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.