18

October

Pro Football Focus Grades: Packers rookies stepping up on defense

After finishing dead-last in total defense last season, the Packers put an emphasis on improving their defense last offseason.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson used the 28th overall pick on USC outside linebacker Nick Perry, before trading up twice in the second round to help bolster the Pack’s struggling defense. Thompson is stingy when it comes to parting with his draft picks, but as he put it after the draft, “I’m no longer my father’s son.”

In the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Packers traded up to No. 51 overall to select Michigan State defensive end Jerel Worthy. After losing Cullen Jenkins the previous offseason, Green Bay hoped to add a versatile pass rusher to its defensive line.

Seven picks later, the Packers, again, surprised everyone by moving up to select Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward with the No. 58 pick. The secondary struggled mightily in 2011, and given the fact that Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins would no longer play for the team, the Packers wanted to add a defensive back capable of playing from day one.

And so far, Hayward certainly looks the part.

Through six weeks of the 2012 NFL regular season, Pro Football Focus has Hayward graded out as the No. 2 cornerback in football. Not the No. 2 rookie cornerback in football. The No. 2 cornerback in football, just behind Vikings veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield.

The folks at Pro Football Focus take every single play from every single game, and put each player under the microscope.

So far, Hayward has played 173 snaps on the season. PFF has charged him with just nine completions allowed, and opposing quarterbacks targeting him have combined for a league-worst 18.4 QB rating.

In the Packers’ last two games, Hayward has three interceptions. Hayward’s first pick of the season came last week in Indianapolis when he was matched up one-on-one against Reggie Wayne. The Colts No. 1 receiver torched the Packers all game, but Hayward got the better of him on that play.

At a pivotal point in the game, Hayward matches Wayne step for step and makes a great play on the ball. Not only was it an impressive play, but it’s pretty telling that the Packers’ coaching staff trusts a rookie on a receiver who had been dominant all day.

14

October

Packers vs. Texans – Game Day First Impressions, Unfiltered: GB 42 HOU 24

Tom Crabtree, Jordy Nelson, Packers vs Texans

Crabtree and Nelson celebrate a Packers TD

Green Bay Packers vs. Houston Texans:

My unfitered game day recap and blog post of comments, observations and first impressions.

Inactive for Packers today:

  • S Sean Richardson
  • CB Davon House
  • LB Terrell Manning
  • G Greg Van Roten
  • TE D.J. Williams
  • WR Greg Jennings
  • DT B.J. Raji

Inactive for Texans today:

  • QB Roc Carmichael
  • CB Brandon Harris
  • S Quintin Demps
  • OT Andrew Gardner
  • OG Cody White
  • OG Brandon Brooks
  • LB Barrett Rudd

Game Notes:

Texans will be missing the heart of their defense, Brian Cushing, who is out with a torn ACL suffered last week against the Jets.

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Mike McCarthy Pregame Show on 620 WTMJ:

Daughter’s 21st birthday: A big day and it makes me feel old.

Team’s psyche: They’re confidant and ready to go. We knew this was going to be a tough one when the schedule came out. We respect the Texans.  Sunday night is always an exciting time to play.  Our guys are ready to go.

Noise: Yes, this is going to be a great environment. It’s my first time in this stadium, the only one I haven’t been in. We practice a lot for these conditions

Practice: We’re always working on improv ing our practices. We aren’t making any excuses. Our practices this week, I was very pleased with the walk throughs and the meetings.

Raji out: Ryan Pickett has been playing some nose, so it’s not a problem. Our DL will be challenged today.

Finley: We’re not going to approach this game like he’s 100%. We need to be smart about it, so he’ll be on a rep count. Finley wants to play and is ready to try to play through this injury. Says a lot about him.

Texans: Very talented team, they play very well to their strengths. Important for us to knock them off their rhythm and off their spots. That’s our plan.

JJ Watt: Very talented young man. To be playing the position he’s playing and so well. As talented as any DE we’ve seen on tape.

Keys to the game: 1)turnover ratio.  2)Take advantage of big play opportunities.

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Packers vs. Texans – First Impressions – First Half:

Texans win the toss and choose to receive the ball.

14

October

Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans: Key Matchups

J.J. Watt

J.J. Watt has been the NFL’s best defensive player so far in 2012

The Green Bay Packers have a big road matchup on Sunday Night Football against the Houston Texans.  It’s a tough matchup following an tough loss at Indianapolis last weekend.  The Texans are clearly one of the best teams in the NFL and are undefeated at 5-0.

The Packers will need to put together their best overall performance in order to get a win.  Doing so would be big step in the right direction for the Pack.  Let’s look at the key matchups that will likely factor into the outcome.

Texans DE JJ Watt vs. PackersBryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton

Normally a QB matchup would lead off this segment but JJ Watt is the most important guy on the field for the Texans right now.  He leads the NFL in sacks with 8.5 and talk of his being Defensive Player of the Year has already begun.

The Texans run a base 3-4 and Watt lines up on the left side of the line.  Because of his skill set, Watt can stunt outside or in and will likely matchup against both Bulaga and Sitton along with C Jeff Saturday.  Houston will likely mix it up in order to keep the Packer OL off balance and create favorable matchups.  Any success by Watt spells trouble for the Packer offense.

Bulaga’s play has dropped off, at least statistically this season.  Our very own Adam Czech breaks it down further.  As mentioned, the Packers are going to have to turn in one of their most technically sound games to come out with a win.  This rings especially true for the O line and Bulaga.  Confidence is a big part of a player’s success on the field.  In addition to the fundamentals, Bulaga needs to come in determined to win his matchups.

Sitton continues to be one of the Pack’s best O linemen, but the line as a whole has not been consistent.  He will surely have his hands full with DT Shaun Cody as well as Watt.  Again, confidence is key to Sitton’s performance.  It’s the one factor he can control and improve between now and game time.  Houston’s pass rush has been effective this year and keeping Watt at bay will help neutralize a majority of it.  It will also dramatically increase Green Bay’s chances of winning this one.

8

October

Packers News: Benson could be out eight weeks

Cedric Benson will likely be out at least eight weeks

Cedric Benson will likely be out at least eight weeks

At halftime of Monday night’s game between the Houston Texans and the New York Jets, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Packers running back Cedric Benson could miss eight weeks.

Earlier in the day, head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t reveal much about the severity of the injury to Benson’s foot, but Schefter suggested it’s a Lisfranc injury. Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes suffered a similar injury, which will sideline him for the rest of the season.

The Packers currently have three running backs on their roster in Alex Green, James Starks and Brandon Saine.

It’s much too early to tell whether or not the Packers will bring in a veteran running back to fill Benson’s shoes, but the top available free agents include Tim Hightower, Steve Slaton and Joseph Addai.

McCarthy suggested that Green, Starks and Saine would each get an opportunity to play next Sunday at Houston. We’ll know much more about the Packers’ running back situation following their first full game without Benson.

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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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