Green Bay Packers Needs: More Physicality, Less Finesse

clay matthews Packers

The question has been asked since the Packers season ended with a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, are the Packers tough enough to compete with the elite teams? The answer to this question for the past two seasons has been a resounding no with the Packers losing in embarrassing fashion each of their last two playoff appearances. For the answer, we can look no further than the defending Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens are a team built from front-to-back on both sides of the ball. Their offensive line is enormous, intimidating and able to wear a team down. The Packers offensive line is small, soft and unable to get movement in the running game. The Ravens defensive line is massive, strong and able to push the pocket. The Packers defensive line is undersized, soft and incapable of setting the edge against a physical team. In every one of their playoff games the Ravens were able to bring their physical brand to the game. This is something the Packers have not been able to do for the past two seasons, and it is a big reason why there have been two different teams holding the Lombardi trophy at the end of the season. So what can the Packers learn from the newest Super Bowl champion?

When it comes to the most important position in the game the Packers are set. Aaron Rodgers is poised to put up MVP numbers for seasons to come. It is however the team around him that is not built for long term success. The Packers are a team that has gone soft. Their passing game is as potentially dynamic as the NFL can provide. They have a defense with some young play makers in the secondary, and an all everything linebacker in Clay Matthews. The Packers, however lack what the Ravens had, on both sides of the ball, players willing to play a physical game for 60 minutes. The Packers defense, when healthy has two players willing to play ugly. Those players are Clay Matthews, and Desmond Bishop. A third player who was willing, Charles Woodson has since been released, leaving a void of leadership and physicality. Of the 18 players who received significant snaps this past season for the Packers, only three were willing to play that way. Unlike the Ravens, the Packers have a finesse defense.

The Packers offense is widely known as finesse and the numbers stay true to that. They give up size in nearly every match up on the offensive front. Marshall Newhouse (6’4 319) and Don Barclay (6’4 305), the Packers two tackles by the end of the season, are collectively two of the smallest tackles in the NFL. Evan Dietrich-Smith (6’2 308) is undersized, and occasionally over matched at the center position. Both guards are giving up size as well. Technique and heart can do their part to make up for size deficiencies, but ultimately a bigger man will wear down a smaller one. The brittle nature of the Packers offense can be seen clearly in their zone running scheme. A scheme that is about reach blocks and cutting instead of physically beating and wearing down an opposing defense. The Packers need to identify themselves for what they are, an undersized soft bunch, who without an adjustment is no longer among the NFL elite. As we have seen the past two seasons physical play, most notably on defense is a necessity. The Packers, as currently constructed are not built to play in such a game. A.J. Hawk is ineffective in the middle, Tramon Williams played tentative in the run game all season, MD Jennings is unwilling to hit from the safety position, unfortunately for Green Bay, the list appears endless.

Every game this season in which the opponent brought a physical mentality to the game, the Packers struggled. The 49ers beat them up twice, the Giants, Seahawks and Vikings all did once. They brought an attitude and swagger that could not be matched by the Packers. Green Bay is the school-yard bully ok with punching first, but they back down as soon as someone hits back. They are not a team that likes getting their hands dirty, and instead would rather play a squeaky-clean game. This is an acceptable mindset to beat teams with inferior talent, but as seen in the Packers playoff demise, that will not work when playing against one of the elite level teams.

This is a question that was asked often of Head Coach Mike McCarthy at the NFL Meetings in Phoenix. He was adamant that his team was tough enough, and that physical play was not a worry. With a running game that is non existent, and a defense that was shredded by 49ers, the Packers have done little the last two years to support McCarthy’s claim.

The Packers, led by General Manager Ted Thompson need to take a long look in the mirror this off-season, and learn something from the Baltimore Ravens. A message that was loud and clear during the season, and playoffs.

More Physicality, Less Finesse.

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Jacob Westendorf is a writer at PackersTalk.com. You can follow Jacob on twitter at

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