Archive for the ‘green bay’ Category

Time of possession key in the Big Easy

November 20, 2008

I have been researching a bit on projected fantasy rankings for Week 12 and I have noticed that Ryan Grant isn’t being given a whole lot of love. In fact, his name doesn’t appear anywhere near the top of these lists it seems.

A few weeks ago, Atlanta played New Orleans in Atlanta. Because Mike Smith of Atlanta is one of the brightest new coaches around, they put into place a very sensible game plan: own the clock. They ran the ball, threw when necessary and kept Brees off the field when the game mattered. The final time of possession stats were only Atlanta 31 minutes and change and New Orleans 28 and change. But much of that difference was made up by New Orleans in garbage time as Brees caught fire and took the team down the field for some late, but irrelevant scores because the game had already been decided.

While we will have opportunities to exploit the Saints’ weak secondary, I would recommend to McCarthy, whom I know sits down to read this blog every Friday morning for tips, that the Packers really get the ground game going and get the Saints D tired. Yes, we can still take some shots down field and let Jennings, Driver and co dismantle their secondary. But keeping the number “30” in mind for carries for Grant would be sensible going into this game. (I’m not just saying this because Grant is my fantasy back, but I’m saying this because it worked many times last year and of course, it worked like mad last week).


Let’s get ahead of ourselves – the Pack’s next 6 games

November 18, 2008

For those of you who thoroughly enjoy hearing athletes and coaches say “we’re taking it one game at a time and right now all we’re focused on is the _________ game”, you may not want to read this post. I prefer it when athletes, coaches, fans openly project and look past weak opponents.

Our schedule over the next 6 games is as follows:

  • @ New Orleans, Carolina, Houston, @ Jax, @ Chi, Detroit

Of these games, I am most worried about the 3 away games. Of course, we have to play well to win the others (except the Detroit game), but these 3 concern me the most. I think this next game in New Orleans is especially important. If we can take down Brees and Bush and co it would make coming home for two tough, but very winnable games easier. Carolina is solid, but they’ve played a fairly weak schedule and Delhomme has been erratic this year – I am confident we can win this one at home. Houston has Sage Rosenfels (and hopefully still will by then) who may be the least clutch QB ever. At Jax could be tough and at Chicago is always tough. Detroit is hideous. So, I can see us going at least 4-2 and maybe even doing better than that. I believe 4-2 may end up being sufficient for the playoffs. I will say this, if Chicago loses this weekend to St. Louis, they are done.

Factors going forward:

  • Will Kyle Orton work diligently to get his QB rating back in the 70s where it belongs?
  • Will Matt Forte hit a rookie wall?
  • Will Ryan Grant pick up steam like he did in the 2nd half of last year and run wild?
  • Will Mike McCarthy stay focused himself? I noticed last weekend, MM was pumped up and even yelling at the officials early in the game – he wanted it. Not sure he’s been that way in all the previous games.
  • Will the Williams duo be suspended (and as some are speculating, possibly Allen too for dirty play)
  • Will AP be able to remain injury free for the remainder of the season?
  • Will national writers continue to be mysteriously duped into thinking Gus Frerotte is a quality QB (Kevin Seifert, ESPN’s NFC North blogger – a former Star Tribune reporter, says “Frerotte is the most experienced — if not the most careful — quarterback in the division and isn’t fazed by big-game pressure.” Not sure what he means by “careful” but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean 11 picks in 9 games, a sub-60% completion percentage, fumbling/getting sacked a lot a 77 QB rating. Not sure either why Seifert would say Frerotte’s not fazed by big games – he was not terrible in New Orleans but that’s about it.

STEVE ADDS: I think Seifert was probably saying that Frerotte is not the most careful, rather than suggesting that he is careful.  And perhaps he meant that Frerotte isn’t fazed by big-game pressure because, a) his vast experience includes very few big-games, because he sucks, or, b) he is so consistently bad in big games that there is little pressure on him to do well.  Either way, we’ve warned our readers about Seifert’s reporting in the past.  I don’t think it’s fair to judge the guy’s entire body of work by one mistake, but it was the really the only story going at the time and it was a rather significant mistake to make.

Harrell injured…again

November 15, 2008

Read here from Knee sprain now – it appears as though he will play, but is listed as questionable. I kind of like Justin Harrell from interviews etc – seems like a nice kid. But I’m not sure how much longer we can hang on to a guy who gets injured constantly.

Secondary primary for this team

November 12, 2008

Read here for an article on the Packers’ secondary. I disagree with one statement in this article by Kurt Shottenheimer: “It’s all a combination of the pass rush, the linebackers and the defensive backs, all playing with the right techniques and the right leverages.”

Not true. A few of you (Ace, I believe DaveK, Brother Steve, others) have astutely observed that the Packers’ secondary has been dominating with very little help from the other parts of the defense. The Packers rank 22nd in sacks (with 16 – leader Pittsburgh has 34) and my guess is that they are similarly down the list in pressures and knockdowns. The D-Line has not been pressuring QBs well this year and opposing QBs appear to have plenty of time to complete passes. Packer linebackers have been below average overall, though I will allow for the possibility that the pass coverage piece from the LBs may be a bit better this year. I will also allow for the possibility we may be blitzing less and keeping 8 in the box less and that this may be helping with coverage (and possibly hurting our run defense).

But again, the thing that impresses me about this secondary is that it appears they are defending the pass incredibly effectively on their own. No secondary in the NFL, right now, is better than the Pack. Stats back this up big-time:

  • Leading in passes defensed with 72 (Woodson #2 here and Collins #9 here)
  • Leading in interceptions with 16 (Collins and Woodson lead the NFL in picks with 5 each)
  • Leading in interceptions returned for TDs with 6 (3 more than anyone else)
  • Leading in return yards after interceptions with 533 (2nd place? NYJ at 246)
  • Leading in longest return for a TD at 99

This secondary, as the article points out, has done this in the face of some injuries to important players. If the Packers can get some wins, I think Charles Woodson should be a candidate for MVP this year – and I’m not kidding. His interceptions and TDs are huge yes, but his passes defensed and important down-field tackles separate him from most CBs in the NFL. (Antoine Winfield doesn’t have the game-changing interception talent Woodson does – probably only rookie CB from Tenn Cortland Finnegan is in Woodson’s league right now). Nick Collins should be looking at signing another contract soon the way he’s played this year so far. Tramon Williams has been phenomenal and Harris seems to be back to his old shut-down tricks. And Will Blackmon has been decent in coverage (unreal on special teams).

While this team needs a win badly this week and it sure has had its ups and downs this year, the secondary has been a really nice positive.

Barnett out for the season

November 10, 2008

I am presently scouring the internet for more info on this (actually, I am presently typing this post and will return in the near future to scouring the internet for more). Here is the source of this info.

If true, I am sad for Barnett and our defense because I do believe he is a leader of that defense and he’s had a few great seasons for this team. I also had hopes that he would return to the excellent form he displayed last year. He hasn’t played well this year, but at this point, with Hawk ineffective and Poppinga Poppingaing, if you will, and Chillar apparently having a serious shoulder injury, his loss will dramatically hurt our depth. The only hope here is that Desmond Bishop steps into this opportunity as well as Tramon Williams did earlier in the year with his (and I actually have a strong hunch this could happen).

Who’s to blame?

November 10, 2008

I’ve been struggling with this question for the last day after our horrific loss to the Vikes. Painful, painful loss. There is lots of blame to spread around. Here are some thoughts – and let us know your thoughts.

  • McCarthy. Abandoned the run when it was working very well (Grant was averaging 4.7ypc and would have had well over 100 yards on 18 carries if the officials hadn’t blown 2 holding calls). Challenge was a waste. Did NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING to counter the brutal pass rush. I’ll bet he over-emphasized run blocking in practice this week and forgot re pass protection. While I’ll admit, I’m a big 4-5 WR set advocate, I would have dropped that idea after the 4th time Rodgers got rocked. Where were the TEs? Every good team in the NFL figures out how to use their TEs – MM hasn’t done that consistently.
  • Offensive Line. To be fair, the O-Line did run block really well. Had McCarthy called more running plays, this game may have ended differently. But the pass protection was so bad it was unbelievable. Rodgers had almost no time back there. Clifton was sorry (as I think he has been since the middle of last season). On more than one occasion, it seemed Wells was doubling up someone when his man was running free to explode on Rodgers. Spitz and Tauscher were less obviously bad, but still bad and Colledge is almost always bad.
  • D-Line. I would only assign a bit of blame to the D-Line mostly for not getting a few more stops at the line of scrimmage and for not pressuring the immobile Frerotte very well (only 2 sacks). This may surprise some of you, but the D-Line, considering they were on the field for a huge part of the game (36 of the 60 minutes), actually held AP to lots of runs of just a couple yards. Fox showed the very interesting stat in the 3rd quarter re how many 0-3 yard runs AP actually had. But when he got through to the next level on several occasions for 20-40 yard gains, it was the LBs who failed to stop him. (Reader RayMidge also pointed this out).
  • LB play. This group, which was supposed to be good, is not good this year. Poppinga is a waste (he was given 6 assisted tackles for the game yesterday – apparently he gets credit for falling on people after someone else tackles them). Hawk does very little but block well after we have an interception. Barnett’s loss may have hurt in leadership ways I’m not privy to, but he wasn’t doing much prior to his injury and I’m not sure he would have done much better than Bishop (who came back with a few nice plays after his 2 screw-ups).
  • Derrick Frost. The guy sucks. Jon Ryan has a several more punts over 59 yards this year than Frost (5-2, something that would have helped a lot yesterday), a better overall average and as many punts inside the 20…in one less game. Mistake to cut Ryan.
  • Aaron Rodgers. Yes, he really couldn’t do much under that kind of pressure, but the fact is, he didn’t do much. Great players can usually figure something out…anything. Rodgers didn’t figure anything out. Maybe he will figure it out more effectively as he gains experience, but he didn’t do anything yesterday. Lots of that again was due to the pressure and due to McCarthy not calling plays that could counter that mad pass rush. Though it’s not a fair comparison, what happened to Rodgers was really no different than what happened to Peyton Manning against he Vikes in Week 2 – I thought Manning was going to die…and they had zero running game – but he figured something out (check downs, getting TEs involved, FBs, RBs on misdirection screens, a few purposeful bombs).
  • Adrian Peterson. He’s really, really, really good. I was counting on a 100+ yard game from him and maybe a TD or two, but what he did was unreal. I don’t look forward to more games against this guy.

We’re very fortunate

November 9, 2008

Wow – if Frerotte weren’t the QB of the VIkes and CHildress the coach and all other things were equal, we’d be down by 30. I’m not sure Frerotte is done throwing picks either. He’s scared now.

Huge field goal at the end of the half. But something else very important happened – James Jones caught the ball. Jones is back and I believe he is a quieter player we missed – and Rodgers missed when he was out.

We have the momentum now.

Officiating horrible…just horrible

November 9, 2008

Unreal. I’m feeling a little like I did during the Ahmad Carroll years. As bad as Carroll was, everytime he was on the field there was a call against him whether he did anything or not. Similarly, right now, it seems because we’re the most penalized team in the NFL, the officials are just calling penalties on us whether they’re penalties or not. I still don’t understand the safety call at all. As Brother Steve pointed out, what if Tory Humphrey would have caught that ball? He was just a couple yards from catching it anyway. This is a classic Naked Gun officiating example – the newbie ref just making calls to get the crowd fired up. We’re probably 2 more bad calls from the moonwalk…

Leroy Butler makes great point re Ryan Grant

November 7, 2008

Read here from – 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).

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.