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November 28, 2019 08:49PM
From the double-dip at outsider linebacker to the selection of Rashan Gary and now the release of Mike Daniels Justin McCray Jersey , Brian Gutekunst made a run of somewhat shocking moves. Now that they’re complete, each one makes more sense." />Skip to main contentclockmenumore-arrownoyesAcme Packing Company homepageHorizontal - WhiteAcme Packing Companya Green Bay Packers communityFollow Acme Packing Company online:Follow Acme Packing Company on TwitterFollow Acme Packing Company on FacebookFollow Acme Packing Company on InstagramLog in or sign upLog InSign UpSite searchSearchSearchAcme Packing Company main menuFanpostsFanshotsSectionsPackersOddsAboutMastheadCommunity GuidelinesStubHubMoreAll 321 blogs on Horizontal - WhiteFanposts Fanshots Sections The APC PodcastPackers Film RoomFantasy Football AdviceCDTShare this storyShare this on FacebookShare this on TwitterShareAll sharing optionsShareAll sharing options for:Mike Daniels’ release brings Packers’ offseason vision into focus TwitterFacebookRedditPocketFlipboardEmailMike Daniels’ departure leaves a big hole inside, but one of the Packers have a plan to fill. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesPerhaps we should have seen it coming after free agency. Or after the Green Bay Packers reached in the minds of many by selecting Rashan Gary. Once the alert hit the collective NFL, ‘Packers to release Mike Daniels,’ the entire Green Bay offseason shot into clearer focus. The combination of Daniels and Kenny Clark wrought havoc in the NFC the last two years, a trend that began in 2016 when Clark showed flashes of the player he was to become. But the fit was always a little wonky. For a 3-4 defense—and yes such designations can be overrated, but they’re not useless—to use a nose tackle and a three-technique defensive tackle isn’t how the modern NFL tends to be played (It’s called a 3-4 “under” front and it was a favorite of Dom Capers). Even so, there were times when the pair of interior disruptors could quite literally eat four blocks between them. Daniels went to the Pro Bowl in 2017 — as is often the case, this was a year after he really ascended to that level. Clark will likely head there in 2019 under the same auspices. Why then, sign Za’Darius Smith to an enormous deal when his best pass rushing came from inside, often as a standup de facto 3T player? Ask Brett Hundley and the Packers how tough Za’Darius is to block when he’s coming downhill with a head of steam from that spot. In retrospect, this should have been the writing on the wall. Most assumed it would simply mean the subversion of Daniels’ role, not the exclusion of it entirely. Perhaps Daniels would be that single defensive lineman with his hand down as the Ravens show in that blitz look. Pettine loves formations just like that one, especially with a blitzer off the slot. But this is clearly Daniels’ spot, where he’s always been the biggest factor.The difference, though, is Za’Darius can play outside as a standup pass rusher as well, or as a 3-4 defensive end if they really wanted him to. This defense could look much more like the traditional 3-4 front if and when they decided to do that. Here he is in Baltimore as one of two players with his hand in the dirt on a sure passing down. Could Daniels play here? Maybe. More likely, the Packers would use Kenny Clark or Dean Lowry simply because they’re more athletic and better suited to rush from that spot. Now, that player is clearly Smith, just in Green & Gold instead. While some balked with sticker shock at the price for Smith, Mike Pettine will utilize him all over the formation. Part of being able to disguise and bring pressure stems from the ability to put players all over the field. When players can only line up in specific locations, it’s makes it easier for offenses to pinpoint and predict where they’ll be. Quarterbacks and offensive lines set protections swiftly and with better precision if they know where everyone is coming from, which starts with where they’re lining up. If a guy like Smith can line up everywhere, that leads to indecision and confusion, or at least a greater challenge for the offense.None of this should be taken to proclaim Daniels a bad player. He’s not. But his release, in context, makes more sense and that’s just the beginning. Green Bay doubled down with pass rushers, signing Preston Smith. To some, this felt like overkill. Sure, the Packers cut Nick Perry and allowed Clay Matthews to walk, but two high-priced free agents at the same position? Conventional wisdom underscored the notion Za’Darius would be spending plenty of time inside. If it’s the case, as I would argue Ka'dar Hollman Jersey 2019 , that Kenny Clark provides the better pass rush than Daniels at this point in their careers, then the primary interior rushers the team should want are Smith and Clark. Once that became true, justifying nearly $11 million toward Mike Daniels seems like the kind of bargain Green Bay ultimately decided it was: not worth it. Smith, too, can play that 5T if so desired, with his length and size at 6-foot-6 and nearly 260. In fact, I thought it might be his best position when he was coming out in the draft. If he’s going to be a primary outside linebacker and Za’Darius a primary inside pass rusher, the skill sets are hardly redundant, making the decision to spend big on both come into clearer financial focus. Rashan Gary’s selection with the 12th overall pick suddenly makes more sense as well. Gary played on the edge at Michigan, but by design, usually on the same side as the tight end as a way of combating the run game. He consistently held up there, one of the reasons he never truly reached his potential as a pass rusher. Defensive coordinator Don Brown built his defense around Gary’s ability to take on multiple blocks and keep guys like Devin Bush clean to make plays.It’s hard to imagine a player better suited to play both outside as a stand-up linebacker or inside than Gary. For starters, he’s one of the most athletic edge players in the common draft era. That’s not hyperbole, it’s science. He’ll have to develop his pass rush game out there, but he’s already an elite run defender, capable of handling multiple blockers. Expect him to take plenty of snaps with his hand down as well. Philosophically, we now see the vision here. Bulking up wasn’t an accident for Brian Guteukunst. Gary and Za’Darius each tip the scales at 275+ with length. Preston Smith is the “small” one of the trio at a listed 256 pounds. All three can play any spot on the line, including the departing Daniels’ preferred 3T, but importantly, they are not limited to that spot. Mike Pettine played two defensive linemen or fewer on 58.1% of snaps last season per Pro Football Focus. Expect that number to jump up even further last season, but it indicates a fundamental football ideology. He’s fine playing small, preferring to throw a bunch of DBs on the field to cover. The flaws show up when that smaller front can’t hold up against the run, or consistently rush the passer without blitzing. Expect the Packers to play a considerable amount of time with three listed outside linebackers on the field at once with at least one playing inside. Oren Burks appears to have wrangled the second inside linebacker job, bringing more size a season after Pettine had to play Jermaine Whitehead at linebacker. With “base” expected to be nickel, the starting group upfront could be as simple as Clark and Lowry as the DL with Za’Darius and Preston Smith lined up ... wherever Pettine wants. Burks and Martinez play behind them with five defensive backs on the field. Bigger outside linebackers and the extra true inside linebacker give the front more size/strength, while not sacrificing pass rush or coverage ability. Could the Packers have found a way to incorporate Mike Daniels into that vision? Sure, we saw it last season. None of this is a commentary of the wisdom of moving on from Daniels a day before training camp opens. But now that we’ve seen it happen, there’s an intuitive path to understanding where Green Bay had been looking to head all along. The Green Bay Packers had their worst season in recent memory in 2018, and somehow they did so while having a full season of Aaron Rodgers under center. This weekend, we’ll look at the overall numbers for the team on offense, defense, and special teams in an effort to try to identify the critical pathways to turning the team’s record around in 2019.Today, we’ll start with the offense.Conventional StatsOverallOverall Preston Smith Jersey , the Packers still managed to finish in the top half of NFL offenses in points and yards, ranking 14th and 12th respectively. They turned the football over just 15 times, second-fewest in the league.Third downs were an obvious problem, however. The Packers converted just 36.8% of their third downs, ranking 23rd in the NFL. They did finish above-average in converting touchdowns in the red zone at a 61.7% rate, but they had just 47 attempts, ranking them 21st in that area.PassingAs a result of a combination of factors, the Packers finished the 2018 with the third-most pass attempts of any NFL team, throwing the ball 640 times. Aaron Rodgers finished sixth in the NFL in passing yards with 4,442, but he was a startlingly low 21st in touchdown percentage at just 4.2% of attempts. Rodgers did lead the NFL in interception rate, throwing just two picks all year for a rate of 0.3%. However, where Rodgers once excelled — yards per attempt — he finished just 17th this year at 7.4. That was Eli Manning-Mitchell Trubisky territory, not in the realm of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Likewise, Rodgers’ completion percentage was 26th out of 33 qualifying players at just 62.3%. Another critical component of the passing game is that the offense took 53 sacks, tying for the third-most in the NFL. Many of those were due to Rodgers holding the football too long or taking a sack instead of forcing a football into coverage. However, the frequency at which he was sacked on third downs was painful to watch.RushingWhile the Packers threw the third-most of any NFL team, they finished dead last in the NFL in rushing attempts, running the ball just 333 times all season. However, the argument can be made that the team should have run the ball more, since the Packers finished second in the entire NFL in yards per carry at 5.0.LeadersAaron Jones 133-728-8 (5.5 YPC)Jamaal Williams 122-464-3 (3.8 YPC)Aaron Rodgers 43-269-2 (6.3 YPC)Ty Montgomery 26-105-1 (4.0 YPC)DVOAFootball Outsiders’ DVOA is generally becoming accepted as the best single measurement of a unit’s effectiveness. It stands for “Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), and FO’s brief description states as follows:“(The system) breaks down every single NFL play and compares a team’s performance to a league baseline based on situation in order to determine value over average.”Remember that positive numbers favor the offense and negative numbers favor the defense, and that this measure is an attempt to measure success on a per-play basis. Despite the Packers’ struggles on offense, the unit still managed a seventh-place rating overall in offensive DVOA (+11.0%). The rushing offense was third in the NFL at +12.4%, while the passing offense came in just 12th at +18.0%.One thing to remember about DVOA is that it tends to reward big plays. The Packers did hit on plenty of explosive passing plays this season, with Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Davante Adams accounting for most of them. However, it was the shorter conversions that stalled out the offense often, which helps to account for the discrepancy between a 12th-place DVOA ranking and Rodgers’ mediocre rate stats.QuarterbackDespite the issues with his receivers as described below, Aaron Rodgers’ DVOA was still positive, as he finished 13th among passers with 200 or more attempts at +8.2%. His DYAR also ranked higher, in ninth place at 821. However, that was less than half of the top-ranked QB, Patrick Mahomes Color Rush Ka'dar Hollman Jersey , who had 2,039.By comparison, Aaron Rodgers had 1,564 DYAR in 2014 when he won the MVP, and his career high was 2,059 back in 2011. Running BacksBy DVOA, Aaron Jones was the sixth-best running back on a per-play basis this season (+16.9%) among players with 100-plus rushing attempts and he was the 11th-best among runners with 20 or more attempts. He also finished tenth in the NFL in DYAR (145), a measure of total productivity, and sixth in success rate (55%).Jamaal Williams, on the other hand, was 22nd in DVOA (+1.7%), 25th in DYAR (51) and 32nd in success rate (45%).ReceiversDavante Adams’ great counting stats didn’t really translate to DVOA, as he finished just 30th at +6.1%. His DYAR was much better at 246, good for 16th, with the difference due in part to his high volume of targets. The other two qualifying wideouts (50 or more targets) were Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was 63rd in DVOA out of 84 qualifiers at -11.1%, and Randall Cobb, who finished 78th at -22.1%.Among all Packers receivers with at least 10 targets, Geronimo Allison led the way in DVOA with +16.8%. 49 tight ends qualified at that position with 25 targets or more, including two Packers: Lance Kendricks and Jimmy Graham. Both were negative in DVOA, with Kendricks sitting at -0.1% (25th place) and Graham at -6.6% (30th).ConclusionsThe Packers hit on some big plays this season, which helped their ranks in yardage and some of their DVOA rankings, but where they failed was in consistently reaching the red zone and on converting third downs. The running game was generally effective, but it was seemingly used far too often — though this was a practical result of the Packers being behind in many of their games. In the modern NFL, teams take the lead by passing and hold the lead with the run game. Considering that the Packers lost nine games and had to mount significant late comebacks in three of their victories (against the Bears, 49ers, and Jets), the game situations dictated that they could not use the running game as much as they might have liked. Fixing the third-down issues (including convincing Rodgers to get rid of the football more quickly on those downs) should be the biggest priority for whatever coaches are in charge of this offense in 2019. That will help ensure that the team can sustain drives better, get the ball into the red zone more frequently, and ultimately score more points. That in turn gives the team a lead more often, which allows a heavier dose of the running game.Stay tuned for a look at the defense on Sunday.
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