Gray: Signs of improvement

Despite Green Bay's loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, former Packers safety Johnnie Gray highlights areas the Packers can build on and explains why Green Bay has a good chance of beating the Lions this Sunday in Detroit.

Did the Green Bay Packers make improvements from last week? Absolutely. This will be my argument all week as the Pack gets ready to take on the Detroit Lions this Sunday.

Offense
Daryn Colledge got the starting nod over an injured Jason Spitz and what I saw at times looked very adequate. It's obvious that his drive-blocking skills needs some work, but at 6-foot-4 and nearly 300 pounds, Colledge had a chance to show the coaching staff that he can be a dominating force. It didn't help that of the 21 first downs only two were via the run. On the other hand, when I watched him in pass protection he definitely seemed to hold his own. Instead of blocking air like his fellow workers did last week he kept stepping back and helped Chad Clifton when he was beaten on several outside rushes during the first quarter on those opening scoring drives.

Although the running game still wasn't up to par, the consistency in pass protection was a positive.

Defense
We haven't had a pass rush here since the Super Bowl, and Sunday's performance was step in the right direction. Aaron Kampman had a career day with three sacks with two forced fumbles. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila forced a fumble and recorded a sack as well. That means newcomer defensive tackle Ryan Pickett is doing the job inside.

Cullen Jenkins, Colin Cole and Corey Williams have continued to perform as they did late in the season last year. The push that these guys provide up the middle will allow the success for the edge rushers.

The sooner the secondary and linebacking group comes around you will have one heck of a defense. I miss departed safety Mark Roman. He made sure everyone in the secondary was on the same page. Last Sunday reminded me of the secondary two years ago when players were moving to their positions as the quarterback was hiking the ball. Roman doesn't possess the physicality of Marquand Manuel, but he knew the scheme and he provided a comfort zone back there. Nick Collins never looked that bad last year and I'm sure Roman would have recognized that Ahmad Carroll was cramping, Brady Poppinga was outmatched and changed the defense to a zone. Due to injury, Manuel missed numerous OTA's (organized team activities) and training camp practices and that has hurt the development of the secondary. OK, no more Roman stories.

Special teams
Special teams coverage was much improved and 5 of 6 kickoffs went into the end zone with three for touchbacks. Pro Bowl punt return man Koren Robinson and Vernand Morency showed some promise on the return.

Finally, I think these youngsters have realized how tough it is to win at this level. Therefore, there is no reason why the Pack can't win this week against the Lions at Ford Field.


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 Gray24@tds.net.


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