See the Seahawks run

That is what Green Bay and its beleaguered run defense expect on Sunday at Seattle, which features productive Julius Jones.

A reporter walked up to Nick Collins' locker on Friday, and wondered whether the standout safety's absence from the injury report meant he was over his bruised back.

Collins laughed, and said that since he's not on the injury report, "I'm OK."

Two stories surrounding the Packers' defense all season have been inexorably linked. One, the defense can't stop the run. Two, the defense can't get healthy.

Injuries, every member of the Packers is quick to repeat, aren't an excuse for losing or for poor play. But at the same time, starters are starters for a reason: They're better and generally more experienced than the guys who are behind them.

The Packers enter Sunday's game at Seattle with the 27th-ranked run defense (161.4 yards per game), 31st-ranked run defense in terms allowed of yards allowed per rush (5.1) and the worst run defense in terms of first downs allowed (46).

With the Seahawks' offense saddled with a patchwork receiving corps and quite possibly without Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck — and the Packers without their best defensive lineman (Cullen Jenkins), their best run-stopping defensive back (Atari Bigby) and one of their standout linebackers slowed by a groin injury (A.J. Hawk) — Green Bay can expect to see a heavy dose of running backs Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett.

With Jenkins and last year's first-round pick, Justin Harrell, sidelined, the Packers' three defensive tackles — Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole — are playing too many snaps. When the Packers needed a late stop against Tampa Bay and Atlanta, a worn-down defense couldn't deliver. Compounding problems, Pickett is battling knee tendinitis, which limited his practice time this week.

"I've got to go," Pickett said. "We don't have many of us, so I've got to be ready to go the full game.

Pickett says he's playing more snaps now than he has at any level of football. That's called too much of a good thing, but until Harrell returns — possibly next week — he doesn't have any choice.

"I'm going to have to do it," Pickett said. "We all have to do it. I don't want to do it. I want to have the defense shorten the game to about 36 plays or 40 plays. That would be the thing for everyone."

Thus, Pickett said, the focus on defense is improved play on first down.

"We've got to stop them on first and second down and get them on third-and-long, that's what we need to do," Pickett said. "We start making the game easy by letting them get too many yards on first and second down and making it an easy conversion."

On Monday, coach Mike McCarthy was highly critical of his defense, not for coming out flat last week against Atlanta but for trying to do too much. On defense, every player is responsible for a gap. When one player leaves that gap and fails to make the play, that opens a hole, and quality backs like Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Dallas' Marion Barber and Atlanta's Michael Turner have made the Packers pay a steep price.

"That's the hardest thing in the world to resist," Pickett said. "It's like, ‘I've got it! I've got it!' You've got to be disciplined and you've got to trust your teammates that they're going to make the play."

Pickett is confident the defense has got a handle on those problems. Against Jones, who ranks fourth in the NFL with 93.2 rushing yards per game, that optimism will be tested.

"They've been running pretty good all year," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "They've got pretty good running backs and some real good offensive linemen, so we expect them to be running the ball. But we look forward to the challenge because we haven't been as good as we'd like to be against the run. It's a good week for us to create an identity against the run."

That means, as Collins put it, it's time to play "Packer football."

"We've had a great week of practice," he said, "and we've just got to take it out there on the field."

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

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