I was reviewing some of the stats from the game yesterday and I noticed that of the LBs, only Aaron Kampman seemed to do much. He had 5 tackles (though I saw him miss a key tackle in the 4th quarter). Barnett had 3 and Hawk had 2. Poppinga, Matthews and Chillar had 1. No surprise that Poppinga barely contributed (and please, don’t point out that he did have 4 assisted tackles – we all know that just means he jumped on the pile well after someone else did the work and somehow got credit for it). My understanding of the 3-4 defense is that the LBs are key overall and should have tons of tackles (with DBs/safeties a close second w/re to tackles). I know Rouse and Woodson each had a bunch of tackles (7 and 9 respectively), but the LBs need to be more active in this defense.
Though I’ve grown so tired of talking about him myself, I’m even more concerned about Poppinga now. This is why. I have noticed that when he’s on the field (and he was on the field a bunch yesterday), it seems defenses take advantage of it (running Benson to his left etc). I don’t know the breakdown of yards Benson had going either right or left when Poppinga was in, but I’d suspect he gained some quality yards going at Poppinga. This reminds me of the KGB situation from a couple of years ago. We all loved KGB and he was great for a couple years (of course, one difference is Poppinga has never even been OK), but then, 2-3 years before he was cut, he started to be a weak spot on the defense that offenses would exploit. (It’s possible this was always a liability of his, but his pass rushing talents may have clouded our collective ability to acknowledge this.) Time and again, rushers would head toward the right side of our d-line because KGB was such a liability against the run. In fact, I remember a scout for an NFC team stated something very direct about this, to the effect of “playing the Packers? Easy, run to the right of their d-line at KGB – guaranteed yardage”. (Of course, because this was a quote from a scout, it was probably profanity-laced as scouting for some strange reason, is a profession that encourages the frequent use of expletives.) Anyway, considering the 3-4 requires quality gap-filling by the LBs on run plays especially, watch for teams possibly running to their left as the season goes forward to take advantage of Poppinga being there.