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Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Test of a QB comes in games
by T Wolf
I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but the test of a QB comes in games, not in practices. If you look around the league, a lot of "ex-Packers" dot the landscape at QB. Some of them have been pretty damned good. But, there's one thing most of them have in common. There were Packer fans who said they were worthless because they didn't practice well, or didn't bump time from Favre.
As far as Pederson being the #2, that isn't a valid argument. The fact is, if Favre went down in a game, Pederson would have taken over, but rest assured, if it was from a start point, Nall would more than likely been given the starting assignment. The fact is, Pederson was our FG holder, plain and simple, and a friend of Favre's and that played heavily on the decision. He would have never stayed with the Packers had he been bumped to the #3 role.
So, how does Sherman judge players? Bringing in Couch and Smith doesn't tell me the guy is a genius. It tells me he is nearly clueless when it comes to who he brings in. The fact that they didn't even give a physical to Couch beforehand, and he waltzed in and blindsided Sherman and the team with a pre-existing injury wasn't exactly a work of genius on the part of Sherman.
As for all the rest of his "reclamation projects," if he was so smart, why did Nall still end up in GB? If he was so bad, why did Thompson sign him again this year? In all honesty, I think Sherman has blown it with Nall. He should have had him in the #2 role a long time ago, and sent Pederson packing. I think he was afraid to do it because Petey was Favre's buddy. Pederson had to retire to make the change happen for crying out loud.
Then, think of this. Anyone coach who honestly believed that Pederson was good enough to be a #2 in the NFL has to be out of their mind. Obviously there aren't too many people who would sit here and argue that Pederson was that good. If he wasn't, why didn't Sherman replace him?
Just a few thoughts. But then again, I don't think Sherman is that good of a coach, and I believe very little I've heard coming out of Packer central. I've listened to them brag up players every year who are failures, and blow it on guys who succeed.
Remember. These are the same guys that said William Henderson was done a couple of years ago, and brought in his replacement. To prove their point, they quit throwing the ball to Henderson, until they became desperate. Then, when they did throw to him, he proved all over again how good he really was.
Just based on Henderson alone, I'll stick with my evaluation of Nall. I felt they were wrong on Henderson at the time, and feel that history has repeated itself.
Why did Thompson take Rodgers? Who in their right mind would have passed on him?
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
by Mark Quarderer
It's very apparent to me that this team is in rebuilding mode. We'll have at least 11, and possibly 15 new faces on the 53 man roster and a totally new crew on the practice squad. Add that to the salary cap moves and the all of the people on the team right now that are in the last year of their contract---including some of the mainstays of the team---- and we could be looking at a team in 2006 that has 25 or more people on it that joined the team since TT took over. We're already looking at 5 new starters on defense and at least two on offense this year. That's seven out of 22....almost a third of the team...in the first year. That's not rebuilding?
If we needed a further indication that this team is rebuild mode, we'd look at the coaching staff. The Packers have a new DC, new DL coach, new secondary coach, new backfield coach, new receivers coach. The Head Coach is in the last year of his contract and hasn't been extended yet. This doesn't sound like rebuilding?
Thompson is in the FIRST year of his tenure here, so there's no reason to assume that he's under any pressure to win the Super Bowl this year. Building a team that is capable of winning the Super Bowl and building one to win it THIS YEAR are two different things and it certainly seems by what he has done so far that TT has much more of an eye on the future that his predecessor did.
I do not see this team as a legitimate Super Bowl contender this year. There is not a good mix of experience and talent in the secondary, we have too many unproven performers on the defensive line, and we don't get good enough play at the QB position in the playoffs to think that we can beat 3-4 quality opponents in a row.....which is what it takes to win the Super Bowl. I think that although the defense will be improved this year, they're still at least a year away from being the kind of defense that could get you to the Super Bowl.
I'd love to be proven wrong, but I don't think I will be. I don't think that looking forward to the future is any more of a "sick dream" than continuing to cling to an illusion of something that was but isn't anymore.
Time marches on, as it always does. In the NFL, if you insist on clinging to the past you become non-competitive. I don't think Thompson is going to let that happen.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Team Overview: Green Bay Packers
by Adam Lasik of XpertSports.com
The Green Bay Packers endured a roller-coaster season in 2004, seeing one of the better offenses in the league tempered by one of the worst defenses. Factors such as injuries, poor defensive coaching, and questionable offensive decisions contributed to a year that saw the Packers win a third-straight NFC North championship despite several truly ugly losses, including one to the Minnesota Vikings in the wildcard round of the playoffs.
The Packers have made some changes to their administrative structure and coaching staff. Two major changes stand out. Coach Mike Sherman is no longer wearing two hats, with Ted Thompson joining the team as the Packers’ new general manager. Also, the Bob Slowik experiment failed and former Dolphins' defensive coordinator and interim coach, Jim Bates, was brought in to replace him. The defense promises to be a different animal under Bates.
Talent-wise, the Packers saw two of the better guards in the league move on, which has raised some questions about the stability and effectiveness of the offensive line. They also let safety Darren Sharper go, who made a beeline for division rival Minnesota. In addition, several other players, including defensive back Bhawoh Jue, have gone into free agency. Jue was signed by the San Diego Chargers.
On the addition side, the Packers have added several free agents, including linebacker Raynoch Thompson, offensive linemen Matt O’Dwyer and Adrian Klemm, and safeties Arturo Freeman and Earl Little.
The Packers have some serious questions to answer, and quite a few critics have declared that this is the year Green Bay will finally see the decline that has been predicted for the last five seasons. However, many Packer fans feel that the 2005 team will be an improved unit over 2004 and that reports of the demise of the Packers are a bit premature.
Quarterback Brett Favre is a perennial top-ten QB with a competitive fire that few can match and a toughness rarely encountered. For 12 straight seasons Favre has started all 16 games. He has compiled stats that most younger QBs can only dream of. Only three of his 13 seasons as a starter have seen his QB rating slip below 85, and his completion percentages have been well over 60% for the last four years. It has been 12 seasons since he last threw fewer than 20 touchdown passes, throwing 30 in 2004. While some believe he is merely a shadow of his former self, they find it very difficult to support such a claim using observable facts. The one knock on Favre is that he takes too many risks, and these have a tendency to result in turnovers. He has been intercepted 15 or more times every season since 1997, and he has a tendency to throw multiple interceptions in playoff games. Favre seriously considered retirement this year due to the health of his wife, who is battling breast cancer. But he has decided to return for the 2005 season, and is still capable at playing on par with some of the best quarterbacks in the game.
There is a great deal of discussion among Green Bay fans regarding Craig Nall. Nall has displayed some impressive abilities and decision-making in game situations, but his preseason performances have not been stellar. What game time he has seen was mostly “garbage time,” so it is difficult to determine whether he can be the future of the franchise, or a career backup. Selected in the fifth round of the 2002 draft, Nall is a strong-armed young quarterback with very limited experience. He has struggled with consistency in the past, and many observers believe he will not have the opportunity to prove himself, now that the Packers have drafted Aaron Rodgers. Nevertheless, he has improved each year and is under contract for one more season before he becomes a free agent. Nall will likely go through this season as the team’s number two quarterback, and will have to shine at every opportunity.
In April, the Packers used their first round draft pick on quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was projected by many as a top-5 selection, but slid down the board to Green Bay at #24. Rodgers carries the ball extremely high, and the team will likely work to get the ball down to a somewhat safer level. He has struggled with learning the Packers’ version of the West Coast Offense, and what was one of his strengths in college, accuracy, has been conspicuously absent through the team’s minicamps. The prevailing theory is that the two are related. The zip and accuracy that Rodgers has displayed in the past has been missing because the rookie has been thinking about too much to relax and let his natural ability take over. The team hopes that Rodgers will be able to make his way to number two, but Nall enters training camp as the primary backup.
Last season, the Packers acquired J.T. O’Sullivan from the New Orleans Saints. O’Sullivan is a raw but promising young talent who has been mentioned as a possible starter in the future, but he has not developed to the point of challenging for a larger role on the Packers’ depth chart. He has a quick release and good footwork, and will likely get a good, hard look this summer. O’Sullivan is a restricted free agent, but did not receive any offer sheets from other teams. Headed into training camp, O’Sullivan is the clear #4 quarterback, and will likely find himself on the practice squad or waiver wire without help from either an amazing camp performance, or an injury to one of the quarterbacks ahead of him.
A healthy Favre with, arguably, the best receiving corps he has ever had is a solid fantasy prospect. He may be only a year or two from retirement, but he will continue to be a viable fantasy starter until the day he announces that he is done. With the support around him, a solid offensive line, and a fresh start free from significant injuries, Brett Favre should be considered one of the better, and more underrated quarterbacks available.
Nall is not a bad handcuff in redraft leagues, and may have some value down the road for a dynasty league. Should he be pressed into service, he can be expected to do an adequate job of leading the team. However, as with virtually any Favre backup of the last 12 years, he has a better chance of not throwing a single pass all season than he does of starting any games.
For the Packers, though, Aaron Rodgers appears to be the heir apparent. Rodgers holds little to no value for 2005, but to a dynasty team that starts Favre, Rodgers is nearly a must-have.
Led by Ahman Green, the Green Bay rushing attack looks to regain its 2003 form this year. A few nagging injuries to Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, and the offensive line contributed to a “down” year for the Packers rushing offense, falling from third best in 2003 to tenth in 2004.
The Packers rushed for 1,903 yards last season, with an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Green took the majority of carries and receptions among the running backs. He carried 259 times for 1,163 yards in 15 games. In 2003, Green carried nearly 100 times more, and for 720 more yards. His touchdown production also saw a significant drop, as he went from 15 rushing and five receiving touchdowns in 2003 to only seven rushing and one receiving touchdown in 2004. He caught fewer passes than he has caught in his entire career since becoming a starter, hauling in only 40 balls for 275 yards.
Green can be expected to bounce back this year in terms of yards and touchdowns, but he appears to be trending toward a lesser role as a receiver out of the backfield. He has caught fewer passes every season since 2000, while third string running back Tony Fisher has seen a marked increase. Fisher caught 38 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns last season.
At this point last season, the prevailing opinion was that the Packers had transitioned to a run-first offense. That does not appear to be the case, considering Brett Favre’s performance last year, and it does not appear to be the direction the team is heading in for 2005. However, make no mistake: the Packers’ offense requires, and will have a strong run game.
In addition to Green, the Packers' three-headed monster includes fourth-year pros Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher. Davenport led the pair with 71 rushes for 359 yards, an average of 5.1 yards/carry. His numbers approached his 2003 statistics, except he only played in eleven games last season.
Fisher took the bulk of the remaining carries with 65 for 224 yards, an average of 3.4. A change-of-pace player in the running game, and third-down back, Fisher’s biggest impact is as a receiver out of the backfield on third downs. He accounted for 30 first downs in 2004.
While Davenport is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, all three are expected to be healthy going into training camp. The team will most likely give Davenport and Fisher some more work in an effort to keep Green healthy and fresh for the end of the season.
Ahman Green is an excellent fantasy option whose production in both rushing and receiving makes him a first-round value. He has had some durability concerns in the past with respect to various nagging injuries, but has played through them. Green has only missed three games since becoming a full-time starter. Of bigger concern are some fairly serious fumbling problems. Every year, Green reportedly works hard at reducing his fumbles, yet he still dropped the ball seven times during the season.
Najeh Davenport is the only other Packer RB with any fantasy value whatsoever. He has shown a combination of power, speed, and shiftiness to break some long runs. He is Green’s primary backup, but is not as effective in the passing game, where Fisher tends to take over. Davenport’s value, however, is based almost entirely as a handcuff to Green. He will not get enough touches to be a consistent performer, but he will get the nod if Green misses any time.
Fisher will get some work, especially as a receiver out of the backfield, but will not be a viable fantasy player unless both Green and Davenport are forced to miss time.
The Packers fielded one of the best receiving tandems in the league last season, with both Javon Walker and Donald Driver posting more than 1200 receiving yards. Walker's 1382 yards and 12 touchdowns made him one of the premier fantasy receivers in the league, while Driver cracked the top-10 with 1208 yards and 9 touchdowns.
With a healthy Brett Favre, it should seem an easy conclusion that the pair would again rank among the league elite. However, Javon Walker has been a holdout all offseason, seeking a new contract two years before his current deal is set to expire. The Packers have refused to discuss the issue during Walker's holdout, and speculation swirls that Walker may continue it well into the season.
Nobody, including Walker and agent Drew Rosenhaus, want the holdout to continue into the season. Rosenhaus is known as a dealmaker, and it appears likely that Walker will relent and rejoin the team during training camp as a step of good faith. Expect Walker to be on the field for the season opener, and likely most of training camp.
When he is on the field, Walker is dominant. At 6'3", he is tall, fast, has excellent leaping ability, superb physical control, and soft hands. Walker was one of the most reliable targets in the league last season, dropping only a few passes and catching nearly 63% of everything thrown in his direction. He is a proven playmaker who is still growing and learning the position. The Packers expect great things from Javon Walker.
Donald Driver is entering his seventh season, and has been one of Brett Favre's favorite targets for the last three. Driver is an excellent route runner with good hands and seems to have a connection with Favre. He has shown incredible passion for the game and heart on the field, and he has played through a few injuries in recent years.
Behind Walker and Driver, the Packers have a few promising prospects. At the top of the heap is veteran Robert Ferguson. Ferguson came into the league young, and did not immediately live up to his potential. As he has matured, he has demonstrated better route running and physical skills. More importantly, he has begun to show some mental maturity, particularly in his reaction to a hit he took last season that resulted in a loss of feeling below the neck. The result of his maturity and work to recover won him quite a few fans, and many believe that he is primed for a solid season. Ferguson will almost certainly be the number three receiver, but could prove to be one of the better number threes in the league.
The Packers also drafted a pair of receivers with impressive college numbers. Terrance Murphy may been the most impressive among all Packer rookies in off-season workouts. He has picked up the offense quickly and is a hard worker who rarely drops anything. In addition, he has made a number of big plays downfield, and some excellent sideline catches. Of course, all of this is without pads, but the Packers are expecting Murphy to contribute this year, and hope he can win the job as a kick returner, as well.
Craig Bragg, a sixth-round pick, has been injured and the team simply does not know what they have in him. Due to the injury, Bragg is not currently expected to compete for one of the top-4 receiver spots, but he may get a chance to go after the job of punt returner. Bragg has only average height and speed, but he has good hands with excellent burst and acceleration. He may end up a possession receiver, but his chance to make the team this year appears to be as a punt return man.
Antonio Chatman may end up the odd man out in the Packers' receiving corps. Chatman has been the team's primary kick returner and number four receiver, but he is short and has not been able to create big plays as a return man. He has been solid, with a good return average and nice routes across the middle of the field as a receiver, but lacks the dynamic ability to help turn a game, or put it away.
Javon Walker, assuming he plays the full season, is virtually a lock to be in the top tier of fantasy receivers. His holdout has him slipping a bit in many drafts, and he should prove an excellent value pick. Donald Driver seems underrated every year, and should be able to post another season of solid fantasy numbers. Driver will be available in most drafts as an outstanding second or even third fantasy receiver.
The remaining receivers have some interesting dynasty potential, but limited value for 2005. In a deep dynasty league that rewards kick returners, Terrence Murphy may have some value this year, and has the potential to be an excellent receiver down the road. Bragg's value, like Chatman's, is minimal at best.
At tight end, the Packers have a huge question mark in front of them. Bubba Franks has been labeled the team's transition player, and he has not made an appearance all summer. Behind Franks is, to put it gently, not much. David Martin has displayed some promise in the past, but is coming off an injury and has often had trouble with his attitude. Ben Steele is a player the Packers wanted to be a receiving tight end, but he has proven to have stone hands. Steele is considered third behind Franks and Martin, but may end up a long shot to make the final roster.
Franks hauled in 34 passes for 361 yards and seven touchdowns last season, and can be expected to approach the same numbers in 2005. In nine games, David Martin caught only five passes, and Steele caught four balls in fifteen games. The Packers will likely work to solidify the tight end position, but in summer workouts the tight ends have been a noticeably weak area.
Bubba Franks is a solid fantasy selection and has a chance to improve on his seven touchdown receptions in 2004, but should not be taken with the expectation that he will exceed last season's numbers. No other Packer tight ends should be considered viable fantasy options.
Place Kicker and Special Teams
Entering his ninth season, place kicker Ryan Longwell continues as one of the top kickers in the league. Last season, Longwell hit nearly 86% of his field goal attempts, including two out of three from beyond 50 yards. On his career, Longwell has an average of 82.4%, and has not missed an extra point attempt in three years. One area of note with respect to Longwell is that he is picky about his holder, and he has expressed concern about the job. His favorite among the available players appears to be Craig Nall, who has not held for a kick since a low snap resulted in a broken thumb in college.
The Packers have had little success in the return game for several years. Antonio Chatman has been a serviceable return man, but just barely. The Packers have not returned a kickoff for a touchdown since 2001, and ranked only 21st in the league on punt return average and 16th on kickoff return average last season. Craig Bragg and Terrence Murphy were both drafted to compete for the return jobs. Bragg appears set to compete as a punt returner once he is healthy, but is unlikely to be considered for the kickoff return job. Murphy will be given a chance to compete for the kickoff return job, and the team will take a look at him as a punt returner, too. Here, too, Chatman’s days may be numbered.
Longwell is the beneficiary of both his own accuracy and a high-powered offense that can consistently move the ball within his range. As a result, Longwell remains one of the better fantasy prospects, despite the inclement weather in Green Bay at the end of the season.
The kick return job is up for grabs, but there is no favorite for the job or much reason to suggest the winner will have any significant fantasy value.
The Green Bay Packers' success arguably lies in the strength of their offensive line. They allowed only 14 sacks last season, the best in the league. However, both starting guards, Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera, have left the team, creating a great deal of concern about the viability of the line.
To address the loss of the guards, the Packers have signed guards Adrian Klemm from the Patriots, and Matt O’Dwyer from Tampa Bay. Both players are considered exceptionally talented, but have had injury issues. In addition, the Packers have a secret weapon in Larry Beightol, who is considered among the best offensive line coaches in the league. The Packers have depth along the line with players like Kevin Barry, Brad Bedell, and Grey Ruegamer, all of whom have performed well when called upon in games or practice sessions. The combination of these three factors give the team reason to believe the line will maintain its strength, allowing the rest of the offense to click.
Last season, center Mike Flanagan missed the entire year, while Marco Rivera was limited by a knee injury. The line held together despite the injuries, but the impact was noticeable in the run game. The Packers expect the same level of protection, if not better, for quarterback Brett Favre and a return to the dominance as run blockers that they enjoyed two years ago. The Packers’ offensive line includes a lot of pulling by the guards, and the athleticism of the current group has been praised by coach Beightol.
Expect a well-balanced offensive attack behind a solid offensive line that surprises quite a few of the pundits.
There is no other way to put it: the Packer defense has been abysmal the last two seasons. Under Ed Donatell two years ago, the Packers had good schemes, but poor individual play. The individual players lacked cohesiveness and a strong teacher, and the result was a lot of individual players, rather than the feel of eleven guys playing as a team. Whether or not it was due to the infamous 4th and 26 play in Philadelphia, the end result was that Donatell was fired, and replaced by Bob Slowik.
Slowik was supposed to bring an aggressiveness to the defense. They were supposed to go after the quarterback and swarm to whoever had the ball. They didn’t.
The Bob Slowik defense was literally anemic. He came in with poor gameplans, players who didn’t know what was going on, and a lack of leadership on the field. By mid-season, Slowik had all but lost the defensive unit and many of his proposals and decisions were reportedly overruled by Mike Sherman before the team went into a game.
By the end of the season, the Packers had allowed more passing touchdowns than any other team in the league. They were the worst in the league at creating turnovers, an area the team had excelled at just one year previously. The Packers went on to a 10-6 record in spite of Bob Slowik’s defense, and he left the team after the season.
The Packers then went out and acquired former Dolphins’ defensive coordinator and interim head coach, Jim Bates. Under Bates, the defensive players say they feel that they have an identity again, and report after report out of Green Bay indicates that Bates is a teacher that is making significant strides. The Packers believe that the addition of Jim Bates will have an immediate positive impact.
Bates is implementing a defense very similar to what Miami ran under him. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila will be split out down the line to have as much room as possible before engaging the tackle. The defensive tackles are expected to swallow up offensive linemen and allow the linebackers to use their speed to make plays. Bates’ defense is also known for having a very solid defensive backfield, which was one of the primary areas of weakness last year.
The Packers have some talent and size along the interior defensive line, including Grady Jackson, Cullen Jenkins, and Donnell Washington. Gbaja-Biamila is one of the more capable defensive ends in the league, and Aaron Kampman is a hard worker who is expected to be solid opposite of Gbaja-Biamila. At linebacker, Nick Barnett will start in the middle, with Na’il Diggs on the strong side. Newly-acquired Raynoch Thompson is slated to start on the weakside, rounding out a decent linebacking corps that has some speed and tackling ability. The weakness, however, still appears to be the defensive backfield.
Second-year cornerback Ahmad Carroll, nicknamed Highway 28 for the way receivers seemed able to run right through him last season, has displayed a great deal of immaturity and appears virtually uncoachable. He is very talented, but does not take instruction well and has been dressed down repeatedly for putting his hands on the receiver. Carroll was penalized 13 times in 2004.
Both safety positions are up in the air, with free agent acquisition Arturo Freeman the favorite to play one of the spots. The other safety position - both are interchangeable in Bates’ defense - is up for grabs among Earl Little, Mark Roman, rookie Nick Collins, and rookie Marviel Underwood. Roman has played corner in his career, and it is possible he will play both as needed. Little is a proven veteran, and both Collins and Underwood have looked relatively good in camp. Collins is a fairly raw player with a lot of talent, and may have the edge over the slightly more polished Underwood.
The Packers’ defense could be one of the surprises of the 2005 season, but there are a lot of questions about the defensive backfield. The only player that seems to actually have a job is cornerback Al Harris, with the rest of the backfield set to be determined during training camp. The run defense should be adequate, but the Packers’ fantasy team defense is starting to look like a significant risk/reward type of pick.
If it’s a sure thing defensive unit you’re looking for, the Packers are not going to be it. However, if Bates turns out to be the teacher, motivator, and strategist that he appears to be so far this summer, the Packers could turn out to be a pleasant surprise to those who take them as a late flyer.
Individual Defensive Players
While the Packers’ defense was quite porous in 2004, the team still managed to produce a few solid individual performances that look to carry over to 2005. Middle linebacker Nick Barnett enters his third season as the undisputed leader of the defense. He is expected to play sideline-to-sideline and should see a marked increase in solo tackles. He had 92 last season. Barnett looks to be a solid fantasy linebacker and a reliable weekly performer.
Na’il Diggsmay be one of the more underrated defensive players in the league, as he is a good tackle with solid instincts and rarely makes a huge mistake. On the other side, Ray Thompson looks to get back to the form that got him selected in the first round of the 2000 draft. Of the two, Thompson appears to have more value on the weak side.
Al Harris at cornerback and Arturo Freeman at safety appear to be the only reliable picks to start in the defensive backfield. Joey Thomas will likely challenge Ahmad Carroll for the starting cornerback spot opposite Harris. From a fantasy perspective, it is best to stay away from the Packer defensive backfield, at least until it sorts itself out and somebody makes some noise.
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila is the most reliable individual performer on the defense. He has had double-digit sacks in each of the last four seasons, and has been one of the most vocal Packers about the impact felt by the addition of defensive coordinator Jim Bates. Gbaja-Biamila uses a quick burst and excellent speed to get around the offensive tackle, and appears to be well-suited to the scheme that Bates is implementing.
Aside from Barnett and Gbaja-Biamila, most of the Packers’ fantasy-worthy defensive players will likely be found on the waiver wire after the start of the season. There are simply too many questions to recommend drafting them, but an aware owner will keep an eye on Nick Collins and whichever cornerback starts opposite Al Harris, either Joey Thomas or Ahmad Carroll.
Adam Lasik is an Associate Editor for XpertSports.com
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Top 5 reasons we're not NFC favorites
Despite possessing one of the leagues top offenses, huge question marks on our defense have rightfully kept us off of most pundits contenders lists.
Here are my Top 5 reasons to doubt GB's chances to reclaim the NFC in '05.
1) Pedestrian pass rush
After KGB and Jenkins we don't have a legitimate pass rusher. None of the untested youth seem to fit the bill. Right now Lee and Washington appear to be nothing but push the pocket types. Williams seems to have better skills, yet ended up on the ground every other play last year. Neither Kampman nor Truluck draw doubles or have the type of explosiveness you need on the edge. None of the LB's have shown they can defeat a blocker in pass rush situations, neither have any of the S's. An injury to KGB and we'd probably be forced to rush 3 and cover with 8.
2) Light at CB
Either Thomas or Carroll will start and the other will play nickel. Neither showed great promise last season. Carroll still looks like a careless player. Thomas might be adequate but will likely still have problems tackling. No depth behind them, two injury risks and not much else. As I see it, we're about "1.5" deep at CB in a league where you need to be 3 deep. The failure to sign a vet in the past 2 years is perplexing.
3) Nothing behind Grady
After watching him the past two seasons we all know what an impact NT looks like. None of his backups appear to have even half his talent. When he had to start, Lee was absolutely abused by Kruetz vs CHI. When your NT can be handled by a C, straight up, you're in trouble. He's done nothing but get in shape in 2 years as a pro. Neither he nor Washington have the ideal body type for position. Both play too high and don't look particularly coordinated. Cole may be the better pure NT but likely won't make the cut. G Brown is a better NT than Lee right now.
4) No muscle in the back 7
Sharper had lost a step but could at least be counted on to splatter people given the opportunity. None of the guys slated to start at S are hitters. Same story at LB. Both Diggs and Barnett lack punch. Their FF #'s are telling. This lack of punch factors into missed tackles and invites throws up the seam and underneath. I'm sure Bates can do plenty with X's and O's, but ultimately this a problem you have to coach around.
We've been chasing them for years and have been losing ground. They're the class of the conference and return the same O that abused us last season and the same D that throttled us both last season and when it counted in the playoffs in '03. We'll field the same group of skill players. Our offensive success seemingly depends on Sherman outfoxing Jim Johnson. Defensively, we just don't match up in the passing game. A mobile QB plus a stud WR and a stout OL equals trouble. The playoff road will likely go through PHI again and I can't see us beating them if they field all their horses.
Of course, injuries to key players like McNabb, Vick, Culpepper or Owens could tip the balance, but right now we appear to be no better than the 3rd or 4th team in the NFC. Despite our problems we should again win 10 games and make the playoffs. The offense should abuse lesser teams and be competitive against everyone. However, the defense has personel shortcomings that can't be overcome by coaching alone. Decent offenses should again have little trouble putting up 20+. As I see it, to win the NFC, we'll need either some help from teams like PHI, MN and ATL or a lights out, MVP season from Favre.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Bates hopes to put safe back into safety
Restocking the Safety Cupboard…
Last year the Packers safety play was anything but safe. Sharper and Roman played some of the worst fundamental football you could imagine – it was literally a nightmare. Certainly a degree of this can be attributed to a poor and inconsistent defensive scheme and another degree to Mark Roman & Darren Sharper playing injured throughout much of the season, but the bottom line was poor tackling, poor angles taken, and too much me and not enough TEAM. The level of play had dropped off so significantly that many of us were missing Edwards and Anderson, and sadly Jue may have been our best player at safety last season.
Thankfully that is in the past and Jim Bates first order of business is to restock a depleted Safety cupboard, so let’s take a look at what he has to work with. I guess the fairest place to start would be with the only significant returning safety (here I use the term loosely) from last season’s team:
Mark Roman the good, the bad and the ugly
The good: which isn’t easy to find after last seasons fiasco, starts and ends with his coverage ability. He was an effective starter at Cincinnati and showed the flexibility in coverage to play cornerback as well as safety – maybe we can add flexibility to the good list. At 5-11 200 lbs he is not particularly big, nor is his 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash anything that will leave you in awe, but they are serviceable numbers for a NFL safety.
The bad: after hitting the jackpot of a $700,000 in Free Agency and performing well in the preseason with the Packers, he was quickly dinged up and under-preformed all season, playing in all 16 games and starting 15 of them.
The ugly: He didn't produce a single turnover, allowed 4½ touchdown passes and missed 18 tackles. Roman proved to be an effective blitzer, notching 3½ sacks, but he struggled tackling and he blew coverage’s all season long.
Mark caught a break with the regime change and will be afforded an opportunity to compete for his NFL life in training camp, but the clock is ticking and whether Roman's Packer days are through will be determined in the next couple of months.
Arturo Freeman is a 28-year-old, 6-1, 205 lb free safety signed as a Free Agent just before the April draft. Freeman chose GB for two reasons: opportunity to compete for a starting job and to follow his defensive coordinator Jim Bates from Miami. Freeman, who does not lack confidence, is excited for the chance to play in GB and show the NFL what kind of player he is.
During his tenure at Miami, Freeman flashed moments of brilliance, but his inconsistency resulted in his having a nomadic role on the Dolphins very good defensive secondary. He was a starter at times, and a flexible DB in the nickel and dime package at others. He appeared in 72 games and started 29 of them, and finished his Dolphins career with 199 tackles, five interceptions, two forced fumbles and one recovery. In terms of pass coverage, Freeman is coming off his best season, having tied for the team lead in 2004 with four interceptions, despite only starting the 2nd half of the season.
Arturo is an outstanding athlete who has the tools to be a complete package at safety. He is an aggressive and punishing tackler with the skills to play strong run defense without sacrificing cover skills. Coming out of college there were questions regarding his durability, after he missed the 1998 season with a knee injury and despite rupturing a spleen in the 1999 preseason, Freeman only missed two games and claimed a starting role as a CB as soon as he stepped back on to the field as a Senior on an outstanding South Carolina defense.
He was a four-year starter at South Carolina (1995-97, 1999) who started 39 of 42 games in which he played . He was twice an All-SEC selection his personal season bests were 99 tackles, 6 interceptions and four forced fumbles. He made the All-SEC freshman team in his inaugural season.
Despite the “tough love” he frequently received from Coach Bates, Arturo liked Bates’ system and Bates’ like Arturo enough to bring him into GB with his move to defensive coordinator this off-season. Bates’ has made a couple of things quite clear – it will be an open competition that all will have a fair opportunity to emerge with a job or a one-way ticket out of GB, and that he wants to settle on his starting safeties early in training camp. This, combined with Arturo’s familiarity with Bates’ system, would seem to give Freeman an inside track to one of the starting jobs to begin the season. However, nothing is guaranteed any of the players at this important last line of defense position.
"Of course, mentally wise it helps," Freeman said of knowing Bates' system. "And I wanted to regroup. I'm at a point in my career where I just need to be on football and take off from here. I just need the opportunity to play."
With an eye towards Veteran leadership the Packers followed the signing of Freeman with signing another Safety with starting NFL experience – Earl Little.
Experience and great work habits is what Earl Little, a 32-year-old veteran with 52 starts during his seven-year career, brings to the table in the Green Bay Packers quest to rebuild their broken safety situation.
The 6-foot, 201-pound Little's best years were from 2001-'03, when he average 5 interceptions and averaged 68 tackles per season. He started all but four of the 45 games in that span and developed a reputation as someone who was always around the ball. Earl is a sure tackler with good fundamental football skills. He claims to have not lost any speed and the worst injury he has suffered, he said, was a high-ankle sprain that caused him to miss three games in 2002. In his seven seasons in the league, he has played in all 16 games five times, including four of the last five.
Earl is not a long-term solution, but has a shot at being the guardian a starting safety position until the coaching staff can prepare one of their talented young rookies to bring their knowledge level on to a similar plane to their immense physical talents. (see evaluation of rookies below)
"As I told coach (Mike) Sherman, all I'm asking for is an opportunity, a chance to compete," Little said. "Nothing has been handed to me. I've earned everything I've gotten. Even if they do hand it to me, I still have to fight and keep my position. My goal is to be the starting free safety for the Green Bay Packers and nothing is going to distract me from that."
When the Packers signed Todd Franz during the off-season Packer fans were divided into three categories: those that said, “Todd Who?” those that said, “Todd Franz, I remember hearing that name before?” and those who said, “Todd Franz, I remember him, he was a member of the ‘Breakfast Club.’”
In 2002, Franz was with the Packers throughout training-camp as what most thought would be a role as camp fodder. However, Todd kept making plays and hanging around, he was finally cut in the final roster cuts before the start of the season. He then spent a week on the practice squad before being sent packing again back to Oklahoma.
The week before the Packers were to play the Defending Champion NE Patriots Sharper, McKenzie, and Jue all went down to injuries, adding to an already injury depleted defense. To protect himself, coach Mike Sherman signed Westbrook on Wednesday morning and elevated practice squad defensive backs Franz and Erwin Swiney to the active roster Saturday. All three were active for the game despite the fact Westbrook had three days of practice in the system and Franz, who was in training camp with the team before getting the call that Monday at his Oklahoma home to join the practice squad, and Westbrook was coming in with no prior knowledge of the system.
Franz, Westbrook and Sweeny literally lived with the defensive coaching staff preparing them for this great road game, coming off a short week (having played on Monday night the week before) – which is where the name the breakfast club was birthed. He bounced back to the Practice squad before being elevated and playing again against the Redskins that same season.
With a lineup that looked more like an exhibition game, the “Breakfast Club” defense intercepted Super Bowl champion Tom Brady three times and held the champs to a single, meaningless touchdown late in the 4th quarter. For the game, the defense didn't allow a pass play of more than 18 yards, despite the Patriots running multiple-receiver sets most of the game to force the Packers to play their newcomers – as the Packers thrashed the Patriots 28 to 10 in an improbable road victory that was never as close as the score.
Now 28, the 6 foot 202 lb Franz, who is now a 4 year Vet, spent the last two-plus seasons in Washington where he played in each of the Redskins’ last 32 games. An outstanding special teams player, Todd led the Redskins in special-teams tackles with 21, and added 25 tackles from the line of scrimmage in 2003. Last season, he was outstanding again on special teams and added a key interception in their win vs. Baltimore.
Franz is a long shot to make the Packers’ squad, but it is hard to imagine that Todd has ever known it any other way, as he finds himself fighting to keep his NFL football career alive once again in Green Bay.
Nick Collins was the Packers first of the team's two second-round draft picks this year as the final piece of last season’s trade of Mike McKenzie.
The 5-foot-11, 206-pound Collins is a rare athlete – especially for a safety, running a 4.37 40-yard dash during the NFL Combine and a 4.34 during his campus day. He has a 40-inch vertical leap, and has always been a playmaker, notching 12 interceptions and 25 pass break-ups during his final two years with the Wildcats. Other assets include:
~~· very good overall muscle development,
~~· a cut V-shaped upper torso, broad shoulders and chest,
~~· has quite a pop in his hits, but needs to study and take good angles to fit Bates system,
~~· well above average straight-line speed for a safety,
~~· more than adequate change of direction speed for a safety, which explains why some teams were considering him a corner,
~~· looseness in his hips that NFL scouts look for in DB’s, and can turn fluidly coming out of his backpedal,
~~· acceleration to run ball carriers down, but needs work on fundamentals,
~~· good timing on his jumps to get to the ball at its high point,
~~· natural hands to extend away from the body's frame in order to make the interception,
~~· while he is still a work in progress as a tackler, he does stay low making wrap-up tackles in space...
While no one can doubt that Nick possesses all the measurables but scores of 10 and then 14 on the Wonderlic intelligence test raised red flags in some teams' eyes. To get a better sense of Collins' ability to pick up the Packers' defense, Sherman sent assistant Joe Baker down to get a closer look at him before the draft. "Do we expect him to be a starter? Yes," said Joe Baker, who coaches the team's safeties. "Do we expect him to be a good player in the league? Yes. And I think it will happen sooner than later. I think there's a good chance he'll be a starter this year and maybe right away. A very good chance."
Baker knows a thing or two about safeties having worked with was Donovin Darius in Jacksonville. Darius, the 25th overall pick in 1999, started 14 games as a rookie, and Baker says it isn't a stretch to expect the same from Collins.
Collins who is confident without being cocky says, "My mind-set coming in is to start. I've been a starter all my life and I don't want to change that. I've just got to stay in that book, run, and stay great in shape. And when I come into training camp, be ready to compete."
"He's getting better every day," defensive coordinator Jim Bates said.
Packer fans everywhere are hoping that is the path he continues follow.
Marviel Underwood comes to the NFL having been a three-year starter from San Diego State. At 5-10.2 he is not as long as you would like from a prototype NFL safety, but he packs a wallop in his compacted 205 lb frame. He is strong, pumping 225 19 times at the combine.
Like Collins, Underwood also brings well above average speed to the Safety position – his campus 40 yd dash time was 4.38 seconds. He was one of the fastest defensive backs in the pass happy Mountain West Conference. He had a 39-inch vertical leap in workouts with the Packers’ scouts.
Marviel comes in as a rookie a bit more polished than Collins, but without his incredible upside potential as a playmaker. Underwood is a solid wrap-up tackler, including in the open field where he is able to cover a lot of ground. He is an athlete with quickness as well as speed. He plays very physical in run support and stays low in stance and shows explosion through his hits. Like all college safeties he will need to wrap better rather than rely on his big hits to down players in the NFL.
Underwood is fluid flowing to the ball, has recovery quickness & range, and shows sharpness breaking out of his backpedal.
On the downside, he bites on play action and thinks too much which interferes with his play diagnoses and ball awareness, which results in him not being a good zone safety. He scored a 24 on the Wonderlic and is said to be a good student of the game.
Scouts were mixed on Underwood, some loved him, while others were ho-hum on him. The Packers claim they received many calls complimenting them on their pick right after drafting him.
While he will push and compete for playing time, my take on him is that he will be a valuable special teams player this season while he adjusts his game to the Pro level.
The likely also ran(s) include:
Julius Curry, a 6-0 196 lb Safety out of Michigan. The Packers picked him up on waivers from Detroit and assigned him to the Practice squad last season. He has some skill, but the hiring of Bates who will bring a whole new scheme to the team negated any of the advantage he may have gained by a year with the team. Julius has to be considered a dark horse to make the team.
Wendell Williams is an intriguing prospect, who at 6-1 215 lbs is an undersized LB or a huge safety who has great speed. He is raw, having played for a small school at La-Lafayette. His best shot is to make the developmental squad.
Almost a clone, with more brains but less speed is Chonn Lacey at 6-1 and 217 lbs from Temple. A final long shot is Art Smith a rookie from Northeastern, who is 6-1 204 lbs.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
I'm really torn on this cut Hunt issue...
by Jerry in Connecticut
It really doesn't make any rational sense to cut him before training camp, especially when you consider he already got a nice roster bonus from us.
The problem with training camp is that according to Sherman Hunt is great in a practice situation. He goes all out, he does everything right and then he just disappears in games.
That sort of thing isn't going to show up in training camp or in preseason. We can't play him extensively in preseason because we have too many other guys that need their reps.
The guy has been teasing us this way for years. He has great camps (once they get him in shape). He has great practices. Then he ties up a roster spot and we can't keep some other promising guy.
I would love to see Bates work some magic with him and I think there is a pretty good chance that he will. But I also think that there is a better chance he will just lead Bates on like he has to every other coach since he was drafted, and then not come through. That is what is so maddening about him.
Keeping Hunt around is kind of like going to a strip club to get some action. You'll get teased and led on, and they will take all of your money, but there just ain't no action happening. It's probably the last place in the world to go if you really are interested in action. Guys just know it's much smarter to invest the time into developing real relationships.
Now I have nothing against strippers. They just are what they are, and do what they do. They are simply not a substitute for a real relationship.
I don't argue that his stats are decent. He is a slightly above average D-lineman. The problem is that he gets paid three times as much as an average D-lineman.
There is another side to this issue too. He is a little like a car that you paid too much for. Sort of like spending $50k on a new Chevy Cobalt. It's a perfectly fine car, but it just isn't worth what you paid for it. Do you throw it out? ...... Maybe you do, but only when you already have a better car in hand.
Would I cut Hunt now? I think I probably would. Just because I'm sick of being teased by him for so long.
Is it going to happen? I don't think so. Bates is going to see him in practice and training camp and even for short times in exhibition games. Bates is going to rave about him. He is going to wonder what all the fuss was about Hunt. He is going to put him first on his depth chart, and then he is going to wonder where Cleditus went for long periods during games. It won't be until the end of the season that Bates fully appreciates that Hunt ain't going to give him the action he's been looking for. He is going to find out Cleditus is just a stripper, and no long term relationship.
Friday, June 17, 2005
5 things I think I think, 2005 Packers
by Mark Lawrence
1) I think there will be several surprises on the DL. About 1, maybe two of these surprises will be positive. The rest will be negative.
2) I think TE is a dying art. I think the unfortunate truth is we have decent TEs by current standards. This is almost criminal given how important Chewy was to Favre.
3) I think Slowik was undermined by Schottenheimer, let down by Franklin, and second guessed by Sherman. I think McKenzie's attitude and Jackson's injuries and Hunt's very existence also dealt a near-killing blow to Slowik. I think Carroll's pig-headed unwillingness to listen to coaching was the last straw. I think the Archangle Michael would have failed in those circumstances.
4) I think our running game will be just fine. It will be a bit different, but it will be just fine. More power runs off guard, fewer pulls and sweeps is what I'm thinking right now. I imagine a rotation where we use different OL alignments depending on the play. This will telegraph what we're running. So what. Lombardi did. Cowher does. Sherman has for a couple years with the U-71 package. I think we have the talent to say "Here's what we're running, it's up to you to find a way to stop it."
5) I think Sherman will not be offered an extension until at least October. I don't like this, it's just what I think.
6) I think the Queens will start fast and, come november, fade faster. I think the Bears will disappoint their fans. I think the sun will continue to rise in the east.
7) I think Carolina is going to win a bunch of games, mostly ugly. I think Philly is 'way overdue for some massive injuries. I think the Steelers are going to look real good. I think Dallas and Washington are not as good as everyone would like to believe. I think the Colts will score about 600 points and still get railroaded in the post season, where it's defense (except for the Rams, once only.) I think the Pats will not three-peat. That will remain the exclusive property of the Packers.
What do you want from the TE position?
by Mark Quarderer
Do you want an Antonio Gates type guy who catches 80 balls a year? Then wouldn't that mean that our WRs get 50 fewer balls thrown to them? Or does it mean we run it fifty fewer times?
Or do you just want a guy who can be the second guy in double TE sets, someone who can get deep down the middle......but who is still able to block well enough that the run threat is still legitimate?
We've already got one of the better starting TEs in the league in Bubba (the contract stuff will get worked out). He's never missed a game in his career with injury. And we've got one of the better, perhaps the best, 3rd TE in the league in Kevin Barry (yes, I know he's listed as an OT, but what position is that he's playing when he gets on the field?)
So I don't think our TE situation is as calamitous as some people seem to think. For the offense the Packers run, what they need most is a TE who can catch 2-3 balls a game, be a threat in the red zone, get his man blocked, and stay healthy throughout the year......we've already got that guy.
Now, if he gets injured......that's going to pretty much take the TE out of the passing game for us. But that's OK......we can just run 3 WR sets more (I actually think that the 3 WR package could be a very good base package on first down for us because it would force other teams to the nickel on first down....leaving only 6 guys in the box to defend against the run and leaving us with six-on-six blocking. Or they could bring a safety up and expose themselves to the pass a little more.....either way, good for us.)
I think that the majority of the better TEs in the league right now were all pretty high draft picks........if we really want to recreate the Chmura/Jackson combo we had a decade ago, we're probably going to have to spend some real resources on it....and I'm just not sure it's worth it.
Monday, June 13, 2005
Good Coaches-Bad Coaches
by Jerry in Connecticut
First, I would like to point out that getting a new defensive coordinator is not the only change the Packers made this year. They also have new defensive line coaches and new defensive backfield coaches as well.
As for the defensive line coach, I would have to say that nobody is better than Jethro Franklin. I mean that very literally. If they would have had nobody as defensive line coach. That would have been better than having Jethro Franklin. I think he was the one coach on the entire Packers coaching staff that got in the way of players and prevented them from developing. He was terrible.
Next, is the Slowik issue. Is Slowik a great coach or a lousy coach? I would have to lean toward lousy. He is thought of around the league as a defensive genius. The problem was, he wasn't coaching defensive geniuses. He isn't a great communicator, and did nothing to fire up his players. I have no doubt he has a great mind, he simply failed to get that across to anyone. It is a little like hiring Shakespeare to teach kids English. Slowik had them working on sonnets when many of them didn't know the alphabet. Geniuses often focus on the esoteric and neglect the fundamentals.
Now it is completely possible to be a great coach and a lousy coach at the same time. Most of you guys are old enough to remember Billy Martin the old Yankees and Oakland A's manager that died a few years ago. Billy was both a great coach and a lousy coach (which is why he got fired several times and won manager of the year a couple of times). Billy over managed (or what some people refer to as micromanaged). He would tell players what to do every second of every game. That worked great when he had very young players that didn't understand some of the nuances of the game, but would grate on (and demotivate) the veterans he managed at other times. Billy never changed his style to adapt to the players so he was a great manager for a young club and a lousy manager with a veteran club.
Our DB coach last year (Shottenheimer) was the exact opposite. He was a very laisez-fire (leave them alone) kind of coach. He would have been a very good coach with a very veteran secondary (which is what the Packers thought they had when they hired him). With the Slowik system last year, even the veterans we did have didn't quite understand it and really needed some guidance, but that is not Shottenheimer's style. Does that make him a bad coach? I don't think so, it just made him a bad coach for the situation he was in. Now the problem is that we have some very talented yound DBs that didn't really develop last year. That is why Ahmad still looks very much like a rookie.
If you remember the talk last year about this time, Slowik's whole defensive scheme was designed around Darren Sharper. Darren was supposed to be THE GUY. Everything about the defense was supposed to be geared toward letting Sharper make plays. Because Sharper was clearly the highest paid defensive player last year and was due for a big raise this year, it was really the only way that the Pack could justify Darren's salary. It really put Sharper in a make or break situation and he crumbled. Sharper went from a pretty slow start, to being injured so the scheme really never had a chance. While I believe that Slowik is likely a defensive genius, I would argue that any defense that was designed around any one player is ill conceived. I think Sherman the General Manager had a much bigger hand in this than Sherman the Head Coach. If it had worked, the Packers would have been able to keep Sharper this year, salary and all.
So, did we have bad coaches last year? Jethro Franklin was bad, but the others were just bad for the situation. In spite of all the talk about the Packers getting old, they really are a pretty young team. No where is that truer than on defense. We have a defense where the players need to develop and need to focus on fundamentals. We need a scheme that is easy enough to let the players focus on their fundamentals. So, not only is Bates a great coach, he is the right coach for this team at this time. But he isn't the only change this year. It also looks like we made a major up grade on almost every assistant coach on the defense.
Sunday, June 12, 2005
The Darren Sharper I will miss!
… was already gone! I felt the loss of that Darren long before his signing with Minnesota – though at the time it seems like perhaps “the unkindest cut of all”. I think most of us will miss the Darren Sharper of Promise, mostly because under the tutelage of LeRoy Butler, Darren flashed us so much promise, and we all wanted to believe that it was promised to us.
We watched this kid who couldn’t tackle learn from Leroy to wrap up, and even on occasion, to deliver a big hit. Problem was we thought that we were promised he would do it consistently like LeRoy always did.
Apparently Darren didn’t learn that part of the lesson, and with each passing season he seemed to slide back towards the kid who didn’t know how. Worse yet, was sensing that it was really because he didn’t have the heart. I was already missing the Darren that I wanted to count on to make the tackle especially when his team needed it the most -- because that Darren was already long gone.
We watched as LeRoy pushed for Darren to be given his featured position so he could learn to have a nose for the ball, and learn to use that nose to make big plays. It was a lesson that Darren seemed to take natural to. Knowing that LeRoy was backing him up he went after the ball and the QB on blitz’s with confidence and determination. He learned to break on the ball when he had the read and he knew what to do with the ball once he got his hands on it.
What Darren failed to learn was to pick his spots so that offenses could not counter with big plays of their own when it was the QB making the read. Worse yet he failed to learn to save those plays for big moments when his team needed it the most, like LeRoy always seemed to do. Tragically Sharper never learned LeRoy Butlers greatest lesson he tried to teach by example – to put the team first. Instead he would always put Darren first – it became Darren Sharper this, Darren Sharper that. I was already missing the Darren that I thought would reach the promise of maturity, courage and leadership – because I wanted to believe those promises that Darren would show flashes of even after LeRoy was gone.
I understand injuries and believe players need to take care of themselves. But it was hard not to note the stark contrast between Darren and LeRoy when it came to showing up for the big games Vs spending the week on the trainers table and than giving it just enough of a go to claim he’s tried.
We watched as Darren Sharper of Promise faded further and further away until he was gone. Some days I wonder whether the Darren I miss slipped away or perhaps that he was never really there.
Read the article below and I think you will know what I mean!
NFL.Com Wire Reports:
GREEN BAY, Wis. (July 18, 2002) -- Safety LeRoy Butler ended his 12-year career with the Green Bay Packers, proud that he's one of the few current players to play his entire career with one team.
"Just knowing I can retire today and all my football cards are that green-and-white jersey, that is priceless," he said. "This is a celebration for me. I don't want people to be sad. You have not seen the last of LeRoy Butler."
Butler, who helped lead the Packers to Super Bowls after the 1996 and 1997 seasons, invented the "Lambeau Leap," the jump into the stands after touchdowns. He said the shoulder he injured last November hasn't healed fast enough for him to be ready for the season-opener Sept. 8.
He said he has no immediate plans, but hopes one day to become a head coach.
Butler, who turns 34 on July 19, was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro. He recently agreed to a pay cut -- his second significant salary reduction -- to help the Packers' salary-cap situation.
But a July 5 examination of his injured left shoulder revealed that a bone near the shoulder socket was not completely healed.
Butler said team doctors couldn't assure him that the shoulder would heal in time for the start of the season, and he didn't want to tie down a roster spot until then.
"I had no choice. I can't hit anybody," Butler said. "I can do anything but play football. I've been playing basketball, softball, golf, everything. If a guy 25 had the same injury, he wouldn't be able to play."
He finishes his career having played in 181 games, 15 shy of Bart Starr's team record of 196 games.
Butler fell just short of becoming the first player in NFL history to finish his career with 40 career interceptions and 20 sacks. His 38 interceptions rank fourth in team history and his 20½ sacks are the most of any Packers defensive back.
In a game in December 1993 against the Oakland Raiders, Butler forced a fumble by running back Randy Jordan that Reggie White recovered and then pitched to Butler. He scored his first career touchdown and celebrated by jumping into the stands.
The "Lambeau Leap" became an entrenched tradition for wide receivers in the years that followed as the Packers went from also-rans to a perennial playoff team.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
: Dear Ted Thompson....
by Mark Quarderer
You've done a fine job stocking the shelves since your arrival and in restoring a little bit of health to our salary cap, but there are a few pieces of business that I wish you'd take care of prior to our training camp opening up in about 6 weeks.
Sign the deal with Bubba. Something that'll keep him a Packer for another four or five years. He blocks, never misses games, catches what comes his way, keeps his mouth shut, and contributes.
If we can get Simmons we need to do that. When Raynoch Thompson got injured in the second minicamp, our first team defense lined up with Barnett-Navies-Diggs. This is the exact same group that created one more turnover than a dead man last year. We need some help here, Ted.
Move Roman to corner. He's played there before and we have a problem at corner right now because Hwy 28 doesn't seem like he's going to be a guy we can count on. You can start Harris and Thomas, but you still need some backups, and right now our backup situation is pretty bare. So I'd move Roman to corner and have him be our nickel back. Start Little and Freeman at safety and Harris and Thomas at the corner.
Cut Cletidus Hunt. Just get rid of him; he isn't worth the baloney associated with him. Just cut him. Take out the trash and clean up the kitchen.
There's been some speculation that you intend to acquire the defensive lineman from SoCal, Manuel White, in the supplemental draft. If you can get this guy in the 2nd round, do it. Good defenses have good players on the defensive line and this guy could be a good player for us. Since we draft so late every round, we aren't going to get shots at good defensive lineman at the end of the second round most years unless we want to reach for projects. So yeah, I'd definitely move on Manny White.
Hold the line on Javon Walker. We'll miss him, yes, but we'll manage with Driver, Ferguson, Chatman, Murphy and Butler/Bragg if need be.
These are just my helpful selections, TT.
Needs with flexibility!
by Mark Quarderer
We have some real needs at corner....and we have some areas of flexibility.
Let's start with the assumption we'll carry 9DBs.....which is what we've carried in past years.
Harris is definitely going to start at one corner.
I think it'll be either Thomas or Carroll at the other, and my money is on Thomas.
At safety, it's starting to sound like Freeman will be one starter, and the other will be either Collins or Little. Little is a vet and Collins is a better athlete, so we could see a situation where Little starts in the beginning of the season and Collins towards the end.
By all reports, Underwood needs some work and he'll be strictly a backup/special teams guy this year unless he's pressed into duty.
I think we should keep Roman and move him to corner, where he played when he first came into the league. He could be our nickel back.
That would leave one more spot for Dendy, Horton, and Johnson. If Johnson can't stay completely healthy through training camp I think it's time to part ways with him. So essentially, I think it comes down to Dendy or Horton. I could be wrong but I believe either of them could be placed on the practice squad, so one might make the 53 and the other might be placed on the PS.
And Carroll's #1 draft choice status...as well as the contract it includes....is a factor in deciding who makes the team and how much of an opportunity he gets in practice, but ultimately if he's being outperformed by somebody else then the coaches aren't going to play him just because he was drafted higher.
A higher draft choice maybe gets the benefit of the doubt and more opportunities in practice, but ultimately he's got to show he was worth the pick that took him.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Let's have a look in Bate's cupboard...Defensive Line!
Part 1: Bates likes Beef in the middle, so let’s start with the Biggest Body of them all:
DT Grady Jackson, 6-2 340 lbs in his dreams probably closer to 380, 31 yrs old. The GOOD NEWS is Grady is Enormous, and the BAD NEWS is Grady is Enormous. He is a prototype NFL NT who commands a double team. He has surprising quickness and can get into the backfield in a HURRY. Grady has a league wide reputation for NOT being a conditioning fanatic and wears down. He was solid last year but has a rep for dogging it and taking plays off on occasion -- something that should not be tolerated by Bates -- as good as Grady is(much better to stay on top of rotating him and keeping him hungry, esp. with the young developing talent behind him. Grady is an important contributor who fits Bates’ scheme perfectly – let’s hope that he can forget negotiations through the press and play ball like this Big man was born to do. If he ever got in shape – my God the things he could do... On a VERY POSITIVE NOTE, he stayed in GB to rehab his surgery -- which makes is conditioning outlook improve significantly.
DT Cletidus Hunt 6-4 315 lbs and only 28 yrs old has great size and strength, mixed with some quickness. Scouts say, you never know which Cletidus will show up -- he will have games where he frequently collapses the pocket and commands a double team and he will have others which he wears down and disappears. Hunt is famous for not paying enough attention to conditioning. He has the skills to rush the passer but rarely seems to pick up a sack in recent times. He is bordering on borrowed time, Bate will turn him into a full time effort player or he will turn him loose. This cat may have used up his 9 lives by not showing in this opportunity camp.
DT/DE Cullen Jenkins 6-3 295 lbs 24 yrs old was a surprising FA from Central Michigan in 2004. His non-stop motor has earned substantial playing time in the defensive line rotation and has impressed the coaching staff with his work ethics and willingness to learn. He makes up for seemingly ordinary physical tools with the kind of snap-to-whistle effort that offensive linemen dread. He’s got good quickness and an instinct in the pass rushing part of the game. That’s probably the thing, for someone his size, that is most surprising His versatility is just one thing makes him valuable, like Kenny Peterson, he has the ability to play inside or out. Bates is projecting him as a DE, and a passing down DT.
DT Donnell Washington 6-6 333 lbs 24 yr old is an interesting prospect for 2005. Similar to Lee the year before, he spent the season on the IR working out like a mad man who misses the game. Donnell has great size/speed/quickness ratio. He gets a great burst off the snap for a man his size. In college consistently beat blockers out of the snap, possesses a good bull rush, and can move the pile. Closes well when near the QB or ball carrier. He lacks experience and has a reputation for being an undisciplined player. Coming out of college was considered by some scouts a boom or bust pick. . . . The late Packers' Mark Hatley said he could play three technique, nose or power end on the line... Arm length span of 36 inches... Vertical jump 33.5 inches. I love this kid and Bates seems to be drooling over his potential.
DT James Lee 6-5 333 25 yrs old has the potential to be a great run stuffer and natural two-gap tackle. Runs very well for a man his size and will pursue. A better athlete than he looks who possesses surprising lateral quickness. Durability and stamina continue to be issues for Lee despite his hard work. He has never had to hold up for 60 snaps per game. As a pass rusher he is raw, relies on his bull rush -- though seems teachable and may surprise given his new found work-ethic. He has to shake the injury bug to survive as a DT in the NFL.
DT/DE Kenny Peterson 6-3 295 26 yrs old is a DE/DT tweener. While he is very quick and athletic, with good balance and change-of-direction speed, his size limits him inside. Coming out of college he had the reputation for being one of the strongest players in Ohio State's history; who set many weight room records. Has been dinged up in the Pros and flashes potential from time to time as a pass rusher. I would like to see him moved outside and stop this shifting -- this would allow him to get better at recognizing plays and not get caught out of position. He keeps good leverage and gets off the snap in a hurry. I think he has better potential as a pass rusher than Kampman, who gets it done by intense film study and endless pursuit and effort. Kenny's downside is he doesn't have the bulk or body type to be an every-down player and unless he makes a significant leap NOW, he will never be the type of player that takes over a game. If not, he may have used up his chances in GB.
DT Colin Cole 6-2 320 24 yr old out of Iowa is a massive man who takes up space, fits Bates scheme of big men who clog the middle, and as such will get a look see and a chance to compete. Having him back does provide some nice injury insurance in a pinch.
DT Doug Sims 6-1 350 25 yr old who played ball at Hawaii -- would be a major surprise to emerge -- probably little more than camp fodder. The best thing I can say about this kid is he is huge and hungry.
Beef in the middle and speed from DE: Bates looks to enhance and compliment KGB with ...a rush from the other side and depth to keep him fresh in 2005:
DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, 6-4 255 lbs and 27 years old is a rare athlete with great speed and power that deceives. He explodes into his blocker, then into the quarterback and has the art of the strip down to a science. While he has learned to vary his moves and is a high-effort guy, he isn't very big and can't shed very well when plays are run at him. Having to line up over the DE allowed him to be steered wide too often, and is too lean to not benefit from at least some limited rotation. Bates system was designed for speed DE's like Kabeer -- remember Jason Taylor only had 2 sacks the season before Bate turned him into an All Pro.
DE Aaron Kampman, 6-4 294 lbs is 25 years old and he is a hard working, disciplined player, who uses sound technique and doesn't get pushed around. Will pursue and make plays up and down the line. In many ways he is a classic overachiever. He will never be a player who commands a double team. And will never be a threat to sack the QB down in and down out. But is a player who has improved every season and put up the best numbers of any of the DE playing on his side in the division.
DE R-Kal Truluck, at 6-4 and 262 lbs 2004 season can only be described as disappointing. AT 30 years of age, he possess the speed and moves to be an effect pass rusher, but needs to be healthy and have help as a situational pass rusher. The Packers just resigned him, so TT must see some of what Sherman saw before trading for him. In Bates’ system he should fit as a speed rusher, but not as an early down DE.
DE Corey Williams, is 6-4 and 310 lbs of solid muscle. At only 24 years of age he is a more fluid, lateral athlete than Donnell Washington is but not quite as powerful. Corey can play both the DE and DT positions, but probably is going to concentrate at DE. He's a worker, who will give you everything he's got on every single play. He is a very gifted athlete, who actually returned punts and kickoffs in high school and was a standout in basketball. Cory has worked hard to increase his strength and is showing his hunger for playing time by studying film and being coachable.
Listed at tackle too, I expect the next two to get serious looks at rotation time and competition that will improve everyone at DE:
DT/DE Cullen Jenkins 6-3 295 lbs 24 yrs old was a surprising FA from Central Michigan in 2004. His non-stop motor has earned substantial playing time in the defensive line rotation and has impressed the coaching staff with his work ethics and willingness to learn. He makes up for seemingly ordinary physical tools with the kind of snap-to-whistle effort that offensive linemen dread. He’s got good quickness and an instinct in the pass rushing part of the game. That’s probably the thing, for someone his size, that is most surprising His versatility is just one thing makes him valuable, like Kenny Peterson, he has the ability to play inside or out.
DT/DE Kenny Peterson 6-3 295 26 yrs old is a DE/DT tweener. While he is very quick and athletic, with good balance and change-of-direction speed, his size limits him inside. Coming out of college he had the reputation for being one of the strongest players in Ohio State's history; who set many weight room records. Kenny has been dinged up in the Pros and flashes potential from time to time as a pass rusher. I would like to see him moved outside and stop this shifting -- this would allow him to get better at recognizing plays and not get caught out of position. He keeps good leverage and gets off the snap in a hurry. I think he has better potential as a pass rusher than Kampman, who gets it done by effort alone. Kenny's downside is he doesn't have the bulk or body type to be an every-down DE and will never be the type of penetrator/disruptor who takes over a game.
A young speed prospect that will be brought back for a second look is:
DE Seante Williams is 6-6 and a KGB like 252 Lbs at 23 years young.
Add to the mix...
Rookie draft choice, Mike Montgomery, who had six sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 2004 when he was named first-team all-Big 12.
... and you begin to understand what Bates means when he tells the Chicken Littles that the cupboards are not bare and the sky is far from falling.
A look inside Bates' Cupboard: LB's, Ist section of Part III LB's
We will read much about the LB we drafted & we have a couple of kids in NFLE but let's look first to the Veteran cupboard and see what's inside ...
Nick Barnett is 6-2 and 240 lbs. This 23 year old (not a typo) is very fast and athletic. To get an idea of his athleticism consider his numbers back at the combine before his rookie season Barnett ran a 4.6 40 at the combine, bench pressed 225 pounds 32 times at the combine, tops among linebackers and his shuttle time, indicative of ability to change directions, was 4.08, tied for second among linebackers at the combine.
Barnett had an outstanding rookie season as a starter and improved in his sophomore season despite playing in a defense that had less coordination than a Chinese fire drill. He can make a lot of plays in pursuit, and is ideal for Bates' system – in fact this system make Zack and will make Nick an annual visitor to the Pro Bowl. His speed allows him to drop into coverage and handle most running backs without any help. He knows how to catch the ball, when given a shot at the ball. He has good instincts; and nothing but huge upside that should continue to help him develop into something very special.
In two seasons:
2004: 123 Tackles, 31 Assists, 3 Sacks, I fumble recovery, 1 interceptions
2003: 112 tackles, 26 assists, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, 3 interceptions
Na'il Diggs has great size at 6-4 240 lbs. He is still only 26 years old, yet a smart veteran LB who probably will benefit from being moved back to the strong side, but has the quickness and agility to play weak side too - runs the 40 in 4.57 seconds He can rush the passer – but came up empty too often last season along with a very disappointing 2004 defense. He has learned to shed blockers, as he has developed as a Pro player. Na'il can be counted upon to be a 'stop them in their tracks' sure tackler, something the Packers did not have enough of last season. He plays hurt and always plays with intensity. His height and speed does allow him to cover, but his interceptions dropped off in last year's Slowik scheme -- which is troubling because you need your WLB to make plays. The same is true of his sack total, which is another reason I believe he is likely to be moved back home to the Strong-side with Raynoch Thompson taking over the weak-side.
2004: 80 Tackles, 19 Assists, 1 Sacks, 0 fumble recovery, 0 interceptions (out for two games injured)
Last two seasons
2003: 87 Tackles, 11 assists, 1 Sacks, 0 fumble recovery, 2 interceptions
2002: 83 Tackles, 18 Assists, 3 Sacks, 2 fumble recovery, 2 interceptions
Raynoch Thompson has run a 4.45 40 yd dash. Which is pretty impressive for this 6-2 1/2 235 lb. Raynoch is a superb athlete with terrific movement skills. Very quick, fast and agile, Thompson has cat-like movements, which helps him get quick depth on his pass drops or to get after the QB when the Blitz is called. He has the speed to run with backs and makes plays all over the field. Seems to fly to the ball at times. Very, very tough and does an amazing job of playing through pain and healing quickly. Has a mean streak. Long arms come in very handy, especially vs. the pass. His biggest flaws are he can get caught in traffic when blockers latch on to him and is has a strike against him in the drug program. He has made 331 tackles in the 64 games he has played in since his rookie season and has 7.5 sacks. He also had a 109 tackle season as recently as a couple of years ago. If he comes to Green Bay with a chip-on-his-shoulder attitude to showDennis Green and others he is back with passion for the game -- the pack will have gotten quite a steal and a play-maker in this very talented WLB.
Hannibal Navies, 6-2 250 lbs, is a man who can play all three linebacker positions (and has in his career). He ran 4.62 40-yard dash coming out of college -- which is impressive for a man his size. He will fight and push to retain his starting job, but is most likely destine to back up all three LB spots in 2005 -- if he is healthy, can fight off the competition and if he can convince Bates he is the right man for the job. Hannibal, who after a solid 2003, where he garnered 87 tackles and 17 assists was once again bitten by the injury bug in 2004. He may benefit from being a back-up and situational player rather than a full-timer. He has been and should continue to be outstanding on special teams. He has a very good size-speed package and can get after the passer. Has some games where he's always around the ball. Holds the point of attack and can cover most TE's in coverage.
Paris Lenon is a LB who hangs on every year despite being written off each season. At 6-2 245 lbs he makes the most of what God has given him. He is a warrior who out works the competition. He is the last to leave the workout room and the last to leave film studies. Because of his dedication, he can play all three LB positions, which adds to his value. And to list him only as a MLB is a misrepresentation of his spot on the depth charts where he is a first line back up. He is also a premium special teams player -- among the team leaders each season and posting the 4th best total in Packer history. When he was called upon to start against Detroit for example, he responded with 10 tackles. I know we want all of our backups to be potential All Pros, but realistically Paris Lenon is the kind of Veteran leader who pays back way more than the value of his contract every day.
I will close by letting Paris speak for himself -- "What motivates me is going out there and playing football," Lenon explained. "I just love playing football."
A second section of Part III A Look in the LB Cupboard covering Rookies and NFLE players will be added later.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Quick Hits (and misses)
by Mark Beerman
Many Packer fans ask themselves "Will Cletidus Hunt ever get it?" But that's sounding more and more like a rhetorical question. I have a much better question...which one of our young DT's will straight-up take Hunt's job from him? Come on Corey Williams and Donnell Washington...no Whamie, no Whamie, no Whamie...STOP!
It's nice to see Aaron Rodgers awe-struck by Brett Favre. Not many rookies, especially QB's, have a mentor like Brett. They come in thinking they're the top-dog and this is their team. The Packers will not be Rodgers' team until he wins a game by himself...no Favre attached. Then again, who is to say on that day that Brett won't be awe-struck by his own teachings?
I'm sure many of you know what an ambulence-chasing lawyer is. But I never thought I'd see the day when an NFL player was chasing police sirens. That is the case for Sean Taylor of the Washington Redskins. Never have I seen such a talented player find his way onto the police blotter on a regular basis. I've heard Taylor is trying to get his contract re-worked. Maybe the Redskins should give him $2 million just to take lessons on being a good person. We're talking about the Redskins though...what are the odds of them doing anything significant in the next three seasons?
I want to bid a fond farewell to Red "The Enabler" McCombs. I doubt he will be missed by his peers. From the moment he bought the Vikings, he tried to sell them. I know McDumbie turned a blind-eye to Moss' shenanigans, but he had to finally cut the tumor loose or have a new owner inherit a civil war. This should be a word of warning to any businessman who wants to turn a football team into a capital investment. Know what you're doing and surround yourself with great football personnel. Don't treat a team, its fans and the city it's in like it is another investment.
I know my fellow Packers fans love brats, but please...during this summer season give the cheddarwurst a shot. A brat stuffed with cheese is a great thing. I salute you, the people who stuff sausages with tasty cheeses!
If you're down and have a frown, just get a Bill Murray movie. It's the only anti-depressant that costs $2.99.
Remember, fantasy football and other pre-season NFL magazines are on the way. Just tell yourself, "the offseason is almost over, less than two months to go".
Thursday, June 02, 2005
What to do with Cletidus Hunt!
I think they will be DESPERATE after this minicamp. I mean when you seriously look at the stats MSJ is putting out and calling this the worst pass defense in Packer history it puts it into perspective. Further, now they have to deal with Hunt. They have only two choices in my view. Either do something, or pray the offense carries the team. I think that is dubious and this Hunt thing is exaclty what occurs when a team tanks. Hunt, Harris, Davenport, Green, Walker and the beat goes on. If they can trade Hunt, nows the time even at a reduced value. If he can't be traded, he needs to be released. Let me say this clearly, absent the very rare, life changing, attitude altering change, Hunt is the worst form of cancer a team can have. Hunt is making a joke of the organization. The foreshadowing occuring in MSJ is good. Good for them. This is serious serious stuff. Hunt has been given every conceivable opportunity and he has spit in their face. It has moved to the open disdain and impacting of the team. For the good of the organization he needs to go. Oh I'm sure he'll have the requisite excuses, but he has no reason to change if they refuse to give him one. Discipline to Hunt will do wonders and send the right message. Frankly, I think we are in a lot of trouble and there is a clear lack of institutional control that reflects on Harlan, Thompson and Sherman. The first step to righting the ship, is the correct and honorable dismissal of Hunt.