Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Take -> Week 3

Greetings, G-Force.

Oh, how it feels! A home opener. Against the defending NFC East Champs. A convincing victory! On TV, it appeared to be a festive environment. With home field advantage fully in tact. Well done, G-Force. Well done! Here's some kind vibes from the victory:

* A day that includes a 400 yard passer, a 100 yard rusher and two 200 yard receivers will be remembered. Especially when it happens on the home opener. It was a BIG win. Huge ups to Aaron Rodgers, James Starks, James Jones, and Randall Cobb.

* Lost in the shuffle: Jordy Nelson had 2 TD grabs. Jordy looks like the 2011 version of Jordy Nelson.

* After two weeks, Aaron Rodgers is fully in the MVP discussion.

* James Starks went XLV playoff run on us. And I liked it.

* Randall Cobb is quickly becoming the best slot receiver in the NFL.

* David Bakhtiari is a winner.

* Don Barclay recovered well. After a rough 1st possession, he looked like a 10-year veteran.

* EDS also responded well after a rough 1st Quarter.

* If Josh Sitton & TJ Lang play like that on a weekly basis, the Packers will be tough to beat.

* Yes, the OL made a great impact after a tough 1st Quarter.

* Clay Matthews > over every other defender in the NFL.

* Really liking the start to the season for T-Mon.

* Nick Perry swatting passes is a good thing.

* Ryan Pickett with his hands in the air on pass attempts in a positive vibe.

* I credit Johnny Jolly for the enhanced PD coming from our pass rush. Cheers, Johnny!

* When BJ Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly are on the DL, the opposition won't run on us.

* Ah, Mike Neal. YES! Looks legit. Stay after it, young man!

* Chris Banjo. I like it. Sure, he missed one tackle. But, he manned CF. And, for the most part, I thought he wrapped up well.

* J-Mike is getting jiggy wit' it! Rumbling thru tacklers. Getting into the end zone for the 2nd week in a row. I like his rhythm. Play on, J-Mike. Play on.

* AQ81 is a needed addition to our offense.

* Dude! James Starks just popped 100 on us! Word up!

* Loved seeing James Jones stepping thru tackles.

* Brad Jones is a star when he plays against mediocre to slightly above mediocre talent.

* That was the best I've seen AJ Hawk play since 2010.

* Ras-House can play in this league. Man-to-man defender. Had he nutted up against Boldin, the Packers would be 2-0.

* I like Sammy Swagga's tenacity.

* Tim Masthay is a gangsta.

* Liked seeing Andy Mulumba getting playing time.

* Mike Daniels is a beast. Arguably our second best pass rusher. Behind CM3.

* I can only imagine that the CM3, Datone Jones, Mike Neal, Nick Perry pass rusher becomes a beastly 3rd down formation.

* Ras-House has looked like a decent gunner on special teams as well.

Things the Packers need to improve on:

* Jerron McMillan. Want to be a fan. He's dreaded. He dropped the gloves, but his tackling was still poor.

* MD Jennings. Way too passive. Show aggression, MD!

This week - it's Cincinnati. At the end of the year, this will be a game that will be remembered. Consider this: in my mind, after 2 weeks, 6 of the top 7 teams in the NFL are SF, SEA, Chicago, Green Bay, New Orleans and Atlanta. Well, one of those team won't make the playoffs. Barring significant injuries, 5 of the 6 will. But, since one of the playoff teams come from the NFC East, one of these elite teams will miss the playoffs. Therefore, the Packers playoff destiny might be dependent on their ability to win the Division. Chicago beat Cincinnati. It's up to Green Bay to hold serve.

In many ways, Cincinnati matches up well with Green Bay. Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, Domata Pena and Michael Johnson make up a serious front 4 for the Bengals. They'll attack the Packers OL with absolute intent. Ray Maualuga, James Harrison and Vontaze Burfict are mean. They're aggressive. In short, the front 7 of the Bengals defense is far more physical than the Packers offensive front. Further, it could be argued that AJ Green runs the best routes in NFL. Mohamed Sanu is an underrated 2nd WR. Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham are as dangerous as any 2-TE set in the NFL. Oh, and the BenJarvus Green-Ellis & Giovani Bernard combination is a solid one-two punch. If Andy Dalton can find consistency, he has the weapons to lead a Championship team. In all, the Bengals are a tough match-up and a legitimate Super Bowl contender in the weak AFC.

But, when push comes to shove, the Bengals will have to cover Cobb, Jones, Nelson and J-Mike. And, with the injuries to Dre Kirkpatric, Pacman Jones, Brandon Ghee, and Jeromy Miles, the Bengals secondary will have limitations. Though it appears Jones will play, he won't be in full force. It'll be up to McCarthy to hit the Bengals revamped secondary with short routes. Force Cincinnati to tackle us. I don't think they can succeed.

I fully anticipate a shoot-out. The Packers will struggle to cover Green and Eifert. Both will come through with punishing blows on 3rd down. Although the Packers run defense is improved, it'll be tough to contain Green-Ellis and Bernard.

Early on, the Bengals look sharp. Andy Dalton finds Eifert over the middle. Dalton hits Green on a comeback route. Again, he finds Green on a 15 yard slant. Cincinnati goes out to an early 7-0 lead.

Rodgers responds. Quickly. Connecting on short routes to Jones, J-Mike and Cobb. The Packers move the ball efficiently. A dump off to Starks leads to a 1st down. Finally, it's Rodgers to Nelson for the TD!

Throughout, the Packers struggle to get the run game going. But, the Packers take advantage of a beat-up Cincinnati secondary and find success over the middle of the field. Reggie Nelson is legit, but he's a gambler. With Jones injured, Nelson leans his way to provide support. The middle of the field opens up. Rodgers finds Finley. Consistently. I like Leon Hall, but he can't stick with Jordy for 60 minutes. Terence Newman is a man. He's a grizzly veteran, but he's not able to fight with James Jones for 4 Quarters. The Bengals have no one that matches up with Randall Cobb. Cobb grabs 9 balls.

The Packers have difficulty getting the defense off the field. Dalton is in rhythm. Bernard punishes the defense. We see more of Eifert. Green as well. It's a shootout.

But, Rodgers isn't to be denied. Trailing late, he finds Jordy on a deep ball to put the Packers in position for the win. It's Rodgers to Cobb for the win!

Packers 34. Bengals 31.

There's a big difference between 2-1 and 1-2. We need this one! Let's do this!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Take -> Week 2

Greetings, G-Force.

The 2013 Green Bay Packers season got off to an entertaining start. Although the result wasn't what we anticipated, the game was 60 minutes of action-packed football. From the looks of it, the Packers are going to be a team that is full of both excitement and frustration. They also look like a team that is destined to finish 9-7. 10-6, at best.

I'm not being negative by suggesting such a record. The reality is that the 2013 Green Bay Packers team does not possess the depth that we're used to under a Ted Thompson team. Post the game, I read a number of people suggesting that if Hayward and Burnett had played, the Packers would have won. Injuries are a part of the game. Remember that SF played without Crabtree and Manningham. And, in 2013, the Packers have severe deficiencies at Safety and at Center.

You'll never hear me say that I don't want Ted Thompson as GM of the Packers. I won't ever say that I don't want Mike McCarthy as the Head Coach of the Packers. After all, I'm a loyal man. And they provided me with one of the greatest memories of my life in the 2010 Season. With that said, I feel Thompson wrongly assessed the Packers talent at Safety and at Center. The positions needed to be addressed during the offseason. It didn't happen. In Week 1, the middle of the Packers defense was destroyed.

All offseason, it seemed as though Mike McCarthy was talking about becoming a better running team and showing that they were a physical defense. EDS has not shown me that he's an effective run-blocking Center. Often, he gets blown up or flat out misses. And, I can't get over the acceptance of the penalty prior to the Matthews personal foul penalty. It should have been 4th down. Twice, the Packers stuffed the 49ers in short yardage situations. He should have had confidence that the Packers had either held SF to a FG or he should have lined his defense up for in an attempt to get a stop on 4th down. Instead, he gave Kaepernick another shot. He got burned. Some will blame the poor officiating for giving SF another down. I blame McCarthy. It shouldn't have gotten to that point.

Here are some short thoughts about from the game:

* Aaron Rodgers looking sharp. I've watched the game three times. I can only fault him for two plays. On the second offensive possession, I wish he would have completed the pass to an open Lacy on 3rd down. And, when the Packers were trailing 31-28, on 3rd down, he had an open Lacy on the check down and he missed him. Lacy would have had an easy 1st down. Rodgers didn't see him.

* Jordy Nelson looking like the 2011 version.

* Randall Cobb is an absolute superstar.

* If I were to start a defense, my 1st selection might be Clay Matthews. Love his quote: "I'm an awesome player, not a dirty player." Yes, Clay, you are.

* Ryan Pickett was beastly.

* Welcome back, Johnny Jolly. Love his attitude. Brings a spark.

* Really excited to see what comes of the 3rd down pass rush with Datone Jones & Mike Neal lined up inside and Clay/Nick Perry on the outside. If Jones is who we hope he is, the Packers will get pressure on the QB.

* T-Mon jumping routes! Liked his game. Seemed active. Happy with his performance. Thought he played aggressive.

* Didn't like J-Mike's drop. It was a big play as it turned into an INT. But, I thought he was passionate. In a positive fashion. I like the short down-and-out play. Hope to see more of that. I also expect to see him getting down the seam a little more this week.

* Tim Masthay. Put him at Safety! A punishing tackler.

* Eddie Lacy! Adding a spark. Of course the fumble was a buzz kill, but I liked how he rebounded.

* BJ Raji played with intensity.

* Outside of the last play of the game, I thought Barclay held up well.

* For his first start, I thought Bakhtiari played really well. Especially against that defensive front.

* Thought Nick Perry played well. Did a nice job containing Kaepernick.

* Outside of Hunter's run on the game winning drive, I liked the run defense.

* I wouldn't mind seeing a little bit of Robert Francois at ILB.

Things that must improve:

* Josh Sitton, EDS, TJ Lang all must play better. Little to no push in the run game. Often beat off the snap. Unacceptable. On the last play of the game, I'm not sure what Lang was doing.

* This defense must force turnovers.

* With a 28-24 lead, the Packers were in position to win. The defense needed a stop. Instead, it was 80 yards over 5 plays. Our safeties were absolutely exposed on the Boldin pass play and on the Hunter run play.

* Welcome to the NFL, Micah Hyde. Better days are in front of you.

* Dom Capers didn't adjust. I've seen enough of the zone defense. And, when a QB is locking in on a WR, you have to get a DB to jam him at the line of scrimmage. Knock him off his route. Disrupt the timing. Too vanilla in the secondary. Capers didn't want Kaepernick to beat him with his legs. Instead, he threw for over 400 yards. Without his #1 and #3 WR's.

* In Capers' defense, he was playing with 2 safeties that aren't cut out for a game against SF. After the game, Anquan Boldin said "that was a man's game." MD Jennings and Jerron McMillan were not men. I wish we would have seen Chris Banjo. Banjo tackled everything he touched in the pre-season. McMillan consistently whiffed. Jennings is too passive to play Safety in the NFL. If the Safety play doesn't change, I don't see why Offensive Coordinators won't consistently attack the center of our defense.

* Jeremy Ross. Yikes!

This week - it's the Redskins. At Lambeau. In the home opener. The Packers have scheduled a festive Half time show. Alumni appearances from the 1965, 1966 and 1967 teams. The last of the NFL teams to win 3-straight titles. EPIC! Be sure to see that show. It'll be a great introduction. True football legends.

A Mike McCarthy/Aaron Rodgers team has never started 0-2. It's not happening in 2013. I say this with complete conviction. The Green Bay Packers are beating the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

I expect Rodgers to have a field day against the Redskins secondary. I'm also assuming that the Tackles hold up against Kerrigan and Orakpo. If so, the 'skins secondary cannot cover our WR's. De'Angelo Hall and Josh Wilson can't run with Jones & Jordy. Washington has no one that can handle Cobb in the slot. Further, London Fletcher and Perry Riley cannot cover J-Mike down the middle of the field. With that said, I have absolute admiration for London Fletcher's game. If Kerrigan & Orakpo are blocked, Rodgers will throw for a minimum of 300 yards.

Much like against SF, I don't expect the Packers pass rush to go all out against Washington. They'll try to contain RGIII. Keep him in the pocket. Not let him escape. Alfred Morris is legit. Look for the Packers to utilize their abundance of Defensive Linemen to keep Morris under wraps. On the outside, I like the way the Packers match up with Hankerson, Garcon, and Josh Morgan. Though he's often underutilized, Fred Davis is legit. Davis could present issues for Brad Jones and AJ Hawk.

On offense, look for the Packers to utilize the play-action early. They'll attack the middle of the field. J-Mike down the seam. Cobb on crossing routes. AQ81 gets involved. Rodgers is in complete command. It's Rodgers to Jones for an early TD.

The Lambeau Faithful elevates. The defense gets off the field. With pressure in his face, RGIII throws off his back foot as he's afraid to step into a pass as he's still gaining confidence in his knee.

This drive - it's Lacy. Pounding at the middle of the 'skins defense. Then, McCarthy calls the screen to Lacy who barrels for 1st down yardage.

The Packers jump out to an early lead. Washington plays catch-up for the entire game. They can't catch Rodgers.

Packers 31. Redskins 23.

Lambeau, be loud. Garcon says it's louder in DC than it is at Lambeau. Show him the TRUTH! Take command. It's the home opener, baby! And it's a September celebration. You feelin' it? I'm feelin' it. We're back to even.

Here's a quick 2014 Mock Draft. I'm hunting for WR/S/TE/OLB. Hasn't been a ton that has jumped out at me yet. Other than Khalil Mack, of course. At some point, the Packers will draft a TE. Other than Ebron, I haven't found anyone that I'd stake my name on yet. And, as always, if I haven't watched him, I don't pick him. Here goes:

Round 1: Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo. The most enticing guy that I've watched in college football this year. I taped his Ohio State game and his Baylor game. I want him. I also really like Eric Ebron, TE, UNC.

Round 2: Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State. Don't love his weight. But, he has the body to add weight. And the dude plays football. Catches everything in his range. Not afraid of contact. Big time prospect.

Round 3: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia. At times, he's inconsistent. If you pressure him in the face, he'll miss his target. But, he can throw on the run and if he has time, watch out. A great developmental QB. Has smarts as well.

Round 4: Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State. At first glance, he looks the part, but my only time watching him was against a porous USC team. So, I need another sample. Nonetheless, he gets up for the ball and has an NFL frame. From what I saw, Bucannon finds the football.

Round 5: Max Bullough, ILB, Michigan State. Love his size, his knowledge and his energy. Total leader.

Round 5 (Conditional for Jennings): Kenny Ladler, S, Vanderbilt. The Safety position must improve. Ladler has range. Plays the ball. Solid tackler as well.

Round 6: Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt. Yes, I like the secondary at Vanderbilt. Hal is physical for his size. Can run on the outside. Could also play the slot. Plays the ball well in the air. An absolute fighter. A little undersized.

Round 6 (Conditional for Walden): Beau Allen, DL, WI. I'm really excited to watch him play Arizona Sate. Allen is tough to move. He's also surprisingly agile for his size. I believe he has a future in the NFL.

Round 7: Alex Neutz, WR, Buffalo. I watch Buffalo to see Mack, but Neutz has caught my eye. I'd take him in a heartbeat. As of now, CBS doesn't have him listed as a 7th Round prospect. I'd go as high as Round 5 for him. I believe in his game.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Take -> Week 1

Greetings, G-Force.

"Sooner or later, it all gets real." Thank you, John Bell. This week - it gets real. Thankfully. That was the most pathetic display of preseason football that I can recall from our beloved Green Bay Packers. Frankly, it was almost unbearable. But, now, it's real. And, as long as #12 is feeling confident, I'm feeling confident. Before I get into my Week 1 thoughts, here's a quick look at some of the big decisions that Mike McCarthy & Ted Thompson made in compiling the Final 53:

* I'd argue that outside of the conversations regarding #4, the last week included some of the most difficult conversations that McCarthy & Thompson have had to encounter. Both have to be disappointed. Just last year, Thompson traded up to get Terrell Manning. Manning never panned out. In 2011, Thompson made 11 selections. Today, only 4 of those players are on the Roster. One is Derek Sherrod who hasn't played in more than a year. Another is Ryan Taylor. Taylor has yet to make an impact. In 2012, Thompson made 8 selections. Today, only 5 remain. And two of those (Hayward & Worthy) won't be available for the Week 1 contest vs the 49ers. One of the recent cuts was BJ Coleman. Mike McCarthy prides himself on his ability to develop a QB. This must have been a punishing training camp for his ego. He invested 3 years in Graham Harrell. Harrell never progressed. BJ Coleman had all of the tools. He had a big arm, an ability to move, and great size. But, Coleman never developed. I believe that Coleman showed better footwork in the East-West Shrine Game than he did in the Week 4 preseason game at KC. Disappointing.

* Vince Young wasn't ready. I wanted it to come together for him. He was an absolute stiff at KC. Unbearable. Clearly, the Packers are desperate with the signing of Seneca Wallace. There's no way to beautify it.

* Couldn't be more excited for Chris Banjo! Dude came to play. He tackled everything in sight. Wouldn't shock me if he sees time in the regular season. I'll reiterate what I wrote last week - he's impressed me more than MD Jennings.

* Props to Sam Barrington! He reminds me a little bit of a young Desmond Bishop. Punishing in his attack. He plays with a mean intent. He's raw, but he has shown promise.

* Jeremy Ross is a survivor. He's going to get his shot at redemption this week.
* Micah Hyde looks like he has a little Sir Charles in him. Yes, I said that.
* Brandon Bostick has become the new project at TE. Wonder how long it is until he's utilized in a double TE package and sent down the seam.
* Well done, Lane Taylor. I thought he was deserving of a roster spot. If not in Green Bay, somewhere. Good developmental prospect.
* Cheers to Nate Palmer & Andy Mulumba. If you follow my twitter handle, you know that I was thrilled to have Mulumba in camp. Glad he's been given a chance to prove his worth.
* Johnny Jolly. What a stud!
* I wonder if Datone Jones is healthy. He's getting stuffed in his tracks.
* Good to see T-Mon get his hands on the ball!
* Brad Jones & Morgan Burnett better be healthy.

This week - it's the 49ers. In rematch form. For roughly 25 years, the Packers had the 49ers number. The rivalry was fully one-sided. However, in Week 1 last year, it seemed to flip the other way around. The 49ers dominated the Packers in the opener. At Lambeau. In the playoffs, it appeared as though the Packers had matched the 49ers intensity until Jeremy Ross' fumble. With that said, in both games, it was clear that the 49ers were the more physical team. They were a better coached team. They matched up better against the Packers than the Packers did against the 49ers. On paper, the same could be said about this year.

If you recall the playoff game last year, the Packers came out with a chip on their shoulder. There was a lot of talking and pushing after the play. The Packers had the right mindset - prior to Ross' fumble. Post the fumble, everything change.

I believe that this week is personal for McCarthy. The Packers are going to come out looking to punch the 49ers in the mouth. McCarthy will bring out his East Coast mentality in the locker room. He'll light a fire in the hearts of the team. The Packers will be mentally and physically ready.

While the Packers have had their share of injury issues, the 49ers are dealing with some troubles of their own. They'll be without Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree. On the outside, the Packers match-up well. Quinton Patton - a man that I wanted the Packers to draft - might be the #2 WR for SF. Patton is talented. And he brings swagger. He'll challenge the Packers DB's with solid routes, good hands and an ability to run after the catch.

I envision SF running a lot of play action short routes to Boldin. They'll get Kaepernick to the edge. They'll look for Vernon Davis on the edge of the defense. They'll attempt to pound at the heart of the Packers defense. All of this will happen before they try the Packers deep or run the read-option.

Defensively, the 49ers are the same that they've been the last couple of years. They're fast. They're physical. They'll seek contact. In the rotation, I imagine they'll only have two new faces: 1st round pick, Eric Reid, and Nnamdi Asomugha as the 3rd CB. They're unified. They'll be ready.

Early on, look for the 49ers to play power football. In response, the Packers will line up with a mix of Pickett, CJ Wilson, Raji, and Jolly. Jolly's attitude rubs off on the Packers in a positive way. He brings a toughness to the locker room. The Packers DL does a decent job matching the strength of the 49ers offensive front. And on the first 3rd down, Hyde comes on a blitz and disrupts Colin Kaepernick. In fact, if I were Dom Capers, I'd have Hyde shadow Kaepernick all game.

The Packers try to establish the run early in the game. Eddie Lacy finds little room to run. Then, on a roll-out, Rodgers hits J-Mike in the flat for a big gain. And the Packers offense is in business. The drive is capped as Rodgers hits Jones for a TD.

Last year - in Week 1 - the Claymaker got the best of Joe Staley. But, in the playoffs, Staley won the battle. Look for Clay to play with heightened passion. His intensity yields goodness.

Look for Harbaugh to attack Nick Perry. He'll try to get Perry in space. Harbaugh - ever the strategist - gets Perry to drop into zone coverage. He consistently aims for power football right at Perry. Harbaugh will view Perry as a weak link in the 3-4.

While the 49ers will utilize the read-option, it won't be used as much as it was in the playoff contest. After all, Kaepernick has a cannon of an arm and generally, he has good ball placement. The Milwaukee native has the tools. But, Hyde confuses him as he comes on a variety of blitzes.

God bless David Bakhtiari! Aldon Smith will be the toughest match-up that he'll face all year. Let's hope he can slow Bakhtiari down. I fancy that Quarless will be lined up next to Bakhtiari on a number of occasions. Quarless will chip Smith prior to his route. Look for Quarless to make an impact on this game. Especially on Rodgers roll-outs.

The 49ers drop into deep coverages. Testing Rodgers' patience. Staying calm, Rodgers finds Cobb on 3rd down. Consistently, Rodgers does not throw to the marker. Instead - receivers are forced to get yardage after the catch in order to move the sticks.

I expect the Packers to put up 24 points. So, it's up to the defense. Have to hold the 49ers to 5 scores, at most. While I believe that SF will move the ball, I'm not convinced that they'll punch it into the end zone. Crabtree was their finisher.

With the Packers leading late and facing a 3rd & 2, they give to Lacy. Lacy meets contact. Falls forward. Moves the stick. And keeps the clock ticking. Ticking towards victory.

I'm an optimist. And a realist.

Packers 24. 49ers 23.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.