Green Bay Packers' Offensive Line: Things Are Not Always As They Seem...

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Green Bay Packers' Offensive Line: Things Are Not Always As They Seem...
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

(From the “Things are not Always as They Seem Department”: Offensive Line Edition)

 

Perception No. 1  ” “Jared Allen had 4 sacks so Daryn Colledge was awful against the Vikings…”

 

When the Green Bay Packers played the Minnesota Vikings last Monday night, Aaron Rodgers was sacked eight times, with four credited to Jared Allen. Since Daryn Colledge was the man drawing the difficult task of blocking the two-time Pro-Bowler, one would assume he had a bad night.

In fact, I have heard many say how awful Colledge played on Monday night.

But being the curious type, I needed to know if this was really true or just another case of overreaction by Packers beat writers, bloggers, and fans. So, I did the only thing that could be done: I went back to the game films and watched Jared Allen on every play.

I learned a lot, mostly that Jared Allen is even better than I thought. Like him or not, he has to be the best speed pass-rusher in the league right now. Allen is that annoying, arrogant jerk that everyone hates, unless he’s on your team. Then you love him.

Like Sean Avery in hockey, if you follow hockey at all. He’s a disruptive force and excels at getting into the heads of opposing players.

The other thing I learned was that Daryn College did not do as bad a job as you probably think. In fact, he actually did fairly well, considering he is at tackle only because of Clifton’s injury.

OK, so you’re probably saying to yourself, what is Jersey Al drinking? Well, I did go to a wine tasting last night, but I am completely sober this afternoon and I know what my eyes have seen after watching the film. Let me prove it to you:

Sack No. 1: Alan Barbre gets beat, Rodgers holds the ball too long and turns right into Jared Allen’s path. Colledge’s job on that play was to just cut-block Allen, as it was a three-step drop and a quick pass out.

Colledge doesn’t get Allen down, but he does force him deep and wide, giving Rodgers plenty of time on the backside to get off his quick pass. If only he did. Sack blame: Barbre and Rogers.

Sack No. 2: This was a bad blocking scheme. Play action right, Rodgers reverses and rolls to his left. Colledge blocks down on the LB and does his job. Spitz and Sitton drop back along with Grant to protect Rodgers’ back side.

Barbre blocks his man easily. The Packers have five players protecting the back side, but only John Kuhn to block in front of Rodgers.

Scott Wells stands in the middle of the field and blocks nobody (this would turn out to be a recurring event ). Vikings linebacker Brad Leber is unaccounted for and untouched (what are you waiting for Scott?) and just circles around and pounces on Rodgers before he has time to react. Sack blame: Coaches, thumb-twiddling Scott Wells, Aaron Rodgers.

Sack No. 3: Colledge Stands up Allen and DeShawn Wynn is to his left, supposedly to help block. Allen takes an inside slant, and Colledge handles it. Wynn reaches out and touches Allen with his hand (tag you’re it) and then quickly releases out into a pattern.

Allen sees this and changes direction with a speed rush into the area that Wynn just vacated. Colledge is beat, his help is gone and Rodgers is sacked. Sack Blame: Colledge and Wynn

Sack No. 4: Quick ZBS play action right. Rodgers turns, fakes the inside hand off to Kuhn, then is obviously looking to throw a quick slant. The problem is, the receivers are apparently blocking for a running play. This looks like it was a broken play. Perhaps Rodgers changed the call at the line and the receivers didn’t pick it up.

The entire line blocks right, leaving Allen purposely not blocked on the back side. With the broken play, he runs smack into an Aaron Rodgers again holding on to the ball unnecessarily. Sack blame: Rodgers.

Sack No. 5: Aaron Rodgers drops back to throw and has excellent protection, he waits, he waits, he dances around, waits some more and finally Alan Barbre can’t hold Brian Robinson off no longer and Rodgers is sacked. Sack blame: All Aaron Rodgers.

Sack No. 6: Colledge has Allen neutralized. Jason Spitz gets beat by a quick move and Jerry Kennedy sacks Rodgers. In trying to catch Kennedy, Spitz crashes into Colledge’s knee, sending him out for the rest of game. Sack blame: Jason Spitz.

Sack No. 7: This was the safety where Allen beats a double-team by T.J. Lang and Ryan Grant with another change-of-direction move that leaves the blockers wondering where he went. Sack Blame: T.J. Lang, Ryan Grant, Aaron Rodgers.

Sack No. 8:Jared Allen beats T.J. Lang cleanly with an outside speed move. Sack Blame: T.J. Lang.

So you see, after analyzing every sack, Daryn Colledge’s name comes up only once. Surprised, aren’t you? And that sack doesn’t happen if Wynn sticks around a second or two longer and actually helps out.

Oh, and have I mentioned recently that the Packers kept DeShawn Wynn supposedly for his blocking? Did I also mention that he drops easy passes every game? What?  You say I manage to work those into every article I write? That’s not possible, is it? Oh, OK. Sorry...

 

Perception  No. 2 “The Packers finally found their screen game against the Vikings…”

Most of you are probably thinking, finally the OL did something right. Sorry to burst every one’s bubble. I know you all want to believe we can run a decent screen. Believe me, nobody wants that to be true more than I do. But alas, our screen game is weighed down quite simply by interior linemen that simply cannot get outside fast enough to even help out.

Any yardage the Packers gained on screen passes against the Vikings was a direct result of an outstanding individual effort by the pass catcher and a great block by a wide receiver. The lead-blocking linemen had NOTHING to do with it.

The linemen can’t get out in front of the play, and even if they do, they don’t block anybody! It was uncanny seeing this on every screen play. Here’s the evidence:

Screen Pass No. 1:

screen-1-vikings-smallThis play surprised the Vikings, who most likely were not expecting a screen pass from green Bay so early in the game. The play looks well setup and succeeds, but not why you might think. Jason Spitz is able to get out in front of Grant, but completely misses the block.

Fortunately, Grant's picks the correct lane and the LB misses. Wells never come close to catching up and does what he does on a lot of plays—ends up blocking nobody. If he had gotten out in front, he would have had the chance to block the player that eventually tackled Grant.

Wells is slow and doesn’t look for someone to block down field, he always just seems to be running along with the play. I can see why the Packers chose Spitz as the starter. Sitton can “lumber” at best, and never comes close to being part of the play. The only blocker who does his job on this play is Jordy Nelson, who keeps the cornerback tied up.

Grant hits the hole aggressively and picks up 13 yards, no thanks to his linemen.

Screen Pass No. 2:

screen-2-vikings-smallDonald Lee (the player in the center of this frame) does a good job on this screen play selling his block before peeling off outside. Alan Barbe is the outside player that misses his block. James Jones is the player on the outside right that has completely missed his block.

Josh Sitton, late once again into the play, is attempting to cut block a Viking but ends up missing the block. Scott Wells is once again seen trailing the play and blocks absolutely nobody. The three Vikings defenders converge on Lee, but Lee miraculously hurdles over them to go on and pick up 16 yards.

This screen play succeeded purely because of the outstanding individual effort by Lee. No help was received from anyone else.

Screen Pass No. 3:

screen-3a-vikings-smallOn this screen to Grant, Jason Spitz not only doesn’t slow his player’s rush at all, he then for some reason is jogging and looking back at Rodgers instead of hustling out to get in front of Grant.

As Grant catches the ball and turns outside, there is an unblocked Viking there to meet him. Grant does a very un-Grant-like thing and makes the Viking defender miss by cutting inside. By that time, Spitz has now gotten down field.

screen-3b-vikings-smallThat takes us to this frame. Here we see Ryan Grant reading the block by Greg Jennings and about to cut inside. There is only one defender that can prevent a touchdown and Spitz is right there to block him. Spitz misses him and Grant is tackled. Scott Wells, once again runs down field and blocks nobody.

And also once again, the only player executing a block is a wide receiver. Instead of a touchdown, Grant is tackled at the five and the Vikings go on to stop the Packers on four downs for zero points. If Spitz makes that block, the Packers would have ended up tying the game, eventually, instead of losing by seven.

Screen Pass No. 4:

I had trouble getting this frame, so I’ll just have to describe it. This was another tight end screen to Lee. Again, there is no blocking on this one. The Viking player that makes the tackle was surrounded by three Packers when Lee catches the ball, yet was not blocked and tackled Lee for a two-yard loss.

Sitton and Wells are in contact with the defender, Barbre sees that and advances down field to block someone else. That was the correct play, because you would assume that two offensive linemen could block or at least slow down one defensive tackle and prevent him from making a tackle outside on a screen play.

Wrong assumption.

 

Summary

So what did I learn from watching our interior linemen closely? Basically that they are not good in open space. They are slow, not aggressive enough and are easily run around by fast defenders. Their best work is definitely done inside where there is less room for the defenders to work in and the offensive linemen simply have to hold their ground and let the player take themselves in whatever direction they want.

Also, despite what many have said, Daryn Colledge should not be the poster boy for the offensive line’s struggles based on this game. You can directly fault Colledge for only one of the eight sacks registered by the Vikings. There were plenty of other players more deserving of the goat horns, so don't put them on Colledge's head.

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You can find more of Jersey Al Bracco’s articles on several sports websites: Jersey Al’s Blog, Packer Chatters , Packers Lounge, NFL Touchdown, and, of course, Bleacher Report.

You can also follow Jersey Al on twitter.

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