Skip to main content

Butler: Packers Use Preseason To Judge Talent


Although the Packers' first preseason game didn't turn out the way most fans wanted it to, I think the team learned a lot about itself, which is the reason these games are played in the first place.

It's great when you win, but essentially what you are trying to do in the preseason is find out who can play and who can't.

You know that the starters can play. What you're trying to find out is whether the next 22 guys can play -- the second and third team guys -- because those are your special teams guys.

Preseason is a time to study talent, look at other teams' talent and find out what kind of team you have.

Of course you want to win games and you don't tell guys to go out there and lose, and many fans may be nervous because the defense didn't play great during the Family Night scrimmage. Another less than perfect outing didn't help matters much.

But don't jump the gun just yet. It's way too early to jump to conclusions about how the season is going to go, and even how the first regular season game is going to go.

I think the only edge that Seattle had on the Packers Monday night was that they were a playoff experienced team and the Packers are re-tooling on defense. They have a new system they're trying to implement, while at the same time trying players out at several positions, such as the punter and the defensive backfield, even along the offensive line.

I feel confident that had it been a real game, the Packers would have beaten the Seahawks just like they did the last few times they played.

In limited time on the field, the first-team defense did very well. They got a couple three-and-outs and I think the Packers were able to confuse Seattle on a few different occasions.

The Seahawks thought the Packers were going to be passive on defense, but they came out more aggressive. That's the message the Packers want to send to every NFC team, that they are going to be more aggressive.

Grady Jackson has proven to be one of the stalemates along the defensive line. He was very aggressive and penetrated very well to get into the backfield. If you have a running game like Seattle, you have to be able to get to the corner and Shaun Alexander wasn't able to get to the corner because of Jackson.

And not to mention that had Hasselbeck not fumbled on one play, Jackson would have dropped the running back for a three-yard loss, so it's good to see him get in there and playing to his capability so early in the preseason.

The Packers' linebackers were very active and No. 56 showed me yet again why I think he can be a Pro Bowl player. Nick Barnett has that unbelievable speed, agility and quickness. With Barnett playing behind big Grady and Cletidus Hunt, it's going to prove to be a formidable task for opposing offenses.

In the secondary it was good to get an extensive look at Michael Hawthorne and Al Harris at the corners. Both of those guys did good jobs on the perimeter.

The Packers were able to get Darren Sharper involved right away, which sends the message that the Packers are going to get him involved by blitzing him this year. They're not just going to have him standing back there in the secondary. They're going to make him very active. He's the best player on defense and the Packers will live and die with Darren Sharper. He had a couple good pressures on Hasselbeck, forcing a few errant throws.

Mark Roman had a potential interception but Ahmad Carroll got his first ever interference, which was a communication error. You got a chance to see the new rule -- not touching the guy after the first five yards -- right away and that's a call Carroll will have to get used to.

I don't think Marques Anderson really got the opportunity to show what he could do and I'm looking forward to that battle at the safety position. It's going to be a great one to follow the rest of camp.

One thing that you as fans wanted to see was how effective the pass rush would be. The sack that Cullen Jenkins made shows some of the potential of the young guys for the future.

But as far as getting in the quarterback's face, you want to be very vanilla with the defenses that you call. The Packers don't want to show everything they have in the first preseason game.

I think they will be OK there once they really start running some of the man-to-man and blitz packages when the season begins.

On offense, boy No. 4 looked sharp right away. He really took over the game. He was very good with his progression, and by that I mean knowing where the ball is supposed to go if his first, second and third receivers are covered.

Favre had a couple opportunities to hit Seattle with big plays. Brett could have hooked up on a long pass to Donald Driver, but it looked like Donald was held a little bit and the referees didn't call it. That caused Brett to misfire but it could have easily been a touchdown.

Another near touchdown came on the reverse pass. I like the fact that Tom Rossley had some tricks up his sleeve for the first game. I was getting excited. Had they not mishandled the ball, they would have converted a reverse with Najeh Davenport and Javon Walker, and Driver was wide open.

But that's what our offense is about; taking risks.

The reason you run trick plays is to keep defenses on their heels, and besides, these are the plays that the players want to run. Had it worked, it would have been great, just like any other play. It shows that the Packers are going to do whatever it takes to win, and I haven't seen them run many trick plays like that in a while.

On special teams, the first thing everyone wanted to see was how the Packers punted the ball. For the most part, I think B.J. Sander did a good job. The packers were pinned down and he had to kick from the end zone and did a good job of getting the ball out of there. It had nice hang time and it was good to see him get the kicks off.

Sander is another guy that has been thrown into the fire and he reads the paper just like anybody else. He wants to do well, but we just have to be patient with him.

The punter can be just like the quarterback in the way that he controls the game. It's really a defensive stat in the way that he can pin the other team deep in their own territory. But the jury is still out and it's way too early to form an opinion on whether he's going to be the player that the Packers really want him to be.

It was good to see Tim Couch get a lot of action too. And like Sander, he's still learning his new role and it's going to take him a while to get comfortable in the system.

I heard Doug Pederson talk about the fact that it took Brett Favre a year or so to learn the offense. Now he's an expert at it.

It's just going to take Tim Couch some time to learn it and once he does, you'll see his talent come out, but first he has to be protected. Offensive line coach Larry Beightol is one of the best in the game at fixing problems and he understands that. I'm sure he was a little disappointed in the offensive line's performance, but that part will get fixed, don't worry about it.

The Packers have one of the best lines in the league when all the guys are healthy, but right now they're trying to find out who can play where -- if Kevin Barry can play guard or if he can play left or right tackle and so on.

Moving linemen around sometimes results in a defender running free at the quarterback, which was the case when Doug Pederson first went into the game. But you have to do it to see if a guy can step up to the challenge.

It was great to see that Ahman Green hasn't missed a beat from his record-breaking season of a year ago. He had some very exciting runs and coming off the field he said that he was just getting started. If that's the case and if teams aren't able to make the first tackle on him, he's going to have another very big year.

So all in all, for what I was looking for I think the Packers' progress has been very steady. Yes, they have some things to work on. But so does every other team in the league.

Ahmad Carroll will be getting a lot of reps in the next few weeks and it will be good to get Joey Thomas back to see what he can do, and to get Craig Nall back in the game.

The one part of the team that doesn't need work is the fans. The attendance was unbelievable for the first preseason game as it is for all the games. Not many teams in the league have that kind of support.

I know that they're always in mid-season form, every time they come to the stadium. But I would hope that they hold off on the booing.

Sometimes that can play into the hands of your opponent because it makes them feel like they have turned the momentum.

I know that as a player, you always hear that and if you're the visiting team, it works like a shark that smells blood. It only makes you more aggressive.

As Packers fans, this is our team and win, lose or draw we have to be behind them. When they're down, we have to cheer them on and bring them back up.

*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,*

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.