GREEN BAY - Ever since the West Coast system was instituted in Green Bay under Mike Holmgren in 1992, Packers teams have used the bye week to delve into data on themselves, trying to find out whether they had become predictable to their opponents.
It’s a fine exercise that almost every team in the NFL does now, but one that does not serve the Packers very well this year.
Three games into the 2016 season, they don’t know who they are yet and it’s unlikely anyone else has figured it out, either. Thus, using a Week 4 bye to scout 180 minutes of regular-season football made little sense to coach Mike McCarthy.
So, when the players returned Monday for meetings and a short practice weighted heavily toward fundamentals, they went over individual scouting reports McCarthy had his assistant coaches prepare last week.
“We’re taking today as an approach for self-improvement, and with that I wanted each player to have substance from the evaluations that the coaches did throughout the bye week and apply it in the meetings today and then work on it on the practice field,” McCarthy said. “We’ll work a little bit of the (New York) Giants stuff on the field today and then get into it more during the week.”
There’s only so much a veteran player like right tackle Bryan Bulaga can learn from such a report given he’s constantly evaluating himself during the year, but it was different to have offensive line coach James Campen hand over a report and then follow it up with some video reinforcement.
“It was good,” Bulaga said. “You want to be coached. Anything that can help yourself and help the team is worth doing. Nothing jumped off the page at me. I didn’t expect that. But there’s always little things you can clean up.”
For a rookie like defensive end Dean Lowry, the individual self-scout allowed him to get some advice from his peers.
The offensive and defensive lines did a “cross-the-hall” meeting where the two groups met and watched film together. Used some last year and during the offseason, the cross-training allows each side to point out things they had recognized about their teammates that might be predictable.
“We just talked about tendencies we see in each other,” Lowry said. “It was a great learning day for both sides. Just hearing it from the O-line — you hear it from the coaches and from the guys in your room — but to hear it from somebody else, it goes even further.”
Safety Micah Hyde said the meetings didn’t dwell just on bad tendencies. Some of it was positive reinforcement, letting the players know which things they were doing were serving them well. Once on the field, the emphasis was on improving fundamentals and correcting specific weaknesses.
McCarthy said one benefit of the early bye was that the coaches were able to evaluate offer detailed evaluations to a bunch of rookies pressed into duty this season due to injury. During the season, a good portion of meeting time has to be focused on scouting the opponent and understanding the game plan, so individual analysis isn’t as comprehensive.
“We have limited information on some guys, but this will be really good for all our young players to just go back,” McCarthy said. “And frankly, you just re-emphasize everything you’ve been teaching since the offseason program, training camp and preseason.
“It just gives you a chance to go back through it and then have some live game tape that you can apply — the training, the drill work and back it up with the video of them playing in the game and getting some evaluation with a little more individual substance.”
Work on the Giants will begin Wednesday after the players’ day off. And then the bye week will be in the rearview mirror.