Yesterday, we took a look at five reasons not to be excited about the Green Bay Packers, making the argument that the team has major flaws that may haunt them down the stretch and into the playoffs.
That said, we fully expect the Green Bay Packers to make the playoffs. However, this isn’t a team that’s going to make a Super Bowl run for numerous reasons. Still, there are plenty of things to like about the 2009 Green Bay Packers and although we like to be pessimists from time to time, we think it’s only fair for us to look at the positives of this team.
We tear them down only to build them back up again.
The offensive line
I’m joking, right?
No. I’m not. Remember that word continuity? Packers coach Mike McCarthy has been throwing it around since training camp. Unfortunately, injuries and poor play (and poor personnel decisions) stopped the Packers from achieving any along the offensive line for most of the season. The team has used six different starting combinations along the offensive line this season. Six appears to be where the Packers are going to cap that number.
The Packers still lead the league in sacks with 44, but they’ve now started to stitch up the gaping wound known as the offensive line. Scott Wells has played much better since coming in for the injured Jason Spitz at center. Mark Tauscher, even at 33, is far superior to Allen Barbre at right tackle. Chad Clifton and T.J. Lang have been serviceable at left tackle.
More importantly, the offensive line has been able to gel because there hasn’t been the constant turnover caused by injuries to Clifton and Tauscher and the poor play of Barbre.
Although left guard Daryn Colledge hasn’t played well this season, the current unit is far more viable than the one that opened the season. After giving up an inexcuseable six sacks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their last loss, the Packers have given up progressively fewer sacks each week – Dallas (4), San Francisco (2), Detroit (1).
Although play calling leaves a lot to be desired, the switch in Mike McCarthy’s head finally clicked after the Tampa Bay game. Some may wonder what took so long, but let’s just be glad the switch went on at all.
It’s about then McCarthy realized he doesn’t have the offensive line to constantly drop back and throw the deep ball and changed to a quick-hitting offensive attack. The result speaks for itself. After losing to the only winless team in the NFL, the Packers came back and beat a division leader in the Dallas Cowboys.
The Packers have been much more effective offensively. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been on his back less. The Packers are winning games.
A similar transformation has happened with Dom Capers’ defense. After the Tampa Bay loss, Capers went to the high-pressure, blitzing defense we all expected from the Packers at the beginning of the season.
The results? Ten sacks, six interceptions, three forced fumbles and 43 points allowed in three wins. Compare that to the previous two weeks. One sack, one interception, zero forced fumbles and 76 points allowed in two losses.
The losses can easily be chalked up to the Packers coaching staff for their misguided game plan. So, it’s only fair we point it out that they finally got it right.
The receiving corp
With the exception of Brett Swain, the Packers receiving corp is finally healthy and you can see the results.
At 34, Donald Driver is having one of his best seasons. He is currently averaging a career-high 15.9 yards per reception. He’s on pace for 1,229 yards, which would be the second-highest total of his career.
Although Greg Jennings has been invisible at times, he is still on pace for his second 1,000-yard season.
However, the real difference for the Packers is with the second-line guys. Since the return of Jordy Nelson and tight end Jermichael Finley, the Packers have been much more effective on offense.
Opposing offenses simply can’t cover Driver, Jennings, James Jones, Nelson, Donald Lee and Finley. It’s a virtual murderer’s row of pass catchers and no team has that many top-of-the-line cover guys.
Consider that Driver, Jennings, Jones and Finley have all had over 100 yards receiving in a game this season and you’ll see what I mean.
Simply, Woodson is playing at an MVP level.
Woodson is on pace for 78 tackles, three sacks and 10 interceptions. All of those would be career highs. Woodson has already registered a career high with four forced fumbles. He’s tied his career high with two touchdowns. This is a guy who’s made five Pro Bowls and been named All Pro three times.
And he’s having the best season of his career at age 33.
Just think, if Capers had let his defense loose earlier in the season instead of waiting for the Dallas game, Woodson’s statistics would be even better.
This is the defense Charles Woodson was meant to play. Charles Woodson has put this defensive team on his back and right now, he’s the most dominant defender in the NFL.
It’s hard not to like a guy who’s completed 66 percent of his passes (ninth in the NFL) and has a quarterback rating of 104.9 (third in the NFL). However, Rodgers contributed his share of gaffes to the Packers’ losses to Minnesota and Tampa Bay.
In addition to simply not getting it done, Rodgers was notorious for holding onto the football too long in those two losses.
Since then, his numbers have gone up, the number of sacks the Packers have allowed per game has gone down, and Rodgers has taken on a leadership role in the Packers’ pass protection scheme. Rodgers isn’t simply getting rid of the ball quicker, he’s also pointing out blitzers and adjusting blocking schemes at the line and the team is better off for it.
Rodgers completed 63 and 48 percent of his passes against Minnesota and Tampa Bay, respectively. His low point of the season unquestionably came against Tampa Bay, when his rating was a dismal 57.6.
Since then, Rodgers and the Packers have turned it around.
In the last three games, Rodgers has completed 69, 71 and 72 percent of his passes. His rating has increased each week, as well, from 91.1 to 108 to 124.7.
To say Rodgers has bounced back from the losses would be an understatement, but to ignore his increased leadership role wouldn’t be doing him justice. Aaron Rodgers has come into his own this season and this team will go as far as he can take them.