Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 Nov 2017

Word of Muth: Problems at Passer

by Ben Muth

The Green Bay Packers dropped their third straight game this past Monday night against the Lions. They haven't won a game since Aaron Rodgers got hurt, and the season is beginning to slip away from them. Monday night's game was the first that I've had a chance to see all year where the Packers' offensive line was reasonably healthy at the start of the game, but then Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL in the second half and will miss the rest of the season. It has been that kind of year in Green Bay.

As far as the game itself, I thought Green Bay's offensive line was very good in pass protection but struggled to create consistent lanes to run the football. They did an excellent job protecting quarterback Brett Hundley all night, and most of the times when Hundley did feel pressure, it had more to do with him than it did the line.

Take this play for example.

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Hundley rides the jet fake too long and ends up 2 yards wide of where he should be. That may not seem like a huge difference, but it makes it very tough to pass-block an NFL defensive lineman when your quarterback is not set up where you think he's going to be. Because Hundley drifts to the right, Bulaga ends up in his lap pretty quick. Now Bulaga isn't perfect here, but I think there's a very good chance that he would have been in good enough position to anchor here and keep the defensive end off the quarterback if Hundley had been set up on the hash where he was supposed to be. These are the little things that inexperienced quarterbacks do that kill drives.

It wasn't just the quarterback setting up in the wrong spot that hurt the Packers' line. I didn't think Hundley did a great job navigating the pocket either. Hundley is a good athlete, but he needs a perfectly clean pocket or else he's trying to get out of there. He doesn't slide and shuffle within it very effectively.

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Lane Taylor at left guard isn't very good here. He lets the defensive tackle (Jeremiah Ledbetter, 98) stick him right in the middle of the chest, then gets walked back into Hundley's face. But everyone else on the line does a very good job, so Hundley could easily slide up and to the right and still be in position to deliver the ball down the field. But Hundley tucks the ball, drops his eyes, and runs into a sack.

This was one of three sacks Green Bay gave up, and even though I wouldn't put most of the blame on the line for this one, it was the sack in which they were probably most culpable.

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This is the first sack of the game. And what can you say -- rookie running backs typically are crap at pass-blocking. Aaron Jones (33) misses his cut and gives up the sack. It happens.

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This one is a little more interesting. This looks like straight man protection where Green Bay's line has the four down linemen and the Mike linebacker (Jarrad Davis, 40). That would leave the back with the next most dangerous rusher. When the Mike drops, center Corey Linsley (63) falls into to help Jahri Evans (73) at right guard. Ty Montgomery (88) at running back picks up a defensive back on a wide blitz. I'm not sure if Montgomery should have picked up the inside rusher because he's the most dangerous, or picked up the guy he did because that's his man, but what I do know is that this ball needs to come out hot against this blitz with this protection called.

I know it looks bad to have the center and right guard blocking the same guy when another guy runs free right next to them, but that's how these things work. You can't have the center block who he feels like because he thinks it's best. Protections are coordinated, so everyone should know who they are responsible for. If you start worrying about other guys it would turn into a real clusterfuck. As Bill Belichick always says, do your job.

As I said, the pass blocking was good. It was the running game that struggled and puttered at times. But even then, I think there were some things that Green Bay was dealing with that would've been tough for any offensive line to overcome. A good example is from the biggest play of the game for the Green Bay offense. On the first drive of the second half, Green Bay went for it on fourth-and-2 at midfield. They did not make it.

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This is technically a pass, but come on, this is a running play. Look at the deep safety and see how he plays this. As soon as Randall Cobb (18) comes in motion, the safety starts screaming towards the line of scrimmage. Because he started so high, Green Bay doesn't even have a guy responsible for him. I'd be curious if Jordy Nelson (87, at the bottom of the screen) is supposed to read the safety and block him if he gets down into the box like this. My guess is that he is, and this is a blown assignment on his part.

Really though, what I wanted to highlight was how aggressive the safety was playing the run. He is not concerned about anybody getting behind him for a long touchdown -- probably because Hundley had thrown the ball more than 8 yards down the field just once or twice all game at this point.

Green Bay's overly conservative passing game on Monday makes it really tough to run the ball. Even when safeties were not starting in the box, they were getting in there to make tackles for short gains on a lot of running plays.

Also, if Green Bay had actually run the option they were faking here, they might have scored a touchdown. Just saying.

Posted by: Ben Muth on 10 Nov 2017

6 comments, Last at 11 Nov 2017, 10:50am by poplar cove

Comments

1
by theslothook :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 1:28pm

Excellent as usual. Nowhere else can you find this level of o line detail. I certainly would have assumed that the oline was to blame in the first gif.

2
by mjb :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 1:29pm

I am not shocked by this write up. Wasn't the knock on Hundley at UCLA that he had poor pocket presence and would take off and run at the slightest sign of pressure?

3
by Joseph :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 2:33pm

In the 4th gif, #32 of the Lions hesitates just a bit before blitzing. It looks like both Montgomery and the center look at them, see #40 back out of his blitz and #32 move backward and think they can leave them to go to the other rushers. You can't tell for sure from the gif, but it even looks like #40 is moving to cover for the blitzing DB. IMO, it looks like a great delayed blitz by #32.

4
by jtr :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 3:07pm

I was going to say the exact same thing. Right at the snap, 32 turns his head and shoulders for just a moment as if he was going to sprint back into coverage. Montgomery sees that and turns to scan for other pass rushers, and he never turns back to the middle of the field because the DB blitz grabs his attention. I remember hearing Rex Ryan say he likes "good actors" for his blitz packages, and this is a great example of it.

5
by nat :: Fri, 11/10/2017 - 3:48pm

I love these articles.

One thing I love is the perceptive comments, like that one. I re-watched that gif. You describe it perfectly. The head and shoulders acting job make the blitz work.

6
by poplar cove :: Sat, 11/11/2017 - 10:50am

I don't recall a young quarterback getting as bashed this week more than Hundley did for what was actually okay effort (not saying this article). Seems everyone is NOW saying the Packers are so bad when everyone and their brother were lining up to bet them against Detroit last game. By no means did Hundley play great but he also completed a high percentage of his passes and never turned the football over while throwing the ball with decent accuracy even when he was allowed to throw the football down the field. If anything he played about as well as could be expected especially considering the GB coaching staff did nothing to try and take advantage of his quickness and ability to move, etc.... The biggest reason the Packers got beat in that game didn't have to do with Hundley instead it had to do with their defense not forcing a punt the entire game and getting shredded by quarterback who was playing at elite levels in the game.