The Best and the Wurst is a weekly series wherein I highlight just a few of the things that stuck out to me in last week’s game. They are not only or merely the best or wurst players overall, but are merely observations from the game. Sometimes the considerations aren’t even players at all, but play calls, incidents, or various nonsense.
Pass Defense: While the defense continues to struggle against the run (giving up 159 yards on the ground to Todd Gurley), the pass defense has been lights out. Nick Foles was under attack all afternoon. The Packers registered only 3 sacks, but the number of QB disruptions was much higher. There were long stretches of the game where it felt as if Foles couldn’t attempt a pass without getting slammed to the grass by two or three Packers at once. The Packers are now 2nd in the league in total sacks.
The pressure on opposing QBs is starting to force turnovers, as well. The Green Bay secondary was able to come away with 4 INTs, including a pick-six from rookie Quinten Rollins.
Clay Matthews & Mike Daniels: The defensive unit as a whole is playing maybe its best football ever under the tenure of Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers, but Matthews and Daniels have been leading the charge. The much-discussed switch for Matthews from outside linebacker to inside linebacker on most downs is now proven as a wild success. It’s amazing how much difference Matthews speed and tenacity has made in the middle. He’s also just as good at blitzing from the middle as he is from the edge, allowing the Packers to really turn the heat up on passing plays if they so choose.
Mike Daniels contributions aren’t as flashy as Matthews’ (he isn’t piling up the sacks), but he’s been essential nonetheless. Daniels is disrupting the backfield on passing and rushing plays on a consistent basis. He lead the team in tackles against the Rams, pairing with BJ Raji and Mike Pennel to form a stout defensive line in the base look.
Not ideal pass protection https://t.co/ii62yx7SYs
— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) October 11, 2015
Mike Daniels dominating against the run.https://t.co/oc6TIUYlVz
— Taylor O'Neill (@TaylorONeill87) October 12, 2015
Sam Shields & Micah Hyde: Rollins’ two picks were certainly impressive, but this pair is to the secondary what Matthews and Daniels have been for the front 7. After some poor play in Week 1, Shields has thundered back, establishing himself as the unquestioned top CB on the Green Bay defense. His speed is just too much for most wide receivers to handle. Even when he gets beat off the line, Shields’ speed allows him to salvage the play. He had 3 passes defensed yesterday.
Micah Hyde has proven himself to be an essential part of this team. His consistency in the punt return game is not to be overlooked. He’s also been all over the field on defense. He finished with 6 tackles against the Ram, second only to Daniels. He also had two passes defensed and an INT. Hyde stepped right into Burnett’s place and did not miss a beat.
Shields was great yesterday.https://t.co/0DgLe0vcli
— Taylor O'Neill (@TaylorONeill87) October 12, 2015
Lambeau: And let’s not forget the real best 12th man in the league.
Offensive Ineptitude: The usually prolific Green Bay offense, far from jumping back after an off-performance last week against the 49ers, looked even more out-of-sorts against the Rams. There were a lot of things going on. Aaron Rodgers made some bad decisions. The running game was completely stifled. The wide receivers seemed to be having trouble getting open consistently. Cobb and Rodgers specifically seemed to be on different pages throughout the game. Richard Rodgers was dropping passes and wiping out field goals with penalties.
Certainly the lack of Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams has hurt the offense. The loss of Nelson has definitely removed the deep ball and Rodgers’ ability to stretch the field. Rookie Ty Montgomery has played admirably in Nelson and Adams’ absence, but the return of Adams (whenever that may be) should certainly help.
This is still one of the best offenses in the league. As long as it can stay healthy, they will return to normal potency. There have been times over the last several seasons that the offense looked off. Those were games that were usually lost, but more well-rounded Packers are now finding multiple ways to win games. Still, the Packers may have to get creative in order to stretch the field. Rodgers and company are going to have to find ways to beat the Cover 2 that has given him trouble.
Injuries: Unfortunately, this has been a reoccurring wurst this season. Green Bay went down 4 “starters” yesterday: TJ Lang, BJ Raji, Nick Perry, and Casey Hayward. Morgan Burnett and Davante Adams were already missing with injuries. Eddie Lacy is clearly not running with his normal speed and strength.
The extent of the new injuries is not known, although ESPN’s Rob Demovsky did report that Lang’s injury was not to his ACL, which is, of course, good news. The silver lining is that the Packers are 5 – 0 in spite of all of the injuries. If the team can reverse the trend and get healthy, especially as the playoffs come into the picture, we could see a team playing at an even higher level than it already is.——————
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.