Gray: McCarthy takes charge

Former Packers safety Johnnie Gray evaluates Green Bay's performance against the Atlanta Falcons and reasons for the Packers' impressive performance. Gray also has watched Ahman Green closely in practice and explains the importance of his return to action on Monday Night Football in Cincinnati.

The change in personnel on the offensive line has worked wonders for Brett Favre's' mental state of mind. Not once was Favre sacked or pressured last Saturday, as he was the week before.

So, what happened in a week's time? I saw for the first time in practice coach Mike McCarthy raising his voice more intently at blown blocking assignments and repeatedly running plays over. He then pulled the team together in the middle of practice before a team drill one day to express his discontent about the way practice had been going. They responded by allowing Favre the time to drop back in the pocket, set and put the ball on rhythm to Donald Driver and his wide receivers all night long against the Falcons.

However, there is a lot more work to be done before the opener against the Chicago Bears. Last week, Favre brought the tight end in motion to help in pass protection not once but several times. A week earlier, they were much more involved in the offense and the Chargers had a field day on the Packer quarterbacks, but last Saturday they were nonexistent.

On Monday night the Packers will face a very tough and aggressive defense in the Bengals and will be challenged to hold the line without sacrificing the tight end and or running backs to get the protection they need. The Bengals have two solid corners in Pro Bowler Deltha O'Neal and Pro Bowl alternate Tory James. Last year, this group picked off Favre on four straight possessions. That's why it's imperative to get the running game established and there's where Ahman Green comes in. He's expected to get in some 15 to 20 plays to get his feet wet. Green has been looking better in practice every day, but has not had full contact. The bending and sustaining a block against a lineman, or twisting and turning to block a blitzing linebacker - and the Bengals have some aggressive ones - should be a great indicator on how much Green has recovered from his ruptured quadriceps. The few plays that he is in should allow him to put full strength on that right leg and will see how it responds over the next couple of days.

The Bengals are tough defensively and should give McCarthy a great chance to evaluate his moves on the offensive line and make his final adjustments before truly settling in on his offensive look against the Bears. Last week Chad Clifton had both knees heavily wrapped with ice after the first half and with Josh Bourke nursing his right calf, Daryn Colledge should get some playing time at left tackle, his natural position.

Johnnie Gray

Editor's note: Former safety Johnnie Gray played for the Packers from 1975-84. He was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame in 1994. E-mail him at

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