Midweek Musings: 3 Things I Wonder About…

Eddie Lacy Packers Running GameWell, it is the middle of the week and while I am thankful that the Packers host the Lions this time around, a brutal away stretch after the bye week has me wondering about a few things. But let me start with this disclaimer. I am a Packers fan, always have been and always will be. I do not root for any other team at any time except the Green Bay Packers. OK, once in awhile I am tempted by “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” but that just means I cheer against the enemy…not for the enemy of my enemy, if that makes any sense (likely not). So here are three things I am concerned about as the Packers begin the downhill stretch toward season’s end. And believe me, it is coming fast.

1. Where is Eddie Lacy?

OK, to me there is no question that James Starks is the better running back right now. Going into the bye week, coach McCarthy even alluded to it, saying he planned to “go with the hot hand”. But then Starks got injured and still outperformed Lacy against the Panthers. So I am at this point not looking for the Eddie Lacy that can start on this team…gotta be honest, I don’t think he is coming back any time soon. But we need to have an Eddie Lacy that can at least perform well enough to spell Starks from time to time. I am really concerned that we are not even getting that! This makes me tend to think that Jeff Hayes is absolutely right and it is time for Alonzo Harris to get his shot. James Starks knows how to come on at the right time, but this team needs a backup running back and right now…we don’t have a serviceable one.

2. Where did the sacks go?

The Packers were killing it in sacks through the first few games of the season. Then, they came up against the Chargers and Broncos, two teams that had major questions at O-line, and the sacks all but disappeared. Where the A gap had been pretty sound, during the Panthers game, Cam Newton was able to scramble right through it up the middle for a huge gain. I think being banged up in the secondary has a lot to do with it but also it seems that teams have “figured out” the Packers’ defense that used to present not just matchup problems, but also alignment problems because teams couldn’t figure out their set. Julius Peppers had a frustrated day last Sunday and it showed on the field and off. This could be healthy if the team gets it together but if they struggle against a team like the Lions…not good.

3. Speaking of “figured out”

And speaking of “figured out” since before the bye week, teams have figured out that with the Packers reciever corps…all they have to do is apply steady, gap-sound pressure and keep Aaron in the pocket and they will have a good day against the Packers. The teams with better rushers tried to get the big hit with overloads and stunts and Aaron abused them. But teams that can cover reasonably well and have lines that play disciplined first, rather than with their hair on fire are getting to Aaron. Couple that with question number one and our offense is questionable in general.

So the Packers couldn’t ask for a better team to help them get on track. The Lions lost Suh this past offseason and have had little pass rush since. We just have to hope that they can’t cover or even solid, disciplined pressure could give us trouble. And remember, this Lions team is one that has some play-makers on offense, and they know the Packers as well as anyone. But the Packers know the Lions too so it goes both ways. I just hope Green Bay can begin to answer some of these questions, not just for the game this week, but for the long haul.

I think they will get it done and when it comes down to it, I am just gonna believe in my team because they are my team. But what questions are bothering you about this Packers team? I only mentioned three…chime in in the comments below or back on our Facebook Fanpage.

Go Pack!

Midweek Musings: 3 Things I Wonder About…
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3 thoughts on “Midweek Musings: 3 Things I Wonder About…

  • November 11, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    My concerns list is similar and covers more. I’ll break it into sections to avoid a huge wall of text. :)

    Rodgers and the passing game:

    A couple things that I’ve noticed about Rodgers over the last few games:
    1) He has found running lanes on the outside and then, for whatever reason, has turned and run back into the pocket – only to be sacked. Not sure where this is coming from (coaches telling him to remain in the pocket or some thinking on Aaron’s part), but he’s not looking down field while trying to avoid pass rushers in this manner, thus he fails to see open receivers.
    2) He gets happy feet, dancing in place while watching the pass rushers, rather than looking down field. I’ve not seen Rodgers do this in previous years, and it’s happening often this year.
    Whether scheme or mental issues, they’re correctable, and not typical of Rodgers.

    I was happy to see Rodgers under center much more in the Panthers game, which opened up some nice roll outs, play action passes, and gave Starks a chance to see the play developing as he approached the line with speed. And the screen plays were huge, should be used more often and in every game.

    Another brain teaser for me is that when we’ve needed to pass to come back in games, and Ds are playing the pass to prevent it, we’ve been pretty successful (other than at Denver where nothing worked against their 4-5 man rush). So why can’t we be more successful passing early in games? Are we too conservative with play calls? Is Rodgers unwilling to take chances? Hopefully our receivers have improved his confidence in them with their 2nd half performance in Carolina.

    Our problems on offense start and end with Rodgers’ mental game and accuracy. There’s a couple areas of his game which have never improved:
    1) The Panthers game is a great example of the problems he’s creating for himself. I counted 3 plays where he was sacked, pressured, or hit before 3.5 seconds. Hard to fault our O-line for that, Rodgers practices on a 3.5 second clock.
    2) He continues to take sacks at the worst times in games, and it’s costing us points. (EG: Rodgers took another sack at the end of the 1st half, which burned our last time out and eliminated a possible FG. He was hit 2 seconds after the snap, but a veteran QB has to know the situation and get rid of the ball.)
    3) Last year he couldn’t move, was forced to throw timing routes and did so fairly well. This year, he seems to be avoiding timing routes, glancing at his first read, and then looking to move. (EG: The last play of the Panthers game where he glanced at Cobb as the play was developing, then glanced to the left, and then started looking to run. He had just over 4 seconds to find a receiver, which was more than enough.)

    MVP or not, Rodgers still has plenty of room for improvement. And again, these problems are correctable.

  • November 12, 2015 at 12:21 am

    The run game and schemes:

    In my opinion, Starks has always been our best RB. He’s quick to read and react, and his big plays are usually made on his own when the blockers fail to execute. He’s one of the better players in the NFL for screens.

    Have to admit that I’ve never been a huge Lacy fan. He’s a class act as a person. He’s not a threat to break long runs, so Ds crash the line when he’s in the game. Lacy is a beast when he gets to the 2nd level with his wheels turning, but behind our line he rarely makes it to the second level. And part of that is his slow reading and reacting to broken plays, and lack of acceleration. Weight may or may not be a factor, but he’s never been what I’d call quick. His game is limited to power and dragging tacklers.

    Harris made 1 play in preseason, and only because defenders ran into each other. He’s another thumper similar to Lacy. Not sure he’s the answer with the quicker Ds of today. The only thumper in the NFL who’s successful is Lynch, who is much quicker reacting and getting up to speed than Lacy or Harris appear to be.

    I’d rather see Crockett brought up (or Rajion Neal signed from Dolphins PS). Quickness is the most important factor for RBs today.

    We can point fingers at the RBs all day long, but our problems in the run game are all about our seriously over rated O-line. We have 2 very good OGs for pass protection, and everyone else is average or below. Rodgers has exploited teams who don’t stay in their rushing lanes by extending plays with his legs, which has led to our O-line getting credit. But nothing can hide our deficiencies in run blocking. We allow penetration on almost every run play, and that shouldn’t happen to a good O-line. That problem is amplified when we have a RB with slow reads and acceleration. The only fix I see is putting a quicker RB behind them, or finding better O-linemen.

    Which brings us to scheme; far too often our runs go for little or no gain, or losses, or holding penalties. Our lack of 3rd down production this year is directly related to this, as we force runs on 1st and 2nd down and are put in 3rd and longs. Get into 3rd and shorts and our 3rd down % goes way up.

    Following that train of thought, I believe that our offense should be passing 90% of the time on 1st down, using runs only occasionally to keep Ds honest. We can’t blame Clements for this, as every call and game plan is still filtered through McCarthy. It’s McCarthy whom has never seemed to understand that our O-line cannot run block. Our successful runs are made by our backs making plays on their own, away from the designed plays.

    It’s crazy to me to call a preset amount of run/pass plays in a game. NFL games are about constant adjustments. When something isn’t working, you don’t keep forcing it to meet your pregame plan. Game situations and what’s working should dictate what play should be called.

  • November 12, 2015 at 1:14 am

    D and personnel decisions:

    I don’t think that our pass rush has changed. Teams have adjusted and gone to quicker routes, which negates a good pass rush. I think the difference is that great Ds cover the short routes to allow their rushers to get home, and our secondary hasn’t covered short routes well at all.

    I’m more concerned about Capers calling zones (which we’re terrible at executing) on downs with long distances. When we have a team backed up, that’s when we should be sending heat and covering short routes – not sending 2 or 3 down linemen and falling back 30 yards into zones. And apparently, Capers isn’t teaching how to play a zone properly. When a player enters your zone, you pick him up until he’s picked up by another player in their zone. You don’t allow players to run freely between zones – which is what we’ve done consistently since Capers has been here.

    At some point we have to stop blaming players and realize that the reasons they aren’t executing properly is the coach’s schemes, presentation, or both. So I’m back on the “Capers has to go” bandwagon. Our first couple games proved that we have the talent to shut teams down, and our last few games proved that there’s still problems not related to talent.

    Could HHCD have possibly played worse? He was too shallow on plays with a long field, and too deep in the red zone. Burnett wasn’t much better. Whether players or schemes, hopefully our safeties get it together soon.

    And we have to be realistic – a few huge plays against us this year were simply perfectly thrown balls and spectacular catches while blanketed well by our coverage (EG: even with the blown coverage by HHCD on the 59 yard pass to Funchess, Randall was in perfect position). Can’t fault Randall, but possible that HHCD could have changed the outcome if he hadn’t allowed Funchess to get deeper than him.

    When you look at the great teams of today, you see fire and passion. They start games pumped up and finish games pumped up. Teams tend to take on the persona of their Head Coach. Watch the sidelines of our team. They either look shell shocked when things are going bad, or like it’s a day at the beach when things are going good. I believe that’s a problem, which has to start with McCarthy. No player liked it when Lombardi screamed at them, but they definitely reacted to it. If it takes frustration on the field to get our players pumped up, it’s too late.

    Some personnel decisions by the Packers under Thompson and McCarthy have me stumped.

    Name a great D that didn’t have at least 1 great pass rusher up front – someone who can consistently put up 15-20 sacks every season? We don’t have any (and I’d include Matthews). Yet, every year we sit tight at our spot in the draft, or move back, while DE and DT play makers go to other teams.

    I’ll concede that Thompson is better than average at great at finding talent in the later rounds, and particularly on offense. But his overall early round and D picks are no better than any other GM. Give me 2 great draft picks and 3 mediocre picks over 10 mediocre picks every day. And after securing a QB and O-line, I’ll build a great D starting with the D-line, then LBs, and worry about CBs and Ss last. A good pass rush helps a weak secondary more than a good secondary helps a weak pass rush. The teams that are exploiting Rodgers do so by generating a pass rush with 4 players and dropping 7 into coverage. That’s a proven philosophy which works against any QB. But doesn’t happen in GB under TT and MM.

    Datone Jones, Daniels, Neal, and Boyd are not play makers. DE remains a weakness on our D. Palmer is as bad as Brad Jones, but they kept giving them playing time. Even without the injury to Barrington, we were thin at ILB. Jayrone Elliott remains a ST ace only – while he’s made the most of his opportunities on D, he continues to ride the bench. Keeping Harris over Crockett and Rajion Neal is mind boggling to me. And playing Lacy over Starks seemed more of an effort to prove that Ted made a good draft pick than putting the best player on the field.

    I expect us to get back on track against Detroit at Lambeau. Our offense is capable of putting up big numbers. Our D is capable of holding opponents to beatable scores. Our ST is mostly solid. When everything is clicking, we’re a legitimate SB contender. I think the passion shown in the last 9 mins of the Panthers game must carry over for the rest of the season for us to overcome our weaknesses. And I have to believe that we’ll put it all together, starting this week. But that’s the problem with being spoiled over the last 2 decades – our expectations for our team are hard, if not impossible, for them to live up to. Go Pack go! :)


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