After a superb preseason, expectations for the Green Bay Packers could not have been higher. Three weeks into the regular season, the team stands at 2-1 after wins over the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams, and a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. In those three weeks, there have been many positive things to get excited about, some struggles that need to be fixed, and some ugly things that are getting the Packers by in easy games, but will not as the season goes on and games become tougher.
Today, we will look at the Packers good personnel through three weeks, followed by the bad and ugly personnel. After that, we will look at schemes and intangibles that have been good, bad, and ugly for the Packers. Enjoy and make sure to check out all parts of the segments!
Aaron Rodgers: As is the case for most teams that have two or more wins so far, Rodgers has excelled at the quarterback position and is the main reason for the Packers’ success. His stats are not as flashy as they were last season, but through three games he has thrown for just 82 less yards than he did in 2008 (which included a game against the Lions) and has thrown just as many touchdown passes (four).
Along with Kyle Orton, Rodgers is one of two quarterbacks who have played in all three games and not thrown an interception or lost a fumble. Life has been easy on Orton as the Broncos have rushed 102 times through three games, third in the league, compared to the Packers’ 77.
Rodgers has managed games beautifully and let the action come to him instead of pressing. Things may change next week when the Packers take on the Vikings Monday night in what is surely the biggest game of the year for both teams. As for now, the Packers’ signal caller has been outstanding running the ship that is the Packers offense.
Charles Woodson: Anyone looking for a drop off in the 12-year veteran should probably start looking for something else, because it is clear Charles Woodson is here to stay. Through three games, the Pro Bowl cornerback has 18 tackles, ranking second on the team, two tackles for a loss which is tied for most on the team, a team-high three interceptions and a touchdown to go with it.
For as good as he has been in pass coverage this season, Woodson has done a fantastic job against the run near the line of scrimmage. Teams rarely throw to his side, but when they do there is trouble to be found. Dom Capers’ pressure-filled 3-4 scheme has been golden for Woodson who preys on jumping routes.
The Packers lead the league with seven interceptions and opposing quarterbacks have a 66.3 quarterback rating against Green Bay, good for fifth in the league. Woodson has been the main reason why and is in line for another Pro Bowl visit this February if he keeps this type of performance up.
Donald Driver: Much like Woodson, Driver has shown zero signs of slowing down and is poised to have one of his better statistical years if he continues on the pace he is at. Teams have clearly labeled Greg Jennings the team’s number one receiver and Driver has reaped all the benefits. Driver has been targeted by Rodgers 23 times this season compared to Jennings’ 16, and has the advantage 14-8 in catches.
Also, Driver’s catches have not just been short slants and check down passes. He leads the team with five catches of 20 or more yards and has also rushed one time on an end around for 13 yards. With Rodgers’ slow start, Driver’s fast start has been key in keeping the passing game alive. Jennings will end the season with more targets and receptions than Driver, but for the time being the two are complimenting each other perfectly.
Cullen Jenkins: For the die-hard Packers fan, we knew how much we were going to miss Jenkins when he was lost for the season last year, so to see him out on the field wreaking havoc is that much more enjoyable. Never a big name, Jenkins has quietly become the Packers’ best lineman and disruptor in the backfield.
His stats, ten tackles including two for losses, two sacks, and two forced fumbles do not even tell the whole story of how valuable he has been. As a defensive end, Jenkins has required two blockers on occasion which has completely freed up the outside for rushers.
He is constantly in the backfield and has provided great emotion on the all-important defensive line in the 3-4 defense. While his stats are above average for a defensive end, his best work of taking up blockers goes unnoticed for the most part but has been key in the success of the Packers’ defense thus far.
Johnny Jolly: Staying with the defensive line theme, many expected first round pick B.J. Raji to come in and be the answer to all of the Packers’ defensive line issues as they transitioned to the 3-4. Raji missed the first two games and left the Packers thin on the line, something no defensive coordinator likes to see.
However, the presence of Johnny Jolly at the defensive end/nose tackle position has made things much easier on the Packers defense. Jolly has the ability to play both line positions, shifting to nose tackle on passing downs. On the season, Jolly has 12 tackles, a tackle for a loss, two passes defended, an an interception on a screen pass in what was one of the more athletic plays you are ever going to see a 325-pound human being make.
His versatility has helped with Raji sidelined and he seems to have found his 2007 swagger again, when he performed well as a defensive tackle in the Packers’ old 4-3 scheme. Linemen need to be constantly rotated in the 3-4 defense, but Jolly’s ability to play both positions gives the Packers an added body to use in specific situations. His continued success is necessary for the Packers to continue getting to the quarterback with a great pass rush.
Honorable Mentions: Clay Matthews III, Donald Lee, Tramon Williams, Aaron Kampman, A.J. Hawk