Category Archives: AJ Hawk

9

December

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 22, Falcons 21

Andrew Quarless had a big day against the Falcons, and now the Packers are eyeing first place in the NFC North.

Andrew Quarless had a big day against the Falcons, and now the Packers are eyeing first place in the NFC North.

Maybe the Green Bay Packers didn’t save their season and keep themselves in the playoff hunt Sunday with a win over the Atlanta Falcons, but maybe they did.

Along with the Packers’ 22-21 win came a Philadelphia snowstorm and a Detroit Lions loss, which puts Green Bay only a half-game behind the Lions for first place in the NFC North. And while the Packers are certainly happy they were able to get a win without Aaron Rodgers, the possibility remains that the Packers’ quarterback will be ready to play Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

If Rodgers is back for the team’s final three games, the Packers could win out (at DAL, vs. PIT, at CHI) and squeak into the playoffs. That’s assuming the Lions (vs. BAL, vs. NYG, at MIN) lose one more game, which wouldn’t be the most shocking thing in the world.

But, once again, it will probably be a late-week decision on Rodgers, and the playoffs are still a long way away.

Now, after winning Dec. 8 for the first time since Oct. 27, the Packers are 1-4-1 since Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone, leaving them at 6-6-1 on the season. And it took everything the Packers had on both sides of the ball.

With seven of Atlanta’s 21 points coming on a Sean Weatherspoon pick-six before halftime, the Packers’ defense tightened up and allowed just 14 points on the afternoon, thanks to a second-half shutout. The Falcons put together a methodical 78-yard drive to tie the score at seven, but their only other scoring drive was set up by a Matt Flynn fumble deep in Packers territory.

Flynn and the offense turned in a much-improved performance after last week’s stinker, but the defense rose to the occasion and powered the Packers to a much-needed win.

Clearly, Jerron McMillian was the only problem with the Packers’ defense.

Game Balls

Matt Flynn

Coming into the game having given up at least 27 points in their last six games, many expected the Packers would need to light up the scoreboard in order to get past the Falcons. That wasn’t the case, but Flynn and the offense still mustered up 22 points and earned their sixth victory in the process. Flynn made some poor throws, but his lone interception came on a (that-kind-of) ‘WOW’ play, and he was efficient with the football throughout the day. Quite the difference from the debacle on Thanksgiving.

1

December

Is the Packers defensive line too fat?

What role had lack of conditioning played in the Packers plummeting run defense?

Remember when the Packers actually had a good run defense? It seems like forever ago, but as recently as October, the Packers turned into a brick wall against the likes of Frank Gore, Reggie Bush and others.

Those days are long gone now, and there are many reasons why the Packers run defense has gone from good to abysmal: Middle linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones are slow. The safeties don’t provide much for run support even when they play up on the line. Tackling, once again, is atrocious.

The Packers defensive line is also very fat. B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly all weigh in at over 325 pounds, and that’s listed weight. If I had to guess, I’d guess that Jolly is at least 15 pounds heavier than his listed weight of 325.

Remember back in the summer when reports came out that Raji and Pickett reported to minicamp overweight? I laughed it off because Raji and Pickett are fat guys and fat football players tend to get a little fatter during the offseason. No big deal. There was plenty of time to get back in shape before the season.

Jolly also had been out of football for three seasons and admitted that his weight climbed well above his playing weight before working to bring it back down and make the team.

Early in the season, it looked like I was right to just laugh off the reports of Raji, Pickett and Jolly being out of shape.

Led by the aforementioned three, the Packers only allowed one 100-yard rusher (Washington’s Alfred Morris in week 2) through the season’s first eight weeks. Since then, they’ve allowed a 100-yard rusher in four of the last five and have nearly allowed two players on the same team to top the century mark in the same game in consecutive weeks.

Are a few too many trips through the buffet line impacting the Packers run defense? Has the run defense slipped because Raji, Pickett and Jolly are wearing down due to poor conditioning after a strong start?

Only the Packers coaches and front office personnel can answer that question for sure. But as a fan watching the bottom fall out of this run defense, you can’t help but wonder if being out of shape in July is costing the Packers in November.

11

November

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Eagles 27, Packers 13

With Aaron Rodgers injured, the Packers are relying on Scott Tolzien at quarterback.

With Aaron Rodgers injured, the Packers are relying on Scott Tolzien at quarterback.

Scott Tolzien played the majority of the game for the Green Bay Packers at quarterback.

Scott. Tolzien.

To his credit, he was a solid quarterback for the Wisconsin Badgers, but he was, in essence, a puppet carrying out Paul Chryst’s game plan, which relied heavily on a dominant power run game. But in his two years as the Badgers’ starter, never did I think Tolzien would be playing in the NFL, much less for a playoff contender like the Packers.

But against the Philadelphia Eagles, Tolzien filled in for an injured Seneca Wallace and played pretty well. Despite being intercepted in the red zone, which took points off the board, Tolzien moved the ball much better than Wallace did last week against the Chicago Bears after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone.

For a fan base that’s used to watching Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre under center, the past couple games have been a wakeup call. Last week, Rodgers played one series before getting injured, and this week, the Packers again lost their starting quarterback (Wallace) after the first series.

Since 1992, the Packers have had three quarterbacks start a football game: Favre, Rodgers and Matt Flynn. Next week, with Tolzien slated to get the start, will mark the Packers’ third starting quarterback in three weeks. Crazy.

By no means was the Packers’ loss on Sunday due to Tolzien’s struggles. The blame falls on the defense.

Game Balls

Datone Jones

As bad as the defense was, Jones had (by far) the best game of his young NFL career against the Eagles. Jones was responsible for two sacks on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, which isn’t bad for a guy who was only on the field for 19 plays. After a debacle like Sunday’s, it’s easy to look past the few positives, but the rookie had a big day.

Jarrett Boykin

With a pair of backup quarterbacks throwing him the football, Boykin tied a career high with eight catches and set a new career best with 112 receiving yards. Quietly, Boykin is having a really nice season as his opportunities have increased. Despite subpar speed, Boykin always seems to be where he’s supposed to be, and he catches the ball when it’s thrown to him. That’s a really good thing for a wide receiver.

21

October

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 31, Browns 13

Packers receiver Jarrett Boykin enjoyed his first career Lambeau Leap following his fourth-quarter touchdown against the Browns.

Packers receiver Jarrett Boykin enjoyed his first career Lambeau Leap following his fourth-quarter touchdown against the Browns.

Already shorthanded on defense the previous week against the Ravens, the Green Bay Packers offense joined the club, heading into their matchup with the Cleveland Browns severely undermanned.

But despite being without receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones, quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers offense up and down the field, scoring 31 points against a solid Browns defense. For Rodgers, it may have been his best performance of the season despite throwing for a modest (by his standards) 260 yards.

Unfortunately for the Packers, the injury bug continued to hang around the team Sunday, as tight end Jermichael Finley suffered a neck injury on a vicious head to the head from Browns safety Tashaun Gipson. Finley was loaded onto a stretcher and taken off the field, although he did show movement in his extremities.

Of course, just a few years after former Packers safety Nick Collins’ career was cut short by a neck injury, many will fear the worst any time a Packers suffers an injury to his head or neck. I’m not a doctor and don’t pretend to assume to know the extent of Finley’s injury, but it certainly looked bad. Originally, I assumed Finley had suffered only(?) another concussion, which would have been his second of the season, but it’s pretty clear that’s not the case.

This is a neck injury, and it’s anyone’s guess as to when he’ll return to the field. If at all.

He stayed in intensive care overnight at the hospital, but according to Mike Garafolo’s official Twitter account, Finley was up and walking as of Monday morning. Walking is a good first step for Finley, but football continues to be an afterthought in the grand scheme of his serious injury.

On the bright side, it was another dominating performance by Dom Capers and the Packers defense.

Sam Shields, once again, shut down the opponent’s No. 1 receiver, Davon House stepped up and picked up a pass on fourth down and A.J. Hawk continues to look like the All-American he was at Ohio State University. Shields, specifically, is deserving of a great deal of credit for his job on Browns receiver Josh Gordon.

17

October

Packers Stock Report: Beating the Super Bowl Champions Edition

Morgan Burnett brings down Ray Rice and plays a key role in a second quarter goal line stand for the Packers.

Every year the NFL schedule comes out and we try to boldly declare which teams have tough schedules and which teams appear to have a bunch of patsies and a clear path to the postseason. Every year our analysis is wrong and what once looked like a tough or easy schedule in July is completely the opposite come October.

The Packers appeared to have a nasty schedule initially, but the outlook isn’t so bad now. The Vikings are terrible, the Giants stink, the Steelers are bad, the Lions are the Lions and the Falcons are regressing. There isn’t another game on the schedule where I’d say the Packers are an obvious underdog.

Of course, that could all change in another couple weeks if any of the aforementioned teams get back on track.

The stock report is kind of the same way. Who knew that someone like Mason Crosby would make the steady category two weeks straight and A.J. Hawk would be a riser after week six?

Onto the stock report:

Rising

Morgan Burnett
Mr. Burnett earned that fat new contract he got this offseason during the Packers goal line stand in the second quarter against the Ravens. The free safety was in on three tackles during that key series of plays, including a stop on 3rd and 1 where he out-maneuvered ace blocking back Vonta Leach before bringing down the ball carrier.

A.J. Hawk
Remember when we couldn’t figure out why Ted Thompson cut Desmond Bishop and kept Hawk around? After three sacks on Sunday,
Hawk is having one of the best stretches of his career while Bishop tore his ACL and is out for the season. Chalk up another one in the smart move column for Thompson. (Side note: Best of luck to Bishop. He seems like a great guy who has experienced terrible luck these past two seasons. Here’s hoping you get another shot down the road, Desmond, and have better luck staying healthy.)

Eddie Lacy
Saavy investors bought stock in Lacy a few weeks ago. I’m always a little hesitant to put rookies in the rising category — especially a rookie running back on the pass-happy Packers — but Lacy belong here after a steady game against Detroit and strong finish on the road to help close out Baltimore.

14

October

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 19, Ravens 17

Packers running back Eddie Lacy enjoyed his first career 100-yard rushing day against the Baltimore Ravens.

Packers running back Eddie Lacy enjoyed his first career 100-yard rushing day against the Baltimore Ravens.

There was certainly no shortage of adversity in the Packers’ 19-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Coming into the game, the Packers knew they’d be without their top defensive player Clay Matthews, but they didn’t know they’d lose two of their top three receivers (James Jones and Randall Cobb) in the first half. Already challenged by one of the best defensive fronts in football, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers now faced the daunting task of scoring points with inexperienced Jarrett Boykin filing in for Jones and tight end Jermichael Finley filling Cobb’s shoes in the slot.

The offense was far from perfect on the afternoon, as the passing attack struggled to get going until a 64-yard bomb from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson broke the game wide open. If not for a newfound power running game, the shorthanded Packers would have had a very tough time squeaking out with a victory.

Through the first four games, the Packers’ ground game ranked No. 5 in the NFL. Now through five games, the Packers’ running game is one of the strengths of the team.

Eddie Lacy gashed the Ravens for 120 yards–one week after coming one yard shy of the century mark against the Detroit Lions. Lacy’s big day marks the third time in four weeks that the Packers have had a 100-yard rusher.

To go along with the team’s improved running game, Mason Crosby is getting back to his reliable ways after a horrid 2012 season and the defense is coming into its own under the guidance of Dom Capers. Three areas that were seen as glaring question marks coming into the season now look like strengths of the team.

Of course, not everything went smoothly for the Packers. Jerron McMillian was, again, victimized in coverage by the opposing quarterback, John Kuhn cost the Packers great field position by botching a fumble recovery on a blocked punt and, of course, the injury bug has sunk its teeth into the team once again.

Game Balls

Eddie Lacy

8

October

Packers Stock Report: Back on Track Edition

Jordy Nelson vs. Detroit Lions

Jordy Nelson- “He will bring it down”

The Packers took a big step in the right direction this week with a boring, but thorough beating of the Lions. The Packers won the game where they haven’t won many lately – in the trenches.

The offensive line, especially the interior three, showed what they are capable of, going up against some of the toughest, baddest (over-rated?) hombres in the NFL and controlling them for pretty much the entire game.

The defensive line was stellar; something we first saw in the preseason and it has been consistently good four games into the season.

So let’s take a look at who’s trending and in what direction after Sunday’s game:

Rising

T.J. Lang
When matched up against Ndomukong Suh and the other bruising interior defensive linemen for the Lions, Lang did exactly what needed to be done: Control their pursuit upfield and use their own momentum against them to create running lanes. It was the second straight solid performance from Lang against a group of elite interior defensive linemen.

Josh Sitton
After a horrible opener against the 49ers and battling back problems against Washington, Sitton has played a key role in shutting down Geno Atkins and quieting Ndomukong Suh. Thanks in part to Sitton’s efforts, the Packers are fifth in the league in rushing and Aaron Rodgers has had a pretty clean pocket to step into. Moving Sitton to the left side has paid off so far.

Jordy Nelson
You could put any of the three receivers in the rising category. I chose Nelson because his toughness is second to none. It doesn’t matter if he’s covered on the sideline or absorbing a big hit over the middle, Nelson makes the catch, then gets up and does it all over again. He hasn’t busted out the Jordy Stiff Arm yet this season, but the Jordy-Makes-a-Miraculous-Catch-With-a-Defender-Draped-All-Over-Him-as-he-Falls-Out-of-Bounds plays have more than made up for it.

Steady

Evan Dietrich-Smith
If we’re going to give Sitton and Lang props for controlling some monster defensive tackles over the last few weeks, it’s only fair that we show Dietrich-Smith some love too. The free-agent-to-be is putting together a nice little season so far. Nothing spectacular, but more than holding his own against some quality interior defensive linemen.