Category Archives: Week 1

Week 1 Review: How Did David Bakhtiari Hold Up Against The Niners?

It’s no secret that the Packers’ offensive line is one of the weakest positional groups on the entire team, giving up 51 sacks as a unit last season. Certainly some of those sacks are due to QB Aaron Rodgers holding on to the ball for too long, but a vast majority of those sacks ultimately fall on the offensive line. The Packers decided to try and improve the production from the offensive line initially by shifting nearly every returning starter to a new position: RT Brian Bulaga shifted to LT, Pro Bowl RG Josh Sitton to LG, LG T.J. Lang to RG and Marshall Newhouse from LT to a positional battle at RT.

Concerns about the line became even more prevalent when Brian Bulaga tore his ACL during the Family Night Scrimmage, ending his season before it even began. Rookie 4th round pick from Colorado–OT David Bakhtiari–eventually beat out a cast of options and drew the start Week 1 against the vaunted San Francisco Front 7. But how did he perform against one of the league’s best set of pass-rushers, Aldon and Justin Smith?

Before the game, I expected the Packers to send a lot of help in the way of chipping fullbacks and tight ends, but that really was not the case.  Aside from sliding some protections his way and a select few chips and doubles from backs and LG Josh Sitton, Bakhtiari was largely left on an island against the Smith brothers.

Many probably remember the second play from scrimmage when Bakhtiari attempted a low cut block of OLB Aldon Smith, but mistimed it. Smith reacted quickly, jumped over Bakhtiari and was able to sack Rodgers for an 8 yard loss.

Packers fans, including myself, were probably worried after that mistake that Bakhtiari would similarly struggle the rest of the game, causing a chain reaction where the Packers would have to commit a second blocker to the left side for much of the game and limiting their options in the passing game. But the Packers continued to leave him on an island and to his credit, he rebounded to have a really solid game.

On the next series, the Packers had a 3rd and 7 from about midfield. The 49ers ran their trademark defensive line stunt with Justin Smith, with Ahmad Brooks replacing Aldon Smith, as shown below:

The 49ers run this play a lot in obvious passing situations–like 3rd and long–and while Bakhtiari lost his man for a split second, he recovered in time to block Brooks. Unfortunately, breakdowns across the offensive line caused a hurried throw from Rodgers and a 3 and out for the Packers.

In my post about how the Packers tried to defend Colin Kaepernick, I explained how part of what makes it so difficult to defend mobile quarterbacks is getting pressure is almost a negative thing. While Rodgers doesn’t have the elite athleticism that quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have, his ability to throw on the run may be the very best in the NFL. This is perhaps most apparent than the 31 yard strike to Jordy Nelson in the 4th quarter below who is somehow able to keep both feet in-bounds:

This is probably Bakhtiari’s worst single snap of the game–he gets beat and pancaked almost immediately by Aldon Smith, and arguably gets away with a trip. Finley tries to help and gets just barely enough of Justin Smith to give Aaron Rodgers enough time to fire a strike down-field to Jordy Nelson who makes an incredible catch to pick up Bakhtiari. Plays like this illustrate why he doesn’t have to be Anthony Munoz or Walter Jones for the Packers offense to be successful: he just needs to be a few ticks above adequate.

Although Bakhtiari is a better pass-blocker, he did show some signs of at being at least an average run-blocker. Below is a run play just 2 plays after Nelson’s spectacular catch:

Bakhtiari takes Aldon Smith 1 on 1, blocks him effectively and allows Eddie Lacy to run up field for a 6 yard gain in the red zone. He had at least a half dozen similar blocks on running plays one on one against Aldon. At this point, he isn’t a road-grater by any means, but his success–especially throughout the end of that entire drive–was one of the main reasons Eddie Lacy scored his first NFL touchdown.

Overall, Bakhtiari gave up 2 sacks and 3 pressures, but more than held his own considering the men that lined up across from him and the number of audibles from Rodgers throughout the game. Of the 63 snaps Bakhtiari played, he only had help on 8 of them and some of the help from the running backs were not even necessary. He also had to face one of the best pass-rushers, either Aldon or Justin Smith, across from him on 53 of the 63 snaps. After one game, it seems at the very least he is an upgrade from Marshall Newhouse at LT. 

If I had to grade Bakhtiari’s first game, I would probably give him a B without curving or adjusting for opponent, which I think most Packers fans would take going into Week 1. His job doesn’t get any easier in Week 2 with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan manning the outside linebacker positions for the Washington professional football team.

To view my full analysis for every snap of David Bakhtiari’s game against the 49ers, click here.

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Week 1 Review: How The Packers (Tried To) Defend Colin Kaepernick

Following an embarrassing loss to the San Francisco 49ers in last seasons divisional round, highlighted by an NFL record 181 quarterback rushing yards by Milwaukeean Colin Kaepernick, the Packers defense was tasked with trying to stymie the 49ers offensive attack again to open the 2013 season. Some of the Packers’ defensive coaches even took an off-season field trip to College Station, Texas to get some pointers on how to stop the read-option, which gave the Packers defense such fits in January, knowing a rematch was imminent. Countless fans and media members spent the off-season commenting on how exactly the Packers could or would stop it. Judging by the film, the Packers defensive staff did the same.

It took all of three snaps for the impact of Colin Kaepernick’s running abilities to show. Look at the screen shot below.

Image

The Packers defensive line and more specifically outside linebackers Clay Matthews (far left) and Nick Perry (far right) are purposely playing contain to not allow Kaepernick to throw, or perhaps more cynically, dare him to pass. ILB Brad Jones (top-middle) is likely “spying” Kaepernick, following him should he decide to scramble. Special teams ace Jarrett Bush (top-right) also factors in here. As you will see later, he is responsible for Frank Gore if or when he leaks out of the backfield to run a route.

It seems as if the Packers defense has won this down, right? Unfortunately, Kaepernick’s elite athleticism was able to overcome the Green Bay defenses’ contain.

Below is the play in its entirety.

Nick Perry beats TE Garrett Celek (far-right) fairly handily, but because LT Joe Staley does such a good job 1 on 1 with Clay Matthews, Perry’s pressure is not only negated, but serves to flush Kaepernick into the newly created rushing lane along the left sideline.

It was 3rd and long, and one of the few times Packers actually forced the 49ers to punt, but this only happened because of a nice hustle play from Tramon Williams (:12) that prevents the 1st down. Look at the screen shot below:

Kaepernick Scramble 1

Kyle Williams broke off his route to meet Kaepernick up the sideline with plenty of distance for the 1st down, but Kaepernick elected to try and run for the 1st down rather than reset his feet and try to hit Williams in stride without forcing him out of bounds. Considering the success he has had rushing during his his time in the league, it’s hard to disagree with the decision, but in hindsight it was likely the wrong one.

Tramon Williams also deserves a lot of praise for his hustle forcing Kaepernick out of bounds short of the 1st down, especially considering his struggles in the tackling department last season. I also like the addition of Jarrett Bush in certain down-and-distance packages against teams with mobile quarterbacks like the 49ers. Of the Packers linebackers that have played significant snaps, really only Matthews and Brad Jones great out as even above average in coverage. For all of Bush’s inadequacies in coverage, most of his struggles come from playing the ball in the air down-field. He is fully capable of handling a hybrid strong safety-linebacker role that the likes of Roy Williams formerly of the Cowboys and Roman Harper of the Saints play, especially considering the personnel schemes Capers tends to draw up. I think he can handle defending the back out of the backfield or the tight end on a shallow cross.

While the Packers defense won the battle on the 1st drive, they would come up short in a more pivotal position later in the game.

The game was knotted at 21 near the end of the 3rd quarter, but the 49ers were driving and had 1st and 10 from the GB 26. After two nondescript downs–a 1 yard Kendall Hunter run and an incomplete pass, the 49ers had a 3rd and 9 from the GB 25. The 49ers came out in 22 personnel (2 backs, 2 TEs), which is typically a running formation, but because of the versatility and pass-catching ability of Vernon Davis, SF can employs this–and other formations, in seemingly any situation.

The Packers blitz Kaepernick, sending 6 and leaving 5 to cover 4. DE/OLB Mike Neal takes a great angle and beats All-Pro LG Mike Iupati almost instantly.

Mike Neal Mike Iupati

But much like the play above, while Neal makes a great individual play and probably does what he is supposed to do at least as far as rush technique to the B gap (Iupati’s left) it leaves a running lane for Kaepernick to scramble through.

As Kaepernick scrambles from the pocket through the hole created my Mike Neal’s rush, Joe Staley clears out Clay Matthews while Frank Gore adjusts his pass route and makes a huge block on S Jerron McMillian. The run was Kaepernick’s longest of the game–15 yards–and gave San Francisco 1st and goal from the GB 10. The Packers would eventually get away with the breakdown with a Clay Matthews sack two plays later, and held the Niners to just 3 points on the drive.

Looking at the box-score, it appears the Kaepernick and WR Anquan Boldin carved up the Packers anemic secondary, and there certainly is validity to that statement. But it overlooks the fact that the Green Bay went all out to prevent Kaepernick from beating them with his legs as he did in the Divisional Round. Neither of the following plays were from read-option looks, or even designed runs. But what makes new age quarterbacks such as Kaepernick, Cam Newton, and Russell Wilson so effective and difficult to defend is that the threat of the run is enough to force the complete reconfiguration of a defense. 

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Week 1 Initial Reactions: San Francisco 34 Green Bay 28

  • Defensive coordinator Dom Capers made his intentions clear with his defensive play-calling: have the pass-rushing OLB play contain with zone coverage behind in the secondary to prevent Colin Kaepernick from gashing all levels of the defense with his scrambling ability. For the most part, the execution was solid. Although Kaepernick threw for over 400 yards, the Packers accomplished their goal of limited his running threat.
  • Unfortunately for the Packers, as well as Clay Matthews played, he remains their best pass-rusher and best quarterback spy.
  • That said, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis largely ran free, finding soft-spots the Packers zone time and time again, especially on 3rd down. The Packers did a solid job getting the 49ers into 3rd and medium and 3rd and longs, but were terrible in getting off the field, allowing 9 of 18 conversions.
  • The young safeties, Jerron McMillian and the doctor M.D. Jennings showed why the Packers gave Morgan Burnett what some viewed as a generous extension. Poor angles and blown coverages opened up the deep seam time and time again.
  • Aside from his fumble and a few empty runs early, Eddie Lacy largely played well, especially considering the sub-par blocking of Green Bay’s interior offensive line. Lacy’s impact will become even more apparent against teams with weaker front 7s.
  • Although the guards and center Evan Dietrich-Smith were man-handled time and time again, Tackles David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay more than held their own.
  • Who’s Greg Jennings? Between Finley, Cobb Nelson and Jones, the Packers receiving core may not have the depth of previous seasons, but those guys match up with any top four across the league.
  • Overall, the Packers played well and lost to a better team on the road. These teams will meet again with more at stake than week 1 supremacy.
  • Next week, the Packers will face off with another division favorite: the Washington Redskins in their home opener. Stay tuned to Packer Breakdown for more analysis of Sunday’s game.

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