Battle on the bubble

Who helped and who hurt their own cause in Monday night's 11th-hour battle before today's cuts?<p> Several Packer hopefuls grabbed the spotlight in the 27-20 win over Cleveland at Lambeau, Packer GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said.<p>

"I think we learned something about some of these backups today," Sherman said. "They haven't all necessarily done a good job on the road but they did some good things tonight."

As opposed to the first two preseason contests in which the first team looked solid but backups let leads slip, it was the second-teamers who sealed the deal Monday. Craig Nall, trying to make the team as the No. 3 QB, didn't get the playing time he hoped for, but made what little he had count big time.

"I almost didn't put him in, but I'm glad I did," Sherman said. "I almost left Doug in, being concerned about winning in Lambeau and so forth, but the smart thing was to put (Nall) in and I'm glad he did because he iced the game for us."

Running back Tony Fisher continued to turn Sherman's head with a couple of break-through runs. He finished with 27 yards on 6 carries. Rondell Mealey showed good mobility, gaining 23 yards on 6 carries.

"Fisher continues to impress me with his running," Sherman said. "He can make a guy miss. Mealey did some very good things, and made some good cuts."

One plot that definitely thickened is the storyline of cornerback Erwin Swiney. Injuries to Mike McKenzie and Tyrone Williams have shuffled the cornerback depth chart enough to move Swiney from fourth string to starter. Last week Swiney wore the goat horns when he failed to touch a receiver who was on the ground; the receiver got up and ran for a 74-yard touchdown. Although he got beat by Quincy Morgan for a 33-yard TD and was nabbed for pass interference Monday, Swiney stuck it out in both contests and improved as the games went on. This wasn't lost on the coach.

"Swiney overcame his mistake – he gave up a touchdown but battled the entire ball game," Sherman said. Swiney, a rookie free agent out of Nebraska, had eight tackles and a sack, just behind leader Hardy Nickerson with 9.

Todd Franz got onto the scoreboard and into the stands when he picked off a Josh Booty pass and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown.

Free agent fullback Chris Gall was the unexpected receiving leader with his one catch for a 32-yard touchdown from Doug Pederson. Gall's caught the short pass in the flat and charged down the left side to cap an 80-yard, 7-play drive at the end of the third quarter.

Fullback Najeh Davenport got off the injured list and into action.

"We had some guys out there for the first time, and I think they did a good job," Sherman said. A standout in practice and past games, Matt Bowen was relatively quiet Monday but contributed four tackles plus a special teams tackle.

Silence spoke loudly Monday night for guys who have a lot to prove but weren't on the field to prove it. Running backs Ki-jana Carter and Jason Brookins have let injuries keep them on sidelines and will probably see that keep them off the roster. Herbert "Whisper" Goodman is also hurt and had no chance to contest the strides made by Fisher and Mealey.


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