1

November

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 7 vs Jacksonville Jaguars

So I’m going to do something a little bit unusual from the usual Packers Playbook series; first off I’m going to breakdown a special teams play, namely Davon House’s blocked punt which turned into a special teams touchdown, but ru because I want to hear your rationale for running this play because frankly I don’t really understand it.

The Situation: The score is 7 to 3 in Green Bay’s favor and the Packers defense has just forced a 4th down.  The Jaguars have stayed in the game longer than most people had predicted but it’s probably more because the Packers seem to be off rather than any offensive firepower displayed by the Jaguars.

The Formation: To be honest I wasn’t able to find any of the position names for any of the positions, so I will be using my best approximations.  Naturally first off is KR Randall Cobb (18), who for obvious reasons is not in the picture and since this is a blocked punt play, is irrelevant to the play.  In the gunner/jammer positions are CB Davon House (31) aligning to the top of the screen and CB Jarrett Bush (24) and CB Casey Hayward (29) aligned to the bottom of the screen.  In terms of linemen (are they called linemen?), at RDE is ILB Jamari Lattimore (57) and at LDE is OLB Dezman Moses.  In the “middle” at DT is ILB Robert Francois (49) and TE Ryan Taylor (82).  In the “backfield” are SS Sean Richardson (28) and FS MD Jennings (43).

For astute readers out there will have noticed that this only adds up to 10 players, which is probably another reason why the Jaguars aren’t probably winning many games.

Pre-snap: SS Richardson approaches the line and looks to blitz while CB Hayward motions from the jammer position to the outside shoulder of LDE Moses.  After that CB House motions to the outside shoulder of RDE Lattimore.  Essentially at this point there are 8 players in the box, which is even with the 8 players the Jaguars have to block.

The Snap: CB Hayward bails out of the blitz to cover WR Kevin Elliot (87) who is the gunner that CB House was originally covering.

“OT” SS Chris Harris (43) blocks DT Francois leaving one of the upbacks, #35 to deal with RDE Moses.

17

September

Packers Play Analysis: Week 2 Versus The Bears

“Good luck [...] Our speed guys are going to get around them, and our big guys are going to throw and go,” Cutler said. “We invite press coverage. We invite man. And if we get in that type of game, our guys outside have to make some plays for us.” – Jay Cutler

After that statement, how would defensive coordinator Dom Capers respond?  Obviously by doing the exact opposite and throwing at Jay Cutler a look he’s probably never seen from the Packers that has neither press nor man coverage. In all honesty I’m not exactly sure what the formation is called, DB Psycho?  Woodson Tampa-2?  Well, one thing is for sure, it confused the hell out of the Bears offense and lead to a Charles Woodson interception.

The situation: The score 3 to 13 in favor of the Packers and the Bears find themselves at 3rd and 11 with 3:18 left in the 3rd quarter; in the previous play TE Kellen Davis was penalized 5 yards for offsides, so the Bears are looking for a big drive to bring the game back to a one score difference.

The formation: The Bears start in a 311 formation (3WR-1TE-1RB) with WR Brandon Marshall out wide right, WR Earl Bennett in the right slot and rookie WR Alshon Jefferies out wide left.  TE Kellen Davis is inline outside the right tackle and RB Matt Forte is to the right of QB Jay Cutler.

The Packers respond with their dime package (1DL-4LB-6DB): DE Jerel Worthy being the lone down linemen with Clay Matthews at LOLB and Erik Walden at ROLB flip flopping their normal positions.  ILB DJ Smith has the center of the field while OLB Dezman Moses has replaced ILB AJ Hawk.  In the secondary, CB Tramon Williams is lined up directly in front of Marshall and CB Sam Shields is lined up against Jefferies.   Rookie CB Casey Hayward has Bennett in the slot while SS Jeron McMillian and FS Morgan Burnett look to be playing a 2 deep shell.   None is of this out of the ordinary, but what is odd is that CB/SS Charles Woodson is lined in the middle 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage.


At the snap: Both Williams and Shield bail out (essentially playing safety), taking away the deep routes while Moses and Hayward come up to cover the flats.  With Hayward taking the flat, McMillan takes responsibility for Bennett.

16

September

Packers Outside Linebackers: Erik Walden vs. Nick Perry

Erik Walden

Erik Walden celebrates. Jay Cutler cries.

Before the season started, Jersey Al posted this about Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden. Jersey Al said the following about Walden early in the post:

Erik Walden can flat out rush the passer. When Walden is turned loose to pursue the red meat known as NFL quarterbacks, he performs like a hungry lion.

I wasn’t as high on Walden as Al, but I wasn’t ready to boot him off the team like most everyone else. After getting arrested Thanksgiving Eve last season, Walden’s play fell off a cliff. He was decent before the arrest, though.

More importantly, the Packers decided to re-sign Walden in the offseason. Ted Thompson and the Packers see something in Walden. Why would they bother bringing back an average to below-average talent with a domestic assault arrest on his record? You can easily find average to below-average guys without arrest records off the street if you need to.

But the Packers obviously think Walden has the talent to be more than just average.

Thompson knows a lot more about his players than I do. If he thinks a guy like Walden is worth bringing back, then there’s talent there, folks.

Walden and Perry vs. the Bears

Walden showed why he was given another opportunity on Thursday against the Bears. Cutler was the hunk of red meat, and Walden was the hungry lion (who had gone a week without a good meal after being suspended week one).

Nick Perry was drafted in the first round to help Clay Matthews get after quarterbacks on the edge. On Thursday, it was Walden who teamed with Matthews to blow up the Bears offensive line. Walden finished with 34 snaps. Perry had 19.

Now that doesn’t mean Perry is done for. It’s only one game. But Walden was far and away the better player on Thursday.

So far Perry appears to only have one tool in his pass-rushing toolbox: a hammer. Perry puts his head down and tries to bull-rush his way into the backfield almost every play. He needs to work on using his hands more to disengage from his blocker before making his move.

I’m also worried that mobile quarterbacks will take advantage of Perry blindly charging upfield by side-stepping him, breaking containment and making plays outside the pocket.

28

August

Packers Stock Report: Roster Bubble Edition

Jamari Lattimore

Packers LB Jamari Lattimore is rising.

It’s time to bring back the Packers stock report.

I’m back in my blogging chair after spending three booze-fueled days and nights in Madison, Wis. I gained about 10 pounds and reduced the functionality of my liver by about 7 percent. A typical weekend in Madison.

The only way to get my body back to where it was pre-Madison is to type a couple hundred words about the Packers. For the first Packers stock report of the 2012 season, I’m going to focus on players who entered training camp on the roster bubble. There will be plenty of stock reports dedicated to guys like Aaron Rodgers and Charles Woodson during the season, but for now, let’s focus on the guys who may or may not make the team.

Rising

Dezman Moses
The buzz about Moses grew louder during OTAs and he’s lived up to that hype during training camp. Perhaps hype is a poor word choice. I don’t think anyone is expecting Moses to come in and be an All-Pro. But he looks like a wild-card type of player, someone that could show flashes of brilliance and deliver production from a roster spot that you originally didn’t think would yield much of anything. Whichever word you want to use, Moses is definitely rising.

Donald Driver
You’re probably saying to yourself, “Wait a minute. I thought you said this stock report was only going to be about players on the roster bubble.” Why yes, I did say that. And Driver was definitely on the bubble before camp. I have no doubts about that. I also have no doubts that Driver has played well enough to secure a spot on the Packers roster. That makes him rising in my book.

Jamari Lattimore
We haven’t heard all that much about Lattimore, but in the film I’ve watched of his preseason, I like what I see out of him in pass coverage. I like D.J. Smith, but I can see him getting overwhelmed in pass coverage. Lattimore gets good depth on his drops and looks fluid when running in coverage down the middle of the field.

Steady

There is no steady category when we’re talking about players that may or may not make the team. You’re either rising (making the team), or falling (on your way out the door).

31

July

3 Players Raising Eyebrows at Packers Training Camp

Packers Tight End DJ Williams

Packers Tight End DJ Williams

The Packers have been practicing since Thursday of last week, and while it’s far too early to start shaping the final roster, a handful of players have people raising their eyebrows.

Can these three guys keep it going? Or will they wash out like so many other players who were superstars in late July, but duds in September?

D.J. Williams, TE

Instead of just lifting weights and doing cardio, Clay Matthews stepped outside of the box to get bigger and better after his rookie season. Matthews took up mixed martial arts training and went on to have a breakout second season. Apparently, Williams stepped outside the box this offseason, too…and into the cow pasture. The second-year TE says he’s gotten stronger thanks to an offseason cow-wrestling regimen back in his home state of Arkansas. Williams seems serious about it too, describing his technique in detail and talking about how he just tries to “not get hurt or die” when showing these cows who is the superior grappler. Well, Williams has always been known more as a receiver than a blocker. If suplexing ‘Ol Bessie rounds out his game a little, cool. Just keep him away from Aaron Rodgers. I don’t want No. 12 getting any goofy ideas about how he should spend his next offseason.

Casey Hayward, CB
Hayward has played so well, Bob McGinn already dedicated an entire column to the second-round pick from Vanderbilt. It sounds like Hayward uses his brains as much as his brawn, deciphering routes and showing no hesitation to swoop in and make plays. The Packers have a logjam at corner behind Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson (who might be spending a lot of his time at safety). If Hayward can rise above the rest, it can only mean good things for a Packers defense coming off a historically awful season.

Dezman Moses, LB
The hype started for Moses back at OTAs and by all accounts, he’s played well in camp. Before you get too excited, though, the Packers have had at least one LB catch fire in the offseason ever since they switched to a 3-4. None of these training camp phenoms have ever amounted to much besides role players once actual games start, but hey, it’s better to have unknown guys playing well in camp instead of unknown guys playing like, well, unknown guys. If Moses keeps it going and sticks with the team, he should get plenty of chances to make an impact on special teams. Anything else would be a nice bonus.

23

July

Packers Training Camp Battles: Will Anyone Stand Up to Perry at OLB?

Nick Perry

Packers OLB Nick Perry

When the Packers open training camp, we will hear plenty about Nick Perry making the shift from a hand-on-the-ground college defensive end to a stand-up NFL outside linebacker.

No doubt, there will be plenty of adjustments that Perry needs to make as he transitions. But don’t let that fool you, Perry is the player the Packers want to rush the quarterback opposite of Clay Matthews.

There is no need to be overly concerned about Perry not yet being a well-rounded OLB. The Packers should focus most of their efforts on making Perry the best possible pass rusher that he can be. What deficiencies he may have in pass coverage or other areas can be developed over time.

If Perry turns out to be the pass rusher the Packers think he can be, the other aspects of playing OLB will come to him. Meantime, Dom Capers can create sub packages and scheme as necessary to maximize Perry’s talents and mask the undeveloped portions of his game.

After Perry and Matthews, things get interesting at OLB.

Erik Walden
The Packers brought Walden back even though he disappeared down the stretch last season after getting arrested. Most people have written Walden off, but I say not so fast.

There’s a reason the Packers brought him back. If they didn’t think he was any good, they wouldn’t have resigned him. I’m not saying Walden is going to be a breakout player, but don’t immediately dismiss him.

He’s had his moments with the Packers, including three sacks in the 2010 season finale and a two-game stretch before getting arrested last season where he totaled 15 tackles and a sack.

Bringing Walden back was a good decision. If he plays like he did before the arrest, the Packers have a solid depth player. If he looks finished, the Packers can just cut him and move on with their lives.

Dezman Moses
This year’s buzz player, Moses made everybody take notice of him during OTAs. His 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill times at the combine were better than Perry’s, and he was a very productive college player.

Ted Thompson seems to always find an undrafted free agent or two that sticks around. A few even make a major impact (see Sam Shields in 2010).

20

June

Packers Could Go “Psycho” With Linebacker Talent

Dom Capers

Dom Capers might just go "Psycho" this year.

There has been some chatter recently about undrafted rookie Dezman Moses and the eyebrow-raising attention he has received from fellow defensive players. Though yet to put on “the pads,” the Packers linebacker has created quite a stir among fans, who have been desperately waiting for some good news when it comes to the team’s defensive front. One tangent to this story, however, is what it could mean for the “return” of the so-called “Psycho” package.

For those not in the know, the Psycho is a nickel package employed by Dom Capers in Green Bay’s defensive scheme. It is a 1-5-5 formation, meaning there are one defensive lineman, five linebackers, and five defensive backs on the field. The idea is to create confusion among the quarterback, the offensive line, and any backs responsible for picking up the blitz.

By overloading the line and creating some pre-snap movement, the defense makes it hard for the offense to set their protections. It also gives the opposing coaches something extra to plan for during the week.

(This blog post at Blitzology does a nice job of highlighting the pass rushing flexibility of the Packers’ nickel packages, including the Psycho.)

Dom Capers’ use of the Psycho package dates back to his days with the Jacksonville Jaguars (1999-2000), but he first unveiled it with the Green Bay Packers in 2009. They had immediate success against the Chicago Bears that December, creating chaos for Jay Cutler and keeping their offense off-balance.  Of course, just like any play, the more it’s used, the less effective it becomes.

“The more you do it, the more people start to identify — they see who you’re rushing and who you’re dropping,” Capers said in 2010. “You have to have the ability to change those things up.”

Which brings us back to our point . . . Could a rise in linebacker talent mean a return to fame for Green Bay’s Psycho defense?

To be clear, the Psycho package didn’t actually go away at all, as the Packers did use it last year. In going from their base 2-4-5 nickel set, it really only means replacing one of the lineman with a linebacker. Last season, inside linebacker D.J. Smith was the extra player, while Jarius Wynn became their lone defensive lineman.

But it lacked the punch of previous years.