step up and play good football, get off the field, make plays or whatever,” Woodson said. “I don’t like going in with the mindset that we have to depend on the offense. We’ve got a lot of corrections we have to make. A lot of guys are going to have to step up and play this year.”

And a lot of those guys are young.

Safety Atari Bigby had ankle surgery at the beginning of training camp and may begin the season on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he would miss the first six games. In his place is Morgan Burnett, a third-round rookie.

Cornerback Al Harris is recovering from last year’s season-ending knee injury, and it’s not clear if he’ll be ready for the regular season, either.

The Packers still have Woodson and Tramon Williams, but are trying to find a nickel cornerback they can count on. Pat Lee and Brandon Underwood—who is nursing a shoulder injury—haven’t done enough to win the job, so coaches now are giving undrafted free agent Sam Shields a chance.

“Once he really learns his game, I think he’s going to be a pretty good corner,” Woodson said of Shields. “Between now and then, he (doesn’t) have much time but he’ll be ready.”

The Packers also were hoping for a healthy Will Blackmon to provide depth at safety and nickel cornerback. But Blackmon’s surgically repaired left knee continues to cause trouble.

“Will’s just going through a tough spot right now,”

McCarthy said. “He’s coming off that knee surgery, and especially at his position, it’s been tough. Will has put a lot of time into this. He had a very strong offseason, but it’s probably not responding the way he would like right now.”

At outside linebacker, the Packers are getting by for now without Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Brad Jones (shoulder). Veteran Brady Poppinga and undrafted free agent Frank Zombo are taking most of the repetitions with the first-team defense.

No matter who’s playing outside linebacker for the Packers, they’ll have to provide a better pass rush—or the Packers will be leaning heavily on their high-powered offense.

“We don’t want to go into this season thinking we have an offense that can put up points so we can just go out there and whatever happens, happens,” Woodson said. “That’s not taking any pride in what you do as a professional. We won’t go out there like that.”

Chery earns another

chance against Chiefs

Jason Chery had to lobby his way into the Packers’ return game, begging coaches on the sideline to let him field a punt in last week’s preseason game against Indianapolis.

They gave in at the last second, Chery ran on the field—and immediately returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown. Chery now will handle both punt and kickoff returns in Thursday night’s preseason finale at Kansas City, giving him a chance to earn a roster spot.

Chery, who played college football at Louisiana-Lafayette and spent time on the practice squad with Carolina and Pittsburgh last season, said he hopes his big play opened the coaches’ eyes.

Last updated: 2:36 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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