The 3rd Quarter

Cowboys - Packers

With the 2nd quarter of the season in the rear view mirror, it is time to look ahead to the 3rd quarter of the season. Winning aside (while important, it is too overarching to evaluate at this level), what sort of goals should the team have in the next phase of the season?

Looking back to my 2nd Quarter Thoughts, some of the goals were achieved, some were not. The running game goals I feel were reached. The outside zone run to the right has become fairly reliable at getting a couple yards, and a second running threat was added, though not who I expected (I thought that Jackson returning from injury would be the man, nice to see Ahman Green though, I always liked him). Adapting the offense to the challenges that they’ve met, and the offensive line goals I feel were not met. The 3rd down defense goals, of weaning the defense off the turnover, I feel was met (we’re currently ranked 4th in the NFL at 34%, 3rd down % is just as good of an indicator of unit quality as scoring, and better than yards surrendered in my opinion). And finally, the rookie class took a big step forward in the 2nd quarter. Clay Matthews took over full time at OLB and has played great, BJ Raji’s playing time and impact has been rapidly increasing, TJ Lang has been a regular on the line and looks like he belongs, and is starting this week, and Quinn Johnson made some nice blocks when he’s been in the game. Brad Jones is about to show what he can do on defense. Jarius Wynn, out with an injury, was the only rookie who is still awaiting that next step.

Settle on An Offensive Line: I know that injuries have played a large role, but they’ve got to settle into a starting lineup to use the rest of the year. TJ Lang seems to be the all purpose fill in. If he is not going to be that any longer (if he gets the starting RT gig for good), somebody should be readied to be an all purpose backup. No shifting in case of injury. Continuity is often just as important as ability when it comes to offensive line play, our lineup is constantly in flux it seems.

Step Through the Door Aaron: I feel that Aaron Rodgers is currently standing in a doorway, the doorway to eliteness. He can see through it, and has done what people in that room are doing at times, but he has not joined that group. Many QB’s get to the point where Aaron is now and go no further. Only a select few QB’s have ever stepped through that door.

Every QB has weaknesses. There is always some natural hitch in their games that they possess. There is no perfect QB. It seems they all follow a similar path too. At first heavy coaching hides their biggest weakness. As they get more comfortable on the field and the rest of their game progresses, that weakness shows up again. The QB will fight that weakness the rest of their career. Some QB’s are able to mentally self coach that tendency of theirs out of them, to keep it at bay.

Brett Favre early on had very bad tunnel vision. His making something out of broken plays was a direct offshoot of that tunnel vision. He continued to fight that tunnel vision throughout his career, and found ways around it. To this day I still believe that Brett makes up his mind on who he is going to throw to prior to the snap, he just changes the guys up and can hide who it is until the toss.

Aaron has the exact opposite problem. He cannot make up his mind at times. He needs to find a workaround for this that works for him. If he can consistently find a way to force himself to make a decision, earlier than he is totally comfortable with, he will step through the door. His all around game is very complete, aside from this one item. QB’s can sit at this stage for a very long time, or forever. Rarely is this a quickly fixed problem. To see Aaron making progress on this particular item, with consistency, will be huge. Much more important I feel than the outcome of the remaining games. But if he does take that step, winning should come much more frequently and easier.

Get Out of the Slump McCarthy: Something is off with Mike. Any creative endeavor, play calling and coaching included, is subject to slumps. It goes with the territory. Offensively Mike is clearly in a slump right now. It is something that creative people always have to fight, they have to find a way out of their creative doldrums that happen from time to time. For Mike, I have no path, only a final goal.

It is hard to put a finger on why he may be in this slump. Part of me says he has partially mentally checked out of the full offense, partially because of the other squads (defense/special teams), and partially because of Aaron, who like I said is at a point where he can step into the group of elites, but isn’t there yet. McCarthy could be doing what he can to prod that step. If it means losing some games, so be it, as long as Aaron takes that step. I get the sense that McCarthy is both calling plays that prod Aaron to make quick decisions (though he hasn’t been), and is calling plays that and giving Aaron a lot of options to become somewhat of his own playcaller on the field. Aaron is struggling with both at the moment, but that isn’t a reason to back it off.

Hopefully though this quarter McCarthy gets back to what he did best. He could run our offense on smoke and mirrors with the best of them. Right now we need some of that magic.

Find a Pass Rush: The defense is doing a lot of things right, they have made a lot of progress since early in the season, but they simply cannot rush the passer. The right side of the line, Clay and Cullen, has largely been doing an acceptable job, but the left side, typically Kampman and Jolly, has been completely ineffective. Kampman is not the rusher he once was, even if we were in a different scheme, and Jolly isn’t much of a rusher. Sadly, the only place where a rush on the left side might come from, is from rookies. As BJ Raji gets more comfortable on the field, he should be able to bring pressure from the DE spot, if not Jarius Wynn did an excellent job during preseason. I would like to see his playing time increase. Brad Jones is going to get a start this week. Hopefully he shows what he did in preseason, that he has a very good speed rush. Dom could possibly add a 3rd and long situational play that sees Brad replace the LDE on the field, either over the G with Kampman over the T or vice versa. As of right now, we are going to continue to struggle with blitzing until a front 4 rusher shows himself to be worthy of a double team.

Stop the Penalties on Special Teams: Overall our team gets a high number of penalties, but neither the offense or defense compare to the special teams group when it comes to flags. It seems that almost every return is accompanied by a yellow hankie. Our special teams units have other problems, namely the lack of a punt returner, a poor punter, and coverage breakdowns, but right now none is more correctable than the flags. The special teams flags have got to stop. A lot of yards are being left on the field because of special teams flags.

Progress in all of these areas in the 3rd quarter will go a long way toward the ultimate sign of progress, the W-L record.


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One Response to “The 3rd Quarter”

  1. The 4th Quarter « Where's Lambeau? Says:

    […] look back at my third quarter thoughts shows good progress in the third quarter almost across the board, keyword almost however. Our line […]

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