Well, we are a quarter way through the 2011 season and our Packers are sitting pretty at 4-0! They are one of two team with an unblemished record (Detroit Lions) but have looked much better than their NFC North counterpart. The Pack have won each game with some cushion, winning by 8, 7, 10, and 26. Most games they have actually had two score leads throughout, but both McCarthy and Capers pull back on the reigns and go into “play not to lose” mode instead of continuing to apply pressure and playing to win. We have had a few players playing at an extremely high level, and some who may have taken a step back. Here is a look at the first quarter’s STUDS AND DUDS!
STUD – Aaron Rodgers is riding high on his MVP campaign, averaging 331 yards/3 TDs per game. He added two rushing TDs this past weekend while proving that he is truly a dual threat who can beat you in so many ways. He puts the ball exactly where he wants 40-50 yards down field hitting WRs in stride. If a receiver has a CB to his left, Aaron puts the ball low and away, exactly where he wants. It is really amazing watching how precise and accurate this guy is. He is on another level from last year’s Superbowl run so the sky is the limit!
DUD – It is hard to be critical, they are 4-0 and looking dominant, but a true weakness that has been exploited over and over is the play of our secondary. Our pass rush has been weak, but they will get there turn later. Everyone in our secondary has had their lapses, but if I had to pick one who seems most responsible, Sam Shields has looked lost sometimes. He had a great INT last week along with a great return, but missed tackles and blown coverages have dominated his positive plays. He is still so young and so raw so there is plenty of room and time, but step it up young man!
STUD – That same lackluster secondary has shown me a playmaker I was weary of coming into the season, Morgan Burnett. He is second on the team in tackles (34), tied for second in the NFL in INTs (3), has a sack, a FF, recovered a fumble last week. He is just playmaker, plain and simple. He was burned last week by Denver for a long TD, but like Shields, he is young and in still learning, so he is going nowhere but upward!
DUD – It has been well documented that Clay Mathews III is having a down year, but it is due to being constantly doubled teamed and chipped by the RB, so Eric Walden needs to step it up big time the next 12+ games or Zombo will be replacing him in no time. Walden is the one benefiting from Matthews getting doubled teamed by seeing more one on one blocking but he is going against the better blocking LT and is not winning his matchups. He has begun playing the run better, especially since last season, but his pass rush has got to improve. We really need Kevin Greene working this kid over to fulfill his potential.
STUD – We have gotten little to no pass rush from the D-line but a bright spot has been the play of Jarius Wynn. The game he had against the Saints still stands out to me, in both stopping the run and chasing Brees down. Then he records two sacks against da Bears, while pressuring QBs throughout the four games. He is somewhat of a liability in the run game, but on obvious passing downs, he has got to be out on the field.
DUD – These guys have been far from true duds, but Donald Driver and James Jones have been afterthoughts in this explosive offense. I have figured all along that Driver would be fazed out slowly throughout the season, but after Jones signed his deal before the season, I really figured he would give Nelson a fight for the number two, but it is a one man race. Both guys caught a TD last week, but Jones also was responsible for Rodgers’ lone INT, having the ball bounce right off his hands into the defenders. Unfortunately, Driver has lost a step and that just comes with aging, but Jones has no excuses, except for he got paid!
STUD – One of the biggest worries coming into the year was the left guard spot, and T.J. Lang has held it down nicely. The only time you hear an offensive lineman’s name called, it is either a penalty or getting whipped by someone, and fortunately for us, Lang’s name has not come up very much. He has been much more reliable in pass protection than his neighbor to the left, Clifton. He should continue to progress and build on his good start.
DUD – This is hard for me to say because I love what he brings to the table, but B.J. Raji has let me down so far this season. He got his one sack in the Carolina game, but I am not seeing him in the backfield or pushing the pocket near as much as I was used to last season. He is more than likely getting doubled teamed every other play since Cullen Jenkins is not by his side blowing up plays but I hope to see him wreaking havoc soon. Our two top 10 picks have been somewhat hidden this season, and that needs to change.
STUD – The first two games, he was beaten several times, and looked like he was getting old, but the last two games, Charles Woodson got back to his Defensive MVP ways. He has 3 INTs in the last 3 games, and appears to be playing better. He had me scared at the beginning, but as the leader of our defense, he has to voice that the way they are playing is unacceptable. Second to last in passing yards is ridiculous for the talent we have back there. I completely disagree with Capers going to prevent every time we get a comfortable lead, but we are 4-0 and I will take a win with gaudy stats than a loss with good ones.
DUD – To emphasize on bad defense, my last DUD has to be manager of our defense, Dom Capers. He is missing a huge piece to our Super Bowl puzzle in Cullen Jenkins, but has plenty of toys to play with, and they struggled against the Saints (which everyone does) and three average offenses. I still cannot believe they let a rookie in his second game throw for 400+, it baffles me. Orton throwing 3 TDs and only getting sacked once, geesh. The defense has been very opportunistic with INTs and forcing fumbles and have a +6 turnover ratio, but that is more security by our offense than anything. 11 Sacks through 4 games, not too bad, but definitely could be better. 8 INTs through 4 games, on pace for 32, which would be excellent. Again, we are 4-0 and looking dominant, but we could be better, and a better defense can go a long way in bringing back to back championships to Titletown.
Three of the next four games are on the road, beginning in Atlanta this Sunday night. Then we are home against the winless Rams, at Minnesota against the winless Vikings, and finish up at San Diego after the bye week. The Packers will probably be favored in all four contests, barring ant setbacks, so here is to great second quarter!