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Stout Run Defense Aims To Keep Cadillac In Neutral


Cornerback Ahmad Carroll knows first hand the skill of Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams.

While in college at the University of Arkansas, Carroll marveled as the Auburn University running back shredded his Razorbacks defense for 177 yards on 19 carries as a freshman.

"He's got the total package," he said. "He's the truth."

The Packers' run defense will face a true test on Sunday. That unit has served as a strength this season but faces Williams, the NFL's leading rusher.

"He's really made a splash this season," Packers head coach Mike Sherman said.

The Packers' run defense has also made waves. Ranked seventh in the NFL, the Packers have allowed 78.5 yards-a-game.

They limited Detroit Lions' running back Kevin Jones and Cleveland Browns' running back Reuben Droughns, who both surpassed 1,000 rushing yards last year, to 87 yards on 25 carries and 50 yards on 20 carries, respectively.

"We try to make it a point that nobody can run the ball on us," defensive end Aaron Kampman said.

Because of the pounding players take on gamedays, the Packers do not hit much during the week, but they practice staying square to the ball carrier and breaking down with good form. Through both drill work and repeated emphasis from the coaching staff, the team has improved their tackling skills, something that hindered a 27th-ranked run defense last year.

"We haven't missed many tackles," linebacker Paris Lenon said.

The Packers have not allowed a running back a carry of more than eight yards, but Williams ran for a 71-yard touchdown in Week One.

"We've tackled pretty well this year," Sherman said. "And we're going to need good tackling to bring this young man to the ground."

The rookie has gained 276 yards through two games by using power, leg drive, vision and the ability to cut against the grain.

"He can make any kind of cut at any kind of time," Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden said. "He's a great running back."

Gruden knew he had someone special when the team selected Williams with the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft. He coached him for a week during the Senior Bowl and said his competitiveness and intensity separated him from the other players there.

"He really took it serious," Gruden said.

Williams ignites the offense, and his performance could determine the outcome of Sunday's game. The Buccaneers have rushed the ball a combined 71 times in two games.

"They will hammer the running game," Sherman said. "Their emphasis without a doubt is to run the football."

To contain Williams the Packers plan to adhere to their assignments and use sound fundamentals. They also want to swarm with as many players as possible.

"You've got to get more than one guy on a hit," Kampman said. "Wear him out, make him tired and make him not want to run."

Wearing out the 5-11, 217-pound back will prove to be a challenge. His conditioning has wowed Gruden.

"He gets stronger as the game goes on," he said. "That's rare in most young players especially rookies."

Kampman has seen those skills on tape. He knows the defense needs to play even better than they did in Weeks One and Two.

"It has to be taken to another level this week," he said.


Thomas On The Mend

Packers cornerback Joey Thomas' 2005 season has been a rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs.

"I've been through everything that a person could possibly go through," he said.

His recent tribulation involves a head injury, which forced him to miss Friday's practice. The Packers have listed him as probable on the injury report, and Thomas may start on Sunday.

"We feel confident he's going to be okay," Sherman said.

Sherman said he will make a decision regarding Thomas' status as starter on Friday night.

Thomas said he likely suffered the injury when Cleveland Browns running back Reuben Droughns' knee struck him on the crown of his helmet during a tackle on Sunday. Thomas left the game briefly before returning.

Since then Thomas has suffered reoccurring headaches, bouts of drowsiness and difficulties concentrating.

"It's like being in a haze," he said.

Following his impressive performance during the organized team activities, the coaching staff slated Thomas as the starting cornerback headed into training camp. Calf and hip injuries then sidelined him for three weeks of practice, and Carroll earned the all of the repetitions with the starters.

Carroll started in Week One, but Thomas played effectively as the nickel cornerback, registering two tackles and two passes defended. That performance earned him the start in Week Two.

Week Two featured more adversity. In the third quarter, Browns rookie wide receiver Braylon Edwards beat Thomas on a slant for an 80-yard touchdown.

Just as he has endured everything else, Thomas has passed all of the necessary concussion tests thus far.

"I'm hoping it will run its course and I will feel better," he said.

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