Scouting the Packers: Offense

Green Bay has a lot of weapons on the offensive side of the ball and don't seem to have lost too much explosiveness with the departure of Brett Favre. How does the Colts defense match up against them? ColtPower's Brad Keller breaks it down.

Offensive Line:

The Packers' offensive line runs a very similar scheme to the one the Houston Texans use, working more off of timing, zones, and combination blocks.

The key difference between the two lines is that Green Bay has smaller, more athletic linemen than the Texans, thus the Packers front five tries to get off the ball at the snap and get into their zones as quickly as possible. 

Therefore, the Colts defensive linemen — particularly the defensive tackles — need to be very active as well, right from the snap of the ball.  They may not be able to penetrate into the backfield, but they can certainly create a logjam in the middle of the defense and force running back Ryan Grant wide, where he is not as effective and where cornerbacks can fill in in run support and contain him.


OT Mark Tauscher
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

The good news for Indianapolis is that, aside from center Scott Wells, the interior of the Packers line is not especially strong or stout, so the tackles merely need to match the intensity and speed that the middle of the line brings and do not need to worry about getting overwhelmed at the point of attack, which has been a serious issue thus far this season.

Left guard Daryn Colledge is the more talented of the two starting guards, but is not head-and-shoulders above right guard Jason Spitz.  Green Bay does, however, tend to favor the weak side of the formation because left tackle Chad Clifton is the most skilled player on the line and they often motion tight end Donald Lee into the back field, which creates a wing formation and eliminates the strong side/weak side concept.

Look for the Packers to continue to run to their left, against a hobbled Dwight Freeney and some combination of the undersized Eric Foster or so far inactive Daniel Muir.

All they are looking to do is to create a seam and give either Clifton or Colledge a chance to release from their initial block and clear a path for Ryan Grant down the field.

They will find the most open space running to their left, so look for them to motion Lee from the strong side to the weak side and line him up in the back field.  Generally speaking, the Packers run to whichever side Lee settles in.

In the passing game, the Packers run a very pure version of the West Coast offense, so everything they do revolves around timing.  From the footwork of quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the zones drawn up to create a pocket for him, the line is simply looking to create throwing lanes for Rodgers and give him enough time to read, set his feet, and release. 

The best way to beat this system is to disrupt the timing.  The best way to disrupt the timing is by running stunts focused on bringing pressure up the middle and blitzing from the edges.

By compromising the outside throwing lanes by blitzing defenders from that area and forcing Rodgers to hurry or change his drops, the Colts can break up the rhythm of this attack and throw it off course.

One key aspect of this strategy is Robert Mathis.  With Dwight Freeney likely to be limited by his hamstring injury, Mathis needs to step up and have another game like he did against the Ravens in Week 6.  Rodgers is not as easy or statuesque a target as Joe Flacco, but Mathis does not need to sack the quarterback to stop this offense; he just needs to pressure him.

Since he is matched up against a very talented pass-blocking tackle in Mark Tauscher, this is going to be very difficult, but Mathis must get it done for the Colts to be successful on defense.

Wide Receivers:

Green Bay's receivers are given entirely too much credit for their ability to run with the ball after they catch it — the YAC statistic, Yards After the Catch, will surely be mentioned leading up to the game and assuredly in the game itself — and not enough credit for being skilled receivers able to read the defense, run precise routes, get open, and actually catch the ball.


WR Greg Jennings
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Greg Jennings has not averaged 19.2 yards per reception so far this season simply by piling up a lot of yards after he catches the ball.  A good deal of the yards he has gained after the catch have been the last 20-plus yards he's had to jog after he got behind the defense.

Donald Driver and rookie Jordy Nelson — who the Colts showed interest in leading up to the draft — are certainly craftier players than Jennings and they use their bodies and route running abilities more so than Jennings to get open, but they are not without the potential to catch the deep ball.

Donald Lee has 17 receptions already this season, but his 6.9 yard per reception average shows that he is more of a checkdown, red zone, and emergency receiver.  Nelson, Driver, and Jennings are the players that drive this offense.

Individually, they are far superior to the men they will face in the Indianapolis secondary, especially since Bob Sanders and Kelvin Hayden will probably not be available.

However, as a unit, the Packers receivers are no match for the tenacity, the physical presence, and the discipline of the Colts back four.  Against Baltimore, Tim Jennings showed that he can tackle well and make plays.  Marlin Jackson is a solid player in the Cover 2, as is Antoine BetheaMelvin Bullitt is beginning to catch onto the subtle nuances of his position, but will obviously never equal Sanders as a player.

If the Colts defensive backs can keep the play in front of them, stay disciplined and not take any unnecessary chances, and continue their fundamentally sound tackling, they will be able to contain this passing offense.

They will not be able to shut it down, as they did Baltimore in Week 6, but they will certainly be able to keep the Packers to 17 or 20 points, which should be enough provided that Peyton Manning and the offense continue to stay on track.

Running Backs:

Ryan Grant is the featured back and, effectively, the only true threat that the Packers have in the running game.  He is an aggressive runner with big play ability that gains yards after contact and moves the pile.

He is not, however, a back that can create on his own and, while he does have excellent vision, he lacks the patience to allow the play to develop slowly in front of him. 

As with the running offenses in Denver and Houston, the running back is responsible for taking the handoff, reading his blocks, making one cut, and taking off.  Though those schemes and the Green Bay offense prefer that the play develop quickly, it needs to develop very quickly to keep Grant from cutting into the line and gaining only one or two yards. 

He is a boom or bust back and, judging by the fact that he is averaging 3.4 yards per carry thus far this season, he has busted more than he has boomed through the first six games.

In order to keep him from running roughshod over the Colts defense, it is imperative that the defensive line stay active and stay focused, filling rush lanes along the line at the snap and not relenting.  This will force Grant to make a fast decision which, more often than not, will lead him sprinting up the backs of his lineman.

If Grant has another game like he had against Seattle — 33 carries for 90 yards and a 2.7 yard per carry average, his highest yardage output of the year — that would be considered a win for the Colts defense.

Tyjuan Hagler returns to practice this week as well, which will help to bolster the Indianapolis run defense if he ends up playing on Sunday.

Quarterback:

Rodgers has been called a system quarterback, which is very true.  He is perfectly suited to run this particular offense.


QB Aaron Rodgers
Domenic Centofanti/Getty

He is able to make quick, intelligent decisions, has the accuracy necessary to make the short throws in tight spots, the mobility to buy time in the pocket, the footwork needed to align the timing of the entire offense, and enough arm strength to make a defense pay deep if they decide to sit on the "horizontal" routes that the West Coast offense has an undeserved reputation for favoring.

As covered in the offensive line section, the key to stopping Rodgers and the Packers passing attack will be to pressure him and to clog his sight lines with defenders.

If someone blitzes from the outside, there should be a defender to take the blitzer's place, since Rodgers and his receivers are usually on the same page and will eat the Colts alive with hot reads and yards after the catch.

If the Colts sit on those short routes or fail to pressure Rodgers into a decision, he will eat them alive with deep passes to Driver, Nelson, and Jennings; especially Jennings.

This offense is all about rhythm and timing and it all revolves around the feet of Aaron Rodgers.  If Rodgers has sloppy footwork for the game — if he stutter steps, if his feet stop at any point, if he shuffles or slides too frequently — then the Colts defense is succeeding.

If his footwork is sound and crisp — he continually takes the snap, drops, sets, and delivers — then the defense is falling short.

The matchups between individual players favor the Packers, but the Cover 2 scheme that Indianapolis runs and the way their players on defense operate in that system give them a substantial schematic advantage.

They need to execute, get after the ball, and keep the play in front of them, while disrupting the timing of Rodgers and his West Coast attack.

X-Factor:

Mathis' battle with Tauscher was mentioned earlier and is the most important one-on-one match-up in this game, by far.  When stunting away from Tauscher, Mathis needs to wreak havoc in the middle.  When facing Tauscher directly, Mathis needs to beat his man to the edge and the inside, getting in the quarterback's face as much as possible.

In a game that is more about systems than players, the success Mathis has against Tauscher will have a great deal to do with the overall success of the defense.


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