Wednesday, June 26, 2013

2013: Looking Around The Division: TE & OL

Well, I had missed posting like I had wanted to this past weekend, so why not try to make it up to you guys with a double feature of my latest recap of the teams in the division, as we are now 29 days away from the Packers opening up training camp.  Today I am going to be looking at Tight Ends first and then at the respective offensive lines.

4.  Chicago Bears
  1. Martellus Bennett #83 (26, 6'6" 270 lbs)
  2. Fredi Onobun #84 (26, 6'6" 249 lbs)
  3. Steve Maneri #87 (25, 6'6" 290 lbs)
  4. Brody Eldridge #88 (26, 6'5" 265 lbs)
  5. Gabe Miller #85 (25, 6'3" 257 lbs)
The Bears show up at the bottom of the list, simply because they have the least experience at the position.  One thing that they are not lacking, however, is size.  Bennett has been a backup to Jason Witten for most of his career, which isn't that bad.  Last year, he was on the Giants and was their primary TE option, with 55 catches, 626 yards, and 5 TD, all career highs.  Their #2 tight end was a former basketball player, hasn't played in the NFL since 2011.  Maneri is a pure blocker coming over from the Chiefs last year, but he did have 5 catches last year.  Eldridge was OOF last year as well.  Miller has never played in an NFL game, and just got busted for violating the NFL PED policy.  Probably won't be on the team for too long.

3.  Green Bay Packers
  1. Jermichael Finley #88 (26, 6'5" 247 lbs)
  2. Andrew Quarless #81 (24, 6'4" 252 lbs)
  3. D.J. Williams #84 (24, 6'2" 245 lbs)
  4. Matthew Mulligan #85 (28, 6'4" 265 lbs)
  5. Brandon Bostick #86 (24, 6'3" 260 lbs)
Finley has had 3 seasons with over 600 yards receving and 55 catches.  In 2011, he had 8 touchdowns.  Everyone goes crazy about the drops that he has had, but I'm hoping he can turn it around this year.  Hopefully having more catches and TD than he has previously.  Everyone sees Finley as a big potential guy, but if he is unable to improve this season, it is likely he will be let go from the team in free agency if he will not take a pay cut.  Quarless is a major question mark since his knee injury in December of 2011.  D.J. is more of a receiving TE than Quarless is, but even with Finley having issues last season, Williams didn't come onto the field much.  Mulligan is a blocking TE as well, mainly going to battle with Quarless or play if Quarless doesn't do well in his rehab.  Bostick is also a basketball player with a big upside and he was on our practice squad last year, hopefully he has improved enough for us to see him make the roster this year.

2.  Minnesota Vikings
  1. Kyle Rudolph #82 (23, 6'6" 258 lbs)
  2. John Carlson #89 (29, 6'5" 251 lbs)
  3. Rhett Ellison #40 (24, 6'5" 251 lbs)
  4. Chase Ford #86 (22, 6'6" 245 lbs)
  5. Colin Anderson #45 (23, 6'4" 200 lbs)
Rudolph is one of Christian Ponder's favorite targets in the Red Zone.  Of the 18 TD passes that Ponder had thrown, Rudolph caught 9 of them last year.  50% of your Quarterback's Touchdowns is a major deal.  Carlson is another major contributer at the TE position in the past.  Carlson has 13 career TD's which is one more than Ponder.  His best season would be 7 TD in 2009 with the Seahawks.  He had a knee injury before the season last year which limited his production, but they could be a solid 2 TE system this year.  Ellison was primarily an H-back last season.  Ford signed on in the offseason but no NFL experience.  Anderson has the Furman TE record for TE with 11.  He is a little bit small, but if he puts on some weight he should be very athletic.

1.  Detroit Lions
  1. Brandon Pettigrew #87 (28, 6'5" 265 lbs)
  2. Tony Scheffler #85 (30, 6'5" 265 lbs)
  3. Michael Williams #89 (23, 6'5" 278 lbs)
  4. Matt Veldman #? (24, 6'7" 255 lbs)
  5. Joseph Fauria #47 (23, 6'7" 255 lbs)
Pettigrew is a consistent TE that has had at least 55 catches and 550 yards the last 3 seasons.  However, the most TD he has produced in his career is 5.  That is completely ludicrous.  He should be performing at a much higher level, but Megatron does take most of the red zone catches on the team.  Scheffler has 8 TD in his career at Detroit, but only had 1 last year when their offense had been struggling.  Williams is a 7th round TE that projects into being their primary blocking TE.  Veldman has only been signed for 9 days now, and hasn't officially been giving a jersey number.  He was on IR all last year with the Jaguars.  Fauria is familiar to me since I was thinking the Packers might use a late round pick on him.  Nephew of Christian Fauria.  He would definitely be a pass catching TE as it has been reported he is a poor blocker.  That's it for the TE, so let's move onto the Offensive Line.

4.  Detroit Lions
  • Starting 5
  • LT: Riley Reiff #71 (24, 6'6" 315 lbs)
  • LG: Rob Sims #67 (29, 6'3" 312 lbs)
  • C: Dominic Raiola #51 (34, 6'1" 295 lbs)
  • RG: Larry Warford #75 (22, 6'3" 332 lbs)
  • RT: Corey Hilliard #78 (28, 6'6" 280 lbs)
  • Backups
  • Austin Holtz #72 (23, 6'5" 300 lbs)
  • Rodney Austin #74 (24, 6'4" 311 lbs)
  • Dylan Gandy #65 (31, 6'3" 295 lbs)
  • Bill Nagy #61 (25, 6'3" 308 lbs)
  • Jason Fox #70 (25, 6'6" 314 lbs)
Stafford took 29 sacks last season, which is fairly regular.  But they are only returning two starters from last season, Sims & Raiola.  Reiff had been another first round draft pick from the University of Iowa, similar to our own left tackle, Bulaga, he is listed as having short arms and mediocre athletic ability.  The Detroit free press stated before the draft that the Lions wanted him to play at RG this season, but because of the many tackles taken before number five in the draft, it moves Bulaga to LT to fill in for the now retired Jeff Backus, who probably just got tired of playing for the Lions.  Sims and Raiola are strong lineman, but if you don't have 5 strong ones, then you are plenty limited.  Warford is a rookie Guard from the University of Kentucky.  His best 40 yard dash time at the combine was 5.53, and he benched 28 reps.  Hilliard has been limited by injuries in his career.  He and Fox are going to be in a tight competition at the RT position.  They combined for 1 appearance in all of the games last year.

3. Chicago Bears
  • Starters
  • LT: Jermon Bushrod #74 (28, 6'5" 315 lbs)
  • LG: Matt Slauson #68 (27, 6'5" 315 lbs)
  • C: Roberto Garza #63 (34, 6'2" 310 lbs)
  • RG: Kyle Long #75 (24, 6'6" 313 lbs)
  • RT: J'Marcus Webb #73 (24, 6'7" 333 lbs)
  • Backups
  • Eben Britton #62 (25, 6'6" 308 lbs)
  • Edwin Williams #70 (26, 6'3" 315 lbs)
  • Taylor Boggs #60 (26, 6'3" 285 lbs)
  • James Brown #78 (24, 6'4" 306 lbs)
  • Johnathan Scott #79 (30, 6'6" 318 lbs)
Bushrod had been protecting Brees so Kromer should know exactly what he is getting from Bushrod, but he is new to the Bears.  Slauson has been on the Jets for the past 3 seasons.  Never missed a game, but again, new to the Bears, chemistry is so important on the offensive line.  Garza is staying at Center, but he didn't necessarily have a great season last year.  Kyle Long is a rookie from Oregon, the first round pick they had used this year.  Long is said to be very athletic, so I highly doubt that he is going to be staying at Guard in the long term.  Webb is moving from LT to RT, which should help him out a little bit since he struggled at LT last season.  Trestman has a lot of work to do on the Offensive line that was clearly abysmal last year, Kromer as a former O-Line coach has a big role since he is the offensive coordinator.  They have 3 new players and Webb is at a new position.  It just seems like there is going to be a lot of issues here again, but you have to say that Trestman is at least trying to perform an overhaul that has been desperately needed under the Lovie Smith era.  

2.  Green Bay Packers
  • Starters
  • LT: Bryan Bulaga #75 (24, 6'5" 314 lbs)
  • LG: Josh Sitton #71 (27, 6'3" 318 lbs)
  • C: Evan Dietrich-Smith #62 (26, 6'2" 308 lbs)
  • RG: T.J. Lang #70 (25, 6'4" 318 lbs)
  • RT: Marshall Newhouse #74 (24, 6'4" 319 lbs)
  • Backups
  • David Bakhtiari #69 (21, 6'4" 299 lbs)
  • Greg Van Roten #64 (23, 6'3" 303 lbs)
  • Garth Gerhart #72 (24, 6'1" 305 lbs)
  • J.C. Tretter #73 (21-22, 6'4" 307 lbs)
  • Derek Sherrod #78 (24, 6'6" 321 lbs)
  • Andrew Datko #77 (22, 6'6" 315 lbs)
  • Lane Taylor #65 (23, 6'3" 324 lbs)
  • Patrick Lewis #60 (22, 6'1" 311 lbs)
  • Kevin Hughes #68 (24, 6'4" 304 lbs)
  • Don Barclay #67 (24, 6'4" 305 lbs)
Now I just want to take a moment and be clear that these are not necessarily who I would start at these positions.  This was from one of the only spots that is showing a complete depth chart including offensive lineman over at yahoo.  We all know about the major switch that has gone down with the rotation on the offensive line.  Technically, the only new starter this year would be Evan Dietrich-Smith from the start of last season.  Plus, EDS probably could have started at Center last year in place of Saturday.  Obviously the rotation of our lineman is a big question mark, but our bigger question mark is who is going to start at RT.  Newhouse, Sherrod, and Barclay are probably the frontrunners, but that doesn't mean there wouldn't be any other options at RT.  Bakhtiari and Datko are my two dark horse candidates to start the season at RT.  If I had to pick one person that would be the best player on our offensive line, I would lean toward Bulaga, and we need him to be our offensive line MVP as he moves to the other side.

1.  Minnesota Vikings
  • Starters
  • LT: Matt Kalil #75 (23, 6'7" 306 lbs)
  • LG: Charlie Johnson #74 (29, 6'4" 305 lbs)
  • C: John Sullivan #65 (27, 6'4" 301 lbs)
  • RG: Brandon Fusco #63 (24, 6'4" 306 lbs)
  • RT: Phil Loadholt #71 (27, 6'8" 343 lbs)
  • Backups
  • DeMarcus Love #73 (25, 6'4" 315 lbs)
  • Troy Kropog #78 (26, 6'6" 308 lbs)
  • Joe Berger #61 (31, 6'5" 305 lbs)
  • Seth Olsen #72 (27, 6'5" 305 lbs)
  • Brandon Keith #79 (28, 6'5" 335 lbs)
It is tough to give a team that helped Peterson come off of an ACL tear to run for 2000 yards not the best offensive line in your division.  The other thing is that they have had the most consistent tackles in the division.  Kalil is going to be there for quite some time after a great first season, top tackle taken last year.  Loadholt has been up there for 4 seasons.  This is the only offensive line in the division that isn't getting any retooling from last year, which is probably not the best sign for all of us.  I mean, even saying that the Packers are 2nd in the division seems a little crazy given the offensive line problems we have had in the last few years and how often Rodgers gets hit.  Let's take a look at the updated points overall now that the offense is complete, and next time I'll start with the defensive line.

1.  Detroit Lions-15
2.  Green Bay Packers-13
3.  Minnesota Vikings-12
4.  Chicago Bears-9

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Release of Bishop Puzzling

By: Matt Bove

The Packers officially announced yesterday that they released inside linebacker Desmond Bishop.

Bishop finished his Packers career with 310 tackles, nine sacks, seven forced fumbles, and one interception.

They are losing a great presence on and off the field. Not only was Bishop great on the field, but he was also one of the team's biggest leaders. After the debacle against San Francisco in the Divisional round of the playoffs last season, Bishop was one of the few defensive players to meet with the media at locker clean outs and he did not even play in the game. That speaks to what kind of class act he is.

There were signs that this was coming when the Packers restructured A.J. Hawk's contract to $7.25 million over the next three years, with more than $2 million guaranteed this year. Then, the Packers went out and re-signed Brad Jones to a three-year deal worth $11.75 million, which gave them two players making starters money at ILB. However, if Bishop is healthy, there is no way in the world that he is not the superior player to either Hawk or Jones.

Bishop played excellent in his first year as a starter in 2010 and was a key player in the Packers' Super Bowl run. He finished the regular season with 103 tackles, three sacks and an interception.

He also made some key plays in the playoffs for the Packers that helped them capture their fourth Lombardi Trophy. In the Wildcard round game at Philadelphia, Bishop made a shoe-string tackle on Desean Jackson- perhaps the fastest receiver in the NFL- to prevent what could have been the game winning touchdown. It was still a 28-yard gain, but Bishop tackled Jackson at the Green Bay 38 by the ankles with only Nick Collins behind him.

Also, Bishop recovered a huge fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLV against the Steelers, which might have been the biggest play of the game. The Steelers were driving into Packers territory and had all the momentum until Clay Matthews knocked the ball out of Rashard Mendenhall's hands and Bishop recovered it. The Packers went on to score a touchdown on their ensuing possession.

In 2011, Bishop may have been the best player on a lousy Packers defense. He finished with 115 tackles and five sacks. He was one of the few physical presences on the defense, and he was extremely effective as a blitzer.

Bishop missed the entire 2012 season after rupturing his hamstring in the Aug. 9 preseason opener at San Diego. He did not participate in any of the Packers' OTA or mini-camp practices this spring, but he has insisted that he is 100 percent healthy.

"Its definitely a serious injury but I definitely hit all the points I was supposed to hit as far as getting healthy ," Bishop told Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "But the tear is 100%. I can do anything and everything."

Whether releasing Bishop was because of the injury or because of a numbers game it makes absolutely no sense.

The Packers are putting a lot of trust into their doctors since they have never seen Bishop on the field since the injury. I do not understand why the Packers would not at least bring Bishop to training camp to see what he looks like? There is absolutely no harm in that. If he doesn't look like the same player you can release him then, but why not see why you have in him first instead of going off blind faith? Sure, you are taking a risk that he gets hurt in camp and you are stuck with him, but sometimes you have to take a risk once in awhile to get a big reward.

The Packers saved $3.46 million in cap room that can help go towards extensions to other players, but that is not a crazy cap number for a guy who if healthy is easily the best inside linebacker on the roster. It's not like the Packers were up against a wall in their cap space either. They could have always released Bishop next offseason if they needed room for an important extension to another player.

Jones and Hawk both had solid years last year, but they are not in Bishop's league in terms of speed, physicality, and blitzing. Also, the Packers went from having outstanding depth at inside linebacker to very questionable depth. Terrell Manning, Jamari Lattimore, Nate Palmer, Robert Francois and Sam Barrington are all unproven players behind Jones and Hawk. If the Packers knew they were releasing Bishop and D.J. Smith then why was inside linebacker not a much bigger priority in the draft?

Jones and Hawk just do not compare to who Seattle and San Francisco have roaming the middle of their defense in Bobby Wagner for Seattle and Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman for San Francisco. I know those aren't teams in the Packers' division, but they are are two great defenses and two main competitions for the Packers to compete with to get to the Meadowlands for Super Bowl XLVIII.

I think a healthy Bishop and Jones would be a great inside linebacker combo for the Packers. Jones' great coverage ability (+4.6 coverage rating from Pro Football Focus) would be a great compliment to Bishop's physicality and blitzing ability.

The problem with playing Jones and Hawk together in the middle is their lack of physicality. For a team who is preaching forced fumbles and physicality this offseason releasing a guy who is very physical and who has forced 8 fumbles in his last 59 games does not go along with that message. Hawk literally has not forced a fumble since the George W. Bush administration. Jones tries to be physical, but he is just a little undersized for the position. That would be o.k. next to a physical player, but not Hawk.

We all pretty much know what Hawk is at this point. He may have had his best season last year, but he still did not make a ton of impact plays. He was also better last season because the Packers kept him on the sidelines on a lot of obvious passing downs. The Packers like him because he knows his assignments inside and out, but he is still just a guy.

I don't know if the Packers can have an elite defense with Hawk and Jones up the middle. Many have suggested that the Packers are coming up with new creative schemes that will involve only one inside linebacker. I will believe that when I see it with Dom Capers still at the helm.

The Packers may be right and Bishop may never be the same player again. They have a great track record of knowing when to let players go and should be given the benefit of the doubt. My main issue with the move is the timing. I just do not see why they could not see what Bishop looked like at training camp before making a decision. Also, since they were knew they were going to release Bishop eventually, why was inside linebacker not a higher priority in the draft? They should have tried to upgrade the position.

According to a tweet from Wes Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press Gazette Bishop is first meeting with the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers better be right that he is finished.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

2013: Looking Around The Division: WR

I hope that you all have enjoyed the posts on the QB & RB of our division, but now we are going to take a look at the Wide Receivers in the division.  Remember, we countdown to the top group at that position.  The rankings are for the group of receivers, not just the top one.

4.  Minnesota Vikings
  1. Greg Jennings #15 (29, 5'11" 198 lbs)
  2. Jerome Simpson #81 (27, 6'2" 190 lbs)
  3. Cordarrelle Patterson #84 (22, 6'2" 216 lbs)
  4. Jarius Wright #17 (23, 5'10" 182 lbs)
  5. Joe Webb #14 (26, 6'4" 220 lbs)
  6. Stephen Burton #11 (23, 6'1" 224 lbs)
  7. Greg Childs #85 (23, 6'3" 219 lbs)
  8. Rodney Smith #83 (23, 6'6" 219 lbs)
  9. Chris Summers #15 (23, 6'4" 220 lbs)
  10. Erik Highsmith #8 (22, 6'3" 190 lbs)
Greg Jennings has officially flipped the switch to a true purple and gold guy.  Jennings best years were actually with Rodgers as his quarterback.  His best season would have been in 2010, where he had 76 catches, 1265 yards, and 12 TD's.  Injuries have marred his last 2 seasons, MCL (2011) and groin (2012), causing him to miss a total of 11 games.  Jennings is a strong receiver, but his supporting cast is entirely awful.  Simpson had his first season in Minnesota last year, 26 catches, 274 yards, 0 TD.  He had come from Cincinnati, which had developed so much other young talent, that they didn't really need him any more.  Patterson is a rookie from Tennessee, the last pick they had in the first round.  It seems like he is a raw talent, but they will probably use him in simliar ways to how they have used Harvin in the past.  He is also supposed to be a kick and punt returner this season.  Wright has potential to move up the depth chart.  He hurt the Packers last year in week 17 with 3 catches, 90 yards, 1 TD.  Joe Webb was a quarterback last season, transitioning to WR.  Burton only had 5 catches last year.  Childs may not ever play meaningful football again.  Smith & Highsmith are rookies from the ACC.  Summers was on the practice squad last season.  So, it looks like they start out strong, and then don't have a lot of production or experience from there.

3.  Chicago Bears
  1. Brandon Marshall #15 (29, 6'4" 230 lbs)
  2. Alshon Jeffrey #17 (23, 6'3" 213 lbs)
  3. Earl Bennett #80 (26, 6'0" 206 lbs)
  4. Joseph Anderson #19 (24, 6'1" 195 lbs)
  5. Marquess Wilson #10 (20, 6'3" 194 lbs)
  6. Devin Hester #23 (30, 5'11" 190 lbs)
  7. Eric Weems #14 (27, 5'9" 195 lbs)
  8. Devin Aromashodu #13 (29, 6'2" 201 lbs)
  9. Brittan Golden #82 (24, 6'0" 185 lbs)
  10. Terrence Toliver #81 (25, 6'5" 204 lbs)
We all remember how great Marshall and Cutler have been together, but last season was actually their best season together.  118 catches, 1508 yards, 11 TD.  Those numbers are quite impressive for one season.  I'm very concerned from there on for their roster though.  Jeffrey and Bennett both have major injury concerns.  Anderson had no catches last year.  Wilson, Aramashodu, Golden, and Toliver are all new to the Bears this season.  Weems had only 2 catches last year.  Hester is mainly getting moved back to a returner, instead of a receiver, a move that they should have done a long time ago, but he is 30, so he probably won't be doing that too much longer.  I just like Marshall's size and productivity better than Jennings, plus Marshall has actually played with Cutler, while Jennings has never played with the guy that Minnesota currently has at QB.

2.  Green Bay Packers
  1. Jordy Nelson #87 (28, 6'3" 217 lbs)
  2. Randall Cobb #18 (22, 5'10" 192 lbs)
  3. James Jones #89 (29, 6'1" 208 lbs)
  4. Jarrett Boykin #11 (23, 6'2" 219 lbs)
  5. Charles Johnson #17 (24, 6'2" 215 lbs)
  6. Kevin Dorsey #16 (23, 6'2" 210 lbs)
  7. Sederrick Cunningham #13 (23, 5'11" 187 lbs)
  8. Jeremy Ross #10 (25, 5'11" 213 lbs)
  9. Terrell Sinkfield #5 (22, 6'0" 198 lbs)
  10. Myles White #19 (23, 6'0" 182 lbs)
There is a lot of size and speed on this team.  But it's primary strength is in it's depth.  In 2011, Jordy Nelson had his best season with 68 catches, 1263 yards and 15 TD.  Last season he was injured and missed 4 games, wasn't at 100% when he was on the field.  Cobb is a great slot receiver who was able to get over 1000 yards of offense with his rushing and receiving last year.  Cobb is probably being taken off of special teams this season, just because it isn't worth the risk of him being injured that way.  James Jones had always been a player that I had been concerned with passing it to him at the wrong time.  His best season was last year, he was able to get rid of his issue with drops, and he had 64 catches, 784 yards, and 15 TD.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on May 24th that Rodgers thinks Boykin will get some opportunities as our 4th wide receiver.  I'm excited to see what Boykin can bring to the table.  Johnson & Dorsey were both 7th round picks this year with a lot of size and speed to push the issue of depth at WR.  Cunningham was signed before the draft and he's got 4.45 speed.  Ross has only been used as a returner for the Packers.  Sinkfield ran a 4.19 40 yard dash at the Minnesota pro day.  He was signed by the Dolphins and now by the Packers.  There are many people who are excited about Myles White.  White says his best 40 time is 4.30.  Also, White had 56 catches his final year at La Tech, 718 yards, 6 TD.  We definitely seem like we are reloading with all our receivers under 25 except for Jones & Nelson.

1.  Detroit Lions
  1. Calvin Johnson #81 (27, 6'5" 236 lbs)
  2. Nate Burleson #13 (31, 6'0" 198 lbs)
  3. Ryan Broyles #84 (25, 5'10" 192 lbs)
  4. Kris Durham #18 (25, 6'6" 216 lbs)
  5. Mike Thomas #19 (26, 5'8" 198 lbs)
  6. Corey Fuller #10 (22, 6'2" 204 lbs)
  7. Brian Robiskie #80 (25, 6'3" 209 lbs)
  8. Micheal Spurlock #15 (30, 5'11" 200 lbs)
  9. Matt Willis #12 (29, 6'0" 190 lbs)
  10. Devin Thomas #11 (26, 6'2" 211 lbs)
We all know that Megatron is the best nickname and best wide receiver in the division.  Over 1600 yards two years in a row.  122 catches last year. only 5 TD, but 16 TD the year before.  Burleson is a strong number 2 receiver as long as he doesn't hurt himself.  He hurt himself in his 6th game last year and hasn't returned yet, but he probably should come back this year, and if not, there is some good depth behind him.  Ryan Broyles is a strong 3rd receiver, who was coming on last year after Nate's injury.  He had 6 catches for 126 yards against Houston on Thanksgiving, and then was hurt in the next game.  Durham played with Stafford at Georgia, probably missed quite a few opportunities last year.  Plus he only showed up off the practice squad last year.  Mike Thomas had his best season with Jacksonville in 2010, with 66 catches for 820 yards and 4 TD.  Fuller was a 6th round draft pick this year.  Robiskie played late last year on the team, and scored a TD late in the season.  Spurlock comes over from San Diego, where he is primarily a return man, and he returned a kick and punt return for a TD.  Willis has mainly been in Denver, where he has 1 career TD.  Devin Thomas was a top notch draft pick with the Redskins in the 2008 draft.  But he never really panned out, Lions currently signed him but he was OOF last season and was technically retired.

So that takes care of all of the WR of our division, but next time I will be reviewing the TE of our division, which should be pretty interesting.  But before we are done, let's look at the total points for everyone so far.
1.  Detroit Lions-10
2.  Green Bay Packers-8
3.  Chicago Bears-6
3.  Minnesota Vikings-6

Monday, June 10, 2013

Positional Review: Filling BIG shoes in the WR Corp

By: Geoff Verges

743 receptions, 10,137 yards, 61 touchdowns.
425 receptions, 6537 yards, 53 touchdowns.
Those are the stats missing this year from the career production of Donald Driver and Greg Jennings.

Pretty big shoes to fill.  Although it can be argued that there was very little of that production on the squad last year.  And that would be a correct statement.

But none the less, the 2013 WR squad will be without one of it’s’ most beloved and productive members in Donald Driver.  It will also be without one of the best pupils that Donald ever taught in Greg Jennings.

So, how does TT replace such talented and productive guys?  Only by trying to catch lightning in the seventh round of the draft with Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey, and by trying to hit a home run with second year UDFA’s Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross.

Below is a breakdown of the returners and the newbies….

Jordy Nelson:  6’3’’ 215 pounds.  Entering into his sixth season as a Packer, Jordy has played in 16 games three times.  He had a breakout year in 2011 with 68 catches for 1263 yards and 15 touchdowns.  Injuries limited his production last year.  But this much is known.  Jordy is a very good player who has earned the trust of Aaron Rodgers.  He is in line for another very good season in 2013 if he can stay healthy.

Randall Cobb:  5’10’’ 192 pounds.  No one has Packer nation more abuzz than Cobb.  Why you might ask?  …Because few players develop so quickly in the Packers offense.   Cobb went from having 25 receptions as a rookie to arguably Rodgers best weapon last year while snagging 80 catches (out of 104 targets) for 954 yards and 8 TD’s, despite playing special teams and missing one game.  More quick than fast, Cobb is ideally suited to playing in the slot.  It is hard to think that he can get that much better, but with him, it is possible.

James Jones:  6’1’’ 208 pounds.  Can’t ask for much more out of your #3 receiver than what James gives you.  Consistently available for games and consistently catches 50 to 60 balls for 600 to 700 yards a year.   Last year was a breakout year of sorts for him as he tallied 14 touchdowns.  Sneak fast, James has a knack for getting open deep and hauled in everything his way last year, putting behind his dropsies issues from the past.   He is in the last year of his contract and that usually means big things for a player.

Jarrett Boykin:  6’2’’ 217 pounds.  Was considered a 5’Th round talent in the 2012 draft, but fell out of the draft entirely.  Has huge hands that haul in almost everything.  Prolific receiver with a good vertical, but who lacks speed as his 40 yard dash time was 4.74.  Came on strong in his first camp in Green Bay and turned heads in pre-season games.   Struggled to get open much in regular season games, but did have a few catches with some coming in key moments of games.  Will never take the top off of a defense, but is strong with great hands.  May never be more than a 4’Th WR and doesn’t offer anything to the return game.    

Jeremy Ross:  6’0’’ 209 pounds.  Wasn’t even listed as a WR when he hit the combine in 2012.  Was listed as a RB/KR/Athlete.  Got on the team because of an injury to Cobb and provided a spark to the return game.  Showed great north/south running and the ability to break arm tackles.  Was not a factor in the passing game.  Did not play WR in college.   He did clock a 4.4 40 yard dash at his pro day and did boast a 39 inch vertical leap.  There is no question about it, he is an athlete.  If the team can’t find another returner to replace Cobb, he could stick and be developed into a WR.

Charles Johnson:  He was not invited to the combine, but made his mark at his pro-day.  6’2’’ 215 pounds.  Ran a 4.38 and 4.39 40 yard dash.  4.31 short shuttle.  6.96 three cone.  39.5 inch vertical leap.  Those numbers would have ranked right up there with some of the best WR’s at the combine.  Caught 72 passes for 1,199 yards and 16 touchdowns.  That year put him fourth on the all-time category for Grand Valley State.  Here lies your wildcard in the WR corp.  Size?  Check.  Speed?  Check.  Catching ability?  Looks like a check.  Question is, can he be coached?  And if so, how quickly?  I see him making the team and challenging for playing time.

Kevin Dorsey:  6’2’’ 207 pounds.  Ran a 4.47 40 yard dash at his pro day.  Three cone was 7.08.  38 inch vertical leap.  Flew under the radar at Maryland because of 18 catches and 4 TD’s, but many scouts chalked that up to poor quarterback play.  This much I know, he is a very large kid who can move.  If he doesn’t make the 53 man roster, he is a PS candidate.

Other WR’s include Myles White, Ty Walker, Alex Gillett and Sederrick Cunningham.

Green Bay historically keeps 5 WR’s, but strayed from that last year as they kept 6 WR’s. 
I have to think that Nelson, Cobb and Jones are locks for the team.
Boykin has the next best chance to stick as the #4.
Ross fights it out for #5 with Johnson and Dorsey.  If GB can’t find another returner, I could see GB keeping Ross for that role and then also keeping Johnson while trying to stash Dorsey on the practice squad.

Sure there are some big shoes to be filled with the departures of Driver and Jennings.  But life and the WR corps must go on.  There were years in Green Bay when the WR corps was the envy of almost every team.  That may not be true this year, but those top three can compete without anyone else’s top 3.  The question remains whether or not a youngster will become “Next Man Up”!  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

2013: Looking Around The Division: RB

I already did the first edition of looking around the division, rating each quarterback against each other.  Obviously there was a lot of talent at QB, with all 4 being first round draft picks.  Now I'm going to do a post on the running backs around the division.  Putting both running backs and fullbacks in the same category.  Let's start at the bottom and then move through the division to the best.

4. Green Bay Packers
  1. Eddie Lacy #27 (23, 5'11" 230 lbs)
  2. DuJuan Harris #26 (24, 5'8" 203 lbs)
  3. Johnathan Franklin #23 (23, 5'10" 205 lbs)
  4. Alex Green #20 (24, 6'0" 220 lbs)
  5. James Starks #44 (27, 6'2" 218 lbs)
  1. John Kuhn #30 (30, 6'0" 250 lbs)
  2. Ryan Taylor #82 (25, 6'3" 254 lbs)
Eddie Lacy & Johnathan Franklin are both rookies, DuJuan Harris wasn't on our team to start last season.  Last season's opening day starter has fallen all the way down to 5th on the depth chart.  Harris has 43 career carries, with 2 TD last year toward the end of the season.  Alex Green had 464 yards last year, which is a team high for returning rushers last year.  DuJuan Harris had the most rushing yards for a game with 70 yards against Minnesota in the final regular season game.  Kuhn has long been a fan favorite, and even scored 6 touchdowns in 2011 & 2012.  But the main thing that I think of when I am looking at this roster is potential, because there are no proven NFL rushers.  No proven NFL running backs puts the Packers at the bottom of the list, because everyone else has better experience.

3.  Chicago Bears
  1. Matt Forte #22 (27, 6'2" 218 lbs)
  2. Michael Bush #29 (28, 6'1" 245 lbs)
  3. Armando Allen #25 (24, 5'10" 190 lbs)
  4. Harvey Unga #45 (26, 6'0" 235 lbs)
  5. Michael Ford #32 (23, 5'10" 216 lbs)
  1. Evan Rodriguez #48 (24, 6'2" 239 lbs)
Matt Forte is a strong running back, which is what places the Bears ahead of the Packers.  Forte's best season to date was actually his rookie year, where he had 1238 yards rushing, 63 receptions, and 12 total touchdowns (all career highs).  Ron Turner was the offensive coordinator that season and operated a west coast offense with Orton, then they traded for Cutler (not a west coast qb), and Turner was out the next year.  Obviously he hasn't thrived the past 3 years under the Mike Martz era.  It's tough to throw it deep when you have no one to throw to, except for Marshall last season.  Matt Forte is the cream of the crop here.  Bush is not exactly a NFL caliber starter.  He probably should be more of a goal line back, but he was only able to score five touchdowns last year.  Who knows exactly how Forte will be used under the new coaching staff this season

2.  Detroit Lions
  1. Reggie Bush #21 (28, 6'0" 203 lbs)
  2. Mikel Leshoure #25 (23, 6'0" 227 lbs)
  3. Joique Bell #35 (26, 5'11" 220 lbs)
  4. Theo Riddick #41 (22, 5'10" 201 lbs)
  5. Steven Miller #40 (22, 5'7" 172 lbs)
  1. Montell Owens #34 (29, 5'10" 225 lbs)
Some people will probably think that I'm crazy for putting the Lions ahead of the Bears at the running back position.  Bush was able to survive the past two seasons getting over 250 touches each season, which solves the durability question that I at least had about him when he was on the Saints.  Leshoure & Bell both almost totaled over 1000 yards each last season from scrimmage.  Montell Owens is a strong fullback that has spent many years on the Jaguars.  They just brought him in and I think that it will be a major improvement and probably a stronger focus on the rushing attack this season.

1.  Minnesota Vikings
  1. Adrian Peterson #28 (28, 6'1" 217 lbs)
  2. Toby Gerhart #32 (26, 6'0" 231 lbs)
  3. Matt Asiata #48 (25, 5'11" 229 lbs)
  4. Joe Banyard #23 (24, 5'11" 205 lbs)
  5. Jerodis Williams #43 (5'11" 185 lbs)
  1. Jerome Felton #42 (26, 6'0" 246 lbs)
  2. Zach Line #48 (23, 6'1" 230 lbs)
Tough to pick against the guy who has over 1200 yards each season (except 2011 when he tore his ACL), and 10 touchdowns each year.  One of my most frustrating NFL draft moments was the 2007 NFL draft.  I had read that if Adrian Peterson had fallen to the seventh pick in the draft (Oakland), that the Packers were going to trade up (probably where I should have known it wasn't true) and draft him before the Vikings could.  Peterson has consistently been one of the league's best running backs since he entered the league.  This would explain why the Vikings are listed as the top group of running backs in the division.  Gerhart isn't a bad backup, but there probably could be better ones, it's just tough to know how good he is since he doesn't play often in their offense.

So that concludes the running back study.  Let's check the updated overall points standings.

1.  Detroit Lions-6
2.  Green Bay Packers-5
2.  Minnesota Vikings-5
4.  Chicago Bears-4

Next one up is going to be the Wide Receivers of the NFC North, so keep your eyes peeled for it.  

Friday, June 7, 2013

It's Time to Honor Brett Favre Again

By: Matt Bove

It has been a full two years since Brett Favre retired from the NFL for good and it now seems like significant progress is being made between Favre and the Packers to get him back in the fold.

In an interview with Joe Buscaglia of 550 WGR Radio in Bufflao, Favre took blame for for the way things ended between him and the Packers in 2008.

"It's over and done with. I was at fault. I feel both sides had a part in it," Favre said."If you could go back, would I or them have done things differently? I'm sure both sides would. But you can't."

This was surprising to hear for many people because Favre is not one to admit his own faults very much. This is exactly the kind of retribution Packers fans have been waiting from him.

Favre also inidcated that he had a good relationship with current quarterback Aaron Rodgers and that he has had conversations with Packers president Mark Murphy. Rodgers and Favre presented an award together at the NFL Honors in New Orleans and have had nothing but good things to say about each other since.

A return to Green Bay seems inevitable with Favre now having conversations with Murphy. It might not happen this season, but it will happen eventually. Both sides seem just about ready for a reconciliation and the fans should be too.

I'm not here to tell people how they should feel, but it's time to forgive and forget. If Rodgers and Murphy- two of the people who were most hurt by Favre's actions- are ready to move on then, the fans should be ready as well.

Favre is one of the most important figures in Packers history and he deserves to be honored with his number retired at Lambeau Field and to go in the Ring of Honor. It is important for him to be a Packer for the rest of his life now and people really need to get over what happened. It is best for all parties involved to let Favre be a Packer again.

Maybe I'm biased because Favre was the reason that this kid who grew up in New Jersey became a Packers fan, but enough time has gone by for the wounds to be healed. The Packers have the best quarterback in the NFL and have won a Super Bowl since Favre left.

Favre gave it his all for 16 years in Green Bay. He delivered the highest of highs and lowest of lows. He played through just about any injury you could imagine and was one of the toughest athletes you will ever see. He broke numerous NFL records with the Packers. He brought the Lombardi trophy back home and made the Packers a relevant franchise again. He will be going into the Hall of Fame as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. There is no doubting what he did for the time he was here.

Unfortunately, there will always be fans out there who will never want Favre back no matter what he says or does, and that is really sad. Life is too short to hold grudges and you will be a much happier person letting go of them. Favre brought the franchise back from the dead in the 1990s and who knows what would have happened if he never came along.

 Favre made his share of mistakes, but people make mistakes all the time. It is human nature to want to prove the people wrong who didn't think that you were good enough anymore. Time to reflect has been good for Favre. He now realizes the errors of his ways and is willing to admit them. Fans should also be able  open their hearts back up to Favre.

Brett Favre was the face of the Green Bay Packers during his 16 year career with them. He deserves to be a Packer for the rest of his life. It's time to embrace him again and for this story to end happily ever after.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rosenhaus Meeting With Packers Today Regarding Shields

By: Matt Bove

According to the Green Bay Press Gazette's Rob Demovsky, Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for cornerback Sam Shields, is meeting with Green Bay Packers officials today to try to get Shields signed prior to this weeks mandatory mini camp.

The Packers gave Shields the second-round tender, meaning he would play for $2.02 million if he signed that  tender. Shields has not yet signed that tender because he is seeking a long term deal from Green Bay. Shields did not participate in OTA's because he is not under contract.

Shields is entering his fourth season in the NFL and he made great strides last season after a difficult 2011 season. With questions surrounding Tramon Williams' health and effectiveness Shields may be the Packers'  best outside cornerback and a lengthy holdout from him would be a bad situation.

Shields was a big play maker for the Packers last season, as he posted three interceptions and was a much more willing tackler, which was a big issue for him in 2011. He has already had huge moments in the postseason for the Packers in his young career. During the 2010 playoff run, Shields made the game clinching interception in the NFC Championship game in Chicago, which put the Packers into Super Bowl XLV. In the Division playoff game in San Francisco last season, Shields intercepted Colin Kaepernick on the first series of the game and returned it for a touchdown. That play should have given the Packers huge momentum to pull of the upset, but they played terribly for the rest of the game.

The Packers do not have a ton of leverage in dealing with Shields at this point. He is only 24 years old and if he repeats the season that he had last year he would command a ton of money on the open market. The Packers are deep in the secondary and Davon House proved that he is a talented player who could step in, but the Packers and Shields know that he is not the same player in coverage as Shields is. House is more more physical, but Shields' great straight line speed more than makes up for that.

Ted Thompson and the Packers should try to lock Shields up long term right now. They would be signing Shields for his prime years and doing it now would likely cost less than it would next offseason. The Packers have some other top players to worry about signing next season including B.J Raji, Morgan Burnett, and James Jones, so locking up Shields right now should be a priority. In today's passing NFL league, Shields' speed and play making ability is extremely valuable.

 Rosenhaus is known for trying to get every last penny for his clients and not settling for anything less, which could make these negotiations difficult. For the Packers' sake, they really should try to get Shields locked up long term as soon as possible.

Update: According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Shields has now signed his one-year, $2.02 million tender. Rob Demovsky tweeted that this could mean Shields and Rosenhaus could still be trying to work out a long term deal.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

2013: Looking around the Division: QB

I had been trying to figure out exactly what to cover on here now that we are a month removed from the draft.  Clearly we have a while before the regular season starts.  We are not remotely close to figuring out who exactly is going to be on the 53 man roster, even though guessing can be fun.  So I want to take a look around the division and the depth charts from Rotoworld, to rank the different portions of each team, and rank them 1-4.  I am going to start with QB, work through the offense, and then finish with the defense.

4.  Minnesota Vikings

Their QB's are:
  1. Christian Ponder #7 (25, 6'2" 225 lbs)
  2. Matt Cassel #16 (31, 6'4" 230 lbs)
  3. McLeod Bethel-Thompson #4 (24, 6'4" 230 lbs)
  4. James Vandenburg #12 (23, 6'3" 212 lbs)
Believe it or not, But Matt Cassel has the top 2 passing yard seasons on this roster.  He also had a 27 TD-7 INT season with Kansas City in 2010.  Which is way better than Ponder's 18 TD-12 INT season last year.  Is anyone really sold that Ponder is going to be their long term solution at Quarterback? If he struggles their would be no surprise that Cassel would come in here and start for them.  Cassel is probably the best backup in the division, which tells you about the rest.  Ponder is the player that is going to need to step it up for the Vikings to have another successful season, because I would doubt that they make the playoffs again this season.

3.  Chicago Bears
  1. Jay Cutler #6 (30, 6'3" 220 lbs)
  2. Josh McCown #12 (33, 6'4" 213 lbs)
  3. Matt Blanchard #4 (24, 6'3" 225 lbs)
Despite Cutler's failure's with the Bears, I have seen him be a good quarterback before.  In his final season at Denver, he threw for over 4500 yards.  I think an inconsistency in coaches and an awful offensive line at Chicago has been a large portion as why he hasn't had the success he wanted in Chicago.  It was a tough decision for who to put dead last in the quarterback pool in our division.  All of them are 1st round draft picks.  All of them have been to the playoffs.  No one is horrible.  But Cutler IMO is slightly above Ponder, mainly because everyone knows Cutler will at least start this year, and has had more success, more playoff wins than Ponder.

2.  Detroit Lions
  1. Matthew Stafford #9 (25, 6'3" 232 lbs)
  2. Shaun Hill #14 (33, 6'3" 220 lbs)
  3. Kellen Moore #17 (23, 6'0" 197 lbs)
  4. Thaddeus Lewis (25, 6'2" 200 lbs)
Stafford has had about 5000 yards 2 seasons in a row.  16 300+ yard passing games in the last 2 seasons.  He had 41 touchdowns in 2011, which dropped to 20 last year.  He is a quarterback that I think most people in the league would want to have.  Probably similar to Philip Rivers earlier in his career.  He would be rated as a top 10 quarterback in the league, which is a difficult position to get to.  Stafford is a top talent, even with the Lions offensive line.  But Stafford clearly doesn't reach the heights of the next level of quarterback.

1.  Green Bay Packers
  1. Aaron Rodgers #12 (29, 6'2" 225 lbs)
  2. Graham Harrell #6 (28, 6'2" 215 lbs)
  3. B.J. Coleman #9 (24, 6'3" 231 lbs)
  4. Matt Brown #1 (22, 6'3" 225 lbs)
Rodgers of course is a top 3 quarterback in the NFL if not the very best.  2011 MVP, Super Bowl MVP.  170 TD-45 INT in 5 years as a starter.  Lowest completion percentage during those seasons is 63.6%, which was 2008.  Rodgers is just a stud.  There isn't too much that we can say about him.  Sometimes he holds onto the ball a little long, but our offensive line doesn't protect him the best either.  It would be my assumption that Coleman passes Harrell this offseason and Brown & Harrell don't make the team.

Total overall points

1. Green Bay Packers-4
2. Detroit Lions-3
3. Chicago Bears-2
4. Minnesota Vikings-1