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Pack youngsters Barnett and Diggs show their stuff (09/17/2003)
By Dave DeLano

Dave Delano
What a difference a week in the NFL can make! In the second game of the 2003 season, the Green Bay Packers looked infinitely sharper than they did in week 1 as they stuffed the Lions in a 31 - 6 blowout at Lambeau field.

The Packer defense really stepped it up and dominated the Lions from beginning to end. First-round draft pick Nick Barnett and fellow linebacker Na'il Diggs were all over the field making plays. The selection of Barnett by Mike Sherman as the first linebacker taken in this year's draft was criticized in some corners, but Sunday he looked as good as any middle linebacker Green Bay has suited up going all the way back to the days of Ray Nitschke. Diggs is another big-time playmaker who has been switched to the weak side position this year, having started on the strong side for the past 3 years. The change of scenery seems to suit him just fine. Cheeseheads have to be excited about the potential of the 22 year-old Barnett and 25 year-old Diggs.

In spite of scoring 42 points in their season opener, the Lions are still a pretty sorry lot. Second-year Lion QB Joey Harrington mouthed-off to the press about how the Pack has become "vulnerable" this year. Harrington then proceeded to play Sunday's game by "telegraphing" his passes to a slew of butterfingered receivers. The game might have been a bit closer if his passes had been caught, but that was not to happen because the Packers defense was up to the task. The Lions were virtually unable to get any kind of running attack going and the Packer defensive secondary covered Lion receivers like a blanket. What a refreshing change from the opening week debacle against the Vikings.

Special teams' coach Bonamego unveiled a new kick-off formation Sunday which seemed to work pretty well against one of the league's premier kick returners, Eddie Drummond. I like the innovation that he brings to the 2003 Pack. Ryan Longwell's kick-offs are also being booted deeper this year than in previous seasons, although I suspect the credit for that rests with Longwell more so than Bonamego.

Ahman Green had a huge day rushing the football as he and the other Packer backs accumulated 200 yards, many on the counter-gap play. With Donald Driver out and Robert Ferguson limping, the Packer's passing game wasn't spectacular in spite of a weak Detroit secondary. Antonio Freeman was re-signed this past week and had a couple of catches. His return to Titletown at one time seemed quite implausible, but it looks like he still has some mileage left in him. Hopefully Driver and Ferguson can recover quickly as Brett Favre still looks a little out-of-sync with the receivers, for some reason. Cheeseheads can expect that Brett Favre's best games of the 2003 season are yet to be played. Trust me on that.

Next week the Pack travels to Arizona to play the late game. The Cardinals are one of the perpetual bottom dwellers in the NFL and are off to another poor start this season. If the Pack comes out firing like they did against the Lions, they ought to come away with an easy win (if there is such a thing in the NFL). If they come out and play like they did against the Vikings, they will likely lose. Professional football is a very interesting game, with wide swings of emotion that determine winners and losers. Cheeseheads hope that the week 2 version of the 2003 Packers shows up to play next week in Phoenix. 


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