"I'm concerned," Philbin said after Monday's practice. "Absolutely concerned. Yep. Definitely."
In three preseason games, the Packers have given up a league-high 14 sacks. That's including six by Aaron Rodgers in about four quarters of work.
It's an alarming figure for Philbin, who has emphasized the Packers' annual problem with sacks. In Rodgers' three seasons as the starter, he's been sacked a whopping 115 times. For sake of comparison, Brett Favre was sacked 438 times in 16 seasons in Green Bay — or about 11 times less per season.
"I'm always concerned," Philbin said. "I have confidence that our guys are capable of doing a great job. That I'm supremely confident in. Again, the proof's in the pudding. Three years of this has not been good. It's not been good. The facts don't lie. We've got to address it. It's a huge point. We made a big point out of it on July 28 when we got together. I'm not panicking but you are what you are. When you watch the film, it's not very good."
While Philbin wouldn't attribute the breakdowns to fatigue stemming from the No. 1 offense's use of the no-huddle, fundamentals are typically the first thing out the window when fatigue sets in.
"The film that I saw, they were punching our guys and pushing them back and we weren't punching them," he said. "It was pretty clear and pretty evident. That's what I saw on film. We've got to do a better job. If you're going to instruct your quarterback to drop back and throw the ball, you've got to keep those other guys away from him. We've got to do a better job. We just have to."
Rodgers sat out practice with a foot strain that had been bothering him and flared up in the morning. It was a good day to rest because the starting units ran the scout teams to maximize the prep time for the backups who are fighting for roster spots and will play most of Thursday's preseason finale against Kansas City.
"I thought there were some excellent snaps," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I liked the work that was going on. You just have to trust your instincts. I think we hit the wall. We've got a game to play here, and it's important for a lot of young players in our locker room. So, I want to make sure I give them every chance to get ready for that contest to win a job on our football team. Felt it early in practice. Randall Cobb went down, Ryan Taylor went down, I thought it was time to pull back."
With an eye toward the regular season and the health of his team, McCarthy cut practice short by about 20 minutes.
Neal: Hopeful for opener
Defensive end Mike Neal, who has been sidelined since Aug. 16 after twisting a knee at practice, hopes to return to practice next week and play in the Sept. 8 opener against New Orleans.
"The MRIs proved everything was the way we wanted it to look," Neal said. "The big thing we were dealing with was the amount of swelling that was keeping me from being as mobile as I needed to be. Once the swelling went away, everything was going to be fine. Once we get all that fluid out of there, we'll be fine."
Neal's return is vital since he's being counted on to replace some of the pass rush that Cullen Jenkins took with him to Philadelphia.
"I'm not Cullen, I'm not trying to be Cullen, I don't care who wants me to be Cullen," Neal said when asked about fans' expectations. "I'm Mike Neal and that's the type of football that I'm going to play. I'm just concerned with making my name with the coaches and being reliable and accountable."
Old injuries: S Anthony Levine (concussion), LB K.C. Asiodu, LB Frank Zombo (shoulder), G Adrian Battles (Achilles), T Chris Campbell (shoulder), WR Jordy Nelson (knee), TE Jermichael Finley (ankle), WR James Jones (knee bruise), DE Lawrence Guy (concussion), DE Mike Neal (knee).
New injuries: QB Aaron Rodgers (foot strain), WR Randall Cobb (knees), TE Ryan Taylor (hip flexor).
— Cornerback Sam Shields set the blogosphere atwitter before training camp with the Super Bowl ring that was tattooed to his neck. "I had just finished it. It was swollen and big. That's why there were a lot of people who were like, ‘Oh, ewww.' Now, when they see it, it's, ‘It doesn't look that bad.' People's opinions, I can't control it. I wanted it on my neck. First year, Super Bowl ring, I wanted it to stand out so I put it on my neck."
— Five players were on all four No. 1 special teams units this week: Pat Lee, Tom Crabtree, Alex Green, D.J. Smith and Jarrett Bush. A sixth, Taylor, generally is on all four but wasn't on kickoff return because of the injury.
— With the roster to be cut to 80 on Tuesday and 53 on Saturday, GM Ted Thompson was asked about the challenge of balancing production vs. potential in selecting the final roster: "You try to look at everything. At the end of the day, you try to evaluate production and what they can do for the team, and second what they can do for the team over the long haul. You try to use your experience as evaluators and coaches to try and make the best decisions. I think we have a fair body of work. It's not as large a body of work as you normally would have, but we've been with these guys for a while now."
— Philbin, on the roster prospects of running back Dimitri Nance and fullback Quinn Johnson: "They've done a good job. Each one of those guys has some unique talents that they bring to the offense. I think Dimitri's done a good job when he's had the opportunity. Obviously, these guys have one more opportunity. Thursday night's important for a lot of guys, and it's important for us as a staff to get a feel for who exactly can fit and make our decisions based on the body of work. There's still some things out there that the picture needs to be clarified a bit."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.