Category Archives: 2011 – 2012 Season

25

February

The Packers should choose a different flavor of tight end

At the moment there are 3 “flavors” of tight ends; everyone’s favorite at the moment is chocolate and that would be the “oversized wide receiver” tight ends like Jimmy Graham or Jordan Cameron, who are players who can take the top off of a defensive secondary while posing a size match up for cornerbacks and safeties while causing speed problems for linebackers.  These types of players are what the NFL craves right now and with the Seattle Seahawks winning the Super Bowl with bigger more physical corners, the most logical response would be for NFL offenses to counter with big and fast tight ends who can beat bigger corners at their own game.  Strawberry would be the “move” tight end, much like Aaron Hernandez or Jordan Reed, who while aren’t the biggest or fastest have the most utility of the group, being able to operate decently as a inline tight end, out in the slot or even as a fullback in some situations (the Packers in particular love this kind of tight end).  Finally, there is vanilla, the old and boring standby of inline or “complete” tight end such as Jason Witten or Todd Heap who were capable inline blockers but could also operate as a safety value for a quarterback in the short passing game.  Each flavor has its own advantages and disadvantages and that’s fluctuated over time as offenses and defenses have evolved in the NFL.

When looking at the Packers under the Mike McCarthy/Ted Thompson regime, the flavors that appeal most have definitely been chocolate (Jermichael Finley, Brandon Bostick) and strawberry (Tom Crabtree, Spencer Havner, Ryan Taylor, DJ Williams) with almost no emphasis being placed on blocking.  And it’s easy to see why, with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers at the helm, plays could be extended, wide receivers got the majority of the attention on offense and running backs, outside of a couple years of Ahman Green in his prime, took a back seat to the offensive passing game.  Add to that the aerial explosion that occurred starting around that time and it’s easy to see why the Packers, along with pretty much every other NFL team, starting looking at tight ends more as receivers than blockers.  However, we might just start to see Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson pick a different favorite flavor this coming draft.

9

January

Is the Packers’ Glass Half Empty Or Half Full?

Beer

Packers and Beer.

Players, coaches, the media and most often the fans like to say “every season that didn’t include a Super Bowl Victory is a failure”.  I get the sentiment, as long as your team wins the Super Bowl, everything is forgiven; it doesn’t matter how many mistakes were made or how many games were lost, as long as your team takes the Lombardi trophy at home, everything else is forgiven.  However, this is really a shortsighted assessment of any team’s season; would anyone argue that the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans had equally failed seasons because neither will win the Super Bowl this year?  Of course not, the Chiefs saw a massive rebound from the worse record in 2012 to one of the best and saw jumps in all analytics to boot.  On the other hand, the Texans were predicted by many pundits to be a Super Bowl contender but lost 15 games in a row and saw their head coach fired mid-season.  Furthermore, fans of the New England Patriots can realistically expect to be in contention for a Super Bowl every year for the foreseeable future, but the same cannot be said for the Oakland Raiders, who are still in the middle of a massive rebuilding process; getting into the playoffs but not the Super Bowl might be considered a failure for the Patriots, but just getting into the playoffs should be considered a successful season for the Raiders.

All that basically points back to the 2013 Packers; should we consider this season a success or a failure?  Or more realistically, do you see the Packers season as a glass half empty or a glass half full?

The Packers were an average team (8-7-1)

Glass half empty: The Packers took a major nose dive this season after posting a 11-5 season in 2012, 15-1 season in 2011 and winning the Super Bowl in 2010.  Especially in the middle of the season it looked like the team was lost and without a goal as they were man handled by the Eagles, Giants and most notably the Lions.  The defense again fell apart and the Packers were forced to learn how to run the ball behind Eddie Lacy, which didn’t happen overnight.  Hell, they couldn’t even truly beat the Minnesota Vikings who threw Christian Ponder back in a quarterback.  Finally, the Packers again proved that they are incapable of beating the 49ers with the 3rd consecutive loss.

6

December

Packers Periscope: Week 14 vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Past: While the last meeting between these two teams actually occurred in week 5 of the 2011 season (which the Packers won), most fans will remember the NFC divisional game in 2010 where Aaron Rodgers played perhaps the finest game of his career, going 31 for 36, 26 yards and 3 touchdowns, which even then doesn’t show the complete dominance of the performance.  Rodgers simply could not be brought down, often scrambling from surefire sacks, and could not be slowed down, throwing pinpoint darts to receivers who were blanket covered.

On defense, a pivotal interception returned for a touchdown by Tramon Williams at the end of the 1st half was the catalyst that sparked the Packers to dominate the second half.  With Rodgers putting up points with ease, the Falcons offense played to match the Packers point for point; however the Falcons offense buckled under the pressure, most notably with quarterback Matt Ryan making several poor decisions including 2 interceptions and a fumble which sealed the game.

During the offseason, the Packers and Falcons engaged in some more gamesmanship by bidding for the services of veteran running back Steven Jackson, who was a free agent for the first time after playing for the St. Louis Rams for nearly a decade.  In the end, Ted Thompson stuck with his draft and develop and frugal free agency philosophy and let Jackson sign with the Falcons.  However, Thompson perhaps got the last laugh as the Packers drafted Alabama star running back Eddie Lacy, who plays with some Steven Jacksons in him and is a candidate for rookie of the year honors while age and injury has finally caught up with Jackson, who has only started 8 games, rushing 97 times for a paltry 339 yards.

15

November

Packers Periscope: Week 11 vs. New York Giants

The Past: The two teams that always seem to cause the Packers trouble in the past couple years are the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants.  Packers fans obviously remember Brett Favre’s last pass as a Packer going to a Corey Webster in the NFC Championship game in 2008; Packers fans will also remember the Giants manhandling the Packers in the 2011 playoffs when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was surprising only average while the defense finally collapsed and lost the game for the team.

However the last meeting between these two teams was perhaps the most lopsided; the Giants won 38-10 in 2012 season again embarrassing the Packers.  Outside of one spectacular 61 yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson, Rodgers was largely ineffective, going 13 for 24 for 158 yards and an interception.  The running game didn’t do the offense many favors either, totaling 82 yards with a 3.7 ypc split between Alex Green, James Starks and John Kuhn.  The defense stuck to their “bend but don’t break” philosophy, but missing both Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, allowed 3 Eli Manning touchdowns while the Giants running game ground the Packers down with 31 carries for 147 yards from Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown.

With the loss, the Packers fell to 2nd place in the NFC North while the Giants snapped a two game losing streak and got back into the NFC East playoff race.  However a loss to the resurgent Redskins (headed by rookie sensation Robert Griffin III) the next week followed by a loss against Baltimore in week 16 eliminated them the NFC East crown and a loss by the Lions to the Bears at the end of the regular season eliminated them from the playoffs all together.

During the offseason, multiple changes were made including the release of starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw and the notable drafting of right tackle Justin Pugh, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and quarterback Ryan Nassib.  Overall, the 2013 draft class has been disappointing of late, Pugh ranks 56th out of 76 eligible tackles, Hankins has played 74 snaps the entire season while Nassib still hasn’t supplanted Curtis Painter (yes, that Curtis Painter) as the backup quarterback.

1

November

Packing the Stats: Balanced Offense Performing with Increased Efficiency

Packing the StatsThere’s no doubt that Green Bay Packers fans have experienced a rough start to the 2013 season. Among losing games to the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals, the Packers have been without a number of key players due to injuries. But, in spite of this, we’re finally starting to see this team come together and work with efficiency.

It hasn’t been an easy transition, though. We’ve been used to a high-flying offense that made big plays down the field and racked up quick points, and it has taken some getting used to a more balanced offensive attack. Yet this newfound balance has paid major dividends.

Here is a look at some basic statistical categories for the Packers offense this season compared to their overall results from the last two years (from TeamRankings.com):

Statistical Category 2013 2012 2011
Points per Game 30.3 27.1 34.1
Yards per Game 438.9 357.2 404.1
Points per Play 0.448 0.419 0.547
Red Zone Scoring % (TD) 50.00% 68.52% 65.22%
Yards per Play 6.5 5.5 6.5
First Downs per Game 23.0 21.2 22.2
First Down per Play 0.340 0.327 0.357
Average Time of Possession 31:57 30:06 30:28
Third Down Conversion % 46.39% 41.00% 48.50%
Rushing Attempts per Game 29.6 26.7 24.6
Rushing Yards per Game 141.4 104.6 100.3
Rushing First Downs per Game 7.6 5.1 5.7
Yards per Rush Attempt 4.8 3.9 4.1
Rushing Play % 43.76% 41.20% 39.43%
Rushing First Down % 32.92% 23.88% 25.66%
Pass Completion % 67.07% 67.14% 67.34%
Passing Yards per Game 297.4 252.6 303.8
Yards per Pass Attempt 8.4 7.2 8.7
Passing First Downs per Game 13.3 13.4 14.4
Passing First Down % 57.76% 63.25% 64.81%
Average Team Passer Rating 108.0 107.1 119.4
Passing Play % 56.24% 58.80% 60.57%
QB Sacked % 6.39% 8.03% 7.01%

 

I think it’s interesting to not only look at the overall improvements from last season (which are striking), but also to look at how this offense has changed from the high-scoring juggernaut of 2011. For example, the overall performance indicators for 2013 are generally better than 2012, but not quite as good as 2011. Categories like Points per Game, Yards per Game, and Points per Play clearly show this. However, notice that the Yards per Play statistic is the same in 2013 as 2011, and the number of First Downs per Game is slightly higher than both years.

24

September

Packers Need a Signature Win to Get Back Over the Mountain

The Packers beating the Jets was a signature win in 2010.

It seems like forever ago when everyone pegged the Packers as the NFL’s next dynasty.

It was only natural for people – including many in the Packers organization – to talk about a dynasty after winning Super Bowl XLV. A young team with a budding superstar at quarterback had just won it all with a ton of players on injured reserve. Talk of a dynasty was justified.

All that dynasty talk disappeared after the Packers went 15-1 in 2011, only to suffer an embarrassing loss to the Giants in their first playoff game.

Potential to production
Let’s rewind even further, back before the word dynasty was even in the vocabulary of Packers fans. In 2009, the Packers went on a nice run in the second half of the season to make the playoffs before losing a wild-card shootout with the Cardinals.

The 2010 season was supposed to be when the Packers took the next step. All that young talent was primed and ready to go from promising to great. Potential was to be replaced with production. Rebuilding with results. Playoff failure with playoff victory.

After six games, none of that happened. Midway through the 2010 season, Green Bay was 3-3, beat up, and spinning its wheels — stuck near the top of the mountain, unable to vault over it.

Then the Packers rattled off four straight wins, overcame a rough patch down the stretch, made the playoffs, and won the whole damn thing. The Packers not only made it over the mountain, they occupied the mountain, planted a green and gold flag on it, and claimed the mountain as their own.

They even chiseled the faces of Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy into the side of the mountain to create their own Packers Mt. Rushmore.

Falling off the mountain
Throughout the entire 2011 season, whenever another team tried to climb Packers Mountain, the Packers kicked them back down.

Then the Giants rolled into Lambeau Field for a divisional round playoff game, kicked the Packers off their own mountain, and sprayed graffiti all over the faces on Packers Mt. Rushmore.

Oh well. It was disappointing, but it happens. Mountains are high and often have difficult terrain. Every now and then, you’re going to slip and fall off.

30

April

The Reasons Behind The 2013 Packers Draft: First Impressions

I actually got my first shot writing for AllGreenBayPackers.com when Al allowed me to post my draft rationale on his site and 3 years later I’m continuing the tradition.  As before I’m not going to be assigning draft grades or projections, I agree with the idea that grading picks now is something akin to being graded on a test you haven’t taken.  In this article I want to point out some more broad observations I noticed during the draft

 

Aaron Rodgers dictated the Packers 2013 draft: And Clay Matthews III to some extent as well.  Simply put the Packers are now in a mini-rebuilding year, not due to a lack of talent but due to a lack of money.  While Rodgers’ $110 million and Matthews’ $66 million contracts were both necessary and in my opinion great deals for the Packers, let’s not kid ourselves and think that the Packers are going to be awash with saved money over the next couple years, Rodgers and Matthews are still two of the highest paid players in the NFL and that will have financial ramifications down the road; maybe not as bad as Joe Flacco and DeMarcus Ware bad, but Ted Thompson probably isn’t going to be able to keep everyone he wants.  This is why I think this is the start of a mini-rebuild; teams typically trade down and stockpile draft picks in order to stock the team with young, cheap players who can be the foundation long term and perhaps become stars.

Thompson used this approach when he was hired in 2005 to fix the salary cap mess left by Mike Sherman and he’s doing it again to proactively protect the Packers from the next couple years.  The notable players who are set to become free agents in the next two years are Morgan Burnett, Ryan Pickett, BJ Raji, James Jones, Jermichael Finley, CJ Wilson, Mike Neal, Marshall Newhouse, Derek Sherrod, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Tramon Williams and Bryan Bulaga.  The next two years are perhaps the toughest because they also are when Rodgers’ and Matthews’ cap hits are the highest. Furthermore veterans who occupy a niche, like John Kuhn and Jarrett Bush are probably on the bubble now.  Needless to say, Thompson is going to have to be very judicial when it comes to keeping his own players, therefore this draft (and probably the next one) are looking to build the foundation of the team for the next 5 years, not just “put the cherry on the top” for the team now.  Thompson can now do this is that Rodger’s contract gives him a window where he can expect the team to be competitive; Rodgers probably has at least another 5 good years left in his career and now it’s important to have talent around him throughout all 5 years and not just right now.