Woodson: 'We're As Good As What We've Shown'

Charles Woodson, the leader of the Packers' defense, offers no excuses for that unit's performance in the preseason. Woodson weighs in on the early struggles, the limited time to solve those problems and the prospect of having the offense bail out the defense.

Charles Woodson made no attempt to sugarcoat the defense's preseason performance.

No excuses for injuries. No excuses for vanilla strategy. No excuses, period.

"I think we're as good as what we've shown, and I don't think it's all that great," Woodson, the defense's conscious — and best player — said when I asked him on Sunday whether the defense was better than the preseason results suggest. "There's improvements for us to make. Hopefully, by the time the first game gets here, we'll have some things ironed out and know who's going to be in there and those sort of things and just take off running.

In the first half on Thursday against Indianapolis, the Colts posted 258 yards and 17 points. Peyton Manning threw for 199 yards, coming on the heals of big performances through the air against the Packers' starters by Cleveland's Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace and Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck.

The starters will play one series — maybe two — against Kansas City in Thursday's preseason finale. Thus, most of this week's practices are being tailored for the reserves. So, is there time, as Woodson said, to get things ironed out and take off running?

Simply put, the starters had better make the most of their limited time on the field this week.

"Philly's not going to care if we're ready or not," Woodson said. "Really, our last game was last Thursday with the two 1's out there playing. Come Philly, it's not going to matter. We've got to worry about making sure we buckle down these next couple weeks and get our minds right."

Fortunately for the Packers, their offense appears poised to explode out of the starting gate. If the offense can get even close to matching last year's season-ending production, then the defense might have the luxury of figuring things out and growing on the fly.

Not that Woodson is embracing that approach.

"I don't look at it like that," he said. "I love to play on a team with a high-powered offense, but at some point during the season, they're going to need us to step up and play good football, get off the field, make plays or whatever. I don't like going in with the mind-set that we have to depend on the offense. We've got a lot of corrections we have to make. A lot of guys are going to have to step up and play this year. We have a lot of guys hurt. It's going to have to be a lot of guys that come in and play for this defense who are going to have to make plays and really know their assignments, know what they're supposed to do and not come into the game expecting our offense to bail us out every Sunday, because that's just not going to happen."

Fresh in Woodson's mind remains the playoff loss at Arizona, when the offense scored 45 points but the season ended anyway. The sting remains for Woodson. He turns 34 in October so he knows how precious every season is his career winds down.

"Defensively, we just dropped he ball," he said. "Didn't make any plays, let them run up and down the field, picking up completions on third down and scoring touchdowns and that sort of thing. We don't want to go into this season thinking we have an offense that can put up points so we can just go out there and whatever happens, happens. That's not taking any pride in what you do as a professional. We won't go out there like that."

Nonetheless, Woodson sees real reasons for optimism. All of the injuries today will leave the team better prepared for the injuries that inevitably will happen later. Plus, in Year 2 of the scheme, the defense can afford to save itself and play vanilla today so it can "put the pedal to the metal" when the season kicks off on Sept. 12.

Of course, the biggest reason for optimism on defense is Woodson himself. Though, there are those who wonder whether Woodson can repeat his remarkable nine-interception performance from last season.

"Why not? What are the questions, you know?" Woodson asked. "We'll just let them wonder and I'll worry about going out there and getting the job done."

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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. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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