2010 January : Packers Insider

Lombardi Speaks: How the Packers can Reach the Super Bowl

January 17, 2010 by  
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Jan 17, 2010 ~ By Michael Lombardi, National Football Post

~Here lies the problem for Ted Thompson: He has a very good team that’s one solid offseason from competing for a Super Bowl title, but all his needs will not be met in just the draft. He has to be more open-minded in his approach to free agency and try to fix some of the current concerns on the team before the draft. He should really give great thought to trying to add a player of the caliber of the Panthers’ Julius Peppers.

Pass-rushing monster Peppers did to Favre and the Vikings what Capers' Packers couldn't do in two tries: Sack Favre, and beat the Vikings

Pass-rushing monster Peppers did to Favre and the Vikings what Capers' Packers couldn't do in two tries: Sack Favre, and beat the Vikings

If Peppers is a free agent, he’ll command a huge pay day, but he would be a perfect fit coming off the edge to help Clay Matthews rush. One more blue-chip player would really make a difference to the Packers on defense.

Full story here

Capers Defense needs to step up against the Pass, disrupt QB’s rythym

January 17, 2010 by  
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Jan 17, 2010 ~ By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider Senior Analyst

~Dom Capers did some magical work in 2009 with the Packers rushing defense. They lowered their average-per carry down a full yard, which is almost unprecidented from one year to the next.

NT Ryan Pickett was the biggest reason this defense shut down the run. Now someone needs to step up and lead the way in stopping the pass. With Matthews and Woodson, that's a great start. But more guys need to do more.

NT Ryan Pickett was the biggest reason this defense shut down the run. Now someone needs to step up and lead the way in stopping the pass. With Matthews and Woodson, that's a great start. But more guys need to do more.

His defense ranked #1 in the NFL in rushing yards per game, which believe it or not, is the first time the Packers have ever led in that category. You have often heard the experts say that to march thru the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl, you first need to be able to run the football and stop the run.

His team led the NFL in takeaways, and the team in turnover differential. However, as all Packer fans saw in the big spotlight games this year, this pass defense was actually horrible. Sure they padded their stats thanks to two games vs the Lions, the Bucs and their rookie QB making his first start, the Browns, the Rams, poor passing games of the Ravens, Bengals, and getting Cutler in his first ever start for the Bears. What this team is missing is two-fold.

First, they need to get some more pass rush other than just from the stud Clay Matthews on the right side. They need some consistent push from someone in the middle, either Cullen Jenkins or BJ Raji. The pocket has to be disrupted against the great QB’s to throw off their timing & rythym. You all know what happens to Favre when he’s getting hit and hurried. He donates gifts like Santa Claus on December 25th.

But you also all saw what he does when he has his nice little bubble back there. Warner showed you the same thing. Besides Matthews, Jenkins and Raji, Capers needs to time and mix in the ‘A’-gap blitzes better. He also needs to find someone who can get to the QB against one-on-one blocking over on the left side. Brad Jones did okay as a 7th round rookie. But he’ll need to step it up, or OLB Cyril Obiozor will have to be given a chance, because Jones got nowhere near Warner in that embarassing loss in the wildcard game. Aaron Kampman’s status is very much uncertain, both due to his ACL injury, and his contract status. He’s a free agent, and he can stay or leave for a 4-3 defense again if he feels mis-cast in the 3-4.

That’s just one end of it. The other end is the back end, the coverage side of things. You may have noticed in the Arizona game that it seems very few of Dom’s DB’s and LB’s actually elect to cover. It was a mess back there. Surely, missing Al Harris hurt, but in the NFL, missing one of your top three CB’s is not that uncommon. The key is to have backups that know what they’re supposed to do, and who can do it. With Jarrett Bush, you’ve all seen what happens when he’s out there. Besides him, rookie Brandon Underwood and street free agent Josh Bell didn’t provide any coverage either. This is a position that either needs miracles from Harris and Pat Lee, Will Blackmon with injury-recoveries, or else will need to instantly upgrade that position in the off-season, hopefully via free agency and not that draft. If you’re aware of the Packers last 20 years of drafting CB’s, you’ll realize that they don’t fare too well there.

There should be some natural improvement in the system in year two of Capers’ system, but he’s going to have to learn how to defend, attack QB’s like Favre and Warner. Capers has not had any success against Favre his whole coaching career, and I think that speaks volumes about who and what is to blame for those gigantic breakdowns against the Vikings, Steelers, and Cardinals offenses in 2009. The Cardinals knew what his defense was going to do. That cannot happen again in 2010. Capers needs to bring heat at those QB’s and let the CB’s man-up.

2009 Player Grades: Offense

January 17, 2010 by  
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Jan 17, 2010 ~ By Bob McGinn, Journal-Sentinel

~Bob McGinn offers his team and individual grades in our 2009 Packers report card available in Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Insider subscribers can chat with McGinn about the 2009 season and beyond at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Aaron Rodgers: Rated the ninth-best QB in the NFL by scouts entering playoffs. Just turned 26 and should get only better. Likes to wing the ball around but has a plan for every pass and almost never throws into traffic. Highly intelligent, in complete command of the offense. Respected by teammates for his ability and courage. About once a week he beats perfect coverage by running for a first down. Surprisingly athletic. Posted second-best passer rating (103.2) in team history…… Grade: B-plus         Full Grades here

Despite having to try and dodge bullets for the first half of the season, Rodgers 2009 season was 2nd highest-rated in team history

Despite having to try and dodge bullets for the first half of the season, Rodgers 2009 season was 2nd highest-rated in team history

2009 Player Grades: Defense

January 17, 2010 by  
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Jan 17, 2010 ~ By Bob McGinn, Journal-Sentinel

~Bob McGinn offers his team and individual grades in our 2009 Packers report card available in Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Insider subscribers can chat with McGinn about the 2009 season and beyond at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

B.J. Raji: Played 385 snaps (36.4%), had 37 tackles (five for loss) and just three pressures. Played four positions: LE, NT and RE in base, DT in nickel. Erratic at the point. Flashed big-play explosion but was much more easily displaced by double-teams than Pickett or Jolly. His pass rush was disappointing. Wasn’t able to string moves together, and neither his bull rush nor his edge quickness was good enough to many win one-on-ones. High-ankle sprain slowed him until midseason. Staff will demand major improvement in his second season. Grade: D-plus  Full story here

Rookie BJ Raji made a few great plays in 2009, but he'll be expected to do that a lot more in 2010, and will be expected to get some push towards opposing QB's finally.

Rookie BJ Raji made a few great plays in 2009, but he'll be expected to do that a lot more in 2010, and will be expected to get some push towards opposing QB's finally.

Time to Dissect the Defense

January 14, 2010 by  
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Jan 14, 2010 ~ By Tom Silverstein, Journal-Sentinel

~Before the start of training camp, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy will settle a debate that erupted during the last month about his defense.

Is it the scheme or the players that can’t deal with spread offenses?

Dom Capers improved the defense in 2009, but it is Capers who bears the responsiblity of devising a scheme to contain the QBs like Warner, Brees, Favre, and Roethlisberger. Those QB's were contained by less-talented defenses than the one Capers has in Green Bay.

Dom Capers improved the defense in 2009, but it is Capers who bears the responsiblity of devising a scheme to contain the QBs like Warner, Brees, Favre, and Roethlisberger. Those QB's were contained by less-talented defenses than the one Capers has in Green Bay.

There are many things on the off-season checklist for McCarthy following an 11-6 season that ended in an overtime playoff loss at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday. Finding out why over the course of four weeks the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals were able to gash the defense to the tune of 58 first downs, 1,068 yards and 88 points is a priority.

“Trust me, we’ll take a long look at Arizona from a defensive standpoint, and Pittsburgh,” McCarthy said in his season-ending news conference Wednesday. “You’re talking about over 1,000 yards of offensive production in two days. We will take a long look at that, and particularly the quarterbacks.”

McCarthy dismissed the idea that because both of those teams know coordinator Dom Capers’ defense inside and out, they simply outwitted him with their game plans. Capers employs a Pittsburgh-style 3-4 defense, which the Steelers still run, and Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt knows it from his days as Steelers offensive coordinator.

Both the Steelers and Cardinals found a formula that featured multiple-receiver formations and lots of completions in the middle of the field. The Cardinals did a particularly good job of beating Capers’ pressures and exploiting matchups in the secondary in their 51-45 victory.

Capers called the Cardinals game disappointing because of the number of breakdowns in pass coverage.

“I mean, just base fundamentals, things we had worked in practice came up, and you don’t expect that when we’ve seen those same things in practice and seen us match them up pretty well in practice,” Capers said. “I don’t know if that comes from the heat of the battle of a playoff contest where the tempo picks up, but we didn’t execute with the same degree of efficiency that I had seen us (do) the second half of the season.”

Capers said the combination of the success the Cardinals had running the ball and the number of missed assignments in coverage made it difficult to counter Arizona’s passing game. He said he mixed up defensive calls throughout the game but couldn’t find the right buttons to push against veteran quarterback Kurt Warner.

Short-handed?

One of the issues McCarthy has to consider is whether Capers was left short-handed against a high-powered Cardinals offense. The loss of veteran cornerback Al Harris on Nov. 22 left him with two inexperienced cornerbacks in Jarrett Bush and rookie Brandon Underwood to cover Arizona’s third and fourth receivers.

Full story here

Woodson Is NFL Defensive Player of Year

January 14, 2010 by  
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Jan 13, 2010 ~ ESPN

In his own view, Charles Woodson put together his best pro season in 2009. How appropriate, then, that he is The Associated Press 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

The versatile Woodson tied for the league lead with nine interceptions, returning three for touchdowns, and was a key to the Packers’ turnaround on defense. His role in Green Bay’s performance — second in the league in overall defense, first in interceptions (30), takeaways (40) and turnover margin (plus-24) — earned Woodson 28 votes Tuesday from a nationwide panel of 50 sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the NFL. 

Charles Woodson, the 1997 Heisman Trophy winner, is the first cornerback chosen as the top defensive player since Deion Sanders in 1994.

Charles Woodson, the 1997 Heisman Trophy winner, is the first cornerback chosen as the top defensive player since Deion Sanders in 1994.

Full story here

In record shootout, the Cardinals’ defense has the final say

January 11, 2010 by  
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Jan 11, 2010 ~ By Donald Banks, Sports Illustrated

Packers let it Slip from their Grasp

January 11, 2010 by  
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Jan 11, 2010 ~ By Tom Silverstein, Journal-Sentinel

~Glendale, Ariz. — Despite their remarkably long run of elite-level quarterback play, the Green Bay Packers finished another playoff season with the ball in their quarterback’s hands and a chance to pull off a stunning victory.

Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner was barely touched, which allowed him to complete 29 of 33 passes for 379 yards and five touchdowns. The Cardinals abused the Packers’ defense to the tune of a staggering 531 total yards and 30 first downs. They scored on six of their first seven possessions and built a commanding 31-10 third-quarter lead.

Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner was barely touched, which allowed him to complete 29 of 33 passes for 379 yards and five touchdowns. The Cardinals abused the Packers’ defense to the tune of a staggering 531 total yards and 30 first downs. They scored on six of their first seven possessions and built a commanding 31-10 third-quarter lead.

But just like Brett Favre had done twice before him, Aaron Rodgers made the last mistake.

Some will remember the 422 yards and four touchdowns he threw in rallying the Packers from a 31-10 deficit to a 45-45 tie as time expired in regulation.

But the play that will stand out – just like Favre’s interceptions against the New York Giants in the 2007 NFC Championship Game and the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2003 playoffs – is the one that ended the game.

Unwilling to get rid of the ball on the first possession of overtime in a wild-card game against the Arizona Cardinals, Rodgers got sacked on third and 6 at the Packers’ 24-yard line, lost the ball and watched helplessly as linebacker Karlos Dansby returned it 17 yards for a touchdown.

Game over. Cardinals 51, Packers, 45.

It was one of the wildest playoff games the NFL has seen – there were more than 1,000 yards of offense and just two punts – and Rodgers, playing in the first postseason game of his career, appeared to have everything in control.

He led the Packers to touchdowns on all five of their possessions in the second half and seemed destined to finish it off with a victory.

But the dream ended when Rodgers allowed blitzing defensive back Michael Adams to hit him right in the face as he held the ball trying to make something happen.

“That (play) doesn’t define his legacy,” receiver Donald Driver said. “He has a long career. I think he tried to make a play and just didn’t make it. That’s something we just have to deal with. All of us. I take full credit for giving them seven points. If I don’t fumble, they don’t get seven.

“Take seven off the board and we win.”     Full story here

Rookie Brad Jones making the most of his Opportunity

January 10, 2010 by  
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Jan 10, 2010 ~ By Lindsay H. Jones, Denver Post

Aaron Rodgers’ next Mountain to Climb is the Playoff Mountain

January 9, 2010 by  
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Jan 10, 2010 ~ By Mike Vandermause, Press-Gazette

~Aaron Rodgers has spent much of his competitive life proving the skeptics, critics and naysayers wrong.

He wasn’t supposed to be good enough to earn a Division 1 college scholarship. He wasn’t deemed worthy enough by a majority of NFL teams to be taken in the first round of the 2005 draft. His form wasn’t sound enough, his body wasn’t durable enough, and his arm wasn’t strong enough.

Rodgers is 1-0 against Peyton Manning. Could they meet again next month?

Rodgers is 1-0 against Peyton Manning. Could they meet again next month?

Every time he showed up his doubters, they would find something else to criticize.

He passed for more than 4,000 yards in his first season as an NFL starter in 2008 and despite enduring a painful shoulder injury, started every game. The myth that he lacked toughness was debunked, so the knock on him shifted to his inability to win close games.

Full story here

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