9

August

Packers – Chargers Preseason Preview: Answers Are Coming

Aaron Rodgers

The Packers open up the 2012 preseason tonight against the Chargers

It’s been a long time coming, but we’re here.  Green Bay Packers football is back.

Yes it’s only the preseason opener, but after a long offseason and a few weeks of the Packers playing against the Packers in training camp the Green and Gold finally get to face off against someone in a uniform of a different color.

Tonight the Packers face off against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in the first of four exhibition games.   Last season, the Packers beat the Chargers 45-38 in Week 9 to move to 8-0 on the year.  The Packers nearly blew the game in the fourth quarter but hung on for the win.

With starters for both teams only expected to see only a few series of action, this is a game in which the second and third string units get a chance to shine and prove that they belong on the roster when the regular season kicks off in earnest on September 9.

The Packers face a plethora of questions as they begin to shape their opening day roster.  Will they keep six wide receivers? How about the tight ends?  Who will be starting at cornerback opposite Tramon Williams with Charles Woodson now at safety in the base defense?  Will the pass rush be improved?

Those questions and more have been at the forefront of Packer fans’ minds all offseason and tonight’s game is only the first small step towards answering them.

Here are some things to watch as the Packers open the 2012 preseason:

The corner battle:  Many a fan shuddered when the Packers released their initial depth chart and showed Jarrett Bush as the starter opposite Williams.  Bush is known as a decent special teams player but has been shaky to say the least in pass protection.  After Sam Shields’ well documented struggles in 2011, Bush is the next man up to take a shot at the starting job vacated by Woodson’s move to safety.

The questioning entering this (and the following) preseason game is how Bush will hold up.  He faces a challenge in Philip Rivers and his cast of receivers.  Even though Vincent Jackson is no longer on the roster, Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal should give Bush a chance to show off his skills in pass coverage.

6

November

Packers vs. Chargers: 5 Things to Watch

Fresh off their bye week, the Green Bay Packers (7-0) travel west to take on the reeling San Diego Chargers (4-3) in Week 9 NFL action.

The basics 

When: 3:15 CDT; Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011.

Where: Qualcomm Stadium; San Diego, CA.

TV: FOX; Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick with the call, Laura Okmin on the sidelines.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee), Packers Radio Network, Westwood One, NFL Sunday Drive (Sirius Radio).

Series: Packers lead, 8-1-0 (Packers won last regular season game, 31-24, in Green Bay on Sept. 23, 2007).

Five things to watch

1. Banged up Bolts

If the Chargers are to knock the Packers off the NFL’s undefeated perch on Sunday, they’ll have to do it by taking a page from Green Bay’s 2010 book. San Diego is a hurting bunch leading into Week 9, and a quick scan through the Chargers injury report shows a frightening list of talented players who will either be out or playing hurt. Defensive end Luis Castillo (tibia) and guard Kris Dielman (concussion/seizure) have both been ruled out. Shaun Phillips, arguably the Chargers best defensive player, is doubtful with a foot injury and not expected to play. Key offensive playmakers Ryan Mathews (groin) and Malcolm Floyd (hips) are both questionable, along with former Packers linebacker Na’il Diggs, who is fighting a knee injury. Mike Tolbert (hamstring), Antonio Gates (foot), Vincent Jackson (hamstring) and Curtis Brinkley (concussion) are also playing and practicing with lingering injuries.

And don’t forget; there’s been a lot of talk around the league about the health status of quarterback Philip Rivers. Some have speculated that his fall from grace in 2011 is the result of something structurally wrong in his arm or shoulder. As bad as that list sounds, the Packers know a thing or two about rallying together despite a long injury list. They won the Super Bowl in 2010 with 15 players on IR. There shouldn’t be anything taken for granted by Green Bay because of a Chargers team that is limping into this contest.

2. Attacking the tackles

4

November

Know Your Packers Enemy: Previewing Packers-Chargers With John Gennaro of Bolts From the Blue

In this week’s installment of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” I talked with John Gennaro, the managing editor of Bolts From the Blue. It’s hands down the best Chargers blog I found in my search and John does a fantastic job ruling over it. You can follow John and the blog on Twitter (@BFTB_Chargers) as well.

Enough with the intros, let’s talk some Packers-Chargers.

ZACH KRUSE: First things first. What’s the vibe around San Diego right now? The Chargers still find themselves atop of the AFC West at 4-3, but is this a dejected fan base after the OT loss? What about Norv Turner? Are you as down on him as the head coach moving forward in San Diego as some of the other Chargers fans I’ve talked with?

JOHN GENNARO: Yes, yes, yes. Not just the loss to the Chiefs, but the loss against the Jets has also left a bad taste in the mouths of Chargers fans. With no wins over teams with winning records, and the Chargers constantly playing against themselves (due to turnovers and penalties) as much as they’re playing against an opposing NFL team, it’s hard to imagine this team going anywhere.

I’ve jumped off the bandwagon that typically supports Norv, although I’m not ready to fire him just yet, for one reason. Norv is here to make sure that the offense and Philip Rivers plays well. Those things are not happening.
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ZK: I’d like to hear your take on Philip Rivers. Obviously, the numbers in 2011 are far off what we’ve seen from him during his career. What’s the issue? Is there an injury he’s covering up? I obviously haven’t watched Rivers at length like you have, but the tape I’ve seen from this season suggests a more labored motion than usual that could be hiding a deeper structural issue, possibly in the shoulder. That’s just my take. What’s yours?

JG: Football Outsiders did a great job of running through the theories (http://www.footballoutsiders.com/extra-points/2011/what-wrong-philip-rivers) as well as looking over the tape, and came to the same conclusion that everyone else has: We don’t know. It’s obvious that his footwork is messier than usual, but there’s no real reason why. He’s throwing off of his backfoot and falling away instead of stepping into his throws, but again this seems to be more by choice and panic than anything else. Outside of a possible personal problem (that I won’t speculate on), there’s no easy explanation as to why Rivers is playing so much worse than what we’ve come to expect from him.

3

November

Packers Film Study: How Green Bay’s Offense Can Attack the San Diego Chargers

In anticipation of the Packers’ Week 9 matchup with the San Diego Chargers, I sat down with some tape of the Chargers in 2011 to decide how the Packers might go about attacking their defense. This is what I found:


Manipulating the safety in the red zone

Here we see Tom Brady and the Patriots offense in a 1st-and-10 look from the Chargers 14-yard-line. It’s a two-tight end, one-back set, with Rob Gronkowski to the top of screen and Wes Welker in the slot to the left of the formation. Aaron Hernandez lines up in the right slot with Deion Branch out wide. The Chargers combat this look with three down lineman, four linebackers and four defensive backs—their standard 3-4 personnel. They show man coverage and keep Eric Weddle as the single safety high. Bob Sanders, the other safety, lines up in the face of Hernandez. Brady motions Gronkowski back into the line to help in protection, but the motion also confirms to Brady the man coverage look as Donald Butler follows. At this point, Brady knows exactly where he wants to go with the football in his pre-snap read.

In the coaches tape, you can clearly see the man coverage. Brady initially locks on to the left to Welker, who is running an 8-yard square out. That forces Weddle to take two or three steps to his right to honor that look, which keeps him in no-mans-land for all three receivers. At this point, it’s up to Brady which receiver scores the touchdown. Welker has his man beat to the left, but Hernandez has a clear size mismatch on safety Bob Sanders. With Sanders’ back turned to the throw and no help in the area, Brady gives Hernandez a chance to make a play on the ball in the air. The Patriots tight end makes a rather routine catch in the end zone for a touchdown. If the Chargers give Aaron Rodgers and the Packers this look in the red zone, it’s going to be similarly easy score. The way Rodgers uses his eyes to manipulate safeties, like Brady does here, makes this play grand larceny.


Use of playaction

Let’s go back to the coaches tape for a 1st-and-1o play from the Patriots own 18-yard-line. New England again lines up in a two-tight end, one-back set with Welker out wide to the right of the formation and Chad Ochocinco to the left. The Chargers counter with their base 3-4 look. The offensive set and down suggests a run.