Notebook: Better Outlook on Offense

Mark Tauscher is a big reason why the Packers open their offense won't stumble out of the gate to start the season. Plus, much more from Thursday, including Greg Jennings returning punts and Mike McCarthy's road history.

During the preseason, Aaron Rodgers completed 77.4 percent of his passes with six touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 141.2. He wasn't sacked once. During last year's preseason, Rodgers completed 70.7 percent of his passes with six touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 147.9. He wasn't sacked once.

In the first halves of last year's preseason games, the Packers scored 79 points, or 19.8 points per game. This year, they scored 62, or 15.5 per game.

Of course, things went haywire when the regular season started. The offense still put points on the board but it was hamstrung by the 20 sacks allowed in the first four games and the 37 sacks in the first eight.

Why will things be different this year?

"Well, we have a little less question marks than we did a year ago," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "Obviously, we've got a right tackle (Mark Tauscher) playing for us that's played a lot of football here in Green Bay, and no disrespect to the one we had last year (Allen Barbre), but we were trying somebody out in essence at right tackle. We've got a veteran player there who's played a lot of games in the National Football League. Our guys are a year older, so to speak, (Daryn) Colledge is in his fifth year, (Chad) Clifton's in his 11th, (Scott) Wells is in his seventh, Aaron's starting his, what, 34th game (including playoffs). That hopefully is worth something. So, I think we've got more experience. Hopefully, our depth's maybe a hair better. We're relatively healthy, we've had our guys practicing a good amount. If you believe in the value of practice, it's got to mean something. So, those things hopefully translate into productivity."

Jennings in punt return plans

Greg Jennings was in the punt return rotation at practice and will rotate with Tramon Williams on what special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum called a "situational" basis.

"Very natural catching the ball and he's an excellent runner with the ball," Slocum said of Jennings, who returned five punts for 29 yards during his rookie season of 2006.

Whether it's Williams or Jennings or both, the Packers are gambling that a critical starter won't be injured during a return. Clearly, they think the reward outweighs the risk.

"This is an organizational decision that Mike (McCarthy) and Ted (Thompson) and myself have discussed, and it's something that we keep in mind, the number of plays and where we are offensive and defensively with two starters as a returner," Slocum said. "That decision can be highly impactful in the ballgame. We want to be all-in with our units."

Road warriors

Something's got to give.

The Packers have come home from Philadelphia with a loss in their last nine treks to visit the Eagles, a streak dating to 1962. But in coach Mike McCarthy's first four seasons as coach, the Packers are 18-14 on the road, which is the eighth-best mark in the league over that time. While the Packers haven't opened on the road during his tenure, he is 4-0 in the season's first road game.

"Starting on the road I would say is a bigger challenge because it is opening day," McCarthy said. "Opening day brings a bigger sense of urgency and energy and it is a national TV game. It's a lot like a Monday night-type football game in my opinion. There is a lot of excitement around opening day, and on top of that you are playing on the road. Playing on the road in the NFL is very difficult."

Just like the team did at times during training camp, big speakers blare out crowd noise to help simulate the road environment.

"What isn't it about Philly that makes it a difficult place?" receiver Greg Jennings said in turning a questioner's query on its ear. "No. 1, their fans. Their fans, boy, they're ornery. They're ornery from the moment you come through that tunnel. Any time you're playing away, the home team is playing downhill mentality. They have the advantage because they have that 12th man. You have to come out and counter punch them in the mouth before they actually hit you. That's our mind-set."

Packers injury report

Did not participate — LB Desmond Bishop (hamstring), DE Mike Neal (side), LB Brady Poppinga (knee), CB Brandon Underwood (shoulder). Full participation — T/G Bryan Bulaga (hip), DE Cullen Jenkins (calf), LB Brad Jones (shoulder), LB Clay Matthews (hamstring).

New to the list was Neal, who strained an abdominal late in Monday's practice. McCarthy remains "very encouraged" by Underwood's progress but will have a better grasp on Friday of his availability for the game. Bishop went from limited participation to none but wasn't worried about Sunday.

Eagles injury report

None reported.

Four-point stance

Charles Woodson is signed through 2014. One reason why he signed is that the coaching staff has taken care of him physically. That means practicing less as the season goes on.

"We'll see where he is medically," McCarthy said. "Just very conscious with Charles, especially when the players get up in seven- or eight-plus years is really a line that I use that I really refer to the medical staff. But at some point, like we have in the past, we will definitely start watching his reps."

— The Eagles will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their 1960 NFL championship this weekend. Philadelphia beat Green Bay, handing Vince Lombardi his first and only postseason setback. That game — the launching point for the Glory Years — will be featured in the new Packer Report magazine. (Donald Driver is the Cover Story.)

— Two of the NFL's big-play receivers are Jennings and the Eagles' DeSean Jackson. Of Jennings' 28 career touchdowns, 13 have covered at least 40. Of Jackson's 12 touchdowns last year, 10 covered at least 35 yards.

— The over-under on Sunday's game is a lot less than you might think: 47.5 on Green Bay is a three-point favorite.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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