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Run Defense, Fresh Jackson Offer Reasons For Optimism


The Packers lost 17-3 to the Detroit Lions, but their stout run defense served as a silver lining.

"The defensive front as a whole did a nice job," head coach Mike Sherman said. "Going into the ball game I was so concerned about the fact [the Lions] were just going to pound the ball on us against our front."

A marked improvement from last year when they allowed 4.3 yards-a-carry, the Packers held the Lions to 3.3 yards-per-rush by playing with a good base and staying square to the line of scrimmage.

"We stayed in our gaps, played disciplined football," defensive tackle Grady Jackson said.

They limited Kevin Jones, the same back who ran for 156 yards in their last meeting, to 87 yards on 25 carries. He rushed for 902 yards in the last eight games of the 2004 season

"I have a lot of respect for Kevin Jones," Sherman said. "He was one of the best backs at the end of the season last year."

Against the Packers his longest run was seven yards.

The 345-pound Jackson helped anchor that run defense. He played about 60 snaps-a-game in 2004, but the coaching staff rotated their interior linemen on Sunday to keep them fresh. Jackson only played 30 snaps against Detroit.

"I don't feel as beat up as last year," Jackson said. "I feel pretty good"

He might have felt too fresh. Having played in just one preseason game and one week of training camp practice, Jackson admitted he was not quite up to game speed.

"In another week all the rust should be off," Jackson said. "I felt it a little bit, but you're always going to feel a little bit by coming in like that at the end."

Jackson occupied Detroit's lineman, freeing up the linebackers to make tackles. On a second-and-goal at the Green Bay one-yard-line, he tackled Jones for a two-yard-loss. The Lions had to settle for a field goal on that third quarter series.

Alongisde Jackson, Cullen Jenkins made his seventh career start at defensive tackle and provided energy, collecting three tackles, including an eight-yard sack of Joey Harrington.

"He did pretty good," Jackson said. "Everybody contributed."

The entire defensive line will have to come up strong again on Sunday. Cleveland Browns head coach Romeo Crennel emphasizes the running game and features a three-headed monster of Reuben Droughns, who ran for 1,240 yards last year with the Denver Broncos; William Green, the 16th overall pick in 2002; and Lee Suggs, who rushed for 744 yards last year.

While Suggs missed last week's game because of an ankle injury and may not play this week, Droughns rushed for 78 yards on 12 carries last week, and Suggs racked up 12 yards on four carries. The Packers hope to hold the Browns under 100 rushing yards.

"That's the goal week in and week out," Jackson said.

The Packers defensive players expressed obvious disappointment in Sunday's loss, but limiting the Lions to 102 yards on 33 carries could serve as a jumping off point.

"We had a lot of positives out there," Jenkins said. "It's a solid foundation to build on."

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