Packers Done at Deadline? Not so Fast.

There’s no sugar coating it. The past few days have sucked to be a Packer fan. Sunday we had to watch again, for what felt like the 500th time, as the Packers outplayed a superior opponent for three quarters only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It’s been all too common for this team over the years, but this one stung exceptionally. Monday brought anonymous sources and a loss of trust between Running Back Ty Montgomery & his teammates. Tuesday saw both Ty and Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix shipped out of town for future draft picks. The reactions to these events have been nothing but ugly. I wish Ty Montgomery and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix well with their new teams. Both are by all accounts upstanding citizens off the field and have put in efforts to better their communities. Unfortunately it didn’t work out in Green Bay and a change was necessary. It’s a tough game and that’s life in the NFL. The national media’s narrative has been doom & gloom for the Packers after the trades, but let’s take a look at why there should be optimism for the Pack moving forward.

Effort

Sunday’s game was the most complete game the Packers have put together so far in 2018. They received nothing to show for it, but the Packers looked energetic from the opening kickoff right up until Montgomery’s fumble. Mike McCarthy and Mike Pettine were able to come up with an outstanding gameplan over the bye week and the Packers had fresh legs as well, but the effort the team played with was palpable. Was this just an effect of the bye week or a something sustainable? We’ll find out moving forward, but with the increase in playing time for high energy players like Jaire Alexander, Aaron Jones, and Marques Valdes-Scantling, I feel like we might see a more lively Pack as the season drums on.

Offense

Here’s where trading Ty Montgomery might actually add a spark to the Packers. While being a dynamic, hybrid WR/RB type player, Ty Montgomery has been a man without a role over the last six weeks in the Packers’ offense. Mike McCarthy, for some reason, has refused to budge out of his running back rotation, making sure to work Montgomery in for his fair share of snaps with Aaron Jones & Jamaal Williams. By trading him, MM should have no choice now but to free Aaron Jones. I expect to Jones to see a majority of the carries on first and second down and Williams to be the pounder and in during pass blocking situations. Aaron Jones opens everything up for this offense. He keeps the defense honest and makes play action a legitimate threat. He’s also averaging 6.2 yards a carry. Give him the ball!!!

Defense

I was so pleased with Mike Pettine’s gameplan for the Rams’ game. He dialed up exotic blitzes, made an emphasis to get his best players on the field, and had the Packers in position to knock off the NFL’s best team. A safety, field position gaffes, and Montgomery’s fumble cost his defense a signature win. This unit is trending in the right direction and I fully expect Pettine to have another strong plan for New England this weekend, an opponent he is familiar with from his time with the Jets.

The difference that Jaire Alexander makes for this team cannot be overstated. He brings an intensity and swagger that has been missing for some time. His performance Sunday was outstanding. The Rams clearly had keyed on him in their gameplan and he responded with five passes defensed and seven tackles. Let’s hope that teams continue to try and throw his way. Pass breakups and turnovers are coming.

Along with Alexander, the core of Kenny Clark, Blake Martinez, and Kevin King balled out Sunday.  Plain and simple. King and Alexander should be able to lock teams up on the corners, allowing Pettine to utilize a combination of Tramon Williams and Brashaud Breeland (who should make his debut in New England) to actually improve the Safety position with Clinton-Dix’s departure. Clark had the best game of his career Sunday and is developing into a star. His dominance, along with Mike Daniels’, allowed for Blake Martinez to be a force all afternoon. This is a recipe for an ascending defense. They just have to show that they can stack good games onto each other. The Patriots will be another huge test, but I feel much better now about the D than I did a week ago.

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The Pack still has the man and as long as they have him, they’re still a threat. No matter what. Each week the knee gets healthier and healthier and this team can get buzzing in a hurry as a result. A pissed off Rodgers with a chip on his shoulder might be enough to beat the Patriots by itself.

Locker Room

Sunday’s loss may actually prove to be a unifying force for the locker room. It was obvious that there was strife between Ty Montgomery and his teammates. That was promptly nipped in the bud, by shipping him to Baltimore. There were also rumors of negative energy stemming from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He is expecting a huge payday and it’s been clear to anyone that’s diligently watched the Packers that his effort has been well below 100% for nearly two years now. Sometimes it’s best for both sides to part ways and start new. Ha Ha will undoubtedly get his big contract this offseason and the Packers will take the Safety position in a new direction starting this week. With two negative influences leaving the locker room, one would hope that the remaining members of the team will come together moving forward.

This picture from the team’s Halloween gathering is encouraging. This looks like a team that likes each other:

Bottom Line

While there are no moral victories in the NFL, taking the Rams down to the wire showed that the Packers have the tools to compete with playoff caliber teams. Things feel like they’re trending in the right direction, but this team needs to win games. Green Bay is currently still tied in the loss column for the NFC North lead, as Chicago and Minnesota have not taken advantage of the Packers’ lackluster start. A big win against the Patriots this weekend could make the Bears and Vikings pay for that and will have this team’s playoff hopes back on track. It won’t be easy, but they’ve done it before. Here’s what happened last time the Packers & Patriots played. Here’s hoping for a similar result.

Go Pack Go

 

Like the column? Follow along on Twitter at @BarnBurnerBaker and @The_BarnBurner. I’ll be talking Packers for the rest of the season. 

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