Much of the training camp talk has been focused on the starting strong safety battle between Marques Anderson and Mark Roman. The coaching staff won't say who has the upper hand, but it appears that Roman did nothing to hurt his cause on Saturday night.
In limited playing time, Roman had three tackles and was responsible for getting the defense untracked, according to free safety Darren Sharper.
"Mark Roman made that hit in the backfield," Sharper said. "That play really got us some energy and that is how we got going. After that play we really took off."
Unselfishness was the theme for the night, and Roman passed along the credit to defensive coordinator Bob Slowik.
"I think it's a pretty good compliment, but I don't think I did all of that on my own," Roman said.
"Coach Slowik put us in a good position to make plays. He said we are going to be aggressive and make things happen. I'm just trying to fit into the defense the best I can and to the best of my ability."
Roman also isn't one to rely on statistics.
"All I can do is come out and play to the best of my ability," Roman said. "I want to make the coaches' decision as hard as possible. I feel like if I keep working I will be alright. I'm the type of guy who wants to help my team line up and if I can make a big play, that's great. I just want to get my team in the right alignment."
Along with Roman, linebacker Nick Barnett appears destined to have a huge year for the Packers. The second-year player has been all over the field in the preseason and Saturday night he forced a fumble. He said he's happy with the direction of his defensive unit.
"We still have a lot of work to do, but overall I think we are going to have one heck of a defense," Barnett said. "We have all the same guys. Everybody is becoming accustomed to one another and the chemistry is coming together.
"My main concern is getting further this year than we did last year."
If the defense continues to play the way it did tonight, that shouldn't be a problem.
Packers Defense Sharper On Saturday Night
Darren Sharper has always loved to make plays. Whether it was in his early years as a punt returner or later on as a safety, Sharper has always been known for his playmaking skills.
Saturday night, Sharper held true to his reputation. With the Packers clinging to a 3-0 lead in the second quarter, the eight-year veteran intercepted Saints quarterback Todd Bouman and weaved in and out of traffic for a 90-yard score. A Lambeau Leap followed and the Packers had a 10-0 lead.
The errant pass happened to be Bouman's first throw of the night. He entered the game for former Packer Aaron Brooks who injured his thigh on the previous play. Rookie Joey Thomas made the final block and although Sharper slightly stumbled, he eventually found pay dirt.
Cornerback Al Harris had no doubt Sharper was going to find the end zone.
"I knew he was going to make it as soon as he got it," Harris said. "No doubt about it."
When somebody suggested that Sharper looked tired, Harris couldn't believe it.
"Ninety yards, who wouldn't be out of breath? Yeah he was out of breath, but he made it. That's what counts, right?"
Sharper admitted the return took more out of him than it may have in his younger days.
"I have to do more wind sprints after practice," Sharper said. "I had a flashback to my punt return days in college, but I don't have the same speed, so I got a little tired at the end."
Josue, Rogers Make Roster Bid
Players that strive to make the opening day roster have to stand out in preseason games. It's that simple. Make plays or go home.
If Saturday night is any indication, Steve Josue and Tyrone Rogers will be around for a while.
Josue had four tackles and a sack. He also batted down a pass and put pressure on Saints quarterbacks throughout the second half. On one particular third down play, Josue was all alone in the flat with Saints running back Lamar Smith. After Smith caught the pass, he attempted to elude Josue, but the first-year linebacker made a text book tackle by wrapping Smith up in the open field.
Like Josue, Rogers made several highlight plays throughout the game, but none was as impressive as his interception of J.T. O'Sullivan in the third quarter. The Saints were knocking at the doorstep with a third down at the Packers 11-yard line, but Kenny Peterson put pressure on O'Sullivan and Rogers made the impressive grab. He rumbled 31 yards before O'Sullivan and Smith brought him down.
Rogers refused to take too much credit for the play.
"Kenny Peterson made the hit and the ball went in the air," Rogers said. "I just happened to be there to make the play. Some of the things that happened came from the great play calling tonight. I made a particular play to help the team, but Kenny Peterson started it off."
Rogers wasn't done making a name for himself, however. He also had two sacks and a forced fumble to round out his evening.
Despite his strong showing, Rogers doesn't think his work is done.
"I just try to work every game," Rogers explained. "You never know what happens in this business. I just want to make plays and do my job every week."
Rogers and Josue certainly did their jobs Saturday night. Whether they admit it or not, they became one step closer to making Green Bay their permanent home.
Keep Your Hands To Yourself
The Packers were called for 14 penalties on Saturday night and surrendered 169 yards due to the infractions. The main culprits of those flags were rookie cornerbacks Joey Thomas and Ahmad Carroll.
Thomas was flagged twice for pass interference, once for 28 yards and the other time for 37 yards. Carroll was charged with a 39-yard pass interference.
What could be described as a rough night for most players didn't end too badly for Thomas. Although he had his struggles, he did intercept an O'Sullivan pass in the fourth quarter. His play earned Sharper's approval.
"Joey really did a great job because he really continued to play," Sharper said. "A lot of guys get those two pass interference calls and they go into the tank. He came back and got an interception later in the game. That showed a lot of maturity out of him.
"Actually, Joey and Ahmad, those guys kept challenging. I am pleased with both of those guys' progress so far."
Sharper also said the tighter interference calls are going to be posing a new challenge for defensive backs.
"If a team is struggling on offense, they are just going to throw the ball down the field and hope for the pass interference call," Sharper explained. "They will tell the receiver to run into the defensive back to get the penalty."
Al Harris said the Packers will make the proper adjustments.
"The rules are the rules. Everybody has to abide by them. We just have to modify some of the things we do. We'll be alright."
Carroll and Thomas both admitted they have some work to do and they vow to keep on improving.
"Coach is just telling me to keep playing and not to worry about it," Carroll said. "The main thing is to keep my hands off of the receiver. You want to know what you are doing wrong so you can go back and correct it."
"Things aren't always going to happen the way you want them to, but you've got to learn from it," Thomas added. "You can get down in the dumps over the calls or you can respond. You can't worry about the calls. The refs are going to call what they see and you just have to play your game."