Work in progress

Defense does little convincing during preseason

When the Green Bay Packers entered training camp, the unit with the most concern was the defense. Yet, defensive coordinator Jim Bates remained the picture of optimism, trying to convince anybody with a camera or recorder that everything would be fine.

Four preseason games later, Bates might still be shoveling the same junk, but the defense did nothing to convince most that this unit will be hard-pressed to scare anybody on the other side of the football.

The defensive line is in shambles. Yes, defensive ends Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Aaron Kampman are there, but what else? R-Kal Truluck? Sounds like a made-up name, if you ask me.

There's nothing behind this twosome, who would be better off playing 30, 35 snaps per game instead of 65. KGB and Kampman will give effort – that we know for sure. But as a twosome, they're nothing more than an opening act, they're not a headliner.

At tackle, Grady Jackson and Cletidus Hunt played the first quarter of the final preseason game and that's it because of injuries. They didn't do a lot, but when you haven't played much, what can be expected?

Jackson and Hunt can be formidable – if they want to be. If they both make the final cut, which is in question, it'll take some time for them to become factors. (Just a moment, when was the last time Hunt was a factor?) OK, I'm back. Behind them is some young talent in Cullen Jenkins, Kenny Peterson, among others.

This position has depth, but where's the quality?

At linebacker, the Packers played most of the preseason without starter Na'il Diggs (knee injury), and they waived former starter Hannibal Navies (later picked up by Cincinnati). This unit will be the strength of the defense, but what's that saying?

Nick Barnett could come into his own in Bates' system, which usually allows the middle linebacker (see Zach Thomas in Miami) to roam and make plays all over the field. Diggs will take time to work back into the defense, while Navies' replacement, Ray Thompson, is an upgrade.

Thompson, a former second-round pick, showed some ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage during the preseason. He'll be worth watching in the regular season to see if he can rebuild his career.

OK, now the secondary. Should I even go here? Why not, every quarterback with a pulse will.

Cornerback Al Harris is steady. That's the good news.

The bad news is the rest of the players in the secondary might as well have a "pass here" sign stamped on their helmet, because none have displayed consistent ability to defend the pass. The cornerback position opposite Harris will be a nightmare all season.

Either Ahmad "Sticky Hands" Carroll or Joey Thomas will start. Carroll, coach Mike Sherman's final first-round pick as GM, ended the preseason as the starter, but back-to-back penalties (holding and pass interference) during the Tennessee game makes one wonder if Carroll is worthy of the starting job.

Thomas battled injury during the preseason, but showed some ability against the Titans. He should start. Either way, with teams like Detroit and Minnesota deep at receiver, Carroll and Thomas will play enough snaps that who starts will be only good copy for columns and not real vital on game days.

At safety, Mark Roman and Nick Collins are a "5" on a scale of 1-10. Roman does nothing to turn heads. He doesn't appear to be a good blitzer and his pass defense seems ordinary. Collins, a second-round pick this year, has potential, but is young and will struggle as offenses start scheming to beat a defense. He'll have games where you wonder if he was even watching the same game, and he'll have others making you say, "He's the next LeRoy Butler." That won't happen often enough, though.

So in a nutshell, how does the Packers' defense look entering the regular season? If the Ravens' defense is a Picasso, then the Packers' is a 6-year-old's finger painting.

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

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