Widely billed as an offensive showdown, Sunday’s game vs Seattle became a defensive showdown. Believe it or not, the Packers defense ended up on top, lead by real-life superhero Mike Daniels. He headlines my first Lessons Learned of the regular season.
Mike Daniels Can Go Super Saiyan
Most Packers fans have known about his potential, but Daniels remains underrated outside Wisconsin. Daniels forced his way into the national spotlight with a masterful performance on ‘America’s Game Of The Week.’ Perhaps motivated by another Pro Bowl snub, he took his game a step further than even Packers fans expected. He posted an eye-popping 1.5 sacks and 4 TFLs, but even those numbers don’t do justice to the impact he had on the game. The defining play was a strip sack deep in Seattle’s own territory to set up Ty Montgomery’s rush TD.
Before this game, conventional wisdom was the Packers do as Aaron Rodgers does, especially since 2015 when Lacy took a step back. If Rodgers had an off night, the Packers would struggle to stay in the game, as the defense could never stay off the field. However, this could be the year Green Bay has a defense capable of changing games. Without Mike Daniels, there’s a very good chance Seattle comes away with the victory.
‘Nitro’ Is Here to Stay
With the Seahawks committed to a balanced offensive attack, as usual, one might have expected the Packers to roll with a base set on running downs. However, most of the game saw Blake Martinez and Morgan Burnett at ILB. It’s possible this could have changed if Seattle’s o-line was half-decent at run blocking, and Graham is far more of a receiving threat than a gritty blocker. Facing a more potent run game, the Packers might employ Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas more often.
One easily-overlooked wrinkle was Rollins at slot CB. At first I didn’t give it a second thought, as House, Randall, and Rollins have lined up that way often in preseason. However, when Randall went out, Kevin King replaced him on the perimeter instead of Rollins shifting outside. Rollins showed grit when defending the run during preseason, so it’s possible the Packers want him inside when they employ ‘Nitro’ against offenses that will try establishing the run.
Cobb Never Lost A Step
Randall Cobb has been a popular target for fans’ ire, mainly due to the perception he isn’t “playing up to his contract.” While it’s true his receiving production has dipped considerably since inking his big contract, Cobb’s importance to the offense goes beyond his receiving numbers.
In 2015, Cobb usually drew double coverage, which helped allow James Jones and Richard Rodgers to have productive seasons. In 2016, Cobb had a perfect catch rate, not dropping a single one of his 50 receptions. Then, when the Giants visited Lambeau in January, Cobb made their generally stout defense look like a bunch of scrubs en route to 3 TDs and 116 yards on 5 receptions. His performance likely helped Adams come away with 8 receptions, totaling 125 yards and 1 TD.
McCarthy seemed intent on getting the ball in Cobb’s hands from the outset. He largely eschewed the much-anticipated 2 TE sets, with Cobb matching up better in the slot than Kendricks. It paid off, as Cobb racked up 85 yards on 9 receptions, and the Packers came away with the win. Cobb even burned Richard Sherman with a first-down reception, showing the cut-on-a-dime ability that makes Cobb a threat in open space.
Clark and Perry. Sounds a bit like a private detective duo, doesn’t it? Well, they made a formidable pass rushing duo, putting on a show that was only overshadowed by a legendary performance by Mike Daniels. If these two can stay healthy alongside Mike Daniels, then opposing offensive linemen will have nightmares about this front seven.