Improved Line, Ground Game To Be Tested

The Packers are likely to find out just how improved their offensive line and running game are this week. Those areas face a stiff test this week at Miami, where the Dolphins have one of the league’s most experienced defensive fronts. They rank third in the NFL in allowing just 3.0 yards per rush, a full yard below the league average of 4.0. - More Notebook: Woodson Returns To Practice

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The Packers are likely to find out just how improved their offensive line and running game are this week.

Despite losses in their last two games, the Packers have shown steady progress in the development of their offensive line, and as a result the ground game has nearly produced consecutive 100-yard rushers (Vernand Morency had 99 yards in Week 4, Noah Herron had 106 in Week 5).

But those areas face a stiff test this week at Miami, where the Dolphins have one of the league's most experienced defensive fronts. They rank third in the NFL in allowing just 3.0 yards per rush, a full yard below the league average of 4.0.

"We're playing a pretty stout defense this week," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said. "They hold the point really well and they've got so much experience up on that front, that's what makes them so darn good."

The starters in that veteran group - Jason Taylor, Kevin Carter, Keith Traylor and former Packer Vonnie Holliday - all have between eight and 16 years of experience. Carter is questionable for Sunday with a knee injury, but two of the key backups are Dan Wilkinson and David Bowens, who have 20 years of experience between them.

The Dolphins use that experience to change looks at times, from four down linemen to three, and they'll have tackles and ends switch spots to find different angles to pressure the quarterback, depending on the down-and-distance. The front group has been the key to the No. 4 defense in the league in total yards allowed.

"They're really talented, and we've got our work cut out for us," rookie guard Jason Spitz said. "They're proficient at stopping the run, especially winning on first down."

Miami has allowed an average of just 4.24 yards on first down, the No. 3 mark in the league, primarily because the front contains the run so well.

The Packers hope to counter that with some veteran savvy of their own in running back Ahman Green, who is expected to play for the first time since Week 3 after missing two games with hamstring troubles.

Green topped 100 yards in Week 1, but nearly half of them came in the fourth quarter when the Bears were way ahead. After that he averaged just 2.8 yards per rush in the next two games (38 carries, 105 yards) when there wasn't much room to run.

But the Packers have yet to combine a healthy Green's explosiveness with the improved run-blocking of the line, and they hope that will be the right formula against Miami.

"It's a challenge but at the same time we kind of approach it as every game is a challenge and we just need to continue to improve," center Scott Wells said. "We've taken strides and steps in the right direction each week, and I think it's obvious in the way we've played."

Wells said the next step is to start getting rushing touchdowns. Herron got the first one of the season in the last game against the Rams. Because of injuries this season and last, Green is looking for his first rushing TD since the playoff loss to Minnesota following the 2004 season.

"I'm just as anxious as I was when the season started because it was my first time to play football in a long time," Green said. "The past three weeks have gone by and I've gotten healthy, so I just want to get back out there, period."

Based on his health and conditioning, and the expected heat and humidity in South Florida, Green may have his carries limited somewhat in his first game back.

But keeping, whenever possible, a pair of fresh legs churning through Miami's defensive line may not be a bad approach.

"He looks good. I think he's cutting it loose," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "You can see the burst is there. We're going to give him as much as he can handle on first and second down."

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