18

June

Is Aaron Rodgers Getting Too Old For the Green Bay Packers?

Football is a young man’s sport and even more so with the Green Bay Packers.  Since the introduction of Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy as the Packers general manager and head coach respectively, the Packers has consistently fielded one of the youngest rosters in the league.  In particular, Ted Thompson’s acumen for finding talented college players coupled with his penchant for ignoring free agency usually means there are a lot of players with little or no previous experience in the NFL.  The Packers have also been ruthless with aging veterans, where seemingly no player is safe; Charles Woodson, Cullen Jenkins, Chad Clifton, Marco Rivera, Mike Wahle, Darren Sharper were big name players all dumped to the curbside in favor of younger, cheaper options.

There is one exception of course and that’s the quarterback; while Ted Thompson probably believes he can replace just about every player on his roster with someone younger who can be equally talented (and overall he’s been right), even Ted Thompson realizes that quarterbacks are a different breed and the best are diamonds in the rough.  Aaron Rodgers is one of those quarterbacks and Ted Thompson made is clear that he’s not going to be replaced anytime soon by making him the highest paid player in the history of the NFL.

However, while Rodgers is here to stay for the long haul, the same can’t be said for the rest of the roster.  And as Rodgers continues to get older while the rest of the team gets younger, it’s naturally going to cause some issues.  One famous example was with Brett Favre and Randy Moss.  As told by Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post, in 2007 both the Packers and Patriots were interested in trading for Randy Moss, who had languished for 2 years with the Oakland Raiders.  At the end of the day, New England made the better deal and Moss was a Patriot.  Brett Favre was “livid” not only because he had long admired Moss while he was a Vikings but also because the Packers philosophy of building for the future did not work for Favre; Brandt mentions he told Favre he felt Greg Jennings would be a star in a couple years (which ultimately turned out to be true), but Favre countered that he didn’t have a couple years to wait (which also turned out to be ultimately be true).  In the end, Favre knew he only had a couple good years of football left and felt like the Packers were shortchanging him when instead they should have been giving him more ammo for one last push for a Super Bowl.  Obviously in retrospect, Ted Thompson was right to build the future (Aaron Rodgers), but had Rodgers not panned out, Favre would have been correct where sacrificing some of the future for the present would have been the better option.

10

January

How the Packers Should NOT Guard Randy Moss on Saturday

Randy Moss

There’s no reason to treat 2013 Randy Moss like 1998 Randy Moss

When the Packers play the 49ers on Saturday night in the NFC divisional playoffs, they need to remember that it’s 2013, not 1998, and treat Randy Moss accordingly.

Here’s video from the Packers vs. 49ers from week one. That’s Moss at the top of the screen. That’s Jarrett Bush lined up across from Moss, waaaaaaaayyyyyyy across from Moss.

In 1998, Moss’s rookie season — the season where he torched the Packers and altered Green Bay’s future draft strategies — Bush was 14 years old. He very likely has little or no memory of Moss’s dominance over the Packers from 1998, but you would never know that based on how Bush treats Moss on this play.

Bush lines up 10 yards off the now 35-year-old Moss, and starts back-pedaling as soon as the ball is snapped. It’s like Bush thought Moss must have taken a bath in the fountain of youth before the game.

Alex Smith connects with Moss for an easy 20-yard gain.

I know it’s Jarrett Bush, the same Jarrett Bush who will not be playing any coverage (hopefully) on Saturday night. But I don’t care who it is: There’s no reason to be scared of 2013 Randy Moss. Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Sam Shields. Hell, even Charles Woodson if it comes to that. Regardless of who guards Moss, they need to get on him and not worry about getting beat over the top. No 10-yard cushions and immediate back-pedaling.

Moss is old. He’s still serviceable, but he’s no longer scary. There is no reason to poop your pants when matched one-on-one with Moss.

Dom Capers has said before that he gives his corners the option of playing press or playing off whomever they’re guarding. There’s a chance that the Packers’ corners are still buying the myth of Moss as a big, bad, scary deep threat, and don’t want to be embarrassed by getting torched deep on national TV.

That is nonsense, and Capers needs to make sure his corners know that this week. If any of them talks about giving Moss a big cushion, Capers needs to hit the offender with a stick.

I don’t expect Moss to be a major factor on Saturday. Hopefully the Packers don’t turn him into a factor by being scared of him.

23

September

Around the NFC North: Week 3 Games

Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler needs a bounce-back game after a rough outing in Green Bay in week 2 and amid questions about his leadership style

Week 3 in the NFC North offers some opportunities for teams to make a statement as they near the end of the season’s first quarter.  The matchups are headlined by a Monday Night contest in Seattle where the Seahawks (1-1)will host the Green Bay Packers (1-1).  The Packers look to make a statement with a tough road win and re-solidify themselves as top contenders for their division and in the NFC.  The Seahawks are at home again after a solid win against the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday.

The Chicago Bears (1-1) will play host to the St. Louis Rams (1-1) and new Head Coach Jeff Fisher.  Both teams are dealing with injuries to and may be without their starting running backs.  Each looks to get over .500 and build some momentum.

The Detroit Lions (1-1) head to Tennessee (0-2) to take on a struggling Titans team that is 0-2.  The Titans are struggling on offense led by star running back Chris Johnson, who averages less than a yard per carry so far in 2012.  They are searching for their first win of the season.  The Lions are coming off a tough loss at San Francisco this past Sunday night.  Lions All-Pro WR Calvin Johnson leads the team in catches but has yet to find the end zone.

The Minnesota Vikings (1-1) are at home and are visited by the San Francisco 49ers (2-0).  The 49ers look to continue their roll over the NFC North, having already beaten the Packers in week 1 and the Lions last week.  Their smash-mouth defense and efficient offense make them a very tough matchup for any opposing team.  The Vikings return home and look to increase the work load of their star running back Adrian Peterson.  A win over the staunch 49ers would create quite a stir in the NFC North and catapult the Vikings into the conversation as division contenders.

11

September

Meet the Packers Newest Running Back: Randall Cobb

Randall Cobb

Could we see Packers KR/WR Randall Cobb on the reverse in 2012?

Despite losing to the 49ers last weekend, several things jumped out at me about the Packers; their offense can be as powerful as it was last year but look like they are going to need some time to get “tuned up”, the defense isn’t as bad as it was last year, but it’s still the weakness of the team, and the Packers might have finally figured out their problems at running back.  Their solution: second year man Randall Cobb.

The Packers have taken a page from the Minnesota Vikings and have positioned Cobb in a very similar manner as Percy Harvin, another player who perhaps doesn’t have the traditional skill set of a wide receiver but makes up for it in diversity of ability.

During week 7 of the 2010 season, the Vikings and Harvin fooled the Packers with a deceptively simple formation, with a twist:

 

The Vikings start in a 311 formation (3 WR, 1TE, 1RB) on 1st and 10 with Randy Moss at the bottom of the screen split wide, Harvin in the slot next to Moss and Bernard Berrian at the top of the screen split wide.  Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe is inline outside the right tackle while fullback/tight end Jeff Dugan lines up offset on the strong set (much like where a fullback would be in the I-formation).  The Packers, seeing 4 receivers and a fullback in a position to block naturally suspect the pass and counter with their nickel package, with Tramon Williams lining up against Moss and Sam Shields lining up against Berrian.  Charles Woodson lines up in the slot and naturally is covering Harvin, who again is also in the slot.

 

Now here’s where the trickery comes in, right before the snap Favre motions Harvin from the slot to Farve’s right and then proceeds to execute a draw play.  The Packers defensive linemen and linebackers abandon their run gap assignments as they play the pass and are completely caught off guard by the draw. Harvin stutters at the line, which only causes more confusion with the Packers pass rush as they don’t immediately see that its a run play.

 

10

September

Packers Loss to 49ers Similar to Early Defeats in 2010

Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were chased up and down the field by the 49ers on Sunday.

The Green Bay Packers were outplayed, outhustled and outcoached in their loss to the 49ers on Sunday. Other than that, the Packers looked pretty good.

The game reminded me of how the Packers played in the first part of the 2010 season. If you can remember back that far, the Packers lost three of four from week three through six, and got outplayed, outhustled and outcoached in each one. Nonetheless, each game was close.

  • The Bears beat the Packers 20-17 in week three, forcing a late James Jones fumble and taking advantage of 18 penalties on the Packers.
  • After the Packers beat Detroit in week four, they lost an ugly 16-13 game to the Redskins the following week. Aaron Rodgers threw an interception in overtime and the Packers were penalized nine times.
  • The Packers allowed 150 rushing yards, Rodgers was sacked five times, and the Packers lost 23-20 in overtime to the Miami Dolphins in week five.

It was a stretch of games where the Packers always looked a step behind. Green Bay’s raw talent was obvious, but something was missing.

That’s what it felt like during Sunday’s loss to San Francisco.

Outplayed: 49ers linebacker Navarro Bowman had nine solo tackles and a huge fourth quarter interception to set up San Francisco’s last touchdown. Bownman won his one-on-one matchups more often than he lost them, and he made a big play when it was called for. Other 49ers to do the same included Frank Gore, Alex Smith, Aldon Smith, Vernon Davis, Randy Moss and David Akers. The list of Packers to consistently do the jobs they were assigned and mix in a big play or two was significantly shorter.

Outhustled: Morgan Burnett should be forced to stand outside Green Bay city hall and hold up a giant sign that says “I’m sorry” after the pathetic effort he showed on Gore’s touchdown run. We hear a lot of talk about the Packers focus on fixing their tackling this offseason. It looks like they still have a lot of work to do, especially in the effort department.

6

September

2012 NFL Regular Season Week 1: Packers – 49ers Preview

Clay Matthews Alex Smith

This is our first chance to see if the Packers pass rush is truly improved.

It’s here. Finally, it’s here.

The draft? Done.  Training camp? Finished.  Preseason? Completed.

The dress rehearsals are done and the games that count are upon us.  The curtain on the 2012 NFL season has been raised and the march to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans begins in earnest this weekend.

The Green Bay Packers kick off their 2012 campaign Sunday at Lambeau Field against the San Francisco 49ers.  Many thought when last season’s playoffs began that this would be the NFC Championship Game, but thanks to the New York Giants the Packers’ season ended prematurely.

The regular season opener is the first big test to see if the Packers have fixed their defense, the Achilles heel that doomed their run at a second straight Super Bowl title a year ago.  It’s also a chance for reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers to begin to make his case for a second straight award and that the Packers offense is still as lethal as ever.

How do the Packers stack up against 49ers? Let’s first take a look at their opponent

Scouting the 49ers

Last year, the Packers faced one of the top offenses in the league during their season opener in the New Orleans Saints.  This year, they face one of the best defenses in the 49ers.

When you talk about the 49ers’ defense, you start with linebacker Patrick Willis.  Willis anchors a linebacker group that is one of the best in the NFL against the run. He was an All-Pro selection along with NaVorrow Bowman and helped the 49ers allow only 77.3 rushing yards per gain.  With defensive end Justin Smith leading the group up front, the 49ers figure to again have a very stout rush defense.

A strong defense allows the 49ers to make their opponents one dimensional which in turn allows their secondary to go on the hunt for interceptions.  San Francisco finished 16th in pass defense last season despite decent years by safety Dashon Goldson and cornerback Carlos Rogers whom both were selected to the Pro Bowl.

Despite coach Jim Harbaugh’s background, the offense remains the weak link for the 49ers.  Alex Smith was re-signed by the team only after a secret attempt to sign Peyton Manning became public.  The 49ers still don’t quite know what they have in Smith despite having a career season in 2011 and nearly leading the team to the Super Bowl.

1

June

New Contract In Hand, It’s Time To Honor Donald Driver

Donald Driver

Quickie's trademark grin will be in Titletown for 2012

I propose a toast.

It’s time to raise our glasses and salute not only one of the greatest players in Green Bay Packers history but also one of the most beloved.  A man who is “Packer People” personified from the way carries himself both on and off the field and his various charitable endeavors. A man who came from literally nothing and who beat the odds and made it on the NFL’s biggest stage despite being the Packers’ final selection in the 1999 NFL Draft.  A man who not only made it in the NFL, but rewrote the record books for one of the most storied franchises in league history.

Donald Driver, stand up and take a bow.

Parts of this column may sound like I am writing a farewell column despite the fact Driver hasn’t retired yet and in fact is coming back for his 13th NFL season.  I guess I’m guilty as charged, but I argue that it’s never too early to pay tribute to man of such importance to a franchise and its fan base as Driver.

Driver’s path to the NFL was an odyssey that would have even made Homer’s jaw drop.   One of five children, Driver spent a decent amount of time in his teens living out of a U-Haul truck and sometimes spending holidays without either of his parents.  Even at that age, Driver’s athletic gifts were apparent.  Given the nickname “Quickie” by his mother because of how fast he was when she would chase him around the house, Driver continued to mold his body and stay in shape.

His father was a quarterback at Texas A&M who won an athletic scholarship and could have played in the NFL, but gave it up to support his mother after his father (Donald’s grandfather) passed away.  It was a very large sacrifice to give up his dream to help his family and it’s a lesson Driver never soon forgot.

As he grew up it would seem Driver was determined to live his father’s dream and make it in the NFL.   He scratched and clawed his way to Alcorn State where he became a world class high jumper (he could have made the 2000 Sydney Olympics but lucky for Cheeseheads he didn’t) and was selected in the 7th round of the 1999 NFL draft by the Packers.