Packers at Jaguars: Saturday Rants & Raves

Finally!  The Green Bay Packers have come BACK. . to Jacksonville?  Yes, another eight years have passed and it's time for another trip to northern Florida.  The Packers will face the Jaguars to open their 2016 schedule and with that, it's time for the return of Saturday Rants & Raves.  It's only week one so not much to rant about yet but there are still a lot of question marks about this team which will start to get answered when this game kicks off at 12pm Lambeau time on Sunday.  Let's take a last look at the match up and some of the headlines.

Rants

First of all, the weather.  A high of 91 degrees and sunshine is forecasted and this apparently has some worried about hydration, cramps and fatigue.  When it's 0 degrees in January at Lambeau Field, how much of an advantage do the Packers really have anymore?  After watching some of their most recent playoff and late-season games, I'd say not a ton.  The same thing can be said for the Jags in dealing with the heat.  Weather is just not as much of an advantage for the home team as it may have once been.  All 92 active players will be dealing with the elements on Sunday.  Bigger guys are likely going to sweat more, players need to hydrate properly, etc.  Listen, these are two professional teams with a staff that understands these things.  The schedule has been known for nearly five months so there will be no shortage of preparation for the heat, for either team.  

If I were writing a book about the Packers last weekend, the title would have been: "So, You Want To Cut Your Best Offensive Lineman A Week Before The Season Starts?"  No doubt, the release of Josh Sitton sent shock waves throughout the team and the fan base.  Many a story has been written and speculated on.  The Packers have moved on and Lane Taylor will get the start against Jacksonville.  It's not ideal but this is the path the Packers have decided to take.  The best-case scenario is the Packers building an early lead and continuing to try to run the ball.  Taylor isn't a great run blocker, but this will at least keep some of the heat off of Aaron Rodgers.  If the Packers get behind or find themselves in a shootout, Jacksonville's pass rush is going to come heaviest up the middle.  Quarterbacks find the weak cornerback and pick on them and the Jags defense will test Taylor, we can count on it.  The run game and quick, short routes will become the path to success for the Packers if they find Rodgers on the move a lot.  This is when having tight end Jared Cook may be a saving grace.

Before we could have ever dreamed up the Sitton situation, many were still working through general manager Ted Thompson's letting go of punter Tim Masthay.  Masthay wasn't great during the preseason so the move by itself wasn't a big surprise, but to do so just before the final preseason game and after Masthay's competition (Peter Mortell) had already been let go was a head scratcher.  Beyond the punting duties themselves, kicker Mason Crosby lost his holder of six seasons.  Jake Schum was claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he looked OK in the preseason finale but he remains an unknown.  A few solid showings to start off the season could lend more to Thompson's ability to find another solid contributor off the scrap heap.  That remains to be seen.  On the Goode side of things, long snapper Brett Goode is back!  How a 250 pounder is already back from an ACL tear in mid-December last year is beyond me but I don't think many are complaining.

Green Bay has two defensive players that won't be available against Jacksonville due to suspension.  Defensive lineman Mike Pennel and cornerback Demetri Goodson will both miss the first four games.  Pennel's absence will be felt most.  The defensive line rotation needs as many healthy bodies as it can.  I pooh pooh'd the heat as an excuse for performance earlier, but in a hotter game, the big guys need to filter in and out, even in nickel and dime packages.  Will rookie Kenny Clark be ready to go after missing half of the preseason?  Is Dean Lowry going to be able to give the Packers any valuable snaps?  Even with Datone Jones manning the elephant end, the question here is depth.  Will Goodson's absence be felt on special teams, where he has been most used the past three seasons?  Jeff Janis is listed as questionable and he may have to play with a cast or club on his hand.  Depth is key to a successful run for any NFL team and the Packers will get an early look at just how solid the back of the roster is.

Raves

Fourth round rookie inside linebacker Blake Martinez proved, at least so far, to be a wise investment for the Packers.  Martinez will start in the base defense on Sunday and will be receiving as well as relaying the defensive calls.  Defensive coordinator Dom Capers doesn't have the simplest scheme on earth so there's a valid question of how well Martinez can handle his duties and remember not to over think in his first pro game.  He looked the part during the preseason so the team and fans are hopeful that his instincts are solid and they take over on Sunday.  With the release of Sam Barrington, the Packers will go with second-year man Jake Ryan next to Martinez.  That's a youth movement at the inside linebacker position if ever I did see one.  If it pans out, the Packers will have not only addressed a long-standing weakness on their defense, but will have done so with overachieving and low-cost/high value pieces.  At the very least, Martinez won the starting job and was enough for the Packers to move on from Barrington, who had injury issues through most of his time in Green Bay.

Speaking of Capers, is he really going to try some new things this season?  We saw safety Morgan Burnett moonlight at the linebacker spot and even Micah Hyde can step into that type of role at times.  It's about time that the Packers tried to get more from the strengths of their veterans.  Burnett has established himself as a strong player against the run so put him in position to do just that and see what happens.  At least an "e" for effort, Dom.  Capers is also going to interchangeably use his cornerbacks between outside and inside responsibilities.  Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins should be moved around most on Sunday and the hope is that this gives the Packers a better match up and puts them around the football where they can do what they do.  Last season, Randall showed his nose for the ball and Rollins had a two-interception game himself.  Turnovers have been a hallmark of the Packers defense for years and this defense shouldn't slow down in that area.

OK, OK, you've been waiting for it so here you go:  Jordy's back!  Jordy Nelson suits up and plays in a meaningful game for the Packers for the first time since the NFC championship game in Seattle.  Crazy to think about, right?  I have maintained that Nelson isn't going to come back and light the world on fire, but his mere presence will keep defenses honest, at least right away and it will also give a mental boost to Rodgers and the offense.  If we don't see the shot play on Sunday, no reason to panic, as much as many of you have already dreamt of this very sight.  Nelson's savvy and his ability to work the sideline is something he should bring to the table right away, even if he's not quite his old self.  

Nelson's presence should help open things up for Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery and Davante Adams, should Adams elect to catch the football.  Oh, and also Jared Cook.  Are you as excited about Cook as I am?  I'd put myself at "trying not to be giddy just yet".  Cook just looks so fluid and comfortable in the offense already, diminished competition aside.  Knowing where to be, being open and hanging onto the football are the fundamentals that start the ball rolling.  I predicted Cook would be the Packers MVP not named Aaron Rodgers this season so I expect a fast start in this game for the new #89.

 

Those are my highlights.  Add yours in and, my friends, it's finally time for Packers football once again!  Enjoy! 

 

-------------------

Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

0 points

Comments (15)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Ibleedgreenmore's picture

September 10, 2016 at 01:18 pm

I like it and yes I am as excited as you are. Maybe its just me being a Pack fan but this team should be able to score many touchdowns this year.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Handsback's picture

September 10, 2016 at 01:26 pm

The first game for the next Super Bowl Champs...the Green Bay Packers!!!

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Burton Whitlow's picture

September 10, 2016 at 01:46 pm

Bak added to the injury list with a back injury - listed as questionable... Not good if he can't go

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
L's picture

September 10, 2016 at 02:13 pm

Saw that too... not good at all!

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 10, 2016 at 02:57 pm

Remember, there is no probable designation, just questionable, doubtful and out.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Since'61's picture

September 10, 2016 at 03:44 pm

Reynoldo - good point! Hopefully Bak can go. Thanks, Since '61

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Since'61's picture

September 10, 2016 at 02:09 pm

If Bak can't go the left of side our OL is basically gone. A few seasons ago we lost Bulaga who was going to be our starting LT due to injury and Bak came in as a rookie and did fine and has held the position ever since. Now we've lost Sitton our starting LG for the vaguest of reasons and maybe Taylor will come aboard and do, as well as Bak. The question now is who replaces Bak? I guess anyone but Barclay. Is Spriggs ready to protect ARs blindside? A week ago today we had one of best OLs in the league. Now we're 3 starters down (counting Linsley) and we haven't played a game yet. Another downside to releasing Sitton. Not exactly the way to start an expected SB run. Let's hope Bak can suck it up and get out there. Thanks, Since '61

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
croatpackfan's picture

September 11, 2016 at 05:47 am

There is some new info...
To support your point of view:
http://www.packersnews.com/story/sports/nfl/packers/mcginn/2016/09/10/mc...

Thanks...

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Since'61's picture

September 11, 2016 at 09:10 am

Croat - thanks for posting this latest information. I truly support TT but this has been a move I just could not agree with. It would be helpful if we can ever have a full disclosure about why the decision was made to release Sitton after the failed attempts to trade him. They could have kept him even at that point. Time to beat Jacksonville. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
PETER MAIZ's picture

September 10, 2016 at 03:02 pm

I'm excited about Cook and Nelson, but now Bakhtiari won't start, as he's been hurt. That leaves two question marks protecting the blind side. So it's shocking that on the first game, Sitton is going to be missed very dearly.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
jasonperone's picture

September 11, 2016 at 09:17 am

Bakh is starting per report

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
LeagueObsrvr's picture

September 10, 2016 at 11:04 pm

Slightly off topic, but has anyone read the article posted by McGinn about Sitton's release? It's well worth the read:
http://www.jsonline.com/story/sports/nfl/packers/mcginn/2016/09/10/mcgin...

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
porupack's picture

September 11, 2016 at 04:53 am

Yeah, I read that. Its mind-boggling for me that a GM and Coach threw in the towel on a top lineman, because they thought he would be a negative locker room guy. Seriously???? Isn't Sitton a professional? Aren't TT and MM top sports leadership, and couldn't have come up with a way to restore goodwill, and keep Sitton around? Geez, are we dealing with 16 year olds that haven't developed their frontal cortex, and assume that Sitton would create a toxic locker room? You mean there aren't 52 other guys that can also resist any 'bad-will' if Sitton would even had tried to gripe and grumble every day? I'm stunned by the decision, and it reflect poorly on MM and TT leadership skills.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 11, 2016 at 05:36 am

A porupack sighting!

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Since'61's picture

September 11, 2016 at 09:15 am

Porupack - good to hear from you again. Come around more often. I agree with your post. Thanks, Since '61

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0

Log in to comment and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.