The Green Bay Packers are 4-0 and look like the best team in the NFL, but Packers fans shouldn’t make hotel reservations for Indianapolis just yet. There are still holes on this team, and the biggest might be the nonexistent pass rush.
I debated whether to include Clay Matthews in the falling category for this week’s stock report, but decided to hold off for now. I understand that teams are game-planning for Matthews, and that he’s doing a good job against the run and setting the edge, but the Packers need him to rush the passer. Period.
There are a lot of LBs in the NFL that are good against the run and setting the edge. There are only a few that are elite pass rushers. Matthews was an elite pass rusher in 2010, and the Packers need him to return to form in 2011.
I was at Lambeau on Sunday and Matthews too often appeared content engaging his blocker and trying to read which direction the QB might scramble. Matthews needs to blow up whomever tries blocking him and force the QB to scramble in one direction or the other.
Maybe he’s playing hurt, maybe he’s just playing within the system. Either way, he needs to start putting QBs on the ground. I’m betting that if Matthews gets going, so will the rest of the Packers defense.
It might be time to just give Rodgers his own category, something above rising. I hate wasting a rising slot on Rodgers because it’s obvious to anyone that has watched football for more than 5 minutes that Rodgers is really good, and getting better. When Rodgers connected with James Jones on a touchdown in the third quarter Sunday, my wife and I thought he was throwing it right to a Broncos defender. The Denver defensive back’s coverage was so good, that we couldn’t even see Jones from the angle of our seats, but Rodgers fit the throw in anyway. That about sums up how Rodgers is playing right now.
Another player that maybe deserves his own category. Where would this defense be without Woodson taking over the Carolina game and getting an early pick-six against the Broncos? Woodson’s nose for the ball, aggressiveness and football IQ have covered up the early struggles of this defense. If Dom Capers can get this defense back on track, Woodson should get more opportunities to blitz and wreak even more havoc.
Ted Thompson showed just how saavy of an investor he is by locking up Nelson to a contract extension before his inclusion in this week’s stock report. If Thompson would have waited until after Nelson made the rising category, it would’ve cost the Packers at least another $7.52 (yes, that’s 7 dollars and 52 cents. This stock report is a big deal. A very big deal). For now, Nelson is the Packers second best receiver, behind Greg Jennings and ahead of Jermichael Finley.
Despite a holding penalty, Wells had another good game against the Broncos. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Wells get a new contract soon, before Finley does.
McCarthy has this offense humming and it’s a sight to behold. The head coach also gets bonus points for his onside kick call on Sunday.
Lang has filled in for the departed Daryn Colledge admirably. His pass protection is solid and his impact on the running game is noticeable.
Hawk finished with 71 solo tackles last season. Through four games in 2011, he’s on pace for 32. I know it’s not Hawk’s job to fly around and make every play, but that’s a serious dropoff. I’m trying to remember a single time where Hawk did something memorable this season….Nothing comes to mind. Hawk and Desmond Bishop look like their feet are stuck in sand at times. Bishop (who has 31 solo tackles) at least is explosive near the ball and makes a play every now and then. Hawk stays stuck in the sand.
It was fun to watch Shields scamper out of the end zone and return an interception for 60 yards Sunday, but he was still beat on the play. A good quarterback connects on that pass more often than not and doesn’t give Shields a chance to recover. The young CB’s tackling skills have also come into question. If Shields gets back on track, it could free up Woodson to blitz more and transform the entire defense. I know that’s a lot to put on a young kid that has only played CB for two years, but he needs to make it happen.
My wife and I packed up our tailgating supplies and headed toward the Verizon Gate at Lambeau Field around 2 p.m. on Sunday. The line already stretched beyond the parking lot. It took us about 15-20 minutes to get into the stadium, but others weren’t as lucky. The new security measures at Lambeau are an NFL directive, and they are ridiculous. The NFL is punishing everyone by overreacting to a few isolated incidents. These new procedures — which include a hand-held wand screening similar to what you might be subjected to at an airport — are more for show than actual security. The NFL needs to show that it’s “doing something” to protect fans, even if all it’s doing is pissing everyone off. If someone is bound and determined to do something unruly at a football game, no hand-held wand will stop them. Enhanced security personnel inside the stadium combined with fans keeping their eyes open is a much more effective method.
The Packers return to the sight of last year’s NFC divisional round massacre. Despite its flaws on defense, I like the Packers chances on Sunday. I also like their chances of heading into the bye undefeated.
The Thanksgiving game against the Lions is looking like it will be a big one. Now I just need to convince the mother-in-law that Thanksgiving dinner should be postponed until after the game.——————