Watching blind side of Favre Matchup: Packers tackle Bruce Wilkerson has the tough task of trying to find a way to thwart the pass rushing of the Patriots' Willie McGinest.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NEW ORLEANS -- Green Bay left offensive tackle Bruce Wilkerson says the belief that the New England Patriots' Willie McGinest is just a speed rusher is false.

McGinest, according to Wilkerson, is a combination of speed and power. And Sunday, in Super Bowl XXXI, Wilkerson has to find a way to stop the defensive end/linebacker.

"He is exceptionally quick and reminds me a little of LT [former Wilkerson New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor]," said Wilkerson. "But his strength is also his weakness. He comes so hard and wants to make every play, and when he doesn't, he gets frustrated."

McGinest, a third-year veteran, may be reaching his peak. He has played exceptionally well in the past two playoff games, and had 9.5 sacks during the regular season.

Wilkerson, a 10-year veteran, is the fourth player the Packers have used at left tackle. He started the season finale on Dec. 22 against the Minnesota Vikings and hasn't relinquished the position.

On Sunday, Wilkerson has to protect quarterback Brett Favre's blind side and will have his hands full trying to stop McGinest.

At 6 feet 5 and 255 pounds, McGinest is smaller than most defensive ends, and relies basically on leverage to pressure the quarterback. His favorite move is to give an upper body shake to freeze a player for a possible quick acceleration move, only to bull rush or overpower an offensive lineman.

"He is very slick," said Wilkerson. "Once he gives you the shake, it kind of puts you on your heels. Then it's boom with power, and you fall like a redwood."

The Patriots like to play a lot of defensive stunts or games with McGinest against the run. He can play either the strong or weak sides, but at the same time New England has him shooting gaps.

"He's a little small to handle the run, so they play a lot of games so no one can get a really, good clean lick on him," said Wilkerson.

Green Bay's offense is designed to frustrate defenders like McGinest. Favre has a lot of three- to five-step dropbacks, and the Packers also run a lot of screens and quick slants to offset the rush.

Green Bay doesn't actually have its linemen "lock" into pass sets. Instead, they more or less position themselves directly in the routes the rusher needs to get to the quarterback the fastest.

Green Bay still plays finesse football even though the Packers have pounded the ball well recently.

"They aren't a physical group and they don't have to be because of their offense," said McGinest. "With the short routes, I just have to be even more aggressive. Against a team like the Packers and a big guy like Wilkerson [6-5, 305], I'm going to need more technique than ever."

Wilkerson probably will get some help from tight ends Mark Chmura or Keith Jackson, but two weeks ago he handled Carolina outside linebacker Lamar Lathon extremely well in the NFC championship game.

But it won't be as easy Sunday.

Coming tomorrow

Tomorrow's coverage of the Super Bowl in The Sun will include articles on

Despite being statistically No. 1, the Packers' defense is overlooked because of their offense.

Patriots' Drew Bledsoe has chance to take permanent spot in elite class of quarterbacks.

John Eisenberg visits Kiln, Miss., where Packers quarterback Brett Favre grew up.

Pub Date: 1/22/97

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