Packers notes: Injuries vault Shields into starting lineup
By: By Tom Ziemer, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Thursday night was further proof of how far Sam Shields has come since signing with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent back in April.
With starter Charles Woodson and Brandon Underwood -- he's competing with Shields for the No. 3 cornerback job -- unavailable, the rookie out of Miami (Fla.) started the Packers' preseason finale, a 17-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Woodson was given the night off and didn't travel with the team because, as an accomplished 12-year veteran, he doesn't exactly need the extra work.
Underwood, who began training camp as the frontrunner for the third spot behind Woodson and Tramon Williams (Al Harris will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list), injured his shoulder last Thursday against Indianapolis.
Shields helped break up a pass on the Packers' first defensive series, but he appeared to be out of position in a zone coverage later in the first quarter on a 19-yard completion to Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles. But those were only two snippets of his night.
"He played almost three quarters because we wanted to play him a lot," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "There's only a couple things that can think of that I saw that he's going to have to take a look at and get better. He's played a lot for us these last two weeks, so we'll take a look at this and see where we are."
Asked if the coaching staff was any closer to making a decision on the third cornerback spot, Capers said, "We'll take a good look at it, and then we'll have to make some decisions here to start the week where we can get a group working together."
Woodson and Underwood were just two of the 12 Packers to sit out. They were joined by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, running back Ryan Grant, safety Will Blackmon (knee), linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring), Desmond Bishop (hamstring) and Brad Jones (shoulder), tackle-guard Bryan Bulaga (hip flexor), tackle Chad Clifton (knee), defensive end Cullen Jenkins (calf) and tackle-guard Allen Barbre (back).
With Clifton and Bulaga out, T.J. Lang started at left tackle after spending most of camp concentrating on right tackle and right guard. Lang also later played right guard.
And, to no real surprise, Matt Flynn started for Rodgers with Brandon Jackson taking over for Grant.
Rookie Mike Neal started in Jenkins' place for the second straight week, while Brady Poppinga and Frank Zombo continued to start at outside linebacker.
Chery gets chance
With Blackmon sitting out because of what coach Mike McCarthy called a setback with his troublesome surgically repaired left knee, unheralded receiver Jason Chery handled return duties.
Chery, who earned the opportunity by returning a punt 75 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Colts, averaged 9 yards on three punt returns (with two fair catches) and 16 yards on three kickoffs.
His first return didn't go too well. Chery didn't catch the ball cleanly, then fumbled it a second time, with fullback John Kuhn recovering the ball at the Packers' 17.
"Ball security was not a positive, but I thought he did a good job of making the first guy miss," McCarthy said. "From the view that I had, I don't know how many opportunities we really gave him as far as the blocking unit in front of him. We'll take a good look at that."
Backup receivers shine
Wide receivers Brett Swain, Patrick Williams and Charles Dillon saw plenty of balls thrown their way with the starters having a short night.
Swain led the way, catching six passes for 130 yards, including a 77-yard catch-and-run against a blown coverage. Swain walked gingerly off the field after the play, and he said he banged his surgically repaired knee earlier in the game but was OK.
"I felt like I had a chance to come in and compete with the 1s and 2s," Swain said, "and I felt like that was an opportunity to come out and make some plays, not just to show the coaches or the organization what I could do, but just for myself, that I could get open in coverages and have the confidence to catch the ball and make plays down the field."
Williams had five catches for 70 yards, while Dillon caught six balls for 85 yards but also had several drops.
-- Copyright (c) 2010, The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.