The Packers' reliance on two rookies at tackle would seem to make QB Brett Favre vulnerable to the Bucs' pass rush, but the young players performed well on Monday
If you're like us, you stayed up long enough to see Antonio Freeman's miraculous circus catch, witnessing the end of another Monday night thriller voiced by Dennis Miller. Then you hit the sack.
The Buccaneers' advance scout wasn't so lucky. On hand at waterlogged Lambeau Field because Green Bay is the Bucs' next opponent, our scout was just beginning his job when Miller signed off. By the time he walked back into the Bucs' player personnel office on Tuesday, coaches were already looking for portions of his scouting report.
Eventually, the advance man will put the finishing touches on a 40-50 page document. In the meantime, he gave us a little taste of what he saw Monday night and what we might be looking for next Sunday.
Here are his thoughts on some of the key player issues in Green Bay.
Offensive Tackles: Amazingly, the Packers are starting rookies at both tackle spots, with second-round pick Chad Clifton manning the left side and seventh-round choice Mark Tauscher on the right. That would seem to spell trouble for Green Bay, and the Pack has had some difficulties with protection, but our scout was actually impressed with the work of the offensive line on Monday. There were few occasions of immediate pressure on QB Brett Favre from the outside edges, although that might have been due in part to the Packers' decision to frequently roll Favre out on designed plays. Our scout felt that Clifton and Tauscher played a lot better on Monday than he had seen in previous film sessions.
Mike McKenzie: This second-year cornerback is our scout's choice for the sleeper athlete on the Packers' defense. The Vikings, he said, went after the young player with superb wideout Randy Moss all night on Monday, but McKenzie held his own. He plays the ball well, has decent speed and gets in and out of his breaks quickly. Moss got him out of whack on a few occasions, but that's not unusual for any corner trying to stay with the all-pro pass-catcher.
Ahman Green: Former Pro Bowl RB Dorsey Levens' persistent injuries have made him almost a non-factor this season, which has put a large amount of the offensive load on Green, the former Seahawk. On Monday, Green impressed our scout, who says the Nebraska product runs with a different style than Levens. While Green rarely runs right over a tackler, as Levens often did, he appears to employ more shakes and jukes. Plus, Green is willing to take an additional hit for a few extra yards, rather than stepping out of bounds.
Nate Wayne: The Packers have one of the NFC's better outside linebackers in Brian Williams, but like Levens, Williams has been shelved by injuries much of the season. Into his spot has stepped Wayne, who was acquired by the Packers in a trade with Denver during training camp. Wayne has become an important part of the Packer defense, staying on the field even when the team goes into dime and nickel packages. Wayne remains in during passing situations because he holds the middle of the defense and does a good job of dropping back into the deep middle. He's also an aggressive player around the line of scrimmage and has proven to be a very good replacement for Williams, at least in the short term.
Safeties: The Packers have an interesting pair of safeties in LeRoy Butler and Darren Sharper. Butler is the cagey veteran who has been to numerous Pro Bowls and has always rushed the passer well. Our scout said he saw a Butler that, despite possibly losing a step, is still a very effective blitzer. The Packers, he said, still bring Butler towards the quarterback frequently, maybe 10 or more times on Monday night. Sharper, meanwhile, is a superb athlete whose natural instincts have sometimes been called into question. According to our advance man, Sharper definitely looked like he had good instincts on Monday night.
After pulling off that stunning victory over Minnesota on Monday night, the Packers now have a short week to prepare for a game in Tampa. Our scout, with assistant coaches breathing down his neck, knows just how they feel.