13

June

Packers Inside Linebackers: Now what?

Desmond Bishop, Green Bay Packers

Bye Bye Bishop?

While nothing has been officially announced yet, by many accounts Desmond Bishop’s days as a Green Bay Packer appear to be over.

Speculation is rampant as to whether it’s strictly a “numbers” decision or if the Packers don’t believe he’ll ever be the same after a very serious injury. Bishop claims to be 100%, but has not participated in the Packers OTAs or mini camp.

Whatever the real reason, the big question is, now what?

I’ve seen a lot of  fans asking, “are we supposed to be happy with AJ Hawk and Brad Jones as our starting linebackers?”

My answer to that is, you won’t have to be. What you are likely to see is a lot of situational substitutions at the ILB spots. The Packers have a cadre of linebackers with complimentary skills. Dom Capers’ task will be to pick the right player/scheme for the specific situation.

Also remember the experimentation you’re seeing with Mike Neil and Mike Daniels being used in more of a linebacker role. The Packers suddenly find themselves very deep on the defensive line, and I would not be surprised to see some brand new defensive packages with fewer linebackers and more DL & DBs in the game.

We really won’t know until they line up against San Francisco in the first game that really matters, but you can bet they will have some new looks for Colin Kaepernick.

In the meantime, let’s take a quick look at the ILBs on the Packers’ roster:

AJ Hawk:  Always the team player and good soldier, Hawk has lasted this long as  a starter thanks to his firm grasp of the defensive schemes, ability to make the right defensive calls and his own assignment assuredness. There is no argument he has not lived up to expectations as the fifth player taken in the 2006 NFL draft, but the packers have been using him wisely.

As pointed out in this interesting piece over at Acme Packing Company, the Packers started using Hawk differently in 2012. Firstly, he was in on only 67% of the defensive snaps, as compared to over 90% each of the two previous years. Secondly, he was in on a higher percentage of running plays, a lower percentage of pass plays, and a very low percentage of pass rush attempts.  Expect those trends to continue.

28

January

Talking Packers Linebackers: Present and Future?

Packers linebackersLet’s talk Linebackers, inside and outside. These positions in the 3-4 are what can make it a dominating defense or just another also ran. The roles of the ILB and OLB really quite different then any other scheme. The OLB’s are more like a right side DE in the 4-3 then the OLB in the 4-3. Playing both on the line and off, playing more of the 7 and or 9 spots along the defensive front. Both need to rush the passer and in the 3-4 coverage is a big part of the OLB’s duties.

Linebackers get a lot of discussion when it comes to the Packers. At the start of the season many comments were that the Packers were in good shape with there ILB’s. The comments on Hawk were from the biggest bust ever to a steady but not flashy starter, Bishop was gone and Smith would fill in just fine.

At OLB Perry needed to develop quickly for the OLB’s to be better then in 2011. Walden was liked by some and not liked so much by others. Moses got a lot of pre season hype, anyone else was a big question mark.

I have a some what radical view on the Packers linebackers, I am not a fan of Walden at all, he has some good games against weaker opponents but lacks so much at a starter he needs to be replaced. He cannot hold point against the run, he is a one trick pony in pass rush, if he can’t get around a OT he is done. He has no bull rush ability, and lacks inside moves or twists.

Moses to me is Walden in the different package. The only thing with Moses is we don’t know how much he can be developed, what will NFL level strength training and coaching do for him, so I put him as Walden’s replacement as a back up and situational player. Zombo has packed his bags and should not see them come back to Green Bay and I am a Zombo fan, I thought he just might develop nicely, but injuries put and end to that.

13

January

Packers Defensive Struggles Go Beyond Capers

Are Dom Capers’ days in Green Bay over?

Before you read further, I want to make one thing clear: This post is not a defense of Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. After the Packers got shredded for almost 600 yards on Saturday night, Capers cannot be defended.

Go ahead and call for Capers’ firing and criticize him all you want. He deserves it.

However, Green Bay’s problems on defense go much deeper than Capers. I don’t think there was any magical scheme that Capers could have come up with that would have stopped the 49ers from winning Saturday. San Francisco was bigger, stronger, faster and tougher than the Packers. It’s too simple to just pin that performance solely on the guy with weird hair who sits in a booth high above the field.

Look at the Packers’ linebackers. Brad Jones, Erik Walden and A.J. Hawk are no match for a team like the 49ers. An elite offensive line combined with an athletic quarterback, bruising running back, and talented tight ends? The 49ers had to be salivating all week while watching film and preparing to face that unfearsome trio.

The Packers are built to take a lead, then play aggressive defense that relies on blitzes and creating turnovers. They’re not the type of team that is able to stand toe-to-toe against physical teams and out-tough them. That’s extremely frustrating, but true.

I suppose Capers deserves some blame for his defense’s lack of toughness, but I’m not sure what he’s supposed to do to prevent Walden from losing contain over and over or Jones looking helpless trying to chase down Colin Kaepernick.

Again, Capers’ gameplan was pathetic on Saturday (no spy on Kaepernick?). There’s no excuse for it. He probably deserves to get canned.

But even if he gameplanned better, I’m not sure if the Packers could have pulled that one off. The 49ers are a better team, a tougher team. Regardless of who is calling the plays, the Packers are not a team that is able to line up and feel confident that they’re better physically than their opponent.

Getting Desmond Bishop, Nick Perry and D.J. Smith back should make the Packers defense tougher next season. Further development from Jerron McMillian should also help.

Go ahead and vent about Capers. He deserves it. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that some magic scheme could have shut the 49ers down on Saturday.

3

January

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 17 at Minnesota Vikings

So Packers vs. Vikings part II with a definite part III coming up.  Again, if there is any play in particular you would like to see my analyze, please leave comments below.  As for this week I’ve decided to take a look at one of the times where quarterback Christian Ponder was able to beat the Packers defense through the air.  My belief is that the Packers at best can only slow down Adrian Peterson, so it becomes paramount to stop Christian Ponder and the passing since the Packers have already proven that Adrian Peterson can destroy the Packers run defense and still lose the game.

The situation: The score is tied at 27 all with the Packers surging in the 2nd half with 12 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  The Vikings know they have to make a big move soon or be on the losing end of a scoring race to the finish line.  To their advantage is that Adrian Peterson has maintained his regular season form and is playing lights out, which makes the Packers very susceptible to play-action as every Packers defender is fixated on Peterson.

The formation: The Vikings come out in a 1-2-2 formation (1WR-2TE-2RB) with WR Jarius Wright being the lone Vikings outside the core of the formation split out wide left.  The Packers respond with their base 3-4 defense.  The defensive line consists of DE Ryan Pickett (79), NT BJ Raji (90) and DE CJ Wilson (98), all three appear to be tasked with taking up blockers so for all intents and purposes do not factor into the play (unless of course they were playing “jet” and attempting to rush the passer, which they all failed to do) The linebackers are composed of LOLB Erik Walden (93), ILB AJ Hawk (50), ILB Brad Jones (59) and ROLB Clay Matthews (52).  Finally in the secondary the two cornerbacks are CB Tramon Williams (38) and CB Sam Shields (37) while the safeties are FS Morgan Burnett (42) and SS Jeron McMillian (22).

 

Pre-Snap: The Vikings motion TE John Carlson (89) from the inline to the right tackle to slightly behind left tackle in a two point stance.  In response, FS Burnett rotates from centerfield to heads up with Carlson while SS McMillian rotates off the line of scrimmage and out into centerfield, in essence TE Carlson rotating causes FS Burnett and SS McMillian to switch positions and assignments.  The move also causes OLB Matthews to wide his pass rush as TE Carlson is now over his side and could either chip or double team him with the left tackle.

1

January

If the Packers Want to Stop Peterson, Defense Needs to Be Tougher

Tramon Williams

Packers CB Tramon Williams needs to step outside his comfort zone and tackle Adrian Peterson if the Packers want to win on Saturday night.

People usually think of toughness as some intangible trait, something that can’t be measured by an actual set of skills or statistics. People also use the word toughness as an adjective, a cliche to just throw out there when they really can’t explain why their favorite team can’t make a tackle, catch a pass or win a game.

I hate using words just to use words. Words mean things. And if you use a word, it better mean something.

If the Packers want to avoid another one-and-done in the postseason and beat the Vikings on Saturday, they need to get tougher on defense. Here’s what toughness means in the Packers’ case:

  • Doing things you’re not comfortable doing. This is for Tramon Williams. I know you’re not comfortable tackling. Maybe it’s your shoulder, maybe it’s something else. Either way, you need to get tougher and tackle. Packers fans applaud your toughness when you clamp down on Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall. That’s great. But you’re a No. 1 cornerback. Playing the other team’s top receiver is what you’re supposed to do. True toughness comes when you take on Peterson and bring him down before he reels off another big gain on your side. Teams win championships when players do things they’re not comfortable doing and do them well.
  • Owning your gap. The Packers looked very conscious of gap assignments against Peterson Sunday. They seemed to get the concept of maintaining gap responsibility, but had no idea what to do when Peterson came into their gap. If you beat your blocker, or at least fight him to a draw, standing in the gap flat-footed is not good enough against Peterson. You need to own your gap, not just hang out in it for a while. If Peterson comes into your gap — the gap you own! — you need to be in a position to make a play and bring him down. Standing flat-footed and reaching with your hands won’t do it. You also can’t wait for your teammates to come help you out. Peterson gets his big yards when he runs through your feeble attempt at a hand grab and cuts back to where your teammates used to be before they came to help you. Peterson runs aggressively. If you want to stop him, you have to at least match that aggressiveness.
26

October

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 7 at St. Louis Rams

Like Darren Sharper and Nick Collins, there are defensive backs coming out of college that just seem to get it and can contribute right away.  This year it’s rookie cornerback Casey Hayward, who actually is tied for the lead in interceptions with 4.

Hayward has been a very good slot cornerback behind Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Charles Woodson, but with Sam Shields out after being kicked in the shin against the Texans, Hayward was shifted out to the outside.  How would he respond in his first start and being left on a island?  Pretty good.  While fans will gush at his acrobatic interception, I would probably suggest that everyone take a step back; Hayward is solid cornerback, just not a playmaker…yet

The Situation: The score is 17-6 in favor of the Packers with 1:25 left in the 3rd quarter.  Needless to say things haven’t gone so well for the Rams in the 2nd half.  For the first 30 minutes of football, the Rams had managed to keep the game close by using a steady diet of ground control football with running backs Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson.

The Rams also managed to keep the ball out of Aaron Rodgers hands by controlling the clock and as a result the Rams had a significant advantage in the time of possession.  However, the 3rd quarter was all about the Packers, who not only managed to flip the time of possession in 1 quarter, but had managed to do it with a methodical passing game which included 3 passing first downs capped off by a touchdown.  Obviously the Rams are beginning to feel the pressure and need to answer back.  This is the first play after the kickoff.

 

The Formation: The rams come out in a 2-1-2 formation (2WR-1TE-2RB), one of the old school staples of any offense.  WR Brandon Gibson is aligned out wide to the top of the screen while WR Chris Givens is aligned out wide on the bottom of the screen.  TE Lance Kendricks is inline next to the left tackle while TE Matthew Mulligan is aligns like an offset fullback.  RB Steven Jackson rounds out the group by lining up 7 yards behind the scrimmage forming a standard offset I formation.  The look is very biased towards running and presumably the Rams hope to catch the Packers off guard with a play action pass and a shot down the field.

18

October

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 6 at Texans

I think it’s time to do a Hobbjective Analysis on a group that has always been overlooked: linemen.  I’m guilty of it myself; line play is very complicated and nuanced and I will be the first to admit that I don’t know very much about it; if you want to see what sort of technicians and athletes these guys truly are, I highly recommend you check out the “Word of Muth” column over at Football Outsiders (one of my favorite columns by the way).  Nevertheless, I personally think that while Aaron Rodgers throwing 6 touchdowns probably was a big factor as to why the Packers were able to clobber the Houston Texans, I think the defensive line deserves even more credit than Rodgers in winning the game for the Packers.

The Situation: It’s 11:44 in the second quarter with the Packers taking the early lead in with a 14-0 advantage.  Early in the game the Texans had curiously attempted to get their offense started with a pass-heavy strategy but ended up with quarterback Matt Schaub running for his life.  By the time the second quarter rolls around, it appears as if the Texans have abandoned this idea and go back to their bread and butter strategy of getting good down and distance situations with All-Pro RB Arian Foster, and setting up the play action pass with QB Matt Schaub and All-Pro WR Andre Johnson.

 

 

The formation: The Texans come out in a 2-1-2 formation (2WR-1TE-2RB) with WR Johnson aligned out wide to the left and WR Kevin Walter aligned in the slot to the right.  TE Owen Daniels lines up inline along side the right tackle while RB Foster is 7 yards directly behind QB Schaub with FB James Casey forming a offset I formation.  The Packers respond with their base 3-4 alignment.  The Packers come out with their standard linebacking core of ROLB Clay Matthews, ILB AJ Hawk, ILB DJ Smith and LOLB Erik Walden.  With NT BJ Raji out of the game due to an injury sustained versus the Colts, DE Ryan Pickett takes his place and lines up as the 0-technique (to the open side shoulder of the center), while DE CJ Wilson aligns to the right of Pickett and plays the 4-technique (between the guard and tackle), while DE Jerel Worthy aligns to Pickett’s left and plays the 3-technique (directly infront of the guard; I admit it’s rather hard to judge the defensive line’s alignment due to the camera angle, traditionally the NT plays the 0 technique while the DEs play the 5 technique).    I’ve excluded labeling the secondary as their are extraneous in this play, especially with SS Charles Woodson outside the box.