Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Week 6 of 2010 - Packers/Dolphins Review

Another week, another overtime loss. With the Green Bay Packers' overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy halted his 6 game home winning streak while extending his overtime losing streak to 6 games.

Last week not only did the Packers lose in overtime to the Redskins, they lost a number of key players to serious injuries. The only silver lining to this week's overtime loss to the Dolphins is that besides Brady Poppinga, no new names were added to the injury list. That said, most of the reason that few new names were added to the injury list was that a ton of players (Clay Matthews, Ryan Pickett, Jermichael Finley, Mark Tauscher, Mike Neal, and Brandon Chillar) were held out of the Packers/Dolphins game due to injury.

With defensive linemen Ryan Pickett and Mike Neal out, the Packers were so thin along the defensive line that they re-signed defensive linemen Michael Montgomery. Montgomery took Nick Barnett's roster spot when Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson decided to place Barnett on injured reserve.

Quick side note, Montgomery and suspended Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly were teammates at Texas A&M. Both guys have been working out together the last six weeks in Houston while being unemployed for different reasons. Jolly is suspended for the entire 2010 NFL season by the league while Montgomery is just not that good. Montgomery spent training camp with the Minnesota Vikings, so the most he can offer the Packers in terms of value is a copy of the Vikings play book at this point.

Anyhow, back to the Packers/Dolphins game. The Packers were forced to start C.J. Wilson in place of Ryan Pickett. You read that correctly, C.J. Wilson. That meant the healthy Packers defensive linemen against the Dolphins were B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins, C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn, and Mike Montgomery. The Packers were so thin at defensive line that they inserted back-up offensive lineman T.J. Lang on a few plays on defense.

With the Packers thin along the defensive line, the two-headed running back monster of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams got a bunch of carries. The Dolphins are proof that the two-back system can work in the NFL. Even if Packers running back Ryan Grant was healthy, having another quality running back would help the Packers immensely. With Ryan Grant out for the season, Thompson's decision not to trade for another running back looks downright foolish now. Let's say Marshawn Lynch was in fact a head case (despite rumors that Thompson was gunning for Lynch even before Grant got injured) then take a chance on another guy. The Cleveland Browns recently traded running back Jerome Harrison to the Philadelphia Eagles for running back Mike Bell. Are you trying to tell me Harrison was not available for a late draft pick?

Not only were the Packers thin at defensive line but All Pro in the making outside linebacker Clay Matthews (and his league leading 8.5 sacks) didn't play either, so the Packers struggled to create any pass rush. That gave Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne plenty of time to sit in the pocket and locate wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

Another quick side note, the Dolphins would be much worse off if Ted Thompson picked the right quarterback in the 2008 NFL Draft. For those of you that don't remember, Thompson picked Lousiville quarterback Brian Brohm one pick ahead of when the Miami Dolphins selected Michigan quarterback Chad Henne. As we all know by now, Brohm was cut last year in favor of quarterback Matt Flynn. That lead to me writing a post about whether Justin Harrell or Brian Brohm was Ted Thompson's worst draft pick. For a guy that "builds through the draft", Harrell and Brohm are two huge black marks on the resume for Thompson.

Let's leave those horrible personnel decisions and get back to the painful Packers/Dolphins game. Dolphins pass rusher Cameron Wake was a one man wrecking crew against the Packers. Wake tormented rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga all game. Despite Wake having his way with Bulaga, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy refused to give Bulaga any help. As a result, Wake and Company sacked Rodgers 5 times and hit Rodgers 10 times. May be it is because Rodgers is getting hit more than he wants (although that was the case the first half of last year as well) but Rodgers been just a little off this year compared to last year. Through 6 games this year, Rodgers has thrown 10 TDs and 7 INTs. Through 6 games last year, Rodgers threw 11 TDs and 2 INTs.

Last year third down was a productive down for the Packers, but this year it has been a completely different story. Against the Dolphins the Packers only converted 3 of 13 on third down after a 2 of 13 performance on third down against the Redskins. Aaron Rodgers was automatic on third down last year, but this year things have been different on third down for Rodgers. Take a look at the stats:
- 2009: completed 67.5% of his passes, throwing 14 TDs and 0 INTs for a 133.5 passer rating.
- 2010: completed 53.5% of his passes, throwing 4 TDs and 4 INTs for a 65.6 passer rating.

Finally Packer punter Tim Masthay struggled again. In fact, 2010 Packer punter Tim Masthay has worse numbers so far this year then the horrendous Jeremy Kapinos did in 2009. The Packers need to invest in a quality veteran punter and special teams coach soon, otherwise it will be more of the same out of Tim Masthay and Shawn Slocum.

Despite all the negative things said above, there were a few positive things that came out of the Packers/Dolphins game. For one thing, Greg Jennings and Aaron Rodgers finally got on the same page. That was sparked by the Rodgers/Jennings 86-yard touchdown hook-up. On that play, Jennings beat Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis, one of the up and coming cornerbacks in the NFL.

Also the Packers have amassed a little less than 800 yards of offense in their last two games but only have 33 points and 2 losses to show for that. According to most professional bettors (I know that sounds like an oxymoron), yards are a much better indicator of a team's ability than points so may be things are looking up...

At the start of the season the Green Bay Packers were picked by a lot of pundits to win the Super Bowl. A ton of serious injuries (18 players have missed at least 1 game) later the Packers are 3-3 and the Super Bowl talk has come to a screeching halt. Let me play the optimist for a second. At 3-3, the Packers are only 1 game out of first place. I am convinced that 9-7 (may be even 8-8) will get you into the playoffs in the NFC this year so there is no reason to hit the panic button yet. Plus, the Packers are a few small breaks away from being 6-0. Lets turn each of the Packers' 3 losses into a win.

Packers/Bears Game: If James Jones holds onto the ball at the end of the Packers/Bears Monday Night game, the Packers most likely move down the field and score to win the game. Instead, the Bears got the ball back and Mike McCarthy inexplicably let the Bears run the clock out and kick a field goal with only a few seconds left in the game to win.

Packers/Redskins Game: If Mason Crosby makes either of the two (should have been three) field goals he missed against the Redskins, the Packers win that game. I put three in parenthesis because McCarthy should have attempted a field goal when it was 4th and goal from the 1 yard line up 7-0 against the Redskins. Any more points via Crosby's foot and the Packers win in regulation instead of losing in overtime to the Redskins.

Packers/Dolphins Game: If the referees eat the flag, as they should have, with the Dolphins punting to the Packers mid-way through the 4th quarter then the Packers probably win that game. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out in a great blog post, the Packers got absolutely hosed on the Robert Francois special teams penalty.

See how I turned the 2010 Green Bay Packers' record from 3-3 to 6-0 with a few minor tweaks? Unfortunately, it is the little things that usually decide whether a team wins or loses a close game. Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy, and Company have struggled to do those little things in close games which is why the Packers are 3-3 instead of 6-0. Just to drive the point home, in 39 career starts Aaron Rodgers is 1-11 in games decided by 4 points or less and 0-5 in overtime games. Mike McCarthy is 4-13 in games decided by 4 points or less and 1-6 in overtime games. Those are downright horrible stats, so what do the Packers need to do to fix it?

Despite all the injury troubles the 2010 Green Bay Packers have gone through, Thompson made only one trade before the NFL trade deadline. Not that it would matter for the Packers but isn't it crazy that the NFL trade deadline is so early in the season? I understand that the NFL does not want teams to trade away players for future draft picks if their season is going down the drain but the NFL trade deadline should be at least a few weeks later in the season. Players just became eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list so many NFL rosters are in flux with no ability to add players via trade.

Back to Thompson's one trade. Immediately following the loss to the Dolphins, Thompson sent a conditional 7th round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for safety Anthony Smith. Some will remember that Thompson cut Smith in favor of the perpetually disappointing safety Aaron Rouse at the end of the 2009 preseason. Throughout 2009 Thompson tried to reacquire Smith via the waiver wire, but was unsuccessful on two occasions. Well Thompson finally got Smith back, but is that enough to keep the Packers in the playoff picture?

Here is a little unsolicited advice for Ted Thompson. This week cornerback Al Harris, safety Atari Bigby, and running back James Starks are eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list. That means Thompson has to activate, cut, or place on injured reserve the aforementioned players in the next three weeks.

Of the three players, Al Harris should be put on the active roster immediately. Yes Harris is only 11 months removed from a serious knee injury but he is a physical freak. The Packers are in need of another physical freak this weekend when the face Brett Favre, Randy Moss, and the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football in Lambeau Field. As a result of activating Harris, Thompson will have to cut a player from the 53-man roster. Thompson should cut offensive line prospect Nick McDonald. If McDonald clears waivers, put him on the practice squad where he should have been from the start of the season.

With the recent re-acquisition of Anthony Smith, Thompson can take his time with Atari Bigby. If Bigby is ready to play significant snaps this weekend then put Bigby on the active roster immediately. Thompson should cut fullback Quinn Johnson in favor of Bigby if that is the case.

Thompson still does not know what he has with the current running backs on the roster so there is no rush (no pun intended) to add rookie James Starks to the active roster right away. Plus, Starks has not played a live snap of football in over two years so the Packers should ease Starks back into the fold.

Finally Thompson has to buck his trend and sign a couple free agents that can contribute immediately. First, Thompson should sign a veteran free agent outside linebacker (i.e. Adalius Thomas) in place of rookie outside linebacker Robert Francois. Next, Thompson should sign a veteran middle linebacker (i.e. Abdul Hodge) in place of rookie middle linebacker Maurice Simpkins. After that, if Brady Poppinga has to go on injured reserve, Thompson should sign recently released (from the Detroit Lions) tight end/linebacker Spencer Havner for Havner's versatility alone. Finally, Thompson should sign a dedicated return man because Jordy Nelson/Pat Lee on kickoff returns is not working and Tramon Williams on punt returns is not worth the injury risk.

The advice is free for now, I can only hope that Thompson follows at least a few of the suggestions. Good luck to the Packers this weekend on Sunday Night Football against Brett Favre and the Vikings at Lambeau Field. I am going to the game so look for my notes next week on the blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment