UnPACK the Play: 3 Corrections For Success

Today we break down the Packers’ very first play of the preseason. Yes, I know, it was a sack. But we learn more from our failures than our successes and this play, while not successful last Thursday, will likely be very successful in the future with a few corrections. They say “The battle is won in the trenches” and by that they mean that football games often come down to who wins at the line of scrimmage. This play is a perfect example of that. But more than that even, this play shows just how smart, physical, and quick offensive linemen in general and left tackles in particular have to be to be successful in this game.

David Bhaktiari is one of my favorite players on the Packers team. Pro Bowler, tough, quick and smart, Bhaktiari and so first off I want to wish him well as he has been hampered by a sore knee of late. Second, I focus on Bhaktiari in a play that resulted in a sack but looking closer at this play only made me respect Bhaktiari more. Let’s unPACK the play:

The pre-snap on this play showed the safety come into the box and then drop out into coverage. The Patriots obviously respect Eddie Lacy, not just for his ability to run the ball but also for his ability to catch out of the backfield. But on this occasion they feel that coverage is more important/likely to be needed and so they don’t commit the safety. The Packers are in shotgun with Nelson and Adams wide and Cobb in the slot. This play was very close to being a success for a couple of reasons:

  1. Randall Cobb came wide open just after Aaron Rodgers moved off his read to Nelson on the right sideline. Cobb got his hands on the defender and had separation inside. We saw Cobb make this play later in the game and numerous times in the past.
  2. When the safety dropped out, the longer routes of the receviers meant that Eddie Lacy was wide open coming out of the backfield. I the routes that the receivers ran and the three step drop out of the shotgun make me think Eddie out of the backfield may have been more than a checkdown in the minds of the Packers’ coaching staff when they designed this play.
  3. Even though the play broke down quickly, Aaron almost got the ball to Eddie Lacy. Bhaktiari was so quick to recover that he was able to get in between Rodgers and Chandler Jones but Jones got a hand on Rodgers’ arm achieving the sack and knocking the ball away.

So here is what happened where the play broke down.

1. Bhaktiari starts strong

We are all accustomed to see left tackles taking that exaggerated drop step and Bhaktiari, with his athleticism, has one of the best in the business. Bhaktiari, knowing that the play on is a three step drop, wants to take away the outside rush because it would in effect be a straight line to the quarterback. just look at how much distance he covers:

Bhak 1











With his primary objective complete, Bhaktiari moves into the contact phase, again knowing that the worst case scenario is for Jones to get the jump on him outside as this would put Rodgers in immediate danger not just of a sack but of a big hit. Staying healthy (or keepking your qb healthy) is job one in the preseason in particular so Bhaktiari squares up to defend his quarterback.

2. Squaring up for contact

As opposed to run blocking, the offensive lineman generally does not initiate the contact. This is why offensive lineman often prefer to run block. But Bhaktiari has gotten himself into good position against Jones at this point. As this contact happens, Randall Cobb is coming open but Rodgers (perhaps feeling the pressure) has already come off the read on the left side to look to Jordy Nelson. Look at the position that Bhaktiari has at this point:

Bhak 2











3. Jones has plans of his own

But Chandler Jones has designs of his own. Jones makes his own exaggerated step to the outside as if he is going to drop his inside shoulder and try to take the outside, which is exactly what Bhaktiari wants to avoid. But Jones’ step is actually going to be a plant foot for him to take the inside. Here is the critical point and we see just how a tiny mistake can make the difference against a defensive end in the NFL. It is difficult to illustrate but in essence, three things happen in the space of a split second:

  1. Jones takes an overstep and plants his outside foot to cut back inside
  2. Contrary to the previous graphic where he was in perfect position, Bhaktiari turns his shoulders out, which may be the key for Jones to come back inside (Jones “shucks” that very shoulder).
  3. Bhaktiari’s hips also turn out, which means that as Jones shucks him, he gets thrown off balance, opening the gate on the inside.

Bhak 3














 Again, to Bhaktiari’s credit, he is able to get back in between but Jones’ long arms and the NFL rules meant that this play ended up in a sack.

So Packernation, this is what the preseason is about, I saw a lot of the way this team performed that reminded me of the first regular season game of the year last year. So I believe that Mike McCarthy’s plan to give the starters more time to get in sync before the season begins is working…and working well. If we learn more from our mistakes, it is plays like this that are invaluable for the future of this team going into the regular season in just a few weeks.

So what play(s) stood out for you in this game? Let us know in the comments below or back on the Facebook Fanpage.

Go Pack!
// ]]>

UnPACK the Play: 3 Corrections For Success

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *