OK everybody, let's get right to it. They could use a playmaker on either side of the ball -- ILB and DL on defense -- and it depends how you define difference maker. I really thought they'd do a deal before the trade deadline for either an ILB or a WR/TE. The cost of the WRs was pretty steep, so I get staying out of the bidding for Sanu and Sanders, but you do wonder what it would have taken to get a TE who could have helped them, or an ILB/DL. Maybe deep down Gutekunst is looking at next season as the better shot, add another free agent or two, another draft, a second season in LaFleur's system.
I think a lot of us are wondering that. Let's start by acknowledging the truth. A very, very small percentage of us are qualified to understand scheme and play calling and all that at the NFL level, there's just so much that goes into it that we can't know. We just don't know what the read progressions are, or if somebody does something wrong (route running, not making the right read, etc.). So in that way this question is above my pay grade. But like you I wonder what happened to the rhythm of the offense, the getting the ball out fast, in the four games when Adams was out, compared to the last five games. We do know Rodgers always has wanted to hold the ball to get the big plays, to avoid interceptions, and knowing he often could escape if needed. So that's part of it, and he's not quite as good at escaping as before, so he'll have to adapt. There definitely are plays where guys aren't open, you can see that if you re-watch the games. So on those players Rodgers is stuck. LaFleur's early game planning has been pretty good all season, they've scored a lot on their early possessions. So maybe he's still learning how to make the adjustments from the second quarter on, that could be a factor as well.
I would not rule out anything. Not saying I'd bet heavily on them going to the Super Bowl, definitely wouldn't do that. They haven't done things (like put up a big win differential) to suggest they're likely to get there. They've sustained not one but two blowout losses (LAC and SF), which raises a red flag. So the smart money says a playoff exit earlier than later. But they have been finding a way to win, they have a QB more than capable of going off in any game or stretch of games, they have a playmaker in A Jones, and they seem to have a good locker-room chemistry. So you just don't know. If by chance the win out in the regular season, then they're hosting a divisional round game, and that means they have to win only one game and they're playing the NFC championship. I could also see them being one and done, though if they host a wild-card game it would be hard not to think they'd win that. If I absolutely had to make prediction, I'd guess their season ends in the divisional round. But let's see what happens these final three weeks.
The team hasn't addressed it from what I've seen, it's something it and we as reporters need to get into. Until I looked it up Monday afternoon, I'd forgotten that they'd installed a new turf last year. Like the field before it, it's a hybrid of mostly grass with synthetic fibers mixed in (and stitched seven inches into the ground to keep the turf firm and stable). The reason for using these synthetic mixes, from what I understand, is that it allows the use of sand underneath the field to help with draining, and the stitched synthetic blades keep the turf stable despite having unstable sand underneath. The difference in the former field and this one, from what I could tell, is they used a different material for the synthetic blades. The company that provided it has put its turf on numerous fields in Europe's top soccer leagues. I don't remember the previous field being as slick as this one appears to be. So I'm not sure if there's something about the mix of that synthetic material and the climate here, or what's going on. But the field has been slick all season, and this game seemed to be especially so.
I'm sure he'd like a true slot receiver, a smaller, quicker guy who's built more for that role. You have to think they'll be looking for someone for that role in the offseason. But a big part of coaching is making things work with what you've got, your offense has to have the flexibility to do that.
I don't think he should be cut, he has played a decent amount of football. But I am a little surprised he's playing so much. After he fumbled last week -- the fumble was overturned because the review showed he'd been touched down before he got up and ran and fumbled -- I thought he'd get benched for a while, but he was right back out there the next play. He looked really promising early last year before his injury. This year he's had his share of drops and just hasn't made the jump he looked ready to last year. I wouldn't cut him, but hasn't grown into the role I would have guessed going into the season.
I don't know, the 49ers basically traded a third-round pick for him. Strikes me as a pretty steep price for a 32-year old. I wouldn't have outbid that if I were Gutekunst.
That's such a niche job, it is a position where you at least have a shot at getting an OK guy if you keep trying, which Gutekunst did. It's not like it's an every-down position, so if that's the only thing a guy can do, a team might be willing to cut him if they have another guy just as good who also plays on offense or defense.
Yeah, I've been thinking about that, a tweet on Monday by our Jim Owczarski got me thinking. Basically, he said it probably won't be until Year 2 that we'll really see LaFleur's offense. He very well might be right. The players will have a full season in the system, then they can build and refine things in the offseason, maybe add a player or two. Last year was Year 2 for the Rams. The 49ers are in Year 3 of the system.
That's a good question. Their good health reminds of '14, when they went to the championship game. The difference there is, they moved Matthews to ILB in the ninth game, and right away that made a difference in their defense. They haven't done anything like that this year. That's the season that comes closest, but they're not as good as that team. Lacy, Nelson and Cobb peaked that year. That team could have won the Super Bowl, it had beaten the Patriots earlier that season in fact (and NE needed that goal-line INT to beat Seattle in the Super Bowl). So no, it really doesn't seem that similar to any of the seasons I've covered the team. As for the final three games, you just don't know if they'll find something (someone) that makes a difference. It's late in the year for that to happen, but it can happen. Especially if they stay as healthy as they've been.
Among the biggest surprises is that LaFleur hasn't cost them as many games as I might have guessed, considering he's young, never been a head coach and only called plays for one season. That's a main reason I predicted 8-8, figured he'd make rookie mistakes. I'm sure he has made plenty of rookie mistakes, but not enough to hurt their record, and by all appearances he's fostered a working environment that his players seem to enjoy. The biggest disappointment if I were the Packers would be either Valdes-Scantling or Montravius Adams. I thought those guys would have become key contributors by this point in the season.
From what I seen, it's usually more important at the second level, maybe the difference between a five to eight yard run vs. a 15 or 20 yarder. Overall I think they're pretty decent blockers. Allison, Kumerow, Lazard, I think all three of those guys block fairly well.
He's been on the injury report with a calf injury for several weeks. That's what happens to older guys, they get hurt and don't heal as fast and don't perform as well while hurt because of the accumulation of injuries -- he's had knee issues for several years, going back to a patella tear in Seattle. His body is giving out on him.
Sternberger did miss a lot of time (a couple weeks in camp because of a concussion, the first half of the season because (ankle injury I think). So he's likely behind in knowing the offense. But he has blocked surprisingly well and does offer youthful athleticism that the offense is missing at that position with Graham and Lewis. I would think they'll try to get a little more out of him down the stretch, they've had four tight ends active the last two games, no reason to think they won't continue doing that. I'm not sure what kind of jump he can make in that short a time, and these are big games with the No. 2 seeding on the line. But I'd think they'll try to get him a few more snaps, see if he an add a little juice to the offense.
Just wanted to give Mark his say. I for one never would have guessed they'd be 10-3 at this point, that's for sure.
I don't know, looks like Brady is having his issues with his young receiving corps in NE right now.
Generally have to agree. They've put a lot of resources into their defense the last several years and finally found some pieces (the Smiths, Alexander) and improved some weak spots (safety). They still need help at ILB and on the DL. But yeah, they definitely need to add talent at the skill positions. They only have so many high draft picks, and if a QB they really like is there in the early rounds, they have to take him, so there's only so much they can do via the draft. Free agency will have to play a role in this as well.
I'm thinking they're going to even those guys' snaps out more -- less Graham, more Tonyan and Sternberger. Could be either making the bigger impact though Tonyan has played and practiced more, so he's got the better guess. But I don't know LaFleur's plan, coaches have a tendency to like to play experienced guys who know what they're doing.
Luck has to be a factor, but I do think LaFleur's practice philosophy is a factor also. He had noticeably shorter camp practices (averaged just barely more than two hours) than McCarthy (and it wasn't like McCarthy had marathon practices) and does some walk-through periods on Wednesdays and Friday. Have to think that's helped keep guys healthier too.
Wouldn't have expected him to start considering they signed the Smiths, and that's his position. But I did think he'd be playing more and better at this point. Seems like Fackrell still is ahead of him in the dime (when they use three OLBs and Clark as their rushers).
You're right in thinking those things usually don't just turn around this late in the season. It doesn't look like Burks is going to emerge this season, so there's no obvious candidate who might come to the rescue. Eric Baranczyk mentioned this when I spoke with him Monday -- we do a day-after game video review -- that pressure up the middle can help defend the middle of the field, because pressure straight on gets into a QB's vision and forces him to move. So if Kenny Clark plays like he did last week, that could make a difference.
Definitely, definitely have to think that. I'm not a Trubisky expert, but from the segments of Bears games I've seen the last few weeks, he's running more as a scrambler, and that's seemed to help his play a lot. It keeps the chains moving with the risk of an INT. So yeah, keep him in the pocket, make him beat you from there. Closing scrambling lanes and getting a little pressure presumably will be more important that sacks and even QB hits. When he has to play from the pocket and throw, throw, throw, he'll make a couple bad reads. When he breaks the pocket and runs, he keeps the chains moving.
OK, this will have to be the last question, other duties to get to. But thanks to all for coming by, very much enjoy hearing your thoughts, observations and questions. I wonder about Grant myself. He's a different body type than the rest of the receivers -- smaller, quicker -- so they must want him around as that kind of option because he's better than Shepherd, who's on the practice squad. But at this point I wonder if they have him just as injury protection. They think he's better than Shepherd, and if a couple guys get hurt they'd want him out there over Shepherd. That's the only thing I can think of. Because he hasn't even been a game-day active since they acquired him. I would not even consider bringing in Antonio Brown. That would totally disrupt the locker room, there always seems to be something big going on with him. And with that, we'll call it a chat. Thanks again everyone for stopping by, and as always, a special thanks to our subscribers, who help pay for all the resources we put into covering this team so thoroughly. Couldn't do it without you. If you aren't a subscriber, remember the Packers News app is a great deal, $4.99 a month for all our Packers coverage. Big game against the surging Chicago Bears this week, will be plenty to discuss next Wednesday. Until then, take care everybody!