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Maturing Interior Drives Packers' Defense


Many factors led to the Green Bay Packers' 52-3 win against the New Orleans Saints, including an improving interior defense.

"I'm really excited about this group," head coach Mike Sherman said. "This game -- they really came together."

The Packers only have allowed 3.3 yards-a-rush, which is tied for the fourth best mark in the league. On Sunday they limited the Saints to 95 rushing yards and racked up four sacks.

Two interior players, in particular, played well on Sunday. Corey Williams had two sacks while Grady Jackson recorded four tackles, including dropping running back Deuce McAllister for a four-yard loss.

After missing all but the last preseason game with a knee injury, Jackson has adjusted to the pace of game action and fully regained his health.

"It's the best I've felt since the opener last year," Jackson said. "I'm getting back into it. The knee's feeling well."

Jackson, listed at 345 pounds, has rounded back into game shape.

"He's chipping away at his weight," Sherman said. "That helps a little bit."

While the nine-year-veteran Jackson has shaken off his rust and shed some weight, the second-year Williams continues to mature.

"He's getting better and better," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "Experience, confidence -- all those things are getting back to him."

Williams has improved his hands work from last year, allowing him to more easily disengage from blocks. He used that skill against guard Jermane Mayberry for his first sack of the day during the 10:53 mark in the first quarter. The defensive ends applied perimeter pressure, and quarterback Aaron Brooks only had one place to go.

"When he stepped up," Williams said. "I was there to make that sack."

Williams' second sack came during the 7:38 mark of the third quarter. He used his speed to hit the edge and beat guard Kendyl Jacox and drop quarterback Todd Bouman for a four-yard loss.

In his second year, Williams attributes his growth to mental more than physical reasons.

"I'm a little more comfortable than I was last year," he said.

The veteran Jackson has played with the Packers since 2003 season, but he is just growing accustomed to a new defensive scheme, which asks him to occupy blockers instead of hitting gaps.

"Sunday was probably my best game in this scheme," he said.

Both players can attribute some of their success to the Packers' rotational system implemented by defensive coordinator Jim Bates. This year the defensive tackles rarely receive more than 30 to 35 snaps-a-game, leaving them fresh for the fourth quarter.

"Guys are going out there full of energy," Jackson said.

Williams was part of the backup rotation last year, playing in 12 games but never receiving any starts. He began to display his talents during last year's regular season finale against the Chicago Bears. He racked up five tackles including a sack of quarterback Chad Hutchinson for a six-yard loss to end the Bears' second drive.

His performance against the Saints measured up to his coming-out party agains the Bears in 2004.

"I had a really good game," he said. "It's close. It's running a good race."

Williams recorded his first career sack against the Bears and his first career multi-sack game on Sunday. Those games show how his pass rushing skills continue to improve with experience.

"Hopefully I broke the ice," he said. "And there's more to come."

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