Grading the Pack - Regular Season Week 1 (Defense)

Just how impressive was Green Bay’s defensive performance on Sunday? Green Bay’s defense almost single handedly outscored Seattle’s offense on its own. Had Mike McCarthy managed the end of the 1st half better, Green Bay would have only allowed 6 points in this game. Meanwhile Mike Daniels’ strip sack lead to Green Bay getting the ball 1st and goal from the 8.

You could see on tape just how much energy and confidence this defense was playing with as players were flying to the football. I noted during the game that the defense looks 180 degrees different when Clay & Perry are healthy. The grades overall weren’t out of this world impressive, but the result was. Green Bay was faster, more aggressive, and had far fewer mental errors than usual. This was a winning performance all-around for Green Bay, led by two out of this world performances by Nick Perry and Mike Daniels.

Top 3 Players

Nick Perry +3.20
Mike Daniels +3.15
Blake Martinez +0.7

Bottom 3 Players

Kentrell Brice -1.00
Quinten Rollins -0.55
Dean Lowry -0.30

Defensive Line

Mike Daniels +3.15
Kenny Clark +0.3
Ricky Jean Francois -0.1
Dean Lowry -0.3

What an absolutely amazing performance by Mike Daniels. Make no mistake about it, if it weren’t for Daniels and Perry, Green bay loses this game. There were so many highlight level plays from Daniels that he was a must-watch player anytime he was on the field. There wasn’t anyone on Seattle’s line that was going to be able to block Daniels one-on-one. This was an All-Pro level performance and the first step towards the Pro Bowl and All Pro honors that he unequivocally deserves.

Dean Lowry was a bit of a disappointment in this game and it’s easy to wonder if he’s still having lingering issues from his preseason injury. I may have been one of the few who was unsurprised by the release of Francois. Throughout the preseason and in the few snaps he played in week one he looked no more than a replacement level player at best.

Edge

Nick Perry +3.2
Kyler Fackrell +0.5
Clay Matthews +0.3
Ahmad Brooks +0.0

As mentioned above, this was a dominant performance from Perry. Matthews provided just enough rush and speed on the opposite end to complement Perry. While Matthews looked fresh and healthy, he still lacked the ability to finish plays. It’s really tough to tell at this point exactly what’s holding Matthews back from becoming a top tier edge rusher again but he seems to lack the polish in the final stages of the play to consistently get the job done. Brooks and Fackrell were adequate enough during their time in the game and Fackrell looked like he was going to find the quarterback a couple times if it weren’t for a quick release from Wilson. With Brooks probably out this week we should get our first look at Chris Odom.

Linebackers

Blake Martinez +0.7
Morgan Burnett +0.65
Jake Ryan +0.4
Joe Thomas -0.1

Until proven differently I’m officially moving Morgan Burnett to linebacker. With Brice and HaHa manning the safety positions, there is no reason to label Burnett as anything other than a linebacker. Burnett didn’t grade out spectacularly, but what he provides Green Bay’s defense is invaluable. When was the last time Green Bay had a true linebacker that could spy a fast quarterback like Russell Wilson, cover an athletic tight end like Jimmy Graham, and hold up in the run game? Maybe Nick Barnett in his prime? Kudos to Green Bay for being fast adopters to the safety at linebacker trend and even more so for finding a starting caliber safety on the street in Kentrell Brice allowing Burnett to make the move.

Martinez was consistent throughout this game and held up in coverage and against the run. Martinez never seems to jump off the tape, but if he can maintain a solid/consistent level of play he will be a great complement to Burnett at linebacker.

Cornerbacks

Kevin King +0.35
LaDarius Gunter +0.0
Damarious Randall -0.25
Davon House -0.25
Quinten Rollins -0.55

Randall, House & Rollins were the primary corners throughout this game and for the most part they played well enough to win. While they all avoided giving up any big plays, there were opportunities available for Wilson to find big plays in the passing game had the pass rush not been as disruptive. The holes that I saw in coverage gave me some cause for concern going forward but the overall improvement in the defensive backfield was easily noticeable. Green Bay will get a much better chance to prove their cover skills in week two.

Safeties

HaHa Clinton-Dix +0.2
Kentrell Brice -1.0

Kentrell Brice’s rise to starting safety is complete and he is now a huge piece of Green Bay’s revamped defense. Yes, Brice graded at -1.0 and the lowest rated player on the team this week; but fret not, Brice not only looks the part, he plays with a speed and aggressiveness that partners perfectly on the back end with Clinton-Dix. Brice got himself into trouble by being slightly over-aggressive and not staying deep enough as the last line of defense. There was a play late in the game where he was playing the deep safety role and would have been beat badly on a deep post if the pressure didn’t get home. It would have been a huge game-changing play.

Clinton-Dix seemed a bit more tentative this game than usual but still played a solid overall game. The fact that Brice and HaHa can both play any role at safety and both play either side of the field is a huge asset and one that provides Dom with more opportunities to disguise his defenses.

While I’m hesitant to take anything away from the defense as a whole this week, this game was all about the dominance of Nick Perry and Mike Daniels. To be fair, Seattle’s offensive line is brutal so whether or not Green Bay can keep this level of pressure up remains to be seen. If, however, Green Bay can maintain this same type of pressure going forward, they are going to be a top 10 defense and have a real shot at a Super Bowl run. There’s simply no denying that the defense looked faster, stronger, and more aggressive than last year’s beat-up squad. 

How I Grade

  • Each player starts by getting a zero or neutral grade on a play. If they performed as expected on a play, their grade stays at zero.
  • For a slightly above or below average play, the player gets graded -0.1 or +0.1. The vast majority of grades on the vast majority of plays are graded -0.1, 0, or +0.1.
  • The highest and lowest grades on an individual play are +2.0 and -2.0 respectively. These would be large, game-changing plays.
  • I won’t grade a play negatively if I cannot tell which player was at fault.
  • Most of the time it’s impossible to tell the play, so I’m not grading on the execution of the play call as an NFL coach would.
  • The goal of this exercise is to grade every snap over the course of the season to get a long-term view of which performers are performing well and which are not meeting expectations. This is very similar to what Pro Football Focus tries to achieve. Is it perfect? No. But what you are getting is a consistent grader who is watching specifically Packer games and putting multiple hours into every week to breakdown film and assign grades.
  • Grades are for offense and defense only (including two point conversions). Special teams does not factor in.
  • Preseason does not have All-22 film which makes this exercise even more challenging than usual
  • Bigger plays in the game such as a 4th and 1 or a two-point conversion are weighted higher than say a normal 1st and 10 play to start the game.
  • Lastly, the grades do not necessarily reflect who the best players are on an overall basis. As an example, Morgan Burnett may grade almost two full points below Jermaine Whitehead. Does this mean that Whitehead is the superior player to Burnett? No. It means that given the opportunities each player was given, Whitehead performed at a higher level for this individual game.

Please feel free to ask questions or comment below!

__________________________

Andy is a graduate of UW-Oshkosh and owns & operates the Pack-A-Day Podcast. Andy has taken multiple courses in NFL scouting and appears weekly on 107.5 The Fan in Green Bay to breakdown film. This past season he was an analyst on Green Bay Nation on WFRV TV in Green Bay. Andy grew up in Green Bay and is a lifelong season ticket holder; follow him on Twitter at @sconniesports.

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Comments (23)

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Turophile's picture

September 15, 2017 at 05:40 pm

The thing I like most about the defensive performance against Seattle, is the physical way Green Bay played them. That doesn't always show up in the stats, but when you watch the team (as you noted) playing with energy and flying to the ball, you cannot help being encouraged. There were a lot a Seattle players who were slow to get up after a play, and not through dirty play (the Packers have never really been a dirty team). I think they were just a bit surprised to run into the Green Bay defensive buzzsaw, on week 1.

I will be especially interested in your grades for the Falcons game. From 2016's 3rd ranked D (Seattle), to going against the 27th ranked (Atlanta). However, our defense will now be going against 2016's no.1 offense. It's a very different kind of game, and I expect the good and bad grades to show that.

Finally, a question, Andrew. While you have your 'grading hat' on you have to mark everyone to the same criteria, snap by snap. What I want to know is, when you take that hat off, are there any young players you get especially excited about, having watched them play by play.

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AndyHerman's picture

September 15, 2017 at 06:00 pm

Truophile,

Thanks so much for reading. I'm also greatly looking forward to analyzing the Falcons game, it will be a great test for the defense.

As for your question, I really watch the game 3 ways. When I'm watching it live I try to turn off my analytical mind as much as possible and just enjoy a Packer game. When I breakdown tape I watch it through two lenses. One lens watches it as a coach trying to grade a player and the other is as a scout trying to evaluate talent. A perfect example of this was Josh Jones in the preseason. Jones graded poorly for me from an analytical standpoint but as a scout I was absolutely in love with him. He has every trait you want.

As for young players that impressed me, Clark and Lowry really shined in preseason and Clark started to carry that over in week 1. Brice and Evans are two more plyers that have definitely caught my eye. The last is Geronimo Allison. He really seemed to make a jump in the preseason and I'm hoping he carries that over when given an opportunity.

-Andy-

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Since'61's picture

September 15, 2017 at 07:07 pm

Andy - thanks for all of your hard work. I am enjoying your analysis and look forward to reading it each week.
When I have time to rewatch my tape of a Packers game I turn off the sound completely. I find that helps my focus and concentration. I'm wondering if you do the same or if you have done it in the past. If you haven't I would recommend that you try it, you may find it helpful or not.
Job well done! Thanks, Since '61

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dobber's picture

September 16, 2017 at 08:54 am

Several years ago, I think it was NBC that broadcast a game with no commentators and no graphics. It was the Jets and someone...can't remember who. Anyway, I found that I missed the graphics far more than I missed the announcers.

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Since'61's picture

September 16, 2017 at 09:59 pm

Yes, that would be perfect to be able to hear only the game.
Chuck the announcers, I think they actually take away from the experience of watching the game. They are more of a distraction than a support system for watching the game.
Between the broadcasters, the commercials and the officials it won't be long before the games are impossible to watch.
Thanks, Since '61

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 16, 2017 at 09:52 am

Nice article. We should remember that Ryan built that +.4 in just 5 snaps; King's +.35 in just 6 snaps; Fackrell's +.5 in just 12 snaps, and Lowry's -.30 in 15 snaps.

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The TKstinator's picture

September 15, 2017 at 07:21 pm

Wow, Andy! The time and energy you put into this is impressive and much appreciated. ¡Gracias!

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Bearmeat's picture

September 15, 2017 at 08:55 pm

Great stuff! Thanks!

To be honest, reading your grades made me wonder even more if the defensive performance was just a product of Seattle's weak offensive personnel. If there were WRs open regularly, that's a major problem. Seattle's WRs are crap compared to all but about 5 teams in the NFL.

For that matter, compared to ATL, SEA's OL and pass catching weapons are garbage.

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marpag1's picture

September 16, 2017 at 05:43 am

I collected a good number of down votes this week because after the game I suggested that Seattle looked "in trouble" to me. But I really think they ARE in trouble if they can't fix that O-line. I don't care how good the opposing defense is, you simply can't get whipped that badly on every, freakin' play. To my eyes, it was bad to the point that I just don't think Seattle can beat decent teams unless they see huge improvement with the blocking.

I dunno. Maybe the GB defense really is that much improved. Let's see what happens in ATL. That will be a much better gauge.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

September 16, 2017 at 11:58 am

Well, I didn't downvote you. You're dead right.

Though it takes nothing away from the Pro Bowl-looking status of guys like Daniels, Perry, and Clinton-Dix, the fact remains Seattle's O-Line is a trainwreck early on this season.

If they don't improve dramatically, they can just start gift-wrapping their division to the Rams right now.

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dblbogey's picture

September 15, 2017 at 09:17 pm

I love thorough analysis of individual players from each game. McGinn is gone, you da man. Thanks for your efforts.

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Oppy's picture

September 16, 2017 at 09:12 am

Bob McGinn is not gone. He started his own (pay) website with his son.
He's still covering the Packers. Just on his own terms now.

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Since'61's picture

September 16, 2017 at 10:01 pm

I say, Good for him, that's the way to do it.
Thanks, Since '61

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Denver's picture

September 15, 2017 at 09:34 pm

"When Clay & Perry are healthy."
Ah, therein lies the crux. Hopefully this is the year....

Anybody else remember an early-season game against Carolina way back when (2004?) with Slowik as the DC when the D dominated and things went downhill from there? This game reminded me of that. Hope I'm wrong....

Love this analysis Andy!

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GBPDAN1's picture

September 15, 2017 at 10:24 pm

All our corners didn't grade out well. I hope they can step it up at ATL. Would like to see Lowry get back to what he looked like in the first few preseason games (prior to injury). If that happens, watch out NFL. Daniels, Clark and Lowry at top form would be a force. Add Dial and Adams in the rotation and this will be fun to watch.

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LayingTheLawe's picture

September 15, 2017 at 10:50 pm

Yes either Burnett is playing linebacker or the Packers are playing a 3 -3 nickel formation as their base defense.

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croatpackfan's picture

September 16, 2017 at 04:57 am

It is always nice to read such analytical article. It either confirms what you saw or gives you perspective when you thought some player plays much better that he was.

For example, I said that Davon House had lousy game, what you confirmed. Also, I thought Rollins was on the top, but your analysis shows me how I was wrong.

So, that kind of articles are pure gold. That is how we can learn to watch games on more knowledgeable way...

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Nick Perry's picture

September 16, 2017 at 05:07 am

There were several things that impressed me about the Packers defense on Sunday but the most impressive was probably the way they ALL ran to the ball. There were many examples throughout the game where multiple Packers defenders met the ball carrier and stopped them dead in their tracks.

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croatpackfan's picture

September 16, 2017 at 06:06 am

I agree. That was rarely seen previous seasons - team tackling! And I think this is the main change on D that improve D the most!

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fthisJack's picture

September 16, 2017 at 09:42 am

i absolutely loved the play where Dix, Burnett, and King absolutely demolish the receiver and knock him out of bounds!

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Norm's picture

September 16, 2017 at 11:44 am

I did to but I can't help but wonder if a better placed ball by Wilson (i.e. over the outside shoulder) doesn't end up as a TD.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

September 16, 2017 at 11:53 am

Daniels, Perry, and Clark look dominant, and if I'm Atlanta, I focus on them with far better blocking than Seattle could manage.

Time for Lowry, Matthews, Dial, Odom, and Fackrell to show they can get home on Matty Ice. At least two of them will need to show up big for Green Bay to have a chance.

And on a fast track, I wouldn't mind a handful of blitzes from Josh Jones. Mix it up, Dom. Bring the lightning.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

September 16, 2017 at 12:08 pm

One other thing: In Pro Bowl voting, people tend to only consider sacks with OLB's. But if you consider both sacks and run defense, I honestly think a healthy Nick Perry is a shoe-in.

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