Welcome to the first edition of Packer Tracker, a weekly Packer evaluation piece that’s the newest evolution of the former “What Do I Know” series. There’s a lot to talk about after a disappointing 31-23 loss to Detroit in Week 5. Here’s this week’s Packer recap and preview of Week 6.
1. Rodgers’ Struggles
Not every day a quarterback goes 32-for-53 passing for 442 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions and I tell you he struggled. Aaron’s stat line was impressive, but it doesn’t tell the full story. There are days when he lifts the entire team, and there are days where he seems off, it happens to the best of us. Fact of the matter is, there were players wide open several times in the first half and A-Rod eight missed the throw or didn’t see them. His miscues forced the team to repeatedly attempt field goals for the second week in a row. The team just can’t seem to finish drives off, and that’s on Rodgers as much as anyone. The offensive line is playing well, there’s a plethora of pass catchers, and three capable running backs. The offense has no excuse to struggle like they have been.
2. Aaron Jones is a Beast
Speaking of capable runners, Aaron Jones has proved once again that he is the best runner on the team. He had nine touches on the day, which he turned into 59 yards. He has a burst and an explosion that separates him from Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery. Jones catches a lot of flak for his pass protection, but there’s a case to be made that he’s been the most consistent pass protecting back the team has deployed so far this season. The common narrative is he gives up sacks like a grandma gives out food, but that hasn’t been the case this season. Mike McCarthy has said there are reasons that Jones isn’t playing more. Those reasons better be damn good, because the man is a flat out beast with the ball in his hands. The more touches he gets the better off the team will be.
3. Defensive Quality
It might not seem like it after the Lions scored 31 points, but the Packers’ defense has been solid this season, especially compared to years past. The Lions only gained 264 yards on the day, and they were repeatedly gifted phenomenal field position. First, the Packers were robbed of the ball when the refs ruled a punt had bounced off Kevin King. That turned into a one-yard touchdown run. Then, a Rodgers’ fumble gave them the ball on the 22 yard line. That was followed by yet another fumble in Packer territory that gifted them a third touchdown before half. All three first half touchdowns by Detroit were off of turnovers in which they got the ball inside the 30. Outside of turnover possessions, the defense allowed just 10 points after pitching a shutout in Week 4. That’s not half bad.
4. Kicking Nightmare
No way around it, that was a hellacious game for Mason Crosby. Four missed field goals and a missed extra point equals 13 points worth of botched kicks, in a game the Packers lost by eight. If Crosby has a normal day at the office the Packers are walking out with a win despite their struggles. More than a few people wanted Crosby gone after that game. Don’t be a fool. One game does not displace his body of work. If his struggles continue at the rate of the Detroit game then we can talk, but he deserves the chance to redeem himself and play the way we’ve seen him play for years.
5. Injury Roundup
The Packers are dealing with a plethora of injuries, but they are, for the most part, not long term issues. Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison both missed the Detroit game but have good chances at returning in Week 6. On the defensive side of the ball, Jaire Alexander, Bashaud Breeland, and Jermaine Whitehead all sat out last week too, and the return of any or all of them would be a positive development. Other than the players that have been moved to IR, such as Jake Ryan and Muhammad Wilkerson, no players are dealing with multi-week absences. Things bode well for the team’s health in the coming week.
6. Haha’s Future
“Right now, I’m playing every game like it’s my last. I don’t think I’m going to be here next year.” That’s what Haha Clinton-Dix said about his time in Green Bay. It’s unclear why he made the statement, or if he knows something the rest of us don’t. Surely he’s seen several former teammates leave and have success, such as Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde. The thought of Haha not being on the defense currently is scary, we have safety struggles as things are, and we’d assuredly need a replacement to come via a draft pick or a free agent acquisition. Nobody from the Green Bay organization has responded to Cltinon-Dix’s comments, and it’s unclear if they will or not. Here’s hoping he’s wrong and we see him in green and gold next year.
7. McCarthy’s Gone Stale
I’ve been a pretty strong advocate of Mike McCarthy for a while now. Any smart fan should at the very least question McCarthy now. He’s been criticised as being the benefactor of two great quarterbacks. Don’t let it be lost on you that the Brett Favre led Packers went 4-12 the season before Mike McCarthy arrived, and Aaron Rodgers became what he is under the guidance of McCarthy. It’s a chicken vs. the egg argument, as to who deserves credit. The past few weeks though, the offense looks stale an uninspired. Even the best bread goes stale, and McCarthy’s offensive scheme appears to lack the creativity that’s present across the rest of the NFL. He said they revamped the offense in the offseason, but it certainly seems like defenses know everything Rodgers and McCarthy are going to do before they do it. At what point does a new face in town make the team better in and of itself, because defenses will be thrown off, allowing Rodgers to capitalize. This isn’t me calling for McCarthy to be fired, but it is me saying things better get straightened out, or it may be time to pull the plug on the winningest coach in team history.
8. Lotta Season Left
This season feels early similar to the R-E-L-A-X time of 2014. If you don’t remember, there was widespread panic amongst Packer fans after the team started 1-2. They went on to finish 12-4. Let us also not forget the 2016 season, that saw that Packers rally from 4-6 to make the NFC championship. The Packers should be sitting at 4-1 right now. They were robbed of a victory against Minnesota and they stumbled over their own feet against Detroit. No, Green Bay hasn’t looked like the class of the NFL, but they’re .500 through five weeks and, if just a few things straighten out, they’ll be able to hold their own against anybody.
9. Week 6: San Francisco
The Packers are favored to win against the 49ers on Monday night. They’re favored by a lot. OddsShark has them favored by 9.5 points, and most experts expect them to clear the margin. Despite a 22-0 win over Buffalo, the Packers haven’t had an all around statement game yet this season. A solid performance in a nationally televised game ahead of a bye week could do wonders for the team’s confidence. Anything less than a win will be disheartening, for fans and the team alike.
10. Thrill of Victory, Agony of Defeat
Being a fan is about highs and lows. The emotional rollercoaster makes the NFL season a drama in which we all believe things could swing our way. Even if we don’t believe it likely, we hold on to any and every shred of hope we can. I read a line from St. Josemaria Escriva the other day that said simply, “Faith, joy, optimism. But not the folly of closing your eyes to reality.” While he certainly didn’t mean to apply that line to the Packers, it seems to fit quite well. The team isn’t in a great position now, and it would be foolish to simply expect greatness from them the rest of the way. That being said, there remains reason for faith in the team, so we shall stay cautiously optimistic as long as we can.