Now that the celebrations have subsided, and apprehension over having a third straight losing season has lessened, it’s a good time to analyze Green Bay’s stillborn rushing attack.
Before we panic about the O-line being way overrated, here’s my take. Yes it’s a game of tackling and blocking, but it’s also a competition of emotion and motivation. This was a special game for the Bears, who were celebrating their 100th year. Glimpses of the pre-game festivities indicated a rabid group of players and fans – unlike anything I’ve seen in Chi-town since the days of Walter Payton.
The inspired front seven in the NFL – rated by Sports Illustrated as NFL’s best – played beyond their normal capabilities. All five of the top Bears’ linemen came to play: Leonard Floyd had 4 tackles and 2 sacks; Khalil Mack, Roquon Smith, and Danny Trevathan each had 5 tackles; DT Akiem Hicks, LB Aaron Lynch, and DE Roy Robertson-Harris accounted for the other three sacks.
Last season the Bears led the NFL with eight players voted to the Pro Bowl, including Hicks and Mack. With this kind talent, the Bears didn’t need to blitz defensive backs to pressure Aaron Rodgers.
Next Sunday the emotional advantage will switch over to the Packers. With that first win under his belt, Matt LaFleur can take a full breath. In the aftermath of the satisfying win, Packers fans are now the ones who’ll be at a fever pitch to start the season with two divisional wins, and with the prospect of facing four of their next five opponents at home.
The most knowledgeable fans in the league realize it’s not just a new season, but a new era. Most of the coaching staff and much of the roster is new, and key front office people are only in their second year. Lambeau Field will be rocking come Sunday.
The Vikings front seven, led by DE Danielle Hunter and vile OLB Anthony Barr, are good, but they’re not at the Bears’ level. For example, Linval Joseph, a pro bowler in 2016 and 2017, is now 30 years old and – shades of Clay Matthews – he managed only one sack last season.
Best of all, the Vikes won’t have the motivation they or the Bears had last week in their first game – this time it’s the Packers’ home opener.
I’m pleased that almost no one has directed criticism at Aaron Jones following the Bears game. Even the best of rushers struggle when they are unable to get back to the line of scrimmage before getting belted. I expect the Packers to re-assume command of the line of scrimmage on Sunday, get a better forward thrust, and open up some running lanes – Aaron Jones doesn’t need much space, but he needs some. I’d like to see the Pack generate at least 110 yards rushing on Sunday.
A final consideration is the play calling. Shortly after the Bears’ game, I asked: “where was all the motion, options, and disguises we’ve been promised?” I still haven’t heard an adequate explanation, but Aaron Rodgers shed some light on the matter when he made these post-game comments:
“We didn’t get to a lot of stuff tonight because we weren’t very efficient. The more efficient we are the more first downs we have, the more opportunities we can to get to our stuff. The good thing is we have plenty of stuff for next week that we, you know, installed this week.”
It was subtle, but my read is that Aaron was messaging someone about the crappy offensive play calling. Efficient or not, the Green Bay offense had over 50 opportunities to inject a creative or unpredictable play or two.
Prior to Thursday, I felt LaFleur had about a 7-point advantage over Nagy “because for the first and only time in his career, the head coach’s specific offensive schemes and strategies are largely a mystery going into the Chicago game.” That didn’t turn out to be the case, as the head coach left many plays the team had practiced on the play sheet – he never sent them in. I don’t know why, and neither apparently does Rodgers.
Who knows, maybe LaFleur wanted to save his surprises for the first home game, and against a slightly more formidable threat than Trubisky and the Bears.
Before leaving the subject of play calling, we’ve all seen instances when it’s obvious a team is overmanned in some area, as was the Pack’s O-line on Thursday. It had to be clear to even casual viewers that the Chicago front seven was utterly dominating the line of scrimmage, and this lessened only marginally as the game wore on. Jones didn’t even get into plus yardage until late in the third quarter.
But there are always responses and counter-measures that can be tried to help even the odds. Measures that could have been taken include screen passes, quick passes in the flat, quick slants to the masterful Davante Adams, draw plays, end-arounds, shovel passes, and reverses. When the middle of the formation is plugged up as thoroughly as it was on Thursday, why not try to spread the field by going outside the tackle on some rushes? I’d add that compared to the run plays of the Rams on Sunday, Green Bay’s movement off the snap looked like it was done in slow motion.
I’ve previously opined that something like a third of Aaron Jones’s runs should go outside the tackle. A review of the film indicates Jones’s 13 carries went as follows: into the guard spot three times, into the tackle area nine times, and around right end once. He earned every one of his 39 net yards. Jaamal Williams attacked the guard spot once, the tackle area three times, and left end once, for zero yards in 5 carries. Three of three screens were completed, but for only a total of 15 yards.
None of the 18 carries by the Packers’ running backs involved any deception, misdirection, disguises, or options. Let’s hope Matt LaFleur injects some “new stuff” into the Packers-Vikings contest.
I feel like that big pass to mvs was rather creative. The play action was set up marvelously and completely tricked me as a viewer…not to mention the bears.
Without the creativity of the play drawing the bears away…Rodgers gets crushed with his back facing the defense.
Pitching the ball to Williams was sheer insanity. Just a dumb ass play call. As for the O line, Bulaga played well and the rest of the O line got bitch slapped. Taylor still sucks and has no business starting. I expect a much better performance this Sunday.
Good read Rob…
I’m not so sure the bears were more motivated or energized simply because they were celebrating their 100th. It’s the first game of the season, the Packers against the Bears, at the Bears, prime time on National TV in the first game of the season. If Packer players can’t get up for that, they may be in the wrong line of work. I’m not sure who overated the Packers O line. I know i haven’t. That was hard to watch, even knowing that the bears were going to give them all they could handle. So it’s no surprise whatsoever to me that the run game never got any traction. I know that line won’t have to face the bears every week, but i see Rodgers on his back far too often this season (again). hopefully they make me eat those words, but we’ll see. For those paying attention, anyone besides me notice Bakhtiari giving up more sacks and pressures than usual the past half a season and this last game? Hopefully it’s just a fluke.
Regarding the unveiling of the new look offensive schemes (or more of it). I couldn’t have said it any better Rob, you are spot on. So the question is, why not? I’ll throw 2 things out there….1) LaFleur doesn’t feel like they are ready yet and wanted another week of practice. 2) As you alluded to, they are waiting for the queens to unveil it instead of the bears. I had that same thought in the 2nd half, but i’ll admit it’s a reach. I just thought that struggling they way they were, they would have brought it out if they were ready.
Ok…i’m not purposely going after Rashan Gary….BUT…….where was he? Why didn’t he get more snaps. The Packers defense was on the field plenty. The bears had a clear time of possession edge the whole game, they could have put him in to spell the Smith’s. Was he injured? He wasn’t on the injury report. Putting him in at the end of the game for 6 snaps seems weird, especially if the #12 pick of the draft is healthy and ready to play. Or in his own words “ready to be great right now”. Did a reporter ask why Gary didn’t get more snaps? From A-Z, nothing about Gary has made any sense to me….but i’ll stay tuned i guess.
Again Rob, very well articulated piece, thank you.
At this point im rooting for Gary…obviously… but I lost my shit when they drafted him. I proclaimed after the draft that the solid savage pick would be the nonsensical reason people dont get upset about the high potential of squandering our 12th pick on Gary. However… it is possible to admit that Savage was a great pick and gary was a total what the fuck shit tier pick at the same time. Good luck explaining that to the plebes that fill the Lambeau bleachers.
It wont surprise me if they shut Gary down by week 8 (depending on injury situation for other players) to get that labrum fixed. Then again they should have just done it right after the draft but that would make sense (assuming hes a good pick at 12). But we know this organization is going to keep him out there just long enough to tank his 2nd season as well.
Let me say this first Stig….compliments on the next level intellect of pointing out how a solid Savage pick would negate negative feelings in some fans if Gary turned out to be a bust, sadly it’s true. Personally, that’s not how my mind works, every draft pick gets judged on their own merit. One good pick doesn’t forgive a bad pick. The exception being judging a draft class as a whole.
It should be noted, in my mind anyway I don’t deem any current pick a bust, or a solid pick with one game experience under their belt. For example, when everyone was walking around sporting a woody about Randall and Rollins even after their first full season, usually i still need more of a sample size. If Packer fans learned anything, one season doesn’t make a great player (also see Nick Perry)
Montez Sweat had 5 tackles.
Brian Burns had 2 tackles.
Rashan Gary, no stats.
However, I think in the few plays he played, Gary looked much better than he did in preseason. It’s odd because he gets to the QB so quick, the QB seems to respond poorly, but Gary doesn’t get a stat for incomplete passes.
I am not worried about Gary. He had two pressures in six snaps, and the one play he bullrushed Kyle Long into the ground. Kyle Long has a pretty good reputation around the league
I have concerns about Gary’s shoulder. However, I believe it to be reasonable to not take the Smith’s off the field to put Gary in at this early stage of Gary’s move to OLB from DL.
Gary was inserted in the game at the end of the first half for three plays and on the Bears drive just before the INT. Those are crucial drives and downs that the Packers D has failed to stop in the past. To put Gary in on those drives/downs shows that Gary is going to get most of his early playing time in high pass % drives/downs. Gary will be part of the fast track D line with as little coverage responsibility as possible. I don’t think the Packers will trust Gary in coverage at this early stage of conversion.
Gary performed well in those six plays as you state. Gary played a big role in the wheel route pass that Greene knocked down (blind) near the goal line. Gary, in part, pressured Trubisky to look away from the middle of the field and make a quick throw toward Greene. Gary did hit Trubisky on the play. The funny thing about that play is If Gary had not hurried Trubisky, I think P Smith might have sacked and maybe forced a fumble on Trubisky. P Smith hit Trubisky just before Gary from the blindside.
I get it, Gary looked good, i’ll take your word for it as i didn’t tape it, or notice he was even in.
But here’s the thing…he goes in fresh, that gives him a distinct advantage, he should look good.
Let me see a body of work from this guy, idk…maybe 25,40,50 snaps?
I’m not crowning someone because they played decent in for a sliver of plays. This guys a #12 pick in the draft, enough with this kids glove treatment, people have been making excuses for this dude since he got into college it seems. Sometime in the near future he has to prove he was worth his draft standing. Don’t tell me….show me. You don’t draft a guy #12 to come in for spot duty and sit him on the bench most of the game.
If it’s his shoulder, well…..then it is what it is, the same old same old.
I don’t think you are going to see Gary get close to 40 or 50 snaps a game as long as both Smith’s are healthy. I’m not crowning anyone either, and who is giving him kid’s glove treatment? Not me, I’m just saying what I saw in the game. Is there something wrong with that?
I do think it benefits Gary to come into the game fresh. It also at this time benefits the Packers defense, and team for Gary to come into the game fresh. If it benefits the team at this point to have the Smith’s in the game over Gary, then bring Gary into the game fresh, I’m all for it. I’m satisfied so far with what the four year veteran Smith’s have shown. No need to rush the rookie who is converting to a new position, if you have quality players ahead of Gary. What I do want to see is Gary overtake Fackrell soon as the third linebacker in the game. However, Fackrell is very good in coverage and as a spy. I don’t think the Packers trust Gary in coverage.
OK Rob, let’s take a look at this. Every fan should be concerned about their run game, I have no issue there.
Let’s look at this gem of a paragraph. For accuracy sake. As below:
“The Vikings front seven, led by DE Danielle Hunter and vile OLB Anthony Barr, are good, but they’re not at the Bears’ level. For example, Linval Joseph, a pro bowler in 2016 and 2017, is now 30 years old and – shades of Clay Matthews – he managed only one sack last season.”
You know, artistic license and all that but some things need correcting here. You call Anthony Barr “vile”. The only “reason” for that and, let’s be honest, it isn’t a reason, is the totally legal, appropriate, and correct hit he put on Aaron Rodgers nearly two years ago. This has been covered endlessly but it looks like you did not get the memo. Legal hit. Legal. Hit. Appropriate. Correct. Then, due to the high pitched whining emanating from Wisconsin, in 2018, after the hit, the NFL made such a hit illegal. Then, hilariously, Clay Matthews violated the new rule repeatedly. Just couldn’t learn! Then, due to more high-pitched whining from Wisconsin (no one ever calling Clay Matthews “vile”), the NFL basically stopped enforcing that new rule. Is this time line jogging your memory?
It could be you call Barr “vile” because he grabbed his crotch in response to Aaron Rodgers repeatedly yelling profanity at him. Well, Aaron initiated that yet you don’t call Aaron “vile” and Aaron’s words were heard by children all over while Barr’s crotch grab, oddly enough, was in the huddle and so discreet it was only seen by Aaron and with zoom in slow mo days later at just a certain angle. Now, is it true that Barr should not have stooped down to Aaron’s crass insensitive level? Yes, I’ll give you that one. Barr is better than that. There was a motivation though. Aaron believes he should be able to attack others verbally and in the press and they should not be given any say or be able to respond. Barr sought to point out that belief is mistaken.
Next, you compare Linval Joseph at 30 this year to Clay Matthews at 32 years old last year. So, as a Viking, age 30 is like age 32 to a Packer? Am I getting that right? Next, you compare sacks. Linval is no sack master nor is that his job. He holds the line of scrimmage and stymies the run. Playing nose tackle, missing a game, and playing all year with injuries, not on the field for passing downs, Joseph had 58 tackles !!! Amazing production. Back in 2014 at age 25 and playing all 16 games healthy he racked up 48 tackles. Well then, looks like the water in Minnesota agrees with him and he is improving with age! Comparing Matthew’s sacks to Linval’s is like comparing Matthew’s sacks to the nickel corner of the opposing team. It is just not applicable.
high pitched whining
Here we go…..more high pitched whining
I do agree the barr hit was legal. Was annoyed by all the pissung and moaning about it. And also…Joseph is a run stopper so his sacks dont mean a lot.
The rest of your post is a little unhinged. Have we finally found where demetrius Underwood has been hiding all these years?
Don’t make the Lonely Boy angry!
You can tell your Mom we’re not coming over to watch the game…I thought for a minute this was you….but there is a girl there so can’t be.
I think that we have far better reasons to worry about Rodgers’ play, rather than Gary’s. Aaron Nagler tweeted during the game that the new offense looked a lot like McCarthy’s so far. Then he said, (paraphrasing) “makes you wonder how much Rodgers was to blame for last year”. I think we’re going to find out over the next 16 weeks! Rodgers is hardly over .500 in the last 50 or so games.
Lol….When you start going to Aaron Nagler for viewpoints, you’ve already lost.
What I am concerned about is that Rodgers actually looked better on the road last year and the stats show it. He threw for more TDs, ran for more TDs (not included in QB ratings) and generally looked like he played harder on the road. Rodgers QB rating on the road was actually about his average QB rating on the road for his entire career, but his home QB rating was about 10 points lower than his career home QB rating.
This is part of the reason I thought he was tanking it. He didn’t care about looking bad in front of home crowds who would love him no matter what, but in front of opponents crowds he wanted to perform to the level he was capable of performing.
Think everyone is thinking to much into this. Matt Lafleur said himself they had to call alot of “get back on track” plays which obviously means he wanted to get the offense in a rhythm before he started getting fancy which makes sense because you don’t wanna call new plays with a frustrated out of sync offense because all that is going to lead to is alignment issues, missed assignments etc etc. As far as the run game, you can tell he was really committed but ultimately he couldn’t get it going against a really solid front seven. I honestly think he focused too much on it but oh well. Its week one and that was a great win. Instead writing about how rodgers has fallen off a cliff and blah blah focus on positives like our defense. No one is talking about the defense at all which is upsetting because they played a great game.
I had my doubts that the running game would take off immediately, even though the Packers have decent running backs. The offensive line is learning all new complex blocking schemes and it is being taught by an offensive line coach who has only been an assistant offensive line coach.
Fun fact…stenavich wanted to go to uw. Uw completely screwed up recruitment by disorganization and mistreatment on site. Michigan on the other hand rolled out the red carpet.
A little late (a day late) but this weekend keep the families of the victims of Sept 11 in our minds and hearts, as they should be here still, watching football and enjoying weekends with their families.