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Gbaja-Biamila Looks To Step Up


As the Packers look to overcome the loss of Joe Johnson at one end of their defensive line, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila is hoping to turn up the heat from the other side.

One of the NFL's best pass rushers, coming off a pair of double-digit sack seasons, Gbaja-Biamila hasn't been getting to opposing quarterbacks the way he would like this season, and the frustration is beginning to show.

"Oh, yeah, he's frustrated," GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said this week. "He and I visited (Tuesday) quite a bit and talked about our frustration.

"Hopefully he'll get an opportunity to break out of this. Any great player goes through periods of less than what is expected ... and the objective to get out of the slump is to keep working and keep doing the things that made you a great player."

In Gbaja-Biamila's mind that means forgetting about the statistics and concentrating more on his effort.

Through six games this season, starting each one at the Packers' elephant end position, Gbaja-Biamila has recorded a total of two sacks.

Interestingly, that's just one fewer than he had through six games in 2002, when he went on to compile 12 sacks for the year. But with the Packers defense struggling to pressure the quarterback this season, Gbaja-Biamila's start has fallen under greater scrutiny.

"I feel I can do better," Gbaja-Biamila said. "I don't even care if I get the sacks or not. All I know is that I'm going to put my best foot forward, do my very best, and if the sacks come, they come, and if they don't, it doesn't matter anymore. What matters is that I do my very best on the field in the games."

It's not that KGB hasn't been trying.

Although Kansas City Chiefs all-pro tackle Willie Roaf largely contained Gbaja-Biamila in 1-on-1 match-ups last weekend, Sherman said the fourth-year pro has often been the target of double-teams.

To combat that, the Packers have occasionally shifted KGB from side to side along the line, but it's apparent that his reputation precedes him.

"Obviously when you are a marked man, it's a little bit tougher," Sherman said. "Every team that we have played that I've talked to, the coach said that was an issue that they had to address in playing us: 'How are we going to block No. 94?'

"But he still has to get to be able to get to the quarterback. I believe that he will. I believe he still has the same skill and determination. He has a great first step, that hasn't changed. He has great leverage and the tenacity to get to the ball. I think that will come."

To increase his chances of getting to the quarterback, the one other change Gbaja-Biamila plans to make is to expect a pass on every play, and react to the run only if he sees it.

A third-down rusher his first two seasons in the league, Gbaja-Biamila became the starter at elephant end in Week 6 of 2002. But he averaged more sacks as an every-down player in 2002 than he did coming in on third downs alone, disputing the notion that his speed has been diminished by increased reps.

"I don't think it's affected me," Gbaja-Biamila said. "I've been playing this game since Pop Warner and high school and I've been playing every down. It's only in the NFL where I had to do third-down situations."

Even if Gbaja-Biamila's sacks were to decrease as the result of playing every down, the increased threat of the sack arguably works to the Packers' advantage. The more KGB is on the field, the more opponents have to account for him.

And even if Gbaja-Biamila isn't the one to drop the quarterback, he can still have an adverse effect on the opponent's game plan.

"You want sacks," Gbaja-Biamila said, "but the pressure -- if you can get the quarterback out of rhythm -- that's just as good as a sack."

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