29

July

Previewing the 2013 Packers with Rivers McCown from Football Outsiders

The Football Outsiders 2013 Almanac

The Football Outsiders 2013 Almanac is out now!

The 2013 Football Outsiders Almanac is out now and I would advise Packers fans to pick up a copy. I’ve always enjoyed how the almanac blends modern analytics and metrics with traditional scouting and the unique perspectives of a talented writing staff.

Rivers McCown wrote this year’s chapter on the Packers. I don’t want to give the entire chapter away — don’t be a cheapskate, go buy yourself a copy — but I did want to bring a little Football Outsiders perspective over to ALLGBP.com one way or another.

Thankfully, Rivers took some time to answer a few very long-winded questions I asked him about the 2013 Packers. Here’s what he had to say:

Adam Czech: The Packers defense has been labeled “soft” by many fans and a few members of the media. Is there any truth to that label? Or is what some may perceive as being soft have more to do with being injured, slow, forced to play six DBs, or all of the above?

12

July

Fact Czech: The Packers Defense is Soft

hawkWe’re less than three weeks away from the start of training camp, and already narratives are being formed and talking points are being accepted as fact about the 2013 Green Bay Packers.

From now until the start of camp, I’ll Fact Czech (see what I did there? Heh.) some of these narratives and presumed truths and use my unmatched Packers wisdom to see if they hold up.

Uh oh. I already noticed a statement that didn’t pass the Fact Czech test: My Packers wisdom is not unmatched. It is matched by many, and surpassed by many more. But that doesn’t stop me from appointing myself as the official Packers Fact Czecher of the Universe.

Here we go.

Statement: The Packers defense is soft.

Does it pass the Fact Czech test? No.

I get where people are coming from when they say the Packers defense is soft. I even say it myself, sometimes.

But when we say the Packers defense is soft, what we’re really saying is that the Packers defense is bad.

How many defenses in the history of football have been both good and soft? Zero, that’s how many.

When the defense goes out and lays another egg against New York or lets Colin Kapernick run all the way to Tomah, Wis. and back during a playoff game, we want an easy answer as to why that happened.

“Well, the Packers D is soft! That’s why it happened! If they were just tougher, they could stop these teams! Duh!”

What does it mean to be soft on defense? Does it mean players are scared to tackle the ballcarrier? Does it mean they run away when a lineman tries to block them? Does it mean they cry when Adrian Peterson dips his shoulder and tries to pick up a few extra yards? Does it mean they shudder in fear before running onto the field before the next defensive series?

Nobody know what makes a defense soft. It’s just a word that comes to mind when describing a bad defense.

What does it mean to be tough on defense? Typically, defenses that don’t let other teams score a lot of points — exactly what a good defense is supposed to do — are labelled as tough. Tough is another adjective for good. What makes a defense tough? Do they eat nails before the game? Do they cagefight each other for recreation? Do they wear short sleeves when temperatures dip below zero? Do they punch, kick, stomp and spit on opposing players?

30

June

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

To survive this particular Sunday, I don’t want to write about Desmond Bishop officially signing with the Vikings, Aaron Rodgers getting shafted on the NFL top 100 list or Aaron Hernandez (allegedly) murdering a guy(s). Instead, let’s do a Packers hypothetical:

If Packers GM Ted Thompson calls you tomorrow, rattles off the names of two players, and says he absolutely has to cut one of  them and is calling you for advice, what would you tell him?

Here are the scenarios:

Tramon Williams or Casey Hayward?
I’d keep Hayward and cut Williams. Not an easy choice because I’m not as down on Williams as others, but I’ll take the young guy who isn’t as afraid of contact as Williams has been lately. Having young CBs like Sam Shields and Davon House on the roster would also help cushion the blow from losing Williams.

Mike Neal or Jerel Worthy?
One guy is prone to injuries, the other is actually injured. I’m keeping Neal and cutting Worthy. Neal has showed flashes of being really damn good when he hasn’t been in the trainer’s room. Worthy didn’t show me much last season when he was healthy — not enough explosiveness. I know Worthy is young and defensive linemen need time to develop, but based on what I’ve seen so far, I like a healthy Neal over a healthy Worthy.

Jermichael Finley or James Jones?
Now this is a tough one. I want to say I’d cut Finley and keep Jones, but for some reason, Finley still strikes fear into other teams. You still see coverage shifted to account for No. 88 even though he hasn’t been what I’d consider a playmaker in his career. He’s been a decent enough tight end, but not really a playmaker. Jones seemed expendable until he went nutso last season and I like his ability to go up and catch a jump ball every now and then. I also value a good wide receiver over a one-dimensional tight end, so I’d cut Finley. I might live to regret that decision, though. It’s a tough one.

Adam Czech, Jersey Al, Kris Burke, Chad Toporski, Thomas Hobbes, Jason Perone or Marcus Eversoll?

4

June

Colin Kaepernick: Revisiting the Packers’ defensive debacle

Colin Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback-record 181 yards against the Packers in the playoffs.

Colin Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback-record 181 yards against the Packers in the playoffs.

Football is the ultimate team sport, so crediting just one player for a win in the NFL is foolish.

But in the divisional round of last year’s NFC Playoffs, the Green Bay Packers fell victim to a dominant performance by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In his first career playoff sart, the second-year quarterback put up video game-like numbers.

Kaepernick was sharp as a passer and electric as a runner, racking up 181 yards on the ground — a new NFL record for a quarterback.

Kaepernick may have been the NFL’s biggest breakout star throughout the entirety of the 2012 season. To start the year, Kaepernick carried the ball just once for 17 yards against the Packers in Week 1 at Lambeau Field. Four months later in the playoffs, Kaepernick accounted for 444 total yards and four scores.

After flexing his biceps in the end zone and drawing a 15-yard first-quarter penalty for taunting, it’s almost as if Kaepernick is now to Packers fans what Lord Voldemort is to Harry Potter.

He’s the archenemy. Don’t even speak his name in Packers country.

The Packers, again, will open up the season against the 49ers, so they’ll get an early look at the quarterback who dominated their playoff matchup. The effects from Kaepernick’s performance against the Packers, specifically, have been evident throughout the offseason in Green Bay.

For the second consecutive year, the Packers have focused on the defense early in the NFL Draft.

After being selected with the 26th overall pick in April’s draft, Datone Jones weighed in on Kaepernick’s playoff performance. “I thought he was pretty good,” Jones told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “But I don’t think they’re going to be able to run him like that. He takes one good hit, there goes their season.”

But while plenty of Kaepernick’s production against the Packers came on designed run plays out of the read-option, the fleet-footed quarterback continually escaped the pocket and caught the Packers out of position on designed pass plays.

Facing a third down early in the first quarter, Kaepernick eluded the pressure and found running back Frank Gore, who got behind Charles Woodson, gaining 45 yards down the left sideline. With the exception of a first-quarter pick-six by Sam Shields, Kaepernick torched the Packers through the air.

23

March

Packers Defense: Who’s Still On the Way Up?

Green Bay Packers defense

Who’s Rising on Defense?

Here we are at the start of the 2013 NFL season. Let the great debates roll on!   Sign a FA?  Keep your own?  Difference maker free agent? Hole filler? Last gasp?  Which leads to next big thing, the team has to draft this position this year! { fill in your choice}.

Everyone goes nuts this time of year, I am of the use Free Agency to fill a hole in depth crowd,  but first and foremost keep your own.

From most of talk across the web, Packer fans are screaming for “DEFENSE” and I can’t disagree, but for many, players already on the team are over looked waiting for that big signing. { like that is going to happen in Green Bay in the first place}

So while many are playing fantasy GM with all the if’s, maybes, should have’s, could have’s, lets look at players on the team that are on the way up and will improve the team from the inside.

I consider C.J. Wilson on the way up. He missed games with a knee injury last year, in the eleven games he played, he was looked at as one of the Packers better run stoppers, he had 24 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Nothing to get excited about, but Wilson did improve in his second year, not bad for 7th round pick that played 4-3 DE in college. He is a better athlete then given credit for at 6-3 300# he ran a 4.83 40, 32 reps at #225, 1.67 ten yard time 4.50 shuttle and 7.65 3 cone drill. His best football is still in front of him.

Mike Neal actually stayed fairly healthy last year and flashed some of what he did as a rookie. He and Matthews got on a bit of roll before Matthews got dinged up. He has the work ethic and gained experience last year.  He now has 22 games played,  11 for 2012 with a 4 game suspension. Still on the way up.

Terrell Manning and Jamari Lattimore are the two inside linebackers I want to see most. Manning was a OLB in college and missed time with a parasite, but made his way on the field for 5 games in 2012. Lattimore was a DE in college, Packers they tried him at OLB first, he moved to ILB last year and showed promise in the preseason. Both are more athletic then Smith and Bishop.

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.

21

January

A Green Bay Packers Spy Story: WHODUNNIT?

Packers Spy 49ers

Erik Walden and Clay Matthews – Packers Spys?

I spy… a blitz?

The impetus for writing this post was to determine once and for all, how much actual “spying” of Colin Kaepernick did the Green Bay Packers do and who was involved? On twitter after the game, there was a wide disparity of opinions on this topic. Some bemoaned why the Packers didn’t employ a spy, others claimed they were spying most of the game. I knew the truth lied somewhere in-between.

I had spotted two instances myself during the first half, always with a linebacker as the spy. As the second half rolled along, I started looking for the Packers to possibly spy the speedy Kaepernick with a DB, but it never came. I was thinking perhaps a modified version of nickel, where a linebacker (Hawk or Jones) would come out instead of a defensive lineman.

My first thought was to use Woodson in this role, but that would have made things a lot easier for Vernon Davis. So I settled on fan favorite Jarret Bush. As the gunner on punt returns, he is face to face at high speed with a guy trying to run by him with the ball. Bush could have handled the job.

In any case, I just had to find out how hard the Packers tried to contain Kaepernick. So, I went through the coaches’ All-22 film of the game and noted every time Kaepernick either ran the ball or threw a pass.  A complete listing of the plays is found below, along with video of the four plays where the Packers employed a Spy.

But first, lets summarize and discuss what I found:

37    PASSES:  Number of times Kaepernick dropped back to pass.

4       SCRAMBLES:  Number of times Kaepernick scrambled after dropping back to pass.

8       PLANNED RUNS:  Number of times Kaepernick kept the ball on a planned run.

4      SPYS:  Number of times Packers used a spy (all in second quarter)

13     BLITZ:  Number of times Packers rushed five or more players.

 

So, I pretty much found what I expected with regards to spy plays. They tried it four times, all in the second quarter. They used Walden twice and Clay Matthews twice. Video and a brief discussion of each play is a little further down in this post.