Photo credit: Matthew Hinton
You could say that bye week came at the right time for the Green Bay Packers. They are currently dealing with injuries, and after a blowout loss to the Saints in New Orleans, the team needs to scatter for the bye week.
They need to rest and get healthy.
Also, they need to forget about this game. They can burn the film and move on because there’s not much to learn from it. At this point, the Packers are who they are and no amount of corrections will ever change that.
So, for this column this week, we’ll also burn the film. We’ll talk about some key observations that no amount of keen film study is needed to understand.
The Packers Offense
We are now are now nine years into McCarthy era and the seventh year with Aaron Rodgers pulling the trigger. The Packers offensive philosophy is clearly established and ingrained throughout the organization. You could say that play calls are predictable, albeit highly effective with the current talent on the field. The Packers have one of the best offenses in the league, and they were prepared for a shootout with New Orleans. However, injuries and risky gadget plays (a pass to Julius Peppers and a surprise onside kick) got the Packers off their rhythm and off schedule. No amount of film study will tell us the Packers suffered from their injuries and questionable decisions.
The Packers Defense
At this point, the Packers’ defense is what it is. They are weak up the middle against the run. The injury to B.J. Raji during training camp certainly hurts, but there’s more to this deficiency than just his absence. The other defensive linemen seem incapable of holding their blockers at bay, which is essential in Dom Capers’ two-gap system. Then, the middle linebackers who need to fill gaps and fly to the ball, seem to always get caught up in the wash and are late to meet the ball carriers, who always seem to fall forward. The defensive backs, who are also essential in run support in Capers’ system, sometimes look lost at the point of attack. HaHa Clinton-Dix seems to be a willing tackler, but he’s still adjusting to the speed and strength of the pro game. Davon House, on the other hand, seems completely lost out there in the run game.
The Saints did plenty of film study on the Packers, and Sean Payton boldly told the NBC production crew that he had a great handle on the Packers’ defensive tendencies. It showed on Sunday night when the Saints marched straight through the Packers’ defense. They are who they are, and no additional amount of film study will change that opinion.
There is absolutely no doubt that the Packers’ offense goes through Aaron Rodgers. He has play makers around him, but he also makes those players better. Everything the Packers hope to accomplish on offense is only made possible with #12 pulling the trigger. Take him out of the game, and it quickly becomes obvious.
The Packers were doing well offensively against the Saints up until the third quarter. They were mostly matching the Saints blow for blow until Rodgers hurt his hamstring. After that point, Rodgers took all his snaps from the shotgun and his throws were typically less than 15 yards down field. He also threw two costly interceptions, although the balls did hit the receivers in the hands.
Eddie Lacy did his best to pick it up after Rodgers got hurt, but it wasn’t enough. No film study is necessary to showcase how important Rodgers is to the offense, and a hurt Rodgers isn’t as effective as a healthy Rodgers.
T.J. Lang/Lane Taylor
I have said to myself for the last few seasons that T.J. Lang is one of the most under appreciated and under rated players on the roster. He is an effective run blocker and also does a nice job of keeping Rodgers upright in the passing game. The running game was never the same after Lang exited with an ankle injury. His replacement, Lane Taylor, was a huge step down. He wiffed on several run blocks, including one on a crucial 4th down attempt, which was stuffed at the point of attack.
Going into the preseason, the Packers were poised to have their best offensive line in years with good depth. But, that depth was contingent upon Don Barclay being a key backup at several positions. His presence was sorely missed when Lang left the game. The Packers’ offensive line depth is now unnerving, and we don’t need film to tell us that. Extended playing time for Lane at guard and/or Derek Sherrod at tackle could be disastrous.
Sam Shields/Davon House
Sam Shields is the fastest, and perhaps best overall, cornerback on the team. He excels in pass coverage, make up speed, and also run support. His absence was a glaring problem on Sunday night. It wasn’t too long ago when people were saying that Davon House, who played in place of Shields, would be a cornerback of the future, taking the place of an aging Tramon Williams.
Certainly, Shields is a top talent, although not quite elite yet, so replacing him is a difficult task. House is no Shields, but if he could play at a Tramon Williams level, the Packers’ defense would be ok. However, House didn’t. He did get called for some questionable pass interference penalties, but overall, his play was bad. He got burned on pass plays and looked completely lost, and even unwilling, in the run game. We don’t need film to show us the Packers need Shields back on the field.
The Rest of the Season
At this point, the Packers are who they are. They have a fairly predictable offense, a highly predictable defense, are weak against the run, and need to overcome injuries.
At the midpoint, they are 5-3. I expect another 5-3 campaign during the second half, resulting in a 10-6 season.
That’s who the Packers are: a 10-6 team who might compete for a division title.
We’ll look at some film again over the course of the second half of the season to see if they are improving and can be better than a 10-6 team. Maybe they’ll make a run in the playoffs, but if they can, they have to improve over the 5-3 team they are now.——————