Gray: Random thoughts

Former Packers safety Johnnie Gray offers some random thoughts on Greg Jennings, the Packers running backs, the offensive line, Brady Poppinga, and his forecast for the Packers against the Chicago Bears in the season opener on Sunday.

As expected by many the last preseason game against the Tennessee Titans was a mere formality, but to the rest of us it was a great opportunity to see what the future holds for the Green and Gold.

Rookie shines
On offense, Greg Jennings' consistent play continued as he was awarded the starting nod over the incumbent Robert Ferguson this week. This young man proved from day one that he was ready to make that step to the ultimate level. I'm impressed by the way he has handled himself throughout his development. Not the cocky attitude of having outplayed Ferguson, but he has followed in Donald Driver's footsteps in giving Ferguson props and to say that they both have assets that can help this team, and both will be utilized to win games. Now that's class.

Herron catches on
Thank goodness for Noah Herron, or I would have never learned how the zone-blocking scheme really worked. Herron when given the opportunity had one eye on the primary hole and his other on backside pursuit. That's why the Denver Broncos were able to stick any back into their zone blocking system. If that hole is not open before you get there, then you must cut it backside.

Samkon Gado and Ahman Green have been either too committed to the hole, or over-aggressive trying to make something out of nothing. This system is designed for a quick hitting explosive back with cutback ability.

Offensive line
Many may think that Ted Thompson's pick of Daryn Colledge in the second round may have been a bust because of his backup role behind Chad Clifton. I've seen enough ice on Clifton's knee this preseason to last a season. I know it's for precautionary reasons, but it does bring back memories of Mike Flanagan when he had his knee problems with tendonitis and missed practices. It may look like Thompson wanted a starting guard, but knew he needed a bonafide backup at tackle.

Poppinga's amazing comeback
My 2006 comeback player award goes to Brady Poppinga. He not only has exceeded all expectations of getting on the field to play a game that he plays with a passion, but he brings with him a tenacity that inspires everyone around him. In one of his first practices, rookie linebacker Abdul Hodge came running up to him and gave him a high five.

The men at the square table may think it's overused, but when your fellow player comes up with a good play and you're excited about being on the same field as that player then, and only then, can you give it up. Poppinga brings an attitude of aggressive nastiness whenever he's out there which is the reason he's has the starting job this weekend.

Da Bears
The Monsters of the Midway are in town for alumni weekend and I believe they can be had! The Bears are hurting at running back and their offense struggled throughout preseason. The Pack will win providing they don't turn the ball over.

The Packers kept four tight ends on the roster this week so we should see the same offense that we saw against the Falcons. Tight end in motion, multi-set tight ends, tight ends in the backfield, and Brett Favre doing his best to audible to counteract the blitzes. It should be a war.

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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