27

November

Giants Didn’t Expose Any New Packers’ Weaknesses

Jermichael Finley

It’d be nice if Packers TE Jermichael Finley would get going and help the Packers crack the code of cover-2 defenses.

Now that you’ve had some time to digest the Packers losing to the Giants, ask yourself this:

Is your opinion of the Packers now any different than your opinion before the embarrassment against the Giants?

Mine isn’t. Here’s why:

  • We already knew the offensive line was a weakness. Take a super-talented front four and put it against a mediocre offensive line adjusting to injuries and what happened Sunday night isn’t terribly surprising.
  • We already knew the pass rush would struggle without Clay Matthews. Did we really expect another five sacks from this defense without its best pass rusher?
  • We already knew the Packers struggle against a cover-2. This one baffles me. Yes, running the ball beats a cover-2, and the Packers can’t run the ball, but it’s not like the cover-2 is some new revolutionary defense that came out of nowhere and was developed just to beat the Packers. They should be able to figure out some way to beat it by now, even if they struggle to run.
  • We already knew Mason Crosby would likely miss if asked to kick a long field goal. He was asked to kick a 55-yarder, and missed.
  • We already knew if Aaron Rodgers isn’t good to great, the Packers likely will lose. Thanks to bad blocking, an excellent Giants’ defense, weird playcalling, and some of Rodgers’ own struggles, he wasn’t good or great on Sunday and the Packers lost.

So there you have it. That’s a depressing list. But those same weaknesses have been there most of the season. It’s not like the Giants exposed a bunch of new flaws and areas where the Packers are weak. These are all things we already knew the Packers would have to overcome in order to be successful.

The Packers have manged to go 7-4 (with a five-game win streak mixed in) despite these flaws. Pretty much every other contending team has a list of flaws similar in length to the Packers’ list.

There are no perfect teams. Every now and then, a near-perfect team comes along. I don’t see any near-perfect teams in the league this season, either.

Let’s address each of the Packers flaws and see how it might impact the rest of the season.

12

November

Packers Midseason Grades: Offense

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers has the Packers 6-3 this season.

With nine games under their belt, the Packers are technically beyond the midseason, but that’s just a technicality.

There’s no Packers game to review this week, so now is as good a time as any to grade what’s happened so far.  The offense is up first. The defense and special teams will be up later this week.

Quarterbacks: A-
Aaron Rodgers does things no other quarterback in the NFL can do. All the injuries the Packers have suffered are frustrating, but as long as Rodgers is on the field, the Packers have a chance. I enjoyed reading the comments made by several of the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive players after the Packers beat them last week. They were being asked about Randall Cobb, James Jones, the Tom Crabtree catch, and a bunch of other stuff, but they kept coming back to Rodgers and how great he is. Meanwhile, in another room down the hall, Rodgers was talking about how poorly he played.

I suppose I could be as harsh on Rodgers as he is on himself and knock his grade down to a ‘B’ if I really wanted to. I could point to the reduction in explosive plays, holding the ball too long, and the fact that the Packers are averaging about three yards fewer per completion than last season.

Those are all valid criticisms, but it’s not enough to knock Rodgers’ grade down, in my view. The guy has racked up almost 2,400 yards to go along with 25 touchdowns and only five interceptions without his No. 1 receiver, a shaky offensive line, and a receiving corp that drops too many passes.

Honestly, I was going to give the Packers quarterbacks an ‘A,’ but I knocked it to an ‘A-’ because of Graham Harrell’s goal line fumble against the Saints.

Running Backs: D+
Not every son or daughter gets straight ‘A’s’ in school. Some try hard, only to realize that the best they can do is a ‘C.’ Some don’t try at all and are thrilled if they manage to eek out a ‘C.’

The Packers running backs fall into one of these two categories.

Right when the Packers rushing offense appeared to be waking up, Cedric Benson went down with a foot injury. But even before the injury, it’s not like Benson was on his way to the pro bowl. He only averaged over four yards per carry in two of his five games and never cracked 100 yards.

24

October

Packers Video: Alex Green Is Fine, Line Needs to Block Better

Packers running back Alex Green

Packers running back Alex Green

Alex Green finished last Sunday’s game with 35 yards on 15 carries, not exactly setting the world on fire. Soon after, Packers fan panic set in.

“We have no running game with Benson hurt”

“Green hesitates too much and is indecisive…”

“We need a faster, shiftier back…”

Alex Green is fine, people. In fact, less than 12 months off of ACL surgery, he’s damn fine. While we all want instant gratification, Green deserves more time to get fully healthy and another offseason to get stronger. Green is better than Cedric Benson in all but one category, pushing the pile.

The problem with the Packers’ running game is the offensive line. There just aren’t a lot of clear holes there for the Packers running backs. There also isn’t much of a downfield push, either. In fact. the opposite is often true; opposing defensive linemen spend a lot of time on the Packers side of the line of scrimmage.

Take a look at this video of the first running play of the game:

Unknowingly, this play would set the tone for the Packers running game against the Rams. I’m not picking on TJ Lang here, although he admitted himself on twitter he did not have a good game. Lang was abused by rookie Michael Brockers most of the day (Brockers was the DL I was most hoping the Packers might get in last April’s draft). But Lang had plenty of company. The entire offensive line, even the usually reliable Josh Sitton looked a step slow and unable to contain the Ram’s young and talented front four.

There is no doubt this was a game where Cedric Benson could have helped more than Green. Benson has the ability to push the pile and fall forward to gain an extra one or two yards when there seemingly were none. I believe this is what Mike McCarthy was hinting at this week when he commented that the Packers left too many yards out on the field (too many 2 yd runs that could have been 4 yd runs).

For his part, McCarthy has been making some adjustments for Green’s style of running. During the Texans’ game, I spotted something rather unusual for Mike McCarthy’s offense – at least 3 running plays where the Packers pulled a guard (TJ Lang in all cases). Here’s the video of the first one I spotted:

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.

——————

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.

——————

8

October

Packers News: Benson could be out eight weeks

Cedric Benson will likely be out at least eight weeks

Cedric Benson will likely be out at least eight weeks

At halftime of Monday night’s game between the Houston Texans and the New York Jets, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Packers running back Cedric Benson could miss eight weeks.

Earlier in the day, head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t reveal much about the severity of the injury to Benson’s foot, but Schefter suggested it’s a Lisfranc injury. Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes suffered a similar injury, which will sideline him for the rest of the season.

The Packers currently have three running backs on their roster in Alex Green, James Starks and Brandon Saine.

It’s much too early to tell whether or not the Packers will bring in a veteran running back to fill Benson’s shoes, but the top available free agents include Tim Hightower, Steve Slaton and Joseph Addai.

McCarthy suggested that Green, Starks and Saine would each get an opportunity to play next Sunday at Houston. We’ll know much more about the Packers’ running back situation following their first full game without Benson.

——————

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.

——————

8

October

Could This Loss to the Colts be a Turning Point for the Packers?

Right Way Wrong Way sign

The Packers must find the quickest route to get back on their winning ways

In most any situation in life, be it a movie, fight, game, etc.,  there is a turning point.  At five games into this season and with two tough road games coming up, the Green Bay Packers face just that.  Some may say it’s too early to see it that way, but this sport is about momentum and the Pack need to shift it in the positive direction now.   If this isn’t THE turning point, it’s the beginning of it.

A 2-3 record is hardly a “game over” scenario.  Even if they aren’t able to overtake the Houston Texans  next week, there is still plenty of time for this team to make good on the 2012 season.

That said, it won’t come by continuing some of the things this team has done through five games.  It bears repeating that the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different outcome.  The Pack need to realistically consider some different options to help turn this thing in the right direction.

There were many takeaways from this game but a few that really stood out:

Pass Rush

Dom Capers likes to put the defense in the zone coverage when the Pack get a healthy lead and opponents start throwing a lot.  It’s sometimes referred to as the ‘bend but don’t break’ defense.  Well, it’s broken.   Even when the Packers blitzed in the 2nd half today, they couldn’t get there.  They had some success in the first half but seemingly ran out of gas and were sending only four rushers at the end of the game.

Colts QB Andrew Luck may be a rookie, but he’s already the type of QB who teams must pressure to stop the Colts offense.  On the last drive, everyone knew he was going to be throwing and likely looking for WR Reggie Wayne.  Still, the Packers were stonewalled and gave up completion after completion with Wayne scoring the go-ahead TD.  It was similar to the Giants playoff game.  Giving a good QB too much time and surprising to no one, he always found an open man.  Even the best DB’s will give up plays having to cover 4+ seconds.

6

October

Packers Running Back Debate: Modern-Day Cedric Benson vs. Ryan Grant In His Prime

Cedric Benson Vs. Ryan Grant

Cedric Benson Vs. Ryan Grant

Welcome to tonight’s Packers running back debate featuring Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant.

Television stations throughout Wisconsin were very upset that the last presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney drew a 0.0 rating. That’s right, not a single person tuned in to watch the presidential debate in Wisconsin. 

Research by Nielsen suggested that most television sets were tuned to highlights of the Packers 28-27 win over the Saints, or simply turned off because the weather was nice and people would rather stare at trees and grass than either presidential candidate.

Whatever the reason, Wisconsin television stations need to recoup the ratings that were lost during the debate and the there’s only one tried and true method to make that happen: Packers talk. 

Specifically, a Packers debate.

Tonight’s debate features present-day Cedric Benson vs. Ryan Grant in his prime. They will be debating who is the better running back. Remember, this is present-day Benson and Grant in his prime (late 2007-2009). We’re not focusing on overall career arcs or anything like that. We’re only focusing present-day Benson and Grant from late 2007 through 2009. 

Without further delay, let’s turn it over to our moderator, ALLGBP.com staff writer and the only undefeated team owner in the ALLGBP.com fantasy football league, Mr. Adam Czech.

Moderator: Welcome Mr. present-day Benson and Mr. in-his-prime Grant. Here are the rules for tonight’s debate:  

  • Don’t swear. The youth of America is watching.
  • Don’t hit each other. We’re on the same team here.
  • Take your time. We bought like three kegs of beer for the audience and they’ll be mad if the debate is over before they had a chance to drink it all.

The first question: A Wisconsin newspaper recently suggested that Benson might be the best Packers running back since Ahamn Green. So, Is Benson the best running back the Packers have had since Ahman Green? Mr. Grant, you may answer first. 

Grant: Hell no!

Moderator: Language, Mr. Grant. Think of the children. 

Grant: Sorry. No bleepin’ way! Did you see me run in the snow globe playoff game? Did you watch me gain 1,200 yards in consecutive seasons? Did you see how I pass blocked for Favre and Rodgers? Our quarterbacks and receivers might have gotten all the glory, but I fit in just fine with the Packers system and did some really impressive things. Benson is just the current flavor-of-the-month.