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Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

After the Green Bay Packers' 34-7 victory Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. I'll admit I have not seen all 123 of the Packers' offensive snaps this season. So I can't offer a sure estimate of how poorly left tackle Chad Clifton has been playing. Reporters who have covered both games this season are suggesting it might be time for Clifton to give way to rookie Bryan Bulaga. Fair enough. I'll add this: Clifton would have to be unequivocally horrible for the Packers to give Bulaga his first NFL start on Monday Night Football against a Chicago Bears team that boasts the most physically dominant defensive end in the game. Julius Peppers is technically listed as the Bears' left end, but I'm guessing the Bears would find a way to match him up against Bulaga often at Soldier Field. Bulaga might well hold his own, but it doesn't get any more pressure-packed than that. The Packers would have to consider Bulaga their only true option to make this switch now.

  2. It's worth noting that in the first game after Ryan Grant's season-ending ankle injury, the Packers' new backup tailback finished with more yards than their new starter. John Kuhn gained 36 yards on nine carries and Brandon Jackson had 29 yards on 11. Overall, they combined for a hardly excitable 65 yards on 20 carries. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin called it "extremely mediocre," according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com. I'm sure the Packers were hoping for a smoother transition, but ultimately you have to look at the big picture. They scored 34 points without much help from their running game.

  3. There's every reason to discuss linebacker Clay Matthews' second consecutive three-sack game, one that gave him an NFL-leading six sacks through Week 2. But for now, let's recognize that the Packers' forgotten linebacker rebounded nicely from a disappointing Week 1. A.J. Hawk didn't play a down of defense in the season-opening victory at the Philadelphia Eagles, but he started Sunday and tied for the team lead with nine tackles. He also had two quarterback hits and was a significant part of a defense that held the Bills to 186 total yards. To me, this was a lesson in the way defensive coordinator Dom Capers designs game plans. Obviously, he doesn't have a full-time role in mind for Hawk. But that also doesn't mean Hawk won't play an important role in some (or many) weeks.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

Why have we only seen the Aaron Rodgers everyone expected for two of the eight quarters he's played this season? Rodgers called his Week 1 performance "terrible," a slight exaggeration but nonetheless reflective of a below-average game by his standards. And at halftime Sunday, Rodgers had completed only half of his 16 passes and was struggling at times to throw a spiral. Rodgers rebounded to complete 11 of his final 13 passes as the Packers pulled away. But with Grant already sidelined and the offensive line possibly headed for transition, the Packers will need Rodgers to anchor their efforts in every quarter.