4 Downs: Dougherty on Packers' loss
Every week I'll share four quick thoughts the day after the Green Bay Packers game. Here they are after the Packers' 29-10 loss at Denver on Sunday:
1. You have to wonder if Jake Ryan is going to get some more playing time at inside linebacker after Nate Palmer’s struggles Sunday night. Ryan replaced Palmer for a snap or two after Palmer had a couple bad plays early in the second quarter. On the first Palmer was slow to react on tight end Owen Daniels’ crossing route for a big 18-yard pickup. Then three plays later Palmer missed the tackle on running back C.J. Anderson that would have stopped him short on a third-and-2, and Anderson ended up gaining 19 yards. Palmer also appeared to share responsibility with outside linebacker Mike Neal for allowing running back Ronnie Hillman to get outside on his 15-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Palmer’s benching didn’t last long – he was back on the field on the next series and played the rest of the game. But after the Packers gave up 500 yards total, including 160 yards rushing and a 4.7-yard average per carry, defensive coordinator Dom Capers might be looking at some personnel changes, at least in some packages. One option that isn’t viable as an every-down linebacker is Joe Thomas. Thomas is the Packers’ dime linebacker, but he’s just too light (227 pounds) to play inside regularly, as he showed when he was blown out of the middle on Anderson’s 28-yard touchdown run through the heart of the defense in the third quarter.
2. The Eddie Lacy questions continue. Though Lacy had 11 carries to James Starks’ five, when the official snap counts come out later today they likely will show Lacy didn’t play that much more than his backup. Lacy had one impressive run, when he rammed through linebacker Brandon Marshall on a two-yard touchdown. But he gained only 38 yards on 11 carries (a 3.5-yard average) and wasn’t much of a factor in the game. His ankle injury might explain his low production and limited playing time earlier in the season, but the Packers were coming off their bye, so he should have been as healthy as he’s been all year. Maybe McCarthy is trying to limit Lacy’s touches so his running back is healthier at the end of the year, but that doesn’t explain why Lacy isn’t producing much when he is getting the ball.
3. Capers might have to find more ways to get defensive lineman Datone Jones on the field. Jones’ first two seasons with the Packers were mostly disappointing after they drafted him in the first round in 2013, but he’s starting to show some consistency as an inside pass rusher this season. His playing time is limited almost exclusively to the dime package, but his performance the last few weeks might buy him a look as a rotational player in the nickel as well. Against the Broncos he had three tackles, including back-to-back tackles of Hillman in the second quarter for a yard loss and no gain that forced a field goal.
4. Not sure how many yards Denver’s altitude adds to kicks and punts, but the Packers’ Mason Crosby and Tim Masthay took full advantage on Sunday and were among the few Packers who had good games. Crosby’s 56-yard field goal looked like it would have been good from at least five yards longer, and three of his four kickoffs were touchbacks. Masthay had a 46.2-yard gross and 43.8-yard net on his five punts, and his first punt of the second quarter was basically perfect: It was a 49-yarder to the right – that’s the side of the field he struggled punting toward in training camp – that came down maybe a yard inside the sideline. That’s ideal placement.