20

July

2014 Packers ILB Position – Last Year’s Safety?

Brad Jones and AJ Hawk

Brad Jones and AJ Hawk

Won’t be long now! We can stop speculating on all things Packers in a few long days from now.  This offseason has been very good, talent has been added in Peppers and Guion for Defensive line.

There is a ton of talent heading into their second year. Baktiari, Boyd, Lacy, Jones, Hyde, Barrington, Palmer, Mulumba and White all earned playing time last year.  Every NFL coach and GM will tell you the biggest jump is going into that second year.

You add the players returning from injury in Bulaga, Sherrod, Matthews, Tretter, Worthy and getting players that were just banged up for most of the year like the Jones, both Datone and Brad were hampered with injuries, Perry played on a broken foot. These returning players account for five first round picks a second and a 4th. Not having those players on the field hurt the Packers in 2013 and will add a big boost for 2014.

You add another draft class to increase competition and this camp will be fun to watch.

I have heard more about the Packers not drafting an Inside Linebacker then about getting the best all around safety in the draft. From a lot of comments through out the Packer world, many think the defense is doomed because of not getting an ILB.  I am not one of those.

Safety was a bigger need, Changing the lineup of the Defensive line was a bigger need, Wide Receiver was a bigger need. When you are one injury away from Miles White being your #3 WR, it is a big need.

The situation at ILB is far from bad or will even be a hindrance to the 2014 defense. I have never understood the crap piled on Hawk for his eight years with the team. In 2013 Hawk became the Packers All Time Leading Tackler. When you look at the history of the Packers that is no small feat. That record stood for 24 years and that player took 11 years to do it.  He again lead the team in tackles last year, had 5 sacks and one Int with 5 passes defensed. He has missed 2 games in 8 years and yet so many just plain hate him.

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8

June

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers footba

If B.J. Raji and A.J. Hawk had a baby, he would fit in perfectly on the Packers defense.

(Pause)

Now that you’ve cleaned up the vomit and are fully recovered from the mental image of Hawk and Raji breeding, please continue reading:

All signs are pointing to Hawk starting at linebacker for the Green Bay Packers for the 9th consecutive season. Over the last eight years, Hawk has amassed 832 tackles, 18.5 sacks, nine interceptions and four forced fumbles.

If I were to ask you to name a memorable Hawk tackle or a key play where he forced a fumble or knocked down a pass, could you do it? I’m racking my brain right now and the only play I can come up with is when he sacked Sam Bradford in 2011 and flipped off the Packers bench.

That play was memorable, but not necessarily because of the impact it had on the game.

Raji had dollar signs in his eyes when he turned down a lucrative contract extension from the Packers midway through last season. Those dollar signs turned to tears after Raji’s play fell off a cliff, the extension offer was withdrawn, and Raji returned to Green Bay on a 1 year “prove-it” deal worth $4 million.

If I were to ask you to name a memorable play in Raji’s career, I guarantee everyone reading this will cite the pick-six against the Bears in the 2011 NFC title game and the ensuing Raji Dance. Raji also had 6.5 sacks in 2010 and occasionally gets featured in replays blowing up the center or pushing back a double team and wrecking a running play.

It’s safe to say both Hawk and Raji have failed to meet Packers’ fans expectations. Yes, Hawk is consistent, but with the No. 5 pick in the draft, Packers fans wanted a guy who scared the other team, not someone who’s just consistently ok. Raji has had moments of brilliance, but gets wiped off the line far too often and disappears for long stretches that lead to breakdowns in the Packers run defense.

Basically, if Hawk had some of Raji in him — an occasional flashy play that changed a game — and Raji had some of Hawk in him — more consistency — both players would be closer to meeting the expectations of Packers fans.

13

June

Packers Inside Linebackers: Now what?

Desmond Bishop, Green Bay Packers

Bye Bye Bishop?

While nothing has been officially announced yet, by many accounts Desmond Bishop’s days as a Green Bay Packer appear to be over.

Speculation is rampant as to whether it’s strictly a “numbers” decision or if the Packers don’t believe he’ll ever be the same after a very serious injury. Bishop claims to be 100%, but has not participated in the Packers OTAs or mini camp.

Whatever the real reason, the big question is, now what?

I’ve seen a lot of  fans asking, “are we supposed to be happy with AJ Hawk and Brad Jones as our starting linebackers?”

My answer to that is, you won’t have to be. What you are likely to see is a lot of situational substitutions at the ILB spots. The Packers have a cadre of linebackers with complimentary skills. Dom Capers’ task will be to pick the right player/scheme for the specific situation.

Also remember the experimentation you’re seeing with Mike Neil and Mike Daniels being used in more of a linebacker role. The Packers suddenly find themselves very deep on the defensive line, and I would not be surprised to see some brand new defensive packages with fewer linebackers and more DL & DBs in the game.

We really won’t know until they line up against San Francisco in the first game that really matters, but you can bet they will have some new looks for Colin Kaepernick.

In the meantime, let’s take a quick look at the ILBs on the Packers’ roster:

AJ Hawk:  Always the team player and good soldier, Hawk has lasted this long as  a starter thanks to his firm grasp of the defensive schemes, ability to make the right defensive calls and his own assignment assuredness. There is no argument he has not lived up to expectations as the fifth player taken in the 2006 NFL draft, but the packers have been using him wisely.

As pointed out in this interesting piece over at Acme Packing Company, the Packers started using Hawk differently in 2012. Firstly, he was in on only 67% of the defensive snaps, as compared to over 90% each of the two previous years. Secondly, he was in on a higher percentage of running plays, a lower percentage of pass plays, and a very low percentage of pass rush attempts.  Expect those trends to continue.

28

January

Talking Packers Linebackers: Present and Future?

Packers linebackersLet’s talk Linebackers, inside and outside. These positions in the 3-4 are what can make it a dominating defense or just another also ran. The roles of the ILB and OLB really quite different then any other scheme. The OLB’s are more like a right side DE in the 4-3 then the OLB in the 4-3. Playing both on the line and off, playing more of the 7 and or 9 spots along the defensive front. Both need to rush the passer and in the 3-4 coverage is a big part of the OLB’s duties.

Linebackers get a lot of discussion when it comes to the Packers. At the start of the season many comments were that the Packers were in good shape with there ILB’s. The comments on Hawk were from the biggest bust ever to a steady but not flashy starter, Bishop was gone and Smith would fill in just fine.

At OLB Perry needed to develop quickly for the OLB’s to be better then in 2011. Walden was liked by some and not liked so much by others. Moses got a lot of pre season hype, anyone else was a big question mark.

I have a some what radical view on the Packers linebackers, I am not a fan of Walden at all, he has some good games against weaker opponents but lacks so much at a starter he needs to be replaced. He cannot hold point against the run, he is a one trick pony in pass rush, if he can’t get around a OT he is done. He has no bull rush ability, and lacks inside moves or twists.

Moses to me is Walden in the different package. The only thing with Moses is we don’t know how much he can be developed, what will NFL level strength training and coaching do for him, so I put him as Walden’s replacement as a back up and situational player. Zombo has packed his bags and should not see them come back to Green Bay and I am a Zombo fan, I thought he just might develop nicely, but injuries put and end to that.

13

January

Packers Defensive Struggles Go Beyond Capers

Are Dom Capers’ days in Green Bay over?

Before you read further, I want to make one thing clear: This post is not a defense of Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. After the Packers got shredded for almost 600 yards on Saturday night, Capers cannot be defended.

Go ahead and call for Capers’ firing and criticize him all you want. He deserves it.

However, Green Bay’s problems on defense go much deeper than Capers. I don’t think there was any magical scheme that Capers could have come up with that would have stopped the 49ers from winning Saturday. San Francisco was bigger, stronger, faster and tougher than the Packers. It’s too simple to just pin that performance solely on the guy with weird hair who sits in a booth high above the field.

Look at the Packers’ linebackers. Brad Jones, Erik Walden and A.J. Hawk are no match for a team like the 49ers. An elite offensive line combined with an athletic quarterback, bruising running back, and talented tight ends? The 49ers had to be salivating all week while watching film and preparing to face that unfearsome trio.

The Packers are built to take a lead, then play aggressive defense that relies on blitzes and creating turnovers. They’re not the type of team that is able to stand toe-to-toe against physical teams and out-tough them. That’s extremely frustrating, but true.

I suppose Capers deserves some blame for his defense’s lack of toughness, but I’m not sure what he’s supposed to do to prevent Walden from losing contain over and over or Jones looking helpless trying to chase down Colin Kaepernick.

Again, Capers’ gameplan was pathetic on Saturday (no spy on Kaepernick?). There’s no excuse for it. He probably deserves to get canned.

But even if he gameplanned better, I’m not sure if the Packers could have pulled that one off. The 49ers are a better team, a tougher team. Regardless of who is calling the plays, the Packers are not a team that is able to line up and feel confident that they’re better physically than their opponent.

Getting Desmond Bishop, Nick Perry and D.J. Smith back should make the Packers defense tougher next season. Further development from Jerron McMillian should also help.

Go ahead and vent about Capers. He deserves it. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that some magic scheme could have shut the 49ers down on Saturday.

3

January

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 17 at Minnesota Vikings

So Packers vs. Vikings part II with a definite part III coming up.  Again, if there is any play in particular you would like to see my analyze, please leave comments below.  As for this week I’ve decided to take a look at one of the times where quarterback Christian Ponder was able to beat the Packers defense through the air.  My belief is that the Packers at best can only slow down Adrian Peterson, so it becomes paramount to stop Christian Ponder and the passing since the Packers have already proven that Adrian Peterson can destroy the Packers run defense and still lose the game.

The situation: The score is tied at 27 all with the Packers surging in the 2nd half with 12 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  The Vikings know they have to make a big move soon or be on the losing end of a scoring race to the finish line.  To their advantage is that Adrian Peterson has maintained his regular season form and is playing lights out, which makes the Packers very susceptible to play-action as every Packers defender is fixated on Peterson.

The formation: The Vikings come out in a 1-2-2 formation (1WR-2TE-2RB) with WR Jarius Wright being the lone Vikings outside the core of the formation split out wide left.  The Packers respond with their base 3-4 defense.  The defensive line consists of DE Ryan Pickett (79), NT BJ Raji (90) and DE CJ Wilson (98), all three appear to be tasked with taking up blockers so for all intents and purposes do not factor into the play (unless of course they were playing “jet” and attempting to rush the passer, which they all failed to do) The linebackers are composed of LOLB Erik Walden (93), ILB AJ Hawk (50), ILB Brad Jones (59) and ROLB Clay Matthews (52).  Finally in the secondary the two cornerbacks are CB Tramon Williams (38) and CB Sam Shields (37) while the safeties are FS Morgan Burnett (42) and SS Jeron McMillian (22).

 

Pre-Snap: The Vikings motion TE John Carlson (89) from the inline to the right tackle to slightly behind left tackle in a two point stance.  In response, FS Burnett rotates from centerfield to heads up with Carlson while SS McMillian rotates off the line of scrimmage and out into centerfield, in essence TE Carlson rotating causes FS Burnett and SS McMillian to switch positions and assignments.  The move also causes OLB Matthews to wide his pass rush as TE Carlson is now over his side and could either chip or double team him with the left tackle.

1

January

If the Packers Want to Stop Peterson, Defense Needs to Be Tougher

Tramon Williams

Packers CB Tramon Williams needs to step outside his comfort zone and tackle Adrian Peterson if the Packers want to win on Saturday night.

People usually think of toughness as some intangible trait, something that can’t be measured by an actual set of skills or statistics. People also use the word toughness as an adjective, a cliche to just throw out there when they really can’t explain why their favorite team can’t make a tackle, catch a pass or win a game.

I hate using words just to use words. Words mean things. And if you use a word, it better mean something.

If the Packers want to avoid another one-and-done in the postseason and beat the Vikings on Saturday, they need to get tougher on defense. Here’s what toughness means in the Packers’ case:

  • Doing things you’re not comfortable doing. This is for Tramon Williams. I know you’re not comfortable tackling. Maybe it’s your shoulder, maybe it’s something else. Either way, you need to get tougher and tackle. Packers fans applaud your toughness when you clamp down on Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall. That’s great. But you’re a No. 1 cornerback. Playing the other team’s top receiver is what you’re supposed to do. True toughness comes when you take on Peterson and bring him down before he reels off another big gain on your side. Teams win championships when players do things they’re not comfortable doing and do them well.
  • Owning your gap. The Packers looked very conscious of gap assignments against Peterson Sunday. They seemed to get the concept of maintaining gap responsibility, but had no idea what to do when Peterson came into their gap. If you beat your blocker, or at least fight him to a draw, standing in the gap flat-footed is not good enough against Peterson. You need to own your gap, not just hang out in it for a while. If Peterson comes into your gap — the gap you own! — you need to be in a position to make a play and bring him down. Standing flat-footed and reaching with your hands won’t do it. You also can’t wait for your teammates to come help you out. Peterson gets his big yards when he runs through your feeble attempt at a hand grab and cuts back to where your teammates used to be before they came to help you. Peterson runs aggressively. If you want to stop him, you have to at least match that aggressiveness.