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Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Final Senior Bowl Report
Okay I have seen 4 practices down here in Mobile. Hardly enough to be very definitive on the players. But what I saw did give me some ideas of who the solid players are and who are pretenders:
Marcus Spears is for real. A big player with very good athleticism and quickness. Shaun Cody has good technique and is strong fundamentally. Makes good decisions
On the other side of the ball Logan Mankins looked better today than yesterday but I am not sold on this player yet. Wesley Britt was clearly the best OL on the South team but he fractured his leg and will be out for this game. A shame because this might keep him out of round 1. A very good player though
The LB’s : the guy who I believe caught the eyes of the Packers was Leroy Hill who showed good range and coverage ability in both days of practice. Hill is quicker than I thought. Marcus Lawrence disappointed me this week. Michael Boley is not worth a top 40 selection as he got lost a lot and cannot fight his way out of getting tied up buy aggressive OL blocking. When he gets free traffic he is a terror though.
WR: Reggie Brown is legit. He has good hands , good moves , makes solid correct adjustments on the ball. He is very quick in and out of his breaks. Matt Jones in a couple of years might be one hell-of-a receiver. A quick learner with real good hands. Fred Gibson impressed me as well
QB Jason Campbell is the best QB on the South team. He has the best arm – the best delivery – the best set-up of the 3 QB’s but David Greene shows great poise, leadership, presence, and actually throws a pretty dawg- gone good intermediate pass.
DB’s: Bryant McFadden seemed to be two entirely different players as he looked bad one day and looked to be very good the next day. Has a good eye for the ball. James Butler got beat some today but still has many teams watching him a lot including the Packers. Webster and Rogers showed their athleticism this week but must make more plays to keep their hopes for a round 1 selection. Junior Rosegreen will probably never be a star in the NFl but he is going to make some team a pretty good #3 Safety. A good tackler.
I think it is clear to me that the better talent overall is on the North team. No watch the South win in a breeze (hahaha)
QB: Kyle Orton has a good arm and at least in my opinion was the better of the 3 QB’s on the North team. Charlie Frye just never seemed to be in sync this week. And Dan Orlovsky was over matched as well. Telegraphs too much and has accuracy problems.
WR: the North team has 4 quality receivers in Mark Clayton (the best receiver in the group) Courtney Roby – Vincent Jackson and Brandon Jones Clayton just does everything above average and has very lightning quickness. Vincent Jackson is showing he wants to be recognized as the best possession receiver in this draft. He uses his power and size quite well. But the receiver getting a lot of buzz is Brandon Jones whom I must have heard 30 scouts refer to him as a clone of Robert Ferguson. A healthy Robert Ferguson. This WR is 6-2 215 pounds and he runs solid routes and has very deceptive break free speed and good concentration. I noticed the Packers showed a lot of attention to Jones.
RB: J J Arrington is making some money this week showing he can be a threat as a receiver as well as a good running back.
OL: Michael Roos continues to show very good technique but he needs a lot of strength conditioning. Baas worked as a center today and should forget about it. He is an OG. Adam Terry and Khaliff Barnes was handled easily this week by their DL counterparts. Both are good OL but they are not as good as previously ranked. Terry needs to keep focused with leverage. And he had problems with speed rushers.
DL: Matt Roth and Bill Swancutt definitely came and won over many scouts with their solid play and quickness off the snap. Roth especially had a solid week. Ellison is a pretty good inside DT and Lorenzo Alexander had some moments
LB: the class of the North team. Lance Mitchell is so quick and very bright. Makes solid reads and always fills the lanes properly. UConn’s Alfred Finsher made some money this week. He is a good MLB who looks so cool and calm between the tackles. Good instincts and he runs good. Jared Newberry has good range and moves well in space. Kirk Morrison is a solid MLB who makes very good contact. He gets through into the backfield as good as any LB. But the LB that I believe caught the eyes of the scouts is Barrett Ruud. He has great range and is so athletic. He did not seem to make any mistakes. While he is not your flashy type Ruud is solid and just a downright good football player who does everything well.
DB’s: Darrent Williams makes a lot of exciting plays but he also gambles a lot and screws up a lot as well. This kind of player can be a coach killer. Jammal Brimmer is a tough player who hits hard and plays hard. But he is slow. Just in watching him, and I watched him as close as I did any player, I saw him seem to be about a step away many times. This will not work in the NFL. He has to improve his field quickness and speed if he is to make it. Atogwe is a decent safety with some cover skills.
My top players of this weeks practices:
1) Matt Roth DE (North)
2) Carnell Williams RB (South)
3) Lance Mitchell LB (North)
4) Mark Clayton WR (North)
5) Marcus Spears DE (South)
6) Reggie Brown WR (South)
7) Shaun Cody DT (South)
Alfred Finsher MLB (North)
9) Barrett Ruud LB (North)
10) Bill Swancutt DE (North)
11) Wesley Britt OT (South)
12) Jason Campbell QB and Kyle Orton QB
14) Vincent Jackson WR (North)
The two players who probably helped themselves the most in the eys of the scouts were: Alfred Fincher LB and MAtt Jones WR (a QB in college)
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Senior Bowl Report
The South practices:
Players that I watched:
Jason Campbell clearly has the best arm of the 3 QB’S BUT David Greene has the best presence and carry of the 3 QB’s – None looked all that comfortable
Receivers: Thorpe is quick – Reggie Brown has the best hands of the group Matt Jones looks like he is lost at times but catches everything thrown to him. Gibson is very smooth in transition and looks effortless in his gait. Roddy White gets an opening or just a step on a DB and he is gone. Great after the catch acceleration – very tricky at 6-1 – It was hard to access the receivers because the QB’s just did not throw anything muchj representing big time passing. Campbell has good velocity but he just does not lead a receiver at all and I did not like what I saw of him. Hopefully he does better tomorrow
OT’s: Britt is clearly the better of the 4 OT’s on the South team. Shows consistency in pass blocking and has tremendous hand pop. Mankins looked over matched at times. Stewart is better than I originally graded him and might move him up to round 5 area. Was not all that impressed with Parquet as his in,line blocking is weak. He was sent sprawling on his rear end a couple of times by the DE
OG’s first practice and was not impressed with any of the OG’s. Well maybe Marcus Johnson showed enough power and leverage at times. Myers has quickness but his footwork is sloppy
DL: Anthony Bryant is hard to stop one on one – Miike Patterson is stronger than his 292 frame shows and might make a decent quick Nose in the NFL – Shaun Cody spent a lot of time inside and did not play that well. Was off snap count and off a step and lost leverage a few times but he definitely knows how to get inside and mess things up. Cody is good at getting past the OL to the QB. -- You can see the measure of this player and I believe he will make a decent to good DL in the NFL – I was not impressed with Fields at all even though e got inside pressure he just looks like an average player most of the time. He did have some plays where he was very good but few and far between. Marcus Spears spent time at DT and DE and looked better at end. Spears has power going for him. Strong – a good first step and he reversed pancake the OT a couple of times. Quicker than I thought for a man his size which he measured in at 302.
LB’s I was disappointed today in the South LB’s as nothing stood out for me. Maybe Wortham was the better of the group. Boley has speed but I saw him miss things and get confused.
S’s: James Butler shows he can play football making a couple of good adjustments. Has a good hand positioning to knock down passes. Rosegreen looked stiff.
CB’s: Wow I may have over rated McFadden – Webster is an athlete – Rogers plays the ball well in the air but did not seem to make plays on the ball. Allowed too much receiving. Eric Green will make some team happy in training camp. This guy can play football. Of all the corners Green impressed me the most. But like I said Webster is pure athlete and should be worth a late 1st round selection.
As for Green Bay scouts and officials. I noticed they were intensive with the DL practice. Especially interested in Marcus Spears and Shaun Cody. I believe I saw them show disdain with Fields play at times as well. If I had to rank what I believe the Packers liked today it would be:
Marcus Spears DE
Shaun Cody DT
James Butler FS
Fred Gibson WR
The best piece of advice I can say is that Green By people were ecstatic over the play of LN Lance Mitchell. This kid looked no where close to what e did in the Orange Bowl. I mean this kid filled the lanes properly causing the QB’s to old onto the ball too long or having to throw the ball away. He also was unbelievably on top of things and looked like a 9 year veteran in making his reads. Wow did he impress the heck out of me. Still shows a little effect of the injury he had last year on some drop back plays. Made a ton of plays in the backfield as well. Clearly the best player today of both squads. Super impressed.
QB’s: Charlie Frye is the only QB that I would consider based on just what I saw today. Orlovsky is mechanical and I believe I could sit on the play and know where he is going on every throw, - Very good arm though. Orton missed low, missed high and missed wide. Did have 1 super nice deep throw though.
WR’s: Vincent Jackson knows how to get open and was open on almost every play in the intermediate routes. He is going to surprise fans next year. Courtney Roby used his speed and smarts to get open deep a number of times but the QB’s just did not get the ball to him anywhere near close enough. He dropped a long pass but it must have been because he was shocked that he did not have to leap or dive for it. Man is Mark Clayton small out there on the field. He is a darter though and will catch quite a few because of his lightning quickness.
OL: the best player today for me was Michael Roos who showed good footwork and proper technique in his drop backs. But whichever team gets him must immediately get him in strength and conditioning or he will get his QB killed in the NFL. Khalif Barnes showed he is a terror and has that Ross Verba nasty thing going for him. Looked somewhat stiff and stood up to tall at times.
DL: Matt Roth is very good at penetrating the OL and blowing up plays. He did not get a great push off but he is relentless. Atiyyah Ellison is making himself some money. Looked good a lot. Very athletic player and shows good agility for an inside player. He consistently beat his man and even beat double team traps on him as well. Bill Swancutt handled his OT all day long. Swancutt has some moves to his play. Getting long looks from packer scouts. Swancutt handled Khaliff Barnes and Matt Roth just flat out made Adam Terry look like a divsion III type of player.
LB’s: The other Lb to play well and get the packers attention was Jared Newberry – this player has good turn ability for a LB and made plays downfield. But I worry about him close to the line. He is better in the open space. Got caught up in trash and was bent backwards a few times as well. I also believe the packers were impressed with Barrett Ruud MLB who showed he is stronger than his frame. Good use of his hands as well. Kirk Morrison was very steady and seem to be the leader when on the field.
S’s: and CB’s – oh my gosh if the South QB’s can just find some accuracy they are going to blow this secondary apart/ I mean they all played too far off the receiver allowing way too much cushion. Tentative and indecisive. Brimmer made a few plays but man oh man this kid is slow. I mean I believe I could outrun this player. Seriously though he plays much faster than he charts. Still he was also giving too much room and looked in too much and bit on things he should have known better. Atogwe might be something based on his recovery quickness. Darrent Williams came up limping a few times but he to me is the best DB on the North squad.
Just based on today’s 1 practice I believe the Green Bay Packers would select the South’s Marcus Spears or the North’s Lance Mitchell. But you do not base your draft on 1 practice. I saw enough of Barrett Ruud to be comfortable if the Packers select him in round 2. Ruud has more range than I thought and has a lot of athleticism as well. Runs smooth. But clearly Lance Mitchell impressed the heck out of me.
Best players on the North Squad:
Lance Mitchell LB
Vincent Jackson WR
Matt Roth DE
Bill Swancutt DE
Mark Clayton WR
Kirk Morrison MLB
Barrett Ruud LB
Player that hurt himself a lot Antajj Hawthorne who looked veryn slow off the snap.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
I don't think you have to be spoiled...
There is this little pizza place just outside Chicago that makes that absolute best pizza on the planet. It is my favorite food bar none.
I live in Houston now and Texas is all about steak and Mexican food. Lot's of ranchers and hispanic people here. I have had $100.00 dollar steaks and there are tons of FANTASTIC mexican food places here but, they don't touch this pizza joint. And while I like pizza from Papa John's and Pizza Hut, if I could I would only have pizza from my place.
What's the point you ask. Well, while I enjoy Packer football and I watch every season and they bring me immense joy it would of course be just a little better if we won the Superbowl every year. In any group there are people who think they are smarter than everyone else. In every group there are people who have "the" solution to everything. In every group there are people who just like to bitch. We have some of all of those people here in PackerChatters. We also have people who ARE smart and DO have good suggestions about how the Packers could be better. Are they Pro coaches, scouts, or etc? Maybe. We don't know what everybody around here does. And for those who aren't this IS a forum for discussing ideas and feelings about all subjects Packer. Every year I make plans to ensure that I get at least one trip to Chicago to visit family(and get pizza ). Every year when the Packers are done for the season I think about what changes they could or might be making to make next season a little better.
Winning the Superbowl doesn't make or break the season just like getting lucky doesn't neccessarily make or break a date. But, it does make it a little more fun. I don't think you have to be spoiled to want the team to do better next year.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
As The World Turns (Sherman and Thompson)
Well, Bob Harlan did it. All of the whining and wailing and gnashing of teeth done by fans around the world finally paid off, and Mike Sherman was relieved of his General Manager duties. Enter Ted Thompson, a former uppit-up with the Packers during the Glory Years Part Duex, as the new GM, with the power to hire and fire the GM.
Our resident expert, Patty, has blasted the move. I also worry that perhaps this may not be the best possible move for the Packers, but now that it is done, I'm going to try and see if we can make the best of it. With all due respect to Patty, I'm offering my view on why this may not be as horrible of a move as some may think.
First of all, we did not do a "Donatell". Fans screamed for someone's head after 4th and 26, and Mike Sherman the GM quickly countered by cutting his defensive coordinator, Ed Donatell, who at the very least was more competent than his offensive counterpart. The problem was that there was no plan in place upon firing to replace him, and so began the search for a successor. Mike Sherman, the GM, decided to stay loyal and in-house, and promoted Bob Slowik, which in a year's time has not proven to be much better at bringing marginal talent together. In fact, some might suggest we've taken a step backwards. Or two.
Instead of disrespectfully dismissing Mike from his GM position, a quality person was brought in, hopefully with a level of respect and communication with the new "Head Coach". Ted Thompson has managed drafts and been in charge of pro personnel. He may not be the "best" man for the job, but one would find it hard to argue he's not a good candidate.
Secondly, this may be as much a boon for Sherman as it is a negative. Remember, his mentor and "walks on water" former boss, Mike Holmgren, was also asked to relinquish his GM duties. This is not much a slap in the face as some might want to believe. It comes down to simple leadership theory. Think school.
There are some teachers in the world who are able to manage their teaching duties AND be a full time principal at the same time. It's not very common, and to be honest, the number of people who can pull of this combination of jobs is very rare. Why?
The principal generally takes on the role of the "bad guy", the one who needs to make the big decisions, deal with parents, etc. The teacher should be enabled by the principal to deal with the students without those ugly clouds over their head, the anger over how things may have been handled in the past. The teacher gets to create an environment, the principal gets to make tough decisions.
But in a combination, the person has to play both roles, and if they don't strike a healthy balance, both jobs may suffer. The teacher may be viewed more as a "Boss" rather than a teacher, and it takes a rare person who makes it work.
Same theory. Some rare individuals can strike the balance in coaching and general managing. However, a lot of quotes over the season suggest that Sherman wasn't getting the respect he should be getting from his players.
Bubba Franks publicly moaning about playing time.
Mike Wahle publicly moaning about not getting enough respect.
Al Harris publicly moaning about being taken off the #1 receiver.
And, of course, Mike McKenzie's whole drawn-out affair. I congratulate Sherman on how he handled that situation. Yes, we could have gotten something more for him, perhaps, or avoided the whole business by taking care of it sooner, but the bigger problem might be that McMoney was upset with Sherman the General Manager, and took it out on Sherman the Head Coach.
All in all, the coach is the one who sets the tempo, is the leader of the troops into battle, the inspirer. It's hard to do that when you're also the "boss".
Perhaps this move will allow Sherman the Coach to play to his strengths again. Sherman got a lot of positive karma his first year for taking his groups bowling in training camp, benching Antonio Freeman, and all in all, improving the team from the Rhodes fiasco.
Sherman has had room to improve as a coach. But, in some ways, I think he's improved this year over last.
One of the biggest criticisms I had on Sherman was his inability to adjust during a game, that leads were squandered after halftime while he started blankly at his charts and graphs and waiting for an answer to jump out at him.
This year, there were less problems with decision-making, as the problems seemed to focus more on execution and discipline. He took a team from 1-4 to a division championship, a team that looked like it was held together by spit and wire. He took over play-calling duties, and was an obvious difference and improvement over Tom Rossley. He delivered some great last-second comebacks, and some good almosts.
He also delivered some total fall-flat performances. By focusing on the coaching, he can devote more time to doing exactly that: working on fundamentals of tackling, blocking, making his charts and graphs become great plays on the field. He can take control of the play calling during games full-time, or at least, have Thompson bring in someone who can do it better.
Sherman is a good coach, and he is fixing some of his problems. By allowing him to be that coach, I think we can see a lot of improvement on the field.
A lot of criticism of Sherman has come with his drafts and other decisions. As many have noted, he's probably shooting a good 50% at least on his choices, from contract extensions to trading up for picks. However, he has a 66.7% winning percentage as a coach. We'd be fools to not mention his mistakes. Cletidus Hunt. BJ Sander. Not drafting to keep KGB on the sideline on obvious running downs.
He does have successes. Javon Walker and Robert Ferguson. Developing Ahman Green. Bringing in the fullback of the future, but recognizing the leadership of the grizzly ol' vet who's been there before. Nick Barnett and Al Harris.
But, we all know those decisions pale in comparison to a Hunt or a Sander. The glare from those decisions demand a scapegoat. It's always been very painful (and heated) to turn blame for personnel decisions on the head of a beloved coach. The pressure of this constant media and fan criticism has had to get to Mike at some point.
Perhaps we should be happy that we've had a GM who's been around 50%, who's developed trading picks up for desired players into an art form. I know that Patty respects that strategy very much. When it works, great, but when it doesn't, we all look for someone to blame.
It's the way of Green Bay, and really, the way of any team with fervent support. Brett Favre can throw for 4000 yards and throw 30+ TDs and lead a team to an NFC championship, but when he throws an interception, we know who comes out of the woodwork to say the sky is falling.
It's no different with the general manager.
The good point is, now, when we trade up to draft a long snapper, we no longer have to direct any blame, anger, or frustration at the coach. We can direct it towards a faceless suit in the front office, and allow the coach to do his job.
Yes, Thompson will be a bit faceless. I hear names like John Schnieder and John Dorsey mentioned often, but as far as I'm concerned, John Schnieder used to play Bo Duke on "Dukes of Hazzard", and I still remember John Dorsey lining up at linebacker with Brian Noble.
Sherman gets to coach. It's what he does best, and I am going to have faith in him.
Mike Sherman may still choose to leave. The chances that Thompson will fire Mike Sherman are pretty slim. Sherman has coached a team to three straight division championships. Perhaps in a weak division, but a .667 winning percentage isn't anything to spit at in a league where a team snapped up our outcast defensive coordinator and promptly made a top-10 defense with him.
If Sherman leaves, undoubtedly, Favre will go with him. It will be the end of an era, in many ways. And finally, our expectations will drop enough that we can actually enjoy a winning season again without constantly complaining that we aren't as good as we were in the Super Bowl years.
If Sherman stays, I predict we will see a man with a fervent passion to prove himself, a man who has been able to coach while GMing at the same time, and now will be able to put in 150% of his energy into his team. Furthermore, he is the coach, the leader, the inspirer, the field general...not the boss who decides whether you stay or go.
To Patty, who is very frustrated with this move, I say: "Be patient, and don't give up quite yet." I may indeed have to admit someday that she was right. My hope is, for all our sakes, that this move will be one that we will remember as one that changed the direction of our franchise for the best.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Year End Review
THERE IS NO JOY IN LAMBERT (er, uh….LAMBEAU)
• What Happened?
• Where Do We Go From Here?
A Painful Lesson: Birds Come Home To Roost!! Throughout the entire season, the Packers have been plagued by two separate yet related problems, both of which were on full display in the playoff loss to the Vikings: The offense, though high-powered, is error-prone, and the defense gives up entirely too many big plays while making far too few.
It is difficult to argue that the Packer offense is not prolific. It set franchise records this year for first downs and passing yards. It ranked near the top in total yards and scoring. The fullback, halfback, and two linemen went to the Pro Bowl. And of course, you had Brett Favre having yet another 30 touchdown, 4000 yard season. So clearly, the offense can move the ball and score with the best of them.
Yet in this game, they scored 17 points, on their home field, against one of the weakest defenses in the league and they turned the ball over 4 times in the process. Add in a missed field goal and a three and out or two and you have an offense that STOPPED THEMSELVES on the majority of their possessions.
Defensively, we saw what we’d seen all year long: Long touchdowns enabled by poorly chosen coverage schemes and punctuated by poor tackling. The defensive line couldn’t get consistent pressure on the QB and when they did, they couldn’t keep him from hurting us with big scrambles or throws on the run. The secondary seemed confused as to their assignments, and they weren’t alone. The clinching TD toss to Moss-----the one which led to him wiping his ass on our goal post---was at least partly the result of Hannibal Navies not taking part in the all-out blitz which had been called. Culpepper then had just enough time to let Moss run a double move route against an isolated Al Harris.
After this clinching touchdown, and Moss’s disgusting display (I can’t believe that not one single Packer player had enough hair on his nuts to jump on that asshole and pummel him into the Tundra), there was a heated exchange on the sideline involving the defensive backs and Hannibal Navies. Spectators at the game said they almost got into a scrap. Although we may never learn the exact nature of the conversation, I’d almost be willing to bet it went something like this……..
“…….goddamit, we’re busting our ass and you can’t even do your goddam assignment. You end up leaving us to get beat out there and then everybody thinks it’s our fault and that we suck. We’re tired of this shit….pull your goddam head out of your ass….you’re hurting the team…”
At least they showed some fire, and demanded some accountability which is more than I can say for some others. Contrast the arguing—pushing—shoving which followed that play with what transpired after this one:
Packers down 24-10 with less than a minute remaining. Ball is on the 8 yard line, 3rd and 6. Two timeouts left. Favre drops back, rolls right, and takes off for the end zone. Tacklers converge….it’s gonna be close….no…wait a minute, Favre just threw a pass when he was about 5 yards past the line of scrimmage.!!!
What a colossal bonehead maneuver!! Had he lowered his head and gone for it he might have made the first down. He certainly would have left us at least with a 4th and short and A CHANCE to score a TD which would have given us momentum, trimmed the deficit to 24-17, and put us back in the game.
But…..he Favred us, just he’s like’s Favred us before. Ok, fine…..but does he have to laugh on his way off the field? Was Roman laughing after Moss wiped his ass on our goalpost? Was Longwell laughing after he missed the field goal? Were Henderson or Barnett or Harris laughing at our fuckups? I don’t think so.
An unlike Navies, nobody gets in Brett’s face about this...it just continues to happen over and over and over. Look at Favre’s performance in the playoff losses the last four seasons: A QB passer rating of about 60.0 and 13 interceptions. How do you win like that? I mean, I understand that the defense needs to be better, but how good of a defense do you need to overcome stuff like that?
There is a timetable that will dictate the future course of the Green Bay Packers.
• Harlan will meet with Sherman and resolve the GM issue. I think it is unlikely that Sherman will be relieved of his Head Coaching duties, but I think it is in the realm of possibility, though unlikely, that he’ll be stripped of his GM position and then resign. The most likely scenario is that Sherman and Harlan will “agree” to bring in somebody to replace Mark Hatley and help with personnel issues. What title this guy will have is anybody’s guess---director of player personnel, assistant GM……--who knows. But I believe that Sherman will firmly retain the reins of power for at least one more season. I would expect this decision to be reached well before the NFC championship game.
• Once this issue is resolved, the next point of emphasis will be on the assistant coaches. It is my opinion that we need a clean sweep on the defensive side of the ball, but I think that the most likely scenario will be that Schottenheimer will be fired and everybody else will be back. I don’t think that this is going to be a formula for an improved defense next year.
• Then we’ll get to the players. Free agency starts the day after the Super Bowl and Favre will have made his decision (I am SOOOOO tired of this franchise being held hostage to “whatever’s good for Brett Favre”). The Packers then will have to decide which of their free agents to retain, which they’ll cut before March 1, which they’ll cut before June 1, and who they’ll release after.
Speculating on who we’ll keep, who we’ll go after, and what we’ll do in the draft is kind of pointless until the other issues are resolved, so I’ll save that for later. But for now, I’ll just say this:
1. Football games are won in the trenches. The Packers first priority should be to improve our ability to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
2. We need to decide what kind of a defense we’re going to be. For my part, I’m a fan of a team that plays basic defense, stops the run, plays a lot of bend-but-don’t -break Cover 2, blitzes rarely, keeps the QB in the pocket so he doesn’t hurt us with scrambles, and makes enough plays on third down to get off the field. Everything else is gravy.
3. Offensively, we are just far to0 error prone to get to the Super Bowl. I’ve said that for quite a while now and I haven’t seen anything that would make me change my mind. The two guys who handle the ball the most, Favre and Green, are among the worst in the league at their position when it comes to protecting the ball. If we’d had a back who fumbled twice instead of seven times, and a QB who’d thrown 12 picks instead of 17, we’d have had 19 turnovers this year and been among the best teams in the league in that regard. We may have scored fewer points (although every turnover robs you of a chance to score) but we would have almost certainly given up fewer points if we’d had fewer turnovers.
4. Defensively, this unit gave up entirely too many big plays. The vast majority of points scored against the defense involved a drive which contained at least one big play. It is my opinion that we got poor play from our safeties this year and that upgrading our safety situation is a huge need on defense.
5. There is a prominent school of thought out there that the Packers are on the downhill slide and without Favre they will certainly plummet to a sub .500 team that misses the playoffs. I utterly reject this. I think there is a very good core of young players on this team and some obvious areas of strength. If Favre retires, and if we make some other roster moves, we could have a vast pool of free agent money as well as our draft picks and could fill a number of holes quickly. IF this team is not competitive next year it will be because our coaching staff has let us down……much the way they’ve let us down the past two seasons.
I am by nature an optimist, but running a football team is not an exact science and the NFL is a pretty competitive league. There’s not much of a margin between being 10-6 and 6-10 and although we found ourselves on the right side of things this time there are no guarantees. But I think that by concentrating efforts on the lines and the defense and special teams, rather than on the QB position, it improves the likelihood that we’ll be able to field a solid team every week. And really, that’s all we have a right to hope for.
This is PackerNation, and I’m out of here. See you in a week or two!!
Monday, January 10, 2005
My offseason thoughts
Ok. I assume a cap of 85.5 million, up 5 million from 2004. This seems the consensus of what will occur and is definitely in the realm of reality.
Currently, we have a cap figure of 87Million, 1.5Million over the projected cap.
Darren Sharper –
I think he’s gone, honestly. His cap hit is 8.6mil. Cutting him gives us 3.4 million in cap space back. Savings – 3.4million.
William Henderson –
I love him, but, we cannot afford him. It’s time for hard, but important changes. With Vonta Leach and Nick Luchey on the roster, Henderson is wasteful. Savings – 1.1million.
Grey Ruegamer –
Impressive job, but, Scott Wells is the guy. Bye Grey. Savings – 1.2 million.
Mark Roman –
Didn’t fill the need. Gone. Savings – 750k.
Hannibal Navies –
He can void his deal if he wants. That’s probably best for both sides. Savings – 1.35million.
Michael Hawthorne –
No longer needed. Savings – 710k.
CUT – Savings = 8.51 Million
Cledtius Hunt –
I want him off the team. Period. No questions asked. Bye! I’ll take whatever I can get. For this, I’ll say we get a 5th round pick for him. I’d imagine we could get more, but I’ll take that. Cap HIT + 750k.
Ahman Green –
I don’t think he’ll ever get over his fumbling issues. I think that we can only afford one turnover-prone player on the team. Favre is enough. I trade him for at least a mid to late first round pick. (note – this is extremely doubtful to happen. If it doesn’t, I extend him to lower his cap hit. He can play 3 more years with production. I will put a number on his extension in a later section). Savings – 4.375 Million.
Najeh Davenport –
See above. Fumbles too much. I trade him for a late second round pick or equivalent. Tender him then deal him. Savings – 0
TRADE SAVINGS – 3.625 Million (Green Trade) +750k (No Green trade)
Mike Wahle –
I want to go in with a 2 new RB’s so, I want the O-line completely back. I think it will be a key. I give Mike Wahle the same contract that Damian Woody got last year plus add a smidge or two for a new year and a better player. I tried to find exactly what Woody made in his first year of his contract but it was sort of difficult. According to the fansites, Damian Woody got 9mil signing bonus on a 6 year deal and the first year of the deal had a 2mil base salary. Lets make it easy and go 10mil of signing bonus on a 5 year deal and we’ll even keep the 2mil base salary (this is overestimating, I believe). That would negate his current awful 11million dollar cap hit. Lowering it to around 4mil. Savings – 7 Million.
Mike Flanagan –
He’s in the final year of his contract coming off an injury, this is as cheap as he will get. Get him shored up for a few years. I really have no figures to base on here, so I’ll just wing it and say that we can make his first year cap figure around 1.75 million. His current cap figure is around 2.2 million, so, we’ll go with a cap… Savings – 500k
Ahman Green –
I will put Ahman Green here as well. Since I think it is so unlikely that he gets traded. Clinton Portis is the most recent big RB signing, but Green is obviously much older then Portis. I’ll say the signing bonus is less, but the Redskins made Portis’ first year cap figure very low, so we’ll just match it evenly. Portis had a cap hit of 3.726mil. We’ll round that to 3.75 million. Savings – 875k
Total Extension Savings – 8.375 Million (Green not traded), 7.5 Million (Green Traded).
Brett Favre –
I think you need cap space this year and you take advantage of the fact that you won’t have Hunt, Sharper and likely Favre on the books in 2006. Restructure the entire LTBE signing bonus for 2005. We can afford it in later years, easily, and STILL will get significant cap relief when Favre retires. I think this is especially important if we KNOW Favre will retire after the 2005 season. LTBE bonus guaranteed. Savings – about 2.5 Million.
Time to assess.
Cap room saved – (trade Ahman Green) 27.135 Million. (extend Ahman Green) – 24.385 Million.
This makes us either 22.885Mil or 25.635Mil under the cap.
Now lets spend money.
I would negotiate with Kampman, avoid the RFA costs. I can get him in for a cap figure of around 1 Million in 2005. Cap hit + 1 Million.
See above. I want my line perfectly back. Looking over some of the past contracts is hard, but, we’re definitely not looking at a cap hit over 2million to re-sign him. I’ll say cap hit + 1.75 Million.
Minimum contract, nothing special. Cost in the first year around 500k. Cap hit + 500k.
Again, shouldn’t be too expensive. Get him signed for a few years at a fairly minimal cap figure. Cap hit + 600k
I’d like to avoid RFA on him as well. I give him a backup salary. First year cap hit, we’ll go bigger then I’d expect. Cap hit + 850k.
Total Price + 4.7 Million.
Barry, O’Sullivan, Tony Fischer each get the Minimum tender.
650k each, Cap hit + 1.95 Million
So re-signing my own players, I pay out…
My cap is now down to 16.235Mil or 18.985 Million.
Other Team UFA’s.
My biggest desire is a DT, but I’m starting to feel like there isn’t many out there that I would feel comfortable with. So. My biggest grab bag in the UFA market is LB’s and S’s. My goal is to spend around 10mil in free agents, I also must realize that with a cap windfall next season (hunt/sharper/favre off the books), I can push some money into the future instead of today. Not too much, mind you, but some.
My first priority.
Kenoy Kennedy – S (from Bronco’s)
Here’s priority #1. Here’s my guy that replaces Darren Sharper. He comes a lot cheaper. I give him a solid contract and I estimate my first year cap hit to be around 2 million. Cap hit + 2 Million.
Ituala Mili – TE (from Seahawks)
I have to replace Bubba Franks. I do so with a cheaper alternative in Mili. I figure about 1.5 Million in the first year of the contract. Cap hit + 1.5 Million.
I also want 2 Linebackers.
Pick 2 from this list….
Wil Witherspoon, David Thornton, Jeremiah Trotter, Tommy Polley, Ed Hartwell and/or Adalius Thomas. I calculate about 5mil of cap space between the two.
The rest of my cap space goes to rookies and minimum contract guys. Guys like Josue, Lenon, ST’s guys, etc. As well, I should have plenty of space to sign my rookies…. Speaking of which.
I use Najeh Davenport to move up in the first.
Round 1. Thomas Davis – S
Here’s my guy to pair up with Kenoy Kennedy. There. That’s some good tackling safeties.
Round 1(B) Ronnie Brown - RB
This pick occurs only if I move Ahman Green. I definitely need a replacement. Look at the history, Stephen Jackson, Kevin Jones, Julius Jones. I feel with my O-Line, I can plug in a 1st round rookie and be just fine. Especially if my first round rookie is a guy like Ronnie Brown.
Round 2(A) Shawn Cody – DT
This pick sort of bugs me. I don’t like DT/DE ‘tweener types. But this guy will give me 1000% so I feel comfortable in it. I also feel like between Cullen Jenkins, Donnell Washington and Cody I have to be able to find SOMETHING.
Round 2(B) Alex Smith – TE
I’ve got Mili for experience. I’ve got McHugh and Steele for depth and now I add Smith. I feel there’s three solid TE’s in that group.
Round 3 Chris Canty – DE
I’m not sure if he’d be there late 3rd, but I feel pretty confident I could package something together to move up and grab Canty. The injury is an issue, but I think he’d give me a rush end I really want.
4-7 I get depth. A guard, another DT/NT, another safety (Leonhard would be nice for returns as well), another DE and I’d take a chance at bringing in Maurice Clarett.
Here’s my depth chart.
QB – Favre, Nall, O’Sullivan
RB – Ronnie Brown/Ahman Green, Maurice Clarett, Walter Williams, Tony Fischer
FB – Luchey, Leach
WR – Walker, Driver, Ferguson, Chatman, Thurman/Kight/ETC.
TE – Mili, Alex Smith, Sean McCugh, Ben Steele
LT – Clifton, Morley, Curtin
RT – Tauscher, Barry, Curtin
C – Flanagan, Wells
LG – Wells, Morley
RG – Rivera, Rookie
LDE – KGB, Corey Williams, Canty
RDE – Kampman, Canty (passing downs), Peterson
NT – Grady, Lee, Cole
DT – Cody, Washington, Jenkins (passing downs)
LB’s would depend on which LB’s we aquired. If trotter came in, for example, he’d be MLB, Barnett to WSLB, Diggs to SSLB. ETC.
Optional 3-4 alignment.
Ends – Cody/Washington/Jenkins (pick 2)
NT – Grady, Lee
MLB’s – Barnett/Diggs
OLB’s – Adalius Thomas? KGB?
SS – Thomas Davis
FS – Kenoy Kennedy, Jue, Leonhard (if Davis got injured, move Kennedy to SS, Jue to FS etc).
CB – Harris, Carroll, Thomas, Horton, Johnson, Swiney?
HC – Mike Sherman
OC – Darrell Bevell
QB – Doug Pederson
New WR coach when Ray Sherman leaves.
DC – Eric Mangini
Dline/LB/DB coaches are hired by Mangini as per his request.
ST – Someone new, you tell me, I don’t know much about ST coaches. Maybe Edgar Bennett?
VP to replace Hatley – John Schneider (this would be that co-Gm thing, he’d have much more power then hatley). I don't like most of the GM's people seem to tink up (Armey? Mueller? the rams and the seahawks/saints never did anything during their tenure that "exites" me. Sherman can stay as GM this year, but he does so limiting his power substantially. In essence, similiar to what Holmgren did in Seattle... though without really giving up the title of "GM".
I'd also give Ron Wolf Schneider's old title. We could use a consultant like wolf.
Dorsey and McKenzie stay the same.
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Vikings @ Packers Wildcard Playoff Game Review
by Mark Lawrence
The 8-8 Vikings came into a January, 27 degree, Lambeau Field playoff game. Last millennium, the very idea that the Packers could lose this game was laughable: the Packers have never lost at home in January dating back to 1919. No 8-8 team had ever won a playoff game, dating back to 1920. Favre was undefeated in games where the start was under 35 degrees. Never had three teams lost at home in a single weekend in the playoffs.
Welcome to the new century. In this century, the NFC is a finesse conference and the AFC tackles and plays hardnose physical football. The Packers have more trouble in cold weather games than any other team that readily comes to mind. And, the Packers have lost their last two consecutive home starts in under 32 degree weather and their last two consecutive January home playoff games.
I have to admit that I'm not a great person for prescribing fixes, either fast or slow, but perhaps I have some talent at analysis. It's now painfully clear that the Packers team has become thin and soft. Thin: Javon Walker goes down with an ankle injury, Najeh Davenport has rib problems, these two injuries are enough to cut the Packers offensive production in half. Mike Flannigan is out for the year, Grady Jackson misses a few games with injury, and the Packer's OL and DL production is cut in half. Soft: I haven't seen a knock-the-spit out of him hit by a Packers defender in a couple years. I see at least four missed tackles for every good tackle that I see. With regard to our safeties, I haven't seen so many bad angles since I tried to teach trigonometry to my cats.
The Vikings came into this game a seriously wounded beast, with problems in team unity and confidence. It was critical to them that they score early and often, and critical to the Packers chances that the Packers defense stop this. Today, the Vikings sense of critical far outweighed the Packers. The Vikings took the opening kickoff and scored in three plays. An inauspicious, if not entirely unexpected start. Since neither of these teams has a recent history of playing much you could call a defense, it was not, however, time to panic. A couple plays later Ahman Green took a handoff and put it on the ground. My knees grew weak and started to tremble. I turned to my girlfriend and said, "This is *very* bad, if Favre decides the game is entirely on his shoulders this will *not* be pretty." A couple plays later Favre threw his first of four interceptions. I said, "Oh, it's going to be one of *those* days." I realized it was now officially time to panic.
A few interceptions and Vikings quick-strikes later, plus a couple of (understandably) missed field goals, and it was half time, Vikings 24, Packers 10. This was approximately the end of the game, and the final score.
In the second half, the Packers came out and had found their defensive stride, holding the Vikings to just one touchdown in the second half and forcing several three-and-outs. Unfortunately, the Packers offense had found absolutely nothing, no running game, no passing game, no ability to hold onto the ball or to control the line of scrimmage. Ahman Green finished with 80 yards on 20 carries - a wholly unacceptable ground attack for a January playoff game in Lambeau field. At this instant, it would appear that global warming will fix the Packer's low-temperature problems before the coaching staff does. After his last touchdown, in an illuminating display of his trailer trash background and instincts, Randy Moss feigned mooning the Packer's fans. I would have found his actions far more appropriate had he aimed his commentary (and intellectual center of mass) at the Packer's bench.
The game ball today clearly goes to the Vikings defensive line, a group of four guys that can stop the run and apply pressure on passing downs. I think that the Packers actually have more talent on their defensive line than the Vikings, but this is an evaluation that is, I must admit, sadly lacking in substantive or objective evidence.
This Packers team does not play Packers football. They can't handle the cold. They play flat and emotionlessly in at least a third of their games. They have little or no ability to come back from a deficit and win a game. And the only black and blue in this division would be the result of players banging their pretty little fists on their lockers.
Ok, I'm pissed.
Saturday, January 08, 2005
This game scares me.
If the Vikings were playing any other team, I think they'd lay down and die for the season. But since it's the Packers, I'm worried their hatred for the Packers might put some life back into them.
I hope the Packers can get an early lead to help put some more self-doubt in the Vikings so they might give up early in the contest. But if the Packers get off to a slow start, the Vikings could get some early success and some confidence back. I thought the article I pasted below by Bob McGinn was very good on how the Vikings are fueled by their hatred for the Packers.
Green Bay - Match the Minnesota Vikings up against any other halfway-decent team in the National Football League and you wouldn't want to give a plug nickel for their chances.
Send them off to Lambeau Field clutching the motivational spike of an off-based 6 1/2-point spread and look out, Green Bay Packers.
The Vikings should be dead meat. They own the worst record (3-7) over the final 10 games of a regular season of any playoff team in the NFL's 72-year post-season history. The only thing that saved them and the St. Louis Rams was quite possibly the poorest level of play since the NFC was formed in 1970.
No one, from coach Mike Tice on down, even tried to hide the shame and humiliation associated with the Vikings' second straight second-half collapse.
But when the Green Bay-Minnesota pairing was determined, a call to arms was stirred within every Vikings player.
Most oddsmakers wouldn't know it. Many blind Packers fans don't get it. And some Packers players don't understand it, either.
But the truth of this upper Midwest rivalry is quite simple. The Vikings detest the Packers.
The Vikings have loathed their neighbors since the Packers got good in 1992, or the same year that chippy Dennis Green took the Vikings coaching job and made every game against Green Bay something personal.
Minnesotans can't stand the Packers watering holes in the Twin Cities. They don't like having thousands of Cheeseheads infiltrating the Metrodome year after year when the series moves inside. And some want to regurgitate reading the stories on the Packers written all season long by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune beat writer billeted in Green Bay six months of the year.
That type of "foreign" coverage is unprecedented in NFL cities, but then again the Minnesota-Green Bay rivalry is one of a kind, too.
Here are the Vikings, hailing from one of the most livable and scenic cities in America, and there are the Packers, located in a paper-mill river town that would be hard to distinguish from another Peoria or Youngstown were it not for its NFL franchise.
But, and this grates on the Vikings, it's the Packers who have just about every advantage in terms of what it takes to run a successful franchise.
Better stadium. Better revenue. Better ownership. Better practice facilities. Better medical facilities. Better weight room. Better video department. Better salaries for coaches and staff. Better office space.
Basically, better everything.
And Packers fans being the tunnel-visioned lot that they are, those who support the Purple four months of the year get to listen to them brag about Brett Favre, "historic" Lambeau Field and anything else Packers 365 days a year.
Professional football players of today might live in their own sealed environments and easily can immunize themselves from fandom, talk radio and the like. But it's tougher to do if you're a Vikings player and there's green and gold clothing, chatter and coverage just about every place you turn.
Quite frankly, the Vikings are fed up to here every time "Green Bay" or "at Green Bay" appears on their schedule.
For the Vikings, there is no rival other than the Packers. Before the Vikings' birth in 1961, Minnesota watched the Packers on television every Sunday. Those allegiances pass from generation to generation and still intensify the rivalry.
For the Packers, the Bears are and probably always will be No. 1 because they've played 40 years longer. The Vikings are No. 2, which is an enormous problem for coach Mike Sherman.
"When I first arrived in Green Bay I was surprised the intensity here didn't quite match the intensity over there," said Mike Eayrs, the Packers director of research and development since March 2001 who held the same job with the Vikings for 16 years before that. "Obviously, I saw it the first time we played the Bears.
"Maybe half a dozen times in my 20 years in the NFL did I know we'd win before we took the field. One was that December day in 2001 before we played the Bears, who were (13-3) that year. I was in our locker room and I saw how confident and focused guys like Bernardo (Harris) and Nate Wayne were. It occurred to me that this game means more to them than probably any other."
Green wanted nothing more than to beat his former colleague in San Francisco, Mike Holmgren. And the combustible Tice, his long-time offensive line coach, didn't need any personal animosity to get jacked for Green Bay.
The Vikings went 2-3 in Wisconsin from 1992-'96 under Green, but the only time they truly were destroyed was in '96, although that 38-10 game was 10-10 at halftime.
Since then, the Vikings have made eight appearances at Lambeau Field and, amazingly enough, played an above-average to exceptional game every time. When Tice said Monday, "It probably couldn't work out better because the one thing we do when we play Green Bay is we play loose," he was being only too honest.
There is too much history here. The Vikings lay eggs everywhere else around the NFL but not in Green Bay, where their pent-up fury against a bitter enemy frequently carries them to new heights. Meanwhile, the Packers haven't played a great game at home against the Vikings since '96.
In the last eight meetings at Lambeau, the Packers have been favored seven times and own a 6-2 record, but attesting to the Vikings' level of play is their 6-2 mark against the spread. The only times the Packers beat the line was 1999, when Favre's 23-yard touchdown pass to Corey Bradford with 12 seconds provided a 23-20 victory, and 2000, when Antonio Freeman's 43-yard miracle catch in overtime provided a 26-20 victory.
The last game that Green coached for the Vikings occurred Dec. 30, 2001, on a 19-degree afternoon. The injury-ravaged Vikings, a 13 1 /2-point underdog and out of the playoffs for the first time since '95, dominated play and led well in the fourth quarter before Mike McKenzie returned an interception by Spergon Wynn for a touchdown.
The next December, the Vikings were a 9 1/2-point underdog on an 11-degree Sunday night and going nowhere with a 3-9 record. Still, they led, 19-6, in the third quarter before the Packers overcame a rash of their own injuries and prevailed, 26-22.
Last season, the rededication game at renovated Lambeau quickly turned into a boo-fest when the Vikings assumed a 27-3 lead in the third quarter before settling for a 30-25 victory.
And eight weeks ago, the 4-point underdog Vikings overcame a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the score before losing on Ryan Longwell's last-second field goal that closely followed Ben Steele's disputed fumble recovery.
The Vikings have fielded lousy defenses for about a decade but you wouldn't know it by how they've swarmed to the football at Lambeau. That's always a litmus test for how ready a team is, so if Ahman Green goes nowhere in his first few carries you'll know what's happening.
"We've beaten them twice but only by three points," Sherman said early in the week. "We're equal in talent. I think at this point in the season your passion and will to win takes over."
Unless Tice really has lost this team, the Vikings have demonstrated a fire for the rivalry that surpasses what the Packers have shown and can be expected to demonstrate it again.
The other intriguing thing Sherman said Monday was that he felt as good about this year's team entering the playoffs as he did about last year's. He didn't say the '04 team was as good as the '03 team, but if he had the evidence wouldn't have added up.
At this time a year ago the Packers had Mike McKenzie at left cornerback, a healthier Grady Jackson at nose tackle, Mike Flanagan at center, Robert Ferguson at wide receiver, a healthy 1-2 punch of Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport to pound the ball and Josh Bidwell to handle the punting.
Where are the Packers better this season?
Javon Walker and Donald Driver are improved, but they weren't exactly chopped liver at the end of '03, either. Other than that, there have been no significant upgrades.
Aside from all the babble about destiny, angels and fate, those '03 Packers were a formidable club that could count three teams with winning records among its 10 victims. The '04 Packers didn't beat anybody better than 8-8.
Three days after the divisional defeat in Philadelphia, when Sherman blew it by punting on fourth on 1 and his defense short-circuited on fourth and 26, the coach promised that another golden playoff opportunity would be presented to the Packers sooner than later.
Now that opportunity is here. Forget about what the Eagles have done the last two weeks; Andy Reid knows full well what he's doing. But without Terrell Owens, Reid also knows he can be beaten at home.
The Packers should win this game because of the matchup between their stellar offense against a lame Vikings' defense that will sorely miss safety Corey Chavous. They are healthy for this of year, 32-4 at home in December and January since 1992 (counting playoffs) and playing a team that is riding a 2-20 streak outdoors.
But, said Mike Eayrs, "My greatest fear is not enough people in this organization realize they (the Vikings) will crank it up three notches."
If that storm warning isn't heeded, it's likely Sherman will be saddled with a devastating defeat for the fourth consecutive post-season.
Why I think the defense is about to improve.....REALLY
OK, maybe everyone will think this is seen throught green and gold glasses, but I really do think this defense is about to take it's best step forward this year.
I think Sherman has made his second best coaching move of the year. His first being taking over the play calling chores. Why did this help? I don't think it was the pure difference between Sherman and Rossely but the human contact with the offense, Favre. It created better communication and put Favre back into his favorite comfort zone of having the playcaller at his side and,if possible, made access to controlling a gunslinger in game situations easier.
I think what precipitated the second move was the success of the first. The second move was bringing Slowik from the booth to the sidelines. I believe the second move carries a two-fold positive influence for the defense.
1- It gives the DC eye to eye contact and communication with the players.
2- It brings a comfort level back to the DB's.
I think the second part may be the most important. I don't think it is a reach to say the play of the secondary has regressed this year. Last year, while not a juggernot, the secondary did play better at least in assignment. I am hoping this assessment is true. I really think Slowik has better repore with the DB's than Shottsie. If this is truly the case it bodes well for Slowik and opens the door for Shottsie to find other work.OMHO.
Case in point for this optimism is last week. For the second half the coaches made the move to go to a cover 2 zone. As I remember reading post game comments from MS "we decided to go cover 2 but some of the players didn't agree, but Slowik talked to them and convinced them it would work". Hence we controlled the passing game well eough to win.
Do I think this move will make us a great defense? NO, but I do believe it will improve our defense and in the playoffs that may be what we get, an improvement.
Maybe a majority will still blame MS for allowing this to happen, but I will see a coach growing and improving to take it to the next level.
Give me improvement any day.
Friday, January 07, 2005
The Minnesota Vikings (8-8) at the Green Bay Packers (10-6)
by Thomas Pyc
Playoff Game Preview
For the first time in the long history between the Packers and the Vikings they are going to play a playoff game. That’s eighty-seven matches (44-42-1 in favor of the Pack) and not one of them in the postseason. If the rivalry between the two divisional foes was not bitter enough now the loser of the matchup gets to head home, for the rest of the season.
Fans, players and coaches have been heard all week how hard it is to beat a team three times in one season but the fact is that in such situations the three game sweep has occurred 66% of the time. Still, that does not mean any player in a Packer uniform is going to take the Vikings lightly. Brett Favre knows as well as anyone what the pain of a Viking defeat can feel like. Before this season Favre was 11-12 against the Vikings in his career. Only three other teams have a winning record against Brett and none of them are division rivals. Darren Sharper perceives the Vikings to still be dangerous despite ‘backing into’ the playoffs and I am sure that is the popular feeling across the entire Packer organization.
The mood in the other franchise appears to be very mixed. Both Quarterback Daunte Culpepper and Center Matt Birk have expressed their discontent with Moss leaving the field, the game, and his teammates behind in a huff last Sunday. But Randy’s frustration and the resulting behavior was inevitable, wasn’t it? Back in 2000 after the heavily favored Vikings lost 41-0 in the NFC Championship game Moss said, “It’s going to be tough for us to win a Super Bowl in Minnesota.” As of Thursday evening rumors of Moss’s comments in an interview with ESPN began to show up on the Internet and the fuel for a bigger fire appears to be coming.
But this football game is going to be played on the field and not through the media or on chatboards. Team cohesion is built on the practice field, team-meeting rooms and on gameday. There’s going to be one thing on these teams’ minds come Sunday and that’s winning a football game with whichever players decided to show up. So whatever does come out of the mouth of Moss this week is not going to change the desire that the Vikings have on Sunday, just like whatever Brett Favre’s feeds the media directly from his hand is not going to make him any more phenomenal. They are both football players and great ones at their respective positions.
Two weeks between games does not make for too many drastic changes to each teams’ rosters but they are changes nonetheless. For the Vikings, Antoine Winfield is going to be at full strength at his starting cornerback position while safety Corey Chavous will be out with an elbow injury. Two other Vikings are on the injury report, wide receiver Kelly Campbell and cornerback Terrence Shaw, Campbell practiced at full speed on Thursday but his availability for kickoffs is yet to be determined due to his separated shoulder. The other roster adjustment is the assurance that self-proclaimed archenemy to Brett Favre, Chris Hovan, will be deactivated for journeyman, and one-time Packer, Steve Martin. The Vikings should also have the luxury of all of their running backs for the game Sunday.
The Packers are going to still be without wide receiver Robert Ferguson. Ferguson made his return to the practice field and had some understandable apprehension and nervousness this week. Grady Jackson did not practice on Wednesday but should be ready to go come game time. Jackson has been engaged in a pregame verbal war with Vikings’ center Matt Birk and guard David Dixon all week. Linebacker Na’il Diggs appears to be at full strength after suffering from a bruised kidney as does safety Darren Sharper. All and all the Packers and Vikings are in relatively good health but in an interview with Mike Sherman this week he expressed the importance of notifying gameday starters on gameday in order to get the most out of them during practice. That being said, it is uncertain whether defensive tackle, Cletidus Hunt, will be the starter on Sunday.
The Minnesota Vikings have an almost impossible task of shutting down a record setting Packer offense. The quarterback is a Hall of Famer. The receiving corps set franchise records for receptions and yards this year. The offensive line is arguably the best in the league and the running backs have speed, power and depth. The Vikings successfully limited the Packer ground game two weeks ago and contain a Pro-Bowler at defensive tackle (Kevin Williams) but it is extremely unlikely this outmatched defense is going to be able to devise a plan to slow down the Packers’ offense. So for Minnesota the best defense is probably going to be a good offense. Long sustained drives with a great deal of power running will help keep the ball out of Brett Favre’s enormous hands.
The purple offensive attack has run into some serious problems over its last six quarters of football. Packer fans are familiar with this type of trouble; they used to see it twice a year in the form of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. This trouble is also known as a Cover 2 or a double zone. Packer defensive coordinator went strictly to a Cover 2 scheme in the second half of the game two weeks ago and that held the Minnesota offense, which scored 21 second quarter points, to only 3 second half points. Against the Redskins, Minnesota’s offense looked confused and frustrated (see Randy Moss reaction) against the Cover 2 scheme. They scored 18 points, some of which can be attributed more to excellent athletic effort and not the attacking strategy.
Against this scheme Daunte Culpepper does not have a deep option and he’s forced to throw short in order to get down the field. With the emergence of Nate Burleson and Jermaine Wiggins the Vikings offense has become more than just Randy Moss, it has achieved balance. Obviously there are ways to beat this scheme and those are dependent upon offensive patience and persistence as well as it’s running attack. If the Vikings can run against the Packer front seven consistently and Culpepper picks his spots carefully then there’s no reason they cannot stay in this game. But at the same time some would argue that Favre still has not mastered playing against a good Cover 2 scheme (see Jacksonville game) and despite Culpepper’s great season, he’s still not at Brett’s level.
The Bottom Line
This game is going to be analyzed from all angles. The media is going to publish all game-related statements, even the irrelevant ones. Coaches are going to smoke screen. Analysts are going to look at all the details, all the way down to the size of each quarterback’s hands (Favre – 10.375 inches, Culpepper – 9.5 inches). But on Sunday we should see one team that is ready to make a solid playoff run and one that cannot stand the cold and would rather be sitting in the warmth of the lockerroom. And there’s always a chance that some players will head there before anyone else. Packers 35, Vikings 21.
A brief description of what I do
There are so many draft sites out there and many of them have glowing colorful depictions of players and positions. While some of them are legit I suspect many of them are just copy catters. I suspect many of them do very little evaluating except the few games they watch in person or on TV.
A little harsh and very cynic on my part and maybe some sour grapes but there are some of us who spend a lot of time doing what we do. Some of us actually work at getting reports from information directirs at colleges and some spend money paying for tapes of players to do our own evaluation work. I even pay for information from one of the scouting services
I want to make it known for all the new posters and readers of this site that I do my homework. When i post a ranking or post a comment it comes from my personal evaluation on such player. I do not say this to be bragging. Far from it. I do this for clarification.
When you see my material I want it known that it is my opinions. Sure there is the common ground of knowledge from other draft experts that I read and some of what they say definntely plays on my thinking as I watch these players and give them grades. That is only natural. But when I make a statement I want the reader to be assured that what I say is coming from my work and not just copy catting from an internet site.
If I make a mistake on a player then that mistake was an honest mistake.
This is my passion and I spend countless hours watching football in my office. I watch in person games as well and I take time to visit college campuses as well.
This I felt was necessary and for the regulars I apologize for duplication of what I do.
Now with this preamble I thought I would give you a little of how I grade a player and how much effort goes into determining a ranking.
Scouting Evaluation: Luis Castillo DT Northwestern 6-3 308
Brief Description: Luis is a complete DT who is dominating more than half the plays. He never takes a down off and usually has a hand in on most running plays up the middle. He gets a burst off the snap and gets the upper hand quickly when engaging OL. Big powerful player who can handle the behemoths on the OL with brute force and power. Strong hands and he uses them very well to help in disengaging the block and making the tackle.
12 GAMES EVALUATED
Athleticism: a quality player with athletic ability
Use OF Hands: 9-
** note: a grade of 7 is considered above avereage in my grading
Lateral Movement skills: very good as he can slide down the line and make plays – Effective in giving chase to the QB who rolls out, applying pressure.
Strong Front Power: displayed excellent strength, blowing apart very good blocking by opponents. Has the umph to play the power tackle slot and even the Nose. Good use of hands with strong arms.
Quickness: good agility and balance allows him to move around some with more range than most DT’s. Can make plays outside but his ability to quick start from the snap along with his initial power burst he slices between OL blocking and gets inside pressure on the QB
Smarts: I have seen him play both 1 gap penetrating defense and 2 gap run stuffing defense and there is very little difference in the results. He can play both equally well. Has sharp instincts especially in the run game. He can control the line versus the run and also lend help in the pass rush. Very good ball awareness skills
Luis can be disruptive and collapse the pocket and blow apart run blocking but he can do more than that. He makes tackles (over 250 of them at NW)
Pick him with the Packers 1st selection of round 2. Tremendous work ethics and super attitude. Unlimited ability. Very coachable. The type of player you go to war with every week. He is not flashy or the highlight film type of player, but, he is just a football player that does his job on every play and does it above average consistency.
** note: as more and more draft people see this player the higher he will rise on the charts. A good all around DT is hard to find and Luis is defintely a quality DT. Should go higher than being projected by all the guides out there. Current Consensus Mid 3rd round (from the major draft pubs)
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
On the positive side of Loyalty
I'm admitting to devil's advocating right now, but I was thinking about this.
Many of us (myself included) have mentioned Sherman's loyalty to players and coaches as a fault.
Has anyone ever worked in a climate where you feel like you're just the hired meat of the week? Maybe when you were a young'un in a position where turnover was high, and the management treated you as such.
It doesn't do a lot for your morale, or wanting to be loyal back to your job. In many cases, you can't wait to move on yourself.
The keeping of Davenport over Ogunleye has been a criticism I've heard a lot lately. Yes, we could have used another DE, though he is a light speed rusher, not unlike KGB.
When you see his extensions to players, his loyalty to guys who've pulled him through in the past, even his assistants, you have to wonder.
Yeah, when they fail, we complain, say its a business and Sherman has to make the tough decisions. I don't disagree with that, but what's the other side of the pendalum?
Bill Parcells jetisonning players? Quincy Carter took a hike, and look how the Cowboys ended up this year. Sherman stayed his course, and brought a team back from 1-4.
Sherman perfect? Far from.
Perhaps too loyal to some coaches/players he shouldn't be? Probably.
But there's something to be said for even a guy like Favre to want to stick around as long as he does. If Sherman was firing off half-cocked on guys, even Hunt, what kind of climate does that create for the quality guys?
Yeah, it makes it intense and uncomfortable. But how long before that burns out?
I'm not saying that Sherman should continue exactly as he has been, and the latest Hunt flack is a sign that perhaps he's realizing his loyalty can only go so far.
But to create a professional environment is something special. MM didn't want to be a part of it, and look at the environment he's in now. Frankly, it seems a lot worse to me, with players openly confronting their coaches and such.
Just a thought.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
To go to the SB, GB must:
Now that we all have Super Bowl hopes, these are my thoughts on what the Pack must do to beat Minnesota, Atlanta and Philly:
1. Contain the quarterback. Over the last two years, the defense has struggled to contain mobile QBs. Time and time again, mobile QBs have been able to scramble for big gains on third and long. In the playoffs, GB will face three very good scrambling QBs. Applying pressure will not be enough. The defensive line needs to collapse the pocket and not allow the QB to break free.
2. Take what the defense gives you. This applies to Favre, Sherman and Rossley. If the defense is in cover-2, Favre needs to take the mid-range passes available and not throw into double coverage. Sherman and Rossley need to stick with what is working. If the passing game is clicking and running is difficult, pass like mad. The running game has not been consistent this season, and during the first 5 games, the offense bogged down when Rossley continued trying to establish the ground game. Sherman has been better at adjusting to the game situation.
3. Make blitzing unpredictable. In the first half of the season, it was easy to figure out when and how GB would blitz. Even during the second half of the season, Sherman and Slowik called blitzes like clockwork on third and long situations when the game was on the line. Predictable blitzes are ineffective at generating a pass rush and allow the offense to generate big plays. Unless the defense becomes more difficult to predict, GB could blow a close game.
4. Avoid turnovers. We all know this. If Favre and Green combine for another 5-turnover day, we will be toast.
5. Avoid penalties. This also is obvious, but the team has been penalized a lot the last 5 or 6 games.
The other key will be health:
1. Davenport. He provides a big boost in the running game. If he can return kickoffs effectively, it will be a huge boost.
2. Diggs. When he is at full speed, he makes a difference.
3. Grady. We all know how important he is to this team.
4. Franks. His injury against the Bears was scary. We don't have anyone to plug in that position.
5. Fergy. His playing would be a big morale plus.
6. Sharper. He has looked a lot better the last few games. If his knee slows him again, he will be a weak spot in an already-weak pass defense.
Let the games begin.
Monday, January 03, 2005
This report card is not on the players becasue that would take too much space and not be accepted by most on this board anyhow.
But a quick glance at a few players will suffuce:
Brett Favre gets a solid grade of B+ despite 3 games of folly - Hey 4000+ yards - 30 TD's with only 17 INT's you deserve a very good grade
Mark Roman gets a D+ from me based on the fact that he played the run well in 14 of 16 games and he played the pass well in 6 of the 16 games - Roman had 5 games where he completely shut down his guy and allowed 1 or no receptions. Conversely he had games where he could not cover a snail and allowed way to many big plays.
I bring these two players up becasue I think both of them should return for 2005: Brett becasue he is a legend who is still one of the better QB's in the NFL and Roman becasue this kid can play football and had the worse year he has ever had in an uniform going all the way back to his soph year in high school.
But if the Packers can get a better safety for an upgrade it would be foolish to ride on Roman's history This year showed how far a player can drop in this league if he is in the wrong system. The question is can Roman rid himself from this poor season and revert back to the player that I know he is?
The coaching staff is where I want to take this post!:
WR coach: Ray SHerman did a solid job this season even though there is some areas that again show some weakness on the part of the coach. Unfortunately I believe Ray Sherman wants to leave and might go the college route. This season ,might have been Shermans best one as receiver coach
OL Coach: Beightol again did a solid job and gets a very good grade of B+ despite the OL laying eggs in 4 games this season. a 25% ratio of good to bad. Execution and motivation factors did creep in on this unit but I believe most of the criticism has to be placed on the shoulders of the players. The assistant coach has the resposibility to fire these guys up but the point of crossing does exist where it is the players who have to want it -
RB coach: Johnny Roland is no SYlvester Croom but he is more than adequate from my standpoint. In watching the RB's this year I saw a group who came to play in most of the games. The area of concern is the RB's are hitting the hole maybe a step to soon at times and not being patient. Maybe this is the reflection of the coach and maybe it was just the eagerness of Fisher and Davenport to make something happen to certify their playing time. I keep Roland
QB coach Bevell: I do not make him the OC as many on here have suggested. I liike Bevell and think he can develop into something special. Not everyone is cut out to be a coordinator. Some are masters when it comes to teaching and comes to coaching but when they "step up" to the coordinator they are not as good. Maybe I am wrong on this but I think Bevell is the teaching genius type
DL Coach: I am sorry but Franklin is not the answer here. We bring in quality players and good rookies to develop and we get nothing much out f them. Players with less ability and less athleticism are developing all around the NFL and yet we do not get much from this unit. It has to reflect on the coaching. Hunt is a very good player if he wants to be - Peterson is a darn good player that is not developing - Just two players to name a couple where we should be getting solid results. I believe a change here would work some "majoc" with this unit. Jethro is a nice guy and might get along well with the players but I just do not see him as being a very good teacher.
LB coach: Duffner struggled this season and the play of the LB's struggled as well. They had great games and they had games where the LB's seemed out of position and out of sync all day long. Duffner is one of the young coaches who has the eyes of other teams. I do not know if Duffner slipped due to disappoinment of not getting the DC job or not. That might have played on him all year long with the struggles of the defense under SLowikk. He has to think that he could have done a better job than Slowik. And you know something. When I watch Duffner and listen to what others say about him he comes across as a coordinator type on mentality. Maybe indeed Sherman chose the wrong guy and should have gone with Duffner and kept SLowik,as his assistant head coach and DB coach. SLowik is one of the better DB coaches in the NFL and is a solid teacher and motivator. Duffner if from what I have heard has the type of mind condusive t being a coordinator. -- I keep Duffner
DB coach: Kurt Shottenheimer is a fine coach. The trouble is he does not appear to be on the same page with SLowik. Look this secondary regressed in almost every phase of play under Kurt. Bob SLwik had this unit playing solid fotball despite the sporadic play from Edwards and others in 2003. I have shown all the stats where SLowik had this unit well coached. Slowik is an excellent position coach and a very smart person. Shottenheimer comes with a solid reputation as well. But when you look at what this unit did in 2004 and what it had done in 2001 through 2003 you have to wonder what in the heck is going on. Players out of position and players looking totally confused about their assignments and switch overs. Players running around but not in any sort of scheme. Players missing tackles becasue of being 1 step out of line. The overall cohesiveness of the secondary seemed to be out of whack and some players just flat out did not play well at all. I wonder if it was the problem of the DB coach or if all the players just flat out stunk the place up? I also think the DC maybe wanted his pupil Lionel Washington t run his secondary and that might have created space enough between the DC and the DB coach where things never worked out? If Shottenhiemer wants to leave I d not make an effort to keep him.
DC: I personally think Bob SLowik is one of the better defensive guys in the NFL. I think and know that he is one of the best at working from a deficiancy and getting the most out of players. To me it would represent a gross misjudgement to fire Slowik. We would be losing one of the best defensive minds in the NFL. But here is the problem. While he was the DB coach he was responsible for his unit. Now as the DC he is responsible for game planning and game management and has to rely on the other defensive position coaches to have thier units primed and coached for the game. If the coaches are not on the same page as the cordinator then all havoc breaks out and we get games like the Colts - Eagles and Titans and even Jacksonvile. A lot of criticism has been leveled at Slowik that is essentially not his doing but it is easy for fans to throw their darts at the man in charge. Maybe Slowik hands were tied and he could not make changes due to the poor preparaton from the assistant coaches and he knew that.
I do not know for sure but I have to believe that Slowik was greatly disturbed with the coaching from the deensive assistants this season.
The question comes to mind then what kind of grade do I give Slowik whom I admire greatly. I give him a grade of a D (in waiting). Slowik has the inside ear of Mike Sherman and it is the job of the coordinator to insist that the coaches have their units prepared for whatever scheme or design that the coordinator asks for in a game. If it is not happening then the DC has to go to the Head Coach and say my hands are tied. If we see changes in the assitant coaching ranks then the grade of a D will go up in my mind as the DC then did his job. Look I am not going to wear colored glasses and smooth over a poor performance just becasue I respect and admire a person greatly. Slowik did not do a good job in many phases of his reponisibility . But I also have to argue that many times he appeared to call the right schemes but the players just did not respond to them. And that falls to the assistant coaches in my mind.
Is it possible that the Green Bay Packers do not have the brightest minds in their players? Is it possible that we need an infusion of players with solid instincts to run SLowik aggressive think on the move type of scheme? Do we run off Slowikand bring in another guy and for the 4th straight season incorporate a new defense? Or do we pinpoint the problem as maybe we need 2 or 3 different assistant coaches who are on the same page as the DC?
Hey I look at what SLowik wanted to do and I liked it. I thought it was going to take some time to get it implemented but overall I like it. I think it works for the NFL today. You are basically asking your defense to flow to the ball and make reads on the move by the seat of your pants thing. You need fast and quick players who have good instincts. Another wrinkle that I saw SLowik trying to develop was an insurance point on each scheme. If the first line of defense was weak or did not work there was an insurance built in to compensate by some overlaping. Here was the problem. The overlapping did not work out and players got exsposed. We saw big plays develop becasue players were not positioned correctly and over read and over played . This extending resulted in no insurance on each play. The assitant coaches did not do well in providing the "2nd line of defense " that Slowik wanted.
The question then comes to mind. Do we have the right payers for SLowik's defense? The same defense that took 3 years to develop in New ENgland - Or do we have the right assistant coaces to teach the players what is expected? Or do we have the wrong guy as the coordinator.
I realize almost everyone on the board will howl that we have the wrong guy in charge and to this I say you guys are completely washed up and going on emotion and not really studying the issue at hand.
Yes I think SLowik did not do as well as he should have. At times I believe he was pig eyed and missed things. But the defense he has develped is quite a good one if implemented correctly. It works. But I believe the factors under him greatly tied his hands and limited his ability to coordinate a game the way he wanted as well.
Again If Mike Sherman makes no moves to upgrade his assitant coaches on defense then he is basically undermining Bob SLowikand SLowikshould move on to another team as a DB coach. And if Mike Sherman does not listen to SLowik on the kind of players he need to run his defense them Bob SLowik is not the right man for the Packers.
Mike Sherman has to decide if he wants Slowik as his defensive "genius" and give Slowik the coaches he needs and the players he needs.
If we see nothing done and we go into the season with SLowik as the DC and the same assistant coaches then misery again in 2005 for the defense. The draft and of course Free Agency will be telling as well. Just watch and see what kind of defensive players SHerman adds to the team. That will tell you quickly if SLowk has SHerman's absolute faith.
Of course to the delight of this board this comes all moot if Sherman does what most on the board wants and that is to replace Slowik. A huge mistake and a gross display of judgement in my thinking. Some of these players have had basically 3 different schemes the last 3 seasons. I for one would like to see a consitant scheme of a 2nd year for the players.
Just better input from the assitant coaches and an influx of 4 or 5 new players that conform to the style of defense the packers will use. And a 2nd year for the returning players as well. Bob SLowik is quite a defensive minded guy. I would hate the thoiught of running him off .
Game Review: Packers 31 Bears 14
by Thomas Pyc
At kickoff, Packer fans were unaware of which players would be starting and who would be sitting. On defense Grady Jackson was absent the starting lineup allowing for the knees that supported his 350+ body some much-needed rest. The only other regular starter on defense that was not on the field for the first series was Cletidus Hunt. Hunt was benched due to his persistent underachievement. On the offensive side of the ball, all of the usual suspects started the game and only running back Najeh Davenport and wide receiver Robert Ferguson were inactive due to injury.
By the time the first two minutes and six seconds had rolled off the clock the Bears found themselves up, 7-0. The key play on the drive was a 63-yard pass from Chad Hutchinson to David Terrell. The called coverage on the play appeared to match Al Harris man-to-man with safety Mark Roman covering over the top. After two consecutive running plays, Harris was caught peaking into the backfield as Terrell made his moves on a corner route. At that point several fans had to be wondering whether the Packers were ‘mailing it in’ and ready to start preparing for their first round playoff game.
Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. After an unsuccessful drive for the offense the Packer D forced a punt and then proceeded to drive 86 yards for a touchdown on a Favre to Franks pass. After the Bears initial scoring drive they punted on seven of their next eight possessions. The result of the possession on which they did not punt was an interception by Darren Sharper, which he returned for 43 yards and a touchdown.
At that point the score was 21-7 and momentum was solely with the Packers.
Brett Favre finally left the game at the 9-minute mark in the second quarter giving way to backup Craig Nall. Favre finished the day with a 151.4 passer rating (9 of 13, 196 yards, 2 TDs). More important than the statistics, Favre appeared to be 100% comfortable and ready for a strong playoff run. As for Craig Nall, he entered the game as though he had been in it all along. Nall went 3 for 3 on his first drive, passing for 64 yards concluded with a 25 yard touchdown strike to Javon Walker. Nall’s first pass was a bullet to Franks, which he squeezed between a few Bear defenders. The second pass was a beautifully placed throw to Ben Steele. At the time it appeared as though Nall would have a hard time further impressing onlookers but his next pass to Javon Walker was another perfectly placed ball that Favre himself would have had trouble topping.
With the score 28 to 7 the outcome of the game appeared to be over. What else could possibly happen? Unfortunately for Packer fans a scary moment occurred when Javon Walker’s noggin bounced violently on the field and his extremities appeared to tighten as he lay motionless on the turf. Fortunately, Walker made it off the field under his own power and is expected to play in the first round of the playoffs. Overall, this game is a perfect example of how important it is to play your starters in order to maintain momentum going into the playoffs but at the same time it displayed how quickly a key element of a team can be lost.
Next up for the Packers is the Minnesota Vikings (Sunday @ 4:30 EST). The idea of playing and defeating a team 3 times in a season does not sound like an easily achievable goal but history shows that in similar situations (there has been fifteen) that it is accomplished 66% (ten) of the times. And if the Packers have one thing going their way heading into the playoffs it is momentum, something that the Vikings do not appear to have at this point. How important is momentum at this point in the season? Well, all one has to do is reference the final game of the 2001 season in which the Packers looked dismal in their final regular season game against the New York Jets as well as the following week against the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs. This time around the Packers are the ones with the big ‘MO’ and a solid opportunity to take advantage to keep it.