Confessions of a Polluted Mindset 2019 Game 1, Packers - Bears (part 2)

The weekly Packers Brain Drain from Jersey Al.

Just a few more things on my mind I didn't touch on in Sunday's Polluted Mindset.

Marcedes Lewis: As I was watching the game, one thing that stood out was how often I kept seeing #89 in the game. This was one of the big mysteries of 2018 - why did the Packers pay him 2.1 million and then not use him? If you back to 2017 and his last year with the Jaguars, Lewis saw action on 894 snaps, was targeted 48 times and had 24 catches for 318 yards and five TDs. Fast forward to 2018 with the Packers: 190 snaps, four targets, three catches for 39yds, no TDs. WTF? With three targets and two catches Thursday night, Lewis is already half way to matching last years totals.  It's certainly no wonder Lewis couldn't wait to get the hell out of Green Bay, as detailed is a recent article by Jason Wilde for the Athletic.

In the wake of the team’s season-ending shutout loss to the Lions last December – a game in which Lewis played four measly snaps – the veteran tight end packed up his belongings and prepared to head home to California, ready to put what had turned out to be the biggest wasted year of his football life behind him. Maybe even retire.

As Wilde writes, a very surprising thing happens next - the phone rings and it's GM Brian Gutekunst who implores Lewis to come back to the Lambeau office and talk. They have a conversation where Gutey apologizes to Lewis for how he was utilized and promises it will be different if he comes back. Personally, I'm a little incredulous that this was one of the top things on Gutey's mind in the first hours after the disappointing 2018 season had just ended, but it speaks volumes as to the egregiousness of how poorly Lewis was utilized by the Packers' offensive coaching staff. Great job by Gutey - Lewis will be a solid contributor to the success of this offense.

Tramon Williams: It's often the case in sports that wiley old veterans can get revitalized and re-energized by younger teammates that bring a high level of energy to the field and the locker room. It's only been one game, but I think we are seeing this with Tramon. The verve with which he played on Thursday night has been missing the last season or two. I imagine having no safety help can be a bit frustrating, and then he was asked to be the good soldier and play some safety himself. Tramon is a team-first guy, so he did all that was asked, but was his heart really into it? This is just conjecture, for sure, but I think he's loving playing on a defense where he has real help behind him and a pass rush in front of him that will force mistakes by opposing quarterbacks. Nothing like bringing guys in with some "juice" to fire up the old dog and make him forget his age for a while.

Preston Smith: The more under-the-radar of the Packers' new "Smith Brothers" tandem deserves a little love also. He's not the flashy pass rusher that Z'Darious Smith is, but he affects the game in so many ways. Wheteher it's setting the edge properly, disrupting RPO's, blocking passes, collapsing the pocket or drawing penalties, his overall game is going to make everyone around him better. To see what I'm talking about, take a look as NFL Network's Brian Baldinger does a nice film breakdown of the Packers' defense, with a focus on Preston Smith starting at around the 2:15 mark. View the video here.

Jake Kumerow: I thought it was curious that he wasn't given more of a chance Thursday night. Kumerow showed in preseason the ability to run a perfect slant route while shielding the defender with his body to make the grab. With all of the pressure being put on by the Bears, that might have been an effective way to offset that.

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"Jersey Al" Bracco is the Editor-In-Chief, part owner and wearer of many hats for CheeseheadTV.com and PackersTalk.com. He is also a recovering Mason Crosby truther.  

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Comments (54)

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Bure9620's picture

September 11, 2019 at 05:32 am

Agree on the Kumerow point, I wonder if MLF just thinks Kumerow is a feel good story, but really not able to contribute at that level. His utilization will be low with more 12 and 22 personnel looks.

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Coldworld's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:05 am

Possible, but look at Allison’s usage last week. If the #3 is getting few targets, it suggests that the game plan may have been focused away from receivers and thus Kumerow could have more opportunities in other games.

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flackcatcher's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:24 am

I think all apply to first games of the new season. With few exceptions, a lot of bad football (by NFL standards) was played last week. Well like any new roster player, Kumerow is going to have to earn his time and snaps. We will see.

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Coldworld's picture

September 11, 2019 at 08:13 am

While I agree, I am hoping that what we are also seeing is game planning involving using weapons to best matchup to the specific opponent.

I do wonder to what extent the limited offensive approach was dictated by our lack of fluency in the new system as opposed to a tactical decision to best tackle the Bears. I hope mostly the latter but I guess time will tell. I think we have a ways to go till the new O is natural for Rodgers and co.

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CheesyTex's picture

September 11, 2019 at 10:51 am

Coldworld -- right on. I also hope the limited offensive approach was deliberate to keep from showing a lot of the playbook to the 'queens.

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optimisticfan's picture

September 12, 2019 at 06:05 am

The offensive struggles in the first game are likely a multifactorial issue. Probably all of the problems people have commented on have contributed. The big question as Coldworld alludes to is how much of a factor each problem contributed.

Likely in order of influence for game 1:
1) Bears D
2) GB interior OL struggles
3) Packers players getting fluent with the playbook (can’t rely on calling plays they aren’t very comfortable with yet)
4) Gameplan to use lots of 2TE sets and only using a limited part of the playbook
5) Lack of familiarity and rhythm (1st team rust)
6) LaFleur as a rookie headcoach? Some slowness in decisively choosing the play and relaying it to Rodgers and the huddle. Maybe some less than optimal plays choosen while under pressure of the game? His penalty challenge seemed to be a lapse in emotional frustration tolerance (ie a little too reactive without giving time to consult with the coaches upstairs he just threw the flag)
7) Rodgers not varying snap counts enough/running down the clock/maybe tendacies to not throw to a WR if they had moderate marking (sometimes slightly too risk adverse)
8) Players out of position and needing to be redirected by Rodgers sometimes (due to #3 above)

I think it will be interesting to see how LaFleur handles game planning different opponents the next few weeks. I have a lot of faith in Rodgers executing the offense better. I think it is still to be seen how effective LaFleur is as a headcoach and in making the right adjustments tactically as offensive playcaller. Like the use of the TEs to shore up protection in game 1. But does LaFluer have diverse and nuanced adjustments depending on each different obstacle that teams pose? Or is he going to slip into 2TE sets and conservative calls a little too much as a security in too many situations. I do like LaFleur as a coach and like what I have seen of his approach to coaching in many respects. We will see how this offense improves and adapts going forward.

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

September 11, 2019 at 12:30 pm

Coldworld: "While I agree, I am hoping that what we are also seeing is game planning involving using weapons to best matchup to the specific opponent. I do wonder to what extent the limited offensive approach was dictated by our lack of fluency in the new system as opposed to a tactical decision to best tackle the Bears..."

I think - and hope - that matchups will dictate players' snap counts. I don't think LaFleur didn't call certain plays because he was saving them for the vikings. I believe each week the plan is to go all-in to win the game at hand. And while I assume the entire playbook isn't available yet, whatever plays selected to be used against the Bears certainly were a focus of practice.

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JerseyAl's picture

September 11, 2019 at 08:38 am

I don't see this regime keeping anyone on the roster if they don't think they can help the team.

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Gort's picture

September 11, 2019 at 03:44 pm

Also hope they have a short memory for a mistake.
The previous "forever doghouse" must be gone.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 12, 2019 at 01:43 am

I don't think I understand what Coldworld meant. Others understood what he alluded to, but it eluded me. I would agree that LaFleur had a preference for two tight end sets, so there were fewer WR snaps available. GB did drop back to pass on 63.5% of offensive snaps and ran 36.5%.

That doesn't explain Trevor Davis getting 19 snaps and Kumerow getting one snap. Kumerow has a well-deserved reputation, including one earned during this training camp when LaFleur's new offense was installed, of always being in the right place at the right time.

Kumerow getting just one snap is a mystery to me.

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Guam's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:59 am

Considering the Packers didn't play their starters nearly at all during the preseason and had very few 1s vs. 1s in practice (CBA limits on full contact practices), I believe MLF is still exploring what his players can do in a game setting. The offense is going to be a work in progress for a number of games yet until MLF gets comfortable with his players and how they fit into his offense. Kumerow and others will get their chances, but it may take awhile.

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Lphill's picture

September 11, 2019 at 05:41 am

The emphasis this week has to be better protection for Rodgers , if they accomplish that by using Lewis and or Vitale then they will be able to accomplish much more on offense . On the other side let’s see if the Packers D can do more against the Vikings then the Falcons did, I watched the Falcons defense and I was not impressed at all they seemed to be out of position and also looked like they had the wrong personnel on the field at times. I think the Packers D will be ready.

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murf7777's picture

September 11, 2019 at 08:28 am

I agree, better protection and run blocking will solve the issues on O. It all starts and ends in the trenches. Funny how that part of the game doesn’t change. Give QB time and receivers get open, open a hole and RB will get yards....sounds so simple:)

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Nick Perry's picture

September 11, 2019 at 05:52 am

All excellent thoughts Al...

I can't count the number of times last season I was cussing out my TV set and McCarthy about Lewis. Nice job by Gute getting him back. I think those who were looking to cut him will be happy the Packers kept him as the season rolls along.

Williams played an excellent game IMO. As long as this secondary stays healthy (King, Alexander, Amos, & Savage) I think T.Will will continue to thrive in this defense. Alexander, Brown, Jackson are all 2nd-year guys, King a 3rd-year, Savage a rookie and Amos in year one of the defense. Williams experience in this defense and leadership is definitely a plus.

Preston Smith was a beast and I expect him to continue to be a beast against Minnesota. The Vikings O-Line is both young and inexperienced. Four of the starting O-Linemen are either rookies or playing a new position. I LOVE the Packers defense this weekend against this offense and expect the "Smith Bros" to continue kicking ass.

The Vikings secondary might be a little shorthanded, something I need to investigate a little more. Alexander dislocated his elbow last week, Hughes is coming back from a knee, and I could have sworn I saw Rhodes limping around last week more than once. I say all this to say it just might be the perfect time to "Unleash" our boy Jake and the slant on the Vikings.

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Coldworld's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:07 am

Lewis’ non usage last year will remain a mystery most likely. I can only assume MM didn’t want him in the first place. Downright strange.

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PackfanNY's picture

September 11, 2019 at 09:44 am

I also don’t think they used Jimmy Graham as effectively as they should have either. Maybe it was something In McCarthy’s offense. I don’t know, they always seemed to use Finley pretty well but he was a better all around TE. Here is hoping we get more/use more of Graham, Lewis and Tongan.

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Nick Perry's picture

September 12, 2019 at 07:07 am

Hmmmm... So McCarthy didn't want a TE who was the #1 ranked run-blocking TE in the NFL for the 2017 season. He had also caught 5 TD's from BLAKE BORTLES that same 2017 season.

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carlos's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:44 am

Hope you are right Nick because Vikings to me looked good. I agree with your assessment of the Falcons defense. They didn’t contain the edge and seemed a little undisciplined. It will be a fun game and the stadium will be exciting and loud. Can’t wait. Go Pack!

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Packer Dave's picture

September 11, 2019 at 06:53 am

Well, I suppose last year was good for Lewis in terms keeping his body healthy....

Love how the Smiths have started. Don't sleep on Gary either people, we will have a three-headed monster by the end of the season.

As for personnel use, it was game one and a big away game at that. ML most certainly didn't throw his whole playbook out there, and the suffocating bears D limited what they could do anyway. I'm looking forward to getting Vitale in there and for the rest of the running back crew to do some pass catching.

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Coldworld's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:08 am

The playbook looked deliberately narrow. Was that dictated by the Bears or by our level of comfort in the new system?

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Tundraboy's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:54 am

Most likely both. This was not a game to turn over the ball and give them ANY momentum at home.

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flackcatcher's picture

September 11, 2019 at 05:57 pm

Ugh. Totally forgot this morning. In MLF presser after the game, he mention going to his 'get well package' ( I think that's what he called it) after repeated problems early in the 2 quarter in execution. I need to listen again, but I had he impression he was more disappointed at himself for not putting his offense in position to win at the LOS. Interesting.

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carlos's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:45 am

Packer Dave- maybe Gary gets his first sack at Lambeau field.

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

September 11, 2019 at 11:00 pm

Packer Dave, if Gary continues to improve it'll be a four-headed monster with Clark. I don't care if Gary plays coverage as an OLB this season. If his snaps increase over the next few games & he can get consistent pressure on QBs, I like their chances particularly with the game on the line.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:11 am

"WTF?"

Is this some secret code for McCarthy's later seasons?

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flackcatcher's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:26 am

(must keep hands away from keyboard........)

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Tundraboy's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:56 am

Good one. Like, 2014 WTF.

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Gort's picture

September 11, 2019 at 03:49 pm

I thought that always meant:
Where's The Football?

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flackcatcher's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:17 am

Excellent points Al. What happened to Lewis was a perfect symbol of last season. Guy got caught between egos (Rodgers and MM and yes, Murphy) for doing his job. We'll never know how much crap Gute had to clean out, but Wilde gives a pretty good idea of how dysfunctional the Packers organization had become by the end of the season. Smith was simply the best player of the field last Thursday. By the third quarter the Packers were scheming for him. P. Smith could not be stopped. Kumerow will have to wait his turn, I think that's all there is to it. First game, no.6 or 7 in the WR group? not surprised at all. Waiting for next week Monday after the game. I still think we do not have a clear view of the team overall. (Vikings looked disconnected, Falcons far worse) Should be interesting...

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:35 am

Considering that Lewis already has almost the same number of receptions as he had all of last year, that just shows how poorly the previous staff utilized its players.

Lewis may not be an explosive TE, but he can still be an effective TE.

Williams the ageless wonder was simply great against the Bears. The play along the sideline where he waits till the guy catches the ball and simply pushes him out of bounds was a thing of beauty. Having a guy like Williams to help mentor all the young guys is the best thing they could have. Especially when he plays like he did against the Bears.

Preston Smith was a guy we didn't hear much about throughout all of the offseason and preseason. But he showed up big time during the Bears game. Between setting the edge, batting passes down, and rushing the passer he was everything we could have hoped for and more.

I was definitely wondering why Kumerow didn't get more action. Or any to be honest. It seemed like the offense never really got into any type of rhythm and was a bit out of sync most of the game.
After having a mini bye after the first game I think we will see a much improved offense. Having a little extra time to self evaluate after their first game, should give them time to get what they want right.
I could see them changing the personnel a little more. Using Kumerow, Davis, even Lazard could provide some different looks as well as talents.

I'm looking forward to Sunday! New week, new game!

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carlos's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:37 am

Great comments Al. All on spot. I think Tramon’s penalties were a result of being rejuvenated and fired up again. I’m ok with that, but he’ll keep it together from here on out I believe. Can’t say enough of what Preston brings and the Smiths and Lewis are great “team” guys which a young locker room needs. A lot of veteran leadership on this team. Add a coaching staff that is young and energetic brings a good combination. Go Pack.

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Coldworld's picture

September 11, 2019 at 08:20 am

The perception of Williams getting penalized a lot is in part exaggerated because two calked against him on TV were on Brown and wrongly attributed by refs/announcers (unsure) initially.

I don’t have an issue with the tackle. It started in bounds and the motion was continuous. It’s the current rule, but in my view a tackle commenced in play that is otherwise legitimate should remain so. Rather that than let the guy escape, despite the 15 yards. Set the tone. Don’t let up on tackling. That was a particularly pleasing aspect of last week.

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Qoojo's picture

September 11, 2019 at 01:24 pm

I agree about the tackle. It looked bad live, but when reviewed, it looked like he was more or less hanging on as they went out of bounds.

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jannes bjornson's picture

September 11, 2019 at 06:08 pm

The tackle helped set the tone for the Pack D. Hit first, ask questions later. Tramon had an excellent game

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Tundraboy's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:58 am

Part 2. Always love extra material. Especially my favorite instalment.

As I posted on another thread. I didn't recognize Lewis intitially,he has played so sparingly. My second thought was, if I had to pick an exit interview question for MM, it would be :

Why didn't you use Lewis Mike?

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Kubyskins12's picture

September 11, 2019 at 08:07 am

I think this weeks game plan was to use a lot of double tight ends and run the ball but didn’t work out too well. So hopefully going forward will use some 11 personnel and double tight ends and even spread out with 4-5 wr/te at times, just mix up a little more and get Davis, Kumerow and Vitale more involved. I think Davis and Kumerow should be splitting snaps with Allison and MVS. I want to use all of our guys skill sets this year and get the best of their abilities and let the DB’s have to cover a variety of different receivers and routes to keep them off balance. Cause in past years with McCarthy we didn’t Get the most out of our wr’s ability. I don’t think we used Trevor Davis’s the best with McCarthy. I know he had some injury issues but there plenty of games where we could have used him and his speed and run after the catch ability. So hopefully we will see that this year because I think if he’s used correctly he can be a guy that creates big plays. A perfect example of how McCarthy didn’t use his players correctly was watching the Cowboys game and seeing how they utilize Cobb and got the ball to him quick and set him up with a plays that work good for him. I think Cobb has a good year with Dallas.

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Coldworld's picture

September 11, 2019 at 08:26 am

Personally I want MVS out there continually. He is bigger and faster (as timed) than Davis and his job is to stretch the field as much as to catch. I’d love to see a RB catching routes into the space cleared out behind him. That could open some big plays.

Davis provides additional speed options, and could allow double deep threats to decoy away from Adams or open the door to a big play, but his value is likely as much in stretching the field laterally, as we saw in preseason. Lining him up on the outside isn’t likely to be the best way to use him on a regular basis.

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

September 11, 2019 at 01:36 pm

I think LaFleur and staff agree with you (and me) that MVS should get the most number of snaps after Adams. If one of the opponent's safeties are doubling Adams on a regular basis, the ability of MVS to stretch the field is a significant advantage.

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Hawg Hanner's picture

September 11, 2019 at 09:06 am

Great thoughts and well WRITTEN. Thanks for text. I hate watching videos. Takes twice or more the time to watch than read. Can't have music on or television for that matter. The small talk and asides are often annoying as well. Aaron Nagler taking questions is one thing video is appropriate for. Going to video just because you don't have to write it all out should not be the wave of the future. Thanks

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

September 11, 2019 at 09:16 am

Lot’s of questions on offense. Personnel? How to use them? Timing? Playbook? The consensus seems to be the O will not be fully integrated for around 6 weeks. How awesome is it that I don’t care? They can tinker and perfect their craft for all 16 games as long as this defense plays like they did Thursday. 2-3 Crosby field goals a week should do the trick on our way to 19-0.

Before the first game I predicted 60-0 and wondered if any team would be able to even score on us. Admittedly I was overly optimistic about our offense right out of the gate vs. the Bears D, but our D did not disappoint. I will temper my enthusiasm this week with an early prediction of 48-0 Pack.

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sam1's picture

September 11, 2019 at 09:18 am

No explanation or reason but for some reason I think the Packers get it together and just really hand it to the Vikings this weekend with a good resounding thumping! I believe these guys have it in them and will offensively mesh this weekend!

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Handsback's picture

September 11, 2019 at 09:36 am

I know it's only the first game so caution is always prudent, however the Packer's defense is who I thought they could be. The Vikings will be a harder test for them since they have more playmakers...essentially a better QB and RB. The flip side to that is the Viking's Oline. I don't think it's as strong as the Bears. So even if the game is at Green Bay, there are a lot of questions that will be answered after this game.

Offensive side, the Packer's line is stronger than last year. I'm more concerned about the Packer's passing game than the run game.I don't see a lot of chemistry between Rodgers and the wideouts yet and swing/dump passes are still there and need to be utilized.

For no reason other than being a fan...I think Green Bay wins this by more then 10 points.

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Since'61's picture

September 11, 2019 at 09:46 am

Among the numerous reasons that MM was fired over last season I believe that one of them was due to his utilization or lack of utilization of the personnel. Lewis is a prime example. Maybe MM felt that since they were paying Graham a big salary he should play him more. But when Graham was obviously injured MM still had Graham playing and Lewis watching? As has been previously questioned WTF?!

Fortunately Gute was able to get Lewis to come back to the Pack.

TWill is a good player to have around a young secondary. He brings the appropriate attitude to the field and the locker room.

I think that the Smiths had more impact in their first game with the Packers than Perry and CM3 had over all of last season. Better players = Better results. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Qoojo's picture

September 11, 2019 at 01:28 pm

I think if you look back over MM's career in GB that you will find that he was very slow to recognize talent and utilize some players. Sometimes it didn't happen till the depth chart forced the issue, then the player proved himself via real games.

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sam1's picture

September 11, 2019 at 09:59 am

I hope teams over look TWilliams, the man for his age can still upright straight play damn good ball!

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wildbill's picture

September 11, 2019 at 10:14 am

Lewis reminds me a lot of a Richard Rodgers if Rodgers could block. Both have limited speed but good hands. Nice to see him utilized in the offense for a change

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4thand1's picture

September 11, 2019 at 03:48 pm

1st game, lotta football left, kick the queens asses. 2-0

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Gort's picture

September 11, 2019 at 03:59 pm

Several comments here discuss being a "team player".
Polar opposite of another guy in the news this year.

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JohnnyLogan's picture

September 11, 2019 at 04:38 pm

Don’t think our WR’s are good enough for a sustained offense. And our guards are simply bad. There’s a reason Rodgers holds the ball or gets sacked so often. Should have drafted Hollywood Brown as many recommended. Gary may turn out great but Hollywood with Adams would have been lethal.

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

September 11, 2019 at 04:54 pm

"Don’t think our WR’s are good enough for a sustained offense. And our guards are simply bad."

You may be right but like the rest of us, you've only observed 6.25% of the evidence to draw those conclusions.

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Oppy's picture

September 11, 2019 at 07:18 pm

4 years or so of tape doesn't lie- more often than not, Rodgers holds the ball and gets sacked so often because he would rather look for either his preferred target or the big play rather than take what the defense is giving him and move the chains.

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

September 11, 2019 at 08:27 pm

To the point of whether or not the WRs are good enough for sustained success, we don't have 4 years of any WRs in LaFleur's Packers version of his offense. That Rodgers has held the ball too long in the past doesn't have anything to do the quality of the WRs on the team in the new offense.

The obvious point is we only have the first game of LaFleur's Packers O to look at.

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Oppy's picture

September 12, 2019 at 11:40 pm

To the point of, "There’s a reason Rodgers holds the ball or gets sacked so often"...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 12, 2019 at 02:29 am

McCarthy's limitations as a coach explain why GB paid Lewis so much after a statistically horrible year. And gave Lewis some guaranteed money. It was perhaps a small factor in bringing in Nathaniel Hackett, Lewis' old coach.

MM's limitations also explain why GB didn't cut Graham. Time will tell, though I have to admit I am still not a fan of Graham's.

The notion that LaFleur didn't want to show his playbook in a one score game against last year's division winner seems absurd to me. Given how poorly the offense was working, any play that LaFleur thought would be a winner should have been used. I suspect that Chicago's defense limited what Lafleur thought would work. No passes to Vitale probably was because Mack, Smith and Floyd are all ridiculously fast, for example.

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