Aaron Nagler and Michael Cohen discuss next steps for the development of Brett Hundley and the drop off in play from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. (Oct. 23, 2017) USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY - After averaging three sacks per game the first three weeks of the season, the Green Bay Packers have three sacks over the last four games.
The last two games, the defense has not played quarterbacks known for scrambling, yet the only sack they have is a second-quarter drop of the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees by outside linebacker Nick Perry.
Clay Matthews has gone two straight games without a sack, Ahmad Brooks has gone three games without a sack and defensive tackle Mike Daniels has gone six games without a sack (both Brooks and Daniels have missed time with injuries).
“They threw a lot of balls in the horizontal zones, and it was all quick,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the Saints. “They averaged 1-3 screens on normal down and distance. That game came down to execution. They’re playing at a very high level. Don’t want to take anything away from them.
“But we were not. They were playing faster than we were and their production reflected that.”
Missing Morgan: Both McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers said the absence of safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring) the past two weeks has affected production and communication.
There have been numerous times the past two weeks when the defense was late setting up and players were confused about their assignments.
“There’s no question Morgan’s been our quarterback,” Capers said. “He’s been around here the longest. You’ve seen us play him at three different positions. You know, before he went down he was our signal caller. I always correlate that with the quarterback position. Guys have confidence in Morgan
‘And if there’s any gray area he’s going to try and take the gray area out if it. And so, we’ll look forward to hopefully getting Morgan back here after the bye week.”
Swinging big: Last week, special teams coordinator Ron Zook intimated that McCarthy made the mid-game decision to switch kick returners against the Minnesota Vikings, replacing primary return man Jeff Janis with the skinny speedster Trevor Davis.
The pattern held against the Saints when Davis, whose role on offense is nonexistent this season, lined up as the starting returner and held the post throughout the game.
Once again, Zook said the decision was made by McCarthy.
“Coach just felt like let’s take a look at him, let’s give him a chance,” Zook said earlier this week. “He’s done a good job. Not that Jeff (hasn’t). Jeff’s still got to be ready to go as well. I look at Trevor probably as more of a punt returner but he’s got that quick suddenness.”
Davis returned two kicks against the Saints for an average of 26 yards per return. However, the numbers are misleading given Davis’ boldness to run the ball out from deep in the end zone.
His first kick return originated 8 yards deep in the end zone, according to the official game book, and his second originated 5 yards deep. A holding penalty on running back Jamaal Williams wiped out what would have been a 45-yard return on the latter.
“He comes out at 9 (yards) deep he might not be back there,” Zook said with a laugh. “You like to have a guy like that, though. I think he’ll get better as he gets experience.”
On the mend: For a team as wounded as the Packers, healing is a major theme for the bye week, and that includes quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers underwent surgery last week to repair his broken right collarbone. The procedure was performed somewhere away from Green Bay, and Rodgers was not at Lambeau Field for Sunday’s game against the Saints.
The Packers have not disclosed a timetable for his recovery.
“I’ve been in regular contact with Aaron,” McCarthy said. “There’s a reason why he’s on IR. So it’s at a minimum of eight weeks, and worst-case scenario he would be lost for the season.”