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First Quarter Grades (10/14/2009)
By Dave DeLano

The bye week sent me up a tree stand this weekend rather than glued to the tube to watch professional football. Waiting for the deer to appear causes the brain to wander so here are my thoughts on the Packersí performance through 4 of 16 games.

Coaching Staff/Management: D+ General Manager Ted Thompson has not provided the talent on the offensive line to allow the Packersí playmakers to perform to their ability. I like Coach McCarthy but he tolerates too many mistakes and penalties which have unfortunately become part of the Packer mantra. Players who consistently commit bone-headed penalties (Jarrett Bush comes to mind) need to be held accountable. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers has a work in progress with the change to the 3-4 scheme, but I think he is on the right track. Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin is a big question mark. Since McCarthy makes the offensive calls, Philbin hides in the shadows from criticism/accolades, but I am beginning to suspect Philbin isnít pulling his weight.

Offense: C The offensive line is a complete disaster. The return of injured tackle Chad Clifton and the re-signing of Mark Tauscher will help but the rest of this unit isnít up to playing professional football. The receivers and the tight ends are very talented. Look for the fortunes of Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings to blossom as the season progresses IF the line metabolizes into competency. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a specially gifted talent who needs a line to block for him. He could become a real star in the NFL. Ryan Grant isnít getting many yards rushing but that also gets back to the miserably poor play of the offensive line.

Defense: C Caperís defense will eventually get pretty good but the change is difficult and Aaron Kampman is an example of a great defensive end being forced into a position he is uncomfortable playing. Linebacker Desmond Bishop mostly sits on the bench while starting inside linebackers Nick Barnett and especially A. J. Hawk donít seem to have big-play-making ability. Both Barnett and Hawk are first round draft picks with large salaries but it is Bishop who deserves playing time. Charles Woodson is incredible. His All-Pro performance defies his age. This yearís first-round draft pick, B. J. Raji, has not contributed much.

Special Teams: C- Punter Jeremy Kapinos and place kicker Mason Crosby have been inconsistent. Punt and kick returner Will Blackmon is done for the season after suffering a knee injury, but he was unspectacular even when healthy this year. His replacement will be Jordy Nelson whom I suspect will be a pretty good kickĖoff returner, but the Packers need to find a quick-twitch explosive guy to return punts.

There you have it as the Packer Partisan sees it. Mediocre grades for a team playing mediocre football right now. Not a pretty review for a Packer team that hasnít played up to its potential. Cheeseheads saw the awesome offensive potential of this team in the preseason, but the real deal has revealed numerous liabilities. I hope the Packers have more success improving their performance than I did with the deer. 


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