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Green Bay Packers Derek Sherrod slow to pick up fundamentals

Starting left guard job should go to T.J. Lang

Aug. 21, 2011
 

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Green Bay Packers' Derek Sherrod works against Arizona Cardinals defensive end Vonnie Holiday during the second quarter of Friday's game at Lambeau Field. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette

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Nobody rolls out of their momís womb an offensive lineman.

Defensive backs, receivers and running backs, those guys are born. Youíre either fast or not, but offensive linemen are made.

So it was perplexing to watch first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod in the Green Bay Packersí preseason game Friday night against Arizona. You have a smart kid, 3.8 grade-point average at Mississippi State, and he hasnít figured out he has to play with his butt lower and his hands higher.

Somethingís not connecting with the kid or the coaching. Weíre three weeks into training camp and thereís no improvement.

Sherrod looks better as a run blocker than at the beginning of camp, but he still has trouble keeping his pads down. In a game heíd have to pass block 25 to 30 times, yet almost every snap in pass protection against Arizona he had trouble getting his hands on his guyís jersey numbers. You can see it in live action, but when you watch the tape and slow it down, it stands out.

The competition at left guard is over. T.J. Lang has to be the starter. He played well Friday night.

Lang had one bad play, when the defensive tackles ran a twist on a pass play. Lang stayed with his first guy too long and Arizonaís Darnell Dockett bobbed around him and hit quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Thatís communication that could be strengthened by more reps next to center Scott Wells.

From Wells to the right side, the Packersí offensive line is very good. Right guard Josh Sitton is explosive. He and right tackle Bryan Bulaga are athletic enough to get to the linebackers in the run game. Wells is small, but heís quick getting his hips around and has great feet. Those three guys are as good as the Packers have been over there for at least a decade.

Burnett, Gordy looking good

In the defensive backfield, my biggest question coming into camp was whether second-year safety Morgan Burnett would be physical enough coming off reconstructive knee surgery that ended his 2010 season last October.

In two preseason games, Burnett has filled well on running plays. He broke up a pass in front of Arizonaís Larry Fitzgerald on Friday. It was probably quarterback Kevin Kolbís fault for holding the ball too long, but Burnett was still there and made the play. He looks more physical than last year.

Josh Gordy is making a strong run for the last roster spot at cornerback. The Packers gave him a look on Friday ahead of Pat Lee. Gordy didnít get much action in the game, but in practice heís always contesting the ball. Lee and safety Brandon Underwood seem to be on the outside looking in. Underwood has missed the first two preseason games because of a knee injury, and if he canít get back on the field soon itís hard to see them keeping him.

Where's the rush?

If defensive lineman Mike Nealís sprained knee is worse than it looks for now, the Packersí inside pass rush could be in trouble. Or at least itís going to require defensive coordinator Dom Capers to be creative, which he showed a little of Friday night.

Outside linebacker Erik Walden had troubles playing the run, but Capers moved him around. On long-yardage passing downs, the Packers put him inside and he either spied the quarterback or dropped into zone coverage. Maybe as the season goes along theyíll try blitzing him inside, because C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn didnít generate much of an inside rush in Nealís place.

I donít know whoís going to emerge. At this point theyíre counting on Neal.

Extra points

• The Packers might have something in receiver Chastin West, who was on their practice squad last season and had the 97-yard touchdown reception on Friday night. That could be a tough choice on final cuts between him and undrafted rookie Tori Gurley. I still like Gurley better because of his size and potential. You can always find a 6-1 receiver, but a talented player at 6-4 is a different story.

• Starting inside linebackers Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk look good playing together. The Cardinals used a bunch receiver formation a couple of times, which is tough on linebackers because theyíre not as good turning and running as defensive backs. But those two passed off guys well and it looks like theyíve worked on it. Hawk is around the ball all the time, but Iíd like to see him get there with more authority. He wrestles the guy down, and in run fits heís right there all the time. Youíd just like to see him blow up guys a little more.

ó Green Bay Press-Gazette correspondent Eric Baranczyk played football at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and later served as an assistant coach. He will provide periodic evaluations of the Packers during training camp.

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