10

January

How the Packers Should NOT Guard Randy Moss on Saturday

Randy Moss

There’s no reason to treat 2013 Randy Moss like 1998 Randy Moss

When the Packers play the 49ers on Saturday night in the NFC divisional playoffs, they need to remember that it’s 2013, not 1998, and treat Randy Moss accordingly.

Here’s video from the Packers vs. 49ers from week one. That’s Moss at the top of the screen. That’s Jarrett Bush lined up across from Moss, waaaaaaaayyyyyyy across from Moss.

In 1998, Moss’s rookie season — the season where he torched the Packers and altered Green Bay’s future draft strategies — Bush was 14 years old. He very likely has little or no memory of Moss’s dominance over the Packers from 1998, but you would never know that based on how Bush treats Moss on this play.

Bush lines up 10 yards off the now 35-year-old Moss, and starts back-pedaling as soon as the ball is snapped. It’s like Bush thought Moss must have taken a bath in the fountain of youth before the game.

Alex Smith connects with Moss for an easy 20-yard gain.

I know it’s Jarrett Bush, the same Jarrett Bush who will not be playing any coverage (hopefully) on Saturday night. But I don’t care who it is: There’s no reason to be scared of 2013 Randy Moss. Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Sam Shields. Hell, even Charles Woodson if it comes to that. Regardless of who guards Moss, they need to get on him and not worry about getting beat over the top. No 10-yard cushions and immediate back-pedaling.

Moss is old. He’s still serviceable, but he’s no longer scary. There is no reason to poop your pants when matched one-on-one with Moss.

Dom Capers has said before that he gives his corners the option of playing press or playing off whomever they’re guarding. There’s a chance that the Packers’ corners are still buying the myth of Moss as a big, bad, scary deep threat, and don’t want to be embarrassed by getting torched deep on national TV.

That is nonsense, and Capers needs to make sure his corners know that this week. If any of them talks about giving Moss a big cushion, Capers needs to hit the offender with a stick.

I don’t expect Moss to be a major factor on Saturday. Hopefully the Packers don’t turn him into a factor by being scared of him.

15

November

Around the NFC North in Week 11

Around the NFC North

Around the NFC North in week 11

Week 11 brings about some intriguing plotlines around the NFC North.  The Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers both lost their starting quarterbacks for portions of this past Sunday’s game.  The Green Bay Packers finally see a divisional opponent in old foe the Detroit Lions.  The Minnesota Vikings have their bye this week after beating the Lions to complete the sweep in that series.  Here is a breakdown of the two matchups in the Black & Blue division this week.

Chicago Bears (7-2) at San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1)

The storyline in this Monday Night Football contest is that in this past week’s game, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler were both knocked out with a concussion.  Each missed the entire second half of their game.  Both Smith and Cutler will go through the league-mandated concussion protocol and need to be cleared before resuming football activities.

As of Wednesday, it was being reported that Smith was cleared to resume play and is expected to start on Sunday.  If Smith can’t go for some reason, he would be replaced by Colin Kaepernick.  The Bears have not yet commented on their expectations for Cutler’s status this week.  Cutler’s backup is Jason Campbell.  In such a crucial matchup, this is a situation to monitor as the week goes on.

Before last Sunday’s game (and besides mop up duty), Campbell had appeared for just one snap in an October 22nd game against the Detroit Lions.  Cutler was viciously taken down by Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh and came out for just one play before returning.

The San Francisco 49ers were involved in the first tie game since the 2008 season as they locked up with division rival St. Louis Rams.  Tie games are always interesting when it comes to the standings and San Francisco is currently behind both the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears in the NFC.

San Francisco’s strength is their defense and superior play that they are getting from their front seven.  Pro Bowler Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman lead one of the most disruptive linebacking units in the NFL along with defensive linemen Justin Smith and Aldon Smith.  It was Aldon Smith’s sack late in the overtime period that kept the Rams out of field goal range and drained valuable clock.

10

September

Packers Loss to 49ers Similar to Early Defeats in 2010

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were chased up and down the field by the 49ers on Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers were outplayed, outhustled and outcoached in their loss to the 49ers on Sunday. Other than that, the Packers looked pretty good.

The game reminded me of how the Packers played in the first part of the 2010 season. If you can remember back that far, the Packers lost three of four from week three through six, and got outplayed, outhustled and outcoached in each one. Nonetheless, each game was close.

  • The Bears beat the Packers 20-17 in week three, forcing a late James Jones fumble and taking advantage of 18 penalties on the Packers.
  • After the Packers beat Detroit in week four, they lost an ugly 16-13 game to the Redskins the following week. Aaron Rodgers threw an interception in overtime and the Packers were penalized nine times.
  • The Packers allowed 150 rushing yards, Rodgers was sacked five times, and the Packers lost 23-20 in overtime to the Miami Dolphins in week five.

It was a stretch of games where the Packers always looked a step behind. Green Bay’s raw talent was obvious, but something was missing.

That’s what it felt like during Sunday’s loss to San Francisco.

Outplayed: 49ers linebacker Navarro Bowman had nine solo tackles and a huge fourth quarter interception to set up San Francisco’s last touchdown. Bownman won his one-on-one matchups more often than he lost them, and he made a big play when it was called for. Other 49ers to do the same included Frank Gore, Alex Smith, Aldon Smith, Vernon Davis, Randy Moss and David Akers. The list of Packers to consistently do the jobs they were assigned and mix in a big play or two was significantly shorter.

Outhustled: Morgan Burnett should be forced to stand outside Green Bay city hall and hold up a giant sign that says “I’m sorry” after the pathetic effort he showed on Gore’s touchdown run. We hear a lot of talk about the Packers focus on fixing their tackling this offseason. It looks like they still have a lot of work to do, especially in the effort department.

6

September

2012 NFL Regular Season Week 1: Packers – 49ers Preview

Clay Matthews Alex Smith

This is our first chance to see if the Packers pass rush is truly improved.

It’s here. Finally, it’s here.

The draft? Done.  Training camp? Finished.  Preseason? Completed.

The dress rehearsals are done and the games that count are upon us.  The curtain on the 2012 NFL season has been raised and the march to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans begins in earnest this weekend.

The Green Bay Packers kick off their 2012 campaign Sunday at Lambeau Field against the San Francisco 49ers.  Many thought when last season’s playoffs began that this would be the NFC Championship Game, but thanks to the New York Giants the Packers’ season ended prematurely.

The regular season opener is the first big test to see if the Packers have fixed their defense, the Achilles heel that doomed their run at a second straight Super Bowl title a year ago.  It’s also a chance for reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers to begin to make his case for a second straight award and that the Packers offense is still as lethal as ever.

How do the Packers stack up against 49ers? Let’s first take a look at their opponent

Scouting the 49ers

Last year, the Packers faced one of the top offenses in the league during their season opener in the New Orleans Saints.  This year, they face one of the best defenses in the 49ers.

When you talk about the 49ers’ defense, you start with linebacker Patrick Willis.  Willis anchors a linebacker group that is one of the best in the NFL against the run. He was an All-Pro selection along with NaVorrow Bowman and helped the 49ers allow only 77.3 rushing yards per gain.  With defensive end Justin Smith leading the group up front, the 49ers figure to again have a very stout rush defense.

A strong defense allows the 49ers to make their opponents one dimensional which in turn allows their secondary to go on the hunt for interceptions.  San Francisco finished 16th in pass defense last season despite decent years by safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Carlos Rogers whom both were selected to the Pro Bowl.

Despite coach Jim Harbaugh’s background, the offense remains the weak link for the 49ers.  Alex Smith was re-signed by the team only after a secret attempt to sign Peyton Manning became public.  The 49ers still don’t quite know what they have in Smith despite having a career season in 2011 and nearly leading the team to the Super Bowl.

10

September

Packers Transactions: The Graham Harrell Story

As a staff writer at AllGreenBayPackers.com, I did my own 53 man roster prediction and as I said at the beginning of that article, I am wondering what the hell I was thinking now.

I thought Chastin West and Tori Gurley had too good of a preseason and one of them would make it onto the team as the 6th wide receiver; neither made the team (but both were signed to the practice squad).  I thought Caleb Schlauderaff would make the team based on his draft status and the lack of depth of the interior offensive line; he was traded to the Jets, but not before being informed that he was going to get cut anyways. Finally I thought Graham Harrell would definitely make the team.

With West, Gurley, Schlauderaff, I wasn’t all that surprised that thing hadn’t turned out the way I predicted; but with Harrell it just didn’t make any sense.  Harrell was supposed to be the insurance policy for an Aaron Rodgers concussion and a Matt Flynn trade.  He had a memorable win against the Colts in week 3 of the preseason and had a good enough training camp that many (including myself) assumed he was good enough to be a backup with the majority of teams.

So when Graham Harrell was first cut by the Packers, then cleared waivers and then re-signed to their practice squad, I met each event with a little disbelief.  How could someone who looked so good at football’s toughest position in the preseason not only get cut, but also not even get claimed?  I would look at the San Francisco 49ers depth chart and wonder, how could Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick be so bad during the preseason and still be on the team, but why no love for Graham Harrell?  What had happened?

My only conclusion was that every other fan, the media and myself had got overzealous.  During the Ted Thompson era, we’ve come to expect a ridiculous amount of depth at all positions.  One prime example was that last year 5 players, an inordinate amount, were signed to 53 man rosters after getting cut by the Packers. (ironically this year no players were claimed by other teams after being cut by the Packers)  Fans and the media a like love to tell stories of how unheralded backups up stepped up and helped win Super Bowl XLV.  But really, in the free agency era, it simply isn’t possible to stockpile good players; there simply isn’t enough money.

20

May

Aaron Rodgers and The Legend of Brett Favre

While writing my last article on the Packers Draft Strategy I argued that the reason for the huge difference in the drafting strategy and fortunes of the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers started exactly on April 23rd, 2005 at 12PM EST when the 2005 NFL draft officially opened “with the first overall pick, the San Francisco 49ers select: Alex Smith, quarterback, University of Utah”.

I thought about that for a while and decided that I couldn’t just blame the last 5 years of 49ers futility solely on Alex Smith.  To his credit I think he has managed to be a pretty decent quarterback when you factor in that he’s had a different offensive coordinator every season and had to deal with a carousel of playbooks and offensive philosophies.  Add in a fan base that decidedly doesn’t love him and a team that doesn’t really support him (how can you support any quarterback after he’s been benched and then thrown back in countless times?) That amount of discourse is bound to drag down even the best quarterback.  There had to be something else that factored into it.

Obviously the 2004 49ers were a mess, having the 1st overall pick in the draft is evidence enough, but in reality the Packers probably overachieved in 2004.   The 2004 squad was filled with aging stars with heavy contracts and a disastrous 2004 draft only made matters worse where the former GM Mike Sherman probably reached for cornerback Ahmad Caroll in the 1st round (who was cut 2 years later) and definitely reached for punter B.J. Sanders in the 3rd (lasted only 1 season).  In 2005, the Packers fell drastically to 4-12, their worst record since 1991.  2005 also marked the first year of Ted Thompson’s salary cap /youth movement rebuilding project, with popular but highly paid players like Mike Wahle, Marco Riveria and Darren Sharper leaving the team.

So both teams really were in somewhat of a mess, with only the Packers’ record masking many of the issues.  But in terms of raw talent and ability, in 2005 there wasn’t much of a difference between Smith and Rodgers; many predicted that either one could go as the 1st overall pick and the other wasn’t likely to last much longer.  So what was the difference between the development of Smith and Rodgers?

 

In two words: Brett Favre.