Close your eyes for a moment and flashback to 2009, specifically the state of the Packers offensive line. That year we were all cautiously optimistic about a young up and coming tackle named Allen Barbre. He looked the part and had a few years developing in the system, so the coaching staff and fans were expecting him to make the next jump and be ready for action. He wasn't. Early in the year the Bears torched him and Aaron Rodgers was sacked way too many times. Then on top of that Chad Clifton went down and there was no real backup option at left tackle. Darryn Collledge was moved over from his left guard spot to try and keep things together....but an a pounding from Jared Allen of the Vikings caused Colledge to go back to his guard spot and T.J. Lang to try and hold things together at left tackle. In the big picture, the Packers offense couldn't really get going and Rodgers ran for his life until Clifton got healthy and the Packers brought back Mark Tauscher to play right tackle.
This year it looks like something similar is happening with the offensive line. For the third week in a row the offensive line has given up way too many sacks. First it was three sacks, then it was five, and this past week it was nine. The more troubling part is that it's not just one tackle that's the problem; like 2009, it's both tackles that are struggling out there. Bryan Bulaga was taken to task in the first half by Bruce Irvin. Irvin has shown promise as a pass rusher, but I'm not letting Bulaga off the hook. He is supposed to be one of the better right tackles in football and that can't happen if he is to live up to his reputation. On the other side, and arguably the more important side, Marshall Newhouse continues to struggle. At this point it's starting to look like he is not a starting caliber left tackle at the moment, but unfortunately he's our only option for the foreseeable future.
What does all this mean? Well, it means that the Packers offense may need to change. No more long developing passes. No more deep bombs. More shorter routes and challenging the receivers to make plays. Or, there's another option in all of this.....a more blasphemous option.....
Maybe the offense won't be based around Aaron Rodgers anymore. Maybe it needs to be based around Cedric Benson.
A funny thing has happened with the replacement refs so far this year, they have missed calls. Many were expecting the call most often missed would be holding. Well, plenty of holding calls have been missed, but possibly the most missed call has been illegal contact downfield. This means that defensive backs can basically mug a receiver up until the ball is in the area when the penalty shifts to defensive pass interference (then if you breathe on the guy, or if he touches you, it's a penalty on the defense - ask Sam Shields). For an offense based on quickness and precision this has disrupted the tempo the Packers are used to. Instead success has been found with running the football and short simple passes. This means more tight end play, more emphasis on running backs, and less downfield strikes. That's an offense that needs more emphasis on power running and the skills that Benson brings to the table than Rodgers.
The good news is though that reports are coming in that the real refs are coming back so such drastic actions don't need to be taken. Hopefully the real refs will help the league get back to the high flying aerial assault that it has been the last few years. More to the point, we will probably see guys like Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady start out performing Christian Ponder, Matt Ryan, and Alex Smith again.....you know sanity being restored to the league.
The bottom line of a review for the offense is that a rhythm and tempo need to be found. In the second half that was found with short passes and running the ball more. This is a good plan as long as we have the replacements, but once the real guys get back then the old offense should work again.........well.....as long as the tackles can hold up.
Special Teams Review: Kicking and Returning
Mason Crosby is still pretty darn good. He made his field goals again on Monday. No real complaints there.