Notebook: Group Effort Needed To Replace Jenkins

Head Coach Mike McCarthy was asked on Wednesday whether his defense will miss end Cullen Jenkins more against the run in the base package or as an inside rusher in passing situations. The answer was clearly all of the above. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 1


Head Coach Mike McCarthy was asked on Wednesday whether his defense will miss end Cullen Jenkins more against the run in the base package or as an inside rusher in passing situations.

The answer was clearly all of the above.

More than anything, what the Packers are going to miss with Jenkins -- who was put on injured reserve on Wednesday for a torn pectoral muscle suffered in last Sunday's game in Tampa -- is his versatile ability to disrupt an offense in any situation, from anywhere he lined up.

Coming off a 2007 season in which he battled and played through nagging injuries, Jenkins was off to the best start of his five-year career, posting 18 tackles (13 solo), plus 2 1/2 sacks, one forced fumble and one batted pass in the first quarter of the season.

"I would classify his first four games as dominant, time and time again, just the way he graded out, and for his season to end the way it did, it's unfortunate for Cullen," McCarthy said.

"From the four grading sessions we've had after our four games, he graded out extremely high. He was a game ball winner (against Minnesota), and he was playing extremely well in Tampa up until the time he was injured."

Jenkins' stoutness against the run on the edge and his pass-rushing skills on the interior can't be replaced by any one guy, so the Packers will do it by committee.

It will begin with fourth-year pro Michael Montgomery, who likely will start at end and play there on first and second downs. He could move inside on passing downs like Jenkins, but the Packers may also try different rushers and different combinations on the line.

Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, newcomer Kenny Pettway and rookie Jeremy Thompson all could get snaps in third-down situations, particularly with end Jason Hunter expected to miss this week's game with a hamstring injury.

"Mike has the reps," McCarthy said of Montgomery, who has been productive in a reserve role, with nine tackles (seven solo) this season. "He's the natural to slide up into first and second down, and you'll see Mike there, particularly as a starting point, but we've always rotated our defensive line, and we'll continue to do so."

Pettway was signed to take Jenkins' spot on the 53-man roster. The third-year pro spent the past two seasons with Jacksonville as a situational pass rusher and special teams contributor.

Pettway got squeezed out with the Jaguars when they selected defensive ends Derrick Harvey of Florida and Quentin Groves of Auburn in the first two rounds of the draft, and since being released in the final roster reduction at the end of training camp, has continued to work out to stay in shape.

"He's not an overly big guy, he's in the 255-range, but he is very explosive," said Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith, who was defensive coordinator in Jacksonville when Pettway played there. "He's a guy that can rush the passer, and he also was a big presence on our special teams there in Jacksonville when we had him."

Pettway has dealt with some personal tragedy of late. He's from Houston, where his home was damaged by Hurricane Ike, and he's spent the past couple of weeks doing clean-up efforts down there. He was also driving a car, with Jaguars offensive tackle Richard Collier his passenger, when Collier was shot multiple times on Sept. 2, leading to a leg amputation and paralysis below the waist.

Pettway was planning to visit Coller in the hospital again when he got the call from the Packers to come in for a workout this week. He worked out Tuesday and was officially signed Wednesday.

"It's a blessing to get called up somewhere and play again," Pettway said. "I'm just thankful I have another chance to get on the field and play, given what happened down there and what went on. I'm just glad to be back on the field."

With his body type (6-foot-3, 248 pounds), he's a natural replacement for Hunter on the special teams units in the short-term, and McCarthy said he expects Pettway to be active for special teams duty this Sunday.

"I love playing special teams," he said. "That's a big thing to me, and I take a lot of pride in it.

"They had me run a couple reps with the 1's today. I'll meet with the special teams coaches later to get caught up on the playbook and stuff like that, and hopefully I can get everything picked up and be out there."

Thompson also wants to get out there, having been inactive for the first four games this season. A fourth-round draft choice out of Wake Forest, Thompson is another athletic big man who uses speed to rush the passer and get downfield on special teams.

"Every day I'm still waiting for that first game," he said. "I had those games in training camp, in the preseason, but it's really not the same. The speed of the game picks up so much. I've been waiting for it and hopefully this week I'll get a shot."

Player of the Month

Cornerback Charles Woodson has been named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Month for September.

Woodson's start to the season has been remarkable in several ways. He's tied for the NFC lead (with teammate Nick Collins and Washington's Chris Horton) with three interceptions, and all three have come in the fourth quarter of games.

He picked off two fourth-quarter passes in Week 2 at Detroit immediately after the Packers had taken a two-point lead. The first one set up a score, and the second one he ran back for a touchdown.

His third interception came last week at Tampa, and he ran that back for a touchdown as well, giving the Packers a 21-20 lead with 13:43 to play. Woodson is the only player in the league with two interception returns for scores this year.

He also held Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens to just two catches for 17 yards in the Packers' Week 3 meeting with the Dallas Cowboys.

And all this despite playing on a broken toe suffered in the season opener vs. Minnesota. The injury has prevented Woodson from practicing at all the past three weeks, yet he has taken the field every Sunday and played at an all-pro level.

"To do it off the film study and the meetings and the walk-throughs and things like that, I haven't seen anybody perform at that level," McCarthy said. "He has a ton of experience and is a very smart football player. But the ability to pull it all together and then deal with the pain threshold and things like that, I think it's very unique what he's been able to do."

Old teammates

Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 draft, was a teammate at Boston College with Packers cornerback Will Blackmon. The two were two years apart in college - Blackmon was a senior when Ryan was a sophomore - but that year, Blackmon actually switched from defense to offense and played receiver, catching 51 passes and four touchdowns from Ryan.

{sportsad300}Blackmon, for one, isn't surprised that Ryan is having a fair amount of success at the toughest position for a rookie in the NFL. Ryan has led the Falcons to a 2-2 record with 669 yards passing, two touchdowns and two interceptions in four games.

"When he was a freshman in college, we knew right then and there that there was something special about him, that he was going to be a great quarterback in college, and that's what happened," Blackmon said.

"He was never afraid. He was very confident. He was never cocky or arrogant, he just played with a purpose. We saw that just by him being on scout team. So when he got his opportunity, when he was in the huddle, we knew we had a good chance to win."

Injury report

Receiver James Jones (knee) returned to full duty in practice on Wednesday and could be on his way to getting back in the lineup after missing most of the last two games.

Six players were listed as limited participants in practice - offensive tackle Chad Clifton (knees), safeties Nick Collins (back) and Aaron Rouse (knee), linebacker A.J. Hawk (groin), defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (knee), and quarterback Aaron Rodgers (shoulder).

McCarthy said Hawk, who was unable to finish last week's game at Tampa, would be given every chance to get ready to play this Sunday.

Those who did not participate in practice included safety Atari Bigby (hamstring), fullback Korey Hall (knee), running back Kregg Lumpkin (hamstring), Hunter (hamstring) and Woodson (toe).

Cornerback Al Harris (spleen) has been ruled out.

For the Falcons, tackle Sam Baker (illness), defensive tackle Jason Jefferson (ankle), safety Lawyer Milloy (rib) and receiver Laurent Robinson (knee) did not participate in practice. Defensive tackle Grady Jackson (knee) and tackle Todd Weiner (knee) were both limited.

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