Packers' ups and downs

Favre, Longwell get thumbs up; Hawkins, linebackers thumbs down

Thursday night's preseason opener didn't tell us much about the Green Bay Packers and how they will fare this season.

The starters didn't go long, and for defensive purposes San Diego didn't play running back Ladanian Tomlinson or tight end Antonio Gates (holdout). So, we still don't know about this allegedly-improved defense.

But there were 60 minutes and through that there was plenty to look at —both good and bad. With that in mind, here's a thumbs-up, thumbs-down look at the Packers' first preseason game.

Thumbs up: Brett Favre looked like a recent three-time MVP, not none from the mid 1990s. He was 9 of 10 for 91 yards and one touchdown pass to Donald Driver. He's in great shape, moved well and still can throw any pass. His performance makes one wonder if 2005 will be another 30-plus TD season.

Thumbs down: The Packers fumbled six times and lost three of them. It's preseason, so this can be worked on, but here we go again with Ahman Green (two fumbles). He fumbles when it rains or when he sweats like a pig. This needs to be taken care of, because the Packers can't turn the ball over to an opponent with the defense Green Bay likely will field.

Thumbs up: B.J. Sander averaged 46 yards on a rainy night. He looked much different than a year ago when he averaged 36 yards in his first preseason game. Plus, he held for Ryan Longwell, who kicked the game-winning 53-yards field goal.

Thumbs down: The Packers' running game wasn't effective at all (63 yards from running backs). New guards Will Whitticker and Adrian Klemm didn't provide the holes the departed Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera have in the past. Still, there's time to iron this out, and Whitticker probably won't be a starter when Sept. 11 rolls around. Expect Grey Ruegamer to start with Klemm.

Thumbs up: Ryan Longwell kicked a 53-yard field goal in a steady rain. Kicking a 53-yarder in perfect conditions is tough enough. This kick proves Longwell is among the best in the NFL, even if he never gets a Pro Bowl invite.

Thumbs down: Packers linebackers, with the exception of Nick Barnett, were no match for San Diego when the Chargers decided to throw short passes to running backs. The lack of speed at this position is obvious and other teams, like Detroit (Kevin Jones), Minnesota (Michael Bennett) and Chicago (Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson) can take advantage of this and make simple plays go for long gains.

Thumbs up: Nick Collins intercepted a pass in the end zone, and although there was nobody around him, Collins did his job by playing centerfield. Still, the jury's out on Collins, who needs to prove he was worthy of being a second-round pick.

Thumbs down: Aaron Rodgers looked like a rookie, completing 2 of 6 passes for 7 yards. He was a little wild, throwing high and wide, but it was his first NFL action. There's plenty of time for Rodgers to improve, but Craig Nall widened his lead on Rodgers for the No. 2 QB spot based on Rodgers' play.

Thumbs up: Mike Sherman correctly challenged a touchdown call by officials, who ruled San Diego caught a TD pass in the corner of the end zone. The call was reversed and saved seven points for the Packers. Hey, it's only preseason, but even coaches need practice on instant replay.

Thumbs down: Michael Hawkins was beat easily on San Diego's lone touchdown of the game when he didn't react quick enough to a move by Willie Quinnie, who caught a 34-yard TD pass down the middle of the field. Hawkins, who has little college experience, will learn from this, but he didn't show good instincts on the play.

Thumbs up: Donald Driver made a nice 23-yard reception for a TD. It was typical Driver as he went up and snagged the pass over a defender from Favre, who obviously knew where to put it.

Thumbs up: Andrae Thurman averaged 33 yards on two kickoff returns. A player on the outside looking in in regards to making the roster, this is what Thurman needs to do to have a shot — show you can contribute on special teams.

Thumbs up: The Packers won 10-7. Not a big deal, but if you're going to play, you might as well win.


Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.


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