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Category Archives: Mike Pettine

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The Packers Five Biggest Needs Heading into the Offseason

The Green Bay Packers have suffered back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1990-91. That means changes are coming to Titletown. The Packers already hired their new coach in Matt LaFleur who is still in the process of putting his staff together. But the other urgent task for GM Brian Gutekunst is to improve the talent level on the roster. Here is a look at the five areas the Packers need to upgrade in order to play winning football again quickly.
1. Edge Rusher
The best NFL defenses always have a consistent pass rush. A dangerous edge rusher makes all the players around him on defense better because offenses must make adjustments to stop the dominant player. Look at the difference Khalil Mack made on an already talented Bears defense when they added him to the lineup just prior to the start of the season.
The Packers have not had a dominant edge rusher since Clay Matthews was in his prime. Matthews is likely headed elsewhere this offseason and is no longer able to get consistent pressure on opposing passers like he could several years ago. Nick Perry is often injured and may be let go this offseason as well. That leaves the Packers with Kyler Fackrell who improved in 2018 but is still inconsistent, and Reggie Gilbert who was not a factor during the regular season after enjoying a strong training camp.
The Packers still managed to record 44 sacks this season despite the lack of a dominant pass rusher. That is a testament to the imaginative schemes of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the push the defense got inside from Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels and occasionally good coverage downfield.
Adding a top-flight edge rusher would improve the Packers defense immensely and immediately. This should be the team’s top priority on defense this offseason.
2. Safety
The Packers traded former first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington at the trade deadline. Due to injuries and a lack of quality play at the position, Tramon Williams was moved from cornerback to safety and he did an adequate job during the second half of the season.
Kentrell Brice has not proven he can be a reliable starter. He is a liability in coverage and is not a very good tackler either.  Williams can start if needed, but at age 35, he is not the long-term answer either and is better suited to nickel or dime duty. Josh Jones has not shown he is the answer, especially in coverage.
The Pack needs to add a few players at this position. Poor safety play has hurt the defense over the past few seasons and unless an upgrade is made here, the defense will continue to struggle.
Pettine prefers to play the pass first. Expect the Pack to add at least two safeties via the draft and/or free agency with an emphasis on coverage ability.
3. Guard
The Packers allowed 53 sacks in 2018, tied for third worst in the league. Much of the pressure the Pack allowed came up the middle. Left guard Lane Taylor is an adequate starter when healthy although he is a better run blocker than pass protector.
Right guard was a problem area for the team all season. Justin McCray, Byron Bell and Lucas Patrick all got extensive playing time at the position, but none of them played well enough to solidify their hold on the starters spot.
The Packers need to add a starting-caliber guard via free agency and then add another interior lineman in the draft. Protecting Aaron Rodgers is vital to the Packers success and upgrading the guard position will help accomplish this goal.
4. Offensive Tackle
The Packers have an All-Pro tackle in David Bakhtiari and a very good tackle in Bryan Bulaga. But the team lacks depth at the position and Bulaga is entering his 10th season in the league and has struggled to stay healthy in recent years.
Backup Jason Spriggs has struggled every time he’s placed in the starting lineup and has not lived up to his status as a second-round draft pick. McCray  is better suited to playing inside rather than at tackle.
Green Bay needs to add developmental players here who can step in and replace Bulaga when the time comes and players who can be inserted into the lineup when injuries hit without becoming a major liability.
5. Slot Receiver
Randall Cobb is unlikely to return unless he offers the Packers a large home-town discount. None of the young receivers on the team’s roster has been a good fit in the slot. Cobb’s ability to run short patterns over the middle gave Rodgers a good intermediate target and a check down. His versatility and ability to line up in various spots also helped keep defenses honest.
The Packers need somebody to take over this role and provide Rodgers with a reliable slot target. An experienced, mid-level free agent would be a great addition at this position. A minor trade could also add a reliable slot receiver who could also help mentor the Packers young receivers as they enter their second year in the NFL.

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Breaking Down Five Keys for the Packers vs the Los Angeles Rams

The Green Bay Packers return from the bye week and head to Los Angeles to take on the Rams. Los Angeles is the only unbeaten team in the league with a 7-0-0 record while the Packers are 3-2-1. The Rams defeated the San Francisco 49ers 39-10 last week to end a three-game road trip with a perfect record.
These two teams first met in 1937 when the Rams played in Cleveland. The Packers and Rams are dead even in 92 regular-season meetings with each team winning 45 games and two contests ending in a tie. Green Bay has won each of the last five games between these two teams with the last meeting coming in 2015 when the Pack defeated the then St. Louis Rams 24-10 at Lambeau Field.
Here is a look at the key matchups and situations that will determine whether the Packers can end the Rams perfect season and improve Mike McCarthy’s 9-3 record after a bye week:
1. Slow Down Todd Gurley
Todd Gurley leads the NFL in rushing yards and is the biggest weapon in the Rams offensive arsenal. Los Angeles is one of the few teams in the league today that still uses the run to set up the pass rather than the other way around. They are first in the NFL in rushing yards per game.
If the Packers can’t contain or slow down Gurley, they cannot win this game. The 49ers ran the ball very well against the Pack two weeks ago for three quarters before the Green Bay defense clamped down on the rushing attack and made their late comeback.
Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark will be the keys to slow down Gurley. If they do their jobs well, Blake Martinez makes tackles at or near the line of scrimmage rather than 5-7 yards downfield. The Packers will need to win the battle at the line of scrimmage and stay in their lanes to prevent Gurley and the other Rams runners from getting to the outside on rushing plays and jet sweeps. This will require discipline that the Green Bay defense hasn’t shown consistently this season.
Jared Goff is one of the best play action passers in the game. If the Packers neutralize the rushing attack or take a big lead, they can reduce the effectiveness of the play action pass.
2. Run the Football
One way to slow down the explosive Rams offense is to keep them off the field as much as possible. During the bye week, the Packers were self-scouting and one of the issues raised was that the team hasn’t run the ball as often as they could have.
The Rams defense is stronger against the pass than they are against the run. Their rushing defense is ranked 12th in the league in yards-per game but because most teams have been trailing the Rams this season, teams have not been running late in games against them. The Rams are 26th in the league in yards allowed per attempt with a 4.7-yard average.
The Packers will need the middle of their offensive line to move the ball on the Rams defensive tackle duo of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. They are one of the best defensive tackle duos in the league.
Aaron Jones should get more carries, but all three running backs should have their share of rushing attempts. Ty Montgomery’s speed and receiving ability should play a role in creating some mismatches on outside rushes and short passes that are an extension of the running game.
The Packers will need to hold on to the ball and keep the Rams offense off the field as much as possible. Running the ball more often will be a key component of this strategy.
3. Win the Turnover Battle
The Rams are fourth in the league with a plus-six turnover differential through seven games. The Packers are a plus-one through six contests. The Rams have an explosive offense and a very good defense. That doesn’t leave a large margin for error.
The Packers must win the turnover battle to have a chance to win this game. Give the Rams a short field and the game will be over quickly. Give their offense extra chances with the ball and the Green Bay offense will have to be almost perfect to stay even.
The momentum of a game often changes due to key turnovers. Green Bay will need some of these big plays to have a chance to pull off the upset.
4. Aaron Rodgers Must Shine Especially in the Red Zone
If you look at the statistics, the Packers have the second-best passing offense in the league. But while Green Bay moves the ball well, they don’t always convert the yards into touchdowns. The Packers score a touchdown only 50 percent of the time through their first six games when they get the ball inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Against an explosive offense like the Rams, the Pack cannot afford to answer LA touchdowns with field goals.
This is the game where Jimmy Graham must become the red zone weapon the Packers expected him to be. Davante Adams is always a Rodgers favorite in the red zone. No matter how the Packers get the ball into the end zone, they need to find ways to do it or they will fall behind quickly against the Rams. If that happens, stopping Gurley and running the football, two of the first three keys to this game, will become extremely difficult for the Pack.
5. Don’t Give Up Big Plays
The Rams offense is very good at creating big plays and gaining big chunks of yardage quickly. Gurley leads the NFL in rushes of 10 yards or more with 19. Altogether, seven Los Angeles players have runs of 10 yards or more this season.
Jared Goff throws the ball downfield very well. The Packers safeties have been victimized too often this season due to poor reads, angles and decision making.
The Rams offense is designed to force DBs to make quick decisions deep downfield and the Packers must make the right read nearly all the time. Even without Cooper Kupp, the Rams have plenty of dangerous receivers. Long pass plays whether to Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks or Gurley, can deflate the Packers, change the momentum and be a big difference maker in this game.
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine loves to confuse opposing quarterbacks with disguised blitzes from unexpected places. The matchup between Pettine and Rams head coach Sean McVay, one of the most innovative offensive coaches in the league, will be an interesting one to watch.
There is no doubt the Packers can win this game, but there is also no way they can do it without playing better football than they did in any of the first six games of the season.
The Rams offense has so many weapons and an innovative and aggressive system that is designed to exploit the weaknesses in the Packers secondary.
The Packers offense will need to not just gain yards but score lots of points and the defense will have to make just enough big plays to pull off the upset.
Right now, the Packers haven’t proven they have that kind of game in them. The feeling here is Rodgers plays well and keeps it close, but the Rams find a way to win at home.
Rams 38, Packers 28

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