It’s been a crazy season thus far for the Green Bay Packers. After the week 10 win against the Carolina Panthers, it seems that things are trending upwards.
The Packers came into this game the favorite, but I couldn’t quite tell just how much they were. The Panthers are no slouch. They have a good football team and they gave the Packers fits throughout the game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carolina make a playoff push this year as they are currently sitting at second in the NFC South.
I was paying close attention to the offensive line this week. After a rough go against the Chargers, I knew that they would be a key factor against Carolina. The pass protection and the presnap penalties were one of the biggest momentum busters in that game. With Matt LaFleur saying that he wanted a more balanced attack, the offensive line knew it had to start with them.
Defensively it was the defensive backs that got a lot of my attention in week 10. We have seen pass plays go for big gains this year, usually because of a bust in the secondary. The Packers couldn’t afford to have that in this game. The secondary hasn’t seemed like they have been on the same page in recent weeks. Last week in my Xs and Os film study, I really hammered the philosophy that the best secondary is one that is constantly talking. I must admit, I was surprised by how well they graded out this week.
After a big win, it would be easy to grade every position group highly. It’s almost like you are riding that victory, so everything seems good at the moment. However, I always know that when I grade the Packers that I can’t let my fandom or bias get in the way. I try to be as accurate as possible. Without me rambling on too much more, let’s get to the grades.
Aaron Rodgers had a decent game in week 10. Not his best showing, sure, but definitely not his worst. He seemed comfortable and cool in the pocket. There were several plays I noticed where he maneuvered around in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield, checking through the progression. Aaron’s footwork always catches my eye. I have never seen a quarterback with his footwork before. He was able to sidestep, step up, slide back, and rollout very well all game. I did notice that he underthrew a couple of passes. I thought he could have lead a couple of throws in front of his receiver. All in all, it was a pretty solid game for him.
Running Backs: 80
Aaron Jones absolutely went off in this one. He ended the day with three rushing touchdowns, which put him in first place in rushing touchdowns across the league. Jones was a hard-nosed running all game. I noticed that Matt LaFleur called more big on big blocking plays, which allowed Jones to run behind his pads and gain the necessary yards needed. Nothing too fancy scheme-wise, but he found a way to consistently pick up yards.
The other side to the rushing attack was Jamaal Williams, who had his most impressive game of the season. Williams broke a couple of big runs that set the offense up for a scoring drive in the third quarter. It was a nice one-two punch that gave the Panthers front fits. LaFleur got the balance he wanted in both the pass and run game. Players like these two certainly help that.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: 74
Adams was back to his old self in week 10, as he had over 100 yards receiving on some big plays. He looked solid in both the short and deep passing attack. Adams is so impressive to watch on his double move routes. All he needs is a little stutter step and he’s gone. Defensive backs have a tough time tracking him in man coverage, which is something I noticed in this game.
Jimmy Graham had another decent week this week. He only had a couple of receptions, but he made them count when he made them. While I’m not crazy about Graham’s breakaway speed, I am impressed that he was able to shake a couple of tackles as he rumbled downfield. His routes also looked much sharper this week than opposed to previous weeks. The best thing about his game against Carolina though was his blocking. I never thought I would have said that all year, but it’s true. If you track him throughout the game, you’ll notice that his run blocking has really improved over the weeks.
Offensive Line: 70
The offensive line was hit and miss for most of the game. It seemed like they would have a few series of really technique line play, then turnaround and play all over the place the next. Pass protection was better, as it felt like Rodgers had a ton of time to throw. The run blocking, however, was the best thing about the offensive line in this game. We all saw the game that Jones and Williams had. Their big runs can be attributed to the great blocking up front. The down blocking was especially noticeable
Defensive Line: 68
It was an up and down game for the defensive lineman. Against the run, they did a good job holding their gaps and taking on the pull blocks from Carolina. Kenny Clark had a great turnaround this week. He has been commanding double team blocks from offensive lineman week to week, and because of that, it was able to free up other interior defensive lineman who was able to help against the run. I wasn’t overly impressed with their pass rushing set. I would like to see more pressure from the interior lineman. Clark and Lowry are decent rushers who are usually able to bull rush the offensive guard or center in to the face of the quarterback. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mike Pettine start running more stunts with the interior players. A loop stunt or slant is a good way to mix things up.
Preston Smith was the highlight player this week for the edge position, as he was able to come away with a pair of sacks. He consistently did a good job bending around the tackle and staying close to the blocker. Even when he didn’t get the sack, Allen had to hurry some of his throws because of the pressure being applied by Smith.
Kyler Fackrell was the surprise player of the day. We haven’t heard from him much this season, but he had a handful of nice plays against Carolina. Fackrell does a superb job of setting force and making the running back bounce to the inside. Against outside runs, he strings the play out towards the boundary, allowing the defense to rally to the football and swarm the ball-carrier.
Inside Linebackers: 68
Martinez really stepped his game up from last week. He might finally be getting settled into Mike Pettine’s base 3-3-5 defense. Martinez is asked to defend two gaps in the 3-3-5, so its understandable why it took some time for him to get adjusted to the new front. I didn’t notice many runs that were hit on the cutback, which seems to be something he has struggled with this season. Martinez played everything patiently and from the inside-out. The best thing about his game on Sunday was his pass coverage. His drops looked smooth, as he was able to find the hook/curl players for most of the game.
Defensive Backs: 70
Coming into this game I knew the Panthers were really going to try and hammer the run game at the Packers. After all, that seems to be the weakness of the defense. Not many fans think of defensive backs when it comes to playing the run, but that seemed to be the recurring theme that I noticed in this game. Kevin King had a pair of decent stops against the run when it bounced to the outside. When the edge player gives up to contain, it is up to the nickel or corner to come up and set the edge. I was really impressed when it came to that aspect.
Tramon Williams had a nice interception in the end zone after Adrian Amos deflected the ball to him. Tramon seems to always be in good position to play the pass. The defensive backs as a whole looked better in zone coverage this week, but not so much in man coverage. They still seem to struggle with crossing routes as well as in breaking routes. This is something that they must improve on if they want to be an elite defense.
For the most part, I really liked what I saw out of this game. Again, it might be me just riding the high of this victory, but there are little things that I see improving every week. I’m hoping that the game against LA was just a bump in the road and that this win over the Panthers is a glimpse of what this team is made of. The grit and toughness of the defense are in this one is going to be something that we look back on as a key moment in this season.
I’ve said it all year; when this team can put together a full game they can be extremely good.
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