Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My Take - > Week 4

Greetings, G-Force.

It's a return to normalcy. A reality check. Frankly, the media tried to make the Packers out to be better than we are at this stage. The hype was fun. We wanted to belong among the top 3 teams in the NFL. We wanted to be on level ground with the Cowboys & if that were the case, we felt that the Lambeau advantage might provide the difference. Instead, we discovered that we were outgunned by the Cowboys. They were too strong. They were too fast. They seemed to have a defined game plan. We appeared confused and incapable to adjust. Really, they played the way we should have played. They ran the ball right at us. They blitzed the QB. We did neither.

We failed to finish drives as B-Jack continues to struggle to pick up the blitz & James Jones routinely drops the ball. Jordy Nelson stopped his route short and went up for the football with one hand. In the red zone, J-Mike was unable to get off the line of scrimmage when it appeared as though he may have been the first option. Rodgers was left with little time & few options. Call it youth, I guess.

No worries. Before the season, a realistic goal was to win the NFC North Division. After 3 weeks, we have the lead. Before the season, I had no idea what to expect out of this season. While 10-6 was a possibility, so was 6-10.

I have a fascinating weekend ahead of me. On Saturday, I'm headed to Busch Gardens with A*, Vargas, and Lisette. Then, we're staying at the Sheraton Riverside in Downtown Tampa. Probably heading to the Tampa Brewing Company at some point. And Sunday - we'll be in attendance. We NEED this game. The schedule thickens & the Packers need to stay ahead of the competition. Plus, I believe that Minnesota will lose at Tennessee this week. I also believe that the Bears lose against Philly this weekend. A 2-game lead after 4 weeks would be delicious.

Tampa is a coming off of a thrilling victory at Chicago in which Brian Griese played arguably the best game of his career. He threw for 407 yards & 2 TD's. While he did throw 3 interceptions, he was stellar down the stretch.

Griese - almost exclusively - uses a variety of crossing routes and slants. Occasionally, he'll make in a fly pattern, but he relies on the playmaking skills of Michael Clayton, Antonio Bryant, and Ike Hilliard. Jeremy Stevans has been a reliable target so far this year as well. Griese wisely uses BJ Askew as a safety valve. Thus far, it sounds as though Joey Galloway will not be playing this week.

Earnest Graham & Warrick Dunn have combined for over 350 yards & 2 TD's this year. It's even more impressive when you consider that they are averaging over 5.5 yards per carry.

As is the custom, Tampa's defensive front strikes fear in offensive lines. Frankly, this match-up scares me. Kevin Carter is playing like he did in 2004. Using an aged mix of speed & power, he's applying pressure. Gaines Adams is a talented end and Greg White is an underrated pass rusher. Additionally, our offensive line has struggled mightily this year. In my mind, Tauscher & Clifton have had the worst years of their careers. Tony Moll does not belong in this league & thankfully, he will be back on the bench with the return of Wells. But, this will be Scott Wells' first action of the year and I hope the line gels like a veteran unit.

The interior of Tampa's D-Line can be exposed. You can run at the heart of the defense. You can run at Chris Hovan. Jovan Haye is an above average pass rushing DT, but he, too, can be moved on run downs.

Tampa's LB's are fast & athletic. You cannot beat them running side-to-side. You've got to run right at them. Normally, the combination of Rudd, Brooks, and June are sure handed. And they're certainly some of the best pass covering LB's in the league.

Ronde Barber can still play, but he can be attacked. He cannot get up and play the ball in the air like he used to. On the opposite side, Philip Buchanon is a solid corner, but he struggles to tackle and can be beaten. At safety, I attack Sabby Piscitelli. I would try to put him in space and isolate him in coverage. He can be used & abused.

This is an important game for Aaron Rodgers. On the road. Hostile environment. Warm climate. There will be defensive pressure in his face. His patience will be tested. So will his decision making. At some point in the 2nd half this Sunday, Rodgers will be faced with a situation in which he will be dealing with a crazed environment and the Packers will need to move the football. At this very moment, we will learn a lot about where Aaron Rodgers is in his development.

It concerns me when Rodgers dances in the pocket. He's too valuable to our team to risk injury. If it's not there, either find the TE or get rid of the ball. Regardless, don't let those big Defensive Lineman clip at your ankles when you're trying to escape pressure. I've seen it too many times.

Offensively, McCarthy must stick to his game plan. Too often, we're out of shotgun. Grant ran for over 4 yards per carry. B-Jack ran for over 6 yards per carry. Yet, for some strange reason, we did not stick to the run. We were far too predictable. What happened to play action roll-out passes to the TE? Why are these plays no longer in our offense? It baffles me. I'm guessing that McCarthy learned his lesson.

The Packers come out and establish a run game. Taking it right at the teeth of the Bucs defense. Grant pounds away. Physical in nature. Consistently, he's missing the cutback. This week, after enhanced film study, he finds it and gets himself into the Bucs defensive backfield. We stick to the run and control the clock. Grant carries the ball 20 times this week. He also finds the end zone for the first time.

The Packers grab an early lead.

But, the Buccaneers fight back. Scratching and clawing with Graham & Dunn at the middle of our defense. Nitpicking yards. Griese goes to the basics and goes after T-Mon & Willie B. as they try to fill in for the Pro Bowler, Al Harris. He finds all three of his WR targets (Clayton, Bryant and Hilliard) for 1st downs. He frustrates the Packers defense as we continue to sit back and only rush 4.

Tampa grabs the lead in the 2nd half. And Rodgers goes to work.

He hoists one towards Jennings who goes up & over Barber to make the play. The Packers are moving. It's Rodgers to Lee on playaction. It's Rodgers to Driver for a TD.

Griese goes back to work looking for a response. FINALLY! The Packers come with an inside blitz. During the offseason, we heard so much about the Packers LB blitzes and defensive disguises. FINALLY! We see it. Hawk & Barnett applying pressure. YES! We actually come with 6 defenders. With a hand in his face, Griese throws one in the lap of Chuckie!

The ball goes back to Grant. And then to Lee as a safety valve. It's Greg Jennings & a two touchdown Packers lead.

Green Bay 27. Tampa Bay 16.

I'm bringing the G-Force and the lively rays to the Sunshine State. I'm bringing quick decisions to Aaron Rodgers. I'm going to find KGB. And with or without Al Harris and Ras-A-tari Bigby, I'm bringing Rastaman Vibrations, POSITIVITY!

Could You Be Loved? At 3-1, you can!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Who Are You Watching Now?

Greetings, G-Force.

Stack is Back! A seismic event.

It's another Saturday morning in which I deal with a combination of Insomnia and coffee beans. Are the two intertwined? I doubt it. Normally, I don't allow myself to drink caffeine past 1:00 in the afternoon - unless, of course, Jack Daniels is included.

I'm starting to get a grip on players to keep your eye on throughout this College Football Season. A quick rundown shows me that I'm not overly impressed with any of the Senior at QB this year. Chase Daniel has shown me the most. But, is he a product of the system and the NFL talent around him? I'm curious to see him against Texas later this year. I will make an exception for Curtis Painter as I have not watched him play yet this year. But, I have seen the other top Senior QB's look absolutely average. These names include: Cullen Harper, Hunter Cantwell, Tom Brandstater, Brian Hoyer, Todd Boeckman, and John Parker Wilson. In my eyes, Drew Weatherford, Casey Dick, Mike Teel, and Sean Glennon do not have an NFL life. I'm going to keep my eyes on Rudy Carpenter from Arizona State and Stephen McGee from Texas A & M today. Oh, and Patrick White is not an NFL QB. He could be a WR, but he's definitely not a QB.

Junior QB's Matthew Stafford and Todd Reesing are guys that excite me. I'm not sure that Reesing is big enough for the NFL, but he's got a lion's heart and a competitive nature that is unteachable. I wonder how Tim Tebow's skills translate in the NFL. I'm not convinced that he will be a legitimate player at the next level. He can prove it this year. Matt Grothe is a fiery competitor. But, he appears to be too much of a "me-first" guy for my liking. His decision making is also questionable at times.

I'm highly interested in the RB position this year as it could be a need spot for the Packers in the '09 draft. Thus far, my top RB's in order would be:

1.) Knowshown Moreno, Georgia
2.) Arian Foster, Tennessee
3.) James Davis, Clemson
4.) Chris Wells, OSU
5.) Javon Ringer, Michigan St
6.) CJ Spiller, Clemson
7.) LeSean McCoy, Pitt

Top WR's - I'm going to go into great detail with regard to the WR position in the coming weeks as I think this is a position of strength. Along with QB, at this point, it's also a position in which I'm most knowledgeable about with regards to this years college cast. I'm not yet ready to rank Louis Murphy, FL and Derrick Williams, Penn State. Murphy has to show me more and I want to see Williams compete in Big 10 play. I also think that guys like Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood, Rutgers, had dramatically overrated. Mohammed Massoquai has all the potential in the world, but has underachieved. It's funny that most "experts" consider Carlton Mitchell USF's best WR when everytime I watch them Taurus Johnson is far more productive and attractive as a playmaker. At North Carolina, "experts" talk about Brooks Foster because of his size & speed, but when I have watched UNC football, I consistently see Brandon Tate & Hakeem Nicks as the primary producers. I'm also going to hold off on ranking Demetrius Byrd & Brandon LeFell, from LSU. If Kenny McKinley, South Carolina, is healthy, he is an elusive guy after the catch and your typical Steve Spurrier style WR. I'm not certain that he translates into an NFL prospect.:

1.) Jeremy Maclin, Missouri - best player in college football.
2.) Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
3.) Percy Harvin, FL - a total game changer. Put the ball in his hands and he's thinking 6 points.
4.) Brian Robiskie, OSU
5.) Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland - Great size & speed. Drops the ball too much, but tons of upside.
6.) Aaron Kelly, Clemson - His physique always piques my interest as production does not always meet expectations.
7.) Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma
8.) Patrick White, WVU - He has a big time shot to be a weapon at the next level.

TE's are also a position of strength in this year's draft. At this stage, I rank them:

1.) Travis Beckum, WI
2.) Brandon Pettigrew, OK St.
3.) Chase Coffman, Missouri - you know it's in his blood! He's Paul Coffman's son. You know that he'd be comfortable in Green & Gold.
4.) Bear Pascoe, Fresno St. When I watch him, I think he's a perfect fit for our offense. Reminds me of Chmura. Big blocker. Great hands. Run after the catch.
5.) Cornelius Ingram, Florida
6.) Garret Graham, WI - Doubt he'll come out, but I'm a homer and had to list him...

I'll get more involved with the defensive side of the ball, but a few quick hits of things that have caught my eye from people that you may not be currently paying attention to:

- Brandon Spikes, ILB, FL has superstar written all over him.
- Jasper Brinkley, ILB, South Carolina has the type of attitude that you want on your team. A battler who pursues with passion.
- If you have yet to see Brian Cushing, USC, OLB play - you are missing out.
- Zach Follett, OLB, Cal, is the one guy that I'd never heard of before this year who has grabbed my attention. He reminds me of a Midwestern LB who is stuck out west. He takes on blockers. He can cover the TE. He slaps wrists. He can rush the passer. He's versatile. He does not always make the play but he always seems to be in position. He's thinking turnover when he makes the tackle.
- While Follett impressed, Anthony Felder, OLB, Cal, was getting pushed around and making tackles 5-10 yards downfield. He makes a lot of tackles, but they just aren't in the backfield.
- Marcus Freeman, OLB, OSU, could not keep up with the speed of USC.
- Matt Shaughnessy, WI, DE, has an NFL lifeline. Active hands. Good pass rusher. Solid against the run. He might be the best WI defender since Troy Vincent.
- Mortty Ivy, WVU, OLB, is a talent and is worthy of a draft choice, I just hope it is not for the Packers.
- Malcolm Jenkins, OSU, CB, can play on my team any day of the week.
- Kevin Barnes, Maryland, CB, is a solid zone CB. Great hands. Poor tackler. Avoids contact. But, he's a risk taker that will draw heavy interest and will make plays.
- Morgan Trent, Michigan, CB, is an absolute disappointment. Yes, he had a pick last week, but he struggles in man coverage.
- David Bruton, ND, S, is a football player. Throw him on the field and let him live on instincts.
- Derek Pegues, Mississippi St, S, is another Willie B. Soft on defense. Electric as a return man. Plays the crowd.
- Fili Moala, USC, DT, is quick as a cat. Reminds me of Shaun Cody, which scares me.
- Mississippi St. DT's Cortez McCraney & Jessie Bowman are not discussed by the "experts" but I'll bet we hear their names on draft day. McCraney gets a push from the inside on pass downs and Bowman is a load on run downs. Meanwhile, Mississippi St. S/CB, Keith Fitzhugh did not show me the playmaking skills required to compete. But, he likes contact.
- Colorado has 4 defenders that warrant NFL attention. In order, I'd rank them DT George Hypolite, DT Brandon Nicolas, DE Maurice Lucas, and LB Brad Jones.

For today, keep your eye on Tennessee's D-Line. Deep with prospects. Let's see who stands out.


Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Take -> Week 3

Greetings, G-Force.

2-0 & feeling fine. Walking with a cautious optimism.

Once again, it's Lambeau Field under the lights! Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys are coming to town. Does it get any better?

It's the "*" on the helmet against the "G". Great tradition. Stories franchises. Intense conference rivals. It's the small town, family owned franchise against the wealthy pig, Jerry Jones. Both 2-0 and in the mix for NFC supremacy. Both led by young QB's who play with a similar laid back, elusive style.

The 1st half of the Cowboys-Eagles game on MNF and last years NFC Divisional playoff game between the Giants-Cowboys are blueprints of how to beat Dallas. The Cowboys quick strike capability is unmatched. As a general rule, if the Cowboys score 30 points, they are going to win. They will outgun you.

While playing the Cowboys, offensively, you have to take what they offer you underneath. Find the quick hits and don't let the pressure get to you. If you hold onto the football, Greg Ellis & DeMarcus Ware will get to you and you will not escape. Additionally, I don't view the Cowboys as one of the better tackling secondaries in the league - especially without Roy Williams. Also, we must utilize the TE.

On defense, you have to pressure Romo. You have to force him to be patient. He will panic. He will make mistakes. You've got to get in his face even if it means bringing extra defenders. If you sit back and try to defend the Cowboys, they'll beat you. Their offensive line is too big. Witten and TO are too good. Crayton is able. And Marion Barber III is a talent out of the backfield. Bottom line - if you sit back and try to rush with 4, the Cowboys are too skilled and they will beat you. You cannot fear Dallas. You must come after them.

The Lions game portrayed many positive aspects of our football team.

- Props to Ted Thompson & Mike McCarthy. Aaron Rodgers is ready to lead this football team. He was sublime in a tough divisional game on the road. In fact, his playing style reminded me of Tony Romo. Escaping pressure. Tight roping the sideline. Throwing the deep ball. Escaping pressure and throwing on the run. Youthful. Carefree.

- We are loaded at WR. Jennings is fast becoming one of the elite WR's in the NFL. Driver is Mr. Reliable. Jordy getting deep!

- Cullen Jenkins is off to his best start. So is AJ Hawk.

- Nintendo Nick! Making plays. Providing visions of what we've all believed he could become. Play with confidence Mr. Collins!

- Chuckie! The only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy meant business. No smile. Just shaking hands after his 2nd interception was returned for a TD. Focused on the task at hand. Charles Woodson offered the Week 2 result "change we can believe in." And he did so with a serious nature.

- AK-74 & KGB are attacking the QB with the intention of inflicting pain.

- Michael Montgomery has impressed on special teams coverage.

While the majority of the Lions game was an impressive performance, it did present some obstacles that we must overcome:

- Al Harris is vulnerable on deep balls. Twice he was beaten deep. Both times - the Lions failed to connect. It is guaranteed that the Cowboys attack Harris with TO. TO abused the Packers last year. They'll try and expose Harris' speed again this year.

- Aaron Rouse is not ready to be an every down player in the NFL. Post Ras-A-tari's injury, Rouse was a liability playing safety. He's not fast enough in space. He also seems to lack athleticism and the understanding of football angles. If Ras-A-tari is unable to play this weekend, it would be a potentially devastating injury.

- The interior of our offensive line continues to struggle with run blocking. B-Jack is trying to make a fool out of me. Still - he's had two decent NFL performances and both have come against the Lions. Lumpkin is far more impressive. If Grant has limitations, it must be Lumpkin carrying the ball in a game in which ball control is imperative.

- While Rodgers has been spectacular thus far, he's got to look for Donald Lee more often. The TE is the ultimately escape for a pressured QB. Lee has been open and is often overlooked. In his defense, Rodgers has essentially utilized Driver's as possession receiver as a replacement for the TE outlet.

- James Jones continues to have problems catching the ball. He dropped passes in the preseason and I thought he dropped three passes that he should have caught last week.

- The inactives for the Lions game included Brian Brohm (2nd round pick), Patrick Lee (2nd round pick), J-Mike (3rd round pick), Sittion (4th round pick), and Jeremy Thompson (4th round pick). Meanwhile, on Monday Night, we saw the Cowboys flash their rookies. Felix Jones returned a kickoff for a TD and looked dangerous almost every time that he touched the ball. Mike Jenkins broke up a deep ball. Marcellus Bennett was catching a screen a nearly taking it to the house. This begs me to once again ask the question - did we draft for next year? And if we did not draft for next year, when does Jeremy Thompson get his swing as a pass rushing DT on 3rd down. Both Hunter & Montgomery have failed to produce thus far operating out of the same position.

The Packers open the game in the I-formation. Grant behind Kuhn. Two TE. It's Grant on a cutback for 4 yards. Zach Thomas on the tackle. A similar set produces 3 more yards. It's Rodgers to Jones for a first down.

The Packers continue to move the football as they are seemingly beating up the Cowboys defense and winning the line of scrimmage. Lee scores his 1st TD of the season.

Will the Milwaukee crowd BRING IT to Lambeau Field? I imagine so. You've gotta be fired up for this one. Off yur Ass! On yur Feet, Milwaukee crowd! No telling the G-Force to sit down. This is Lambeau!!!

As soon as the Cowboys cross midfield, they are thinking TD. Normally, it's with TO. And they'll certainly test Harris with TO. Early and often.

But, they'll also try the deep ball down the seam with Witten, which forces me to ask the question - is this why we signed Chillar? Sure, AJ is off to his best start as he's been a beast against the run and he was credited with 2 sacks including his Superman-style sack of Kitna last week. But, last year he struggled while covering the TE. Witten murdered us last year. Poppinga continues to look lost in coverage. Do we see Chillar in an expanded role this week? I have to believe that this is a reason that he was brought in. Pass coverage. We'll see.

The Cowboys respond by moving the ball. Crayton on a curl. Witten over the middle.

But, the drive stalls as the Packers do not allow Barber to run North and South. Pickett & Jolly get a push and Hawk doesn't allow him to turn his shoulders. Barber becomes an East-West runner. On third and long, the Packers come with a blitz and force an incompletion.

Throughout the game, the Packers defense gets off the field with a myriad of blitzes. Romo feels pressure and tries to make things happen. It's Chuckie blindsiding him with a blitz!

In time, a busted coverage leads to a long TO touchdown.

The Packers continue to fight. Grant, B-Jack & Lumpkin taking turns pounding it at the heart of the Cowboys interior. Jennings - that greedy run after the catch bastard - produces big yardage on a crossing pattern. The Packers roll Rodgers away from Ware and find Lee for a 14 yard pick-up. It's play action to Driver for a TD.

Let's face it - the Cowboys will score. They could possibly score as much as six times. If we hold to FG's, we win. If they score TD's, we won't.

It's a thriller.

Green Bay 27. Dallas 26.

The Faithful elevates in ecstasy. We're 3-0 and I'm headed to Tampa with *, Vargas, and Lisette. It'll take belief. It'll take conviction. It'll take the protection and preservation of the Lambeau mystique.


Talkin' S-Mac.

***On Monday Night Football. It's Brett. Once again. How beautiful! Unfortunately, Brett's on a leash. And so are the Jets. Therefore, NY is struck with a lightning bolt from San Diego. The Jets fall to 1-2. Does Brett start to regret coming back or does he remember 2003 & 2004? Soon - we'll find out. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Who Are You Watching Now?

Greetings, G-Force.

I have decided to take the "Who Are You Watching Now?" portion in a semi-different direction. Come draft time next year - we will turn to sites such as nfldraftcountdown.com for draft intelligence. While I won't be strictly dependent on other sources for information, I will turn to them as a point of reference. For example, the Packers might be looking for CB come the '08 draft. I've watched Wake Forest play this year & for one reason or another I did not notice Alphonso Smith. He did not jump out at me yet he is widely considered a top CB for the '08 draft. We should know who this guy is...the same can be said for Wake Forest's OLB Aaron Curry.

Additionally, this type of web site informs me that guys like Knowshown Moreno, Jeremy Maclin, Michael Crabtree, and Matthew Stafford are all draft eligible.

We won't be fully dependant on these web site because we have been talking about guys like Brandon Tate and Mike Mickens for a year. This web site as yet to list Tate as a prospect. Mickens has finally arrived and they've now got him as the #4 ranked CB for the '08 draft.

Tate is a speedy WR who has showed the ability to run after the catch and to get deep. Definitely worth a look. He's a Butch Davis style WR who has a knack for the big play. Hakeem Nicks is North Carolina's other WR. He, too, has NFL potential. Good hands. Makes plays in traffic. Great build.

Javon Ringer excites me. Michigan State's back has a knack for turning nothing into something big. He always seems to find the open field.

Ian Johnson, RB, Boise State is a unique talent. I can see him being a solid special teams return guy as well as a utility RB.

While Michigan is a poor team this year, I believe that they are loaded with NFL talent across their defensive front 4. Tim Jamison looks the part. He's active against the run. He runs plays down from behind and he applies pressure on the QB. Terrence Taylor might be the best DT in college football. Will Johnson is a run stopping fighter on the inside. His weight is a bit light, but he's agile he never gives up on a play.

Morgan Trent, CB, Michigan also has the size, speed and make to play in the NFL. He's going to be a guy that I pay attention to in today's game against ND.

As for USC vs Ohio St, we know what Malcolm Jenkins, James Laurinaitis, Rey Maualuga but what can Fili Moala, Brian Cushing & Marcus Freeman do? Also, how can Todd Boeckman and Brian Robiskie perform against top flight competition?

In the WI-Fresno State game, I want to watch Casillas. He's been a big disappointment to me. All the speed. Yet, often times he fails to find the football. It'll also be exciting to watch Beckum in his 1st action of the year. I'm curious to see what the Badger defense can do against Tom Brandstater, Fresno State's QB. Brandstater has been mentioned as an NFL prospect. I watched him against Rutgers and he was not overly impressive. We'll see what happens tonight.

I'm going to pay large attention to DL & DB this year. Along with the OL & RB, they'll most likely be positions of need for the Packers in the '09 draft. While I don't openly follow OL, I'll hope to narrow down my top 10 DL, DB, and RB's by the end of the year.


Talkin' S-Mac.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Take -> Week 2

Greetings, G-Force.

We're 1-0 baby!

Props to the fans of Lambeau for staying proud and true to the organization. Monday's effort provided a much needed supporting cast in a gorilla sized win over the hated 'Queens. Boots, Santa Wehner, Mom, Dad, Chico -> I have confirmation that you were in attendance. You all did your part. Thank you!

Viva G-Force!

At times, the play was sloppy. A number of times, our O-Line lacked toughness and concentration. The D-Line lacked significant pressure out of the Front 4. The blocked FG was inexcusable. The win was sublime.

The Green Bay Packers and the G-Force showed great heart in times of tremendous adversity. I anticipate that the 2008 season will be full of nail-biting, stressful, action packed drama. Monday was just exactly that & it concluded with an exciting celebration. Just as he did last year in Minnesota, Ras-A-tari played thief on the 'qeens last ditched attempt to salvage a victory.

Can you say enough about Aaron Rodgers? How impressive! He attacked the vaunted Minnesota defense with the coolness of a veteran and the confidence of an All-Pro. Save the missed pass to Donald Lee and the fumbled snap & Rodgers performance was brilliant. Add on the Donald Driver TD and Rodgers has 250 yards & 2 TD's.

Two things stood out to me with Rodgers:

1.) For years, we have watched the Packers line up in a running play only to see Driver run a slant when he was on the same page as #4. The rest of the team expected run. Except for the QB/WR. We saw big plays out of Driver in this set. On Monday, it was the same thing. You cannot blame Moll as he was thinking run. Instead credit Driver and Rodgers for being on the same page. It was the first sign of chemistry clicking. What makes it even more exciting is that Driver's slant route was well defended and he audibled his route in mid-play. Rodgers saw the same thing. It was a work of art. Truly, a positive indication of things to come.

2.) During the mini-camp/training camp, we continuously read/heard that Rodgers had happy feet. He looked to run. On the 1st series of the game, the third play from scrimmage, the Packers faced 3rd & 4. Rodgers rolled right. He could have easily run for a 1st down right away. Instead he patiently looked down field for something to develop. He did not see anything and he still scrambled for 6 yards and a Packer first down. On that play we learned that Rodgers is looking to pass first and run second. Additionally, when he gets out of the pocket, he is still looking to make a play downfield. We saw that Rodgers was both smart enough to know where the yardage stick was and mobile enough to get there in front of a pursuing LB.

Rodgers will go through the trials and tribulations that first-year QB's must battle. He will see defenses that he has not see before. He will throw into coverage. He will make mistakes. I am prepared for all of these to occur this year. But, right now, it's time to harness in the positive play of his first test.

Monday Night might have marked AJ Hawk's best game as a Packer.

By the way, how bad must Allen Barbre be? For 6 months, we read that he was going to push for a starting guard spot. But, in Week 1, he was the 8th best OL on the roster? What a joke!

Poppinga still cannot catch. But, against the run, he & Barnett were pursuing with a menacing mentality.

Johnny Jolly & Ryan Pickett are an underrated run-stuffing combo. At the end of the 1st quarter, AP hit us for two carries that totalled 45 yards. Other than those two carries, AP's numbers were 17 carries for 58 yards or a 3.4 yards per carry. Jolly and Pickett were forceful.

One thing on AP. Much like Barry Sanders, you hated that he was in the Division. You hated that he played for the team that he does. You hated that he was a consummate threat. You hated his helmet. And his uniform. But, man, to watch him run. So elegant. I'm glad we don't see him again until November.

In Week 2, the Packers take on another NFC North enemy. In order for the Packers to accomplish the first goal - repeating as the NFC North Champions - the Packers must win in the Division. Therefore, Week 2 is another must win! Yes, it is absolutely a MUST WIN!

I have a hard time believing that the Lions are as bad as they were in Week 1 against the Falcons. After watching the replay of the game last night, I am convinced that the Lions are better than their Week 1 blunder. To state it lightly, the Lions got off to a slow start. Their defense gave up 2 big plays of 62 & 66 yards. A Calvin Johnson dropped pass led to decent field position and in the blink of an eye - it was 21-0 Falcons. The Lions never seemed to recover.

The Lions defense has tried to stock up on Buccanneer defenders. They have brought in Dewayne White, Dwight Smith, Ryan Nece, and Brian Kelly. Still, clearly, the Lions have a "Shaun Rogers" sized hole in the middle of their Defensive Line. Shaun Cody is an absolute sieve against the run. Jared DeVries is not a starting DE. In all, the Lions looked putrid against the run, but on pass downs they did show decent pressure on stunts. Langston Moore is a fighter. A below average football player, but he plays with heart and he is not afraid of taking a cheap shot. Chuck Darby is no threat.

Dewayne White & Cory Redding are their two best defensive lineman. Both can pressure the QB. Both rush with passion and are a threat on passing downs.

Ernie Sims finds the football. He's aggressive. He's fast. Most of his plays are made 5-8 yards down field, but he's a sure tackler and a solid pass defending LB. He has game changing potential.

I thought Alex Lewis was below average at Wisconsin. I still think he's below average.

Simply put: Attack Paris Lenon.

Assuming Ryan Grant is healthy, the Packers should have success running the ball against the Lions defense. The Falcons have a similar zone blocking scheme and the Packers should be able to mimic the Falcons tactics. I know B-Jack had a big game against the Lions last year in Green Bay, but I do not trust a repeat performance. If Grant is limited, I hope Lumpkin gets his carries. In fact, I predict we see Lumpkin getting carries this week. Lumpkin cuts back well and falls forward on contact.

While Dwight Smith and Brian Kelly are good additions to the Lions defensive backfield. They still do not have the manpower to match up with the Packers arsenal at WR. Especially if James Jones is healthy. Line 'em up. Spread 'em out. Let Aaron Rodgers go to work.

Offensively, the Lions are dangerous. They'll spread us out and attack out of the shotgun - much like we did last year. Kevin Smith showed his is an elusive back last week. Calvin Johnson, Shaun McDonald, Roy Williams, and Mike Furrey make up a dangerous 4-some at WR. Jon Kitna is a competitor but he is mistake prone. Rudi Johnson is a physical back-up RB.

In Week 2, the Lions jump out first. The annoying dome crowd is animated. Somewhat boisterous. The Lions offense takes spreads us out. They attack T-Mon & Al Harris. Both Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams make plays.

The crowd irritates our offense.

Kevin Smith is slippery. Sliding off of our defense which is not allowed to play our base defense. He picks up yardage in chunks. 4, 5, and 6 yards per carry. But, AK-74 makes a play and we hold to a FG.

Calmly, Rodgers collects himself and the offense finds their stride. Grant takes a hit and pushes forward for a 1st down.

It's play action and Rodgers is rolling right. He finds the TE for a 1st down. We did not see this play last week. Expect to see a 2 TE set. One of the TE's lined up on the weak side. Showing power left. Running formation. I'll be interested to see whether it is Humphrey or Lee who is lined up on the right side.

Rodgers shows patience as he hits Driver over the middle. Exposing Lenon's weakness in coverage.

Lenon's lack of awareness comes into play on a number of occaions throughout the game as the Packers bury the Lions with crossing routes.

The Lions stay competitive. They're going to score points. They're going to threaten our offense deep down the field. They're going to test our defensive patience. McDonald will knife away at us for a couple of short receptions on short down and outs.

We are built to play special teams in 2008. We win the field position battle, which is necessary in a road game against a Division foe. We see Mason Crosby's kickoffs at the goal line and beyond. We see Derrick Frost's angled punts limiting return yards for Mike Furrey. We see Havner, Montgomery, Hall, Hunter, T-Mon flying down the field and making tackles without much threat. We see Willie B. looking special on both kickoff and punt returns and flipping the field. We dominate special teams. We win the third aspect of the football game. Welcome to the 2008 version of the Green Bay Packers.

And in the end, we witness the changing of the guard at the back-up RB spot. I've been asking for it for weeks. It comes via injury on Sunday. It's Lumpkin pounding away from short yardage for a Packer TD. Couple Lumpkin's TD with a late Kitna interception and the Packers fans are dancing in the streets at 2-0.

Green Bay 34. Detroit 27.

No matter where we go, the Packers are the Lions of this Kingdom.

Give me that Reggae beat,

Talkin' S-Mac.

***It was a heartfelt goodbye to Brett Favre last week. He was sparkling. A vintage performance. One for the archives. Interesting to note: Both the Jets and the Packers had an opportunity to throw for a game clinching 1st down late. In both occasions, the team ran the football only to need a late interception to seal the victory.

This week- the Jets stake their flag in the AFC East as they defeat the Patriots in New Jersey. Again, the Packers take another step towards a 2nd round draft pick.

Monday, September 1, 2008

My Take -> Week 1

Greetings, G-Force.

Sooner or later, it all gets real. For the Green Bay Packers, that time is Monday. We spent the offseason bickering with arguably the greatest player in the History of our Franchise. We replaced a Man who has 253 consecutive starts with 3 who have zero combined starts. We were virtually sterile in Free Agency. Injuries to key players mounted throughout the preseason. We have had bouts with the law. Our preseason record was 1-3. Our star RB has yet to carry the ball. Our best pass rusher & our best run stopper have not played a down. On Monday, none of this matters - we all start from scratch. There are no excuses.

The hated Viqueens of Minnesota come into Lambeau Field as ESPN kicks off Monday Night Football. Since the schedule came out 5 months ago, we have awaited this day. Last year, we talked about the 5 P's - Proper Preparation Prevent Poor Performance. This year, once again, we must live this philosophy.

I don't foresee the Packers as a Super Bowl contender. While we were a drive away last year, things feel different this year. This years prospects seem far more challenging. Out of conference we face Indy and Dallas at home. On the road, we have notable games at Seattle, Tampa, New Orleans, Tennessee, and J'ville. However, I feel the Packers have what it takes to win the NFC North. And to win the North, we must win Monday. We have to protect our home turf. We have to win within the Division.

In '08, we convincingly swept the 'Queens. We contained A.P. And we jammed the ball down the throats of the intimidating Minnesota defense. But, while the Packers sat on there hands in Free Agency, the 'Queens acquired legitimate starters in Jared Allen & Bernard Berrian. Allen is quickly becoming one of my least favorite players in the league. His paraphrased quote, "I'd like to welcome Aaron Rodgers to the NFL. I'd like to come around the corner and put my helmet right into his spine and see the ball come loose." As a Chief, Allen terrorized the Packers O-Line last year. Allen, Pat Williams, and Kevin Williams make up one of the most feared Defensive Lines in football.

Chad Greenway, EJ Henderson, and Ben Leber make up an immensely underrated LB core. They are hard workers who are active, sure tacklers. Each of them finds the football and pursues.

The ViQueens Defensive Backfield is vulnerable. Sharper and Winfield are seasoned vets that know and understand the way that the Packers attack. While both are capable of making game changing plays. Both will bite on short routes in hopes of making the big play only to be burned for a big time play. Cedric Griffin, Marcus McCauley, and Charles Gordon were all victimized by the Packers last year and I expect them to be the subject of our offensive attack again this year. This offseason, the 'Queens added depth to their safety spot with the addition of Tyrell Johnson in the draft and Michael Boulware in free agency. Boulware will be playing behind Johnson, Minnesota's 2nd round pick.

Last year at Lambeau, the Packers ran the ball right at the mouth of the Minnesota defense. This year, we do the exact opposite. In an attempt to play to the mismatches, we run a lot of 4 & 5 WR sets. This forces the Williams boys to play on the move. Consistently, we cut both of them. Ryan Grant chips away at Allen. The 'queens LB's are watching from the sidelines. And we attack Griffin, McCauley, Gordon, Boulware and Johnson.

The loss of James Jones is going to hurt. It's going to test our depth. Jordy and Ruvell must perform on MNF.

Expect to see Rodgers on the move. On roll-outs away from Allen. Not only does this limit Allen's effectiveness but it also tests the stamina of the big Williams boys.

Expect to see a lot of play action. We need to keep that DL on their heels. Unsure of what's next and 2nd guessing instincts.

Offensively, Minnesota has one of the most unique players in football. A.P. has a terrific mix of speed and power. At times, he appears unstoppable. Throw in Chester Taylor and you've got a terrific RB tandem.

Their O-Line has a feared left side in McKinnie, Hutchinson and Birk. The suspension of McKinnie cannot be overlooked.

Sidney Rice has the potential to be a star in this league. Bernard Berrian is a proven deep threat. Bobby Wade & Bobby Ferguson are legitimate 3rd & 4th WR's and Aundrae Allison is a promising young WR.

Minnesota's problem is that they do not have anyone to get them the ball. I believe that Gus Frerotte would be a better starter for the 'queens that Tavaris Jackson. Jackson has shown me nothing in his young career and I welcome the opportunity to host him in the season's opener.

The Packers come out gunning. Rodgers with 3 WR's, a TE, and Grant is out of shotgun. Rolling right. Finding Jennings on a 12 yard curl. 1st down Packers.

It's the same set except Rodgers is under center. Play-action. Rodgers to Driver over the middle.

Rodgers to Lee on a curl.

The offense is in rhythm.

Greg Jennings scores the 1st TD of the season. The Packers strike first!

If healthy, our defense matches up really well against the Minnesota offense. Bigby & Collins are both run stopping safeties. AK-74 has feasted on Ryan Cook. Pickett and Jolly are run stopping fighters. KGB has had success against the 'queens. Woodson, Harris, and T-Mon all match up against the build & structure of the Minnesota WR's.

Regardless, A.P. will get his. Taylor will prove dangerous on the screen. Berrian and Rice will test us deep.

Rodgers throws for 150 in the first half. We control the point of attack as the Vikes DL is on its heels and then we hit them with Grant. B-Jack & Lumpkin each get carries. For the first time in '08, we see the physical side of the Packers. Controlling the clock. Keeping A.P. off the field.

Willie B. strikes! Expect a big play on special teams for the Packers. We are built to win this dimension of the game.

The Packers have a two-score lead in the 2nd half, but Minnesota will not die. Clawing their way back with a turnover and combination of A.P./Taylor.

In the end, it's Mason Crosby providing the insurance.

Green Bay 30. Minnesota 20.

For a brief moment, the critics are silenced. The Faithful, the Packers, Lambeau, and the Front Office remain integrated. The Packers are back where they left off - perched at the top of the NFC North.

May the Aaron Rodgers era commence,

Talkin' S-Mac.

***On Sunday, I wave goodbye to Brett Favre. Along with A*, Vargas, and his girlfriend Lisette, we will be headed to the Jets-Dolphins game in Miami. It'll be good to see #4 on the pitch once again...and possibly for the last time.

Jets 27. Dolphins 16.

And the Packers move one step closer to a 2nd round pick.