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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

State of the Packers

by Mark Quarderer

The Packers are 1-5 right now heading into their game with Cincinnati, and given their record, their injury status, and their schedule I think it's pretty obvious that were looking at not having a very good record this season. I think it was Tomm Mixx, a Packer historian of some note, who said that in the last 50 years the Packers have gotten off to an 0-4 start four different times and every time they've ended up with 4 wins.

That sounds about right to me. Put me down for a 4-12 season and the 4th overall draft pick in the 2006 draft.

Although some people will make claims to the contrary, the fact is that nobody could have really foreseen a collapse of this magnitude. This was the #1 offense in the NFC in 2004 but the injuries to Javon Walker and Ahman Green.....and their backups, Murphy and Davenport.....plus the rapid decline of Flanagan and Henderson, combined with the introduction of two new guards has rendered this offense pretty anemic.

The NFL is a league of injuries, and the injured don't win. Give us a healthy Walker, a healthy Green, a healthy Murphy and Ferguson and this team would have won at least 8 games. But that's all coulda-shoulda-woulda at this point. The reality is that our running game isn't going to be very good for the remainder of the year, we're going to be kind of one dimensional, Driver is going to face constant double teams and our TEs aren't going to be able to pick up much of the slack because teams won't respect the play action.

From here on out, folks, points are going to be hard to come by. Not only do we just not have the horses but we're going to run into some of the better defensive teams in the NFL from here on out: Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore, the Bears (twice). The fat stats that we rolled up by crushing the hapless Saints will melt away like pounds on the grapefruit diet and by the end of the season we'll see this offense near the bottom of the conference in quite a few of the important statistical categories.

Defensively, there was some early giddiness about what Mr. Bates has accomplished with threads celebrating our #9 defensive ranking, but wiser heads were urging caution. This defensive unit hadn't played a top flight offense and the best quarterback they'd faced, Jake Delhomme, had put 32 on the board. Last Sunday, Daunte Culpepper put 23 on them in one half.

And now, we've got Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Michael Vick, Culpepper again, and Donovan McNabb coming up. These are good quarterbacks that are running solid offenses and I'd be surprised if every one of these teams doesn't go over 20 on us.......maybe even a couple will go over 30.

This is not an indictment of the defense. They've actually played pretty well against the run this year and they've improved in the area of limiting big plays. But we're still getting killed in the area in front of the safeties, our linebackers just aren't making plays, and the guys we put out on the field in the nickel and dime packages just aren't real good and that's part of the reason we're giving up so many third and long conversions.

Additionally, now that the offense is going to have trouble staying on the field and even moving the ball, I'd suspect that we'll start losing time of possession and field position battles. All this will combine to put added stress on a defense that's really only average and will make it appear as though it isn't even as good as that

Our special teams can only be described as disappointing. We've given up long returns, missed field goals, and our blocking on returns is just not very good. I was an early fan of Coach Bonamego but I'm not so certain anymore.


So that's where we are. Where are we headed and what should be done?

Obviously, we need to develop our young talent. Play Underwood in spots. Play Hawkins in spots. Continue with the Whitticker experiment until it's clear it isn't working. Play Wells instead of Flanagan. Put Rodgers in for a series or two every game to get him used to the speed of the game. It's very possible he'll be our starting QB next year and if he is, we should use this season to try to get him as ready as we can. These people who insist that the best way to develop a rookie QB is to not let him anywhere near a game are just wrong. It's like insisting that the best way to learn how to screw is to watch film and take notes but under no circumstances should you be allowed anywhere near an actual girl. biggrin.gif

Unless we enjoy taking huge beatings, I'd kind of take the air out of the ball a little and try to keep the clock moving. Tell your skill position guys to stay in bounds. Defensively, I'd play the nickel as our base and encourage teams to run instead of passing. I mean, whether you bleed to death slowly or quickly.......you're still bleeding to death. I just don't like to see us losing by 30 points.

I think we're going to have to pass on first down a lot. It's the best down to pass on and it's our best chance of getting a few first downs and maybe scoring a point or two. Since our running game isn't going to be much of a threat to anyone, I'd think we'd go with a lot of empty backfield stuff and dare people to try to get to Favre before he gets rid of the ball to an open guy.

I'm really not expecting much out of this team except that they play hard and with pride. I think that we can be pretty competitive again next year if we get people back healthy, have a good draft, and make a few solid moves in free agency. I also think we need a change at the Head Coach position but that's a subject for another post.

Anyway.....that's the view from the pool..........

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