Packers report card

High grades after six games, except for league-worst rushing offense

PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus -- With 247 pass attempts, Brett Favre is on his way to shattering his career and league high of 613 last season. The extra demands wrought by a porous running game haven't impacted the 38-year-old in a negative way.

Favre has been generally sharp at the outset this season, completing 64.8 percent of his throws for 1,700-plus yards and nine touchdowns for the league's second-rated passing attack (273.7 average). He and his receivers have bought into a traditional West Coast short passing attack as a way to mitigate mistakes. Shades of Favre from a few years ago, though, started to surface the last two games with three interceptions on badly thrown balls into coverage and downfield.

Donald Driver remains the go-to outlet for Favre, though Driver has had a quiet season compared to previous years with 36 catches and two touchdowns. Greg Jennings has played through a nagging hamstring to be a clutch after-the catch contributor, leading the club with three touchdowns. James Jones is a viable No. 3 receiver but has had his rookie moments, including two fumbles against Chicago in Week 5 that put him in coach Mike McCarthy's doghouse. The tight end tandem of Donald Lee and Bubba Franks, who have combined for 36 receptions and three TDs, has been better than expected.

An offensive line hit by injuries at center and right guard has been shaky in pass protection. Favre has been sacked 11 times; he hasn't been taken down with such frequency since 2000.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- Point of emphasis No. 1 during the bye was to try to resolve a frightening mess with running the football. Growing pains were to be expected when general manager Ted Thompson decided not to replace departed workhorse Ahman Green with a capable veteran in the off-season.

Vernand Morency, the top returnee, was ticketed to be Green's replacement, but he suffered a serious knee injury on the first day of training camp and missed the entire preseason. Second-round draft pick Brandon Jackson failed to capitalize on the newfound starting opportunity, averaging only 2.6 yards per carry in the first three games before suffering a strained shin that knocked him out of the lineup for a couple weeks. That opened the door for seventh-round draftee DeShawn Wynn, who was fortunate to make the team after an injury-riddled preseason. The powerful and quick Wynn has shown the most promise for becoming a productive featured back, averaging 4.1 yards per tote and reaching the end zone four times. Still, Wynn's flashes for ripping off a substantial gain have been few and far between for the league's worst-rated rushing group (65.7 average).

Some of the blame falls on the line, which has been out of sorts on both the front and back ends in executing the zone-blocking scheme.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- Big plays are the thorn in the side of a unit that is otherwise doing a bang-up job of dictating play through the air. Defending the tight end hasn't been pleasant. Linebackers and safeties, alike, (namely Brady Poppinga and Nick Collins) have been burned by the Giants' Jeremy Shockey, San Diego's Antonio Gates, Chicago's Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen, and Washington's Chris Cooley.

Don't look now, but a matchup with Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez is around the bend in Week 9. The festering deficiencies with the tight ends have contributed greatly to Green Bay's No. 22 league ranking against the pass (223.7 average).

On the positive side, Al Harris, despite being plagued by chronic back spasms, remains one of the top lock-down corners against the opponent's best receiver.

The pass rush along the line picks up steam toward the end of games, with Aaron Kampman leading the way again with five sacks and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila revitalized in a situational role with 4 1/2.

RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus -- Save for Adrian Peterson's semi-big output of 112 yards in the Packers' initial matchup with division rival Minnesota in Week 4, the defense has been better than adequate stopping the run. The unit ranks 12th in the league, yielding an average of 100.2 yards per game.

Middle linebacker Nick Barnett and strong safety Atari Bigby, a first-year starter, have been enforcers in support. They rank 1-2 on the team in tackles with 67 and 56, respectively. Those two and others in the second level are benefiting from stout play in the middle of the line by Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly, who are occupying multiple blockers and occasionally shedding them to be playmakers in their own right.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- The previously embattled unit, which has ranked last in the league the last two years, got off to a roaring start in the opener against Philadelphia, forcing two fumbles on returns and scoring a touchdown on one of them.

Tracy White and Jarrett Bush have been coverage demons. Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson have been satisfactory as the kickoff and punt returners, with a 65-yard runback to Williams' credit. The reinstatement of Koren Robinson, though, could provide a boost to the return dimension.

Rookie Mason Crosby survived a grueling duel with Dave Rayner in the preseason, and the sixth-round draft pick has been mostly solid with the kicking chores. He made nine of his first 10 field-goal attempts before a two-miss hiccup in rainy conditions at Lambeau Field in the last game. Jon Ryan is an improved second-year punter, significantly raising his net average to 40 yards.

COACHING: B-plus -- McCarthy is NFL Coach of the Year material, pushing most of the right buttons to turn a spotty 8-8 team from last season into a contender in the NFC with a 5-1 record. He and his staff have the league's youngest squad believing in itself and overcoming adversity when games are on the line.

McCarthy, though, has been guilty of an assortment of faulty game-management decisions. As the play-caller for the offense, he has been quick to abandon a commitment to the running game, resorting to the pass 68.1 percent of the time. Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders is under the gun to sort out pass-coverage lapses, particularly against the tight end.

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