21

December

Packers News: Dietrich-Smith to start over Saturday

Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers C Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers center Jeff Saturday has been benched in favor of Evan Dietrich-Smith.

“We’re at two totally different points in our career,” Saturday said. “His is on the up ramp, mine is on the way out.”

Saturday, 37, has not been playing up to his normal high level this season. Pro Football Focus ranks him 30th among 37 centers who have played at least 25 percent of their team’s offensive snaps.

Dietrich-Smith started four games this season after Bryan Bulaga went on the injured reserve with an injured hip. Left guard T.J. Lang bumped over to right tackle, while Dietrich-Smith filled in at left guard.

Saturday has started all 14 of the Packers’ games this season, but it appears the team is ready to go in another direction in the middle of the offensive line.

Saturday had been dealing with a neck/shoulder injury, and head coach Mike McCarthy says he’ll likely be available to play Sunday against the Titans. However, Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee says Saturday confirmed Friday that Dietrich-Smith will be the team’s new starting center.

Saturday has struggled particularly in the running game this season–ranking dead last in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. However, in the passing game, Saturday grades out as PFF’s third most-effective center.

Dietrich-Smith figures to be the team’s best option at center for the future. And Sunday against the Titans figures to be Dietrich-Smith’s audition for the starting job in 2013.

From left to right, the Packers’ offensive line will be Marshall Newhouse, T.J. Lang, Dietrich-Smith, Josh Sitton and Don Barclay.

With Alex Green questionable to play on Sunday, it will be interesting to see how the ground game fares against the Titans. This will be Green Bay’s first game with a new offensive line and perhaps either DuJuan Harris or Ryan Grant handling the majority of the team’s carries.

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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.

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16

December

Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears Key Matchups

Brandon Marshall

Well, here we are.  It’s Bears week and the Green Bay Packers have a chance to clinch another NFC North divisional title with a win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.  These are the types of matchups that the schedule makers and NFL hope for this late in the season.

When earlier this year it seemed that the Packers would be facing seemingly insurmountable odds to surpass the Bears in the North, all of the chips have started to fall into place.  The Bears have lost four of their last five games and are staring at a good possibility that their playoff chances will be reduced to a wild card chase.

Should the Bears lose Sunday, the Packers could clinch the division win and that is the only way Chicago can get into the postseason.  Should the Bears win, the Packers can still control their own destiny and win the division by simply winning their last two games.

There has been some jarring in the media between both teams with some subtle and some not-so-subtle barbs.  Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall acted like he didn’t know how to pronounce Packers cornerback Tramon Williams’ name and said that none of the Green Bay defenders should take any credit for severely limiting him in the teams’ first matchup.  Packers tight end Jermichael Finley commented that the Bears defense may be better off without the “slow” and future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher, who is out with a hamstring injury.

But all of that is nothing but entertainment leading up to another huge game between these long-time rivals.  Let’s hone in on the key matchups that will play a big role in the outcome.

Bears Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall vs. Packers Secondary

As was the case in the first matchup, this is probably the most key matchup in the game.  Marshall is, by far, Chicago’s biggest offensive threat and he is currently the second leading receiver in the NFL in terms of yardage.  He’s a big body who is a tough tackle and can pick up some yards after the catch.  He has the speed to stretch out the defense and run the deep route too.

14

December

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 14 vs. Detroit Lions

If they did that thing they do ESPN where they track how many yards that you actually run, and the speed…I hope they wouldn’t put the speed up on there but maybe the distance that I ran; had to be close to 50 yards, that’s a long sprint, I haven’t been doing a lot of those lately. – Aaron Rodgers, Tuesday’s with Aaron 2012/11/12

Challenge accepted! But first the hobbjective analysis.

The Situation: The Packers are trailing the Lions 14 to 10 with 12 minutes left in the 3rd quarter.  The Packers offense has been a little off, while Rodgers and company have managed to move the ball fairly well against the Lions, they haven’t had many opportunities, several 3 and outs, a fumble and some clock-killing drives from the Lions means that the offense hasn’t had much of a chance of getting settled.

The Formation: The Packers come out in a 3-1-1 formation (3WR-1TE-1RB) with WR James Jones (89) split out wide left followed by WR Randall Cobb (18) in the left slot.  WR Greg Jennings (85) is split out wide right while TE Jermicheal Finley (88) is about a yard outside of the offensive line to the right tackle. Finally, QB Aaron Rodgers (12) is in the shotgun with FB John Kuhn (30) to the right of him.  The offensive line is composed of LT Marshall Newhouse (74), LG Evan Dietrich-Smith (62), C Jeff Saturday (63), RG Josh Sitton (71) and RT Don Barclay (67).  In response the Lions come out with a 4-3 cover-2 defense that everyone has been playing against the Packers offense.  Take a notice of how far back the Lions safeties are set, a good 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage.  In this case, it looks like the mike linebacker is going to rush through A gap instead of dropping into coverage.

The Snap: Things don’t go smoothly for the Packers.  Needing only 4 yards for a 1st down, QB Rodgers first read is probably TE Finley who is running a flat pattern (1), but either trips or gets caught up with the defender which causes the play to fall apart.  Both DEs manage to get great penetration into the backfield and at this point, Rodgers is getting ready to take a hit.  Take note of what the secondary is doing, no one has left their man and the safeties are still covering their halves.

12

December

Packers Drive Rewind: 7 Straight Runs Give Packers the Lead

Evan Dietrich-Smith

Evan Dietrich-Smith

Packers Drive Rewind is a new weekly post I hope to do for the rest of the season. That’s the goal, anyway. With the holidays coming up, I might not have time, or I just might forget. You never know.

Anyway, I want to take one key drive from each game and break it down with some film and my own thoughts. I’m not doing this to lecture everyone or prove how much I know about X’s and O’s. I just want to talk football. I did something similar last week.

If you think my observations are off the mark, or you have additional insight to add, please do so in the comments section. We have a lot of very knowledgeable readers on this site and I always enjoy their perspective on some of the more nuanced aspects of the game.

(Note: It’s hard to see numbers on some of the Lions players. My apologies if I mix up a few players.)

Here we go:

The Situation
Fourth quarter. Packers 17, Lions 17. Packers ball on their own 41 with 14:49 to play.

The Result
The Packers run the ball seven consecutive times, capped by a 14-yard touchdown from DuJuan Harris. The powerful drive appeared to demoralize the Lions and the Packers won 27-20. Packers fans tear off their shirts and start posing like Hulk Hogan.

Play 1: Alex Green runs left for 6 yards

Alex Green says, “Give me the ball and let’s get this party started.” Kyle Vanden Bosch slants in, but gets taken out by his own momentum and Marshall Newhouse pushing him down the line. Nice job by Green to recognize this and burst through the hole after John Kuhn got in DeAndre Levy’s way. We’ve seen Green fall over himself or not see similar cuts this season. Watching him burst through a hole is a good sign of progress. Jeff Saturday and Evan Dietrich-Smith manhandle Nick Fairley. I wonder if Saturday was supposed to get off the block and try to pick up Stephen Tulloch (who eventually made the tackle)?

Play 2: Green runs right for 2 yards

7

December

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 13 vs. Minnesota Vikings

We all knew it was going to happen; with Randall Cobb the Packers got a swiss army knife, he returns kicks, he catches passes, he runs the ball, he slices, dices and even juliennes!  At some point, you knew that “Wild Cobb” was going to show up somewhere and the Packers were going to get him to lob the ball (I know they did this last year, but that was more of an option pass).  Well apparently the Vikings were the team to get the first shot at some Cobb trickeration and the results were pretty comical at best, but what exactly happened and what went wrong?

The Situation: It’s the 3rd quarter with 6:19 left on the clock and the Vikings are desperately holding onto a 1 point lead.  It’s second and five after a five yard Alex Green run and the Packers need to get a touchdown or get into field goal range (though who knows what qualifies for field goal range for Mason Crosby at the moment) in order to keep the game the game close.

The Formation: The Packers come out in a 2-2-1 formation (2WR-2TE-1RB) with WR Greg Jennings (85) split right and WR James Jones (89) in the left slot, TE Tom Crabtree (83) and TE DJ Williams (84) are also aligned in the left slot forming a trips bunch look with WR Jones.  On the offensive line, with TJ Lang out, undrafted rookie Don Barclay (67) is out at right tackle, followed by RG Josh Sitton (71), C Jeff Saturday (63), LG Evan Dietrich-Smith (62) and LT Marshall Newhouse (74).

Pre-Snap: TE Williams motions from the trips bunch into the backfield and becomes the fullback, making it an offset I formation, in essence making it look like a run play.

Snap: QB Aaron Rodgers (12) pitches it to RB Cobb, who initially appears to be running a sweep behind TE Williams.

The Lateral: RB Cobb throws a lateral back to QB Rodgers, who catches the ball, but already has DE Everson Griffin bearing down on him.  Luckily RT Barclay manages to get enough of Griffin that it gives QB Rodgers time to shuffle to his right before throwing a bomb to WR Jennings.

30

November

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 11 at New York Giants

So in an effort to forget about the Packers dismal showing against the Giants, I instead decided to analyze something completely different, namely the first and only pass that one Graham Harrell has thrown in the National Football League.  Some of you might know but Harrell was the only backup quarterback in the NFL who had never thrown a pass in a game (though it has to be said that Saint’s backup quarterback Chase Daniel had one pass under his name).  Also throw in Harrell’s disastrous first outing where he fumbled a handoff to running back Cedric Benson in the red zone that resulted in a touchdown for ironically the Saints as well.

The situation: The Packers aren’t doing too well, down 38 to 10 with only a couple minutes left in the game.  Head coach Mike McCarthy has already thrown in the towel by pulling out starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and has inserted his back up Graham Harrell.  After a slew of running plays, McCarthy finally gives Harrell the green light to chuck the ball.

The formation: The Packers are in a 2-1-2 personel (2WR-1TE-2RB) in a classic I-formation with WR James Jones (89) split out wide to the left, WR Jordy Nelson (87)  split out to the right and TE Tom Crabtree (83) inline with the right tackle.  In the backfield, FB John Kuhn (30) is lined 5 yards directly behind the ball with RB James Starks (44) directly behind FB Kuhn.  Under center is QB Graham Harrell (6), while the offensive line is composed of LT Marshall Newhouse (74), LG Evan Dietrich-Smith (62), C Jeff Saturday (63), RG Josh Sitton (71) and RT TJ Lang (70).

The Snap: QB Harrell play fakes the handoff to Starks while FB Kuhn initially goes behind the right tackle.  After the fake, Starks shifts to his left to help out the LT while FB Kuhn goes to help out the right tackle and TE Crabtree, who has stayed behind to block.  Both WR Jones and WR Nelson both run fade routes.

First read: QB Harrell’s first read immediately after the play fake is to WR Jones to his left.

Second read: QB Harrell decides against throwing to WR Jones resets, and shifts over to his right, looking at WR Nelson.

23

November

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 11 at Detroit Lions

Happy Thanksgiving recovery day/Black Friday to you all.  In this weeks installment of Hobbjective Analysis, I will be looking at Jermichael Finley’s 31-yard screen play and going in depth on why the Packers executed the play so well.

The Situation: The Packers are trailing by 6 with only 3:43 left in the 4th quarter.  While the Packers haven’t exactly been playing stellar football, the Detriot Lions have been all over the place, Matthew Stafford is consistently overthrowing his targets while getting chased around by a Packers defensive front seven that is missing Clay Matthews.  The Packers know that they have to score on this drive in order to win the game, going 4 and out or committing a turnover essentially seals the game for the Lions.

The formation: The Packers are in a 3-1-1 (3WR-1TE-1RB) set with WR James Jones (89) split wide left, WR Jordy Nelson (87) split wide right and WR Randall Cobb (18) in the right slot.  TE Jermichael Finley is inline of the right tackle. In the backfield RB James Starks (44) is aligned to the right of QB Aaron Rodgers, who lines up in the shotgun.  On the offensive line, there has been a lot of shuffling going on; after starting RT Bryan Bulaga landed on IR, LG TJ Lang has shifted over to RT while Evan Dietrich-Smith (62) has taken LG Lang’s spot.  The three other starting linemen (LT Marshall Newhouse (74), C Jeff Saturday (63), RG Josh Sitton (71)) remain in their original positions.

In response, the Lions play the standard 4-3, Tampa-2 scheme with 4 defensive linemen, 3 linebackers, 2 corners and finally 2 safeties each aligned about 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage.  Overall, the Lions had been playing the majority of the game (and their season) under this formation.  The Lions have heavily invested in their front 4 in order to generate pass rush without having to send extra players and they need to cover up for a tattered defensive secondary who has back-up and back-up of the back-up safeties in play.

The Snap: RB Starks leaks out of the backfield immediately while Rodgers drops back to a clean pocket.  On the perimeter, the Lions are playing man-cover with their corners covering WR Jones and WR Nelson on the outside while OLB Justin Durant (52) covers WR Cobb in the slot.  This leaves the safety to cover TE Finley while presumably the other safety drops back into zone coverage making it a cover-1 man defense.