Favre facing big challenge

Veteran quarterback trying, but struggling to mesh with young receivers

The challenge that Brett Favre and the offense faces is clear. It has to develop a much better chemistry between now and the start of the regular season, or else.

Thus far in training camp there have been flashes of progress with the team's offense, but lately, including four straight three-and-out series at Pittsburgh Saturday, the results have been less than promising.

Favre said today that he walked off Heinz Field as frustrated "as I've ever been in the preseason. I just expect more from myself, but the offense in general. It wasn't so much what they did, but what we did or didn't do."

Fortunately for Favre and the Packers, the offense has about half of training camp to build some momentum heading into the season, but Favre will need as many snaps in practice as possible if the Packers are going to score points when the regular season begins.

For now, the chemistry is far from just right, according to Favre, but there is still time for the veteran quarterback and his core of young receivers and running backs to get to know each other a little better. It began with this morning's practice when Favre took the majority of the snaps with the offense. The coaching staff has been giving Favre the morning of two-a-days off, along with other veterans, in an effort to keep them fresh. But after a stinker of a showing in the preseason opener and a rough practice on Monday, Favre was under center this morning as the team practiced in the Don Hutson Center.

"It's an ongoing process," said offensive coordinator Joe Philbin of the offense and Favre. "This is a practice when you're 37 years old some guys can take off. I think him being here, he probably got 25 quality snaps today and I'd say 17 or 18 were passes. We're cognizant of the fact that this is going to take him a little time for him to gel, and that's why he's continuing to work at it."

Favre says this offense is lightyears away the offenses of the mid-1990s when the team played in three straight NFC Championship Games and two Super Bowls. The Packers offense of 2007 currently has no established running back or fullback, one established wide receiver, a first-year starter in Donald Lee at tight end, and another veteran tight end in Bubba Franks, whose confidence has taken a beating in recent seasons.

"Last year and this year, we're constantly trying to find chemistry and constantly trying to find something to hang our hat on," said Favre. "As a play-caller you're calling stuff that you think will work, but will fit our guys and our style of play?"

Favre lobbied for the Packers to trade for veteran wide receiver Randy Moss in the off-season, but it never happened. Favre says he has put that behind him, and publicly he has been nothing but supportive of general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy. However, it sure seems at times he is thinking about what could have been with Moss and Donald Driver in the fold, rather than Driver and a handful of unproven receivers.

"They (Thompson and McCarthy) and you know as well as I do what we're up against offensively, what we're facing," Favre said. "It's a lot different now than it was five years ago, six years ago, and so on. It is what it is. We have to find and build chemistry every day and each week. Find what plays works and fit the guys that we have running them.

"It makes it more difficult. You'd like to go into a season, like Indy is now and New England and even the Bears, like we were in years past. The Saints … I consider San Diego in that position. These guys have not only played in this league, but have played together, or know the game itself. We know what plays work. We know Indy is going to run the same plays, but it's hard to stop them because they've been running them so long and so well. We were the same way. You knew I was going to throw a screen pass to Edgar Bennett, but you didn't know when it was coming, but it worked. Right now, we're trying to run some of those plays and one guy might be in this position, and one guy might be in that position, and another guy is in the wrong position. It's frustrating for me, but I understand. It's frustrating because I've been there. I'm having to anticipate, or as I said before, be a little apprehensive or reluctant. It's hard to anticipate a throw down the field when I'm a little unsure if he's going to break it off when I think he is. It's hard to play that way, but that's the way it is.

"At some point, I have to play the game and I've tried to focus on that coming into this training camp. I focus only on what I do. In years past I have tried to coach everybody up on the fly. It's hard enough to play my position when I focus on me. If I have to focus on everyone else, I can't do that."

It's almost as if Favre has to start thinking like a player in the early stages of his career and try to put himself on the same page. As training camp moves on and the practice schedule is trimmed, the challenge will be greater. Look for McCarthy to give Favre more playing time than normal in the next three preseason games in order for him to adjust to his receivers, and vice-versa. It is for that reason that the Packers came out throwing in their first two series at Pittsburgh.

"Most of the guys haven't experienced the success that we've had in the past, or what it takes," said Favre. "Talent alone does not get you championships, chemistry does."

The Packers offense is far from hitting on the right chemistry. Until that happens, it could be rough sledding. It will be up to Favre and his young teammates to make it happen as quickly as possible.

If at some point in the regular season it appears that Favre and the offense isn't clicking, the Packers may turn to Aaron Rodgers. Until that happens, Favre will be working to conquer perhaps the biggest preseason challenge of his career.

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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