Top Units Ready To Play For Real

As of Sunday evening, the 2009 regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears was still two weeks away.

But judging by the way the Packers' starting units have played in their first three preseason games, it's hard to blame them for wanting these two weeks to go by sooner rather than later.

"Right now, we've got some things we can improve on, but the indications are that we're going to play at a high level this season," linebacker Aaron Kampman said following a short jog-through practice on Sunday afternoon. "We are. We've got one more week here in the preseason, let's not jump the gun. But yeah, it will be good to get things started."

With the starters scheduled to play maybe one series, if at all, on Thursday at Tennessee, the top units have essentially finished their game rehearsals. And for good reason, their confidence is sky-high.

The No. 1 offense has scored nine touchdowns and one field goal in 12 possessions, with a missed field goal and a fourth-down failure in the red zone the only blemishes, in the three victories. It has displayed a mixture of long, methodical drives and quick strikes for scores, as well as an ability to take advantage of the field position the turnover-generating defense has provided.

"When we do our job we're hard to stop," running back Ryan Grant said. "It's definitely preseason so you keep things in perspective, but we should feel confident about where we are and where we can start as an offense when the regular season starts."

The challenge, of course, will be making the overwhelming offensive success this preseason just a preview and not the finished product.

"I think the 'O,' we haven't even peaked yet," said second-year tight end Jermichael Finley, who had two TD receptions last Friday in Arizona. "I think we've got many more plays to come, and many more 'W's' to come. I can't wait until the regular season comes around.

"I think we're ready. We've got our shoes on the right feet, and I think we're ready to roll."

Meanwhile, the No. 1 defense has allowed only 10 points in three games, all to Arizona after blanking Cleveland and Buffalo. The starters have chalked up six turnovers in the last two games and even scored a touchdown of their own, on Kampman's return of a fumble caused by a blitzing Charles Woodson.

The veteran cornerback, who forced three fumbles last Friday, cautioned that the defense has by no means played flawlessly, even as smooth as the transition to the new 3-4 scheme has gone. But with two weeks before the opener, the unit has plenty of time to sharpen some rough edges in practice and be ready when things are for real.

"It is only preseason, but I think we've put together some dominating quarters, a half last week," Woodson said. "We feel good about it. You don't want to get too ahead of yourself, but we're playing some good football.

"But there's still a lot of mistakes. Even as dominant as we've been, we still made a lot of mistakes. We feel like we can get better, and I think we will."

How much better is impossible to say, not only because the defense hasn't played a regular-season game yet, but also because it's still sifting through new defensive coordinator Dom Capers' extensive playbook. New packages and wrinkles will be learned and added as Capers puts in specific game plans for the regular-season opponents.

"I think we've shown some good things in the preseason," Kampman said. "You don't ever rest on that. I think the guard we have to have up is against any type of complacency, continuing to stay focused on things that have gotten (us) to this point. Not that that's an arrival point by any stretch of the imagination. But by continuing to stay focused and doing the little things we've been doing up to this point, I think we'll continue to get better."

{sportsad300}The overall vibe is similar to 2007, when the Packers were coming off a four-game winning streak to end 2006. They won their first two preseason games and led their third, 10-0 at halftime, before the starting offense tallied one more quick score in the finale.

Those preseason performances weren't as dominant as this year's, but there was a feeling of legitimate momentum as the team headed into the regular season, and it went 13-3 to win the NFC North.

But there seems to be even greater anticipation now than there was then. Woodson, now in his 12th NFL campaign, said on Sunday that the only time he can recall feeling this excited for a season was in Oakland in 2005, when the Raiders had acquired All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss.

This time around, Woodson said he's even more fired up about Capers, this defensive scheme, and the entire defensive coaching staff that has been assembled, not to mention an offense that has scored seemingly at will.

"I don't think I've ever been more excited, more ready to get the season underway than this year," Woodson said. "We've got a chance, at winning the whole thing, I believe. We've still got a long way to go. We're not there yet, but we have a chance. And I know every team thinks that at this point in the season. Everybody feels like they have a chance. But I feel like we do."

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