Lombardi blog: August edition

Random thoughts on preseaon win over Seahawks; Rodgers; Packers' preseason win over Steelers

August 19, 2007
Seahawks Game
I spent part of Sunday pouring over Saturday night's game. I had recorded it on my DVR and wanted to watch the game again to determine what or who was responsible for the severe thrashing the Packers gave to the Seahawks. I had to fight the kids off (they wanted to watch High School Musical 2), but I eventually got around to watching it again.

A couple stipulations up front:

1. The Seahawks are a concensus pick to make the playoffs, so it was not the Lions or Browns the Pack beat.

2. Both starting offensive tackles for Seattle did not play and consequently neither did quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. This takes some of the luster off the performance of the defense, but none of what the offense did.

3. It is preseason and it was raining. An emotional letdown on the Seahawks part is to be expected. They have to deal with that kind of weather all the time and to travel to Wisconsin and play in the rain and undermanned may have been too much for them to get up for.

Nevertheless, the Packers looked good in all three aspects of the game. The offense played well, the defense created turnovers, scored some points and stymied the Seahawks offense and the Special Teams, especially the return game and Will Blackmon had a big game. The cliche that came to mind was "firing on all pistons." Even Bubba Franks looked like he had some fresh legs, catching four passes.

Brandon Jackson, while not the second coming of Gale Sayers, looked good enough for folks to quit worrying about when Vernand Morency may return. He hit the holes the line made for him, ran with purpose and had a productive night. James Jones again had a good showing. He sure likes those crossing routes. My only concern is too often I see the Packers keeping six, seven, and eight blockers in on pass plays, reducing the targets Brett Favre has running patterns. It keeps Favre upright, but limits his options and with multiple defenders around a receiver, well, Brett hates to throw it away, if you know what I mean.

On defense, the pressure exerted buy the front seven on poor Seneca Wallace was impressive. Granted the Seattle line was not at full strength, but the NFL is a place where injuries happen and nobody takes it easy on you when it does. I still saw some breakdowns in the secondary, specifically with the safeties. How Nick Collins missed that tackle early is beyond me. It looks like the cornerback position and the front seven can play in this league, but the safety positon may be a weak point for the second consecutive year. I think they can be better than last year, but teams will attack the middle of field on the Packers in 2007.

Sacks and turnovers and touchdowns and big kick returns made for an excitable game. The weather tried to dampen our spirits, but the Green and Gold would not let it. As my old boss used to say, one does not a trend make, but this game was something to build on.

The only negative was with injuries.

Wide receiver Shaun Bodiford, backup fullback Ryan Powdrell, defensive end Michael Montgomery and tackle Orrin Thompson all suffered MCL knee injuries of different degrees of seriousness, according to Coach Mike McCarthy.

August 17, 2007
Jenkins vs. Jones
Yesterday, I supposed that Cullen Jenkins and Walter Jones will be a good matchup in this Saturday's game. Like last week, when I was looking forward to Justin Harrell getting a shot at Alan Faneca, only to see Fanaca not play, it looks like Jones will be a no show this weekend. Thanks to Doug Farrar of Seahawks.net for pointing that out. Jones has a shoulder problem and will not play.

August 16, 2007
Seahawks game
I am looking forward to the Seahawks game this Saturday. I am taking my oldest daughter Meagan to her first professional sporting event. She is six, so she is quite excited. My second oldest, Katie, who is five, is going with me to the Jacksonville game. My third daughter, Riley is only two, so she can wait awhile.

Some of the things to look for in this second preseason game.

1. Cullen Jenkins will be matched up against Walter Jones. It will be quite a feat for him to replicate last week's performance. Jones is as good as they come.

2. I will be holding my breathe, hoping the first team offense can spark a drive. I may be gasping for air long into the regular season. The Seahawks have a good crop of linebackers. Can Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson put the clamps on the Packer running game, or will the zone blocking scheme and Brandon Jackson flourish finally?

3. The Packers defense will be tasked with stopping Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander. If Al Harris and Charles Woodson play, can they stop Deion Branch? Will any of the Packer safeties have a good game? Mack Strong is quite possibly the best fullback in the league. Watch for some collisions between him and Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk and Brady Poppinga.

4. According to analysis by Footballoutsiders.com, which I found on the Fox Sports website; the Packers were ranked 32nd in special teams play last year. The Seahawks were ranked 10th. Let's see how that matchup plays out on Saturday. Green Bay needs to improve special teams, especially the coverage teams.

August 13, 2007
Aaron Rodgers
One of the interesting sub plots of the past week or so has been the good play of Aaron Rodgers. In the brief exposure I have seen both in the Family Night game and the Steelers preseason game, he has shown some ability. I do not think anyone is ready for Brett Favre to retire, but I think that Rodgers has at least put to bed the idea that he is:

1: A bust

2: Not the heir apparent to Favre

If anything, he has at least earned the right to get the first shot at replacing Favre when he does retire. He has not been going against opponents' first team exclusively, but he has shown some mobility, pocket presence and good decision making. Imagine if Favre sticks around until Rodgers' contract is up, what do the Packers do then? What will they do if the Packers struggle this year and the playoffs are out of reach early in the season? How much pressure will they be under to play Rodgers more?

I respect the way he has handled himself. A man of lesser character might have acted differently while he waited.

August 11, 2007
Steelers Game
Some observations:

1. The Packers offense had no rhythm. It established no run game while the starters were in. The Steelers were able to get ample pressure and when Brett Favre got the pass off, the Pittsburgh defenders where there to knock it down or make the tackle for no additional yards. It took five drives and almost 20 minutes for the Packers to get a first down.

The Packer receivers had trouble getting separation from the Steelers coverage guys and there were few holes for the Packer running backs. It was not until the end of the first half that the Packers, led by Aaron Rodgers, had a decent drive.

Rodgers showed me something special. He moved well in the pocket, showed some poise under pressure and made some decent throws. He displayed some savvy driving the team down the field in the two minute drill. They did not score a touchdown, but it was not his fault. I was surprised he was that fast.

2. The defense looked good against the Steelers starters. Even without Charles Woodson and Al Harris they stymied them. Things got ugly by the fourth drive with a big run by Najeh Davenport and a TD pass by Charlie Batch, but over all, the starting defense looked pretty good.

The defensive line, lead by Cullen Jenkins and Aaron Kampan did a good job getting pressure on the Steeler QBs. Granted Alan Faneca was not playing, but Jenkins was not manned up on the guard. The weak link is still the safety position. When the Steelers made plays, it could be be blamed on the safeties.

Like last year, the Packers gave up too many big plays. Probably another communication breakdown. The upside is that they were all against guys who hopefully will not play much. But if injuries were to mount, look out.

3. First round pick Justin Harrell did not get in until there was about five minutes left in the first half. It looks like the only thing he knows how to do is bull rush and was a non-factor. The only rookie who looked like he belonged was WR James Jones. He had a few nifty receptions and one nice run after the catch.

4. A penalty flag saved the Packers from an embarrassing punt return in the first quarter. The special teams, especially the coverage teams, have haunted the Packers for a while now. Pittsburgh also had a good return to start the second quarter. It is scary how bad they looked. It had better improve. Field position is too important to sacrifice. The Packers are a very young team and that effects their special teams play. The Packers did block an extra point which is good. It amazes me how Mike Montgomery was able to penetrate up the middle on the kick attempt.

5. I lost interest at halftime. Not much ever happens in the second half of preseason game that means much once the games count. From what I saw, the pundits seem to be right about the Packers. Better than average defense, no weapons on offense. It is ridiculous to worry so early in the season, but it was not an encouraging show.

August 10, 2007
Any Developments?
Am I the only person wondering how the search for the next Packer President is going? I do not expect them to hold a press conference or issue a press release every day, but why has there been no news concerning the search? I do not have an idea, nor do I think there is a conspiracy behind it. Just wondering if there has been any progress.

August 8, 2007
The First Preseason Game
The Packers will play the Steelers this Saturday in Pittsburgh and while it is a preseason game and has very little bearing on the regular season, there will be a few things to look for. For some reason they all seem to be defensive in nature.

After seeing the Steelers offense tear up the Saints early in the Hall of Fame game, it will be interesting to see how the Packers' first line pass defense handles the Steelers trio of receivers - Santonio Holmes, Cedrick Wilson and Hines Ward. I also look forward to seeing if Brady Poppinga can cover Steelers tight end Heath Miller.

Lastly, can Justin Harrell get any pass rush against Pro Bowler Alan Faneca?

Since the front line guys play very little in preseason games, the answers to these questions may remain unanswered, but will still need an answer.

August 6, 2007
Early Camp
I was out of town at a wedding most of last week and missed everything. I did watch most of the Family Night game on TIVO (if you do not have it ... get it or get a DVR from the cable company or dish people - it is the greatest thing to ever happen to television). I hesitate to put much stock in what goes on the first couple of weeks of camp. Watching practice is probably the last thing I would want to do. That being said, I have picked up a couple of things.

1. The team looked sloppy at times. That is to be expected. Usually the defense is ahead of the offense. The defense put a lot of pressure on the QB's, but since the quarterbacks are off limits, the offense still managed to get off some plays.

2. Brett Favre looked like Brett Favre. Laser throws followed by laser throws followed by a ill-advised pass that was intercepted in the end zone.

3. Aaron Rodgers actually looked respectable. I am not ready to deal Favre, but there might be hope for Rodgers.

4. It will never stop amazing me that Packer fans will fill the stadium for a scrimmage. There is no comparision in the NFL for the Packer faithful.

5. I did not catch many shots of first round pick Justin Harrell in action, but I did not see anything special in the few exposures I managed to see. I would give him an incomplete grade so far.

6. The Packers introduced the coaching staff before the game. How many coaches does a team need? They have 21.

The 1965 Lombardi era Packers had six assistant coaches.

The 1996 Packers had 13 assistants.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.

Lombardi blog archives:
July 2007 edition
June 2007 edition
May 2007 edition
April 2007 edition
March 2007 edition

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