4

March

Should the Packers Cut Back on all the Pre-Snap Screwing Around?

McCarthy and Rodgers

Will Packers coach Mike McCarthy give Aaron Rodgers a little less freedom at the line of scrimage in 2013?

The Packers are fortunate to have a very smart head coach, a quarterback who is as well-prepared as any in the game, and a defensive coordinator known for his innovation and scheme adjustments.

When Mike McCarthy’s offensive brilliance, Aaron Rodgers’ ability to read a defense and Dom Capers’ knack for confusing offenses all comes together, it’s a beautiful thing.

But there were times last season when I wondered if perhaps they were too smart for their own good.

Exhibit No. 1 is the all-too-familiar scene of two Packers defensive backs staring at each other in bewilderment and pointing after giving up a big play. This scene typically comes after the defense scrambles around pre-snap like a bunch of worker ants.

“You were supposed to be there!”

“No, you were supposed to take that guy and I was supposed to be here!”

Ugh.

What happened to just lining up, covering your man or your area, and beating the guy who lines up across from you or enters your zone?

Rodgers sometimes drove me a little crazy last season as well with all of his pre-snap maneuvering. Rodgers is the best quarterback in the game. He’s got a group of elite wide receivers and a freakishly athletic tight end.

Run the play that was originally called and let your talent carry you to victory. You don’t always need to try and create a mismatch in order to gain an advantage. Sometimes the mismatch is just there because you’re better than the other team.

Is this post over-simplifying the issue? Of course. I have no idea what the Packers are doing pre-snap. Maybe they’re talking about the latest episode of The Walking Dead and all that pre-snap activity is just a cover-up. I don’t know the Packers playbook, I’m not in their meetings and I’m not on the field.

However, I’m not saying that the Packers should morph into a predictable team that other teams can easily scheme against. All I’m saying is that it might be time for McCarthy, Rodgers and Capers to trust the Packers talent a little more.

You don’t always have to try and scheme to get an unblocked pass rusher. Line up and beat the guy across from you.

1

March

Take a Moment and Enjoy Packers DT Ryan Pickett Blowing Up Offensive Linemen

Ryan Pickett

Packers DT Ryan Pickett getting after it.

If you’re an NFL fan who subscribes to Game Rewind and likes to re-watch games in order to see what happens away from the ball, Packers defensive lineman Ryan Pickett is your type of player.

The 330-pound 33 year old doesn’t make many plays that garner immediate attention on the game broadcast. To appreciate what Pickett does, you have to watch the film. That’s when you’ll nod your head at the veteran’s quickness off the ball. You’ll pump your fist when he shoves two blockers backward and frees up a linebacker to make a tackle. You’ll notice that Pickett is often the reason why a mess of players pile up at the line and the ballcarrier fails to pick up a short-yardage first down.

After 12 seasons, Pickett should be slowing down. Instead, he looks as strong and nimble as ever. It’s not a rarity to see space-eating defensive linemen play effectively as they creep into their mid-30s and beyond — Casey Hampton, Ted Washington and Pat Williams come to mind as older, run-stuffing linemen who excelled as they aged.

I planned to do an in-depth study of stats and numbers to tell you just how great Pickett has been the last few years, but I said the hell with it. Pickett’s worth goes beyond *numbers.* Let’s watch some film instead.

Here’s Pickett wrecking the Houston Texans offensive line:

 

I know Pickett is in there to stuff the run, but I love when he does get after the quarterback.

Wasn’t that awesome? I told you watching Pickett on film is fun.

After watching Pickett, I sometimes wonder why B.J. Raji can’t consistently play with the same energy and passion as his veteran linemate.

Some of it probably has to do with playing time. Raji played 124 more snaps than Pickett in 2012. Part of it probably has to do with assignments and responsibility. Raji is asked to do a little more than Pickett.

Can Pickett’s success continue this season? He’ll be a free agent. In addition to wanting to prove that he still is an upper-end defensive lineman, I’m sure he’ll be playing for one last multi-year contract.

I know I can’t wait to fire up the film and watch me another season Ryan Pickett making offensive lineman 10 years his junior look silly.

25

February

Packers Graham Harrell: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

Graham Harrell

Graham Harrell

1) Introduction: Was Harrell’s 2012 season the best ever by a backup quarterback? The second-year player from Texas Tech held the clipboard with perfect form. His posture and facial gestures while watching games from the sideline was second to none. His bored-to cup-to pour time — aka the amount of time it takes Harrell to snap out of staring straight ahead and being bored, sprint to the water cooler, grab a cup, fill it, and deliver it to Aaron Rodgers without spilling — was the best in league history. I can think of no other quarterback that is better suited to back up Rodgers than Mr. Graham Harrell.

2) Profile:

Graham “Mr. Wonderful” Harrell

  • Age: Ageless
  • Born: to play backup quarterback
  • Height: He’s bigger than the game
  • Weight: Harrell doesn’t wait for anything or anybody
  • College: School of Hard Knocks
  • Rookie Year: Doesn’t matter. Harrell has played like a veteran ever since setting foot on the field
  • NFL Experience: Watching Harrell play is an experience we all should cherish.

Career Stats and more:

3) Expectations coming into the season: Stay the hell off the field. The Packers kept extra beer in the coolers at Lambeau just in case Harrell ever had to enter a game. It is unclear whether the beer was intended to distract the fans from Harrell actually being in the game, or to calm the nerves of the Packers coaching staff who had to try and make sure Harrell didn’t injure any teammate by hitting them in the nuts with an errant pass.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Starr’s QB sneak in the Ice Bowl, Favre sprinting down the field after a TD with his helmet off in the Super Bowl, Kevin Greene telling Clay Matthews that “it’s time,” Harrell tripping over himself and fumbling at the 1-yard line after he entered the Saints game for an injured Aaron Rodgers. These are the greatest moments in Packers’ history (in no particular order).

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Being from Brownwood, Texas, I bet Harrell grills a mean steak. The offensive linemen probably appreciate that. I bet McCarthy does, too.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Harrell did just as good of a job tackling Colin Kaepernick as the entire Packers defense.

Season Report Card:

(A+) Level of expectations met during the season (Harrell exceeded my wildest dreams)

25

February

Packers Aaron Rodgers: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

Aaron Rodgers

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers

1) Introduction: It was a grind at times for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Things didn’t look quite as easy as they did in 2011. When injuries mounted and adversity came and went, Rodgers kept the Packers in games and came through in the end more often than not. It wasn’t an MVP season, but it wasn’t far off.

2) Profile:

Aaron Rodgers

  • Age: 29
  • Born: 12/02/1983, in Chico, CA
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 225
  • College: California
  • Rookie Year: 2005
  • NFL Experience: 8 years

Career Stats and more:

3) Expectations coming into the season: 8,000 yards, 108 touchdowns, 1 interception and a QB rating of 607.3. Seriously, I think some people honestly expected those numbers from Rodgers. His 2011 run might have been a once in a lifetime thing. It’s unfair to expect that to happen every season, maybe ever again. Rodgers ended up leading the league in passer rating for the second straight season and made several plays when he had no business making a play. It was another great season, regardless if he failed to meet some people’s unrealistic expectations.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: This was my favorite Rodgers’ throw of the season. Amazing. Other highlights include the big game against Houston, making plays down the stretch at Lambeau against the Vikings and recovering nicely from an interception to beat the Saints in a must-win early-season game. If I could change one thing about Rodgers’ season, it would be the interception against the 49ers in the playoffs. Rodgers hasn’t had a holy crap that was awesome! type of playoff game since the Super Bowl. That needs to change.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: God knows where the Packers would be without Rodgers. We get mad at him for holding the ball too long and struggling a bit against two-high safety looks. Those criticisms are valid as long as you realize that we’re holding Rodgers to a ridiculously high standard. Yes, it’s a standard he should be held at, but it can be easy to get carried away if Rodgers isn’t flawless and the Packers don’t roll to easy victory after easy victory. The Packers are mediocre at best without No. 12.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: The postseason hasn’t been Rodgers’ time since the Packers won the Super Bowl. He hasn’t been terrible, but he’s looked tentative and just a little off at times. That was the case again this season. The 49ers loss wasn’t Rodgers’ fault, but the Packers need him to play better if they want to make another Super Bowl run.

23

February

Packers James Starks: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction:  After missing his entire senior season at Buffalo due to injury, James Starks fell to the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The Packers stashed him on the PUP list to start the season before activating him for their week 13 game against the San Francisco 49ers. Starks was the Packers’ starting running back during the team’s run to the Super Bowl in 2010. But in his second season, Starks was nothing more than an average running back on a pass-happy team. He entered 2012 as the team’s starter, but expectations were limited.

2) Profile:

James Darell Starks

  • Age: 26
  • Born: 02/25/1986, in Niagara Falls, NY
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 218
  • College: Buffalo
  • Rookie Year: 2010
  • NFL Experience: 3 years

 Career stats and more:

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Starks was the starter coming into the season, playing ahead of second-year player Alex Green. But after a porous performance in the team’s preseason opener in San Diego, the team realized Starks may not be the answer. As a result, the Packers signed veteran Cedric Benson in hopes that he’d help revive a struggling running game.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights:  After the preseason opener against the Chargers on August 9, turf toe kept Starks out of the lineup until October 14 against the Houston Texans. The early-season injury was more of the same for Starks. But with Benson out for the season and Alex Green struggling as the starter, Starks became a more important part of the offense late in the season. The highlight of his 2012 season was against the Minnesota Vikings when he rushed for 66 yards on 15 carries, including a 22-yard touchdown run.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success:  Starks totaled 255 rushing yards on 71 carries throughout the season. The team’s production in the running game wasn’t anything more than average, and Starks, appearing in just six games, was only a minor contributor to the team’s overall success on the ground.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs:  Starks missed the team’s last four regular season games and didn’t appear in either of the Packers’ postseason games.

Season Report Card:

(D) Level of expectations met during the season

(D) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(F) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: D-

23

February

Packers DuJuan Harris: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction:  At the end of training camp, DuJuan Harris was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Harris was picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers but lasted only four days on the team. Out of opportunities in the NFL, Harris found a job selling cars at Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram Arlington in Jacksonville, Fla. A few months later, he’d be starting for the Green Bay Packers.

2) Profile:

James Darell Starks

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 09/03/1988, in Brooksville, FL
  • Height: 5’9″
  • Weight: 208
  • College: Troy
  • Rookie Year: 2012
  • NFL Experience: 1 year

 Career stats and more:

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Considering he was a car salesman to start the 2012 season, not much was expected from Harris this year. Even when he was signed by the running back-needy Packers, Harris was afterthought, still trailing Alex Green and James Starks on the depth chart.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights:  In his first game with the Packers, Harris found the endzone against the Detroit Lions. Including the playoffs, Harris scored four touchdowns in six appearances. It’s hard to consider any part of his 2012 as a “low-light” considering he gave the Packers’ running game a much-needed boost.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success:  It became evident fairly early that Harris was the team’s most effective running back. In the regular season, Harris racked up 157 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. Although he certainly wasn’t the focal point of the Packers’ offense, Harris provided the team with some balance offensively.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs:  Harris started both of the Packers’ postseason games. Against the Vikings, Harris racked up 100 total yards and a touchdown on 22 touches. Against the 49ers, Harris was successful against a tough San Francisco run defense, racking up 53 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries before the team abandoned the ground game.

Season Report Card:

(A+) Level of expectations met during the season

(C+) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(A) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: A-

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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.

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22

February

Packers Alex Green: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction:  The Packers selected Green in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Green attended the University of Hawaii after transferring from Butte College—the same school Aaron Rodgers attended before transferring to the University of California. As a rookie, Green was in line for an expanded role within the offense before a torn ACL ended his season early. Coming off major knee surgery, it was unknown how much of an impact Green would have this season.

2) Profile:

Alexander Denell Green

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 06/23/1988, in Portland, OR
  • Height: 6’0″
  • Weight: 225
  • College: Hawaii
  • Rookie Year: 2011
  • NFL Experience: 2 years

 Career stats and more:

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Green suffered a torn ACL Oct. 23 of last season, and he was back on the field for the team’s preseason opener on August 8. He started the preseason behind James Starks on the depth chart. And when Cedric Benson signed with the team, Green fell behind him as well.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights:  Green played well replacing Benson after his injury against the Indianapolis Colts. He finished with 61 yards on ten carries, thanks primarily to a 41-yard burst in the fourth quarter. When DuJuan Harris emerged as the clear-cut No. 1 back, Green’s role within the offense was essentially eliminated.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success:  When Cedric Benson suffered a foot injury Oct. 7, Green assumed the role as the team’s starting running back. He started the ensuing three games but failed to run away with the job. James Starks and DuJuan Harris each took a turn as the team’s feature back.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs:  Green was active for the Minnesota Vikings game and inactive for the divisional round contest against the San Francisco 49ers. He didn’t touch the ball in the postseason.

Season Report Card:

(B-) Level of expectations met during the season

(C-) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(F) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: C-

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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.

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