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Pass Protection Begins Strong After Rough 2009

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Pass Protection Begins Strong After Rough 2009

Pass protection was such a bugaboo for the Green Bay Packers in 2009 that to see them rebound the first preseason game of 2010 was a step in the right direction.

And to do it in the face of the heavy pressure the Cleveland Browns were bringing throughout the game was even better. It was clear that Cleveland coach Eric Mangini and his defensive staff came into the game stressing a heavy pass rush.

"Their defense came in with a lot of pressure as their emphasis, which is excellent work for our offensive football team," said Packers head coach Mike McCarthy after the game. "I thought our first, really, first three quarters, with Aaron [Rodgers] and Matt [Flynn] and the protection unit and the run blocking, it gives us some really good looks on the tape that we can learn from."

Rodgers was the most-sacked quarterback in the NFL a season ago having been taken down a league high 50 times, tied with Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger.

The Packers gave up 51 total sacks in '09 (including one on Flynn) including an alarming 37 through the first eight games. Things got better better in the second half of the season for a variety of factors. The offensive line functioned better with the return of Mark Tauscher, Rodgers got rid of the football a little quicker and the Packers offense utilized more multiple-receiver sets to give their quarterback more targets.

And through at least one exhibition game, the pass protection continued to orchestrate at a high level with everyone playing their part. The offense's first touchdown of the game was the perfect example with Rodgers recognizing the pressure the Browns were bringing and making the proper adjustments. The offensive line and running back Brandon Jackson responded perfectly.

"It just tells me I'm seeing the game I want to see it, to be able to check off there," said Rodgers after the game. "We did a nice job. We picked up the pressure there, bringing corner blitz. And we checked the protection, Brandon had a nice pickup and Greg [Jennings] ran a nice route to get open and a nice catch; it was on an underthrown ball. That felt good, definitely."

The result was a 25-yard touchdown strike to Jennings taking advantage of one-on-one coverage against Cleveland rookie safety T.J. Ward who was unable to keep up with the wide receiver down the right sideline.

The offense protected the quarterback in less than ideal conditions as well. It was only a preseason game, but they had to dig themselves out a 14-0 hole a mere 6:20 into the game thanks to the defense giving up an opening drive touchdown and another quick score following a fumble from Ryan Grant on Green Bay's first offensive play from scrimmage.

Plus they had to do it with Daryn Colledge and rookie Bryan Bulaga rotating at left guard every possession, a position where the first-round draft choice had only been practicing for the past week.

"It's going to take a while to get comfortable at guard," said Bulaga. "I just moved there Monday. It's going to take more reps, more snaps to really get feeling good there. That was game action out there at guard. You got to get adjusted to those types of things, but I thought overall I did some good things but made some mistakes. You got to get out the tape tomorrow, correct it and work at it."

The Packers gave up only one sack the entire game coming in the second half on a play in which Flynn arguably should have gotten rid of the ball. With adequate protection from the second-string offensive line, the play could be considered a coverage sack when Flynn couldn't find an open receiver.

In any case, the blitz pressure the Brown brought on Saturday night should serve as a primer for what the Packers will face in the regular season.

"To play against our defense every day in practice and then to come out here and see the amount of pressure we saw tonight, those are good things to help you prepare because I can promise Philadelphia is going to pressure us in Week 1," said McCarthy. "So there is going to be a lot of good film to learn from."

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (17) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

pat fermanich's picture

its early but will buaga during preseason move l-g lt.when needed or starting spot at season opener.

NYPacker's picture

I thought Bulaga did a nice job as well, both at LG and LT. However I wouldn't take much out of the entire pass protection unit just yet. Last preseason, Rodgers barely got touched and we all saw how that ended up in week 1.

Oppy's picture

Great reminder

PackersRS's picture


NickGBP's picture

Obviously this is late but I was going to make this exact point.

c.d. angeli's picture

I disagree. I think Rodgers did a much better job in getting the ball out. He didn't have much more time than he had last year, he is just timing out his patterns in the three step drops and working out of the shotgun.

For comparison purposes, look at the time Delhomme and Wallace had. Rodgers looks like an All-Pro in spite of his protection. Delhomme and Wallace looked like Pro Bowlers because of their protection.

fhornplayer83's picture

Fair point, but you also have to remember that the Browns brought a lot more 5+ man blitzes than Capers, who relied mostly on the 3 to 4 man rush.

ZeroTolerance's picture

If the team is considering a trade of one of the O-lineman, we'll likely soon see. Cutdown dates approaching rapidly.

nerd's buddy's laptop's picture

Get something for Barbre. And Colledge.

BigbyATTACK's picture

And maybe a coupon for some free pizzas for Bush.

Shootz's picture

Given that Barbre was villified as the 'turnstile' causing the majority of last year's early sacks, I doubt teams will be climbing over themselves to trade for him.

madman's picture

Fair point, but the Packers should get something decent for Colledge. An OLB would be nice right about now. Which brings up the other point: I'm not going to panic about the Packer D just yet. That was a package limited by circumstances (pre-season, injuries).

pat fermanich's picture

make sure coupons only last to season opener.

Bearmeat's picture

This is a good indicator for the season - our offense will be off the charts this year if we stay healthy.
Regarding Bulaga at LG, I think we should attempt to find so depth at OLB or Safety by trading Sitton/College.... maybe package with a draft pick or two?

Asshalo's picture

Flynn had all day to throw and didn't utilize it very well.

Nice job putting the line into perspective, Brian.

pat fermanich's picture

if someone gets hurt along the off. line the next 3 preseason games rt.or rg. does bulaga stay where he is, will back up be ok right side. left tackle is hardest pos. to play.i think we all no that.right coach we punt then?

Tarynfor12's picture

I think we need to keep as much depth on OL as we can until we know for sure just how the defense has moved on in second year.Some key players out but still.

If other teams feel our pass defense is still very suspect and the offense is keeping you alive,I'm going to try and decimate the OL which everyone in football knows is suspect based on last year.An injury here or there and Rodgers is and can be food for the dogs again.

The fastest way to take down an opponent is attacking the strongest link,and the Packs strongest link is the offense as a whole but the OL is the weakest part and can be dismantled.

Trading anyone from the OL at this point is the one thing we shouldn't even comtemplate.

YES,the play of our defense very much dictates our offense.

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