Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers gives instructions to his players during the season opener against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. / File/Press-Gazette
Aaron Rodgers was under pressure from a New Orleans defense that sent five and six defenders, especially early, and he was sacked twice. And the Green Bay Packers didnít exactly dominate up front with their 3.8 average per rush.
But their offensive line deserves kudos for the part it played in the Packersí 42-point explosion and opening night victory. To put it simply, it did its job. And it appears that with T.J. Lang at left guard, and with Mark Tauscher gone and Bryan Bulaga settled in at right tackle, plus Josh Sitton and Scott Wells, the Packers might have their most athletic line in years.
Lang might not test out as well as Daryn Colledge, but he appears to be a more functional athlete. He showed ability to get to linebackers. Colledge moved well enough to do that, but Lang stuck with his blocks. Thatís the key: Getting your hands on a guy and staying there to create those cutback holes. When Lang got to the second level, he seemed to sink his hips, whereas Colledge would look herky-jerky: Get his feet too close together and lose his balance.
Now, Lang has to eliminate the false starts. That seems to be like a disease on the left side.
Wells might have played as well as anyone. Sedrick Ellis is a good player and Shaun Rogers is enormous, and twice on touchdown runs, Wells was able to reach them, get underneath them and then turn his hips. Low man wins and Wells was able to do that and make a crease for the backs.
As for Chad Clifton, he was on skates on a few plays. But he didnít give up a sack and thatís the key.
There were times last year where Andrew Quarlessí effort in the running game appeared half-hearted. But he had some nice blocks against the Saints; Jermichael Finley, too. Quarless looks like a totally different player. He looks thicker; he was physical. To see him block that well in traffic was a surprise. Maybe the competition in camp brought that out of him.
The Packers used a three tight end set at times, and they lined those guys up anywhere: In the slot, wide, and they motioned them into the backfield and used them like a fullback or H-back. And they were successful at it. It doesnít look like they need another fullback.
James Starks showed some explosion, and he did well as a pass blocker. That was a question about him coming in. On that play-action fake in the fourth quarter, the Saintsí defender was coming so hard off the edge, there wasnít much Starks could do. And, on the flip side, he had some hustle plays where he deflected rushers just enough for Rodgers to get the ball off.
The big difference between Starks and Ryan Grant is that Starks has some burst out of a cut.
James Jones got targeted once. Youíve got to wonder: Do you pay a guy three million bucks and target him once in a game?
On the last play at the 1-yard line, the Packersí defensive line Ė Jarius Wynn, Howard Green, B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett Ė just buried the Saintsí offensive line. Those defenders got so low to the ground, they pushed the Saintsí linemen back. Otherwise, the Packers played with two down linemen most of the game. Raji and Pickett were shedding double-teams, and they were going against two Pro Bowl guards. Raji had a phenomenal game; and Pickett was just as stout.
Everybody was so worried about Cullen Jenkins, but he had shortcomings in that nickel defense and as a two-gap lineman. It might just be that the Packers will be better off with Wynn. He had a sack and led the defensive line with solo tackles.
Sometimes it seems like Erik Walden gets so tied up in defeating the blocker that plays get by him. He seems to focus so much on maintaining the edge, which is a good thing, but sometimes you have to take a chance and make a play. Heís powerful. Tight ends arenít going to win many battles against him in the running game. But make a play. He did that in the passing game when he extended himself and tipped the ball.
Three of their top four tacklers were defensive backs. Morgan Burnett led the way with 14. He looked physical; he was filling the alley. Itís generally true, either youíre born a tackler or youíre not. And last year, he didnít look like one. But tackling can be contagious and when you play in Dom Capersí defense, youíve got to tackle.
The Packers got a break if Tramon Williams wasnít seriously hurt. When he came to the sideline, he didnít move his right arm. The medical staff had to unbuckle his chinstrap and remove his helmet.
Without Williams, the Packers lose Charles Woodson as a playmaker, at least to an extent. Woodson would have to play a more conventional corner. And Sam Shieldsí recovery skills might be the best of any corner in the league, but heís still raw as far as his techniques and footwork go.
This sounds strange: But Shields might be at his best when heís beaten by a step and just has to close Ė when all he has to do is run.