Youth may prevail at guard positions

Whitticker, Wells get good look against Bills

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Conventional wisdom says that the Packer offense should sputter early after losing rock-solid guards, Mike Wahle (Carolina) and Marco Rivera (Dallas) to free agency.

Emphatically on the contrary. The current Green Bay Packer offense has ignored this rebuilding attitude, showcasing the cohesiveness of a team in mid-season form. No single play symbolized this unity on offense more than quarterback Brett Favre's theatrics on Green Bay's first series at Buffalo.

On second down, Favre faked a handoff to Ahman Green on the left side, turned, looked Bills' linebacker, Jeff Posey square in the eye, eluded him by waving the ball in the air while shifting his vision back to his left where he lofted a perfect touch pass to Green for six.

A bread-and-butter play? Of course not. Favre's improvising tendencies have become etched in the minds of Green and the rest of the offense, creating an unstoppable force.

"I saw the blitz coming down, so I told myself that I got to be alert and if Brett doesn't get sacked, to get to the end zone," said Green explaining the score. "And that's what I did."

While it's pleasant to see Favre dissecting defenses as expected, there is one major issue that must be resolved in order for the offense to continue hitting their stride.

In fact, the success of the entire Green Bay offense could boil down to a pair of unheralded seventh-round draft picks.

As training camp and preseason have swung into full-gear, heated competition at the offensive guard positions have turned full throttle. Veterans Adrian Klemm and Matt O'Dwyer are battling against 2004 and 2005 seventh-round draft picks, Will Whitticker and Scott Wells. Despite the former two combining for 15 years of NFL experience, there's a good chance youth will prevail.

Matched up against perennial pro-bowler Sam Adams, the 6-foot-5, 338 pounds Whitticker had the opportunity to close the door on his competition at right guard. The verdict may still be out.

"I worked my butt off," said Whitticker. "I mean he is a big guy and he got me one time and ‘pancaked' me but you just have to get up off the ground and continue to get after it the next couple plays."

Pancakes aside, Whitticker's performance Saturday seemed light years ahead of Green Bay's scrimmage against Buffalo earlier this month. During the scrimmage, Green Bay's quarterbacks were ‘sacked' eight times compared to the 14 sacks Green Bay succumbed all of last season. Saturday, Whitticker protected the inside blitzes, keeping Favre off of the turf.

Furthermore, you can see the trust factor between the backs and the line growing on a daily basis. Against San Diego, the Packers' rushing woes were well-documented as Green Bay managed 2.5 yards per rushing attempt. Similar to their pass protection, Green Bay's revamped group of big-uglies made marked improvements, paving the way for a 4.6 average. After playing well into the second quarter, Green gained valuable gelling sessions with the line.

"We're meshing real well," Green claimed. "I got a chance to get into the groove with more carries. They did a great job out there blocking and picking up blitzes."

Wells, the epitome of a Larry Beightol offensive lineman, playing multiple positions, is surprisingly right on Klemm's heals. While it seems difficult to imagine Green Bay benching someone they handed an $800,000 signing bonus, the Packers may wish to start seasoning young blood along the line.

"I approach (a new position) the same way I approach playing center," Wells said. "It's an opportunity to show what you can do." Concerning the Buffalo game, Wells was very positive. "I feel the running game took steps forward. Buffalo is a pressure orientated defense, so we did pretty well," he said. "I think I took a step in the right direction."

Green's partner in crime, fullback William Henderson, reiterated the emphasis on the line-back relationship.

"Our running game is what we focused on this week." Henderson went on to add, "I like how our younger guys are coming along too, impressing the coaches. You have to trust each individual player to get their job done. It's up to us to be accountable for our own execution."

Losing Wahle and Rivera may not be as severe as previously thought. With a handful of guards already blending with Green Bay's high-octane offense, the Pack shouldn't miss a beat.

Now, only if the Green Bay defense discovered this secret meshing potion…


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