Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hope Remains Despite Disaster

By: Matt Bove

I had the misfortune of being at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night for the Giants' 38-10 drubbing of the Packers. I can't believe I had to sit in the cold and watch a team that was uninspired and didn't seem to care about the game at all. From the coaching errors to the execution errors, it was an all around disaster. However, the Packers still have all their goals in front of them and remain capable of reaching them. 

I had a feeling that this would be a really toughs spot for the Packers to win in. The Giants were the much healthier,desperate and motivated team. The game wasn't vital to the Packers in the standings and they played like it. The Giants on the other hand needed the game, as they were in a slump, and if they had lost the hot Washington Redskins would have been right on their tail. However, you would have liked to have seen the Packers play better. 

The Packers need to get healthy. Against the middling teams they can get by but against elite teams like the Giants not having Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, C.J. Wilson, Greg Jennings, Desmond Bishop, Cedric Benson and Bryan Bulaga is going to really hamper you. There is no way around that. 

Once Matthews, Shields, Wilson, and Woodson come back the defense should be fine. They got absolutely blown off the line against the Giants. There is no way around that and it was a pitiful effort. However, that has not been the norm for them this season and Wilson being out was an underrated loss against the run. No one player means more to a defense in the NFL than Matthews and he will make a world of difference. However, Bulaga is not coming back, so this season will come down to protecting Aaron Rodgers. 
Per ESPN Stats & Info Rodgers been under the 10th-highest amount of duress on the season out of 34 quarterback qualifiers, having been sacked, hurried or hit on 26 percent of his dropbacks this season. Over the last two games with T.J. Lang at right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard that percentage has ballooned up to a staggering 39.1%. Albeit it came against two great defensive lines, that number is completely unacceptable and you cannot expect to win that way. 

How can this be fixed? It needs to happen with scheme and Mike McCarthy needs to take a look in the mirror and make some adjustments. McCarthy stated for the second week in a row that his play calling was suspect, but actions speak louder than words. 

With the Packers down 17-7, McCarthy got away from the running game and nearly got Rodgers killed. He called no screens or draws to slow down the rush and allowed the Giants' rushers to pin their ears back and come after Rodgers. Also, he did not call for any slants or quick passes, instead he called long developing routes with little extra protection that were doomed to fail on this night. 

McCarthy has been a great coach for the Packers and has a great offensive mind, but his stubbornness can kill him at times. The thing that disturbs me the most is that we are now coming up on almost a calendar year when the Chiefs defeated the Packers by rushing four, being physical with the receivers and playing two safeties deep in Cover-2- and McCarthy has yet to figure out how to beat it consistently. They have had some success, but they haven't gotten it done against defenses like the Giants and 49ers. 

To combat this problem McCarthy and the Packers will have to be able to run the ball more effectively, call more patterns that gets the ball out of Rodgers' hands faster and keep more players in to block. Lang's feet are to slow and his arms are to short to be a really good right tackle. Meanwhile, Deitrich-Smith has gotten mauled in his two starts. I would not even be opposed to moving Lang back to guard and giving Don Barclay a shot at right tackle. Then at least you do not have two weak spots and how much worse can it get? 

Jennings coming back should be a big help against the Cover-2. Jennings is still a huge threat and it is not a coincidence that the offense was not as solid in his absence. He has been a great slant runner, so maybe McCarthy will get back to that with him. He knows how to get open better than any other Packers receiver and if they can protect better his presence will be felt. 

The Packers still control their own destiny and have everything in front of them. You hope that a loss like this can be used to bring the team together for the stretch run of the season. The keys will be getting healthy and protecting the quarterback. If the Packers do those things, they can still achieve all of their goals for this season. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Day After

By 68md

It's the day after a very humbling loss to the Giants and there are some very frank issues that need to be discussed.

First let me direct you to this thread before the season :

And this little quote : Personally think we could get in a pickle if injuries hit any of our DL/OL early... this should be watched closely.

As of right now we are in a pickle because we have no depth and a very if OL and our DL is getting handled... not just this week but each week the past 3 it's been getting worse.

I have no advice as to how we overcome this other then finding a serviceable LT...push Newhouse to RT and Lang back to Guard (where he belongs).

I also think and will say it's time to dump ZBS once and for all. We have never ever been a great rushing team with it.... time to move on.

DL just can't seem to hold their ground and our LB are getting engaged by OL down field. I bitched all off season and will again... your backers can't do their job when there fighting off OG every down. !

I have no comment this week on the rest of our team other then coach... stop the 50 plus yard FG and punt the damn ball !


Here we go again

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tramon vs. Megatron

Packers cornerback Tramon Williams has done some out of character talking before Sunday's huge matchup against Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson. According to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Willams sees himself as Optimus Prime.

"I'm definitely Optimus Prime," Willams said. I'm the leader of the Autobots. "I'm the leader of the young guys right now and when it comes down to tough battles, I'll lead those guys out there."

Williams may not have changed his twitter name to Optimus Prime, like Seattle cornerback Rich Sherman did, but the Packers will need him to live up to being Optimus Prime to beat Detroit on Sunday. With cornerback Charles Woodson and outside linebacker Clay Matthews on the sidelines, Williams will be one of the veteran leaders of the defense.

Williams will be sparring with Johnson yet again this Sunday. Johnson is the best wide receiver in the NFL, as nobody possesses his combination of size, speed, athleticism, hands and leaping ability.

Last season, it was a mixed bag of results for Williams against Johnson. On Thanksgiving Day, Williams completely shut Johnson down, as Johnson had only four receptions for 49 yards. Williams got safety help over the top and Johnson was as invisible as you will ever see him. However, in Week 17 Johnson torched Williams, as he compiled 244 receiving yards - the most ever allowed by a Packers opponent.

This year has been a completely different season for Williams than 2011 was. He was playing with nerve damage in his shoulder in 2011, so he could not play the physical game he had grown accustomed to. He was not able to jam receivers at the line or be aggressive in making tackles. Williams was forced into giving receivers big cushions at the line, which resulted in a bad year for him.

This year he has been back to the old Tramon Williams, so it will be interesting to see if he is up to the task of defending Johnson. He will shadow him all over the field, unless Johnson goes into the slot, which he has been doing far more frequently this season than ever before.

The Packers would be wise to shade Morgan Burnett to Johnson's side as much as possible, just like they did when he and Williams shut down Brandon Marshall in Week 2 vs. Chicago. Marshall only had five catches for 24 yards in the game- both season lows for him.

Williams may be forced to cover Johnson longer than he wants to because the Packers will be without Matthews. Matthews is an irreplaceable player and the Packers will sorely miss him in this game. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have to get really creative to create pressure on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford has a tendency to hold onto the ball to long, so that should help.

The key for Williams in defending Johnson will be to maintain inside leverage against him. Forcing Johnson to the outside will make it easier on Williams and the safety over the top. It will force Stafford into a much harder throw, which he has the arm strength to make, but his accuracy comes and goes.

Also, Stafford will force it to Johnson no matter how many players are on him. The Packers will get opportunities for interceptions and they need to take advantage of them. Dropping interceptions has been a bad tendency for them so far this season.

After getting torched the last time they faced off Williams might have an added chip on his shoulder for Sunday's matchup. According to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel Williams is confident that he will come out on top. 

"No doubt about it, he said." That's the way it's going to be."

This is an elite corner going up against the best wide receiver in the NFL. Williams will be out for revenge and Johnson will be trying to save the Lions season. Whoever wins this matchup may ultimately determine which team comes out on top on Sunday.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Five Biggest Packers Questions Down the Stretch

The Green Bay Packers entered their bye week on a four game winning streak to go from 2-3 to 6-3. They are currently the 5th seed in the NFC and are 1.5 games behind Chicago for first place in the NFC North. Five out of their next seven games are against NFC North foes, so it will be a very tough stretch. The Packers have the talent to compete for a championship, but it will not be an easy road. The NFC is the superior conference to the AFC with the 49ers, Giants, Falcons, Bears and Packers all very talented teams that could win the Super Bowl. Here are the five biggest questions the Packers face heading down the final stretch of their season.

1. How will Clay Matthews' hamstring hold up?

Clay Matthews is a player that simply cannot be replaced. He, along with Aaron Rodgers, are the only two players on the Packers that you can say that about. The Packers have been able to survive many injuries this year, but if Matthews is not healthy they can kiss their Super Bowl hopes alive. He is tied for second in the NFL with nine sacks and leads the NFC in quarterback pressures. Matthews hurt his hamstring during Sunday's victory against Arizona and missed pretty much the enitre second half. Mike McCarthy said that he expects Matthews to "miss a couple of weeks". He did not specify whether that meant two, three or four. The next two games after the bye are road games in Detroit and in the Meadowlands to take on the Giants. Both have high powered offenses that the Packers would be hard pressed to stop without Matthews in there creating havoc. Matthew Stafford struggled early in the year and Eli Manning is in a slump now, but both of those quarterbacks are much better than the quarterbacks the Packers have played lately. Matthews has missed significant portions of training camp in 2009 and 2010 due to his hamstring and missed one regular season game in 2010 because of it. The Packers should wait until he is 100% healthy to play him because he has tried to play through hamstring injures before and he has not been the same player. I believe Matthews means more to his defense than any other player in the NFL means to his. If he misses the games in Detroit and New York the Packers will have a tough time winning those games.

2. Will Lack of Offensive Line Depth Hurt?

The Packers had kept their enitre offensive line intact for the whole season until Bryan Bulaga went down with what appears to be a serious hip injury in Sunday's victory over Arizona. It is unknown how long Bulaga will be out, but Mike McCarthy said they "were gathering more information", which is usually never good. T.J. Lang kicked out to right tackle to replace Bulaga and Evan Dietrich-Smith replaced Lang at left guard. The Packers did not miss a beat with those lineup changes and should be able to survive with them going forward. However, the problem will come if another Packers offensive lineman goes down with an injury. Their backup offensive linemen at this point are undrafted rookies Don Barclay and Greg Van Roten. It is safe to say they don't want them playing in any game. They just activated Derrick Sherrod of the PUP and he has a three week window to practice before they have to activate him, place him on injured reserve or release him. The Packers probably would have just put him on IR if Bulaga had not gotten hurt, so I doubt he can help much.

3. Can the Packers Run?
The Packers' inability to run the ball has been their Achilles heel for years now. It looked like they had solved that problem earlier this season with the addition of Cedric Benson. However, Benson went down with a Lisfranc foot injury in Week 5 against the Colts and the Packers have not run the ball the same since. Benson was placed on injured reserve with designation to return, so the Packers hope they can have him help later on in the season. Alex Green has shown explosiveness in Benson's place, but has been ineffective for the most part. Green has lacked vision and has missed too many holes. He has also had trouble running inside the tackles. James Starks got his first extensive action of the season against Arizona and ran for 61 yards on 17 carries. Starks has much better vision than Green and fits the one cut and go running style the Packers like better than Green. However, Starks fumbled vs. Arizona and was terrible in pass protection, while Green has excelled in pass pro. Green and Starks split carries against Arizona and the Packers ran for a season high 176 yards against a good defense, so hopefully they can build off that.

4. Can the Packers Stop Elite Offenses?
The Packers' defense has made major strides so far this season. They rank 11th in the NFL in points per game allowed (20.8), 12th in yards allowed (341.9), 20th in pass yards allowed (243.6), 10th in rushing yards allowed (98.30), 1st in sacks (28) and 4th in interceptions (10). This is a huge step forward from last season  but they have not played very many great offenses. The Saints were by far the best offense they played  and they struggled against them. These next two games will be a huge test against the Lions and the Giants. Again, whether or not they have Matthews is a huge factor. Will the young defensive backs in Casey Heyward, Davon House Jerron McMillian and MD Jennings continue to perform as they have? How can they get pressure if Matthews is out or has to play hurt? Can they avoid mix ups in zone coverage? We will see the answers to those questions. 

5.  How Will Greg Jennings Fit in the Offense?

The Packers have found their groove offensively without Greg Jennings, so it will be interesting to see what will happen when he returns. Who will lose playing time? They can't afford to take Randall Cobb off the field like they did when Jennings was healthy. Jordy Nelson is unlikely to lose much playing time, assuming he is healthy. James Jones does not deserve to lose any, although he probably will. Jermichael Finley could be the one to lose the most, as his snaps have already been cut into. However, Finley has been playing more in the traditional tight end spot rather than in the slot or out wide, so Jennings returning would not have an effect on his snaps at the tight end spot. Jennings playing in the slot with Cobb with Nelson and Jones on the outside would be very scary for a defense.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Packers MVP

On this election day I was trying to figure out exactly what to blog upon.  First I need to give a shout out and my prayers to the people on the East Coast who were/are being effected by Hurricane Sandy.  I'm used to Tornadoes and Ice storms, but Hurricanes do seem to scare me, because we don't get them in Oklahoma where I live.  Everyone is already asking you to vote, because our election is something that truly matters.  So I thought I would take a different twist on things and see who is the Packers MVP at this point in the season.  But first I just want to start off with some stats.

-The Packers currently lead the league with 28 sacks this season.  We had 29 all of last year.
-The Packers have 10 INT's through 9 weeks, we had 31 last year.
-The Packers have 26 passing TD's and 2 rushing TD's.

I just thought that those were interesting, and my guess is that we are playing it safe more often on defense, which is why we have less picks.

MVP Candidates:

Randall Cobb--It's easy to tell why Rodgers loves having this guy on the team.  He is simply a beast at catching the ball and he is the go to guy on 3rd downs.  What I love about him is how he has stepped up in Greg Jennings absence, and has pretty much filled the role that we had for Jermichael Finley as well.

James Jones--I'll admit, I was fine trading him to someone before the season started, but Jones has been much more reliable and has dropped the ball way less this season than he normally did.  He is our leading touchdown receiver with 8 TD's.

Morgan Burnett--Right now he is our team's leading tackler.  45 individual and 67 combined with assisted tackles puts him higher than everyone else on the team.  You have to be able to tackle in order to win games.

Clay Matthews--9 of our 28 sacks on this season he has on his own, let alone how many times have you seen the opposing QB look at Matthews and get hit by someone else.  Hopefully his hamstring feels better after the bye week.

Aaron Rodgers--He was last year's NFL MVP.  He is still doing a great job this year.  What other team can go 6-3 with injuries to it's top 2 WR, starting RB, starting TE, and have their offense still doing what they normally do?  It's easy to get frustrated with Aaron or our offense for "lack of production" this season, but they had super high expectations and right now Rodgers is projected for 44 passing TD's which would lead the league.  I have to admit it, my vote goes right with this guy.