Dolphins Film Review: Tight Ends Phased Out

With Jermichael Finley out of the lineup on Sunday, the Packers used tight ends far less frequently than they had all season long.

Taking a look inside the Xs & Os, personnel and schemes after watching video of the Packers 20-23 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday...

Offense

  • The loss of Jermichael Finley dramatically altered the personnel the Packers utilized on Sunday. There were 21 plays in which the Packers used no tight end at all. For comparison's sake, here's the amount of times the Packers used sets with no tight end the first five weeks of the season from Week 1 to Week 5: 6, 2, 0, 1 and 3. That also lend credence to why the Packers may not go after Spencer Havner.
  • While not as staggering a statistic as the zero-TE sets, the Packers gave quarterback Aaron Rodgers extra help in protection against Miami more than they have all season long. The Packers kept either 7 or 8 blockers in pass protection 13 times on Sunday. For the sake of comparison, here's the amount of times the Packers used max protect sets the first five weeks of the season from Week 1 to Week 5: 10, 6, 10, 9 and 9.
  • The Packers gave up five sacks, but it looked as if Aaron Rodgers could have avoided at least three or four of them just by getting rid of the ball.
  • The Packers used the inverted wishbone (3 running backs) on two plays on Sunday. In a formation that indicated run, both were passes to Greg Jennings on comeback routes down the sideline. That was a pretty decent job of going against the grain and being successful while doing so.
  • Daryn Colledge didn't do the offense any favors on the Packers' first offensive series of the second quarter. On second-and-10, Colledge was to blame for a screen pass to Brandon Jackson only accounting for 2 yards when he couldn't sustain his block. The very next play turned a third-and-8 into third-and-13 when Colledge false started. Andrew Quarless bailed the offense out with a 23-yard reception on the next play.

Defense

  • Until Brady Poppinga got hurt, the Packers seemed to be playing Brad Jones only in the base defense. It was almost exclusively Brady Poppinga and Frank Zombo in the nickel. You can see why Jones was used in the base defense as he does a very good job playing the run, but at the same time, it shows that he's fallen a little out of favor in passing downs. When Jones accumulated 4 sacks last season, everyone was hoping for more.
  • Once Poppinga went down, however, the Packers tried using Robert Francois for one possession. When he couldn't get the job done, they used Jones and Zombo the rest of the way: dime, base, hippo, whatever.
  • Once the Packers realized the Dolphins were using max protect sets, they rarely blitzed. Dom Capers blitzed only 10 pass plays all day long. Normally that number is above 20.
  • The Packers played 32 plays in base defense, 44 in nickel, 2 Psycho and 3 Hippo.
  • On the 3 plays the Packers used the Hippo, T.J. Lang was used as a defensive lineman ahead of Jarius Wynn. Just goes to show what they think of Wynn vs. the run.
  • Pass rushers off the edge frequently go by a rule of thumb telling them not to get deeper than the quarterback. On Chad Henne's 10-yard scramble for a first down, Brady Poppinga got deeper than the quarterback leaving the area wide open for Henne to run.
  • Immediately after Henne's scramble, the Dolphins hurried to the line of scrimmage with less than a minute to go in the half. In their haste, both A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop lined up about 7 yards off the ball instead of their usual 5 to 6. The result was an 11-yard run by Ronnie Brown putting the Dolphins in even better field position for a Dan Carpenter field goal.
  • I still can't understand when the Packers make no bones about rushing only three players, why they don't just use their dime defense. No matter who's been the Packers' nickel cornerback this season, whether it's been Sam Shields, Jarrett Bush or Pat Lee, they've all played pretty well. The dime is an opportunity to get them on the field, especially in long passing situations. It will only make more sense to use the dime once Al Harris comes back.

Special Teams

  • Jarrett Bush is the reason Quinn Johnson was able to get his hand on a Dolphins first half punt. Bush feigned a blitz from his jammer position on the right side of the field and doubled back at the snap of the ball. The Dolphins shifted their protection to account for Bush, which allowed Johnson to get up the middle.
  • Pat Lee had the best day of his career on special teams, and it didn't really have anything to do with his returns (although he did have one long return of 28 that was decent). On Tim Masthay's short 38-yard punt in the fourth quarter, Lee made his way all the way over from the opposite side of the field to make the tackle. He also made the tackle on the opening kickoff of overtime that aided in field position. And on punt return, he gave Tramon Williams some extra room to maneuver on the punt that Williams picked up off the bounce.
  • The newly acquired players like Dimitri Nance, Robert Francois and Maurice Simpkins just aren't playmakers on special teams like Korey Hall, Jarrett Bush, Desmond Bishop and Tramon Williams. They better start to be playmakers because special teams depth is looking even worse with Brady Popping now scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery.
  • Tim Masthay placed two of his first three punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Too bad for him that his two short punts in the fourth quarter and overtime offset and probably over-shadowed any positives.
  • The only action Michael Montgomery appeared to get all day was on field goal and extra point defense.
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Comments (19)

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jay's picture

October 18, 2010 at 08:00 pm

Thanks for the breakdown Brian. How effective was the max protect was in protecting Rodgers, and overall in allowing us to move the ball?

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jay's picture

October 18, 2010 at 08:01 pm

delete the last "was"

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Brian Carriveau's picture

October 18, 2010 at 08:12 pm

Pass protection wasn't perfect, but it was certainly good enough to win the game. Rodgers does need to get a little bit better at getting rid of the football, and it's been that way for quite some time.

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bkshimada's picture

October 18, 2010 at 08:51 pm

I think there's something to be said for the max protect and why the sacks were (I believe) at a season high of 5 this game. Rodgers actually prefers less protection - and in the second half of 2009, they used less protection and the sacks went down. Of course, some of this can definitely be pinned on Rodgers as he likes to throw when receivers are definitely open from his point of view to avoid interceptions, and therefore will hold onto the ball far too long. More receivers out there = more receivers that are open. I'm guessing they used more max protection in this game because Rodgers was coming off a concussion. Am I onto something here about why the sacks were a season high this game, or am I way off base Brian? I know it's not the full story - certainly, Rodgers had checkdown options that he just flat out refused to throw to, but I think it's got to be a small part of the equation.

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Brian Carriveau's picture

October 18, 2010 at 09:02 pm

You're definitely correct that Rodgers likes to hold onto the ball a long time, sometime too long. It's one of his biggest deficiencies.

It's very possible they used a little more protection because he's coming off a concussion, but the difference between max protect against the Dolphins and in previous games wasn't huge.

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bkshimada's picture

October 18, 2010 at 09:44 pm

Actually I am off base in saying there's a significance to the max protect. Just went back and checked the numbers based on percentages (max protect/number of pass attempts). The percentage of plays where the Packers used maximum protection are as follows: 32%, 21%, 22%, 53% (only 17 attempts in the Detroit game), 20%, 39% (weeks 1 through 6 respectively). So it is slightly higher at 39%, but there was still a higher percentage of passing plays in the Lions game where the Packers used maximum protection.

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fish's picture

October 18, 2010 at 09:43 pm

I may be wrong, but when Rodgers was asked earlier this season, "If there's anything you'd like to achieve this season, what would it be", and he said, probably Zero Interceptions. That can play on an intellects psyche if things go the wrong way, which they certainly have this year.

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Chris's picture

October 19, 2010 at 06:18 am

I'd rather see Rodgers take a sack than throw a stupid INT. Of course he could try to get out of the tackle box and throw it away, but usually that's the area other defense try to take away from Rodgers now as he has proven to be dangerous throwing on the run or running himself. If you are boxed in, you need to take the sack if noone is open.

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Brian Carriveau's picture

October 19, 2010 at 06:47 am

There are other options than taking a sack or throwing an INT. There's hitting your check down receiver for a gain or two yards. Or throw the ball at a receiver's feet for no gain at all. Either is preferable to a sack.

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Chris's picture

October 19, 2010 at 09:41 am

Very true Brian. But obviously there are no check downs open, and throwing at a receivers feet is only safe with the receiver being near you. Once you are surrounded or receivers are all down the field you risk tipped balls and interceptions.
Once again McCarthy is all about the long passing game. It looks like nearly all routes are 10+ yards deep. No crossing patterns, no quick hitches, no screen play to speak of. I really don't see where he could dump it to. Maybe he should just throw it over the head of the covered receiver out of bounds.

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Brian Carriveau's picture

October 19, 2010 at 09:44 am

There are check downs. And no, not every pattern is 10+ yards. There are hitches and screens. They're not always visible on television though, because the camera doesn't always pan downfield.

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Chris's picture

October 19, 2010 at 10:21 am

Ok Brian, I take your word for it because you have been in the stadium.
Maybe AR does not pull the trigger on those check downs fast enough because he thinks his down the field receivers will get open eventually. I wonder how many times he will take a big hit until his iner playclock adjusts to the pressure.

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Ruppert's picture

October 19, 2010 at 07:48 am

It would be nice if we had a running back who could catch a pass. I have to think Rodgers would throw more checkdowns if he had a reliable, trustworthy, talented back that was consistently there to practice with. Irrespective of that, Rodgers still needs to just throw the checkdown to whomever is there, but still...

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hyperRevue's picture

October 19, 2010 at 08:10 am

Jackson is a reliable pass-catching RB.

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Chris's picture

October 19, 2010 at 09:42 am

He is just not utilised correctly. McCarthy still seems to think that Brandon jackson is Grant, which he is not.

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Andy Crain's picture

October 19, 2010 at 01:45 pm

I have read conflicting reports on Bulaga against the Fins. How did he look?

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PackerAaron's picture

October 19, 2010 at 01:46 pm

I thought he played well. He got caught off-balance a couple of times but for the most part I don't think he had nearly as bad a game as people have made out.

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PackerAaron's picture

October 19, 2010 at 02:33 pm

Yep - I do GB&U before I rewatch the game. After I rewatched it two times, I admit I was wrong.

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