Packers vs. Giants: Defensive Review

Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

Although less painful than the offensive performance, the defense failed to deliver in many ways on Sunday against the Giants.

The Packers gave up 38 points. Three touchdowns through the air and two touchdowns on the ground. Despite the high number of points and disgusting amount of touchdowns, this review is probably not as painful as the offensive review. Maybe it’s because there are more injuries on this side of the ball. Maybe it’s because certain aspects of the defense were better this time. My personal opinion is because as short handed the Packers were on defense this past Sunday they gave up a similar number of points as the previous two times they played the Giants. The first meeting in 2011 it was 35 points, the second it was 37, this time 38. It’s creeping up to be sure, but not as fast as the offense is regressing against this team scoring 38, then 20, then 10. Give the team Clay Matthews and I doubt the Giants score 38. They probably still win, but the score isn’t quite as high. Then again that’s wishful thinking and wild speculation….the dreaming of a sore loser. We need to look at what is real to figure out what happened.

Overall the defense was okay in some areas and awful in others. There are two players that personify how the defense came together, or didn’t come together, namely Dezman Moses and Erik Walden. Moses, the rookie, had an unspectacular night, but was still possibly the best Packer on the field. He was the only one of the outside pass rushers to even get a whiff of pressure on Eli Manning and was able to sack him once. Erik Walden, the veteran, registered one tackle. (ESPN credits him with one QB hit while PFF says Walden was blanked for hurries on the night). For all the talk the struggles of our young talented defensive rookies, it wasn’t them who let the team down. No, the particularly poor performances tended to come from the veterans and established names. The rookies weren’t as good as previous weeks to be sure, but they still were probably the brighter spots of a dreary night.

Pass Defense Review

Key Performances

Eli Manning – 16/30 249 YDS 8.3 AVG 3 TD 114.4 RTG

Hakeem Nicks – 5 REC 77 YDS 15.4 AVG 1 TD 30 LG 13 TGTS

Victor Cruz – 3 REC 36 YDS 12.0 AVG 1 TD 17 LG 6 TGTS

Dezman Moses – 8 TOT 3 Solo 1 Sack 1 TFL 1 Pass defended 1 QB Hit

Davon House – 4 TOT 4 Solo 1 Pass defended

Casey Hayward – 1 Pass defended

There is an interesting occurrence that comes out of this game. Many will probably find it troubling and questionable….a minority may find encouraging in an odd way. Casey Hayward did not start opposite Tramon Williams this week, instead that went to Davon House and Hayward took nickel duties. This meant that Hayward had a significant drop in snaps. The Packers made this choice to match up better with tall and physical Nicks, a receiver who has given the Packers trouble in the past.

What should we make of this decision? On one hand, Hayward is a playmaker…and the main playmaker for the Packers with Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson both injured. It’s not a good idea to leave a player who can change the tenor of the game on the sidelines like that….let’s face it, for as good as House can be he is not going to pick passes and make as many plays as Hayward. On the other hand, House fared better against Nicks than Tramon Williams had in his two previous head to heads. Last year Nicks caught 7 passes for 88 yards and 2 TD’s in the regular season and 7 passes for 165 yards and 2 TD’s in the playoffs. This time it was 5 passes for 77 yards and a TD. It’s not great, but he did not gouge the Packers in the same way as previously. The choice of House over Hayward is not a wash….you are going to agree with it if you like limiting Nicks and disagree if you wanted to see if Hayward could of caught one of those passes, but in the end both are valid viewpoints.

Looking at it individually the young secondary did the best it could. Hayward continued to be very good. He was thrown to twice, nearly picked off the first pass in his direction and second attempt in his direction was nullified by a penalty. Can get much better than that as a corner, although he struggled in tackling like the rest of the defense. House too should receive a generally positive grade for handling Nicks better than those who have gone before him for the Packers.

But what does all this mean for Tramon Williams? Isn’t he suppose to handle the best receiver on the opposing team? Shouldn’t he be making more plays? Or at least getting more attention? Most would agree that Williams is having a better season than last year, but it would be a stretch to say that he’s returned to 2010 form. Moreover, if Sam Shields comes back healthy Williams may be a replaceable element if the Packers need to save money for a slew of big contacts coming down the way (think James Jones, Brad Jones, or maybe some of these young rookies playing above their current pay grade).

The secondary did struggle on Sunday, but it wasn’t the real problem in all of this…..that falls on the front seven and the pass rush. Going in to the Lions game many asked where the pass rush would come from. In that game it came from the inside, and especially Ryan Pickett showing a pass rush unlike he has ever shown in his time in Green Bay. Unsurprisingly he was unable to match this feat on Sunday night. More surprisingly though was the fact that no other defensive lineman was able to get much pressure. B.J. Raji got some push here and there and the rest not so much. Most disappointing of all has to be Mike Neal who did not even register a tackle. This is not good enough guys.

Similarly, the outside pass rush failed on Sunday was well. Yes, Moses did get his sack, which was nice, but the rest of the night was pretty quiet from the outside linebackers. Most disappointing has to be the way Erik Walden and Frank Zombo did basically nothing in the pass rush all night long. Perhaps it goes without saying, but this is not good enough either (in fact it’s so bad it deserves Spanish subtitles just so the point gets across). This game should serve as a model that Moses needs more time on the field once Clay Matthews gets back and these two…especially Walden…deserves less.

Rush Defense Review

Key Performances

Andre Brown – 13 CAR 64 YDS 4.9 AVG 1 TD 16 LG

Ahmad Bradsaw – 10 CAR 58 YDS 5.8 AVG 1 TD 13 LG

A.J. Hawk – 10 TOT 8 Solo

Brad Jones – 8 TOT 6 Solo 1 TFL

It was sickening to watch the Packers defense get shredded up the middle. Whether it was watching Hawk get absorbed by blockers time and time again, or seeing Jerel Worthy get knocked on his ass, the end result was the same….disgust. The Packer defense had a tackling problem that start with the line but then extended all the way to the Safeties (telling stat: Morgan Burnett had 8 total tackles on the night but only 3 solo tackles). Hawk seemed to just struggle all night long. He rarely was able to get penetration and most of his tackles came after the runner had gotten a good amount of yards.

While the Packers defensive lineman have not been great at consistently pushing the pocket, they have been good at consistently shutting down the running lanes. This did not happen. As eluded to above, Picket and Worthy both were pushed around on Sunday night. This only got worse once C.J. Wilson, another one of the key run stoppers for the Packers, left with an injury. Hopefully this is a down night for these three.

Special Teams – Punting

Key Performances

Tim Masthay – 4 Punts 154 YDS 38.5 AVG 0 Inside 20 49 LG

Giants return men – 2 PR 0 YDS

The disappointments of the night even extended to the punting game. While the coverage units were good in not allowing any yards, and Masthay had a fine average, the 0 punts inside the 20 yard line is a disappointment. This has been Masthay’s specialty this year, but it was not to be on Sunday night. Poor movement from the offense probably played a role as well.

Special Teams – Kick Off Coverage

Key Performances

Giant Returners – 3 KR 72 YDS 24.0 AVG 28 LG

Another solid night from these units with no major returns allowed.

Overview

The largest problem facing the defense against the Giants was a lack of a pass rush. Having Clay Matthews would certainly help a great deal, but the Packers need to find a consistent secondary pass rushing threat to pair with Matthews. The game against the Lions covered up this need by an impressive yet unexpected performance. This game though is telling one….and it’s the result most of us feared. No one on the defense was able to step up, and may parts of the pass rush outright failed. Until the Packers find that secondary threat like Cullen Jenkins was in 2010 or Nick Perry was this year until he went down, then expect the defense to struggle….especially against the top end QB’s in the league.

So the good news is that things should get better as key players get healthy. The bad news is that there is still some soul searching left for this unit if it is to become a Super Bowl quality defense.

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