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Butler: Packers Secondary Young, Talented


First of all, what an amazing night it was at Lambeau Field last weekend. Anywhere you can have between 60-65,000 people there for a scrimmage is very exciting and Packers fans showed up in full force.

It was also a great experience for the new players like Tim Couch and Ahmad Carroll. Saturday was the first time for them to have the opportunity to play inside 'Lambeau,' and they have to be in awe of the fans, to show up like that and show that kind of support.

It was unfortunate that Michael Hawthorne had an ankle injury and was unable to participate, but it did give Carroll the opportunity to get his first 'unofficial' start in Lambeau Field.

Carroll comes from a bump-and-run, in-your-face type of defense at Arkansas and that is exactly what the Packers want to play this year. He's still getting his feet under him and I think that people need to be a little more patient with the secondary because the Packers are still trying to find the right combination.

I've heard from many fans about one play in particular during the scrimmage -- the 71-yard touchdown in which Tim Couch connected with Shockmain Davis.

Ahmad will be the first person to tell you that he made a mistake on that play. But that's what I like about him, he recognizes his mistakes and he is very coachable.

On that play, the Packers were playing a combination zone, which means that if Carroll's man goes into the flat, Ahmad is supposed to switch off. Instead, Carroll was playing man coverage and didn't switch, and that put safety Darren Sharper in a bind because then there were two guys coming vertical. It's up to Sharper to get the most dangerous receiver.

To Davis' benefit, the Packers were running a 'thud' drill, meaning there's only light contact. Had that play happened in a real game, Sharper, who was right there when Davis caught the ball, probably would have laid him out or maybe even intercepted the pass.

As for Ahmad, that's a one-time mistake that rookies make. I think he's right on the curve and the mistakes that he made in the scrimmage, he will never make again.

Carroll has great athletic ability, and like any other rookie in the league he's being force fed a lot of information right now. He's going to make mistakes. But once he learns the defense, I think we'll see his athletic ability take over.

Overall, I'm very encouraged with how the Packers' secondary is playing. They're a young group, but I thought Mark Roman and Marques Anderson both played very well.

Chris Watson and Jason Horton are a couple of other guys I look forward to seeing develop. Like Carroll, they are very aggressive football players and right now they're at a disadvantage, trying to learn the new system and the new rules, which state that the defenders can't touch the receiver after five yards.

But again, once they have the system down, you will see their athletic ability come out and really get a feel of what type of players they can be.

Turning to offense, I think the Packers have three of the best receivers in the league in Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson and Javon Walker.

If Walker continues to improve like he did last year, he could easily become a Pro Bowl caliber receiver very soon.

Driver, as always, showed his great leaping ability on the first play of the scrimmage when he went over the corner back to haul in a 37-yard pass from Brett Favre.

And Ferguson is by far, pound for pound, the toughest wide receiver in the league. He's a potential starter, has great hands, can play special teams and will knock your head off.

It was great to see offensive coordinator Tom Rossley go down field as often as he did. That lets people know that Favre's arm is fresh, it's loaded and the Packers are going after it this year.

I was also excited to see Ahman Green play, even though it wasn't a lot. I think he's going to have an even bigger year than last year, and with the offensive line that the Packers have, the sky's the limit.

Right now the Packers have a couple of guys out in Mike Flanagan and Mike Wahle, which explains why the Packers' numbers on the ground weren't exactly what they are used to seeing.

But Flanagan and Wahle will be back and this gives the Packers an opportunity to see a few other guys play different positions, which will increase their depth as the year goes on.

At the same time, you have to give the front seven a lot of credit because they were shutting down the run.

Nick Barnett is one of the best young linebackers in the game today. He's fast, he's strong and he's smart and that's a great combination. I'm very encouraged with our run defense.

I love the calls that the defensive coaches were making, especially up front. I think this year, the Packers aren't going to rely so much on the secondary, but more so on the front line.

A lot of teams don't blitz on first down. But I think you'll see that the Packers will. They're going to bring a lot of 'over-population' blitzes, where one guy will always be free. If a guy's not free, he'll be one-on-one. If the Packers could get KGB one-on-one every time, he would have 17 or 18 sacks, and that's their goal, to free him up, bring pressure away from him and make the quarterback run to him.

Echoing what Favre said last week, this team is good enough to get to the Super Bowl. They're talented enough on both sides of the ball, and just think how close they came last year. It's wide open in the NFC and if any team is not thinking about the Super Bowl, why even come to camp?

I think when the real heat is on at Carolina, you'll see the true Packers defense. Right now they're in the working stages, but this team has so much talent and athletic ability. I'm just excited to see how it all develops.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,

Butler will also be appearing at Lambeau Field during training camp, Friday, Aug. 13, to sign copies of his book, which will be available for purchase at that time.*

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