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Notebook: Stopping Jackson Is Job One

Symptomatic of the team’s performance in most areas through the first two weeks of the regular season, the Packers have been both good and bad at stopping the run so far in 2009. So where does that leave the Packers heading into Week 3, when the Rams’ most dynamic weapon is running back Steven Jackson? Looking for more consistency and a chance to make amends, but knowing it won’t come easy. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Sept. 23


Rams RB Steven Jackson is chased by Packers LB Nick Barnett in the 2007 matchup in St. Louis.

Symptomatic of the team's performance in most areas through the first two weeks of the regular season, the Green Bay Packers have been both good and bad at stopping the run so far in 2009.

In Week 1 against the Chicago Bears, the Packers and their new 3-4 scheme held Matt Forté to just 55 yards on 25 carries, a measly 2.2 yards per carry. But then last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, former Bear Cedric Benson gashed the Packers for 141 yards on 29 rushes, for 4.9 yards per carry.

So where does that leave the Packers heading into Week 3, when the St. Louis Rams' most dynamic weapon is without question running back Steven Jackson? Looking for more consistency and a chance to make amends, but knowing it won't come easy.

"People are going to be after us on that run," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "We have to go out there and show a different side of what we can do. We look forward to this challenge. I wouldn't say redemption, but it's a chance for us to go out and show that we're a lot better than we were last week."

Last week started poorly from the get-go. Benson's first three carries, on the Bengals' first three snaps, went for 12 yards apiece. He added another 12-yard run later on Cincinnati's opening 63-yard touchdown drive, and he chalked up a 13-yarder by the end of the first quarter, which he finished with 71 yards.

It set the tone for the Bengals' offense for the rest of the day, and the Packers simply can't allow the Rams and Jackson to establish themselves like that.

Jackson is a proven weapon, topping 1,000 yards rushing in each of the last four years, including the last two seasons when he's played in just 12 games each year. He's quickly on pace for more big numbers this season with 33 carries for 171 yards (5.2 avg.) through two games.

Jackson, a 230-pound bruiser with impressive speed, ripped off a 58-yard run last week at Washington in posting 17 carries for 104 yards. That 6.1 average was his single-game best since Week 7 of last season in an upset win over Dallas (25-160, 6.4).

The Packers have seen Jackson before, most recently in 2007 when he rushed 24 times for 143 yards against Green Bay, including a 46-yard touchdown. Those who have battled him say that, along with his power and speed, the asset that makes him a complete back is his change-of-direction.

"I think what he does really well is the jump-cut," linebacker Aaron Kampman said. "He'll get the ball, take it right to the line of scrimmage, and jump, and you don't know where he's going to go from there.

"Our zone scheme, for instance, you get one cut and you're going downhill. I think what makes him the threat that he is, is his ability to go all kinds of different directions. He's not scared to challenge the outside of the defense. Where someone may look like they have contain, he'll go on out and try to see if it's there."

Barnett was a college teammate of Jackson's at Oregon State, and he said that in order to bring down such a fast-moving load, tacklers "have to be very fundamentally sound or have to take a hell of a shot," or both. Barnett knows as well as anyone that the Packers simply can't be as sloppy against the run this week as they were last week, or it's going to be an even longer day.

"We had a couple mental errors and a lack of paying attention to details all around the board," Barnett said. "I think everyone had something last week that accounted for them having a positive run game last week. I think we fixed it in film. The only time we're going to be able to tell is on Sunday, and we look forward to that chance of going out there and proving we're a lot better defense."

The results will be monitored closely. After Jackson, next up is Minnesota's Adrian Peterson.

Stop the drops

On offense, the Packers have dropped an inordinate number of passes through the first two games, with almost no one in the receiver/tight end/running back group being spared.

The drops this past week against Cincinnati were particularly galling because the first two - by tight end Jermichael Finley and receiver Greg Jennings - came on the game's opening series and both would have picked up first downs. Instead, the Packers punted after gaining just 15 yards.

"It's a lack of concentration, and then running before you get the ball in your hands, because you're trying to make a play," said receiver Donald Driver, credited with two drops in Week 1. "Greg's drop, we watched it on film and it was funny, because he was trying to run before he caught it. That's just one of those things.

"Same with mine. I dropped that one against Chicago. When I jumped in the air, I'm thinking when I get down what I'm going to do, instead of just focusing on catching the ball. You have to just go back to the fundamentals of the game. Catch it first and then run."

Oddly enough, Jennings' drop against the Bengals ended up being his best chance to catch a pass all day. The fourth-year receiver did not have a reception for the first time in his career, a span of 45 regular-season games played.

"There's really no reason that should happen, but it happened," Jennings said. "Is it frustrating? Yes, not because I'm an individual, but because I'm a competitor, and I felt like I wasn't able to help my team.

"There are other ways you can help your team, but as a playmaker, a guy who thrives on making plays and moving the chains, to not get that opportunity, it was devastating. But it's a new week, new game plan and I'm looking forward to it."

Injury/participation update

Left tackle Chad Clifton (ankle) did not practice Wednesday, and Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Clifton would be out at least through the bye week, meaning he'll miss at least the next two games.

{sportsad300}Safety Atari Bigby (knee) remains out and will be out at least through the bye week as well.

Fellow safety Nick Collins (chest) was a limited participant in practice but has a chance to play on Sunday. Collins left last week's game in the second quarter when he was crushed under a pile of bodies.

Nose tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) was a full participant once again, as he was last week, but McCarthy said he still needs to monitor how he responds after each workout.

Kampman has a bruised hand but was a full participant in practice with a club cast on it. He said it's only precautionary to protect the hand from all the contact during Wednesday's and Thursday's full-pads practices. He does not expect to wear the club cast in Sunday's game.

Running back Brandon Jackson (ankle) returned to practice for the first time in the regular season and was a limited participant. Jackson originally injured his ankle in the third preseason game in Arizona, back on Aug. 28. Jackson's playing status was still very much up in the air.

Fullback Korey Hall (shoulder/concussion) was new to the injury report as a limited participant. Kicker Mason Crosby (abdomen) was limited again, same as last week.

For the Rams, rookie offensive tackle Jason Smith (knee) did not participate and is expected to be out this week. Center Jason Brown (knee), guard John Greco (wrist) and safeties Craig Dahl (hamstring) and David Roach (groin) were all limited participants.

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