2

December

Has Packer Nation Gone Off the Deep End?

Calm down, Packers fans. Things are going to be OK.

Calm down, Packers fans. Things are going to be OK.

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE YELLING ABOUT! LOUD NOISES!”

OK, I do know what everyone is yelling about and it’s understandable….to a degree.

The 2013 season has completely come off the rails for the Green Bay Packers who are 0-4-1 since quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down against the Chicago Bears with a fractured collarbone.  Green Bay since then has gone through three starting quarterbacks (Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn) that have all struggled badly at some point.  The Packers defense, meanwhile, has suffered a complete meltdown.

Unfortunately, though not necessarily surprising, so has a decent chunk of the team’s uber-passionate and ever loyal fan base.

Everyone knew it would be a struggle for the Packers to win without Rodgers.  What so many didn’t expect, however, was that the team would basically not even be in any of the games since the 2011 NFL MVP went down.  The defense in particular would have to step up and they didn’t.  That’s not necessarily a surprise, either.

Many Packers fans, however, are suddenly in a white hot rage and ready to storm Lambeau Field with pitchforks and torches.  Packers Nation consists of some of the most knowledgeable fans in the NFL yet the team’s longest losing streak in years suddenly has them thinking the return to the dark ages (post-Lombardi to the arrival of Mike Holmgren, Ron Wolf and Brett Favre) are suddenly upon us.  They want to fire everybody, including the general manager that just three short years ago hoisted a Lombardi Trophy.

If this non-winning streak has taught me anything (it’s not a “losing streak” due to that tie against the Minnesota Vikings) it’s that Packer fans are the most spoiled fans in the NFL with the exception maybe of fans of the New England Patriots.

This is not to lecture fans about their passion for their team.  That passion has made Packer Nation one of the most revered in the NFL and has sold out Lambeau Field even when the team was much MUCH worse than it is right now.

What I am saying is that Packer Nation needs to get a grip.  There is no reason to fire Ted Thompson or Mike McCarthy.  There is a definite argument for firing Dom Capers, but even some of the defensive issues have been out of his control.

25

November

Cory’s Corner: Biggest wart on Sunday was offense

Former Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn came in to relieve the struggling Scott Tolzien.

Former Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn came in to relieve the struggling Scott Tolzien.

Everyone is going to want to blame the defense today.

And, yeah, it sounds about right.

The defense allowed a 2-8 team to waltz into Lambeau Field and get pushed around by Adrian Peterson who hasn’t been 100 percent for quite some time. Most people can swallow giving up 146 yards on the ground to a future Hall of Famer like Peterson.

But Toby Gerhart’s 91 rushing yards was more of a surprise than finding a 50-dollar bill in the couch cushions.

Yet, despite all that, I’m not blaming the loss, err tie on the defense.

Nope, this coulda-been is on the offense.

Most specifically, the very first overtime drive. Freshly inserted Matt Flynn — whom coach Mike McCarthy admitted he was looking for a spark — led the Packers down the field within scoring distance in eight plays.

The Packers had the ball 1st and goal from the Minnesota 7 and the only thing that was gained from such a great drive was a 20-yard field goal that Mason Crosby could’ve made with his eyes closed.

The play-calling didn’t help either. I didn’t like Eddie Lacy off right tackle on 2nd down and goal from the 3. Lacy got swallowed up for a one-yard gain, which set up the obvious pass on third down.

That of course coupled with the horrific 3-for-16 third down conversion rate and this offense would have had trouble finding water while falling out of a boat. The measure of good offenses down to the game level is how well they move the sticks. As long the chain gang keeps running to set up first downs, the rest will take care of itself.

I realize that it hasn’t exactly been easy for this offense without pass catchers like Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley, but the Vikings secondary isn’t scary. That unit has been gutted with injuries this year and McCarthy was too concerned about not losing as opposed to grabbing a much-needed win.

Now we cannot compare any of the last three quarterbacks that have been inserted since Aaron Rodgers went down. But then again, those are the guys entrusted to play quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. This isn’t the Green Bay Southwest High School JV team where a quarterback is expected to throw at most six passes a game.

18

November

Mike McCarthy Did the Packers No Favors Against the Giants

Mike McCarthy disapoints on and off the field

Mike McCarthy disapoints on and off the field

The Packers entered the game yesterday with a desperate need for a win against the Giants . I expected Mike McCarthy to dial up an aggressive game plan, one that would attack the weaknesses of the Giants defense. Instead, they went at the Giant’s strength.

The first two possessions of the game saw runs on first and second down for little gain, as the Giants did what they’ve done to other running attacks, despite their poor record. Both possessions resulted in punts – so much for getting the Packers off to that rousing start I had hoped for.

Just after the start of the second quarter, there was another set of first and second down runs, this time to James Starks, again with little gain and again, resulting in a punt.

I don’t know how it looked on TV, but watching the game from inside the stadium, in my nosebleed third tier seats, I felt an early listlessness in the Packers’ offense. As if there was a resignation that giving even their best effort would still not be enough without Aaron Rodgers. While that may be true, you don’t go out and concede right out of the gate, do you?

Luckily, the defense was playing better than they have the last few games (though still giving up some big plays), and kept the Packers within four points at halftime. I was pretty happy about that, especially with the Packers having the ball to start the second half. Surely, they would come out with a more balanced attack and march down the field to take the lead. Um… not.

First and second down runs again, for a total of 3 yards gained.  I’m not saying that shouldn’t have been running, but I am saying a little more creativity was needed.  And there other ways to get the ball in the hands of your running back if the defense is packing the line of scrimmage against runs. Packers did it only twice, for a 10.5yd average gain. With that kind of success, should we have seen it more often? One was actually a screen pass – a play McCarthy has seemingly moved to the back of his playbook.

Can you say “Predictable?”

And that brings me to my second point. The Packers are fooling NO ONE (or at least they sure weren’t fooling the Giants).

26

September

Will a Lack of Creativity Doom the Packers’ Offense?

Mike McCarthy Aaron Rodgers Offense Creativity

Has Mike McCarthy’s offense gone stale?

Ever since Mike McCarthy took over as head coach, the Green Bay Packers have prided themselves on being one of the most explosive offensive teams in the National Football League.

Since his first year with the Packers in 2006, McCarthy’s teams have scored 3,093 regular season points.  This includes the three games so far in 2013, so this covers 115 regular season games.  This means Green Bay has averaged around 26.9 points per game.  That’s a pretty good number.

McCarthy and both quarterbacks Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers have consistently found ways to keep the Green Bay offense at or near the top of the NFL for nearly eight years now, a remarkable feat in a league that has parity in the spotlight every season.

Is that run of offensive dominance about to come to a close or at the very least a slowdown? The early signs seem to be saying yes.

What has been one common theme for Rodgers besides wins and gaudy statistics since he took over in 2008? Sacks.

Rodgers was sacked 50 times or more twice in his first five full seasons as the Green Bay starter and is on pace to be sacked more than 50 times again this year. Of course, there are some reasons the Packers or their fans may throw out there in defense of these rather ugly numbers. Take the injuries, for one. Bryan Bulaga has once again found himself on injured reserve and the team has also seen the retirement/departure of line staples Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher.

Then there is the offensive line shakeup that took place over the course of this past offseason. That will take time for the players to adjust to their new roles right?  Sorry, not buying it.

By shuffling the offensive line around, McCarthy has done little else but put lipstick on a pig and that pig has been causing trouble for the Packers going on five years now. Green Bay has failed to settle on a solid, set-in-stone offensive line and it’s holding the team back.

Throw in the fact that Rodgers still has yet to really break his habit of holding the ball too long at times and it starts become clear what the problem on the offense really is.

7

April

Packers News: Team reportedly adds TE Matthew Mulligan

Packers TE Matthew Mulligan

Packers TE Matthew Mulligan

Tight end Matthew Mulligan agreed to a one-year deal with the Green Bay Packers, according to WCSH TV 6 in Portland, Maine.

Mulligan, a four-year veteran out of the University of Maine, played with the St. Louis Rams in 2012 after spending three years with the New York Jets. The Packers, having lost reserve tight end Tom Crabtree to Tampa Bay earlier this offseason, are looking for some depth at the position.

Mulligan was credited with 18 starts the past two years, catching a total of 13 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown over that span.

Behind starter Jermichael Finley, Mulligan will compete for playing time with the likes of Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor and D.J. Williams. If healthy, Quarless is likely the frontrunner to be No. 2 on the depth chart, but he missed the entire 2012 season after tearing his ACL and MCL in December of 2011.

Brandon Bostick, an undrafted free agent from Newberry College, stuck on the team’s practice squad last season after an impressive training camp. Bostick played wide receiver in college and could threaten for a spot on the Packers’ 53-man roster this season.

For depth and special teams purposes, the Packers typically carry multiple tight ends on the roster. Brining Mulligan into the fold is a minor move that could help mask the loss of Crabtree, while adding another capable veteran to a young group of tight ends.

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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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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.

18

November

Jermichael Finley key in Packers’ win at Detroit

Packers TE Jermichael Finley

Packers TE Jermichael Finley

Jermichael Finley is a subject for heavy debate among Packers fans.

When a player is under performing, it’s acceptable to be critical of him. And through nine games, Finley’s seven drops and lackluster performance were certainly deserving of criticism.

But when that same player turns in a key performance that helps his team win, credit is due.

In the Packers’ 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions, Finley enjoyed likely his best game of the year.

His three-catch performance is by no means a “breakout” game, but it’s certainly nice to see him catching the ball and making the most of his opportunities.

Finley caught all three of the passes thrown his way Sunday, and each play had a significant impact on the game’s outcome. Most notably, Finley scored the Packers’ lone first-half touchdown.

The most impressive part of Finley’s 20-yard touchdown was not the catch-and-run, but rather, the play call by head coach Mike McCarthy.

Rodgers took the snap and looked in the direction of running back James Starks for what appeared to be a screen pass. The Lions defense flooded towards Starks, while Finley snuck to the middle of the field. Finley was wide open on the play and didn’t get touched until he lunged into end zone.

For those scoring at home, yes, Finley did do his usual “YOTTO” celebration following his second touchdown of the season. And yes, it appears the “year of the takeover” is now in its third year, following its “debut” during the 2010 season.

But later in the game, Finley made another pivotal play. This time, on the Packers’ go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter.

Detroit’s defensive line had been playing well for the majority of the game, so Rodgers looked to get rid of the ball quickly on second down. Trailing 20-14 with under four minutes remaining, Finley caught a short Rodgers pass, turned up field and avoided several Lions defenders for a 40-yard gain.

The big gain put the Packers at the Lions’ 32-yard line. On the very next play, Rodgers completed a six-yard pass to Finley, and two plays later, the Packers took the lead on a touchdown to Randall Cobb.