Category Archives: 2011 Regular 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.

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.

25

February

Packers Aaron Rodgers: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

Aaron Rodgers

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

1) Introduction: It was a grind at times for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Things didn’t look quite as easy as they did in 2011. When injuries mounted and adversity came and went, Rodgers kept the Packers in games and came through in the end more often than not. It wasn’t an MVP season, but it wasn’t far off.

2) Profile:

Aaron Rodgers

  • Age: 29
  • Born: 12/02/1983, in Chico, CA
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 225
  • College: California
  • Rookie Year: 2005
  • NFL Experience: 8 years

Career Stats and more:

3) Expectations coming into the season: 8,000 yards, 108 touchdowns, 1 interception and a QB rating of 607.3. Seriously, I think some people honestly expected those numbers from Rodgers. His 2011 run might have been a once in a lifetime thing. It’s unfair to expect that to happen every season, maybe ever again. Rodgers ended up leading the league in passer rating for the second straight season and made several plays when he had no business making a play. It was another great season, regardless if he failed to meet some people’s unrealistic expectations.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: This was my favorite Rodgers’ throw of the season. Amazing. Other highlights include the big game against Houston, making plays down the stretch at Lambeau against the Vikings and recovering nicely from an interception to beat the Saints in a must-win early-season game. If I could change one thing about Rodgers’ season, it would be the interception against the 49ers in the playoffs. Rodgers hasn’t had a holy crap that was awesome! type of playoff game since the Super Bowl. That needs to change.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: God knows where the Packers would be without Rodgers. We get mad at him for holding the ball too long and struggling a bit against two-high safety looks. Those criticisms are valid as long as you realize that we’re holding Rodgers to a ridiculously high standard. Yes, it’s a standard he should be held at, but it can be easy to get carried away if Rodgers isn’t flawless and the Packers don’t roll to easy victory after easy victory. The Packers are mediocre at best without No. 12.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: The postseason hasn’t been Rodgers’ time since the Packers won the Super Bowl. He hasn’t been terrible, but he’s looked tentative and just a little off at times. That was the case again this season. The 49ers loss wasn’t Rodgers’ fault, but the Packers need him to play better if they want to make another Super Bowl run.

28

December

Mike McCarthy: Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

Mike McCarthy

There’s no question anymore: Mike McCarthy is one of the best coaches in the NFL today.

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is like a member of your family. You love the guy to death, but every once in a while he makes you want to slam your head into a wall.

That said, I’m not here to talk about the bad in regards to McCarthy.  Every coach has their flaws and McCarthy is no different.   Instead, I’m here to do something for him that is rarely done outside the state of Wisconsin and/or the Packer fan base.

I’m giving McCarthy some credit.  He’s one the best coaches in the NFL and no one talks about him on a national scope.  He (along with general manager Ted Thompson) has helped build one of, if not the best, model franchises in the National Football League.  The last three seasons he has won a Super Bowl with a badly depleted roster, won his first 13 games in the following season and this year has another injury riddled team in position to win another Super Bowl.

Yet when it comes to coach of the year discussions this year, McCarthy’s name is conspicuously absent.  The Packers arguably took a harder hit with the injuries this year than in 2010 because of all the stars that have gone down over the course of the season, but the Packers are in position to get a first round bye.   2012 could very well be the best coaching job McCarthy has done since his arrival in 2006.

Why has McCarthy been overlooked so much on the national scale? There are a couple theories.

One is that McCarthy has gone the Bill Belichick route and that his success has become so consistent and so routine, that it’s become expected and almost unappreciated.

I’m not the biggest Belichick fan on the planet but he has done a wonderful long term job with that franchise given how much turnover they constantly face. He’s got a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback in Tom Brady, like McCarthy has in Rodgers.  It’s a distinct possibility that McCarthy’s success has become so expected it’s getting overlooked.

Another reason could be McCarthy’s personality.  Much has been made about his “soundbites” in his press conferences (“pawsitive,” “pad level,” “polluted mindset” among others) but he’s not a screamer and a yeller that is going to become an overnight YouTube sensation.

10

December

Packers Shovel Their Way to First Place in NFC North

 

Packers defense

The Packers defense, grinding out another win on Sunday night. (Photo from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Like many of you who are reading this, I had to go out and shovel snow before the Packers game on Sunday night.

Notice how I said shovel. Not blow or push with a skid loader. Shovel.

I refuse to get a snow blower. I’m 31 years old. I’m more than capable of operating a shovel. I see way too many men under the age of 35 using snow blowers and skid loaders for snow removal these days. Further evidence of the downfall of society, I say.

A shovel is reliable. You don’t need to worry about it not starting after a blizzard.

A shovel is low maintenance. You don’t have to worry about filling it with gas, changing its oil or taking it in for a tune-up.

A shovel is inexpensive. You can pick up a good snow shovel for a couple bucks at just about any store.

A shovel is a great teaching tool. If you have kids, making them shovel snow builds character.

A shovel can be used as a weapon if someone attacks you, or if a Bears fan starts talking trash.

The Packers are a team of shovels right now. We all want them to be the latest fancy model of snow blower, but they’re not. And that’s just fine.

As I was shoveling over a foot of snow off my driveway on Sunday, I couldn’t help but notice a few of my neighbors and their snow blowers. Sure, they were exerting less energy and moving at a faster pace than I was, but I was earning the right to maneuver my car out of my garage without getting stuck.

I had to work harder for it, so I appreciated it more (at least, that’s what I was telling myself as my fingers went numb and my eyes started freezing shut).

The packers have shoveled their way into first place in the NFC North. With the exception of the Giants’ game, guys like Don Barclay, Brad Jones, Casey Hayward, Ryan Pickett, Mike Daniels, DuJuan Harris and Tom Crabtree have helped hold this injury-ravaged team together and put it in position to make a late-season run.

16

August

Packers Defensive Line: A Healthy Ryan Pickett Commands Respect

Ryan Pickett

Packers D-lineman Ryan Pickett

Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett reminds me of two actors in two memorable movies: Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino and Paul Sorvino in Goodfellas.

In Gran Turino, Eastwood plays a retired Detroit auto worker who is trying to cope with his neighborhood changing (i.e. getting younger and more diverse). He also yells at people to get off his lawn and behaves like that crumudgingly (and racist) old white guy many of us probably know in real life.

Sorvino plays a mob boss in Goodfellas who quietly lurks in the shadows and oversees a large-scale crime ring. Sorvino doesn’t have a leading role in the film, but when he’s on screen, there’s little doubt that his character is in charge and that the other characters respect him.

Now don’t take those comparisons too literally. I don’t know Pickett personally and I’m not saying  he’s a racist or a Mafia Don. But when I watch Eastwood’s and Sorvino’s characters, I can’t help but imagine that Pickett has certain traits of both.

Pickett is the elder statesman on the Packers defensive front. Like Eastwood getting annoyed about having to adapt to younger people who might be a little different than him, I can see the older Pickett getting annoyed by Clay Matthews and his long hair or B.J. Raji and his dancing.

I also see a lot of Sorvino in Pickett’s deliberate (some might call it slow) movements and overall presence. Like Sorvino, Pickett might not appear to be very impressive, but everyone looks up to him. He commands respect. Running backs and quarterbacks know that Pickett is too slow to catch them, but they’re scared of him anyway.

On the Field
Analogies are fun, but let’s get to the bottom line: Ryan Pickett is a hellvua football player and very important to the Packers defense.

According to Pro Football Focus, Pickett led all Packers defensive linemen last season with 20 stops, which measures the total number of solo tackles made that lead to an offensive failure. He also finished with a run defense rating of 8.4, second on the team behind Desmond Bishop (10.7) and way ahead of C.J. Wilson, who was the next best d-lineman (3.2).

Pickett finished fourth on the defense with an overall defensive rating of 2.6 and was one of only three defensive starters to finish with a positive overall rating.