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Butler: Young Corners Thrown Into The Fire


It was good to see the Packers get a win Saturday night against New Orleans. I know it's still the preseason, but anytime you can get a win under your belt, that's definitely a good thing.

While it was good to get the win, there were some other aspects of the game that I think will really help the Packers in the long run for 2004 and beyond.

It was good to see our two young corners, Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas, get what we call 'test time,' to really put them in the fire and see how they respond. I think Carroll got a dose of the new rules, essentially saying that you can't touch a guy after you're five yards down the field.

The problem was, as he's running down the field, even if he's looking for the ball, he can't impede the receiver's progress. You can't use what they call an "arm-bar." You can't put the right arm out and lean into the receiver and restrict him from going for the ball.

Fans might not necessarily like that call, but the officials were calling it tight and that's what they have been saying they were going to do all offseason. The only problem I have with that call that night is that the officials weren't consistent.

The Saints were just mugging the Packers' receivers down the field and we didn't get the same calls. When you're in Lambeau Field, you would think you would get just as many calls.

Uncharacteristic of a Mike Sherman-coached team, the Packers were called for 10 or 15 penalties in one game. I was very disappointed with that aspect of the game. It seemed like from the first drive with the first defense, the Packers kept saving them with penalties.

Everybody got a chance to see what Bob Slowik's new defense is going to be all about, though. The defense will be an aggressive-style, in-your-face type defense. However you rush the quarterback, when you can get in his face, you're going to get errant throws just like the one Darren Sharper picked off and returned 90 yards for a touchdown.

At the end of it, it wasn't so much a Lambeau Leap as it was a Darren Sharper lean-over. He just kind of leaned over into the stands because he was tired, but that touchdown showed what the Packers are trying to do on defense, and that's make big plays.

On offense, the Packers have yet to score a touchdown through two games, which is a bit of a concern. It's a good thing that Ryan Longwell is one of the best kickers in the league, and he was able to get us four field goals to beat New Orleans.

Ahman Green again showed some flashes of why he's one of the top two backs in the league. He's an extremely gifted back. He can give you rushes, catches, touchdowns -- everything you could want.

Brett Favre continued to show that he's playing more like he's 24 instead of 34. He was throwing strikes all around 'Lambeau' on Saturday.

I think it's just a matter of time before the offense completely comes together and will be putting up big numbers once the regular season comes along.

Javon Walker made one of the most spectacular catches I've seen in a long time when Brett threw a long pass down the left side and Walker tiptoed to catch it for a 31-yard gain. At the end of it, Javon found out what the saying "run out of real estate" means as he fell on the concrete by the stands. I'm glad he's OK, though.

On defense, Nick Barnett continues to amaze me with all the plays he can make at the size he is. He's not the biggest guy, but he gets around the field so fast that it's like he's always where the action is. He put a hit on Aaron Stecker that caused a fumble, and he was just like a blur on that play. He's in great shape and he's on a mission to become one of the leaders of the defense. He continues to impress me.

Mark Roman has showed me something I was looking for him to do. I've been trying to tutor him as far as that strong safety position, and this guy has taken his game to another level. The play where he and Na'il Diggs met Deuce McAllister and stopped the run really showed me some things about this defense and how aggressive it will be.

Mark Duffner has been doing a wonderful job with our linebackers. They've been very aggressive on their blitzes and are getting good pressure on the quarterback.

I'm a little concerned with the dime package at this point. We've got to be able to get off the field on third down, but I really think that's a training camp correction. Once the coaches get the third down package in -- they still have to install a lot more packages -- it will be a lot of fun.

Overall, my main concern is that those two young corners stay patient with this particular rule about the contact beyond five yards. They can't get down on themselves. They have to keep moving and keep pressing along. It was good to see Joey Thomas get an interception, but it wasn't good to see him miss a tackle and give up a touchdown.

I like the way Bob Slowik is playing these guys. He's putting them in there and letting them get a lot of reps, and that can only help. We're not even into the regular season yet, and these guys have already gotten a lot of playing time.

They're playing one of the toughest positions in all of sports, besides maybe quarterback. They've got to stay patient, and the fans have to stay patient with them as they go through some growing pains. These two guys are going to be very good.

*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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