Nose for the ball

Rouse on pace to start when regular season opens, says Packer Report's Todd Korth

Maybe you noticed it, maybe you didn't. But the difference between Nick Collins and Aaron Rouse again was very evident in Green Bay's preseason opener Monday night at Lambeau Field.

Collins got the start, as he has throughout training camp at free safety next to Atari Bigby. Rouse came in the game for Rouse later in the second quarter.

Early in the first quarter, Collins had a chance at intercepting a deep pass thrown by Carson Palmer on third down but couldn't quite come up with it. Collins was in position, played great defense against the receiver and almost made the pick. Nothing wrong with that, but haven't we seen that way too much in the last three years?

In three seasons as a starter, Collins has four total interceptions and countless dropped passes.

Later in the game in the third quarter, Rouse made an impressive, diving interception off a pass thrown by Jeff Rowe near the sideline. True, Rowe is a second-year, third-string quarterback, but Rouse still had to come out of nowhere to make the catch. And that's not the first time he has made a diving catch. He has made a few like it in training camp practices and made a few last year in the three games he started for the injured Collins.

More often than not, that's been the difference between Collins and Rouse. Both are very good football players. Good tacklers. Physical. All of that stuff. But when it comes to making plays and catching errant passes, Rouse rises above Collins. Throughout training camp thus far, Rouse has easily had more interceptions and passes defensed than Collins, and that carried through in the exhibition opener.

"Obviously, I consider myself a playmaker. So, I just want to go out there and continue to make plays," Rouse said afterward.

Rouse played a little more but finished with four tackles, one pass defensed and one pickoff. Collins had three total tackles in a little more than one quarter.

Rouse says he thrives on being around the ball and that it usually collides with him. So far, there's no denying that Rouse backs up his talk.

Even though Collins is the starter, Rouse is breathing heavily down his neck right now for the job. If Rouse can continue to show his ability to be a ball hog in training camp practices and the next couple of preseason games, it will be no stretch to see him in the starting lineup next to Bigby on opening day.

Todd Korth writes for PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.


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