OK, let's get right to it. The scouts I've talked to in recent weeks think Aaron Jones is really, really good, and that Adams is one of the better WRs in the league too. They don't think a lot of the rest of the receiving corps. They think the OL is pretty decent. And they think highly of Rodgers. Though it does depend on the scout or coach you talk with. There's not much consensus in this league.
You're right, both Lombardi's and Belichick's trees have been mostly unsuccessful. I think it mostly has to do with they were singular figures, the best coaches ever, and it was their coaching talent that mattered most, their unmatched talents as psychologists (Lombardi) or tacticians (Belichick), that made their team's successful, and less the system they brought to the game. It might just be as simple as that. Holmgren was very much a field general and in command. Walsh was the dominant person in that organization. So I'm not sure it's the field general thing, though I wouldn't dismiss the possibility.
I've talked about moving Gary several times so won't comment any more than what you said, other than I'd try playing him some as an interior run defender now if I were them. I don't think the Packers' WR corps is slow -- it used to be, but they drafted Valdes-Scantling (and injured St. Brown) to help address that. It's not a super fast receiving group, but Valdes-Scantling runs in the 4.3s. Allison is the one slow WR, He ran 4.67, that is slow for the position. It is an uncommonly tall WR group -- I'd bet the tallest in the league. It also lacks quickness-wiggle. Adams has a lot of that, but nobody else in the WR corps does except maybe Ryan Grant, and we haven't seen him play yet (he's been inactive every game since they acquired him).
I'd think they should be getting there about now. It will be better next year than this year, after having a full season, plus another offseason to learn and refine things. But three-quarters of the way through the season now the players should have a pretty good grasp of things, and I'd think at this point they should be pretty comfortable.
It says they think the returner has been a problem, and that's easier to change during the season than the scheme or coach.
I still don't have a great answer for that. The injury history is a concern, not just because he could start getting hurt more but because all that mileage at some point is going to affect his play too. But he's having a good season and staying on the field, and good tackles are hard to find. There's still a month plus playoffs to go, so who knows what might happen. It also depends on the cost and guaranteed money. I still wonder if they'd let him leave in free agency and try to replace him with someone cheaper who could compete with a draft pick. But maybe they won't like the options and will try to re-sign him. It's a tough call. It's something they have to be thinking about, and be aware of the alternatives in the draft and free agency, and then monitor what happens between now and February. I know that's an unsatisfying answer but it's all I've got.
I personally find yards allowed isn't that great a measurement of defense. There's no one stat that's great, but I'd say the combination of points and defensive passer rating offer the best gauge of the standard-type stats, and red zone TD percentage allowed is pretty good too. In those categories the Packers are measurably better than last year, and that's what my eyes tell me too. Not saying they're a good defense -- they were early but haven't been since. But they are improved. Going into the season I was thinking they should be top 10 in points and yards with the changes they made. Doesn't look they're going to do it.
That's an interesting way to look at it. That draft class hit free agency last year, so three FAs they signed would have been FAs and expensive had the Packers drafted them. The one difference is they didn't get those guys for their first four years.
Trying to figure that out myself. I thought he would have a big year and improve as the season went on. What I'm not sure about is how much the knee and ankle injuries he sustained earlier in the season has affected him. He's not on the injury report anymore, so that suggests he's fine now. The only thing that gives me pause is, in Adams' second season he had that ankle injury, and he had a bad year, made me think he just wasn't going to be a good player. Then he took off his third season, and it was clear the ankle really was a problem that second season. So I can't say for sure on Valdes-Scantling. But it was a bad sign that he's slipping down the depth chart in terms of playing time. He's fast a big-play threat, but he doesn't make a lot of catches in the intermediate areas, so it does make you wonder if he's not good in-and-out of cuts, or not a good route runner.
I haven't asked anyone about Spriggs, but I'd think he must have no chance of returning this season, and that's why he hasn't been cut. I have to think they're moving on from him. As far as Grant, I don't know. It could be that he's insurance in case of injury. They've been remarkably healthy this season at all positions, including WR.
I saw where Davis got stopped on a fourth-and-one last, and it sounded like Gruden thought he should have gotten the first down. I think he also might have had a fumble or two. From what I heard, Gutekunst had been trying to trade him since last season, so I doubt he's interested in bringing him back.
There was a play that jumped out against the Giants where it was like third and 6, and the Giants threw underneath and it still was far enough downfield to get the first down. That was perplexing, but I have to think that was just a case of bad zone drops and unawareness of the sticks by the players, I find it hard to believe Pettine wanted his guys to drop beyond the sticks. They do seem to be blitzing less, mostly because they're getting a better rush with four than they got last year. I could be all wet here, but I still think a big part of the problem is the run defense, and the things they are doing to compensate, like the safeties creeping up, create problems elsewhere.
This is about as healthy as it gets. The '96 Super Bowl champs, if I remember right, has only one defensive start missed the entire regular season, then lost Koonce to an ACL in the playoffs. That was remarkable health. In '14 they had the entire 53-man roster available for the NFC championship game, though I don't recall who was on IR at that point. Either way, they were very healthy that season too. But this has been remarkable. McCarthy was good about getting players rest and all that, but LaFleur has been even more conservative that way -- shorter camp practices, some or even lots of walkthrough periods on Wednesdays and Fridays. That might be a factor. Luck too.
I haven't, but I didn't get that. There have been some phantom calls in a lot of games this season. See some of that watching other teams on TV, too.
I'm assuming the Lions won't bring Stafford back -- why risk with a back injury when you have no shot at the playoffs? -- so it's gotta be the Bears. They still have a lot of talent on defense, and Mack is a dominant player, so that will be a big test for LaFleur and his offense. And if by chance Trubisky doesn't turn it over -- that's a big if -- then the Bears could be tough to beat.
One thing I'll say is, if you just look at one play it's easy to understand assignments for that play, especially watching on film. Reminds me of taking calculus in college, when the professor solved the problem in front of the class it seemed so easy and clear cut, but when you had to do it on your own not always so easy. The thing that makes it more complicated it when the play starts you don't know what everybody is going to do, and there are things the offense can do to muddy the waters as to what each player should do in coverage, or at least make it tougher. Now, there are some plays that are pretty clear cut and guys just do the wrong thing, and it's not that hard. But I think there are some plays where the different possibilities of patterns can make it a little more confusing. Look, I'm not making excuses for the players, they spend all week going over these things in meetings and on the practice field, and there are teams that seem to rarely make glaring mistakes -- a scout last week was telling me that Buffalo is really impressive that way this season, and I'd guess New England is really sound too. So the Packers really need to iron these things out, we're getting late in the season and they've had time to learn the scheme. All I'm saying is that sometimes it's probably a little more complicated than we realize.
Yeah, I'm thinking that could be the case too, though he's still going to get a really big contract, because the cap keeps going up, so salaries are going to keep going up, and Clark is a very young player with a bright future. Both he and the Packers know that he's still going to have a strong market if he hits free agency, so it's still going to be expensive. It's just the cost of doing the business.
Gary was the riskier pick, more boom or bust. Sounds like Burns has been rushed the passer OK (5 1/2 sacks), and I just read somewhere that Simmons is looking pretty good since coming back from ACL surgery early in the offseason. I have to say, Savage was playing pretty well before he had the high ankle sprain, hasn't been as good since returning. I'm not going to jump to any conclusions there, he still could be a very promising player, and he can really run, which is important. I'd say the odds of the Savage pick panning out are a lot better than Gary at this point, but it's early. By this point next season we'll have a lot better idea on those picks.
Gary just isn't agile enough to play ILB. But those 40 times suggest the issue/quandary the Packers have. Martinez is assignment-sure and a good quarterback for the defense, but he's not explosive or dynamic enough. Burks is faster but whenever they start playing him, they end up cutting back on his playing time again, which tells you he's struggling with recognition/assignments. Summers is the fastest at least in a straight line, but based on preseason I'm still not sure how his side-to-side quickness is. He's so inexperienced, too, I wonder if he'd be kinda lost if he had to play. Pettine told me a couple weeks ago that he could Burks' role increase down the stretch, but then last week Burks didn't play until mop-up time.
I still question whether their run defense will be good enough. That's been a problem fairly consistently throughout the season and has allowed teams to control the clock and stay on the field on offense. There's also likely a cascade affect, where they do things to slow the run that compromise the defense in other ways. I'm also curious to see if they can get back to the quick-rhythm throws they had on offense while Adams was out. Last week was a tough game to judge because of the weather. Defenses are definitely keying on Aaron Jones now, they don't want him to beat them.
Adams has just kind of fallen off the face of the earth the last week or two. Don't know what's going on there -- I think he played one snap last week during the competitive portion of the game, then like five in mop-up time -- but I'm sure Pettine will get asked about it tomorrow when coordinators meet with the media. Like I said earlier, I'm reserving judgment on Savage. I thought he looked really promising before he got hurt.
He's probably been their second-best WR for the past month or so. So yeah.
I'm strongly in the camp that they should try to keep him to 20 touches or fewer a game, at least until the playoffs. His injury history is too great a concern. It doesn't do any good to have him be a key guy on offense for most of the season and then lose him to injury just before the playoffs. Last week he had only 11 carries (and four catches) but the Giants' D was geared to stop him, and the Packers put up 31 points and moved the ball all game, so I don't see his touches as an issue in that game.
I wonder if the weather helped him, slowed the rushers down a little. Also, the alternatives aren't good. And third, I'm sure he did everything he could to play, because he's going to be a free agent in the offseason, and if he plays all 16 games it will help him a lot on the open market because teams are aware of his injury history.
OK, this will have to be the final question, I have to get over to Lambeau for open locker room. Lots of interest in this team, many great questions and observations, so thanks for taking the time to weigh in. As for Pettine's system, I don't think complexity is the issue. He said last year that what he learned from his two years away from the game is to simplify things and have fewer calls going into a game (I think he said 25 to 30) rather than 40 or 50. His thinking was, less is more, if the players know what they're doing they'll play faster and better even if he doesn't have the perfect call dialed up for whatever the offense is doing. I asked him last week if he still thinks that's the right approach, and he basically said he believes that more than ever. And with that, we'll call it another chat. Thanks again to all for sharing your opinions and questions, and thanks especially to our subscribers, who make our thorough coverage of this team possible. Remember if you don't subscribe you can get the PackersNews app for $4.99 a month, it's a great deal. If I didn't get to your question, there were just far too many to even read them all, so try again next week. Until then everybody, take care.