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.
It's tough to make definitive judgments about a team's new schematic wrinkles from just two games. For example, you can’t say if something a team shows early in the season is a new staple of its defense or a function of who they’re playing against.
However, the Green Bay Packers have shown some interesting new things so far this season.
Green Bay's offense has been relying a little more on the short passing game, and that is because of the offensive line.
I think the Packers' offensive line will be problematic at times this season. Even in the win against Washington last week, the Packers were overmatched by the Redskins' pass rush in the first quarter. That's going to happen at times with this line, which has rookie David Bakhtiari at left tackle and second-year player Don Barclay at right tackle. The coaches will do something to try to help the line. So far it's getting out the ball quicker, and having fewer deep drops for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Defensive coaches will study route combinations on those short drops, and if they take away those throws Rodgers is so good he will adjust. He's a quick decision maker, and can also move in the pocket when necessary. He can also just stick a tough throw to his receiver very quickly with his quick release and arm strength. He can make those quick throws as well as any quarterback in the league, as he showed on a 14-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson.
The Redskins showed "cover zero blitz," but then dropped eight into coverage on the snap. Rodgers simply drilled a throw to Nelson anyway. With his arm, Rodgers beat a defense designed to take that throw away.
The Packers' offense is mostly the same. Tight end Jermichael Finley and receiver Randall Cobb are still the movable chess pieces. James Jones moved into Greg Jennings' role as a receiver that will move around the formation. Jordy Nelson almost always lines up outside the numbers. The Packers seem to want to be more balanced – that's why they drafted Eddie Lacy in the second round – but it's basically the same offense with more quick throws. And in previous years they had more shot plays, on deeper drops or bootleg action, and I’m sure they’ll get to that. It's in their playbook and they’re not giving it up.
Defensively, the Packers blitzed Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III a lot. On every third down in the first half and early third quarter, Green Bay blitzed. They often used rookie slot cornerback Micah Hyde on those blitzes. But, it's impossible to tell this early in the season if they did that specifically for the Redskins or if that will be the Packers' plan all year. What seems clear, however, is the Packers will move Clay Matthews around more this season.
Green Bay has been moving Matthews around, often stacked behind the defensive line, to create pressure opportunities. Matthews is their only true pressure player at this point. Linebacker Nick Perry, a 2012 first-round pick, has flashed a bit but not in the sense that he's a really good pass rusher yet. The Packers are still waiting for him.
It's tough early in the season to say which defensive wrinkles are specifically for the opponent, but you can bet Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers plans on moving Matthews around to create more opportunities for him all season.