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Notebook: Cole Reaps Benefits Of His Consistency


Defensive tackle Colin Cole earned his second career start on Sunday.

"It was a reward," defensive coordinator Jim Bates said.

Cole replaced Cullen Jenkins in the starting lineup, but the Packers continued their defensive tackle rotation with Cole, Jenkins, Grady Jackson and Kenny Peterson each receiving snaps.

"It wasn't a knock against Cullen Jenkins as much as it was Cole had proven himself to be equal in stature with our starters," Head Coach Mike Sherman said.

The coaching staff lauded Cole's ability to stay square to the line of scrimmage, use his hands to disengage from blocks and hold up at the point of attack.

Cole made three tackles on the day and has 44 on the year -- a very high total for a defensive lineman in the Packers' scheme. Their main responsibility involves occupying blockers rather than making tackles.

Cole spent 10 weeks on the Packers' practice squad before Green Bay activated him last year. In his second year with the team, he continues to make strides, including his performance on Sunday.

"He did okay," Sherman said. "But he's been very consistent throughout the year. He's made a lot of progress."


Wanted: Better Kickoff Returns

Sherman remains disappointed with a kickoff return unit tied for last in the NFL in yards-per-return.

"We haven't found any consistency yet," Sherman said.

The unit has struggled to generate good field position for the offense all season. Although the Packers did not return a kickoff past the 21-yard line on Sunday, Sherman was more troubled by the fumbles of ReShard Lee and Andrae Thurman.

"That was a huge detriment in the ballgame. I've never experienced a game where you turn over the ball two times (on kickoffs)" Sherman said. "To have two in one game is hard to fathom, and it's not acceptable."

Those turnovers led to 10 of the Eagles' 19 points and caused Sherman to re-assess the special teams.

"We're going to have to look at something," he said. "We have to figure it out and look at all of our options right now."

That option does not include Robert Ferguson, who returned two kickoffs for 44 yards earlier this year and 38 for 863 yards during his five-year career. Ferguson, however, has not sufficiently recovered from his knee injury to serve as a kickoff return threat.

"He's 85, 90 percent maybe, and that might be pushing it," Sherman said. "I wouldn't consider him an option unless some way, shape or form this week he was proving to be more healthy."

A long return, however, could be just a play away. Fullback Vonta Leach missed a block on the return during which Lee fumbled. Otherwise it likely would have netted a long gain.

"That one should've come out to the 50-yard-line," Sherman said. "It was blocked up pretty well except for the guy that got the hand on the football."


More Fumbles

The special teams was not the only Packers unit hurt by fumbles. Although the running game amassed 128 yards, both Samkon Gado and Tony Fisher fumbled.

Sherman has repeatedly demonstrated a low tolerance for such turnovers.

"When you touch the football, you have a huge responsibility to this team," Sherman said he told his players. "You better be doing something pretty dang good or your job will be in jeopardy."

Those gaffes have not occurred because of a lack of resolve on the part of the coaching staff. They order the defensive players on the scout team to go for the strip during every opportunity in practice. The running backs frequently run through a gauntlet-like blaster. While the running backs hit a hole, defenders also tug at different angles on straps attached to slick, silk-covered footballs.

"We do things on a daily basis in regards to fumbles," Sherman said. "We do all the drills we possibly can."

Gado has fumbled four times in his last three games, but the undrafted rookie has only played in five NFL games.

"There's a conditioning of being hit," offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said. "Sam hasn't been hit a whole lot."

Better ball protection may come as he receives more game experience. That was the case with Ahman Green. He struggled with fumbles during the first few games of each season as his body became used to the contact of the regular season.

"With Ahman it was early more than late," Sherman said. "It was just the repetition with him."

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