Finding the Positive After A Blowout Loss
As close as it was to a total washout, the Packers managed to escape at least a few positives. Four Packers left Century Link Field with positive grades from the guys at Pro Football Focus, and a deeper look at the numbers shows there could be a reason for hope at Lambeau Field. Or, that's what I'm telling myself, at least.
By the PFF metrics, Josh Sitton was the highest performing Packer on Thursday, finishing with an overall grade of 4.4. In context, if he were to maintain that pace, he would more than double his cumulative grade from all of 2013, when he was the second rated guard in the entire NFL. He was the only lineman to grade out positively in pass protection, and beat the next highest graded run blocker by six tenths of a point.
That next highest graded run blocker was rookie center Corey Linsley. With J.C. Tretter on short-term injured reserve, Linsley has no competition for the center spot, and if he keeps playing like this, he may never have to compete for the job again. In the harshest of environments, against the most tenacious of defenses, Linsley performed admirably. He graded out positively in run blocking, and while his pass blocking didn't blow anybody away, he didn't have any major gaffes either.
Defensively, as you might expect, there's not a lot to get excited about, but two players did have relatively good nights. Sam Shields, owner of a rich new contract, earned his money on Thursday. Shields was to blame on the option-pass touchdown from Russell Wilson to Ricardo Lockette, but allowed just one other catch on the night. He finished with an overall grade of 3.2, the best on the defense.
Mike Daniels also got a positive grade from Pro Football Focus, although this could be a situation where you may want to take their numbers with a small grain of salt. Daniels was knocked for his pass rush on Thursday, but PFF gave him a 3.7 grade in run defense, the highest individual grade given to players on either team. But the Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn, who uses his own rating system, crushed Daniels for his run defense. To wit:
Mike Daniels (46 snaps) might have played his poorest game as a Packer. Given his leverage, strength and intensity, the Packers expected Daniels to overcome being just a shade over 6 feet and stop the run. Daniels did resist the run last year in the 3-4, just not on a regular basis. Matched against one of the NFL's more massive guards in James Carpenter, Daniels was consistently covered up and displaced.
In a nutshell, that's the exact reason why you don't want to trust any one source for your analysis (other than Packer Perspective, of course). It's possible for two people to view one play and come to starkly different conclusions. PFF claims to be objective, but they strive to evaluate player performance independently of play design. McGinn, with his network of professional talent evaluators, does exactly the opposite. Who do you trust?
Yourself. You trust yourself. Watch the games, make notes, and compare them to what you've seen yourself. Then watch the games again. Does the evaluation still make sense? If so, why? If not, why not? Always be asking questions, and hopefully you'll never be led astray.