Saturday, November 20, 2010

(Insert Witty Title Here)

Sadly, this picture is no longer relevant, because after he was cut by the Packers, Al Harris decided to take his talents to South Beach to play for the Miami He- er, Dolphins. He's a classy guy though, and both he and the Packers had nothing but good things to say about one another, so I hope he does well for them.

And that makes for a decent jump to the Packers defense, who, after 9 games and a bye have the best defense in the league in terms of points allowed, which are more important and useful than yards allowed, mostly because that makes the Packers look worse.

As I did with the offense, I'll quickly go through the injuries on the Packers defense, and their significance, as well as give some general comments on the Defense as well.

MLB Nick Barnett - lost for the season, great all-around player and captain of the defense
SS Morgan Burnett - lost for the season, promising rookie safety with good ball-hawk skills.
SS Derrick Martin - lost for the season, solid backup behind Burnett, not particularly spectacular.
SS Atari Bigby – started the season on the PuP list, started last year, good tackler and doesn’t make mistakes.
DE Johnny Jolly – Suspended for the year, good pass rusher and run stopper on the line.
OLB Brad Jones - lost for the season, promising pass rusher who played well last year.
CB Al Harris - started season on the PuP list, great well known corner, cut by the Packers.
LB Brady Poppinga - lost for the season, decent backup player
DE Mike Neal - lost for the season, 2nd round draft pick, great potential on the line.
DE Justin Harrell - lost for the season, this happens every year, so no big deal.
DE/DT Ryan Pickett - has been hurt on and off all season, takes up space and stops the run very well.

Clay Matthews missed a game, and Charles Woodson has played with less significant injuries all year. Of that list, the starters were Harris, Barnett, Burnett/Bigby, Jones, and Pickett. So the fact that the Packers defense has allowed the least points in the league (with a shutout on the road against the Jets, no less) has amazed me. To me, it seems that Dom Capers' system is running at maximum efficiency, and the players near-fully understand it. This means it's much like the system of Pittsburgh or New England, where players can be lost and replaced and hardly miss a step. That is a beautiful thing.

Three players have held the defense together though. First and foremost, this monster of a man:

I mean look at him, he's got biceps on top of his biceps. Clay Matthews has been the best defensive player in the NFL so far this year, both statistically and how he impacts the team. He's got 10.5 sacks through 8 games (He missed one, which the Packers lost in Overtime and there was no pass rush), and an interception for a touchdown. He's playing at an unreal level, to the point where I just look for him and his hair during each defensive snap, rather than watching the whole team (at least at first).

Charles Woodson, while not playing at a DPOY level, is still playing very well. He's not as much of a pure cover corner as he might have been (he's beginning to look like he's lost a quarter of a step), but he's still a linebacker in a defensive back's body. He still makes plays all over the field, and when you watch him blitz, he opens up the line for The Claymaker. In coverage, he still plays by committing borderline-Pass Interference each play, so he does get his occasional penalty, but it shows how he's physically there.

B.J. Raji, The Nose Tackle who has began to really play like a First Round Pick. It's hard to really watch him, as he's there to take up space and make the jobs of pass rushers like Clay easier, but the dude still has 2.5 sacks, and the pocket is often collapsed up front whenever QB's want to step up, and that's all B.J.. He's held down the line amidst all the injuries (See Everybody) and has played at a high level.

In addition, CB Tramon Williams has morphed into a true shutdown corner, and DE Cullen Jenkins has played very well on the line and is generating his own Pass Rush, even as a 3-4 Lineman. Backup MLB Desmond Bishop has a Pick-6 against Brett Favre, and 4th string SS Charles Peprah made some very key plays in the shut-out against the Jets. When the Packers have been thin on Defense, the "role players" have stepped up and performed very very well. That's what I mean when I say that the Packers' system is running at a very high efficiency.

I'll also quickly recap the Special Teams: They suck. New Punter Tim Masthay appears to be getting a little better with each game (and his Punts owned the Jets), but otherwise, it's pretty pathetic.

Overall, I'm really looking forward to the second half of the season, with great looking games against the Giants, Falcons, and Patriots.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why Yes I Am Still Here!

Well it's been way too long since I last wrote a post here. I 'd like to start by saying that basically sums up what I saw last night in the Packers - Cowboys game last night. By the end of the game, backup players like QB Matt Flynn were playing, Coach Mike McCarthy was doing everything he could to not run up the score, and they still scored in the 4th. Gotta love it when Dallas is terrible.

Except when, you know, ESPN and other sports networks cover it non-stop. I mean, of the 30 minutes they spent giving their initial reactions to the game, they spent only 5 (at most) talking about the Packers, and they spent the rest talking about what would happen to Wade Phillips. As it turns out, he got fired. Then, when it flipped to Chris Berman and Tom Jackson, they spent 15 minutes talking about Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings. I'd just like to make one point. Dallas has a record of 1-7. Minnesota has a record of 3-5. Both of those teams have played half a seasons worth of football, and combined, their record is 4-12. Why in the world is ESPN spending ridiculous amounts of time talking about two teams with a combined record that was worse than the record of the Buffalo Bills last year? Sure, Dallas is "America's Team", and Brett Favre is, well, Brett Favre, but still. As they love to say so much, C'mon Man!

More importantly though, as the Packers go into their bye week, I'm going to assess their Offense and Defense, and talk about other important things.

So for this post, I'll talk about their offense. There is a video on showing an guy playing Madden, and he scored a touchdown on a 90+ yard pass to Greg Jennings, who broke his leg as soon as he caught the ball. The video is filled with words that shouldn't be repeated, so I won't link it here, but needless to say, it's quite funny, and a decent comparison to the Packer's season so far. They have been hit with injuries everywhere (As I like to call it, New York Mets/Boston Red Sox-itus), but still stand at 6-3. Aaron Rodgers has not been the unstoppable force everyone thought he would be, but he certainly hasn't thrown any of the three losses away. Let me list the injuries though, and what they mean to the team:

RB Ryan Grant - 1200 yard runner last year, lost for the season in the first game of the year.
TE Jermichael Finley - Star Tight End in the making, who likely would have been among the best this year had he not been hurt.
WR Donald Driver - Consistent stud who acts as a security blanket for A-Rod.
TE Andrew Quarless - Rookie TE who was drafted because of a similar skill-set to Finley. He performed well in the two games he started.
RT Mark Tauscher - Solid RT, but loss didn't hurt that much because of strong play of Rookie Bryan Bulaga.

I'm pretty sure TE Donald Lee got hurt at some point too (so let's not make fun of GM Ted Thompson for carrying 4 TE's now). Suffice to say, there have been quite a lot of injuries to significant play makers. I think Grant's injury actually hurts the most, because he kept Defenses honest. Finley's injury hurts a lot too. In light of these injuries, the offense has been a lot more pass-happy, but in this new Passing-League, it's not the end of the world. Should Greg Jennings get injured though (knock on wood), all could be lost. The offense still has performed well, but it has become more of a short passing game, in which the ball is slowly moved down the field, with the occasional deep shot down the field. The Packers do have enough talent to make this work, and once Quarless gets back, they will have multiple weapons. And as much as Grants injury does hurt, his backup, RB Brandon Jackson is an average runner, but he is great in pass protection and the screen game. FB/RB John Kuhn isn't particularly good, but it's really fun to shout his name loud and fast, and I love how the fans yell "KUUUUUUUUUUUUHN" every time he runs.

Bottom line, should A-Rod throw anything like he did against Dallas, the Packers will be in every game they play.