Archive for November, 2008

Leroy Butler makes great point re Ryan Grant

November 7, 2008

Read here from jsonline.com – 5 questions with Butler. I really like this column when it comes out and I enjoy listening to Leroy on the radio whenever I have the chance. He has an excellent football mind and from reading and listening to him now, it becomes even more apparent to me why he was such a good safety for the Packers. I particularly like that he isn’t afraid to say what he thinks (read his take on KGB).

Anyway, the great point I think he makes re Ryan Grant is that he believes that Grant’s presence on the field is essentially a 1 dimensional presence – Grant, when on the field, is most likely going to get the ball and run with it. Butler lobbies here for getting the ball to Grant through the air. This is very solid insight. Early in the season, when Grant was hurting, the Packers would limit his plays. So, when he’d come in the game, the other team pretty much knew he was going to get the ball on a run play. I’m not sure that has changed a whole lot frankly. I’d be interested to see what % of times Grant gets a hand-off when he’s in the game. Couple all of this with the very obvious hand-off method of Rodgers’ and it’s no wonder defenses seem to be snuffing out the run.

We at Packergeeks have been calling for more screens for much of the year. Screens, or I’ll add now, even lining Grant up as a wide-out. He may not be the best receiver, but I strongly agree with Butler – getting Grant involved in other ways besides just running, is important.

(By the way, I also agree with Butler re Grant not breaking tackles – in fact I wrote as much last night in the post on why the Packers are 4-4. For a guy who runs so hard and is so strong, it’s really strange the number of times this year when he’s made it to the 2nd level only to be taken down by a very weak DB who gets a finger on his shoe. I almost wonder if his injury has somehow knocked him a bit off balance or something. I do also agree with Butler that Grant will likely turn things around as the season moves forward – that’s why he’s still on my fantasy team).

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No Perfect Storm

November 7, 2008

On a list compiled by researchers at Oxford University of the top ten most annoying phrases in the English language, here.

At the end of the day, these top ten lists we are subjected to 24/7 are pretty annoying themselves, no?

ANDY ADDS: when you link to this article, make sure to scroll down and get reader input re other annoying expressions. Seems like many of these readers, while perhaps not Packers fans, have Packergeek-reader-sensibilities/sense of humor.

Did you know…

November 6, 2008

That 3 of the top 5 sack leaders in the NFL are (or were) Pittsburgh Steeler linebackers: James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and ex-Steeler Joey Porter.

Why are the Packers 4-4?

November 6, 2008
  • 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.

Favre apparently undecided politically too

November 4, 2008

Read this article by Jarrett Bell over at USAtoday. It’s rare that I go to usatoday.com and don’t find a number of interesting articles. Quality website and quality sports reporting. Favre, by the way, apparently does not consider himself either Democrat or a Republican.

Titans – Packers Thoughts

November 2, 2008

*The no-call on Greg Jennings with four minutes left was outrageous. He was bumped twice before he was mugged. Cortland Finnegan (I believe) had Jennings’ right arm pinned to his body — making it virtually impossible for Jennings to catch the ball. It was a horrendous no-call. Two weeks after saying that I don’t like to waste time bitching about the officiating, it’s fair to say the referees helped cost the Packers another game.

The NFL put out something saying that the officials get 97 percent of calls correct. That’s complete bullshit. I get that that they’re not going to get everything right. But I do think that the Packers have been victimized by poor officiating — especially over the past month.

*I didn’t like the call on third down and four with just under three minutes left in the game – a short screen up the middle to Brandon Jackson. The Titans had been struggling against our receivers — Nelson, Jennings and especially Driver — and we would have been wise to have gone to a spread formation there. The dump-off to Jackson has worked, too, so it’s not a crazy call. I just would have looked to our receivers.

Other random observations:

*Ruvell Martin is a very effective downfield blocker.

*Several communications breakdowns today. Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings often seem like they’re not on the same page.

*The Rodgers throw to Donald Driver for the touchdown was in the perfect spot and it was gunned in with pretty serious velocity.

*Jordy Nelson’s move on Nick Harper was outstanding. I don’t think he’ll end up being as good as Greg Jennings, but like Jennings he plays with the poise of someone who is very confident in his abilities. He could be a good slot receiver for years to come.

*I like Mike McCarthy’s aggressiveness at the end of the first half, even though it didn’t work out.

*AJ Hawk had several solid hits and sure tackles today. He’s playing like a guy who knows that people are really questioning how early he went in the draft. Good for him.

*Donald Driver is still very good. He’s like a waterbug.

*Rodgers’ interception was a bad decision. He threw into what he must have thought was single coverage — missing the safety altogether. It came at a very bad time. Poor decision

*Justin Harrell looked very good. He collapsed the pocket on a number of plays and had one play in the second half in which he shed two blockers — the center and the guard — and reached out with one arm to bring down the runner. Very powerful. If this is what he’s like when he’s healthy, I like it a lot.

*Overall, Rodgers looked a little jumpy but was still pretty good. He was 22/41 for 314 with a touchdown and an interception. That’s not a great completion percentage, but he is almost unfailingly productive.

*Ryan Grant looked good. He ran 20 times for 86 yards. Those aren’t pro-bowl statistics, but against a top-five run defense, they’re pretty good. I didn’t think he had a lot of holes again today, but he seemed to get outside and hit the corner very quickly today.

*This was a tough loss. Both the defense and offense looked pretty good at times. The Titans are good, but a very beatable undefeated team. The blown call on Jennings was unfortunate, but you don’t walk away thinking that the Packers outplayed the Titans and that they really deserved the win. They played well and could have won if that call had been made. So in that sense it sucks. But I think you leave this game being as happy as you can be after a loss.

UPDATE: Let me just highlight these very smart comments from DaveK. He is absolutely right that the non-call on Brandon Chillar cost the Titans. I should have mentioned that. It came at an important time, though it wasn’t quite as significant, given the timing, as the non-call on Jennings.

Anyway, good thoughts from DaveK:

The non-call on Jennings was bad and it probably took three and maybe seven points off the board. The non-call on Chillar in the end zone also was missed and it took 4 points of the board for TN.

McCarthy going for it on 4th and 4 was an awful decision. Punt and pin them back. Make their offense go 80-90 yards to get points. Field position is important in a game like this and that is a tough down and distance against the Titans. PUNT! Did you not watch the Monday night game?

Brady Poppinga’s penalty was awful and really hurt the Packers. The Titan’s should have punting from their 45 with 3-0 lead. Instead they eat 5 more minutes off the clock and go up 6-0.

I can excuse the fumble but Rodger’s INT really hurt the Packers. The INT took three points off board. You just cannot do that when playing in a low scoring field position game like this one.

Besides those items I thought the Packers played extremely well on both sides of the ball. I thought the o-line was outstanding for most of the game and Grant ran really well. Besides the INT, Rodgers made good decisions and ran the offense well.

The defense played good enough to win this game and the way they played make me optimistic about our chances this year. The d-line played well until overtime and I thought Harrell showed some quickness and power. I think Cole/Picket/Jolly/Harrell combination will be a good rotation. The LB group is just better with Chillar on the field and the secondary is superb. I think the Packers definately have a defense, if they stay healthy, that can take us into the playoffs.

I look at the record and I don’t feel it reflects this team’s ability. I thought they played their best game of the year and unfortunately came up just a bit short. But, the way the offense moved the ball and ran the ball makes me optimistic. The way the defense played for four quarters makes me optimistic. I know the Packers are 4-4 but I don’t think it would be absurd to see both these teams in the Superbowl if they stay healthy.

UPDATE II: Just finished reading Greg Bedard’s postgame chat over at Packer Insider.  Not surprisingly I found his analysis brilliant when he agrees with me and lacking when he does not.  Most strikingly, Bedard disagrees with us on the Jennings no-call and says Jennings “wasn’t held.”  I watched it probably ten times and it was pretty clear that Jennings was hit and held just before the ball arrived (I’m discounting the contact that came as the two men ran down the field, which, if it had been Charles Woodson or, Lord knows, Ahmad Carroll, would have been flagged).  The d-back grabbed Jennings’ right arm, wrapping his right hand around Jennings bicep and pinning it against his body.  It was enough to keep Jennings from reaching out for the ball.  In my viewing of the play, it wasn’t close — clear interference.

The good news is that Bedard, too, was puzzled by the short screen Brandon Jackson on third down late in the game.

Game Keys – Titans

November 2, 2008
  • get the ball in Jennings’ hands – even run a reverse or something – just get him the ball today.
  • get the ball to James Jones. Jones is a guy Tenn likely hasn’t done much preparation for Jones and what he can offer because there is very limited tape on him from this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if McCarthy has game-planned some for Jones today.
  • open up the passing game with Donald Lee, Tory Humphrey and Korey Hall.
  • don’t abandon the run even if it’s not working that well – keep a nice mix of plays so that at the least, Tenn has to guess re what may be coming next. Also, don’t be afraid to mix some plays in for Brandon Jackson just to give Tenn a different looking back.
  • Misdirection plays – don’t keep running the same straight-up zone stuff that seems so predictable. Run some misdirection plays, some naked bootlegs (for QB keepers) and a reverse or two. Just mix it up today.
  • Defense can stuff the box but I kind of want Chillar to start in order to help defend the TEs considering Collins is a big fan of TEs.
  • Instruct Bigby to have a big hit on Chris Johnson early on – just to remind him that life in the NFL isn’t just one easy 60 yard TD after another.

I wanted to extend Rodgers, just not sure about the contract

November 2, 2008

Aaron Rodgers looks very good so far. He appears to be a quality decision-maker, understands the offense well and his stats are very good. His 98.7 QB rating is not a fluke and there is strong reason to believe this rating will end up being fairly representative of the kind of play we can expect from him. Like the Pack did with Grant, I also like the idea of getting our younger players signed so we know we’ll have a strong nucleus for at least the next few years. I also recognize that we wanted to get him signed now so that it would count against our cap this year when we can easily afford it. For these reasons, I too wanted to extend Rodgers and I would have offered him a nice contract…just not this kind of contract.

I’m not writing this to be a poop or to be anti-Thompson or Rodgers – but the fact is, this is an extraordinary contract given to a player who has played 7 games. According to PFT here, Rodgers’ average annual salary will put him in the top 5 of all NFL players. (PFT also reports that the contract for new money is really 5 years at $63.5 million – a huge amount of money). Now I know contracts are all about the present and in 2 years, this may seem like a more modest salary. But the fact is, paying a guy who has played 7 games as a top 5 player is simply too much. When asked about the contract, Rodgers himself admitted he was surprised (I heard him say this in an interview picked up after the signing by WISN Channel 12 in Milwaukee). I’d say it’s usually a sign of overpaying someone when that person is “surprised” by the terms of an extension. Just reading the comments by Rodgers and his agent, it almost seems like they didn’t do hardly any negotiating because the Pack just came to them with an enormous offer. Now I realize, as PFT indicates, that the $20 million guaranteed is a bit less than what other elite players are offered, but it’s still a ton of money for a player with an injury history.

It’s hard for me not to wonder if this is also sort of an “I told you so” moment for TT. Fact is, he did tell us and if Rodgers remains injury-free and playing at a high level even for the remainder of this year, I would welcome any gloating. But Rodgers has only played 7 games and to sign him to this kind of contract seems to me to be a bit too much. I do recognize that with any contract there is risk, but again, this just seems to be a bit much. I’m just sayin’…

Random Thought on Defending Tenn, Winning

November 2, 2008

Why not play something close to a 4-4-2-1?  I know this doesn’t happen much in professional football (more in high school and college), but if there ever was a time to try to make it work, it might be today.  The Titans have two strong runningbacks — Lendale White, who powers the ball up the middle and Chris Johnson who often takes it outside (but is better than he’s given credit for at running inside.  Kerry Collins has a wet noodle for an arm and subpar receivers.  (How bad?  The top receiver, Justin Gage, is someone even the Bears didn’t want.  Ouch).  To the extent that the Titans have a passing game, it runs through their two tight ends — Alge Crumpler and Bo Scaife.

It’s clear that the priority for the Packer defense will be to stop the run.  Of secondary concern will be denying the tight ends space to make plays.  They could address both of these — or put themselves in a position to address both of these — by playing all four linebackers at the same time.  (Or rotating Atari Bigby in and keeping him in the box.)  Yes, it would leave the DBs in man coverage almost exclusively — but that’s what our DBs do best.  And we’ve got three of them with Al Harris back.  The safety (1) over the top — Nick Collins — could step up to cover  a receiver in a three-wide set, though Tennessee doesn’t do that much.  Worth a shot, I think.

The Packers would, in effect, try to make Kerry Collins beat them.  I’m comfortable with that.

On paper, the matchup doesn’t look great for the Packers, especially given how we’ve struggled against the run.  But there are several things in our favor.  The Titans played on Monday night, the Packers are coming off of their bye.  The Titans are 7-0 and at home, so they’re expected to win.  The Packers are the proverbial nothing-to-lose team in this one.  If they go down, they’ll be the team we thought they were — a decent but imperfect squad that can compete to win the NFC North but not much more than that.  If they win, however, they will get a confidence boost that could pay dividends during the second half of the season.

KGB Gone

November 2, 2008

See here for more.  It was the right thing to do.  KGB has been utterly ineffective for more than 1 1/2 years.  (Yes, I’m aware of his sack totals from last year — several of them were flukey, garbage-time sacks and not indicative of his overall level of play.)

That said, I’ve always liked the guy.  His humility never seemed inauthentic or forced and he was a class act.

Here is the statement he issued after learning the news:

My nine years as a Green Bay Packer have been a blessing that is beyond words. I thank God for bringing me to this first-class organization and first-class community. During my time here, I’ve built relationships with a number of people in the Packer family. The front office executives, G.M.s, coaches, past and present players, the enormous support and administrative staff plus the greatest fans in football, all have helped make my time here truly special and I am thankful for that. It has been a very positive experience. I was able to build a family here and grow with a community that I call home. Again, I’ve been truly blessed. I don’t know what my football future holds, but one thing I’ve realized is that football is more than a game – it’s about building relationships and changing lives. One of the commitments I’ve had throughout my career has been to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and that is something that I intend on doing whether on the field or not. God bless the Green Bay Packers!”

By contrast, here is Ted Thompson’s statement:

“We want to thank Kabeer for his contributions to the Green Bay Packers. During his time here, he has been a big part of our organization and our community. We wish Kabeer and his family well.”

Wow.  Heartfelt.  I’m not sure he could have produced a more perfunctory statement if he tried.  My thoughts on the whole Brett Favre debacle are well known to anyone who reads this site and Favre gets the lion’s share of the blame.  But it was evident at the beginning of that episode and throughout that Thompson’s communications skills are, well, lacking.