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 

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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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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.

15

July

If Packers fans had to pick a Packers Pepper to Perform

Julius Peppers

Julius Peppers

Tyler Dunne and Justin Felder asked an interesting question on the last Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Packers podcast: If Packers fans had to choose, would they pick pass rusher Julius Peppers or trainer Pepper Burruss to have a great season in 2014?

The duo never really answered the question, so let’s answer it here. First, some context:

If Julius Peppers has a great season, it probably means he had 10-plus sacks and finally provided the Packers defense with a legitimate edge pass-rushing threat to complement, and enhance, everything Clay Matthews already does.

The Packers have tried first-round draft picks, undrafted rookie free agents, random dudes off the street and converted defensive tackles at the outside linebacker slot opposite Matthews. Nothing has worked out.

The situation was so desperate, general manager Ted Thompson took the rare step of signing Peppers, a free agent, to try and get Matthews some help.

Peppers’ snaps will probably be limited, but if he reaches double digits in sacks and forces teams to divert attention from Matthews over to him, it will provide a tremendous boost to the Packers beleaguered defense.

If Pepper Burruss has a great season, it means the Packers injury luck has finally turned around. I know one trainer isn’t responsible for the health of the team, but work with me on this one.

Since 2010, every single position group on the Packers has been hit by a major injury to an important player.

Two players — a pro-bowl safety and a running back picked in the fourth round — have suffered career-ending neck injuries. One of the best tight ends in team history likely won’t play again after a neck injury. Ditto for Johnny Jolly, one of the best comeback stories from last season.

Pepper Burruss

Pepper Burruss

Mike McCarthy says he’s had two healthy teams in his eight years in Green Bay: 2007 and 2011. In 2007, the Packers went to the NFC title game. In 2011, they went 15-1.

Whether you think McCarthy’s exaggerating or not doesn’t matter. It’s a fact that the Packers have been one of the most beat up teams in the NFL since 2010.

So let’s say Burruss comes up with a magical solution to the Packers injury woes and devises a way for the Packers to not be injury free, but at least finish in the top 5 for fewest games lost due to injury in 2014.

12

July

Cory’s Corner: Will teams Johnny Manziel-proof themselves?

Johnny Manziel made this social media post on a  recent trip to Las Vegas. If it affects his play remains to be seen.

Johnny Manziel made this social media post on a recent trip to Las Vegas. If it affects his play remains to be seen.

With the explosion of social media in the last few years, many think that sports teams will need to Johnny Manziel-proof themselves.

Or will they?

By now, everyone has caught a glimpse of Manziel’s mini-vacation photos he took in Las Vegas a few months ago. In it was the usual charade of Vegas: scantily clad women in a party atmosphere with Johnny and his friends.

Now I don’t think this is a big deal. Manziel hasn’t thrown a pass in the NFL yet, and he decided to go to Vegas moments after he was issued the Browns playbook.

Yet I was surprised to see and hear about how many people were upset that he wasn’t at home cramming his brain with hot routes, silent counts and hand signals.

First of all, let the players fail before jumping all over them for a decision based on free time.

Taken a step further, what if said player was a veteran? Would Packers fans have a problem if Aaron Rodgers started filling up social media with himself partying in the offseason?

Football players live in a 24/7 media bubble that makes them feel like they are being suffocated. That’s why offensive linemen usually give the most candid quotes, because that group of hard workers hardly ever gets a microphone thrown in his personal space.

Obviously, athletes have to be a little bit more cautious with what they let the world to see. This isn’t high school where you can post a picture of something and only your close friends are going to see it.

But then again, I don’t think it’s fair for athletes to live as hermits. The reason Rodgers is so adored in Green Bay is because he is approachable. He is spotted in the grocery store, restaurants and doing other regular people things. But Packers fans, being in the smallest NFL town, are smart enough not to ruin every public appearance that he makes by splashing it up on social media every time.

What it all comes down to is filtering. Herm Edwards, the ESPN NFL analyst who is outspoken to a fault, had a brief talk at the NFL Rookie Symposium a few years ago. The main thing he said was, “Think twice before you hit send.”

6

July

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

It’s Fourth of July week, which means it’s extremely quiet around the NFL and even quieter if you’re looking for news about the Packers.

I also blew off three of my fingers setting off firecrackers. So instead of a trying to squeeze a long post out of some Packers-related topic that isn’t really news, how about I take a way-too-early crack at predicting the Packers 53-man roster?

(Adam locks himself into a room and begins hours and hours of intense study. He emerges days later, weary and beaten down, but relieved that he finally chiseled the Packers roster down to 53 players.)

(Actually, none of that is true. Adam just drank a couple of beers and tried to figure out who is going to end up on the final 53. Sure, he thought about it, but he also thought about getting a double fudge cookie dough Blizzard at Dairy Queen the other day before finally settling on the Peanut Buster Parfait.)

Ok, I just finished making my first prediction and I counted up all the players. I ended up with exactly 53 players on the first try! I thought for sure I’d have to make a few tough cuts, but I nailed 53 right off the bat!

I bet this happens to Ted Thompson all the time.

Does this mean my way-too-early Packers 53-man roster prediction will turn out to be the actual 53-man roster come September? Absolutely not. But let’s talk about it anyway.

Who did I leave off the roster that you think will make it? Who did I put on the team that you don’t think will be there?

And as long as your actually reading it, did I count correctly? Do I actually have 53 players there? (And don’t count Aaron Rodgers twice. Yeah, he’s good, but he only counts for one player.)

QB
Aaron Rodgers
Scott Tolzien
Matt Flynn

I say they keeps three QBs, and Tolzien wins the backup gig.

RB
Eddie Lacy
James Starks
DuJuan Harris
John Kuhn

Just cross your fingers that at least two of the top three RBs make it through the season healthy.

WR
Jordy Nelson
Randall Cobb
Jarrett Boykin
Davante Adams
Chris Harper
Jared Abbrederis

I’m slipping Harper in there and hoping Jeff Janis makes it through to the practice squad.

5

July

Cory’s Corner: Aaron Rodgers will prove ranking was wrong

Aaron Rodgers was ranked No. 11 by the NFL Network. He currently ranks No. 1 in career passer rating and career interception percentage.

Aaron Rodgers was ranked No. 11 by the NFL Network. He currently ranks No. 1 in career passer rating and career interception percentage.

I was surprised to see how many Packers fans were upset about Aaron Rodgers’ spot in the recent NFL Network Top 100 rankings.

First of all, Rodgers is a better overall player than No. 11. Heck if I was Matthew Stafford, I would be really ticked about being ranked last.

But based on last year, when Rodgers missed seven games due to a broken clavicle, wasn’t that outrageous. But it was still wrong.

Rodgers is in the same tier as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Period. Those four make up the best collection of talent at the most important position in sports.

And there’s nothing to say that Rodgers’ skills are diminishing. The crux of his game are his analytical skills. He will outthink you to death and just when an opponent believes they have outsmarted him, Rodgers will bring out his physical tools, which includes his escapability.

According to the NFL Network, Rodgers may not be the best player in the league, but he is the most important. Last year proved that the Packers not only need him, but he’s vital to the team’s success.

Rodgers has proven that he is still successful no matter who he’s throwing to. Greg Jennings left and this coming season James Jones will play for a new team. Yet, Rodgers will develop another receiver.

So don’t worry about the rankings. Did Rodgers have a down year? By his standards, yes. But, that was because of injury and he is the last guy that I would want to tick off.

He remembers all of his slights. He knows the people that wrote him off. He catalogs all of these life-humbling events and uses them as fuel.

He came into a tough situation following a legend. And now he’s 58-29 as a starter and he’s won at least 10 games four times in six seasons as a starter. Brady threw 50 touchdown passes at age 30 and Rodgers turns 31 in December. He’s got plenty of great football ahead of him.

After Rodgers glanced at his NFL Network ranking, I would say that he has enough fuel for the season.