What exactly is the problem in Green Bay at the moment? Not once this season have the Packers left the field thinking they had played to their full potential . Heck, they came off after having beaten Detroit by two points feeling like they had lost the game. It seems like they may be having trouble living up to all the preseason hype. Personally I believe that the problem boils down to two issues – one in which Green Bay had no control over, and another that they could of done more to address.
The most overriding problem so far has been injury, and assuming that over-training or poor conditioning is unlikely to be a real issue, then this has been pure bad luck. If you look at the final quarter against Washington on Sunday – at the most crucial point in the game where the result is usually decided, the list of missing players is a ridiculous cast off offensive and defensive playmakers. Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, Clay Matthews, Ryan Pickett, Nick Barnett, Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett... Any team is going to struggle if you remove such a talented core of players. To some extent I am impressed that the Packers still had a final shot of winning this game, but once it went to overtime, I think most people could guess which way this one was going to go. If Green Bay is going to live up to all the lofty preseason expectations, then Jermichael Finley and Clay Matthews need to get healthy and fast. Mike Macarthy admitted after the game that losing Finley knocked out some offensive packages, and Rodgers clearly missed his favourite weapon. Defensively, I think it was actually quite scary how ordinary Green Bay looked when Matthews left the game. Other than a couple of all or nothing fire blitzes in overtime, the pass rush was almost non-existent without #52. While this is a tribute to the extreme talent of Matthews and his role as a defensive playmaker, contemplating any extended period of time without him is too painful to consider.
The other glaring issue has to be the running game, and it is here where the Green Bay management failed to act in a positive manner. Losing Ryan Grant for the season was a massive blow, because he was the only every down back that the offense possessed. I know that some people will point to Brandon Jackson posting a 100-yard rushing game against Washington, but that included a 70-yard rush that should of been a touchdown if he had a little more speed. Jackson and John Kuhn worked far more effectively as situational backs; put Jackson out there on 3rd down and let him make a play, put Kuhn out there when your deep in the red zone and let him barrel into the end zone. The offense needed an every down running back with a little star quality, and Marshawn Lynch seemed the perfect fit, but Ted Thompson refused to part with draft picks. I think Green Bay will pay throughout the season for an inconsistent running game putting too much pressure on Rodgers and his receivers. The absence of a truly effective play action surely has something to do with him having already thrown 6 interceptions.
But It is too late for Lynch now; the Packers must move forward and try to give Jackson more opportunity to perform consistently at a high level as an every down back. After all, he did rip off 70 yards against Washington, but then got only 10 carries in the whole match. He has got to be given more chance to develop the Green Bay running game.
And one other thing, get Clay Matthews fit and get him on the field! Otherwise it is going to be a field day for quarterbacks against a depleted secondary.
Right now, the Green Bay Packers are 3 – 2. I think for most fans, along with what seemed like a large majority of the national media before the season, this is not where they imagined the Packers to be at this stage. The schedule only gets tougher from here on in; in the next five weeks, Green Bay plays the Jets, the Cowboys and the Vikings twice. If there ever was a game where a team needed to play itself into some form before the big games ahead, it is this week against the Dolphins at Lambeau Field.