- Jan 1, 2006
- Reaction score
Packers rookie guards face tough test
By CHRIS JENKINS, AP Sports Writer
September 8, 2006
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Brett Favre tried to get his two rookie guards' attention in the middle of practice earlier this week.
Addressing Jason Spitz and Tony Moll in the huddle, Favre said the speed they will see from the Chicago Bears' defense in the season opener on Sunday will be significantly faster than what they were seeing in practice.
"I don't know if our guys can simulate what Tommie Harris and Alex (Brown) and all those guys can do," Favre said. "That's where experience comes in, whether or not you handle it, at least you know what it's going to be like."
It would be hard to imagine a tougher first test for a thin, green offensive line.
Spitz and Moll will be facing a quick, talented front four -- Harris, Ian Scott, Brown and Adewale Ogunleye -- that is often good enough to generate a pass rush on its own.
But if the Bears want to apply extra pressure, they can blitz with linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.
Will the rookie guards be ready?
"I'm sure preseason was an eye-opener for them, but this is for real," Favre said.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy set the starting offensive line relatively early in camp, allowing Spitz and Moll to establish chemistry with veteran tackles Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton and center Scott Wells, a third-year player.
McCarthy knows he's taking a gamble by starting two rookies, but thinks it will pay off.
"They're competitors. They're fighters," McCarthy said. "I fully anticipate them jumping in there Sunday afternoon and fighting. It's a great challenge with the defensive line and the linebacker group that were going up against. But I'm excited. Both of the young men have a great future and they start up Sunday afternoon."
Besides, the Packers simply don't have many alternatives -- Spitz and Moll are the best they've got.
"They've got no choice," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said. "What are they going to do? Just stop playing? 'Oh, I can't do that."'
Nobody expects the rookies to play perfectly, but they will be expected to learn quickly from their mistakes.
"You have to have short-term memory, whether it's good or whether it's bad," Jagodzinski said. "If something good happens, let's move on to the next play. If something bad happens, let's move on to the next play. You can't worry about what just happened. You just have to keep on plugging and scrapping and fighting."
Wells said that is one of Spitz's strongest attributes. The third-round draft pick worked his way into the starting lineup during the Packers' offseason workouts and has been there ever since.
"I would say Spitz plays more like a veteran," Wells said. "He doesn't get rattled. He makes a mistake, he blows it off, no big deal. He comes over, takes the coaching, goes out and corrects it. He doesn't make the same mistake twice very often."
Spitz knows he'll be facing a good defense, but said there's no sense in worrying about it.
"All you can do is go out and play football the way you know how," Spitz said. "You have to go into the game confident in your coaching and your ability. If you're not thinking about the task at hand, you're going to get exposed and you're going to get embarrassed. That's not something I want to do."
Tauscher said the rookies will perform better than most people think.
"I have a lot of confidence," Tauscher said. "Both of those guys have come on. Spitz from the get-go has been right in the fire. He's got that kind of savvy-old-man feel to him. Nothing really fazes him. He's been thrown in the mix, and I think he's answered the bell. Tony got thrown in a little later, but I think he's coming on pretty nicely."
Moll, a fifth-round pick, made the transition from tight end to tackle in college at Nevada. He was promoted to the first team in training camp after second-round pick Daryn Colledge didn't make the transition from tackle to guard as quickly as the Packers had hoped.
Favre said when he sees the Packers' rookies, he remembers his first years in the league.
"I'm sure that they'll get beat at times, but I know they'll play with a lot of intensity and with desire to win," Favre said. "Just hang in there, you know? That's what I'd tell them. My first game in Cincinnati was not very pretty, but I hung in there, and was fortunate enough to make some plays at the end. But it didn't look good up until then. So we'll see."
I thought they looked good against Atlanta...and look at the positive I mean green wasn't getting smacked behind the line against Cinncy. They were in there for that pass to Jennings against Tennesse. But, I think the zone blocking will actually help them and the rest of the line. Instead of having to mark one man the whole time, I think the zone D will help and help keep them out of Favre's face for a bit longer and help get Green and the backs pick up some yardage through the middle.