Brother Steve makes several good points in the previous post. The Cullen Jenkins injury is big. D-Line is an area where we were not deep to begin with – and I don’t think it’s a stretch for Steve and others to contend that by losing Jenkins for the year, we’ve now lost the D-Lineman who was playing the best. Ouch. I also share some of Steve/others’ concerns re the shaky O-Line (seems like the TEs are having to help way too much which takes away an important part of the offense), Rodgers’ injury, the very poor running game, poor LB play, the Harris injury, the Bigby/Rouse/Collins injuries and the weak Derrick Frost. These are all major concerns for the team right now. (And, one thing worth adding: one quieter side effect any injury is that it can limit play-calling. Whether they be injuries to the QB, RB, FB, WR or O-line, whenever a new player is brought in, the number of plays to call is reduced somewhat and this increases a defense’s ability to anticipate what’s coming. Same actually applies when defensive injuries occur to some extent).
Steve mentioned one concern in particular that has worried me over the last 2 games: the thought that other teams may be catching onto MM’s game plan/Rodgers style/the Packers offense. When I went to the Dallas game, it was almost as though the Cowboys D knew exactly what was coming. Then a similar thing happened at Tampa. Both prepared effectively for our offense. It made me worry that the days of sneaking up on teams with MM’s newish system may be numbered. I read an article yesterday about Derek Brooks and how he spent considerable time studying the Packers offense before Sunday’s game. He said he hadn’t seen much of Rodgers (nor much of MM’s system) so he reviewed Packers’ game tape from this year and last year carefully. The results: he had a pick, a forced fumble, 3 tackles for loss. Scary when a hobbled 60 year old does that against your team. I know MM has more in his play book and I think creativity is an asset of his. But he’ll need to implement some of these plays and get into a much better play-calling mix if we’re going to turn this around.
All that said, in the end, I tend to disagree with Steve’s apparent willingness to jump ship so early. I agree more with Aaron at Cheeseheadtv who indicates it’s a bit soon to give in. If Brad Childress were our coach (first of all, we’d be 0-4), I would be ready to jump ship. But Mike McCarthy is a good coach who has demonstrated an ability to draw up a plan. And, I still think we have a weak enough division that we may push forward just because we’ll be handed some games.
To me, the most important thing that the Packers should focus on to turn this around is the O-Line. I just don’t believe the running game can continue to be so bad. The O-Line isn’t opening too many good holes (and their pass protection is weak too). We are 2-2 against some quality teams, with pretty much zero contribution from the running game and a defense that plays 90% of the game it seems. If we can just get the O-Line to be more effective and get Grant (not Jackson so much, he’s done fine) to take advantage of what’s in front of him, we might steady our ship here. (Not sure why I keep referring to a “ship” – maybe it’s because watching the Pack lately has affected me sort of like seasickness would). Anyway, if the O-Line gets it together, the running game will improve, which will increase our time of possession (which has been a major deficit area), which will keep the defense better rested and ideally, reduce the number of defensive errors. My guess is MM is working hard right now on the O-Line because he knows the ripple effect poor O-Line play can cause.
Finally, one question that came to mind when writing this post: could part of our running woes be due to the absence of Korey Hall? Hall has been a good player for us and I wonder just a bit if Grant and co may be missing his blocking and his understanding of the offense. We’ll see – Hall is set to return this week.
STEVE ADDS: Just to clarify, I’m not jumping ship. I’ll be on the ship if (when?) it goes down. And Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson can continue to check PackerGeeks for advice (come on, you know they read it). But given the difficulties of the past 10 days and the certain difficulties to come, it’ll take more than good coaching to get the Packers to the playoffs.
I’m eager to see how some of the young guys perform. I’ve been very high on Tramon Williams since early last year and I’ve had a man-crush on Desmond Bishop since before the 2007 draft which only intensified after he rocked Reggie Williams with that monster hit I’ve posted here a bunch of times. It’ll be good to see these guys play, but I will be shocked if we end up significantly over .500.