To Blitz Or Not Too Blitz
Defensive coordinator Jim Bates will send as many pass rushers as it takes to hurry the quarterback.
"If you're getting there with four, you bring four," he said. "If you're not getting there with four, you bring five. If you're not getting there, you bring six or seven"
Bates can employ a prison break strategy or leave the extra men in coverage.
As Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator, Bates rarely blitzed because his defenses excelled on third down and featured one of the game's best pass rushers in Jason Taylor. Plus an offense can burn a blitzing defense with quick scores, and his Miami teams did not have the offense to match.
During his stints in 1984 to 1985 with the USFL's San Antonio Gunslingers and in 1989 to 1990 with the University of Florida, he blitzed regularly.
Bates took a similar gamble against the San Diego Chargers, and it backfired. A blitz set up one-on-one coverage in the secondary, and wide receiver Willie Quinnie beat cornerback Mike Hawkins for a 34-yard touchdown.
Any blitzing scheme depends on whether a team has the cornerbacks to handle the opposing receiver in single coverage. The Packers know what Al Harris can do.
"He's our shutdown corner," head coach Mike Sherman said. "He's our premier guy over there."
But Joey Thomas' calf injury has curtailed his evaluation process. The Packers continue to analyze rookie Mike Hawkins and second-year Ahmad Carroll. Both feature blazing speed but must improve their fundamentals
"It all depends on who you have in coverage," Bates said. "It's all based on personnel."
Regardless of how Bates employs his defenders, observers will see a lot of blitzing when they play the Buffalo Bills on Saturday night. The Bills blitz on 60 to 70 percent of their defensive plays.
Favre Shrugs Off Last Week, Looks Forward To Buffalo
Favre carved up the Chargers defense on Thursday night, completing 9-of-10 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown for a 137.9 passing rating.
With an offense he called the core of the team returning veterans like Chad Clifton, Donald Driver, Mike Flanagan, Ahman Green and William Henderson, Favre demands that performance from the unit.
"Nine-out-of-10 was good, but I expect that," he said. "We shouldn't be surprised by it."
Favre admitted the team faces a more daunting challenge this week. He remembers watching the Bills trample the Seahawks last year, 38-9, on Nov. 28. The Seahawks, who feature one of the best offensive lines in football, struggled against defensive coordinator Jerry Gray's blitzing defense.
The Bills defense ranked second in the league last year and stymied the Packers on "Family Night." They sacked the Packers eight times. Favre looks to make amends.
"I was hoping we'd get to play them again," he said. "It's a challenge."
Wolf Happy As A Fan
Former Packers general manager Ron Wolf was enjoying the game so much so that he briefly considered returning to the NFL.
He watched the Seahawks pound the Ravens to take a 34-17 third quarter lead in 2003. Then an official made a poor call, and the Ravens launched a furious comeback to win 44-41 in overtime. That loss kept the Seahawks out of the playoffs.
If Wolf still called the shots for a team, that sort of defeat would have churned his stomach and made for a long cross-country flight back home.
"That's the closest I ever thought about it," he said. "But all it took was that one 'woo.' I thought, "I don't have to take this. I can get up tomorrow and the sun's going to be shining."
Wolf, who retired from the Packers in 2001, said he has been away from the game too long. He enjoys his current lifestyle.
"A person should never say never," he said. "But I've been out for too long."
The man who traded for both Brett Favre and Ahman Green, applauded the Packers' selection of Aaron Rodgers with the 24th pick in the first round. The Packers could have chosen a defensive player, but Wolf said one should always look for the best talent available rather than fill a need.
"You can get in trouble picking for position," he said. "Every time I did that, it came up to bite me right in the rear end."
He has only been in camp two days, but he likes what he's seen of Rodgers.
"He wouldn't be a disappointment," he said.
To this day, he lists his biggest disappointment as the loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII.
Seventh-round draft pick William Whitticker took snaps at guard with the starters on Tuesday. If he becomes the starter, he would join a special group of Packers linemen.
Late-rounders Mark Tauscher (seventh round in 2000), Marco Rivera (sixth round in 1996) and Adam Timmerman (seventh round in 1995) all started for the Green Bay Packers during their careers.
Drafting such late-round gems speaks highly for the scouting department.
"I would like to take credit for all these guys," Thompson joked. "But I can't."
Whitticker did not start during his junior season, which cost him a good grade with the BLESTO scouting service and helped him fly under the radar.
The 6-5, 338-pounder, however, has a large frame and quick feet.
"He has the ability to stay in front of his guy and get his hands on him," Thompson said. "They can't really throw him around too much."
Along with the physical gifts, Whitticker has the smarts and composure of a player well beyond his rookie year.
"Will seems to have an ability to handle the chaos involved in an NFL game," Thompson said.
Sander Doing Well, But ...
Punter B.J. Sander had his best outing of his brief career versus the Chargers, punting seven times for an average of 46 yards, including one touchback and another inside the 20-yard line. But general manager Ted Thompson has taken a cautious approach.
"He's done a nice job during training camp, and I think he punted well the other night during some very adverse conditions," he said. "But I think you have to see him over the course of more than a couple weeks of training camp."
Yet, the former Ray Guy Award winner has performed well enough that the Packers will not bring in another punter for camp. The team has monitored the reps of the lone punter in camp.
"We make sure that during practice and during the course of the week that we don't overload him," Thompson said.
Quick Hits:After rebuking his team midway through Monday morning's practice, Sherman praised the energy during Tuesday's session. "Today was an excellent practice. The guys came out here and competed against one another and tried to win every drill," he said. "I was excited about today." ... Cornerback Al Harris left the morning session and missed the entire afternoon session after aggravating a thigh bruise. ... Earl Little started in place of injured safety Mark Roman (hamstring) on the first team. ... Ted Thompson on linebacker Ray Thompson: "He runs to the ball. He's got good speed, and he has the ability to play with range."... The Packers personnel department will spend the next several days "walking the board" -- examining players that might not make the final roster of the other 31 teams. ... Defensive tackle Grady Jackson expects to return to practice in the next week or two. ... Defensive end R Kal Truluck (hamstring) returned to practice and participated in both of Tuesday's sessions.