Thanks to the guys at the Packers blog Ol’ Bag of Donuts for inviting me to participate in their Q&A for this week, and also for allowing me to hit them with five questions about the Packers. Here’s what the Ol’ Bag of Donuts gang had to say about their favorite (soon to be 3-4) team…
TVA: The Packers running game has become a big issue again since the injury to Ryan Grant. Brandon Jackson did have one good game against Washington but people don’t seem sold on him. Do you think the Packers should’ve addressed this issue via trade or do you perhaps think it is overblown?
OBOD: Everyone knows that the Packers were in the Marshawn Lynch derby, but I am alright with them staying pat with Brandon Jackson. However, this issue is far from being overblown. The issue isn’t necessarily Jackson, but rather the stubbornness of Mike McCarthy to show any commitment to the run. Jackson had a good game against Washington and even last week against Miami he looked good in the few stretches when he got the ball. Like most running backs, it takes a few runs to get them going and it seemed like when Jackson was finally catching his stride, McCarthy would go away from the run instead of sticking with what was working. Since he took over as starter in Week 2, Jackson’s carries per game go like this: 11, 7, 9, 10, 12. That is just asinine for a starting running back, even if they team is a pass-first team like the Packers. Jackson actually had 18 carries in relief of Grant in the Week 1 victory at Philadelphia, which is by far the team’s best victory so far. As a team the Packers are averaging 4.6 yards/carry this year, so the issue has been far more with the play calling and not necessarily the guy who is running the ball.
TVA: How big of an impact do you see man-beast Clay Matthews having this week coming off his injury, keeping in mind that the Vikings have had huge problems dealing with 3-4 defenses that bring lots of heat?
OBOD: The Packers have no chance of winning without Matthews, simple as that. You could make the argument that he is the team’s most indispensable player right now, ahead of Rodgers. The defense is a shell of what it looked like Week 1 with five starters and two key backups already missing time. Two of those starters (Nick Barnett and Morgan Burnett) out for the season, with two more that could follow (LB’s Brady Poppinga and Brandon Chillar). However, the defense has played admirably the past few weeks and have given the offense plenty of opportunities to the win the game. All that being said, Chad Henne had all day to throw last week and didn’t get sacked once. The Packers cannot beat the Vikings with no pass rush, so getting the league’s best rusher this season back in the lineup is so important. Matthews will cause havoc against, like you said, an offensive line that struggles against a 3-4. He doesn’t need to get three sacks to be effective, but he will demand at least double-teams the entire game, opening up lanes for other blitzers and lineman. He has already knocked out two quarterbacks this season, cleanly I will add, and Favre can’t move like used to. Matthews’ injury doesn’t worry too much as many people believe one of the main reasons he was held out last week was to get him as close to 100% as possible for this game.
TVA: How did you feel about Aaron Rodgers sort of calling out the playcalling a couple of weeks ago? Do you agree with him that the Packers are not going about things the right way on offense?
OBOD: It is obvious things aren’t going right on offense. On paper at the start of the season this was going to be one of the NFL’s best offenses. We haven’t see that yet. Jermichael Finley‘s season-ending injury is a huge loss, but this team should still have enough in the receiving game to overcome it. Rodgers’ was correct to call out the playcalling because something needed to shook up, but after he did that the Packers are 0-2. Rodgers should has the ball in his hands more than most quarterbacks, but McCarthy cannot abandon the run so quickly, especially in situations where it is working. A prime example was against Washington when the team had a 4th quarter lead and did everything they could to NOT give the ball to Jackson, who was having his best game of the season.
An encouraging sign from last week was getting Greg Jennings more involved. With Finley out, Jennings has to be the team’s big playmaker and he even has said he wants the ball more. He has proven it before and the Packers need to go back to him, along with giving the running game more looks. Trust me when I say that everyone is questioning McCarthy’s playcalling right now.
TVA: Aaron Rodgers is 1-11 in his career in games decided by 4 points or less. He is clearly a talented passer, but is that a cause of concern for Packer fans come crunchtime?
OBOD: Yes, it is a cause of concern for now. At our site, all of us were pretty critical of Rodgers this week and took some heat from readers. There is no doubt Rodgers is one the league’s better passers, but to be elite he needs to win some of those games. The record can be a little misleading since he is still in only his third year as a starter and not all of the losses can be blamed of him, but focusing on just this year, he hasn’t come through with the game on the line. In the three losses, he was given the opportunity to win each game late in the 4th quarter or in overtime. I am not by any means giving up hope on the guy or diminishing his skills, but he still needs to take the next step. With the team ravaged by injuries and facing a critical turning point in the season, he will have his chance to erase any doubts and come out with a big win.
TVA: This is Brett Favre‘s third game against the Packers since he joined the Vikings. Are the fans starting to cool off in their feelings toward him or are their emotions just as heated as they were last year?
OBOD: I would compare it to this. You know in the summer time when you have a stretch of 95 degree days and then you get a 90 degree day with a little bit of breeze. It still really pisses you off, but it is not as bad as the last couple days were…that is how Favre is to most fans. We still hate him, but it is not eating away at us that many Vikings fans still think it is. Having Rodgers helps a lot because we have a new franchise quarterback to hang our hats on for the next decade, even if he still a year away from being in the elite echelon.
If anything, we are really enjoying it this year because Vikings fans get to the other side of Favre that we endured for many years, the more risk-taker, bad decision making Favre who throws a lot of picks. And don’t think we aren’t loving Danglegate 2010. It just seems that all the good karma he ruined when he went to Minnesota is finally coming back to haunt him. However, the Packers still need to beat him on Sunday to give fans full retribution.