In the need of speed

One of Mike Sherman's main objectives as he set out to improve the Green Packers this off-season was to add quickness to his roster, especially to the defensive front seven and at wide receiver.<p>

Thus far, Sherman has added Joe Johnson, a premier defensive end who left the New Orleans Saints via free agency, and unloaded veterans such as Santana Dotson, John Thierry and Bernardo Harris. All have passed their prime in pro football and are heading toward their twilight years a little slower and with a number of surgeries under their belt. Sherman also traded for and signed wide receiver Terry Glenn, allowing Bill Schroeder (Detroit) and Corey Bradford (Houston) to sign with other teams.

Green Bay still needs someone to complement Glenn and compete against Robert Ferguson in training camp, so many draft experts feel that the Packers will use their first selection – 28th overall – on a wide receiver. From there, Green Bay may go with the best player available. Keep in mind that the Packers could use a middle linebacker to compete with second-year pro Torrance Marshall, a backup quarterback that may some day take over for Brett Favre, a defensive tackle to provide depth for the loss of Dotson, a safety because LeRoy Butler is on the verge of retirement, and a running back to make up for the loss of Dorsey Levens.

The Packers have a total of six picks, including three of the first 92. Green Bay received a compensatory pick at the end of the fourth round for the loss of free agent offensive lineman Ross Verba in 2001. Green Bay has one pick in the fifth round and one in the sixth.

Since Johnson, a two-time Pro Bowl player is in the fold, the Packers may not select a defensive tackle in the first round. Part of the reason that the Packers sought out Johnson was because Sherman wants to use fourth-year pro Cletidus Hunt solely at tackle, instead of switching between end and tackle.

"In defense of Cletidus, we've moved him around so much, he's never really felt at home in any one position," said Sherman. "He can just stay at that ‘3 technique' (tackle) and play it well. At 308 to 310 pounds, he's a formidable guy because he has great quickness as well."

Sherman indicated that the Packers intend to re-sign veteran nose tackle, and fan favorite, Gilbert Brown. They also are high on tackles Rod Walker and Billy Lyon.

Green Bay could very well go with its highest rated player on the draft board no matter what the position. With three picks on the second day of the draft, finding someone who can contribute in any capacity is hit and miss.

"You're either get a player or you're not," said John Dorsey, the team's director of college scouting.

The Packers have only selected three receivers in the first round of the NFL draft in the last 29 years – Barry Smith (Florida State, 21st overall, 1973), James Lofton (Stanford, 6th overall, 1978) and Sterling Sharpe (South Carolina, 7th overall, 1988).

Of course, there always is a chance that the Packers may trade down to obtain an extra pick since they traded away two picks within the past year. Green Bay traded its seventh round selection to Tennessee last fall for Walker. In early March, the Packers dealt a fourth-round pick, plus a conditional pick in next year's draft, to New England for Glenn.

Whoever the Packers go with, they probably will possess a fair amount of speed to help keep the Packers playing at a high gear in 2002.

Packer Report Top Stories