Chalk Talk - Green Bay Packers @ Denver Broncos - Preseason Game #3

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      Your game prep for 2008 Pre-Season Game #3

This is a fascinating game to watch in terms of clashes of styles.  Denver runs the Zone Block scheme so well that they are considered the godfathers of the scheme (even if it didn't truly start with us).  GB runs the scheme too, but not as well.  In fact, last year was very tough for their run game.

On the other hand, last year Denver ran the Man Contain system on defense and it was a miserable failure.  Green Bay has run it for awhile, and has the people to run it well.

In the West Coast Offense, a legend has retired, uhm, moved away from Green Bay.  In Denver's West Coast Offense, a new star is rising.

The two teams are at once on a similar, yet different path.  The same systems, with differing results on both sides of the ball.  A legend goes away for one team, but arrives for another.

Let's take a closer look.  Read on...

First, a very big and special "thank you" to Sirsam (MHR's resident staff artist) for designing the awesome logo for Chalk Talk.  It was done within hours of the request and is perfect.  I had considered calling him back and telling him that "with Hoosierteacher" might be a little egotistical for me, but then I realized that it strokes my ego very nicely, thank you very much.  : )

Again, as with last week, I'm treating this game as a regular season game.  Preseason games are difficult to prep, because players being used, the lengths of their usage, and even the playcalling is not desingned to win a game.  It is all desingned to train and examine individuals.

I'm also going to spend more time on what to watch for in terms of style issues.  While a particular style, approach, or system may match up well or poorly against another team, this doesn't mean one team is "better".  During the season, I will add a lot more about player match-ups that will make the difference.  For example, while a certain team may be a poor match-up in terms of scheme match-ups, that team may be better coached and have more elite players.  I won't get that detailed for the pre-season.  Consider the preseason "Chalk Talks" an appetizer for things to come in the regular season, where we will get a lot more meat.  This is a brief "sampler platter" if you will.

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Without going into personnel in detail, let me show you how I compared the two team last year, and how I compare them going into this year.  Bear in mind that a changed grade doesn't mean that one team got better at a position while the other went down.  Rather, in some cases, a team may have improved more than the other team improved, or worsened more that the other team worsened.

Last Year                                                                                          This Year

1. QBs - GB (not as much as people might think though)       Den

2. RBs - DEN                                                                                    Den

3. FBs - DEN                                                                                     Den

4. TEs - DEN                                                                                     Den

5. WRs - even (without Walker)                                                     Den

5. O-Line - DEN                                                                                Den

6. DEs - even                                                                                    even

7. DTs - GB                                                                                       GB

8. MLB - DEN                                                                                   GB

9. OLBs - DEN                                                                                 even

10. CBs - DEN                                                                                 Den

11. Safeties - DEN                                                                          Den

12. Coaching - DEN                                                                       Den

13. K and P - DEN                                                                          even

14. Return - GB                                                                               even

15. Coverage Teams - even                                                         Den

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Running Game

Denver "Zone Block (One Cut)" vs. Green Bay "Run Contain"

The run contain is a very good system for challenging the zone block of Denver.  If all things where even (players), the run contain would be a good match for GB.  Runs to the outside should be vectored to the inside, where GB's LBs are effective.  The 2 gap system used by the GB DTs is also more effective against our run game than the one gaps we eat for lunch.

How does Denver adjust?  If Denver's pass game (West Coast Offense) is effective and can spread the defense horizontaly, the one cuts to the center will work much better.  While Aldridge is a favorite to reach the sideline, this may not be the team for that approach (given their emphasis on containing the edges).  Instead, look for Denver to use a lot of passes to TEs.  The GB OLBs and SAFs are not prototypical "TE stoppers", so Denver might want to go this route.

Green Bay "Zone Block (various runner types)" vs. Denver "Show Blitz"

Here again, all things being equal (which they aren't), the GB system should wreak havoc on Denver.  But the GB system of Zone Blocking hasn't had the success that it has had in Denver.  While a Zone Block O-Line should destroy a one gap defensive line, last year's GB team had a rough time with the run, and had to rely on the passing game and a solid defense.

On the other hand, Denver may or may not have solved the DT problem.  Thomas comes back (improved?), and we picked up DRob (improvement?).  Out draft pick is already out with an injury.  We are improved vastly at WILL, have declined at MLB (but by how much), and SAM is still a question mark.  I like for GB to keep in their FB, and not to use a lot of two TE sets.  They should challenge our run defense early and often.

In summary, I give the edge to Denver in running the ball (despite the scheme match-up) because of a combination of personnel and scheme experience.  GB and Denver come off of weak seasons (Denver's run defense / GB's run offense), and I would call this even except that GB's run was set up by Favre's passing (now absent).  I like Rodgers, and think he will improve.  But he's not there yet, at least not enough to support the run game with his passing.

Green Bay West Coast Offense vs. Denver Show Blitz

Scheme-wise this is a draw.  Personnel-wise, it favors Denver heavily.  GB has good receivers in depth, but is going to be growing a new QB.  Bailey, Bly, Paymah, and Foxworth can hold their own against even the best, and the safeties (while not supermen) are improved over last year.  The Show Blitz system can rattle even an elite QB (it has caused Brady and Manning problems), so Rodgers could have problems (if this was a regular season game and we are running it).  But the passes are short, and high percentage.  With enough pass protection, Rodger's may have some surprises for Denver.  I just don't see it against any starters.

Denver West Coast Offense vs. Green Bay Run Contain

GB is expected to blitz more this year.  Last year they would pair a MLB with an OLB for the blitz (rarely, if ever, 2 OLBs).  This year they are blitzing more in camp, which doesn't fit the typical run contain system.  I expect the MLB to man on our RB, or (rarely) to blitz with an OLB.  The OLBs will likely contain the run, or they'll play zone on pass.  GB is a tough, physical team on defense, and may not use the DL to protect the LBs as much as other teams might (because of confidence in the LB's ability to shed blocks).

Denver's TEs are a great match against GBs OLB and SAFs.  While Denver has great WRs in depth, GB has a very decent CB group.  Denver may be better served by trying a few two TE sets to maximize the mismatches, even though Culter may have good targets with Marshall, Royal, and Scheffler.

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Keys to the game:

Denver

  1. Limit interceptions.  GB's strength on defense is a run stopping front seven and a solid secondary.  Cutler can limit interceptions if he has the time to set up.  If he's taking hits, Shanahan will have to pull him out.
  2. Protect Cutler (see number 1)
  3. Pressure Rodgers.

Green Bay

  1. Establish the run and control the clock.  Denver's run defense isn't established fully yet.  A good running game keeps Cutler off the field and demoralizes Denver, play after play.
  2. Take away the edges of the field.  This stops Aldridge from stretching the field with sweeps, stops Cutler from bootlegs, and keeps the offense in the center of the field (where GB's big seven can make an impact).
  3. The LBs must "stay at home".  If they get chewed on misdirections (pass or run), it will be a long night for GB.

ESPN

  1. Shut your freaking mouths about Favre.  He's not here tonight, the game is in Denver, and you have young and upcoming star QBs to discuss if you can pull your heads out and finaly watch a game (instead of talking over it with Mrs. Favre).  Talk about the game on the field!
  2. See 1.
  3. See 1.

Note: GB got buried last week.  They need a win to gain some confidence.  They also need some time to pass after the Favre reversals to gell as a team.  Rodgers must have gone through a lot being in doubt as to whether his team had his back or not.  Denver proved themselves against a solid and physical team, and have good momentum going into this week.

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Those are just my opinions, and not as solid as the regular season.  I'm sure there is a lot of good analysis out there by our very knowledgable members.  What do you guys think?  Where do you agree?  What have I missed?  Where am I outright wrong?

Take it easy, and Go Broncos!

HT

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