19

January

Which Packers Defensive Players Took the Biggest Step Backward in 2011?

Sam Shields - Green Bay Packers defensive back

Shields just one of many who had down years...

Man, this blog has turned into a depressing place this week. Scroll through the titles of the last couple of posts and you’ll see words like “regression” and “loss” mixed with phrases like “it’s over” and “fart in the wind.”

It’s probably best to make sure you don’t have any sharp objects nearby while reading.

This post is no exception. After coming up big in 2010, several Packers on defense took a step backwards. Who regressed the most?

Tramon Williams
After Williams got the best of Calvin Johnson on Thanksgiving, I thought the Tramon of 2010 was back. It looked like he was healthy and ready to blanket the other team’s No. 1 receiver as the Packers headed down the home stretch.

It didn’t happen.

Instead of taking the next step and establishing himself as a legit No. 1 CB in the NFL, Williams started giving up big play after big play. In addition to struggling in coverage, Williams was a tackling liability (his tackling was especially pathetic in the Christmas game against the Bears). He capped his lackluster season by allowing seven catches in eight attempts for 125 yards in the playoff loss to the Giants.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Williams was watching him constantly line up 10 yards off the receiver he was matched against, even on plays  when the offense needed five yards or fewer for a first down. Maybe Williams’ shoulder never healed after the Saints game. Maybe he did the best he could with the Packers bad pass rush. Maybe he missed Nick Collins.

Either way, Williams regressed in 2011.

A.J. Hawk
Mike McCarthy spent a good part of his season-ending news conference talking about how bad his team’s tackling was this season. He could’ve saved everyone some time and showed film of Hawk bouncing off ball carriers or getting dragged for three extra yards after initial contact on play after play.

Hawk signed a 5-year, $34 million contract in the offseason and did very little to justify the Packers’ investment. After averaging almost seven tackles per game in 2010, Hawk only managed 5.5 in 2011. He was also a major liability in pass coverage.

5

October

Packers Coach Mike McCarthy to Address Unrealistic Expectations

Mike McCarthy has addressed the 800 pound gorilla in the room. In public. At a press conference.  Two press conferences, actually. Yes… I’m talking about Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

I’ll be honest. I usually find Mike McCarthy press conferences to be rather entertaining. Not because they’re any good, but more because I derive some sick pleasure in seeing how many ways McCarthy can say the same thing – usually nothing.

And then there are the flat out jaw-dropping comments, like after the Bears debacle when he claimed that he thought the run game had been productive.

But this week has been different. Never one to be too forthcoming in his comments to the media, especially regarding the psyche of his team, McCarthy talked about the Packers players and what could perhaps be a wave of  unrealistic expectations in the locker room. It’s something I’m sure no Packers player would want to admit, but have they fallen prey to all the Super Bowl talk? Are they looking ahead and not focusing on being their best week to week?

In his post-game press conference on Sunday, when asked if he was happy with HOW his team played, McCarthy said the following:

I’m happy that we won the game because I knew we were going to be stressed in a couple areas going into this game. I think sometimes false expectations get built because of the past, because of numbers, and because of individuals.

I especially find the “individuals” comment telling. Is he referring to some of his players, like Nick Barnett and his “Super Bowl or Die” proclamation? Or is that a shot at many of the national media that seemingly anointed the Packers as Super Bowl champions in the preseason?

Fast forward to Monday’s press conference and McCarthy had this to say:

Frankly, the only team that really deserves to even talk about the Super Bowl is the New Orleans Saints. They’re the champion until someone takes it away from them.

This was in response to being asked whether it might be a positive for his team to be disappointed despite winning because they felt a Super Bowl caliber team should have won more easily. Clearly, like any coach, McCarthy wants his team thinking only about the upcoming game.

And then there was this gem: