Green Bay Packers: The Highs, Lows and Lingering Questions After 4 Weeks

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistOctober 5, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 30:  Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy looks on against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on September 30, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

It's been an uneven season for the Packers so far. 

Forget the controversial call in Seattle if you can. The team has played some uneven football, to say the least.

There are certainly some highs and there have definitely been some lows so far this season.

Here are a few of each, as well as some questions we still don't have answers to at this early date.

The Highs

Clay Matthews: The Predator is Back (Mostly)

Matthews has cooled a bit the last two games, at least in terms of sack totals. However, he has made his presence felt on most of the snaps he has been on the field for.

Even if Nick Perry is still struggling and Eric Waldon isn't an All-Pro, their presence on the left side has made Matthews' life much easier.

Not every play generates a sack, but according to the All-22 tape (and some premium stats at Pro Football Focus), Matthews' impact of course goes beyond his eight sacks.

The true nature of success at the linebacker position includes quarterback hits not resulting in sacks (of which PFF says he has two) and pressures (of which PFF says he has 11).

Getting a sack is nice, of course, as it ends the play with a loss. However, making the quarterback hurry up his reads and throws, taking away his comfort zone and generally being in his face all day are all ways a linebacker (or any defensive player) can be successful.

From that aspect, he has been enormously successful.

Tramon Williams

You have to love seeing Williams rounding back into 2010 form. As we talked about extensively here all summer, a more effective pass rush was going to make the secondary more successful.

Especially Williams.

It's not that he isn't good on his own, because he is. However, a corner can only hold coverage for so long, and in 2011 Williams (along with Charles Woodson) just had to hold coverage way too long.

Even a little pressure goes a long way, and the Packers have largely been able to bring more than a little.

Williams' progress continues to be a relief for Packers fans and should stay that way all year long.

The Lows


I'm not going to get into this too much as it's a dead horse, but the loss to the Seattle Seahawks could have far-reaching consequences for the season.

There is a compelling argument to be made that not only should the Packers have done more in the first half to not be in the position they were in at the end of the game, but that if they lose a playoff spot by one game, they would have had ample time to make it up before the last game.

Still, it rankled the team and it was certainly a low point.

Maybe it ends up a turning point in the season .Maybe it strengthens the resolve of the team. Maybe they'll look back and laugh.

However, right now, it still must sting for players, staff and fans alike.

The Offense

The offense finally seemed to click last weekend against the New Orleans Saints, but before we get too excited we have to remember the Saints are awful this year defensively.

So we can't wipe away the previous weeks just yet.

I love the way they are involving Cedric Benson (more on him in a minute) and Randall Cobb, but the offensive line has had issues and the offense has been out of sync most of the year.

Aaron Rodgers has tried to do too much too often, which results in him holding the ball longer than he should, which in turn leads to sacks.

Which in turn leads to a poor showing by the offense.

The wide receivers appear to be on a different page than Rodgers, which of course leads to far more issues.

Hopefully they have turned a corner, because right now "uneven" is the kindest description of their play.

And probably too generous at times.

Lingering Questions

How involved will Cedric Benson be?

Of course, a secondary question is, how involved should Benson be?

The Packers seem to want to run Benson more, and he can both catch and block on pass plays, which makes him available on third down. 

We like to forget that a few years ago Ryan Grant carried the ball 232 and 318 times for the Packers, so it can be done. A lot of the reason the Packers didn't run after those years might have the bevy of injuries they saw at the position as well as declining play from Grant.

Benson makes the play action more potent and gives Rodgers another weapon when the pass rush gets to be too much for the offensive line.

They should use him as much as they can.

Will they? That's a whole different question.

Can the offensive line be consistent?

I mentioned above that the offensive line's issues have made things rough on the offense as a whole. It was a bit shocking to watch them the first three weeks, though they played far better in Week 4.

As you can see in this breakdown I did of the high amount of sacks the Seahawks delivered to the Packers, everyone played bad to some extent.

The offensive line has to keep playing like they did against the Saints, but it's hard to use that as a real barometer because, as mentioned, the Saints' defense is awful this year.

We may not even get a good measurement this week against the Indianapolis Colts.

You can be sure we'll know what shape they're in against the Houston Texans in Week 6.

This line has to be consistent about keeping Rodgers not only upright, bu free in the pocket long enough to deliver his passes cleanly.

Anything else is courting disaster.

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