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 footballoutsiders.com) 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.

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