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It’ll start in the trenches

5 min read
It’ll start in the trenches

Hi II, I’ve noticed some fans and national pundits commenting about the Packers defense. They rank low in yards per game and in the middle on scoring defense, but it helps to look a little deeper. I looked at the points scored by Packers opponents versus the average points scored by those offenses over the year. With two exceptions the Packers defense held opponents at or below the season average. The two exceptions were Philadelphia and the LA Chargers, coincidentally the two losses.

Or not so coincidentally. But I see your point. There are times the Packers’ defense does not pass the eye test. I don’t disagree with that. I’ve been talking about the explosive plays since Week 2. But the play at crunch time has been invaluable. Yes, the margin is small that way, but it cuts both directions. If Jaire Alexander hangs onto the pick that hit him in the hands with two minutes left, the narrative is the defense is back on track.

What do you see as the biggest weakness on both sides of the ball for the Packers that need to be improved the last part of the season and into the playoffs (hopefully!)?

On offense, it’s cutting down on the penalties and finding concepts on third down that can be executed in rhythm, so third downs don’t become scramble-and-hope plays as often. On defense, it’s finding the proper balance between having the personnel it takes to stop the run and cover tight ends who release over the middle from those run formations.

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but watching the MNF game I saw how physical the 49ers’ defense can be. I don’t feel like we can match that for 60 minutes. Please, tell me something to make me feel better about my concerns.

It’ll start in the trenches, and to me, the Packers’ offensive line has been a major strength of the team and has played at a less-than-optimal level in only two games out of 10 (Chicago, LA). The Packers should be as rested and healthy as possible to take their best shot in a tough road game. That’s all you can ask for. It’s also a week-to-week league. Never forget that.

Andrew from Fullerton, CA

Hello, I feel like Blake Martinez unfairly gets a huge amount of blame for the run D issues. I understand coverage isn’t his forte, and there are challenges shedding blockers at his weight, but it can’t be all on him. Carolina has one of the best middle linebackers in the league, yet they still struggle mightily against the inside run. I just wanted to point this out as evidence that it’s not all on Blake. Also, Kenny Clark had his best game Sunday and that helped minimize McCaffrey’s damage.

I don’t get the piling on Martinez either. No, he’s not making a bunch of turnover plays or TFLs, and he has his limitations, but his brains have bailed out this defense plenty of times (the final play Sunday being the latest example). Moreover, the Packers have yet to pair him with someone inside who can help elevate the group’s play in the middle. I’m interested to see how things progress defensively with Ibraheim Campbell in the hybrid role moving forward, and if Clark’s game Sunday was the start of something.

Dan from Vadnais Heights, MN

I’ve been waiting for the bye week to ask… how is Matt LaFleur’s Achilles’ tendon doing? Any restrictions?

I think it’ll still be awhile before he’s playing basketball again, but I haven’t seen any hitch in his giddy-up for several weeks.

Patrick from Inver Grove Heights, MN

Hey Insiders, isn’t it great that we fired our whole strength and conditioning staff? I mean, look at the health of this team after 10 weeks. During the bye you should do some II self-review and see which big preseason story lines have materialized and which ones have vanished…like some fans’ incessant demands that the S&C staff be fired.

Everyone’s always looking for someone to blame. I guess it makes them feel better.

It has been mentioned that one aspect of Pettine’s defense is frequent rotations to keep players fresh, but this doesn’t seem to be happening. Venture an explanation as to why?

It happens a fair amount through the middle portions of games, but the Packers have played a bunch of down-to-the-wire contests already, and the best guys are going to be on the field predominantly with the game on the line.

Wes from South St. Paul, MN

It would be great to see Aaron Jones in the NFL MVP conversation. He has earned at least that much. All the stats I have seen don’t even have him in the top five RBs and some not in the top 10 in the NFL. I think one thing that impacts the outlook is that AJ shares the load with JW while most of the others are single backs and get virtually all the carries. How does AJ have a chance to offset that?

If he keeps doing what he’s doing, and if the Packers keep winning, the attention will take care of itself. He’s on pace for 1,500 yards from scrimmage and 22 touchdowns. The latter number would set a franchise record for a team that’s been around 101 years. Let’s see how it plays out.

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