Packers Xs and Os Film Session: Burn the Film Edition

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.

Aaron Rodgers

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.


Jay Hodgson is an independent sports blogger writing for and

Follow Jay on twitter at @jys_h.


40 thoughts on “Packers Xs and Os Film Session: Burn the Film Edition

  1. What I learn from this article Jay is that you have a lot of bitterness in you at the moment. I know Packers D was crushed in NO, but bad days happen. We have 2 & 1/2 games of bad offensive plays, but we all believe in Aaron and we did not worry to much. We worried, but not to the level of bitterness. Because we know what Aaron is capable, but not only Aaron, also Jordy, Randall, Eddie, James, Kuuuuuuhn, Jarett. On the defensive side of the ball we still want to be convinced that Julius is still in his prime, that Clay will not get hurt, That rookies DTs are future, that Ha-Ha will replace Charles, if not Nick. There is so many uncertain things on defensive side of the ball. I will not mention Dom, who is going like pendulum from game to game from genious to bust (fired by most Packers fans!). But, to be honest, I think that 3 games Packers lost was lost by offense, not by defense. I’m not trying to say that defense is good, but lets talk about those 3 games: first, opener in Seattle Packers offense was playing just on the one half of the field. The one on which was not Sherman, so there was no space to develop Packers plays; second, against Detroit defense kept Packers equal, but offense gave 9 points to the Lions. Even if Lions would not score on offense, they still got enough points from Packers offense to win. Third, against Saints came from very good team & elite QB. Packers offense was again very bounteous to Saints (2 picks and fumble!?). 14 points up for Saints? Defense was not much worser that Saints defense..
    So, as my conclusion, yes, Packers need to improve on defense, but main reason for those 3 lost games was flows on the offensive side of the ball!
    And, I have to say, I’m missing your Film Session. I hope to get it back no matter Packers win or lose.
    I will make prediction that packer will be 12-4, if something went wrong 11-5, not worser than that!
    Thank you!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m not bitter at all. I’m trying to be objective and state what we can learn from the game against the Saints, as well as the first eight games of the season. By mid-season, the Packers’ identity has largely been established and I’m simply stating my interpretation of that. The reality is they may contend for a division title.

      Some writers always have the optimism or pessimism blinders on. I assure you, I don’t think I had any blinders on when I wrote this.

      1. So, sorry if I felt it wrong about bitterness… I was disappointed with lack of Film session, I admit! But, again, it looks to me that better performance on offensive side of the ball would help defense to have better results on the other side. From 3 losses only game with so so TOP was the last one. Remove 2 interception and Saints defense did not do much better than Packers. Still, their offense was much more precise. Maybe that is something that should go to the coaches, I do not know. Maybe that is their responsibility?

        1. We’ll get back to the film session next time. I hope I didn’t disappoint too many people. When I looked at the film, nothing really special popped out that we needed to break down other than massive defensive breakdowns. So, rather than dwelling on those big failings, and pouring salt in the wounds, I decided to write an opinion piece this week.

          1. Defensive breakdowns… How long have we been waiting for a solid defensive team under MM? He’s had 2 in 10 years! (07 and 10. Arguably 06)

          2. I’m one of those who is livid the Packers, as well as writers like you, completely ignore the fail that is A.J.Hawk. I watch every game a number of times so that I’m certain it’s not “confirmation bias” that colors my opinion of Hawk. I watch every play he’s in on and In 60 years of watching football I’ve never seen a worse linebacker. Never. He constantly ducks his head, flops at the feet of blockers, runs around plays coming in from behind for his infamous pile ons… and still every examination of Packer D tries to find someone to pair with Hawk. He is the single biggest reason we can’t defend against the run or passes in the middle of the field. Go back and look at the film, in particular an Ingram run up the gut in the 3rd quarter. A simple off tackle. Ingram follows a blocker to the hole, where Hawk is conveniently waiting. If he simply stands up the blocker, it’s no gain. We go to next down. Instead Hawk dives sideways at the blocker’s feet, leaving a huge hole for Ingram to run through. What don’t you see?

            1. Hallelujah! I though I wrote this myself. Why do Packer fans give AJ Hawk and TT a pass? It is worse than playing 10 on 11. If it was 10 on 11 we would know it and play accordingly. With Hawk on the field we depend on him to do his job but he is unable to. He is the worst NFL LB I’ve ever seen and I’ve been watching since 1958!

            2. Baffling isn’t it? Hell Demovsky just had a entry up yesterday about the lack of production opposite Hawk. Uh, what about Hawk himself? He can’t beat a blocker and get to the ball carrier, he’s not faster than anyone, he doesn’t force turnovers. His backpeddle tackle on Percy Harvin on the 3rd & 1 play @Seattle probably had Nitschke rolling in his grave. But oh wait, “he’s the guy receiving the plays in the huddle and he’s healthy every week.” So can we blame him for the too many men on the field penalties? What about all the miscues in the secondary the past couple years? And you want to know why he’s healthy every week? Because he never pushes himself like other guys on our team do. I mean, notice how it’s ALWAYS the other ILB getting hurt? Hell look at Lattimore. Manages to pry the other ILB job away from Jones and is ok/average as starter. Gets hurt and has one bad game vs Miami and boom! They’re already trying to replace him with Barrington while Hawk keeps his job. And as far as going down at the first bit of contact, ask Nick Collins about that. Bring up any of this stuff to AJ Hawk fan and it’s “You don’t know anything about football!”

            3. I’m sorry you’re livid with me and my writing for not mentioning A.J. Hawk by name.

              However, I did write “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.”

              Last time I checked, A.J. Hawk was a middle linebacker.

    2. I agree with your observation about the offense being the reason for all three losses but I would pin that mostly on the gameplans and playcalling i.e., MM the moron.

      1. Same message as for your buddy Big T. The Seahawks are starting an UDFA at MLB this week. How could a team that has such a better coach and GM than GB (according to you) let this happen? How could they not have a 3rd string All-Pro just ready to step in or simply make a trade or get one off the street?

    3. BAD DAYS HAPPEN? C’MON MAN, as Ditka would say, Dom Capers has been handed 40+ NEW defensive players since ’11 season to FIX this defense-enough draft picks, FA’s and undrafted street FA’s to COMPLETELY REMAKE defense 4 TIMES over and it’s playing no better than last season even with Peppers on the field and not a whole lot better than that RECORD breaking defense that gave up the most yards production in NFL history in ’11. Ya’ll think Mike Holmgren would sit here for 4 CONSECUTIVE years and watch this defense perform like this? Capers would’ve been LONG gone just because this team has had TACKLING problems since the ’10 SB winners. Bottom of the league defense LAST season to LAST in league run defense this year–I’d say that’s a HUGE failure on the DC’s part.

  2. Funny how two people can read an article and come away with different perspectives. I do not sense a bitterness from the author. Jay is effectively distilling the reality of this team…

    “…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…”

    His conclusion says it all. I am with Jay on many of these points but with a healthier dose of frustration. I don’t see our O-line in quite the same light. I think they are mostly below grade and there is no pro-grade depth to fall back on. While I like our secondary, I don’t understand how they can be so inconsistent, especially with our depth. Detroit’s secondary is decimated with injury and yet plays very well. Perhaps covering for ILBers and the D-line is too much to expect.

    Under performance and under achievement is not where this team should be. I don’t want to see the Brady-ization of Aaron Rodgers. You got a guy that can get you there but you sabotage the effort with various personnel weakness. Thankfully Rodgers at least has weapons. Now if we could only figure a way to play without a D-line, O-line or Linebackers

  3. If you look at every echelon of the defense, there are concerns and they seem to ebb and flow week to week with no apparent explanation other than the lack of ability of the personnel. It seems that each level has a weakness that the remaining members of that aspect of the defense can’t overcome.

    DL? Who’s in and who’s out? Raji n Jones r out, Guion’s stepped up, but where are Robinson, Boyd and Pennell? They are making pro-footballer bank and as such they should at least be able to make a play every now and then.

    LB’s? It’s a question of which ILB pair exposes the most liability. Are Hawk and Jones any better or worse than Barrington and Lattimore. Results to date say no, so where do you look? Technique, scheme, playcalls? Our ILB’s play on their heels because they think, instead of reacting and COMMITTING to a pursuit lane and owning it. Great recipe for a lot of 5+ yard carries.

    DB’s? Everyone talked about depth early in the year. But when your depth is made up of guys that can’t cover and won’t tackle, it’s another one of those bad recipes. House and Heyward should both look for new lines of work. House is glacially slow, and Heyward looks befuddled before every snap when he’s not in as the dime. The back end is somewhere between OK and good when Tramon and Sam are on station, but missing one of them and Burnett to boot exposes holes that the rest of the guys can’t plug.

    The level of drop-off between the starters and reserves on this D is as great as any I can recall in recent years. Guys like Ponder, Geno Smith and Tannehill can’t see it, but someone like Brees, Brady, Wilson and Kaep can and that’s why this D unit will always struggle against elite QB’s.

      1. Very true… but no matter how you measure it, both House and Heyward had miserable games. Both have played much better in the passing game, and neither one of them seemed to want to tackle anyone. The Saints clearly went after those two, especially Heyward IMO.

  4. I don’t care WHAT anyone else says! Injuries were the main key in this game! So no, there weren’t that many players inactive/injured going into this game. That’s not the point.

    I truly believe that the injuries that occurred, were JUST the right injuries that NO needed in order to exploit the defense. Put it this way: if all four of your limbs were bruised, beaten up and maybe even had a few fingers and toes missing, you still could actually use them if you need them in a fight. But if you have three very healthy limbs, and you’re missing either an arm or a leg, health to your other limbs ain’t gonna matter.

    That’s the way I see the way the Packers D played the other night. While there weren’t many injuries that happened altogether, there were just enough, and just the right ones for them to go into that fight with only three effective limbs.

    I can’t remember where, so just trust me when I say this, there was an article published by JS Online that talked about the relationship growing between HaHa Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett? It was special because there were establishing something in the secondary that hadn’t been there since 2010. COMMUNICATION!

    With both Shields and Morgan Burnett out, the Saints caught the Packers in the right place, at the right time. The communication and the chemistry of the secondary just completely collapsed. Datone Jones and T.J. Lang’s absence didn’t help at all either. Lang’s presence alone could have made a tremendous difference, especially on that 4th and 1 play.

    Sorry guys, but I have to say that once again, you’re all overreacting. This team is MUCH MORE capable than a 10-6 season. The middle of the D has little to no hope left for redemption, but every team has a weakness.

    (If you’re interested, I covered a bit more of this on my article:

    1. Chad – what has D. Jones showed in 2 years? How to hurt an ankle and have it keep you out for about 12 games is about it.

      The facts are that unless Penell, Barrington and Lattimore improve greatly (think Bishop in 2010), this team is just not a super bowl roster. The defense isn’t just “weak” up the middle. It’s not NFL caliber. Good teams are going to exploit that.

      1. Did you know that Clay Matthews ranked as the fifth best 3-4 OLB in 2011? Even though he only had six sacks? It’s not just about stats Bearmeat.

        I pay close attention to what the tape says, and the tape says Datone is getting better and better. My favorite article on this subject did a nice job of pointing out how he’s been generating pressure with pure power and penetration:

        The article didn’t cover the very positive game he was having against the Vikings. For example, he had a clear shot at the quarterback on the Vikings very second play, but he was held and didn’t get the sack, but it did force a penalty.

        The point is, he was gaining momentum before the injury, Had he stayed healthy he would have mostly continued his good play and made a difference.

        Most pass rushers take a couple of years to develop. Datone is actually ahead of schedule.

        1. “It’s not just about Stats, Bearmeat.” Except Bearmeat did not so much as mention stats. Did you even read his post? Actually, Datone’s rookie stats are decent.

          I agree that Datone is a talented guy who is getting better as a pass rusher. Problem is that he is not getting better against the run. At this point, he is a situational pass rusher who is replaced by Boyd on run downs. I had hoped for more from a 1st rd. pick. He might yet develop into a complete 3-4 DE.

          1. What I said was more of an expression than a direct accusation. I know he didn’t mentioned stats, but he might as well have based on how he feels about Jones. He only has 4.5 thus far into his career, but it’s also about development and seeing what the tape says. What I see is a player who’s getting better, A LOT better.

            1. Well then Chad, you and I basically agree, but I don’t see Datone’s improvement against the run. I do see his improvement as a rusher. One thing I wrote before the season was that GB was banking heavily that Daniels and Jones would both take a jump and become good 3-4 DEs. My fear was that Peppers would have to play DE. Daniels I gather grades out overall pretty well, but he is up and down. I think Perry has become pretty solid and GB might need to play Peppers more at DE along with Daniels and rotate Datone and Boyd. Generally I agree with Bearmeat that we need Lattimore, or Barrington and Pennel.or Guion to improve.

        2. I don’t care how great you think Datone is. If he isn’t on the field he’s not that great. We could also say Sherrod has improved and has been great the last 2 years. Injury prone players will never be great. You have to be on the field playing to be great. I guess you could say he is great for 2 games a season.

          1. With that logic we should just trade Clay Matthews. Players get injured, it happens. Sometimes they knock themselves out of that though, have some faith.

            1. If he is only going to play 2 games a season, yeah I would trade him. Lets trade him for JJ Watts.

              1. Datone Jones played in every game last year, and so far has only missed three games this year. And you believe that this guy only plays 2 games a year?

  5. Holmgren/Wolf vs. MM/TT…. Holmgren/Wolf bring Reggie White to town – MM/TT bring Peppers to town. Holmgren/Wolf bring in players mid-season if necessary(Keith Jackson, Eugene Robinson, etc.) MM/TT Hate change and are frightened by the thought. Holmgren could make halftime adjustments if necessary. TT would rather lose a testicle than make any adjustments. Holmgren/Wolf never went 9yrs. without a competent ILB.
    Not saying that Holmgren/Wolf were the best ever, however, they were not afraid to make adjustments and changes mid-season, mid-game, whatever it took to win. MM/TT have had success but just seem content staying in their comfort zones. It is time that someone in the organization puts on their man pants and makes some changes damn it…

    1. The Seahawks are starting an UDFA at MLB this week. How could this happen to an organization you think is so much better than TT/MM? How could their great coach and GM not have an All-Pro just waiting to step in or go get one in a trade or of the street?

        1. Ah, but the question wasn’t about Holmgren and Wolf was it? It was about the current day and Seattle’s situation.

  6. MM said he didn’t have the confidence in his defense hence his decisions for the 4th and inches and on sides kick to aid his offense in hopes of fast scores.

    Whether its injuries,failure of fundamentals or whatever the excuse/reason of flavor for the week is,I offer this….

    If your defense isn’t offering confidence,at least give them the length of the field or as much of it to allow them a chance to possibly play above the confidence level.Giving the opposition two glaringly defeating field positions is a losing one from the start.Especially when knowing already the offense of the other is potent.

    If the confidence in your offense being able to move up and down the field is high,all the more reason to force the other to do the same vs your defense and without the help of a silver platter server.

    Besides,what of the pressure now placed on the offense to recoup what was given away,regardless of either 3/7 pts awarded,as was shown by the smallest incident that literally took the game away from the offense and any chance of victory. 🙂

    1. When did MM say he didn’t have confidence in his defense, or are inferring? Otherwise, I agree, they should have punted.

      1. Sorry and you are correct..I forgot to place the IMO after MM said….thus making it my assumption of what he was thinking to why those play calls.I will need to pay closer attention to the meaning I try to get across. 🙂

  7. Can someone name a worse pair of ILB’s on any team in the league than Hawk and whoever is playing next to him?? Hawk is getting even slower if thats possible…like one guy said…if he wasn’t white he would be booo’ed off the field…

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