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Sherman Considers Re-Shuffling The Offensive Line


Although the Packers have allowed the second least number of sacks in the NFL, the offensive line needs to open up more holes for their 31st-ranked running game.

For that reason Head Coach Mike Sherman continues to ponder a shakeup along the interior of the offensive line.

"I'm going to play (Grey) Ruegamer some. I'm going to play (William) Whitticker some. Ruegy may play right side, may play left side," Sherman said. "We're just trying to find the right combination there."

During Thursday's practice Ruegamer played the majority of the snaps at right guard. The offensive line's utility man, Ruegamer has moved from left guard, to right guard, to center and now back to right guard since training camp began.

Whitticker has started every game at right guard since the season opener, but a poor practice and an inability to finish his blocks led to his demotion.

"I've got to work hard during practice and I wasn't doing that. That's what resulted in me getting benched," Whitticker said. "I just have to learn from my mistakes and go out there and work hard every day."

Although the benching may be temporary, Whitticker called it a reality check.

"This is a job," he said. "You can't take a play or a practice off."

Whitticker rebounded with a strong practice on Friday.

"Whitticker practiced today and did a good job," Sherman said.

Further complicating matters, starting left guard Scott Wells missed Friday's practice for personal reasons. Although Wells should return for Sunday's game, Sherman said Adrian Klemm, who started the season at left guard, could see some action this weekend.

Sherman has explored these position changes in hopes the offensive line can perform in the running game like it has in the passing game. The Packers have surrendered only 13 sacks but managed 70.3 rushing yards-a-game.

While he looks for the right mix along the offensive line, Sherman has not named the starters for Sunday's contest.

"There's no telling what could happen," Whitticker said. "I could be the starter. I could be the backup."


Many Happy Returns?

While the Packers have excelled on kickoff coverage, Sherman stressed the need to improve on kickoff returns.

"Our coverage units are doing a good job," Sherman said. "Our return units, however, particularly kickoff return units have not done a good job."

Kickoff returner ReShard Lee has 282 yards on 13 returns (an average of 21.7) with a long of 35 yards. Sherman knows better starting field position will help out the offense.

"We've been starting too many drives inside about the 25, 26-yard-line," Sherman said. "Give me four yards, get me outside of the 30, (and) I feel like our chances for scoring have dramatically increased."

Lee is a shifty, downhill runner but lacks the speed of some the previous Packers returners like Desmond Howard and Allen Rossum.

"He has had some success in the past," Sherman said. "He's not a gamebreaking-type speed guy back there that's going to scare you that way, but he can break tackles."

What makes the lack of a standout kickoff return unit stand out is how well the opposite unit has performed for Green Bay. Against the Atlanta Falcons, Rossum, a Pro Bowl return specialist last year, never took the ball past the 29-yard line on either a punt or kickoff returns.

"Special teams last week won the game for us," Sherman said. "What they did in coverage was special. It created a longer field for the Atlanta Falcons"

Lee said it's a matter of time before the units on kickoff return catches up with the kickoff coverage. Meshing with the safeties in the wedge making the blocks remains the key, and the Packers likely will not try to upgrade their returns by signing a free agent.

"Those guys aren't out there on the street waiting for jobs," Sherman said. "Anybody that can score points isn't usually looking for work."

Lee has only played with the Packers since Oct. 6, and the Packers should improve their returns as Lee becomes more familiar with his blockers.

"We're getting better every week," Lee said. "It's going to hit eventually."

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