Category Archives: Thomas Hobbes

16

July

Packers Speed Does Not Mean Packers Efficiency

One of these guys is going to lower the Packers offensive snap count.

One of these guys is going to lower the Packers offensive snap count.

Recently, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy stated in an interview with Rob Demovsky that he plans for the Packers to run 75 offensive plays on average per game.  While this might seem like a great idea consider the Packers have one of the most high flying and potentially dangerous offenses in the NFL, one only needs to take a step back to realize how trying to shoot for 75 offensive plays per game on average doesn’t necessarily mean you are winning nor does it mean that your offense will get better.

First off context is important when considering how many plays the offense gets to make on average.  On one hand, obviously converting 3rd downs and extending drives will increase the total number of plays on offense and picking up the tempo of the offense with no huddle and hurry up offenses are things the Packers have done regularly with Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers will also likely increase how many offensive plays the Packers get.

However it’s also important to realize that snap count can also be inversely proportional to Packers offensive efficiency; for instance if the Packers are comfortably in the lead and are grinding out the clock by running the ball 3 times and punting (I like how fans complain when the Packers run the ball 3 times and punt but also complain when the Packers throw the ball when killing the clock as well) their total number of offensive plays will naturally decrease simply because they are waiting until the last second to snap the ball.

Furthermore, teams that are behind tend to play faster because they know they have get more done in a faster amount of time.  While the Denver Broncos, who had the best offense in the NFL last season, did have the highest number of offensive plays per game at 72, teams that also had higher average offensive plays per game were Buffalo (70), Washington (69), Houston (68) and Cleveland (67).  I don’t think anyone would argue that any of these teams fielded a top flight offense last year and it’s likely that playing from behind increases your offensive plays as opposing defenses are also playing more “prevent”/soft defenses in order to kill the clock further.

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9

July

What Can the Packers Expect from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Eddie Murphy?

OK humor me for a moment, but watch Trading Places or Coming to America and tell me it doesn’t look like the Packers just drafted a young stand up comedian from Brooklyn, New York.

Alright with that out of the way, we often hear about how some positions are more “primed” for a successful rookie season than others.  Quarterbacks is often cited as the position with the hardest transition between college and the pros likely because college football has a more diluted pool of talent and a wider array of “gimmicky” schemes that often just don’t work in the NFL (see: Wildcat offense).  Wide receiver and offensive linemen are another two positions often cited as having slow progression, again likely because the NFL route tree is considerably more complex and refined than in college and the same can be said about protection schemes and the wider array of pass rushing options professional teams use.  On the other hand running backs and cornerbacks are said to be some of the quickest positions where teams see positive production; the Packers enjoyed perhaps one of the finest rookies seasons out of Eddie Lacy last year on his way to the rookie of the year awards likely in part due to the fact that running the football has a lot of innate talent involved.  Both running backs and cornerbacks also likely rely more on physical traits than the other positions and as a result also have some of the lowest career averages of any position.  But what about safeties?  On one hand, safeties do rely on their speed and agility much in the same way a cornerback does because often times safeties and cornerbacks switch roles.  On the other hand, safeties are responsible for a lot more than just covering a man or a zone; they have to be able to read offenses and routes, fill in gaps and provide run support and in the Packers 3-4 scheme are also responsible for calling the majority of the assignments in the defensive secondary.  So which one is it? Will the Packers be getting an instant rush of success and production out of Clinton-Dix or will he require a season or two to really come into his own?

2

July

What Packers Fans Should Know About Neck Injuries

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers, Packer People, Packers players, Johnny Jolly, Packers character, Packers off the fieldAt this point, Packers fans are all too aware of neck/cervical injuries and the effects and repercussions of returning to play after an injury and surgery.  At this point, Ted Thompson has had likely six neck injuries and four surgeries, all with various results, some positive but mostly negative. The latest was defensive linemen Johnny Jolly, who after battling a prescription drug addiction was a surprising addition to the Packers roster last year.  News recently came out that Jolly has been cleared by his doctors to return to play and now the question is whether or not the Packers will take him up on that offer.  However, many fans don’t really know the diagnosis, treatment or outcome of neck injuries and surgeries and it’s important to really understand the injury before deciding whether or not Jolly should or could return to the Packers.  As a matter of disclosure, I am not a doctor but an immunologist, so while I do have plenty of experience in the medical field I am not qualified to present a medical opinion; below is research I have done from a variety of medical journals and other sources.

Packer players who suffered a neck injury under the Ted Thompson regime

1. Terrance Murphy: Murphy suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit by Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis on a fumble recovery off of a return and was later discovered to have spinal stenosis, which ultimately ended his career.

2. Jeremy Thompson: Thompson suffered a neck injury during a practice after sustaining a collision with running back Kregg Lumpkin, who from reports suffered temporary paralysis on the field, necessitating the need for an ambulance and an overnight stay at Bellin Hospital.  Thompson subsequently also announced his retirement after the injury.  On a completely unrelated note, Thompson is now a medical student at the University of North Carolina, so the stereotype of football players being dumb jocks isn’t always true.

3. Nick Collins: Perhaps the most famous Packer to suffer a neck injury, Collins collided with Carolina running back Johnathan Stewart from above and suffered temporary paralysis. Collins spent the night at a hospital in Carolina before rejoining the team on IR.  Collins then had single fusion neck surgery to fuse the C3 and C4 vertebrae together.  Collins was subsequently released by the Packers and while he hasn’t officially retired, no team has been willing to even try him out, which indicates the severity of the injury.

25

June

What is fair value for Eddie Lacy?

Eddie Lacy Pro Bowl

How much would you pay this guy?

Packers fans have been quipping that the running back is the most fungible position in the NFL; I’ve said it, my colleagues here on the blog have said it and tons of you have said it in your comments (yes we do read your comments).  In truth, it’s an easy thing for Packers fans to say simply because the Packers aren’t the type of team that revolves around running the ball; with Mike McCarthy at the helm, Aaron Rodgers behind center and Ted Thompson on top of the front office, the Packer’s have been a pass-first, pass-second, run as an afterthought type of franchise.

On the flip side, ask any Minnesota Vikings fans what they think about the running game and I’m sure you’ll get a completely different response.  Outside of a miraculous 2009 season, there hasn’t been much for Vikings fans to hang their hat on; sure the defense has been occasionally good but their football identity is running the ball with Adrian Peterson.  However Peterson is a once in a generation type of player and the simple fact is that running backs are not very valuable in the NFL; they’re production has plateaued lower than their receiving counterparts, the massive toll playing the position takes on their body and future production and the shift from the workhorse back to the running back by committee approach means you don’t need to find a running back that can do it all.  As a result, less and less running backs are being drafted, especially in the first round.

Packer’s fans might just have to start rethinking about the value of the running back position as the Packers might have a real star on their roster with Eddie Lacy in green and gold.  While Lacy was a godsend for the Packers last year and was essentially the offense while Aaron Rodgers recovered from his broken clavicle, Lacy was paid a mere $405,000 for perhaps the best season a running back has had since Ahman Green in his heyday. Keep in mind this is after winning rookie of the year honors; when Charles Woodson won defensive player of the year honors in 2010, the Packers responded by giving him a huge increase in pay even though he still had plenty of years left on his contract.

18

June

What Can We Expect From Eddie Lacy In Year 2?

Eddie Lacy went from a too fat, too hyped running back out of Alabama to the 2013 NFL Rookie of the year (which I predicted right after he was drafted).  However, Lacy’s meteoric rise to the best football player from the 2013 NFL draft was probably not as the Packers predicted; with the injury to Aaron Rodgers collarbone the Packers morphed into a conservative, ball control offense lead by pounding Lacy behind Josh Sitton, TJ Land and Evan Dietrich-Smith.  Naturally as Lacy proved to be the most effective weapon the Packers had left, he got more carries, which lead to more yards, more touchdowns and naturally more accolades.  But with the return of Rodgers with a fully healed collarbone, what can the Packers expect from Lacy?

First off the disappointing news; successful rookie running backs don’t do as well on their second season.  According to statistics pulled from Rotoworld, of running backs who gained at least 600 yards during their rookie season in the last 10 years:

  1. 66% of running backs saw a decrease in their rushing production in year 2
  2. 72% of running backs who rushed for at least 7 or more touchdowns saw a decrease in their scoring in year 2
  3. 75% of running backs who rushed for at least 1,000 yards saw a decrease in their production in year 2

As the article states, there is really no concrete reason why running backs tend to decline going into their 2nd years; one possibility is that teams have a full year’s worth of film to watch and thus are able to properly analyze what types of plays, holes or cuts a running back typically executes and can plan accordingly.  Another possibility is that while running backs aren’t typically over utilized their rookie year, high drafted runners like Lacy already come into the league with a lot of tread off their tires; it’s quite well known that running backs have one of the shortest shelf lives of any position in the NFL and it’s possible that a rookie running back is already at his peak by the time he enters the NFL.  There’s also the increase responsibility of being “veteran” player; rookie running backs (as well as all rookies for that matter) are often given more simple assignments and only asked to do things they are already comfortable doing.  With another offseason, 2nd year running backs are expected to fully know the offense, which for a running back includes protecting the quarterback, running a more diverse route tree, etc.  With more things to think about and being put in more foreign situations likely results in a dip in production as well.

11

June

Offensive Linemen Musical Chairs, 2014 Edition: who stays, who goes?

Outside of special teams, nothing is more confusing, more obfuscated or more esoteric than offensive line play; We all know that Joe Thomas is supposed to be one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL right now, but do you or I really know that?  I’ve never watched a game specifically focused on Thomas (which would of course require me to watch a Browns game…..so no thanks), and I suspect that even Browns fans probably haven’t really paid all that much attention to him.  The only real reason I know of Joe Thomas at all is 1) he went to Wisconsin and 2) I’ve been told he’s one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL today.  At least with other positions, there are splash plays or statistics we can fall back on whether it be sacks, yards after the catch, Dwight Freeney’s spin move, the back shoulder catch etc.  But for offensive linemen, none of that really exists; the “pancake” has never really gotten off the ground as a established metric of offensive linemen success nor does a great block ever make the Sportscenter highlight reel.  Add on top of that there are actually 5 positions on the offensive line, and we get a confusing mess of contradictory statements; offensive linemen must all work together, but each have different jobs.  Tackles are tackles and guards are guards, except some are left tackles but not right tackles and some are right guards but not left guards.  Center is a unique position, unless it isn’t and you put a guard in there.  There is a distinct difference between “interior” linemen and “bookend” offensive linemen, unless of course you kick your tackle to play guard.

In all of that, the Packers are faced with a conundrum; there are 5 positions and traditionally 2 backup positions, making 7 offensive linemen total.  What I’ve done is made a mental excercise of some combinations of offensive linemen that are likely to happen when the Packers roster is reduced to 53.  A couple rules: I’d highly doubt the Packers carry any more since offensive linemen aren’t all that useful on special teams meaning they’d almost always be on the inactive list.  Of course the Packers have had more than 7 offensive linemen in the middle of the season due to injuries and what not, but its obviously not their first choice.  Also there needs to be a backup for both tackle and guard; supposedly there is a significance between the two but Ted Thompson probably disagrees since the vast majority of offensive linemen that have been on the Packer’s roster were college left tackles.

4

June

The Contract Conundrum of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb

The Packers are a passing team first and foremost, and Ted Thompson has taken Ron Wolf’s lamenting to heart and has always made getting weapons for his star quarterback a priority.  Whether its drafting or resigning his own, Thompson has always made a big effort to keep talent at the wide receiver position, which can’t be said for some other positions like center.  However, next season presents a unique set of challenges, namely having both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb both enter free agency by the end of this season.  While the Packers do have a relatively healthy salary cap it will be quite interesting to see how Thompson and lead negotiator Russ Ball deal with both Nelson and Cobb, who while playing the same position are almost two polar opposite players.

Jordy Nelson has been consistently one of the better wide receivers in the league, ranking as high as 2nd last year according to Pro Football Focus; he’s probably best suited for the perimeter and can use his size and deceptive speed as a deep threat for Aaron Rodgers. He’s also going to be looking for a big contract after taking a below market deal as he knows this will probably be his last big contract.  Randall Cobb on the other hand is a multi-purpose weapon that does a variety of things well, he’s a prototypical slot receiver but also has great versatility and can play running back and return kicks.  Cobb’s is likely looking to capitalize on his success early after missing out on the big money due to being picked in the 2nd round and also being in the first class under the new CBA.

I think the biggest problem with wide receivers is that there are so many of them and there are a lot of ways to be a good wide receiver.  If you think about quarterbacks, there are only a couple really great quarterbacks and they all share a lot of common traits like accuracy, poise, intelligence and arm strength.  Wide receivers on the other hand come in all shapes and sizes; Calvin Johnson plays very differently from Wes Welker but both are great wide receivers in their own right.  Some are fast, some are quick, some a big and some are small.  Does it make much sense for Randall Cobb to be looking at Calvin Johnson’s contract?  Sure they play the same position, but Johnson has such a different game it’s hard to justify using that as a contract bench mark (ignoring the fact that Johnson or Suh have the most ridiculous contracts of any player on the NFL).