Senior writer jclombardi highlights Packers headlines.
Packers Jennings receiving attention: If ever there were a year for Greg Jennings to distinguish himself from his peers, carry the passing offense and seize his first Pro Bowl berth, this is it. In fact, after the Green Bay Packers drubbed the Minnesota Vikings and Jennings had a seven-catch, 152-yard, three-touchdown day, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he has made a conscious effort to find No.?85 more often. Rodgers is as sure a bet as anyone to make the Pro Bowl. Why wouldn’t his top target have a shot as well? Jennings sure has made his case. He has 32 receptions and 520 receiving yards in the last five games, four of which the Packers have won – two of them on a national stage. If Jennings could somehow maintain that pace in the final six games of the year – and this is asking a lot – he would leapfrog over other receivers in the NFC and could even have his best year statistically. His relevance, to Green Bay’s offense and success, has never been more evident. But here’s the catch – it is not so intentional beyond the quarterback. “We are not designing new plays for Greg or anything like that,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “Greg is an outstanding football player, he is an excellent route-runner, and Aaron and Greg have really been on the same page here of late.”
Falcons scouting report: Run Offense–Offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, a former head coach with the Buffalo Bills, runs the power running scheme he learned as an assistant coach with the Steelers. Halfback Michael Turner is a perfect back for the scheme because of his bowling-ball type build and enough speed even at age 28 to break a long run. He’s the NFL’s No. 6 rusher (864 yards, |4.3-yard average). “He runs hard, powerful, guys bounce off him,” a scout said. “I don’t think (he’s elite), he’s second or third tier.” Passing offense–Falcons, who rank No. 6 in total yards and scoring, have one of the league’s top young guns in quarterback Matt Ryan plus two top weapons in receiver Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez. He’s close to the total package, with good size, plenty of arm talent, a first-rate mind and strong leadership skills. His mobility isn’t great but is good enough. This season he’s thrown 18 touchdown passes to only five interceptions, and his passer rating (92.9 points) ranks No. 13 in the NFL. Run defense-the Falcons run a quickness-oriented 4-3 scheme and this year rank No. 7 in points allowed and No. 17 in yards allowed. A smallish defensive front that mostly tries to shoot gaps rather than hold up blockers. “They just don’t make mistakes ever,” a scout said of the defense as a whole. “Really disciplined.” Pass Defense––the Falcons have only one pass rusher of note, defensive end John Abraham. He’s on pace to hit double digits in sacks again. Cornerback Dunta Robinson is the Falcons’ best cover man. Brent Grimes, a third-year pro from Shippensburg who entered the league undrafted, is smallish but smart and has three interceptions opposite Robinson. Special Teams--little Eric Weems is a good dual-role return man even though he lacks top-end speed. His 13.6-yard average on punts would rank No. 4 in the NFL if he had enough returns to qualify for the league rankings, and his 26.0-yard average on kickoffs is tied for No. 10 in the league.