Packers: Behind Enemy Lines I

Jclombardi discussed Packers with Eagles Gab blogger.

Commentary: In the preview for the Eagles game, jclombardi answered questions about the Packers from Mike Burke, blogger for Eagles Gab [adapted]:

Eagles Gab: I had the honor of asking Jclombardi a few questions related to his beloved Packers. Jclombardi is an established writer and contributor to many Packer’s blogs.

EG: Aaron Rodgers used to be known as the guy waiting for Brett Favre to hang it up. He’s now considered to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the game. Does Rodgers deserve this title or is he still a few steps from being on that level?

Jclombardi: During the drama of Favre’s initial retirement in 2008 and trade, the Packers maintained its commitment to Rodgers. He responded with an outstanding season throwing for 4,038 yards and 28 touchdowns with a 6-10 record. In 2009, he followed with 4,434 yards and 30 TDs leading the Packers back to the postseason. Thus, Rodgers deserves the recognition as a new elite quarterback in the NFL. However, commentators are right to ask, beyond the good statistics, can he be both a winner in the season and playoffs?

EG: Many have compared Kevin Kolb’s situation to what happened with Rodgers. Do you see Kolb having the type of success Rodgers has had?

JCL: In the 2010 season, the Eagles hope that their similar handling of QB Kolb will start seeing the same successful payoffs story. After three years in Philadelphia, QB Kolb is now the starting quarterback with three dynamic receivers. Last season, he made two starts in place of an injured QB McNabb topping 300 yards and registering 2 touchdown passes in each game. Kolb is smart, poised, and mobile gamer with good arm NFL strength.

EG: How big of a defensive impact does losing Al Harris and Atari Bigby make? Who will start in their absence, and are you confident in those players?

JCL: Frankly, we do not see it to be a big impact, although the defense will face painful adjustments in the early games. Injuries are part of the game. CB Williams is a fine adequate starter and backup until CB Harris returns. As far as rookie S Burnett replacing veteran S Bigby, the position honestly needed an upgrade. Thus, Thompson drafted rookie S Burnett who showed the painful learning process and his maturing ball hawk skills in the preseason. The Packers are pleased with the Burnett’s progress. He has a great future working with all-pro S Collins.

EG: What areas have the Packers improved upon from 2009? Have they declined in any areas?

JCL: With elite veteran quarterback Rodgers, the team has an improved veteran set of five receivers to go with an elite quarterback. They include WR Driver, WR Jennings, WR Jones, WR Nelson, and TE Finley. Further, future all-pro TE Finley leads them making the offense almost an unstoppable West Coast offense. Meanwhile, with the addition of rookie OT Bulaga, the offensive line has become a solid veteran group with adequate backups. With P Masthay, the Packers have upgraded their punting position. In terms of special teams, they still need to improve and to be consistent. If one decline exists on this team, it is the lack of solid depth at the nickel and dime backs on passing downs. The Packers are now using raw rookie CB Shields ahead of injured CB Underwood and subpar CB Lee.

EG: What worries you the most about the Eagles offense? Eagles defense?

JCL: The Eagles offense had three dynamic weapons including pro bowl WR Jackson, second year WR Maclin, and TE Celek. Further, RB McCoy is becoming a good replacement for released veteran Westbrook. Further, they have solid KR/PR personnel against a weak Packers special teams.

After their drop from the 2008 top five in fewest yards and points allowed per game to the 2009 middle of the pack, the Eagles defense is improved from 2009. They added five rookie defensive players including promising pass rusher Graham. Also, the Eagles rushing defense last year and could be better this year because of upgrades at linebackers including Bradle and Sims. The Eagles improved their secondary to include outstanding cornerback Samuel and veteran cornerback Hobbs. With Samuel and Graham, the rebuilt Eagles defense could create a close game in this contest.

EG: Where do you see the Packers having an advantage on offense?  On defense?

JCL: With an elite quarterback, solid offensive line, and great receiver corps, the Packers offense is almost unstoppable even against an improved Eagles defense. They should have a field day against the rookie safety Nate Allen.

On defense, the Packers run defense should continue to be solid with the maturity of NT Raji, DE Harrell, and rookie DE Neal. They should force QB Kolb into long yardage passing downs to create potential turnover scenarios.

EG: What player will be the Packers x-factor on Sunday? Why?

JCL: ILB Hawk–Eagles look to isolate RB McCoy against ILB Hawk in the passing game to create a favorable mismatch. McCoy is dangerous in the open field. Hawk will have to keep McCoy from turning short gains into long ones.

EG: Give me a score prediction.

JCL: Continuing from last year, the Packers offense was dynamite during the preseason. The opposite was true about the Eagles who struggled to develop a good offensive rhythm. QB Kolb will be making just his third ever start this Sunday. However, with the new personnel on the Packers defense, this matchup may become a battle of prolific offenses. The defense that comes up with the big plays and turnovers is likely to be the winner. The Eagles’ defense is much improved, but they cannot stop this great Packer offense. Packers 26, Eagles 23.

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