One-armed Knife Sharpener
- Apr 7, 2013
2019 Dallas Cowboys Primer Series
Week 5: Green Bay Packers
Week 5: Green Bay Packers
October 5, 2019
Introduction: This is the sixth in a series of primers that will take you through the 2019 Dallas Cowboys season.
Last Season/This Season: Green Bay finished the 2018 campaign with a 6-9-1 record. This season, the team has started out 3-1, good for first place in the NFC North.
Head Coach: Matt LaFleur was selected to take over after team brass elected to end the coaching regime of Mike McCarthy after thirteen seasons. At just 39-years of age, he is representative of the new youth movement among NFL coaches and can boast collaboration with both Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. His West Coast-based system relies heavily on a mobile pocket for the QB, play action off a zone blocking scheme and misdirection with heavy use of the backs in the passing game.
Coordinators: Nathaniel Hackett handles the offensive side and the defensive is run by Mike Pettine. Hackett does not call plays, but rather focuses on gameplan preparation and provides suggestions on how to assail opposing defenses from week-to-week. Pettine’s defense employs a 3-4 base but he prefers more nickel alignments with more DBs than LBers on the field at times to defeat spread attacks. His personnel groupings are numerous and vary from game to game, much like his former mentor Rex Ryan. The theme is aggressively rushing the passer but usually through crafty pressure packages rather than numerical mismatches via sending the house with a blitz. He will often defy conventional wisdom as he will give up natural size advantages in favor of speed which has led to some serious gaps in run defense. Sean Mennenga handles the special teams units while Strength and Conditioning is under the watch of Chris Gizzi, who is in his 21st year with the team.
Positional Coaches: The staff was mostly cleared out with the coaching change. The offensive assistants that survived were Luke Getsy (QBs) and Ben Sirmans (RBs). They have been paired with Adam Stenavich (OL), Alvis Whitted (WRs) and Justin Outten (TEs). The junior offensive assistants are made up of Jason Vrable and Kevin Koger (QC). Defensively, Pettine's support is comprised of Jerry Montgomery (DL), along with Kirk Olivadotti (ILBs), Mike Smith (OLBs) and Jason Simmons (Secondary). The second level defensive assistants consist of Ryan Downard (assistant secondary) and set of quality control assistants in Wendel Davis and Christian Parker. Mennenga has two aides in Maurice Drayton and Rayna Stewart. The strength and conditioning team working with Gizzi includes Mark Loval, Thadeus Jackson and Grant Thorne.
Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers is widely considered one of the top signal callers in the sport. He has a compact throwing motion coupled with top shelf arm strength and precise accuracy. What makes him dangerous are the varying ways in which he can make and execute throws to manufacture big plays. In the pocket, he is a power thrower and use his arm talent to send passes anywhere on the field. He is at his most dangerous on the move as he can throw lasers even when off balance and from different release points. Accuracy is a strong point and he is particularly adept at launching Hail Mary passes with a high apex that drop down to the target area. At the line of scrimmage, he is excellent at reading the defense and has developed a special skill for creating free plays, either by catching a defense substituting late with too many men on the field or by drawing the rush off-sides by varying his cadence. Most of his best plays come off script, where his mobility breaks apart defender assignments and create opportunities for his receivers to cut routes and freelance. Negatively speaking, he will often dance in the pocket and hold the football excessively long, waiting for a big play and exposing himself to punishment. There has been a flap about him clashing with LaFleur about the idea of audibles that take the control away from the controlled plan. It has yet to materialize as a major issue thus far, although Rodgers' general productivity has gone done from previous campaigns. Backup Tim Boyle is inexperienced and has yet to throw an NFL pass. His preseason work has shown some promise as he has flashed a strong arm and persistence.
Running Backs: This is a group that has been shuffled repeatedly due to availability issues. Starter Aaron Jones was suspended to start the year and now Jamaal Williams is out due to a concussion off a cheap shot from the Eagles' Derek Barnett last week. Jones has natural running qualities as a ball carrier and has shown poise in action. He has a nice blend of slashing speed and power but does not always hit the holes with precision. Despite being undersized, he is a willing pass protector as well. Third round pick Dexter Williams will now have to move forward and absorb the spare carries left behind when or if Jones needs a break. He has some good tools to work with and will likely see his first NFL action. At fullback, Dan Vitale gets subpackage snaps. He is a bullish runner if he does get to carry the ball. He stays in as a blocker often. When he is sent downfield, he can inflict damage after the reception as he has averaged over fourteen yards on his three opportunities. Ex-Seahawk Tra Carson was promoted from the practice squad to give the Packers some extra manpower if needed.
Wide Receivers: The toe injury to star Devante Adams is damaging and the team will have to scramble to regroup as he was a key focal part of the passing game and always has the eye of the quarterback. He will likely be replaced by Geronimo Allison. Allison has a lanky long build and is capable of defeating press coverage with good head fakes and mobility, but lacks an extra gear to pull away to present a deep target. Marquez Valdez-Scantling will be the other starter. He has the height-weight-speed boxes checked and build-up speed that can be dangerous if he is ignored. He is not as effective in space and is a bit of a body catcher. Jake Kumerow, Darrius Shepherd and Allen Lazard round out the depth of this unit. Kumerow has become a preseason folk hero for Packers fans. He is lanky and shows the ability to win in tight quarters. He has questionable short area quickness and does not possess sharp route awareness. Shepherd was a surprise as he made the team after being a tryout player in camp. He is more of a slot specialist who makes his living returning punts and kicks. Lazard is a king-sized big body who has been developing as an inside-the-hashes player but lacks explosive qualities.
Tight Ends: It is clear that Jimmy Graham is a player in decline compared to his hey day as a Seattle Seahawk. Nonetheless, he still knows how to use his frame to box out defenders and is still quicker than most linebackers when it comes to getting downfield. His blocking is still an issue as he looks disinterested at most times. Marcedes Lewis is in his 14th NFL campaign. His best quality is that he is a smart veteran who really understands his blocking assignments and can execute. As a receiver, he can struggle to get separation if he is asked to stretch the seam or push the boundaries. Robert Tonyan is a very impressive athlete who is still developing and has demonstrated some tools to work with. While he is crude executing his routes, he can benefit in cases where he gets a lack of attention.
Offensive Line: The health of right tackle Bryan Bulaga is the big story here. He has been coping with a shoulder injury suffered last week against the Eagles. At his best, he is a tough physical player who understands the game and possesses sound technical smarts as he is able to align his big body into the correct leverage angles and can use power when necessary. He does struggle at times with speed, especially with rushers who can quickly adjust their arc to the passer. Bulaga blocks with attitude and technical skill, but fights to move laterally and is top heavy. The plan seems to suggest he will be a go. If he cannot or tires out, it is likely guard Billy Turner slides to his spot. LT David Bakhtiari is a an elite talent that still carries a blue collar label after seven seasons. Few are better workers to finish and his technical skill ranks with the best as a pass rush defender. In the run game, he is a sticky blocker but won't muscle defenders at the line. He will be trying to play on a bad ankle and it is likely it will affect him significantly. At center, Corey Linsley has very good core strength, a strong jolting punch that helps him at the snap. Post snap, he is able to step up right into position, take proper angles and then use his base to anchor. The guards consist of rookie Elgton Jenkins and the aforementioned Billy Turner. Jenkins has been strong as a rookie, quietly doing his job and moving defenders off the ball. He will not dazzle with power or quickness and is more of a one-level blocker. Turner has overachieved so far and may be shedding his label as a lazy player as his athleticism has shined at times. Lucas Patrick can play several positions and fill in anywhere in the interior. The remaining depth of Adam Pankey, Alex Light and Cole Madison is largely untested.
Defensive Line: This is a lean group that has had issues holding the point against the run which is crucial by design. After Mike Daniels was released, it left fourth year pro Kenny Clark alone to pace this unit. He is a big man who doesn't fit the typical nose stereotypes, but he uses good angles at the snap and can make himself a nuisance. He is beginning to emerge as a presence but he has some athleticism limitations that keep him from wrecking gameplans. Left end Dean Lowry does an excellent job of attacking straight through guards and tackles in run support in he guesses right at the snap count. Montravious Adams enters this game with a questionable designation thanks to a shoulder injury. He is a big man who plays low and can be disruptive provided he can keep his head up and follow the action. Tyler Lancaster has been used as a fill-in across the line. Lancaster is a powerful player who does not fit the preferred roles and can get over his head when asked to do too much. Rookie Kingsley Keke has twitch to beat the snap but has not translated that into production.
Linebackers: After recognizing the pass rush as a problem, the Packers went out and bought the two best rushers their money could buy in Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith. They have received a great return on the financial investment as the pair have combined to put up 7.5 sacks in four games. This is an interchangeable pair that is asked to do a variety of things depending on the personnel grouping. The outside linebackers are used like chess pieces and help give the scheme versatility especially when in pass defense mode. First round pick Rashan Gary, Kyler Fackrell and former Raven Tim Williams are in reserve. Gary has flashed potential thus far. Fackrell can get home to the QB but needs to be kept clean. Williams was just snagged off the waiver wire from Baltimore. Inside, the Packers have options but need more consistency. Jake Martinez could be considered the team MVP as much the inside action is designed to funnel towards him. He is a thick thumping tackler who has good instincts and passion for the position. He lacks twitch and has lack of foot speed which can be exposed in lateral pursuit. Oren Burks is an intriguing talent that has been held back by injury. He is trying to play through a partially torn pectoral muscle. He is quick to react and can fill a variety of roles. He has concerns when he is not free to run. Reserve B.J. Goodson oozes athleticism but fails to put it all together to make an impact. Rookie Ty Summers needs more seasoning before he is ready to participate in full.
Secondary: Left corner Jaire Alexander is a budding superstar. After a quarter of the season, he has allowed only 11 or 27 targets to be completed, including six pass breakups plus a forced and recovered fumble. Despite not having top level length and height, he uses his twitch, instincts and anticipation to make plays. He is to the level where the team trusts him to shadow the opposition's best wideout. His running mate Kevin King is nearly a mirror opposite, with the impressive physical traits that allow him to muscle receivers when playing press. His lack of top shelf recovery speed can be exploited. He is battling a groin injury and is listed as questionable. If he cannot play, there are a number of choices that can be designated as the next man up with Tony Brown scratched due to a hamstring problem. The remaining depth outside is composed of savvy veteran Tramon Williams, Josh Jackson, Ka'Dar Hollman, Chandon Sullivan and Tremon Smith. Williams has limited speed as a 13-year veteran, but still has enough if his assignments are managed with support to keep him away from deep solo duties. The remaining three talents have yet to earn the right to be trusted by the staff. SS Darnell Savage is well on his way to becoming a legitimate weapon at his position, which is rare. He is physical and fast but his instincts put him in the best position for success. His skillset allows him to be moved around the formation, both inside the tackle box or in the slot. FS Adrian Amos has good diagnostic abilities when matched up in close quarters and he has underappreciated range when asked to cover deep. The DB group is expected to be able to shift inside or out, as there is just one safety reserve in Will Redmond. Redmond just cleared concussion protocol.
Specialists: Veteran kicker Mason Crosby is generally reliable and still has long distance range. J.K. Scott struggled last season but has righted the ship this year and is performing very well. He has a talented leg which allows him to kick for not only for distance but also hang time. He is averaging 48 yards a kick and also has been placing his punts with accuracy with just two touchbacks on the year.
QB - Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle
RB - Aaron Jones, Dexter Williams, Tra Carson, Jamaal Williams*
FB - Dan Vitale
LWR - Geronimo Allison, Jake Kumerow*, Allen Lazard, Devante Adams*
RWR - Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Darrius Shepherd
TE - Jimmy Graham*, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan
LT - David Bakhtiari, Alex Light
LG - Elgton Jenkins, Adam Pankey
C - Corey Linsley, Lucas Patrick, Cole Madison
RG - Billy Turner
RT - Bryan Bulaga*
LDE - Dean Lowry
NT - Kenny Clark, Tyler Lancaster
DT - Montravius Adams*, Kingsley Keke
LOLB - Preston Smith, Kyler Fackrell*
LILB - Oren Burks*, B.J. Goodson
MLB - Blake Martinez*, Ty Summers
ROLB - Za'Darius Smith, Rashan Gary, Tim Williams
LCB - Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Chandon Sullivan, Tony Brown*
SS - Darnell Savage
FS - Adrian Amos, Will Redmond
RCB - Kevin King, Tramon Williams, Ka'Dar Hollman, Tremon Smith
P - J.K. Scott
K - Mason Crosby
LS - Hunter Bradley
KR - Darrius Shepherd, Tremon Smith
PR - Darrius Shepherd
*-Injured player, status to be determined
Prediction: Cowboys 24, Packers 21