Friday, December 22, 2006

Packers 9, Minnesota 7. QB Brett Favre just wins games! Favre has been awful over the last two games with zero TD passes and 5 INTs. His receivers have not been helping him, TE Bubba Franks and WR Greg Jennings both were embarrasing against Minnesota, but Favre has thrown some bad passes. His second INT appeared to be Jennings fault, but then Favre made a comment on the sidelines saying Jennings "just stopped" as if he had no idea where Jennings was going. He did the same thing last season, it was like he got bored with the remaining schedule and started throwing it up for grabs. Despite Favre's struggles, Mike McCarthy's reluctance to call running plays the last two games, and the poor special teams play, the defense has dominated and won the games. The defense still showed some holes against Detroit, but they dominated Minnesota in every way and no one made a bad play. Still, ignore any "the defense has turned the corner" stories you may read over the next week. Their two wins were against two of the worst offenses in the NFL. Only Tampa Bay and beyond awful Oakland are worse than Detroit, while Minnesota's offense came into the game in free fall and giving a rookie QB his first NFL start.

The Packers still have a chance to make the playoffs. The teams the Packers have beaten this season have a combined winning percentage of .320. No team has a strength of victory percentage. They would have to beat Chicago next week to actually make the playoffs, so that percentage would increase slightly. If Chicago benches most of their starters, then the Packers have a chance at the win.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

WR Donald Driver and DE Aaron Kampman were selected for the Pro Bowl. Neither player is a surprise because Driver leads the NFC in receiving while Kampman leads the NFC in sacks. CB Al Harris made it as an alternate and he is right that CB Charles Woodson is having a Pro Bowl season. Both Harris and Woodson are hurt because the Packers pass defense is so awful overall due to the poor coverage from the linebackers and safeties. However the defenses for Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Philadelphia are all struggling too but that didn't stop CBs Ronde Barber, DeAngelo Hall, or Lito Sheppard from making it to Hawaii. Barber was a shoo-in after he returned two INTs for TDs against Philadelphia. It was ironic that Hall and Sheppard beat Harris the week after Hall was beaten for a TD by WR Terrell Owens and Sheppard by WR Plexico Burress, while Harris shut down WR Roy Williams.
RT Mark Tauscher is healthy again and will play against Minnesota. Rookie RT Tony Moll has played well, but Tauscher is their best offensive lineman. However this doesn't mean that the Packers will be able to run the ball because NT Pat Williams has killed the Packers run offense in their last three games against Minnesota. The Packers should play a lot of three receiver sets and attack Minnesota's weak pass coverage.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Packers 17, Detroit 9. Must flee TV. What an ugly game. Neither quarterback played well at all, lots of turnovers, and lots of penalties. As bad as the Packers have played at home this season, any win helps, but this win did not inspire confidence against the Vikings at home next week.

First Quarter: Football Outsiders says that Detroit's offensive line is 25th on running plays and 28th on passing plays, but after watching this game I could have been convinced they are the worst in the NFL. They gave their backs nowhere to run and QB Jon Kitna had no time to throw. DT Cullen Jenkins doubled his season sack total (from 3.5 to 6.5 for the season) in the first half! Kitna didn't help himself when he had time, and threw an awful interception to CB Al Harris. Harris made a great juggling catch, but Kitna threw an awful pass where only Harris could catch it and gave WR Roy Williams no chance. Unfortunately QB Brett Favre isn't playing much better and although TE David Martin dropped a TD reception and one other pass on the same drive. Favre sets the NFL record for completions on a nice slant route to WR Carlyle Holiday. The Packers seem opposed to running the ball (5 1st quarter rushes vs. 10 1st quarter passes) and each team only manages a field goal in the quarter.

Second Quarter: The defense played an outstanding game. Detroit couldn't run the ball, Kitna had no time, and the Packers recovered turnovers. Detroit's offense had less than 100 yards of offense in the first half. Unfortunately, Favre's dump off pass to RB Ahman Green is too high and leads to an interception by ex-Badger CB Jamal Fletcher after a good drive to start the quarter. After another Kitna sack and Detroit punt, the Packers manage a good drive, TE Donald Lee saves the drive with a great catch-and-run on 3rd and 10, and a pass happy drive (7 passes, 2 runs) leads to RB Vernand Morency's first TD run. The biggest difference in the game is that the Packers can run the ball and Detroit can't. Favre threw passes to three tight ends in the half, and all were dropped except the completion to Lee. The Packers are playing their tight ends too much. With the exception of a brief streak by David Martin before his injury, throwing to the tight ends has not been a good offensive strategy. The passing offense only works with Favre throwing to the wide receivers and usually with three wide receivers in the game.

Third Quarter: Mike Martz may be an offensive genius, but it took him until the second half to realize the Packers' linebackers can't cover. Kitna passes to TE Casey FitzSimmons and RB Arlen Harris on a crossing route lead to another Detroit field goal. It could have been a touchdown but Kitna forced a 3rd down pass into the end zone instead of throwing it to a wide open Arlen Harris on another crossing route. The offense has three drives die in the quarter; the first two were killed by penalities and the last one by an awful interception in the end zone by Favre. What was he thinking? FOX reports that CB Charles Woodson has recovered 7 turnovers (INTs and fumbles) this season and he leads the NFL. I thought Woodson would be an awful free agent and be out for the season by week 4, but he has played through injuries and has been one of the best free agent signings by any team this season. WR Mike Williams comes to life and eventually leads the team in receptions (3) for the day because Martz lines him up in the slot and he beats the linebackers covering him.

Fourth Quarter: Favre has another interception, but Green really should have caught that pass. Detroit only has 12 yards to go but decided to run it three times although they are averaging less then 3 yards per carry. They settle for another field goal. Finally, with Favre struggling and only 9:29 left in the game, the Packers decide to run the ball a lot. It leads to a clock killing drive ending with Morency's 2nd TD run of the game. Detroit has one more chance, but it only leads to two more Kitna sacks.
Good news for offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski because he was hired as Boston College's next head coach. It was an odd decision to rehire Jagodzinski as offensive coordinator last spring, because he was fired as the tight ends coach in 2004 after the infamous playoff loss in Philadelphia. His name hasn't been mentioned too much this season because Mike McCarthy was doing all the play calling. But Jagodzinski brought a zone blocking scheme from Atlanta that he learned from legendary offensive line coach Alex Gibbs. Now all three offensive linemen drafted in 2006 are currently in the starting lineup, and the Packers offensive line is much improved from 2005.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Packers 30, San Francisco 19. After watching the Packers blown out vs. New England and NY Jets, plus QB Matt Hasselbeck tear apart the pass defense during the second half at Seattle, it was great that the Packers prove they can still win in the NFL. Despite RB Frank Gore's fantastic season, QB Alex Smith is still a work in progress and their offense isn't very good. Both defenses were similar; average run defenses with awful pass defenses. Neither team was able to cover kick returns. K Dave Rayner is one of the Packers leading special teams tacklers over the last few games.

First Quarter: Gore opens the game with a big run right at DE KGB. There was some talk of him getting benched because DT Corey Williams was practicing at end this week, but that was only because DE Mike Montgomery didn't practice last week. KGB fought off the block, but then missed the tackle. Tackling hasn't been the biggest problem for the Packers defense this season, but this was probably their worst tackling game of the season. The offense managed to fight right back and San Francisco proved that not only the Packers can leave wide receivers wide open in the end zone and it was good for WR Ruvell Martin's first career TD. Turnovers killed San Francisco in this game; Gore had a great game but he fumbled at San Francisco's 5 yard line and set up an easy field goal.

Second Quarter: The offense continues to hum along. Maybe it helps that QB Brett Favre's elbow injury is better. Maybe it helps that Martin and TE Donald Lee (who was essentially playing wide receiver) played more in this game to open up holes in the zone for WRs Donald Driver and Greg Jennings down the field. In Mike McCarthy's offense, the wide receivers are the receivers that have to produce in the passing game, while the tight end and backs are dump off options. San Francisco can't sustain drives because Smith is 2-for-6 passing on 3rd or 4th down; 3 drives during the half ended in Packer territory, but only led to 6 points. CB Charles Woodson played a great game, especially considering he is playing with sore ribs that forced him to leave for the locker room early. He returned in the second half and had a great 40 yard punt return in the 4th quarter.

Third Quarter: The Packers secondary played their best game of the season, except CB Al Harris. Harris didn't play awful, but he gave up a big pass play to WR Antonio Bryant and gave up the most yards he had allowed in several games. Smith finally found TE Vernon Davis in the second half and exploited the Packers weak coverage against tight ends and backs. Smith completed 4 passes to Davis and three different running backs that led to their first TD. The offense had two 3-and-out drives and San Francisco had some momentum until Smith's first INT killed it. Great diving play by FS Nick Collins. Almost immediately Favre hits Driver on a slant route, Driver breaks a tackle, and runs for a TD. On the play, Lee went in motion and played outside, allowing Driver to work out of the slot, where he has been killing teams this season.

Fourth Quarter: After Smith's first INT, San Francisco's offense slumped. Two 3-and-outs, the second drive scuttled by a holding call that brought back a big gain to Davis, while the Packers pad their lead with two field goals. A big return and another big catch by Davis start a good San Francisco drive, before it is killed by an awful interception by Smith in the end zone to LB A.J. Hawk. San Francisco had three turnovers that killed them; they all either led to Packer points or stopped drives in Packer territory. Smith quickly recovers and throws a big TD pass to Davis. If his one reception hadn't been called back on a penalty, Davis would have had over 100 yards receiving in the 2nd half against the Packers. But that was the last from Smith and Davis, because the Packers execute a perfect 5 minute drive to end the game.
Former GM Ron Wolf to replace Matt Millen in Detroit? Adam Schefter appears to be speculating rather then reporting something that has been discussed. It would be a shock if Wolf ever comes back to the NFL as a GM. Although I thought Joe Gibbs would never return to the NFL either.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

So maybe DT Corey Williams will play some at DE KGB's spot. With the pass defense in complete collapse, the Packers are trying to fix the second biggest problem on the Packers defense; team's ability to run right over DE KGB. It is a far distant second, but it is a big problem. It is also a problem that DTs Williams, Colin Cole, and Cullen Jenkins don't provide KGB much support on that side either. It couldn't hurt playing Williams at end, while big DT Johnny Jolly gets some playing time at tackle, to add some size to the defensive line on running downs. Mike McCarthy said "it's really the coordination between himself, the tackle, and the line to bring a support element to that side" to help explain why it is a team effort that KGB is being eaten alive by opposing left tackles this season.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Packers 10, NY Jets 38. The first half was some of the worst football I have ever watched. Phil Simms started comparing it to a college football blow out. At least the Jets took pity/forgot how they were killing the Packers in the second half.

First half: The offense struggled, but never turned the ball over in Packer territory. The blown protection was probably because RT Tony Moll is starting only his third game at right tackle and still has some learning to do. RT Mark Tauscher is the Packers best offensive lineman, and they haven't been as good over the last three games without him. Moll didn't appear to make any mistakes after the first quarter and played well. QB Chad Pennington isn't good at throwing deep passes, but is pretty accurate within 15 yards. The Packers seem snakebit on the long wide open TD passes they were giving up earlier in the year and now they can't cover anything short. CB Al Harris shut down their top receiver Coles, while CBs Charles Woodson and Patrick Dendy played well in the game. But Cotchery and Baker torched the Packers' linebackers and safeties. It is really hard to watch and see how the linebackers and safeties are only getting worse in coverage as the year goes on. FS Nick Collins looked bad on Cotchery's TD reception but was it because he is bad, the scheme is bad, or his hamstring is still bothering him. S Marquand Manuel didn't give up a TD reception, but he tried on the Jets first drive except Pennington overthrew the receiver and the Jets settled for a FG. LB Nick Barnett overpursued on every play during the game and was fooled badly on Baker's TD reception. Although the Jets threw everything short and the Packers dropped their linebackers into coverage on almost every play, LB Brady Poppinga had no pass defenses while LB A.J. Hawk only had one. The Packers even tried some zone blitzes that didn't fool Pennington at all and DE Aaron Kampman is not good in coverage. The pass rush didn't step up either, and the Packers were awful on 3rd down. There are some players who probably shouldn't be starting in the NFL on defense, Poppinga, Manuel, and possibly Collins, but the defensive coaches are outmatched by their peers and should all be replaced.

Second Half: When the offense doesn't get wide receivers involved in the offense, the offense struggles. It is too easy to stop the Packers when TE Bubba Franks and whoever at fullback, because they are not receiving threats. RB Ahman Green could be used as an effective receiver, but he is never asked to do anything except block first and then go out for a dump off pass. TE David Martin can open up the passing game, but he is still out with an injury. Once the Packers had WRs Ruvell Martin and Chris Francies in the game, things opened up for WR Donald Driver. The pass offense seems to be much better with Driver in the slot and Martin and Jennings outside. The Packers have to start spreading it out on every down. The defense had two interceptions that finally stopped the Jets, including a great play by Woodson. The run defense allowed a few big plays but that was not something that has happened much this season, and it probably was caused because the pass defense was in collapse. The 32 yard run on a reverse probably wouldn't have happened if the Packers weren't overpursing on every play. RB Cedric Houston had a 31 yard run because Barnett overpursued and effectively blocked Woodson out of the play. The pass defense was a lot better because the Jets ran so often and they stopped attacking the linebackers and safeties in coverage.

If the Packers play like they did against the Jets, then they won't beat anybody the rest of the season. This looked like a winnable game a couple of weeks ago, but without Martin and Tauscher the offense is struggling and the pass defense has completely collapsed since then. Will the Packers finally let LB Abdul Hodge and S Tyrone Culver play to see if they can start. Let play DT Johnny Jolly and CB Will Blackmon too. Right now the defense needs all new coaches, a defensive tackle to play alongside NT Ryan Pickett, a defensive end to replaced DE KGB on running downs, and two safeties who can play pass defense. Maybe Culver and Blackmon can be the starting safeties in 2007? No one will know until they have a chance to play.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Why would the Packers seriously consider playing injured LB Nick Barnett or FS Nick Collins? To help with the playoff push? LB Abdul Hodge is healthy now, has spent a few months learning how to play in the NFL, and should get some playing time to see if he can start in 2007. Gary D'Amato thought it was Hodge's fault that RB Shaun Alexander ran for 200 yards. The problem has been the same all season long. Teams are running almost exclusively to the weak side and DEs KGB and Mike Montgomery have been killed all season long. Plus the Packers have been playing their small tackles (DTs Corey Williams, Colin Cole, and Cullen Jenkins) on the weak side. Seattle's LT Walter Jones and LG Pork Chop Womack are their two best lineman and they dominated that side. Until the Packers fix the weak side run defense, Hodge is going to have no room to work, and no opportunity to prove that he can effectively play. Collins has been getting better as the season has gone on, but he is no better than he was last season. Let him rest his hammy and see if S Tyrone Culver is good enough to start. He is at least better than S Marquand Manuel. Put them in coach!
Packers 24, Seattle 34. This was the most depressing game of the season, which says a lot for a 4-7 team. The losses against Chicago and New England were more lopsided, but the Packers were never in either game at any point. The only comparable game was the loss at Philadelphia. With QB Matt Hasselbeck's 4 turnovers in the first half and bad weather conditions, the Packers seemed likely to upset Seattle. QB Brett Favre was playing well despite his elbow injury and threw a long TD pass to WR Donald Driver to start the second half. It seemed like it was the Packers game to lose. Then they lost it. They fell apart in every way imaginable. The defense couldn't get off the field and RB Shaun Alexander ended up with 40(!) carries in the game. CB Patrick Dendy had played well so far as the nickel cornerback over the last few games, but he was torched in the 3rd quarter. The offensive line hasn't been the same over the last two games since RT Mark Tauscher, who is their best offensive lineman, has been out with an injury. The defensive line was shoved around. Favre reverted back to evil Favre and threw the ball up for grabs with three really bad interceptions.

Although it was because of LB Nick Barnett's injury, it was exciting to see LB Abdul Hodge's first NFL start. He was in the right place at the right time when he returned Hasselbeck's fumble for a TD and looked good in pass coverage. Hopefully he will start in the middle in 2007 with Barnett moved outside.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Packers 0, New England 35. QB Brett Favre said last week in Minnesota that everyone on the team contributed to the win. This week, everyone contributed to the loss. No one played well, no one coached well, and no one deserves to miss any blame for the loss. The real surprise was Favre's bad play and then the bad play by QB Aaron Rodgers. Football Outsiders wondered if there was a contagious disease inflicting all Packer quarterbacks with bad passing. Rodgers looked awful, but the big surprise was that he is out for the season with a foot injury and QB Todd Bouman is now the backup. Bouman played against the Packers last season with New Orleans and he looked horrible, so it is very good news that Favre appears to be ready to play on Monday. The team didn't drop far in Football Outsiders' rankings, so it is clear that New England is very good and the Packers aren't ready to compete against a quality team yet. The good news is that New England was the best team remaining on the Packers schedule, assuming Chicago is sitting all their starters in week 17. The Packers have played better on the road for the last three seasons, so a bounce back win against a struggling Seattle team is very possible.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Packers 23, Minnesota 17. QB Brett Favre said in the post-game press conference that this might have been the first game he ever played in that every player contributed during the game. While Favre was probably feeling pretty good after the win and wanted to complement his teammates, his analysis is pretty accurate and I'll just leave it at that with a few exceptions.

WR Billy McMullen's TD reception. For the THIRD week in a row, the Packers let an opposing wide receiver run WIDE open into the end zone for a TD. FOX finally showed a replay that helped explain this problem. When the Packers switch to a zone coverage, the opposing team is flooding the zone. On this play, another receiver ran a short route into that part of the zone and the safety stepped up to cover, leaving McMullen wide open. The safety screwed up, I don't remember which one was playing deep, by jumping on the wide open receiver in front of him instead of the wide open receiver running deep. However, the scheme failed because LB A.J. Hawk, according to the Journal-Sentinal, blew the coverage and was not deep enough to defend the short receiver. The safety messed up, Hawk messed up, and the pass rush gave QB Brad Johnson too much time to throw on that particular play. This is not an experienced group of linebackers and safeties, so learning from their mistakes will help and the coaches need to do a better job too.

NT Pat Williams. The FOX commentators said it and Football Outsiders agree; Minnesota has the best run defense in the NFL. Williams overpowered LG Daryn Colledge, C Scott Wells, RG Jason Spitz at different times during the game. This is not a problem because apparently Williams has been overpowering every opponent all season long and he killed the Packers last season too. The Packers might have ran away with this game if their run offense had been more effective. Hopefully the rookies know what to expect from Williams next time they meet and do better against him.

WR Donald Driver had a monster 1st half in large part because Minnesota had LB Dontarrious Thomas trying to cover him as the slot receiver. Was this due to CB Fred Smoot missing the game and Minnesota played less nickel coverage? Did Mike McCarthy outcoach Minnesota by creating such a favorable matchup? Either way it resulted in a big half for Driver.

A big thanks goes out to Minnesota's RB Artose Pinner who's penalty for a block in the back negated a kick return for a TD. The Packers might not have won the game without that penalty.

What is coming up for the Packers? Although the Packers have won their last 3 of 4 and the defense is overall playing better, the 4 games were played against 4 of the worst 6 offenses in the NFL. The good news is that the offense was able to move the ball against 2 of the top 10 defenses, Minnesota and Miami, and the Packers only play 1 top 10 offense (New England is ranked 10th by Football Outsiders) the rest of the season. The Packers have to win 6 of their next 7, for a 10-6 record, to guarantee a playoff spot, but 9-7 or 8-8 might make the playoffs this season. All of the Packers remaining games are winnable. New England is tough, but it is at Lambeau and New England's pass defense has been really weakened by the loss of S Rodney Harrison. Thereafter they will play no above average offensive team, although Seattle will probably have all their starters back by 11/27, and only two quality defensive teams, Minnesota and Chicago. Winning at Chicago would look impossible, but the Packers will probably see very few starters playing against them in week 17 as Chicago rests for the playoffs. The Packers are still not a very good team and still have allowed more points this season then they have scored. However, they have a legitimate chance at making the playoffs. At the beginning of the season, I projected the Packers would finish between 6-10 and 9-7, a wide range but it was unclear how this team would play in 2006. At the beginning I was pessimistic and expected a 6-10 season. Although the offense, defense, and special teams have all improved over the last 4 weeks and they have a favorable schedule, their inability to win at home, inconsistency in protecting the ball from turnovers, and a pass defense that allows too many big plays doesn't seem likely to win 5 of their next 7 games. I expect them to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Packers 10, Buffalo 24. This loss was reminicent of the Packers losses during the Mike Sherman era; the Packers outplayed their opponent but the turnovers killed them. In three of their previous four 2006 losses, the Packers lost because their defense couldn't stop anyone and turnovers didn't kill them, with the exception of the St. Louis game. At least St. Louis played well in that game and deserved to win as much as the Packers did. Against Buffalo, the Packers dominated on offense and defense only to let huge turnovers swing the game against them.

First Quarter: A big kickoff return sets up an easy FG. The Packers special teams were killed in this game on kick returns and kick coverage. It was the only Buffalo unit that outplayed their counterparts. The Packers offensive line has controlled the line of scrimmage in their last few games and keeps improving each week, but they always struggle in the first quarter. The offense was slow to start out the game because of this. The defense played its best game of the season for the first three quarters, but unfortunately forced zero turnovers.

Second Quarter: Buffalo knew the Packersing Package!
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The extension paid to C Scott Wells seems reasonable. The "five-year contract, which will pay him up to $15 million after bonuses" is the same amount per season that Houston is paying C Mike Flanagan, and Wells is better than Flanagan at this point in their careers. Wells has been solid ever since he became a full-time starter during the middle of the 2005 season.

The special teams have gotten so bad that the AP even ran an article on it. K Dave Rayner blamed himself and his teammates. WR Shaun Bodiford was disappointed that he wasn't taking advantage of the opportunities his teammates were providing him. Special teams coordinator Mike Stock appeared to blame his players. Stock said "we didn't block anybody" and "we've got to improve the personnel." Stock hasn't been the coordinator of a good special teams unit since the mid-90s in Kansas City, so I'm thinking of putting the blame on Stock's shoulders. The Packers are so young that they really need good coaching to turn the special teams players into a unit, and that hasn't happened.
Packers 10, Buffalo 24. This loss was reminicent of the Packers losses during the Mike Sherman era; the Packers outplayed their opponent but the turnovers killed them. In three of their previous four 2006 losses, the Packers lost because their defense couldn't stop anyone and turnovers didn't kill them, with the exception of the St. Louis game. At least St. Louis played well in that game and deserved to win as much as the Packers did. Against Buffalo, the Packers dominated on offense and defense only to let huge turnovers swing the game against them.

First Quarter: A big kickoff return sets up an easy FG. The Packers special teams were killed in this game on kick returns and kick coverage. It was the only Buffalo unit that outplayed their counterparts. The Packers offensive line has controlled the line of scrimmage in their last few games and keeps improving each week, but they always struggle in the first quarter. The offense was slow to start out the game because of this. The defense played its best game of the season for the first three quarters, but unfortunately forced zero turnovers.

Second Quarter: Buffalo knew the Packers liked to throw the quick slant pass but the Packers made no adjustments and dared Buffalo to stop them. The interception returned for a TD by LB London Fletcher wasn't a classic bad mistake by QB Brett Favre. It was designed to be a quick pass that Favre threw immediately before the defense had a chance to react, but Fletcher reacted. Favre threw it into tight coverage, but that was how the play was designed. Mike McCarthy should have seen the coverage and adjusted his play calling. The offense came back with a nice drive until a botched snap turned the ball over. As Aaron Schatz at Football Outsiders has preached for a few years, teams can learn to force fumbles but fumbles are recovered by luck. So far this season, says Schatz, the Packers have "had poor luck with fumble recoveries." By this point of the game, Buffalo has still done nothing on offense. The Packers have another good drive to end the half, but the shotgun snap bounces off Favre's facemask and Buffalo recovers. C Scott Wells appeared to have snapped early, but how embarrasing was it for Favre to have it bounce off his facemask?

Third Quarter: FB William Henderson played a lot for the first time this season due to the injury to FB Brandon Miree and Henderson looked great. He had a reception for a first down and did a great job blocking Buffalo's linebackers on running plays. How did Henderson lose his job to Miree? The TD pass to WR Donald Driver was the same play that was intercepted in the 2nd quarter; a quick slant with Fletcher all over the passing lane, but Favre's throw just beats Fletcher. They won that gamble, but with the Packers starting to dominate Buffalo's defensive front seven, do they really need to gamble with these quick passes that Buffalo is expecting? The Packers pinned Buffalo deep in their territory on three straight possessions, but P Brian Moorman had some great punts. Finally the Packers start at midfield and a short drive leads to a long field goal.

Fourth Quarter: Buffalo's offense was dead in this game until the Packers defense gave them some life in this quarter. Why did CB Al Harris let WR Lee Evans run wide open behind him for an easy TD on a underthrown ball? The Packers have been doing this every week. At Miami, CB Charles Woodson let WR Marty Booker run by him and QB Joey Harrington threw it between 3 defenders who seemed confused who was covering Booker. CB Patrick Dendy let WR Troy Walters run wide open across the field against Arizona for a TD. Usually the cornerbacks are playing man-on-man, but sometimes they let receivers run away from them as if it were playing zone coverage and the safeties never show up in time. Are the safeties late in coverage? Are the cornerbacks playing the wrong defense? Are the coaches screwing up the signals or the defensive schemes? Just fix it. RBs Ahman Green and Noah Herron are running all over the Buffalo defense by this point, but McCarthy decides to throw one more slant pass into tight coverage. The cornerback is all over the receiver and a lucky bounce leads to a long interception return. Why throw a pass that they have been covering all game when you can run it right down their throat? A deflated defense comes back on the field and RB Anthony Thomas runs three times at DE KGB for another touchdown. I've been a big defender of KGB over the past few seasons, but he has to be taken out on running downs. He doesn't get to the quarterback like he used to and he isn't stopping the run either. Teams used to bull rush him for good yardage, but every other play he would get a step on the blocker and stop the running back. He doesn't do that anymore. He has to be reduced to a 3rd down rusher and let someone like DE Cullen Jenkins play on running downs. I skipped over DE Mike Montgomery, because he doesn't seem much better than KGB at run defense.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Packers played their best game versus Arizona, but it apparently cost them two starters and RB Vernand Morency to injuries. CB Charles Woodson came back into the game and caught an interception after landing awkwardly on his left leg, so it is a little surprising that the injury has gotten worse and will keep him out. On the other hand, it is surprising Woodson has played so much this season considering his past struggles with injuries. CB Patrick Dendy, who gave up the only passing TD against Arizona, would take over for Woodson, and barely used CB Will Blackmon would become the nickel cornerback. Luckily Buffalo is coming playing washed up WR Peerless Price and underachieving WR Josh Reed against Dendy and Blackmon, while CB Al Harris will cover their only receiving threat WR Lee Evans.

Morency injured his back and FB Brandon Miree hyperextended his elbow against Arizona and neither is expected to play at Buffalo. Both players had arguably the best games of their careers against Arizona, so the injuries are bad timing for them both. Both players have capable backups at this point, FB William Henderson for Miree and RB Noah Herron for Morency. The Packers do need a 3rd running back, so RB P.J. Pope was signed from Chicago's practice squad. Pope had a nice college career, appears to be a pretty good receiver, and played a lot in the preseason for Chicago, so it wouldn't be surprising at all to see him involved in the offense at Buffalo for a few carries and a catch or two. Mike McCarthy seems to like rotating all three running backs during some part of the game each week. The Packers had to release backup C Chris White to sign Pope and now G Jason Spitz becomes the backup center. I don't recall ever seeing Spitz play at center during the preseason. If C Scott Wells did have to come out of a game, it would be better if Spitz slid over and G Tony Moll came in the game at guard. Hopefully LT Chad Clifton is over the injury that kept him out of the game in Miami and the loss of the depth White provided will not be a concern.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Packers 31, Arizona 14. The Packers first home win of the season and their best overall game of the season. The only negative is that it happened against the worst team in the NFL, especially after their collapse at home versus Chicago. Looking at the DVOA breakdown from Football Outsiders, the Packers moved a few spots on the rankings and their was a 9 place jump by special teams and a 7 place jump by the offense.

First Quarter: I don't have the stats, but there were a lot of passes thrown to WR Anquan Boldin, 4th in the NFL in receiving yards, and CB Al Harris was always covering him. Boldin ended with a decent 4 catches for 47 yards, but their offense seemed to stall with them unable to get the ball to Boldin and without WR Larry Fitzgerald to throw to. Harris played Boldin about as well as anybody could. The defense stopped Arizona, a rare quality punt return by CB Charles Woodson set up great field position, and then the whole effort was thrown out by a bizarre fake punt and run/sack of P Jon Ryan. Was he trying to throw to TE Bubba Franks? Was Franks trying to block? Did Bubba have any idea what was going on? It might have been Franks' fault or a completely botched play, but either way it should not be called again this season. Getting teams to fall for misdirection is very important to winning, but trying to be too cute (a bootleg pass attempt by a punter?) should not be done. When the Packers did get the ball back, two things happen that set the tone for the rest of the game. First, mostly runs on the left side between LT Chad Clifton and LG Daryn Colledge blocks, the Packers start dominating Arizona's defensive line. RB Vernand Morency and RB Ahman Green ran very well, and neither player fumbled, but the offensive line gave them a lot to work with. Second, after I wrote last week about how the tight ends and fullback seem to be forgotten members of the offense, QB Brett Favre threw a lot of passes to FB Brandon Miree and TE David Martin. The Packers did this all game; dominate Arizona's defensive line, no turnovers, and spread the ball around to different receivers.

Second Quarter: While the Packers offense dominates, Arizona's offense struggles. RB Edgerrin James had his best game as a Cardinal, but that is faint praise. He still only ran for 3.5 yards/carry. Arizona shuffled their offensive line and it gave QB Matt Leinart some time to throw and James some room to run. Still it took Arizona until 6 minutes left in the first half to put together their first decent drive that led to James' TD run. Leinart didn't have much help due to receivers running out of bounds (WR Bryant Johnson) and numerous dropped passes. Overall the defense looked great in this game, but other than QB Rex Grossman, it has been hard to look bad against Arizona this season.

Third Quarter: Just in case Arizona was feeling somewhat empowered after scoring right before halftime to cut the lead to 14 points, the Packers have a long drive to eat up the first 7 minutes of the third quarter, ending in Favre's first TD run since 2001, his first at home since 1998, and his first Lambeau Leap. Although Favre's TD run hurt Arizona, Arizona's answering TD pass was a sign of future (and past) trouble for the pass defense. WR Troy Walters ran wide open on a crossing route for a TD after CB Patrick Dendy let him go off the line of scrimmage. Dendy, and Woodson in previous games, seem to let receivers run away from them, like they are expecting help in the middle from the safeties. But the Packers are playing man-on-man coverage and shouldn't Dendy and Woodson always know that they have to stay with their receivers? It didn't matter in this game, but the Packers are really suspectable to crossing patterns that lead to big gains.

Fourth Quarter: The Packers ran the ball a lot, which made sense because they were dominating the line of scrimmage and wanted to run out the clock, while Arizona continued to struggle on offense. Arizona had a couple of 20+ yard plays, but for most of the game, Arizona had to slowly work their way down the field, which isn't easy with a poor offensive line.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Football Outsiders DVOA ratings have a few weeks in their database and are now a pretty good indication of how the teams are playing. The Packers come in at an anemic #22, right ahead of Buffalo and right behind Tampa Bay. The offense is ranked 21st, which sounds reasonable since the Packers had two games (Chicago and Philadelphia) with little offense and the Packers have had an awful number of fumbles between QB Brett Favre and all the running backs (7 lost on offense and at least one on a kickoff return). The defense is ranked at 24th and that makes sense because the run defense has had some very good games while the pass defense has been awful all season long. Plus the defense has been very good forcing turnovers (in some games) and have returned two interceptions for touchdowns in both wins this season. The big surprise has been the awful special teams. With the improvement of K Dave Rayner over K Ryan Longwell v.2005 and K Jon Ryan's booming punts over P B.J. Sander's weak leg, it seemed that special teams was much better in 2006. Looking at a breakdown of the special teams stats, the two problem areas are the Packers kick returns and punt coverage. The Packers are 27th in the NFL averaging a low 20.7 yards per kick return, while having last season's Pro Bowl kick returner (WR Koren Robinson) returning most of the kickoffs. The Packers special teams haven't appeared to open up any running lanes in the middle of the field all season, and it seems like the kick returner is always tackled near the sidelines. Ryan had some booming kicks (with a healthy 46.7 yards/punt) but there have been a number of line drive kicks that have led to big returns. Ryan has to improve his consistancy and the punt coverage has to do a better job. By memory, the player I have seen with the most special teams tackles this season has been long snapper and 37 year old Rob Davis. Davis has been a great special team player for the Packers in his Packer career, but isn't the long snapper the least likely player to make a special teams tackle after the kicker? Another problem is that teams are not calling a lot of fair catches against the Packers, which probably goes back to all the line drive kicks from Ryan. Ryan and Rayner have strong legs and can be part of a good special teams unit, but the Packers coaches have to improve the play of their kick blocking and coverage units and Ryan has to show some more consistency.
TE David Martin caught his first TD reception of the season against Miami, and it was the first TD pass thrown to a tight end in 2006. This AP article discusses how the Packers planed on using the tight end more due to injuries at wide receiver and how the Packers hadn't actually used the tight end much in 2006. Now with WR Greg Jennings's ankle injury likely to slow to him down, and maybe even force him to miss a game, the tight end would appear to take a more prominent role with four tight ends on the roster, including former Pro Bowl TE Bubba Franks. Martin and TE Donald Lee had plays called for them down the middle of the field against Miami, but Franks's role appears to be only as a dump off option. Franks has dropped multiple passes this season and appears to be struggling with even that role. Mike McCarthy's offense doesn't appear to involve the tight end as anything more than a second or third option with an occasional pass thrown down the middle. The wide receivers are the passing offense now. If WR Ruvell Martin struggles to get open, then teams might have even more incentive to double team WR Donald Driver and maybe the entire Packers offense begins to stall.
QB Brett Favre must be having a lot of trouble remembering the names of all his wide receivers at this point. WR Chris Francies made his NFL debut last week against Miami and caught one pass. Looking at Francies bio, he appears to be a promissing receiver to take a look at. Mike McCarthy prefers tall receivers and Francies is a 6'1" (not too tall, but a giant compared to the other receivers on the roster), and he caught 5 TDs in his senior season with 12 TDs for his career (pretty good numbers for a college WR). His numbers at the draft combine were not too impressive, which is why he went undrafted. But he caught everything thrown his direction at the combine, and he caught every pass, one, thrown his way so far. WR Carlton Brewster made his way back to the team, currently he is on the practice squad, despite fumbling and dropping the ball too much during the preseason. It seems unlikely that Brewster will make it on to the active roster this season. Finally, WR Shaun Bodiford was claimed off waivers from Detroit. Bodiford doesn't have a very impressive bio after playing in junior college (including one season with QB Aaron Rodgers) and Division I-AA. But, Bodiford was used mostly as a returner by Detroit, and with WR Robert Ferguson's season ending foot injury and WR Koren Robinson's season ending suspension, the Packers could really use a return man. Bodiford seems likely to play special teams and nothing else.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Packers 34, Miami 24. 30 points on offense is the magic number; 2-0 when scoring more than 30 points. At least the defense consistently allows between 23 and 34 points. The offense is playing very well, especially the offensive line. Daryn Colledge had his first NFL start at left tackle for the injured LT Chad Clifton and DE Jason Taylor abused him early (Dear Mike, Please give the rookie tackle some help blocking the former defensive NFL MVP, at least early in the game! Love, Packer Fans) but Taylor wasn't a factor in the game after the third possession. Also, the Packers ran for 155 yards against a defense that was allowing under 100 yards/game and QB Brett Favre wasn't sacked after the third possession. Unfortunately the defense struggled against one of the worst offenses in the NFL. QB Joey Harrington's 414 yards passing look bad, but it could have been a lot worse because Miami's receivers (especially TE Randy McMichael and WR Derek Hagen) dropped a lot of passes.

First Quarter: Taylor exposes Colledge early, creating two fumbles and sacks, the first leading to one play, eight yard, TD pass to WR Marty Booker. Booker was covered by CB Charles Woodson on the line of scrimmage, but then FS Nick Collins covered the middle and both backs seemed confused who should cover Booker. LB Brady Poppinga with an interception! Good play by Poppinga, but Harrington threw the ball right at Poppinga with no receiver near him; a completely botched play by Miami.

Second Quarter: Unfortunately Poppinga's interception and then LB Nick Barnett's interception only lead to field goals. Both offenses are stalled in the quarter. The Packers run 6 times for 16 yards and Favre throws a number of incompletions. Harrington does have a 40 yard pass to Booker and the announcers talk again about all the big plays the Packers give up. I don't care. What I care about is that the Packers have allowed at least 2 passing TDs per game this season except they held Chicago QB Rex Grossman to only 1 TD pass in week 1. Since Grossman just had the worst performance in the last 10 years by a QB who's team won a game, no game balls should be handed out for "holding" Grossman to only 1 TD pass. DE Mike Montgomery's inadvertant facemask wiped out K Dave Rayner's field goal to end the half.

Third Quarter: Thanks Joey! Woodson made a great play to intercept the pass and keep his balance to run for the TD. Between the turnover, kickoffs, review of WR Donald Driver's TD catch, the first few minutes of this quarter crawl by. A lot of offense in this quarter.

Fourth Quarter: Although the Packers keep scoring, Miami does not go away, despite all their dropped passes. S Marquand Manuel allows another TD reception when he whiffs on the tackle allowing Hagen's TD. Miami has three long drives in the quarter and could have easily come back in the game.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Barring a major turnaround, WR Robert Ferguson is done for the season. Nothing good seems to happen when QB Brett Favre throws to Ferguson; he usually is running a deep route, always seems to be in double coverage, and never seems to come down with the ball. Ferguson seems like ex-RB Najeh Davenport; an offensive talent that never put it together and sufferred through constant injuries. Ferguson even makes a joke about his constant life of rehab since he was drafted by Green Bay. Although Ferguson didn't contribute much on offense, even when healthy, his injury combined with WR Koren Robinson's inevitable suspension finally was handed down (although his agent said Robinson was surprised?), the Packers have reached the annual point in the season when the lack of depth at wide receiver becomes a problem. This was a bigger deal a couple of seasons ago when Favre could be seen showing ex-WR Scottie Thurman how to run routes during the playoff game. Now it is just one of several problems of a 1-4 team.

For an added bonus, WR Donald Driver has bruised ribs. At least WR Greg Jennings is healthy. The only other WR on the roster is Ruvell Martin, who made the team during the preseason by showing the coaches that he doesn't drop the ball every time he touches it. WR Carlton Brewster and especially 4th round pick WR Cory Rodgers should have beaten out Martin, but both players struggled badly with fumbles. Rodgers is a free agent right now, and if the Packers want to pick up somebody he might be the best option for some extra depth.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Packers 20, St. Louis 23. You can't lose a game any closer than this one. The teams had almost the identical number of first downs and yards on offense. If the Packers make any one of the three makeable plays; K Dave Rayner makes his 2nd quarter field goal attempt from 45 yards, CB Al Harris doesn't drop a ball thrown right at him while he was standing still, or RT Mark Tauscher blocks DE Leonard Little (or QB Brett Favre holds onto the ball) on the final play, it is an overtime game or win. In Tauscher's defense, Little has been one of the best defensive end in the NFL this season and Tauscher held him in check for most of the game.

First Quarter: RB Vernard Morency looks really good every time he touches the ball, except for a case of bad bad hands. He has fumbled or dropped four balls in two games. He has to stop it immediately if he wants any career in the NFL. Morency's fumble set up a short field and an easy TD drive. With all the contact rules, it seems impossible for any cornerback to keep up with any WR anymore. WR Torry Holt got off the line clean, Harris ran with him but QB Marc Bulger threw a perfect pass and Harris couldn't react quick enough. The real good news in this quarter was that the Packers ran the ball pretty well. LG Daryn Colledge opened up some big holes and RB Noah Herron was able to run the ball.

Second Quarter: Despite the success running with the ball in the first quarter, Mike McCarthy called a lot more passing plays in this quarter and the offense stalled. Herron ran for the last 30 yards on the first quarter TD drive, but the Packers had twice as many pass plays as run plays in the 2nd quarter. Herron had 7 carries in the first quarter and 13 the rest of the game. The Packers might have been able to control the game with Herron running the ball. St. Louis only had the ball 4 times in the first half, but put together two TD drives. On the TD pass to WR Kevin Curtis, S Marquand Manuel allowed his umpteenth TD reception of the season.

Third Quarter: The offense stalls...Mike McCarthy's offense comes out so flat in the second half. In the 3rd quarter: vs. St. Louis (25 yards of offense), Philadelphia (2 interceptions), Detroit (a TD drive!), New Orleans (a TD drive, but one INT), Chicago (3 punts). All of Favre's 5 INTs are in the second half. The Packers run defense struggled in the second half. RB Steven Jackson ran 10 times for 62 yards on St. Louis 3 drives that led to field goals. A couple of drives were set up by poor punts and poor punt coverage, but part of that was the fault of the wind in the 3rd quarter.

Fourth Quarter: WR Greg Jennings has another big TD reception. He is probably the team MVP. The rest of the quarter is what might have been; CBs Al Harris and Charles Woodson have near interceptions, Favre's fumble and Colledge falls on it but it slips away. Any of those plays would have made it an overtime game at least.
The bye week is over. Back to posting, starting with some miscellaneous items.

Last month the Packers signed to the practice squad and then activated FB Brandon Miree. Miree was immediately inserted as the starting fullback and former Pro Bowl FB William Henderson would have been inactive the last two weeks if RB Ahman Green hadn't been injured. Although the fullback position only was an occasional part of the offense under Mike Sherman, the position has lost any importance it previously had in the passing game under Mike McCarthy. TE David Martin plays as the second tight end more than Miree is in the game at fullback. Martin often plays as an H-Back, coming in motion and stopping in the backfield as an extra blocker or potential dump off receiver, however Martin's long play for the season is 11 yards. What was once a potential threat with Henderson as a receiver has turned into a non-threat. QB Brett Favre is finding himself with fewer options in the passing game and it isn't helping him.

Before the St. Louis game, DT Kendrick Allen was placed on I.R. and is probably done for the season. The real downside to this move is that it means a lot more time for DT Colin Cole, who is constantly being blocked off the line of scrimmage. Allen wasn't a world beater, but he held up in the middle of the line better than Cole. As St. Louis found out, if NT Ryan Pickett isn't in the game, then it is easy to get at least 3 yards on any run play.

Not surprisingly it took CB Ahmad Carroll only one week to find a new home in Jacksonville. He will never be a good man-on-man corner (probably the main reason Ted Thompson cut him) but he could find a home in the NFL as a return man, gunner, and maybe even a starting cornerback in a cover-2 scheme. This reminds me of the Packers giving up on CB Terrell Buckley back in the 1990s; he was never going to be a great cornerback, but he managed to be a useful cornerback (mostly in Miami) over the next dozen NFL seasons.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

WTF?!? CB Ahmad Carroll played awful at Philadelphia, but did he play his way off the team? There is no depth behind Carroll. The new nickel back is either rookie CB Jarrett Bush or CB Patrick Dendy. Bush is the likely candidate since he is on the active roster while Dendy will be promoted from the practice squad this week. Bush apparently looked good for Carolina during the preseason, but that was still preseason football and he is still a rookie. How awful did Carroll play on Monday night? The first thing Mike McCarthy said was "He played well" so apparently not too bad. Tom Silverstein said Carroll had three pass defenses (he led the team for the game) and a sack in the first half, but he got torched in the second half. Apparently one solid half followed by one awful half is enough to cut you.

Why shouldn't you cut Carroll? Because he is only 23 years old and the fastest player on the team. Of course he is immature; he is athletically talented 23 year old football player. It seemed unlikely Carroll would ever become a quality starting cornerback since he hasn't played like one by his third NFL season. But at this point what was there to lose in keeping him around as insurance and on special teams as a gunner. Maybe try him as a return man since WR Robert Ferguson is injured? His rookie contract can't cost the team too much. If the Packers wanted to do something to improve the secondary, releasing Carroll was not the number 1 item on the to-do list. Number 1 - give S Tyrone Culver a chance to play ahead of S Marquand Manuel. Number 2 - fire Kurt Schottenheimer and let Lionel Washington take over. Releasing Carroll was a distant 3rd, because now a rookie will have significant playing time in a pass coverage that is apparently so confusing everyone in the backfield has resorted to wearing wrist bands with all the coverages on them. This change did not improve the Packers.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Packers 9, Philadelphia 31. There were a lot of questionable hires this offseason. Mike McCarthy was hired, although Ron Wolf did not have enough faith in McCarthy to renew his contract after the 1999 season. Jeff Jagodzinski was hired as offensive coordinator, although Mike Sherman fired him after the 2004 season. Mike Stock was hired as special teams coach, although he was out of football last season and hadn't coached any good special teams units in recent seasons. But the worst rehiring was Kurt Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer was hired by Sherman in 2004 to coach the secondary (his hiring was part of the whole meltdown with CB Mike McKenzie too) and he led them to the 29th best unit (all rankings from in 2004. Schottenheimer was fired after the 2004 season, and the same players (minus FS Darren Sharper plus rookie FS Nick Collins) improved to 22nd in 2005. In 2005, Schottenheimer coached St. Louis' secondary which stank at 28th overall. When he was defensive coordinator in Detroit during 2002 and 2003, the secondary stank at 32nd and 31st overall, respectively. He hasn't coordinated a secondary that finished above 28th since 2001 when he was still working under brother Marty.

Now the Packers secondary is back in the toilet. The only competition that the Packers have for worst secondary is Houston. S Marquand Manuel has looked slow in coverage and missed tackles on QB Donovan McNabb's first TD run and on WR Greg Lewis' second TD catch on Monday. CB Ahmad Carroll is struggling as usual, but this season he is being left in man coverage or Collins is too late in helping him out. Collins has been no savior either because he has been spun around and beaten for two long TD catches in the previous two games. Lewis' 2nd TD catch was almost identical to a play ran in Philadelphia in 2004 when WR Terrell Owens was left all alone in the middle of a wide open field for a big gain on a similar crossing route. The MNF announcers talked for a while about how confused the Packers secondary has been this season and has resorted to wearing wristbands with all the plays on it. The Packers have shown some improvement this season, but as soon as the opponent starts attacking the secondary deep (for some reason it took Philadelphia an entire half to start when Detroit figured it out in the 1st quarter last week) then the game is over. The rest of the team is not good enough to compensate for the secondary. Although it isn't the most talented secondary in the NFL, the players are good enough to be at least an average secondary, but the coaches have let them down.

RB Ahman Green might never be healthy again. It was a possiblity coming off last season's horrible knee injury, but injuries to both hamstrings makes it seem unlikely that he will contribute much this season.

However it happened, G Tony Moll was out of the lineup and G Jason Spitz returned to it, but at right guard. With rookie LG Daryn Colledge starting too, this is the offensive line the Packers intended to start the season with, but got cold feet after Colledge struggled in the first preseason game at San Diego. This was the best game of the season for the offensive line, which gave QB Brett Favre time all game (no sacks) and opened up holes for RB Vernand Morency. There were a lot of good cutback lanes that Morency used. Initially I did not have high hopes for Morency, but he impressed on Monday. He is quick to the holes, keeps low to the ground, and has good instincts for slashing or cutting back to openings. Unfortunately he made two plays later (the fumble at the 5 yard line that led to McNabb's first rushing TD and the pass deflected off his hands that was intercepted and led to a field goal) that killed all the good he showed in the game. Favre had a good game despite mediocre stats due again in part to dropped passes. He had one bad interception when he threw it up for grabs and S Michael Lewis snagged it, but the game was out of reach at that point.

LB A.J. Hawk started out good, improved versus New Orleans, and has been M.I.A. the last two games. He showed up for a late sack that stopped a late and meaningless scoring chance for Philly. LBs Brady Poppinga and Nick Barnett were rarely mentioned in the game, but Barnett did help force the second fumble recovery (which unfortunately was immediately fumbled back by Morency). The Packers were able to put pressure on McNabb, but he always had some time to pass. It didn't help that Philly's Pro Bowl LT Tre Thomas owned DEs KGB and Mike Montgomery for most of the game. It also seemed like the Packers were always in the wrong defense. If they only rushed three, it gave McNabb far too much time to pass. If they blitzed, it was picked up and a wide receiver was wide open (or in single coverage against Carroll, which is the same as being wide open).

It will be nice to see some improvement over the last 12 games of the season, but with this bad secondary, it is going to be hard to see that improvement in the score.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Packers 31, Detroit 24. It seemed likely that the Packers offense would struggle against Detroit's defense since Detroit held Seattle to under 10 points at home in week 1. Instead QB Brett Favre continued to pick apart Detroit's secondary, just as QB Rex Grossman did last week in Chicago. Unfortunately it was another bad week for the defense, which hasn't been able to stop anybody so far this season.

First Quarter: WR Greg Jennings has made a big play early two weeks in a row. Both plays were just as much bad plays by the defense as a great play by Jennings. The defense struggled badly in the quarter by allowing more than 200 yards in the quarter. DE Aaron Kampman had a quiet day against a rookie right tackle, but he won't dominate like he did against New Orleans every week. The pass to RB Shawn Bryson was really ugly, as Bryson ran past both safeties for the TD. On the pass to WR Roy Williams, it was cover 2 and FS Nick Collins got turned around by Williams as he sped toward the corner of the end zone for the TD reception. The Packers shut down number 1 WRs last season and CB Al Harris usually lined up against him, but this season Harris is kept to his side of the field. I don't know if that is making a difference, because CB Charles Woodson is playing as well as Harris, but something isn't working this season. S Marquand Manuel helped make up for all his troubles in coverage by being in the right place at the right time for a pass deflection and a run into the end zone. It was a good pass by QB Jon Kitna, but this score ended up making the difference in the game.

Second Quarter: The defense got a big assist from two long offensive drives that kept Detroit off the field. That was very good because even the run defense, which had played great in the first two games, struggled. RB Kevin Jones had two of the worst games of his career in week 1 and 2 this season, but averaged almost 5 yards a carry in this game. The big difference appeared to be the safety and linebacker pursuit; for whatever reason they were not as good as filling the holes as they had been against Chicago and New Orleans. Hopefully it was just a one game problem. The offensive line continues to play better. Detroit's defensive line, led by DT Shawn Rogers, is the strength of their team, but they had no sacks in the game. The Packers still didn't run the ball very well, but overall the offensive line seems to be improving. One thing that was not missed this week was dropped passes, I only counted one early drop by RB Ahman Green. Unfortunately fumbles were a problem, with RB Noah Herron's fumble costing at least a field goal.

Third Quarter: Another improvement on defense was 3rd down convertions; Detroit only completed 3 for 12. The Packers gave up the big play, but Detroit had trouble sustaining drives. Still, Detroit scored zero offensive TDs in their first two games and scored 3 in this game. After WR Donald Driver's TD reception, the Packers offense completed their 3rd 10+ play drive which helped the defense recover from a bad 1st quarter and built a 10 point lead, which was too much for Detroit to come back from. It is interesting that although Driver had a TD reception, Football Outsiders said Driver was least valuable receiver in week 3. Driver only caught 3 of 10 passes intended for him, which was a problem, but just as Aaron said, Detroit seemed determined to stop Driver at the expense of opening the field up for the rest of the receivers.

Fourth Quarter: The Packers final TD was set up by winning the field position battle. Last season, the Packers rarely won this battle due to poor special teams. This season, P Jon Ryan is punting outstanding and pinned Detroit down at the 2 yard line. Detroit could not make a first down and the Packers got the ball in Detroit territory for a short TD drive. The kick coverage is improving, and the kick returning is as good as ever now that Woodson is returning punts and WR Koren Robinson is the kick returner. K Dave Rayner also had a touchback; unheard of during the K Ryan Longwell era. The Packers pass defense could use an interior pass rush badly and DT Corey Williams stepped up to provide 2 sacks, including what would have been the game ending sack if Green hadn't fumbled a couple plays later to give Detroit one last chance. Hopefully some combination of Williams and DT Cullen Jenkins step up each game to give the Packers some inside pass rush this season.
The Packers added another fullback to the active roster. FB Brandon Miree is unlikely to make a large impact, but FB William Henderson can't play every down anymore. For all the talk of playing TEs David Martin or Donald Lee at fullback, neither played a down at the position as far as I noticed. The roster spot came at the expense of LB Tracy White. White didn't stand out during the preseason on defense and it seemed remote that he would have playing time ahead of LB Brady Poppinga at this point. Hopefully Miree is just as good on special teams as White.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I read through Mike McCarthy's press conference to see if there was anything interesting to report. LB Brady Poppinga and S Marquand Manuel have struggled in pass coverage, but they are both still the starters and McCarthy broke into coach-speak with "we'll continue to work" and "continue to get better". Apparently he is taking the cross-his-fingers approach to both positions, although S Tyrone Culver looked good in the preseason and LB Ben Taylor started for most of the preseason at strong side linebacker until Poppinga was healthy enough to play.

The offensive line is still learning the new blocking techniques and G Jason Spitz's knee still doesn't look good enough for him to return. TE/FB David Martin is hurt (again) with a bad knee and TEs Donald Lee and Tory Humphrey are both learning how to play fullback too. Rookie CB Will Blackmon is hurt (again) so there is virtually no cornerback depth after the top 3. McCarthy said "the explosive gains are really kind of balanced out through the secondary" which means that everyone has been burned in coverage, except that's not quite true. CBs Al Harris and Charles Woodson have struggled shutting down the other team's number 1 receivers (WRs Joe Horn and Muhsin Muhammad) while neither had a big gain for a reception against Harris or Woodson (Horn's big catch was against Poppinga). The Packers have been burned for big plays and been giving up all kinds of shorter catches too. However, no one asked why the pass rush has been almost non-existance outside of DE Aaron Kampman.

McCarthy didn't drop any bombshells, but did confirm that the players who are struggling on defense will continue to get opportunities to play their ways through their struggles. Lucky for all Packer fans. Detroit's offense has managed only 13 points so far this season, but their pass offense has been average while their run offense non-existant. If QB Jon Kitna manages to post a QB rating over 90 (just as QBs Drew Brees and Rex Grossman), then will McCarthy and defensive coordinator Bob Sanders do something then to improve the coverage and pass rush?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Packers 27, New Orleans 34. I'm at a loss to say about this game. All the indicators either favor the Packers (fewer turnovers, more total yards, better % on 3rd downs) or are even (both teams struggled to run the ball, similar time of possession). New Orleans had more plays over 20 yards and as a result had one more scoring drive. Two home losses to start the season, this time against an inferior team.

First Quarter: The Packers pass rush took over the game and WR Greg Jennings made the first big play of his career. DE Aaron Kampman dominated on the first two possessions, taking an active part in both QB Drew Brees fumbles. Pressure from DE KGB and DT Cullen Jenkins created both fumbles. After CB Al Harris made a great circus catch for the third New Orleans turnover, the Packers had a 13-0 lead. LB A.J. Hawk continues to look better; on one running play he fought off a block from the right tackle and the tight end to stop a running play for no gain. However two things happened the rest of the game; New Orleans had no more turnovers and the Packers pass rush vanished.

Second Quarter: Four punts on offense and the defense couldn't stop New Orleans on 3rd down. New Orleans had about 10 1st down conversions during the quarter and drove down for two TD scores. CB Ahmad Carroll gave up the 2nd TD pass; it was his first play back after coming off the field injured, but he was caught looking into the backfield and Brees burned him.

Third Quarter: A great first drive was ruined when QB Brett Favre threw his only interception in the end zone. It wasn't a bad decision by Favre, he just got hit while he was throwing. Almost immediately, WR Joe Horn had a big 50+ yard reception when he beat LB Brady Poppinga (Bob Sanders really screwed up the coverage by having Poppinga cover their no. 1 receiver in the slot) that led to a field goal and swung all momentum back to New Orleans. After a disasterous first quarter for New Orleans, 6 of their next 9 possessions led to scores. Dropped passes are a huge problem for the Packers. The Packers have gotten little out of their receivers not named WR Donald Driver so far this season, but TEs Bubba Franks and David Martin had some good receptions in the second half and both WRs Jennings and Robert Ferguson caught TD passes in this game. It is starting to look better.

Fourth Quarter: FS Nick Collins got burned in coverage as WR Marques Colston ran by him into the end zone. Collins reminds me of FS Darren Sharper, who struggled in his first two seasons as he transitioned from small William and Mary college to the NFL. It looks like it will be at least two seasons of inconsistent play from Collins until he is playing at a high level. Then RB Ahman Green fumbled leading to a 25 yard TD run by RB Deuce McAlister. G Daryn Colledge got his first NFL start ahead of G Jason Spitz in this game, and he didn't look great. Both rookies, Colledge and RG Tony Moll, struggled at times. Overall, it is a lot to be asking of these guys to start immediately as rookies. G Mike Wahle looked like a bust in his first couple of NFL seasons and G Marco Rivera didn't start in his first NFL season. They might be good players but it won't be known for at least a couple of seasons. Green looked good in his first game back against Chicago, but really struggled in this games. He ran for only 2.6 yards/carry, he had this fumble, and he dropped at least two passes in the 2nd half. McAlister's big TD run was really surprising at this point, because it was the only run over 10 yards for New Orleans during the entire game. The Packers run defense has shut down the running game of two good run offenses so far this season. Unfortunately, everyone will throw the ball against the Packers because they aren't good in coverage and they have almost zero pass rush in the middle.

If the Packers can't beat New Orleans at home, then who can they beat? The next two games at Detroit and at Philadelphia look like losses and then a home game against St. Louis. They should beat St. Louis as their offense is really playing poorly so far this season. At best, it looks like a 1-4 record going into the bye week with a real possibility at 0-5.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

It has been a wild week, with the Packers seemingly panicing after a poor start. These are moves that should have been made during training camp or the preseason. First WR Koren Robinson is picked up, hopefully to be used only as a kick returner, and FB Vonta Leach is released to make room for Robinson. It was surprising to see Leach even make it on the final roster because he didn't play great last season and didn't look good during this preseason, but he was kept because of the injury to FB William Henderson. Now Henderson is back for New Orleans, and since there are no other full backs on the roster, TE David Martin will make the switch to full back. Wasn't this contemplated at all during the preseason when Leach was playing his way off the roster?

The Packers apparently sold high and received a previously well regarded running back in return for RB Samkon Gado. Gado looked good last season, but didn't play well at all in the preseason. RB Vernand Morency was highly regarded before the 2005 NFL draft, but a 4.66 40-yard dash time dropped him into the 3rd round. Now Houston's new coach Gary Kubiak doesn't like his running style, and out the door he goes. It is hard to get excited about a running back who has below average speed and a bad running style, but it wouldn't have been surprising to have seen Gado released so at least the Packers received something in return. The big problem is that behind RB Ahman Green now is the unimpressive RB Noah Herron followed by a new running back (Morency) who probably has to learn a whole new offense.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Packers 0, Chicago 26. Well that was an ass-kicking. Looking at the stats, there was not any one area where the Packers lost. Watching the game, there was not one area where it was obvious that the Packers were overmatched. Chicago did not dominate, but they slightly outplayed and outcoached the Packers in every way, and it led to a really lopsided score.

It was a lot more similar to the loss in week 16 last season when Chicago won at Lambeau 24 to 17. If you look at the stats, QB Brett Favre had an awful game and the Packers couldn't run the ball. But they managed to string together one TD drive and a punt return for a TD by WR Antonio Chatman made the score a lot closer than the game actually was.

It was good to see RB Ahman Green return. He was able to run throughout the game, and not just during the second half when Chicago's defense was sitting back on the pass. Theoretically, the Packers were holding back showing off Mike McCarthy's real offensive playbook until this game, so this was the first time the offense played in a game situation with it. Unfortunately, they had to try it out against one of the best defenses in the NFL. Favre's passes looked high and it appeared that Favre and his receivers (excepting WR Donald Driver) were not on the same page.

This is apparently why the Packers paniced right after the game to sign the recently arrested WR Koren Robinson. It seems unlikely that Robinson will become a part of the passing game anytime soon, but can probably take over for Noah Herron immediately on kick returns. After the disasterous last preseason game when the special teams collapsed, they improved to awful with a missed field goal, a kick return fumble, and they allowed a kick return for a touchdown. CB Charles Woodson was finally used on punt returns and had one good return. The special teams directly cost the Packers 10 points in the loss and must improve.

The defense struggled to keep Chicago off the field in the first half and let Chicago build an early lead. S Marquand Manuel struggled again with a blown coverage that led to the long TD pass to WR Bertrand Berrion. CB Al Harris struggled against WR Muhsin Muhammad early and LB Brady Poppinga was completely overmatched in pass coverage by TE Desmond Clark. The Packers hadn't struggled against number 1 WR due to the great play of Harris, but getting burned by the tight end is something that has plagued the Packers for many seasons now. If a game ball is awarded, it would go to DE Aaron Kampman who had a great game. Honorable mention goes to the Packers run defense which held Chicago to only 3 yards per carry, which was a big improvement since RB Thomas Jones ran all over them last season.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What record should the Packers predict in 2006? Football Outsiders didn't predict the Packers record, but predicted that the Packers DVOA would be -13.4% and the 24th best in the league. That is behind Chicago and Detroit, but ahead of Minnesota. Looking back at FO's 2005 predictions, they calculated the Packers, Minnesota, and Detroit would compete for the division title, while Chicago would be in last place, so their 2006 projection is taken with a grain of salt. In 2006, FO calculated the Packers would have the 23rd offense, 22nd defense, and 26th special teams. The key column is the Packers schedule ranking; they play the 2nd easiest schedule.

The Packers offense might only be the 23rd best in 2006. The offensive line is still a work in progress, although better now than it was at the beginning of last season, but maybe worse than it was at the end of last season. If QB Brett Favre doesn't reduce the number of turnovers, then they could easily be that bad. The defense could be better than 22nd best, but the secondary has looked awful in the preseason. The special teams fell apart during the last preseason game, but most of the awful players (such as WR Cory Rodgers) have been released, while P Jon Ryan looks like a major upgrade over P B.J. Sander and K Dave Rayner will at least help the Packers improve their field position. With so many new starters (including at least 4 rookies), it is likely the team will be mediocre.

However, the saving grace is the Packers schedule. If the Packers at least beat the teams that project with an even lower DVOA than the Packers, then the Packers will finish 6-10 with home wins against New Orleans, St. Louis, N.Y. Jets, and Minnesota, plus road wins at Minnesota and San Francisco. If the Packers return to their traditional dominance with a win at Chicago (assuming they still lose at home and split the season series), their usual home win against Detroit, and another home win against Arizona, then their record would be 9-7. That seems reasonable with losses at Detroit, Philadelphia, Miami, Buffalo, and Seattle, plus home losses against Chicago and New England.

Unfortunately, the easiest schedule in the NFL belongs to Chicago, who would finish 15-1 (only Seattle projects with a higher DVOA) if they beat all the teams they should beat. Assuming Chicago finishes in first place, then the Packers 9-7 record is probably not good enough for the wild card (usually 10 wins is required). Four teams had 9-7 records last season, and none of them made the playoffs. It doesn't matter if the Packers finish 6-10 or 9-7, the Packers are unlikely to make it back to the playoffs in 2006.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Packers made a couple of moves after other teams cut their rosters down to 53. First was releasing CB Jason Horton, who had returned an interception for a touchdown against Atlanta, but looked overmatched against Tennessee. If anyone was hoping for an CB Ahmad Carroll release, then they have a long wait ahead. With Horton's release and CB Mike Hawkins on the PUP list, the only corners on the roster behind Carroll are two rookies, CB Will Blackmon and the recently signed CB Jarrett Bush. Carroll would have to completely fall apart on the field to fall behind two rookies at this point.

The Packers picked up three players. Bush appeared to receive a lot of playing time with Carolina this preseason, and since Blackmon hasn't played since May due to a broken foot, Bush is the "experienced" 4th CB at this point. G Tony Palmer was picked up from St. Louis for depth at a shaky offensive guard position, but that was an odd move. The new zone blocking scheme is designed for smaller more athletic guards, but Palmer is a 326 lb. giant. S Charlie Peprah adds depth to a thin safety position with all the current safeties having suffered injuries recently, except S Tyrone Culver.

The Packers made up their practice squad too. CB Patrick Dendy and S Atari Bigby have some experience if any of the secondary's injuries persist. The best news was signing DE Dave Tollefson, who had a good preseason and deserves to stick with the team in some capacity.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Preseason Packers 21, Tennessee 35. It was an ugly game as Tennessee kept its starters in for most of the game, while the Packers starting defense played 3 snaps and the offense 2 snaps. WR Greg Jennings cemented his status as the star of the preseason with another huge reception and a starting job over WR Robert Ferguson.

No one looked very good after the starters left the field. Starting rookie OGs Jason Spitz and Tony Moll played most of the game, but Moll struggled early when a Tennessee tackle beat him inside and led to a QB Aaron Rodgers fumble. DT Kendrick Allen started ahead of DT Cullen Jenkins for the first time this preseason, but that doesn't seem to indicate much as the Packers plan on rotating at least five players (maybe six if DT Johnny Jolly is active each week) at the tackle position. S Tyrone Culver forced a fumble in the red zone, the only Tennessee turnover. Culver has looked good this preseason and should start over S Marquand Manuel who was awful in the only game he played in this preseason. However, Manuel is the big free agent while Culver is the rookie, so Manuel will start week 1.

The Packers could have cut anybody this week that was not expected to start and it wouldn't have been a surprise. The special teams were awful against Tennessee, with the exception of P Jon Ryan's giant punts. The kick coverage was bad and WR Cory Rodgers and Carlton Brewster couldn't hand on to the ball. The Packers said they were looking for big wide receivers when they signed and resigned WR Marc Boehringer and Rod Gardner, but neither made the roster and the star of the preseason was 5'11" WR Jennings. WR Ruvell Martin made a couple of nice catches and that was apparently enough to make the team as the number 4 WR with Boehringer and Gardner underperforming and Rodgers and Brewster showing bad hands.

The biggest news was the release of RB Najeh Davenport, but it shouldn't surprise anybody because he didn't play well. He didn't run well, but his pass blocking was awful. LB Roy Manning played as well as anybody in the 2nd half against Tennessee, but he couldn't beat out LBs Brady Poppinga or Tracy White. It wouldn't have been a surprise if any one of the three had been released. DE Dave Tollefson was a slightly surprising release, but he didn't show as much as much speed as DE Jason Hunter so potential beat out production. QB Ingle Martin got his first extended playing time and looked awful. The pass he threw that was intercepted was laughably bad. The Packers cannot go into a game this season with Martin as the number 2 QB and hope he improves as the season progresses. The Packers could have cut all of the backup cornerbacks and it wouldn't have been a surprise, but they have to keep somebody in reserve.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Preseason Packers 17, Cincinnati 48. It reminded me of the game last season on Monday Night Football at Baltimore, where the secondary gave up and made it look like QB Kyle Boller was headed for the Pro Bowl.

The first half started out bad with two QB Brett Favre turnovers, first a fumble than an interception. The turnovers weren't so much a sign that Favre is going to have trouble this season, but that the blocking isn't very good yet. On the fumble, S Dexter Jackson came through unblocked on the screen pass to RB Ahman Green, FB Vonta Leach was late to pick him up Jackson, which forced Favre to try and hold back the ball, but it slipped out of his hand. Then on the interception, Favre was hit immediately after he threw it. It appeared the defensive end beat T Chad Clifton. Clifton looked good during the first two preseason games, but he struggled and had at least one penalty called against him in this game. Everyone, from the rookie linemen to the veteran linemen, to the backs are having trouble blocking right now.

The first string run defense looked good, holding RB Rudi Johnson to under 3 yards per carry. The nose tackle rotation of Ryan Pickett and Kendrick Allen appears to be an improvement over Grady Jackson. The pass defense failed the team. CB Charles Woodson looked good earlier in the preseason, but WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh abused him. Houshmandzadeh caught two first down catches and a TD pass on their first scoring drive of the 2nd quarter. S Marquand Manuel looked even worse. It was Manuel's first preseason game, after missing most of the preseason and training camp with an injury, but he was involved in the coverage on the all three of QB Carson Palmer's first half TD passes. Manuel played way off TE Reggie Kelly for an easy TD pass. Then he took a bad angle and completely missed Housemandzadeh on his TD reception. Then he missed covering WR Tad Perry in the end zone. He was either overmatched or still recovering from his injury. If the season started today, S Tyrone Culver would have to be considered that starter over Manuel.

The Packers overhauled four areas of the team this offseason. The linebackers are looking better with LB A.J. Hawk always around the ball. K Dave Rayner and P Jon Ryan look good so far, with Rayner hitting at least one touchback (an unheard of event in the K Ryan Longwell era) and Ryan nailing a 60 yard punt and pinning one punt at the 10 yard line. The new blocking scheme appears to still be a work in progress, despite the starting lineup already being named, and the secondary does not look any better than last season.

The Packers made a few moves after the game, but none of the players cut were likely to make the team. It was surprising Ted Thompson signed a kicker after Rayner had a good game, but it does give the Packers a back up plan if Rayner falls apart in the last preseason game. One last preseason game to put it all together, before a big test week 1 vs. Chicago.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Preseason Packers 38, Atlanta 10. What a difference a week makes. The big difference was a much improved offensive line and lots of forced turnovers. It was only one week, so it is hard to tell how much it helped to have rookie G Tony Moll playing instead of G Daryn Colledge. The offensive line might have been helped by simply having another week of practice or by playing against Atlanta's average pass rush instead of San Diego's top 5 pass rush. It didn't matter to Mike McCarthy; Moll will be the starting guard week 1. Neither Cincinnati nor Tennessee have above average defenses, so it is likely that Moll won't do anything to lose his spot over the next two preseason games. Other than Moll, there are a few other players who deserve attention:

WR Greg Jennings. He played well at San Diego by catching four passes when the rest of the offense struggled. He really showed off against Atlanta. He is clearly the number three wide receiver. WR Robert Ferguson should be watching carefully to make sure he doesn't lose his starting job to Jennings.

WRs Marc Boehringer and Rod Gardner. They are right behind Jennings on the depth chart, but neither caught a pass against Atlanta. Boehringer's poor performance apparently led to his release. The Packers traded for WR Carlton Brewster to see what he can do. The Packers gave up CB Therrian Fontenot for Brewster, but Fontenot had not done much on the field to show he was a likely candidate for a final roster spot.

SS Tyrone Culver. With the season ending injury to S Marviel Underwood and S Marquand Manuel still hurt, Culver had a lot of playing time. He apparently played the entire game in San Diego; he didn't make any big plays, but he didn't give up any either and made some big hits. During the second quarter against Atlanta, he missed a coverage assignment. Two plays later, he intercepted QB Michael Vick's pass. In the first two preseason games, he has looked better than last season's SS Mark Roman looked in any game that Roman started.

FB Vonta Leach. With FB William Henderson out for the rest of the preseason, Leach is the man. The AP article mentioned Leach dropped a touchdown pass, but he also dropped another pass earlier in the game. He dropped 2 of QB Aaron Rodgers 3 incompletions. During 2005, Leach looked great at times, and at other times he missed his assignments. Leach will be counted on much more in 2006 and needs to show improvement.

G Siitupe Peko. He missed at least two blocking assignments in the 4th quarter; one of which led to Rodgers's fumble. I hadn't seen Peko in a game yet this preseason, but if Moll doesn't work out at right guard, then Peko doesn't look like he is Plan B. He has a good resume, but it was surprising he wasn't cut after his poor performance on Saturday.

P B.J. Sander. He was awful in San Diego, but looked better on Saturday. He showed improvement, but he was cut anyway. Sander has been such a disappointment that this isn't a big surprise. However, he wasn't released because rookie P Jon Ryan was playing outstanding. Ryan looked good in San Diego, but he dropped the snap in the end zone and barely got his only punt attempt away.

DE Mike Montgomery. He looked good last preseason, and he is looking good this preseason too with 2 sacks in the 4th quarter against Atlanta. He didn't play much in 2005, but hopefully he brings his preseason performance into the regular season during 2006.

Friday, August 18, 2006

K Billy Cundiff was cut, leaving 2nd year K Dave Rayner as the only kicker in camp. Neither kicker had much of an opportunity in the first preseason game, so it is hard to tell whether this was a good decision, but it does add to the list of puzzling decisions made by the Packers. Tom Silverstein reported that Cundiff "missed fewer field goals than Rayner and in the most recent kickoff drill in practice averaged 66.8 yards to Rayner's 60.1." So lately, Cundiff had outkicked Rayner, but Cundiff was cut? Mike McCarthy explains all when he said "[Rayner] has a strong leg. I think he has a winner's substance to him. I like his personality, I like his approach." McCarthy likes Rayner's "winner's substance" and that apparently trumped Cundiff's superior performance in practice. Brilliant.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

QB Brett Favre's possible retirement always seems to hinge on whether he is still having fun. It doesn't sound like he is having a lot of fun this training camp. QB Aaron Rodgers, age 22, said "his daughter (Brittany) is almost 18, so I'm closer to her age than to his age. But we still can have a good time and joke around." Aaron means he is joking around with Brett not Brittany, right? I'm sure he does.

OG Daryn Colledge was given no slack for his poor performance in San Diego. He is 2nd team, G Jason Spitz (who didn't play well either) is the new left guard, and rookie OL Tony Moll is the new right guard. At this point, it would seem likely that OLs Will Whitticker or Junius Coston would be a better option than Moll. If not, then WR Javon Walker was traded for the rights to Colledge, so it would seem reasonable to give Colledge at least one more chance before demoting him. Promoting Moll just seems desperate. Rookies are unlikely to play well no matter the position, which is why Whitticker or Coston would be more likley to succeed than Moll. But Whitticker's career with the Packers seems over, Coston's future appears to be at tackle, and Plan B if Moll doesn't work out appears to be "Mookie". Injuries and poor play has turned the project of revamping the offensive line into a disaster, so far.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Packers didn't play well in their first preseason game, but they had only one fumble (recovered), one interception, and four penalties. This really stood out from last season, when the Packers made a lot of mistakes in the preseason. The Packers should have lost their preseason game last season versus San Diego, but managed to win despite nine penalties and six(!) fumbles (3 lost). San Diego outplayed the Packers, but San Diego committed twelve penalties and a few of them were true gifts to the Packers from the refs.

The Packers only played mistake-free football last preseason at Buffalo (except that they were soundly beaten), and they committed a lot of penalties and turnovers against Tennessee and New England. Somehow they managed to go 2-2 last preseason, despite being outplayed during most of those games and making a lot of mistakes via turnovers and penalties. The Packers played better during the 2005 regular season than the preseason, but the turnovers persisted. The Packers managed to improve their penalties and finished near the middle in penalties.

Despite the beating the Packers took at San Diego on Saturday, the quality of play is very likely to improve if 2005 is an indication. What to look for during this preseason is that QB Brett Favre keeps his interceptions low (zero so far), the rookies are improving with each game, and who will win the final roster spots.

Luckily for the Packers, S Marquand Manuel is back in practice. The Packers released S Mark Roman because S Marviel Underwood was playing so well, but with Underwood out for the season, depth at safety has become a concern. S Tyrone Culver played well against San Diego, but he has become all the depth the Packers have at the position. Hopefully DT Kendrick Allen can come back soon. The Packers defensive line didn't look much improved at San Diego, but NT Ryan Pickett and Allen weren't playing either.