Archive for September, 2009

Packers vs. Vikings – some not-so-obvious key players

September 30, 2009
  • CB Antoine Winfield – most of you may know by now that I think Winfield is one of the top 4 cbs in the NFL. (In fact, my official list at this moment is Charles Woodson, Nnandi Asomugha, Derrell Revis, Antione Winfield). Winfield is a tackling machine and a very good cover corner. If he can prevent Greg Jennings from getting some big plays while making a few stops on Grant and our running game, that could seriously limit our play options.
  • LB EJ Henderson – Henderson doesn’t get much credit but he is a very good MLB. He is fast and active and hits. His play, largely in coverage, may have a direct impact on the outcome of this game.
  • RB Chester Taylor/TE Visanthe Shiancoe – Taylor hurt us last year. He is a very good RB who has a serious knack for getting open and getting positive yards as a receiver out of the backfield. We all know that when Favre feels pressure, especially on 3rd downs, he likes to look to his check down guys – in this case, I’m guessing Shiancoe and Taylor. Accounting for these 2 guys in particular (especially on 3rd downs) might really help our defensive cause.
  • DE Jared Allen (the run defender) – Jared Allen is known primarily as a pass rusher. But there are questions about his run defense. Remember a couple years ago when opposing teams would game plan to run at KGB all day because he was a weak run defender? The other day, I referenced the LeRoy Butler 5 Questions article that he does with jsonline weekly. In it, Butler mentioned the possibility of running at Jared Allen. Allen is undersized and often very focused on rushing the QB. Despite the Pack having major questions on the O-Line (including LT) right now, it’s possible the Packers could run Allen’s way and get something going on the ground. (And, possibly burn the overzealous DE with a few screen passes over his head. Note: I was trying to decide which word would best describe Allen here and I chose overzealous. Seems accurate, here’s one actual definition: too enthusiastic or eager, especially in carrying out a duty, and usually causing trouble or annoyance as a result.)
  • TE Jermichael Finely – part of the reason I think EJ Henderson’s play will be so pivotal is that I see Jermichael Finley having a huge night, a monstrous night, if the Vike’s LBs aren’t ready for it. Finley is really talented and each week, I think Mike McCarthy seethes on the sidelines when he realizes that the weak O-Line not only hurts the running/passing games in general, but specifically interferes with McCarthy working Finley into the passing game plan more.
  • LB Nick Barnett – Barnett has been mediocre (if that) since returning. He was mediocre last year too. Of course, I would argue Bishop should be in there instead. Anyway, one thing Barnett has done reasonably well over the years is get up for high profile games – mostly I believe, because he loves the attention. Whatever works. I can see Barnett flashing some of his old play-making ability in this game and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has some Favre sacks and/or causes a turnover or two.
  • Officiating – I’m sorry I had to include this, but I have seen some atrocious calls this year that have affected games.
  • RB Ryan Grant – my friend Mike (who was part of the original email group that eventually spawned Packergeeks) made a good point in an email to me the other day: the Packers need to get back to throwing the screen. He knew I’d agree – I love screens. But his point was very sound. He essentially pointed out that screens, even if not executed perfectly, can have the effect of keeping D-Linemen honest. In fact, in the Cincy game, a few screens may have been somewhat easy to pull off considering how focused Antwan Odom was on sacking Rodgers. So I (and friend Mike) would propose the Pack work in some screen plays to Grant for this week. (I say to Grant because I think they’d be most effective on 1st or 2nd down – so often when Grant is in he gets a hand-off, so working in a few screens may at least make the Vikes a little less sure when Grant is on the field). In fact, I’d submit that this may be an especially sound idea against the Vikings because having a huge defensive line is less of an asset when defending against a screen. The Williams duo in particular may have some trouble keeping up with the line motion involved in a well-executed screen play.
  • KR Will Blackmon – Blackmon has been quiet returning the ball this year, but we know he can break one at any moment. While the special teams buzz for the night will surround Blackmon’s counterpart Percy Harvin, it’s possible Blackmon will remind us all why we can afford to be tolerant of his injury issues.

Punting stats

September 30, 2009

Came across some interesting stats this morning over at nfl.com. In 3 games, the leading punter in the NFL for net average and overall average is Jon Ryan: 45.1 ypp and 52.8ypp respectively. Even though Jeremy Kapinos hasn’t been great (he’s 31st in net average, but does have 5 punts downed inside the 20), he hasn’t been horrendous either. This post isn’t really about Kapinos though, I just thought it was interesting that the guy we cut last year is leading the NFL in 2 significant punting categories.

I hate bees

September 29, 2009

On Saturday, I was in my father-in-law’s backyard with my father-in-law and my 2 year old son. My boy was busy pulling small slate-like pieces of rock off of a landscaped wall one by one, dewalling it, if you will. So, I set about putting the pieces back in place while telling my father-in-law about how the value of a bachelor’s degree nowadays doesn’t come close to matching the price charged for it by private colleges. Just then a bee came out of the wall and stung the %#&# out of me. (I would later learn that I essentially stuck my hand into a beehive…adding more evidence for my argument that a private college education isn’t all that). Man it hurt and man was I angry.

You see, I’m allergic to bees – and I absolutely hate them. I’ve been stung three times before, once on my lip (face swelled up like Martin Short in the movie Pure Luck), once on my chest and another time on the hand. Each time I had allergic reactions. Whenever a bee is near, I’m that guy who stands still nervously until the bee gets too close (within 5-10 feet typically) and then I’m that guy running away wildly swatting at the air and yelling incoherently. And it wouldn’t matter if I were in the middle of a profoundly important moment (like Brother Steve’s wedding years ago for example). If it’s too close, I will assume the role of massive, flailing coward instantly.

For me, whenever I get stung, a whole process is set in motion. First, I panic. I am good at panicking. On Saturday, I yelped when the actual sting happened and then immediately turned my focus to “awfulizing” and “worst-case-scenarioing” as much as possible. “What if I start having breathing problems?”; “what should I tell my father-in-law now about how long I’d want to remain in a coma etc?”; “what if Aaron Rodgers gets hurt tomorrow?”. I went into the house to get some ice and follow my father-in-law’s suggestion to sit and try to relax. Then, I started thinking about where I put my epi-pen which I’d been told to take with me pretty much everywhere. Then I started thinking about how I’d rather not use the epi-pen considering the needle is huge and I’d have to inject myself. Only after worrying about having to self-inject did I realize that I didn’t have my epi-pen.

So, I decided to panic some more figuring that perhaps if I panicked more, my natural adrenaline flow would increase and function like the adrenaline (epinephrine) in the epi-pen, relieving all symptoms. I tried this for a while but it didn’t seem to be working as I started to notice the next phase of the process was kicking in – hives. Sure enough, my right forearm was swelling like Popeye with 2 hives and I also watched a hive develop on my chest giving me an asymmetrical and frightful triple man-boob look. Not pretty. One thing I’d like to know is how hives themselves settle on where to locate. Seems very random. Fortunately, I did not experience any difficulty breathing despite being so conscious and panicked about the whole thing and so aware that breathing difficulty was likely the next symptom – in fact, in a weird way it almost seemed like I was trying to have trouble breathing.

I knew the symptoms were getting more serious when I also noticed that I was beginning to develop a redness on my face and neck. So I figured it was time to go to Urgent Care. My father-in-law took me there right away along with my 2 year old son (whose facial expressions throughout told of a new level of curiosity – and this for a child I thought may have already maxed out on curiosity). When we got there, the nurses were being very casual and I was not being very casual. Eventually, a nurse actually looked up (nurses at front desks spend so much time looking down it’s strange) and saw my face and made the sensible decision to postpone the petty paperwork process.

I’m pretty sure that it was the first day for the nurse who came and got me. The first thing she did was weigh me – because that’s apparently a critical piece of info when treating a bee sting with rapidly progressing and obvious symptoms. (Look, there may have been a medical reason for weighing me at some point, but I think that it could have been done after getting a shot – I had more pressing concerns at that time than confirming that my lack of exercise and poor diet weren’t paying off.)

Once in the consult room, the nurse was clearly focused on the “talk slowly and overly-deliberately with patients who are anxious” part of her recent training. Or, she may have just been related to Paul Harvey or Elaine from Airplane!. I told her about having been prescribed an epi-pen for years, the growing outbreak of hives and the fact that with every other bee sting, I was given a shot of epinephrine, which has always worked well. She wasn’t sure this was needed because you see, I didn’t have hives, I had just been stung in multiple places. She was thinking just some ice and maybe, just maybe benadryl would work. I disagreed strongly because I knew that I’d been stung just one time and that my allergic reaction was progressing. And, I’d experienced this before. So I asked her to get the doctor, neglecting the impact this almost immediate “let me talk to your boss” plea might have on her budding nursing career. Of course, the doctor came in and recommended an epinephrine shot immediately. (In hindsight, I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if upon interviewing this nurse now, she revealed that she was reluctant to give me the epinephrine right away simply because I presented like a crazed drug addict desperate for a fix – especially considering my over-the-top push for the shot). Anyway, things didn’t end there.

Once the adrenaline from the shot kicked in, I sat there shaking considerably while waiting for the symptoms to subside. Meanwhile my son, again, was just so curious about the whole thing: watching the doctor look at daddy, seeing daddy’s strangely massive hand, and of course watching daddy unable to sit still, just like him. The symptoms did start to very gradually subside and we were all relieved (including the nurse). Upon being discharged, I was told to sign and fill out a bunch of paperwork. Asking a patient to sign and fill out forms after having a shot of adrenaline is ridiculous – not one word/signature was legible and the forms had to be re-written by the nurse after I gave the answers verbally. It was odd, standing there, involuntarily fidgeting and unable to keep my head still no matter my effort, I felt like a bird (ever notice, by the way, that all birds have ADD).

So finally, I had to go to Walgreens to pick up another epi-pen and some benadryl. As I was standing in line at the pharmacy behind people who seemed to be there for mostly unimportant things, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror and had a quiet chuckle to myself. Here I was, shaking uncontrollably, still flush in the face from lingering panic with weird red bumps on my arm, chuckling audibly for no apparent reason and perhaps most frighteningly, holding out a hand so swollen that that it looked like one of those inflated clown-balloon hands. Let’s just say skipping ahead to the front of the line has never been so easy.

OT Levi Jones brought in for tryout

September 29, 2009

We need to do more of this. I know some (Bengals included) believe Jones is no good anymore and may never have lived up to his initial billing, and that may well be the case. But what I like about our bringing him in is that he has experience at left tackle. He’s not a guard or a center that we’re bringing in to tryout at left tackle, he’s a former NFL starting left tackle. Unless the guy is in terrible shape and/or looks way off in the tryout, I’m pretty sure I’d rather have him in there at left tackle than Colledge – and I’d rather have Colledge back at his position of left guard than Spitz – and Spitz at center instead of Wells.

UPDATE: Apparently 2 other tackles and 3 guards were also brought in for tryouts. While it’s good that the team seems to recognize the need for o-line help and I suppose I’m not too concerned about where it comes from as long as it comes, I don’t believe any of the other 5 (besides Levi) have actual NFL experience. Again though, at this point, we need to try whatever might work.

Good stuff from LeRoy Butler

September 28, 2009

I have referred to comments from LeRoy in the past quite a bit and there is good reason for this: he knows what he is talking about. Read here from today’s jsonline for their great segment called 5 Questions. While I don’t totally agree with him saying the O-Line protected Rodgers reasonably well in St. Louis, the rest of his points are accurate and insightful. I have thought for a while now that he’d make a great coach.

More Thoughts

September 28, 2009
  • I agree that a win is a win. Despite the bashing going on in blogs everywhere, the fact is, the team did win (and almost matched my predicted score of 37-20). I am glad the team won and certainly, obviously, there were some good things that happened out there that led this team to victory. And, I might add, it’s never easy to win on the road in the NFL – and while StL is not a good team at all, the team was able to work through some major execution problems to end up with a needed victory.
  • My concern isn’t just about this game though. My concern is that the effort put forth yesterday was enough to handle the Rams comfortably, but against a better opponent, it may well have been a loss. So (Favre’s Booger), when we all criticize what’s going on, part of it is done because we’re looking forward – knowing, for example, that a better effort will be needed against better teams like the Vikings.
  • While I do think there are instances where Rodgers hangs onto the ball too long, for the most part, I don’t think this is that big of a deal. I disagree with Steve here. On many of the plays where Rodgers goes down, it’s because the pocket has caved in such a short period of time that Peyton Manning couldn’t have gotten the ball out (throwing one of his wobbly, ugly balls). Again, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, I think Rodgers is doing quite well given the circumstances. And, I’d rather have him take some of these sacks than throw crazy picks – something he hasn’t done yet this season.
  • I agree with Steve when he questions McCarthy’s ability to make in-game adjustments. However, I did notice one adjustment in the second half – it seemed quicker developing pass plays were called and Rodgers was possibly given the green light to take off running when there were openings. I also noticed a roll out or 2 called to enable Rodgers at least to get moving away from the rush.
  • Steven Jackson is a monster. He has a rare combination of both power and burst. Good preparation for the Pack for this coming week in MN.
  • I’ll say it again, I think yesterday was an important game for Mason Crosby. Despite the disappointment of not getting TDs on those drives, Crosby made sure we got something. But more than anything, I think this helps his confidence. He has not been terrific so far (not terrible either) and I think it was key that he had a big game the game before going to MN – because it could well be that he has a chance to redeem himself this year in the waning moments after missing last year.
  • Though I can’t say I watched him solo a whole lot yesterday, I do find increased comfort that Nick Collins back there. His speed is such an asset and I like him on this team. I also didn’t think Derrick Martin was too bad (though I can’t be sure if he was supposed to help on either of those TD passes to the unknown TE). When I was writing critically last week of the Rouse cut, one thing in the back of my mind (which I eventually wrote about too) was the possibility that the safety situation may in fact improve with new guys getting the chance to play like Martin and Giordano. While I think the Packers have 3 high level starters in the secondary, that 4th spot has been a question mark for a while. If we can get that cleared up, this secondary could be quite scary.
  • Listened to some MN talk radio after their game yesterday (was driving back home from MN) and I will tell you something, these fans are pumped up. They are giddy in the kind of way that even non-aggressive types might consider aggression to end said giddiness. They think they are great even though that game should have ended with a pick-6 on a terribly thrown Favre pass- but Dre Bly dropped it. SF outplayed MN yesterday.

Thoughts

September 27, 2009

*A win is a win.  But I do not feel any better about the Packers than I did before the game.  Not worse, either, but definitely not better.

*AJ Hawk is very slow. On the screen to the outside to Steve Jackson, Hawk stood flat-footed after Jackson caught the ball and when he pursued it looked like he was running in mud. He took a terrible angle, too.

*Brady Poppinga is absolutely awful.  I don’t think he even jumped on as many piles as usual today.

*The offensive line is very bad. One ranking had it at 23rd before this week. That seems very generous.

*The Rams didn’t generate as much pressure as the Bears or the Bengals. But they’re the Rams.  The fact that they put on as much pressure as they did is worrisome.

*Steve Jackson is the second best running back in the NFL. Can you imagine if

*Donald Driver is amazing. He is a waterbug.

*Aaron Rodgers holds the ball too long. His arm is strong, he is very accurate (Jordy Nelson throw comes to mind, Driver overthrow is the exception). He is surprisingly fast when he runs. But he hangs on to the ball far beyond the point at which he should get rid of it. That tendency, along with the sieve-like offensive line, will get him hurt.

*The Packers defense gave up 17 points to a team that had averaged 3.5 in its first two games. The Rams offense lost its quarterback in the first quarter, its #1 wide receiver in the second quarter. It played behind a no-name offensive line and 2nd string QB Kyle Boller — who wasn’t good enough to play quarterback in Baltimore. (Yes, Baltimore.)

*I’m increasingly concerned about Mike McCarthy. I’ve liked him. I think he understands football — in theory and practice. And I think the players like him.

But he never — and I mean never — makes decisive halftime adjustments. When Mike Holmgren was head coach, the Packers were going to win the game anytime it was close at halftime. He was smarter than just about every other coach in the game.

More worrisome, and we’ll develop this in a separate post, he is stubborn to the point where it hurts the team. Think Bob Sanders. Think Mike Stock. And now he is killing us with his unwillingness to fix the offensive line. Last week I heard McCarthy interview on Sirius NFL Radio. He was asked whether he had considered changing personnel on the offensive line. McCarthy said:” That’s not something I’ve considered.”

Really? It seems to me there are two possibilities here. McCarthy lied, and he has, in fact, considered a change. Or he’s telling the truth. And that would be much, much worse. I understand wanting to give the current players confidence by saying nothing in public that would indicate he’s going to bail on them. But he needs to be thinking about personnel changes. Actually, he needs to be making personnel changes. And soon.

*Speaking of stubborn, it was nice to see Desmond Bishop get some playing time today.  It’s too bad he didn’t play when it mattered.

*Brett Favre annoys me more than just about anyone alive these days, but that was a sweet-ass throw to win the game Sunday.  That win will matter in December.

How many times will Brady Poppinga lose contain and not be removed for it?

September 27, 2009

It’s just ridiculous. Last week, LeRoy Butler pointed out that both Hawk and Poppinga (Poppinga in particular) were losing contain on the outside edge. Poppinga does it often and there is zero consequence. If McCarthy and co are going to talk about accountability, it should include their “pet” players too. Ridiculous.

We better not losing to the *&^%$ Rams – O-Line horrendous

September 27, 2009

Our O-Line is totally incapable of blocking when pressure comes. It’s almost like Barbre and co are so focused on blocking their one guy that when something different is thrown at them, they panic. James Campen needs to go. I’d be the first to admit that he doesn’t have good players to work with, but he’s just been a weak link for 3+ years now.

Pack’s defense should be doing better against Kyle Boller

September 27, 2009

Not that Marc Bulger is anything special anymore, but the bottom line is that he’s the #2 QB he shouldn’t be shredding our defense like he is. The more I watch this D, I can’t help but think it’s less a matter of execution than it is a matter of not having the personnel to execute. Our LB group continues to not dominate the way a LB group should dominate a 3-4 defense.


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