By this time of the season, we pretty much know the Green Bay Packers roster and what these players can and can’t do well. We know, for example, that Jared Cook is big and fast. That the Packers are desperately weak at the cornerback position. That Cook can get open all over the field. That the offensive line is a superb pass protection unit. That Cook is a challenging matchup for any defense. That Ty Montgomery and Aaron Ripkowski are a couple of tough hombres. That Cook being released by the Rams was a gift from heaven. That Aaron Rodgers makes all things possible.
Still, there were some nuances that emerged from the glorious upset win in Texas.
I’ve talked before about “catch radius,” a metric that playerprofiler.com came up with to predict how well a receiver can catch somewhat off-target passes. The formula takes into account speed, agility, height, arm length, and vertical jump. Jared Cook illustrated the whole idea against Dallas: he dove to capture low balls, he soared for high throws, he out-reached defenders who were all over him, and he even caught that last ball that wasn’t even inbounds. Today I looked up Cook’s catch radius, and he’s in the 97th percentile.
We know both starting cornerbacks sucked. If you need any more proof, Pro Football Focus reports that when Dak Prescott threw at Packers’ cornerbacks, his passer rating was 141.4 against Damarious Randall and 136.6 against LaDarius Gunter. Gunter was at least trying – both I and Dom Capers were wrong to think Gunter could handle Dez Bryant one-on-one. Randall, on the other hand, was again the very picture of the “soft” coverage the broadcasters kept referring to. However, this was one bad game among many good ones for Gunter, whereas for Randall it was yet another typically horrid outing.
I’ve got to think Quinten Rollins will replace Randall as a starter when he’s healthy. Rollins has been subject to the NFL’s concussion protocol since his neck and head injury along the sideline against Detroit in week 17. Of great concern here, that injury did not appear to be much more than a fairly mild striking of the back of his helmet against the ground, which suggests that, like Sam Shields, he might be highly susceptible to more, and worse, concussions in the future.
Despite his heroics, Aaron Rodgers had one of his least accurate outings in quite some time. On at least three occasions, he was off-target enough to cause wide-open receivers (Cook, twice, and Geronimo Allison) to leave their feet to make the catch, preventing a bunch of yards-after-catch. In the first half, when Rodgers was generally very sharp, he missed a wide-open Cook on a deep route than would have been the team’s longest gain of the day. Rodgers’ interception was also due to an errant pass, meant for Davante Adams. Accuracy issues explain why Rodgers wound up with a 96.7 passer rating, less than Prescott’s 103.2.
Kentrell Brice looked capable in the opportunity presented to him by the injury to Morgan Burnett. Playing three-fourths of the defensive snaps, he led the team in tackles with seven, and used his speed to get into the action all over the field. And it’s official: he hits hard. I don’t know if there’s the possibility of using him, short-term, at cornerback, but assuming Burnett is able to play against Atlanta, that’s where the furious need is in Green Bay’s defensive backfield.
Not only has linebacker Joe Thomas moved ahead of Blake Martinez in the pecking order, Martinez was reduced to one defensive snap, though he had many special team snaps. Thomas played well, I thought, in pass coverage, but linebacker Jake Ryan was pretty much left alone on the inside to try to hold down the league’s top running back, Ezekiel Elliott. The strategy appeared to be to concede the runs, but to restrict the passing. You could say it worked, barely.
Sorry for the repetition, guys, I see Monty beat me to the punch a few times – but you know what they say about great minds.