29

July

Cory’s Corner: Mike McCarthy’s style is perfect for Packers

In eight seasons as the Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy has an 82-45-1 record and a 6-5 playoff record. He has five double-digit win seasons.

In eight seasons as the Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy has an 82-45-1 record and a 6-5 playoff record. He has five double-digit win seasons.

Mike McCarthy has been called a lot of things by a lot of people.

Some may not like his play-calling, while others may not prefer his player development.

But the Packers coach isn’t afraid to think out-of-the-box. How many NFL coaches are approaching NFL training camp with Jell-O? That’s right, the Bill Cosby snack has been infused into Packers practice.

It is evident that McCarthy is sick and tired of seeing nagging injuries pester his players. And if it takes a Jell-O cup and a granola bar to do it, so be it.

McCarthy is entering his ninth season as coach of the Packers. The reason he has been able to be successful is because he is willing to change. In 2006 he changed his practice routine and gave the players more of a break. Usually accustomed to practicing in the morning and afternoon, he slashed practices by only having one workout following days with two workouts.

Last year, McCarthy proved what kind of a coach he really is. The knock on McCarthy has been similar to Phil Jackson when he coached Michael Jordan — any coach can win with arguably the best player in the league in Aaron Rodgers. But the Packers started four different quarterbacks last year and McCarthy made them look pretty good.

Scott Tolzien started zero games coming into last season and McCarthy made him look decent, including lighting up the Giants for 339 yards. Matt Flynn, a career backup journeyman, turned out to be the savior by somehow getting wins against Atlanta and Dallas to keep the slim playoff hopes alive.

And the person that needs to get the credit for that is McCarthy. His preparation and more importantly his positive attitude continually flowed through this team, even though Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews and others were hurting.

And as he proved a couple years ago that he isn’t afraid of taking a risk with an onside kick, fake field goal and fake punt all in the same season.

His biggest job right now is to develop wide receiving depth. It is unclear if Randall Cobb will be back with the Packers following Jordy Nelson’s extension. Also, it is unclear if Jarrett Boykin is in the team’s best interest as the Packers’ No. 3 receiver.

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28

July

Packers Xs and Os: What We Might See From McCarthy’s Up-Tempo Offense (Part 2)

Will Aaron Rodgers be leading an up-tempo or no huddle offense in 2014? (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today).

Will Aaron Rodgers be leading an up-tempo or no huddle offense in 2014? (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today).

Last week, we started to discuss some offensive concepts we might see rolled out this year if Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is true to his word about going up-tempo with three-down personnel.

This week, we’ll look at some basic passing route combinations I expect to see the Packers to use in an up-tempo, and possibly no huddle, game plan.

Of course, there is a huge combination of formations and routes an NFL offense can roll out to attack complex defenses. So, for this article, I’m making some very basic assumptions and this carries my standard disclaimer that this is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes only. Also, we’ll only look at some of the most common route combinations found in the west coast offense playbook.

Assumptions

  • The offense is in the 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers).
  • The offense is in a 2×2 alignment.
  • Even if a play is called in the huddle, sight adjustments at the line of scrimmage during the pre-snap read trump the huddle. The quarterback and receivers will adjust their routes to attack the coverage the defense is showing. This may be from a quarterback audible or automatic sight adjustments.
  • The defenses discussed here will only include man-to-man, man-to-man/blitz, cover 2, and cover 3.
  • Most of the route combinations will spread and attack the defense using the high/low principle to stress the cornerbacks.

Attack Keys

The quarterback and receivers must see the same thing in terms of how the defense is covering the field. Of utmost importance is reading the backpedal of the safeties. For simplicity sake, I’m assuming here that the quarterback and receivers have properly read that. Therefore, the keys of the routes will be reading and stressing the cornerbacks.

The route combinations described below are designed to attack the cornerbacks and make them make a decision and force them into a bad angle or coverage.

All-Purpose Route Combinations

It’s important that the offense has route packages that can attack any coverage the defense rolls out. Not only is the defense really good at disguising their coverage pre-snap, but sometimes the offense also wants to run a play before the defense can even align and get into a coverage. So, it’s good strategy to have route concepts that can attack either man-to-man coverage or zone coverage equally as effective.

27

July

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football

Packers training camp opened Friday and we now have plenty of Packers storylines to analyze and break down. That means today’s “Surviving Sunday” will be the last until the Packers 2014 season comes to an end, hopefully after Feb. 1 and a victory in Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona.

Now that training camp has started, what Packers storyline would you like to see go the way of “Surviving Sunday ” and disappear for the rest of the season?

I’m sick of talking about the defense. I mean really sick of it.

I’m sick of hearing about how bad Packers’ safeties were last season. I’m sick of being worried about having to watch A.J. Hawk for another season. I’m sick of speculation about B.J. Raji ever being a useful player again. I’m sick of wondering if Nick Perry will ever stay healthy. I’m sick of Clay Matthews’ thumb (and his damn hamstring) and I’m sick of trying to figure out if Dom Capers is a good defensive coordinator or not.

The sooner the Packers defense improves, the happier my life will be. I’m not asking for the Packers D to morph into the second coming of the Purple People Eaters or the Steel Curtain, but show enough promise that fans can have reasonable hope that the defense could catch fire late in the season and ignite a Super Bowl run.

That seems to be the formula for success in today’s NFL: Have a good to great quarterback who goes on a run late in the season and back that up with a good defense that heats up as the weather turns cold.

If I have to put up with #FireCapers hashtags and another season of bumbling play from the middle of the defense, it’s going to be a trying season.

Packers News, Notes and Links

  • Now that I’m done ranting, we can get to some happier news, like the Packers signing Jordy Nelson to a 4-year, $39 million contract extension. I see Nelson as a Cris Carter type of receiver. He has very good physical ability, but stretches those physical tools even further by catching anything he can reach and always thinking a step or two ahead of the defense.
26

July

Cory’s Corner: Ted Thompson will show Jordy Nelson the money

Jordy Nelson picked a pretty good time to break out. He caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in a Super Bowl XLV win.

Jordy Nelson picked a pretty good time to break out. He caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in a Super Bowl XLV win.

Jordy Nelson wants $10 million per season.

The question isn’t if Nelson is worth that much dough. The question is if Nelson is worth more than Greg Jennings or James Lofton.

We all know how squeamish general manager Ted Thompson gets about signing guys that are within a whisper of age 30. Jennings was 29 and coming off a sports hernia injury in 2012 that only allowed him to start five games.

Even though Jennings was the Packers’ No. 1 option from 2008-2011, Thompson made the right call in letting him go.

James Lofton is a little bit more interesting. He led the Packers in receiving from 1978-1986 and went to seven Pro Bowls while in Green Bay. When he left the Packers, Lofton was the team’s all-time leading receiver, a record that’s now owned by Donald Driver.

But the Packers surprisingly moved on. Lofton’s last season in Green Bay was at age 30 and it turned out to be a good decision, as Lofton never caught more than 60 balls again and only notched one more 1,000-yard season.

Which brings us to Nelson, who might be one of the most undervalued receivers in the league. Last year he proved his worth by producing when all-everything quarterback Aaron Rodgers was out for seven games and he had to adjust to four different starting quarterbacks. Nelson’s running mate, Randall Cobb, was injured as well. So with all that, Nelson still caught a career-high 85 balls for a career-high 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns.

Nelson just turned 29 in May and despite not getting any Pro Bowl love, he’s worth every penny of the $10 million that he is asking. Barring an unforeseen injury, I don’t see Nelson’s production falling off. That’s because he wasn’t consistently starting at wideout until his third year in the league.

Conversely, Jennings and Lofton started the majority of games right away.

Thompson may be pacing back-and-forth with this decision, but the right call is to give Nelson the money. Cobb is a dynamic athlete, but with his stop-on-a-dime mentality, he is more susceptible to a knee or ankle injury.

23

July

Is Jarrett Boykin A Replacement Player?

Jarrett Boykin will be slotted into the coveted No. 3 wide receiver next season. He's ready because of one person.

Jarrett Boykin

Wide receivers are known as the “shiny hood ornament” of the NFL because largely their production is tied to their quarterbacks; even a wide receiver like Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson have had abysmal seasons with ineffectual quarterbacks behind center.  Furthermore, great/good wide receivers have left for greener pastures in free agency only to be met with an icy reception; Greg Jennings became the latest ex-Packer to move to Minneapolis and needless to say his production suffered when it was Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman throwing him the ball as opposed to Aaron Rodgers.

On the flip side, it almost seems like you can throw just about anybody into a jersey and make them a productive wide receiver if they are being fed the ball by Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Tom Brady; wide receivers without enormous physical talent Wes Welker, Pierre Garcon and again Jennings have all had great careers even if they don’t look like Calvin Johnson.  Of course, it’s not like a wide receiver is nothing without his quarterback, the question is how much.

The receiver I was most interested in was Jarrett Boykin; an unheralded, undrafted wide receiver out of Virigina Tech who initially signed on with the Jacksonville Jaguars only to be cut after a couple weeks.  After being picked up by the Packers, he was one of the surprise rookies to make the squad in 2012 with the likes of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings all on the roster.

I’ll be the first to say I didn’t notice his name on the transaction wire nor did I predict him to make the roster in 2012 (this was the year of the Torey Gurley vs. Diondre Borel debate) nor did I think he would he do much on the field, and needless to say I, along with just about everyone else was in for a pleasant surprise.  Now with two years under his belt, people are legitimately thinking of him as a viable #2/#3 receiver; he’s definitely not a #1 who can take the top off of a defense nor is he the shifty guy catches everything, but he’s a great role player who does everything good enough to contribute on a consistent basis.  Considering his rise from unknown prospect to perhaps one of the up and coming wide receivers, is this a product of good talent or a good quarterback?

21

July

Packers Xs and Os: What We Might See From McCarthy’s Up-Tempo Offense (Part 1)

Will Aaron Rodgers be leading an up-tempo or no huddle offense in 2014? (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today).

Will Aaron Rodgers be leading an up-tempo or no huddle offense in 2014? (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today).

This off season, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy mentioned two philosophical adjustments he would like to see his offense implement this year: 1) run a faster up-tempo game plan with 75 plays per game, and 2) have three-down players on the field to limit the number of substitutions, which will speed up the game tempo.

These are pretty lofty goals, but the Packers do have the offensive personnel to execute it, particularly because their top three running backs (Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and DuJuan Harris) are three-down backs. The biggest question mark will be if their starting tight end is up to the task of multiple formations and assignments.

In order to execute those two offensive objectives, it’s more than just snapping the ball with plenty of time left on the play clock; it’s an elaborate implementation of situation football.

As my standard disclaimer, I’ve never seen McCarthy’s playbook and none of us will know how he will go about carrying out these plans until the week one opening game against the Seattle Seahawks. But, I will speculate about some things I expect us to see while the Packers are in their up-tempo game.

When to Go Up-Tempo

The offense should only go up-tempo when the score is close or they are behind. If they are sitting on a large lead, it makes sense to slow down the plays to bleed the clock. But, there’s also down and distance rules, as well as clock management strategies, that should be considered.

  • 1st and 2nd downs at almost any distance to gain are acceptable for up-tempo and no huddle.
  • 3rd down and 7 yards or less are also acceptable for up-tempo and no huddle. Longer 3rd downs often necessitate a huddle to ensure the best play call and allow the offense to slow down and gain composure. That is, unless, the offense is in a two-minute drill.
  • Re-huddle after clock stoppages (penalties, out of bounds, incomplete passes, change of possession, instant replay review, etc).

Three-Down 11 Personnel 

17

July

Packers Video: Green Bay Packers 101

Every Green Bay Packers fan has faced this question at one point or another:

“Why the Packers?”

The fan then gives their reason for their apparent insanity.  It could be the team’s tradition or it could be a family tradition or a Wisconsin birthright for those born in the Dairy State.  Each fan has their own unique story as to how and why they became and still remain a Packers fan.

In rare circumstances, you may find yourself at a loss for words (because the Packers are so darn awesome) or you might have difficulty explaining your fandom to someone who prefers a much more visual medium.

If that’s the case here is WatchMojo.com’s Greatest Sports Franchises series on THE greatest sports franchise, the Green Bay Packers.  It serves as a great “Packers 101″ for anyone who knows little to nothing about the team’s history.

Those poor uneducated souls.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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