Let's get back to the question on if the Packers improved themselves. Linebacker Nick Barnett at 235 pounds (recently added 15 pounds) doesn't seem to be the best fit for the middle linebacker spot. But one other linebacker that comes to mind with that size and athleticism would be Chicago's Brian (converted safety also) Urlacher. His early success in this league has been accomplished by his team's huge defensive line. Because of their size and speed and the ability to take up blockers Urlacher has had the luxury to not have to take on blockers and roam sideline to sideline.
That changed last year with the injuries suffered to the Bears' defensive line. With Urlacher having to take on blockers for the first time in his career, his athleticism was limited and thus not as effective as he had been in the past. So the phrase "it all starts up front" still holds true.
To keep this from happening the Packers moved up and selected Kenny Peterson, a 6-foot-3, 298-pound defensive end/tackle from "The" Ohio State University, and James Lee, a 6-foot-4, 327 pound defensive tackle and teammate of Barnett. We saw in the recent Super Bowl how the defensive line of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominated the game. The Packers had trouble up the middle stopping the run and depending on Brett Favre way too much.
In the last couple of years we have surrounded Favre with offensive talent such as All Pro athletes at the wide receiver, tight end and running back positions. Remember back when the Pack had quarterback Lynn Dickey and surrounded him with all-pro and Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton, all-pro receivers John Jefferson and tight end Paul Coffman? They would put up 35 points and over 400 yards total offense and still lose because our defense couldn't stop the run. With this year's defensive draft the pressure on Favre to score every time he walks on the field should be eliminated.
The rest of the draft produced two more linebackers and the fastest player in the draft. Chris Johnson, a cornerback from Louisville claims he's been clocked at 4.1 in the 40-yard dash. Coach Sherman says "we've had him at 4.2 and that's fast". Johnson (6-0, 187) is big and extremely athletic, but played strictly man-to-man and is raw in his ability.
An offensive tackle was taken in the sixth round and could be the tallest player to ever play for the Pack. Brennan Curtin (6-9, 321) of Notre Dame plays both tackle positions. A wide receiver and receiver /kick returner DeAndrew Rubin (5-11, 190) South Florida were picked late. When healthy he's been said to be the most exciting player on the field. Throw in the trade for cornerback Al Harris and presto seven defensive players taken and only 3 on the offensive side in this year's draft.
Remember it's only on paper and has yet to be realized but it looks good so far.
Editor's note: Former safety Johnnie Gray played for the Packers from 1975-84. He was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame in 1994. E-mail him at Gray_24@msn.com.