Senior writer jclombardi highlights Packers headlines.
Packers vs Jets–opposite approaches to team building: Ted Thompson, the Packers’ general manager, is the most free agent-and-trade-averse man running an NFL club today. If he wouldn’t trade a third-round draft pick for Marshawn Lynch, he’s never going to do a meaningful in-season deal. It is and always will be all draft and develop as long as Thompson is calling the shots. Jets coach Rex Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum have swung big trading for and signing seven accomplished players who were character, contract or age risks in pursuit of the Super Bowl. The Jets aggressively filled weak areas via trades and free agency, a mindset encouraged by Super Bowl visions after their unexpected 9-7 playoff season in ’09. In that time, they’ve acquired seven veterans of note and three players via trades that carried substantial risk because of character and contract issues. Over the same time, Thompson’s only trade was swapping some picks on draft day. He signed no unrestricted free agents. Thompson is highly sensitive to locker room and organizational harmony, puts forward possibly the most bland public face of any GM in the NFL and is a stoic of the highest order. Ryan, on the other hand, is brash in a league in which boring and uninformative are art forms among the men who front for their organizations. He appears to embrace confrontation and chaos.
Jets scouting report: Run offense–Jets have one of the most balanced offenses in the NFL (193 runs and 188 passes), and the key to their offense is their line which is among the best in the NFL and the backbone of the No. 4-ranked scoring offense in the league. Tomlinson and Greene share the workload for the NFL’s second-ranked run game. Pass offense: Offensive coordinator Schottenheimer does all he can with play calling to help quarterback Mark Sanchez play it safe and manage games (nine touchdown passes, two interceptions). The Jets have a good array of weapons with receivers Edwards, Cotchery and Holmes, along with dangerous tight end Keller. Sanchez has a good skill set and has become an improved manager of the offense in his second season in the league. But he can be thrown off-kilter if teams pressure him. Run defense: The Jets don’t have dominant personnel in their front seven but rank No. 7 in run defense and No. 4 in scoring defense because they play coach Rex Ryan’s aggressive 3-4s scheme well. Pass defense: The Jets probably have the best cornerback duo in Revis and Cromartie. “They really don’t have any true four-down pass rushers,” a scout said. “It’s more about scheme and it’s more about numbers, and they do a good job of that. But if you can protect the passer, they’ll put their corners on the island and they’ll force those corners to play man-to-man, and they’ll put their safeties and linebackers in some man-to-man situations. If you can protect the passer, you have an equal chance to make plays as their defense has to make a play in the downfield passing game.
Capers working wonders with thin defense unit: A series of injuries has forced defensive coordinator Dom Capers to come up with creative adjustments, but the craziness reached new heights Sunday when end Cullen Jenkins strained a calf muscle during pregame warm-ups and couldn’t play. Then, early in the game, end Ryan Pickett aggravated a sprained ankle and could go just seven snaps before heading to the sideline for good. That left Capers with three healthy defensive lineman including rookie DE Wilson and DE Jarius Wynn. Though the Vikings gashed the Packers for 196 rushing yards, Green Bay’s defense came up with three game-changing interceptions of Brett Favre in the second half and survived a late Minnesota drive to win. Capers, “Those three (ends Wilson and Wynn and nose tackle B.J. Raji) played an awful lot and I’ll give credit to those young guys. They fought their tails off in there.” It’s also a credit to Capers whose coordinating skills have been put to the test.
Two linebackers bolster defense: The Packers put outside linebacker Brady Poppinga and rookie defensive end Mike Neal on season-ending injured reserve. Plus, they released inside linebacker Maurice Simpkins. The Packers signed two players to fill those three spots: veteran inside linebacker Matt Wilhelm and outside linebacker Diyral Briggs. That leaves one spot, which presumably will be used to activate Harris or Bigby. To bring back both, another move will need to be made.
Rookie Bulaga making giant strides: No player is learning more about life in the NFL than Bulaga. And no player’s progress is scrutinized more by the coaches, and the media. I stood at Bulaga’s locker for 10 minutes one day last week among a group of reporters who drifted in and out during a team interview session, and he was asked four different times, “How do you think you’re doing?” Bulaga said. “Every week I’m going to be making improvements on things and getting more comfortable with doing things on the right side.” Then I asked, somewhat sympathetically, “Is it tougher than you thought it would be?” Bulaga smiled, “I think I’m doing an okay job. Obviously, things are a lot different, speed-wise and player-wise. I just need to improve every week, get better at the small things and if I can keep doing that, I’ll be alright.” Edwards and the Vikings didn’t lay a finger on Rodgers Sunday night, and the Packers won. “Alright” is clearly good enough for now.
League admits to two touchdown errors in Sunday night game: The availability of replay review is no substitute for getting it right in the first instance. On two separate occasions with scoring plays on the line, the officials got it wrong. On the third occasion, referee Scott Green simply botched the replay review. And all three calls worked against the team that lost by four points. On the second play of the second quarter, a touchdown pass from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to tight end Andrew Quarless should have been ruled an incompletion. Quarless bobbled the ball after he landed out of bounds. Though Vikings coach Brad Childress inexplicably failed to throw the challenge flag, the officials should be expected to be in position to see whether or not a pass is complete, especially in the end zone. Later in the quarter, Vikings tight end Shiancoe made a diving catch in the end zone, after running back Adrian Peterson bought time for quarterbackBrett Favre with a crushing block on a blitzing linebacker. Though the ball hit the ground, the ball never moved. The call on the field was correct. The Packers challenged, and referee Scott Green took away the touchdown, explaining that Shiancoe had “used the ground to help make the catch.” Whatever that means. The league office apparently doesn’t understand, either.
Commentary: As Steinfeld would say, “That’s a shame.” Lol. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than very good! Go Pack!