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Old 02-04-2011, 05:21 PM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Super Bowl XLV Breakdown: Analyzing the Packers' Offensive Line

Super Bowl XLV Breakdown: Analyzing the Packers' Offensive Line
By JJ Cooper
http://nfl.fanhouse.com/2011/02/01/s...ffensive-line/

Do you think that strong line play is a key to NFL success?

You might change your mind Sunday. The Packers and the Steelers are successful despite offensive lines that are mediocre at best.

But even if LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison win their battles, that doesn't mean they'll sack Rodgers. He may not be Ben Roethlisberger, shrugging away linebackers and defensive ends like King Kong, but Rodgers' mobility makes finding him a pass rusher's first responsibility.

Rodgers isn't going to stay still. The Packers like to roll him out by design. And when he doesn't roll out, the Packers often turn to a rhythm passing game that has the ball coming out of Rodgers' hand as soon as his back foot hits on his third or fifth step. When that happens, even the best pass rusher isn't going to get to him.

That's good for the Packers, because in reality, one of the NFL's best groups of wide receivers and Rodgers makes up for a significant amount of weaknesses along the offensive line.

In watching and rewatching every play of the Packers' regular season win over the Jets (picked because it was one of the few 3-4 defenses Green Bay faced this season) as well as rewatching much of the Falcons' and Bears' playoff wins, some clear trends stand out.

This is not a very good run-blocking team. The Packers' revolving cast of tailbacks isn't the only reason that Green Bay hasn't run effectively for much of the season. Guard Josh Sitton is an effective mauler, but the rest of the line seems much more comfortable pass-blocking than driving a defensive lineman into the ground.

The tight ends are even less comfortable in three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust mode. The Packers tight ends are long, lanky pass catchers who are a little out of their element in run-blocking. Both Andrew Quarless and Tim Crabtree give solid effort, but they are best at mirroring their assignment and trying to simply stay between the defender and the ball carrier, they don't really have the strength (and they play too high) to get much push as a drive blocker.

Green Bay's scheme does create some opportunities for the tight ends in the running game. On early downs, Green Bay will sometimes flank one of them out as a wide receiver. That usually forces the outside linebacker to follow them outside, creating an excellent blocking angle on runs that way.

On running plays to his side, left tackle Chad Clifton very rarely drives his man off the ball. Usually he gives ground, but then tries to lock out his arms and tie up his man to keep him occupied, especially on running plays to the outside. Whether that will work against James Harrison is yet to be seen, but it doesn't seem like a good approach. Harrison normally tries to set the corner, and if you let him get into the backfield, normally he's going to force a running play back inside. And if the play does go outside, Harrison will usually either run it down or he may force a holding call.

There is one significant downside of the Packers' run-game struggles. In rewatching the Jets game, there were multiple plays where Green Bay tried to run a play-action bootleg for Rodgers. But because of the lack of an effective running game, the unblocked outside linebacker ignored the play action and made a direct line for Rodgers, forcing Rodgers to throw the ball away.

It will be interesting to watch how center Scott Wells handles Casey Hampton. Wells appears to be much more comfortable when he is uncovered. Against 4-3 defenses, Wells usually is asked to block linebackers on running plays, a job he does quite well. But against a 3-4 defense, Wells is much less comfortable trying to get low and manhandle a nose tackle.

That wasn't much of a problem for him this season, as the Packers have faced few 3-4 defenses. And more importantly, once again the Packers' scheme covers up weaknesses. Because Green Bay spends so much time in three-, four- and five-wide receiver formations (75 percent of their snaps), the Packers rarely face a team's base defense. Even most 3-4 teams go to a four-man front when they switch into their nickel or dime package, which means that Wells is usually uncovered.

SACKS ALLOWED
Player Sacks
QB/Play Call 10
Chad Clifton 9.5
Bryan Bulaga 8
Daryn Colledge 2.5
Brandon Jackson 2
Mark Tauscher 1.5
John Kuhn 1
Josh Sitton 1
Korey Hall 1
Scott Wells 1
Tom Crabtree 1
Sean Wells 0.5
The reality is that Green Bay is unlikely to have much success, or try much, to run the ball. When the Packers have the ball, this game will be decided on how well the Packers can block the Steelers' pass rush and how effectively the Steelers secondary and linebackers can cover the deepest group of receivers in the league.

If you look at the Packers' sacks allowed this year, it becomes pretty clear that both of the Packers' tackles have had some pass protection problems. Left tackle Chad Clifton's biggest problems have come with speed outside linebackers and defensive ends (4.5 of his 9.5 sacks have come on speed rushes), but his number is inflated by Rodgers' tendency to hold the ball -- three of his sacks came on plays where Rodgers held the ball for 3.7 seconds or longer.

Right tackle Brian Bulaga was the Packers' first round pick last spring. He moved into the starting lineup in Week 5, which makes his eight sacks allowed a little more disconcerting. Bulaga has struggled with staying low and keeping his proper balance all season -- six of his eight sacks allowed during the regular season were on bull rushes.

Bulaga did play his best football of the season in the Packers' playoff wins against the Falcons and Bears, but he would appear to be over his head blocking outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Clifton had to leave the Bears game briefly with an injury, and when he was out backup tackle T.J. Lang struggled mightily to handle Julius Peppers. The Packers' depth at guard and center is much better as Jason Spitz has 45 career starts and he's played well as a fill-in this season.

Last year Daryn Colledge was way over his head as a fill-in tackle, but he looks much more comfortable as a starting guard. Colledge and Sitton are both steady in pass protection as is Wells. If Pittsburgh is going to get pressure up the middle, it's more likely to be from running their favorite X-blitz (where the two inside linebackers cross through the A gaps one after another) to take advantage of the running backs difficulties recognizing who to block. The Jets had success running it a couple of times and the Steelers had similar success with the X-blitz when they faced the Packers in 2009.

To give you a better idea of the Packers' pass blocking, here is a log of every sack Green Bay allowed during the regular season along with the number of pass rushers, and the time of the sack (initial hit refers to the time from snap to the quarterback being hit for the first time). All stats were pulled by watching each and every sack of the 2010 season, and the person to blame is as best can be determined without knowing the play call. If the sack occurred because the quarterback ruined the blocking angles, because the play call left a rushers untouched or with an unclear responsibility, it is logged as a quarterback/play call sack.

Week Sacking Team Sacker QB Sacked Person to Blame Sack Value No. of Rushers Down Distance Initial Hit
Notes
1001 Eagles Juqua Parker Aaron Rodgers Mark Tauscher 0.5 4 2 6 2.8
Trent Cole drives Clifton back into Rodgers. At that point, Parker has also driven Tauscher back and gets sack.
1001 Eagles Juqua Parker Aaron Rodgers Chad Clifton 0.5 4 2 6 2.8
Trent Cole drives Clifton back into Rodgers. At that point, Parker has also driven Tauscher back and gets sack.
1001 Eagles Juqua Parker Aaron Rodgers Mark Tauscher 1 4 1 10 2.7
Parker uses power to get Tauscher playing too high, then tossed him aside
1001 Eagles Trent Cole Aaron Rodgers Chad Clifton 1 4 2 15 3
Simple speed move after a stutter step
1004 Lions Louis Delmas Aaron Rodgers Daryn Colledge 1 4 1 7 2.5
Suh drives Colledge back with bull rush into Rodgers feet. Rodgers slips and falls, Delmas gets garbage sack because he's first to touch him while down
1004 Lions Ndomunkong Suh Aaron Rodgers Scott Wells 1 4 3 10 2.7
Suh loops around which creates confusion. Wells seems to think Colledge is staying home, but that leaves Wells blocking no one
1005 Redskins Brian Orakpo Aaron Rodgers Chad Clifton 1 4 3 7 4.4
Not Clifton's fault, Orakpo goes all way around Clifton then hits Rodgers from behind
1005 Redskins Phillip Daniels Aaron Rodgers Bryan Bulaga 1 4 1 10 2.7
Daniels bull rushes, then slides off Bulaga to outside
1005 Redskins London Fletcher Aaron Rodgers Bryan Bulaga 0.5 5 1 14 1.9
Bulaga, Wells both confused by blitz, neither really block anyone
1005 Redskins Lorenzo Alexander Aaron Rodgers Sean Wells 0.5 5 1 14 1.9
Bulaga, Wells both confused by blitz, neither really block anyone
1005 Redskins Brian Orakpo Aaron Rodgers Chad Clifton 1 3 3 12 2.3
Orakpo beats Clifton with speed rush around outside
1006 Dolphins Randy Starks Aaron Rodgers QB/Play Call 1 4 1 10 3.9
Rodgers has plenty of time, eventually steps up then falls to ground after ruining Clifton's blocking angle
1006 Dolphins Cameron Wake Aaron Rodgers John Kuhn 1 4 2 2 3.4
Rodgers holds ball again. Kuhn cuts Wake but he has time to get back up to make sack
1006 Dolphins Koa Misi Aaron Rodgers Chad Clifton 1 4 2 10 2.7
Wake beats Clifton to outside. Rodgers then steps up which creates a bad angle that leads to sack
1006 Dolphins Cameron Wake Aaron Rodgers Bryan Bulaga 1 4 3 2 2.5
Bull rush beats Bulaga
1006 Dolphins Cameron Wake Aaron Rodgers Bryan Bulaga 1 5 3 6 2.8
Bull rush again beats Bulaga
1008 Jets David Harris Aaron Rodgers Korey Hall 1 5 2 10 2.7
X-blitz. Hall doesn't recognize it, blocks neither of the two LBs
1008 Jets Dwight Lowery Aaron Rodgers QB/Play Call 1 5 1 10 2.3
CB blitz off edge, no one to block him
1009 Cowboys Orlando Scandrick Aaron Rodgers QB/Play Call 0.5 5 3 3 2
Pair of unblocked DBs coming off corners. Rodgers had WRs breaking off routes, but just doesn't have enough time to get it to them
1009 Cowboys Alan Ball Aaron Rodgers QB/Play Call 0.5 5 3 3 2
Pair of unblocked DBs coming off corners. Rodgers had WRs breaking off routes, but just doesn't have enough time to get it to them
1011 Vikings Ray Edwards Aaron Rodgers Bryan Bulaga 1 5 1 10 2.4
Edwards drives Bulaga back then slides off for sack
1011 Vikings Jared Allen Aaron Rodgers QB/Play Call 1 4 3 13 6.3
Rodgers looks around forever, no one open, scrambles around for a while longer
1011 Vikings Ray Edwards Aaron Rodgers Bryan Bulaga 1 4 3 7 2.6
Edwards knocks Bulaga over on bull rush, climbs over him for sack
1012 Falcons John Abraham Aaron Rodgers QB/Play Call 1 3 1 3 6.3
Abraham eventually beats Bulaga but at 6 seconds, no way to blame an OT
1013 49ers Justin Smith Aaron Rodgers Daryn Colledge 0.5 5 1 10 3
Smith bull rushes Colledge back slides off for sack
1013 49ers Isaac Sopoaga Aaron Rodgers Bryan Bulaga 0.5 5 1 10 3
Bulaga gets initial hit, then falls down
1013 49ers Ahmad Brooks Aaron Rodgers Chad Clifton 1 4 1 10 3.7
Brooks drives Clifton back with bull rush then rips free
1013 49ers Ahmad Brooks Aaron Rodgers Brandon Jackson 1 6 1 3 2.6
Jackson can't get block on Brooks as Brooks comes off corner
1013 49ers Travis LaBoy Aaron Rodgers Chad Clifton 1 5 3 9 2.7
Clifton beaten to outside. Was screen pass, but Clifton didn't even slow him down
1014 Lions Turk McBride Aaron Rodgers Chad Clifton 1 4 3 1 4.2
McBride bull rushes Clifton into Rodgers, but Rodgers also holds ball forever
1014 Lions Andre Fluellen Aaron Rodgers Tom Crabtree 1 4 1 10 2.9
Bull rush work well in running over TE
1014 Lions Ryan Pickett Drew Stanton QB/Play Call 1 4 2 8 6.8
Stanton rolls out, eventually runs OOB
1014 Lions Turk McBride Matt Flynn Bryan Bulaga 0.5 4 2 10 2.6
Both tackles beaten by bull rushes
1014 Lions Lawrence Jackson Matt Flynn Chad Clifton 0.5 4 2 10 2.6
Both tackles beaten by bull rushes
1014 Lions Lawrence Jackson Matt Flynn Bryan Bulaga 0.5 4 1 10 2.3
This time both OTs beaten by speed rushes
1014 Lions Turk McBride Matt Flynn Chad Clifton 0.5 4 1 10 2.3
This time both OTs beaten by speed rushes
1015 Patriots Eric Moore Matt Flynn Daryn Colledge 1 6 2 6 2.1
Colledge blocks in to help DT Wilfork when Moore is shooting through B gap. LT Clifton gives Moore shove than hands him off to no one
1015 Patriots Rob Ninkovich Matt Flynn Chad Clifton 1 5 1 10 3
Ninkovich engages, then slides off to inside to beat Clifton
1015 Patriots Devin McCourty Matt Flynn Brandon Jackson 1 5 1 10 4.2
Jackson finds CB blitz and picks it up, but eventually McCourty slides off as Flynn rolls his way
1015 Patriots Dane Fletcher Matt Flynn Josh Sitton 1 6 1 10 2
Molly block (pullling guard out) doesn't work as Sitton is too late to pick up pressure from outside
1015 Patriots Tully Banta-Cain Matt Flynn QB/Play Call 1 3 4 1 3.7
On last play of game, Flynn tries to buy time by stepping up, but that has him run right by Banta-Cain as angles get destroyed
1016 Giants Team Sack Aaron Rodgers QB/Play Call 1 4 3 1 2.8
Rodgers loses ball as he draws ball back to throw
1016 Giants Justin Tuck Aaron Rodgers Bryan Bulaga 1 4 2 10 3.4
Tuck beats Bulaga around edge with speed rush
1017 Bears Henry Melton Aaron Rodgers QB/Play Call 0.5 4 1 20 4.1
Rodgers eventually tucks and scrambles
1017 Bears Brian Urlacher Aaron Rodgers QB/Play Call 0.5 4 1 20 4.1
Rodgers eventually tucks and scrambles
1017 Bears Tommie Harris Aaron Rodgers QB/Play Call 1 4 3 3 4.4
Rodgers eventually tucks and scrambles, ruins blocking angles

Read More: Packers Super Bowl NFL Analysis
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