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Rodgers, Wells and Jackson: Keys To Protection

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Rodgers, Wells and Jackson: Keys To Protection

With the Packers set to face the Steelers in the Super Bowl, everyone from fans to the media, and yes the team have all taken to re-watching the 2009 match-up between the two teams.

Obviously, there are many differences this time around. There are key personnel differences on both sides of the ball for both teams and both defenses are playing much better football.

One thing that hasn't changed is the key trio of Aaron Rodgers, Scott Wells and Brandon Jackson as the three main components in setting the pass protection for the Packers' offense.

When these two teams last met, the Packers' first series was a disaster. Rodgers, the offensive line and running back Ryan Grant did a terrible job sorting out even the simplest blitzes. Indeed, on one play Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau sent the cross blitz that we've seen the Packers run a thousand times and the offensive line and Grant didn't pick up either linebacker.

It was an inauspicious beginning to the game, to say the least.

After that initial series however, Rodgers and company started to settle down. And after Rodgers hit Jennings for the Packers' first touchdown (a play which included a block by Chad Clifton that could have been called a hold) McCarthy basically shelved the running game and went to his 3rd down personnel almost exclusively. Brandon Jackson proceeded to have arguably his best game as a pro, and he barely touched the ball.  Again and again Jackson identified the blitz packages LeBeau was throwing at them and again and again Jackson picked up the free rusher. Center Scott Wells, working with Rodgers, sorted out the various looks LeBeau was giving them and went to work.

McCarthy went so far as to offer unsolicited praise for all three during his Monday press conference following the game:

I thought Scott Wells and Aaron, just from an adjustment standpoint in our protection scheme, did an outstanding job. I thought the protection unit was outstanding, starting up front with the offensive line. I thought Brandon Jackson played as well as any running back I have seen in pass protection. I thought he played at a very high level.

While I would caution against expecting the Packers offense to have the same level of success it had last December against the Steelers, Packer fans should feel pretty good about the fact that Wells and Jackson will be helping Rodgers once again when it comes to pass protection.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (35) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

MarkinMadison's picture

What's your take on Starks' ability in pass pro, given the little bit we've seen? You have to think that he will have to do pass pro a few times just to keep the Steelers honest.

packeraaron's picture

He's at least shown he's willing, unlike Grant. That's about the best I can say for him. He actually did a fine job on a couple of plays in Atlanta.

NoWay Jose's picture

Interesting point about Starks. With all the media hype surrounding the running styles of our rookie, BJax could be quietly due for way more playing time this week.

Its pretty reasonable to assume we are going to see a heavy dose of the wide-open packers, rather than the I-formation Quinn Johnson-Starks sets that have become common. And BJax is still more valuable there.

jk12to85's picture

Starks seems to "get it" so far. Been impressed with him catching and blocking.

Ken at UWM's picture

We hit on a couple screens that game as I remember it. Feels like we carried that over into Seattle the following week, creating the "holy shit, we can finally execute a screen" story line. I could be making that up though.

Wells played a fabulous game, notably walling off Hampton on Grant's 25-yd(ish) touchdown run.

(The lesson of this comment is to never let facts get in the way of your opinions)

Ken at UWM's picture

Jackson: 1 catch, 4 yards = FAIL by me

packeraaron's picture

Please tell me you're not serious. Did you even read the post?

Ken at UWM's picture

Woah - settle down. I skimmed over the part where you mentioned that he barely touched the ball. I thought I remembered him making a play in the pass game. Wasn't questioning the post, was poking fun at myself. We're all on the same team here.

packfan4u2c's picture

agreed... i have been way more impressed with starks this season then jackson.. last year doesnt count for this season!

James Rarick's picture

I really like the match-up with the Steelers in every area. I don't see an area where the Packers don't match up better, especially on a carpet in what is essentially a dome. They really can't match our speed in any area.

It is the best match-up of the playoffs so far, I think.

jeremy's picture

One problem could be the Steelers ability to break the pocket and extend the pass play. The Packers have had mixed results with this so far this season. Hopefully their recent improvement containing Cutler and Vick will continue.

I think one huge difference will be that Wallace won't just be able to simply outrun Shields the way he over matched Josh Bell. Shields is also a threat to defend or intercept the pass, something Bell or Bush never were.

James Rarick's picture

Yeah, I agree about Ben getting outside the pocket. That is really the only issue. But after Vick, don't think it is so important. And after stopping Turner, Forte and McClain, I don't see a problem with the Steeler offense.

I brought this up, because if protection is good, the game will be over.

jay's picture

Most effective way we stopped Turner was to get such a lead that Turner didn't get a carry in the 2nd half. Same applies here.

jorge's picture


Ken at UWM's picture

No was saying my memory of that '09 game was a fail, not BJax.

Jackson is an outstanding 3rd down back -- soft hands, great blitz pick-up. The prototype.

packfan4u2c's picture

jackson wasnt a FAIL he just didnt play that well this year.. especially while running the ball

WoodyG's picture

BJ could very well play a huge role in this game ...... If the running game is unproductive early, it's not at all out of the ordinary for MM to dump the running game & throw, throw & throw some more ..... This is where JS is on the sidelines & BJ becomes a key part of the passing attack with blitz pick-ups, a screen or 2 along with a draw or 2 .... Also, BJ knows ball security .....

JS may do some damage late in the game running & killing the clock but I'm think'in BJ is a key for the 1st 3 quarters .....

packeraaron's picture

It's been awhile - but I agree with absolutely everything here. ;)

ZeroTolerance's picture

Also, the team is not afraid to change things up and not be predictable (Shields starting over Peprah last week). It would be quite a surprise to not factor Starks in very much, and play Jackson. Steelers could think that it's air time, then Jackson has a day running the ball.

CSS's picture

"if the running game is unproductive early"

I believe it's the inverse of that scenario. McCarthy will spread them out early, force Polumalu into coverage and not let him 'Charles Woodson' our offensive line of scrimmage.

Jackson plays a role either way, I agree. But Polumalu is supposedly 75% or less. I would rather force their injured playmaker into the secondary than have him at the line of scrimmage.

WoodyG's picture

" McCarthy will spread them out early " .... Maybe right from play 1 on offense .... Pittsburgh's DBs cannot consistently stay with the Pack's WRs ..... Route-running & speed will work to GB's advantage ..... Quick hitters with an occasional down-field toss ..... Fast field, perfect weather conditions (closed roof) all work to GB's advantage ......

Finally, if all else fails, GB can still lean on it's 'D' .....

The Steelers should just concede .... They've got little chance of pulling this one out.

packfan4u2c's picture

JS is a good player but you have to admit.. his running game was not very successful this year.

Starks has done a better job at RB postion and there is no dout about that

cole's picture

I haven't seen enough of Pitt to know. How is there secondary? How have they played lately? Obviously, Polamalu is very good but is there a chance the pack WR's could dominate them if Rodgers is protected?

CSS's picture

Secondary is mediocre at best but they manufacture a great pass rush to compensate.

Their offensive line is mediocre at best WITH Pouncey, definately medicore without.

Don't miss tackles on Mendenhall, (like LeRoy Butler said) tackle Rothlessberger on his right side forcing him to pull the ball down (where you're more likely to actually sack him).

Everything I've read says Polumalu is gimpy, and will be even with the break. Spread em' out, make him run.

Chad Toporski's picture

Here's a good place to start:

Jmac34's picture

There are two things that worry me about this game. The Pittsburg pass rush and the Pittsburg run game. I still have doubts about the Packers run defense and especially the Packers O-Line

BubbaOne's picture

-Pouncey most likely out.
-Polumalu 75%
-Boomer Esiason said Big Ben should have been picked off 4 times vs the Jets
-Steelers didn't look that good vs Ravens
-Steelers secondary mediocre
-Packers have way more playmakers than the Steelers
-Packers make Steelers one dimensional by scoring early and often
-MM game planning
-Capers defense...

Packers 31 Steelers 16

Bearmeat's picture

PIT's Super Bowl experience is a big advantage for them. Say what you want about Big Ben, but he's clutch in big games.

They don't have to worry about our run game - can we pass pro long enough to exploit their secondary?

Can we get Big Ben on the ground? Can we stop the run?

Methinks this is going to be a nail biter. I would have rather played NE, NYJ, or BAL...

packerwest's picture

I would like to see at least 4-5 screen calls to Jackson and Kuhn out of spread formations and always have an outlet option for Rogers with the Steelers pass rush.Starks has proved himself to be a decent outlet option also. No 3 man rush calls against Big Ben as he will eat the Pack alive if given 7-8 seconds to throw as we did on hus last drive in last years game. Finally don't forget the tight end pass on first down on the goaline we used in the Bears game last month..Packers should dominate this game as the Pittsburgh offense cannot keep up with Rogers and company when they and MM are in sync..Packers 34 Steelers 17

BLACK HAWK's picture

Well said Bubbaone, forgot that he for once have the advantage is special teams.

SpiderPack's picture

I agree with most everything here, especially spreading the field early & forcing the opposing hair-goddess out of the box. But whoa guys, we gotta keep'em honest with enough runs or Rodgers won't stay in that special confidence that's needed to perform at his best. It's an impressive front 7 the Steelers have with LeBeau calling blitzes. So lets not forget the human/psychological component of our QB, and what this whole season has shown us about him. In blowing my own horn i would mention that I was one of the lone rangers who called it that way right from the beginning when RG went down (he pats himself on the back). Props to CD Angeli for seeing the same thing about this team. I now believe that MM knew all along how much running game was needed to make us click, he just didn't trust his only halfback with 20-25 carries/game both for fear of injury, and bc he knew BJax wasn't good enough.

bomdad's picture

Didnt Deshawn Wynn have a TD on a draw play That was a great play call.

packeraaron's picture

It was Ryan Grant - and it was a brilliant call and perfect execution.

thepretzelhead on twitter's picture

Great reading here.

Now stop. Look around, take a breath, look at the calendar, look at yourself in the mirror, feel grounded to the Earth, reflect on 1973-1993, take another breath, and really think about the following like it's the first time:

!! !!!!!!!! WE ARE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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