Dormant defense a disappointment

Two weeks into the season, the Packers are forced to consider a worst-case scenario: What if the defense, particularly with its big-name free agent acquisitions, just isn't that good?<P>

Coming into 2002, the Green Bay defense was hailed as one of the league's best. Add the intangible of two marquee free agents, Hardy Nickerson and Joe Johnson, who want nothing more than to finish their careers with a title, and the D looked like a force.

In the first two games the Packers have been anything but. Green Bay's defense has made talented but inexperienced players like Michael Vick and Deuce McAllister look like superstars. The Packers have given up 62 points and 731 yards en route to a No. 24 team defense ranking. Even worse, the Packers rank 30th against the run, giving up 163 yards per game. Only the Browns and Seahawks have fared worse so far.

"We need to come together," said defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. "The trademarks of our defense are effort and enthusiasm and we're not seeing that the way we should.

"We need to be sharp for four quarters and we haven't been close to that yet," Donatell said.

On the contrary, the Packers have dug themselves holes in both games, and found they couldn't climb out in New Orleans. Sunday, they travel to Detroit's Ford Field to play the down but desperate Lions.

"We have struggled here as of late I think we don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water but we have to fix what we have to fix and move forward," Coach Mike Sherman said. "If a lineup change would help that we'd entertain that, but I don't think that's what we want to do. I think we have the personnel to fix it."

That personnel includes Nickerson and Johnson, who were thought to be the missing pieces in the Super Bowl puzzle. So far, that doesn't look like the solution. Johnson has one sack and failed to make a tackle vs. the Saints. Nickerson has 15 tackles, but many of those came after allowing big gains.

Both the Falcons and the Saints were able to reel off a skein of big plays vs. the Pack. New Orleans had plays of 40, 34, 33, and 62 yards.

You can't live likethat," Sherman said. "that's way too much explosion to give up."

Johnson echoed that sentiment.

"You have to make plays," Johsnon said. "When you're in a position to make that tackle for a two or three yard gain, you have to make that tackle."


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