Monday's preseason opener is almost here, and it seems like it hasn't been that long since we all saw Al Harris running up the sideline to win the game against Seattle in the last game at Lambeau Field.
Guess who's coming back on Monday? That's right, it's the Seahawks and coach Mike Holmgren, back in Green Bay for the third time in less than a year.
I know it's a preseason game, but I think some people in Seattle feel like they should have won that game in January, so they'll be out for revenge. I know Coach Holmgren wants to win every time he comes to Lambeau Field, and it doesn't matter if it's the preseason or the playoffs, he wants to win.
He's going to coach as such. You might see anything. You might even see a fake punt or a fake field goal, because he feels like the last time they played they should have won.
One thing Seattle gives us a lot of problems with on defense is that they do a lot of shifting and motions. If you watch their receivers Darrell Jackson, who is a fantasy football favorite for a lot of people, and Koren Robinson, they're never in one place.
Their quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, is easily one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league. He's very smart. He's a bigger quarterback and he has a very strong arm. He will run with the ball, but only if we flush him out of the pocket.
Their left tackle, Walter Jones, is still holding out, so their line is solid, but I think we can exploit them on the corners.
The Seahawks' running game is very powerful. With Shaun Alexander, they run a lot of similar runs that we run with Ahman Green, a lot of perimeter runs. They run a lot of what we call "iso" runs where he lines up as the I-back and he follows the fullback through the "A", "B", or "C" gaps. The "A" gap is between the guard and the center, the "B" gap between the guard and tackle and the "C" gap between the tackle and tight end. Alexander at times has shown flashes of a great running back, and at other times he's shown that he's trying to avoid contact.
One thing about Coach Holmgren is that he will stick with the run if it's working. His main thing is that he'll try to confuse you with formations. They will run play-action and take a shot downtown.
I think our defense needs to have a very good showing and let people know that they're not necessarily what they saw at the scrimmage last Saturday. They'll see differently when the real bullets fly. I think Ahmad Carroll might be in line for his first start, as we have a lot of injuries right now. If that's his first start on Monday night, we're going to throw him right into the fire and see what he can do.
The Seahawks' defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes has a very interesting scheme that Seattle brings on defense. Sometimes he'll bring eight guys on a blitz, sometimes he'll just rush four. They have a very young secondary. They really get after you up front and their linebackers are smart. They just play a system that is really complicated to block sometimes. They'll bring guys from the left side and they will drop guys off. It's a combination zone, but if we can get our three receivers matched up on their corners, I think we've got a chance.
Marcus Trufant, their young corner has another year under his belt, but our focus will be to establish the run off the bat and try to get a match-up with Javon Walker on their shorter corners, and hopefully we can exploit that. Hopefully we can get down the field with Robert Ferguson or Donald Driver, and once we get in the red zone establish Bubba Franks.
For the Packers on offense, we were third in the league last year running the ball, and first in the NFC. Everyone knows about our running game. Ahman Green has been slowed a little bit by a sore foot, and he's still questionable for the game, but Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher are more than capable of handling the load.
Brett Favre has been sharp as usual in training camp. I think the biggest thrill this preseason for our offense is going to be seeing the 2nd QB battle come about. I think Tim Couch will get a chance to show what he can do. Doug Pederson is a proven guy. He has shown that he can step into any situation and play. He's played a lot of games; he's been around for a while. He's a steady veteran. Hopefully Craig Nall will be healthy enough to show what he can do, too. I really like him. I think he'll be a guy who will be able to contend for the starting job in the future.
Right now, we don't have much depth in the secondary. That's my only real concern with the defense. We traditionally only play our starters anywhere from 10-15 plays or even less in the preseason. We're going to find out early if certain players can play, though. Hopefully Joey Thomas will be able to go, and Ahmad Carroll should get plenty of snaps. Mark Roman will get a chance to work with the first and second unit. If our guys are healthy up front, I think we'll be in pretty good shape. With Cletidus and Grady, and Kabeer and Kampman on the line, I think that's a pretty good front four.
On special teams, that's where people will get their money's worth. These guys will be flying around. We have some of the best special teams in the league. We have one of the best kickers in the league. I think that people wan to find out if our punter will be able to kick the ball where we want him to when we need him to. He didn't have the kind of scrimmage that he wanted, but that's OK. That was just a scrimmage. We have to make sure that he's prepared, and I think he'll do fine.
Traditionally, Mike Holmgren plays his starters between 10-15 plays, quarterback maybe even less in the first preseason game. Coach Sherman does about the same. People should expect to see a very vanilla game at the beginning, but when then the second and third and even fourth string is in, you'll see the depth of both teams come out.
The main thing is keeping players healthy. I know it's Monday Night, so guys are going to have their juices flowing. We're really not trying to find out what the starters can do though, we're trying to see what the depth can do.
You don't want to get anybody hurt, but you want to establish yourself on national TV and let our fans around the world know that, just like Brett said, we are thinking about the Super Bowl. Super Bowl teams play great on defense and they're very good on offense in the red zone. Those are two areas that we'll definitely focus in on Monday.
Overall, Seattle is a very young team. Matt Hasselbeck is the leader of that team, and how he goes is how the team goes. If plays well, they have a good chance of winning a lot of games this year. For the most part, both teams are building to a bigger goal, but Monday should be a good match-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 Packers.com 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, leroybutler36.com.
The LeRoy Butler Foundation will be hosting a golf tournament next week, featuring many current and former Packers stars. The proceeds from the event will go to benefit Breast Cancer Reserach. Donations can be sent to:
The LeRoy Butler Foundation
8007 Acorn Ridge Road
Jacksonville, FL 32256*