November 8, 2016

Green Bay's Rodgers, McCarthy NOT on the Same Page

How is it possible the leader of your offense doesn't have a clue if one of his star receivers will be available for the game, how much he will play or what his injury status is?

It shouldn't be possible, but that was the case Sunday afternoon in the Packers embarrassing 31-26 home loss to the lowly Indianapolis Colts. Aaron Rodgers was dumbfounded post-game in an apparent shot at the coaching staff.

“There were some things that happened out there tonight that were obviously very frustrating. Didn’t quite understand what Cobb’s status was, so we got him in there the last couple drives, but yeah, it was frustrating,” said Rodgers.

What we may be seeing is a small fracturing of the QB/coach relationship - the two individuals with the biggest impact on how the Packers prepare and perform every week. 

More post-game comments from McCarthy and Rodgers reflect differing point-of-views on what plagued Green Bay Sunday.

Aaron Rodgers said the Packers had "uncharacteristically low energy," and followed that up with, "This is what we get paid to do. I would hope the guys would say I bring it every week. I don't know what the lack of juice was. We've got to look deep in the mirror there because that's not acceptable."
Aaron Rodgers makes sure to clarify that he brings energy - but doesn't feel the same about his teammates. Message sent.

In a completely opposite take the next day, the Packers head coach disagreed with his quarterback in an almost passive-aggressive way.

“After really reviewing the video, I actually thought the energy was pretty good,” McCarthy said Monday. "Our guys played with a lot of energy, but we were not clean in a number of different situations, and they took advantage of it.”

Now, does this sounds like a quarterback and coach on the same page with each other, their football team and what needs to be fixed? 

Until Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers get aligned on expectations, what is working, what isn't and find a way to motivate this team - it will continue to be an uphill battle for a team that's already battled lots of adversity and now heads out on a three-game road trip that will decide their playoff fate.

November 5, 2016

Arman Three Pack Preview: Mid-Season Review and Colts

Lately, the Packers have been using the non-RB backfield carousal of Ty Montgomery, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb - How long can the Green Bay sustain it and how long will they stick with it?

Adam: The difficulty with this strategy is getting the opponent to actually respect the run game. Ty is the best option for executing run plays in the dual threat attack of RB/WR. The obvious benefits are keeping the offense fast pace, getting Rodgers into a rhythm and taking advantage of mismatches with WRs in the backfield. Using the Patriots as an example of excellence deploying this tactic i believe it is sustainable as long as McCarty and Rodgers can recognize the right opportunities to run the ball against soft fronts. Liken it to Brady and Faulk, Brady and Vereen, and most recently Brady and White. All extremely successful combos of stud QBs and scat backs. The difference is the Pats can change pace with LeGarette Blount and the power run game which McCarthy is more than familiar with as a play caller. My hope is that Burks who flashed well in preseason and was recently signed to the practice squad could be the more conventional option. Regardless, when in doubt go with your strength which is a great offensive line and MVP caliber QB. I am confident Coach Mac and Arod will figure out the best formula to get into the post season and make a run.

Shane: The Packers can and will sustain this spread look and it will only get more dangerous when James Starks returns. When healthy, Starks brings the quickness and speed that will make defenses honor the run game, which the Packers will need down the stretch. This offense has the potential to explode with big plays in the second half if McCarthy can strike a bit more balance. If not, when the Packers run into defenses who can man up, tackle well and get pressure with a four-man rush (i.e., Seattle, Minnesota) they will be stagnant and have difficulty moving the ball consistently.

Mitch: ​The Packers can sustain it for as long as they need to as long as Aaron Rodgers plays the way he did last Sunday at Atlanta. With the trade deadline having come and gone, it seems they will try and stick with it until Eddie Lacy is lifted from IR.

Who is the Packers' MVP through the first eight games of the season and why? Most disappointing player?

Rookie Blake Martinez is the defenses' signal-caller
Adam: Wow, great question. The defense, even with the astronomical amount of injuries, has been a strength despite struggles from the offense. You may want to sit down for this...I believe Blake Martinez is the Packers mid-season MVP. His ability to call plays and consistently be in the right place and make tackles has almost been taken for granted considering he is a rookie and is working with a unit playing defensive backs 5, 6 and 7 on the depth chart. Mike Daniels would be a close second for his consistency in both run support and pass rush with a lack of spine depth. But back to Martinez, the 4th round rookie plugged in as a starter from basically day one and asked to replaced an All-Pro in Clay Matthews at the weakest position on the defense of a championship contending team. Talk about pressure. I think that says it all and he had been rock solid, fast, reliable and instinctive versus the run and in coverage allowing Don Capers to make play calls to protect his depleted secondary. If you didn't notice I'm kind of a fan of Blake Martinez.

Shane: Davante Adams. He's been the most consistent receiver and sure-handed target for Aaron Rodgers, which he's badly needed. His performance against the Bears was the best by a Packers receiver in the last 16 games, I don't care that the Bears defense stinks - Adams was in straight up beast mode all night. Most disappointing would be Aaron Rodgers. I can't remember him not only missing as many throws as he has but missing them badly. The decision making from #12 has also not been what we'd expect. And finally, he's lacked in the clutch. Two clear opportunities to put the team on his back and carry them to victories - both failed and by a lot. I expect him to win at least one of the two, so that's disappointing. Good news for Packers fans is that Rodgers looks to have snapped out of it.

Mitch: MVP through seven games for me is Nick Perry. Perry has been disruptive in the run game and has been our most effective pass rusher putting pressure on opposing QBs. On a banged up defense, Perry has been the bright spot. Most disappointing player is tough, but until his recent outbursts, I would say we all had higher hopes for Aaron Rodgers. The first five games he just did not seem himself. I think Aaron has turned the page and will end up being in contention for MVP of the league.

Predict the Packers W/L for the second half of the season and explain any surprise wins/losses
Green Bay's upcoming 3-game road trip will define its season

Adam: I believe the Packers will go 7-2 down the stretch to finish 11-5. This is a unified, tested group with a good mix of veteran leaders and young hungry players that know what the lies ahead for the second half of the season. The Packers have progressively gotten better at developing throughout the season with the intention of peaking at the right time. This team is fully capable of that. I expect the Pack to sweep the remaining 3 games against the division with including the noteworthy revenge matchup with the Vikings on Christmas Eve. The toughest games remaining mostly based on matchup are the Eagles and at the Titans. The Eagles have a higher frequency of sub package and mis-direction plays which the Packers seem to struggle with. The Titans on the road will be a surprisingly tough matchup against a playoff contending ground and pound team with a mobile QB similar to the problems Dallas presented.

Shane: I think the Packers finish 6-3, for a 10-6 overall record. At Philadelphia and at Washington will be difficult road tests, especially the former so I expect Green Bay to lose one of those. The young Titans will always present a tough matchup, so I wouldn't be surprised if that's a loss. Seattle at home will be a playoff-like atmosphere, especially knowing the Seahawks tend to peak late in the season, but the Packers still win that one. Lastly, the Packers will lose one of the final three division games, likely at Detroit.

Mitch: I think Green Bay finishes 6-3 for an overall record of 10-6. The injuries on defense are going to cause us to lose a game or two that otherwise I think we would take care of business in. A potential surprise will be on the road against Philadelphia. Tough defense, hostile environment, and the last of back-to-back-to-back road games.

What is one key matchup to watch in this weekend's Colts/Packers game that will have the biggest impact on the outcome?​

Adam: I believe the Packers offense won't have any difficulty putting up 28 to 35 points against a Colts defense that is short on playmakers. Andrew Luck despite a suspect line and run game is capable of keeping the Colts in the game with his grit and arm talent. To me the key matchup will be between the Colts tide ends and somewhat WRs down the middle of the field against the Packers linebackers and safeties. In blitz situations and play action scenarios Luck will look for his pass catchers down the seem against zone coverage from safeties or TE vs. linebacker man coverage down the middle. This doesn't happen if the Packers stop the run game and get consistent pressure on Luck.

Indy's T.Y. Hilton has game-breaking speed
Shane: Green Bay will need an answer for T.Y. Hilton. No one on the defense can matchup with him 1-on-1 so I expect Capers to play a similar look as he successfully did against Julio Jones last week. But that will leave other WRs 1-on-1 against the Packers' 5-6-7 CBs, so the Packers will need to pressure Andrew Luck. Getting Clay Matthews back will pay dividends and I think the defense crushes Luck with five-plus sacks in this game, plus and INT or two for good measure.

Mitch: Biggest impact is going to be Colts passing game versus our injured secondary. Will Green Bay get Quentin Rollins back? Will Goodson pass concussion protocol? With limited options in the secondary, will the defense be vulnerable to the long ball to T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief? We could have a shootout on our hands.

Score prediction for Indianapolis Colts Game

Adam: Packers 31-20...Randall plays and has a big day over 100 and a TD, while Ty hovers around the 10 catch for 80 yard territory...Secondary is desperate for  a pick, Gunter had been playing great and comes through with a pick

Shane: Packers score a big win at home, gaining momentum for the three-game road trip: 37-21. Davante Adams catches 8 for 135, including a 40+ yard TD. The defense gets after Luck and the Colts poor offensive line, forcing two turnovers and notching five sacks. This is a dismal team and if the Packers don't smell the blood at home and win by two TDs, I'll be very concerned.

Green Bay 34
Indianapolis 23

October 8, 2016

Packers, Giants Primed for a Sunday Night Shootout

Two of the NFL’s most depleted and undermanned secondaries face off Sunday night against quarterbacks with a combined three Super Bowl titles, three Super Bowl MVPs and nine Pro Bowls. Expect fireworks, scoring and lots of big plays.
Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers
Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers face off on SNF
7:30 p.m. on NBC

Green Bay’s pass defense ranks 29th in passing yards surrendered while opposing quarterbacks have tallied the fourth best QB rating against the Packers (105.3). No one is surprised – no. 1 corner Sam Shields will miss his third straight game with a concussion, Damarious Randall has been bothered by thumb and groin injuries that he’ll play through and safety Morgan Burnett returns from his hamstring issue.

Green Bay’s defensive back field has looked confused, clumsy and at times completely incapable of stopping above-average receivers. Detroit’s Marvin Jones and Minnesota’s Stefan Diggs shredded the stat sheet with gaudy numbers in two consecutive weeks – what will one of the league’s most explosive WRs do? Odell Beckham Jr. wants to shut up his critics and what better time than Sunday Night Football against a under-performing Green Bay secondary?

For New York, it might be worse. Eli Apple, the first round CB taken in this year’s draft did not practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday – his chances to play are slim.

Same goes for the Giants’ other starting CB, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin), who was active against the Vikings but only for emergency purposes. Fill-in Trevin Wade started and Sam Bradford completed multiple big plays against him in the Vikings’ 24-10 win. And lastly, two Giants safeties – Nat Berhe (concussion) and Darian Thompson (foot) haven’t practiced this week and are not likely to play.

Among the Packers WRs, Randall Cobb is off to an underwhelming start to 2016, 12 catches for 132 yards and no touchdowns. Expect that to change Sunday night. Cobb shines when the lights are bright and with Jordy Nelson seemingly back to near full juice, Cobb should have more room underneath to exploit New York’s below average linebackers.
Randall Cobb Sick Catch Against Detroit Lions
Randall Cobb is poised for a big game Sunday night

If the Packers can establish and commit to running the ball early, it will create single coverage and open up big play opportunities for the WRs. The over/under is a mere 48,which I believe will be easily eclipsed.

Green Bay pushes on the gas pedal and wins a shootout, 45-31 on the shoulders of another 4 TDs from Aaron Rodgers and a big day from Randall Cobb (100+ yards receiving, 2 TDs). Beckham Jr. gets his too, with 150+ receiving yards and 2 TDs, but multiple New York turnovers are impossible to overcome in front of the giddy Sunday night Lambeau crazies.

Follow Arman's Titletown Talk on Twitter @Titletown_Talk and on Facebook @TitletownTalk.

September 10, 2016

Packers’ youth and veteran motivation at an all-time high

Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville, the Packers will field their youngest 53-man roster in the last 30 years and open as 8-1 odds to win Super Bowl LI.

They would be the youngest team ever to win it all. To have a shot, inexperienced players will need to outperform expectations and veteran motivation will need to burn hotter than ever.

Ted Thompson is betting heavily on both, but will they pay off? Let’s examine both rookies and players with less than two years of NFL experience, followed by veterans who have the most to prove.

Packers' Defensive Middle Lacks Depth, Experience 
Green Bay will start rookies in two of their weakest position groups on the roster – Blake Martinez, a rookie fourth-round pick from Stanford, will wear the defensive coach helmet from starting ILB and call the shots for a unit that ranked 15th in total defense last year.
Rookie Blake Martinez will be the on-field signal-caller

Reviews on Martinez have been strong, but can he really be expected to play with both NFL-starter physicality and sharp on-field awareness for a Super Bowl contending team and this quickly? The coaches think so and they better be right, with only three total ILBs on the 53-man roster.

Next up is Dean Lowry, the other fourth-round rookie (Northwestern), who will start at DE in place of suspended Mike Pennel (eligible to return week five). The Packers 2016 first-round pick Kenny Clark (UCLA) will back up both Lowry and Mike Daniels, but has health concerns after missing the last two preseason games due to a back injury. He has virtually zero game experience and is 20 years old.

The only silver that lines this paper-thin group of big boys is defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ preference to play lots of nickel and dime packages. Capers will need to be as creative as ever, especially the first four weeks or if injuries hit thereafter. And if injuries hit in the first four weeks, it will get ugly. It might get ugly anyway for teams committed to the run who have star RBs (see Minnesota Vikings).

The second-year DB duo of Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall will need to continue improving in a strong defensive secondary that looked dominant at times this preseason. Don’t be surprised to see either make eye-popping plays and finish with 4-plus INTs. The key is limiting big plays from opposing offenses.
Green Bay Packers Defensive Depth Chart
Green Bay Packers defensive depth chart features two rookie starters

The offensive line is young too, and Thompson is gambling by relying on rookies as two of his three core backups – Jason Spriggs, a second-round pick, and Kyle Murphy, a sixth-rounder. If the last few years are any indication, both will be thrown into action and expected to protect the best QB in the NFL at some point. Not ideal.

Packer Veterans Each Have Unique, Motivating 'Shoulder Chips'
While the youth of Green Bay brings up more questions than answers, the veteran core may be among the most motivated group in the NFL – here’s what’s at stake for the familiar names.

Aaron Rodgers is coming off his worst year as a starter when many questioned his ability to play at a high level without key WRs. The chip on his shoulder is bigger than ever – he came to camp in the best shape of his career and with Nelson back, he’s the popular choice for NFL MVP.

As mentioned, Rodgers will throw to WR Jordy Nelson in a regular season game for the first time in more than 12 months, whose return created the most conversation among NFL writers of any player outside of Colin Kaepernick and Tom Brady this offseason. Nelson is under immense pressure to return from his ACL injury and confirm that he was the missing weapon on a Green Bay offense than grossly underachieved in 2015.

Upfront, three starting offensive lineman are in contract years, i.e., playing for a big paycheck – historically nothing motivates a player more. Green Bay is expected to lock up at least two of those during the season, starting with LT David Bakhtiari, who will command big money. T.J. Lang and JC Tretter round out the starting trio whose contracts expire after 2016-17.

Sam Shields out to prove he's an elite shut-down corner
Sam Shields is out to prove he's an elite shut-down cornerback
Number one corner Sam Shields is entering his seventh year and has never been selected to a Pro Bowl. Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. has said time and again, Shields has the potential to be among the NFL’s top CBs, but stops short of saying he's made it there. You can bet Shields thinks he’s there and will be out to prove it.

Eddie Lacy’s story has been told ad nauseam – after being overweight and experiencing declining production in 2015, he hopes his offseason P90X-shape-up will return him to the previously nimble, tackling-breaking, 1,200-yard back he’s proven to be.

Clay Matthews returns to his ideal OLB position and will want to prove his drop in sack production and QB pressures/hits was simply a product of playing out of position in 2015.

Randall Cobb has been labeled a WR2 at best, after playing through injuries most of 2015. Many called him “exposed” but this preseason he’s looked stronger, faster and ready to prove he’s one of the best slot receivers in the NFL.

Free agent TE Jared Cook signed a one-year deal and is playing for his last NFL contract, finally with a competent quarterback. His 6’5’ frame and athleticism is what TE dreams are made of, but he’s been known for drops and isn’t a young player, plus is coming off a foot operation. It’s possible for him to catch 70 balls and eclipse 1,000 yards in this offense and that’s almost the (lofty) expectation.

Lots of potential exists among young players and with motivated, veteran talent to anchor the core of this team, Green Bay may just have the secret sauce it needs to make another Super Bowl run. Ted Thompson thinks so, do you?

Follow Arman's Titletown Talk on Twitter @Titletown_Talk and on Facebook @TitletownTalk.

August 17, 2016

Inaugural Arman's Titletown Green Bay Packers Podcast (Episode One)

Good evening Packer Fans - My brother Adam and I couldn't be more excited to share with you our inaugural Arman's Titletown Podcast (episode one) embedded into the post below. Within the podcast, you'll find us discussing the following topics, feel free to jump around to hear our conversation on each topic. Enjoy!

Podcast Contents (Episode One)
  • Green Bay Packers 2016 Schedule - Is it really the easiest in the NFL and what match ups stand out? 
    • General Discussion (0:00 - 4:05)
    • Minnesota Vikings (4:05 - 7:35)
  • Mike McCarthy - Is he on the hot seat? (11:10 - 13:31)
  • 2016 Draft Impressions / Defensive Line (15:31 - 22:20)
  • Inside Linebacker (25:30 - 30:24)
  • Wide Receiver Battle (30:30 - 36:30)
  • Running Backs / Tight Ends / 53-Man Roster Talk (36:31 - 48:24)

August 9, 2016

Rodgers on Abbrederis: “I have a real good trust in him.”

Aaron Rodgers joined Jason Wilde and Mark Tauscher as the hosts’ inaugural guest on ESPN radio (listen here), part one in a four-part interview series.

As eyes focus on Green Bay’s wide receiver battle, Rodgers was asked if any young wide receivers are catching his eye in training camp.
Jared Abbrederis is rising in the Packers offense

“Jared [Abbrederis] made enough plays in practice and in the last few games that I have a real good trust in him and his route-running ability,” Rodgers said of the third-year pro, who is battling for a roster spot among a talented group of Packer pass catchers.

“He’s a guy who has phenomenal preparation,” Rodgers continued. “He is always in the right spot. He has incredible body movements when it comes to not telegraphing routes. And he finds a way to get open all the time.”

Pretty strong words coming from Aaron Rodgers, who is highly demanding of his teammates. If he can remain healthy, this may be a sign Abbrederis has as inside track to that number four wide receiver roster spot. Could he even challenge for the number three spot? Seems unlikely, but hard to completely rule it out right now.

“He’s continued where he left off last year and has had a phenomenal camp,” Rodgers said, who is aligned with Mike McCarthy’s point-of-view on Abbrederis.

McCarthy in June of this year said the Wisconsin Badgers alumnus has had his “best offseason,” called his route running “exemplary for a young guy” and finished by saying “he’s exceptional.”
Where will #84 fall in the Packers WR depth chart?

As for the rest of the wide receiver corps, Rodgers was shorter winded.

“Davante [Adams] has had a great camp, Jeff [Janis] has progressed and there are some guys behind them who are going to get some good chances in the preseason,” Rodgers said.

Safe to say we all know what Rodgers thinks of Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson.

Arman's Titletown Talk will continue tracking the wide receiver battle throughout training camp and recapping key highlights from ESPN Radio's four-part series. Remember to follow us on Twitter (@Titletown_Talk) and like us Facebook (@TitletownTalk).