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Notebook: Defense Struggles But Misses Key Pieces

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Notebook: Defense Struggles But Misses Key Pieces

The No. 1 defense of the Green Bay Packers struggled for the second consecutive preseason game, but considering the players missing from the lineup, maybe their shortcomings were justified.

Held out of action for precautionary measures was Charles Woodson. Nick Barnett was inactive after coming off of offseason knee surgery. And neither A.J. Hawk nor Brad Jones played after suffering injuries during practice this past week.

Without those players on the field, the Packers had trouble, once again, with the "veteran quarterbacks" that gave them trouble last year. Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck completed 11 of 15 pass for 127 yards for one touchdown, no interceptions and a 120.7 passer rating.

Combine Hasselbeck's stats with those of Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace a week ago, and opposing quarterbacks have gone 21 of 30 for 265 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions through the first two preseason games.

With rookie Alex Joseph also out of action tonight, the starting lineup for the Packers at linebacker included Brady Poppinga, Desmond Bishop, Robert Francois and Brandon Chillar, none of whom were considered starters at the end of last season.

Backing up Bishop and Francois on the inside were Maurice Simpkins of the Indoor Football League and converted utility player Spencer Havner.

All the changes in the lineup added up to an experienced lineup, however one that buckled down as the game went on and held on for a 27-24 Packers victory and held the Seahawks to converting only four of 12 first downs.

Positive run game: After slow going in the first preseason game, the Packers run game got going in Seattle, particularly in the second half.

Brandon Jackson was especially effective having rushed for 80 yards on only 11 carries, good for a 7.3-yard average and one touchdown.

Most impressive was the game-winning drive when Jackson rushed for the 38 yards to cap off the winning score. Down 24-20, Jackson first ran 26-yards off left tackle to set up his touchdown run of 12 yards on a sweep to right.

Also getting into the act was usual fullback John Kuhn who got several carries as a halfback after Quinn Porter went down to injury. Kuhn totaled six carries for 30 yards for a 5.0 yard per carry average.

It's not out of the question that the Packers may only go with two halfbacks on their 53-man roster if John Kuhn can fill the No. 3 halfback job as well as playing fullback. Such a scenario becomes even more likely if rookie James Starks begins the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list and is able to contribute after coming off said list.

Special teams up and downs: On the positive side of the ledger, kicker Mason Crosby is rebounding nicely from a rough beginning to training camp.

After missing several field goals in the first week of training camp, Crosby went on to miss two more during the team's annual Family Night scrimmage.

Since that time, he hit his only field goal attempt last week against Cleveland last weekend and went two-for-two at Seattle. In addition, he hit all three extra point attempts.

On Saturday night, he worked with Australian-born Chris Bryan as his holder who had no experience as a holder before coming to the Packers this past offseason. Things went off without a hitch.

The same can't be said for kickoff return coverage that gave up a total of five returns for 152 yards, a 30.4-yard average including a 54-yard return by Josh Wilson immediately following the Packers' first touchdown of the game after taking a 7-0 lead.

In special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum's defense, the Packers once again used a very large number of players on special teams including many who won't end up being on the 53-man roster come September

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (33) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nate's picture

When I heard before the game that Kuhn would get carries as a HB I figured the Packers were looking at the possibility of keeping 2 HB, 2 FB, and 5 TE. After watching Kuhn run adequately and Porter disappoint I think this could end up being a good route to take, especially with the emergence of Jackson. It may be only 1 game, but time is running out for Porter to show he belongs.

CSS's picture

My 2 cents:

*McCarthy, Campen, Thompson: It’s official, the Barbre and Giacomini experiment is over. They can show all the potential in the world but when the prime-time lights go on and the bullets start to fly neither are remotely dependable. They don’t function in space and, for whatever reason, their neurons simply can’t fire at an NFL speed. Seriously, I would rather start over with McDonald and Newhouse as the new pet projects. Enough, they can’t handle game-day in the NFL. It’s done…..

*Bulaga is a rookie and will likely play like one at times during the season. That being said, he’s aggressive, he finishes, and has a nasty streak in the run game. College needs a herculean effort to win this job in the next two weeks.

*I love Evan Dietrich-Smith. Find a way to keep him, Spitz is nothing more than a utility guy that can flex to multiple positions along the interior.

*Every receiver not named Nelson, Jones, Driver, Jennings, Finley – You can’t play in the NFL if you let balls into your body.

*BJ Raji – You’re a beast that should win the leverage game 9 of 10 times. Stop giving up your leverage and center of gravity by standing straight up off the snap and hand-fighting with inferior talent. Actually, that memo goes out to the entire defensive line. Get vertical off the snap and stop giving up leverage.

This team has fewer issues than most NFL franchises at this stage in the game. Most are truly worse for the ware in terms of injury and depth if you’ve been watching the pre-season. The only definitive judgement I’ve made to this point revolves around Giacomini and Barbre. They should be done, I can no longer find a way to excuse their game day play. Cut. The. Rope…..

nypacker's picture

CSS that stuff you said about the D-line is spot on. I noticed how instead of guys rushing straight into the O-line and collapsing the pocket, they simply jump right up andstart playing patty cake with the C's and G's. It's something that's been prevalent since last season. IMO I think that's just the way our D-line is coached. It's one of the reasons why Cullen Jenkins said he felt "locked" in this defense; rather than doing that swim move that he does, he had to learn how to use his hands more efficiently. He's adjusting to the new technique slowly but I want to see our D-line take a more physical approach. Case in point, Justin Harrell and Mike Neal's performances in week 1 of preseason.

NickGBP's picture

Definitely something that seems coached. Very frustrating to watch.

bomdad's picture

Is that part of the 3-4 scheme to "take up space" and "demand double teams"? Jenkins seemed to be regularly shedding his guy and getting pursuit.

CSS's picture

Yes, that's the general philosophy in a 3-4 base defense. However, there is no defense, base or sub, where a football player ranging from High School to the NFL stands upright on the whistle. It's considered a fundamental off the snap. No joke, this is where McCarthy is 100% correct, pad level.....

PackersRS's picture

Agreed 100% CSS. Specially regarding Giacomini and Barbre. They just can't cut it. Both were humiliated by 3rd string Seahawks pass rushers, that were asbolutely awful a year ago.

I would add Bjax. He realy showed something else this game, and with our #2 O, playing against their #1 D (which isn't very good, but still).

And that, along with Giacomini and Barbre, Slocum should be gone. As with them, I cannot make excuses for such poor showing. The fundamentals in ST play simply aren't there.

Wiscokid's picture

I agree. I am truly tired our retched special team's play. Something has to be done and Slocum is the place to start.

Chris's picture

My few cents after watching the game just now:
a. The running game only started working when Seattle had it's 3rd string defense on the field. I liked the runs by Jackson though, he showed his vision and quick descissions to bounce a run outside if the inside is stuffed. I think Kuhn is just in there because of the injuries (Porter injured his ancle).
b. 1st team pass defense: Yes, I know, they were without potentiell 5 starters but still: I saw no pass rush whatsoever, I saw the same old cushin coverage that Aaron Nagler wrote about last week, and I even saw bad tackling again. If they don't improve the Packers need to win the games with the arm of Aaron Rodgers again. We all know he can do it though :-)
c. Pass offense: Superb once again. If Finley keeps on working he will have a great year. He even started blocking like a real TE.
d. Return game: For me Shields is done as a returner. They tried him again, and again he totally misjudged kickoffs (letting a kickoff bounce at the 10 yard line is just stupid). But it seems they already switched back to Jordy Nelson and Will Blackmon for returns (they were the first team returners).
e. Going to kneeldowns at the end: Do the Packers really need to win THAT bad? Heck, it's preseason. Keep playing. Get the reps. Check out 3rd stringers. Who cares if by some miracle we turn the ball over and the opponent scores again. *sigh* But maybe they just wanted to lower the chances for more injuries, who knows.

Next week Mr. Manning will turn our passing defense on the head and pull their socks on their private parts if they keep playing like this. I hope I am wrong.

pat fermanich's picture

you rule css. def. f-fail off-b+ two more pre-sea to go,lots off cuts on monday. hey brew crew won. zooba,chillar,havnerkeep pluging,jackson a nice moter

Ron LC's picture

Lessons Learned Last Night:

1. Back up DB's are Pathetic in coverage. The defense will suffer if more than one front line player is missing.

2. Rodgers is not human

3. Breno "The Statue" Giacomini is not the answer as Taucsher's back up. TJ please report for duty.

4. Alan Barbre still stinks.

5. Bulaga is going to be a star.

6. Regardless of what excuse is used, ST coverage team is a problem.

7. Flyn showed a bit more last night than last week.

8. Overall a healthy team will be very competitive. Too many injuries will be deadly.

PackersRS's picture

Also agreed.

And, hey, did Tramon Williams play this game? If so, I didn't see him, and that makes me worried.

Final thought: second game in a row that Collins is burned by a receiver for a TD. Not good.

jeremy's picture

Williams was responsible for a pass interference call on the Seahawks second drive. It was typical Williams coverage. Let the receiver run right by you and then hand fight with him after 5 yard cut off. Good forbid the Packers have to start him at CB for a whole season.

NYPacker's picture

I'd put a little more emphasis on No. 7. I thought Matt Flynn did a tremendous job in last night's game. Maybe not superb but something you definitely want to see out of your backup QB; he was making really good decisions and showed some scrambling ability. If he keeps it up, I can definitely see trade offers pouring in sometime during the season.

Andrew In Atlanta's picture

Spot on from CSS. Very frustrating to watch Giacomini completely wif his block on a sweep resulting in negative yardage as well as Barbre get schooled leading to a Flynn sack. And this is against back-ups.

Also didn't think Underwood and Lee played all that well. Was really hoping one of those guys would really step up. I guess there is still time but I'm very concerned.

Quick turn around vs Colts will be interesting with a few of our guys banged up

Ruppert's picture

I'm pretty much in agreement with Ron and CSS. What really irritated me was the same-old same-old that just keeps happening. Our kick coverage was bad, Poppinga got a special teams penalty, and Bush got those back-to-back flags. The flags were questionable, but IMO it's no surprise that the flags flew given the ways refs call games these days. Oh yeah, Barbre is the same old same old, too.

Bush might do some good things, but is he EVER in the right place at the right time? Shields can't run back kicks or punts, but at least he ended up in the right place at the right time for an INT last night...and in the scrimmage, too. Provided Shields can function as a gunner, we gotta keep him and cut Bush.

PackersRS's picture

Those flags were complete BS. I can't believe I'm gonna say this, but Bush was solid in those plays.

And also agreed on Shields. He has value on this team, but pull the plug on the returner experiment. He can't go to the coaches and ask for them to stop it, but keeping him there is only gonna crush his morale.

nerdmann's picture

1: Slocum must go. My God, man.

2: Bush must go. It's not secret he sucks. The 'Hawks targeted him all the way down the field last night, including two CONSECUTIVE costly interference penalties.

3: I agree, keep Shields, but not as a returner.

PackersThad's picture

I don't think the amount of starters on our defense should be used as an excuse. They looked pretty terrible in pass coverage period. Underwood is supposed to be a nickel corner for us and Tramon is our third corner and they both were giving up first downs and letting their men go free.

I'd like to join everyone else is wish Giacomini buon voyage! Done...there is nothing else for him to show. He is a liability at tackle. Either try Barbre and Giacomini at guard or release them on the spot. I actually like Giacomini and I try and try and try to justify his play. I can do it no longer. I can't believe we kept him over Jamon Meredith. I think we will end up regretting that.

Also, I like Shields on defense, but can we keep him away from the receiving end on special teams? Please? Thanks!

jeremy's picture

They already tried Barbre at guard...

NoWayJose's picture

Fun game to watch last night. Especially enjoyed seeing Finley stand out and Brandon Jackson playing with fire.

I agree with the general thought here on Giacomini as well. His play on that sweep was abysmal, and he gave up at least one solo sack that I recall (an inside rush by Nick Reed?). I was equally disturbed by his leaping false start in the obvious clock-kill siuation at the end of the first half. Did we ever get an explanation for that? Was that as much on him as it looked?

Oppy's picture

The call was illegal snap on the center (he got caught 'twitching' the ball at the line).

Possible reason why it looked like Breno blatantly jumped the gun with a false start- It was loud so he was watching the ball, and -reacted- to the illegal snap motion.

This bothered me last night- how can a lineman false start when he knows they are spiking the ball? There's no reason to do anything except react to the defender in front of you. Why would the center commit an illegal snap? The only thing I can think is that the center was attempting to very quickly draw a d-lineman into jumping off sides to kill the clock without a loss of down, and gain a quick 5 yards, and no one let the RT in on it.

Otherwise, inexcusable.
Anyhoo, that's just a scenario I came up with to try and make sense of a non-sensical turn of events.

jeremy's picture

Was anyone impressed with what Bishop did with his playing time? I didn't get to see the whole game. But, when I was watching he looked right at home with the twos and threes.

PackersRS's picture

I remember Bishop missing a coverage, and failingto tackle Leon Washington on a run (he grabbed him by his ankle).

Not impressed with Mr. August.

Nate's picture

I believe Bishop also whiffed on the 55 yd return, which would have saved 10 yards. For all the "Mr. August" talk from the last 2 years he has been absolutely invisible this preseason. If Chillar was still an ILB I would be less concerned, but I don't think anyone could look at the linebackers right now and not be worried even if everyone was healthy. They have to make some sort of move before the roster is set, because this group could not survive an injury during the regular season.

pat fermanich's picture

time will tell. TIME WILL TELL. forwards or back words. whats a ticket go for now. i went free. but i stay home play nopay.

asshalo's picture

Not a single starting LB was in at the start of the game. Francois and Bishop looked absolutely lost against the pass creating problems for DBs. As bad as Hawk looks in coverage at times, he never looks that bad.

I think they're playing straight-up vanilla. The D will have chances to be a lot more creative this year with a more experience and knowledge under their belt. DBs won't be providing that much of a cushion and the DL be pushing-in the pocket.

Michael (Pat/s Twin)'s picture

So the general feeling is that the defensive line can make all the excuses they want because there starter buds were not at the game. The other starters were home watching there defensive group fall apart again via line play. I suppose we could forget about pass rush with only one or two or maybe three defensive lineman playing. I think not because with out defensive line the other starters will not carry the load period.

Michael (Pat/s Twin)'s picture

Just because players will not be on 53 man roster does not mean that special teams on kick-offs should not offer good downfield coverage being players playing in there positions or lanes at kick-offs. Anyone good enough to try out for a pro-football team does have the skills of speed, tackling, blocking, pursuit, practice at professional levels period.

dilligaff's picture

Games during the REGULAR season are won and lost by all 53 men playing all 4 quarters to win the game.

Someone please tell me what is the goal of a preseason game? Once you truthfully answer this question there is nothing to worry about at this point.

This is an evaluation process that prepares the team for that first real game.

IMO this is like draft, uncertainties run wild and hard to evaluate.

pat fermanich's picture

maybe watch golf on sundays have a cold beer

pat fermanich's picture

brian alot better writer than you much verbage css you go way way way over the edge you must get brain crapes you should see a docter. relax its only a dream of pat and mikes.

pat fermanich's picture

im waiting css my office is always open to you.

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