Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mike McCarthy Recognizes Obvious Problems With Packers

The Green Bay Packers did not tackle well last season, on their way to a divisional round playoff loss to the New York Giants.

I don't think I'm breaking new ground here.

The Packers struggled all season with fundamentals surrounding tackling, catching, and protecting the ball. Aaron Rodgers didn't throw a lot of interceptions, and he completed nearly 70 percent of his throws, but he was betrayed by receivers who were passing around some sort of Stone Hands virus at various points during the season.

The Packers aren't making a lot of changes at receiver -- outside of perhaps jettisoning Donald Driver at some point in favor of giving youngster Randall Cobb more playing time -- so Rodgers is stuck with the same crew this fall.

Head coach Mike McCarthy knows ball security and tackling were a major problem, as he chronicled in a recent appearance on Sirius NFL Radio (via ESPN Milwaukee).

The game of football, in my view, will always come down to fundamentals. You only have so much time, so how are you going to break that time up? Really, the two biggest things we’re going to spend more time on is tackling and handling the football. You have a regular season schedule that you play, and the postseason is obviously the most important because you’re fighting all year to get into that post-season. We were the best team in football throughout the regular season. But you have to play your best football at the end of the year. Our issues were fundamental. We had some of that recurring throughout the year. I’m talking more about the tackling.

In the Giants’ playoff game we did not handle the football very well at all, as poor as we’ve played in that area in quite some time. Those are the things that I really focus on. We did a lot of positive things on defense, as far as taking the football away. We’ve talked about the pass rush. We’ve talked about the pass coverage. Those are things that the coaching staff has looked in the mirror – how did we utilize the players last year, how can we better utilize them this year? We have players here who are currently here that have to get better through the offseason programs. I am confident they will do that. I don’t like the attitude that we drafted six new rookies and all of sudden everything is fixed. That is not the case. That’s false expectations putting on these rookies. We need to improve from within. That has been our strength every single year. That will be no different this year. And this rookie class needs to come in and compete and contribute to our success.

None of this is going to make headlines nationally. We know it's true. It's why I repeatedly scoffed at the notion that the Kansas City loss provided some sort of blueprint to beat the Packers. The blueprint was there all season.

The defense wasn't very good. When they forced turnovers, they looked like gangbusters, but there were too many explosive plays and long drives permitted for anyone to think it was championship caliber. The Chiefs protected the ball against Green Bay well, and were justly rewarded.

Receivers dropped too many passes, and that came back to bite the team. When the Packers needed to sustain offense against the Giants, no one was sharp. Blame the time off McCarthy gave Rodgers in Week 17 if you want. I have, and I continue to think it was a factor in how he played against the Giants.

But the dropsies were a problem at times during the regular season, and they were definitely a problem against the Giants.

I'm concerned about this defense, but do like the changes Ted Thompson has made. There should be some great competition for starting jobs and playing time during training camp. Of course, the limited number of contact practices teams can conduct might make it tough for McCarthy to drive home the fundamentals -- especially tackling -- the way he might want to.

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