Corey Williams’ departure hurts our D-Line depth. Corey Williams was a solid player, but before we go about claiming his loss is the reason for our woes, remember that he was somewhat inconsistent last year and disappeared for 2-3 games at a time. It was more the fact that he was another massive D-line body who could keep the rotation of players fresh. He also did have some talent.
Injuries. This season, Bigby, Collins, Harris, Grant, James Jones, Rodgers, Hawk, Jenkins and Korey Hall have all dealt with injuries. Of these injuries, I’d say the Jenkins injury was most hurtful to the team, then the Bigby injury. The other injuries we’ve managed to smooth over. Jenkins injury hurts again, mostly because his absence reduces overall depth for the D-Line rotation that Bob Sanders likes to use. He also was a talented player (though the Pack’s D-Line was not playing too well before Jenkins was hurt either). Bigby’s loss seemed to affect the defense a fair amount. The Pack is 2-1 when Bigby plays. One other major injury was the one to James Jones. He had a bunch of catches last year (48) and his absence on the field takes away a few special plays the offense could be running otherwise. The injuries have been fairly significant for us this year – though as bad as they’ve been, we’ve drafted a few new contributors and have finally gotten other players healthy and contributing like Will Blackmon and Tramon Williams.
Schedule. The Packers have losses to the Cowboys, Bucs, Falcons and Titans (combined overall records of 23-11). Our wins are against the Vikes, Lions, Seahawks and Colts – all weak teams, excepting maybe the Colts and maybe the Vikes. Going by our schedule, I’d say we should probably be 6-2 at the worst. I don’t think the schedule is much of a reason for us being 4-4 right now.
O-Line shuffling – this kind of relates to injuries, above, but the shuffling of the O-Line has been an issue (and perhaps been a significant reason why Ryan Grant doesn’t seem to be the same). Interestingly, though we all seemed to miss Scott Wells when he was out, the Packers we 2-1 with him out and are 2-3 with him starting again. But the overall continuity and moving players around may be problematic. Still, we have largely the same personnel grouping as last year – and the same starting 5 at least, so it shouldn’t be that much of a drop-off.
Declining performance. Ryan Grant, Chad Clifton, Aaron Kampman, AJ Hawk, Nick Barnett – these are all players many of us figured would be reliable this year and perform at a high, consistent level and none of them have. Grant can’t seem to break arm tackles like he did last year; Kampman has seemed fairly absent; I actually thought Clifton was overrated last year but he’s definitely struggling this year; Hawk seems to be having trouble fitting into the scheme even (preference for Chillar right now); and Barnett’s performance has been nothing short of shocking.
Favre leaving. This is a lighting rod issue, I know. Now, importantly, this is not a comment on who’s fault the whole thing was etc etc etc…it is merely pointing out that last year Favre was the QB and this year he’s not. I think the Packers had a certain swagger last year that many of us were hoping would simply carry over to this year. Then IT all happened. The whole Favre departure scenario has hurt this team in subtle, unspoken ways and I think the departure divided the team more than we know. It’s one thing to lose Frank Walker to free agency – it’s something quite different to lose probably the most popular player in Packers’ history to another team after a bitter divorce. Aaron Rodgers has done a hell of a job stepping in and giving us consistency and he’s even added a few new wrinkles, like actually gaining yards rushing. And I’d submit that he’s already demonstrated solid leadership skills for a young player. But Favre carries with him “something”…probably the same “something” that Bill Belicheck, John Elway, Michael Jordan, Mike Krzyzewski (never spelled that before…wow), Albert Pujols, Tiger Woods and many other great athletes/great winners carry around. It’s something that’s hard to replace right away. It’s something that leads other teammates to want to perform well in the presence of that player or coach. I’m not necessarily saying the Packers would be 8-0 with Favre here. But I do think that either missing Favre’s “something” hurts this year or we’re being affected more than we realize by the residue from the ugly split.
Can’t disagree with the anlysis too much. AJ should be playing MLB, OLB is not AJ’s natural position. Barnett is rotten. Misses tackles, out of position, piles on late and seems to be the proverbial chicken with no head. Read Wildes’s article on the “Run Defense” and you can see part of the reason this team is not performing. They actually think they are good, if you just eliminate the long runs, that is. Err, fellas they did happen. You are 30th in the league in YPC and 27 in YPG. You are not good. If Sanders is promoting this crap fire him today.
They had better play with emotion on Sunday. A loss just about wraps up a no playoff season. A loss to Chicago would guarentee it.
As for Ryan Grant, I don’t think holding out over training camp and the pre-season help him. Our O line is nothing to write home about but I do think that practice with them for several months before the season started would have helped Grant. The O-line has not protected Aaron well this season. Our D line hasn’t been able to stop the run. We can’t hold a team on their own 8 from scoring? MM says he’ll fix it, but he says that after every loss.
Sure, the run defense is struggling, but I think that overall the defense is playing as well, and perhaps slightly better, than it did last year. For example, they currently rank 8th in defensive DVOA whereas last year they ranked 15th. A major reason why the defense is giving up more points this season is field position. They are coming onto the field with more short fields behind them to protect.
On the other hand, the Packers had a top 5 offense by just about any measure last season. This season the offense has declined to barely above average. As Andy suggests, there are several reasons for this.
Ultimately, the responsibility rests with Thompson and McCarthy. Perhaps the Favre situation played a factor, but the fact is that this team has not shown the improvement we all expected after last season, especially considering the solid performance we’ve seen from Rodgers. I hope they can turn things around in the second half of the season. Otherwise, there’s reason to doubt whether this team is on the brink of anything special in the coming years. And that would be very disappointing, considering how close they were last year.
Injuries have hurt this team, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Losing Jenkins, Bigby and Harris was a big loss, and while I think the defense had held together as well as possible under the circumstances, they have no doubty struggled because of these injuries.
Somehow Tauscher always gets left off the list when we talk about the problems with the Oline. He’s struggled as much as anyone else on that line, but he seems to get a free pass. I guess that’s the benefit of being a Badger. Regardless, except for pretty good performances in the first game of the year and the last one (yeah, I thought the line did a pretty good job against one of the best defenses in the league), the entire Oline has really struggled this year. Wells’ injury accounts for some of the struggles early on, but he’s been back for a while now.
I do think the schedule (and relatedly, luck) play a role as well. The Packers lost to the Cowboys before the Blue Star melted down; at the time, they were considered the best team in the league by just about everyone, and were playing like it. The fact that they now suck shouldn’t lessen the difficulty of that game. As for the Falcons and the Bucs- both are solid teams, and while I think the Packers ought to have beat one or even both, I think losing to them isn’t like losing to the Cincinnati Bengals or St. Louis Rams. I think people forget that a lot has to go right for a team to finish 13-3 like the Packers did last year, and even if Favre had remained at the helm and the Packers not suffered a rash of injuries, 13-3 for this season was at the outer range of possibilities. This is a 10-11 win team, a mark that is still attainable with the personnel and remaining schedule, and a mark that is pretty damn good for one of the youngest teams in the league.
Bucky – good point about the schedule and Dallas in particular. Dallas was the best team at that point (and I may be alone here, but I think they’ll be the best team again in the second half of the season). And I also think Atlanta is one of the better teams in the league. But I still think we should have won at least 1 of those 4 games and probably 2.
And funny you mentioned Tauscher. When I was writing the post, I very nearly put his name in there but then realized that I haven’t paid as much attention to him this year so I wasn’t positive he wasn’t playing to well. I do know that on his show Tuesdays with Tauscher, a great local segment on ESPN radio here in Milwaukee, he has been getting some flak after a few games for allowing a sacks or a busted up play etc.
And Ja – one point you made that I also thought about including in this post was Mike McCarthy’s role. I am beginning to wonder a bit if he was so effective early in his career because he had a whole new system other teams hadn’t been able to scout much and it caught a good number of teams off guard. Now I wonder if perhaps teams have caught on to his tendencies and schemes and it all has become a bit more predictable to them (like Grant getting the hand-off most of the times he’s on the field).
I pretty much come down where buckyor does: the ball bounces funny for everyone sometime. I’m not a huge stat guy one way or the other, but it just seems to me that the ball bounced our way a few times last year and its bouncing the other way this year. NFL games among non-dominant or non-sucky teams seem to come down to a few crucial plays and we aren’t making them as much as we did last year, but I kinda feel like that can’t last forever, the talent is there and we’ll be better as the season goes along. Maybe that’s the Favre thing, but Favre had some years like this one too. Overall, although the record is disappointing, I like this team, and I never get the feeling that they are overmatched. For a loss, I found there was a lot to be encouraged by in the Tenn game, the Pack showed it could go toe-to-toe with a very good team on the road. I think this team is ready to have a big second half. But for whatever its worth, I’m a relentless optimist.
ja, Agree totally. MM and TT are responsible. It’s beginning to look like last year was an anomaly and MM’s first two 8 and 8 seasons are the standard. If that is true, many very poor personnel decisions have been made this year. Let’s hope not.