Let me start this article by saying how all feels right with the world now that we are officially back to football. The preseason is great and all, but it’s nice to watch games that actually have something on the line now.

I know I’m stating the obvious, but I had to get that out of the way.

With a new football season, that means new film studies every week here at Pack To The Future. I’ve always made my goal very simple; to make Packer fans the smartest fans in the NFL. With things like film study, I’m sure we can accomplish that goal.

If you talk to others about the game, chances are you’ll hear a lot of the same talk. Many will say that the game was dull, boring, and so forth. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

We knew there was going to be some rusty play by both sides. I’m not surprised. After all, hardly any of the starters played during the preseason. As the game progressed though, the Packers started to look better, both offensively and defensively.

There was a lot of things that I saw on tape that I liked. The defense, especially. There’s just a new feel to the defense all around. They seemed to swarm to the ball all night. The defensive backs were also very impressive as we saw them come up in run support time and again.

There’s a lot of things to get in to, so let’s go to the tape for further evaluation:

Offensive Line

One of my biggest concerns coming into the season was the left guard position and for good reason. Lane Taylor seems to flourish in some games and struggle the next. Watch here as he takes on this three-technique early in the game. Notice that as he sets up, he gets a touch wide and gets off balance. For an offensive lineman, that is a helpless feeling.

The key to good pass protection is to have quick feet, a wide a base and bring the hands as contact is made. The guards, ultimately, are responsible for setting the depth of the pocket. Quick feet come in to play mightily there. Any hesitation can get the quarterback hit, which happens on this play. He does recover, but it’s too late at that point. This goes to show you how important those first couple of steps are for an offensive lineman.

Billy Turner made his Packer debut on Thursday against the Bears. He is another player who had an up and down game. Notice here how he is a touch too slow out of his stance. I’m not a fan of putting guards in three-point stances on obvious passing downs. The defense knows what’s coming, so there’s no need to try and hide it. Taylor, on the other hand, starts in a two-point stance and is in a much better position to take on the rusher. Rising out of a three-point stance takes just that much more time to get into position to take on the rush. This is definitely something I would like to see changed.

This play really stood out to me on film for some reason. One thing I’m always looking for on tape, especially when it comes to the offensive line, is finishing the play. Watch how Lane Taylor finishes this play.

The offense is running a screen to the short side with Williams, so Taylor knows his block is crucial. Blocking on screen passes is all about timing: One-one thousand, two-one thousand, release, block.

What I really want you to notice is where he ends up on this play. Taylor is able to lock up with the weakside linebacker and drive him about ten yards. That’s what I call finishing. It’s little details like that which go a long way.

Defensive Backs

Going into this game, the defensive back was a position I was going to keep a close eye on, especially new Packer Adrian Amos. The safety position has needed an upgrade in Green Bay for a long time. Charles Woodson was the last safety that I can remember who really had an impact every time he stepped on to the field. What was missing was game-changers; guys who could set the tone for the whole drive and make their presence felt. I got that feeling watching film over Amos.

The Bears come out here in an empty set with jet motion. Trubisky is going to mesh with the motion man and then give the ball or keep it based on the way it’s played by the defense. While the read may have been correct, the result was punishing for him.

Amos does a good job bumping with the motion presnap, but the change of direction and hit post-snap was even better. He stopped on a dime this play and got downhill. What I’m really looking for this year are defensive backs who can step up and fill the ally. With guys like Amos, I have no doubt that he will do just that.

Jaire Alexander had an impressive rookie campaign last year, so I’m really expecting him to turn things up this year. This play shows two of the biggest strengths that he has which is the ability to quickly read plays and his closing speed.

The Packers start in a 3 deep shell against the Bears 3X1 set. Alexander has his eyes locked in on the read and it shows. As soon as the receiver curls back to the ball Alexander is right in his face. These types of hits can force drops and sometimes even fumbles. There’s a reason that the Bears didn’t throw to his side much during the game. Alexander is also an excellent reader in cover 2, though that’s a different subject for a different film study. Mike Pettine and the Packers defense really want to make cover 3 a staple in their defense.

Za’Darius Smith

Another player who made his debut as a Packer was edge rusher Za’Darius Smith. After losing Clay Matthews to the Rams, I knew that the Packers really needed a strong presence at the edge position.

Enter Za’Darius Smith.

Smith had a tremendous game in week 1. It’s plays like this which lead me to believe that. The defense goes with the under front to counter the Bears 11 personnel look. In the under front, Smith is going to be the force player. As the name suggests, he is responsible for forcing this play back to the inside. I like the staggered stance that he uses presnap. He’s apexed in towards the quarterback which gives him a better sight of the offense. With Matthews, we were used to seeing him with the inside foot staggered in front of the outside one. I often felt that because of that, he got washed out of a lot of plays. Some of it may depend on what the player is more comfortable with, but again I like the look.

Notice the inside punch and leverage that Smith gets at the snap of the ball. The inside arm is fully extended and he is able to bull rush his way towards the quarterback. What’s even better is the shed he puts on the tackle. It’s one swift movement. The outside arm rips across the tackle and frees him up, leading to the tackle. Its always a battle at the line of scrimmage to win the hand placement battle, and Smith came away the victor on this play.

Earlier I mentioned forcing the play back inside, and this is another great example of that. The tight end initially lines up outside of Smith but Smith gets a good read and fights to get to the outside shoulder of the blocker. Had he gotten hooked, Trubisky could have run for 4-5 yards. Instead, he has to throw this away because Smith is right there influencing the quick throw. The Packers defense has to put an emphasis on winning the edge this year, and a player like Smith can help accomplish that goal.

The Packers had a decent showing in week one but there is still a lot of work to be done, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. They’ll have a good test next week as the Vikings come to town in the home opener at Lambeau Field.


 

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