Up the Gut: Dallas owned Green Bay's defensive tackles, and little wonder:
Green Bay attempted to address this by drafting Justin Harrell, but Harrell underachieved his rookie season and was placed on the PUP list before the start of 2008. What's left is a bona fide Achilles heel. With Ryan Pickett down with a knee injury, Colin Cole has seen considerable time at left defensive tackle. Cole aspires to the quickness of Howard Green and the stoutness of Craig Terrill. He's a true last available talent on a team that didn't see itself so thin at the position, but has been torn down by injury. On the right, Johnny Jolly is inconsistent but can penetrate and, given his youth, has rotation potential.
Marion Barber is a bruising and productive back, but watching the two yard bubbles he could pick a hole from, again and again and again, I think a back with more boom, more long potential, would have gouged Green Bay for even greater yardage. What he did do, though, was keep Dallas out of passing downs and neutralize Green Bay's pass rush. More on that shortly.
For Seattle, this is a matchup advantage. Despite mixed results, Seattle has one very good run blocker and two capable run blockers up the middle. Luckily, its best run blocker, Mike Wahle, also matches against the Packers best run stuffer, Jolly. Watching Cole, I believe this will look like a bit of a breakout game for Chris Spencer, as Spencer should have little trouble single blocking and freeing Floyd Womack to do what he's does best, pull block.
Red Party: Green Bay absolutely, positively, does not blitz. I recorded three blitzes all game. In 2007, the team rushed 4 on 76% of all plays. Green Bay's pass rush is off and on. In balanced downs, downs that can be pass or rush, most downs, they provided almost no pressure on Tony Romo. Only when it was clearly a passing down, like following this play
1-10-DAL 38 (1:37) F.Jones right end to DAL 33 for -5 yards (C.Jenkins).
did the Packers loose the dogs. It's a matter of technique and style. In balanced downs the Packers were hesitant off the snap and couldn't recover. In pass downs they exploded off the snap and could create pressure.
This plays into Seattle's hands two ways. First, where Seattle excels in pass coverage is at creating time. Green Bay's hustle pass rush, slow developing and dependent on cover, should allow slower, but zone carving players like John Carlson and Bobby Engram the time to get open. Watch for A.J. Hawk to match against Carlson. The Packers did not dedicate a DB to Jason Witten and won't commit one to Carlson. Hawk is a good cover LB, but after facing safeties and corners, I expect Carlson to rebound against Green Bay. Second, Charlie Frye is crap under pressure and good time can help mask his greatness weakness. Good time, and a rushing attack that can keep him out of passing downs.
Memories: Green Bay's safeties are active around the line, and it helps impact their run defense, especially along the edges, but also leaves them susceptible to deep passes. If Seattle produces deep, I would expect it come from the seem. Watch for Carlson, Engram and even Bumpus to attempt to exploit the deep middle.
Square: Defenses don't get more vanilla than Green Bay. The Packers have two formations: 4-3 and 4-2 Nickel. I witnessed one exception, a 5-3 on short yardage. One.
The Return of Ryan Grant: Despite a 28th ranked ALY ranking run blocking, Green Bay looked much stronger run blocking than pass blocking. To be clear, Dallas is also better at pass rushing than defending the run: 9th in ASR but 22nd in ALY. Still, I saw good line play by Green Bay and a back that looked like a shadow of himself. The back that took the league by storm in 2007, looks slower, stiffer but still upright. In the first quarter Adam Jones forced a Grant fumble with little more than a shoulder tackle. Grant's style and build never looked equipped for the NFL, and it's reasonable to think it's catching up with him. On the flip side, the Packers run blocking was rewarded when Brand Jackson took the field. Jackson runs a little like Julius Jones, not flashy but steady and productive.
Excuse Me: Despite a 22nd ranked Adjusted Sack Rank, the Packers pass defense looked abysmal. Pressure came early and often, and there wasn't but a handful of plays Rodgers really had time in the pocket. It's crystal after watching tape that Green Bay is a very poor pass blocking team held up by a pocket aware quarterback with a quick release and eyes trained down field. Rodgers is excellent at avoiding the first tackle and even under pressure looks for the open man. Quarterbacks like that have given Seattle trouble, and it's necessary that Seattle's secondary doesn't drop coverage even when the play looks like a sure sack. Seattle will get pressure, consistent, punishing pressure, but if the secondary fails it won't matter.
Greg Jennings versus Seattle's right-side secondary: There is no matchup, Jenning will produce. His incredible agility and strong set of open field moves is the perfect foil for two can't tackle DBs Kelly Jennings and Brian Russell. The key for Seattle is to minimize the damage or importance of Jennings receptions.
I'll post formation breakdowns tomorrow.