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Film Review: Vanilla & Neapolitan

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Film Review: Vanilla & Neapolitan

Trying to fill the void left by Tom Pelissero at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, I'm attempting to do film review of last night's win against the Indianapolis Colts while aiming to reveal the nuances, trends and personnel groupings not uncovered by the naked eye when seen in real time.

Three hours and seven sides of notebook paper later, I've come up with an analysis that's sure to be as much chicken-scratch observation as it is detailed breakdowns. At the rate it took me to do this inaugural analysis, I'm not sure I can keep this up. But I also think I'll get better and quicker at doing it as time goes on.

It also might help if I join the 21st Century and invest in a DVR. VCRs are slow and grainy as I'm sure the rest of the world knows. I digress. Here's what I found out:


  • Talk about vanilla. The Packers went with their nickel defense on every single snap of the entire game. Even on the one goal line situation they faced, all they did was bring the inside linebackers and safeties up to fill the gaps on the line of scrimmage.
  • Beyond vanilla. On three snaps on 3rd-and-10 or longer in the first half, the Packers dropped Brady Poppinga in coverage in the middle of the field and rushed only three players. You know Dom Capers doesn't want to show much when putting Poppinga in coverage is being considered instead of playing dime.
  • There were only five instances the entire game when the Packers rushed at least six players, and three of those five plays came on the last seven snaps on defense in the fourth quarter with the third-string. But on those five plays, the Colts didn't complete a single pass and the Packers looked every bit like a top-flight defense (I guess this is where the "neapolitan" come into play. Vanilla mixed with a little chocolate and strawberry). Here's what happened:
    • Nick Collins breaks up pass.
    • Nick Barnett hits Peyton Mannning.
    • Cyril Obiozor gets a sack.
    • Nondescript incompletion.
    • Sam Shields grabs an interception.
  • Tramon Williams did an excellent job being physical and making tackles. One one play both he and Charles Woodson sniffed out a screen pass for a minimal gain. On another, Williams fought through two offensive linemen twice his size on the Pierre Garcon run around left end to tackle the Colts receiver out of bounds.
  • Williams was seen giving up a couple of completions, but the only one he looked bad on was the 10-yard slant to Reggie Wayne in which he gave up his inside position. On two other deeper completions came in two-deep zone with Williams handing off his coverage to the safeties over the top, once in front of Nick Collins and once in front of Morgan Burnett. Credit Manning with finding soft spots in the zone nearly impossible to cover by either Williams or the safeties.
  • The interception by Burnett came on play he was filling in a spot vacated by Woodson on a blitz. It was a veteran play, and the first display of the play-making ability we've heard so much about.
  • Charlie Peprah displayed more fire than almost any other player on the roster last night. In addition to the hit that almost sent a Colts receiver out of commission, Peprah made two tackles, both on gains of about a yard. One one he flew up from his safety position to make the tackle when both Frank Zombo and A.J. Hawk were closer to the play. It also didn't hurt his cause that he made a tackle on a kickoff at about the 15-yard line. After Collins and Burnett, Peprah is probably the third-best healthy safety on the team right now. He's also considered behind both Derrick Martin and Will Blackmon in special teams worth, which doesn't help his cause. The Packers have to seriously consider keeping him, at least until Atari Bigby comes back.


  • With both Greg Jennings and Brett Swain out of the game, the Packers ran a four wide receiver set three times in the first half in which Charles Dillon filled the role.
  • Tight end Tom Crabtree paved the way for the final seven yards of the fourth-quarter drive capped off by a Kregg Lumpkin 1-yard touchdown run. The play before was a Quinn Porter 6-yard gain down to the 1-yard line. Both runs play were behind Crabtree and a great-blocking effort.
  • The touchdown to Donald Driver was a run/pass option in which Driver was the only eligible receiver running a pass route.
  • On the touchdown pass to Jermichael Finley, running back Brandon Jackson blocked two players on the same play. First he chipped in on the interior of the offensive line and then recovered to help out Mark Tauscher off the right edge just as Aaron Rodgers released the ball.
  • The Packers aren't hesitating to use Andrew Quarless just like Finley. Quarless lined up outside, in tight, as a fullback and on the wing.
  • If the Packers keep three halfbacks, Lumpkin may have jumped back ahead of Porter because of his experience. Lumpkin could be seen running more complicated draw plays and motioning out of the backfield as a receiver as compared to the simple straight-ahead running plays ran by Porter.

Special teams

  • Korey Hall was the only player to register more than one tackle on special teams. Of course, more impressive was his fumble recovery on a muffed punt for touchdown. He's one of the premiere special teams players on the Packers.
  • Among the biggest reasons for the muffed punt was the huge hangtime from punter Tim Masthay. When punts like that seem to hang in the air forever, they're that much harder to catch. He also had the only touchback of the night on a kickoff, where he looks to be every bit as good if not better than Mason Crosby. If Masthay makes the team (and it's looking like he will after last night), the Packers may consider using him in that role.
  • Crosby didn't get a ton of field goal opportunities on Thursday, but he went 1-1 on field goals and 8-8 on extra points. Any fantasy football owner knows you can't ask of any more of a kicker than a performance like that. If the Packers offense scores in bunches all season long like they are in the preseason, Crosby might be the top fantasy kicker in the NFL.
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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (40) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

j4a1's picture

Very good analysis Brian.

I think the TE decision is going to be the hardest. I think Crabtree may have worked his way past Lee. Right now we have 4 guys that can catch the ball and only one that is a standout blocker. I don't think there is anyway we keep all 5.

In this case, I believe potential wins out over experience. Hopefully we can get a draft pick for Lee. I'd give him a lot of playing time that last preseason game.

nerdmann's picture

Crabtree can also play fullback. Cut Hall and trade Quinn Johnson to a power running team for an OLB.

PackerAaron's picture

Hall is way too valuable on special teams to cut. It will be Kuhn and Hall. Johnson will get cut.

dilligaff's picture

Hard decision, but I think Johnson's blocking will benefit the Pack the most late in the year and if the Pack gets home field advantage in the playoffs.

When its cold,wet,and windy in Green Bay, his pancaking ability will be well worth the roster spot.

Do we have anybody to replace Hall on special teams? Anybody close?

andrew harman's picture

no way we trade lee.. we need a blocking tight end.. every team needs a blocking tight end.. if anythin get rid of havner.. which i wouldnt really want to do.. but lee is definetely someone you need when playing against teams that blitz a lot.. and he can catch.. doesnt have big play ability.. but is a solid passin option.. i woudl be disappointed if they got rid of him.. finley is great.. but i think it would be a mistake to make your te core a bunch of finleys.

Aaron Rogders's picture

What is a VCR?

Brian Carriveau's picture


Nononsense's picture

No mention of Newhouse? I suppose thats good when OL guys fly under the radar. It means they didn't mess up. I thought he played very well.

Keep Crabtree over D lee. you can seriously put this guy on a DE and have your RT or LT help with a double team if needed, hes that good as a blocker.

Anyway thanks for the insight and the time spent on it.

BTW. yes you must invest in a DVR and get an HD one and make sure it has a dual tuner. Life is too dang short to watch comercials anymore.

PackersThad's picture

Agreed in full! Newhouse looked good. His only issues came against spin moves...He is able to absorb bull rushes very well

NyPacker's picture

I agree, I thought Newhouse was great last night given that he was playing the LT spot. He anchors well on pass plays and does a nice job of moving the pile in the run game. One thing that really stood out to me was his hand movement. He has quick hands to outmaneuver the DE he's going up against. I definitely want to keep him over Barbre and Giocomini.

jeremy's picture

Agreed on all counts. Newhouse has Tackle feet and keeps his center of gravity underneath him on the move. That's a hard to find quality in a big man in the later rounds. A quality Barbre and Giacomini do not have.

Crabtree made 1st round pick Jerry Hughes look real bad on the Lumpkin TD.

nerdmann's picture

I've been thinking that Newhouse could be the LT of the future, with Bulaga more suited to G. Bulaga can play either, but Newhouse is much better at T, imo.
Bulaga's shorter arms might also suit him to the inside.

NyPacker's picture

Hmmm... At one point during the game I was thinking that myself. However I'd rather keep Bulaga in at LT because we still don't know how high his cieling is. We know that he can play guard since he's gettting all the reps there as a starter. However I'd only move him back to guard if he fails at tackle.

MarkinMadison's picture

Bulaga has great feet. He is a LT, not a G. Put Newhouse at RT and Lang at LG in the future. That's a line.

PackersRS's picture

Add EDS at C, and the already pro-bowl bound Sitton...

Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

andrew harman's picture

why eds... wells is a solid center... lls.. and wells is young? and he has bonded with rodgers.. i dont see him going anywhere.. eds is not really that great.. newhouse lang bulaga and sitton is a good group tho brings me back to when tausch and clifton were youngings

holly's picture

Bravo, Brian. Great job looking at the film and finding some additional nuggets that we missed during the live viewing.

Joe's picture

Awesome job Brian.
I was very anxious to read about Tramon.

It is turning out to be a very intresting 4th pre-season games for couple of new guys.
Hope Chery, Shields,Peprah.... will get 1st half plaiying time.

fhornplayer83's picture

Just wanted to note that I've got Rodgers, Finley, and Crosby in my fantasy line-up. It makes me smile. :-)

Do you think Capers was testing to see how much he could get away with in the nickel, with the questionable depth at DBs, and what the players were capable of? Or was it more a matter of keeping his playbook hidden?

jeremy's picture

All of the above. He wants the other team to throw at the secondary right now. He wants to make them play so he can see what they've got.

DBH's picture

Thank you for the analysis! It's great to note some of the details that are not as obvious when watching live. Keep it up!

Max (ukpackersfan)'s picture

It's such a change from last seasons defense in preseason where we pretty much showed all. Can't wait to see what The Cape has in store for Phillie. Our offense continues to WOW!

nerdmann's picture

Cheri looks like he can return punts.

SpiderPack's picture

fhornplayer83, I'm with you in that I think Capers' intentions with repeated vanilla coverage are two-fold. Not gonna show much, and in addition just put the coverage guys out there and let'em tough it out. And if they get schooled or even humiliated a bit, that's great! I mean, wasn't that what Lombardi was so strong at doing? Getting under a guys skin or even humiliating him in order to bring out the best in him? Clearly, the Tampa Bay game was the best thing to happen to this team last year. I can vouch for that having seen the (following) Dallas game live last year! The players all seemed so damn motivated on the field-kinda like last night. I'm sure the coaching staff realizes that's one of the best ways to get this team clicking on all cylinders, at this point in the team's development.

SpiderPack's picture

Thanks for all the hard work Brian.

PackRat's picture

Good points all-around! In addition:

*Tramon looked great in run support and pressing the line but gets killed on the out and ups and slants--Hedoesn't "blanket" his receiver before passing off to the safety support. When a CB does that it gives the QB the illusion that no passing lane exists and they progress to the next receiver.

*Underwood is still very young and falls easily for pump fakes without blazing recovery speed. Still a year away from average.

*Burnett was instinctive and closed really well. Still needs a lot of experience in coverage to get up above average.

**Will someone please play better than Jarrett Bush and Derrick Martin on special teams so we don’t have to watch them repeatedly toasted in coverage. I mean, they are not even close to defending a pass.

**Pat Lee a BIG DISSAPOINTMENT so far. He is nowhere near replacing what Al Harris gave us two years ago. Isn’t in the top 5 of CBs on the team.

**For me, Sam Shields was one of the most interesting of all players. Sometimes looked spectacular in coverage and special teams, other time very lost. Great motor and passion. Very interested to see how he progresses.

*CW—game changer

*Zombo repetitively collapsed the pocket when rushing and desplayed both power and persistence on every play. Trailed in pass coverage a lot but will make a great bookend with Matthews. A real find

*Hawk looked pedestrian at best with no motor to his game. Just unmotivated or bad?

*Barnett was freed up both inside and outside and looks back to the top of his game.

*Francois, Joseph, and Obiozor did not do anything special against 2nd/3rd teamers to help their cause.

*Really impressed with Neal's strength and penetration. Raji ate up two blockers freeing Pinkett for one-on-ones where he delivered great pressure.

*Jarius Wynn--see AJ Hawk

*Harrel-- see you later. Was really anxious to see the "new" JH. Big dissapointment. Give me Toribio.

Just my opinion.

jeremy's picture

Well played...

I too have been asking myself why Williams is so willing in run support and so lazy in zone coverage. It's as if he can't wait to hand his guy over to the safety.

cole's picture

I don't think we can have masthay do kickoffs. Crosby is the best onside kicker in the game, and if we have Masthay do kickoffs and then Crosby comes in it will be a giveaway. Maybe better kickoffs is a trade off their willing to do.

PackersRS's picture

Wow. Best onside kicker in the game. Based on?

fhornplayer83's picture

Not sure if he's the best, but Crosby is definitely good at special kickoffs. It's something he's shown in various games, but it's been masked by his troubles at FGs.

SpiderPack's picture


bomdad's picture

Based on the onsides attempts MM has called, I completely agree that Crosby has the best one in football. Its goes 20-30 feet in the air and has a wicked spin that requires a trap style catch instead of using just hands. And its the same thing in each of the 4-5 times he did it last year. Only Sid Rice has been able catch it, and he's out for half the season. You make a jump ball and have someone like Finley or Quarless out there to get up and get it. What coach wants to put a hands team front on kickoff coverage every time? Exactly the kind of dictation that MM loves to have at his disposal.

SpiderPack's picture

Agree Wholeheartedly.

NyPacker's picture

Glad to see that you're introducing another angle into your articles Brian, keep up the good work!

The biggest dissapointment for me this whole preseason has been CJ Wilson. Despite being a 7th round pick, I was a big fan of this kid the minute I heard we drafted him. Everyone was clamoring for that premier pass rusher outside of Matthews and I thought Wilson would bring that. So far he's shown nothing of the playmaking ability that he had in college. I wonder what happened?

NickGBP's picture

Nice job Space Ghost.

PackerYaker's picture

Great Job, Brian. We really miss Tom P. Didn't see DL Harrell do much vs the Colts.

Daniel's picture

Damn good article keep em comin!

MarkinMadison's picture

I'm sure there are reasons that CJ Wilson lasted until the 7th round. Hopefully a year on the practice squad will help him. He's got decent size to play DE in this scheme with a bit of time in the weight room. Neal has also lived up to his position on the draft board.

Thompson did his homework. It funny when you google all of the draft assessments from April now. One web site I came up with said that the Packers apparently had no plan with their draft. They talked about Neal as a waste in the 2nd, and Wilson as a waste in the 7th ("why two DL?"). I don't think anyone is saying that now. The only regrets are at OLB, and the draft board just did not fall their way on that one. Although if Zombo pans out, the anti-TT crowd won't even have that one to hang their hats on.

I've never been a big Lee fan. I know that Aaron seemed to apologize for supporting Lee. I've been pulling for Underwood, but he has not put it together yet this year. He'll make the team, but he needs to work his @$$ off or he will never amount to anything more than a "could have been." The fact that Shields can come in with one year at corner in college and up-stage them speaks huge volumes - for all three of them. I'll be concerned if Al Harris is on the PUP list. But really, I think that every team has holes, and I still believe that Underwood, Shields or Lee could pull off the nickel role this year.

MarkinMadison's picture

P.S. I was glad to see Brian give Peprah some praise. Watching him play in the Green and Gold again was a treat. I thought that he looked better than ever. I'd like to see alot of him in the next game. Between Shields and Peprah, I don't know why the Packers would keep Bush.

ACDC84's picture

Thanks for the work, Brian. There is always so much going on on the field it's hard for me to watch all areas of the game sometimes. Especially when the beers start kicking in.

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