Staying in control key for Favre

Young receivers, Favre need to make best of each situation in camp

Preseason games were always a nuisance for Brett Favre.

A rhythm was established. The offense was fortified in the spring and in sync by the summer. In 15 seasons, the passing game has ranked in the top ten 12 times under Favre.

The exhibition season was nothing more than four games of verification. This year's team needs a revolution. The talent is there. The 2007 receiving unit is better than some of Favre's past corps, such as the late-90s trio of Freeman-Schroeder-Bradford. While raw talent isn't an issue, chemistry is for the Packers offense.

According to Favre, the offense has gelled at a sloth's pace.

"A lot has changed," said a discouraged Favre at Tuesday's press conference. "[In the past] you could go out and do things blindfolded. Whereas last year and this year, we're constantly trying to find chemistry and constantly trying to find what we hang our hat on."

A decade ago, Favre could rely on Robert Brooks breaking open on a deep slant.

He knew Mark Chmura would be free down the seam if Brooks and Antonio Freeman were blanketed. Checkdowns weren't processed in his mind, they just happened.

Five years ago, Favre knew that in 2nd-and-long situations, a screen to Ahman Green would get a chunk of those yards back.

The defense knew all of these plays were coming too. But the offense's synergy was so high, execution was inevitable. Favre had a set of go-to plays that never failed.

But three weeks into the '07 season, Favre still doesn't trust all of his receivers. He admitted Tuesday that he is hesitant to throw the ball before receivers make a cut, in fear that they'll butcher the route.

Favre is so dependent on route adjustments that raw talent on the outside can work against the offense. This summer's biggest camp surprise, James Jones, is the best example.

"James is like Sterling, when he first came in," Favre said. "He's got great hands and he's really confident with his hands. What he lacks in speed in quickness, he makes up for with strength…It's the things that you really don't see that he has to work on. He's no different than anyone else.

"A couple times he kept running when he should have sat out and he got away with it. But the next game he may not. If it's a zone, he has to read it as a zone. Those are the types of things that here in preseason you get better at."

Favre's reliance on his receiver's recognizing different coverages leads to interception parties as his 47 picks the last two seasons attest. Yet, on-the-fly adjusting is what makes Favre great. (see: Andre Rison's 54-yard touchdown against New England in Super Bowl XXXI).

Now it's his worst enemy. In 11 training camp practices, Favre has whipped the ball around carelessly in streaks, over-relying on his receivers making acute cuts in specific locations on certain defensive reads. His arm strength is as good as ever. But when he's not on the same page as his wideouts, it's useless. Through camp, Favre has had an alarming amount of picks and near-picks.

Favre should build off of last season and play more conservatively. It will allow his receivers to assimilate into the offense smoother, and it will complement a strong defense. A top ten defense would allow him to play the field position game.

Regardless, August 18 is a crucial step toward reaching continuity. The more live game looks Jones and Co. see the closer they'll come to maximizing their potential. Physically, the receiving corps could be the best in the NFC North. Driver, Greg Jennings, Jones, and Ruvell Martin haven't dropped anything, they're in great physical shape, and they all go across the middle without reservations.

Mentally, many are still learning, says Favre.

To avoid lapses that result in game-changing plays, like Fred Smoot's ‘pick six' off Jenning's wrong route, the offense needs to click on Saturday.

Driver realizes this.

"Once you earn Brett's trust, it makes it easier for you to go out there and play because he's going to throw it to you whenever you need it," Driver said. "We have to execute [Saturday]. We didn't execute at Pittsburgh. We had four series and we went three-and-out on all of them. We have to make sure we start fast and get a first down early because everything will roll after that."

Brett Favre can't trade spots with Ted Thompson and wheel ‘n' deal for veteran pass-catchers. He can't morph Brandon Jackson and Noah Herron into Dorsey Levens and Edgar Bennett, and reap the benefits of two 70-catch options out of the backfield. He can't inject James Jones with a dose of Antonio Freeman's awareness.

He must re-build an offense from square one.

That is the reality Favre must stomach.

"I want to win now," he said. "I hope everyone else does too. We've had a lot of success here in the past. As I look around the locker room, in meetings, or on the field with these guys, most of these guys didn't experience the success we've had in the past or what it takes."

Favre didn't sugarcoat his press conference like those excessively-energetic NFL Team Yearbooks do every summer. He realizes that time is running out.

"Talent alone does not get you championships. Chemistry does ... We have to find it fast. Of all the years I've been playing, this year there are a lot of opportunities for guys you've never heard of to make a name for themselves. Who those guys will be, I have no idea."

Green Bay's defense could become an elite unit in the NFC this year. Maybe that is what disheartens Favre the most. For the first time in a decade, he has a ‘D' that could routinely get him back on the field. Only this time Favre may not be able to stay on it unless he harnesses his wild side. He should work within the offense and not expect young receivers to make complex on-field adjustments.

Still, this exhibition game against Seattle will be a major step in Favre's uneasy comfort level.

The 17-year veteran faces his toughest task of his career: Cramming a five-year project into five weeks. Talent exists. Experience and go-to plays do not.

It's on Favre to make it happen - even if it means compensating his gunslinger mentality.

Tyler Dunne

Tyler Dunne is a student at Syracuse University. He is in Green Bay covering the Packers during training camp for and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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