Offensive Line Making Its Points

Three starting positions remain up for grabs after another productive outing by Rodgers and Co. Coach Mike McCarthy will have plenty of positive film to look at in trying to sort things out in time for practice on Monday.

Do the Packers have a punter? Better question: Do the Packers need a punter?

In two preseason games, the Packers' No. 1 offense has scored five touchdowns in six possessions. Punters Jeremy Kapinos and Durant Brooks have had the best seats in the house as stress-free spectators. The only scoreless possession for the starters came during Saturday's 31-21 victory over Buffalo, when Ryan Grant was stopped on fourth-and-1 from the Bills' 15-yard line.

"Let's hope not," Grant said when jokingly asked if the offense would ever punt this season. "We want to play fast and we're doing a good job of doing that right now."

In two games, Aaron Rodgers is a sizzling 13-of-19 for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Rodgers, who was sacked 34 times last season, hasn't been sacked during the preseason.

"I think the key is it starts up front," Rodgers said. "I think in two games I haven't been sacked, really haven't been touched, and that gives you a lot of confidence as a passer. And the running game, they're opening up holes and guys are running through arm tackles and we're controlling the line of scrimmage.

Meanwhile, the Packers didn't get close to matching last week's 230-yard output on the ground, but they averaged 4.5 yards in the first half, including a 14-yard dash by Grant and a ridiculously easy 3-yard touchdown as they stormed to a 24-0 lead at halftime.

"I think it starts with the O-line and the approach that they're taking," Grant said of the offense's success. "They're coming out physical, downhill and the attitude that they're playing with is phenomenal. Everything is a tribute to the way they practice, No. 1, and the mentality. When we go into a game, we understand that it starts with them and we want to set the tone running ball."

That's a lot of praise for a unit with plenty of question marks. Who starts at center? Jason Spitz or Scott Wells? Who starts at right guard? Spitz or Josh Sitton? Who starts at right tackle? Allen Barbre or Breno Giacomini?

Coach Mike McCarthy rotated players in and out at center and right guard during the first half, and Barbre and Giacomini played into the fourth quarter.

In a perfect world, the Packers will have this figured out in time for Friday's preseason game at Arizona. That would give the starting line about three quarters of action against the Cardinals, a cameo appearance the following week at Tennessee and more than three weeks of practice time to get ready for the season opener against Chicago.

"I'm hopeful that the film will give me that option or a strong opinion one way or the other," McCarthy said. "That's something definitely we'll take a close look at tomorrow as a staff. I am hopeful that will happen, but I'm not making any guarantees."

On the Packers' most impressive possession of the night, a 79-yard touchdown drive that made it 14-0, Spitz was at center, Sitton at right guard and Barbre at right tackle.

While Spitz was on the field for both touchdown drives last week, Wells was at center for touchdown drives of 5 yards and 41 yards against the Bills. Not much is separating the two veterans, though Spitz was flagged for illegal hands to the face to wipe out a big completion from Rodgers to Jermichael Finley against Buffalo.

If Spitz wins the job at center, Sitton wins at right guard by default. If Wells wins at center, then the coaches must figure out what to do at right guard. On fourth-and-1 on the Packers' first drive, Sitton failed to cut off the linebacker that stuffed Grant at the point of attack.

There's no clear leader in the battle to replace Mark Tauscher at right tackle, either. Barbre and Giacomini had highlights and lowlights. On Grant's 3-yard touchdown run, Barbre pulled around right end and made the key block. However, a hold on Barbre forced the Packers into their first punt of the night. On Grant's 14-yard run, he cut back to the right as Giacomini pushed the defender well down the line of scrimmage. However, Giacomini was responsible for the sack by a second-string defensive end that resulted in a sprained shoulder for backup quarterback Matt Flynn.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.


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