"We haven't played that poorly in a long time, so there's a sense of trying to get things righted and get our confidence back up to par," the Packers' longtime starting right tackle said in looking back to Saturday's preseason debacle at San Francisco and looking ahead to tonight's game at Denver.
"You can say you're a confident team and all of those things, but when your productivity is 45 yards in the first half and four sacks, that gets tested. So, we definitely have something to prove this weekend."
There is plenty to prove, especially on offense, after last week's 34-6 drubbing. The offensive line, at this point, isn't going to scare the Vikings' mighty front four in Week 1. The receivers, especially star Donald Driver, have dropped too many passes. The running game, except for a couple of extra-effort runs from Brandon Jackson against Cincinnati, hasn't gotten on track.
For all that's at stake — this is the so-called dress rehearsal for the regular season, with starters playing at least a half and into the third quarter in many cases, plus the team needs confidence during the transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers — general manager Ted Thompson downplayed the importance of tonight's game.
"Well, preseason is preseason," Thompson said Tuesday. "You want to perform well, I think you want to get some confidence going. But ... I don't think it's mandatory that we have to go out and dominate somebody in a game."
This is, after all, only the preseason. Dallas is 0-2, too, and nobody is sweating that at Valley Range. And the tenor might be a lot different if Driver doesn't drop a deep pass from Rodgers and tight end Donald Lee doesn't drop an easy pass in the end zone. Both of those would have resulted in touchdowns, and instead of the calamity of scoring only three points in the first half last week, the Packers would have scored 14 — and maybe more with momentum instead of frustration.
"We're getting close to it, but in our eyes, we made a lot of mistakes — more mental mistakes than anything else — and that's not the type of offense we want to be," Driver said.
It all starts with Rodgers and the offensive line. Rodgers completed 9-of-16 passes for a mere 58 yards last week — though, again, that line would be gaudy if not for the two big drops. The four sacks he took, however, may be the more disturbing stat with the season approaching. While the line took a lot of heat for the sacks, Rodgers' indecisiveness was a key, too.
"There is only one way to go up after last week," Rodgers said. "It's converting third downs and making good decisions personally, and eliminating the mental mistakes. We're looking forward to doing that and hopefully putting some points on the board and just having a good taste in our mouth as we go into the regular season."
The switching along the offensive line has taken some of the focus off of the Favre-Rodgers controversy. Rodgers' hopes hinge greatly on the line's ability to open holes in the run game and, obviously, give him time to pick a man in his dynamic receiving corps. With Packers Nation still divided, it's imperative Rodgers overcome his inexperience and the line overcome its lack of cohesion.
"We want to put some good drives together," said Tauscher, the only staple along the line during training camp. "We didn't do that last week. The good drives will lead to points. We just want to get first downs, get into a rhythm and start doing some stuff that's going to make us a more productive unit offensively."
Driver says the offense wants to come out flying by taking their first drive and scoring. No doubt, after such an abysmal performance, there will be plenty of hunger to do so.
"Every time you go out on the field, it's important, but there's no question this is going to be a big tune-up, and we need a big tune-up," Tauscher said. "We really struggled last week, and it's important for us to get some good things going."
Four more things worth watching
1. First down to third down
The Packers converted only 2-of-14 third-down situations against the 49ers, due in part to ineptness on first down. The No. 1 offense gained 27 yards on 10 first-down snaps.
"Third down is the money down in the NFL," Rodgers said.
2. Rodgers has generally played well at practice, though it hasn't carried over to the scrimmage or last week. Without a strong performance tonight, the pressure will be cranked up another notch.
"I just think he's carried himself well, and he really is studying and he's doing all the right things," Tauscher said. "Now, it's just going to come down and playing and being productive. That goes across the line for everybody. If you're productive, people are going to trust and rely on you.
3. Play of the other quarterbacks
Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy continue to downplay concerns about having two rookie quarterbacks behind the untested Rodgers. Still, neither Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn seem to have done much to earn the No. 2 job.
"I think our guys are doing OK. We like them," Thompson countered. "Often times, I think a lot of focus is on some of the plays where they look like rookies and the people around them look like rookies, which is sometimes an aspect we don't consider."
The Packers have recorded just one sack this preseason — when Jason Hunter caught a scrambling Bengals quarterback for no gain — and never got a sniff of the 49ers' quarterbacks last week. The Broncos have a pair of young offensive tackles, including rookie first-round pick Ryan Clady at left tackle. With the possibility of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila making his preseason debut tonight, it will be interesting to see if the Packers finally rush the passer.
Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org