29

November

Packers News: Benson out for remainder of season

Packers RB Cedric Benson

Packers RB Cedric Benson

The Packers announced Thursday that running back Cedric Benson will remain on injured reserve for the rest of the 2012 season.

Just two days ago, there was speculation that Benson may be out for the rest of the season, and that suspicion became a reality today. Benson suffered a Lisfranc injury Oct. 7 in the first half against the Indianapolis Colts.

Benson underwent foot surgery on Wednesday.

Since he’s been out of the lineup, the Packers have relied on a combination of Alex Green and James Starks at running back. Green Bay currently ranks 23rd in the NFL running the football, averaging 100.7 yards per game.

The Packers currently have three running backs on the active roster–Green, Starks and second-year player Johnny White. Starting fullback John Kuhn is also capable of shouldering some of the load in short-yardage situations.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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29

November

Despite not Meeting Fan Expectations, These 2012 Packers are still damn good

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

The current Green Bay Packers are not ready for a Super Bowl run. In fact, the team that was just annihilated by the New York Giants last Sunday night would likely struggle to make the playoffs.

Decimated by injuries, the Packers have been forced to plug inexperienced young players into key roles and shuffle veterans into new positions. And yet, the show must go on.

Currently sitting at 7-4, every single one of the Packers’ preseason goals remains attainable. So why does it seem like the 2012 season has been a disappointment? Because the last two seasons, in their own way, have altered fans’ expectations.

Coming into 2012, the Packers’ aspirations were as lofty as any team in the NFL.

After all, the team went 15-1 in the regular season following their Super Bowl XLV victory. The reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers was on their side, along with an explosive set of wide receivers and one of the best coaching staffs in football.

So in 2012, the division was theirs to lose, a playoff berth was expected, and another trip to the Super Bowl was on the horizon.

But in week one, the Packers ran into a buzz saw from San Francisco. Playing at Lambeau Field in front of a revved-up fan base, the seemingly invincible Packers were beaten in every facet of the game. Some fans panicked, and their expectations changed.

Then, after a week two victory over the Chicago Bears, the Packers struggled mightily in Seattle against on Monday Night Football. The controversial ending is well-documented, but in reality, the offensive line allowed eight sacks and Rodgers failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time since Halloween of 2010.

Where was the explosive offense of 2011? The Packers were 1-2 through three games, and fans started reaching for the panic button.

The Packers barely beat the New Orleans Saints in week four, before traveling to Indianapolis. For the first time this season, the Colts took to the field without head coach Chuck Pagano, who had been diagnosed with leukemia. Green Bay rushed out to a 21-3 halftime lead, but the Colts didn’t panic.

Behind Reggie Wayne’s 13 catches and 212 yards, Indianapolis rallied to win the game. It was a great story for Colts fans, but a gut-wrenching loss for the Packers.

18

October

Pro Football Focus Grades: Packers rookies stepping up on defense

After finishing dead-last in total defense last season, the Packers put an emphasis on improving their defense last offseason.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson used the 28th overall pick on USC outside linebacker Nick Perry, before trading up twice in the second round to help bolster the Pack’s struggling defense. Thompson is stingy when it comes to parting with his draft picks, but as he put it after the draft, “I’m no longer my father’s son.”

In the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Packers traded up to No. 51 overall to select Michigan State defensive end Jerel Worthy. After losing Cullen Jenkins the previous offseason, Green Bay hoped to add a versatile pass rusher to its defensive line.

Seven picks later, the Packers, again, surprised everyone by moving up to select Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward with the No. 58 pick. The secondary struggled mightily in 2011, and given the fact that Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins would no longer play for the team, the Packers wanted to add a defensive back capable of playing from day one.

And so far, Hayward certainly looks the part.

Through six weeks of the 2012 NFL regular season, Pro Football Focus has Hayward graded out as the No. 2 cornerback in football. Not the No. 2 rookie cornerback in football. The No. 2 cornerback in football, just behind Vikings veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield.

The folks at Pro Football Focus take every single play from every single game, and put each player under the microscope.

So far, Hayward has played 173 snaps on the season. PFF has charged him with just nine completions allowed, and opposing quarterbacks targeting him have combined for a league-worst 18.4 QB rating.

In the Packers’ last two games, Hayward has three interceptions. Hayward’s first pick of the season came last week in Indianapolis when he was matched up one-on-one against Reggie Wayne. The Colts No. 1 receiver torched the Packers all game, but Hayward got the better of him on that play.

At a pivotal point in the game, Hayward matches Wayne step for step and makes a great play on the ball. Not only was it an impressive play, but it’s pretty telling that the Packers’ coaching staff trusts a rookie on a receiver who had been dominant all day.

13

October

Packers News: Van Roten promoted to active roster

Packers OL Greg Van Roten and DE Jerel Worthy

Packers OL Greg Van Roten and DE Jerel Worthy

After Cedric Benson was placed on the Injured Reserve list with a Lisfranc injury, the Packers had an open spot on their 53-man roster.

But instead of turning to the free agent market to add another runner, the Packers have promoted offensive lineman Greg Van Roten to the active roster. Van Roten, an undrafted rookie free agent from the University of Pennsylvania, gives the Packers eight offensive linemen on the active roster.

Van Roten will join fellow undrafted rookie Don Barclay and veteran Evan Dietrich-Smith as the team’s three reserve linemen. He was one of the Packers’ final cuts, before clearing waivers and ultimately being re-signed to the practice squad on Sept. 2.

Benson is eligible to come off the I.R. later this season but is expected to be out at least two months. Head coach Mike McCarthy said that Alex Green will get the first carry against the Houston Texans, but Green, James Starks and Brandon Saine would likely each see playing time.

Van Roten plays primarily guard, but Penn originally recruited him as a center. After switching to offensive tackle his freshman year, Van Roten finds himself as a reserve interior offensive linemen for the Packers.

The Packers prefer not to play “musical chairs” on the offensive line, but they certainly value position flexibility from their backups. Dietrich-Smith has value as a reserve center and offensive guard, while Barclay can play both the tackle and guard positions.

At just over 300 pounds, Van Roten could be developed as the Packers’ center of the future once Jeff Saturday calls it a career.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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10

October

Packers News: Nick Perry fined $15k for hit on Luck

Nick Perry hits Andrew Luck in the chest, gets flagged and fined

Nick Perry hits Andrew Luck in the chest, gets fined

In the latest edition of players getting fined for playing football, Packers linebacker Nick Perry was fined $15,000 for his hit on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck this past Sunday.

According to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Perry plans to appeal the fine.

On the play, the official referred to Luck as a “defenseless player,” which is usually a term reserved for a receiver attempting to make a catch with no way of shielding himself from an coming collision. Luck, however, was standing in the pocket with five competent offensive linemen in front of him.

So in essence, labeling Luck a “defenseless player” is perhaps the biggest slight one could possibly give to an offensive line. Watch the play again, and see exactly what Perry was flagged, and fined, for.

Luck clearly didn’t see the Perry coming, and as a result, he was smacked by a 270-pound freight train. Perry does something that players nowadays are taught not to do, which is leading with the helmet. However, Perry hit Luck directly in the acceptable, yet constantly shrinking region to hit quarterbacks–square in the chest. The ball popped lose, and Packers linebacker D.J. Smith recovered.

The nine-yard sack was Perry’s second of the season, but a 15-yard penalty negated the turnover altogether. But if there’s a bright side to the story, it’s that Perry finally flashed his massive potential.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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9

October

Packers at 2-3: Looking ahead at the rest of the season

Rodgers and the offense have time to right their wrongs.

Rodgers and the offense have time to right their wrongs.

Looking at the schedule before the season, I thought the Packers would be 5-0 at this point. Instead, the team sits at 2-3 with a tough matchup next week against the undefeated Houston Texans.

Through five games, the offense has yet to score 30 points in a single game, while the defense has been up-and-mostly down. Sure, there have been some bright spots, but the outlook for the rest of the season looks cloudy at 2-3.

And immediately following the Packers’ unexpected loss to the Colts on Sunday, much of Packer Nation reached for the panic button. There’s certainly reason for frustration after blowing a 21-3 halftime lead, but the Packers have time to right their wrongs.

The season is still young, Packers fans. Back off that cliff, don’t jump just yet.

1) There were plenty of positives from the first half vs. Indianapolis.

It’s a distant memory after an atrocious performance in the second half, but the Packers’ first half against the Colts was their best 30 minutes of football of the season. Overall, the team looked a lot like the 2011 team that went 15-1.

Aaron Rodgers was sharp, the receivers (for the most part) caught the ball, and the defense held the Colts to just three points.

The offense consistently sliced through the Colts defense, with John Kuhn, James Jones and Randall Cobb each finding the endzone. And defensive end Mike Neal made his presence felt early, sacking Andrew Luck in his return from a four-game suspension.

Watch the first 30 minutes of the game, and your stance on the current state of the Packers will be pretty optimistic. Just make sure you don’t watch the second half.

2) An (unexpected) win next week at Houston would mask this loss.

Before the season, I predicted the Packers to go 13-3. One of the three games I predicted them to lose was week six at Houston. The Texans boast one of the strongest defenses in the NFL, as well as perhaps the most balanced offense in football.

Surely, the Texans will be favored next week on Sunday Night. But if the Packers are able to pull off the upset, it could very well be the turning point of the season.

4

October

Packers defense: Where will it go from here?

CB Tramon Williams and S Morgan Burnett fight for an interception against the Saints

CB Tramon Williams and S Morgan Burnett fight for an interception against the Saints

Through three games, the Packers defense looked good. Not great, but good.

This past Sunday, however, was a different story. Saints quarterback Drew Brees carved up the Green Bay defense for 446 yards and three touchdowns. For Brees, it was like stealing candy from a sleeping baby.

Just six days earlier, the Packers gave up only 130 passing yards–106, if not for a certain 24-yard play to end the game. But Sunday’s soft defense brought back some painful memories from last season, when the Packers’ leaky pass defense was continually bailed out by its unstoppable offense.

So, why did the defense look so much worse this week?

Well, for one, Brees is really, really good.

But also, Capers tends to err on the side of caution in regards to his play-calling, rushing only three and dropping eight into coverage, especially against top-tier quarterbacks like Brees. And again on Sunday, his “bend-but-don’t-break” philosophy hurt the team.

In a matter of four plays on Sunday, the Packers pushed the Saints backwards on 1st and 2nd down, but then allowed New Orleans to convert a 3rd-and-17, and a 3rd-and-14. The Packers failed to put any pressure on Brees, allowing him to sit back in the pocket and step up to make timely throws to his receivers.

The extra men in coverage were no problem for Brees, given the fact that he is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the game. As long as he has time, he can put the ball wherever he wants.

Let’s take a look at the 3rd-and-17 conversion to Marques Colston.

Now, let’s examine the Saints’ 3rd-and-14 conversion on the same drive.

New Orleans was only able to muster up a 27-yard field goal on the drive, giving the Saints a 27-21 lead over the Packers. But for the defense, getting off the field on 3rd down is the name of the game.

And clearly, Sunday’s strategy of rushing three and dropping eight wasn’t working.

Sure, the Saints have a lot of weapons on offense, so it’s understandable that Capers would try not to get burned by the blitz. But will this “soft defense” continue to plague the Packers throughout 2012? It very well could.