Packers notebook

Somewhere Donovan McNabb must be licking his chops. The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback is leading the league's top-ranked offense, and look who is up next: The Green Bay Packers and their not-ready-for-prime-time secondary.

The two teams meet for the fourth straight season Monday night at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles (2-1) have won four straight against the Packers, including a playoff game after the 2003 season.

McNabb, healthy this season after sustaining a sports hernia that caused him to miss the final seven games last year, is off to a hot start. The eighth-year pro has had a pair of 300-yard passing games thus far and has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 960 yards. That makes him the third-ranked quarterback in the NFL with a passer rating of 105.3 and best in the NFC ahead of Chicago's Rex Grossman.

"Donovan is doing a lot of good things," said Packers cornerback Al Harris. "He's doing a lot of good things. He's a great quarterback."

Fortunately, the Packers (1-2) get an extra day of practice this week to iron out the kinks in their secondary. Green Bay has given up a number of big plays this season. The secondary, which was supposed to be one of the team's strengths this season, has turned out to be its biggest liability. Harris and veteran Charles Woodson have each been beaten on a number of occasions as has safeties Marquand Manuel and Nick Collins. Detroit scored on 37- and 42-yard touchdown passes Sunday, mainly because of breakdowns in the secondary.

"It's a talented group, and we need to get better at being on the same page," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "It's a problem."

Manuel said today that he and his teammates have been working this week on improving communication amongst themselves and focusing on their assignments.

The Packers enter this week ranked 31st in the league on defense and 31st against the pass, surrendering 301.0 per game.

"It's happening," said Manuel about improving communication. "Just like the guys you work with every day. It takes time. It's happening.

"It's coming. People forget that the other team practices, too. They gonna make plays, but we can't have any gimme plays. I think we're gonna be fine, man. We'll buckle down. We're all handling it exactly as we should, not pointing fingers and playing."

Spitz returns to practice
Rookie guard Jason Spitz, who has missed the last two games because of a deep thigh bruise, began practicing with the team today. Spitz said he was injured in the season opener against Chicago when he was hit on the side of the leg by one of the Bears, who was blocking on an interception return.

"It's not the soreness that's bothering me, I mean pain is something you can deal with, but I lost a lot of function," Spitz said. "The whole muscle is lit up. It's almost like a pull. I'm just trying to get function back."

Rookie Daryn Colledge has started the last two games in place of Spitz. Coach Mike McCarthy said a determination on which two of the three guards will start Monday likely will be made Thursday following the team's last padded practice of the extended week.

"I'm just trying to get back out there," said Spitz, who is listed as questionable on the team's injury report.

Colledge remained at left guard ahead of Spitz in practice and is a good possibility to make his third straight start. Fellow rookie Tony Moll would remain the starter at right guard.

Although McCarthy singled out Spitz as being the most consistent of the trio prior to his injury, the emergence of Colledge in a fill-in role has been encouraging. Colledge, a second-round draft pick, lost the starting job at left guard after he struggled in the first preseason game.

"I think Daryn has definitely responded. He's playing better week to week," McCarthy said. "I think he's getting comfortable with (tackle) Chad (Clifton) over there on the left side. He's definitely getting comfortable and improving."

Injury update
The Packers may be without two veteran defensive tackles against Philadelphia. Kenderick Allen sustained a sprained foot against the Detroit Lions and will not play Monday. Also, Ryan Pickett, who injured his ankle against the Lions, is listed as doubtful, meaning there is at least a 75 percent chance that he will not play.

Running back Ahman Green (rib) and defensive end Aaron Kampman (head) are on the injury report, but both are expected to play against the Eagles.

The Packers also listed cornerback Will Blackmon (foot), offensive lineman Junius Coston (knee) and guard Jason Spitz (thigh) as questionable.

Quote to note
"It's not positive. That's why they're on the other side of the state."
-- Packers head coach Mike McCarthy on the sentiment Pittsburgh natives, of whom he's one, have for Philadelphia.


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