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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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.

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.

1

July

Cory’s Corner: Bucks prove that the Packers are first-rate

The Packers have an .800 winning percentage in Super Bowls, but what sets the organization apart is how up-front and honest it is.

The Packers have an .800 winning percentage in Super Bowls, but what sets the organization apart is how up-front and honest it is.

The Packers should never have a goal to be compared to the Bucks.

On Monday it was proven why.

The Milwaukee Bucks went behind its general manager’s (and head coach’s) back by bringing aboard the highly questionable Jason Kidd to coach his second season of pro ball.

That would never happen in Green Bay.

The entire fan base is split on the jobs that Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy do, but what cannot be argued is that it truly is a first-class organization.

Is part of that because there isn’t an owner that’s meddling into player or coaching decisions? Perhaps.

But, even when the Packers were losing at an alarming rate in the 1970s and 1980s, a period that saw only four seasons over .500, the constant was how professional the team was.

Of course, the Packers had their fair share of coaching changes. They had five in that dry period alone. But at least the Packers had the decency to fire the coach first and then let the general manager begin the arduous task of trying to find the right fit.

And that’s why the Packers are one of the most respected NFL clubs along with the Steelers, 49ers and Giants. Green Bay knows it is fighting a losing battle against much larger cities — and many that boast warmer weather. But the one constant is how up front and transparent the Packers are.

I don’t expect the Packers to go and videotape an opponent’s practice anytime soon and I highly doubt that Lambeau will be able to generate anything close to the gobs of money that Jerry Jones makes at his AT&T Stadium.

The Packers have one of the richest traditions in all of sports and they play in a cathedral that serves as a Mecca for even non-Packers fans.

I guess it pays to do things the right way.

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Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn

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26

June

Stinky Cheese: The Broken Bond Between the Packers and Fans

Something smells funny in Packer Nation.

Something smells funny in Packer Nation.

The relationship between the Green Bay Packers and their fans has been one of the most special in all of professional sports.

Instead of one deep-pocketed owner running the show, the Packers are literally owned by the fans. Each owner has stock in the team that gives them voting rights at the team’s annual shareholder meeting each summer at Lambeau Field.

The team has over 360,000 shareholders that can call tthemselves NFL owners.  Of course that many people can’t oversee the Packers’ day-to-day operations so that’s where the president and CEO, currently Mark Murphy, comes into play.

You would think that such a unique ownership structure would create the strongest bond between a team and its fans in the history of the NFL.

In the past it certainly has, but in this modern age of the NFL, the relationship between the Packers and their fans is not as harmonious as it has been even going back just one decade ago.

In fact, you could argue the Packers and their fans have a broken relationship and not everything is well in Packerland.  The team and its fans could even use some “couples therapy.”

It’s time to face the truth: the Packers don’t care about their fans as much as they used to.  The same, to be fair, could be said about the other 31 NFL franchises, but this realization will sting particularly hard for Packers fans given the ownership structure of the team.

The NFL is a money making machine.  Profit is what makes the league go round and after the lockout in 2011, the league knows fans will watch no matter what they do or change. They’re shaking their moneymaker for all it’s worth.

The same could be said for the Packers. The team’s decision making process is no longer driven by the well being of the fans but rather that of the almighty dollar.

Some of the decisions have been truly mind boggling as well.  Look at the sudden decision of the Packers to do away with Fan Fest, a multiple day gathering at the Lambeau Atrium for fans to mingle with players both past and present as well as other activities.

The team cited declining attendance as one reason for it’s demise (the 2011 event was canceled due to the lockout) but at $85 a ticket, there was a reason many people stopped showing up.

3

June

Cory’s Corner: Micah Hyde deserves more than a test drive

Micah Hyde nearly ended the 49ers' season last year on this play.

Micah Hyde nearly ended the 49ers’ season last year on this play.

It’s good to see that Packers coach Mike McCarthy wants to see what he has in Micah Hyde.

The 23-year-old, who is about to embark on his second season in the league, is currently slotted with the starting unit starting at safety alongside Morgan Burnett in Organized Team Activities.

I like Micah Hyde.

He’s a tough fifth rounder that has worked his way up the ladder and it’s great to see that the Packers are awarding his work ethic and talent — even if that means not starting this year’s first round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Hyde can be a great example for a team that is desperate for a playmaking safety. Hyde showed last year that he isn’t afraid to creep up to the line of scrimmage and bottle up the run and he proved that while his coverage can get better, it still isn’t bad.

But this is why starting at safety this year is genius. It allows for Clinton-Dix to learn how to become a rookie and improve on his skills. And then after Tramon Williams becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season, Hyde can slide into Williams’ starting cornerback role and Clinton-Dix should be able to take over full-time at safety.

Hyde may have been overlooked at Iowa but McCarthy and Ted Thompson know what this guy can do. He nearly halted San Francisco’s Super Bowl run with the tip of his fingers last year.

Is Hyde the final answer to fix the defense? No way. The answer to that question is how B.J. Raji plays, if Julius Peppers has enough gas in the tank to make the entire season and if Dom Capers shaving the playbook by 15 percent will do the trick.

McCarthy may be just saying that the Packers are giving Hyde a test drive at safety right now.

But if he’s not, it would make a lot of sense.

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Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn

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