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After Further Review: Packers vs. Falcons

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After Further Review: Packers vs. Falcons

Ross will provide a few observations every Monday afternoon following a Packers game based on a few viewings of the condensed version of the game on NFL GamePass.  While this might not be the All-22 camera deep dive that might be more "educational", it should provide a conversation point for the rest of the week.

Call me unconvinced.  I don't think that the Packers scored 34 points yesterday because McCarthy is gone.  There were still designs and tendencies left over that we would have raked McCarthy over the coals for.  Long developing plays on third and short, lack of Aaron Jones early in the game, too many vertical looks, etc.  I don't think firing McCarthy and installing Philbin has fixed this team.  There is a pretty good chance that Atlanta is just that bad.

I think we're all being a little hard on Jimmy Graham.  He's being completely misused as a part of this offense.  There is no reason at this stage in his career that he is used as anything but a "big slot".  Keeping him in to online block with Marcedes Lewis on the roster is just silliness.  Lewis hasn't been great this year, but that likely has a lot to do with a lack of reps.  He's also playing with a broken thumb.  I know the cool thing to do right now is to bag on Graham, but I would cool it a little bit.

Jason Spriggs was good yesterday.  Yeah I said it.

Just give Aaron Jones the ball, man.  It really shouldn't be this hard.


Ross Uglem is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @RossUglem 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (34) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

Yeah. The Falcons are the NFCS equivalent of the Packers, except they haven't fired anyone (yet). It's nice to feel what a W is like again, but honestly, I think this was only a 1 week reprieve. The season ends next week.

Coldworld's picture

I agree with all of your points on Graham.

What I am still puzzled about is why we use him do much when it is clear that his catching ability is reduced through injury’ and with the season where it is?

Old School's picture

Going into yesterday's game, Graham was near the top among NFL TEs in yards, receptions, and average. He hasn't missed time with injury. He hasn't had a fumble.

I truly don't know what people expect at TE anymore. I've watched "fans" rip our TIE from Bubba to Richard Rodgers. If the guy stays healthy and catches 3 or 4 passes a game and get his guy blocked,,,, that should be plenty good enough.

And, he's out there with a broken hand on a cold December day when he's really not playing for much more than pride. He's not taking a break on the inactive list. I like guys that'll fight for nothing except pride.

By the way, Graham is kind of a bargain this year as he counts less than $7 million on the cap. Next year, it'll be 12 million but if we cut him we'll create $7 million in dead money. I think the solid bet is that he's going to be our guy at TE next year, too. After that, there's an out on his deal if we want to. But it's useless to take out one's frustration with this season on Graham. He's done well, and I think he'll do well next year, too.

JimR_in_SoCal's picture

We’re 5-7-1 with Graham. I can think of one, maybe two games where he made a noticeable positive contribution to the Packers’ winning effort. I can’t see why the Packers would keep him except to avoid the dead money. Gute stubbed his toe on this one.

HankScorpio's picture

"I truly don't know what people expect at TE anymore. "

I'm not anyone's spokesperson but I expected Graham to be a legit red zone threat. His 2 TDs puts him in a 19-way way for 22nd among TEs. It's a 53-way tied for 103rd among all players in TD catches. Among the many break downs for this team is red zone TD efficiency. That's not all on Graham, for sure. But he's not done a lot to help there.

He's not a big threat outside the red zone either. His 42 yds/game is 78th in passing yards.

You can find a guy that is not a big threat anywhere on the field for a lot less money. I don't think he'll be back. But if he is, I hope Ross is right that he's been misused.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I tend to think of Graham as a big WR rather than as a TE, so I find Old School's question somewhat inapplicable. GB does have him block, including in-line which is not his strength, so, let's view him as a TE.

Top 10 TE AAV/2019Cap hits:
Graham: $10/$12.66M [46 Rec, 11.9, 59% 2 TDs]
T. Kelce: $9.36/$9.96M [86 recs, 13.5, 70%, 10 TDs]
J. Reed:: $9.35M/$9.7M [54 recs, 10.3, 64%, 2 TDs
Gronk:: $9M/$12M [43 recs, 14.8 ave, 69.4%, 3 TDs
Olson:: $8.55M/$6.66M [27, 10.8, 71%, 4 TDs - 9 gm]
Z Ertz: $8.5M/$11.8M [98 recs, 10.4, 76%, 6 TDs,]
Walker: $8.5M/$6.8M [inj 74, 10.9, 66.7%, 3 TDs in '17]
Burton: $8.0M/$8.68M [40 recs, 11.8, 67.8%, 5 TDs]
C Clay:: $7.6M/$9.0M [Got old]
rudolph: $7.3M/$7.6M [46 recs, 10.1 ave, 76% catch, 2 TDs]

So, Graham is #1 for AAV, and easily #1 for cap number among TEs. As a blocker, Graham is in the running for worst blocker. Mind, Graham isn't as bad at blocking as I thought he'd be, nor is he our worst blocking TE in recent memory. Graham as a red zone threat (one of our biggest issues on offense) has not materialized. I think my biggest objection is the 59.7% catch rate. I think it is symptomatic of Graham's inability to create separation. I think AR is forcing the ball to Graham because our inscrutable QB wants this combination to work. It remains to be seen whether AR can make it work in 2019.

Of the top 10, it should be clear that Graham comes in 9th in terms of bang for the buck. I will be watching for signs that the AR to Graham duo can generate production worth $6M, $8M, $10M (I see no hope for $12.66M -that's a great year by Gronk level). Cutting Graham yields $5.33M in cap savings. That won't pay for Jared Cook. Might for Eifert or Jesse James. The best case for keeping and paying Graham is the same one made for re-signing Nick Perry: the options of Kendricks (re-sign) and Tonyan are not that appealing.

GBPDAN1's picture

"Jason Spriggs was good yesterday."

He played better than expected, however, he will be playing against Mack this week if Bulaga cant go. Missing 3 O-linemen would obviously not be ideal against the Bears. As a matter of fact, by what I witnessed last night regarding the Bears D, I don't want to play Rodgers if we're missing 3 Oline starters. Mack will destroy Spriggs and Hicks will man handle the back up Guards.

PS, the Bears still suck

Guam's picture

I would like to see the Packers resign Breeland. Alexander is excellent, King is good when healthy but too often hurt, Jackson is a work in progress and Williams is getting old. Breeland could be a real asset next year.

Chuck Farley's picture

Congrats to the Pack, they showed heart and gave it there all. My observations. The pass D is slow. There is a lack of speed. I thought at first maybe these guys were coached up wrong or they would come along soon.
As Coach Jimmy J used to say 'you cant coach speed'. Either you have speed or your don't, your not going to acquire it by practice.
I think our d backs drop back so the receivers dont run by them thus they are not competing for the ball and on the backs of the receivers, they are just too slow. Unless the pack org addresses this you have an achiles heel teams will use to beat you.
I know Mike had this mindset that if we can rush the passer he wont have time to let the receivers get downfield and it the open. Ya that may work if you have pass rushers. He didn't. His teams lost due to lack of pass d and getting off the field so Rodgers could do his thing. Good bye mike.

Ross Uglem's picture

lack of speed from the pass d is just patently untrue. at least about the speed that you can't coach. The secondary is littered with elite, elite athletes, SPECIFICALLY from a speed perspective.

If you think they are reacting slow, or the scheme is putting them in bad spots i'll allow that, but they actually time how fast these players run and the Packers are almost strictly speed demons.

Matt Gonzales's picture

The speed of the Packers D is an overworn criticism. For several years the guys played slow, regardless of actual straight line speed. They made bad angles that gave them too much ground to cover, got burned on routes, missed zone assignments, and tended to not press in coverage. Burks, Fack, and Martinez have been much better sideline to sideline, and closing speeds have gotten better with the guys playing tighter coverage. On some of the safety and corner blitzes those guys are screaming into the backfield. Fast guys have largely played faster this year.

Speed in the edge can definitely improve but the biggest part of that is quickly beating blocks, which wasn't happening at the start of the year.

The TKstinator's picture

Also helps to have played DB at some level to understand what is going on out there and what the coverage men are being asked to do.

In high school, I used to LOVE to play corner in cover 2, and just sit on that 5 yard out pattern. Got lots of picks that way.

In man to man, I specialized in biting on the play action and turning around to see my receiver hauling in a 50 yard touchdown pass.

Oh, the glory days.

dobber's picture

Ah, those raw skills that just can't be taught.

Old School's picture

Quick minds are quicker than quick feet. I can't speak to how quick minded these guys are, but I can talk about their athletic ability.

Ibrahim Campbell, for example, started a couple of dozen games in the SEC and held his own. How does a DB hold his own in that conference over a couple of seasons if he's not an athlete?

Brice is really fast and hits hard....and that causes him to be jacked up a lot. King is a tall, smooth corner who can tackle.

This secondary is a year or two away, and we need to add some guys, but this group could be really good . Get a safety in FA, move Jackson to safety, and draft another CB kind of high. Resign Breeland.

Oppy's picture

"Quick Minds are quicker than quick feet."

This, 100%, all day, everyday, and twice on sundays.

People don't realize that the ability to accurately diagnose a play and not waste a step or two, or taking the proper angles, can sometimes shave well over a second off your total reaction time (From diagnosis to the point at which you are where the play is happening.). People obsess over two-tenths of a second difference in straight line speed over the course of 40 yards, though.. go figure.

The TKstinator's picture

I think we also agree that one step in the wrong direction can be the difference between “open” and “covered”.

Coldworld's picture

Ok, let’s agree that to be fast, you need to be both rapid in the athletic sense and in diagnosing plays. The first we lacked for several years until this year. The second we lack this season because of inexperienced players. Recognition comes with experience. Even Alexander, who is well ahead of the curve, makes rookie mistakes.

The potential at DB is enormous. How far each individual progresses is impossible to predict of course, but they have the speed over the turf. I think, health permitting, we are set for a long time if we can develop a couple as safety players. Remember Collins suffered from bad judgement and angles until it all came together in, I think, year 4.

Patience! There is no quick fix to 4 poor drafts exacerbated by letting talent like Hayward and Hyde leave. That we have the players we do (inc IR) with so much speed is a great sign for the future.

I could say the same about receivers. We should be worried about all the other positions where there is no apparent depth or succession planning.

flackcatcher's picture

Yeah, the 2015 draft was crap league wide. Hayward was injury prone till he left Green Bay. (figures) Letting both Hyde and Bennett go was stupid giving the market had leveled out. Another question was that Thomspon's call, or did Murphy though Ball overrule him. That DB group was really thin last year, but preformed well up to the Dallas game where pretty much the entire group came down with quad or hamstring injuries. The Vikings game wiped out the starters expect for Bennett who was out with yes a hammy, and core players like Rollins who ended his career with a second ruptured quad that was never fully healed. This years group has been healthy for the most part, and they are a smart group that is well coached. The good news is this is a young group that is deep and will only get better with experience.

Oppy's picture

Who are you referring to when you mention "Bennett"?

The only Bennetts I can think of ever being on the packers were Marcellus and Edgar. I think there was another in the 80's.

BradHTX's picture

I think he meant Morgan Burnett.

Because the only thing better than letting Marty Bennett go would have been never signing him in the first place.

cheesehead1's picture

Big offseason for Gutekunst to say the least. For the most part, I like what he’s done. Signing Graham IMO was a mistake. We need to draft a young talented TE. The Mercedes Lewis signing seemed like a good move at the time, but he’s hardly played a lick, why?? This offseason will bring many changes and I’m confident our GM will be up to the task. Regardless, I’m a Packer fan, win or lose. Go Pack, and hope Philbin and company can surprise the Bears. No team is unbeatable.

Old School's picture

I think he's done some stuff for the salary c ap, which is in great shape.

The extension of Rodgers was unnecessary, IMO, as we had him under contract for two more seasons and then could franchise-tag him if necessary.

The calculation that he could cut Jordy and play Allison/Cobb/rookie at the other WR spot turned to dirt when both Cobb and Allison got hurt and all we had was rookies opposite of Adams.

FA acquisition Wilkerson looked fine until the 5th week. Breeland looks like a good pickup. Bell was an OK deal.

Releasing Burnett and Whitehead and trading Dix has not made us better at safety.
His only move to strengthen the O-line was to sign Bell and draft the guy who never showed up.

I personally think he has a mixed record at this point. The salary cap space is great, and he's stockpiled some extra picks, so he can really remold this team in a lot of different directions this offseason.

I'll be happy this offseason if we get Rodgers' successor on the roster, and fortify the line, Defensively.....we could use a player at almost any spot.

Coldworld's picture

Expecting him to do much more in one off season would have been unrealistic. Not enough picks, cap or affordable candidates. He started a skill positions that take time to mature. A smart approach if one realized it was a process needing more than one off season.

HankScorpio's picture

Agreed that the TE makeover this pass off-season did not meet expectations. By signing Graham and Lewis, Gute gave MM what everyone expected was a much more productive group but it just didn't turn out that way. Graham has been back-half of top 10 in catch/yards metrics, worse in TDs and Lewis has made virtually no impact at all.

It's ironic that MM finally got the vets signings he was said to have wanted from TT and his failure to integrate them into the offense is no small part of the reason he's not in GB anymore. If the Packers are going to go on a FA spending spree with up to $60 mil in cap space (by cutting Graham, Bulaga and Perry post June 1), the next HC will need to put in a system that can integrate new puzzle pieces much more quickly.

dobber's picture

I think we all expected that Graham would essentially be a big WR and that would allow the younger WR to come along in their own time. This would also put Lewis/Kendricks on the field more in the traditional 11 package. Instead, MM deployed #80 more as a TE and went with 3 WRs in his 11 package. I don't get it either.

Snap counts here:

nostradanus's picture

That was a good win for the Pack and for Joe Philbin. What a genuinely nice guy and good coach. We can’t expect Joe to implement the Kansas City offense in less than a week. He did a masterful job at getting the team to be professional and accountable which led to a much needed win. Kudos to Joe Philbin.

Mathews is still a good player and he hopefully will give the Pack a hometown discount double check.

Breeland should be extended like now.

It was good to see Spriggs have a good day, if the lightbulb goes on there it would be a major bonus!

Two years ago Adams was being roasted on. Twitter and beyond for being a bust, we sure do like him now.

The Packers aren’t good this year but they have talent on Offense LT-QB-RB-C
On Defense Dt-ILB-CB
Those are some of the most important positions for good teams to have for a Championship Contender.

The Pack May be a great draft and a dip into free agency away from being right back in the mix.....with the right Coaching staff of course
Go Pack!

dobber's picture

"Breeland should be extended like now."

If they think he can stay on the field (and he'd been durable up 'til this year), it might be beneficial to extend him and front load what little they can into this year's cap. But if you're going to potentially clean house on the coaching staff, maybe you wait to see what the next regime wants for players.

flackcatcher's picture

That is the big question. Do you or not clean house. If all depends on how close IAMGUTE thinks the Packers are personal wise. And how deep the HC pool is. It may not be as deep as we fans think or imagined it is.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

It is illegal to extend Breeland because he signed a qualified contract. Breeland can be re-signed but he will be an unrestricted free agent and get offers during the legal tampering period. If GB wants him, they will pay market price.

dobber's picture

TGR bringing the truth...

BradHTX's picture

I doubt any other team in the blogosphere has an asset like Packer fans do in TGR. *hat tip*

tincada's picture

Ha ha ha. " Just give Aaron Jones the ball, man. It really shouldn't be this hard." That reminds me of the guys on the radio in GB picking starters before the start of the season. So the one dude lists all of his projected O starters. The other guy says, hey you don't have any running backs. The first guys says, this is GB. What's a running back?

mcduff67's picture

Ohh Yah, the toilet has flushed, great to see the bond between Philbin & A-Rod is renewed. This special connection worked for one game, the proof lies in the next 3...

DragonSilk's picture

If you're going to question if The Falcons are "just that bad," how do you explain the pathetic loss to The Cardinals? Are they that much better? I don't think The Cards are that much better than anybody.

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"The Bears still suck!"
"A school without football is in danger of deteriorating into a medieval study hall. "
"I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious."