Senior writer jclombardi highlights Packers headlines.
Packers offer contract worthy of top cornerback: Packers have made a competitive contract offer to Tramon Williams that is commensurate with what they’ve paid Al Harris, the player he is replacing at right cornerback. In the midst of an outstanding season, the 27-year-old Williams ranks at the top of the list of players the Packers want to re-sign for the long haul. The club is willing to pay Williams more than Harris, whose average per year is $5.418 million, but not close to Charles Woodson, whose deal averages $9.73 million. “Whatever happens happens, but I want to be in Green Bay,” Tramon Williams said Friday. “Me waiting until unrestricted, I’m not into that. If it happens to go that way, then it does.” At present, Williams is playing on a one-year, restricted free-agent tender worth $3.043 million. That ranks 36th among all cornerbacks in the National Football League and 17th among all Packers players. Woodson, 34, ranks fourth among cornerbacks at $9.73 million. Harris, who will turn 36 next month, ranks 23rd at $5.418 million.
Green, Wilson join rotation alongside Raji: Packers have established a four-man rotation for their patchwork defensive line in case neither Jenkins nor Ryan Pickett is able to play Sunday against the New York Jets. Newcomer Green and Wilson would start at defensive end alongside nose tackle B.J. Raji in the base defense. Green also would spell Raji and Wynn would play inside on passing downs. Jenkins (calf) and Pickett (ankle) both were listed as questionable. However, Jenkins practiced on a limited basis all week and Pickett did nothing more than work out with the strength staff indoors. Out again: Cornerback Harris will have one more week of practice before the Packers must decide to activate him from the physically unable to perform list, cut him or place him on injured reserve. Fresh faces: By signing Erik Walden (6-2, 250) Wednesday, the Packers will have to determine whether he or fellow outside linebacker Diyral Briggs (6-2½, 248) is more helpful for the 45-man roster. “Walden is a little bit better on special teams,” one personnel man said. “I’d qualify Walden as above average on special teams. He has enough speed and athleticism. He has moments where he flashes. “Briggs may have a little more legitimacy to go into the game and take a few plays in base. But if I had to pick one guy to go into the game and speed rush, I’d say Walden. Both are No. 4 outside linebackers, not No. 3s.”
Notebook–good news for defensive line as DE Jenkins thinks he’ll play Sunday vs. the Jets and NT Green will be active despite just one practice: Barring a setback, the Packers will have starting defensive end Cullen Jenkins on the field for Sunday’s game at the New York Jets. Ready or not: One practice will be enough for Howard Green. The big nose tackle, who was signed off waivers from the Jets, practiced for the first time on Friday and coach Mike McCarthy said it’s a “safe bet” that Green will be on the 45-man roster for the game. No Harris; maybe Bigby. It will be at least another week for cornerback Al Harris to make his season debut but McCarthy hasn’t ruled out activating safety Atari Bigby from the physically unable to perform list.
Packers CB Charles Woodson struggling to get back to last season’s greatness: His star player who won the NFL’s defensive player of the year award last season hasn’t made the kind of eye-opening plays he did last season. Through seven games, Woodson has just one interception, although he did return it 48 yards for a touchdown in Week 4 against Detroit, and two forced fumbles. “He hasn’t played poorly,” Whitt said on Friday. “He’s actually played better than he did last year.” While Whitt said he didn’t have Woodson’s up-to-date numbers, he said they are better than last season. “I hear everybody saying he’s having a down year,” Whitt said. “He’s covered better. He’s given up less plays than he did last year. Wood gave up some plays last year, but he made so many splash plays that he just overwhelmed them. He’s just not making the splash plays like he did last year.” In addition to the lack of game-changing plays, two things stand out about Woodson’s play. He already has been penalized nine times — one more than he had all of last season, when he led the defense in that category — and he has been on the ground far more than in the past. One of the basic rules of football is to stay on your feet.
Packers vs Jets preview: To pull off the upset, the Packers must handle these three-phase keys to the game. Offense–This will be the battle inside the battle. No team blitzes the quarterback as often or with as wide a variety of blitzes as Rex Ryan’s Jets defense. No quarterback beats the blitz like Aaron Rodgers, who led the NFL in passer rating against blitzes last season (112.7) and ranks fifth this season (106.7). Defense–Packers’ defense got by on sheer guts to outlast the Vikings. They’ll have to do so again. The Jets, behind a dominant offensive line and the one-two punch of veteran Tomlinson and mammoth Greene in the backfield, are one of just a few teams that runs the ball more than it throws it. There’s no reason to expect otherwise this week, with Tomlinson and Greene the focal points of what McCarthy called the “best run team that we’ll face so far this year.” Special teams-–Ryan says special teams are his team’s strength. Nick Folk has made 13-of-15 field goals. Of Weatherford’s 32 punts, he ranks sixth in net average (40.1). On returns, Leonhard is among the league leaders with a 12.3-yard average on punts and Smith ranks second with a 31.8-yard average on kickoffs. On the other side, nobody would call the Packers’ special teams a strength and they don’t have any special players. Those units have struggled since the second game. While Williams has been pretty good on punt returns (9.1 average), kickoff returner Lee is averaging just 19.8 per runback and Masthay ranks 32nd in net punting (33.8). The team-wide injury problem has deprived coordinator Shawn Slocum’s units of any semblance of continuity, and potentially adding the three new linebackers into the mix won’t help in that regard. Like last week against the Vikings’ dynamic kicking teams, the Packers would do well to play to a draw against the Jets’ special teams.