A Pretty Good Read

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A Pretty Good Read

Postby Mackie2001 » Thu Sep 17, 2009 6:27 pm

If the injury gods give the Packers a break this year, you have to love the Packers prospects of winning the division and going deep into the playoffs. I hope Barbre gets up to speed quickly. The Packers were already chipping and double teaming to help him out in the first quarter. It's apparent that having Barbre go up against Kampman in training camp practice didn't prepare him for the quick DE's. Kampman's style is entirely different.

Packers Team Report
Yahoo! Sports

INSIDE SLANT

They may not pack a wallop like the depth-laden linebacker corps or possess the pizzazz of the pick-happy secondary.


Yet, the brightest revelation with the Packers’ new 3-4 scheme after one regular-season game might just be the high rate of play of the oft-overlooked defensive line in such a system.


“There are going to be times when they’re not going to be in the most glamorous position, and they have to do their job and they have to stay accountable,” first-year defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “And, when it is time for them to be on the move from basically the same look, then we expect them to be disruptive.”


The expectations are rising as the Packers get set to host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.


Most telling of the bang-up job produced up front in Green Bay’s 21-15 comeback win over the Chicago Bears last Sunday night was the distribution of game balls to defensive players the next day. Two of the three were awarded to ends Cullen Jenkins(notes) and Johnny Jolly(notes), while none was given to the defensive backs, who had three of the team’s four interceptions of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler(notes).


“This is a player-driven game,” said first-year defensive coordinator Dom Capers, on the impact of the scheme he instituted. “You can say what you want, but players make plays. I’ve always believed that. It’s about your key players being able to make critical plays at key times.”


Jenkins and Jolly rose to the occasion in Week 1 with a combined 14 tackles, three tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits, a sack and an interception.


What’s more, their performances didn’t diminish with a ton of action. Both players wound up playing upward of 60 snaps, the majority of them as the two down linemen in the nickel package.


“Those guys were in shade alignments a lot, so they’ll have a chance to make more of those plays when they’re in those offset shaded alignments as opposed to head up on a guy,” Trgovac said.


It was hard to differentiate who had a better first time out this season between Jenkins and Jolly.


Jenkins picked up where he left off from a dominant first four weeks of the 2008 season that was abruptly halted by a torn pectoral muscle. The athletically versatile veteran is equally adept playing outside and inside, and he was a standout both rushing the passer (sack, two QB hits) and stopping the run (two tackles for loss).


“There’s a lot of opportunities for these (linemen) to make plays in this defense,” Trgovac said. “What teams have to do is they have to decide, is Cullen going to be moving this way or that way, or is he going to be straight? And, we want to give him a lot of the same looks so they can’t tell based on what the defense looks like. That’s Dom’s whole deal in there.”


And, Capers couldn’t have had Jolly better aligned for the most impressive play in a game filled with big plays by the defense Sunday.


A defensive tackle in the Packers’ old 4-3 front, the 6-foot-3, 325-pound Jolly tracked Bears running back Matt Forte(notes) coming out of the backfield and expertly sniffed out a middle screen. Jolly stuck his left hand out as Cutler delivered the pass underneath and assertively grabbed it for an interception in a third-and-goal situation from the Packers’ 8-yard line.


“There’s not very many guys his size that can make that one-handed grab,” Trgovac praised.


Those were likely points taken off the scoreboard for the Bears in a nip-and-tuck game that wasn’t decided until the final 75 seconds, when Aaron Rodgers(notes) threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings(notes).


Jolly’s immense effectiveness - a co-team-high eight tackles to go with the interception - at the outset of the season wasn’t envisioned six weeks earlier. That’s because B.J. Raji(notes), the No. 9 overall pick in this year’s draft, was projected to be the opening-day starter at left end.


Raji, though, was a no-show for the first two weeks of training camp because of a contract holdup. Coupled with an ankle injury suffered by Raji late in the preseason, the starting job instead went to Jolly, and he doesn’t seem interested in relinquishing what’s becoming a good thing.


Series History: 11th regular-season meeting. Series is tied 5-5. The inter-conference opponents are playing for the first time since 2005, a 21-14 Bengals victory in Cincinnati. The Packers are 4-0 in games played at Green Bay, with the most recent matchup a 24-10 outcome in 1995. The Bengals’ only wins in Wisconsin came in two games played at Milwaukee, in 1977 and ’86.


NOTES, QUOTES

• The Packers are taking a wait-and-see approach this week with Mason Crosby(notes), their lone kicker who surprisingly appears on the injury report for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.


Crosby is afflicted with an abdominal strain, a lingering injury that caused the third-year player discomfort while he was lifting weights on the players’ day off Tuesday.


“It’s just something that needs some rest,” head coach Mike McCarthy said.


Consequently, Crosby didn’t do any kicking Wednesday and doesn’t expect to until Friday. He attributed the injury to perhaps overuse as the team’s only kicker in a long preseason.


With Crosby optimistic about playing Sunday, no move seemed imminent for the team to add a kicker.


• Two days after saying Allen Barbre(notes) would remain the starter at right tackle, McCarthy was encouraged Wednesday that the highly criticized young player had moved on from his inauspicious starting debut against the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.


“I think you put the most salt into your evaluation of the way they perform, and I would say (Wednesday’s) practice would be an indication if he’s over it,” McCarthy said. “I felt he was over it watching him practice (Wednesday).”


Barbre struggled mightily in pass protection, mostly against Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye(notes), who had two sacks and five hits on quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Barbre also had lapses in his run blocking.

Still, McCarthy didn’t pin a litany of mistakes by the Packers offensive line all on Barbre.


“He wasn’t alone. This is not Allen Barbre’s fault,” McCarthy said. “We had a number of players on offense that did not have a winning performance. They’ve been corrected, and we expect them all to move on, and as an offense, we need to play a lot better than we did Sunday.”


• A few Packers players didn’t take kindly to Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco’s(notes) desire Wednesday to celebrate a touchdown by jumping into the stands at Lambeau Field on Sunday.


“I’m just really focused on going out there and having some fun and looking to be embraced by the Packers fans, and hopefully, I can Lambeau Leap,” Ochocinco told Wisconsin reporters. “It’s no disrespect, especially coming from me. You know how I am - I just go out there and have fun. I enjoy the Dawg Pound (in Cleveland) when I jump in there. They embrace me. I’m looking for the Cheeseheads to embrace Ocho also.”


Packers receiver Donald Driver(notes) and linebacker Brady Poppinga(notes) feel Ochocinco won’t get such a warm welcome from Green Bay fans.


“We know that won’t happen,” Driver said. “Our fans are not going to allow it. So, it won’t happen.”


Poppinga added about the prospect of an opposing player pulling off a Lambeau Leap: “I don’t think the fans will be very pleased about that and they’re going to reject him. I think they’re going to throw him back into the field.”


• Featuring the Packers on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” reality series probably won’t anytime soon.


The league on Wednesday circulated the rundown of average ages of teams’ opening-day rosters, and the Packers are the youngest team for the fourth straight year. Their average age is 25.70, just ahead of the Indianapolis Colts and Kansas City Chiefs, who both are at 25.89.

McCarthy has turned down overtures in the past from HBO to have his team on “Hard Knocks” because of its preponderance of youth.


“No disrespect to ‘Hard Knocks,’ it’s not on my radar screen,” McCarthy said.


• Chad Ochocinco uttered this tongue-in-cheek sentiment about going against Packers veteran cornerbacks Al Harris(notes) and Charles Woodson(notes) on Sunday: “It doesn’t matter who I see, they all will get the same treatment, which is a blessing. That’s the reason games are played on Sunday. They’re going to miss church, so I will gladly bless them throughout the entire four quarters.”


• The Packers get their first crack at an AFC North opponent since going winless in four games against the division in 2005, when a 4-12 season cost coach Mike Sherman his job.


Green Bay’s losses to AFC North foes that season at home were 26-24 to the Cleveland Browns and 20-10 to the Pittsburgh Steelers and on the road were 21-14 against the Bengals and 48-3 against the Baltimore Ravens.


By The Numbers: 2—Packers starters on offense this season who were in the starting lineup when Green Bay last played the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 30, 2005 - receiver Donald Driver and left tackle Chad Clifton(notes).


Quote To Note: “I don’t want to be Debbie Downer about it, but obviously we didn’t perform well. It doesn’t hurt as bad when you win. … (But) you never want to be that close, you never want to go down to that last drive. But, it’s a tough sport, it’s the NFL, it’s what happens.”—Center Jason Spitz(notes) on the Packers’ winning their season opener 21-15 over the Chicago Bears on a late 50-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings on Sunday night despite a miserable performance by the offense.


STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Aaron Rouse(notes) will get another shot at running with the starting secondary Sunday, when the Packers host the Cincinnati Bengals.


Rouse is replacing strong safety Atari Bigby(notes), who will be out at least four weeks because of a sprained knee sustained in the season-opening win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.


Rouse steps in with nine starts under his belt his first two years in the league.


In those prior stints as an injury replacement for either Bigby or free safety Nick Collins(notes), Rouse showed flashes as a playmaker with four interceptions, highlighted by a team-record-tying 99-yard return for a touchdown on a pick of the Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning(notes) last season.


Yet, Rouse has been flawed technique-wise in the past, due in part to being a taller player at 6-foot-4.


Player Notes


• WR Greg Jennings is dealing with a wrist injury this week. Jennings jammed his left wrist early in the season opener Sunday night but played the entire game, culminating with his game-winning 50-yard touchdown catch in the final 75 seconds. The team’s top wideout wore a protective brace as he had limited work in practice Wednesday, but the injury isn’t expected to hold him back in Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.


• K Mason Crosby is an unusual casualty on the injury report this week. Crosby has an abdominal strain that flared up while he was lifting weights Tuesday. He didn’t kick Wednesday but feels he will be OK for the game. The Packers don’t have another kicker.


• DL B.J. Raji went through the full practice Wednesday and is progressing toward making his NFL debut this weekend. Raji, the team’s top draft pick, was held out of the season opener because he wasn’t fully recovered from a sprained ankle he suffered in the final preseason game.


• CB/KR Will Blackmon(notes) also was a full participant Wednesday and could be ready by the weekend after he was deactivated in Week 1. Blackmon, the team’s return specialist, is trying to get over a bruised thigh he suffered Aug. 22.


• RB Brandon Jackson(notes) remains sidelined indefinitely with an ankle injury he sustained Aug. 28. The outlook for Jackson to be healthy enough to play Sunday isn’t promising by him not practicing Wednesday. That would leave Ryan Grant(notes) and DeShawn Wynn(notes) to handle the running chores for the second straight game.


Game Plan: An anticipated air shootout never came to pass in the Packers’ season opener against the Chicago Bears, thanks to numerous mistakes by the offenses on both sides. This matchup with the Bengals has all of the makings of being decided through the air. Like what happened Sunday night, though, so much will depend on whether both the Packers unit directed by Aaron Rodgers and the Carson Palmer(notes)-led Bengals cast continue to stay in a funk when plays need to be made. A shaky Bengals secondary gives Green Bay a better chance of getting its explosive act together on the heels of Rodgers’ 50-yard touchdown strike to Greg Jennings for the late game-winner against the Bears. Palmer, on the other hand, must contend with a jazzed-up Packers defense that mostly flourished its first official time out in the 3-4 scheme, picking off four Jay Cutler passes. A deeper Bengals receiving corps, led by Chad Ochocinco and newcomer Laveranues Coles(notes), will test a short-handed Packers secondary (safety Atari Bigby is out with a knee injury) more than the Bears did. Since mercurial running back Cedric Benson(notes) can’t be counted on to be much of a factor, the Packers will look for the Bengals to spread things out with multiple receivers, which will mean a second straight game with a heavy dose of the nickel package. Since Palmer and Co. are accustomed to playing 3-4 defenses, the Packers have to be assignment sure with their blitzes and time them right.


Matchups To Watch: Packers CB Al Harris vs. Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco. Good friends off the field figure to be locked up more often than not on the field Sunday, and that could be taken quite literally. Harris is prone to be handsy in coverage on receivers and is a favorite target of officials, and Ochocinco is coming off a season opener in which he was penalized for both holding and pass interference as he pushed off against the Denver Broncos’ Champ Bailey(notes). So, expect as much jersey tugging as playful trash talking between these two wily veterans. Harris had the better of Ochocinco (nee Johnson) when the teams last met in 2005 at Cincinnati, as the flamboyant wideout had a humbling five catches for 62 yards in the Bengals’ victory. Ochocinco is determined to do a Lambeau Leap in his first regular-season appearance in Green Bay, and his best chance to reach the end zone ironically would be lined up to the left on Harris’ side instead of being on the opposite side against a more effective Charles Woodson.


Packers RT Allen Barbre vs. Bengals LDE Robert Geathers(notes). The leash presumably is short with Barbre after his abysmal starting debut against the Chicago Bears last weekend, but head coach Mike McCarthy absolved Barbre of full blame for the Packers’ deficiencies in pass coverage and cast a vote of confidence by keeping him in the starting lineup. Still, Barbre was fundamentally out of whack in trying to slow down aging Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, who had two sacks and three more hits on quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now, Barbre gets a younger and bigger, if not faster, opponent with Geathers. The experienced Bengals starter has a knack for being disruptive - his big reach resulted in a tipped pass by Brett Favre(notes) that was intercepted when the Bengals prevailed against the Packers in 2005. A second straight poor performance by Barbre could have general manager Ted Thompson ready to hit speed dial and reach out to Mark Tauscher(notes), Barbre’s longtime predecessor who is waiting on a call as a free agent.


Injury Impact: The only anticipated lineup change Sunday due to injury will be at strong safety, where Aaron Rouse takes over for Atari Bigby, who will be on the mend at least four weeks because of a sprained knee suffered in the season opener.


• WR Greg Jennings is nursing a jammed left wrist this week, an injury incurred in the first game, but the team’s No. 1 wideout expects to be OK to play Sunday.


• DL B.J. Raji (ankle) and CB/KR Will Blackmon (thigh) will need to get through the full week of practice before they’ll be considered for active duty this weekend. They were held out of the opener after practicing only on a part-time basis last week. If Blackmon isn’t cleared for Sunday, WR Jordy Nelson(notes) would again handle the return duties.


• RB Brandon Jackson appears to be a long shot to play Sunday. He has yet to return to the field since suffering an ankle injury in a preseason game Aug. 28. DeShawn Wynn would remain the only backup to Ryan Grant.
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