Scrimmage dampens optimism

When a B.J. Sander punt and a juggling catch by hands-of-stone tight end Ben Steele are the highlights of a scrimmage, well, that's not a good thing.

The Packers ought to consider playing themselves in future Family Night scrimmages. At least then, there would be something positive to glean from the event.

Friday night at Lambeau Field, however, the Buffalo Bills showed that the Packers' glass is half empty rather than half full.

Buffalo gained 305 yards on its 52 plays, while the Packers gained 61 yards on its 51 plays. To further show the lopsidedness of the proceedings, the Bills averaged 5.9 yards per play compared to the Packers' 3.6 feet per play. Yes, the Bills averaged more yards per play than the Packers averaged in feet.

"We would have liked better execution on both sides of the ball," Packers coach Mike Sherman said.

That line brings back memories of former Tampa Bay coach John McKay. When asked about his team's execution, he replied: "I think it's a good idea."

While Green Bay's No. 1 defense held its own against Buffalo's No. 1 offense — which is led by a first-year starting quarterback — the Packers' lack of depth became evident as the night wore on. Buffalo's No. 2 offense had its way with Green Bay's reserves and accounted for the lion's share of the yards. The depth behind the starting linebackers is deplorable.

Most disconcerting, however, was the play by the offensive line. Packers quarterbacks were sacked eight times. It's a good thing the quarterbacks were off limits to tacklers, or else lord only knows who would be the starter on Thursday against San Diego.

Considering the Chargers will get to hit Brett Favre and Co. next week, you think the Packers will work on picking up blitzes in practice? Yes, Brett Favre is in great shape, but he's no Michael Vick.

More practice time will help, but the interior of the line — such a strength when Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle were the starting guards — has gone from a 4 to a 9 on the Concern Scale. For those of you who are a bit confused, Sam Adams plays for the Bills, though he did spend much of the night in the Packers' backfield. The 8,000-pound defensive tackle thoroughly dominated center Mike Flanagan and starting guards Grey Ruegamer and Atlas Herrion.

(As an aside, when Grady Jackson comes asking for more money, Packers general manager Ted Thompson should invite Jackson to watch film of Adams' play in the scrimmage. Jackson is a fine player, no doubt, but Adams was an absolute menace.)

On the bright side, Ruegamer and Herrion won't necessarily be the starting guards when the season opens. It was just their turn in the Packers' daily rotation. On the down side, however, the Packers signed Matt O'Dwyer and Adrian Klemm as free agents and they are supposed to be the starters, but they haven't done anything to separate themselves.

If you're looking for positives — you know, something a little more meaty than Sander not killing a fan with a shanked punt — then the play of the defense offers a little promise. After struggling in Thursday's scrimmage against the Bills, the Packers' No. 1 unit more than held its own against Buffalo's group.

To be fair, the Bills' offense isn't the second coming of Minnesota's explosive group, but Willis McGahee is a rising star, and the Packers held him to 32 yards on 12 rushes. The Packers stuffed him on three consecutive plays from inside the 3-yard line. Not bad with Jackson and Cletidus Hunt injured and taking the night off.

Quarterback J.P. Losman is inexperienced, but he does have some weapons with Josh Reed, Eric Moulds and Lee Evans at receiver. The Packers' secondary didn't get burned, though, even with rookie Mike Hawkins and Ahmad Carroll starting in place of the injured Al Harris and Joey Thomas. Heck, Carroll didn't even get penalized, which is reason enough to throw a parade.

Don't put too much weight on one practice — and that was what Friday's event was. However, keep in mind the Packers' shortcomings from Friday night, and see if there's any improvement in those areas Thursday against San Diego.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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