14

February

Green Bay Packers: Poor Tackling Among CBs Hurt Defense in 2011

Receivers often gained yards after the catch against the Packers because of poor tackling.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look back on the Green Bay Packers 2011 season and identify the obvious reasons for their defensive collapse.

Cullen Jenkins was sorely missed at right defensive end, little to no production was received from outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews and Nick Collins’ season-ending neck injury handicapped the back end.

But one factor that gets overlooked is just how poor the tackling was for the Packers defense, especially in the secondary.

Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus effectively laid out just how bad it was for the Packers secondary in 2011.

According to the site, which reviews and grades every single play for every single player, the Packers trio of cornerbacks—Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields—was the worst tackling cornerback trio in the NFL.

And believe it not, the numbers weren’t even close.

Woodson missed 15 tackles on 87 attempts, Williams missed 16 on 80 attempts and Shields missed 10 on 40 attempts. Altogether, the three missed 41 tackles in 2011—a number that ranks them significantly above any other cornerback trio in the NFL.

The Philadelphia Eagles were the first team that came to mind in comparison, but their trio of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie only missed 27 tackles last season.

All three of the Packers cornerbacks ranked in the bottom 20 of tackling efficiency, too.

Woodson has always been a player that missed his fair share of tackles, mostly because his fearlessness of playing near the line of scrimmage. Still, his 16 came at a higher rate than the 14 he had in 2010 in 20 games and the nine he missed during his Defensive Player of the Year season in 2009.

Williams allowed 68 catches in 2011, so his opportunities for missed tackles were obviously increased. During 2010, a year in which Williams established himself as a top-flight cover corner, he missed just nine. A shoulder injury suffered in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints certainly had an impact on how physical Williams was both in coverage and as a tackler.

10

November

Packers Defense: Identifying Reasons Behind the Unit’s Decline in 2011

Whether you think it is a large-scale problem or not, the Green Bay Packers defense has undeniably taken a step back in 2011.

The numbers don’t lie. Just a season ago, the Packers defense finished ranked No. 5 in total yards (309.1/game) and passing yards (194.2/game) and No. 2 in points (15.0/game). Eight games into 2011, the Packers rank No. 30 in total yards (399.6), No. 31 in passing yards (299.6/game) and No. 17 in points (22.4).

Somewhere along the way, the Packers have managed to allow 90 yards and a touchdown more this season than the last.

What has caused this sharp decline?

Let’s take a look at some of the potential reasons:

Lack of pressure from front seven

Everything from a defensive standpoint begins up front with pressuring the quarterback, so let’s start here. In terms of sacks, the Packers have 19 in 2011, or roughly 2.4 a game. In 2010, the Packers had 47 total sacks in the regular season, or almost 2.94 a contest. That’s a drop off of almost half a sack a game. Measurable, but not an eye-popping number. To be perfectly honest, the sack statistic alone is the most overvalued and outdated stat we have on defensive pressure. You have to look deeper into the Packers ability to pressure the pocket to get a better idea.

The guys from Pro Football Focus can help shed some light on the situation. According to PFF, the Packers had 337 sacks, quarterback hits and quarterback pressures in 20 games (16.85/game) during the 2010 season. This season, the Packers have 124 (15.5/game). Again, there is a drop off of over one a game, but it’s not like the pressure from a per game standpoint has dropped off the face of the earth.

What about per passing play? The Packers played somewhere in the ball park of 800 total snaps in pass coverage in 20 games last season. With 337 “pressure plays” the Packers averaged one every 2.37 snaps. This season, the Packers defense has played somewhere near 370 total snaps in pass coverage. Average out the 124 pressures and we get one every 2.98 snaps. If you trust these stats, then the Packers have actually pressured the quarterback with a higher efficiency this season than the last.

28

October

Comparing Aaron Rodgers in 2011 to Other Great QB Seasons in History

Every positive hyperbole you could possibly think of has been used on Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and his performance level through seven games in 2011. While there is no doubt that he’s playing at a level above any quarterback in the NFL this season, where does Rodgers’ 2011 season rank historically?

We’ll start by showing you Rodgers’ current and projected 16-game stats, followed by breakdowns of other historically great quarterbacking seasons. You can make the call from there.

One last thing: You’ll notice that no season from earlier than 1994 is included. If we go back too far, say to Otto Graham or Sid Luckman, we lose the ability to compare and contrast stats on a worthwhile basis. So while there are other great seasons by quarterbacks not mentioned here, I picked the ones that can statistically stack up with this era of passing football.

AARON RODGERS 2011

Week Opponent Result Cmp Att Cmp% Yrd Avg TD INT Rating
1 Saints W 42-34 27 35 77.1 312 8.91 3 0 132.1
2 Panthers W 30-23 19 30 63.3 308 10.27 2 0 119.9
3 Bears W 27-17 28 38 73.7 297 7.82 3 1 111.4
4 Broncos W 49-23 29 38 76.3 408 10.74 4 1 134.5
5 Falcons W 25-14 26 39 66.7 396 10.15 2 0 117.0
6 Rams W 24-3 18 29 62.1 316 10.90 3 1 119.3
7 Vikings W 33-27 24 30 80.0 335 11.17 3 0 146.5
7-GM TOTALS 7-0 171 239 71.5 2372 9.92 20 3 125.7
END PROJECTIONS 16-0 390 546 71.5 5421 9.92 45 6 125.7

Quick notes: If Rodgers stays on his current pace, he would set new NFL records in yards (5,421), completion percentage (71.5) and passer rating (125.7). Rodgers would rank fourth in TDs (45), fifth in average yards per attempt (9.92).

The rest of the schedule is something to look at, too. The remaining teams and their pass defense on the Packers schedule: Chargers (3rd), Vikings (29th), Buccaneers (26th), Lions (9th), Giants (18th), Raiders (25th), Chiefs (17th), Bears (27th) and Lions (9th).

TOM BRADY 2007

Wk Opponent Result Cmp Att Cmp% Yrd Avg TD INT Rating
1 Jets W 38-14 22 28 78.6 297 10.61 3 0 146.6
24

October

Packers vs. Vikings: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 33-27 Win in Minnesota

Photo: Tom Lynn, Journal Sentinel

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was near perfect in throwing for 335 yards and three touchdowns, and his defense made just enough plays to keep Vikings rookie Christian Ponder from pulling off one of the more improbable upsets in the history of the rivalry as Green Bay beat Minnesota, 33-27, Sunday at the Metrodome.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Minnesota has their QB

The final stats (13-for-32, 219 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) were far from Rodgers-like, but it certainly looks like the Vikings have found themselves a young, franchise-type quarterback in Christian Ponder. Unlike most rookies making their first NFL start, Ponder kept his poise, made plays with his legs and converted 9-of-16 third downs.

His first touchdown throw was more a result of blown coverage from the Packers than an elite play from Ponder, but credit the Vikings for opening the playbook right out of the gates and catching the Packers sleeping. He made the throw rolling to his left and without his feet set. Ponder looked his best early on rolling out outside on bootlegs, but he made plenty of big throws from the pocket, including a 24-yard TD strike to Michael Jenkins that cut the Packers lead to just seven points with 7:49 left. He also had third down completions to Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe and Greg Camarillo that extended drives. The two interceptions he threw were rookie mistakes and directly contributed to Minnesota falling down 16 points. But the Vikings’ brass has to feel good about their decision to take Ponder with the 12th overall pick last April. At the very least, he gives the Vikings a chance to compete in a division that has three established starting quarterbacks.

2. Same story

“Adversity football” is a term that coach Mike McCarthy loves throwing around, but it was needed again Sunday. With just 1:02 gone from the first quarter clock, the Vikings had already taken a 7-0 lead and given their crowd something to be loud about.  The offense didn’t blink on its ensuing possession, as Rodgers hit six different receivers and led the Packers on a 9-play, 91-yard drive that tied the game. It was the kind of drive we’ve come to expect from the Packers offense no matter what the score or venue.

2

October

Packers vs. Broncos Preview: 5 Things to Watch

Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers (3-0) and Denver Broncos (1-2) face off in Week 4 of the NFL season Sunday.

The basics 

When: 3:15 CST, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI

TV: CBS, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms with the call

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network; Siruis Satellite Radio (Ch. 91)

Series: Packers lead, 6-5-1 (Packers won last regular season meeting, 19-13 (OT), on Oct. 29, 2007 at Denver.)

Five things to watch

A New House on the right side

With Bryan Bulaga on the sidelines this week recovering from an ankle and knee injury, second-year tackle Marshall Newhouse will make his first career NFL start. Remember, this is a guy who was inactive for every game he was healthy during his rookie year. But when Bulaga went down in Chicago, the Packers offense didn’t back off or change the gameplan. As we’ve seen so many times in the past two season, the beat simply went on for the Packers after an injury at an important position.

Still, you’d have to expect the Broncos to test Newhouse early and often, and they have the horses to do it. Aaron Rodgers compared Elvis Dumervil—who is still questionable for Sunday—to pass rushers like Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, and if Newhouse isn’t faced with him, then he’ll likely get rookie Von Miller. The Broncos’ No. 2 overall pick in April has impressed with his first step and natural pass rushing skills. Newhouse passed his first test last Sunday, but he gets a whole new challenge against the Broncos.

Rodgers vs. the blitz

Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has blitzed as much as any defensive coordinator in football through three games. That’s not surprising considering he came to Denver after serving three years under Gregg Williams in New Orleans as the secondary coach, but it’ll be interesting to see how Allen attacks the Packers offense. Williams went after Aaron Rodgers early in Week 1, and the Packers quarterback responded with three first quarter touchdown passes and a 158.3 rating after 15 minutes of football.

That isn’t surprising either, as Rodgers has been the best passer in the NFL against the blitz since taking over in 2008. He can recognize blitz looks in his pre-snap reads and will hit the hot appropriate hot read before the blitz gets home. Will Allen trust the stat sheet and tone down his blitzes? Or will he stick to what he’s shown through three weeks?

30

September

Know Your Packers Enemy: Breaking Down the Broncos vs. Packers with Sayre Bedinger From Mile High Report

In our second installment of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” we sat down with Sayre Bedinger of Mile High Report to breakdown the Green Bay Packers (3-0) upcoming contest with the Denver Broncos (1-2) in Week 4.

Here’s the Q&A:

ZACH KRUSE:  The Broncos returned both Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey to practice on Wednesday. Do you think they’ll play on Sunday? And how important are these two to what the Broncos want to do on defense?

SAYRE BEDINGER: I know that Elvis Dumervil is playing, he said as much at practice yesterday. Champ is a little more uncertain to me just because straining a hamstring can take up to a month and a half to fully heal from, but he’s one of the toughest players on the team and if he feels like he can contribute at a high level, there is no way he is missing this game. When they are on the field, the whole defense is a different looking unit, and to be honest, they help us match up much better with the Packers who are primarily a passing offense. They are both such dynamic playmakers and I would argue they are the two best players on the entire team.

ZK: What’s the confidence level in Kyle Orton in Denver? We all heard the chants for Tim Tebow in Week 1, but I think the rest of the NFL understands Tebow’s limitations. Is there a trust level with Orton still?

SB: I threw out a figure on my radio show last week that the amount of Broncos fans still confident in Kyle Orton has gone from about 50-50 to maybe 85% of people no longer believing he can play at a high enough level consistently. You mention that the league knows Tebow’s limitations–I highly disagree. I don’t think anyone knows his limitations because he hasn’t seen extended time on the field. Due to him being a relative unknown, the fans are willing to place an enormous amount of pressure on Kyle to be perfect because we know there is at least an alternative. At this point, a majority of Broncos fans have already moved on from Kyle Orton and simply believe the coaching staff is delaying the inevitable, waiting for the season to be lost to put Tebow on the field.

16

September

Know Your Packers Enemy: Breaking Down Packers vs. Panthers With James Dator

We’re kicking off our season-long series of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” where every week I will talk with a blogger from the Packers’ opponent of that respective week. We’ll breakdown each game from the view of the opponent’s blogger, who should be able to give us some valuable insight on the team they cover. And while Week 1 would have naturally seemed like the right time to start this series, you wouldn’t believe how hard it was to find a Saints blogger. Nonetheless, the Panthers in Week 2 will be our jumping off point. In our first edition, I talked with James Dator from Cat Scratch Reader, the Panthers blog on SB Nation.

Here is the exchange:

1. Zach’s Question: Cam Newton was going to be a talking point in this game even before his record-setting debut, but tell me a little bit about the excitement surrounding that performance in the Panthers fan base. I, for one, was completely blown away by some of the things he did against Arizona. How are fans reacting to Newton in Week 1 and leading into the Packers game?

James’ Answer: Fans are ecstatic, and the excitement is probably at dangerous levels right now. As a whole I think there are some unreasonable expectations for Cam this weekend, but he tends to rise to the occasion. You have to understand the Panthers have really never had a true franchise QB, and we’ve been in the league for 16 years now, so there’s definitely a cautious optimism that Newton could be ‘the one’.
2. Q: Staying with Cam, what impressed you the most about his debut? I couldn’t believe I was seeing the same guy who couldn’t complete 50 percent of his passes in the preseason. He was cool in the pocket and was absolutely fearless throwing the ball down the field. What’s your take?

A: What impressed me the most wasn’t the 422 yards, or the three total TDs he scored, but rather when they cut to him after the game his head was hanging low, a towel over it and he was upset at the loss. That alone told me more about Cam Newton than the gaudy stats. What we’ve seen is a misunderstood player; sure he wants to be an ‘icon’, but he also wants to win, and is as competitive as anyone on our football team. Seeing him unsatisfied showed that he puts team success over personal glory, and that’s great to see.