*This will be a weekly post with updates after each game based on performance.*
Following the bye week, with 2 weeks and an extra day to prepare, the Packers came out completely and utterly flat on all fronts. Outside of the opening drive, the offense was completely impotent – resorting to check-downs, abandoning the run, and lacking any sort of creativity. The defense, ironically, outside the opening drive, looked completely toothless. Gashed for far too many yards after catch, hopelessly flailing in the pass rush, with it’s only success holding the Lions to 64 yards on the ground (though, given the Lions ground attack, that’s not all that surprising). The gameplan, however, was the most perplexing of all. It neither played to the Packers’ strengths, nor to their opponents’ weaknesses.
I changed the platform for the player rankings into more of a ratings by unit. The injuries, constant personnel shifts and spotty player usage made the first 8 weeks increasingly difficult to rank players every week. Ratings will be out of 10, 1 being the lowest, 10 being the highest. *Hint* no one got a 10 this week.
Coaching – 1 out of 10
McCarthy claimed throughout the bye that he would open up the playbook to Hundley, and to a certain extent, he wasn’t wrong. The problem is, he opened up the playbook that is centered around Aaron Rodgers skill set, not Brett Hundley’s. The defense played as though they weren’t going to be beat over the top, despite the Lions regularly being in the middle of the pack for yards per passing attempt, even during the Calvin Johnson years. The Lions current team is one of the league leaders in yards after the catch, especially within 10 yards of the LOS.
It struck me as the Packers’ brass trying to outsmart their opponents, but ended up outsmarting themselves, which seems to be a theme over the last 3 years. In their respective ways, both Capers and McCarthy are both capable of outsmarting their opponents, but more often than not, they often over-complicate things for their younger players. Miscommunication and confusion loomed large in this one, and played a big part in the Packers’ demise.
Offense – 3 out of 10
The offense had a solid opening drive, but looked completely impotent after. Abandoning the run early, the Packers relied on ineffective screens and underneath passes to beat a team that was loading the box seemingly every other down.
The Packers aren’t without talent, both young and old. The offense even without Rodgers has a great OL when healthy (R.I.P Bulaga), a solid receiving corps, and 2 promising, young RB’s. The problem is play calling doesn’t accentuate the roster’s current strengths sans Rodgers. This was a seemingly similar problem the first time Rodgers broke his collarbone. Before the Atlanta game that season, The Packers dropped a winnable game to the 5-5 Eagles, were pummeled by a middling Giants team, tied a bad Vikings team, and were pantsed by another mediocre Lions team. After that rough patch, the Packers went on to beat a bad Falcons team, beat a decent Cowboys team (Eddy Lacy’s finest performance), and drop a heart breaker to a solid Steelers team. There’s nothing to suggest, given the remaining schedule and talent on roster that they can’t do it again. If they play like this, however, they’ll be lucky to win another game.
Quarterback – 2 out of 10
The Rodgers collarbone aftermath arcs aren’t entirely different, other than the number of QB’s used. It took McCarthy a few games to figure out how to use the talent around him the best he could. The difference seems to be that McCarthy seemed to trust Flynn more than Hundley in throwing the ball downfield. It’s only natural that Hundley will get happy feet in the pocket when the underneath throws are unavailable, and his eyes start to drop to the pass rush.
Everything about Hundley’s game is stated above. He didn’t look very confident, looked rushed in his decision making, and struggled to keep his eyes downfield. The gameplan put him out of his comfort zone and he didn’t look like he trusted his abilities. Maybe this will change with time, but the last 2 games weren’t encouraging.
Runningbacks – 3 out of 10
17 rushing attempts. How, is that even a thought with a first time starter? Talk about throwing your QB to the wolves. Aaron Jones struggled to get going, averaging under 3 yards per carry for the first time all year. Montgomery actually looked like the shot in the arm the offense needed, finding gaps and breaking tackles like he did often last season. Given the struggles of the Lions front 7, it seemed odd they would abandon the run so early, especially in a game that wasn’t more than 2 scores apart until late in the 3rd. This shouldn’t happen given how well the run game has performed the last few weeks.
Offensive line – 6 out of 10
The line wasn’t perfect, but a lot of the ‘problems’ they had were due to the quarterback. Hundley routinely broke the pocket, despite solid protection. The prime example was missing a wide open Nelson in the opening drive that would have been a sure touchdown. The protection was perfect, and even an okay throw would have at least resulted in a possession inside the 10. Despite the injury to Bulaga, this unit is still talented.
Receivers – 3 out of 10
The receivers were open, and in a lot of cases, open downfield. The problem was getting them the ball, and when Hundley did, it seemed like everything that could go wrong, did. Adams tried a one handed catch that he should have extended for instead, and fell incomplete. Other than that, he had a few nice plays underneath. Nelson was interfered with on a few plays down field, but otherwise had a solid game despite everything being under 15 yards. Cobb had a great catch and run up the seam, but was relatively quiet other than that. This unit is talented, but it’s tough getting them the ball with this play calling.
Defense – 1 out of 10
The defense has a dominant DL, an up and coming ILB, solid OLB’s, promising rookie DB’s and solid veteran safeties and have spent years of early round draft capital on the defense. There isn’t any reason the defense should be this bad. I’ve said it before, Capers is (potentially, at this point, ‘was’) a capable coordinator, but he’s not well equipped to handle a defense with Thompson as his GM. Capers’ defenses are supposed to be predicated on turning the ball over due to immense pass rush aided by blitzes. Guys are supposed to be assignment strong, and know where they need to be at all times. The problem is, to the first point, teams are becoming more risk averse, and far better at picking up blitzes. The second point, with youthful players across the board, being assignment strong is a problem. Thompson will always favor younger players. Rookies and young players make mistakes – always.
Therein lies the problem – everyone says ‘simplify the defense.’ When your calling card for years has been complex defenses that confuse offenses, it’s like trying make a 90 degree turn with a cruise ship – it’s not going to end well. Dom made a living in the complicated and complex. Saying he’s a bad coordinator is a half truth. Saying he should be fired for being miscast in the Packers organization is far more accurate. As a long time Capers apologist, even I have to say the game has passed him by. However, to say “the defense has been bad the last 7 years” is just lazy, and takes no thought past regurgitating Packers’ twitter word vomit.
Also, for those calling for Dom, and looking at Fangio if the Bears clean house, I direct you to the bottom name on the picture above.
Defensive Line – 1 out of 10
This unit is SO much better than they played this evening. Mike Daniels had a questionable penalty on the first drive, and never looked quite right after that. The Clark hype train slowed some with a quiet performance. Lowry was credited with half a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss, and looked like the only lineman who gave a damn. This unit is way too talented to have off nights like this.
Linebackers – 3 out of 10
Martinez is the only reason this unit gets this high of a ranking. Martinez struggles at time in coverage, and teams with talented tight ends will eat his lunch. His pros far outweigh his cons, and at this point, there isn’t any reason to doubt he should be wearing the communication helmet.
The rest of the linebacking corps after Burnett’s departure struggled. Matthews and Perry flailed and failed in the pass rush, Fackrell lost contain almost every play, and Ryan looked clueless all day. Biegel saw his first taste of action, and looked like a promising rookie should – had some nice plays, but not without errors. The edge rushers need to get home for this team to have any chance.
Cornerbacks – 1 out of 10
King had some nice plays and breakups during the game. Randall looked decent in coverage and in the run game. That’s where the praise ends. There was confusion, no redirecting WR at the line, far too few plays on the ball, and way too many yards after the catch. This unit doesn’t look disimilar from last year’s porous unit.
Safeties – 3 out of 10
Burnett went out early in this one, which made the Packers abandon the nitro package early, and play Jones at safety. The results were to be expected. Jones had moments where he was flying around the field, making tackles his presence felt. There were others where he missed tackles and didn’t quite have a grasp on the defense. Clinton-Dix didn’t look bad in this one, but was frequently left on an island with Jones playing in the box.
Special teams – 3 out of 10
How does it always seem like the Packers special teams are always bad? Don’t get me wrong, there were moments in the return game where Davis almost broke free and that’s great. The problem is, there always seems to be something broken. This year, it’s the snapping operation. Last year it was the punting. A few years back, Crosby was struggling. There has been no continuity here for years, and has often left Rodgers and the offense to dig themselves out of a hole.