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Mulumba, Palmer Hold Down the Fort on Packers Defense in Absence of Matthews, Perry

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Mulumba, Palmer Hold Down the Fort on Packers Defense in Absence of Matthews, Perry

The drop off in talent from Clay Matthews and Nick Perry to Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer should be like dropping off a cliff face at the Grand Canyon.

If this past Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns was any indication, however, the free fall was barely noticeable, a step down the staircase.

Granted, facing quarterback Brandon Weeden and the Browns offense is nothing like facing Payton Manning and the Broncos, but for the rookie duo making their first career starts at outside linebacker, they held their own.

"I was proud of the way our young guys stepped in there (Sunday) and performed," said defensive coordinator Dom Capers the day after the game. "I thought they handled the pressure of the situation very well. Andy Mulumba had played a number of plays the week before. It was the first time we'd seen Nate Palmer in there, and I thought those guys handled their jobs well, enabled us to get off to a good start."

Indeed, the Packers limited the Browns to a three-and-out series on the first drive of the game and would have held them to a second were it not for a roughing the kicker penalty that gave Cleveland a new set of downs.

Green Bay was in control of the game from the very start, staking out to a 14-0 lead before the end of the first quarter and largely held the Browns in check the rest of the way.

Mulumba and Palmer were far from perfect, but considering they're replacing a pair of first round draft choices in the starting lineup, it was an encouraging showing.

Frequently lining up across from former All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas, it was probably expected that Palmer would be in for a long afternoon, but the sixth round draft choice performed admirably.

Both outside linebackers received negative grades rushing the passer on Sunday from ProFootballFocus.com, but helped to make up for it by both grading out positively in defending against the run.

The impact was felt as the Packers allowed a season-low 216 total yards of offense and an average of a mere 3.2 yards per play to the Browns.

Not only were the Packers without the services of Matthews and Perry in Week 7, Mike Neal was limited due to a shoulder injury suffered in the preceding week and the defense had to adjust.

"I think Dom's done a very good job, and the defensive staff, of tailoring to the players that are available," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "Frankly we didn't know if Mike Neal was going to play probably until Saturday night. This is really the product of a long season. You always have these challenges. Ours are just have come bunches the past couple weeks. Our job as coaches is to put the players in the best position to be successful, period. And we don't sway from that."

There probably wasn't a better environment and a better opponent for Mulumba and Palmer to get the first extended playing time of their professional careers than facing the Browns at Lambeau Field, but it's not as if they can rest on their laurels.

With Matthews and Perry expected to miss at least a couple more weeks, the rookie linebackers will continue to be relied upon, even if Mike Neal returns to full health.

The challenge this upcoming week will be a division game against the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome, not the toughest opponent based upon recent performances but one that rivalry usually seems to bring out the best in them.

If nothing else, the upgrade in running back in going from Willis McGahee of the Browns to Adrian Peterson of the Vikings will not be easy.

"I thought Nate and Andy, they were solid," said McCarthy. "Their goals, specifically what they were asked to do, I thought they did that. They were assignment sound. Technique can improve. Impact was probably not what they wanted. They definitely took a step forward from last week, and I look for them guys to get better this week and hopefully have more of an impact against the Vikings."

 Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (31) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Franklin Hillside's picture

Being at the game, it was a little tough to get a clear picture of how these guys were doing.

Thanks for the review, Brian.

davyjones's picture

I love that all these young guys--offense & defense--are getting some invaluable experience during a weak part of the schedule. First Cleveland and Weeden...then Minnesota and apotentially even worse QB in Josh Freeman. Pro Football Focus gave Freeman's debut the worst grade they've ever given out. Getting a Cutlerless Bear team at home isn't a bad draw either...then Philly at home, the Giants and Minnesota again at home...the schedulers were good to us.

Really, when better to get some great experience which can only help down the stretch than during a 6 game run against teams with about 9 combined wins and not a QB threat among them?

ohenry78's picture

Was it just me or was that roughing the punter penalty kind of bogus? If Taylor had gotten his mitts on the ball they wouldn't have called it. He dove for the ball and missed, and his momentum carried him in to the kicker.

Evan's picture

That's exactly the risk of going for the block. If you go for the block, you better make sure you get it, because if not and you hit the kicker, it's a penalty.

MarkinMadison's picture

I don't think enforcement of the rule has changed.

Idiot Fan's picture

He really plowed through the plant leg of the punter. If his cleat had been more secure in the ground, Stoneburner probably would had destroyed his knee. Probably a good thing to penalize, IMO.

Stroh's picture

Part of the problem was the rain and wet grass. I'm guessing he probably slid into or underneath the punter after he dove. If the grass was dry he may not have slid into the punter as much, which would then not have caused the penalty... Read something to that effect mentioned by Slocum.

Mojo's picture

One of the few Triplette's crew got right.

Nerd's picture

They held up. I think Palmer needs a year, but Capers seems to be helping them out a bit.

Our strong DL and DBs don't hurt either.

davyjones's picture

Capers and Kevin Greene---dude has done some coaching up!!

Michael Buffer's picture

Lets get ready to Mulumbaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!

hayward4president's picture

Now that ...is funny.

Kevin's picture

I would be interested to see the stats on how much we blitzed with Matthews as opposed to without. It seems that AJ and Jamari and even Micah Hyde are coming much more often than before. It seems to be working and Mulumba and Palmer are playing admirably, but I don't think Dom is simply them in and running the same defense.

MarkinMadison's picture

The Vikings will work hard to isolate AP on these guys. Their passing game will improve. Heck, it has to; the only way to get worse would be to suit up #4 at this point. Packers 34-12.

TommyG's picture

We have so many injuries and rookies that no one knows how to game plan for us; that goes for both sides of the ball. I think Cleveland has just started the trend towards stopping our running game though. Watch the Vikes scheme for it.

Evan's picture

They can scheme for it and stack the box and Rodgers will kill them through the air.

hayward4president's picture

Yeah ..at this point everyone knows Eddie is a good player,but you gotta pick your poison. Most teams will still try and stop AR over the run game especially with Boykin showin he has some skills.

Kt's picture

A great asset that Eddie brings is the potential to successfully run the ball in third and short, fourth and short, and goal line situations. This is new and may change the focus a bit towards a move the chains mentality.

Bearmeat's picture

Any word on when Perry comes back?

Losing Cobb for 8 weeks sucks.
Losing Finley (maybe for life) sucks bad.
Not having Burnett killed us through 3 weeks
Not having Casey has sucked.
Losing Bulaga and DuJuan has sucked.

But we still can end up 12-4 or better. Wow!

...knock on wood... no more.. please God...

Nerd's picture

That's true.

I haven't heard a timetable on Perry yet. Kinda makes me cringe a little bit.

I bleed Green More's picture

Love what the young guys are doing, they have a fire lite.

chicago hooligan's picture

Erik Walden played well against Denver, but I'm still thrilled that we don't have to depend on him to prevent ADP getting around the corner on runs this year.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Has there been an update or timeline on Perry? Been looking, can't find one.

Charlie M's picture

He got the "he'll be a couple of weeks" from McCarthy. So he'll be back between next week and January would be my guess.

phillythedane's picture

Would any of those who consistently rip on Capers and want to see him fired be interested in stepping up to say they were wrong? That Capers "schemed appropriately," if not brilliantly, starting two rookie OLB's with nearly zero game experience? That Capers has successfully plugged holes at ILB and in the secondary pretty much all season?

How 'bout those who repeatedly decry TT's ability to draft, sign UFA's, and manage a roster in the salary cap era?

Anyone care to eat a bit of crow?

Oh, that's right. Success has many fathers. Failure's an orphan.

Drealyn Williams's picture

I don't think it was all on Capers' calls. (For me) it was more about the people he had on the field and the positions they were in. I absolutely love how they move Tramon around now. I love how they're using more D-Linemen. I love how they're (sometimes)choosing Shields over Tramon to lock down the opponents #1 WR. But, (minor but's)I still don't like seeing MD Jennings out there. I still don't like the 3-man rush. I still don't like the large cushions the CB's give on obvious pass downs when the opponent isn't in a WR bunch formation.

UP-Packer's picture

The Pack beat a woeful Brownie team that was led by a clown at QB named Weeden. They will probably beat up on the Vikings this Sunday who will be led by another clown at QB, Ponder.

You should have held your post for when the Pack plays & wins against a playoff type team. AR, alone, can beat the scrub teams.

UP-Packer's picture

Footnote:
The Pack are 4-2 because AR is their QB.
Everything else is pretty much secondary.

Drealyn Williams's picture

The last four weeks this defense has looked DAMN GOOD. All wins,except the Bengals game and I don't think anyone can blame the defense for that loss. Special Teams and Offense pretty much handed the Bengals that game. Just the fact that they're trying new looks and switching players around is worth noting.

UP-Packer's picture

GB is 4-2. Take away AR. Insert S. Wallace, Young, Coleman or even G. Harrell, then what's GB's record?

Packer fans can feel cocky when AR starts & plays well versus da Bears in game 16. It's way too early to relax & count your chips.

Stroh's picture

By week 16 the Bareasses will not even be in contention for the playoffs. Hell they're already irrelevant. Not like their going to win much w/o cutty. Not even a worry!

As for taking away Rodgers, well it hasn't happened yet, not unlike Favre. But if/when it does it could be a season killer. Just like NO, Denver, NE and a couple other teams... You just can't replace what a Franchise QB does for a team.

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