Thompson gets tough intro to tough game

Rookie Jeremy Thompson, coming off of a disappointing NFL debut, figures to start in place of Cullen Jenkins and Mike Montgomery at defensive end.

Tryouts are over.

That was coach Mike McCarthy's message to rookie defensive end Jeremy Thompson on Monday, the day after Thompson made his NFL debut in the Packers' loss to Atlanta.

Thompson, a fourth-round pick in April, has all the tools to become a quality player, but the same things that kept him out of the lineup for the first four games of the season — a lack of aggressiveness — cropped up again against the Falcons.

"It was good to get out there, even though it didn't go the way I would have liked it to go," Thompson said Thursday. "Just learn from being out there that it's a different pace, a different tempo. I think I'll be able to build from that."

He'll need to, because there's a good chance he'll be in the starting lineup on Sunday in what stacks up as an NFC elimination game at Seattle. Both teams are on three-game losing streaks, with much of the blame for the Packers' woes thrown at the feet of one of the worst run defenses in the league.

Last week, Mike Montgomery started in place of stalwart Cullen Jenkins (305 pounds) at end, but with Montgomery (273 pounds) missing all week of practice with a bum ankle, Thompson (270 pounds) likely will be thrown into the lineup.

"He had a good week of practice," McCarthy said Friday. "I think it helps the younger guys, particularly when they're able to have more quality reps as far as where exactly they're going to play. Anytime you're in a backup position — and that goes for everybody — you're catching reps catch as catch can, because you don't usually just back up one position. So, you get rotated into the mix. Jeremy in particular having the ability to rotate into spots where we feel that he'll play, I think it will definitely help him in his preparation."

Thompson admits to being "shell-shocked" last week at the tempo and ferocity of a regular-season game. The intensity level is considerably higher than it is at practice, which had been the only snaps Thompson had seen for the past month.

"Practice, you try to take care of each other," he said. "In the game, I don't want to say it's a war out there, but people are trying to take you out."

Thompson echoed McCarthy's sentiment that he needs to be more aggressive. But that's been preached since training camp, and so far, those words haven't resulted in Thompson backing away from his cautious, cerebral approach.

"Just finishing," Thompson said when asked what he needs to improve upon this week. "A lot of times last week, I'd be in position to make the play, but instead of going and making the play myself, I would just play kind of a cutback role, where everybody would have to force it back to me. So this week, I'm going to be a lot more aggressive in my pursuit angle."

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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