I have been wondering about this now for a while. But when I read today here that Clowney posted an unofficial 40 time of 4.47 - a positively absurd time for someone who weighs 266 lbs – I’m starting to think that making a super aggressive play for him might be a smart move. We’ll have the cap space and we can give up a few draft picks. We’d also be protected a bit by the contract limitations the NFL placed a few years ago on draft picks. I think his presence in our lineup would have the potential to change our defense from one of the worst to top 5. Lined up opposite Matthews (if Matthews is healthy…becoming a big if anymore), opposing QBs would suddenly have very little time to make decisions. If we learned one thing from last season it’s that defense still matters – and consistent pressure on QBs is something that the great defenses of last year did exceptionally well (San Fran, Seattle). Another quiet factor with Clowney is that with that kind of speed and some good coaching, he might be able to offer coverage skills that we lack from our front 7.
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According to Jermichael himself, this is the case. While I’m doubtful the Pack will make any serious effort to retain him, I have to say I’m glad that he has recovered as he has. Hate to see careers end that way. I have a hunch that he’ll land in New England.
…I think they will instantly become a better team. I have written about this before but I have a difficult time understanding why Mike Zimmer has been overlooked for coaching vacancies so often. He has made it known in the past that he wants to be a head coach and he’s done a heck of a job over the years as a defensive coordinator. I will be worried if the Vikes hire him because I think he’ll make that defense better and the entire team more competitive (no matter who the QB is).
Zimmer’s defenses since he took over at Cincy in 2008 have finished:
- 2013 – #3,
- 2012 – #6
- 2011 – #7
- 2010 – #15
- 2009 – #4
- 2008 – #12
Suggs is heading into his final contract year and Balt is apparently not sure if they want to keep him. He has a huge cap number of $12.4M. While that is an obvious issue, if Balt opts to cut him loose to save money, this could be the kind of splash TT could make that would instantly change our defense. Even a slower/older Suggs lined up opposite Matthews would be an absolute nightmare for opposing offenses. And his leadership and veteran savvy having been on some of the best defenses in NFL history would no doubt be huge in a locker room full of youngsters. While my guess is Balt ultimately keeps him, I find it interesting that this is even on the table at this point already in their off-season. Interesting that part of what could make him expendable is Balt’s quick move last year to pick up pass rusher Elvis Dumervil from Denver after that bizarre contract snafu by Dumervil’s agent. Ozzie Newsome is a good GM.
Read here. Interesting article from Tom Silverstein quoting Tramon Williams. Williams essentially says what I had said in the previous post – that the defense (though he focuses on the secondary) lacks a veteran presence. Given that he’s probably buddies with some of the young guys he was essentially criticizing, it couldn’t have been an easy comment to make. But he is right about this. When Woodson left and our defense got younger and younger, the younger guys then have fewer veterans to guide them in the ways of the NFL. That may sound ridiculous but it’s not. As Tramon says, veterans should have their place too and TT has to find a way to achieve a better balance of youth/experience.
- Brutal loss.
- While it was certainly cold at the game, it wasn’t THAT cold unless the wind whipped up. When it did, it seemed like it was colder than -9 or whatever they said. I do think the weather affected throwing and especially punting.
- Guys put in quality effort.
- Defense played decently though not flawlessly.
- There were a few huge plays in this game…
- The clock mismanagement at the end of the first half. Rodgers was too casual and the spent timeout was costly. We score a TD there and the momentum in the game shifts big time.
- The Capers call in the third quarter to bring Burnett to the line leaving the entire side of the field wide open for Kaepernick’s hugely painful gain. Part of the problem there was that Burnett fouled it up – applied zero pressure. But it was such a poor defensive play call that it took Kaepernick about 1 second to see we’d conceded the entire right side of our defense. I wondered for a moment if it was another miscommunication on defense because absolutely nobody was over there after Burnett got himself blocked. But ultimately I think it was just a really bad defensive play call.
- Kaepernick’s 3rd down run late in the game was also devastating. We brought Bush up to rush again but I wondered if he was supposed to help contain on the outside. Then he got blocked and Mulumba was just too late.
- There was a fantastic play call by San Fran on that last drive (I believe on 2nd or 3rd down) at about the 50. They had two RBs in the backfield and both went out for passes. We only had one linebacker available to cover and they threw it to the open one, Gore, for a key first down. That was a fantastic play and the perfect time to use it.
- I couldn’t figure out why early on McCarthy didn’t have Rodgers rollout or throw screens or try play action – anything to counter their constant upfield pass rush and to draw their LBs forward. We just kept calling plays to their strengths and that was a problem.
- Rodgers struggles with defenses that drop 2 deep. That’s just what Lovies’ Bears used to do. The 49ers safeties have the easiest jobs in football. Their d line puts great pressure on the QB and their LBs are amazing. But it just seems like Rodgers really doesn’t feel comfortable with that defensive set-up – like it’s just a much tougher nut to crack. This off-season, I hope Rodgers and McCarthy sit down and try to figure out a way to crack that defense. There are counter plays that can be run to make those defenders in that D feel less comfortable – those guys yesterday seemed to be so comfortable out there.
- Randall Cobb has an amazing football sense out there on the field that most players just don’t have. And you can’t teach it. He just knows that when the play is busted, Rodgers is at his best – so he works super hard to get himself open. He’s done it on 3 plays in the last 2 games and made critical receptions each time (including the game winner in Chicago). He is an amazing talent. (Jordy also has this ability…)
- Rodgers’ escape play on that sure-sack was one of the great all-time plays. I think there was some offensive holding going on but still, that was an amazing play – again made possible by Cobb’s ability to sense Rodgers is on the run and needing somewhere to throw the ball. Just an unbelievable play.
- I thought the spot given to the 49ers late in the game that gave them a key first down (at a critical time), was wrong. It looking like Gore was at least 1/2 a yard short.
- At the end of the game I was calling for the Packers to let the 49ers just score a TD. While that may have seemed like a crazy idea, especially when I called for it with about 1 minute remaining or so – here is what I was thinking. The 49ers were driving effectively (and finding ways to convert on 3rd down) and our defense was proving they were not up to the task. Once the FG would have been within 40 yards (which it was at 1 minute), and we had to spend our 2nd timeout, I got to thinking that they’d probably get a few more yards, eat up the clock and leave a chip shot with hardly any time remaining for a many-year NFL veteran kicker. Phil Dawson will make a 33 yard FG 98% of the time (that’s actually probably supported by stats). So, why not just let them score a TD with 1 minute left? That would give Rodgers 1 minute and 1 timeout to drive down the field. While that may seem improbable, statistically speaking (think New England vs New Orleans earlier this year – Brady did it, and I think Matt Ryan did it last year), there is probably a better chance of Rodgers succeeding in that scenario than there would be of Phil Dawson missing a chip shot.
- Going into this game I thought the Pack would win. I really did. But one factor I continue to underestimate, because I hate him, is coach Jim Harbaugh. He is a jerk and a tool and all of that but he is also a very, very good coach. He just gets it done. The 49ers had some fantastic play calls at key moments in that game that helped them pull out a victory. (That may have been more his OC than Harbaugh but still.) They completed 50% of their third downs (compared to the Packers 27%) and players made plays (especially Crabtree) at key times. (Though sorry Harbaugh, Michael Crabtree is not the NFL’s “greatest pass catcher”.)
- Kaepernick struggled this season at times so to watch that kind of effort last night was a bit surprising. He was really good. It’s like he knows when he plays the Packers (primarily because we have no second level of defense, nor third level…and at times no first level!), he can just take off an run at will. Frustrating to watch for sure but the guy is fast and the guy has developed a pretty good sense for when he taking off is the best option.
- While the Packers defense played a tough game (not flawless but tough), the Packers offense was not so good. McCarthy and Rodgers both engineered an absolutely worthless first quarter. They couldn’t get anything going and I think that slow start ended up emboldening the 49ers – helping them realize right away the game was there for the taking (and that our offense, for some reason, seemed to be intimidated by their defense). Rodgers only threw for 177 yards and 7 of his 17 completions were to Jordy – while no other WR had any more than 2 receptions. That is a very unRodgers-like performance again I believe, because of the 2 deep safety defense the 49ers play. Rodgers loves it when teams blitz etc but San Fran almost never blitzes because they don’t need to. Just like the Bears of old.
- It was very difficult for me to watch the 49ers D line-up with 3 Pro Bowl LBs, yes 3 PRO BOWL LBS – and to then see the Packers D line-up with 4 highly questionable LBs, only one of whom would have a shot at starting for another team (Hawk…though he wouldn’t see the field on the 49ers defense). If Willis, Bowman and Brooks played for the Packers we’d win the Super Bowl…easily. I know I’ve harped on this a lot this year, but there is a serious lack of talent on this defense and TT has to do something to fix it. I don’t care if it’s through free agency, the draft and/or a trade or two even – he has to recognize this is a serious problem and address it head on. (Actually I would prefer at this a free agent or a trade – read below for more on that.) As I’ve noted previously, our defense right now consumes about the same amount of cap space as our offense – for roughly the same number of overall players. Stop and think about that for a moment. Realize then just how much more value per player our offense is yielding compared to our defense. The Packer offense (yesterday excepted), is a top flight offense – #3 overall in terms of average yards per game. A really really good overall offense (with Rodgers of course). The defense is bad – ranked #25 overall in yards allowed per game. While I have real questions about the scheme we’ve been using and the in-game defensive play calling with Capers especially this year, I think that’s only part of the problem. There is a serious lack of talent out there – and so many young guys it makes Capers job that much tougher. But the concern I have is that TT sticks to his “draft the best available guy” when we’re in a situation where that is just not a good idea. As Brother Steve said yesterday, that draft philosophy is a good one if a GM is willing to acquire players in another way too (free agency, trades etc) but if not, it can be very limiting and as my dad noted – it can lead to a team with a lack of overall balance of talent. And right now, because of that draft philosophy, it’s not surprising for example that the Packers have 4 really good WRs and no good LBs or safeties (or D-Linemen really). TT needs to fill these holes before next year – or at least set us on a better path defensively. The Bears with Phil Emery aren’t afraid to just go after guys to fill positions of need – through free agency, the draft, whatever. I hate to say it but I have serious fears about the Bears with Phil Emory and Marc Trestman because I think they are on the right path. And believe me – Phil Emery will address that iffy defense in the offseason. If the Packers don’t address need areas I think the Bears could dominate the NFC North (yes, even with Cutler) for the next few years.
- But one of the biggest problems I see is a lack of leadership on defense. I know that everyone says Hawk is the leader and calls out the plays etc – but I just don’t buy that. He may actually call out the plays but I just don’t think he leads effectively. I think since Woodson’s departure, there has been a real leadership void (though even when Woodson was here, there was still a veteran leadership void to some extent – that in fact has characterized TT’s time at the helm). While Woodson may not have called the plays he conveyed a strong sense of command for the game and I think other players respected him for that. He took guys under his wing (talk to Tramon) and helped develop them – and teach them about being a professional. Well, when so many guys on the defense are young and inexperienced (and not very good), the lack of a respected veteran leadership presence starts to become more evident. The Packers need to consider making a splash for a veteran free agent who can play and come in and command immediate respect. Read stories about how LB Jon Beason being traded to the NY Giants really helped bring on a resurgence in the Giants’ otherwise iffy D. We need someone like that and we can’t be afraid to go out and get that someone. We are not presently developing anyone worthwhile – especially at LB (Perry is just plain bad, Brad Jones should never have been re-signed – terrible idea, Mulumba is just too raw for now and Lattimore while talented seems bogged down by scheme/instinct confusion).
- TT and McCarthy need to really think hard this offseason about modifying their approach because the cold, hard truth is that the Packers have been one and done in the playoffs 5 of the 6 times they’ve made it. Yes we won the Super Bowl in 2010 and that was fantastic. But TT/MM’s Super Bowl immunity is wearing off and the fact is their teams historically have demonstrated an undeniable 83% chance of melting down in their first playoff game. Not good.
- I want to thank all of you readers for all of your comments, your thoughts and your fantastic insights again this year. Just so you know, I read every single comment and the comments certainly affect how I think about the team. So often you mention things in your comments that I haven’t considered. I love that. There is no question in my mind that Packer fans are the best, most knowledgeable fans in the game and doing this blog and interacting with all of you really supports this opinion. Thanks again and have a great off-season. And don’t be afraid to start with suggestions about how to improve this team – as I know I’ll be letting fly with an avalanche of both legit thoughts and outlandish thoughts after I take some time to recover from the devastating loss!
Chances of us scoring a td with less than 1 minute higher than dawson missing chip shot.
Of the broken play. He has that football instinct that can’t be taught. Just an incredible player.
I don’t understand this. Rodgets is so evidently uncomfortable going against 2 deep safeties (like lovies bears) and he’s just making bad decisions in the pocket. And he line is not playing well. We need to roll him out or call screens to counter their aggressive rush.
Wow. What a time for nick perry to finally contribute. Awesome.