Q&A with Ron Jaworski: Part 1

The ‘Monday Night Football' analyst discusses what went wrong with the Packers this season. This segment has a heavy emphasis on the defense. On Sunday, Part 2 features plenty of talk about Aaron Rodgers and, yes, Brett Favre.

Ron Jaworski, the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who is an analyst for ESPN's "Monday Night Football," takes his job seriously. He practically lives at NFL Films, spending countless hours from his office there each week studying the teams.

Monday's Green Bay-Chicago matchup will be the Packers' third game of the season on "MNF." Plus, Jaworski spent a few days watching training camp from the sideline at Clarke Hinkle Field. So, he knows the Packers. Packer Report publisher Bill Huber was only too happy to veer his truck off of a snowy Green Bay road and into a grocery store parking lot on Friday when Jaws' number popped up on his cell phone.

Here's Part 1 of our two-part conversation. Come back to Packer Report on Sunday for Part 2.

Huber: Here's the million-dollar question: What happened to the Packers this year?

Jaworski: We've had the Packers three times on Monday nights, so I'm pretty close and familiar with them because I've been studying them all season long. I know it's been disappointing for them, but it really has been surprising how they've played over the last month.

Early in the season, I thought the Brett Favre situation didn't really affect the football team. Aaron (Rodgers) came in and did a real good job. I thought they had the potential to be an outstanding football team, offensively and defensively. Offensively, they've been very good. Defensively, since injuries have started to take their toll, they've become a pretty bad defensive football team.

As I watch them on tape on the defensive side of the football, as much as I think Charles Woodson is a terrific athlete, he's a corner. Just my opinion. He's the kind of guy that looks in the backfield, and I think teams are taking advantage of that with their play selection. A lot of misdirection trying to disorient his game, disorient the defense, and there's been mistakes in that regard and there's been mistakes with his run fits in the running game.

It's just not easy to take a gifted athlete that's a corner and say, ‘OK, you're going to be a safety.' It takes time to develop that position. It's a whole different perspective on the game. Tramon Williams has played well, but you've got Charles Woodson playing a position where he's not comfortable.

The loss of Nick Barnett had a trickle-down affect, as well. A.J. Hawk moves inside, (Brandon) Chillar becomes a starter. The kind of intriguing thing about this defense is people look at the style. It's aggressive on the corners, in-your-face, bump-and-run. That's great. I like that style. With Charles Woodson and Al Harris, you can play that way. But you're putting incredible pressure on the linebackers when you do that. They're also in those man coverages and matchup zone schemes, and it puts a lot of pressure on them, and I'm pretty sure — in fact, I am sure — that this group hasn't been able to handle that."

Playing Charles Woodson at safety has caused some defensive breakdowns, Ron Jaworski says.
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Huber: I know Hawk hurt his groin early in the season, and perhaps that's still an issue, but it seems like teams really are exploiting his lack of coverage skills.

Jaworski: He has struggled in that area. He's still a quality football player, but it's a different way of looking at the game when you move inside. The angle the receivers come at you, the angle the backs come at you, it's a little bit different. When I look at this defense, they look disoriented and I think that's kind of where they are right now.

Huber: You don't need me to tell you that it's hard to play pass defense when you can't rush the passer.

Jaworski: Well, Aaron Kampman is the only true pass-rusher they have. Watching the game last week, all kinds of time in the pocket for (Jacksonville's David) Garrard. Nothing up the middle. In this league, if a quarterback doesn't have people under his feet and forcing him to move, he's going to stand back there and pick you up. The key is pressure. The good defensive football teams, their foundation is pressure. Force mistakes. Force long-yardage situations. Clearly, that's an area where the Packers have struggled.

Huber: The Packers are blitzing more, but they haven't gotten home. Is it the scheme or is it a lack of playmakers?

Jaworski: You just can't say, "Let's blitz." You look at teams — take Chicago, who based on quarterback rating against a defense, they're the No. 1 blitzing defense in football. The quarterback rating against them when they blitz is like 43. So, they're a very good blitzing defense. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore, good blitzing defenses.

You start from Game 1 and training camp and the offseason working on your scheme. You can't just all of a sudden say you're going to blitz. It works in harmony, understanding the role of each player. The guy that gets the sack gets the credit, but usually it's the guy that's around him that's doing all the dirty work so the guy that gets the sack can get it done. You can't just say, "Let's blitz," and all of a sudden, you become a blitzing football team. I think that's what happened. They picked up the percentage of the blitz, but very few have gotten home.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com.

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