Shutdown Corner

Greg Cosell’s Look Ahead – Green Bay Packers becoming a well-rounded offense

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Over the last four weeks the San Francisco 49ers have the most rushing yards in the NFL, which isn't unexpected.

No. 2 on the list of most rushing yards the last four weeks? The Green Bay Packers. And they don't get a lot of rushing yards out of their quarterback like the 49ers do.

I think the Packers are clearly more committed to running the football this season. I know Mike McCarthy, and he's a hard-nosed, intense guy from Pittsburgh. He'd like to run it more if he could, even though he has quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Don't forget that their offensive line still needs to be protected a bit. He's playing with a rookie at left tackle and a free agent at right tackle. The tackles haven't been terrible, but you don't want to expose them too much. Running the football effectively helps.

I think Eddie Lacy is complementary feature back rather than a foundation feature back, but he is a pure downhill runner with decisiveness and natural power. He has run well out of the shotgun, which has turned into a staple for the Packers (26 percent of carries have come out of the shotgun).

If you have decent backs – and Lacy is more than a decent back – and you’re committed to running, you can do it effectively. The Packers, who face the Bears on Monday night, have done it well this season.

Brady's struggles continue

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's numbers are way down this season. It’s never one thing when a player struggles, but he’s not throwing it well. Everyone has been loathe to say it because he’s Tom Brady, but you can see it on film. Sometimes he’s just missing guys. Earlier this season it was not always him, he had young receivers to work with, but he has missed throws he has normally made with ease. He hasn’t been sharp a number of times this season, missing throws that are relatively routine to him.

He is getting hit more, without question. I don’t think he likes that (I don’t think any quarterback does). Through his career, he has been used to being clean. Getting hit more could well have an impact.

Watching Brady, I can’t say there’s an issue with his arm. You’re not saying, "He can’t throw the ball anymore" or anything like that. And this doesn’t mean he’s not a great player, but right now he's not playing well.

Atkins injury impact

Cincinnati defensive tackle Geno Atkins' season-ending knee injury has more impact for the Bengals against the pass than the run, because Atkins is a great pass rusher. He’s a good player against the run too, but it's a passing league and they can’t replace him as a pass rusher. It's obvious, but the drop-off there will be really meaningful.

Atkins can beat a lineman quickly after the snap, and that totally breaks down a passing game. And he’s a great bull rusher; he can get under the pads of a guard and lift him back into the quarterback. He's the best three-technique tackle in the league. It’s a huge loss.

Austin absent

Rookie receiver Tavon Austin is a non-factor in Rams offense at this point. There's no creativity and imagination in how he’s utilized.

He is lining up as a slot receiver, and that's all they're doing with him. And he might become a really good player doing that. Wes Welker didn’t do a lot in his first few years. Welker wasn’t the eighth pick of the draft, either, like Austin was.

It's just not like how the Vikings used Percy Harvin last year, where you'd watch and say, "Wow, they’re using him in a variety of ways." I’m not ripping the Rams staff, they’re with Austin every day and I’m not, but there’s not much creativity. And I think if you draft that guy where you did, there needs to be some.

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

Hit us up on Twitter @YShutdownCorner, email us at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com and "Like" Shutdown Corner on Facebook for NFL conversation 365 days a year, the way it should be.

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