Sunday, September 12, 2010

Time to get Packer'd up: Packers vs. Eagles preview

For all the fans of the Green Bay Packers throughout the universe, this is the day we have looked forward to since that gut-wrenching overtime playoff loss in Arizona: the start of the 2010 regular season! Oh happy day!!!

And what better way to kick it off than by starting the season in a place where the Packers haven't won since Vince Lombardi was the head coach. No kidding. The last time the Pack won in Philly was Nov. 11, 1962 when the Packers routed the Eagles 49-0. May it be so today. Otherwise, it will be nine straight regular season defeats (10 counting playoffs) in the City of Brotherly Love. But let's not go there.

This is a game the Packers should win. In fact, the current line at the time of the writing of this post has the Pack favored by 3 points. But given that it is the first game and about the only known is that the Packers offense will put up points, there are questions. As followers of this blog and other reports are well aware, for the Packers those questions concern the pass rush, the secondary, and the special teams. That's essentially two-thirds of the team. We just don't know how the switch of B.J. Raji to the nose tackle position and Ryan Pickett to defensive end will work out. We don't know what the departure of Aaron Kampman means long-term. We haven't yet seen how moving LB Clay Matthews to the opposite side will impact his game. And the questions in the secondary? Get outta here! They abound, especially with some key players out and untested rookies being called upon to start and play prominent roles. And special teams? Other than having a definite upgrade at punter there is still no legitimate return threat on either punts or kick offs; using starting receivers and/or defensive backs in those returner roles opens up a whole can of worms should they get injured fulfilling those roles. But as head coach McCarthy pointed out clearly this week when asked about this situation, injuries are part of the game in football and you have to go with the players you have. In other words, it is what it is.

On the Philly side of things, there are also many questions but especially surrounding their new starting QB, Kevin Kolb. The team felt comfortable enough with him to send long-time starter Donovan McNabb to Washington. Kolb's best target as a receiver is DeSean Jackson, who can also do damage as a returner. If the Packers can generate a pass rush, they should have a good day at the office.

Both teams, it should be noted, were great at generating turnovers last year and, generally, taking care of the ball: the Packers created 40 turnovers (1st in the NFL) and the Eagles created 38 (3rd in the league). The Packers also led the league in net turnover margin with 24, while the Eagles had 15 (if memory serves). One of the things coach McCarthy was not happy with this training camp was the number of times the ball apparently was on the ground...that would be a reflection on the offense, of course.

So, the keys today for a Packers win: create a pass rush, contain DeSean Jackson, get a turnover or two, take care of the ball, don't give up any big punt or kick returns (see "contain DeSean Jackson" above), and let Aaron Rodgers work his magic with his talented receiving corps. That will add up to a Packers win.

We're calling this one...Packers 27 - Eagles 20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Ron Kramer, RIP 
Packers' Glory Years tight end Ron Kramer (not to be confused with RG Jerry Kramer) passed away at his home yesterday at age 75. According to the Packers' website, Kramer caught 170 passes for 2,594 yards and 15 touchdowns in 89 games. Kramer's yardage as a tight end ranks second in team history behind only Paul Coffman and 16th in team annals overall. Kramer ranks sixth on the all-time tight ends list in receptions and fifth in touchdowns. He was one of the heroes of the Packers' 1961 championship victory over the NY Giants with two touchdown catches (if memory serves).

Kramer was a three-sport, nine-time letterman at the University of Michigan. He was the Packers' number one draft pick in 1957. It's said on the Packers Hall of Fame site that "Kramer's 6'3", 240-pound size, combined with his speed and athleticism, revolutionized the tight end position." Kramer was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975.

For more on the late great Ron Kramer, click here.