The Packers moved to 10-4, clinching a playoff berth before they even took to the field in Oakland. However, it’s very clear that this is a team that still has a lot of problems, especially on the offensive side of the ball. It will take a lot of creativity from offensive play-caller Mike McCarthy to move this team beyond the first or second round of the playoffs.
With everyone finally healthy for the first time in months, the offensive line showed some serious improvement against a fairly formidable Raiders’ defensive line, spear-headed by rising star Khalil Mack. After posting 5 sacks last week, Mack was held to just one and the Raiders to 2 total. The Packers are not the best pass-blocking line in the league, but, generally speaking, Rodgers had noticeably more room in the pocket to maneuver yesterday. What was perhaps most surprising was that the Packers went with Center JC Tretter over Corey Linsley. Does Green Bay have a full-on Center controversy in the making?
The Hoodie is not very fast anymore, but he’s still capable of making some tough catches. Jones might not be getting wide open, but Rodgers is capable of hitting him on shorter slant or comeback routes. Jones lead the team in every receiving statistic against the Raiders. As much as that says about Jones as an aging receiver whose best days are behind him, perhaps it says more about the bevvy of young wide receivers around him.
Last week I was dogging on Peppers for not being much of a factor down the stretch. I also said that Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers should play Jayrone Elliott earlier and more often. Capers did exactly that, but Elliott was hurt and left the game early. Peppers didn’t seem to need the breather this week, however, as he got to Raiders’ QB Derek Carr often, finishing with 2.5 sacks. This was Peppers’ most complete game in awhile. The Packers are going to need him to continue that kind of play as the playoffs emerge.
Is it too early to call Adams a bust? Most definitely. Is he beyond the slump phase? Yes. Adams is a head-scratcher. Coming out of college, Adams was considered one of the best pure catchers in his draft class. His most lauded skill was his wide catch radius, and that was certainly on display a number of times in his rookie year. But fast-forward to 2015 and Adams looks like an entirely different player. While fans are also complaining about Jeff Janis’ drops, Adams is the one with the 2nd round pedigree. Right now, it looks like the Packers are going to need to bring in some fresh faces this offseason to push Adams for his #3 spot (assuming the return of Jordy Nelson and departure of James Jones). His play in 2015 has not earned his keeping it outright.
Randall has found himself in The Best many times this season. While fellow rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins may still have the higher ceiling among the Packers’ first two picks in 2015, Randall has looked like a bona fide player so far this season, immediately asserting himself as a starting-caliber corner. But, Randall is due some real criticism for the first time this season. After taking a pick-6 to the house in the first quarter, Randall was thrown around by Amari Cooper all game. Randall is still a rookie, so you’re going to get some performances like this. It should hopefully be a good learning opportunity against one of the best up-and-coming receivers in the league.
3rd/4th and Short Defense
I understand wanting to put just one or two down defensive linemen at the line on 3rd and long plays. Against Oakland, however, Capers repeatedly ran with this sort of look on 3rd or 4th and short. Any fan watching can see the gaping hole over the center as two defensive ends are playing what looked like a 2 (or even a 3) technique. These are the sort of plays that merit our having BJ Raji and Letroy Guion on the roster. Use them. On multiple occasions the Raiders simply ran it uncontested right up the gut, including one QB sneak from Carr. Clearly Capers’ defensive mind far, far transcends my own, but I cannot fathom any reason to play short, must-convert plays this way.
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.