Random thoughts during the bye

The 2006 Green Bay Packers have a record of 1-4 as they re-group during their bye week. The Packers have lost two very winnable games, and should have beaten both the Saints and the Rams at Lambeau Field.

A 3-2 record would feel pretty good right now, but key turnovers from the offense has doomed this club, and the lack of creating key turnovers by the defense has really hurt as well. Case in point, the three dropped interceptions by the Packers vs the Rams. One other point, the teams that have defeated the Packers this year have a combined record of 17-3. So it's not like the Packers have played mediocre squads. The difference is that both the Saints and the Rams have won their close games, while the Packers find a way to lose.

You can't blame the 1-4 record on the rookie class. General Manager Ted Thompson continues to get beat up by the fans, but his draft class of 2006 has been outstanding, and that doesn't even include rookie free agent punter Jon Ryan who is third in the NFL in punting average. First round pick LB A.J. Hawk has been outstanding, and will only get better. He plays the run and pass well. He does need to get better on blitzes, but he does have a sack from one blitz this year.

What can you say about second round pick Greg Jennings? The rook looks like a five-year vet. Jennings is on pace for 64 catches and 10 touchdowns this year. As a rookie!

You also have another second round pick in G Daryn Colledge who has done a nice job as a starter at LG after a slow start early in the pre-season. You also have fellow rookie guards in Jason Spitz (3rd round) and Tony Moll (5th round) that have done a nice job rotating at RG. The young linemen have done a nice job protecting Brett Favre in the passing game and the running game is starting to gain traction in the new zone-blocking scheme.

Speaking of rookies, there are two Packer rookies that I believe are destined for great things. They would be LB Abdul Hodge (3rd round) and CB Will Blackmon (4th round). Hodge looked very good in the preseason at MLB and recently has been hampered by a knee injury. Blackmon is a great athlete that also has had injury issues with a broken foot that has sidelined him for several months. Both will hopefully get their chance to play soon. The Packers need to insert Hodge at MLB as soon as he is healthy and move Nick Barnett to SSLB. Brady Poppinga has had his issues in coverage at SSLB, and lately he has also had trouble stopping the run. Poppinga is a great special teams player that can be used in certain defenses. Like as a pass rushing DE/OLB in 3rd and long situations. Meanwhile, Hodge needs to play at MLB. It's obvious that the defense needs a spark, and Hodge could be the dynamite the Packers need. The Packers desperately need a spark in their defensive backfield as well, and Blackmon could be the missing link. He looked very good in minicamp before his injury.

Brett Favre has handled the 1-4 start very well. While he has been ridiculed by some in the national media for coming back in 2006, Favre has remained stoic and has played well overall. The veteran QB is faced with playing with two rookie guards, a rookie wide receiver and a running game that is gradually showing signs of life. As I mentioned earlier, the rookies are playing well. Some of that is coaching, obviously. But I believe part of it is playing with a legend like Favre. Favre has not had the game-winning comeback he is famous for yet this year, although he has had two opportunities. The Rams game was particularly painful as the ball was stripped from Favre just as TE David Martin broke wide open in the late seconds of that game deep in Rams territory. Another second of protection and the Packers win. And Favre has another game-winning comeback. To Favre's credit, he has not thrown in the towel and continues to play with child-like enthusiasm. That HAS to rub off on his young teammates. Favre's critics complain he is only playing for the records, but the only thing Favre wants to do is win. The records will come. And so will the wins if the team continues to develop their young talent. One only hopes that Favre is around long enough to experience it.

Bob Fox is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at greenbaybob@hotmail.com.


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