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Offensive line is symbol of Packers’ success

Posted Nov 1, 2013

Wide receivers, special teams hope to gain in numbers

GREEN BAY—They’re coaches of the year in their own right, and if they had such an award for assistant coaches, James Campen and Edgar Bennett would be strong candidates.

Campen is the coach of a Packers offensive line that has undergone a major transformation following a year when it was blamed for everything from too few rushing yards to too many sacks. The line was flip-flopped for this season, which means none of its starters has played a full season as a starter at their current positions. On top of that, Campen’s starting left tackle is a rookie.

The result?

The Packers have the league’s No. 3 running game and the Packers are in the top half of the league in sacks per pass play.

“It’s a combination of work in every facet of the offense. It comes down to a whole lot more than linemen staying on their blocks. You can see the growth in them. They’re getting momentum through confidence,” Campen said.

So who gets the credit for this dramatic improvement?

“The players do. It’s a testament to their fortitude. It’s a component of a lot of things. Usually, when coach (Mike McCarthy) has made an emphasis, it’s gotten better.”

Bennett is the coach of a Packers wide receiver corps that is loaded with star players. The problem is two of those stars, Randall Cobb and James Jones, have been sidelined by injury the past two weeks.

The result?

Jarrett Boykin and Myles White, undrafted free agents that caught the Packers’ eye in each of the last two training camps, have come out of seemingly nowhere to catch 19 passes for 236 yards and one touchdown the last two weeks.

What, other than Aaron Rodgers’ talent for throwing a football, has caused this to happen?

“The mindset is to continue to improve each and every day. We’ve certainly not arrived. We’ve got to build toward what we want to become. We want to become great,” Bennett said.

It’s hoped Jones will return to action on Monday night against the Chicago Bears. Jones practiced in a limited fashion on Friday. Cobb will miss extended action.

Meanwhile, it appears Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum will get back coverage star Ryan Taylor, which should give a boost to a coverage team that allowed a 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last Sunday in Minnesota.

This has been a highs and lows kind of year for Packers special teams. Rookie Micah Hyde returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown in Minnesota, and kicker Mason Crosby was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October. Remarkably, a year ago at this time Crosby was battling a slump that threatened his career.

“It says something about his resolve, his work ethic and his ability to overcome adversity,” Slocum said of Crosby.

The focus of Slocum’s players this week is Bears return sensation Devin Hester, who returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown two weeks ago against the Redskins.

“Devin has been a remarkable player throughout his career. All it takes is one. He’s one of those guys that can score at any point,” Slocum said.

“Overall, our teams are getting better. As we move forward, we’ll have a stronger team,” he said.

That improvement seems to be best represented by the Packers offensive line.

Additional coverage - Nov. 1

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