Friday, November 29, 2013

Lions 40, Packers 10: What Happened and Where Do We Go From Here?

By: Matt Bove

The beat down that took place at Ford Field yesterday is only supposed to take place on Fridays at high school fields and Saturdays at college stadiums. The talent is so close in the NFL that it is very rare to see an ass whooping like that take place on a Sunday, or a Thursday in this case.

How many times can you say that a score of 40-10 does not do justice for how awful the performance really was? This would be one of those times because the Packers are lucky the score wasn't 57-0.

The Packers scored because of a strip sack by Nick Perry and an out of bounds kickoff by Lions punter Sam Martin. The Lions missed opportunities to score because of a Reggie Bush fumble near the end zone, an interception by Sam Shields in the end zone and a missed 30-yard field goal by David Akers.

The Lions had a grand total of 561 yards of offense and 40:26 time of possession to only 102 yards and 19:34 for the Packers. The Lions had seven sacks, as the Packers could not block the Lions front four, especially after Evan Dietrich-Smith went out. The Lions gashed the Packers up front for 241 yards, and it was embarrassing.  BJ Raji and Ryan Pickett were killed by double teams and never got any penetration, while Brad Jones and AJ Hawk could not get off blocks or make tackles when they actually had a chance to.

The Packers averaged a grand total of 1.6 yards per rush. They had only seven first down to the Lions 30. I can go on all day about this game, but really everybody knows and saw what happened. I am more interested in how we got here and how we move forward. The Packers' entire organization got utterly embarrassed in front of a national television audience on Thanksgiving. Maybe this will finally wake them up that there needs to be changes.

First off all let me say this, if Aaron Rodgers was healthy this team would probably be 9-3. No, it is not an excuse, it is reality. The Packers were 5-2 and rolling with Rodgers going into the Monday Night game against Chicago. Their opening series vs. Chicago was an absolute clinic and you cannot convince me that they were not going to drop 40 points on that pitiful defense.

They then moved the ball evenly with Philadelphia and lost because of turnovers from Scott Tolzien. Then in New York the defense actually put together a decent performance and allowed only 20 points themselves, and the Giants flat out are a terrible team. Obviously, a home game against the Vikings is an obvious win with Rodgers when they tied without him. There are your nine wins.

That is not to say that there aren't major problems with the team or that they were going to win the Super Bowl with Rodgers. They just would be 9-3 and cruising to a division title in a horrible division like they do every year with Rodgers. That is a testament to Rodgers and not anybody else.

The big question is why has this team gone from a rock solid playoff team with Rodgers to the Jacksonville Jaguars without him? There has been lots of blame going around, but lets focus on the three men that have taken the brunt of it.

Ted Thompson:

Thompson remains one of the best and most successful general managers in the NFL. However, that does not mean he is flawless, and I'm sure he will tell you that he needs to do a better job. He said in an interview with the Green Bay Press Gazette to blame him if the backup quarterback situation failed. Well it has failed, so here ya go Ted.

Thompson's first mistake was putting his trust into Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman. I never saw anything in Harrell's Green Bay tenure that suggested he was an NFL quarterback, yet the Packers stuck with him for two years and another training camp. Harrell has no future in this league, as he is currently not on a team. Ditto for Coleman, although he does have an NFL arm unlike Harrell, but he was just much too erratic.

Thompson had a failed experiment with Vince Young before bringing in Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien after training camp. That did not give them a sufficient enough time to learn the system, and it showed when they had to play. What a mess.

Thompson left this team barren of talent and depth in a few key areas this season, and it has hurt the team. The obvious one is safety, as Morgan Burnett has been a huge disappointment after signing a $24 million extension, and MD Jennings and Jerron McMillian do not belong on an NFL team. Inside linebacker is another. I do not think the Packers can ever have an elite defense with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones starting. Yes, the defensive line is not keeping offensive linemen off of them, but that does not excuse them from not getting off blocks, missing tons of tackles, never making an impact play and not being able to cover anybody. I said they needed to be replaced last offseason, and here were are again with the same problem.

The depth at outside linebacker and along the offensive line was not good enough coming out of camp, and that has proved to be true this season. Sure, losing Clay Matthews and Nick Perry is very tough to overcome, but Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba have shown next to nothing. Obviously, having Marshall Newhouse as your first offensive lineman off the bench has been an abomination. Also, if you're going to insert Newhouse at right guard when he has no experience there, then why on earth is Lane Taylor even on the roster?

Those are positions where Thompson has missed drastically. A veteran offensive lineman needed to be signed this offseason for depth, and how on earth Thompson ignored safety in a rich safety draft class is beyond me. Also, Thompson has not had drafted a real key contributor other than Micah Hyde (jury still out though) in the 5th round or later since Brad Jones in 2009. That is completely unacceptable for a guy who relies solely on the draft to build the team. If he is not going to get contributors late in the draft then he needs to sign some free agents.

Mike McCarthy:

Like Thompson, McCarthy is one of the most successful coaches in the NFL and one of the best in the business. Please spare me he is only successful because of just Rodgers. Rodgers was far from a finished product coming out of Cal and McCarthy developed him greatly. Also, look at what McCarthy did in New Orleans with Aaron Brooks of all people.

However, like Thompson, McCarthy has also lost his way a little way a little bit. He kept Dom Capers a year too long, just like he did with Bob Sanders, and it has cost the defense again this year. The attitude of the team reflects the coach, and the fact that it looks like this team has flat out quit a couple of times now reflects poorly of him. Instead of fighting and stepping up their games without Rodgers they just folded the tent in. Inexcusable.

A few of McCarthy's comments have also been weird. The fact that he praised the team for the way they battled in a loss to the Giants was baffling. Also, the big one was when he talked about the "reoccurring issue" after the Philadelphia game, and then insulted everybody's intelligence by saying that he never said it.

McCarthy's offensive scheme has also gone a little stale. Opposing players on defense have been commenting on how they know what is coming from the Packers offense. Not good. McCarthy's style of staying patient has been good in the past, but now is working against him.

Dom Capers: 

How anybody still defends this man is beyond me. The talent isn't the greatest, but he is working with six first round picks in the front seven and solid cornerbacks. Sure, the safeties suck, but not every position on a team can be great. I think a coordinator with fresh schemes and and a new attitude can make it work with this defense.

I don't want to here squat from the players defending Dom either. Of course they are going to back him up when he never holds any of them accountable. It is like a country club playing for him and that is a huge part of what needs to change other than the scheme. How is Chris Banjo not playing instead of Jennings or Jamari Latimore not playing for Jones? No accountability.

After allowing 45 points in the playoff loss to Arizona, having one of the worst defenses in NFL history in 2011, allowing 579 yards against San Francisco in the 2012 playoffs and this years epic collapse it is clear that Capers needs to go and be replaced with another 3-4 coordinator. I would not go with a 4-3 guy because Clay Matthews is a 3-4 player, and that is who you build around. Of course this was also clear last year, so who knows what will happen.

Talk of firing McCarthy or Thompson is very far fetched. If either were fired they would be out of a job for like 10 minutes before being hired elsewhere. McCarthy and Thompson have bought themselves time to fix this mess because of their track records, but it is clear that status quo will no longer be good enough.

This may actually be a good thing in the end. In the NFL it is very hard to stay at the top for long unless you are the Patriots, and even they have not won a Super Bowl since 2006.

With a laundry list of free agents and a potential high draft pick the Packers will have a chance to reload this offseason. The only player on that list who they must bring back is Sam Shields. Everybody else is replaceable. This type of stretch of bad play may be what the organization needed to recognize the problems instead of having the quarterback cover them up. Lets hope so.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Ravings of A Forty Something Cheesehead ~ Team Issues Raw Perspective

by 68md

Too many times the past 24 to 30 months we have heard the sugar coated version of what's wrong in Green bay. We have had consistent problems with multiple issues only to have bloggers and reporters put on their green and gold glass's and whisk it away.

So today I'll lay it out for you very simply and honestly. The first big issue and it's elephant in the room is the talent. That's right except for a handful of players the talent level isn't there anymore.

You see players who had "huge potential " and "upside"  getting run over and around each week. All the scheme and coaching in the world can't overcome that.  Stop drafting prospects and bodies and inject some high level talent into the team.

Sorry Ted but ever UDFA and low draft pick can't be a stud.

To further complicate that your stuck in a 3-4  defensive scheme and drafting 4-3 ends you want to convert to 3/4 OLB. How's that working for you ? Enough !

Our OL is a mess from top to bottom. Ever since the switch to ZBS it's been a mess.  Time for MM to pull up his pants and dump this disaster of a system and hire a new OL coach and system.

Really what it boils down to is the system and beliefs TT/MM have built the team around need adjusting. They have grown stale and other teams know what we are bringing to the table.

The winds of change need to blow in Titletown. Time for Mike and Ted to look in the mirror and say we have a problem.

That's my raw perspective. Until next time Go Pack Go !

Friday, November 15, 2013

Packers @ Giants: Keys to the Game

The Packers will visit the Meadowlands to take on the Giants and I will be attendance, as I always am when the Packers visit the Meadowlands, which seems like every year now. I will be paying close attention to the secondary to see what is going on there. I should be able to give a recap and my thoughts watching the team live on Monday. Anyways, lets get to the keys to beating the Giants Sunday.

1. Marshall Newhouse performing: Newhouse has been an abomination so far in two chances that he has had to play this year. Somehow, he has been even worse than he was last year, and his confidence may be completely shot. Newhouse will have to step up with Don Barclay not practicing all week and looking like a long shot to play. Newhouse got toasted by Jason Pierre-Paul last year against the Giants, but will have an easier matchup against Justin Tuck this time around. Tuck has been on a downward slope for a few years now, but he has had three straight games with six quarterback pressures, so he might have found an extra gear. Going from Barlcay to Newhouse with the Packers needing to run the ball well is a huge downgrade in the running game.

2. Creating Turnovers: Something has to give in this game in the turnover battle. Eli Manning has had a horrific year, as he has thrown 16 interceptions, even with a solid wide receiver core of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle. Meanwhile, the Packers have an embarrassing three interceptions in nine games this year. Manning's play has been baffling this year, even though he has always thrown a lot of picks he has never been this bad. Green Bay's lack of interceptions is also puzzling because even though the defense has rarely been great under Dom Capers they always made interceptions. Manning has been awful when under pressure this year, and that has been when he has made his worst decisions.Capers has been reluctant to blitz recently, but this should be the week to do it. Manning will surely give the Packers opportunities for interceptions, and they will have to catch them to win the game.

3. Control the Line of Scrimmage: I already touched on Newhouse, but controlling the line of scrimmage will be key to winning without Aaron Rodgers. Even when Rodgers was healthy that was a huge part of why the Packers were 5-2. The Giants have been an awful running team all season, but Andre Brown played for the first time last week and ran for 115 yards on 15 carries. He does not have the shiftiness that the Packers have seen with Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy over the last two weeks, but if they do not feel like tackling he can run through tackles. The interior line of the Giants is weak and they may have a tough time moving Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji. The Giants defense has been great against the run, as they rank 7th in the NFL allowing 3.7 yards per attempt. Without Rodgers it will be a challenge for Eddie Lacy to find many holes on the ground.

4. Tolzien Getting Defenders Out of the Box: The Giants have a very solid run defense as I just stated. If they are able to keep extra men in the box to stop Lacy the Packers will have a tough time running the ball. Tolzien showed an ability to get the ball down field with an improved arm that he showed at Wisconsin. He tried a lot of the back shoulder throws that the Packers are accustomed to with Rodgers, while Seneca Wallace showed no ability to throw outside of the numbers. Tolzien also showed an innate ability to get the ball out quickly, although the Giants are not a big blitzing team. With a week of practice to feel even more comfortable hopefully Tolzien can build off his solid performance last week.

5. Having A Sense of Urgency: This is a huge game for the Packers and a winnable one. The Giants have gone on a three game winning streak to get back to 3-6, but in reality they have played no better than when they were 0-6. They were unable to blow out three teams whose quarterbacks were Josh Freeman, Matt Barkley and Terrelle Pryor. The Packers have two winnable games before Rodgers hopefully returns and they cans ave their season by winning them. However, if the defense feels no urgency to pick up the slack for the offense like it hasn't for the last two weeks then. Having two drives start from inside the opponents' five yard and let them have drives to essentially end the game in your own stadium is unacceptable and embarrassing.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ravings of A Forty Something Cheesehead

By 68md

Back again after 8 games to find the Packers in a slightly tougher spot then I had anticipated at this point. Several issues need to addressed and I want to forewarn anyone reading this I don't sugar coat my opinion so if your on edge better wait before reading.

First the big elephant in the room Aaron Rodgers injury. No the season is not over. No team anywhere just folds after losing the star to injury.

However I will make 2 points, First part of the struggle at back up QB lies squarely on staff and the front office in not seeing that we had issues at back up earlier in camp. Wallace and VY were really never given a whole camp or off season to learn a very complex offense.

Second I don't agree with the Tolzien signing and or keeping him on PS for more $. The man has never thrown a regular season pass or taken a snap in the NFL. All his limited work was in preseason. Big gamble on a hunch. Mark me down as skeptical.

Moving on J. Finley was placed on IR this week. A very smart move giving Fin a chance to really think things through. If he clears from a medical stand point I expect Green Bay to offer a 1 year deal and give Finley a chance to "redo" last year. It's the Packer way !

I want too quickly address the offensive line which has improved in run blocking but the pass pro is still too hot/cold with your franchise out there every snap. This issue continues to be an Achilles to the team. Please TT no more tweeners... draft a solid pass pro OT !

Defensively I went back over two weeks on NFL rewind and watched a ton of film. Two things stand out.
We still out think our selves at times... meaning you have to go out and play aggressively and have confidence and we sporadically just tend to brain fart and go soft.
I really can't say if it's scheme or coaching or just a product of a young football team  but it's glaring.

Second the Packers play worse every time MM goes low numbers on DL for ST.  We have 3 or 4 big boys but when our O struggles they get gassed and then gashed rather quickly.

The defensive must step up the next 3 weeks and say " it's on us" play with pride and play mad.

I want to remind everyone that we are all Packer fans. That injuries happen to every team and that win lose or draw we stand together as packer nation. When folks get passionate don't get angry, allow them to vent and lift them up.

Well that's enough crazy rant for now. Let's go get ready for Philly and as always Go Pack Go !

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Packers Chances Without Rodgers

By: Matt Bove

Last night the Packers' worst nightmare became a reality. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone on a sack by Shea McCellin of the Bears. The timetable for his return is unknown at this point, but it seems like a return in three weeks would be the best case scenario.

The Packers' "next man up" mantra will be push to its limits over the next few weeks and there is a chance it can reach its breaking point.

The Packers have proved that they can survive without any player other than Rodgers this season after losing Morgan Burnett, Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Casey Heyward, Randall Cobb, Jermicahel Finley, Bryan Bulaga and James Jones at different points this season. However, losing Rodgers is just a different thing all together.

Rodgers just elevates everybody on the offense so much. He has thrived with a receiving core that has included the likes of Myles White, Jarrett Boykin and Andrew Quarless recently. He has made an offensive line with average talent look solid. The threat of his passing ability has opened up space for Eddie Lacy to run through eight man boxes. All of that will be no more.

Ted Thompson has built and outstanding roster in Green Bay, but if the Packers flounder without Rodgers he deserves heavy criticism for not addressing the backup quarterback spot last offseason. Thompson got very lucky that Graham Harrell did not have to see the field the last two seasons, but his luck finally ran out.

Thompson has hitched his wagon to 11-year veteran Seneca Wallace. It did not go well for Wallace at all last night, as he completed 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards and an interception. He did not have a full week of practice and may have been rusty, but he also did not look like an NFL quarterback.

The Packers are unlikely to look outside the organization for quarterback options because it is just not their way. Matt Flynn is a nice thought, but getting beat out by Jeff Tuel, who is one of the worst quarterbacks I have ever seen, in Buffalo is not a promising sign. The Packers will stick with Wallace and promote former Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien from the practice squad.

The Packers ran for 199 yards, had a blocked punt and a recovered onsides kick, and Wallace still could not lead them to a victory at home against a terrible defense. That is not a good sign. At 5'11", Wallace had trouble finding throwing lanes and was wildly inaccurate. Also, he did not even attempt a pass over 20 yards down the field, which is always a stable of the Packers' offense with Rodgers.

Wallace's trademark skill has always been his athleticism and his ability to make plays outside of the pocket, but that was nowhere to be found last night. Wallace folded under pressure and did not look like he had a clue what to do once a guy was in his face.

The Packers have had an amazing year running the football, as they have averaged 148.6 yards per game, which ranks 2nd in the NFL. Eddie Lacy is a special running back and the Packers offense will now be built around him. However, Lacy will have to deal with loaded fronts on the majority of plays, which has not been the case this season.

The extra men in the box did not bother Lacy last night, as he ran for 150 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Lacy showed incredible patience again waiting for holes to open up and has such light feet for a big running back. Obviously, he ran over and through tackles like he always does.

To survive without Rodgers the Packers are going to need a much greater defensive effort that the pitiful one they gave last night. Dom Capers was simply owned by Marc Trestman all night long. Capers played Josh McCown like he was Rodgers, and McCown picked the Packers to shreds.

Capers played way too many four man rush with zone behind it schemes, especially without Clay Matthews and Nick Perry being there to generate pressure without blitzing. The Bears had receivers running open all night long, and Matt Forte ran for over 100 yards against the Packers' vaunted defensive line.

The consecutive missed tackles by Casey Heyward and A.J. Hawk on the Bears' final drive were embarrassing and eliminated any chance the Packers had of winning. The Packers once again created zero turnovers, and that was the fourth game without a takeaway this season. That will have to change quickly if the Packers want to win games without Rodgers.

The one saving grace for the Packers is their weak upcoming schedule. They play home against Philadelphia, at New York and home against Minnesota before traveling to Detroit for Thanksgiving. The first three games are all winnable.

The ideal scenario would be to go 2-1 over the next three games and have Rodgers come back for Thanksgiving. Is that possible? Yes it is, but the Packers will have to play a helluva lot better than they did last night and have a much better game plan going forward. It just sucks so much that a team that had real Super Bowl chances could have it blown because of a situation like this, especially with so many free agents this offseason.