Tag:Aaron Rodgers
Posted on: February 2, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 3:18 pm

Matchup breakdown: Packers O vs. Steelers D

Posted by Andy Benoit

The Packers’ ground game doesn’t have a prayer against a Steeler run defense that ranks third all-time in the modern era. Center Scott Wells is a cagey veteran, but he struggled all season to hold ground against vociferous nose tackles. There may not be a more punishing run-stopping nose in the game than Casey Hampton. Even if the Packers can somehow neutralize that interior mismatch (and it’s doubtful they can), James StarkD. Driver (US Presswire)s, decent as he’s been this postseason, lacks the speed and agility to elude Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and Pittsburgh’s superb linebacking corps.

Green Bay’s best chance on Sunday will be to isolate their wideouts against the Steelers defensive backs. Don’t be surprised if the Packers spend most of the game in four wide receiver sets. That would force Dick LeBeau to play nickel or dime and keep either his leader (James Farrior) or most athletic player (Lawrence Timmons) off the field. It would also isolate at least one of Green Bay’s wideouts on one of Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks.

For Green Bay, the most attractive mismatch in the passing game will be inside. Steelers nickelback William Gay, who occasionally struggles in man coverage, will have his hands full against either James Jones or Jordy Nelson.

Also, expect the Packers to keep Greg Jennings on the right side of the formation, where he’s more likely to face Bryant McFadden. McFadden, like his counterpart Ike Taylor, is stout enough as a tackler to keep the catch-and-run happy Packer receivers from breaking a big one. But unlike Taylor, McFadden does not have great length or catch-up speed over the top. Jennings, one the crispest and most befuddling downfield route runners in the game, can exploit this.

Most importantly, spreading the field will create natural throwing alleys for Rodgers. This is critical because, with Chad Clifton going against James Harrison and Bryan Bulaga going against LaMarr Woodley, shaky pass protection will limit Rodgers to mostly three-step drops.

It will be fascinating to see whether LeBeau allows Rodgers to complete passes off three-step drops or whether he tries to counter the quick pass. Countering it likely means taking a reactionary defensive approach – something that is generally unfamiliar for LeBeau’s unit. Normally the Steelers love to blitz their inside linebackers (often this is what creates one-on-one scenarios for their potent outside linebackers). But to counter Rodgers’ quick strikes, the Steelers may drop eight into coverage and rush only three. Harrison and Woodley are both adept in space. If the linebackers are dropping back, Pittsburgh’s corners get to play zone instead of man. That helps appease the mismatch against Green Bay’s wideouts.

The X-factor, as usual, is Troy Polamalu. How LeBeau decides to utilize his most dynamic playmaker will determine whether the Steelers blitz or drop back. If Polamalu roves around the box, expect blitz. If he roves around centerfield, expect drop back.

Speaking of Polamalu, here's what LeBeau had to say about the legendary safety.

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Posted on: February 2, 2011 2:17 pm

Bulaga getting the hang of his new role

B. Bulaga has steadily gotten better this season. Posted by Josh Katzowitz

IRVING, Texas – Though he was a 2010 first-round draft pick, Packers fans probably didn’t expect to see T Bryan Bulaga have to play such an immediate role in the Green Bay offense.

But when RT Mark Tauscher’s shoulder forced him to the sidelines in October (and eventually to the Injured Reserve list), Bulaga was pressed into action – and a new role.

A left tackle for his career, Bulaga suddenly had to shift into the starting role on the other side of the offensive line. Without much preparation, he was thrown into his new assignment, and after a rough start, he’s finally gotten more comfortable in his new position.

“Just going to the right side was tough, because I had never played there,” Bulaga said. “That made it a little hard. But as the games went on, I got more comfortable over there, and I feel like I was playing pretty good football toward the end.”

He’s right, and he’s played a supporting role in Aaron Rodgers’ ascent to the top of the NFL quarterback universe while helping him win his first postseason games. But it wasn’t easy for Bulaga either.

“It was a little bit of a transition for him,” Packers OL coach James Campen said. “It was his stance going from left to right and that type of thing. Every game he’s seen a different look, a different pressure and a different situation, but he very rarely makes the same mistake twice. That’s a tribute to him, especially for a young guy. He’s a 21-year-old player that’s certainly dropped that rookie tag at this point. He’s gotten better and better.”

For that, Bulaga partially can thank LT Chad Clifton, the 11-year veteran whose eventual replacement likely will be Bulaga.

“He’s been tremendous,” Bulaga said. “You can look to him for anything. He’s been an absolute big help so far.”

But Campen really saw the improvement in Bulaga during the NFC championship game. Already, the Packers had faced the Bears twice, and that third time, Campen saw how much better Bulaga was playing.

“It’s because of his attention to detail,” Campen said. “Bryan Bulaga just doesn’t want to be good, he wants to touch greatness at some point in his career. He’s certainly on the right track with that.”

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Posted on: February 2, 2011 1:59 am
Edited on: February 3, 2011 8:45 am

Green Bay Packers offensive roster breakdown

Posted by Will Brinson & Andy Benoit

Perhaps the most fascinating thing if you look (at a glance anyway) at Pittsburgh and Green Bay is that they've built their teams "properly." (AKA "the opposite of Dan Snyder.) They draft smart, and they sign smarter. At least that's what we're lead to believe, right?

Andy and I set out to check the roster breakdown for both teams. En route, we* managed to figure out not only where they're coming from, but what they'll do for their respective teams in the Super Bowl.

Name POS Acquired Scouting Report
Aaron Rodgers
Drafted 24th overall, 1st Round 2005
He lacks is a weakness. One of the smartest, savviest and most athletic quarterbacks in the NFL. A Super Bowl ring might even legitimize the inevitable Is he better than Favre? discussion.
James Starks
Drafted 193rd overall, 6th Round 2010
ixth-round rookie arrived on the scene just in time for Green Bay’s playoff push. Not a star, but the upright runner gives the backfield some of the burst it’s been missing.
Brandon Jackson
Drafted 63r overall, 2nd Round 2007
Doesn’t have the initial quickness or agility to be a quality NFL runner, though has at least found a niche as a pass-blocker and screen pass receiver on third downs.
John Kuhn
UDFA 2005, PIT; FA 2007
Now synonymous with the term “folk hero” around Wisconsin. Has a knack for moving the chains.
Chad Clifton
Drafted 44th overall, 2nd Round 2000
Superb technique and consistent pass protection earned him Pro Bowl honors for the second time in his 11-year career.
Daryn Colledge
Drafted 47th overall, 2nd Round
Was finally kept at one position for 16 games, and responded with a career year. Not the strongest ox in the field, but dexterous at the second level. Packers would be wise to give him the long-term contract he wants.
Scott Wells
Drafted 251st overall, 7th Round
Reliable as they come. Will get jolted by bull-rushing nose tackles, but very rarely let’s that disrupt the entire play. Good mobility out in front.
Josh Sitton
Drafted 135th overall, 4th Round
Arguably the best right guard in football this season. Outstanding brute force on contact, has little to no trouble reaching linebackers in the run game. What’s more, he’s at his best in pass protection.
Bryan Bulaga
Drafted 23rd overall, 1st Round 2010
First-round rookie was drafted to eventually become the left tackle, but he might not have the quickness for that. Sound mechanics have made for a fairly smooth debut season.
T.J. Lang
Drafted 109th overall, 4th Round 2009
Versatile player but limited athlete.
Greg Jennings
Drafted 52rd overall, 2nd Round 2006
Known for his catch-and-run prowess, though his best asset is his innate feel for working back to the ball late in a play.
Donald Driver
Drafted 213th overall, 7th Round 1999
The elder statesman saw his production dip in 2010 (thanks in part to a quad injury). But there’s still plenty of speed and quickness left in him.
James Jones
Drafted 78th overall, 3rd Round 2007
When he’s not dropping balls he’s burning teams for long plays. Was actually Green Bay’s second most productive receiver this season.
Jordy Nelson
Drafted 36th overall, 2nd Round 2007
The fact that he’s white and not constantly compared to Wes Welker or Brandon Stokley tells you what a viable field-stretching target he can be.
Andrew Quarless
Drafted 154th overall, 5th Round 2010
Not Jermichael Finley, but then again, Antonio Gates isn’t even Jermichael Finley. The fifth-round rookie improved as the season wore on. Can catch what you throw him within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Donald Lee
Drafted 156th overall, 5th Round 2003
Scaled-back role because he’s not the blocker that Tom Crabtree is. Still athletic, though. Packers try to get him one or two touches a game, usually on a screen.

*Scouting smarts credited to Benoit. HTML and research credited to Brinson.
Posted on: January 31, 2011 11:56 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2011 12:05 am

Super Bowl Scene Monday night

A. Rodgers (US Presswire)

Posted by Andy Benoit

IRVING, Texas -- The media got a police escort from the Sheraton to the Omni Mandalay at Las Colinas in Irving for the Packers’ Monday evening press conference. The three buses that were scheduled to leave at “4:00 sharp” took off around 4:30. As they raced down the empty streets, Dallas denizens lined the sidewalks, waving and snapping photos (they thoughts members of the Green Bay Packers were behind the tinted bus windows).

Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Charles Woodson, A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews were the only players made available. With Mike McCarthy’s press conference taking place a few rooms over, hundreds of media members crammed into a basement lobby to score a prime position around the players’ tables. Some tables were less crowded than others (see photos of Rodgers’ table vs. Jennings’ table….both photos were taken some 15 minutes before the players arrived).

Once the players came in and the questions started firing, the entire scene became somewhat of a cluster….the entire scene became chaotic. Going off strict observation, a reporter’s job is to ask a player a loaded, leading question before any other reporter can ask them a loaded, leading question. More entertaining than the players’ response (which is one of three things: canned, clichéd or politely evasive) are the facial expressions of all the reporters whose questions weren’t heard. A lot of people are left feeling like their toes have been stepped on.

And when a player does go outside the lines, he’s playing with fire. Jennings was asked if he told the guarded Rodgers to let his hair down this week. Jennings’ response – “I told him to spike his hair up” – was met with stone silence. Damn him, he wasn’t making the writers’ jobs easy.

Donald Driver made reports’ jobs easy, if a reporter was looking for a quote that involved the phrase “confidence level is high”. Each table has microphone and a speaker so that players can be heard. No joke: Driver’s speaker sounded like it was replaying the same audio clip again and again.

Back on the bus, writers flipped through notebooks of sloppy handwriting and replayed bites of mildly-garbled sound. They compared quotes and discussed amongst themselves the spin they would put on it (you’d be surprised how much spin is involved).
No police escort on the way back, which explains why the people of Dallas no longer acknowledged the bus.

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Posted on: January 31, 2011 8:37 am
Edited on: January 31, 2011 8:37 am

Rodgers, Barnett clear the air

Posted by Andy Benoit
A. Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers and Nick Barnett exchanged a few barbs this week, but the quarterback is claiming it is water under the bridge now. Rodgers recently called Barnett and the two spoke directly. 

“I initiated the conversation; we ironed things out,” Rodgers said, according to ESPN.com. “I didn't think there needed to be an apology on either side. I reminded him I was the one who went to the third floor and lobbied to have everyone in the team photo. I realize people are going to want to talk about this at the Super Bowl, but everything is cool."
Nick Barnett
Their little public rift began when Rodgers irked Barnett by subtly complaining about players on injured reserve not sticking around and being near the team.

Barnett, one of 16 Packer players on IR, responded via Twitter (he has since deleted his Twitter account), saying, "All I wanted to be is included as a teammate nothing more. Looks like it has backfired on me. I guess that was asking too much... Sorry if I offended anyone."

If he did, all is well is now (according to Rodgers).

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Posted on: January 29, 2011 5:41 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2011 8:51 pm

Rodgers talks IR issue, Barnett bails on Twitter

Posted by Will Brinson

Remember that whole Packers picture controversy? The one where several members of the team on IR were upset that the team wouldn't let them take part in the picture ? And then the team relented and let them be in the pic after all ?

Yeah, Mike McCarthy didn't like it (he thought it got overblown) and you have to think Packers fans didn't like it either. But Aaron Rodgers talked about it Saturday, and there's a good chance his words could stir the pot again.

"Well, I’ll say this," Rodgers said per Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee . "I was on IR back in 2006, and I chose to stick around and finish out the season with my guys and be here every game. Some of those guys didn’t. And so, we love them, we care about them, we don’t wish injury on anybody, but this is a group of guys that's really come together and has been great to work with. It's been great to work with the guys we brought in midseason, some of them, and the young guys. Some of the guys who were injured, you know, they are still part of this team, but some of them didn’t choose to stick around."

Those comments are just vague enough to avoid any public perception that Rodgers is pointing fingers, but it's pretty obvious that he is at least speaking to Nick Barnett and Jermichael Finley.

Both those players were on IR, both were absent from the Packers' facility after their season-ending injuries, and both were quite active on Twitter following their exclusion from the picture.

It remains to be seen whether Rodgers' comments actually create any sort of stir, but Nick Barnett (not-so-coincidentally) is deleting his Twitter account.

"Goodbye Twitter ... It was fun while it lasted ... But we need to focus on important things," Barnett tweeted. "Before I delete this page I just want to say I was never trying to be a distraction ... I am [a] Packer have been one for 8 years going on 9 years."

Look, everyone will tell you that this "controversy" isn't a big deal. And it probably isn't. But there's certainly something a little discomforting for Green Bay and Packers fans when the biggest story surrounding the team is a totally meaningless team photo distraction that it can't seem to shake.

Oh yes, and all of this happening before media week starts. Which means it's not the last that we've heard of it.

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Posted on: January 28, 2011 6:27 pm

Polian puts Ben 'up there with Brady, Manning'

Posted by Will Brinson

People who hate the Steelers will tell you that Ben Roethlisberger is the "greatest game manager of all-time." Steelers fans, upon hearing that, will throw things at whoever said it. And those black-and-gold fanatics are probably right -- Ben's a hell of a football player and ridiculously talented quarterback.

And he garnered some pretty specific praise from Bill Polian, President of the Colts, who happens to know a thing or two about decent quarterbacks.

"Bottom line, if you ask football people, they're going to put Ben Roethlisberger up there with [Manning and Brady] almost unanimously," Polian told Sam Farmer of The Los Angeles Times. "No one would leave him out. And others who have made the Pro Bowl, for example, wouldn't even get consideration if you took a poll of all 32 general managers."

Before you get upset that Polian insulted your quarterback, make sure to remember that in this day and age, 75 percent of the NFL makes the Pro Bowl, so you shouldn't be too terribly worried about whether or not your quarterback's better than Roethlisberger. (Unless that was a shot at Philip Rivers, in which case it's a little awkward.)

But the fact remains that Ben is in fact an elite quarterback. He's one of the six best quarterbacks in the NFL -- Brady, Manning, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Ben and Aaron Rodgers comprise an arguable list of top-end signal callers.

And that list might get a lot more solidified (or maybe LESS solidified??) depending on what happens at the Super Bowl.

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Posted on: January 27, 2011 10:59 am

Peppers fined 10K for helmet-to-helmet on Rodgers

Posted by Andy Benoit
J. Peppers
The helmet to helmet hit on Aaron Rodgers that earned Julius Peppers a 15-yard personal foul in the NFC Championship game also earned the Bears defensive end a $10,000 fine. This according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

It seemed like a "controversial" call at the time but only because the Soldier Field crowd, naturally, booed it. The reality is Peppers drilled the crown of his helmet into Rodgers’ jaw. He’s lucky the fine wasn’t steeper. And the Packers are lucky that Rodgers did not suffer his third concussion of the season on that play.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com