GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 20: Charles Woodson #21 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates with teammate Clay Matthews #52 after Woodson sacked Josh Freeman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 20,2011 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Yesterday we discussed the first key match up of this weekend's game against the San Francisco 49ers, Aldon Smith and Marshall Newhouse. Today let's focus on a match up that should play a bit more in the Packers' favor.
Alex Smith is a player to watch this coming year. For some reason many believe the jury is still out on Smith even though he's been in the league seven years. His believers will come out of the woodwork to tell you about injuries and revolving door at offensive coordinator. My own take is that after about four years you show your spots in the NFL for good or ill. As for the OC's well, head coaches and offensive coordinators tend to get fired if the QB isn't up to snuff. Then again he did have an okay season last year and one good game against the New Orleans Saints so maybe he's a QB who can lead a team to the Super Bowl.....right?
On the Packers side of things, Charles Woodson is a player in transition. He's still a center piece of the Packers defense, but he is just isn't the same force he was a few years ago when he won defensive player of the year. As a result of this slight drop in speed, and a significant drop in talent at the safety position with the parting ways of Nick Collins, Woodson has begun the slow switch to strong safety. He also plays the slot for nickle and dime subpackages so it's not a complete transition, but a transition nonetheless.
What this means is that Woodson is not responsible for shutting down the opposing team's number one receiver and is now loose to cause havoc through out the play at the line and deep in the secondary. This also means that Woodson is free to really do what he does best before the line of scrimmage...mess with the opposing QB's head. He can fake blitz at the line and drop into coverage. He can provide run support like a linebacker while not having it look like the Packers have eight in the box. He can jump short slants. He can blitz when needed. He can just be a free roaming X factor and shake the confidence of who he is facing....and Alex Smith is a QB who can be rattled.
Smith put together a fine performance in 2011. He took care of the football better than Aaron Rodgers (which is saying something) and has thrived in the offensive system put in place by Jim Harbaugh. This year though it looks like the 49ers want to open up the playbook a bit more. The team went out and got lots of new (well old) talent at WR and RB. It seems like they don't just want to be a ground an pound team, but rather stand with some of the high power attacks like Green Bay and New Orleans. That's fine and all, but I just don't buy that Smith is a guy up for that task. Mix in some plays by Woodson early and the Packers defense could be have a very good day against Smith and the 49ers.
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