Woodson: Playoffs or bust

Cornerback wants nothing less from Packers this season

Standing alone as the top defensive playmaker in the NFC after tying for the conference lead in interceptions last season isn't what Charles Woodson is eyeing this season.

"I'm looking for the playoffs this year. Nothing less," he asserted.

Considering what he's put up with his first nine years in the league, it's understandable that the four-time Pro Bowl cornerback is antsy to experience playing football well into January.

"I want to win games. I've been mediocre team wise for the last five years, playing in Oakland and then coming here last year," Woodson said. "(Last year's) 8-8 (record) was a decent season; we ended up on a good note. But, we've just got to get wins. We've got to get into the playoffs to have a chance."

Whether the Packers are any closer to ending a two-year postseason absence than they were at the end of last season, when they won their final four games to barely miss earning a berth, is debatable.

Green Bay had the youngest team in the league in 2006 and won't be much older this season. In fact, general manager Ted Thompson, who is committed to a philosophy of building through the draft, might have four of his 11 picks this year play significant roles as the season gets going.

Running back Brandon Jackson (second round) and converted linebacker Korey Hall (sixth) are penciled in as starters at halfback and fullback, respectively. James Jones (third) is a bona fide top-three receiver. Mason Crosby (sixth) went down to the wire in the preseason to wrest the kicking job from incumbent Dave Rayner.

The reliance on youth, though, underscores 37-year-old quarterback Brett Favre's pet peeve that he uttered for everyone to hear early in the offseason. Favre questioned the direction of the franchise for which he has been a leader since 1992 when Thompson chose not to upgrade the offense with veteran playmakers, namely receiver Randy Moss, who was available for a song in a trade with Oakland.

With the likes of Woodson, fellow shutdown corner Al Harris, linebackers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk and ends Aaron Kampman and Cullen Jenkins, the Packers enter the 2007 campaign with a formidable defense that could carry them in the short term.

Yet, any echoing of Woodson's playoff-hungry sentiments may fall on deaf ears because of an offense that appears to be worse off than how it ended last season, when it finished a respectable ninth in the league.

The 23rd-rated rushing attack lost franchise back Ahman Green to a lucrative free-agent contract from Houston. In his place are Jackson, a rookie who has potential but has never been a full-time featured back, and injury-plagued Vernand Morency.

The Packers threw the football 60.3 percent of the time last year with Green on board. Second-year head coach Mike McCarthy, the play-caller for the offense, can't fathom asking Favre to put the ball up more than 600 times, as he has done the last two years. McCarthy might have no other choice, however, as he tries to repair an offense that had the worst red-zone production in the NFC last season.

"I hope it's 50-50. It would be great," McCarthy said of the run-pass ratio. "But, it's not going to be. Probably more like 45-55."


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