12

October

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 5 at Colts

If you’ve ever listened to the Green and Gold Today Podcast, I’m sure you’ve heard co-host Bill Johnson complain about the “soft underbelly of the defense”, by which he is referring to the fact that the Packers defense always seems to give up yardage in the middle of the field.  This “soft underbelly” was supposed to be fixed from last year but in the last two games, every time the Saints or Colts offense needed a big gain (often on 3rd and long) it seemed like all they had to do was throw the ball in the general direction of the middle field and one receiver would catch the ball without much trouble.  Marques Colston lit it up with 153 yards and a touchdown in week 4 and Reggie Wayne come out of last weeks game with 212 yards and a touchdown, which is especially disconcerting since the majority of those yards came in large chunks and in the middle of the field.  So what exactly is going on with the Packers defense and why are they giving up so many yards up the middle?

The situation: It’s the beginning of the 4th quarter and the Packers hold a 2 point advantage at 21-19.  The Packers were just forced to punt the ball and punter Tim Masthay pins the Colts at their own 15 yard line.  While the Packers appeared to have the game in the bag with a strong showing in the first half, the tide of success has definitely turned to the Colts as the Packers appear to have a lapse of concentration and accomplish nothing in the 3rd quarter.

28

September

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 3 at Seachickens

I’m not going to detail the “innacurate reception” as I’m sure that’s been done to death and frankly I’m tired of seeing it, so I’m going to be analyzing another play that popped out to me.  Overall, there’s nothing special going on on either side of the ball, the Seahawks are playing a vanilla formation and the Packers counter with a vanilla formation.  No crazy pre-snap motions, no crazy hand-offs or reverses, no psycho package or amoeba defenses or exotic blitz packages.  So what’s so surprising?  AJ Hawk makes the play.

The situation: It’s still the 1st quarter with the score still tied at 0 a piece.  The Seattle Seahawks have been playing a very conservative game plan by establishing a solid running game with running back Marshawn Lynch and trying to keep quarterback in 3rd and short passing situations.  Unfortunately, the Packers defense is also well aware of the Seahawks game plan and has done a remarkably good job holding Lynch in place.  This play occurs on 2nd and 8, after Lynch rushes for a 2-yard gain.

The formation: The Seahawks line up in a 1-3-1 set (1WR-3TE-1RB) with WR Golden Tate (I believe) out wide left (he’s outside the screen cap), Tight ends Zach Miller, Ben Obomanu and Anthony McCoy are lined up inline of the right tackle with RB Lynch aligned about 5 yards behind the center.  The Packers respond with their nickel package with NT BJ Raji (90) and DE Jerel Worthy (99) being the only two down linemen, the standard 4 linebackers of OLB Clay Matthews (52), ILB AJ Hawk (50), ILB DJ Smith (51) and OLB Erik Walden (93) with the secondary being composed of CB Sam Shields (37, also outside the screen cap), CB Tramon Williams (38), CB Charles Woodson (21, playing the nickel cornerback position), SS Jeron McMillian (22) and FS Morgan Burnett (43).

Pre-snap: The Seahawks motion TE Miller (86) to inline to the left tackle, and is followed by CB Woodson.

Snap: Wilson and Lynch perform perhaps the poorest play action pass ever seen in the NFL (seriously, Lynch doesn’t even bother to come up to Wilson and immediately runs a flare route, leaving Wilson “handing off” the ball with no one within 2 yards of him).  I’ve labeled the defensive assignments by color: red arrows indicate pass rush, blue arrows indicate man coverage and green arrows indicate zone coverage.

27

September

Packers Stock Report: Recovering From the Fail Mary Edition

Clay Matthews

Packers OLB Clay Matthews tops the list of Packers on the rising

My inbox has been overflowing with emails asking where the Packers Stock Report has gone.

It hasn’t gone anywhere. Its creator has just forgotten to do one through the first two weeks of the season. Its creator is also lying about his inbox overflowing with queries about the Packers Stock Report. I’ve gotten the same number of inquiries about it as the New Orleans Saints have wins.

So, back by not-so-popular demand, here is your Week 3 Packers Stock Report:

Rising

Clay Matthews
Even though he didn’t get a sack on Monday night, he was still creating havok on pass rushes and collapsed to the middle of the line on running plays. Matthews has been impossible to stop through three games. He’s the type of player that other offenses have to build gameplans around and a big reason why the Packers secondary has shown improvement.

A.J. Hawk
Wha wha what?!?! Yes, Hawk has stepped his game up in the absence of Desmond Bishop. He hasn’t magically morphed into Ray Lewis or Brian Urlacher in their primes, but that’s beside the point. The Packers need A.J. Hawk to be the A.J. Hawk of late 2010: Assignment-sure, tackle the ballcarrier if he’s in your area, and every now and then blast a RB for a loss. According to Pro Football Focus, Hawk has 18 tackles, nine of which have resulted in an offensive failure. Hawk had six tackles and four offensive failure stops through three games last season.

Jerron McMillian
Rookie Jerron McMillian has not allowed a catch this season. The only other safety to play as many snaps as McMillian and not allow a catch is Adrian Wilson with the Cardinals. The kid from Maine has registered a positive Pro Football Focus rating in every game and should have had the game-clinching interception Monday, but had it wiped out by a phantom roughing the passer call. I thought McMillian was more of a run-stopping safety, but so far he’s been great against the pass as well. Let’s see if it keeps up.

Steady

Cedric Benson
Benson has been about all the Packers could hope for. He’s not an elite back by any means, but he does enough to keep the defense honest on the rare occasions that Mike McCarthy decides to run the ball. He’s also proven to be a decent check-down option for Aaron Rodgers. Fumbling remains my concern with Benson. His fumble late against the Seahawks was one of those leap-off-your-couch-and-start-screaming “NO! NO! NO!” type of moments.

22

September

Packers Video: Green Bay Packers in TV Commercials

Seems the Aaron Rodgers State farm Commercials got the ball rolling and now we’re seeing more and more commercials featuring Packers players. Here’s a collection of recent ones:

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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2

July

Packers Starters Most Likely to Lose Their Spots

Most of the offseason chatter about Packers starters getting benched has centered on A.J. Hawk being replaced by D.J. Smith. That very well might happen, but what about other starters that could find themselves on the bench once the season starts?

Erik Walden
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Walden totaled just three sacks, 14 QB hits and 22 QB hurries in 15 starts. From week 12 through the playoff loss, Walden had zero sacks, four hits and six hurries (he also got arrested). His (-20.5) overall rating by PFF was the worst among 3-4 OLBs by almost 10 points.

Packers fans don’t need fancy stats and analytics to know that Walden was bad. If he was simply average, and provided at least a little pressure on the QB down the stretch, who knows how last season might have ended? Rookie Nick Perry likely will take over here.

Jarius Wynn/C.J. Wilson
These two combined to start six games, so it’s a stretch to call them starters. Howard Green also started five times, so we’ll consider Wynn/Wilson/Green a sort of three-headed monster that started most games somewhere on the defensive line. With Green gone, there’s only two heads of the monster left, and I’m not sure that either head will start this season.

Wilson seems like a good athlete, which gives me some hope that he could eventually turn into a serviceable player. A permanent starter? The jury is out.

The Packers need more defensive lineman that cause chaos. It’s a common misconception that the only role of a 3-4 defensive lineman is to “occupy blockers.” That’s true to a point, but the lineman needs to do something that actually occupies the blocker. Simply being a large body with a pulse that walks upright isn’t enough.

Jerel Worthy caused chaos at Michigan St. He occupied blockers, and he also beat the hell out of the blockers he occupied. If he can do that in the NFL, he’ll be starting over Wilson and Wynn in no time.

Marshall Newhouse
Thanks to Chad Clifton’s injury, Newhouse started 13 games at left tackle. He’s got the inside track to begin as the starter this season unless Derek Sherrod recovers from his leg injury and plays out of his mind in training camp. I don’t see Newhouse losing his spot.

1

July

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sunday with no Packers football.

Surviving Sunday with no Packers Football

It’s already July, but football and the Packers first game still feels like it’s a long ways away. Good thing it’s never too early to talk some fantasy football.

Here are my way-too-early top five at each position, along with a darkhorse candidate and some random thoughts.

QB
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Tom Brady
3. Drew Brees
4. Matthew Stafford
5. Michael Vick

Darkhorse: Jay Cutler

Drafting a running back early in your fantasy draft is so 2006. I’ll take Rodgers, Brady or Brees over any running back. High-end, modern-day QBs put up ridiculously good fantasy numbers, and, most importantly, they’re consistent. Thanks to injuries, you can’t make the consistency argument for Stafford or Vick, but man, it’s going to be hard to pass those guys up for a running back if either remains on the board.

RB
1. Arian Foster
2. Ray Rice
3. Maurice Jones-Drew
4. Chris Johnson
5. Lesean McCoy

Darkhorse: Roy Helu

Running backs are a lot like closers in fantasy baseball. You can usually find good value at the end of the draft or on the waiver wire during the season. That said, it’s so hard to pass them up early in the draft. If you guess right, and pick a RB that remains healthy and gets plenty of carries near the goal line, you’re set. Picking a running back with your first selection used to be a no-brainer. Thanks the rise of the quarterback, running backs are no longer the safest bet.

WR
1. Calvin Johnson
2. Larry Fitzgerald
3. Andre Johnson
4. A.J. Green
5. Greg Jennings

Darkhorse: Demaryius Thomas

The deepest position group in fantasy football, and it’s not even close. There’s no reliable way to project touchdowns, but I tend to stick with bigger WRs who are capable of going up in traffic in the end zone and making the catch. My top five, maybe with the exception of Jennings, fits that mold.

TE
1. Jimmy Graham
2. Rob Gronkowski
3. Jason Witten
4. Jermichael Finley
5. Antonio Gates

Darkhorse: Brandon Pettigrew

Yes, I have Graham over Gronk. Graham was targeted about 25 percent more than Gronk last season. The Saints also have fewer weapons than the Patriots, which makes me think Graham will again be targeted more than Gronk in 2012. Also, Gronk has to regress a little bit, at least in the touchdown category, right?

14

May

Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks Part II

NFL Draft Logo Image

2012 NFL Draft

So here is part II of the reasons behind the draft picks (see part I here)  Again, I’m not assigning grades to the draft or to the players because I don’t believe you can tell whether or not a player will pan out within the first 30 something days.  What I am interested in is what the Packers were thinking of when they decided to draft a player; with that in mind, this is what I think the Packers want to accomplish with each draft pick and which player each rookie could be potentially be replacing.

Jeron McMillian – Projected Strong Safety – Round 4, Pick #38 (#133 overall) – Replaces Pat Lee

Rationale: First off let’s be honest here, I don’t think we have the next Nick Collins in McMillian; I was actually very surprised that McMillian was drafted at all by the Packers simply because he doesn’t fit into the mold of what the Packers look for in safeties.  The Packers are probably more interested in playing two free safeties (which there really wasn’t one this year in the draft), consider their preferred pairing of Collins and Morgan Burnett (who ironically never really played together): both have good ball skills and the ability to jump passing routes.  What McMillian does best is run support, which is almost the exact opposite of a ball hawk.   Then again even if McMillian is the next Collins I highly doubt that the Packers can afford to stick him out there in his first year, which is even more reason why I think Woodson will have to make the move to safety.

What McMillian can do, and almost immediately, is play on special teams.  One of the less covered bits of news in the offseason was that cornerback Pat Lee was not resigned by the Packers but was curiously signed by the Oakland Raiders; many assumed this was just because of new Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie’s background knowledge of Lee, but I think its apparent that Lee is always going to be a liability in coverage so more realistically McKenzie wanted his special teams ability.  Lee actually was the gunner opposite of Jarrett Bush and it’s an important position, just look at who was the Packers priority signing this offseason (and it wasn’t Matt Flynn).  My assumption is that the Packers are hoping that McMillian contributes immediately to special teams as a gunner while refining his coverage technique and perhaps becomes a starter on the defense in the future, but anything more than special teams ace in his first couple of years is probably wishful thinking.