Grading the Pack - Week 15 (Offense & Defense)

In the end, the fairytale ending that everyone was hoping for was really never meant to be. This season proved to be a stark reminder that 1) Dom Capers was and is still the defensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers 2) There aren’t enough playmakers on the team to perform at a Super Bowl level 3) Free agency isn’t always the solution that you hope it would be 4) Injuries suck.

On Sunday, all of these ideas proved too much to overcome and the season came crashing to a thud. Dom Capers’ defense is stale, predictable, and underachieving. Meanwhile Ted’s first major foray into free agency was a major disaster. Martellus Bennet & Ricky Jean Francois are no longer with the team while Davon House, Ahmad Brooks, Quinton Dial and Lance Kendricks have all graded below average throughout the season. The lone success story was the Jahri Evans signing which has been… fine… it’s a fine signing but he’s not helping the offense rise to new, exciting heights.

Meanwhile free agents who have walked the past couple of years, including, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Julius Peppers, Tramon Williams, TJ Lang, JC Tretter and Jared Cook are collectively having an amazing year. The decision to let Eddie Lacy walk was obviously the right call but if your best two decisions were letting Lacy walk and bringing in a solid but unspectacular guard, it’s not been a very productive offseason.

Of course injuries have played a part as well. Even though Clay Matthews, Morgan Burnett, Mike Daniels, Nick Perry and Kenny Clark were playing this week, you can tell they all haven’t been the same since coming back from injury. Rodgers obviously wasn’t the same coming back and numerous players have been in and out of the lineup throughout the season. This, however, is the reality of today’s NFL. The Vikings lost their top two quarterbacks and are headed for a first round bye. Injuries happen, you need to be prepared and evolve as the season goes along. Green Bay wasn’t prepared and never evolved.

Lastly, it comes down to playmakers. Obviously Aaron Rodgers, when healthy, is the most dangerous player in the NFL. David Bakhtiari is arguably the best left tackle in the game and Davante Adams has showed this season how valuable he is. On the defensive side of the ball the duo of Daniels and Clark on the interior is as good as it gets. But the top level talent ends there. It’s a couple of defensive tackles and three players on offense that are trying to propel this team to victory every week. Without more firepower there won’t be more Super Bowls. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but Green Bay doesn’t need any more solid or developmental players. They need blue chip, Pro Bowl caliber stars. This year nobody made the Pro Bowl and outside of Bakhtiari, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

Top 3 Offensive Performers

David Bakhtiari +3.95
Lane Taylor +1.15
Davante Adams +1.00

Top 3 Defensive Performers

Damarious Randall +1.25
Lenzy Pipkins +0.15
Blake Martinez +0.05

Bottom 3 Offensive Performers

Jason Spriggs -3.20
Aaron Rodgers -2.00
Corey Linsley -1.70

Bottom 3 Defensive Performers

Josh Jones -2.45
HaHa Clinton-Dix -2.30
Mike Daniels -0.95

Quarterback

Aaron Rodgers -2.0

All three of Rodgers' interceptions, as well as a couple other missed first downs were due to Rodgers underthrowing the ball. It was clearly obvious that he just didn’t have the strength in his right arm that he’s used to having. He probably could have adjusted if he had more games to play but he simply wasn’t ready to play at his normal level. And to be fair, Rodgers at 40% is better than most quarterbacks, but the offense needed to be tailored.

It’s tough to tell sometimes whether McCarthy continued to call passes or if Rodgers chose to pass out of run/pass reads, but the fact that Green Bay never established the run game and had Rodgers throw so much seems both ridiculous and stupid. Rodgers took a beating and the number one priority should have been to run the ball and get the ball out quick. If anything they should have run the offense as if Hundley was in, instead of the same concepts they usually run with Rodgers. It was poor game management and the game-plan never put Green Bay or Aaron Rodgers in a position to be successful.

Running Back

Aaron Jones +0.25
Aaron Ripkowski -0.15
Jamaal Williams -0.2

As has been the case lately, Aaron Jones has looked great when he actually had a chance to touch the ball. Unfortunately, Green Bay had no desire to get him the football or design anything meaningful to get the ball in his hands. I’m being harsh this week but when somebody rips off two straight 20+ yard runs, maybe a couple more carries should be in order. Since the game winning run against Tampa, Green Bay has mostly forgotten about Jones. Yes, he struggles and is inconsistent in pass-pro, but find a way to get him the football in space and let him work his magic. Not doing so is a disservice to Jones and lowers the odds of winning the football game.

Wide Receiver

Davante Adams +1.0
Randall Cobb +0.8
Trevor Davis +0.05
Jordy Nelson -0.3
Geronimo Allison -1.4

Davante Adams had every right to be pissed off this week. It was an absolute cheap shot by Thomas Davis and Adams just deserves so much better this year. To suffer two huge shots like that in the same season on two bush league plays is brutal. Meanwhile Geronimo Allison had a big opportunity this week with Adams going down and literally fumbled it away. Cobb was better when the play was extended (as usual) and Jordy continued to struggle to get open with any consistency. (Yes there were plays where he broke open and Rodgers missed him, these plays were the exception to the rule).

Tight End

Lance Kendricks -0.15
Richard Rodgers -0.85

Rodgers had some nice plays over the middle but they were largely due to defensive error and not anything that Rodgers did well. Green Bay is going to be desperate for tight end help in the offseason and I honestly have no clue where they’re going to get it from.

Offensive Line

David Bakhtiari +3.95
Lane Taylor +1.15
Jahri Evans +0.2
Corey Linsley -1.7
Jason Spriggs -3.2

Lane Taylor had a really nice game but the conversation here is about the two tackles. Bakhtiari was an absolute beast this week and graded out almost perfectly. He only had two plays with a negative grade and even both of those plays were nitpicky. On the other hand, Jason Spriggs was once again the worst player on the team. Once again he started out ok for the first 20 plays-ish but things fell apart after that. The play where Rodgers was sacked by Peppers on 4th down was so fitting in so many ways. The perfect picture of Green Bay’s season is the veteran pass rusher that used to play for the team screaming by the draft and develop offensive tackle who has no right to be in the game to crush Aaron Rodgers and any hopes at another Super Bowl this season.

More on Bakhtiari from Zach: https://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/pro-bowl-or-not-packers-david-bakhtiari-has-been-amongst-the-elite-424

Defensive Line

Kenny Clark -0.05
Quinton Dial -0.35
Dean Lowry -0.65
Mike Daniels -0.95

It was painfully obvious to see that Daniels and Clark were just banged up and not themselves against Carolina. Honestly both should probably sit the next two games because you can see the wear and tear from the work they put in through the course of the season. Playing them each another 100 snaps this season seems really pointless. It’s time to get a look at players like Montravious Adams on defense and have him do some of the heavy lifting.

Edge

Ahmad Brooks -0.15
Vince Biegel -0.45
Kyler Fackrell -0.55
Nick Perry -0.65
Clay Matthews -0.75

If you ever go back and watch the tape of this game you will see play after play after play of Cam Newton stepping up into a perfectly shaped pocket with no pressure around him whatsoever. The pass rush has been so bad the last few weeks and while once again I’m sure injuries are playing a part, players need to step up. Nobody, injured or healthy, has been able to get any pass rush with any sort of consistency and it’s putting a ton of pressure on the defensive backfield to hold up for longer than they should have to.

Linebacker

Blake Martinez +0.05
Joe Thomas -0.35

Even though Thomas graded slightly negative he had a pretty nice game for his first action in a while. It’s sad but at +0.05, Martinez was one of only three Packers defenders who graded positively and one of only two that played more than five plays. The play that Martinez made in coverage on McCaffrey was awesome but he needs to find a way to take those PBU’s and turn them into INT’s.

Cornerback

Damarious Randall +1.25
Lenzy Pipkins +0.15
Josh Hawkins -0.15

Despite having to hold up for longer than they should have had to, the corners graded out well in this game. Randall continues to be one of the few bright spots on the defense this year while Pipkins has always flashed on tape whenever he’s gotten a chance. Even Josh Hawkins has played better these past few weeks and seems to be learning from his struggles earlier this season. This was a pretty nice performance overall from the cornerbacks, even if it was against a below average receiving corps.

Safety

Morgan Burnett -0.05
Marwin Evans -0.1
Jermaine Whitehead -0.25
HaHa Clinton-Dix -2.3
Josh Jones -2.45

HaHa Clinton-Dix is almost assuredly going to end the season as my lowest graded defender and it’s really tough to tell what went wrong for the former Pro Bowl safety. He’s been slow to react, out of position, and extremely passive throughout the season. I’m sure it’s been tough on him at times to stay 20 yards behind the play and watch everything unfold without being involved, but he’s just really struggled in all phases. Josh Jones not only hasn’t progressed as the seasons went along, I’d argue he’s taken a couple major steps back. His lack of knowledge and confidence in the defense is painfully evident and he’s going to need a long offseason in the playbook if he hopes to be an impact player moving forward.

More on the defense from Chris: https://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/packers-have-to-address-their-problem-on-defense-423

To find an updated, running total of the grades throughout the season, click here: https://cheeseheadtv.com/blog/grading-the-pack-regular-season-totals-454

Note: In these articles I often add tweets from Ben Fennell, Zach Kruse & Dusty Evely. All have been gracious enough to allow me to do so and are phenomenal follows. Please make sure you are supporting and following each of them! Thank you!

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.

__________________________

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 (9)

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

December 22, 2017 at 06:08 pm

Thanks Andrew, this is great work. Looking forward to the end of year totals.

Bi-yearly job seeker Mike Shula made Dom's Defense look completely inept and under prepared on multiple occasions. It's just a total bore to watch and an embarrassment to endure as a life long Packers fan. I'm not sure I stomach another season of it.

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nigrivasilayesrej's picture

December 22, 2017 at 10:12 pm

Great article - thanks Andrew!

The Packers camnot go into next year with Spriggs the starter at RT - he is not even a backup caliber NFL player right now.

The DEF is such a joke. Guys wide open all day long, absolutely no pressure on the QB, guys jumping offsides, safeties playing 20-25 yards off the line of scrimmage, missed tackles & blown coverages.

14 weeks into the season & we still don't know how to defend RB/WR screens. Ugh.

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Denver's picture

December 22, 2017 at 08:37 pm

Painfully accurate from what I saw, Andrew.
Really looking forward to these grades next year when the Packers are better...hey, a guy can always hope.

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Tarynfor12's picture

December 22, 2017 at 08:51 pm

" Dom Capers’ defense is stale, predictable, and underachieving."

This statement rings a bell....it does, it does..a couple seasons ago.

" Mike McCarthy's offense is stale, predictable,and underachieving."

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Lphill's picture

December 22, 2017 at 09:18 pm

Somebody had to be telling Ha Ha to play as far back as he was , nobody feared the Packers defense for the past several years , teams game plan for Aaron Rodgers that's it in a nutshell . The defensive players are out of position because a coach is placing them there this has to be a trickle down from Capers . How many more 3 rd and longs with the middle of the field uncovered can we put up with .its coaching and its Dom Capers .

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nostradanus's picture

December 23, 2017 at 07:54 am

Man so sad but true Andrew and thank you for excellent and intelligent pieces this season. The film doesn't lie and this Defense is in need of a serious makeover and that starts with Dom and the whole Defensive staff. Once again McCarthy's stubborn ways cost the Packers not only this season but several trips to the Super Bowl.
Capers should have been sent packing 5 years ago just like Sanders, Donnatel and Slocum (Special Teams) years before. McCarthy just is too stubborn and faithful to his own guys and eventually it will bite him in his big as and he will be sent packing. The NFL is a "win now" league and those who don't get it get thrown out. Of course this all begins with Ted Thompson who should be a more forceful GM instead of hiding in the dark shadows. The game has passed old Ted by and it is time he be given his Street name and be put out to pasture. New blood is needed now!
Bah Humbug to the trio of McCarthy Capers & Thompson
Merry Christmas to the rest of you Cheesy Packer Faithful!
Go Pack!

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egbertsouse's picture

December 23, 2017 at 08:41 am

As a couple of the film clips demonstrate, HHCD actually slows down to avoid having to make or be involved in a tackle. Why is this guy still on the field? Why is he still getting a paycheck? He seems to want to hang back and get tipped balls rather than be in on plays.

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flackcatcher's picture

December 23, 2017 at 03:05 pm

Nice round up Andrew. There are spots I disagree with, (Spriggs game play with Peppers) but that is mostly a judgement call. Even at 70% QB1 is still clearly the best player on the field. Still, your point about the Packers run game is on point. That is all on Rodgers, first game back or not, he should have shown much more discipline in running the game plan than he did.

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croatpackfan's picture

December 23, 2017 at 04:55 pm

Thank you Andrew!

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