>Tuesday Lunch: Green Bay Packers Super Bowl XLV Preview

Posted: February 1, 2011 in nfl, super bowl
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By Will Robinson

Offense

The high octane Packer offense is led by sixth year Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has exhibited commanding performances during the post season. Rodgers succeeded Favre in 2008 and has put up spectacular numbers, and has been to the playoffs twice in his three years starting. The loss of running back Ryan Grant added weight and pressure to Rodgers this season, but all he has done is shine through. The Packers trailed by no more than seven points this year, thus all of their defeats have been within that same margin.

The emergence of James Starks has been nice for the Packers’ offense, but the run game is not as significantly improved as people may suggest. Starks turned in decent performances against Atlanta and Chicago, but neither of them jumps off the paper. Fortunately, for the Packers, the Pittsburgh defense’s strength is shutting down the run, Green Bay’s worst aspect is running, and its weakest part is pass defense, the Packers’ bread and butter.

 

The receiver play, on the other hand, has been phenomenal. Greg Jennings delivered a season similar to last year, except with eight more scores and receptions. As Rodgers’ favorite deep threat, he has really put the team on his back. The ancient, yet effective, Donald Driver was a consistent force through the year, but the emergence of James Jones has begun to diminish the role for a receiver with double letter initials (JJ for DD), or the second receiver spot. Not sure which, to be honest.

 

The offensive line has been much improved this season in protecting the elusive Rodgers. Last year, Rodgers was tied in the league with Ben Roethlisberger (coincidence?) for amount of times sacked, at 50. This year? Rodgers was only brought down behind the line of scrimmage 31 times. There aren’t any particularly elite linemen on the offensive front – Daryn Colledge and Chad Clifton are good – but they have played well through the season.

 

Defense

Dom Capers was not a very good coach for the Houston Texans, but he is a premier defensive signal caller. Ever since he joined the Green Bay staff in 2009, the defense has been relentless. The defense definitely has some Dick LeBeau aspects, but Capers definitely catered it to what personnel the Packers have.

 

The heart of the crazy Packers defense lies with the three down linemen: Cullen Jenkins, B.J. Raji, and Ryan Pickett. The two stars are Jenkins and Raji, who each had a spectacular NFC Championship game at Chicago. Jenkins had half a sack against Cutler and harassed quarterbacks to no end during the whole playoffs. Raji had the interception for touchdown from a Caleb Hanie pass, and has excelled as the critical 3-4 nose tackle. The Steelers’ decimated offensive line could have their hands full all day dealing with the linemen and the blitzing linebackers.

 

Everybody knows about Clay Matthews, the modern day warrior with his long, savage hear and his unyielding motor. Matthews had 13.5 sacks this season, improving from the ten he had as a rookie. Matthews could have a large role in the outcome of this game if Flozell Adams or Jonathan Scott can’t slow him down. One other player in the linebacking corps who caught my attention was Desmond Bishop, who had to come in and start most of the season due to the loss of Nick Barnett. The fourth year man from Cal played well next to AJ Hawk, and managed to keep the middle linebackers held down without Barnett.

 

The defensive backs of this team are their deepest and most talented overall. The secondary boasts Pro Bowlers Charles Woodson (2009 Defensive Player of the Year), Tramon Williams, Nick Collins and undrafted rookie stud Sam Shields. Shields has played so well on the outside, Capers has shifted Woodson’s role to playing more inside, even blitzing the quarterback. Woodson is still a great player at 34, and his versatility is perhaps the most valuable part any player on the defense can give. Tramon Williams has been a revelation this season; pushing him to, at the least, top 20-cornerback consideration. This guy was undrafted in 2006, and CUT by the Texans! Oh, the irony. Shields was a converted receiver at Miami, but did not attract any draft attention. Even though he played one year, his senior year, at cornerback, it’s hard to find a prospect from a school as prominent as Miami to go undrafted. The secondary will have a big test in front of them, having to deal with multiple receiving weapons in Mike Wallace (Football Outsider’s top WR in 2010), Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders, and Antonio Brown.

 

Three Key Players

Aaron Rodgers

Pretty obvious, here. A great Rodgers performance will most likely result in a Packer victory.

 

The Running Backs

I’m tossing in the backs into a running back by committee and having them as a key to the game. Even though the Packers prefer to pass, they will be able to run with some success to take the pressure of Rodgers, the offensive line, and the receivers. Starks, Brandon Jackson, and John Kuhn need to be able to run at a decent clip, about what they accomplished against Chicago (32 rushes, 120 yards). Head coach Mike McCarthy sticks to his guns in believing he needs to rush for about 30 times per game for team success, ergo, a large volume of successful runs is obviously better than a large value of poor ones.

 

Sam Shields

I spoke about Shields earlier, and I believe he is crucial on defense. Ben Roethlisberger likes to buy time in and out of the pocket, which can lead to coverage breaking down. Shields will need to be able to blanket whomever he is covering; either Wallace or Ward, on extended plays. Shields’ role will be diminished if Capers isn’t quite confident enough to use Woodson as he has done in past weeks being a wild card on defense. I see of no reason to stop what has been working, and a great Shields performances in tandem with Williams and Woodson should slow down the great Pittsburgh receivers.

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