Defensive Line Applies Pressure

It may be a little too early to call him the next Lawrence Taylor, but Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila certainly resembled the Hall of Famer last Monday night against the Denver Broncos in preseason action.

Granted the second-year defensive end did much of his damage against the Broncos second unit offensive line, Gbaja-Biamila is having a great training camp on a Packer defensive line depleted by injuries. Five defensive lineman sat out against the Broncos in the Packers 22-7 victory on Monday night.

Gbaja-Biamila and defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt led a spirited effort on defense that was lacking the week prior in Cleveland. Each player recorded two sacks in the game. The Packer had six total sacks and created four Broncos turnovers which led to 13 points.

"I don't think we surprised ourself," commented defensive tackle Jim Flanigan concerning the depleted Packer defensive line. "We know they're a great running team, and I think they had a little bit of trouble getting their running game going."

The Broncos found offensive success early in the game on a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, but were shut down after that. They went scoreless on the last ten drives of the game, netting just 124 total yards during that span.

Gbaja-Biamila took advantage of Broncos' tackle Cooper Carlisle with his speed in the fourth quarter. Carlisle was called for holding which erased an 18-yard gain for a first down. On the very next play, Gbaja-Biamila broke through to force a Gus Frerotte fumble.

"I used my speed around the corner, just getting to the quarterback," said the 253-pound Gbaja-Biamila. "Maybe he didn't anticipate the speed, but I have no idea. They always hold me - I think every play they hold me. It has a lot to do with beating him around the corner right out of his stance."

After nearly not even making the team a year ago, Gbaja-Biamila is on the verge of becoming the pass rusher the Packers desperately need. He has been more impressive than first-round pick Jamal Reynolds thus far, whom the Packers brought in to harass opposing quarterbacks. Reynolds sat out Monday night's game with a bruised knee that he suffered in practice.

Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has taken notice of Gbaja-Biamila's improvement and points to one reason as the difference. "I think it's really his off-season," he said. "He's put on a little weight, put on some strength, and he's helped himself in the knowledge of the game."

As for Hunt, a stellar preseason campaign will be put on hold when the regular season begins. He will be suspended for the first four games due a violation of the league's substance abuse policy. Under league rules, however, he is still able to compete in preseason games and has done so impressively in the first two. He has kept his focus even through his crisis.

"With positive guys on my team," said Hunt, "they're helping me through a lot of things. They keep telling me, ‘keep your head up, keep your head up.'"

Others kept out of the game against the Broncos due to injury were Russell Maryland and Gilbert Brown (knee), who have missed significant practice time, and Santana Dotson and Steve Warren, who continue to recover from injuries suffered last season. Defensive ends Vonnie Holliday and John Thierry missed practice time early in training camp, but are back again at full speed. All, except Warren, are expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.

Until then, the backups continue to show that the Packers have some quality depth along their defensive line. That was evident against the Broncos.

"What we've been practicing is showing up on the football field," said Gbaja-Biamila.

Head coach Mike Sherman took notice of his team's improved play and effort from the preseason opener.

"I'm very excited about the way we tackled and hit people today," he said. "I thought that was the highlight of the day; the emotion that they played with and the intensity I thought was very good."

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