Monday, September 13, 2010

The Packers' win from the day after

In the light of day, the day after the Green Bay Packers victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, a few observations. Nothing original. Just one person's take on what went down in Philly.
  • Special teams played far better than anyone expected. Jordy Nelson had some great returns and the coverage units kept Eagles returner DeSean Jackson in check for the most part. Punter Tim Masthay performed well in his debut. And K Mason Crosby set a team-record with a 56-yard field goal. He was long and accurate. Good to see. May all continue to perform at this level throughout the season.
  • Aaron Rodgers had a not-so-great game. He was 19-31 for 188 yards. Yes, he threw a couple TD passes and when he was on he was on. But he started poorly and had two picks, one on a deflection and another on a ball that appeared to sail on him and missed his receiver badly. Chalk it up to an abberation.
  • The offensive line...well, Rodgers was under pressure especially early in the game. For a while, the O-line was looking like what we saw early last season. There were instances where our two old tackles indeed looked old. I recall one instance where both Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher got beat on the same play. It seemed as if they picked up their protection in the second half. We can only hope they play at that level the rest of the season.
  • The defensive Mike McCarthy had decided to have only four down lineman active for the game because of the scheme they thought they'd be running against Eagles QB Kevin Kolb; rookies Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson were not available. And that made things especially challenging when a couple things happened: Kolb left the game with a concussion sustained on a tackle by LB Clay Matthews (more on Mr. Matthews in a bit) and Michael Vick and his legs entered the game; and Cullen Jenkins sustained a broken hand on the first defensive series and had to play the balance of the game one-handed after being fitted with a club, and the oft-injured back up DE Justin Harrell sustained a left knee injury blocking on Crosby's first field goal of 49 yards. So, for a while that meant the entire defensive line consisted of B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett. The two heavyweights, to their credit, did a fantastic job all things considered. Harrell, by the way, has been placed on the injured reserve list (yes, again) and is done for the year (yes, again). As the TV crew noted during the game, Harrell had only played in 14 games during his prior three years with the team. At what point, a reasonable fan must ask -- and has asked before -- do you just reach an injury settlement with the young man and move on? Clearly, he's going to have to be replaced by either a practice squad player, a free agent or trade. (We will leave aside the running discussion as to whether Harrell should have been a #16 draft pick to begin with...and, by the way, the answer is "No!")
  • Linebackers and secondary...Could Clay Matthews possibly do any more than he did yesterday? Man! He appeared to be operating at an entirely different level of speed and power. Fantastic. On the flip side, because of the scheme the Packers planned on running and then had to run with Vick in the game, it turns out that LB A.J. Hawk never played a down from scrimmage. They typically always remove him on passing downs and because the Pack played a nickel/dime defense most of the day, Brandon Chillar, Brad Jones and even undrafted rookie LB Frank Zombo (who had a sack, by the way!) got the reps. Hawk has seemingly disappeared from the defense. Perhaps he could be packaged and traded for either a defensive lineman or a running back (where depth was a concern going into the season and is even more so now...more on that in a minute). The secondary generally held up well. Charles Woodson was, as usual, constantly around the ball. Tramon Williams held up well as did, for the most part, rookies Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields. Shields got turned around and burned on one TD pass and looked very much like a rookie on that play. But all in all, seemed to hold his own for the most part.
  • The running game...just when it looked as if that might come around, Ryan Grant left the game with an ankle sprain. Brandon Jackson had some nice runs taking the bulk of the carries after Grant's departure. And FB/RB John Kuhn had a couple powerful runs, including a TD. Coach McCarthy said in his press conference today that Grant will not play in the upcoming game against the Bills. Jackson will be the featured back with Kuhn as the back up. But for all those fans who wanted the Packers to have more depth at running back, yep, we were right. That doesn't get us anywhere, but we were right. Will Ted Thompson do anything to address the situation? It would be a surprise if he did. But that's what makes surprises surprises, right? Let us pray...
Bottom line is that this was a statement game, if there can be such a thing in only the first game of the season. We knew the offense would put up points; not really an area of concern. Yet, this was a game where the offense, particularly Aaron Rodgers, wasn't especially sharp. They still put up 27 points. The areas that were of concern had to do with the defense and special teams, both of which really helped carry the day yesterday. It's a good sign.

For now, let's hope that the injuries to Grant and Jenkins don't present problems throughout the season. Let's wish Justin Harrell well, as it's obvious the young man worked hard to get back on the field despite his injury history. But let's also hope Ted Thompson makes a few moves to add to the D-line and running back depth before they truly become positions of desperation.

Oh...did I mention that I predicted the actual final score of 27-20? (Yeah, I know...enough already!)