Green Bay Packers

Thursday Morning Ramblings: The Curious Case of the Lethargic Packers

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The Green Bay Packers got a win, and that’s about all you can say about the display they put on the field, Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. While there were some promising individual performances (particularly from Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Rashan Gary), there were also some big head-scratchers.

And once again, the team as a whole came out of the Lambeau Field tunnel simply lacking any kind of energy.

Matt LaFleur pointed to this when the game was finished and seemed none too happy with the energy of his players. Now that this has become a trend, there’s some cause for concern; this marks back-to-back home games in which the Packers hit the field at home and seemed uninterested in playing a football game against subpar competition.

I always am very conscious of how I walk the fine line that exists when you start talking about effort and energy. These are things that are not quantifiable, and it’s impossible to tell through a television screen what these players are feeling out there.

When the coach gives credence to these concerns by affirming that there was, indeed, a lack of energy among the team yet again, that’s when it becomes okay to question … a) why this lack of energy persists, when it’s already been an issue in at least one or two other games this season… and b) what can be done to resolve it?

We’ve been over this time and time again, but the Packers have talent – plenty of it – on both sides of the ball. 

So what can get this team fired up and ready to play, even in bad weather, and even against poor competition?

To a degree, you have to put blame on the players, here. As professionals, it’s their job to go out and take care of business on Sundays, no matter who the competition is.

But there’s also the issue of leadership – what sort of energy are the coaches instilling in the team? Who are the leaders on the team that are speaking out and holding their fellow teammates accountable?

I feel like a broken record but this is a Packers team that can beat literally anyone when they’re “on.” The scary thing is that it seems to be a crapshoot as to whether or not they’ll be “on” on any given Sunday.

The Jaguars are the second-worst team in the league, by most acceptable metrics. Had they been any better, the Packers would have exited Sunday with their third loss on the season and their second loss to a one-win team.

The Green Bay Packers will need to do whatever they can to keep themselves hyped-up to play winning football because desire is what separates teams come January. Right now, despite all of their talent, you have to be concerned about what you see happening all too frequently from that energy perspective.

MVS came out and proved me (and many others) wrong

Just one week ago in this space I advocated for the Packers to take away many of Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s snaps and give them to Malik Taylor instead. I said MVS had graded out as one of the league’s worst receivers this season (which is true by some metrics) and compared him to 2019 Geronimo Allison (in hindsight, overly harsh on my part). 

All he did against Jacksonville was put together the best game of his career.

Right now, MVS is on pace for about 822 yards and 7 or 8 touchdowns on around 40 receptions. For a guy who’s really not supposed to be any more than a third receiver when Allen Lazard is around, those are some really excellent numbers.

Now, it’s important to note that MVS has relatively similar statistics to what he had after nine games last year, before he suffered a nagging injury that played a role in him disappearing for the rest of the year. MVS still needs to prove he can do this kind of work consistently. We’ve seen flashes in the past that have showcased his potential.

MVS did a great job of shutting me up, and I come away with a bit of egg on my face after ragging on him a bit (both fairly and unfairly) in last week’s column. Now, the next seven games could likely play a big role in determining his future with the Packers. His contract bumps up by quite a bit next year, and the Packers will be much more likely to pay up if he can demonstrate the consistency he’s failed to showcase throughout his career so far.

Having a career game is a good way to get started on a mission to prove yourself.

One guy to watch this week

While the marquee matchup this week against the Colts is going to be the Packers’ offense versus the Colts’ top-flight defense, I’m particularly interested in watching Rashan Gary build on a really impressive performance against Jacksonville.

Gary led the team with seven pressures and had a sack that helped seal the victory for the Packers late in the fourth quarter. While his play was not without mistake or fault, he put together one of the better overall performances of his young career.

The improvement Gary has shown over his first two years has been obvious, and with Preston Smith failing to produce to the level of his contract (and thus likely being cap casualty after this season), I’m ready to see what Gary can do in a larger role on this defense. He’s earned more playing time.

Philip Rivers has taken only eight sacks this year, which is a reflection on the quality play of this offensive line and Rivers’ ability to get the ball out, as he’s not exactly a mobile quarterback.

I’d love to see what Gary can do with more work against a tougher unit.

Thursday Night Prediction

This week’s Thursday Night matchup is a doozie: the Seattle Seahawks play host to the Arizona Cardinals in a game that will have some significant ramifications on the NFC West race and the NFC playoff picture in general.

The Seahawks have lost two straight, and Russell Wilson has played himself out of the MVP picture. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are surging, and after a miraculous victory over Buffalo on the back of a Hail Mary, Kyler Murray is starting to get more national hype and even a small amount of MVP buzz of his own.

Typically when you have divisional Thursday night games you give the edge to the home team. But if I’m looking at the trajectory of these teams right now, I really like the Cardinals. They just took down a good team. The Seahawks have one of the worst defenses in recent memory and are very poorly equipped to handle a player like Kyler Murray, let alone a guy who’s a top-two receiver in this league in DeAndre Hopkins. 

I think this one will be close but give me the Cardinals in a mild upset by about a field goal.

Two Minutes’ Hate: Indianapolis Colts

In 1984, Colts owner Bob Irsay packed up the moving trucks and ran away from Baltimore in the middle of the night, stealing away a beloved franchise from a football-crazed town that gave birth to legends like Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry. 

This was reason enough for many people to despise Irsay and the Indianapolis Colts for decades. Then, Irsay’s coke-addled son Jim took over. 

Jim Irsay, the Rob Ford of the NFL, has been an unsavory character in the NFL for quite some time, and what’s particularly annoying is how for years he was hyped-up as this all-star owner with some crazy football acumen, when his biggest accomplishments to date are as follows:

  • Becoming an NFL owner at 39 years old, and having his team suck enough that they were able to land generational talent Peyton Manning with the top pick in the 1998 draft.

 

  • Failing to build a team that could win more than two games without Peyton Manning, thus having his team suck enough that they were able to land generational talent Andrew Luck with the top pick in the 2012 draft.

 

  • Failing to build a team that could protect Luck from being battered and bloodied over and over again to the point of being shellshocked and calling it a career before his 30th birthday.

That’s it – that’s what he’s done. People talk about how the Packers have wasted the career of Aaron Rodgers, which is absurd, but let’s talk for a moment about how Irsay allowed the Colts to go one and done in January basically every year with arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.

It’s actually a shame that the Colts have such a genuine badass and awesome dude in Frank Reich at the helm because, for every time you want to cheer for the Colts and their underdog status, you have to also remember that this is the same franchise that criminally mismanaged Andrew Luck’s injuries and then routinely lied to the fanbase about his status to keep taking in their season ticket money, and that the same douchebag responsible for that is still the one at the top cutting the checks.

Also, Philip Rivers is an asshole and I enjoy watching his dead duck lobs get eaten up by defenders.

Packers 27, Colts 23

 

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