(Sorry for the lack of Packer backer content this week. I had some technical difficulties due to a faulty update from a company I won’t mention, but whose name rhymes with schmicrosoft)
Through three weeks of the preseason, no team has been more impressive than the Green Bay Packers. Period. Even though the second and third stringers let Arizona back in the game, fans should be excited about the finish and the way head coach Mike McCarthy and his team responded.
The offense has outscored opponents 76-10 in the first halves of games and the first team defense seemed let down when they allowed 10 first half points the defending NFC champion Cardinals Friday night. (They had shut out Buffalo and Cleveland in the previous two games).
The defense continues to create big plays and the first team defense now has 12 turnovers through three games in the preseason. Charles Woodson forced three fumbles and had two sacks, with the Packers scoring 17 first half points off those turnovers.
The second half in Arizona was similar to the Buffalo game where the defense let the opponent back in the game. In fact, the Cards had a chance to tie or take the lead after scoring a touchdown late in the fourth. When Arizona missed the go-ahead two point conversion, the Packers continued to fight back.
Ruvell Martin returned an onside kick for six and then it was the Packers turn to go for two. Even though they missed it, we saw McCarthy’s dedication to teaching this team the importance of finishing games and wanting to win, preseason or otherwise.
Even Brian Brohm looked half-way decent going 4/5 against Cardinals starters. He made stick throws and seemed more in control of the offense than he has since being drafted in 2008. It may be too late for land a roster spot, but it certainly isn’t too late for him to increase his value in a trade.
But I want to be a voice of cautious optimism.
I don’t want to hear about Super Bowls or anything like that. The Packers are an extremely talented team, but with Aaron Rodgers are quarterback they have proven absolutely zero in the regular season except that they are maddeningly inconsistent.
Monday after Monday last season it seemed the talk from Cheeseheads was “Coulda, woulda, shoulda” because that’s how close the Packers were from turning a 6-10 team into a 10-6 team.
They went 3-0 against teams with sub .500 records and 3-10 against teams with .500 records or better. So far this preseason they have played exactly one team with a winning record from last season. Now to be fair, that means they played 13 games against teams who won at least 8 games last year, but a team who won the division and nearly the NFC just a year prior has to beat playoff teams at least once in a while. In that category, the Packers went 2-5.
Aaron Rodgers looks in command of the offense, posting a gaudy 150+ QB rating this preseason. But he put up gaudy stats last season and it just didn’t translate into victories.
The defense was third in the NFL last season at intercepting opposing quarterbacks, but they couldn’t get stops when they needed them. The rushing defense was below average and this talented team faltered more often than it flourished.
I don’t want to say don’t be excited. Be excited. This Packers team is more talented than the team that made a run at the Super Bowl two year ago. This might be the most talented team the Packers have had since the mid 90’s.
Jermichael Finley is a match-up night mare. For an example just look at the back-shoulder fade he caught over one Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie, one of the best athletes in the NFL regardless of position. Can he give the offense that game in and game out? What about when teams aren’t surprised by him anymore? Guys like James Jones and Jordy Nelson will have to step up and exploit match-ups against safeties if teams try to cover Finley with a corner.
Speaking of corners, Charles Woodson and Al Harris are arguably the best corner duo in the NFL and Woodson could get four to six sacks this season in the new pressure D. They are playing at an All-Pro level. Add in Pro Bowler Nick Collins with Atari Bigby and a charging Anthony Smith, this secondary is deep, physical and smart.
Dom Capers will see to it they don’t have the communication break-downs that plagued them last year. He has to. If the quarterbacks have time, it doesn’t matter how talented your secondary is, they’re going to get beat. The offense has too big an advantage and NFL quarterbacks are too good.
The biggest question will be the pass-rush. We saw what it did to mediocre quarterbacks, but it confused the heck out of Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner. He was never comfortable in the pocket, but when he was, he was effective.
That will be true with any quarterback. If the pressure doesn’t get home, there are match-up problems in the secondary whether it’s lineman in space, linebackers on wide-outs, or safeties having to help on multiple receivers.
I can’t see how you can stop this offense. McCarthy called a perfect game Friday, but he was all over the place as a play-caller last season. Not just game to game, but even series to series it would seem he had a great game plan one moment and no idea the next.
The offensive line has played well in the preseason, with Ryan Grant looking quicker and more decisive than ever. But Josh Sitton and Allen Barbre are essentially rookies, neither ever having played a full season as starters.
The pass-rushers on this schedule are fierce between Allen, Ware, Ogunleye, Suggs, Harrisson, and Kearney just to name a few. And those are just the ends.
The Packers are deep, cohesive, talented, physical, and excited to play. If they can lock down the penalties and play with discipline, I don’t see why they can’t win double digit games and be a serious contender in the NFC.
Unfortunately, last year you could say the same thing and it translated into just six victories. No more excuses. This team is talented, and looks ready to go. They’ve put the NFC North and the rest of the NFC on notice that they’re ready to play. After all, they clobbered the defending NFC champions in a match-up of first teamers.
If they can learn on the fly how to handle adversity, this could be a really good team for a really long time; the kind of franchise Packers fans in the 90’s were used to. And then fans can really say things like “We’ll never forget you Brent.”