Gameday notebook

Packer Report editor Bill Huber empties his tape recorder and notebook before Sunday's game, with notes on Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Flynn, the pressure on the Packers' offensive line, the defense's matchup with Michael Turner and much, much more.

Good morning from the Lambeau Field press box, where it has been announced Aaron Rodgers will start at quarterback today against the Atlanta Falcons.

Interestingly, though, Matt Flynn is handling most of the pregame chores, which is probably an indication Rodgers is nowhere close to 100 percent healthy.

In the only lineup change, Charlie Peprah will start in place of Atari Bigby at safety.

Rookie Ryan

Even with Rodgers starting at quarterback, there will be a pair of young passers starting Sunday's game at Lambeau Field.

Matt Ryan, the third pick in April's draft, has been the starter in Atlanta since Day 1. His career started with a bang with a 62-yard touchdown pass on his first regular-season pass.

Not surprisingly, though, Ryan's first four games have been a mixed bag. His completion percentage of 52.2 isn't anywhere near where an NFL quarterback should be, especially when bolstered by the league's best running attack. But, with only two interceptions, Ryan isn't losing games, either.

First-year Falcons coach Mike Smith calls his quarterback "astute." Smith has even given Ryan some opportunities to call his own plays at the line of scrimmage.

"I think we have gotten some confirmation from what we thought Matt would be capable of doing," Smith said of Ryan's first four starts. "We knew he had the skill set in terms of measurables and what not to be a quarterback in this league, but he has been a very quick student. He has adjusted to what defensive coordinators have presented to him, not only from week to week but actually within the game."

The Packers hope Aaron Rodgers will be healthy enough to pilot the offense. Rodgers had the luxury of learning from Brett Favre for three seasons. Ryan, on the other hand, is learning on the fly.

"For me, I think the best way to learn is experience," said Ryan, speaking in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. "At this point, I've got four games under my belt and a lot of different situations, game situations, that I've been in and can draw from in the future. So, I view it as a positive. I still have a ton of things to learn, but I've got some positive and negative experiences under my belt, and I think I can continue to progress from those experiences."

Ryan is 2-0 at home, with the Falcons scoring 72 points. On the road, however, he's 0-2, and the offense has scored six field goals and no touchdowns.

"Just getting the feel of week in and week out, going against such tough defenses," Ryan said of his biggest adjustment. "No matter what team you're playing against, you've got to reload faster than you do in college. There's certainly a lot more looks you're going to face, but I think I've been doing a really good job in terms of my preparation."

The Packers' perspective

Ryan was coached at Boston College by Packers coach Mike McCarthy's first offensive coordinator, Jeff Jagodzinski.

"I think you have to be very impressed with what he has done so far," McCarthy said. "He's won two football games. The thing you notice from him is he's very smart. You can see where just in the early stage of his career, they have already gone no huddle with him. I think there is a lot to work with. I think he is a quarterback that has a promising future, but he's still young."

That youth is something the Packers' big-play defense hopes to exploit.

"I ain't going to say he looks like a rookie," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "It looks like he's real confident and he's been there before, but at the same time, he is a rookie. He may downplay it by his body language, but we've got to go out there and get pressure on him and he'll make those rookie mistakes."

Verbal bouquets

Ryan is impressed by the Packers' defensive talent, even with all of the injuries. That's especially true with cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Nick Collins, who are tied for the NFC lead with three interceptions apiece.

"When you look at Woodson, he's a perennial Pro Bowler, a guy that does a great job," said Ryan, a collegiate teammate of Packers cornerback Will Blackmon. "He's still very talented and has made a lot of plays this season."

Of Collins, Ryan said: "He's a physical player. He's done a good job at their safety position. He comes down and makes some plays. He has a couple interceptions, which is really impressive, and he's made some big plays at big times. So, he's a really good player and it's going to be a tough challenge for us."

Plenty on the line

Packers running back Ryan Grant started the season at less than full strength because of a nagging hamstring injury sustained during his first week of training camp. But as he's gotten healthier, the running game should have been improving, right?

Wrong. Instead, the Packers' running game has gotten worse in every game. Their 112 combined rushing yards in back-to-back losses against Dallas and Tampa Bay are less than half of what the Packers rushed for in wins over Minnesota (139 yards) and Detroit (123 yards).

So, the Packers worked on fundamentals during practice this week, with the offensive linemen doing more work in pads.

"Everybody up front has to play better," veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher said. "Running backs, tight ends, offensive line — everybody involved has to execute better."

That would be especially true if rookie Matt Flynn winds up starting at quarterback. Not that the line would feel inclined to blocker harder for the rookie. After two subpar games, the line feels it has something to prove.

"You still want to block your guy and you want to give a guy a seam," Tauscher said. "Those guys, the more talented the player, the better they make you look, is the way I see it. You try to go out there and consistently do your job as well as you can, and let those skill guys do their thing, because they're the guys that make the thing go."

Welcome back

Defensive tackle Grady Jackson is hungry. That's not surprising given he officially weighs 345 pounds but probably is a lot closer to 375. Jackson, however, has something to prove to his former employer. He took at as an insult when the Packers let him depart in free agency so they could sign Ryan Pickett. (Note: See today's Game snapshot for more on Jackson.)

"Grady's always been a heavy guy, but he's quick, and you watch him on film, and he still does great things," Tauscher said. "He's still a guy you have to take account for because he makes a lot of plays, and I'm sure, anytime you play against an old team, I'm sure he'll be more than fired up to come up here and play.

Jackson, who played for the Falcons in 2006 and part of 2007, played for Smith during the second half of last season when Smith was Jacksonville's defensive coordinator. Smith says the preferred workload for Jackson is 20 to 25 plays on running downs.

"He's a guy that's difficult to move off the line of scrimmage and can create some matchup problems inside," Smith said.

The ‘Burner'

The guy who makes the Falcons' offense go — and Public Enemy No. 1 for the Packers' defense — is running back Michael Turner.

Signed during the offseason to a six-year contract worth $34.5 million, including $15 million guaranteed, after being LaDainian Tomlinson's backup in San Diego for four years, Turner leads the NFL with 422 rushing yards. That includes a 220-yard outburst against Detroit in Week 1.

"We wanted to have a running back that could pound the ball in between the tackles, and Michael can do that, and he also has the speed to go the distance," Smith said of the 5-foot-10, 244-pound bowling ball from Northern Illinois. "He's had a number of 75-yard runs over the last three years. He's a guy that you can count on getting 20 carries out of every week."

Combined with fleet-footed complementary back Jerious Norwood, the Falcons are averaging a league-high 181.8 rushing yards per game. So, they'll test a short-handed Packers defense that ranks 26th in the NFL against the run and has given up three 100-yard rushing games.

"I think Michael Turner is a very physical running back," McCarthy said. "He has incredible lower body strength, just having the opportunity to break him down through the free-agent process when he was in San Diego and competing against him last year and seeing him a couple of times this year, because we obviously played Detroit and as we prepare for him this week. He breaks tackles. He has more speed than you think he does. He does an excellent job of finishing runs, so he'll be an excellent challenge for our run defense."


— The Packers have lost two consecutive games for the first time since 2006. Did McCarthy point that out to his team?: "I think I had enough negative things to point out to them. I didn't need to pile on."

— Does Flynn's national championship give him any cache in the Packers' locker room? Not really, Tauscher said. "Guys that come out and work hard and do the stuff that they're supposed to do has respect. Then, it comes down to how you perform on the field. If guys perform well, they earn respect."


— Talk about leaders of the pack. The Packers' Greg Jennings leads the NFL with 482 receiving yards, Tuner leads the NFL in rushing yards and the Falcons' John Abraham leads the NFL with six sacks.

— Third down has been a big problem for the Packers' offense in the last two games, with a combined conversion rate of 8-of-27. Interestingly, though, all six of Rodgers' touchdown passes have come on third down.

— The Packers have allowed three first-quarter points — a field goal by Dallas after a fumble by Grant.

Stat of the week

From 1990 to 2007, 34 percent of teams that started the season 2-2 wound up in the playoffs. While that doesn't bode well for the Packers, they enter today's game tied for the lead in the NFC North.

Meaningless stat of the week

The Packers are 15-1 when Grant gets at least 15 carries. That loss, however, came last week.

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