Games like the one against the Cardinals are interesting to review and breakdown. On one hand things went well. The offense put up points and moved the ball when they needed to, especially on third down. Oh, and there was a running game as well which is always nice to see. On the other hand Rodgers was under 50% for his passes and threw an interception. James Starks fumbled a ball which Rodgers recovered in an almost reckless fashion. Receivers just seemed to drop the ball too many times for comfort as well.
It was good.
It was sloppy.
Maybe the good news to take out of it all is that there is room for improvement…especially when some of the top skill players get healthy again.
Passing Game Review
Aaron Rodgers – 14/30 218 YDS 7.3 AVG 4 TD 1 INT 96.9 RTG
James Jones – 4 REC 61 YDS 1 TD 28 LG 7 TGTS
Randall Cobb – 3 REC 37 YDS 12.3 AVG 2 TD 21 LG 9 TGTS
Do you laud Rodgers for throwing four touchdowns or get frustrated that his competition percentage was so low? Are you relieved that Jones and Cobb have been such a dynamic pair for the Packers while Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings have been hurt, or do you pull your hair out because they caught so few of the passes targeted toward them?
These are the questions that plague this review. Rodgers had his share of wild throws, but the receivers also did not catch everything their way either. The biggest culprit of drops this week was Donald Driver who seems to have forgotten how to catch a pass. And once again Jermichael Finley was an afterthought in the offense. It’s nature to come to the conclusion that his lot now, but it’s still frustrating when he has all the talent necessary to be a game changing tight end yet just is not for whatever reason.
The good news is that Jarrett Boykin continues to grow and looks like an acceptable possession receiver. Alex Green continues to impress in screen passes and swing out passes. He is even pretty good at picking up the blitz considering it’s only his second year and had minimal playing time last year. It’s even good to see that Tom Crabtree is more than a blocking tight end and has the ability to take it to the house if need be. Pretty soon the dynamic playmakers on this offense are going to be tight ends as injuries mount up and guys like Crabtree and D.J. Williams continue catching the ball. Who knows, if Quarless can come back and contribute then things could get interesting at the tight end spot.
Of course the bad news is that the performance of the last two weeks is not good enough if the Packers are going to make noise down the stretch. The NFC North is looking pretty good right now (okay maybe not the Vikings) and all our division opponent stand in front of us. The Packers will need to get more consistency on offense, and especially the passing game, if we are going to make it to the playoffs.
Running Game Review
James Starks – 17 CAR 61 YDS 3.6 AVG 14 LG 1 Fumble
Alex Green – 11 CAR 53 YDS 4.8 AVG 21 LG
Randall Cobb – 3 CAR 29 YDS 9.7 AVG 12 LG
It was good to see James Starks run the ball again and even better to see him run the ball effectively. What’s interesting is what the numbers tell us. There is a common perception that Starks is a better runner than Green at this point. That may be true, but this week’s numbers don’t show that. Green had a higher average and broke the longest run of the day (not counting Rodgers’ scrambles). More to the point, in the game threads when the Packers needed a third and one many screamed for Starks …especially after Green failed to pick up a first. Then the Packers were in that situation again and did go to Starks…and he didn’t get it.
As for those third and shorts, well there are two things to keep in mind. First, the Packers miss John Kuhn. Whether he was running or blocking, Kuhn was essential to those plays. Without him there aren’t many good options to pick that play up no matter what play is called. Second, I heard a comment from Jason Wilde in one of the post game shows that he spoke to Evan Dietrich-Smith after the game about those plays. It seems EDS told Wilde that the plan going into the week was for EDS to check in as an extra blocker on those third and shorts to try and get an extra push. When Bulaga went down that plan went out the window. In the end, the Packers need to get Kuhn back and shore up the blocking to get that little bit of push in order to convert those third and inches.
When we take a step back it seems all of the Packer running backs seem to be cut from the same cloth, and as a result they all seem basically the same. Green does not look much better than Starks and vice versa. The good news of this is that it appears that these two can work well as a tandem, especially with Green shining in the passing game. Hopefully a one-two punch of Green and Starks can keep the running game going until Cedric Benson returns from injury.
It should also be noted that the move of T.J. Lang may also help the running game. Bryan Bulaga has been having a down year, and the movement of Lang seemed to infuse life into the line. It may be fool’s gold, but right now the line did look improved with Lang out on the end. Remember there was a great debate about where Lang would fit, right tackle or left guard. The rise of Bulaga at that position in 2010 (where he struggled but improved each week) and 2011 (where Bulaga dominated) seemed to have that settled. If Lang thrives out there next to his buddy Josh Sitton where does that leave the Packers? Especially if they can start running the ball and running a four minute offense….
Special Teams Review – Field Goal Kicking
Mason Crosbry – 1/2 Miss 44 yard. Made 33 yard.
Something is off with Crosby, which is troubling. The toughest part may just be that the Packers are struck with him for the time being. He’s good enough and shown enough that just cutting him now for a guy off the street would probably cause more harm than good. He’s struggling enough that he could quickly become a liability. That’s not a good place to be in with a placekicker.
This has probably been said too much already, but the bye week has come at a good time for the Packers. The offense has been limping along well enough considering the ravaged receiving corp and missing Cedric Benson. Better news is that Jordy Nelson sounds fine and should be ready after the break. Greg Jennings won’t be too far behind him either once his post-op healing time is finished up (which should be in time for the Lions game or just afterwards). These returning players will be needed as the Packers need to step up their offense and find more consistency with oh so important division games coming up on the horizon.