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Emphasis on the defense (04/28/2004)
By Dave DeLano

The selection of Batman Carroll as the Packers' first round draft pick set the theme for the Packer draft class of 2004 "” defensive reinforcement. Mike Sherman wheeled and dealed draft picks last weekend and ended up taking two athletic cornerbacks, two huge defensive tackles, the best rated punter in the fresh talent pool and a center. Clearly, Sherman felt an urgency to address the lack of depth along the defensive line and the likely departure of cornerback Mike McKenzie.

The arrival of Batman Carroll and the Packers' next selection, cornerback Joey Thomas, likely spells the end of malcontent Mike McKenzie's Packer career. Carroll is only 20 years old and no doubt has lots of things to learn before taking over McKenzie's left corner position. He has until next fall to learn those things. A bit short at 5' 10", Carroll is exceptionally fast, lightning quick and physical. The Batman nickname was picked up while playing youth football when his talent for kangaroo-like jumping was likened to that of Batman. He is a fearless special teams player, a gym rat and has great character/attitude. McKenzie is none of the above so scratch McKenzie and enter the era of Batman at left corner for the Pack.

As additional insurance and competition at cornerback, Sherman picked Montana State's Joey Thomas with the Packers' first of three third-round draft picks. Thomas is another great athlete with good size who dominated at a mid-level college program. If Batman should stumble, Thomas also has the talent to potentially become a starter in his rookie season.

The Packers selected two huge, run-stuffing defensive tackles in Donnell Washington and Corey Williams in the third and fifth rounds. The bios on these guys are about the same "” strong, disruptive, quick-for-their-size behemoths who may or may not pan out in the NFL. Both could possibly make the team due to the departure of Gilbert Brown and the need for bodies to spell Grady Jackson.

The Packers' final third-round pick went for punter B.J. Sander out of Ohio State. Sander is a strong-legged, left-footed kicker who has a talent for directing "pooch" punts out of bounds rather than into the end zone. It has been awhile since Cheeseheads have had a punter to cheer for who could do that well. Punters are rarely drafted as high as the third round. Mike Sherman thinks he got a really good one in Sander. A center from Tennessee named Tim Wells was the Pack's final selection.

All in all, this draft appears to be one of defensive needs for the Pack. No flashy "skill position" players to report on this year"¦but hopefully some of these draftees can contribute to the cause of winning a few more games than last year. As always, time will tell on the wisdom of the 2004 picks. I can't wait to hear how the new talent performs at the minicamp this week. 


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