Butler: This Defense Is Exciting

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After watching the Packers up close in my hometown of Jacksonville Friday night, I think people are now beginning to understand what the Packers defense is really all about in 2004. This is going to be a really exciting unit to watch, and you'll never know what to expect next.

They really gave Byron Leftwich some coverages he's never seen before, and that caused the young quarterback to rush some throws. I think that's going to be a common theme this year with all the different looks this team is going to throw at their opponents.

On Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's sack, the play was a roll out, and they actually came towards Kabeer. You would think they would want to run away from the Pro Bowler, but he showed that if he gets one-on-one blocking, he could easily have a 15-sack season this year.

Grady Jackson again proved that if he's healthy, he will be a force to be reckoned with up the middle of the defense.

The linebackers are very aggressive. The starting linebackers were all over the field, and they blitzed with a lot of force.

The one position that is of a little concern right now is the left cornerback spot. Michael Hawthorne is a proven veteran. I think he understands that people will make him a target, especially down the field.

For instance, when the Jaguars went to a "U" personnel group (two tight ends, two running backs, and just one receiver), Hawthorne was beaten by Jimmy Smith for a 28-yard gain that was luckily called back after a chop block penalty.

What the fans should realize, though, is that this year's Packers team is going to be able to adjust the defensive scheme as needed.

Mark Roman continued to show that the strong safety spot is going to be his. He put a big hit on Kyle Brady on a pass, and Brady is now going to be out for a few weeks with a broken finger.

Darren Sharper was very active on his blitzes, which is something I expect to see a lot more of this season.

If Bob Slowik's scheme proves to be what I think it can be, I think #42 is going to be one of the premier safeties in the NFL this season. Sharper can cover, he can run, he can blitz. He's going to be able to do everything old #36 used to do back there.

On offense, it was great to see the offense get into the end zone.

I talked to Robert Ferguson on the sideline about his touchdown catch, and he gave me a great analysis of the play.

"It was a great play fake with Brett Favre and Tony Fisher," Robert said. "That was the key to the play. The only way that play would work is if both safeties bite and attack the line of scrimmage. Fisher ducked down as if he had the ball, Brett stuck the ball out and pulled it back, and then made a great throw on what we call an '8'-route, or a post. I was able to separate from the defensive back and make the catch for the score. That was a huge play, being my first game back."

Fergie's starting to get healthy now, and I thing he's going to have a great season on special teams and on offense.

Brett Favre again looked very good. He's in great shape to make a Super Bowl push. He looked like his old self again in Jacksonville, which sometimes comes along with some questionable throws.

He told me he just got a little greedy on his first interception against the Jaguars. He tried to squeeze the ball in and get more yardage than he probably should have. The second interception was tipped at the line and just behind Bubba Franks.

It was great to see Doug Pederson out on the field. He came in and gave the offense a spark. Doug still runs very well for a guy his age, and he threw some good passes out there. He does a good job of going through his progression, looking all over the field to find an open receiver instead of just throwing to his primary target every time.

I thought Craig Nall played pretty well, even though the numbers won't show it. He threw a wonderful pass to Carl Ford that the defensive back was holding on the play, so Ford wasn't able to come up with the ball.

Ahman Green is OK. I know everyone was holding their breath when he was down on the field, but he'll be alright. If that injury was a bad one, that could be the difference in a 12-4 and 4-12 season.

I thought the offensive line played alright, but they still had way too many penalties. Penalties like that will hurt you, but I think it was just a matter of it being a preseason game. I think we'll see what the line has to offer this week when all five of the guys are on the field together for the first time this year.

On special teams, I think the Packers need to emphasize getting punts downed inside the 20-yard line. Each punter had trouble with that in Jacksonville, but the flyers didn't really help them too much, either.

Those guys on the outside on the punts have to make sure that they get off the line quickly, and get down the field to down the ball inside the 10-yard line.

An extra benefit to the preseason was that the away game was a good experience for the rookies. They got their first taste of an NFL road trip, and playing in the heat will benefit them since they haven't really seen much of that in Green Bay this summer.

*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.*

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