Sunday, August 17, 2014

Green Bay Packers Defeat St. Louis Rams In The Dome

Jeff Janis celebrates after scoring a third quarter touchdown (Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)
A quick recap of Green Bay's 21-7 victory over the Saint Louis Rams

The offense of the Green Bay Packers was absolutely outstanding against a strong defense in the Saint Louis Rams during Saturday's action. The Packers started off the game by getting the ball when DeJuan Harris ran the ball out of the end zone when he was 8 yards deep. Harris should've taken the knee and let the Packers start at the 20 yard line, but the Packers would take over from there. They took the ball 86 yards over 12 plays. Rodgers completed passes to Lacy, Boykin, and Cobb during the drive, with Cobb getting opening score and Crosby would kick the extra long preseason extra point to get the game going.

The Rams came back on the next drive and made it into Green Bay territory, even converting a fourth down when Jared Cook caught a short crossing route from Sam Bradford. The Rams would follow that up though from with back to back penalties to result in a 1st and 25 that the Rams could not convert from that far back, despite Bradford actually attempting a deep ball to down the right side to Kenny Britt.

The Packers came right back down the field and appeared to score on a third and goal from the 5 yard line on a completion to Jordy Nelson. This was waived off though because of a penalty on Green Bay left tackle David Bakhtiari for illegal use of hands. They ended up settling for a field goal that Mason Crosby easily nailed from 31 yards away.

The Rams made sure to follow this up by driving down the field and getting a touchdown on a pass play from Sam Bradford to Lance Kendricks. Micah Hyde did an excellent job in coverage, but there was simply no way for him to defend the ball where Bradford located it. Greg Zuerlein nailed the extra point to put the Rams within three points. This is the closest the Rams would get for the rest of the game.

Scott Tolzien took the reigns instead of Matt Flynn with the second team offense, and Tolzien looked pretty awful. He completed 10 of his 15 pass attempts for 107 yards. He mostly played in the second quarter but went into the third as well before Flynn came in. The battle of the backup quarterbacks is far from over. It might be settled in the next few weeks. Scott Tolzien also had a touchdown pass taken off of the board in the third quarter to Myles White. Rookie center Corey Linsley had a penalty for illegal use of hands on the third and four. Then after a Davante Adams catch on third and 19 for fourteen yards. He tried to get the ball to Andrew Quarless on fourth and goal from the five, but Quarless did not catch the ball and was called for offensive pass interference.

On the next drive, Matt Flynn only took three plays to drive the Packers down the field, mainly because rookie wide receiver Jeff Janis caught the ball on a short crossing route and outran everyone to the end zone. Because Flynn had hardly thrown the ball, they went for the two point conversion. Flynn tossed it to Adams and they were able to get the two points to give themselves a 18-7 lead.

The next Packers possession, Flynn drove them down to the red zone and took a bad sack on third and nineteen to Michael Sam. Mason Crosby nailed a 49 yard field goal to complete the scoring.
The Packer player who stood out that nobody was expecting was Jayrone Elliott. Elliott was facing one of the Rams third or fourth string defensive lineman. Elliott dominated him though, getting three sacks in the game when nobody was expecting him to perform much of anything. The Packers had four other players record one sack each, HaHa Clinton-Dix, Sam Barrington, Adrian Hubbard, and Mike Pennel. One play that was taken off the board by a penalty defensively was a great interception catch by Chris Banjo. Banjo had an amazing catch and since the Green Bay safeties had no interceptions last year, it was important to ensure that the Packers improved at that position, and Banjo had a remarkable impact.

The Green Bay Packers are looking for a successful season, and most importantly in the game, the Green Bay Packers stayed healthy. The main question mark would be Brandon Bostick who left with a lower leg injury and did not return. But the Packers will continue on and play the Oakland Raiders on Friday, August 22nd at Lambeau Field.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

HaHa Clinton-Dix Has Some Work To Do



As the rain came down and flooded LP Field in Tennessee last Saturday, rookie safety HaHa Clinton-Dix was getting his first start as a Green Bay Packer. There were some signs of great athleticism and awareness, but also some problem areas for Clinton-Dix.

The best play from him was a 2nd and 2 play right before halftime. Clinton-Dix bit on a play-fake at the beginning of the play but recovered perfectly. Titans QB Charlie Whitehurst lofted a ball to an open tight end, but Clinton-Dix showed great recovery. He scaled back and broke up the pass. That's something the Packers haven't had since Nick Collins departure from the team. In recent years, once a Packers safety made a mistake, there was no successful recovery.

 That type of athleticism is the reason why Ted Thompson brought Clinton-Dix aboard. Clinton-Dix also did a great job closing in after a catch was made to make a tackle. He broke through the Titans offensive line to make a brilliant tackle for a loss. But there were also a few negative plays in the game that stuck out as well.

It's understandable that Clinton-Dix would and will have some things he's going to have to work on, especially after his first real NFL action.

His run defense is one thing he's going to have to get better with. It seemed on a few run plays when the running-back would get to the second level, Clinton-Dix would wait for the RB to come to him. He's going to have to be more aggressive in a division with tough runners like Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte. That is what made Nick Collins so complete. He had the ability to defend the pass and was tough against the run. I believe all of that will come with time for Clinton-Dix though.

Another play that made me cringe a little bit when watching was Clinton-Dix getting trucked over. It wasn't the fact that he got trucked, it was who did it. He allowed 5'9" 170 LB speedster Dexter McCluster bull him over. That just simply can't happen. Peterson will have a field day with him if that strength isn't there. It could have been that Clinton-Dix was caught off guard by McCluster. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now on that one. I look forward to seeing what he can do against the St. Louis Rams this Saturday in his second game as a Packer.

It'll be interesting to see how much playing time McCarthy gives Clinton-Dix with safety Morgan Burnett returning earlier this week from injury. Will Micah Hyde get the snaps beside Burnett or will Clinton-Dix get a good portion of time with starters? McCarthy would be smart to give Clinton-Dix more reps than Hyde. In the end Clinton-Dix was brought in to improve a weakness at safety, so he should get all the time he needs before week 1.

On Saturday, look for Clinton-Dix to try and make some plays to show the coaches he deserves to be the starter. The preseason will be his short term time to correct flaws in his game. If Clinton-Dix can tighten up in those few areas then the Packers will have a solid secondary for years to come.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Let it Rain: Green Bay Packers lose to Tennessee Titans in rainstorm

James Starks taking one into the end zone in the first quarter (Joe Robbins/Getty Images North America)

It was most certainly a soggy night in Nashville, and the Packers may have made some of the best decisions about tonight's game before it even started. They placed a healthy scratch on key starters, Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, and Jordy Nelson. After seeing Don Barclay and Jared Abbrederis go down for the season with ACL injuries, the Packers knew this game was about finding players in the lower portions of their 90 man roster. With those three men, they know exactly what to expect and their performance did not need to be evaluated in the swamp like conditions in Tennessee this evening.
But the Packers did start off with the ball, and their offensive line and the backup running back James Starks looked dominant from the very beginning. On the opening drive, Starks recorded 49 of the 64 offensive yards to score the game's opening touchdown. The other plays on the opening drive were a 5 yard scramble by Flynn, and a 10 yard completion to rookie tight end Richard Rodgers. The other thing to pick up here is that Rodgers got the start at tight end over returning tight ends Andrew Quarless and Brandon Bostick. This is big news since most people still had Rodgers behind both players.

Then the starting defense came in and forced a three and out with an incompletetion from Jake Locker to Justin Hunter, a player that is definitely getting good buzz early in training camp for the Titans.

One Packer that certainly is hoping for a better second game is rookie wide receiver Davante Adams. He was being used as the primary punt returner and muffed the first two punts in his direction. He will probably be taken off of special teams very quickly, which means the Packers may need to use another roster spot for someone more developmental instead of using Adams for punt returner and wide receiver. Micah Hyde, who returned some punts last year, had one fair catch but muffed another punt himself later in the game too. On Adams second muffed punt of the game he was unable to recover it this time and it went to the Titans, where Shonn Greene took it in for a 13 yard touchdown run on the next play, but the Titans would miss the extra point, making it a 7-6 lead for the Packers. Adams might have outperformed Jarrett Boykin as a receiver still though, getting 2 catches for 22 yards while Boykin got called for offensive pass interference in the second quarter.

One player that certainly looked uncomfortable in the game was Matt Flynn, who is battling Scott Tolzien for Rodger's backup spot. Flynn fumbled the ball at one point, and finished 5/10 passing for only 49 yards. Flynn is going to need to perform better in later preseason games, because this performance was pretty abysmal for a quarterback that helped save the Packers season last year. That's also because Tolzien played a better game as well, throwing 8/12 for 128 yards. Flynn doesn't have the arm strength that Tolzien has, but he has more experience, but Tolzien could definitely take advantage in further preseason games and definitely had the upper hand in this game against the Titans.

Undrafted rookie running Rajion Neal looked pretty good in his action as well tonight. He had 5 rushes for 39 yards and one touchdown as well. He did not play a lot, but when he was in, he looked like he could be the replacement the Packers desperately need due to the absence of Jonathan Franklin with his unexpected retirement from football this Summer. Neal looked much better than the other undrafted rookie, LaDarius Perkins. Perkins had 10 carries and managed only 18 yards.

The Packers were able to force two turnovers in this game off of rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger. First, they had Jumal Rolle get a strip sack of the quarterback, which was recovered by rookie linebacker Jake Doughty from Utah State. Then the second one came when Jackie Battle couldn't grab the pass from Mettenberger. The ball shot up in the air and linebacker Korey Jones grabbed the ball and returned it for a few yards. Jackie Battle would have the last laugh though as he would score the game winning touchdown the next time the Titans had the ball.

The Packers obviously didn't play their best game, but they didn't even play most of their best players. But it's great to see that they stayed healthy and continued to improve, and maybe one of these young diamonds in the rough will shine brightly for the Packers in the future.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Observations of a Railbird, August 6, 2014

By Coach Ted Verges








 It was with a specific purpose that I attended Packer practice today.  With Barclay hurt and out for the season, I wanted to check on the possible replacements for him.  Specifically, I wanted to watch Derek Sherrod and Lane Taylor.

               Until today, Sherrod had been getting most of his work at left tackle. Today he worked at both the left and right tackle positions.  He did so in the drills and the scrimmage work.   Even though I was impressed with Sherrod’s work earlier in the OTA’s and padded practice, he looked even better today.  He has very good technique. For a big man he does bend his knees and, dare I say it, plays with good pad level.  I also like his aggressiveness. There was a fight in the half line drill and Sherrod was one of the first ones there to join in. He had three reps in the one-on-one pass rush/pass blocking drill.  If he didn’t win all three, the worst score would be two wins and a tie.  He had reps on both the left and right sides.  He stoned his man on the right side and rode him wide on the left side showing good foot quickness in the process.  I watched him closely in the half line run blocking session.  He’s good off the ball, keeps a wide base, and sustains his block.  He just sort of engulfs his man.  Based on what I saw today, we’re more than adequate at reserve offensive tackle.

               In previous practices, I have not paid much attention to Lane Taylor, a reserve guard. He is a big man being 15 to 20 pounds heavier than the other linemen.  He is very stocky and carries a lot of weight around his middle. He worked at both left and right guard.  His form is very good and he is a tough, physical man. He will not be bull rushed. I am concerned, however, about his lack of foot quickness.  He tends to lift his feet too high on run blocking plays and, consequently, occasionally loses his balance.  Somebody should have had him jumping rope in the off-season.  Right now, I just do not want to see him replace either Sitton or Lang in a regular season game. I think he will get lots of action Saturday night and he bears watching.

               There were a couple of very interesting drills close by where I was sitting. One was the half line drill that is mostly running plays.  It is full go blocking with “thump” tackling where they do not take the ball carrier to the ground. It is the offensive line and backs against the defensive line and linebackers. This year, this drill almost always results in a fight and it was so again today.  Datone Jones was part of it, but I’m not sure who the other guy was. I did see Adrian Hubbard running over to be a part of it.  Throughout the dill there was much noise from both groups. Both DuJuan Harris and James Stark scored a couple of touchdowns.  Harris made a couple of quick moves to set up blocks.

               Following the half line drill, they went to the one-on-one pass blocking/pass rush drill. This is full go.  Sherrod looked as good as anybody, but the starters got few, if any, opportunities.  Tretter was much improved over what I saw a week ago.  He handled Daniels on one repetition.  Bulaga got only one snap and was beaten badly because he was too aggressive and got his weight too far forward.  Once again, Garth Gerhart was very good. He plays low and wide and reminds me somewhat of Mark Tauscher’s technique.  The best pass rusher in this drill today was Adrian Hubbard, an outside linebacker from Alabama.  He twice scored wins with a head and shoulder fake pass rush.  He’s a big, tall guy who looks like he can play.  But, we have lots of outside linebackers, so I’m thinking he might be taxi squad material.

               Scott Tolzien had a good practice. He was effective in the “move the ball” drill where they go down the field with various different down and distance situations.  He has strong arms and seems to be playing with more confidence and command.  He did hit Myles White for a touchdown on a nice post-corner route against Sam Shields.  It will be interesting to see how he performs Saturday night.  Jeff Janis, in his first practice since his illness, made a great one-handed catch for a touchdown.

               Ron Wolf was at practice today. He chatted with both Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy at various times.  Even though he is about to have season ending surgery, Jared Abbredaris was also at practice.   Finally, Aaron Rodgers, and most of the other starters, didn’t see much action. It was obvious that the upcoming game is for the reserves.  I’m looking forward to it to see if some of the guys make a strong effort to make the team.  Keep your eye on #65, Lane Taylor, and #78, Derek Sherrod.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

2014 Green Bay Packers Offensive Depth Chart Predictions


With the preseason starting this Saturday with a matchup against the Tennessee Titans, I decided to look into the crystal ball. Here are my predictions of what the offensive depth chart will look like going into the September 4th matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

QB:

  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Matt Flynn
HB:
  • Eddie Lacy
  • James Starks
  • DuJuan Harris
FB:
  • John Kuhn
WR:
  • Jordy Nelson
  • Randall Cobb
  • Davantae Adams
  • Jarret Boykin
  • Jeff Janis
  • Kevin Dorsey
TE:
  • Brandon Bostick
  • Andrew Quarless
  • Richard  Rodgers
  • Ryan Taylor
LT:
  • David Baktihiari 
  • Derek Sherrod
LG:
  • Josh Sitton
  • Andrew Tiller
C:
  • J.C. Tretter
  • Corey Linsley
RT:
  • Bryan Bulaga
  • Derek Sherrod
RG:
  • T.J. Lang
  • Lane Taylor
I have the Pack keeping 6 receivers and 4 tight ends. I believe Dorsey will make the 53-man-roster, because he's shown he belongs so far during training camp. I guess we'll see if he's up to it during the preseason. I believe Brandon Bostick will also leap Quarless for the starting tight-end spot. Quarless has been very quiet so far, which could mean he's in danger of losing his starting spot. Fan favorite tight-end Colt Lyerla turned out to be the big causality with the group as well. I don't think he'll have enough time to prove himself by the time he gets back from the knee injury he suffered on Family night. 

What to watch in the Green Bay Packers first 2014 Preseason Game

There are so many questions heading into a new season. The Green Bay Packers roster currently is at 90 players, and mostly they will be looking at the players on the lower half of the roster in the first preseason game.

On offense there are three major positions to be watching. At wide receiver, Nelson and Cobb are clearly entrenched as the number 1 and 2 receivers. The first big question is at number three. Recent reports have said that Green Bay Packers second round pick Davante Adams was dealing with a hamstring injury during the OTA's. Adams was dealing with drops during OTA's, but had an impressive catch from Matt Flynn during family night and continues to push for playing time over the incumbent third receiver Jarrett Boykin. Adams continues to look impressive and it is one of those things where it is a matter of sooner or later he will overtake Boykin, but Boykin has the experience edge and the already existing chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. With the injury to Jared Abbrederis, the later wide receiver spots are something to keep an eye on as well. Kevin Dorsey has had an impressive training camp according to reports and Jeff Janis is back practicing this week after his battle with shingles. Janis has the impressive measurables, and it will be good to finally get an eye on him to see how he performs with the offense.

Tight end is a mystery due to the absence of last year's starter Jermichael Finley. Andrew Quarless played decently well in backup duties last year, but reports are  strong on the emergence of rookie tight end Richard Rodgers and Brandon Bostick. Bostick is a highly athletic tight end who is having impressive catches so far in training camp. Rodgers is the player the Packers drafted in the third round with their compensatory pick for losing Greg Jennings to the Minnesota Vikings. The main thing is that it appears that the competition is wide open between these three, and Colt Lyerla will miss weeks due to a knee injury.

The other offensive spot to watch is going to be with the offensive line. Second year player JC Tretter will have his first NFL game action at Center in the game against the Titans. Tretter isn't guaranteed the job though, as Center Corey Linsley from Ohio State is fighting for an opportunity to start at Center as well. It will be good to see both men get on the field, call out the blocking assignments, and push some people around. Plus, a major backup was hurt yesterday in Don Barclay, who tore his ACL and will be out for the season. This means that former first round pick, offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, will need to step up and be the swing tackle that the Packers need as injuries are all too common.

Defensively, the main question mark for the Packers is still at secondary, where Morgan Burnett, who was the top player at safety coming into the season, has an oblique injury, after having a different injury the previous week. In practice the first team has been played with Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety. Hyde just converted to the position after playing mostly cornerback last year, and Clinton-Dix was the first round pick for the Packers this year. Don't forget about Sean Richardson though, as he has been excellent and is having a strong training camp as well.

When it comes to special teams, it will be interesting to see exactly who gets reps in the game as the Packers have been using multiple returners for both punt and kick returns in practice, and it is a competition that will likely go into the opener. But one thing the Packers haven't been doing is using Randall Cobb on those returns. After his injury last year and how important he is to the offense as the slot receiver, it would be foolish for them to put him back there and risk another injury.

Packers football is one of the best things about the Fall, and it will be great to watch these players and many others as they take on the Tennessee Titans on Saturday August 9.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hard Cheddar: Some early offensive notes

Football is back, ladies and gentlemen! For the first time in what seems like forever there was NFL football on the TV this weekend. Not commentary, not speculation or "Top 100 Lists", an actual football game. The preseason was kicked off Sunday with the 52nd Annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game between the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills. 

Bills v. Giants (SUPER BOWL PREVIEW?!) No, relax casual reader.
The game was about as boring as you'd expect. Eli Manning lost a fumble and America was left once again scratching it's collective head wondering how this man has won two Super Bowls and collected two Super Bowl MVP honors. One thing that stood out to me though was how similar the Bills offense looked like Green Bay circa 2011. This is easily the result of the hiring of former Packer Tight Ends and Quarterbacks Coach, Ben McAdoo.
Manningface. Simply nothing better.
Enough about Eli and his silly faces. The Packers have been in training camp and as usual there is news upon news to to consume your life with. Right off the bat, Aaron Rodgers looks true to form and ready to start shredding some defenses. With a brand-spanking-new receiving corps it doesn't appear he'll be hurting for people to chuck the ol' pigskin to and that's a good thing. Jordy Nelson, having just received a healthy new contract, has apparently been tearing it up at the Don Hutson Center. Randall Cobb, has been relatively quiet this camp and I believe there is a designed reason for that. Speculation has pointed to Captain Cobb being the proverbial malware attack on the other team's defensive harddrive. Under no circumstances would I expect Big Mike McCarthy and gang to show any more of their hand than they need to. Jarrett Boykin has also apparently been having a solid camp. There you go, a solid 1-2-3 punch for Green Bay through the air. You'll notice I didn't mention Davante Adams and that's simply because he has been incredibly quiet. Gameday surprise or another project for the Packer coaching staff? Time will tell.
Please be good. Treat Aaron right.
Sadly, Jared Abbredaris has been lost for the season due to an ACL tear. I'm definitely not in full-on tears and sobbing mode with this one though. Why? From the moment he was drafted I remembered thinking "Gosh, I wish they could sit him for a year and bulk him up a bit". This could be a huge blessing in disguise for Jared. Sit out a year fella, recoup a bit. 

Onto the running game. We have Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and Dujuan Harris. That is easily the scariest Packer backfield I've ever seen on paper. According to numerous coaches and players Eddie has been playing out of his mind and is in peak-condition (knock-on-wood). Dujuan Harris, I guess, will be not only running the rock behind Lacy, but will also be a featured man in the return game. I have not heard much about Starks but he tends to be the same reliable banger year-in and year-out. There is nothing here that I can tell you that nobody doesn't already know. With Aaron under center and Lacy behind Aaron...well, figure it out. There is unlimited potential on offense. 

I didn't cover as much as I would've liked but I'll be back! Us grown ups need to go to work from time to time. I'd definitely like to cover some of the happenings on the offensive line (including what happened to Don Barclay's knee) tomorrow. As always, thanks for reading.