One Step Forward…Two Steps Back

Posted by  Brady Augustine   in  ,      2 years ago     108 Views     1 Comment  

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Mike McCarthy Contract ExtensionSo far this preseason is best characterized as a “one step forward, two steps back” affair. The first preseason game against the Patriots showed a Packers team that was very much as advertised. The offense was dominant (with perhaps still some red zone issues yet to be corrected) and the defense showed a lot of pressure with good coverage on the backside. Since then, we seem to have done a 180. With the Thursday game in sight and the “dress rehearsal” against the Eagles in the rear-view, it’s time to take a look at the preseason so far.

Maybe it is not fair to break this regression up in terms of games. Maybe a better turning point would be the injury to Jordy Nelson that suddenly took one third of the Packers “trifecta” of Rodgers, Nelson, and Cobb off the field for the entire 2015 season. And while I know that the preseason games are more about “looks” and “fits” and getting a chance to see how the young rooks handle the big leagues…I can’t help but think that we had one good game and two bad ones. This is important especially since the third pre-season game is considered the “dress rehearsal” and ours was anything but. Hundley did a great job behind center but I have to question whether the continuity will be there with the defense especially, but even with the Nelson-less offense.
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The final preseason game is a “last call” and “final cuts” game so I can’t see it adding anything to the continuity of a Eddie Lacy is Backdefense that played almost all starters for a large chunk of the Eagles game, only to watch them play every down on their heels. Early on, I believed that Mike McCarthy had a different approach to the preseason and it showed in the first game where Rodgers got significant playing time. It seems that since Nelson went down, he has backed off that approach. Can I blame him? Heck no. Managing the physical well-being of NFL players is (to me) the most underrated aspect of a coaches job and I think Mike McCarthy does it as well as anyone. And I am not talking about the duties that the training staff and strength and conditioning coaches have to try to guard against injury. I am talking about the long-term rep management that ensures regular season wins but also is concerned with the endgame…the playoffs. I can’t stress enough how the freshest and healthiest teams win in this league. One injury can make a superstar into an average player or, like Jordy, a non-factor if they are sidelined.

Moving forward, I think that the way this preseason has gone has put us at risk of not just taking one step forward and two back in the preseason, but I fear I may be writing another post with the same title about yet another Packers 1-2 season start.

I think we all have seen that to some extent, the Packers are likely to again find themselves in the position of having to outscore opponents. The defense will likely improve, but I don’t see any answer to the struggle against high-powered and especially fast-paced offenses like the Eagles. Folks…we were making Mark Sanchez look good.

But if we manage the players we have, the Green Bay Packers can still be one of the best teams in the league when push comes to shove, trust me. The loss of Nelson hurts but just imagine if we didn’t have Janis and Montgomery and White on the team. And word on the street is that one Jared Abbrederis could play on Thursday. The management of players takes on an even more important role not just on the offense with the loss of Nelson, but on defense as well. Here is what I am hoping we will see.
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  1. The defense takes one half a second off their time to get to the quarterback: There’s no way to sugar coat it, in the Eagles game, the Packers defense was a sieve. But one thing I did see was consistent pressure. The problem was it was just a half second too late. As the defense works together more and more they should become more intuitive and if that happens, we may be surprised at how many sacks this defense gets. While the defensive backfield has to be able to cover on the backside, I am looking for Peppers, Matthews, and Daniels, to make quarterbacks nervous up front.
  2. James Starks takes slightly more reps to keep Lacy fresh: James Starks is having his best preseason. Remember that happy first preseason game against the Patriots? Guess who the leading receiver was? Starks. We all know that Eddie Lacy is the man but keep in mind the importance of managing players bodies for the long haul. I would like to see Starks utilized in the offense more regularly during the regular season to spread out the risk of injury and also to ensure that Lacy is fresh in the fourth quarter. This could make all the difference in the world in the long run. And the way Starks is playing, he will be a contributor to wins, not a risk to lose a season game that we would otherwise have won.
  3. The young wide receivers get rotated in early to gain experience. To me, it would be hard to decide between Janis Ty Montgomery Training Campand Montgomery for the fourth receiver spot. Janis has showed speed that we have not seen much of in Packers receivers who tend to be known for their hands and YAC. Montgomery has shown the ability to find the soft spot in a cover two and put himself into position to take it to the house but he is not as fast. Both have also dropped balls that should have been caught. I would like to see both of these guys get playing time and presumably they will. But to me, they each bring their particular skillset and can be dangerous in different situations. Getting them both on the field also would mean that they would get significant reps and early in the season, they will make some mistakes but down the road it may pay dividends.

So while I am disappointed with the preseason since the Patriots game, there is still reason to believe that with some careful management and, in my opinion, by doing things a little differently than everyone else, the Packers can still be the team to beat when it matters.

Go Pack!

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Brady Augustine is co-owner and content creator for www.greenbaypackernation.com. He currently resides in Tennessee and also conspires with brother, JR on www.cheesnewswire.com

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