Notebook: Run Defense Prepares For Kevin Jones


Keeping Up With Jones

Much of the media attention has focused on the Detroit Lions' fleet of wide receivers, including Roy Williams, Mike Williams and Charles Rogers, but second year Kevin Jones serves as the offense's catalyst.

"He is the key to the offense," Lions quarterback Joey Harrington said. "He opens everything up for us."

The Packers will focus on stopping Jones, who gained 1,133 yards in just over a half of season play last year, by staying in their run lanes and filling any holes.

"We've got to stay disciplined," defensive tackle Grady Jackson said.

The defense must practice good discipline because of Jones' vision and cut back ability. He can start inside and bounce outside or vice versa. If the Packers overpursue, he will take advantage by hitting the open gap.

"He has great size and power, and he also has the ability to make great cuts against the grain," head coach Mike Sherman said. "If you're gap deficient, you're going to give up big runs against him."

The Packers surrendered a big run to him in the 13th game of last year's season. The Packers won the game 16-13, but Jones scored on a 24-yard-touchdown run and totaled 156 yards on the day.

Sherman said the Lions likely will try to use Jones and the ground game to open up the passing game and to force the Packers to bring a safety down in run support -- something the Packers rarely do.

"They're going to try and hammer us with the run," Sherman said.

A powerful 221-pound runner, Jones can also break tackles. To combat his physical running style, the Packers will try and gang tackle him and use the proper form defensive coordinator Jim Bates has preached throughout training camp.

"It's gonna have to be more than one or two people on the tackle," defensive tackle Corey Williams said. "We have to hit him and wrap up. We can't just arm tackle him."


Mature Beyond His Years

Guard William Whitticker's attitude has helped him weather the typical rookie mistakes.

The seventh-round draft pick has shown resiliency, bouncing back from an admittedly poor performance against the New England Patriots with a strong one against the Tennessee Titans. His pass blocking in that game prevented any of his defenders from reaching Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers.

"He doesn't wallow in despair like some younger players have a tendency to do," Sherman said. "He does seem to not get overwhelmed with things."

Whitticker can also take criticism, using it to improve his game instead of letting it shake his confidence. He learned that approach at Michigan State University.

"All the criticism you take is to make you a better player," Whitticker said. "You can take criticism however you want to. You can take it as a bad thing or as a good thing."

Sherman compared his composure to Mark Tauscher, a seventh-round draft pick who started 14 games in his rookie year.

"They have a very similar personality," Sherman said. "(Tauscher) had a lot of confidence, kind of matter of fact about things. Thing's never bothered him."

Whitticker has endured a challenging preseason, which could have rattled other rookies. He faced some of the game's best interior players, including Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Sam Adams, Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour and Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.

The Packers believe that preseason practice should ready him for the Lions, who possess one of the league's best pair of interior defensive linemen, 345-pound Shaun Rogers and 335-pound Dan Wilkinson.

"It does prepare you," Whitticker said.


Back In the Fold

The Green Bay Packers released him, signed him to the practice squad and then signed him to active squad.

Those transactions describe the past several days for fullback Vonta Leach.

"It was a rollercoaster," he said. "It's the business side of sports. It wasn't anything personal."

The Packers activated Leach after he impressed the coaches during Monday's practice. Leach, himself, reported to be 100 percent healthy one week after he began running.

Now, Leach, who tore a knee ligament during training camp, can resume his role, clearing the way for running backs Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher.

"He's a plowhorse," Sherman said. "He's a very physical player."

Leach honed that physical presence during college. He played linebacker until the middle of his junior season at East Carolina University and still possesses the attitude of defender ready to decleat his opponent.

"I'm looking forward to knocking some heads," he said.


Quick Hits:The Lions have been studying Miami Dolphins game tape to prepare for the Packers' new defense, coached by Jim Bates, the defensive coordinator for the Dolphins last year. ... If Na'il Diggs cannot play the SAM linebacker position on Sunday, Paris Lenon will replace him in the starting lineup. ... Lions head coach Steve Mariucci addressed the new fitter Brett Favre. "He looks a little bit lighter. He looks good," he said. "I've seen him several times on the TV interview type of thing. He's still got it. There's no doubt about that."

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