We’re not even a quarter of the way through the NFL season and as Packer fans we’ve felt embarrassment, upheaval and elation (also, a double dose of blood pressure meds after the 49ers game). The following are my musings and observations through 3 weeks of Packers football.
*Remember when it seemed like the right move for the Packers to find Mason Crosby’s replacement after the 2018 season? I’m really glad they didn’t. Mr. Crosby is Mr. Clutch and is forever canonized in Packers lore. Here’s to more moment’s like Sunday night.
Chess Not Checkers
*Sunday’s Green Bay Packers win over the San Francisco 49ers was a game planning masterpiece (chef’s kiss) from Matt LaFleur & Aaron Rodgers. LaFleur knew that with an inexperienced offensive line and formidable Niners pass rush that the ball would have to come out quickly. Did it ever. According to PFF, it was Rodgers’ quickest “time-to-throw” average in his career at 2.05 seconds.
Depth & Breadth
*Speaking of the o-line, it’s now apparent that the Packers have an embarrassment of riches up front. Yosh Nijman performed acceptably in his spot start, settling in after a rocky stretch against Niners edge Nick Bosa. Not too many teams can throw out a third string tackle against a Pro Bowl edge rusher and leave relatively unscathed. Young guys Jon Runyan Jr, Josh Myers and Royce Newman all performed admirably against the eye test as well. All of this while missing arguably two of the top 15 linemen in the NFL. Nice.
Give Someone Else A Turn!
*I’m grateful for the ESP-like connection that Rodgers and Davante Adams have (the results certainly speak for themselves), but if the Packers offense is going to realize its full potential they must involve more pass catchers. Through three weeks of regular season play Adams has 34 targets and the rest of the wide receivers and tight ends combined have 41 targets. I realize that some of this is skewed by week 1, but it’s felt like Rodgers tends to have tunnel vision for #17.
I generally subscribe to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but guys like Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan and Randall Cobb all have proven histories of success with the ball in their hands. It shouldn’t take an injury to Adams for Rodgers to spread the ball around. This team has 2011-like offensive potential, let’s see it!
Preston To Duty
*It’s really good to see Preston Smith showing up. For whatever reason, the stars align for him in odd-numbered years (8 sacks in ‘15, 8 sacks in ‘17, 12 sacks in ‘19). Maybe Smith wants to make sure there is good tape out there as a likely off-season cap casualty? Smith is already a quarter of the way to his meager 2020 sack total (4), but has graded out favorably thus far from PFF ($$). If the Packers expect to win the Super Bowl they will need more than just Kenny Clark, Za’Darius Smith and Rashan Gary. Preston Smith needs to return to his 2019 form, and the calendar says he’s due.
Eric Stokes, CB2
*Last week I called for the removal of Kevin King. King’s lack of availability (concussion protocol) against the Niners opened the door for a full time role for rookie Eric Stokes. Stokes had an up-and-down first game as a starter and was flagged for two pass interference calls (at least one of which was a blown call). Stokes showcased sticky coverage skills for the majority of the game, mirroring his man and showing speed to close and recover when beaten.
In essence Stokes did all of the things that King can’t do anymore (well not entirely, with his DPI). A young 22 years old, Stokes obviously has room for technique improvement but the tantalizing potential is there. Hopefully the coaches have seen enough to move him into the starting lineup full time even when King is eventually healthy.
Bojorquez Goes Berserk
*Corey Bojorquez, Punter. I know we haven’t gotten into the nasty part of the year with slick footballs, sub zero temps and blizzards, but the guy can kick it. The football world today is based around analytics, metrics, pundits etc. but you really only needed to see his performance against the 49ers to know that Bojorquez is a HUGE upgrade over JK Scott. Yes, Scott did boom a punt once in a while, but Bojorquez has been hitting them high, long and out-of-bounds in enemy territory with consistency.
While the coverage units on special teams still leave something to desire, sewing up the other kicking position on the squad is still an improvement over last season. I can’t say I’ve ever used that many superlatives for a position that probably spends more time on the golf course than the football field.
Barry The Hatchet
*I’m not ready to throw in the towel on Joe Barry quite yet. Obviously the week one debacle against the Saints felt all too similar…like I’m not ready to be hurt again just yet! The defense in the first half of the Lion’s game had me sighing like a disappointed father.
Then, the light flickered on.
The Pack pitched a shutout in the second half of the Lion’s game thanks to some timely blitzes (and Detroit’s general ineptitude) and almost put together four consecutive quarters of shutout ‘ball before the 49ers scored at the end of the first half. I can see a cohesive unit peaking through, and hopefully with Barry’s continued tweaks and adjustments we’ll have a defensive squad that may even keep the Packers in a game or two.
Bring on Big Ben & the Steelers!
You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamjcarlson28.