Packers Weekly Progress Report: Defense, Running Back Big Concerns for Fans
A lot of Packer fans ran through a ton of Pepto Bismol on Sunday as the Packers played down to the level of their competition for the better part of the game. More than a few are worried about the state of the team, specifically the offense, though the defense is getting some hard looks right now as well.
Let's address some of the issues floating around the Packers this week.
"The defense was terrible this weekend."
Well, I suppose you can complain when you give up 15 points to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but really, it's not that bad. You expected more than two sacks, two fumbles and no interceptions, but consider that many defensive players went out (or were out) with injuries.
Rookie Jerel Worthy left with a concussion, Mike Neal left with an ankle injury, Sam Shields was out, and of course, Charles Woodson is out with a broken collarbone. Rookie Nick Perry was out as well.
This is the NFL, and while Jacksonville is a disaster offensively, they're still an NFL team. When you lose that many players on defense over a short period of time, any NFL team can take advantage.
The secondary, which has had problems off and on all season, did have problems with Cecil Shorts, and the defensive front had issues getting push.
Could they have done better? Certainly.
Is it time to panic? Absolutely not.
One bad game, even against a lower-rung team like the Jaguars, does not a season make.
Now some are worried this will become a trend. That, as it seemed early on in the season, would be a mess.
However, we had to expect a bit of a step back when Woodson went down, especially with some young players replacing him both at safety and cornerback.
That it happened against the Jaguars makes it look worse, but again, when you lose two players during the game while also missing some portions of your secondary, it will happen.
So I wouldn't worry much about the defense this week.
Next week could be a whole other case.
"Alex Green is awful! We need to trade for now!"
We can probably agree that Green has been—at the very least—underwhelming. He's had moments, but by and large he hasn't lived up to expectations and hopes.
His 2.8 yards per carry are not getting it done by any stretch, though it's not all on him. The offensive line has really struggled to open holes for him, especially the last few weeks,
Go back and watch the games and you will see more than a few times that Green (or even before him, Benson) is hit before he even reaches the line. This was often the case with Benson as well, though he had more experience and better vision than Green, and bounced away from penetration more quickly and efficiently.
Jayme Joers brought up an interesting point over at CheeseheadTV.com, about the effectiveness of running behind the left side of the line versus the right side.
Here's what she says about Green and running to the left and right:
He cannot gain yardage when running to the left. On 32 attempts, Green has gained only 44 yards. That’s an average of 1.38 per carry. In two games, he actually averaged less than a yard per carry when running to the left.
Yet, when Green isn’t running to the left he’s much better. Up the middle he averages 5.29 yards per carry and to the right he averages 2.63. Combined, when not running to the left, Green averages 3.73 yards per carry, and has gained 153 yards.
Was it the same for Benson—our current yardstick for comparison?
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Cedric Benson had more luck than Green when running to the left, but not consistently. In week 3 versus the Seahawks, Benson averaged .75 yards per carry to the left. And in week 5 versus the Colts, before getting hurt, Benson averaged 1.6 when running to the left.
Without a doubt, Benson's experience and general ability helped him, but not on a consistent basis. Green has speed and can catch the ball, but he lacks vision to see and avoid blockers and he doesn't seem capable right now of breaking tackles.
However, it's not just a running back problem.
Looking at Pro Football Focus, the theory seems to bear out. Against the Houston Texans—his best game to date—Green compiled 47 of his 65 yards to the right, but struggled to the left.
The only time he seems to have success on the left is when he's just off center—which, considering Jeff Saturday has been up and down, speaks to the veteran center's savvy and remaining power in the run game.
We don't have a full season—or even half a season, really—of evidence, but it's no surprise to anyone watching that the line has struggled, and the left side as much as, if not more, than any other part.
This is not to say that Green couldn't be better, or that there isn't a better option out there somewhere. Heck, Steven Jackson/DeAngelo Williams/LaGarrette Blount are all some sort of upgrade.
However, it's not all on Green and getting an aging, overpriced or, in Blount's case, seriously under-performing back onto the roster won't solve it either.
The line, especially left tackle Marshall Newhouse and left guard TJ Lang, needs to play better both run-blocking and pass-blocking.
The win was too close for most Cheeseheads' tastes, but things are still pretty ship-shape. I don't expect any trades this week, certainly nothing big, and so the adjustments both offensively and defensively have to come from within the organization.
We'll see if they make them—and the right ones at that—in the coming weeks.
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