Defensive Line Off To Strong Start

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They've held two opponents to a collective 2.7 yards per carry, racked up five sacks and forced three turnovers so far in 2006.

It's a strong start for the Packers' defensive line, but that's all this unit hopes it is. A start.

"I think we've shown some good things, but I think there's still some room obviously for improvement to a place where we can try to take over games," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "That's what we want to continue to keep working towards."

The work the defensive front four has done so far has been admirable.

Kampman has made the biggest plays, notching four of the unit's five sacks. He also contributed to an interception by Chicago's Rex Grossman with heavy pressure, and forced and recovered a fumble by New Orleans' Drew Brees.

His linemates are making an impact as well. Fellow end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila has the other sack as well as a forced fumble. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins flushed Brees into Gbaja-Biamila for that sack and then recovered the loose ball.

Defensive tackles Ryan Pickett, Colin Cole and Corey Williams have been stout against the run, as the Bears didn't surpass 100 yards on the ground until their 33rd carry in the season opener (finishing with 109 yards on 36 carries) and the Saints had just 48 yards on 22 rushes. Chicago backs Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson and New Orleans' Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush certainly expected more daylight than they saw.

"Shutting down dominant running games through the first two games is an amazing accomplishment," Cole said. "We just want to attack each team each week with the same mentality, to take them out of their No. 1 game plan, and that's to run the ball. If we can do that, we can make them one-dimensional and make it an easier game for all of us."

The work for this group actually started back in the spring with a dedication to the new offseason program installed by Head Coach Mike McCarthy.

As one of the few position groups with extensive experience amongst its members - Kampman, Pickett and Gbaja-Biamila have played at least four years each, and no rookies are among the top seven players in the rotation - the defensive line would be needed to set an example.

"All through training camp, through the offseason program, we've had guys that have been here," Kampman said. "We all participate, all work hard, you see us in the drills, guys don't miss practice. We're just a bunch of guys who are committed to one another and trying to provide leadership for the team."

Much like an offensive line, which needs cohesion and chemistry to maximize on each individual player's ability, the Packers' defensive linemen are getting in sync with one another despite a steady rotation designed to keep players fresh and exploit certain matchups.

"You definitely have to have chemistry," Pickett said. "If one of us gets out of our gap, one of us has to cover for the other. When you're playing with certain players, you know their strengths and weaknesses on the D-line, it's just like the offensive line. I feel like we have it."

Now they just want to find a way to be an impact unit for the entire game.

Last week against New Orleans, the Saints' first two possessions ended in sacks that forced fumbles, setting up 10 quick points for the offense. After that, Kampman had a third-quarter sack to stop a New Orleans drive and force a field goal, but the impact clearly dropped off as the game wore on.

"I've never been in a situation where we started that hot as a team," Pickett said. "But we have to make plays later on in the game. The game is won in the fourth quarter, not the first. We learned that last week. We need to make some plays in the fourth quarter."

Another reason their work thus far is just a start.

"We're doing pretty good so far, I just think sometimes we need to be a little more consistent," Jenkins said. "We need to start doing what it takes to win."

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