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WHAT WAS I THINKING?

by Jerry Gilbert
Not thinking, reacting emotionally is closer to the explanation for why I had been expecting a playoff run by the 2005 Green Bay Packers. However, two horrendous games; two losses to bad teams will have a tendency to bring a dreamer back to reality.

Now, with expectations lowered, I look forward to watching my team each week in order to enjoy the process. I will cheer when they succeed; yell and swear in bad times. I am a Packer Fan. They are my team. As the song goes, they are the greatest team to ever play the game; even if from time to time theyve been a little lame.

We now know that the loss of Javon Walker left the packers with only Donald Driver as a consistent receiving threat. Terrence Murphy could develop as the season goes on, but, for now, it is only Ferguson and Chatman, and they are not enough. Possibly a changed strategy for the passing game which would focus on passing to the backs could help salvage a victory or two. William Henderson was always open against the Browns. But unless Murphy or Ferguson show much more than we have seen, the passing attack will not win many games.

The running game remains a possibility, but the offensive line will need to be much better. Mike Flanagan is not the player he was two years ago. Chad Clifton is not shutting down the back-side pursuit in the Packers right handed rushing game. The guards are still learning what they are supposed to do. Even if there are different starters, this offensive line requires more experience together before they will lead a consistent rushing attack. Until that happens, the short pass for 3-6 yards may become the norm.

After the disappointing loss in week one, the Packer Defense could at least say that they had prevented the big play that haunted them last year. Against Cleveland, the big hurt returned as a rookie receiver and a nobody tight end knifed through the Green Bay so-called defense for long touchdowns. The defense will get better, but not good enough to carry the team on its own. This unit is still aspiring to be adequate.

The season is not over. Many winnable games remain in the 2005 season, and Mike Sherman has demonstrated the ability to bring a team back from adversity. He will need to be creative. The offense lost its home run receiver and needs to refocus. Short passes mixed with quick developing running plays could offer a recipe for moving the chains. It is a strategy that is generally successful against the Packer Defense.

Special Teams could also be a positive factor. New players such as Brady Poppinga, Earl Little and Robert Thomas have brought energy and talent to special teams. There is reason to hope that the return and coverage units could produce a score or two in 2005. Remember, the Packers have won three straight division titles with virtually no scoring from non-kicker special team players. Slightly above average special teams play could produce a victory or two. Excellence is not necessary.

Finally, there is the Brett Favre factor. Last week his line proved that they can protect him. Give him a game plan containing innovative ways to open up receivers, and Favre will pass for 300 yards and some touchdowns often enough to win some games. See the pattern? Several components of the team could produce enough victories to make it close in the uninspiring NFC North.

The Green Bay Packers are down but not out. Is there a reason for optimism? Not yet. But it will be great fun to watch them play.

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