Monday, August 23, 2004

Preseason: Packers 19, New Orleans 14. I did not watch the game, so I don't have much to say. This is essentially a review from reading the game recap on and ESPN highlights.

First; the Packers are playing like a team in the preseason. Sloppy offensive line blocking and multiple defensive offsides, along with miscommunication between new and young players which should be expected by all. Hopefully the sloppy play is out of their system by week 1, unlike last season when the Packers played a poor first half and lost to Minnesota at Lambeau.

Second; the secondary is a work in process. This was expected, especially since the Packers have two rookie cornerbacks, CB Ahmad Carroll and CB Joey Thomas, who still have a lot to learn. It is unlikely that they will contribute much in their first seasons, although they might contribute later in the season in the dime and nickel packages. SS Mark Roman appears to be playing the same role as SS Antuan Edwards played last season; a safety with above average cover skills but not a big hitter, to complement SS Marques Anderson's big hitting but lesser coverage skills. It is unclear who can win the starting battle between them, because they are different players who bring different skills to the position. It will probably end up that the two rotate depending on the defensive scheme and opponent all season long. CB Michael Hawthorne is a good third cornerback, but when he has to start, he is beaten by starting wide receivers like WR Darrell Jackson of Seattle and WR Joe Horn of New Orleans. This is not a surprise; Hawthorne drew faint interest as a free agent this spring due to his lack of speed and it is why the Packers have been unwilling to trade CB Mike McKenzie. had some McKenzie-is-preparing-to-report speculation, but it was all unconfirmed. Hawthorne is good as the third or fourth cornerback going against the slower third or fourth wide receivers, but he will be exposed all season long as a starter. The big 70 yard touchdown pass by New Orleans in the 4th quarter was not a big disappointment. Thomas, who still has a lot to learn, was beaten, and safety Kevin Curtis, who was just signed last week, missed the play in the open field. It was a lot to ask of them to play well together so soon with the Packers when they are not expected to be contributing in the starting secondary this season. The entire secondary is much better when ballhawking FS Darren Sharper is on the field.

Before the game, Chicago traded starting WR Marty Booker for Miami DE Adewale Ogunleye, who led the AFC last season with 15 sacks. Ogunleye fills a big need for Chicago, a proven pass rusher to ignite a morbid pass rush. The knock on Oguleye is that he is a product of a good team, and he was made better by rushing the QB opposite Pro Bowl DE Jason Taylor. Ogunleye had double digit sacks in 2002 and 2003, so he is not a fluke. This trade is a major improvement for an average defense's weakest attribute. Unfortunately, this trade makes a weak offense even weaker. Chicago is trying to ease QB Rex Grossman into starting in the NFL, but he is playing with two average running backs (RB Thomas Jones and RB Anthony Thomas), a rebuilt offensive line, and now he is playing without the two leading receivers from 2003 (WR Booker and WR Dez White). Booker and White did not play very well in 2003, but their likely replacements, WR David Terrell and WR Justin Gage, are not well regarded and Terrell was almost released this spring. At least Booker would deserve attention in coverage, but now opposing defenses can really attack Grossman and force him to make plays. Ogunleye is still a superior individual player to Booker, but this trade could really hurt Grossman plus Miami received a little kicker for the deal (a 2005 3rd round draft pick) that could make this trade a bad trade for Chicago. Overall, the trade is a mixed bag of bad and good, and it is unclear that it has improved Chicago.

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