Toward the end of last year, I made the observation that the Packers under Mike McCarthy had become a finesse team. Last night, McCarthy's team played true to that moniker. Every which way, they were beat on the lines, they were beat on almost every hit, and they were clearly the team that has spent a great deal less time worrying about hitting and tackling and a great deal more time worrying about rest and recovery during training camp.
The biggest culprit for this finesse label is the offensive line. Football is a game for men. Strong, hard, hopefully a bit nasty, men. The interior of the Packers' offensive line is populated by boys. Growing boys, to be sure, but up against the likes of Pat Williams or Tommie Harris, boys. It's a very real problem that McCarthy seems content to wait on. Only a man armed with a long-term contract would be comfortable sharing the sentiments below from McCarthy's end-of-season press conference:
I like the body type of our offensive line. The positive is they're all young. They're all going to get stronger, they're going to get bigger, they're going to be smarter, their fundamentals are going to improve. We have so much in front of us. I'm extremely pleased with our ability to pass protect. I'll take our group over anybody in the league as far as what we ask them to do in pass protection, and the performance level of our pass protection. Our pass protection was clearly better this year than last year, and on top of that, the stress of what we put our players in this year was 10-fold what we asked them to do last year. So that part of it, they've done a great job of. But we need to pick up the run-game performance, and having Ryan Grant is a big part of that. Having a full offseason to develop and play the upcoming season the way you want to play, as opposed to going through growing pains like we went from last year's offseason program when we didn't really know who the runner was going to be, and offensive linemen fighting for jobs, so now we have a lot of competition there. I think just the maturation of our players and being in year three will help us.
Now, I'm no expert. But it would seem to me that if players like Jason Spitz, Daryn Colledge, Alan Barbre, and Josh Sitton are supposed to "play the upcoming season the way you want to play", and you had no plans to bring in the likes of Alan Faneca in the offseason (now there's a man - who's now blocking for Mr. Favre, in a small slice of irony) perhaps it would have been prudent to start hitting in pads from the start of camp, and more than once or twice a week. Because right now, the young pups on the offensive line looked surprised at the ferociousness of the game.
To his credit, McCarthy seems to have noticed this:
I thought they were more physical than we were, and that's...you know. I need to get that fixed. So I did not have the team prepared, and we will get that done this week.
Just hope it's not too late for the boys, Mike.
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