Sydney Speaks! No time to panic

The season opener in Detroit for the Green Bay Packers wasn't what a lot of us expected because of what really happened. The offense played like crap, and the defense and special teams played good enough to win. I won't make any excuses for anyone. That's not my style, but things will get better, beginning Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, and here's why!

OFFENSIVELY
Mike Sherman and/or Tom Rossley will call a better game on offense because they have to. With the loss of Javon Walker they will be forced to get the offense in rhythm from the first play of the game until the last play. I hope they run Ahman Green until he can't run anymore and then, when he is tired, use play-action passes to rest him. Doing this will allow offensive linemen Will Whitticker, Mike Flanagan and Adrian Klemm to gain confidence in their ability to run-block.

This game against the Browns will go a long way in helping the linemen restore belief in themselves. More important, it will make it easier for them to pass protect if the Browns' defensive line has to play the whole game instead of just trying to have a party and meet at Brett Favre. Brett needs to feel more comfortable in the pocket. He can't get hit like he got hit last week, or he won't survive. Four sacks and all the punishment Brett took against the Lions wouldn't have happened if the play caller had done a better job establishing a better game plan. I would expect a better tempo this week. I don't care if I ever see an empty backfield on short yardage again.

I believe this week the coaching staff would have more faith in the offensive line. They will walk it and not just talk it. I also believe they will use play action so much more this week to help the receivers get separation because Javon is out for the season and they must help Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson get open. It also will give Bubba Franks room to make plays. Ferguson has been wanting an opportunity to be the go-to guy and now he has the chance. Let's hope he responds.

Remember, without Javon the Packers have no one that can stretch the field and make the Browns' secondary respect that someone will go deep. The coaching staff has to call a great game and make the Browns pay for it with the pass when they put eight players up in the box to stop the run or blitz. The players have to be better but the coaches have to put them in a position for that to happen.

Is this a must-win game? No, but it's a game the Packers need to win. Mike Sherman usually does great under adversity, so no need to panic. RIGHT!

DEFENSIVELY
The Packers can and will play better. We never expected the defense to play that good last Sunday against Detroit because we hadn't seen any signs in the preseason that they could put a steady pass rush on any quarterback as they did on Joey Harrington. Cullen Jenkins, Aaron Kampman, Colin Cole and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila played very well. Hopefully they can continue it against the Browns.

Safety Mark Roman played his butt off, better than he did at any time last year. Was it him or the system? Middle linebacker Nick Barnett also played at a high level. Maybe Jim Bates' scheme is perfect for Barnett. Finally we will see what Joey Thomas can really do now that he has the opportunity as the starter. Ahmad Carroll is on the bench, except for nickel or dime coverages. Thomas has finally done what Sherman never would do, and that's sit Carroll down. It's up to Joey to keep him there. Against the Lions, which is no power house, Bates had Green Bay's defense playing aggressively. The Packers tackled so much better than I believe anyone expected. Hopefully they can keep it up and didn't peak to soon!

SPECIAL TEAMS
Green Bay played pretty good against Detroit. The Packers hustled and tackled very well. Also a very good thing happened: They found some leaders on these units, like Brady Poppinga, Roy Manning, and Vonta Leach. Those players are hungry and understand that this is why they have made the team. Hopefully they understand this is their game.

B.J. Sander did a very respectable job punting. These units will only get better. The Packers will have to decide on a new kick returner for this week because the coaching staff can't afford to put Ferguson back as the return specialist. They really can't afford to put any receiver back deep for risk of injury, so they will probably only activate four receivers for the game. Return yardage will be big in this game. The Packers will need every edge they can get because the Browns aren't as bad as people might think, and the Packers are not as good, so every little bit HELPS!

PENALTIES
The Packers have to get better in this department, or everything else won't matter. These penalties happen because of a lack of concentration or discipline. Sherman has told us that these problems will be fixed, and he has done something about them. He sat down Carroll, who displayed a total lack of confidence in his ability to use the proper technique. What this shows me is that Mike Sherman and/or Ted Thompson are making people accountable for their actions which means IT'S NOT TIME TO PANIC!


Harry Sydney

Editor's note: Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. If you have a question for Harry, e-mail it to PackerReport.com managing editor Todd Korth at packrepted@aol.com.


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