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by Jerry Gilbert
While we are not precisely at the half way point of the Green Bay Packers 2005 campaign, this is a good time to reflect on the season to date. It is becoming clear that General Manager Ted Thompson made some very good selections in this years draft and free agency. Second round draft choice Nick Collins is an adequate NFL safety in his first season. He has missed some interceptions, but not many tackles. Collins is likely to continue to improve. Cornerback Mike Hawkins is talented but green. He also is holding his own as a nickel corner, and he also may continue to improve.

Of the other rookies who play defense, linebacker Brady Poppinga has been a star on special teams. Fellow linebacker Roy Manning has spent considerable time at linebacker replacing the injured Nail Diggs. Defensive end Michael Montgomery is part of the defensive line rotation. Among the rookies, only safety Marviel Underwood has thus far disappointed on defense. Turning to free agents on defense, linebacker Robert Thomas has been making plays. Thomas may not be the ultimate answer, but because of his newness to the Bates system, it is too soon to make any long-term judgments.

One valuable addition on special teams may be rookie safety Jeremy Thornburg.

Looking at the rookies and free agents on offense, attention must begin with the first round choice, Aaron Rodgers, whose only notable achievement thus far is to have been beaten out as holder for kicker Ryan Longwell. As a quarterback, he is strictly a clipboard carrier. Judgment must be withheld on whether the draft choice was foolish. The young man may become the next great Packer quarterback, or perhaps a bust.

Round two selection Terrence Murphy was just beginning to become comfortable at wide receiver when he suffered a season ending injury. The only rookie to consistently start on offense is guard William Whitticker, and his play has not been stellar. Free agent rookie Chris White was kept on the roster for his potential; he has never been activated for a game.

Ironically, the most productive rookie on offense may turn out to be street free agent Samkon Gado. The young running back seems to be the best option following the loss of Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport and the temporary loss of Tony Fisher.

Listed at 5-11 226 with a 4.43 forty, Gado has the speed to turn the corner. More important, against Pittsburgh he moved the pile and generally was moving forward when he was tackled. A native of Nigeria who wears the number of his hero, Christian Okoya, Gado was never a starter in college despite averaging 7.2 yards per carry as a senior. He also contributed 11 touchdowns that season. Nevertheless, Gado still played on most special teams, which should help him as a pro. The puzzle is why he was not a star at the 1-AA level. No other back from tiny Liberty College is currently making a splash in the NFL. The hope is that he has now matured to a point that he is NFL material. We shall see.

Veteran free agents are contributing to different degrees. Adrian Klemm, the owner of Super Bowl rings from New England is not excelling at left guard. That is a charitable assessment. Packer radio commentator, Larry McCarren cites play after play in which Klemm misses blocks when he pulls. Klemm is unlikely to return as a starter next season. Tight end Donald Lee has been a good addition as a touchdown catching tight end and special team performer. Unfortunately, he drops too many passes. Running back and kick returner Rashard Lee has not shown enough to be more than a one-year fill-in player. If he turns out to be more than that, it could make a difference in whether this season is at least a marginal success.

On balance, the GM has done his job. Bodies a re there to be coached. Despite the injuries, the Packers new players have been a positive addition to the team. Whether they are performing as well as they should is a subject for another article.


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