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Keep This in Mind When You Watch the NFL Draft

Green Bay played the San Francisco 49ers twice last season: on November 24 and on January 19. That’s about three months and five months prior to the draft that starts on April 23.

It seems many of us have forgotten that these two “contests” were bloody massacres. They were utter routs. The haves versus the have nots. I feel that – no matter how painful – we should take a pre-draft moment to reflect back on these slaughters.

The Pack traveled to California last November sporting an 8-2 record. They were coming off their bye week, which meant they should have been well rested and pretty healthy – and that the coaching staff had an extra week to game plan for the big event.

The 49ers came in with a 9-1 record. The media anticipated a close game, though the Niners were considered to be a slight favorite.

It got ugly, and it happened fast. Less than two minutes in, the Pack turned an opening possession into a Niners’ TD – you’ll recall Rodgers juking backwards trying to avoid blitzers then fumbling the ball away on his own 2-yard line. By the half, the score was 23-0.

The second half got no better, with the final score being 37-8. If it weren’t for the Niners going into a prevent defense, and offense – which allowed the Packers to have a 10-minute advantage in time of possession – the 49ers might have run up 50 points.

I can’t remember a Packer team being so thoroughly dominated – or the outcome of a Packers game being decided so quickly. The Niners’ top rusher, Raheem Mostert, had 45 yards on 6 carries (7.5 ave.); and the top receiver, George Kittle, caught all six balls thrown his way, for 129 yards. The Packers either had no workable plan to hold down the opponent’s offense, or they didn’t have the manpower – maybe both.

Less than two months later these same adversaries faced off again in the NFL Championship game. Once again Mike Pettine’s guys got steamrolled. The halftime score was even worse: 27-0. Raheem Mostert, this time getting 23 more carries than in the first game, ran up 220 yards and four touchdowns. His average of 7.6 yards per carry bettered even his first effort.

How complete was the Niners’ offensive superiority? Mostert established the all-time NFL record for yards gained on the ground in a playoff game. As a team the Niners rushed for 285 yards, and once again they went into a second half slow-down mode, or the final score of 37-20 would have been much more embarrassing. Coach Shanahan was actually very merciful toward his pal, Matt LaFleur.

Bottom line: the Packers’ run defense was hapless; it was like a lamb being led to the butcher’s block. These two teams will meet again this season, at least once and perhaps twice. What steps are the Packers taking to prevent a repeat performance?

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers scrambles in 2019 NFC Championship game against San Francisco 49ers

Jan 19, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked by San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99) in the first half of the NFC Championship Game at Levi’s Stadium. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 Packers

The biggest change so far in the Packers defense is that ILB Blake Martinez has been replaced by Christian Kirksey. I believe this is a net loss for the Packers, though I’m warming up to the newcomer. At any rate, if the ILBs are the keys to mounting an effective run defense, then the Packers have more work to do. Blake had 15 tackles and a sack in the two 49ers games.

What about the defensive line? Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry are still there, and the Smiths remain at the edges, while Kyler Fackrell is gone. Among my picks of players who might have a breakout season (Raven Greene, Chandon Sullivan, Curtis Bolton) one or all of them might step up and strengthen the run defense. Bolton, who missed all of last season with an ACL tear, is a particularly aggressive pursuer and tackler.

2020 Forty Niners

Unlike Green Bay’s defense, I expect the 49ers’ offense to be even more formidable this year than last. Almost all of their skills players are young and getting better: RB Mostert (27), RB Matt Breida (24), RB Tevin Coleman (26), FB Kyle Juszczyk (29), TE Geroge Kittle (26), WR Deebo Samuel (24), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (28). Their projected O-line starters, at ages 25, 28, 28, 30, and 35, are mostly in their prime, – and the old man is 6-time Pro Bowler OT Joe Staley, who was named to the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team.

We don’t yet know when the regular season game will be, but it will be played on the Coast for the third straight time.

Besides, the other teams the Packers will face this season will surely be viewing the film of the two 49ers games, and planning to mimic the Niners’ offensive game plan. If you aren’t worried, you haven’t been paying enough attention.

Draft Days

The Packers’ second big chance to acquire more talented defensive players is approaching. Will the Packers have the two San Fran slaughters heavily on their minds when the draft commences on April 23? We’ll soon find out.

In checking out various mock drafts, I’ve looked around so see what positions the Pack will focus on in the early rounds. Here’s who several forecasters think the Packers will select in the first, or early, rounds – and their positions:

Chris Trepasso (CBS Sports) – WR Jalen Reagor; IDL Justin Madubuike

Peter Schrager (NFL Network) – LB Jordyn Brooks
Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN) – WR Tee Higgins; TE Adam Trautman
Bucky Brooks (NFL Network) – OT Josh Jones
Will Brinson (CBS Sports) – WR Brandon Aiyuk
Bryan DeArdo (CBS Sports) – WR Jalen Reagor
Ross Uglem (Packer Report) – WR Jalen Reagor; IDL Jordan Elliott; LB Troy Dye
Joel Klatt (Fox Sports) – WR Brandon Aiyuk
Frankie Taddeo (Sports Illustrated) – WR Tee Higgins
Brent Sobleski (Bleacher Report) – LB Jordyn Brooks

Of the above ten guys, seven think the Packers first draft pick will be one of three wide receivers. Only two think it will be a defensive player, namely a linebacker. The other two think an interior defensive lineman will be chosen.

I’d be the last person to deny that the Packers also have big needs on offense. In keeping with the theme of the post, however, I’ve got to ask: how will the Packers avoid more drubbings by the 49ers – and other strong run teams – if they don’t draft one or more ready-to-play defensive linemen or linebackers in the early rounds?

While I won’t be a bit surprised if Green Bay selects some defenders in Round 4 or later, does anyone think such picks can contribute this year to containing a guy like Raheem Mostert?

If the draft goes the way the above pundits think it will, I’d say the free agency signing of Christian Kirksay looms as a critical move. For the Pack’s defense to stand a chance against the Niners, Kirksey needs to stay healthy and play like he did back in 2016 and 2017.

I also think the above mock drafts lend support to my earlier speculation that second-year man Rashan Gary might be inserted as an interior defensive lineman. It’s sink or swim time for last year’s 12th draft choice. It’s also conceivable that at times Preston Smith could move to the interior and Rashan could man the edge. Gary gives Pettine lots of options.

Otherwise, the shelves are pretty bare: there’s interior guys Montravious Adams and Kingsley Keke, and little-known linebackers Greg Roberts and Randy Ramsey. In his third year with the team, Adams, the 93rd overall pick in 2017, saw his numbers decline from the previous year. Keke, a fifth-round pick in 2019 was in on less than 10 percent of the defensive plays, but did manage 10 tackles in that brief time.

But wait, I neglected to mention a guy who went undrafted in 2018. That’s right, the stats indicate that Tyler Lancaster has started 15 games in two years for the Pack, and he’s quietly recorded 56 tackles and 1.5 sacks in that time. Tyler, a large man at 6’3” and 313 pounds, had a decent career at Northwestern – capped by being named honorable mention All-Big 10 as a senior.

Green Bay tendered Lancaster to a one-year contract as an exclusive rights free agent on March 17. Just looking at the stats, Lancaster might have better prospects of strengthening the team’s defense than draftees Adams and Keke, or anyone who Gutekunst picks out this week.

Tags:
Rob Born

I’m with Matt: “You gotta make those chunk plays!”

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15 Comments

  1. Steve April 21, 2020

    Yes, it was shameful to watch that much slaughter. Everyone cry’s for another wide receiver, and it’s time that one of ours is ready to step forward, period. Do we have to keep drafting receivers that can’t ever be ready to play someday, or do we fill that big weakness you just mentioned. We need a player or two that can stop a team like the 49er’s using any of their backs, to run for over 7 yards per carry. If Wagner doesn’t replace our previous RT (Bryan Bulaga), it won’t matter at all what we have for wide receivers. With Rodgers fumbling around, or getting knocked on his ass in the back field, what good are even the greatest and most expensive wide receivers. BEFORE YOU THINK ABOUT RECEIVERS, THINK ABOUT HOW YOU CAN GET THE BALL TO THEM ! 🤔 NEXT, DIDN’T WE JUST TALK ABOUT OUR POOR RUN DEFENSE 🤔 GEE, IF OUR DEFENSE CAN’T STOP ANYONE, OR GET THE BALL BACK TO THE INEPT OFFENSE, BEFORE ALLOWING A TOUGH OPPONENT TO SCORE AT WILL IN THIS MANNER … IT DOESN’T MATTER AGAIN, WHAT GREAT RECEIVERS, OR MVP TYPE QUARTERBACK YOU HAVE, DOES IT ? 🤔
    I’D THINK THAT THIS WOULD INDICATE WHAT, & WHO, WE SHOULD BE LOOKING AT IN THE UPCOMING DRAFT. RECEIVER SEEMS TO BE AN AREA OF THE LESSER IMPORTANCE. THINK ABOUT IT 🤔 …

    Reply
    1. MJ April 21, 2020

      One way of hindering the opposing offense is to have your own offense staying on the field for a change. As much maligned our def has been, our three-and-out offense has forced them to return to the field too shortly after leaving. What’s worse than a bad defense? A tired bad defense. It is a fact nowadays that Rodgers grew more hesitant to throw the ball unless he sees a sizable separation. Other than Adams, and possibly Lazard, our WRs do not excel at that. Having a more shifty guy can entice Rodgers to throw it to a WR not named Davante. And dare I say, if he gets in a good mood after connecting a couple of passes, he can bring his old magic back.

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      A big part of our defensive woes is the scheme. We played small a lot instead of the base defense more frequently. A run-stopping DT should not break the bank, we could find FA help. On the other hand, were you expecting a single rookie DL to all of the sudden make us consistent run stuffers?

      ***

      Also, you need a new keyboard. Your current one got stuck in all-caps mode.

      Reply
  2. Walt Dyer April 21, 2020

    I certainly haven’t forgotten these two embarrassing beat downs. Totally humiliating to our team,fans,and franchise.The Packers have seldom been given a butt-whipping of that magnitude, and to the same team twice in the same season. So my question now is who are we as a team? Was this two bad days or is this a reflection of how far away we are from actually competing with the top 5-6 teams in the NFL?This season will answer many if not all of these questions. As a life long Packers fan from North Carolina I am still shaken by these two tremendous beatings 🏈Go Pack Go🏈 cautiously optimistic about this season 🤔

    Reply
  3. PF4L April 21, 2020

    I think the first sentence set the tone.
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    It harkened me back to the days of the 49ers games…Kaepernick running for 181 yards (remember Clay layin him out O. B.). Against the queens when Peterson ran for 199 yards, and 201 yards in two games (if memory serves). 5 minutes of NFCCG debacle (when McCarthy SHOULD have been let go. And other utter embarrassments that thankfully i can’t remember. These i remember as the 2nd half of the Thompson era. I’ve come to terms somewhat on how i look at Packer games these days. From 2011 – about 2016, i would lose my fucking mind watching those games. Then it dawned on me…chill out. It is what it is under this circus tent in Green Bay. So i basically trained myself to calm down, and wait the nightmare out. I’m still waiting even though some changes were made. But the only right move made was LeFleur, maybe Pettine. I’m not convinced Gute is much better than what we had.
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    So all told…i’m still biding my time waiting, but while i wait, every year i wait is another year closer to Rodgers retirement.
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    To be honest and lay my cards out….i don’t hold much hope that Rodgers will see another Super Bowl. When you get rolled like the Packers got rolled by the Chargers and the 49ers twice. It puts reality in full focus.
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    Championships are built from the top down, that means it starts with Mark Murphy. Well…………………..

    Reply
    1. MMSUCKS April 21, 2020

      Regarding the Packers . . . We are in accord. Murphy needed to go about 5 to 6 years ago, and Gute is merely a more presentable and less rigid, (in many ways) extension of TT (The Frugal GM). Until the BOD addresses this, the Packers will not be making a SB appearance unless two things happen; those being that most of the aforementioned draft picks do 180’s with their career projections, and Gute hits heavily with all of his top draft picks this year. Otherwise, MM and Gute . . . should get the boot. Stay safe!

      Reply
    2. MMSUCKS April 21, 2020

      The rhyme was intended . . . ;)

      Reply
    3. Cheese April 22, 2020

      Amen PF4L. Same here. It was either come to terms with the Packers pissing away golden opportunities every year or lose my sanity. I chose the latter. Now, Green Bay’s shortcomings are nothing but lighthearted comic relief. When the circus wont leave town, all you can do is laugh.
      .
      Despite all the media love this team gets it’s odd knowing that they are so far from being a true SB contender while Rodgers only has a few years left. Yes, they were 13-3 and made the NFCCG last season but let’s be real. They got totally steamrolled, AGAIN. In addition to the games you mentioned above I would like to add the 2016 NFCCG in Atlanta where the Falcons led 31-0 in the 3rd quarter, 24-0 at the half. When Rob says “I can’t remember a Packer team being so thoroughly dominated – or the outcome of a Packers game being decided so quickly” he doesn’t have to go back very far.
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      It was Lafleur’s first year so I’ll give them that. Hopefully they can stop wasting draft picks and have the offense start to move the ball without struggling the entire length of the field. I don’t tune in to other games very often, but watching this offense compared to teams like Kansas City makes me realize how far behind Green Bay actually is.

      Reply
      1. PF4L April 22, 2020

        I’m tellin yea man. I used to get pissed off, i never wrecked anything, but i would get up, pace around and rage almost to the point i’d boil over. It just wasn’t healthy.
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        I started looking at the games “expecting” them to fuck things up, and if they didn’t, and they played well, i’d view it as a bonus. It didn’t happen overnight, probably started the process after the Seattle debacle, then by 2016 or so, i was pretty laid back.
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        I just needed to realize these guys weren’t winning any Championships for awhile until the right changes were made. I think anyone who has read my post over the years probably saw that maturity come to fruition.

        Damn good to see you Cheese..hope all is well.

        Reply
        1. Cheese April 23, 2020

          Getting upset over stuff you have no control over isn’t healthy. It’s also pointless. Regardless of what anyone thinks of him, I remember Vic Ketchman replying to a question about getting over emotional with “I like to watch.” That help put things into perspective for me.
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          That Seattle game is definitely when I lost ALL trust in this team. I knew they had potential but I wasn’t going to hold my breath. Stats, regular season records, and media predictions all mean jack shit. Even then, it slowly took me a while to accept that they had no chance of winning another championship. And after tonight? Shit… Welcome to rebuild mode.
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          Good to see you too PF4L. Glad to see you’re still holding down the fort!

          Reply
          1. PF4L April 24, 2020

            Lol….Well….We had no control over last nights pick, but we all managed to lose our shit :)
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            The cost of being a Packer fan.

            Reply
          2. Cheese April 24, 2020

            Very true.
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            Do as I say, not as I do! Lol
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            I can pretend like I don’t have any hope but I guess I still had some laying around, at least up until yesterday. Now, I actually don’t have anymore hope left, or I’m just going back to pretending.

            Reply
  4. PF4L April 21, 2020

    According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Packers claimed defensive tackle Gerald Willis and defensive end Jamal Davis off waivers.
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    THE GHOST OF TONY HULMAN 11 minutes ago
    They needed a couple more blocking dummies

    Reply
  5. MJ April 21, 2020

    Either we attempt to find a solution to our run-stopping woes… or we don’t. Our team matches up horribly with the 49ers. However, the 49ers do find a tough matchup with SEA. The “do nothing” approach is essentially saying “let’s keep doing what we are good at, and hope and pray someone with better matchups beats the 49ers, and we subsequently beat them instead”. For instance, a strong run-stopping team, able to stop SF, may not fare so well against our offense (right, MLF? right?).

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    Yeah, that would not make any sense from the front office perspective… But they don’t make a ton of sense lately, so… even then, there is the chance that the broken watch be right at the right time.

    Reply
  6. Deepsky April 23, 2020

    The 49rs have something like 8 coaches who worked for Pettine or worked with LaFluer. They exactly knew Pettine’s weaknesses in his defense, they had an idea what LaFluer was going to call. If you look historically at Pettine’s teams, the Browns and Jets, the huge losses came because his teams gave up 150-250 yards rushing against average running backs. Who was one of the offensive coordinators standing next to Pettine watching this shyyte show? Kyle Shanahan. I think the talent disparity isn’t that great.

    Reply
    1. KEVIN April 23, 2020

      So, how much can we blame the players and how much do we blame the defensive scheme? We looked hapless in both SF games and I saw no adjustments in either game to stop the hemorrhaging.

      Reply

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