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Butler's Breakdown: Packers vs. Saints


With the Saints in town for the second preseason game, look for the Packers to get an in-depth look at some of their newest talent in the secondary.

The Saints will run a moderate version of the West Coast offense. They like to take their shots down the field with receivers Joe Horn and Donte' Stallworth. They also have a very good tight end with Boo Williams. This will be a good chance for the Packers' veterans and young guys to come in and do well.

Aaron Brooks is a very capable quarterback. Before moving to New Orleans, he spent the 1999 season in Green Bay watching and learning from Brett Favre.

When Brooks first arrived in New Orleans, he was trying to lead his receivers because he has such a strong arm. If you notice, although Brett has a strong arm, he has a lot of touch on his passes. He gives his receivers a chance because he is patient in the pocket.

For a while, Brooks would go through one or two progressions and then he would take off running. But the last couple of years he's been very patient in the pocket and has had over 3,500 passing yards each of the last three seasons. And I even thought that he should have been in the Pro Bowl a couple of years ago before he had the shoulder injury.

But Mike McCarthy, the offensive coordinator who spent time in Green Bay as the quarterbacks coach, is very familiar for what it takes to develop a quarterback and has done a great job with Brooks. It will be exciting to see what our guys can do to shut him down.

Because the Saints are on the road, one of the most important things Coach Jim Haslett will tell them is that they need to strike first and try to get points on the board before the Packers do.

When he's healthy, Brooks is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and the Saints will try to establish the run with Deuce McAllister to open up the field for his receivers.

The most dangerous part of their game is the play action -- that really worries me. They have a very good play action game.

What Brooks will do is stick the ball out to McAllister and then he'll pull it back. If you're not a disciplined safety, you're going to assume that it's a run and you will attack the line of scrimmage.

The next thing you know, Brooks will hit Stallworth on a long bomb.

The way the Packers can combat against that is with the ability to penetrate on the inside. Grady Jackson and Cletidus Hunt can penetrate.

I think that's key for a couple of guys. The safeties and the interior lineman have to play a very good game or it's going to be difficult to stop that offense. You have to get penetration and you have to be disciplined. (Defensive coordinator) Bob Slowik said, "believe what you see and let your talent take over."

Defenses that play cover-two usually give Brooks some problems. That's essentially when the cornerbacks jam the receivers and sink into the flat area, and then the safeties go over the top. The thing about that is they try to isolate the linebacker on the tight end going down the middle. But Nick Barnett has enough speed to cover any tight end.

All in all, it will be a good task for our guys. I think if you play man-to-man against this offense and put pressure on Brooks, he's proven to make some errant throws, which could reap some benefits for the Packers' secondary.

I'll be excited to see some of the matchups, including Al Harris vs. Joe Horn, and Michael Hawthorne vs. Donte' Stallworth.

I'm sure that Hawthorne will be excited to play his former teammates and friends, and he will probably be telling his new teammates some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Saints' receivers.

This game will be important for the Packers because they definitely have to find out about the depth of their offensive line.

The main focus is to find out what they can do, and to get Tim Couch another chance and see if he gets something going. If there's a protection problem, the Packers will have to get it fixed because the Saints' defense is very aggressive.

But the Packers should be able to do that because Larry Beightol is one of the best coaches in the world as far as getting things corrected.

This Saints team is a very good team and the Packers will have to be on top of their game Saturday night. Each year they start fast but they don't finish. They have always faltered in December.

Injuries have had a lot to do with it, but some of the players relax when they think they are going to make the playoffs. If they have to win three of their last five games, they'll go in thinking 'We have to win three,' instead of going in thinking 'We have to win all five.'

I think that's been the main problem with the Saints. They have as much talent as any other team at the skill positions. As far as tight ends, running backs, receiverrs and quarterbacks, they can compete with anybody. The problem is that they get a little complacent with some of the success early on and that's a reason why teams are beating them late in the season.

There's a lot of pressure on this Saints team to perform well. They may play their starters a lot longer than usual. This is a make or break year for the coach and the organization and the owner wants to get moving. He wants to win because he knows he has the talent.

For that reason, the Packers will have to be ready to play because the Saints may try to do more than what they would normally do in a preseason game.

*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,*

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