Notebook: Offensive Line Looks To Improve

As Head Coach Mike McCarthy has been known to say, if it were one thing, it would have been fixed. But it was more than one breakdown that contributed to the uneven performance by the offensive line in Sunday’s victory over Philadelphia, and the expectation is that the unit will, and must, play better. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Eagles Game Center


As Head Coach Mike McCarthy has been known to say, if it were one thing, it would have been fixed.

But it was more than one breakdown that contributed to the uneven performance by the Packers' offensive line in Sunday's victory over Philadelphia, and the expectation is that the unit will, and must, play better.

"Fundamentally we need to clean up a lot of things," McCarthy said. "We just had a bunch of common mistakes, and that was the most frustrating thing for myself watching the film this morning."

McCarthy addressed both the struggles in the run game and pass protection. The offense produced just 46 rushing yards, and Brett Favre was sacked four times among 11 quarterback hits.

"It's frustrating," veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher said. "We knew going in we were going againt a good defensive team, and we were going to have to get into some kind of rhythm. Unfortunately it never seemed to happen."

The difficulties with the ground game were broken down into three areas - the push on the front side of the play, the cut-blocking on the back side, and the angle being taken by the running back. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said it wasn't always a case of the line not doing its job, but not executing with the proper timing or finish to its maneuvers.

"When we got some guys to cut on the ground, we were a little too quick at times," Philbin said. "We wouldn't take our full run and cut. We'd kind of get them down too fast and then they'd get up and make the play. So we have to get that corrected there."

Continuity is always an issue with the line, and third-year pro Junius Coston did have to replace right guard Jason Spitz in the second half when Spitz went out with a calf strain. The coaching staff felt Coston held up well, but like most of the linemen allowed pressure at times.

McCarthy said Spitz could be limited in practice this week, and Coston may have to be ready again.

Overall, McCarthy said the line simply wasn't "in sync," and there were too many one-on-one battles that were lost in pass protection. Last year, protecting Favre was perhaps one of the offense's biggest strengths throughout the season, often employing a seven-man protection scheme. Opponents recorded only 24 sacks in 2006.

Granted, the Eagles are an aggressive defense that is known for getting after the quarterback, but it wasn't just one rusher doing the damage Sunday. Eight different Philadelphia defenders combined to compile the 11 quarterback hits, which is way too many, even in a game Favre dropped back to pass 46 times.

"When you do call plays or when you do get into offensive game-planning, there's always something you know you can hang your hat on, and (the line) is something that I still believe I can," McCarthy said. "Now, we didn't do very good yesterday, but we will do a much better job with it as we move forward."

Quick impact

New fullback John Kuhn, picked up on waivers last week from Pittsburgh, made an immediate impact in the game on special teams.

Kuhn made the tackle on the opening kickoff against the Eagles, taking down return man J.R. Reed after a 26-yard return. Reed appeared to find a decent running lane when Kuhn knifed in to take his legs out and stop it from being a bigger return.

Kuhn combined with teammates to make two other tackles on kickoff returns, giving him three special teams tackles after working with the Packers' special teams units for all of four practices. His previous game-high was two special teams tackles, with the Steelers last season.

{sportsad300}Quite the debut

According to Elias Sports Bureau, rookie kicker Mason Crosby on Sunday became the first player in NFL history to kick a 50-plus yard field goal and a game-winning field goal in the final minute in his first NFL game.

Crosby was 3-for-3 on field goals Sunday. He hit a 53-yarder, one yard shy of the team record, in the first quarter, a 37-yarder in the third quarter, and a 42-yarder with 2 seconds left to break a 13-all tie and give the Packers the three-point win.

Injury update

Cornerback Al Harris' elbow injury has been classified as a sprain, according to McCarthy, and the team is still waiting for the MRI results, but all indications are Harris should be available to play next week. He may be limited in practice this week leading up to the Giants game, though.

McCarthy said he's hopeful three players who missed the season opener - receiver Greg Jennings (hamstring), running back Vernand Morency (knee) and rookie safety Aaron Rouse (hamstring) - will be available this week.

McCarthy noted Jennings was slated to be a big part of the game plan against the Eagles until he tweaked his hamstring in practice late last week. Rouse has not played since the third preseason game on Aug. 23 and would provide depth at safety as well as help on special teams.

Morency, who injured his knee in the first training camp practice, is slated to fully participate in practice on Wednesday and will be evaluated again the next day. Last week, Morency experienced soreness in the knee after practicing and then missed Friday's workout.

If he's available, it's likely he would step into the role of third-down back and perhaps expand from there based on his conditioning and the team's needs.

"He's a good pass protector, has a good feel for the checkdowns, (defensive) recognition, things like that," McCarthy said.

Defensive end Michael Montgomery (knee) remains out this week, and receiver Carlyle Holiday has some swelling in his knee and could be limited in practice.

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