One week after suffering a sloppy yet hard-fought loss to San Francisco, the Packers delivered the exact type of performance necessary to keep pace in a tough NFC North division. Aaron Rodgers tied a franchise record for passing yardage and could have easily added more. While this win may have more about Washington’s shoddy play than dominance from Green Bay’s end, the Packers carry momentum into a difficult Week 3 meeting in Cincinnati.
Defensive Front Seven
Dom Capers dialed up pressure at precisely the right time against the Washington offense, forcing rushed throws and one interception from Robert Griffin. Inside linebacker Brad Jones was especially instrumental in the defense’s success, helping shut down the run in the first half. Down linemen like Johnny Jolly have done an excellent job swatting passes down at the line of scrimmage.
For several seasons now, Dom Capers has been under fire. Packer fans everywhere are calling for his head on a silver platter. I think that’s an over reaction. Here’s why…
Though they were underdogs in just about everyone’s mind, Packers will come off the Week 1 loss to San Francisco with a bitter taste in their mouths, now having dropped three straight to the Niners. Down several key players on defense, Green Bay was unable to come away with in a win in shootout fashion. The odds of pulling off a road victory against last year’s NFC champs grew slim after two first half turnovers.
The defensive line had their way against a very solid San Franicsco O-Line with regards to the run. Frank Gore was held to under 50 yards on the ground as B.J. Raji and Johnny Jolly shut down everything in between the tackles. Just as impressive was the containment of Colin Kaepernick on the ground, which was the Packers’ Achilles heel in their playoff loss to San Francisco last season.
The backup quarterback circus in Green Bay has stolen the media’s attention just days before the regular season kicks off. In all likelihood, this conversation won’t be nearly as relevant during the season as some of the decisions made at linebacker and wide receiver. The Packers have left themselves particularly thin at offensive line and safety but are padded with depth on the defensive front seven, where a number of unlikely names stuck.
Defensive linemen Johnny Jolly and Josh Boyd faced uphill battles in cracking the final 53-man roster but ultimately prevailed, thanks to strong training camps and promising showings during the preseason. Likewise, James Starks beat the odds in the backfield, where the Packers were loaded with talent in July but only ended up retaining three halfbacks. Camp Cindellera Tyrone Walker fell shy of a roster spot, disappointing some that favored the rookie receiver over return specialist Jeremy Ross.
Not even one week into the regular season, the injury bug has bitten the Packers, already down two starters for the entire season. Depth has traditionally been a staple to Ted Thompson’s rosters but is nowhere to be found at safety, wide receiver and offensive line this year. Without several household names – Greg Jennings, Desmond Bishop and Charles Woodson – Green Bay will need young guns like Randall Cobb and Morgan Burnett to step up this fall.
The Packers face four 2012 playoff teams in the first five games of the season, three of which are on the road. That doesn’t bode well for Mike McCarthy’s teams which, with the exception of 2007 and 2011, have posted very marginal first halves of the season. McCarthy has, however, found a way to win when it counts and likely will this season as well. What’s in store for a Packers team that owns the league’s best quarterback but shows no sign of improvement on defense?
Add another Packer to the list of those not returning this season. After reinjuring his knee in the Packers’ third preseason game, DuJuan Harris will be placed on Injured Reserve, bringing his 2013 season to a close even before it began. In his short time with the Packers, Harris has added value as both a runner and receiver, leaving shoes to fill in the backfield. But with the running back position crowded to begin with, the doors are now open for other ball carriers as the preseason nears its end.
Perhaps the biggest benefactor of Harris’ injury is third-year back Alex Green, who now appears to be more of a roster lock than before. Green has had a solid camp but simply hasn’t produced in live action since being drafted in 2011. And despite his poor track record, Green offers greater versatility and durability than injury-plagued James Starks, who was also on the roster bubble heading into the final preseason game.
In the late 1990s, the Packers were unstoppable on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field. Teams feared to come into our house and their fans, when predicting their team’s season record, would religiously mark a loss next to any games their team played at Lambeau Field.
In 1997, on their way to their second straight Super Bowl, the Packers largely walked through the regular season on their way to post season play and recorded all wins in the legendary stadium. But on October 5, 1998, the Vikings closed the door on a shocking win at Lambeau and created a crack in the impenetrable wall that surrounded the Packers’ home record.
In the seasons that followed, from 1999 to 2009, what was once an easy win was no longer. In those years, the Packers suffered 31 losses at home. The Lambeau mystique was gone and Packer fans were wondering where it went, and, more importantly, when it would come back.
In recent years, there have been some rumblings that indicate that the mighty Lambeau advantage may be rolling back into town. Continue reading
Having to face Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte twice each season has forced Ted Thompson to stay invested in his linebacker corps over the years. Fortunately, he has been efficient in drafting the position in April, with the depth chart showing three first-rounder-turned-starters. However, after waiting until Day 3 of this past draft to select a linebacker and witnessing the sudden departures of Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith in the offseason, the Packers appear to be a tad shallow at the position.
The lack of depth at outside linebacker and Mike Neal’s struggles as a down lineman prompted the coaching staff to give the four-year veteran a look at linebacker. Neal’s use at linebacker should be strictly situational, as second-year pass rusher Nick Perry accompanies fellow USC product Clay Matthews as a starter. Veteran linebacker Dezman Moses may see some time in the base defense if Perry struggles but don’t expect to see many other faces at the position.
McCarthy has been giving Mason Crosby more than ample time to overcome… whatever it is that Mason needs to overcome.
One of the reasons McCarthy continues to be positive about Mason is that he has such a strong leg. He went out of his way to point out that Mason gets more height on his field goal kicks than Tavecchio.
But just how important is a strong leg for a field goal kicker? I’m re-thinking that question. Continue reading
Ted Thompson is well-aware of his less-than-stellar track record of selecting defensive linemen in the draft. He whiffed on Justin Harrell in the first round of the 2007 draft and has yet to capture any sort of return on second-rounders Mike Neal and Jerel Worthy. And yet Thompson has maintained his status as a buyer at the position, nabbing UCLA star Datone Jones in this April’s draft. Jones’ ability to make an immediate impact on passing downs will be key to the defense’s success in 2013.
Also instrumental in generating pass rush will be B.J. Raji, who is in his contract year and is one of only two roster-bound linemen capable of playing nose tackle. Like cornerback Tramon Williams, Raji has not been his dominant self since the 2010 Super Bowl run, forcing Thompson to extend the contract of safety Morgan Burnett last month, rather than Raji’s. In all fairness, Thompson has not provided Raji with an adequate supporting cast to-date, which is why many are counting on Jones to step up.