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I Was Right The First Time

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I Was Right The First Time

Let it be known - I agree with Mike Vandermause. (I may as well give up now)

In light of the fact that I completely contradicted myself earlier this week, I went back and watched the three games that McCarthy and Capers are no doubt going to pay the most attention to when reviewing tape this offseason - the second Vikings game, the Steelers game, and the Cardinal playoff game.

And despite the secondary being torched repeatedly in those contests, especially in the playoff game, I'm pretty sure my first take was the correct one - an improved pass rush, namely a compliment to Matthews who can win a one-on-one at the line of scrimmage, will solve a lot of problems the Packers had against Favre, Roethlisberger and Warner.

In looking at the secondary, I fell victim to what I call looking through the "offseason-lens" - where you remember every big play, both good and bad, but forget that there are hundreds of other plays that happened inbetween. Going back and watching the three games in question, you can see the potential in Brandon Underwood. Josh Bell is not nearly the liability that that final pass against Pittsburgh makes you remember him as. Improvement from those two players alone will go a long way in shoring things up on the back end of the defense. And this is even before counting on anything from Al Harris, Will Blackmon or Pat Lee.

Of course, Jarrett Bush should never see the field from scrimmage again, if only for this play:

In regards to the pass rush, what I wrote back in February pretty much sums it up:

...the aerial shows against the Packers defense would not have been half as devastating had the Packers had someone other than Clay Matthews to get around the edge. You saw everything you needed to in that regard in the playoff game against the Cardinals. With virtually no threat on the other side, the Cardinals constantly kept a back in to chip Matthews, or called for the tight end to be on Matthews’ side. The point is – it was way too easy. If Warner saw blitz, he knew where the holes would be. If he saw coverage, he knew Matthews was the only one to worry about, and that he was pretty much taken care of.

Now, this doesn't mean the Packers necessarily have to take a pass rusher with the 23rd overall pick. They could still very well select the best offensive lineman available, a defensive back or even possibly a running back or receiver. The Steelers, the team which this defense is striving to look like, have made a living of finding outside backers very late in the draft or even amongst the ranks of the undrafted. But make no mistake, whether by draft, trade or free agency, Thompson needs to find a way to add another pass rusher to his front seven.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (58) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

frosty's picture

aaron, to this point:
"The Steelers, the team which this defense is striving to look like, have made a living of finding outside backers very late in the draft or even amongst the ranks of the undrafted."

I believe I remember reading an article last year on the steelers after the Pack had decided to switch that commented that a good OLB also usually takes a good 3 years or so to develop. If that's true, don't you think it might be pretty risky to bank on somebody coming out of a day 3 pick?

I would think Brad Jones would have a much better chance than a random late round pick. What're the chances he gets better at rushing the passer after a year in the weight room?

packeraaron's picture

frosty - The problem with posting while at work, completely forgot to mention Jones. I'm not completely discounting him. It should be his job to lose and he should certainly benefit from a full offseason in their program.

RockinRodgers's picture

I say we try and improve both just to be safe.

lmills's picture

Bravo Aaron, bravo. Maybe it's false hope, but I really do believe that Underwood,Bell and Lee will benefit the secondary a lot this year. Brad Jones was pretty good for a seventh round rookie and hopefully he'll be even better this year with the offseason. But it is absolutely necessary to have equal amount of pressure from the other outside linebacker. I think you have to draft/trade/pick up another stud OLB. We have very little depth there and if Matthews or Jones goes down, we would be in a world of hurt.

DaveK's picture

Interesting:

http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/Atogwe-is-poster-boy-for-players-los...

I wonder if he would be a good fit next to Collins.

Ryeguy812's picture

The part that I noticed most, esp in that Steelers game is watching that last drive by Pitt, note the amount of times Capers had CM3 dropping into coverage. I know he has to drop every now and then, but when you have 1 consistent pass rusher, you need to let him win battles. The Pitt LT couldn't block him all game and all of sudden when the money's on the line we drop CM3 into coverage. I agree that we have a personnel problem to an extent, but we also have a scheme problem as well, and you can't draft schemes

packeraaron's picture

Ryeguy - DON'T get me started on that final drive. I went round and round with Wilde about that for a week or so afterword. Dropping Matthews was just asinine...

CSS's picture

You need at least 9 linebackers in any iteration of the 3-4 defense. At least 3 of those individuals need to have the athletic ability and/or skill to win one-on-one match-ups consistantly. Preferrably, they should all be capable of commanding a double-team, thus freeing up one of their respective teamates to pressure the QB.

My point, they need at least one more OLB that fits the bill, preferrably two more for better competition on the roster.

Fortunately, this is the deepest hybrid linebacker group I've seen after 10 years of watching the draft. There will be legitimate guys into the 3rd round that can have, at the very least, a situational impact.

Aaron - The only reason I still advocate pursuing a solid DB option in the draft is to free-up either Collins or Woodson to intermittently add a blitz wrinkle tot he defense without getting tourched. Those two were forced into coverage far too often last year (though injuries necessitated the move).

So, good news: Deepest DB/Hybrid LB draft I've seen in a decade. You can get legit kids all the way into the 3rd round, 4th/5th round for 3-4 OLB's.

Andrew In Atlanta's picture

It didn't take CM3 three years to develop and Brad Jones, a 7th rounder, played way better than expected. They both played in 3-4 schemes in college so isn't that where we should be looking? I think it makes sense that a non 3-4 guy would take three years to develop tho

Andrew In Atlanta's picture

Merlin Olsen passed away :(

packeraaron's picture

Andrew - yes he did. Very, very sad. He was a childhood hero, definitely.

frosty's picture

The Brad Jones Effect is real strange. I think it's cause the guy didn't get burned really bad but didn't make any huge plays either -- just about everyone lists OLB as a top 3 need, but nobody really has anything bad to say about how well Jones played apart from "needs improvement rushing the passer". Can't say I ever noticed him much during the season unless I was specifically trying to. He might be one of the bigger sleepers on our team...(I say that with a big dose of hope)

Scrumptrulescent's picture

As a Michigan fan I really hope Brandon Graham is the BPA left on TT's board at pick #23. Non-stop motor, football player, proven success against the pass and run. It seems too convenient to compare him to Woodley, but it's a fair comparison. Would anyone not like to see a Woodley clone opposite Clay on Sundays?

packeraaron's picture

Scrump - totally agree, but I doubt he gets past the Patriots at 22. Possible Ted jumps up to get him if he slides...

pczrvp's picture

His 10 yrd split is too slow. Thompson won't move up to take him and may not take him if he's available at 23.

packeraaron's picture

You're probably right.

pczrvp's picture

You're agreeing with both sides of the debate. Do you agree with everything?

CSS's picture

I don't think anybody is sleeping on Brad Jones. He has the athletic ability and frame you covet in a 3-4 OLB. However, he was starting to get washed out at the point of attack as his playing time increased. He was probably 230lb - 235 lbs playing weight by the end of the season. He needs to come into camp closer to 250lbs and sustain a playing weight of at least 240lbs in order to hold up for an entire season on the professional level.

He's very instincitve as a pass-rusher, but needs to maintain his 'wiggle' as an athlete while carrying at least 15 additional pounds.

CSS's picture

IMHO - Nothing wrong with Graham, high-motor kid that's underrated. Jerry Hughes (TCU) has the best/most natural hips and swivel I've ever seen in a hybrid 3-4 kid coming out of college. He is more fluid flipping his hips in coverage than almost ever DB I watched in season, in all-star games or in the combine. I would personally jump all over Hughes before Graham (not that I would be disappointed in Graham).

lmills's picture

Aaron-- Is there a reason you don't do polls on your site? Just curious if people are higher on Hughes or Graham. Or maybe what position everyone thinks the first pick should be.

Andrew In Atlanta's picture

CSS is the Mel Kyper of Cheesehead TV and I mean that in a respectful way. Good stuff.
BTW, I just knocked my coffee off the counter in the break room at work but managed to avoid it landing on my pants so I'm thinking my hip swivel score at the "corporate combine" might be pretty good :)

Scrumptrulescent's picture

CSS......6 in 1 hand, 1/2 dozen in another. Graham/Hughes similar as far as success in college. I'm a U of M fan which is why I'd like to see Graham. I don't know about all the swively hips stuff, but I do know Graham was ridiculously effective on a horrible defense the past couple years. He's just a solid football guy. Well spoken kid too.....mature.

packeraaron's picture

Scrump - "He’s just a solid football guy. Well spoken kid too…..mature." - which is exactly why I think Thompson will target him.

coloradopackerfan's picture

I would like graham or Hughes in the first and Veldheer (sp?) in the second.

CSS's picture

Scrump - I'm a University of Iowa Alumn and had my eyes on Graham since he was recruited out of Detroit as a high school player with track speed. I love him, he's a shorter (stature) version of Matthews in terms of effort and tenacity. I love him. The only person to stonewall Graham all season was Bryan Bulaga, but he schooled a 'who's who' among defensive ends and linebackers.

My only ratinale for Hughes over Graham is how natural he is in pass coverage. There are a dozen (situational) instant impact guys in this draft.

#23 will be a possible position for every 3-4 hybrid to fall. We will see...

CSS's picture

Andrew - I will never pretend to be anything more than a self-proclaimed 'football geek'. I coached for several years and emphasized the fundamentals. Assisted with many coaching clinics. Technique, baby....

P.S. - My football 'geekdom', such as it is, will be on the decline unless I can get my 2 week old daughter to join my insanity. What are the odds???

P.S.S. - I wish I had Kiper's hair! Been shaving my head since 21 (14 years) and simply threw in the towel accepting what nature had in store anyway)

packeraaron's picture

CSS - as fathers of daughters, both Andrew and I can tell you it is very, very possible. ;)

Andrew In Atlanta's picture

That's hysterical CSS. We share a similar hairline, LOL. I do love your passion and insights. On the daughter thing, I converted both my girls (26 and 18) so it can be done! You might have to give up the insanity while she's a toddler but it will come back. The Packers are the one thing everyone in our family can share with equal enthusiasm and it is very cool. It's a rite of passage in Packer families and it sounds like you will keep the tradition alive. Just wait until your daughter is old enough to destroy a boy in a football conversation (like happened with both my daughters) then you'll really know how football crazy you are :)

PackersRS's picture

First of all, I was expecting this post Aaron. Kudos. I agree, to a certain extent. I still think what we need more is inside pass rush. Granted, Raji should be able to provide it, but that's projection.
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Now, onto Graham vs Huges. Graham to me it's the better player. HOWEVER, Huges played pretty much his entire college career standing up, and that's a huge thing with TT: "As much as we can, we try to stick with guys that have proven that they can play the game. Clay Matthews last year is a perfect example. There were times where he put his hand down on the ground and rushed the passer, but a large majority of the time he was standing up and playing linebacker. "
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So, in that regard, I think Huges is the proven OLB. And I absolutely love him, specially considering value. I believe we can trade down to the early 2nd and get this guy, while getting more picks. And I doubt we can get Graham later in round 2, as some 4-3 teams will regard him as a DE, which won't happen with Huges.
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Still, Koa Misi and Ricky Sapp also bring in quality play, while being available later, thus allowing us to pick a LT, position that will end by the early 2nd round. Veldheer, Capers, Ducasse and such don't present the kind of potential and readiness that Davis, Brown, Williams and such do.

CSS's picture

PackersRS - You're leading into what is a fun conversation: The 2010 draft is a 2nd round embarassment of riches. There are as many as 50 kids with legitimate 1st round grades in any other draft year. The 1st round is always 'sexy' for the casual fans, the real drama and posturing where a legitimate NFL GM makes a name for himself is the 2nd and 3rd round of this years draft.

Watch in ernest and enjoy, my friend....

Andrew In Atlanta's picture

Amen Aaron. Fathers, daughters and football. What could be better

Dilligaff's picture

I guess we are more in agreement now, we defiantly need a better pass rush from our front seven. Having played DE myself in in a 4-3 in high school Jones made a classic mistake on that play that Ben took advantage, Jones got sucked in to the middle forgetting his outside containment/leverage. As a DE/OLB you can not allow a running back/QB get past your outside shoulder, keeping them turned up toward the middle, pushing them into the paths of your defensive line or blitzing ILB. Had Jones got a little penetration straight up, not slanting so strongly to the inside, Ben would no have broken out of jail to run to the outside. My coaches always said containment first, even if you don't get in on the tackle, direct the QB/running backs up the middle for a team tackle. My buddies in college playing flag football never understood this and they would get burned every time making a bee line straight to the QB, QB breaks out of the pocket for a great play.

Dilligaff's picture

So with this being said, is Hawk worth keeping around for one more year at a high price tag with little hope of being a Packer in 2011 due to his contract going through the roof. I can see continuing with Hawk if he had a long term out look, even if he improves next year are we going to pay him that kind of money in 2011. Do we develop Bishop/Chillar/rookie/free agent that has a future with the team and may bring a new dimension to the 3-4 opposite of Barnett that Hawk can not? There was a pretty good ILB that was surprisingly released by the Denver Broncos that had over a 100 tackles and 4 sacks last year, I think he is 30 years old.

PackersRS's picture

CSS, it's because of some factors.
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First, there's the current draft class, tha would be good anyways.
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Then, there's all those seniors who should've come out last year, but opted to stay for their senior year.
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And, the most important aspect, there's the CBA agreement. This could very well be the last draft were there's no rookie cap, so every junior that had a chance to be drafted is coming out, to collect the dough.
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The sum of all that makes for one of the deepest draft class in many years. But still, the LT position is so valuable that, though there are more prospects than usually, much like the 2008 class, where 8 OTs were selected in the first round, all of the elite ones are slated to go in the first early second, and the dropoff between those and the rest is quite deep.
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BTW, it should be pretty evident, but we're all talking hypoteticals and projections in here. Truth is we have no idea how the draft will go on, and how the prospects will fare in the NFL.
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But hypoteticals and projections aren't made out of the blue, there's some validation to it.

wgbeethree's picture

I'd really like the Packers to pick up Odrick in the first round. Ideal fit for the five technique in our defense. Jolly provides very little in pass rush IMO (he gets stonewalled nearly everytime though he makes up for it by batting down passes often). A dline of Jenkins, Raji, and Odrick would really improve the interior pass rush and lessen the need for another pass rushing OLB. The teams that seem to have the most success are usually the ones who can get to the QB without having to "send the house". Just a huge fan of the kid from PSU. Personally I have him as a better prospect than Jackson who went third to KC in last years draft. Everything I've seen on him points to him being a perfect fit for us.

CSS's picture

PackersRS - CBA is a non-issue. Schefter and Mortenson have been reporting for several months that the biggest myth being floated out there by agents is the pending 'rookie cap'. They've been reporting that the union won't even consider a 'rookie cap' until 2012, at the earliest.....

CSS's picture

wgbeethree - I love Jared Odrick as well, but considering the overall role of the '5' technique in the 3-4 is to absorb lineman and push the line of scrimmage they just don't carry that much value as 1st round picks.

Scott Pioli's pick of Jackson last year was a classic reach (big time) where the value of the position on your need just doesn't align with the talent on the board in other areas. I thought that was the silliest pick of the year, worse than the Raiders Darius Haywerd-Bay.

I love Odrick, but the value just isn't there to justify taking him in Rd. 1 as a 3-4 end. Also, you then have 1st round money tied up in Raji and Odrick, in addition to a monster tender on Pickett, a likely large contract for Jolly and Jenkins in a contract year. Don't see it happening....

packeraaron's picture

CSS - biggest reaction/shock last year at the draft from people I respect came when Jackson's name was called. 3rd overall was absurd.

PackersRS's picture

CSS - agreed that Jackson was a big reeach. But will you tell me that you wouldn't have spent a 1st rounder on a Richard Seymour or a Darnell Dockett (yes, I know, Dockett was a 3rd rounder)? Totally disagree with you on Odrick. Actually, a dark horse pick for us. As someone in here has reported, TT drafts for futute needs. With Jenkins hitting FA next year, and with the interest the Packers demonstrated on him iduring Senior Bowl, I absolutely wound't rule out a Jared Odrick pick. And if he has any ressemblance of Dockett, I'd be thrilled if we did as such... We're not talking top 10 for a 3-4 DE, we're talking outside top 20 for an elite 3-4 DE...

packeraaron's picture

Good stuff RS and CSS - I'll just say I think CSS is discounting the '5' a bit in this defense. Remember, these aren't supposed to be classic 2-gap guys. They are responsible for shooting pre-assigned gaps more than just tying up blockers, though of course there is some of that as well. Just don't think the position is quite as devalued as your argument makes it out to be CSS.

CSS's picture

PackersRS - Dockett and Odrick are two different animals. Dockett can move inside and not only physically dominate but is so sudden in his movement he causes interior linemen fits. Two radically different guys.

With all due respect (as much as I like Odrick) you don't call a kid 'elite' when you're projecting him to a position he's never played. Penn State is a traditional 4-3 team and labeling Odrick elite is unfair to the kid.

Would I be angry if we drafted Odrick, no.

CSS's picture

You're probably right in general, Aaron. My only rational for THIS YEARS DRAFT. To win in the NFL you need the following, in order of importance: QB, LT, Someone to rush the QB, DB.

Packers:

1) Have a QB.

2) I (along with everybody, I think) are nervous about the LT position now and in the future.

3) Capers system along with almost every hybrid of the 3-4 emphasize the LB for pressure. Not my intent to dismiss the '5' technique end but it's simply not as important as the traditional 4-3 end. I would rather have another 3-4 rush OLB on my roster.

4) I'm not sold on a 36 yr old Harris, a Pat Lee that isn't healthy nor the scheduled learning curve of Brandon Underwood.

So yes, I'm underselling the '5' technique this year.

packeraaron's picture

Completely agree w/everything there CSS. And it's fruitless to speculate (which is why I don't write a whole lot of draft stuff) how Thompson's board stacks up. But if he thinks/knows there's a pass rushing prospect he can get in the 2nd round, no reason he would shy away from a DE in the 1st.

CSS's picture

I agree with both yourself and PackersRS, Aaron. It's all fodder for conversation and nothing more. I would pay premium dollar to see how the Packers stacked their board after the draft.

PackersRS's picture

Yeah. How did TT's board surfaced last year? Or at least the info on Crabtree/CM3 and Raji???

packeraaron's picture

McGinn has guys in the personnel dept that give him stuff. That's how he knew about Crabtree being the top player on their board last year.

wgbeethree's picture

ok I guess this is the question since Jenkins and Jolly are clearly better at the 3 than they are at the 5. Did we play them the way we did because Capers WANTS to or because he HAD to? I was under the assumption that DC prefers 5 techs in his defense put was playing to our personnel's strentghs because he really had no other option.

PackersRS's picture

wgbeethree, we used them at more instances than at the 3. Plus, Jenkins was really good at 4 and 5 in the 4-3, and Jolly, who was never more than adequate, had his best season, he's just not good at creating pressure.
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I think, IF everythings goes wonderfully well, we'll be able to bring pressure. But it takes a lot of projections.
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IF Raji improves like he's supposed to, IF Jones bulks up, IF Wynn imrpoves and we get enough rotation, we could have nickel and dime situations with CM3, Jenkins, Raji and Jones. Not too shabby...

wgbeethree's picture

I get how they have been used I'm more wondering how DC would prefer to use his DEs in a perfect world situation. I'm not sure if there's a site, book, or an interview where he discusses in depth his philosophies on this. (if anybody knows of one I'd be very appreciative if you passed it on) I was under the assumption he would prefer a Pittsburgh style system and that they used the two gap style ends in it. I'm wondering if either or both of those assumptions are incorrect. Is it by design or because of necessity that we used particularly Jenkins the way we did. He is very good in the role he played last year. If that's how DC prefers to use his DEs then great. If he prefers the two gap style the importance of getting a DE that fits his style better increases immensely. Jenkins is going to get a BIG contract when he hits free agency. If Jenkins doesn't fit what DC prefers to do resigning him to a large contract makes little sense and DE need becomes a big issue so I'm looking for some info on DC's "ideals"

Ruppert's picture

I was happy with Underwood's performance in '09, to be totally honest. He wasn't great, or even good, or even marginal for that matter. But this kid was a project when we drafted him. Big time. Just making the team for him was overachieving. I have faith in him more than the terminally injured Lee. I maintain that we need a safety worse than we need another CB as far as secondary goes. But Aaron's right in that we need pass rush no matter who is chasing receivers back there.

jerseypackfan's picture

Just saw the new third jersey. I think I just found my birthday present.

I wonder what the helmet will look like? Hopefully its leather.

Hyperrevue's picture

Totally agree jerseypackfan, it looks awesome. I'd bet the helmet is solid yellow or white.

Hyperrevue's picture

@TomSilverstein: Packers S Nick Collins signing three-year, $23.4 M contract extension, sources said. Will get $14 mil in the first year.
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only 3 years?

FITZCORE1252's picture

Yup, nead a BEAST to compliment Clay. It will only help the backend.

J-E-R-R-Y H-U-G-H-E-S

Might be able to get him in the 2nd even

GBP 4 LIFE

jbeebe's picture

Even if Brad Jones is the man outside this year, it's fun to speculate for the future. My bold prediction for the 2011 draft is CM3's little brother picked up by Ted in the 3rd round. You heard it here first people. Wait another year and you could have the genetic compliment to CLay.

Matthew's picture

Good posts by everyone and I thoroughly agree about pass rush being the main defeciency in our D against the better QBs. Earlier someone mentioned how the players need to be able to win their 1-on-1 match-ups and I think this is a great point. I also think it could lead to a real dark horse in the draft. Our Inside linebackers didn't do enough winning their match-ups when they were asked to blitz. This is obviously concerning beacuse unlike Jones, these guys are a experienced veterns. Now obvioulsy very very solid to good overall linebackers. But our Inside Linebackers are weak at getting to the QB when asked to blitz. Hopefully barnett with an additional year removed from his knee surgury can be more explosive...but I am not holding muy breath. Now with Hawk's future with the team uncertain after next year, i could see of a situation where an Inside linebacker is taken high (1st or 2nd round). Again, it probally isn't the most glaring need, but also could be influential in making a difference..or at least making a QB uncomfortable in the pocket. So my sleeper in the draft is taking an Inside linebacker early 2nd round (after they trade down..ala 2008 with the Jordie Nelson pick)

A_Lerxst_in_Packerland's picture

Boy, does that clip of Bush you posted bring back bad memories...ack!

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