October 5, 2012

Green Bay Packers Quarter Season Review –The Great, Good, Bad and Ugly

Through four games of the 2012-13 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers have underwhelmed and under-performed  For a team whose identity is high-powered offense punctuated by big plays and fueled by rhythm, it’s no surprise they've lost two games and nearly a third. That’s not to say there haven’t been positives and impressive signs. Below I’ll review everything from embarrassing to surprising about the Green Bay Packers so far this season.

The Ugly
·         No offensive rhythm: It’s been difficult for the Packers to string together long drives and consistent first downs. They've had trouble with negative plays which has killed their ability to diversify play-calling. The Packers need to work toward third-and-short, which will help drives last longer and make the offense more productive in general.

·         Lack of big plays: The Packers lose the dangerous ability to strike at any time without the big play. Defenses are adjusting to their schemes and their offensive line has been below average. Aaron Rodgers has completed just 6-of-21 (25 percent) of his passes more than 10 yards down field this season, the fifth-lowest rate in the NFL.

The Bad
·         Play calling/coaching: Adaptability. Mike McCarthy should look up that term in the dictionary and apply it to his game-planning. Coming off a season where the Packers NEVER played a top-ten defense, McCarthy has far too much confidence in his offensive squad this year. His stubborn pass-happy play calling in Seattle and even against New Orleans, put his players in a tough spot on offense. Benson has showed the ability to run with power, purpose and productivity therefore McCarthy needs to run the ball early and often; it can only make the passing game more dangerous.
·         Inability to force turnovers: Outside of the Bears game, Green Bay has struggled to force turnovers and convert them into game-changing plays. It’s interesting that the Packers have put great pressure on and sacked the QB in almost every game, but it hasn't always meant turnovers. The number of rookies on the defense can explain this drop off and they’ll hopefully learn better positions to be in to as the season progresses.  

The Good
·         Running game: Benson is on pace for a 900+ yard season, but more importantly he’s given the Packers balance and power between the tackles. Nothing special or extraordinary, but Green Bay doesn’t need that in the backfield. They need someone who can pick up 3rd-and-shorts, eat time off the clock at ends of games and hold onto the ball; he’s proven successful in this capacity thus far.
·         Aaron Rodgers: Clearly Rodgers hasn't been great, but he’s worked through offensive line woes and made the big play when it has been needed. We've seen him miss an unusual amount of throws and throw a few unnecessary interceptions, but he’s also made tough throws and been pretty efficient. One thing Rodgers could do better is be more slippery in the pocket and use his feet to escape a little more. With defense playing more coverage defense, he won’t always be able to find open receivers.

The Great
·         Defensive intensity:  It must be the vigor and determination of the rookies, combined with the steadiness of the veterans that have made the defense a high-octane force to begin the season. Surely, they regressed against New Orleans but otherwise have impressed and displayed the ability to cover, tackle and bring pressure. As they play together as a unit more, communication issues (as experienced against New Orleans), will clear up and they’ll become more consistent.
·         Randall Cobb: Number 18 is a natural-born play maker  Already with a kick-off return for a touchdown and a few 6+ catch games, Cobb has the ability to score every time he touches the ball and has invigorated the offense. McCarthy has proved he trusts Cobb handling the ball, lining him up in the back field and event handing the ball off to him a few times. While it’s smart to only use Cobb in unorthodox situations sparingly, Green Bay should call more of these plays for Cobb.