Notebook: Jackson Continues To Make Gains

With starter Ryan Grant sidelined with a hamstring injury, second-year back Brandon Jackson took advantage of his starting opportunity on Monday night with 44 yards on six carries, highlighted by two impressive runs. - More Packers-Bengals Game Center

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RB Brandon Jackson

With starter Ryan Grant sidelined with a hamstring injury, second-year back Brandon Jackson took advantage of his starting opportunity on Monday night with 44 yards on six carries, highlighted by two impressive runs.

Jackson's first big carry of the night came on the Packers' second possession when he made a nifty move to avoid Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko in the backfield and gained 16 yards.

On Green Bay's touchdown drive that gave them a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, Jackson posted a 22-yard run where he broke free for big yardage after being held up by two defenders.

"I thought his second reaction, just breaking tackles, that is the Brandon Jackson that we all know and have watched grow up in front of us, so I think you'll see more of that as we go forward," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.

Last year at this time, Jackson was a 21-year-old rookie getting a lot of reps because of injuries at the running back position, an experience that he said has added to his confidence.

"It's a lot higher," Jackson said. "Just with that one year under my belt and I'm just going out here and trying to prove to myself that I can do it."

Jackson knows that once Grant gets healthy, he will return to his backup role, but is looking to contribute any way he can.

"If it's being backup, starting, special teams, anything they want me to do to help the team win, I'm going to do," Jackson said.

Long-awaited return

After 10 days of practicing against each other, most players were anxious to get out on the field against a different opponent, but it would be hard to match the excitement that Abdul Hodge was feeling.

The third-year linebacker missed all of last season with knee troubles, and missed eight games as a rookie in 2006 with knee and shoulder injuries.

With backup middle linebacker Desmond Bishop sidelined on Monday night, Hodge got quite a bit of playing time and made his presence felt as he led the team with six tackles, one stop for loss and a pass defensed.

"I had to show off the new wheels," Hodge said, referring to his surgically repaired knees. "Our D-line did a great job and our D-coordinator (Bob Sanders) did a great job of calling out a lot of different fronts that allowed me to be free to just run around.

"It's been a long time. The last two years haven't been fun for me. Now that I've got my health and I can just run around and do what I do and have fun, I'm just enjoying it right now."

New alignment

One of the position battles that has garnered the most attention this offseason is the competition at strong-side linebacker between last year's starter, Brady Poppinga, and free agent Brandon Chillar, who signed with the Packers this offseason after playing his first four seasons in St. Louis.

{sportsad300}On Monday night, the Packers utilized an alignment on a third-down play that got both players on the field with a 2-4-5 set. Aaron Kampman and Michael Montgomery were the lone down linemen, the four linebackers were Chillar, Poppinga, Nick Barnett, and A.J. Hawk, and the five defensive backs were safeties Nick Collins and Atari Bigby and cornerbacks Jarrett Bush, Tramon Williams, and Will Blackmon.

"I welcome the opportunity and I would like to say we'll see more of it," Chillar said. "I think it will depend on how successful it is. It worked today, so hopefully we'll keep going with it.

"There is a little confusion (from the offense) and hopefully we can get the line to make a wrong check. Basically when we are going around like that, it's hard for them to know what we are in."

Injury/participation update

Grant (hamstring), S Charlie Peprah (hamstring), CBs Al Harris (back) and Charles Woodson (healthy scratch), Bishop (Achilles), C Scott Wells (trunk), T Orrin Thompson (ankle), WR Greg Jennings (knee), DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, and DTs Johnny Jolly (hip flexor), Justin Harrell (back) and Ryan Pickett (hamstring) did not dress for Monday night's game.

WR Ruvell Martin left the game after taking a hit on an incomplete pass from Brohm in the second quarter. McCarthy said after the game that Martin took a blow to the head and was taken out for precautionary measures, but that it looked like he would be OK.

The only other injury the Packers came out of the game with was a slight ankle injury for RB DeShawn Wynn.

Williams and Bush started at the cornerback positions with Harris and Woodson out, and Colin Cole and Cullen Jenkins started at defensive tackle with Pickett and Jolly out, with Montgomery and Kampman starting at defensive end.

With Wells out, Jason Spitz started at center and rookie Josh Sitton opened at right guard.

James Jones started in Jennings' spot at wide receiver.

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