For the first time since 2008, The Green Bay Packers have lost three straight games. Now, before we grab our pitchforks and torches and chase Ted Thompson down the streets of Green Bay, let’s try and find some silver linings in a season that appears to be lost.
The only things I learned from watch the movie "Silver Linings Playbook" is that Jennifer Lawrence is the hottest woman on the planet and that Chris Tucker is apparently still pursuing an acting career. The only things I learned from watching the Packers play on Sunday is that the defense stinks and that Marshall Newhouse is still pursuing an NFL career.
The silver linings of the 2013 season (at least thus far): David Bakhtiari looks like the left tackle of the future, Eddie Lacy is a difference maker at running back, Datone Jones will be a force at defensive end for years to come, Jarrett Boykin is a playmaker at wide receiver, and Mason Crosby is great when he is confident. Micah Hyde could potentially be a very good player as well, but he needs to work on his coverage skills.
In case you missed that, that’s four rookie draft picks that are already making a difference on this year’s football team. Ted Thompson is the easy target because when all else fails, you blame the people at the top. That’s why Ted Thompson, Dom Capers, and Mike McCarthy will get the brunt of the anger from fans. That’s fine, but just about every other team in the league would be in this position if their franchise quarterback went down.
I’m not excusing Thompson, McCarthy, or Capers either. Thompson and McCarthy have been playing Russian roulette with the back-up quarterback position for the past few seasons, and it finally came back to bite them on the ass. Thompson should have had the long-term vision to bring in the right guys for the job, and McCarthy should have done a better job evaluating the talent on the roster. There’s no reason Graham Harrell should have been on the team during preseason camp, and if they had brought in Vince Young in April or May, he might still be on the team.
Capers has been the most effected by injuries on his side of the ball, and it’s hard for me to personally blame him when Jarrett Bush, Nate Palmer, and C.J. Wilson are seeing meaningful snaps in a regular season game. Capers’ 3-4 scheme is not going to change to a 4-3 scheme overnight, so we need to quit complaining about the defensive schemes.
Players make plays, and right now, no one is making them when they matter.
Now, let’s get on to the grades.
A three-interception performance is a three-interception performance. Scott Tolzien was 6 for 6 on throws over 15-yards down the field, which is impressive for someone making his first career NFL start, but his few bad throws were enough to cost the Packers a shot at winning the game.
Tolzien finished 24 for 34 for 339 yards and three interceptions. The pick-6 by Jason Pierre-Paul was just a freakishly athletic defensive end making a spectacular play, but it also could have been avoided with a simple pump fake.
Tolzien made some great throws on Sunday, but he also made some equally bad reads. Anyone calling for Matt Flynn needs to go watch some of the preseason games he played over in Oakland this August. I think Tolzien gives the Packers the best chance to win without Aaron Rodgers, but he needs help from the running game. 34 attempts is too many for a young quarterback.
Running Backs: B-
Speaking of the run game, Eddie Lacy recorded just 27 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries. It’s hard to blame Lacy when he was seemingly met at or behind the line of scrimmage on almost every play. Lacy is not Barry Sanders; he can’t run around in circles until a running lane presents itself. The offensive line needs to get more push at the point of attack, and they didn’t on Sunday. The result is a 1.9 yards per carry average for Lacy.
Wide Receivers: A-
The wide receivers made plays on Sunday, and if the team could have had more balance, they might have added a few more. Jordy Nelson recorded 8 receptions for 117 yards, while Jarrett Boykin added 6 for 91 yards. James Jones caught 2 passes for 55 yards.
Tight Ends: C
Brandon Bostick recorded one reception for 26 yards, while Andrew Quarless added two for 18 yards. Bostick and Quarless made some athletic plays as wide receivers, but their inability to run block was painfully obvious on Sunday. Bostick even had trouble merely chipping Pierre-Paul on some plays.
Offensive Line: C+
As great as Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang were, Marshall Newhouse was equally horrendous. Newhouse had almost no hip fluidity, quickness, or hand speed against an athletic Giants defensive line. He appears to be a shell of the player he once was, and he doesn’t seem to be playing with much confidence either. His days in Green Bay may be numbered.
This unit needs to be able to open up some running lanes against eight-man fronts, or the offense will continue to struggle.
Defensive Line: C-
Mike Daniels was a difference maker on Sunday, while B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett were almost invisible. Daniels finished with three quarterback hurries and two solo tackles, while Raji failed to record a single tackle for the fourth game this season. Pickett was clearly struggling through his knee injury, and gutted it out for a while, but he didn't appear to have the same movement in the trenches that made him an immovable object earlier this season.
Mike Neal put his hand in the dirt on a few plays, and looked much more effective in that role than when it tries to drop back in pass coverage as an outside linebacker. C.J. Wilson did admirably in place of Jolly, and was able to make more plays than Raji and Pickett. Josh Boyd saw limited action, but was usually manhandled when he did get on the field.
If this defense is going to improve, it starts with stopping the run. Raji reportedly turned down a multi-million dollar deal earlier this season, and that’s fine with me. He hasn't shown that he is worth that kind of money the past two seasons, and I don’t think that’s going to change moving forward.
Brad Jones led the team with 13 tackles, including one sack, but was wildly inconsistent. Jones made some great plays, especially his sack on Eli Manning in the fourth quarter, but also showed a lack of power and block shedding ability at times. I think he’ll turn it around the more he gets back into the groove of things, but he looked generally tentative at times on Sunday.
A.J. Hawk wasn’t much of a factor on Sunday, even though he did register 6 tackles, including a sack (I guess being the closest player to a QB when he slides behind the line of scrimmage counts). Hawk lost a few head-to-head battles with Giants fullback John Conner, and didn’t offer much in pass coverage either. Clay Matthews added 4 tackles, 1 sack, and two batted passes. You can tell Matthews is still uncomfortable with his cast, as he struggled to get off blocks at times. That resulted in Matthews dropping back into pass coverage more and getting beat on double moves by Victor Cruz for 30 yard gains. The defense struggles when he isn't adding consistent pressure and running around like a man with his hair on fire, so let’s hope he gets comfortable with that cast.
Personally I’d like to see more Jamari Lattimore and less Nate Palmer, but at this point, I’d just like to see consistent tackling and no glaring errors in pass coverage from this group regardless of who is on the field.
Tramon Williams might have had his best performance since 2010 on Sunday, but it was wasted by the fact that he was paired up with Micah Hyde and Jarrett Bush with Sam Shields getting the game-time scratch due to the dreaded hamstring gods. Williams was more than willing to make solo tackles on hitch routes, gang tackle, and even made a great play on the Packers lone turnover of the game.
Hyde continues to be a liability in pass coverage, but at this point, the team doesn’t have a whole lot of options. He could potentially be a great asset to the defense, as he has a high football IQ, and generally has a nose for the ball, but he just can’t keep up with the faster wide outs of the league.
Jarrett Bush needs to stick to special teams.
Morgan Burnett was solid in run support on Sunday, but was exposed pretty badly on a long completion as well. His inconsistency is a big reason why the pass coverage has struggled lately, and I’m starting to think it might just be him trying to do too much because he doesn't trust his fellow safeties.
I can’t blame him. M.D. Jennings and Chris Banjo offered next to nothing in pass coverage, and didn’t do much in run support either.
Mason Crosby went 2 for 2 on Sunday, including a 57-yard field goal that would have been good from 63 in the calm conditions of MetLife Stadium. It’s great to see Crosby not only regain his confidence, but start a new chapter in his level of confidence. That was a field goal that McCarthy would never even thought about attempting last year, and Crosby delivered on Sunday.
Tim Masthay punted four times for an average of 45 yards, pinning one inside the 20.
Sunday wasn’t the end of the road for the Packers, but it has definitely put them more behind the 8-ball. If they don’t beat the lowly Vikings this Sunday at Lambeau Field, it might be time to shut things down, give some of the younger players some playing time, and focus on getting better for 2014.
I’m not one for "tanking" and I don’t think you can tank in a physical sport like football, but there's no point in rushing Rodgers, Cobb, and others back if you think the best-case scenario would be 9-7 or 8-8 and a first-round exit in the playoffs. This team is not going to beat the 49ers, Seahawks, or Panthers this year, and the injuries are becoming insurmountable.
Maybe the Packers can cut a deal with AMC to broadcast their games as a preview to the show "The Walking Dead" because that is essentially what this roster has become.
Let's hope for a more balanced attack from the offense, and better tackling from the defense this Sunday against the Minnesota Adrian Petersons.
Josh VanDyke covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company. He is also currently a sports writer for MLive.com. Follow him on Twitter: @JVanDyke24
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