Every week, Philly Football Talk will check in with a member of the opposing team’s media for a little question and answer session. Today we speak with Ralph Mancini of Packers Blog Lombardi Ave
— Jon Marks: Ok Ralph, I’m shot right out of a cannon with this Q&A. What exactly is going on up in Green Bay? I’m sure there are many reasons, but what’s the biggest?
Ralph Mancini: There are multiple issues plaguing this Packers’ team that begin with the ridiculous amount of injuries that have taken its toll on this proud and storied organization, especially on defense. Green Bay has been trying to get by with inexperienced cornerbacks that have been pushed into roles that they aren’t ready to handle.
Sam Shields being out since Week 2 has deprived them of the closest thing they had to a shutdown corner and no one has been able to step into his shoes. Chronic hamstring issues have turned Clay Matthews into a non-factor and the offense is still suffering from the effects of Eddie Lacy’s season-ending ankle mishap by making the unit one-dimensional.
Mike McCarthy is also at fault for the continued regression of this team due to his inability to identify what’s working on offense and sticking to it. His insistence—at times—to feature plodding tight end Richard Rodgers in the short passing game instead of giving more reps to some of his younger and more dynamic receivers in four and five-receiver sets is downright maddening.
A reluctance to provide more snaps to promising running back/receiver Ty Montgomery has also baffled several of the team’s diehard supporters. Amazingly, though, McCarthy has his faction of advocates indicating that GM Ted Thompson should be the one that pays the price for Green Bay’s abysmal performances of late.
Yet, McCarthy’s mismanagement of the offense isn’t a novelty. In fact, signs of this team’s decline were evident last season. The veteran head coach’s insistence on letting his receivers use their individual skills to get open rather utilizing schemes, including bunch formations and rub plays, were a major factor in Aaron Rodgers sub-par showing in 2015.
As for Thompson, his reluctance to pursue high-impact free agents has resulted in the Packers being overly reliant on late-round picks and rookie free agents to provide depth when starters go down. His draft-and-develop style has its merits since the Packers rarely let their stars slip away when their rookie contracts expire. You can owe that to his fiscal prudence in the free-agent market.
But when your recent high-round picks aren’t developing as planned (see Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins), fans will come after you for not loosening the purse strings for quality veterans. If the Packers don’t recover from their malaise, a total house cleaning may be in order—and rightfully so.
— JM: Is this something that can be turned around in an offseason or is this a bigger problem?
RM: The team relies too heavily on Aaron Rodgers for dreams of a turnaround to come to fruition. McCarthy has lost this team from the aspect of failing to motivate his players, as they are prone to come out flat at the start of games, which constantly puts them in chase mode.
The Pittsburgh native was thrown for a loop when Lacy went down and seemed to be at loss at what to do with the running game until James Starks came back from his knee injury. No, these aren’t things that can be fixed in the middle of the season. The Packers might win a game or two on the strength of their quarterback’s arms, legs and sheer competitive nature. But that won’t be enough to achieve any level of consistency needed to be a legitimate contender.
On the other side of the ball, the defense is a total mess. Our pass rush has been neutralized over the past few weeks and our run defense has surrendered plays of 66 and 75 yards over the past two weeks. But most of all, our decimated secondary has no chance when we aren’t generating pressure.
— JM: Two part question. What’s the deal with Aaron Rodgers? First on the field. When you look at his stats, the guy is still killing it. Something just isn’t right though. When I watch the games, something is missing. Is there something wrong with him? How much of the blame does he deserve?
RM: Rodgers is missing a few more throws than he has in the past, but outside of some errant deliveries, he’s been carrying the offense on his shoulders. In addition to his typically superb darts he throws while escaping the rush, No. 12 has been the Packers’ best weapon in the running game. In fact, Rodgers has been the only team member to score a rushing touchdown this season.
Mr. Discount Doublecheck has been downright heroic over the past five games by throwing 15 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions and averaging 318 passing yards. The one minor on-field critique I can mention is the fact that he will occasionally release the ball a little too quickly instead of letting routes fully develop on downfield plays. But I haven’t seen much of that lately.
— JM: Ok second part. What about Rodgers off the field? Every story I read gets more and more strange. He hasn’t spoken with any of his family in years. Didn’t go to his grandmothers funeral.HIs brother is on the television show The Bachelor ripping him.Rodgers has ripped his team this season, his ex teammates are ripping him. I saw one story where someone called him a f***ing head case and said he was too arrogant to ever admit he’s wrong. He has the supermodel girlfriend, doesn’t hang out with the fellas, won’t associate with some teammates.
Sum it up for us. Seems like a pretty complicated dude.
Well, he’s not Brett Favre, who let you into his personal life and could go on forever when you asked him even the most basic question. Rodgers is admittedly not a rah-rah guy. He prefers keeping his personal life private…and I can respect that. The star triggerman exudes an aura of California coolness and some people may take his calm, collected demeanor as aloofness or arrogance.
What I do know about the 12th-year veteran is that he’s super intelligent, ultra-competitive and has a great working relationship with veterans, such as Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. At the end of the day, I’m fine with whatever Rodgers does behind the scenes as long as he’s throwing touchdowns and staying out of jail.
Lots of complaints about him being a bad teammate have come from disgruntled ex-colleagues, such as Jermichael Finley, who isn’t the sharpest blade in the knife case. One of Finley’s “major” laments is that Rodgers never gave him his phone number. Personally, I would also have my reservations of providing the clownish former tight end with my digits as well.
And finally, reports of the soon-to-be 33-year-old’s tension with his immediate family are frankly no one’s business due to the fact that media members and fans opining on these matters don’t know what’s really going on there. Why should it be a shock that Rodgers may not be on speaking terms with one or more of his family members? Who among the people reading this article have never had disagreements with their mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles or siblings?
Hopefully, Rodgers will be able to come to terms with his parents and brothers—if the issues are as serious as they’re being portrayed—but how, when or if he ever settles those personal dilemmas are things we shouldn’t concern ourselves with.
— JM: The Packers defense has given up over 38 points per game during their current 4-game losing streak. Clearly they aren’t a strong unit, but the Eagles wide receivers haven’t exactly been productive either. If you were the Eagles offense, how would attack the Packers?
— RM: You should always attack the Packers by targeting your tight ends early and often since this porous back seven has no one that can defend the position, particularly someone like Zach Ertz, who beyond possessing size and soft hands, can actually run precise routes.
Moreover, Philly should try to attack their opponent deep especially against a cornerback such as Ladarius Gunter. The second-year defensive back not only lacks speed, but it appears as if he is completely devoid of any second gear the further he runs downfield, which makes him a liability on shot plays.
— JM: Thoughts on Carson Wentz? The Wentz Wagon has slowed down the last few weeks and he looked like a rookie against the Seahawks
RM: I’m sure Eagles’ fans have heard this before, but I really think the rookie field general has the tools to develop into the next Andrew Luck. His intelligence, athletic ability and arm talent are impressive to say the least. His biggest problem right now is dealing with pressure. It seems as though he’s been rushing through his delivery with bodies around him that have resulted in missed throws that sail on him.
There have also been times when Wentz is dropping his eyes and that’s just a case of him needing to adjust to the fact that his protection isn’t as effective as it was earlier in the year. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman also mentioned how the young gun was “staring down” his targets in his last game.
The kid needs reps to improve his pocket presence and he also needs to realize that throwing the ball out of bounds is a good thing when he doesn’t have open receivers. A better supporting cast would help also—particularly at wide receiver—but you already knew that.
— JM: Meanwhile Dak Prescott continues to look like a 10-year veteran. Are the Cowboys the best team in the NFL right now and going forward?
RM: The Cowboys have been the most consistent team and I would definitely put them right up there with the Patriots and Seahawks as this year’s top Super-Bowl contenders. No one has been able to shut down Dallas’ running game, which allows Prescott to continually throw from a clean pocket. I don’t see Prescott winning a title just yet in his rookie campaign. He will stub his toe somewhere along the way in the postseason
— JM: Do you find are Eagles fans: Nauseating, Annoying, Misunderstood, Lovable…?
RM: Eagles’ fans are a passionate bunch, but a little rough around the edges. They want a winner and won’t settle for anything less and that’s what you want to see from your fan base. What you don’t want to see are members of the opposing team getting booed when they are lying motionless on the turf (see Michael Irvin circa 1999), but much of that was undoubtedly alcohol-fueled. Overall, though, Philadelphia fans are among the best in the country. The guys on the field know that they’re being held to lofty standards and know that giving anything less than 100-percent of their effort is unacceptable.