There is a very good chance that the Cowboys will not have to face Aaron Rodgers at quarterback when the Packers visit AT&T Stadium this Sunday afternoon. Some might see this as a huge break and others might think it really doesn’t matter with how the Cowboys played on defense against the Bears.
For a franchise that started three quarterbacks in 20 years, to having started three this year, it’s a huge deal. Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback in this league and will continue to be as long as he is able to take snaps from center. Matt Flynn is the current starter in Green Bay after Mike McCarthy tried rookie Scott Tolzien without much success. Flynn returns to the Packers after helping his bank account with a trip to Seattle, then Oakland followed by one to Buffalo.
In studying Flynn’s tapes these last two week it is very clear of one thing, you need to stack the box against him to handle the running of Eddie Lacy and make him beat you throwing the ball. Flynn tends to hold the ball and will get jittery in the pocket even when things are not breaking down. When the play is designed to get it out, he can do that whether that means throwing the out or flat pass to Andrew Quarless, Jordy Nelson, James Jones or Jarrett Boykin. With Flynn, I do not see much arm strength and is limited in making all those throws that you would have seen from a player like Rodgers. There is a calmness to Rodgers game, a willingness to sit in there and deliver the ball. I do not see that with Flynn. I understand that you can say this every week and we tend to but Monte Kiffin must figure out a way to attack the pocket with this guy and knock him around.
Ted Thompson and this Packers front office have appeared to have hit a home run with rookie running back Eddie Lacy and what he has brought to this offense. For a team that was built on throwing the football, he gives them some serious balance which was something that always seemed to escape them when they needed it the most on some of those playoff runs. With Lacy, I am seeing a very similar style of back that they faced two weeks ago in Jennings from the Raiders. Hard runner, that can break tackles if you don’t get players at the point of attack to bring him down. Not the type of back that is going to break the long run on you but just a steady, consistent running style. He has the ability to catch the ball as well. McCarthy likes to use him on the screen to start and game like he did against the Lions or throw it to him in the red zone like he did against the Falcons last week. His backup is James Starks who is also a physical downhill runner who doesn’t have many moves but brings a load as well.
I have always had a great deal of respect for Jordy Nelson and this goes back to his days at Kansas State. One of the best bad-ball catchers there is in the game today. He has always been a quarterback’s best friend because no matter how poorly it’s thrown, he can make the play. Deceptive route runner with a long stride that understands how to use his body and smarts to work himself open. Nelson can be a nightmare out of the slot on short, inside routes converting 3rd downs. He’s a tall receiver that plays like a shorter one with his ability to get in and out of routes and is the go-to guy among the Packers receivers. James Jones is a down field threat for this offense opposite of Nelson but the guy you need to keep an eye on is Jarrett Boykin. The Packers have a bit of a history playing with Virginia Tech receivers in Antonio Freeman and this kid is a bigger version of Freeman. At 6-2, he looks much taller and rangy on tape. He plays with good speed and will line up all across the formation. Dependable hands and will fight for the contested ball.
It was a huge loss for the Packers when Jermichael Finley went on injured reserve earlier in the season but Andrew Quarless has filled in well. Quarless is not that accomplished as a blocker but can get down the field like Finley and catch the ball. McCarthy will flex him by himself and also line him up in bunch formations, letting him operate that way as well. Can work on all levels of the defense. Good on the quick, flat pass to the outside but can also work up the hash and in the middle. Has been a guy that Flynn has worked with well since he has been the starter. You will also see Ryan Taylor and Brandon Bostick as well with Taylor getting more action when they go with two tights.
You have heard me say this before about other offensive lines that the Cowboys have faced in the past but it holds true for this group. There is no real shut down guy that you would say is a dominate player. It’s a collection of solid, workmen like players that are not the greatest athletes but manage to be consistent in their jobs. I honestly have been surprised how well David Bakhtiari has played as a rookie. On film at Colorado you could see the footwork and technique but he showed no power. Very similar to how Nate Solder of the Patriots played. He still has some of the same issues that he had in college but is doing a respectable job of holding his own on that left side. There would have been a time where I would have said that
Overall, Lacy helps them running the ball with his style and Rodgers with his ability to get rid of it. There is a bit of a struggle with Flynn and how he plays.