Category Archives: James Campen

18

September

Packers Offensive Line Back on the Sack Track – Film Study

Packers Offensive Line

Coming into this season, there were two areas that topped my list of improvements the Packers HAD to make;  Aggressiveness on defense and protecting Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers aided their defense by drafting some players that play fast, tough and aggressive.  They let as few players go who they felt just could no longer do so. They reshaped their defensive mentality by bringing back sparkplug Johnny Jolly and encouraging some current players to play more aggressively and set the tone for the rest of the defense (see Clay Matthews vs. Colin Kaepernick).

As I watched the defense over the course of the preseason, I could see it building, game to game. So much so that I felt really good that the defense would be at least in the upper half of teams this season, if not top 12. An 11th hour injury to Morgan Burnett, the QB of the defensive secondary, forced several players into roles they had not really practiced for that week. The secondary was victimized against the 49ers, but I still felt good about what this defense would become.

With a full week to practice their new roles, the secondary bounced back nicely against the Redskins, before the whole defense took the second half off. When Burnett and Hayward return, the Packers defense will take a quantum leap forward. But I digress –  let’s get back on course to the real topic of this post, the offensive line.

As a former offensive lineman in my not so stellar HS football career, I always keep a close eye on the big uglies up front. Unlike the defense, I did not get any warm fuzzies from what I saw in preseason from the offensive line. I did a previous film study on the Packers Rams preseason game, focusing on some pretty poor run blocking I observed.

Two games into the season, my biggest fear about the offensive line has once again reared it’s ugly head. In two games the Packers have allowed 6 sacks of the deservedly highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. At that rate, they’ll be right back in the same area of the 51 sacks they allowed last season. Absolutely unacceptable.

Of course, the Packers have some excuses. They decided to take a bold step by moving their two best OL over to Aaron Rodgers’ blind side. Their best laid plans went awry as Bulaga was lost for the season and Derrick Sherrod, their other recent year first-round draft pick tackle, still can’t get back on the field.

20

August

Packers – Rams Video Second Look: Offensive Line

Packers offensive line.There were a few things I noticed while watching the first string offensive line as they were blocking for the rather impressive Eddie Lacy. I mentioned a few in my “First Impressions” post, where I give my initial observations without rewinding. It’s a little game I like to play, a way of testing if my perception of what is happening during the game is accurate or not.

I normally get the answers when I go back and watch the game a second time, this time with the benefit of rewind at will.

Time permitting, I’m going to try to pick one or two of those first impressions and look at them together with you, in video form, every week.

Today’s topic is the offensive line’s run blocking. Although Eddie Lacy had some impressive gains, I was noticing Packers offensive linemen getting pushed into the backfield on several occasions, especially Evan Dietrich Smith and TJ Lang.

In this first video, Lacy breaks off an 8 yard run, but no thanks to Evan Dietrich-Smith (EDS), who can not handle the speed of the gap-shooting DL. Lacy. Matthew Mulligan is also beat badly, and Lacy is confronted with two ST. Louis DL in his path, two yards deep in the backfield. For another running back, this is a loss of a few yards. But thanks to his much-renowned spin move, Lacy gets away from that trouble, breaks a tackle past the line of scrimmage and then plows through a few more defenders for some extra yards. It’s good to have a real running back, isn’t it?

(Note: I slowed the play down in the second part of this video. I also recommend using the pause button to stop the action at various points to get a better idea of what is happening.)

 

16

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #9 — Battle at Right Tackle

The Packers felt strongly about Sherrod in 2011 when they spent their first-round pick on the tackle. But is he now healthy and ready to play?

The Packers felt strongly about Sherrod in 2011 when they spent their first-round pick on the tackle. But is he now healthy and ready to play?

The Green Bay Packers offensive line has underwent a significant shift this offseason. Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton moved from the right side of the line to Aaron Rodgers’ blindside, while T.J. Lang kicked over to Sitton’s old spot at right guard.

Evan Dietrich-Smith will begin the season as the starting center, leaving right tackle as the lone unclaimed spot on the front line.

Last year’s starting left tackle, Marshall Newhouse, will begin training camp perhaps as the favorite to win the job. Newhouse has started 29 games the past two seasons for the Packers, but according to Pro Football Focus, he hasn’t performed overly well.

PFF’s grades have Newhouse ranked No. 54 among 80 offensive tackles in 2012. Newhouse came in dead-last at No. 76 during the 2011 season.

The Packers view Bulaga as their best pass protector, and they hope that by moving him to the left side, they’ve better protected their biggest asset in Rodgers. Newhouse will compete with Don Barclay, who started the last five games of the season, and 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod for the right tackle job.

Sherrod didn’t play a snap last season after appearing in five games as a rookie in 2011. The team will give the former No. 32 overall pick every opportunity to win the starting job, but Sherrod has yet to practice this spring, still recovering from a devastating leg injury suffered in 2011.

Barclay, in some ways, was the unsung hero of the Packers offense last season. With Sherrod on the sideline and Bulaga ending up on the injured reserve with a hip injury, Barclay was called upon to take over as the starting right tackle as an undrafted rookie.

The offense didn’t miss a beat without Barclay, as they averaged 32 points per game in the six games he started.

In April’s NFL Draft, the Packers used their third pick on Colorado tackle David Bakhtiari. The rookie played all along the offensive line in college, and he’ll enter training camp as the probable backup to Bryan Bulaga on the left side.

Question: Who wins the starting right tackle job?

25

November

Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants Key Matchups

New York Giants defensive linemen Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora

The Packers are hoping they don’t see their #12 in this predicament on Sunday night

Packers Offensive Line vs. Giants Defensive Line

This is probably THE key to this game for the Packers.  Their offensive line has struggled when all of their regular starters were healthy and in position.  Now add to that a shuffled line to account for the loss of right tackle Bryan Bulaga against one of the best front four in the game.

While the Giants defensive front hasn’t had the mind-blowing season like they had a year ago, they are still very formidable.  After the success they had in getting to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in last season’s divisional playoff game, they will be looking to duplicate that output.   Jason Pierre-Paul, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck have accounted for 14.5 of the team’s 25 sacks this season.  Throw in four more by veteran end Osi Umenyiora and the Giants have a very deep and talented pass rush.

Dubbed the “NASCAR” package, New York’s front line will be looking to simply overpower and out-maneuver the Packers.  They want to collapse the pocket back into Rodgers and try to force a bad throw or get the sack.  They were able to wreak havoc on the Packers offense in that playoff game and it led to some turnovers.  Rodgers typically fares well against the blitz but the Giants may not have to bring extra bodies if their front four can get a push on their own.

The Packers are clearly aware of what is headed their way and have to be diligent in game-planning for it.  Any extra protection will go a long way to keep Green Bay’s chances of driving and moving the ball alive.  Of course, so would a productive running game, but there is no reason to think the Packers will suddenly get it going on the ground.  A better alternative would be the short pass (quick slant to Jordy Nelson or James Jones) and putting the backs in place to be a safety valve if all else fails.  The screen just hasn’t been there all season long so the check down could become a good friend of Rodgers’ before the day is up.

8

November

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 9 versus Arizona Cardinals

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Packers win over the Arizona Cardinals was that they run the ball effectively.  I’m pretty sure Packers fans were as surprised by me, but the Packers really ran the ball well and actually committed to giving their backs enough reps to feel comfortable with the offense.  The final stat line: Alex Green (11 rushes for 53 yards, 4.8YPC), James Starks (17 rushes for 61 yards, 3.6YPC), is a stark contrast from last weeks game against the Jacksonville Jaguars where Alex Green gained one more yard, but took him double the amount of carries to get there (22 caries for 54 yards, 2.5 YPC).  So the question becomes, why were the Packers so terrible at running the ball against the Jaguars, who have one of the worst defenses in the league at the moment but so dominant against the Arizona Cardinals, whose defense might be the only reason why they’ve even won four games?


The situation: The score is tied at 7 a piece in the beginning of the 2nd quarter.  After a costly fumble/interception by Randall Cobb, one long pass to Andre Roberts and one failed goal line stance (though the defense read the play right), means that the Packers offense wants to respond quickly to the turnover and quick touchdown, and in this instance the Packers elect to slow the pace down and wear the Cardinals defense a little bit, which means pound the rock. The very first play is a designed run by Randall Cobb and this is the second play in the drive.

The formation: The Packers are aligned in a 3-1-1 formation (3WR-1TE-1RB), with WR James Jones (80) at the top of the screen out wide, WR Randall Cobb (18)  in the slot at the bottom of the screen and WR Donald Driver (80) out wide at the bottom of the screen.  In this instance TE DJ Williams is operating as a fullback because regular FB John Juhn is out of the game with an injury.  Finally, 7 yards behind QB Aaron Rodgers (12) is RB James Starks (44).  Overall this is not an exotic package by any means, defenses know that the Packers (and most teams at this point) use multiple receiver looks all the time and even go with running plays out of these looks.

7

August

Packers Training Camp Report: Protecting Aaron Rodgers’ Blind Side a Major Concern

Packers LT Herb Taylor

Herb Taylor: Packers’ starting left tackle

Offensive tackle was a position of strength for the Green Bay Packers at this time last year. Chad Clifton was coming off a resurgent 2010 season, Derek Sherrod was the Packers’ first-round selection, and Marshall Newhouse was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of training camp.

But now, a concussion is keeping Newhouse out of practice, Sherrod still has yet to practice all summer, and Chad Clifton is out of football entirely.

In comes 27-year-old journeyman Herb Taylor.

Although he hasn’t played in a regular season game since 2008, Taylor has been far more consistent than rookie Andrew Datko in practice, thus giving him the nod alongside T.J. Lang on the left side of the line in Newhouse’s absence.

Taylor was selected by the Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round of the 2007 NFL Draft out of Texas Christian, making one start and appearing in 18 games with the team. After a relatively promising first two seasons in Kansas City, Taylor bounced around between Denver, New York, and even spent some time in the UFL with the Las Vegas Locomotives.

Still, despite Taylor’s tenacity and refusal to give up on his NFL dreams, he simply isn’t ready to be relied upon to protect Aaron Rodgers’s blindside at this point.

At Monday night’s practice at Ray Nitschke field, Taylor faced the daunting task of blocking three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews. On one occasion during a red-zone period, Matthews played Taylor like a puppet, sliding the 305-pound tackle into the Packers backfield and disrupting Rodgers’s throw.

Fortunately for the Packers, Taylor isn’t the regular starter at left tackle, nor will he be the top backup when Derek Sherrod is at full strength. But as things currently stand, the left tackle position is somewhat of a revolving door for pass rushers to blow through–something quite troubling for a team trying to protect the NFL MVP from blindside hits.

Taylor will need to be ready if he’s called upon in game action, but even at full strength, the Packers face question marks at left tackle with Newhouse entering his first full season as a starter.

The Packers seem adamant in keeping Bryan Bulaga at his normal right tackle position, where he’s one of the best in the league. However, the team may need to rethink its strategy if both Newhouse and Sherrod are out of the lineup in the regular season–as Bulaga is surely a safer bet to protect Rodgers’s blindside than the inexperienced Taylor.

26

July

Packers Sign Free Agent Guard Greg Van Roten – Video Highlights Included

Newest Green Bay Packer, Greg Van Roten

Newest Green Bay Packer, Greg Van Roten

The Green Bay Packers’ team IQ went up a few points yesterday after signing Ivy League guard Greg Van Roten of the University of Pennsylvania. The three-time All-Ivy Selection was originally invited to the Packers rookie mini-camp, but a conflict with the Jets’ camp kept him from participating. Van Roten also attended the San Diego Chargers’ camp but received no offers from either team.

Van Roten kept in contact with the Packers throughout the summer, and they brought him in for a tryout on Monday. The Packers liked him so much, they wouldn’t let him leave, asking him to stay in Green Bay overnight, while they figured out a way to make some room for him. By the next morning, the Packers had released Charlie Peprah along with offensive guard Grant Cook, and Van Roten was a Packer.

Contacted b y the Daily Pennsylvanian, UPenn’s offensive coordinator Jom McLoughlin commented, “I’m so happy for Greg. This opportunity is a real testament to him and all the hard work he’s put in. Coming out of high school, he was told by several coaches that he couldn’t play at the Division I level, and he always used that as motivation.”

Van Roten played left tackle for the Quakers until halfway through his senior season, when injuries on the offensive line necessitated a move inside during some games. The offensive line didn’t miss a beat, continuing to lead the way for the Quakers’ 3rd highest Ivy League scoring offense while allowing the league’s third fewest sacks for the season.

Greg Van Roten at theNFL Regional Combine:

 

Greg Van Roten Game Highlights (Warning – Adult Language):

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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