Earlier this week, our own Jeff Berckes caught up with Jason B. Hirschhorn, who covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company, and he asked him five questions about the Packers in advance of this Sunday’s Bears’ game at Soldier Field.
WCG - Michael Lombardi, a former GM who now works for The Ringer, calls Aaron Rodgers a "deodorant quarterback" because he covers up the stink of the rest of the team. Rodgers is, without a doubt, a transcendent football player who elevates the play of everyone around him and makes the Packers a legitimate contender every year. Without him, what exactly is this football team?
APC - At least in their current iteration, the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers don't seem like a competitive football team. While the loss of an MVP-caliber quarterback would negatively affect any franchise, the Packers have not adapted well to their post-Rodgers reality.
New starter Brett Hundley now has three games of extended work under his belt. In those games, he shies away from deep passes, hasn't connected on the few he has attempted, and prematurely bails on the pocket too frequently. Hundley has run well during his time under center, but that hasn't overcome his deficiencies as a passer.
At this stage, it doesn't seem as though Hundley will develop into a starting-caliber quarterback. However, even if he could, head coach and offensive play-caller Mike McCarthy hasn't put him in position to succeed often enough for it to matter. Hundley's best moments have come with the offense in spread looks. McCarthy hasn't given his new signal-caller too many of those opportunities which in turn has stymied the aerial attack. That adjustment alone wouldn't suddenly make Hundley a special passer, but it would help his productivity.
Meanwhile, the defense has imploded in recent weeks and has placed defensive coordinator Dom Capers in the crosshairs once again. Last week's inept performance on third down -- the Packers allowed a preposterous 63.5 percent conversion rate on third-and-8 or longer -- highlighted one of the long-time issues with Capers' units. Green Bay would have trouble surviving those issues with Rodgers at the helm let alone without him.
WCG - Given the drop off without Rodgers, who shoulders more of the blame - Mike McCarthy or Ted Thompson? Are either / both of them at risk of losing their jobs after this season?
APC - As detailed before, more of the blame should fall on McCarthy. The offense has not adjusted well enough to the differences between Rodgers and Hundley, and the Packers have gone winless since their last matchup with the Bears as a result.
That said, it seems extremely premature to see either of McCarthy or Ted Thompson leaving Green Bay this offseason. McCarthy had the Packers tied for the best record in the NFL at the time of Rodgers' injury, and he had made meaningful changes to the offense to help it in the red zone. Those changes mean little with Hundley starting, but the Packers' success on offense earlier in the year didn't merely result from Rodgers being under center.
As for Thompson, team president Mark Murphy has already said Thompson will remain the general manager until he decides to retire. Given the success the Packers have had under him, including a trip to the NFC title game last year, that plan makes sense.
WCG - One last one regarding Rodgers - will the Packers start to seriously look at drafting his replacement in the 2018 draft?
APC - I don't see that as likely. Unlike with Brett Favre, who had already begun the annual retirement dance when Rodgers fell to Green Bay in the 2005 NFL Draft, Rodgers has stated his intentions to play into his 40s. Whether or not that ultimately occurs, the Packers have no reason to actively pursue a successor at this time.
WCG - The Packers starting RT Bryan Bulaga suffered a season-ending torn ACL. The Packers cut Josh Sitton last year and let TJ Lang go in free agency this year. That's a lot of turnover for a unit that was one of the best in the league just a couple years ago. What's the makeup of this o-line going forward and what do you expect of them?
APC - Bryan Bulaga's injury represents just the latest injury woe for a unit that hasn't featured all five preferred starters for a full game in 2017. Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari also missed multiple games earlier in the year with a hamstring issue, and Lane Taylor only just returned last week from knee and ankle injuries. The lack of consistency among the personnel has definitely affected the performance.
When healthy, this version of the Packers' offensive line has pass protected well. However, it hasn't performed as well in the run game, an area where Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang would have helped. Still, with both over 30 and on the decline, the Packers' decision doesn't look entirely indefensible.
WCG - I think at this point most Bears fans are familiar with Mike Daniels. For a team that wants to run the football to set up the run, who should Bears fans be concerned with along the front 7 in addition to Daniels?
APC - Second-year defensive tackle Kenny Clark has played as well or better than Daniels for much of the season. His understanding of leverage has improved significantly since 2016, and he has developed into a capable pass-rusher as a result. The Packers play mainly two-man fronts, so Clark should see plenty of action on Sunday.
Linebacker Blake Martinez has also taken a jump this season. He has become Green Bay's best off-ball linebacker, developing into an impact run defender and leading the team in tackles through eight games. The team has also used blitzed him off the edge at times, so he could factor into that part of the game as well.
Among the many other things he does for us at WCG, Jeff is also our lead Fantasy Football writer, so give him a follow on Twitter @gridironborn.