Thursday, October 24, 2013

Packers Winning A New Way

By: Matt Bove

The style of football that the Green Bay Packers are playing has definitely changed this season. They are winning with defense and physical play on offense.

"Our big guys are where it starts," McCarthy said. "We talked about it earlier. We talked about it Saturday night in the team meeting. We're going to lean on our big dogs. That will definitely be a apart of our focus going forward."

Going into the season the Packers planned on being a bigger and more physical football team. With the additions of Nick Perry, Johnny Jolly and Mike Neal at OLB on defense the front seven was a much more physically imposing group than last season.

With Clay Matthews out, Perry and Neal were doing an exceptional job of setting the edge against the run and rushing the passer. Amazingly, both of them got injured, and the Packers did not really miss a beat with Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer at outside linebacker. Brandon Weeden had a lot to do with it, but for two guys who were never supposed to be on the field this year the fact that the defense was functional was a great sign.

It was also a testament to AJ Hawk, Jamari Lattimore and the defensive line rotation that the defense has been able to survive. Hawk has been playing better this season than any other in his career thanks to a new offseason training program that has improved his athleticism. He has been making more impact plays, including his three sacks at Baltimore. Lattimore had 12 tackles against Cleveland and he really packed a punch with his hits. Lattimore is also very solid in coverage with his athleticism. He will be hard to take off the field even with Brad Jones returning.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

NFL Injury Outbreak.... The Real Issues

By 68md

As we all know the NFL again this year is seeing an uptick in injuries. Specifically head injuries and knees.

I have sat back yet again and heard from the talking head and couch potato experts whom point fingers at everything, the nasty ...dirty player all the way to the "stupid” NFL and rule committee.

The issue is/was and continues to be the degrading fundamental skills of the pro football player in general. My colleagues don't dis spell this but want to look at college football as an issue.

Sadly it goes way down to the pop warner level. Quietly the NFL sees it thus your new "heads up” football program. For the last 10-15 years we have coaches at youth level up that have stopped coaching fundamental football. Proper tackling and blocking are harder and harder to find.

The issue has been compounded by the emergence of the "spread” offense system which leaves players specifically QB lacking skills.

I would use the analogy of trying to teach algebra to someone who hasn't learned multiplication or division. You have to have the basics to be solid long term. 

Let's look at some recent hits by Safeties, first understand something. If a player commits to a hit or tackle full speed he can't stop 3/4 in. Once he is moving that fast it's done.... gravity. That's were the rule part of the problem is a factor but here is where you see the other glaring issue.

A lot of guys are dropping their heads and spearing because that's what they were taught. They just don't understand the concept of breaking down square up and tackle.... they were never taught.

Yes I know your saying "come on" watch... watch HS watch college and on Sunday. Take one whole weekend and just watch fundamentals and you will see just how bad it is.
We have been so busy making the game "fun" and watchable we forgot about basic bread and butter football fundamentals.

Just last week I watched a rec dept. game with a coach screaming "lower your head and stick      “ him” This coach is considered a king because his teams "win" just one example of how players are being taught the behavior that leads to our issues.

In closing let me summarize for you in reality what is really causing this as a whole:

1. Bigger /stronger players
2. Lack of fundamentals at all levels ( the big elephant in the room)
3. New helmets and pads that give a false sense of security "helps prevent concussions” (crap)
4. New CBA rules that cut down on practice time and coaching as well as strength and conditioning.

The rest is smoke and mirrors and haphazard finger pointing. Until the league address' the above issues and the players want to accept it those issues will continue to degrade the game and make it more dangerous.

Many will again disagree with my thoughts but I strongly believe them.

Until next time Go Pack GO!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Clay Matthews Injury Impact

According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews underwent surgery on Monday to heal a Bennett fracture on his thumb, meaning that the thumb is dislocated and will require pins. The pins will come out in four weeks and Matthews will need some additional time to heal. The Packers have yet to confirm this, but Glazer is always on the money and the Packers never are when it comes to injuries.  

First of all let me get this out of the way. If you are one of those people whining about how Matthews is a pansy, and that Brett Favre played with a broken thumb, just shut up. Stop it. This man played on a frekin broken leg in 2010, but you are questioning his toughness? Matthews cannot play with pins in his thumb, and Favre's injury was not a Bennett fracture. Rant over. 

Matthews is obviously a huge loss for the Packers. He makes plays that not very many players in the NFL can make and is one of the best defensive players in the league. Matthews currently leads the team with three sacks and he record 13.5 sacks in only 12 games last season. 

"Clay's one of those guys who's going to make two or three plays a game," said Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. "You've seen every game this year, there's been two or three plays that he makes."

The Packers will turn to former defensive lineman Mike Neal and 2012 first round pick Nick Perry to replace Matthews. That is a gigantic step up from when Erik Walden and Dezman Moses last season when the Packers went 3-1 without Matthews. 

Just because the Packers went 3-1 without Matthews last season does not mean that he was not missed. The Packers only had six sacks in those four games and five of them came on Thanksgiving at Detroit. However, Neal and Perry are much more talented players than Walden and Moses. 

Neal and Perry both played terrific games on Sunday against Detroit, and the Packers will be looking to get that kind of production out of them again. According to Pro Football Focus, Neal had one sack and five hurries, while Perry had two sacks and four hurries. They both set a mean edge against the run, as Reggie Bush only ran for 44 yards on 13 carries. 

Neal (6-3, 285) and Perry (6-3, 265) are both above the average size for a 3-4 outside linebacker, so playing the run should not be an issue without Matthews. Last season, the Packers allowed 158 yards rushing a game in those four games without Matthews. With a huge line of Johnny Jolly, B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett backed up by Neal and Perry on the edge I would be surprised if that was an issue. 

The big question will be how will Neal and Perry rush the passer? Perry was benched for Neal to start Sunday's game before Matthews got hurt because he was not producing early in the season. Perry has been known to not have much other than a bull rush, but he got around Riley Reiff quite a few times on Sunday. 

Neal was playing well, but how will he handle the increased attention he will receive? He is a freak athlete so you hope that he will only get better as he continues to learn the position. 

The schedule while the Packers are without Matthews should be favorable to them. The first three games will be against the Ravens, Browns and Vikings. None of them have quarterbacks that should be able to take big advantage of the Packers minus Matthews. 

Their next three opponents after them are the Bears, Eagles and Giants. They have better quarterbacks in Jay Cutler, Michael Vick and Eli Manning, but all three of them are turnover prone. All three of those defenses have struggled mightily. Also, for all the talk of the Giants dominating the Packers, people always leave out the Packers 45-17 domination of the Giants in a must win game in 2010 and a 38-35 victory at the Meadowlands in 2011. 

Even without Matthews the Packers still have a lot of talent on defense. They will have three solid cornerbacks when Casey Heyward returns, a very good safety in Morgan Burnett and five former first round picks in a front seven that has played well to start the season. Capers will have to come up with more creative blitzes and schemes to help his players. Even without Matthews, there are still no excuses.