I stand before you ready to admit my shame. On Sunday night, I acted and thought like a Browns fan.
During Sunday night’s loss – a game that felt out of reach from the opening kick – I found myself daydreaming about just how high of a draft pick the Packers could have, and who could potentially coach the team if McCarthy were relieved of his post. It was a heinous act of treason only the Cleveland-ist of fans would even consider.
I have grown up watching the Packers under two head coaches – Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy. Green Bay has won 63% of their games since Sherman was hired in 2000. Since McCarthy joined the Packers in 2006, they have the second-largest margin of victory in the NFL.
It’s been a good time to be a fan of the Packers. Now, with the team square in the middle of unfamiliar, uncertain territory, I encourage you to let the offseason dreaming happen in the offseason and enjoy watching Green Bay on Sundays (and this upcoming Monday).
Evan “Tex” Western
Jared Cook’s performance on Sunday night in Washington was near-perfect microcosm of his NFL career. The good: Cook was every bit the field-stretcher that he was expected to be. He showed his great athleticism and big-play ability on a couple of gorgeous over-the-shoulder-catches and even found the end zone on a short pass. For most of the game, he was a matchup nightmare for Washington’s safeties, and he easily was the Packers’ best deep threat.
Then there’s the bad. Cook caught just six of 11 targets, good for just under 55%. On a wide-open route in the end zone, he failed to turn his head and look for the football, which hit him where his hands should have been and fell incomplete. Then, with the Packers offense humming and picking up big chunks of yardage, he failed to fully secure the football after getting a first down, and Josh Norman punched it out. Washington recovered and stuck a knife in the Packers’ defense with a long run and another touchdown to put the contest out of reach.
There’s no question that Cook’s presence made the Packers’ offense better for most of the game on Sunday. However, it is these types of mistakes that have made him such a whipping boy for fans of the Titans and Rams throughout his career. Still, I hope we see him get twice the snaps as Richard Rodgers moving forward, as he did in this game. Are these mistakes correctable? I’d like to find out.
Jason B. Hirschhorn
With Packers fans shifting their attention more and more to next season, perhaps the draft can offer some solace, especially at the tight end position. Unlike in recent years where the options at the position included few if any true field-tilters, 2017 could have as many as five potential stars.
Chief among the group ranks Alabama's O.J. Howard, the fleet-footed and massive tight end from Alabama. Though sparsely used by the Tide, Howard runs crisp routes and opens up the entire field like few prospects of recent vintage. He also possesses legitimate blocking ability, an increasingly rare trait for elite tight ends.
Clemson's Jordan Leggett offers similar athletic traits. While he doesn't block well at this point in his development -- the Tigers rarely even ask him to -- he could step in immediately as a featured receiver. The same holds true for Virginia Tech's Bucky Hodges if he declares.
Packers fans based in Wisconsin have likely already grown familiar with Jake Butt, the do-it-all tight end from Michigan. Butt doesn't affect the geometry of opposing defenses in the way others in his class can, but he could prove a boon to both the passing and running games giving his skill set.
The fifth and perhaps more polarizing of the prospects, Evan Engram could legitimately rank as a first-round prospect for some teams and a Day 3 option for others due to his size (6-foot-3, 230 pounds). However, for teams in need of a "big slot" pass catcher à la Jordan Reed, Engram could intrigue.
Washington was clearly better than the Packers, especially on offense, but Washington is hardly an elite opponent. They were, in many ways, like a lot of teams who recently beat the Packers, with a good offense featuring Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, D-Jax, Pierre Garcon, a nice power runner in Robert Kelley and a scat back in Chris Thompson, and a sorry defense. Washington can put up points, but can’t stop much off anyone, and I have seen a few people out there suggesting that the offense is fine, because they’re putting up points. Here is a list of recent Packer opponents, the number of points the Packers scored against them, and that team’s defensive DVOA:
TEAM: POINTS SCORED, DVOA
- CHI: 26, 16th
- ATL: 32, 26th
- IND: 26, 31st
- TEN: 25, 27th
- WAS: 24, 21st
So, while the Packers have averaged 26.6 points per game over their last 5 contests, they have also faced on average the 24th-best defense. Scoring 3 touchdowns a game against bad defenses is nothing to be proud of. The defense is the obvious weak link on the team, but we should not skate over the fact that just about everything is broken.
Several different media sources have pointed out that the Packers haven’t seen a four game stretch this terrible since 1953. Let’s comfort ourselves by pointing and laughing at a team that was so hapless that it managed to post separate losing streaks of three and five games.
The 1953 squad wasn’t without talent: just one year prior, receiver Billy Howton tore through the NFL with 1,231 yards on just 53 catches. At that time, only Elroy Hirsch had ever posted more yards in a single year. But in 1953, Howton fell back to earth, mainly because quarterbacks Tobin Rote and Babe Parilli were hot garbage. Rote and Parilli had a combined season output of 1,833 yards, nine touchdowns, and 34 interceptions on 351 passing attempts. Read that stat line again and complain about Aaron Rodgers this year.
Of course, even if Rote and Parilli were actually, you know, good, the defense still was about as bad as you could imagine. During their fateful five game losing streak to close out the 1953 season, the Packers surrendered more than 100 yards on the ground every single week, including two games where opponents rushed for more than 200 yards.
But maybe that’s only because quarterbacks in 1953 didn’t have a chance to throw at Quinten Rollins.
Jonathan E. Barnett
Last year we all heard Aaron Rodgers tell the anxious Packers fans to R-E-L-A-X. This year, Rodgers would do well to heed his own advice. Now we can all look back to the recent interviews where Rodgers stated that the urgency needs to amp up and players and staff need to feel a fear of being released. This sense of urgency goes back much further than this though. Even preseason, Rodgers was telling everyone that he felt a sense of urgency in this 2016 season.
Coming off a season where the Packers had every reason to feel optimistic about the future, Rodgers was talking about urgency and the impending end. After two years of being close to the Super Bowl on tough losses, Rodgers was discussing mortality. After preaching urgency, Rodgers started off poorly. Against Tennessee he went one-of-five for 20 yards through the first three possessions. Just one first down and no points. Last week against Washington, Rodgers again started one-of-five, but for no yards and three three and outs to start the game. Only one of those ten passes was deep. Otherwise McCarthy is trying to keep things short and simple to get Rodgers in rhythm.
Rodgers is pressing too much and by not playing in the confident, relaxed manner he used to show, he is not settling in until the offense has wasted a quarter. This is not the only problem, or the biggest problem, but Aaron Rodgers’ sense of his own mortality is getting in his way.
I was attempting, and failing miserably, to shoot a deer over the weekend and I missed the entire NFL slate. So when I came back to civilization on Tuesday I went right to the Twitter highlights, and it was if Christmas had come early. I’m a sucker for trick plays, even if they’re unsuccesful, so what more could a guy ask for than a tight end scoring on an end-around, a reverse flea flicker, a wildcat flea-flicker, and a quarterback catching a touchdown?
It was another tough one on Sunday and looking at the Packers’ secondary getting dismantled (again) got me thinking of the lack of depth they have in the secondary and amongst the team as a whole. Just looking at the roster and who was playing, it started to make sense. They have six undrafted players in the secondary and a whopping 17 on the team as a whole. You can’t be upset when they are playing bad with inferior players across the board.
It always becomes a feel good story when you see the guys get a shot at a roster but there is a reason that they weren’t drafted. It’s very rare to find a Sam Shields in the undrafted pool and most of those guys are meant to fill out the practice squad and maybe a couple spots at the bottom of the depth chart. Not filling almost 30% of your roster with undrafted rookies and expecting them to play significant snaps for most of the game.