Packers linebackers face tall order

Witten has prospered in Cowboys offense as prime target

Al Harris will have his hands full with Terrell Owens on Sunday night, but Green Bay's linebackers also will be tested by Cowboys' Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten.

Witten enters the game as Tony Romo's go-to guy, leading the team with 13 catches for 206 yards (15.8 avg.) and no touchdowns. He led the Cowboys with seven catches for 110 yards - the seventh 100-yard game of his career - on Monday night in Dallas' shootout win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Since 2003, Witten is second in the NFL among tight ends in catches with 361. Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez leads that category with 434 catches. Witten has been to four consecutive Pro Bowls and continues to be a centerpiece of the Cowboys offense. We could go on and on about how Witten is among the best tight ends to ever play for the Cowboys, but you get the point.

One good thing from Green Bay's standpoint is that Witten may be less than 100 percent on Sunday. He suffered a slightly separated right shoulder in the game against Philadelphia but is expected to practice and play this week.

To Ted Thompson's credit, he has done something this past off-season to prepare for star tight ends like Witten. Thompson signed free agent Brandon Chillar to help beef up the linebacker corp. Chances are Brady Poppinga will draw the assignment of covering Witten, but he may get help from A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett and Chillar in certain situations during the game.

Thus far, Green Bay's linebackers have been holding their opponents' tight ends in check. Minnesota's Visanthe Shiancoe was limited to three catches for 21 yards in Week 1 while Detroit's Shaun McDonald had four catches for 68 yards on Sunday. Like Witten, both Shiancoe and McDonald are in their sixth NFL season and have yet to score a touchdown.

Last November, Witten caught six passes for 67 yards in the Cowboys' 37-27 victory over the Packers. For the most part, the Packers held Witten in check, though, Owens got the best of Harris and the Packers by snaring seven passes for 156 yards and a touchdown.

The Packers no doubt will be focused on Owens this Sunday night, meaning the linebackers will have to be extra cautious of the 6-foot-5 Witten.

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


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