- "Pass Protection" Is More Than The Offensive Line
So much has been written and said about the sacks given up "by the offensive line" in 2009. And there's no denying the unit had major issues, especially earlier in the season, when it came to protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
But the protection component of any offense is not limited to those five individuals. It is incumbent upon, to one degree or another, all 11 men on the offensive side of the ball. Oh sure, the line does the majority of the grunt work, obviously, But the quarterback sets protection, along with the center and running back. The tight ends and fullbacks are often kept in when blitzes are expected. And wide receivers must be able to read the blitz and be able to adjust along with the quarterback. And said quarterback simply can not hold the ball too long.
With that in mind, when you go back and watch the tape of the 2009 season, protection breakdowns were rampant across the board when it came to the Packers passing game, especially early in the season.
Take a look at the play below. The tight end is kept in (a week after Barbre was exposed on national television), the line is slid to the right with both backs sent to the weak side in protection. The Packers have eight men in to protect against six defensive players - and still lose.
Not only does Korey Hall completely whiff on his block, Rodgers doesn't recognize the fact that, with only two men out running routes and with the Bengals dropping six in coverage, there's very little chance of his finding an opening to get the ball to either of the wide receivers. (To his credit, it was after this game that Rodgers politely suggested publicly to McCarthy that he prefered to go down swinging with more guys out in passing routes) Now, obviously, with eight men in to protect, Rodgers should be able to feel relatively comfortable holding the ball a second or two longer than his progression would normally dictate. But the onus is still on him to process the information quickly and try to extend the play by scrambling out of the pocket.
Now, I recognize this is being hyper-critical. (Hey, its what I do.) But the point is, on the play above, the offensive line was not the problem. There are many, many plays like this that you can pick out from last season where the five guys across the line have nothing to do with the breakdown in pass pro. Mike McCarthy, Joe Philbin, Tom Clements, James Campen, Edgar Bennett, Ben McAdoo, Jimmy Robinson, and the rest of the offensive coaching staff have to start training camp by breaking down every player on the offense and ensuring they are attuned to their responsibilities when it comes to protecting the quarterback. The team simply can not afford to start the way they started last season when it comes to their protection issues.
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