Gray: Improvement is encouraging

Packers Hall of Fame safety Johnnie Gray offers his analysis of the team through five games this season. If the Packers can eliminate some of their mistakes, Gray says they have the talent to win more games down the stretch.

I know I sound like a broken record, but the Packers are indeed improving, despite that horrific loss on Sunday to the St. Louis Rams.

I mentioned to a few of my colleagues that the running game versus the Eagles looked solid and I was politely corrected that a majority of that yardage happened late in the game. On Sunday, Noah Herron ran his tail off throughout the game, leaving me with hope that along with the pass protection this offensive line can be somewhat productive for the rest of the season after the bye week.

Herron just seems to be the only Packer running back suited for this scheme at this time and the only one that can get something out of nothing. Herron showed all through the preseason that he could run behind this blocking scheme and he continues to do so when given the opportunity. NFL history tells us that any back put into the zone-blocking scheme can be successful ala Denver Broncos.

We longed for a running game and we're slowly getting there. Granted it's not fast enough, but it does give us hope that as long as we see progress Brett Favre will not have to throw 29 interceptions to keep the Pack in the game. The only problem now is being able to start the same offensive line week after week at their same position. But I'm sorry to say that's not the only problem. We should find out over the bye if wide receiver Koren Robinson will be suspended for a year. He's done a good job on kickoff returns and made some nice catches last Sunday, so it would be a shame to lose him now. It's possible he could be finished for the rest of this season and part of next or be put on hold for all of next season. If it's this season, heck, that just adds to the drama for the Packers. I did see 6-foot-4 receiver Ruvell Martin getting a chance during warm-ups last Sunday.

So that leads me to the defense which has slowly put together three weeks of pressure on the quarterback and a somewhat decent job of stopping the run and getting off the field on third down.

The bye week comes at a great time to give the Packer players and coaches a chance to sole searching or self-evaluation. Remember not one media outlet gave this team a chance and with a little luck, they could easily be 3-2. The Pack has fought hard in every game this year and deserves much better, but they're young and the veterans are going through a transitional period, which might be too much to take. Maybe it's the pressure to produce and players trying to hard to make an impression or just the lack of continuity.

This week off will allow them to get healthy and come back with a sense of purpose. Talent has not and will not cause this team to loose ballgames this year, but their own mistakes have and will continue until the veterans step up to set the tone. They need to play with reckless abandonment, mistake-free football and leadership on how this game should be played. If that doesn't happen you know darn well this young talent will step to the forefront. I remember my first couple of years in the league being pushed to take over and lead the youth movement as the aging veterans were slowly being replaced.

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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