Can the Packer defensive line continue to provide consistent pressure on the quarterback each week?
If Sunday's season opener against the Detroit Lions is any indicator, maybe they can. Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell's rotating defensive line provided seven sacks in an encouraging 28-6 victory at rainy Lambeau Field.
Yes, it is just one game, but one game that provided a blueprint of what Donatell's defensive schemes can accomplish. Included among those things are sacks, turnovers, and contributions from a variety of players who rely on each other.
The big question mark in the off-season for the Packer defense was how to put better pressure on the quarterback with their defensive line. At least for one week, they found the answer.
"We've raised the bar," said Donatell. "We think we have a new combination... really it's all ahead of us, but our mindset is that we are going to have a very effective four-man rush."
The rush came from several new faces for the Packers as well. While first-round draft pick Jamal Reynolds was supposed to be the answer, second-year defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila has stepped up. After a strong preseason, he had the best game of his young career, sacking Lions' quarterback Charlie Batch three times and making life miserable for rookie tackle Jeff Backus. Gbaja-Biamila's second sack forced a Batch fumble that was recovered by Bernardo Harris.
"Thank God for the people around me like (Jim) Flanigan, Vonnie (Holliday), all these people" said Gbaja-Biamila. "Sacks are a team effort. I can't even take credit for it. It's the DB's doing their job, the linebackers, the coaches... it's a team effort."
Off-season acquisition Jim Flanigan started in his first game with the Packers and was excited to say the least. With his father, Jim Sr., a former Packer himself, and his brother watching from the sidelines, Flanigan had two sacks in his debut.
"I couldn't really imagine it being much better," said Flanigan about his initial regular season appearance in green and gold.
Defensive tackle Santana Dotson played in his first game since Nov. 27 of last season and played well. He suffered a partially-torn quadriceps muscle in a game against the Carolina Panthers last November that prematurely ended his 2000 season.
Holliday joined the sack parade with two sacks of his own along a Packer defensive line that rotated eight players. Gilbert Brown started and played in his first game since 1999 after being out of football for a season, and John Thierry, Billy Lyon, and newly-acquired Rod Walker also contributed.
Helping the Packer defensive cause was a 21-0 first-quarter lead that Brett Favre and Co. spotted them. The Packer defense knew they could tee off on Batch and was successful doing so.
"We're going to be very dominant, especially defensive line-wise, with a good seven or eight-man rotation," said Dotson. "We're going to be a hard defensive line to contend with. Offensive lines are going to have to do a lot of preparation to get ready for us."