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Midseason Grades

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by calicheesehead, Nov 9, 2005.

  1. calicheesehead
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    calicheesehead Cheesehead

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    Posted Nov. 09, 2005


    Mid-term grades: Offense behind team’s struggles
    With 15 touchdowns at the halfway point of the season, Brett Favre is on pace to throw at least 30 touchdowns for the ninth time in his career. Evan Siegle/PackersNews.com




    By Rob Demovsky
    PackersNews.com

    The general consensus going into this season was if new coordinator Jim Bates could get the Green Bay Packers’ defense into the top half of the NFL, the Packers — with their top-notch offense — would cruise.

    After all, last season the Packers finished 10-6 and won the NFC North division with a defense ranked 25th out of 32 NFL teams.

    Halfway through Bates’ first season, he has worked his magic. Bates has taken what was a shoddy defensive unit and turned it into the ninth-ranked outfit in the NFL. About the only knock on Bates’ defense is a lack of turnovers. The Packers have just 10 takeaways this season. Only five teams have fewer.

    Still, it’s safe to say the Packers’ defense has held up its end of the deal.

    Yet at the halfway point of the season, the Packers are all but out of playoff contention at 1-7 — their worst record through eight games since 1986.

    The reasons are many: Failure to adequately replace last year’s two starting guards, Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle. Multiple injuries at the offensive skill positions. Almost no running game. Untimely penalties.

    An offense that last season ranked third in the NFL is stuck at No. 17 this year.

    Those struggles are reflected in the Press-Gazette’s annual midseason position grades. On offense, only the quarterback position received a grade higher than a C. Brett Favre, who has thrown 15 touchdowns and a league-leading 14 interceptions, received a B-minus. With a running game that ranks 30th in yards and dead last in average, the running backs received a failing grade. The offensive line, which bears almost as much responsibility for the woeful running game, received a D-plus.

    All three position groups on defense — line, linebackers and secondary — received grades in the C range.

    Grades for coaching and personnel moves were D-pluses.

    Quarterbacks

    Brett Favre, with few legitimate NFL weapons at his disposal, has the NFL’s 18th-best passer rating (82.9). If he doesn’t improve on that, he would finish with his lowest rating since the 2000 season (when he was at 78.0) and the fourth-lowest since he became a starter in 1992. He’s fallen that far largely because he’s thrown an NFL-high 14 interceptions, although three of those were the result of tipped passes and at least four others could be pinned on bad routes or bad plays by receivers. With 15 touchdowns at the halfway point of the season, Favre is on pace to throw at least 30 touchdowns for the ninth time in his career. Only two quarterbacks this season have thrown more touchdowns. His offseason core strength training seems to have paid off. He continues to be able to make plays on the move even at 36. He doesn’t seem to have lost any zip off his fastball, and many NFL coaches and personnel men still believe Favre is reason enough to fear the Packers. Rookie Aaron Rodgers has seen only mop-up duty, so the team doesn’t know much more about him than they did this summer. Third-stringer Craig Nall hasn’t played.

    Grade: B-minus.

    Running backs

    This position has been decimated by injuries, but even before starter Ahman Green was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 25 with a torn quadriceps tendon and top backup Najeh Davenport was shelved on Oct. 10 with a broken ankle, there were no signs of production. Green, at 28, looked like he was slowing down and managed only a 3.3-yard average on 77 carries. Davenport, who was placed on IR for the second time in four years, averaged only 3.5 yards on 30 carries. It’s possible both have played their last football for the Packers. Even Tony Fisher, the third-string back, has injury issues. He’s out indefinitely with a broken rib. ReShard Lee, who started Sunday against Pittsburgh in place of Fisher, fumbled on his second carry of the game. Samkon Gado, the team’s fifth tailback, is the starter after rushing for 62 yards on 26 carries against the Steelers. It’s no wonder the Packers rank 30th (out of 32 NFL teams) in rushing yards and dead last in rushing average (3.0 yards per carry).

    Grade: F.

    Receivers

    Losing Javon Walker to a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 was a killer. It not only took away the team’s top playmaker, but it made life tougher on Donald Driver, who became the focal point of opposing defenses. Still, Driver has performed admirably in the No. 1 role. With 41 catches for 596 yards, he’s on pace for his third 1,000-yard season in the last four years and the second-highest catch total of his career. He’s had a few drops, including one against the Steelers that was intercepted, but otherwise probably can’t give the team much more than he has. Robert Ferguson, who in training camp begged for a bigger role, flopped when he got it after Walker went down. He was responsible for at least three of Favre’s interceptions and possibly a fourth. He has missed the last two games due to a knee injury. Rookie Terrence Murphy was off to a promising start but sustained a season-ending spinal cord injury in Week 4. Little Antonio Chatman has performed better than expected with 27 catches for 326 yards and as many touchdowns (three) as Driver, but the bottom line is he’s not a starting-caliber receiver. In-season pickups Andrae Thurman and Taco Wallace have contributed nothing.

    Grade: D-plus.


    Tight ends

    Bubba Franks got a $5 million signing bonus this summer but missed two full games and was an emergency player in a third because of a knee injury. He’s had one big game — a seven-catch, 62-yard, one-touchdown day at Cincinnati — but otherwise hasn’t done much. Injury-prone David Martin appeared poised to have a break-out season — he had nine catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns in a three-week stretch — but then hurt a hamstring and has missed the last two games. Free-agent pickup Donald Lee (11 catches, 112 yards, two touchdowns) has been a pleasant surprise. If all three tight ends were healthy at once, they’d be a formidable group.

    Grade: C.


    Offensive line

    Beginning in training camp, it was painfully obvious that low-level free agent Adrian Klemm was going to struggle to replace departed left guard Mike Wahle, and rookie seventh-round pick Will Whitticker was going to take time to develop as a replacement for departed right guard Marco Rivera. Whitticker has made slow, but steady progress. His four penalties (all false starts) ties left tackle Chad Clifton (two false starts, two holds) for second-most among offensive linemen. Klemm leads the way with five penalties (two holds, two false starts and one facemask) and has struggled, especially in the running game. He hasn’t mastered the art of pulling like Wahle did. Center Mike Flanagan struggled until undergoing sports hernia surgery on Oct. 5. Scott Wells was inconsistent, especially in a start at Minnesota, in place of Flanagan, who has played much better since his return. Right tackle Mark Tauscher has been the most steady lineman. He picked up the first two holding penalties of his six-year NFL career, but both appeared to be shaky calls. This group bears at least some of the responsibility for the pitiful rushing numbers.

    Grade: D-plus.

    Defensive line

    Getting pressure on the quarterback has been a problem, but this group has been strong against the run. Defensive tackle Grady Jackson needed a few games to knock off the rust but has been a force the last few weeks. The rotation of defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins, Colin Cole, Corey Williams and Kenny Peterson has worked well. Jenkins and Peterson have shown play-making ability while Cole and Williams have been steady. Aaron Kampman has been good enough at one defensive end to play the majority of the snaps, while Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila still struggles against the run at times. His sack total (3½) is well off his usual pace.

    Grade: C.

    Linebackers

    Middle linebacker Nick Barnett has fit well into Jim Bates’ scheme. With 109 tackles (70 solo, 39 assists), he’s on pace to break Mike Douglass’ team record of 180. Barnett’s four penalties (two holds, one pass interference and one roughing the passer) is the second-most among defensive players. Late-summer pickup Robert Thomas has made a few big plays but has given up just as many on the weak side. The strong-side spot has been in flux because of multiple knee injuries to Na’il Diggs, who has played in only two games. Paris Lenon and rookie free agent Roy Manning have shared time, but neither is in Diggs’ class. Rookie fourth-round draft pick Brady Poppinga has shown promise as a pass rusher and could play an increased role in the second half.

    Grade: C-minus.

    Defensive backs

    Veteran cornerback Al Harris has been the kind of steady, consistent performer the coaching staff loves. In short, he’s been everything second-year corner Ahmad Carroll hasn’t been. Carroll, who has shown flashes of playmaking ability with a pair of brilliant interceptions, remains a penalty waiting to happen. His 10 infractions (three pass interferences, three illegal use of hands, two defensive holds, one offsides and one delay of game) make him the most penalized player on the team. Rookie safety Nick Collins has been a sure tackler and decent in coverage but has dropped several chances for interceptions. He looks like a long-term starter. The other safety, Mark Roman, has been much improved over last season but still misses his share of plays. The nickel and dime spots have been up in the air and don’t appear any more settled a week after nickel back Joey Thomas was released. Rookies Marviel Underwood and Mike Hawkins have a ways to go. A lack of big plays and too many penalties from this group have hurt an otherwise solid defense.

    Grade: C-minus.

    Specialists

    Kicking problems probably cost the Packers two games. The kicker-holder combination of Ryan Longwell and B.J. Sander botched an extra point and a 42-yard field goal in a one-point home loss to Tampa Bay, and then Longwell missed two field goals indoors in a three-point loss at Minnesota. The normally reliable kicker hasn’t found a comfort zone with his new holder. Sander, meanwhile, has passed every test as a punter after sitting out all of last year. The Packers have gotten nothing out of their return game, and coverage has been shaky.

    Grade: D.

    Coaching

    Mike Sherman was dealt a cruel blow with the injuries to his playmakers, but even before those players went down, his team was underachieving in many areas. Where he ultimately has failed as a leader is that he has been unable to prevent the same types of mistakes from recurring. Each week, the Packers continue to be handcuffed by costly penalties, mental errors and killer turnovers. His hiring of Bates did exactly what he hoped it would. That is, it made the defense respectable. Bates has gotten production out of players who had been slugs in the past, especially on the defensive line. Sherman might be coaching for his job in the second half, or it’s possible his fate already has been decided.

    Grade: D-plus.

    Personnel moves

    First-year General Manager Ted Thompson’s initial draft produced two immediate starters — Collins and Whitticker — but it could be argued they got their jobs by default. Given how Klemm, one of Thompson’s few moves in free agency, has struggled, perhaps Thompson should have paid Wahle. In-season pickup Donald Lee has helped, but Thompson inexplicably went two weeks with an open roster spot when surely there had to be a playmaker out there somewhere that could have helped his depleted team. Clearly, he’s building for the long haul, but so far his moves have netted little in the way of results.

    Grade: D-plus.



    I agree with most of his statements. I'd bump the LB grade up a bit and TT's grade but otherwise fair.
  2. Zero2Cool
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    Zero2Cool Cheesehead

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    Hindsight 20/20? Yeah. In the same line of thinking I should buy a Lamborghini for everyone on this forum!! Wait, I don't have the MONEY. This writer reminds me of a the kid who constantly asks his mom for a toy and she doesn't have the cash but doesn't UNDERSTAND when there is not a dollar to spend, you can not spend it.
  3. HatestheEagles084
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    HatestheEagles084 Cheesehead

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    kinda harsh on the defense don't ya think
  4. P@ck66
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    P@ck66 Banned Banned

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    This is my favorite part...But the grade is too generous...

    Coaching

    Mike Sherman was dealt a cruel blow with the injuries to his playmakers, but even before those players went down, his team was underachieving in many areas. Where he ultimately has failed as a leader is that he has been unable to prevent the same types of mistakes from recurring. Each week, the Packers continue to be handcuffed by costly penalties, mental errors and killer turnovers. His hiring of Bates did exactly what he hoped it would. That is, it made the defense respectable. Bates has gotten production out of players who had been slugs in the past, especially on the defensive line. Sherman might be coaching for his job in the second half, or it’s possible his fate already has been decided.

    Grade: D-plus.

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