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December 13, 2004

Donald Driver on the Run

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Posted by abai0001 at 1:44 PM

December 9, 2004

Ahmad Carroll Doing His Job

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Posted by abai0001 at 3:14 PM

Packers vs. Lions Preview

The first meeting of these divisional rivals turned the Packers' season around. Green Bay managed to stifle the ailing Detroit offense, and rolled to a 38-10 victory at Ford Field. Things will be different this time around, however, as the Lions will have full use of their promising rookie weapons Roy Williams and Kevin Jones...

The key to this game for the Packers will be consistently stopping the run. Unfortunately for them, the anchor of their defensive line is listed as questionable for the game. Grady Jackson, who came up huge in the first meeting between these two teams is still nursing a season long knee injury, and will no doubt have a huge impact on this game whether he plays or not. If the Packers can stop the run early on, they will force the Lions to pass more often. If they know the Lions will be passing, they can drop additional people into coverage and neutralize the Lions downfield threat, Roy Williams. Stopping the run, however, is not going to be easy. The Lions rookie half-back Kevin Jones has been on fire lately, and has averaged over one hundred yards in every game he has started. With veteran full-back Cory Schlesinger leading the blocking for the Lions, the Packers' d-line and linebackers are going to have their hands full. In addition to Jackson's injury trouble, Packers' linebacker Na'il Diggs is listed as doubtful for Sunday with a bruised kidney. Diggs is second on the team in tackles, and has been crucial in stopping the run this season. Back-up Paris Lenon is expected to start in his place, which is enough to make any Packers fan more than little uneasy.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Packers are going to need to establish a running game of their own. Green Bay knows that Detroit's linebackers are their greatest weakness on defense, and are likely to run the ball thirty times or more. The Lions' defensive line is led by nose tackle Shaun Rogers, who is quite adept at plugging up the middle. Look for the Packers to bounce the ball outside on toss plays with any of their three running backs. Once the Packers show the Lions that they can run the ball, they can begin to work with play action to open up the secondary. A proficient running game also opens the door for creative play calling, such as reverses and half-back options. Let's not forget that last time these teams met, running back Ahman Green managed to throw a touchdown pass to Donald Driver. Some key match-ups include Al Harris on Roy Williams, and Ahmad Carroll on Tai Streets. Don't be surprised to see Packers' defensive coordinator Bob Slowik switching up the coverage and allowing Carroll to cover Williams. While this may seem like a mismatch on paper, Carroll has experience defending Williams from when the two met in college play.

Posted by abai0001 at 3:09 PM

December 6, 2004

Pack Embarrased by Philly

The Packers' six game winning-streak came to a screeching halt on Sunday. In a highly anticipated match with the Eagles, the Packers put on their most embarassing performance of the year, and were destroyed 47-17. It's hard to pick a place to start demeaning the Packers play on Sunday, as they could not perform in any facet of the game. The defense showed their rookie weakness and the offense struggled like never before this season...

McNabb and the Eagles set several records on Sunday, one of which being a career high five touchdown passes by McNabb. The Packers knew they did not match up with the Philly offense in the secondary, and decided to play primarily zone defense to shut down the passing game. This is an especially hard defensive strategy to carry out, and it is clear that the Packers d-backs do not have the discipline to hold up against an efficient offense. McNabb had another Eagles first with 464 passing yards, and managed to complete his first fourteen passes. The Packers thin coverage allowed Philly's running back Brian Westbrook to match up one on one with safety Mark Roman on numerous occasions. This proved to be a favorable match up for Westbrook, who pulled in 11 catches for 156 yards, and three scores. This defensive performance does not bode well for the remainder of the Packers' season, and it is clear that changes need to be made. Above all, this game reiforced my hatred for Mike McKenzie.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Packers simply looked anemic. Brett Favre was not seeing the field as he usually does, and threw two ill-advised picks in the first half. These turnovers naturally led to points for the seemingly unstoppable Eagles, and appeared to deflate the entire Packers team. In addition to poor passing, the Packers' offensive line played their worst game of the season, allowing three sacks and countless hurries. Without his usual protection, Favre could not get comfortable in the pocket and did not seem himself. Running back Ahman Green never really got a chance to perform, as the early deficit forced the Packers to abandon their game plan and heave the ball over and over again. Favre's streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass ended on Sunday as well. However, in true team-player fashion, Favre declined several chances to get that touchdown after the game was out of reach, and instead allowed back-up Craig Nall to get some playing time. If the Packers hope to realize their goal of play-off success (or even participation) they are going to have to perform at a much higher level for the remainder of the regular season. The NFC play-off hunt is simply too close for the Packers to slow down now. On the bright side, Green Bay's punter Brian Barker managed to make a tackle on a return by Wynn of Philadelphia. How many punters can say that this week?

Posted by abai0001 at 1:52 PM

December 2, 2004

Hannibal Navies

While most football analysts would consider the Packer's secondary as their most glaring defensive weakness, some might argue that their greatest weakness is in their linebacking core. I personally would not describe the Packers' linebackers as weak overall, but would have to consent the fact that the left outside linebacker, Hannibal Navies, is a serious liability to the Packer's defensive performance...

Navies, while starting nine games this season, hasn't managed to collect even half as many tackles as his fellow starting linebackers Na'il Diggs and Nick Barnett. His lack of speed and acceleration make it difficult for him to be active in stopping the run, and render him nearly useless in defending the pass. He has been burned for a touchdown on numerous occasions this season, and his coverage has been consistently poor. His awareness of where the ball is on the field, and where it is likely to be going is sub-par. For example, during a game against the Vikings this season, Navies managed to maintain tight coverage on Jermaine Wiggins on a flag route towards the end zone. Wiggins had no more than two feet of separation from Hannibal, and still managed to pull the ball in for a touchdown. What makes this particular play so embarassing for Navies is that the ball flew directly over his head into the reciever's hands. He never turned his head to see where the ball was going, and didn't have the awareness to recognize the incoming pass. In any type of coverage, it is important to pay attention to the body language of the reciever in order to gauge the progress of the play. Navies should have seen the reciever go up for the ball and reacted by at least putting his hands up, since a wrap-up tackle is useless when its in the end zone. While the Packers have very little room under the salary cap to pick up a new OLB, I believe that a first or second round draft pick should be assigned to this linebacking position.

Posted by abai0001 at 3:10 PM

Trades and Acquisitions

Mike Sherman, as both Head Coach and General Manager, has ultimate control over the Packer's coaching decisions. The season began with Sherman using his top two draft picks to sign cornerbacks...

This was an excellent decision in my mind, and the number one pick (Ahmad Carroll) has shown significant improvement throughout the season. He displayed his ability to play with the pros on Monday night, when he recorded two tackles, one interception, and a defensive touchdown. These are great numbers for a rookie cornerback, especially going up against one of the leagues most dangerous passing units. The Packers have had injury problems in the secondary throughout the season, losing cornerbacks Michael Hawthorne, Al Harris, and Bhawoh Jue, as well as All-Pro safety Darren Sharper for at least one game each. This has put increased pressure on the healthy players (i.e. rookies Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas) to perform on nearly every defensive down. While these draft choices have made some rookie mistakes (and gotten burned more than once), they are consistently improving each game and show constant dedication and hustle. Joey Thomas, for example, got beat for a first down on Monday night by Isaac Bruce. Instead of simply tackling the reciever and accepting his mistake, he stripped the ball and allowed his fellow rookie corner to return it for a touchdown. These promising corners could become the future of the Packer's secondary, and represent Sherman's astute ability in drafting new players.
On the other hand, Sherman did make one questionable call as Packer's GM when he traded veteran cornerback Mike McKenzie to St. Louis for an NFL Europe quarterback and a third round draft pick. McKenzie has provided more than adequate coverage for the Packers over the past few years, and is arguably one the most effective shut-down corners in the league. Why would Sherman settle for simply a back-up quarterback and a weak draft pick? While I disagree with Sherman's decision, the blame cannot be placed solely on him. McKenzie made it clear before the trade that he was not happy in Green Bay, and refused to play another season there. An unhappy player can bring an entire team down, and would most likely put forth a marginal effort in any game played. So while Sherman got very little in return for a great player, his hands were tied. Overall, the trade was unconstructive but unavoidable. Only time will tell how good Sherman really is at drafting players, as the burden will now be on his young cornerbacks to fill the void created by the unfortunate McKenzie situation.

Posted by abai0001 at 2:24 PM

Offensive Unit

With the Packer's defense giving up an average of 22.5 points per game, there is a lot of pressure on the offensive unit to consistently produce points. Luckily, they have been more than up for the challenge, averaging over 410 yards per game and putting up nearly thirty points per game. While most might argue that this success is due to the play of NFL icons, such as Brett Favre and Ahman Green, I feel that it can mostly be attributed to the solid play of the offensive line...

This line of veterans, consisting of Mike Wahle, Marco Rivera, Mark Tauscher, Grey Reugamer, and Chad Clifton is the impetus behind the Packer's consistent offensive success. Even without Pro-Bowl center Mike Flanagan (out for the season with a knee injury) this line has been able to dominate in the trenches, and has given up just five sacks all season. Without pressure, Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre is fully capable of shredding even the most dominant secondaries, and he has more than enough options on the recieving end. Javon Walker and Donald Driver are both among the league's top fifteen recievers in terms of yards, Pro-Bowl tight end Bubba Franks is extremely reliable in the red zone, and full back William Henderson provides an easy option in the flats.
In addition to giving Brett Favre time to get comfortable in the pocket, they have allowed the Packer's solid running core (Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, and Tony Fisher) to average just under five yards per carry and over 135 yards per game. The importance of the offensive line was clearly demonstrated on Monday night, when the Pack was forced to start back-up Najeh Davenport over the injured Ahman Green. This was his first NFL start, and he produced 178 yards in just nineteen carries. These are great numbers for any starter in the league, and if a back-up can produce yards at that level, it is obvious that he has lots of help blocking. The Packers demonstrated their commitment to the running game and trust in their blocking by putting the ball in Najeh's hands, instead of asking gunslinger Brett Favre to carry the team himself. This is a championship caliber offensive unit with the potential to lead this team deep into the playoffs.

Posted by abai0001 at 2:01 PM