Another Green Bay Packers season has come and gone. I’ve not missed a season since I started watching the team in 1985. Over the years, some seasons ended in triumph, while others ended in agony and defeat.
This season obviously didn’t end the way we wanted. That’s still a tough pill to swallow.
I’ve watched hundreds of Packers games over the decades, but what makes this year different for me was Jersey Al asked me to write about X’s and O’s this year for him. As such, this was the first season that I re-watched every game (some multiple times) using the all-22 coaches tape. That was a real treat to see all the plays like that.
Since this is my end of season film session wrap up, I thought I’d share my observations I learned from watching the coaches tape all season. These are some of my gut feelings (I didn’t chart every play) from watching 22 games (preseason, regular season, and playoffs) from the all-22. They aren’t all inclusive, so don’t take my lack of mentioning something to mean I haven’t thought about it. Post some of your thoughts in the comments section, and we can continue a conversation there.
Game plans for home games were different than road games. We know all about how the Packers were much better at home (9-0 including playoffs) than on the road (4-5 including playoffs). Sure, it’s tough to win on the road. It’s even tougher when your game plans are more conservative when away from home. The Packers’ offense was much more aggressive when in the friendly confines of Lambeau Field and they used the “let it rip” mentality and took many more deep shots through the air. On the road, however, the plans were scaled back for reasons we’ll never know, but I can only assume it was to reduce mistakes and turnovers. That’s playing scared. You have to let it rip more on the road. Even the second time against the Seahawks the passing game was a shell of itself. Maybe it was due to Aaron Rodgers’ calf, but it was scaled back compared to the Cowboys game played in Lambeau.
Mike McCarthy’s offense has evolved considerably. I’ve read numerous posts all over the internet about how his offense is stale and predictable. I beg to differ and claim just the opposite. It’s as modern of an offense as you’ll see in the NFL. He incorporates packaged plays, an equal balance of zone and man blocking schemes in the running game, and his passing combinations are as diverse as the “west coast” offense currently is around the league. The way of the 2-back offense is dying in the NFL, but the Packers have one of the best implementations of this fading trend. Kuhn as a true fullback opened holes better than the now de facto tight end playing H-back. Also, McCarthy frequently utilized many “run and shoot” concepts to develop his vertical passing game, which was very wide open, provided they were actually playing aggressively.
Dom Capers isn’t the Dom of old. He made his name for himself while coming up the NFL ranks with his aggressive zone blitz scheme. He’s backed off the zone blitz considerably over the years, but he did use some during the 2010 Super Bowl run. That B.J. Raji interception for a touchdown in the NFC Championship game against the Bears? A zone blitz. In 2014, I don’t seem to recall him using it for more than a few plays, if even at all (in the sense of dropping a true fatty into coverage; he dropped Peppers plenty). He now utilizes more basic coverage schemes, which makes for no coincidence that the pass defense was better this year compared to the last few seasons. He’s still an innovative fellow, which is evident in his creative packages, such as NASCAR.
Special Teams was an unmitigated disaster. There’s no way to sugar coat that. The Packers had the worst special team units in the NFL based on statistics, but also with the eye ball test. There’s little lane discipline, horrible angles, and costly over-aggression. They need to just execute the system as a team instead of trying to be individual heroes. The system is also suspect, and I’m surprise Shawn Slocum still has a job in Green Bay.
Eddie Lacy has hit his ceiling. Sure, he’s a good back. He grinds out yards. But, what we saw this year is what we’ll see for the next few years. He’ll be that guy who gains 800-1000 yards every season, but he won’t ever get above 1100 too often, if at all ever again. He’s not fast and elusive. His vision isn’t great and he frequently misses reads and holes. Because of those, he left a lot of yards on the field. You can’t coach vision and instinct. In 2014, he added many valuable yards in the passing game, so his development as a player was nice to see and hasn’t ended yet. But, he’s not going to develop into the next DeMarco Murray or Le’Veon Bell in the next season or two. I think he played a little heavy and would benefit from losing 10 or more pounds. The lighter back we saw at Alabama isn’t the same back we see in a Packers uniform. The shelf life of NFL running backs is short, so the clock is ticking on Eddie and we’ve seen his best work. That’s not a complaint; I’m simply tempering your expectations for the future.
Randall Cobb is worth every dollar some team will pay him. His versatility in the slot and outside the numbers is a rare combination. He has sure hands, always seems to get open, he runs great routes, and he rarely drops the ball.
Bryan Bulaga had a bounce back year when he needed it most. He was able to stay healthy and he probably played his best season as a Packers yet. He’s due for some money, and like Cobb, he’s worth every penny someone will offer him.
Corey Linsley was the steal of the draft and the Packers definitely have something in him. He was supposed to hold down the fort while J.C. Tretter healed, but he never abdicated his position. I lost count of how many blocks Linsley ended in a dominant position or as a pancake.
Clay Matthews is a play maker. After having some down seasons, which some people debate, he had a nice bounce back year as well. Remarkably, he maintained his health all season (or didn’t miss much time due to nagging injuries) and his switch to middle linebacker rejuvenated his career. He was also more effective on the outside, as if he was playing with a renewed purpose and passion. He’s not the solution to the Packers’ inside linebacker problem, but he’s a stud and will have an integral role in 2015.
Julius Peppers was a nice addition to the locker room and on the field. No one can ever question that. But, he’s clearly on the downward slide of his career. He was only a shadow of the player he was only three short seasons ago.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has a bright future. He made typical rookie mistakes, such as lowering his head on tackles and taking poor angles. But his nose for the ball and play making abilities cannot be understated. He’s natural in coverage (except for the 2-pt conversion non-sense, which we won’t talk about) and has extremely flexible hips. His ability gives Dom Capers a new toy to use next year. Expect to see him patrolling the deep end of the field and then even dropping down into coverage to play over the slot. He’s that talented.
That’s all I’ll say about this for now. I don’t want to steal any thunder from upcoming articles and reviews that Jersey Al has planned.
It’s been a fun ride and I enjoyed the film sessions.
Go Pack Go!——————