Notebook: Rookie Phenom Could Have Gained 135 Yards


A 25-carry, 103-yard, three-touchdown performance for a running back who has been with the team less than a month is very impressive, but Samkon Gado does need to improve in a few areas.

That should come with experience.

"The guy's not afraid of contact," Sherman said. "He just needs repetitions."

Sherman said Gado could have rushed for 135 yards on the day if he had chosen a different hole on three or four running plays.

"He missed some reads he needs to make," Sherman said.

No NFL running back ever makes the perfect decision on every play, but Gado seemed to favor running to the backside -- likely because he had success there early in the game.

Gado also fumbled twice during the game, but the Packers offense recovered both. During last week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, running back ReShard Lee coughed up the ball on the Packers' third play. Sherman replaced Lee with Gado for the rest of the game.

Had the Atlanta Falcons recovered Gado's first fumble, Sherman indicated he would have benched Gado.

"If we had not recovered the first one, I probably would have," Sherman said. "He knows how I feel about that."

Falcons linebacker Demorrio Williams nailed Gado on the Packers' fourth offensive play and the ball came out. Fullback Vonta Leach recovered it at the Atlanta 40-yard line. With 9 minutes, 23 seconds left in the game, Gado broke through the middle of the Falcons' defense for 15 yards before cornerback Jason Webster stripped him, and wide receiver Andrae Thurman recovered the ball on the Green Bay 33-yard line.

Gado knows he must work to secure the ball and expressed gratitude toward Sherman for remaining confident in his abilities despite the miscues.

"I have to thank Coach Sherman," he said. "I don't know many coaches that would keep a running back in -- rookie running back at that -- who has just fumbled the ball twice."

With Gado in tow, however, the Packers can return to their road-grading roots. Injuries to Ahman Green (quadriceps tendon) and Najeh Davenport (ankle) and new offensive line starters forced the Packers to rely on Brett Favre's arm more than usual this year. But they have run the ball 58 times during their last two games.

"The last two weeks are more indicative of where we want to be," Sherman said.


Ferguson And Martin Could Add Punch To Lineup

If wide receiver Robert Ferguson and tight end David Martin can return to action against the Minnesota Vikings next Monday, they would bolster several units for the Packers.

"It changes things from the sense that we have more experience on the field," Sherman said, "and we might be able to do a few more things."

Ferguson (knee) and Martin (groin) both missed Sunday's game, but Sherman said they were scheduled to test their injuries during sessions with strength and conditioning coach Barry Rubin on Monday afternoon.

Both veterans would allow the Packers to employ different packages. With a healthy Martin, the Packers can use their three tight end sets with him, Donald Lee and Bubba Franks. Ferguson's return would enable the Packers to use their Eagle package, a four wide receiver set with Ferguson, Donald Driver, Antonio Chatman and Thurman.

"It gives you more flexibility within your scheme," Sherman said.

The special teams could receive a boost as well. With so many injuries, several players, like Chatman, must perform extensive double duty. He currently serves as the punt returner and No. 2 wide receiver. Ferguson would relieve him of some of his receiving work.

"The No. 1 thing is you've elevated your talent level on special teams," Sherman said.


Poppinga Turns The Corner

After a hamstring injury during the preseason caused rookie linebacker Brady Poppinga to fall behind, he has made great strides in the last several weeks.

"From a rookie standpoint, he has progressed as much as any guy," Sherman said.

Poppinga plays a more significant role on defense with each passing week, especially on passing downs. The Packers use him as one of two linebackers in a three-linemen, six-defensive back personnel group. Poppinga also impressed the coaching staff by beating left tackle Chad Clifton around the corner during practice last week.

In addition to missing much of training camp with an injury, Poppinga faced a learning curve as he made the transition from college defensive end, where he played his first three years at BYU, to NFL linebacker.

"He was like a fish out of water to start with," Sherman said.

Poppinga did not make any tackles on plays from scrimmage on Sunday, but the Packers' leading special teams tackler with 18 continued to play like a demon on those units. He collected four tackles and helped contain former Packer Allen Rossum, a Pro Bowl returner with the Falcons last year. He has the potential to bring that same pursuit prowess to the defensive side.

"He's got a chance to be a pretty good player if he keeps working," Sherman said.

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