8

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — James Jones

1) Introduction: Drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft, Packers receiver James Jones has battled through an up and down start to his NFL career. Jones started nine games in his rookie season and caught 47 passes for 676 yards, but he only managed 52 catches and 714 yards the next two seasons (2008-09). A lingering knee injury contributed to his lack of production in 2008 as he only saw the field in 10 games.

When healthy, however, Jones can be a difference maker in the passing game. He has a big frame (6’1″, 208 lbs), and underrated straight line speed that often sees him getting behind defenders. Jones might not have the ceiling of a No. 1 receiver, but he’s one of the best No. 3 receivers in the NFL today.

2) Profile:

James Deandre Jones

Position: WR
Height: 6-1    Weight: 208 lbs.

Born: March 31, 1984 in San Jose, CA
College: San Jose State (school history)    (Jones college stats)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 3rd round (78th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Mixed. His rookie season gave us a brief glimpse of what Jones could do over the course of a season, but injuries and a frustrating lack on consistency kept Jones from breaking out in the Packers offense.

In addition, both Greg Jennings and Donald Driver were coming off 1,000 yard seasons, and Jermichael Finley figured to become a bigger part of the offense. While having a bevy of weapons is surely a luxury, there are only so many footballs to go around and it was unsure how many Jones would see in 2010.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: To be honest, the entire 2010 season was a mix of highlights and lowlights for Jones. The Packers bi-polar receiver was either making you say “wow!” after a sure-handed reception or causing you to throw beverages at your television screen after the easiest of drops.

Jones started his highlights in Week 3 against the Buffalo Bills, as he made a nice adjustment on a back shoulder throw from Aaron Rodgers for a 30-yard touchdown. In Weeks 7 (vs. Minnesota), 8 (vs. Dallas) amd 10 (at Minnesota), Jones caught a combined 15 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns.

8

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Offense — Jordy Nelson

1) Introduction: A former second round pick in 2008, Packers receiver Jordy Nelson has turned in a few productive yet unspectacular seasons during his first two years in Green Bay. Nelson averaged just over 27 catches and 343 yards per season from 2008-2009—numbers un-befitting a top 40 draft selection.

Heading into the 2010 season, one could have than made the argument that Nelson was the fourth, or maybe fifth, target in the Green Bay Packers passing game. With injuries to both Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley, however, Nelson began to emerge as a potential threat and had a breakout postseason.

2) Profile:

Jordy Ray Nelson

Position: WR
Height: 6-3    Weight: 215 lbs.

Born: May 31, 1985 in Manhattan, KS
College: Kansas State (school history)    (Nelson college stats)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 2nd round (36th overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Somewhat low, but also unsure. Nelson started the season buried on the depth chart behind Greg Jennings, Driver and James Jones, and Finley was sure to become a focal point of the offense. Still, everyone knew that Nelson was capable of being a play-maker, but his lack of production in two previous seasons tempered any lofty expectations for 2010.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Nelson had plenty of highlights during the season, and he capped it off with an impressive performance in the Super Bowl (9 receptions, 140 yards, 1 TD). Against the Steelers, Nelson caught the game’s first touchdown (29 yards) and set up the Packers final points with a catch-and-run play of 38 yards.

Nelson also had two important catches in the regular season. The first came in Week 12, where Nelson’s 10-yard TD catch in Atlanta tied the game at 17 with 57 seconds left in the game. His second—an 80-yard TD—opened the scoring in a must-win against the Giants in Week 16.

His season also had some low points, however. In Week 4 against the Lions, Nelson lost two fumbles that nearly cost the Packers a victory. He was promptly removed from kickoff return duties after that showing.

And despite his impressive statistical showing at the Super Bowl, Nelson also had three credited drops that potentially kept the Packers off the scoreboard. Overall, Nelson dropped more passes this season (10) than in his two previous years combined.

21

January

NFC Championship Preview – Packers vs Bears Rivalry Reaches New Heights – The Playoffs

Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and the NFC Championship.

I don’t think it can possibly get any better than this.

After the Packers impressive 48-21 over the Atlanta Falcons and the Bears’ easier than it looked 35-24 win over the upstart Seattle Seahawks, both teams prepare to meet for only the second time in their long and storied rivalry. For the first time since 1941, the Packers and Bears get together for– to steal a line from Brent Musberger–all the Tostitos.

Since the Packers faced the Bears twice already this season, I don’t think it’s necessary to break them down once again. We know them well enough by now and the same could be said for the Bears knowing the Packers. It’s a division rivals against one another, so the familiarity between the two teams is rather obvious.

Instead let’s go ahead jump to FIVE (hey, it’s a big game alright?) keys to the NFC Championship

1. The condition of Soldier Field

Much has been made this week over the shape the sod in Soldier Field is in. It was already showing noticeable damage during the Seahawks game last week, and with brutal cold settling in across the entire Midwest, there hasn’t been enough time to re-sod the entire football field

With the game also expected to be played under cold temperatures, the condition of the field will be crucial to both teams. The Bears obviously have had some experience playing in it and the Packers have not. You would think that would give the Bears an edge, but the Packers have played their share of games in Lambeau with the sod coming up in chunks.

While Lambeau has never been in this bad of shape, both teams will likely struggle with poor field conditions.

2. The officiating crew
In this week’s sign of the apocalypse, the NFL announced that Terry McAuley’s crew will be calling the NFC Championship Game.

Why is this significant?

Remember the Week 3 game in Soldier Field against the Bears where the Packers were flagged for a staggering 18 penalties? McAuley’s crew worked that game.

Will they do the same in this game?

20

January

Defense, Not Offense, Drives This 2010 Green Bay Packers Team

Tramon WilliamsAfter thoroughly trouncing the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 48 to 21 on Saturday, – and with the New England Patriots now out of the way – the Green Bay Packers have become the new favorites to win Super Bowl XLV. And it should come as no surprise that Aaron Rodgers has become the talk of the National Football League with his surgical dismantling of the Falcons’ secondary.

What many fail to recognize, however, is that the Green Bay defense under coordinator Dom Capers is the unit that really drives this team.

Okay, so Aaron Rodgers is playing the best football of his career right now. He’s finally won a playoff game, and he played almost perfectly in his second postseason victory. Some are saying Rodgers is the league’s scariest quarterback. Others are calling him a cross between Dan Marino and Steve Young.

Even fans of the rival Chicago Bears wish Rodgers – and not Cutler – was playing for their team.

But let’s not forget one simple fact: it is Tramon Williams, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, and the rest of the Packers’ defense that this team consistently leans on.

The old adage that “the offense sells the tickets, but the defense wins the championships” could not have rung truer during this weekend’s Divisional Round. All four winning teams – the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, and New York Jets – ranked in the top six scoring defenses during the regular season. Meanwhile, only one of these teams ranked within the top ten scoring offenses: the Packers, right at number ten.

So it should come as no surprise that Caper’s defense was a big part of Green Bay making to the NFC Championship and having a shot at the Super Bowl.

In their past four “elimination” games, beginning with the New York Giants in Week 16, the Packers defense has allowed only 6 touchdowns and 3 field goals. Taking into consideration the Philadelphia Eagles’ failed two-point conversion, that’s an average of 12.5 points per game.

Within that same span, Green Bay also has nine interceptions and four fumble recoveries to their name.

Very recently, those turnovers have been the difference makers.

Holding the other team to as few points as possible is always part of the winning formula. However, when the opposing offense is making a drive in the final minutes of the game to take the lead, that’s when the defense really has to prove its worth.

20

January

A Cold Shower for Overly Excited Green Bay Packers Fans

I can’t remember ever feeling this good about a Green Bay Packers team. I liked their chances against the Eagles, I was very confident they would beat the Falcons, and I have a good feeling about Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

This feeling of positivity just does not seem right. I’m not sure how to handle it. Usually I’m pessimistic and grumpy to a fault. I expect the worst and wait for everything to come crashing down with another last-second Mason Crosby clank off the goalpost, Mike McCarthy clock kerfuffle or Aaron Rodgers sack/interception.

I feel I need to channel my old pessimistic self, so that is exactly what I am going to do now. There are many reasons why the Packers will not win on Sunday. For those overly excited Packers fans like me, consider this a cold shower.

It’s the Bears. It’s Soldier Field
That about says it all doesn’t it? Very little has gone right for the Packers at Soldier Field recently. Too many penalties, blocked field goals, special teams meltdowns. You name it and it has gone wrong.

And how about that turf? If you dumped a can of green spray paint on a gravel road in Menomonie, WI you would have a better playing surface. That mess of a field neutralizes any speed advantage Bears’ opponents might have and forces you to muck it up and play their slop brand of football.

If I was a prison warden, I would not even allow my prisoners to set foot on that disaster of a playing surface.

Devin Hester
Led by Hester, the Bears average 17.1 yards per punt return. I said 17.1 yards per return! How many times have the Packers gotten 17 yards on a punt return this season? Not very many. The Bears get it almost every time!

Sure, Tim Masthay and the special teams unit contained Hester in week 17. Big whoop. They were just delaying the inevitable. Lovie Smith probably looked at the matchup on special teams and immediately instructed team officials to start making plans for Dallas.

Jay Cutler is super talented
Cutler’s physical tools are unbelievable. Sometimes he throws these deep balls where he appears off-balance, yet somehow manages to flick a perfect strike to one of his streaking wide receivers.

15

January

Packers – Falcons Key Match Up: The No Huddle vs. the Defensive Line

The Atlanta Falcons could be described as the antithesis of the Packer’s last opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles are often described as “explosive”; they have perhaps the greatest mobile quarterback ever in Micheal Vick and maybe the greatest “home run” threat in the league at the moment with wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Running back LeSean McCoy boasts a 5+ yards per carry and the rest of the Eagle’s skill position players are filled with speedsters.

To this end, this year’s Eagles ranked as one of the best at big plays of over 20 yards and Vick’s ability to buy time in the pocket and scramble often lead to more opportunities down the field.

On the other side of the spectrum are the Atlanta Falcons, lead by quarterback Matt Ryan who is about as pure of a pocket passer as there is.

At his disposable, running back Micheal Turner is known as a bowling ball and not as a speed demon and wide receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez, aren’t speedsters either but manage very good production with crisp route running and steady hands.

While the Eagles are a high-risk/high reward team, the Falcons are unspectacular, but they are efficient and error adverse and that plays into perhaps their greatest advantage for Saturday’s game: the no huddle offense.

The premise is pretty simple, by not huddling up you give the opponent’s defense less time to substitute players and get setup which hopefully leads to a lapse in personnel which will lead to either a mismatch or a blown coverage. The caveat to the no huddle offense is that it requires a smart quarterback who can call plays and read defenses and a team which is fundamentally sound. The Falcons have both.

And it will be a tough challenge particularly for the Packers defense. The Capers’ 3-4 defense is predicated on its complexity; blitzes can come from everywhere and from anyone, coverages can be rolled the moment before the snap.

But complexity has its disadvantages, one being that it takes a lot of time to set up. The other big factor is that communication is very important. One prime example of this was against the Indianapolis Colts during the pre-season; on the Colts first drive, the last play started with the Colts in the no huddle, they snapped the ball quick while the Packers defense was still in the process of calling coverages and adjusting assignments. The result? A ridiculously easy 17 yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon who blew by the confused secondary.

14

January

Packers – Falcons Playoffs Preview: Second Time the Charm?

Bring on the Falcons! The Green Bay Packers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 21-16 in an NFC Wild Card matchup and now move on to the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons this Saturday night in the divisional round.
One down, three to go, Packers fans.

In what is becoming a common theme in the Packers’ postseason opponents, they faced the Falcons earlier in the season. On November 28th, the Packers fell to the Falcons 20-17 on a last second field goal. It was arguably the poorest tackling day by an otherwise stout Green Bay defense as Falcons running back Michael Turner gained 110 yards on the ground and scored one touchdown. Quarterback Matt Ryan was also brilliant throwing only four incompletions out of 28 attempts.

You’ve heard it ever since the playoffs began: “Anything in can happen in the playoffs. Everyone’s record is 0-0 and it’s every team for itself.” Perhaps now more was this evident in the 7-9 NFC West champion Seahawks’ upset of the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints in Seattle last weekend.

The Packers stand one win away from their second trip to the NFC Championship Game in four years. This one will be on the road, playing either in Seattle or Chicago depending on the outcome of Sunday’s game at Soldier Field.

Breaking down the Falcons

It’s only been seven weeks since these two teams squared off so the Falcons’ tendencies should still be rather fresh in the mind of the Packers.

On offense, the Falcons boast one the premier young quarterbacks in Ryan. With a nickname like “Matty Ice” you know Ryan remains as cool as a cucumber and he has only lost two home games in his three seasons as the Falcons’ starting quarterback. Ryan remains one the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL.

Ryan’s favorite target is wide receiver Roddy White. Once one of the NFL’s problem children, White has matured into an elite receiver that will give the Packers fits all day. He is able to get the ball downfield but still isn’t afraid to go over the top to make the catch. He is truly a complete receiver.

Don’t forget tight end Tony Gonzalez either. While his “catch” in the first matchup will forever live in Packers infamy, he’s still one of the best tight ends in the game. He’s especially dangerous in the red zone so Dom Capers must keep tabs on where number 88 is at all times inside the 20.