Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Packers 41, Dallas 20. Lots of good in this game. The Packers offense continued to roll, although against a struggling Dallas defense, and the Packers had their first win at Lambeau in 2004 (1-3). Some bad in this game too. FS Darren Sharper and CB Al Harris got banged up. Harris was burned in the second half after the injury (the long TD pass to TE Jason Witten comes to mind). Plus QB Brett Favre continues to have one of the crappiest 12 months of his life. First he breaks his thumb, then his father dies, then his brother-in-law dies, he suffers through a couple more injuries (hamstring and hand) before disclosing that his wife has breast cancer. Favre played through his concern for her against Dallas, but this is a very serious illness for Deanna Favre and it would be very understandable if Favre is distracted by it. Hopefully Deanna learned of her illness early and her treatments will be successful.

First Quarter: So far Dallas's offense has been playing well with AARP members QB Vinny Testaverde and RB Eddie George leading the way. Dallas was able to run and more effectively pass against the Packers, even before the injuries to Sharper and Harris. The good news is that the Packers defense is adopting a bend-but-don't-break philsophy (Dallas was held to two field goals on two good 1st quarter drives while overall held to under 50% on third down (5 for 13)). The Packers offense scored on their first 7 possessions and was humming all day. Packers 3, Dallas 6.

Second Quarter: FOX wanted everyone to know that Favre is 1-8 in his career against Dallas. All 8 losses coming in Dallas and occuring during the 1995 season or earlier. Yes, the NFL schedule makers hated the Packers pre-1995 and loved the glam Aikman, Smith, Irvin Cowboys. Although some of those games were playoff games and awarded due to regular season records, how often does one NFL team play 8 straight times at another opponent? This quarter killed Dallas. The Packers offense continued to hum along, while Dallas was stopped on two three-and-outs to kill any momentum they had after a strong offensive 2nd quarter. Packers 20, Dallas 6.

Third Quarter: RB Tony Fisher throws what I am assuming is his first TD pass as a pro to TE Bubba Franks. The Packers are 2-0 in games this season when a RB throws a TD pass (RB Ahman Green threw one in Detroit last week). Dallas responds with a TD of their own, once Testaverde begins connecting up with Witten, but they can't keep up with the Packers offense. The special teams is playing much much better for the Packers this week (especially on kick coverage). Maybe the release of CB James Whitley did send a message to the team last week. Green rips off the 2nd 90+ yard TD run of his career (tying him with RB Bo Jackson on the all time list). Dallas's offense is trying but they can't keep up with the Packers. Packers 41, Dallas 13.

Fourth Quarter: NT Grady Jackson is back. He had one great play in the 1st half, but the Packers's defense is playing worse this week then they did against Detroit last week. This can only help the Packers for the rest of the season and Jackson made plays on his first game back, but his return did not show up on the scoreboard or the defensive stats (the Packers defense didn't create any turnovers either). Dallas scores another TD but this game never was in any doubt after the Packers scored 21 in the 2nd quarter. The Packers's offense eat up a bunch of time (5 minutes) in the middle of the quarter to put the game out of reach. Bad sight: OL Marco Rivera being taken off on a cart during the 4th quarter. Packers 41, Dallas 20.

The Packers have some players returning from injury, but other players getting injured. The Packers are heading to Washington next week, and Washington is struggling this season. The Packers should be favored for the first time in a couple of weeks, but Washington has an ailing offense (only Miami's trainwreck is worse) and all it might need to improve is to play the NFL's third worse defense (the Packers). Rankings courtesy of

At best, the Packers can only expect to finish 6-2 in the second half. The Packers need to win to keep a path towards a 10-6 season. Anything less isn't likely to make the playoffs. Unfortunately Washington has the 3rd best defense (thanks again and they will be a very tough challenge.

Saturday, October 23, 2004 reported that the coaches and trainers are cautious, but both NT James Lee and NT Grady Jackson expect to play on Sunday against Dallas. Neither Lee or Jackson are world beaters, but both hold the middle of the line better than anybody else on the Packers roster, they increase the Packers size inside (moving sub 300 lb. DT Cullen Jenkins to a part time role), and improve the entire defensive line. Jackson isn't known for his pass rushing skills, but the Packers pass rush improved substantially in 2003 when Jackson was in the game. Obviously the run defense will be improved with more size on the defensive line.

Last week offensive coordinator Tom Rossley had a heart procedure and surprisingly reported that Rossley will return to the press box on Sunday against Dallas. He still isn't calling plays, but he will talk with Mike Sherman during the game. The offense involved all three running backs for the first time all season, something that was very successful in 2003. Is Sherman better at play calling then Rossley? The Packers running backs had numerous injuries early in the season, so it isn't that simple. It always appeared that no play was called without Sherman's blessing and Rossley had a smaller role during the game itself. It will be interesting to see if the Packer offense continues to look better with Sherman calling the plays instead of Rossley.

The kick coverage was awful vs. Detroit, and CB James Whitley lost his job because of it. LB Nick Rogers was signed in Whitley's place (Rogers was just cut last week when WR Robert Ferguson's injury required the Packers to sign WR Kelvin Kight from the practice squad to take his place) and Rogers has a good reputation for special teams play during his 2 years in Minnesota. But this is still a scapegoat move. Whitley played poorly vs. Detroit, but the entire kick coverage played poorly. Whitley was a good tackler, but he was far down the depth chart in the secondary and not a major contributor on defense anyway.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Packers 38, Detroit 10. The 2004 Packers took the week off and let the 2003 Packers play this game. When RB Ahman Green is throwing a TD pass, everything is working. There are a few negatives for the game (K Ryan Longwell still can't kick a deep kickoff, CB Ahmad Carroll got turned around and abused in the first half, the defense only created one turnover) but everything else was working for the Packers.

First Quarter: Detroit gets the ball first and goes three and out. LBs Nick Barnett and Na'il Diggs made plays early, after spending the last couple of weeks MIA. The first TD drive was the first drive all season when all three running backs (Green, RB Tony Fisher and RB Najeh Davenport) contributed on a single drive, which happened all the time in 2003. Detroit answers with a TD drive to tie the score (the defense overpursued on a big screen to RB Artose Pinner and Carroll was abused by WR Az-Zahir Hakim). Detroit has spent a lot of high draft picks and big free agent money on their offensive line in recent seasons, but it hasn't shown any improvement. The Packers defensive line had been shoved around the last couple of weeks, but Detroit got little push against them. Packers 7, Detroit 7.

Second Quarter: Injury to WR Javon Walker. Walker has been far and away the highlight of the 2004 season, so his injury is a major concern. It looks like he just has sore ribs, which is bad enough but he probably will be able to play through it while it heals over the next few weeks. Touchdown pass to Fisher; when Davenport and Fisher are involved in the game, the Packers offense is rolling. After QB Joe Harrington threw a 11 yard pass to WR Tai Streets to get into field goal position, Detroit's offense was officially done for the afternoon. Longwell kicked a 50 yard field goal? P Bryan Barker had a 50+ punt in the game. The ball absolutely flies in Ford Field. Packers 17, Detroit 10.

Third Quarter: FS Darren Sharper has a gift interception and returns it for a touchdown. WR Roy Williams is the only offensive weapon for Detroit, he was injured for the game, and Harrington started pressing. Detroit's receivers never had seperation from the Packers coverage in the second half. Detroit only had 33 yards rushing for the game? Wow. Is WR Eddie Hammond a great kick returner? He's pretty good, but the Packers kick coverage was awful in the game, and not helped by short line drive kicks. Davenport has his first good game of the season as he runs over a tired Detroit defense. Packers 31, Detroit 10.

Fourth Quarter: Detroit is held to 3 plays and 5 yards in the fourth quarter. The Packers ran the ball for over 13 minutes in the quarter, with the occasional pass, and a trick pass by Green to WR Donald Driver? Why run this trick pass when you're up big? Aren't you just running up the score? Its probably better to run a trick play in a blowout just to give your future opponents something extra to think about instead of running it in a close game when something bad could happen. Packers 38, Detroit 10.

Is this a fluke one game improvement or a sign of better things to come? The Packers were bound to look better than they had in their last four games, so it was a game when everything went right but the Packers should continue to improve as the season continues. Now its time to get a win at Lambeau.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Reading after the Monday night disaster, it sounds like the newspaper has jumped off the bandwagon. Now the Packers have no depth at nose tackle. The Packers started the season with more nose tackles (NT Grady Jackson, NT Donnell Washington, and NT James Lee) then any of their recent rosters have boasted, but all three have gotten injured. doesn't even remember Washington, who the Packers acquired by trading up for in the 3rd round of the last draft, but he injured his foot in preseason and had to go on the IR. It was also wondering why the Packers hadn't acquired a better backup cornerback then CB Jason Horton, after it spent the preseason prasing him. CB Mike McKenzie really hurt the Packers by giving up on them, and it has forced the team to play cornerbacks who are in over their heads (CB Michael Hawthorne) or cornerbacks who don't have any experience (CB Ahmad Carroll and Horton). Both players have the physical ability to play, but they need more practice and playing time before they are good enough for the NFL. The cornerbacks should look a lot better in the second half of the season. could spend its time picking on the Packers linebackers. Other than LB Nick Barnett, the Packers are getting little play out of their linebackers. LB Na'il Diggs has made far too many plays and the other linebacker position has provided little either. None of the linebackers have been very good in coverage.

Football starts in the middle of the field and works its way out from the snap. The Packers aren't getting a good push off the ball either on defense (down to their 4th string nose tackle) or on offense (down to their 2nd string center). also got on the Packers for not blitzing more. Earlier in the season, the Packers were getting burned by the blitz. It was worthwhile to see if the defense can play opposing offenses straight up, but its apparent that they can't do it. Defensive coordinator Bob Slovak should go back to being more aggressive with blitzing.
Packers 27, Tennessee 48. Well that was the worst ass kicking the Packers have taken since the Ray Rhodes era, when the Packers had their ass handed to them by Denver and Seattle (at Lambeau). In 1999, the Packers were trying to overcome the loss of DE Reggie White, QB Brett Favre's elbow injury, and the season ending injury to starting RB Dorsey Levens. The Packers finished the 1999 season 8-8, but the Packers would have to turn several things around to improve the 2004 season.

First Quarter: Indianapolis could have made it four running backs in a row to run for well over 100 yards against the weak Packers run defense, but they elected to shred the weak Packers pass defense. The Packers defense has been the worst in the NFL for a couple weeks, but they only made it worse tonight. The first long TD run was off left tackle and the second long TD run by RB Chris Brown was off right tackle when DE R-Kal Truluck was pushed way way out of the play (by the fullback), LB Paris Lenon ran out of the play (and was replaced in the 2nd quarter by LB Torrance Marshall), LB Nick Barnett filled the hole but was blocked, and poor tackling in the secondary. FS Darren Sharper (who clearly has lost a step) was a step late on both long runs. It was poor tackling (especially the angles) but also players out of position. The offense might have been on the field, but I blinked and missed it (except for RB Ahman Green's fourth lost fumble of the season). Packers 0, Tennessee 14.

Second Quarter: When Favre gets behind big early, he starts forcing plays and creating turnovers. Another good example was in 2001 when the Packers were up against a great St. Louis team on the road and Favre threw 6 picks trying to make something happen. His first pick to CB Samari Rolle was even overturned on replay. The refs helped the Packers more than in any game I can remember, but it just wasn't enough...

I left this post for a couple of days and my memory of the game is fading, which is probably the best thing that can happen for it. If the offense could do one thing to improve itself after 5 games it is changing the look of the offense. You know when RT Kevin Barry is in the game, its a run. Its a run too if FB Nick Luchey comes into the game. If FB Robert Henderson goes in motion, then its a pass in the flat to Henderson. Favre doesn't throw to Green enough. Green is having trouble getting past the line of scrimmage untouched, so motion Green out of the backfield to catch a short pass in space past the line of scrimmage. Throw to the tight ends more. Although TE Bubba Franks had two TD passes on Monday, he didn't catch many passes other than that and TE David Martin has been used little in the last two weeks. Design more plays to involve WR Robert Ferguson. The offense is playing well, but they have to keep the opposing defense guessing. If the defense is going to play badly, it might as well take a lot of risks. Defensive coordinator Bob Slovak played the defense on its heels on Monday night and it forced no turnovers and had no sacks. The defense is having trouble playing straight up against teams, the offense has the firepower to keep up in a shootout, so the Packers might as well play aggressive. If the special teams could change one thing, it should be to sign a long kicker. K Ryan Longwell is great at field goals, but he can't get a kickoff inside the 10 yard line. If the Packers can have a long snapper, then they should spend the roster spot on a long kicker who can keep teams from getting past the 30 yard line after a kickoff.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Mike Sherman continues to covet mediocre quarterbacks because reported that the Packers are interested in San Diego QB Drew Brees, maybe in a trade this season or as a free agent next season. Brees is off to a hot start this season (note to Sherman: Brees got off to a hot start last season too, before he was benched) although Brees's true value is reflected by his career 73.7 passer rating. Bob McGinn unearthed the definitive quote regarding Brees from former GM Ron Wolf in 2001 "I think [Brees]'s just average." To recap: QBs acquired by Wolf = QB Brett Favre, Mark Brunell, Aaron Brooks, Matt Hasselbeck; compared to QBs acquired by Sherman = QB Craig Nall, Akili Smith, Tim Couch, Scott McBrien, J.T. O'Sullivan. If Wolf thinks Brees's was average, then don't try to acquire him.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The Packers finally traded CB Mike McKenzie for a 2nd round pick from New Orleans. McKenzie was good, but not worth a 1st round pick. The Packers traded a 2nd round pick for a similar cornerback, CB Al Harris, last season. If McKenzie was really lying about his hamstring injury, although he was probably just being overcautious because he was playing for a new job, then McKenzie should have been punished instead of rewarded with the trade he wanted. Unfortunately, McKenzie was making a bad situation worse by managing to get paid for sitting out games. At that point, the Packers probably made the best of the situation by trading McKenzie while they could still acquire something for him. If McKenzie was really hurt, would New Orleans have actually traded for him?

Of course the real steal of this deal is up-and-comer QB J.T. O'Sullivan. And I've got a bridge for sale too. Other than New Orleans coaches and diehard preseason fans, almost no one is probably familar with O'Sullivan. One thing Mike Sherman has established as general manager of the Packers is that he has a bad eye for quarterbacks. Sherman has acquired QB Craig Nall, QB Akili Smith, QB Eric Crouch, and QB Tim Couch, who have all shown an inability to improve into useful NFL quarterbacks. If O'Sullivan turns out to actually be a good NFL quarterback, then he will be a first for Sherman.

After the Packers traded for O'Sullivan, it seemed unlikely that the Packers would keep four quarterbacks on the roster, so QB Doug Pederson's back injury might have encouraged the trade for O'Sullivan. reported that Pederson was hurt in the 3rd quarter, and he probably shouldn't have played after it, but Pederson apparently didn't tell the Packers how serious it was. QB Craig Nall couldn't have entered the game until the 4th quarter (because 3rd QBs are technically inactive until the 4th quarter), so that might have encouraged Pederson to hide the injury.

DT Larry Smith is back with the Packers. Smith can play nose tackle, although he didn't look good in the preseason at the position. His poor preseason play might have been due to the fact that he was playing injured, but who knows if he is yet 100%. Smith played well down the stretch in 2002, so he has proved himself useful in the past. Signing Smith doesn't hurt, but it might not be a big improvement.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Packers 7, New York 14. I didn't check the last time the Packers started the season 0-2 at Lambeau, but I think its been a while. Although the score was close, the game wasn't. The Packers were more competitive while giving up 45 points in Indianapolis then they were in this game. A few points to bring up in this game:

RB Ahman Green fumbles. The Packers are 0-2 in 2004 when Green fumbles, they were 0-5 in 2003 when Green fumbles, and haven't won a game when Green fumbles since October 2002. Green's fumble vs. New York didn't lose the game, although Green's fumble vs. Chicago probably did.

QB Brett Favre has a concussion. QB Kurt Warner ended his career in St. Louis when he came back in week 1 of the 2003 season with a concussion, and didn't tell his coach about it, so Warner probably agreed when the Packers held out Favre after he suffered his concussion. Favre says he will be back next week, he probably will play, but he might not be the same player for a few weeks.

Defensive line. Although Indianapolis could have exploited the Packers poor run defense, it wasn't truly exposed until RB Tiki Barber tried to have a career game. As long as DT Cletidus Hunt is forced to play nose tackle and DT Cullen Jenkins is starting, the defensive line will continue to get shoved around. Add in that neither DE KGB and DE Aaron Kampman excel at run defense, and this is one troubled unit. The only good news is that NT Grady Jackson and NT James Lee should both come back mid-season.

Offensive line. C Grey Ruegamer had played well in limited action so far this season, but he had an awful game. Ruegamer aside, the offensive line has been no where near as dominant as it was in 2003. All blame for this can probably be assigned to the injuries to C Mike Flanagan and OG Mike Wahle. Wahle has started every game this season, but he missed most of the preseason after he injured himself during training last offseason. This unit needs to regroup and start dominating again.

Secondary. The Indianapolis game was bad enough, but the Packers secondary still looks confused. CB Michael Hawthorne isn't good enough to start, FS Darren Sharper should be moved to strong safety because he looks like he's lost a step, and CB Ahmad Carroll and CB Jason Horton have played like rookies. Hawthorne was playing a few yards off WR Tim Carter and WR Amani Toomer was wide open for a first half TD if Warner had only seen him.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Injuries, injuries, injuries...

Is CB Mike McKenzie really hurt? Apparently nobody knows, except McKenzie, reported quoted OG Marco Rivera who said McKenzie did pull up lame in practice, so the article overall gives McKenzie the benefit of the doubt. Its too bad this situation has gotten so rotten, but the Packers need McKenzie and McKenzie needs the Packers to release or trade him. The situation with McKenzie remains the same; the Packers need him on the field unless they can trade him for a comparable player or high draft choice. The Packers traded a 2nd round draft choice for CB Al Harris in 2003, so there is no reason anyone should expect the Packers accept less in return than a 2nd round pick for McKenzie.

C Mike Flanagan is lost for the season. He hasn't been healthy all season, so this is not a big surprise. C Grey Ruegamer has been playing well all season, so this is not a huge dropoff in talent, but Flanagan is a very good center and he will be missed. Depth isn't a problem at the position either if backup C Scott Wells is over the injury problems he had for much of August. It hurts the depth on the offensive line, because Flanagan was probably the backup left tackle and there is no obvious backup left tackle currently on the roster. OL Steve Morley and OL Kevin Barry were considered left tackle candidates, but neither has played well enough at the position.

QB Brett Favre is hurting too, according to The knee he took to the back of his leg looked like the type of leg bruise that someone would walk off given an hour or two. Its not surprising he sat out the final series in Indianapolis, but it would be shocking if he missed any more time due to the injury. also reported that Favre has a trick shoulder that has been bothering him on and off for a couple of years. Who knows what to make of that.