Notebook: Sitton's injury adds to challenge

Also from Friday night: Defensive problems; Jennings makes difference; special teams success; and much more from the 27-24 victory.

It was probably wishful thinking for coach Mike McCarthy to hope the offensive line marry-go-round would stop turning after Friday's preseason game at Denver.

And that was before rookie guard Josh Sitton went down with a left knee injury.

Coach Mike McCarthy called Sitton's injury "the most serious" sustained in a 27-24 win over the Broncos.

"We'll know more tomorrow," McCarthy said, alluding to testing Sitton will undergo Sunday in Green Bay. "Just with Josh being a rookie, any time you go through an injury for the first time, there's an adjustment period."

The Packers' starting offensive line already was without center Scott Wells, who was out with a strained muscle in his torso. With Wells out indefinitely — it's hard to imagine McCarthy putting Wells at risk in Thursday's preseason finale against Tennessee — and now possibly Sitton, change appears to be the only thing that's steady up front.

The line shuffling is one reason why the Packers rushed for 94 yards on 32 attempts (a 2.9 average). The first-half numbers were even more dismal: 12 rushes, 31 yards, 2.6 average. On the plus side, steady Mark Tauscher allowed the only sack.

More injuries

Lost in the span of just a few plays were starting safeties Nick Collins and Atari Bigby. Bigby turned his right ankle and Collins sustained a stinger courtesy of a hit by teammate Daniel Muir.

McCarthy said Collins "no doubt" would be ready for Thursday, but he's also been eager to get Aaron Rouse more snaps with the first team. Rouse was his usual active self, tallying five tackles including one for a loss.

Two other starters — receiver James Jones and cornerback Charles Woodson — left the game after banging knees with opponents. Woodson returned to action. Jones' night was finished, though McCarthy said his No. 3 receiver could have returned.

Meanwhile, defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (knee) did not play after finally getting back to practice this week. The others were expected: running backs Ryan Grant (hamstring) and DeShawn Wynn (ankle), linebacker A.J. Hawk (chest), defensive tackles Ryan Pickett (hamstring) and Justin Harrell (back) and safety Charlie Peprah (hamstring).


While the story line from Friday is the success of the Aaron Rodgers-led No. 1 offense, the starting defense had a difficult time containing erratic Jay Cutler and the Broncos' starting offense.

Denver scored 17 points on three possessions, including a 16-play, 99-yard drive early in the second quarter (the one in which Bigby and Collins were injured). The Broncos converted three third downs, and ran the ball 10 times for 55 yards.

"The big drive was disappointing," McCarthy said. "The strength of our defense has always been third down. We weren't as sharp tonight as we have been. We need to tackle better. That's two weeks in a row. The run defense was not as productive as it has been. But getting off the field on third down, that's the strength of our defense. We're better than we showed on that particular drive. We'll take full advantage of it and learn from it."

Welcome back

Starting receiver Greg Jennings made his preseason debut, giving the Packers their full complement of their top five receivers for the first time this season.

"I thought Greg played at full speed tonight," McCarthy said. "Donald (Driver) looked great. The receiver had a good evening as a unit. But I thought Greg Jennings was back to himself again. He really had a very good week of practice. So, it was nice to have him back out there.

Rodgers noticed a big difference in the offense with Jennings, whose four catches were tied for the team high.

"It's great having Greg back," Rodgers said, "and one of the guys who benefits the most is Donald. Because he really takes a lot of pressure off of Donald, because a lot of teams will roll coverage toward Donald when Greg's not in. So, you kind of pick your poison. Do you want to roll with Donald still, and let Greg have the one-on-one, or do you want to roll to Greg and leave Donald, or play them both one-on-one? Denver's got a set of great corners, but I like our guys as well."

Special again

The Packers' special teams appear to be a major strength.

After a big outing last week against San Francisco, Friday's performance was highlighted by Will Blackmon's 43-yard punt return which was sprung when one of the Broncos' gunners was flattened, then propelled by blocks by Tramon Williams, Aaron Rouse and Jeremy Thompson.

Punter Jon Ryan merely averaged 60 yards on three punts, including a 59-yarder that was downed at the 1 by Jarrett Bush.

Kicker Mason Crosby booted field goals of 44 and 46 yards but missed from 53, and added three touchbacks on kickoffs.

Extra points

— For the second consecutive week, the Packers finished with no sacks. This time, however, they at least put some heat on the passer. Jason Hunter creamed Patrick Ramsay on the game-turning interception.

— The Packers used their two defensive linemen alignment once. With linebackers blitzing from every angle, Cullen Jenkins burst through to hit Cutler, and Aaron Kampman batted down the pass.

— In his first preseason game of the year, backup middle linebacker Desmond Bishop made his presence felt with two big hits.

— The life of a rookie: Cornerback Patrick Lee let an interception slip through his hands that he would have taken about 95 yards for a touchdown. A few plays later, Lee was almost beaten for a touchdown but the fourth-down pass was dropped. He was beaten on a deep ball later but was bailed out on a big hit by Bush. And later, he took a horrible angle on a go-ahead touchdown for the Broncos.

— Former Packers Kenny Peterson (three tackles, one pass defensed) and Marquand Manuel (two tackles, two assists) started for Denver.

Coming up; tickets available

The Packers will practice at 3 p.m. Sunday; a change from the 11:30 a.m. scheduled session. There are only three practices left that will be open to the public. The others are at 10:45 a.m. on Monday and 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday.

The Titans returned some tickets for the Thursday preseason finale. Go to for details.

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and E-mail him at

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