Friday, February 14, 2014

Titletown Tight Ends ~ Kyle Engman

It’s been an interesting season to say the least for the Packers and their tight end position. Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless both have their contracts expire this offseason and with less than stellar performances from both it may be time for a change.  The tight end position is the only spot on the offense that really needs work, besides a few offensive line positions.  I wanted to review the Packers current tight ends and see where I stood with each one of them.  Even my views surprised me a bit.

Jermichael Finley
Finley has had some great moments with the Packers over his career but I’ve never been completely convinced that Finley was long term option after Donald Lee’s short tenure in Green Bay.  He showed a lot of promise early on but that has vanished completely.  Finley is plagued by inconsistency and poor ball handling skills. Throughout his career, Finley has dropped many key passes and has one of the highest percentages of dropped passes out of all NFL players.  Even if the passes were the main problem for Finley, his chances of being the starter for Green Bay after this year are slim.  Finley sustained a neck injury in October and it appeared to be career ending.  In mid-November, Finley underwent spinal fusion surgery to fuse his C4 and C3 vertebrae.  Despite being in line to make a full recovery, it’s highly doubtful Ted Thompson will resign Finley.  A few years ago Nick Collins sustained an injury similar to Finley’s and he was never cleared by Thompson to play.  The Packers released him the following offseason.  With Sam Shields, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and B.J. Raji all set to hit free agency this offseason, Finley’s priority of being resigned is little to none.  

Andrew Quarless
The Backup to Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, has played with the Packers the past four seasons.  Quarless’s role on the Packers offense is primarily blocking but was called into action this past year when Finley left with is spinal injury mid-season.  He caught 32 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns this season.  The prognosis on Quarless is that he is a great backup tight end but I think that’s all he’ll ever be.  Over the course of the season he never showed a breakout potential and seemed to lack a certain finesse that Finley has.  He was a viable and reliable replacement at the time but nothing more than that.  I’m not sure I could ever see Quarless being the full-time starter in Titletown but anything is possible in Green Bay.  The Packers have to resign him before he has a shot at starting as his rookie contract ends this offseason.

Brandon Bostick
A second year player and undrafted free agent, Bostick probably showed the most promise out of all the tight ends on the roster.  He only caught seven passes this season but some of them went for 19, 22, 24, and 26 yards; unveiling a glimpse at his big play ability.  Bostick unfortunately broke his foot in week 15, ending his interesting 2013 season.  I think Bostick is a long shot for the starting job in Green Bay but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw more of him next season.  

Ryan Taylor
We haven’t really seen much of Ryan Taylor in the Packers pass driven offense.  Like Quarless, Taylor is primarily a blocker and rarely ever gets involved in the passing game.  In three years with the Packers, Taylor has only recorded eight receptions for 45 yards and a lone touchdown.  

Jake Stoneburner
Jake Stoneburner is the fifth and last string tight end for the Packers and probably the coolest last name of any other Packer.  Besides that he’s rarely on the field other than for special teams plays.  I wouldn't be surprised if he’s cut during training camp.

Raymond Webber*
The Packers signed Webber while I was writing this article so I figured I would add a paragraph for the newest Tight End (hence the asterisk).  Webber is an undrafted free agent from Arkansas-Pine Bluff College (Where?) and is actually a converted wide receiver.  He’s bounced around from training squads in Tampa Bay, Seattle, and even played for the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL.  At the Central Arkansas pro day back in 2011, Webber ran a 4.5 second 40 yard dash.  I’ve always been a sucker for fast tight ends and the addition of Webber intrigues me.  The Packers are known for finding players out of nowhere, with somewhat amount of talent, so I’m not going to doubt they see something in Webber.  I get the feeling Webber will pull a “Ryan Grant” on the tight end position in Green Bay.  

I’m curious as to what players Green Bay may be interested though for free agency.  I’ve seen countless articles about Jimmy Graham, the Packers, and free agency.  I can already tell you this is not going to happen.  Ted Thompson has too many holes to fill on defense this year that he’s just not going to have the money for Graham.  Don’t get me wrong though, I daydream about Aaron Rodgers throwing countless touchdowns to Jimmy Graham (in the Super Bowl of course).  But guys like Dennis Pitta or Scott Chandler can offer the same amount of production for about half the cost.  

As for the draft, I’m a little more optimistic about Green Bay drafting a good tight end.  Two caught my eye while watching game footage.  Eric Ebron out of UNC and CJ Fiedorowicz (am I spelling that correctly?) out of Iowa.  Ebron is the top prospect in the draft at the tight end position but isn’t predicted to go until later in the first round.  Fiedorowicz isn’t predicted to be taken until the third or fourth round.  Athletically, Ebron is the top choice.  He has speed that can disengage him from a cornerback.  Fiedorowicz isn’t fast but he uses power to his advantage.  He is fast enough to outrun linebackers in the straightaway.  He has a 6’ 7” 265lb frame and looks like a freight train running down the middle of the field (Jimmy Graham 2.0?).  I like Fiedorowicz for a lot of reasons.  First, he’s not going to cost the Packers their first round pick, which they need dearly to fix problems with their defense.  Second, in a Packers offense that looks to utilize the run more, Fiedorowicz is the best option.  Big frame and already good blocking skills, Fiedorowicz could come into Green Bay and start from day one.  

Predictions for next year? I’d like to see Fiedorowicz come in and be a Jason Witten type player for the Packers.  I’d also like to see improvement from Brandon Bostick.  But the one that is intriguing me the most is Raymond Webber.  I’d like to see Webber start opposite of Fiedorowicz and create a passing attack much like New England’s when they had Hernandez and Gronkowski.

If you want to follow my crazy life and NFL updates, I have this thing called twitter.  I think your suppose to tweet me at @engman22.  Follow me, we can talk football.  Thanks for the read!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Prospects Who Could Be Instant Starters for Green Bay Packers

By Michelle Noyer-Granacki

With so many veterans potentially on their way out the door unless the Packers can offer them competitive contracts, which will limit their ability to acquire top-notch outside free agents, the Green Bay Packers are going to need to find some Week 1 contributors in the high rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.

The following players, chosen based on the Packers' highest-demonstrated areas of need—safety, defensive tackle and linebacker—have the raw talent and the track record to start in the season opener in 2014 but could be selected up through the third round.

Ted Thompson drafts for value, and while obvious choices like free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will appear in this list, Thompson may be able to find a valuable player like strong safety Deone Bucannon later in the second round, allowing him to fill Green Bay's defensive line need in the first round.

Any of the following players could produce for the Packers starting as early as Week 1 in 2014.

The one position at which the Packers could make an upgrade this offseason and immediately improve the entire defense is safety.

Green Bay has holes to fill all over the field on defense, including on the defensive line and at inside linebacker. But adding a playmaking safety like Clinton-Dix could help plug up the Packers' No. 24 pass defense in 2013.

The safety group did not produce a single interception in 2013 for the first time in decades. Clinton-Dix is skilled at anticipating the pass by reading the quarterback and getting into position to make plays on the ball. He had seven interceptions in the last two seasons at Alabama, which was tied for the most in the SEC.

Though Rob Rang of notes that Clinton-Dix isn't a consistently physical tackler, he offers major upside in terms of creating plays in the open field. If the Packers find him still on the board at No. 21 overall, he would be a definite Week 1 starter.

If Clinton-Dix is off the board by the Packers' 21st pick and Thompson selects Calvin Pryor there instead, Green Bay could end up better off for it.'s Daniel Jeremiah is one of many analysts who rank Pryor ahead of Clinton-Dix at free safety.

What does Pryor offer as an instant starter that Clinton-Dix does not? He's very possibly a more complete safety who would not take as long to adjust his tackling technique after moving to the pros, already demonstrating an ability in his film to tackle forcefully.

The hard-hitting safety, according to's draft analysis, "might be the most physical football player in the entire draft." He offers the double benefit of physical coverage in addition to having a nose for the ball and the ability to create turnovers for the defense.

Pryor is a player who could come out strong in Week 1 and, within a few weeks, set Green Bay's pass defense back on the right track in 2014 by lowering the incidences of missed tackles and increasing the turnover differential.
Whichever defensive lineman the Packers select in the 2014 NFL draft—and it's a virtual certainty they will select one—will need to be ready to start in Week 1. Ra'Shede Hageman, however, will be more ready than most.

With four defensive linemen—B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and C.J. Wilson—set to become unrestricted free agents in a few weeks, the Packers will have some huge gaps to fill on the line. At 6'6" and 311 pounds, Hageman's sheer physical presence alone is enough to make an impact instantly for the Packers, but he combines it with rare speed and agility.

There's no doubt Hageman would excel as a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme, but he'd also be a great fit at 3-technique in Green Bay's 3-4 scheme from Week 1. He's a disruptive player who can collapse the pocket, and with some discipline in the Packers' scheme, a potential issue with penalties can be avoided.

The top-ranked linebacker in the 2014 draft, C.J. Mosley is likely to be on the board by the time the Packers select with the 21st overall pick.

Will Thompson value the inside linebacker spot so highly? Probably not if Clinton-Dix is still on the board, especially given that the Packers have two starters in A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. But that combination wasn't perfect in 2014, and if Thompson wants to draft for value in the first round, he'll have a hard time passing Mosley up.

NFL personnel executives speaking to's Daniel Jeremiah compared Mosley to NaVorro Bowman, and if in his professional career he can reach Bowman's level of productivity, he would be a game changer for Green Bay's front seven.

Certainly, at least, he is a player who could take starting snaps in Week 1 and make a measurable impact.

Mosley shows up on the stat sheet, which quells any concerns that he would have a diminished role in a 3-4 defense. Playing as the starting weak-side linebacker for Alabama, he had seven tackles for a loss, four sacks and two interceptions, displaying the ability to get after the quarterback and the run alike that the Packers needed in 2013.

There's also the intriguing possibility that Mosley could play on the outside opposite Matthews, bolstering a pass rush that has been lacking due to Nick Perry's ill-timed injuries.

As long as there are no lingering medical concerns after he suffered a torn meniscus in 2013, Louis Nix could be a Week 1 starter for the Packers out of need as much as for the level of his play, due to the possible depletion of the defensive line in free agency this offseason.

The 340-pound Nix has struggled with his weight, but's Dane Brugler, who has the Packers taking Nix at No. 21 in his mock, notes that he carries his weight naturally and is exceptionally light on his feet.

Having been compared to the Packers' own Raji, Nix could step in and replace him if Green Bay elects not to re-sign him this offseason. Regardless of his lack of production since moving from nose tackle in 2011 and his highly criticized rejection of the Packers' initial $8 million offer, Raji is still a key player in Green Bay's scheme, and replacing him won't be easy.

Nix's athleticism and agility, combined with his size and power, make him a good option to do just that. 

If the lack of turnover opportunities was the Packers' biggest issue on defense in 2013—and it arguably was, aside from missed tackles—Bucannon could be Green Bay's solution starting in the season opener.

The top-ranked strong safety in the draft, Bucannon nonetheless will likely still be on the board by Green Bay's pick in Round 2, and selecting him there after taking a defensive tackle in the first is probably the Packers' best bet for ultimate value out of their high-round picks.

The 215-pounder delivers hard hits, but he can also create opportunities for takeaways in the secondary. Bucannon tied for the lead in interceptions in the Pac-12 in 2013, with six...but he also led the conference in total tackles, with 114.

That kind of versatility is precisely what the Packers need out of a struggling safety group that failed to consistently take the correct angle on tackles and to produce interceptions in 2013.

Even though he could go in the second or even the third round, Bucannon will be an instant contributor in the NFL.

Thompson won't overlook Kyle Van Noy for his slightly underwhelming frame, though many NFL executives may. Their loss would be the Packers' gain if Thompson can walk away from the first two rounds with Van Noy.

Van Noy could be an excellent pairing with Clay Matthews on the outside, able to match Matthews' ability to diagnose plays and his tenacity in pursuit. And he produces, despite his lack of physicality; he had 13 sacks in his junior year alone and finished his career at BYU with 26.

That BYU already employs a 3-4 base defense is another compelling reason why Van Noy could easily transition to the Packers' scheme and become a Week 1 starter.

Above all, the Packers need a disruptive force to complement Matthews on the outside, and Van Noy could be it, without necessarily commanding a first-round pick. Even if the Packers keep Perry on the other side for another year, wanting to see what he can do when he's fully healthy, Green Bay got into serious trouble with lack of depth at outside linebacker in 2013.

Both his demonstrated play in his film and his stats, including 62 tackles for loss and 11 forced fumbles, not to mention a handful of interceptions in his last three years at BYU, make Van Noy a strong second-round target for Green Bay.

Michelle Noyer-Granacki is a featured columnist for bleacher report, She also works in acquisitions at the sports publisher Triumph Books and spends her Saturdays logging college football games at the Big Ten Network studios in Chicago.
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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Off Season Blueprint: Fixing the Pack

By Terranimal PackerAddicts Draft Chief

Here is a two part post from our Forum  outlining an off season blue print to fix the packers :

Part 1

"If not improving, others will pass you by. Standing pat is not an option."

In order to improve, one must take a long, hard impartial look at not only the team and coaches, but also at one's own self. Who in this case is GM/Vice President Ted Thompson.

Another season finished that saw GB go one and out in the play-offs. At the same time NE made it to the AFC Championship game.

Many are probably wondering what is the point of comparing these 2 teams?

Well both have one the NFL's best franchise QBs locked in in big salary cap deals. The Pack have the youngest team and the Pats have the second youngest team. Also one would be hard pressed to find any teams that have suffered more serious injuries to starters then these two teams did. Yet again one was one and done and the other went to the Championship game and was in it until they lost their Shut-Down Corner.

Many wish to blame GB's short comings on DC Dom Capers and DB Bush on the 9ers final series. However when breaking the play, it showed otherwise. Capers actually made the perfect call. The problem was execution. In breaking it down DL Daniels and OLB Mulumba were to do a stunt. That is they were to criss cross. But as they attempted to, they ran into each other and got caught inside, leaving the outside lane open. Bush did was he was suppose to by rushing the passer and then jumping up to block the pass. When that broke down, an injured Mulumba couldn't make the play. He shouldn't have even been on the field but we were down to one healthy OLB at that point.

Really that busted up play summed up the team: A lack of play makers on both sides of the ball. And yes this includes the offense as well. Because any time your defense holds a team to under 30 points we should win. More on players in a minute.

Instead of questioning Capers, who maybe over-achieved with what he had to work with, it is McCarthy who should be questioned on the offensive play calling side of the ball. Ever since we lost OC Philbin to the Phins, this offense hasn't been the same deadly offense it once was. Also of note seems to be at times McCarthy gets out coached when he goes up against second generation coaches like Belichick and Harbaugh. Yet McCarthy has one of the NFL's best QBs in Rodgers and what looks like one of the NFL's elite RB on the rise in Lacy.

So in a tight game with time running out why wouldn't one put the ball into one of the the 2 best play maker's hands? Cobb is a dynamic multi-weapon but hadn't run the ball since returning from a broken leg and who knows if he was even playing at 100%? The play didn't fool anyone and seemed ill advised to call at that point of the game and location on the field. Red zone efficiency has been a problem all season long this year.

Another question is why isn't the screen game used more? It was a staple of GB for many years and another tool to slow down the pass rush. Rodgers was constantly under pressure and had no running lanes and a screen game could have helped him.

Which brings me back to play makers. Many times when Rodgers went back to throw the ball the WRs weren't open. It's easy to say that it's because we didn't have Finley. But this team was w/o Finley the year we won the Super Bowl. So what's the difference? The year we won the SB, we had a legit #1 Go-To WR in Jennings. This team currently doesn't have a bonafied  #1 WR. Both Jones and Boykin were non factors in the final 2 games. Cobb is a nice multi-weapon, but both Nelson and Cobb are number 2 WR types.

This brings us to the head man in charge- Ted Thompson. He's in charge of bringing in players that are a fit for both the offensive and defensive schemes. His approach is of course Draft and Develop. Ideally this is what every team would like to do and Thompson is one of the best at it. The problem is that teams are taxed for success in the NFL. That is, the better your team does the lower your team picks in each round. It also makes each pick that much more important and leaves little room for error. But everyone knows that drafting is far from an exact science. Then add in losing players to free agency and unfortunate career ending injuries, and this becomes an over-whelming task.

Another question- What did all 4 teams in the Championship games have in common? They all used free agency. The 9ers and Seahawks signed both bargain free agents and big salary free agents thanks to having cheap starting QBs, that will catch up to them really soon. But both the Pats and Broncos have big salary franchise QBs and yet signed free agents. All 4 teams have also blended youth players with seasoned vets. And in the Pat's case, Belichick has also rolled the dice at times on good players with some character questions and got them on the cheap.

McCarthy at season's end admitted that due to injuries that young players were pressed into action. Translation- Players that weren't ready had to play.

Thompson for all his good traits has his staunch hard line on not using free agency and not having players over 30

Free agency can work if used correctly. Where most teams mess up is being desperate and get caught up paying good players star-like salaries or over-paying older players as if they were still the players they were in their prime.

Another issue is the elite players in their prime don't become free agents too often and when they do, they cost a lot. But if it fills a big need for a lost player and the draft has been unable to replace, then a team needs to do what it can to get the player. Back to this later on....

The current team has roughly a 1/3 of it's players due new deals. There's no way the team can keep everyone and no way the draft can replace everyone and fill every hole. Also drafting and reaching for need verses drafting best available player that also fills a need has been proven a bad way to go.

Compounding issues has been Thompson's recent drafts. Think of Thompson's 1st round picks and two stand outs come to mind: QB Aaron Rodgers and OLB Clay Matthews. Dare you to name another hit from round one. Justin Harrell? Injuries and out of football. DL Raji? Been on the decline the last few years. ILB Hawk? Has matured into a solid but not special player that one would expect for a top 5 pick. OT Sherrod? Due to injuries hasn't done anything and even before injuries was being beaten out by Newhouse. Bulaga? Drafted to replace Clifton at LT and started at RT for an injured Tauscher. Has been on IR the last two seasons. OLB Perry? A converted DE that has also gone through injuries and yet proven to be the guy opposite of Matthews. DL Datone Jones? Was a role player/back up and book is still out on him. Though players taken in round one are suppose to be starters and provide impact.

Then there's the 2012 draft. What does it say when the best player from it is a later round, under-sized, over-achiever? (Daniels) Already covered Perry. @nd round pick DL Worthy was out all year after getting hurt his rookie year. Hayward is a star on the rise, but he too got injured and missed most of the year. The Safety of the future, McMillian was so bad he got cut half way through the season.

More food for thought: What does it say about drafting and the D-Line when the best player and leader of them is a player that was out of football the last 3 years??? (Jolly)

But this isn't a slam the Pack or knee jerk fan reaction and everyone must go piece. It's a realistic look at the team and what can be done to return the Pack to the top. In order to move forward, one has to know where they were, where they are at, and what it takes to move forward.

In Part two (hopefully up tomorrow night) will have the true Blue Print to make this team a Super Bowl contender once again. :)

Part 2 :

Free Agency:

One thing Thompson has done is hold on to a player too long. Kampman and Flynn are two examples of players that stayed a year too long and the Pack didn't trade them at their max value and get the most they could for them and instead got whatever the NFL decided to give us for a comp pick.

Right now the Pack find themselves in that position again. They have a young secondary that is deep in Corners. Casey Hayward was in consideration for Defensive Rookie of the Year last season but got hurt and missed most of this year. His play was so good that the Pack decided to let an aging Charles Woodson go. Sam Shields was an undrafted free agent that seems to have developed into the team's best Corner and is due a new deal.  Then there is House and Hybrid Hyde behind them. Plus we have Nixon and some other Corners on the roster. Add in that Thompson has a knack for finding good Corners and this is a deep draft for Corners, so it would appear this is the time to trade Tramon Williams and get the most for him.

Shields is going to get his money either with us or another team, but would prefer it be with us. But this team needs a top notch Safety badly. Safety is a key position to making Capers' defense work. However, Safety seems to be a position when drafted, takes 2-4 years to see the payback.

So since it's so hard to find a good one and takes a lot of luck in the draft, I would go against the grain for once and dip into free agency and pay the price to get one. There are 3 of them out there imo. Meanwhile Thompson has signed guys and drafted guys and still hasn't been able to find the replacement for Collins. So this is the year to break down and get one via free agency. Currently on a team with many needs, have Safety as the number 1 need.

Most have the Jairus Bryd 5-10 200 as the top Safety and he will no doubt get the most money if not franchised. But I do have some durability concerns on him.

TJ Ward is right there too at 5-10 200 and is a very solid player in both run and pass.

Chris Coleman 6-1 214 is the one I lean towards. For one think he will be available, two is a ball hawk in coverage, three is a bit bigger than the other two, and four think he might be had for a little bit less than Ward and Byrd.  But would be happy with any of these three guys.

As for prioritizing our own big free agents, would try to re-sign Pickett, Jolly, EDS, Kuhn, and Quarless. (already covered Shields) Would let Raji, Neal, Jones, and Finley all test free agency waters.

Pickett though getting older, is still playing at a high level. The team is expecting big things out of Daniels next year and we have Worthy coming back, and Boyd who was coming on at season's end returning.

Jolly was our best run stopper and according to players was a real team leader.

Quarless is a Packer type player. Have seen a few times and have come away impressed by him each time. He seemed to be returning to form near season's end and shouldn't break the bank like Finley might. Plus Quarless takes pride in and is our best blocking TE. Important when thinking of protecting number 12.

Kuhn, as FBs seem to be a dying breed, probably has more value to the Pack then to other teams. Assignment sure, he is one of the best 3rd down blockers in the game.....again important when protecting Rodgers.

EDS is a tough and gritty Center that can also fill in at Guard. He seemed to be getting better as the season went along and has familiarity with the system and Rodgers.


Already covered Safety as number 1 need and we don't go get one in free agency, will be number one priority in the draft. But signing a free agent Safety would give us some flexibility for the draft. After Safety one could make an argument for any other position on the team outside of QB, RB, and CB. This team could use a WR, TE, ILB, OLB, and DL/OL depth.

Went through Thompson's first rounds in his time here. So unless a special player is there, could see trading down or out of round one this year for either more picks, a first in 2015 and a pick this year. This draft has a record number of underclassmen and should be a deep draft with quality players in later rounds and some going undrafted. Thompson has had pretty good luck getting WRs and TEs in rounds two and three. Also he might be the best or one of the best with finding players that go undrafted and end up players for us.

WR- The NFL goes through trends. Watching the Championship games, am seeing a return back to Press/Bump man coverage with corners being more physical and not getting flagged. Watching the Seahawks Richard Sherman and can't help but be reminded of seeing a bigger version of Al Harris. While the trend across the league has been to go with smaller speed types, still prefer the WRs 6-2 or bigger w/ hands, instinctive, physical, and maybe more quick then fast off the line and out of their breaks. (translation: short shuttle more important than blazing 40 time)

This is a good draft to get one of these types with players like Penn St Robinson, Vandy's Matthews, Rutgers' Coleman, UW's Abberderis, just to name a few. Combine and Pro Days will be huge for these bigger WR types to see if they have enough quickness/speed for the NFL level.

TE: Trend has been for tall, basketball types that are an over-sized WR. That's all good and well, but if they don't have reliable hands, a willingness to block and toughness then they are one-dimensional. Would rather have a TE that is a 3 down type in the mold of a Jason Whitten/ Mark Churmura that has a 40 time in the 4.6 range or better.

Again quickness off the line and out of their breaks being more important with reliable hands, instinctive and being physical. This type of of TE keeps defenses honest as they don't know whether the TE will stay in to block or release and go out. A good TE is not only a safety valve for the QB, but clears out the short and intermediate areas of the field and is a red zone target. Pairing this type of TE with Quarless would not only help the running game, but offer more options in the passing game other than going 3,4, and 5 WR out or teams knowing to always look for the TE to be going out (like Finley who was used as a WR mainly). Also teams would have to account/guess on whether both TEs stay in, both go out, or which one goes. This team had troubles moving the chains on 3rd down, getting WRs open, and scoring in the red zone. Having a bigger TE like this along with a bonafied running game w/Lacy and a mobile QB in Rodgers, would make this Offense deadly again and be an answer to the Cover 2. Like Safety is top overall need, have this type of TE (unless a Go-To WR falls to us) as top offensive need.

ILB: In Packer circles there is talk how they miss the play, toughness, attitude, and leadership Desmond Bishop had. We also don't seem to have an ILB that can cover TEs and RBs, though signing a top notch Safety might help some of this out. But Jones, Lattimore, and Hawk all have had their share of troubles trying to cover. So we could use another thumper.

OLB: Struck gold in Matthews and have struck out ever since. So bad that we moved situational rusher Neal from DE to OLB. Drafting and moving DEs ro OLB has been a crapshoot at best. The good news is the team doesn't have to spend a 1st round pick to get one. Guys have been found from round one through being undrafted.

Contingency plan? If unable to shore up the LBer corps, Capers should follow the Pats coach Belichick's lead and be more flexible using versions of the 4-3. IMO both Perry and Neal would be more effective if they were used in a form of the Elephant D with their hand in the dirt. Matthews is our best and complete LBer that is good in all 3 phases of run, pass, pass rushing. In this form of the D, he could go back to  contain, blitz or cover again.

O-Line: A change has been happening around the NFL. Studies have been done in recent times. It used to be in Draft Theories that number 1 is getting the franchise QB and number 2 was getting the stud LT to protect the franchise QB. A stud LT isn't easy to find and the best odds are still in round 1 and 2 of the draft with teams often trying to trade up and tripping over each other for who they feel is an elite one at the top of the draft. It becomes a feeding frenzy and guys fly off the big board.

But what is interesting is that for every Joe Thomas, there are more busts then guys that became standouts. Also a stud LT costs a lot when they become free agents and are a big cap hit. With either a pocket passer w/ a quick release like Peyton or mobile QBs, the need for a stud LT is less needed.

The Pack still have Sherrod, with Bulaga expected back, and Newhouse expected to be gone. Bakhtiari graded out well and many think Barclay would make a better Guard and be our Swing OT. EDS is solid and most likely back and word is the team is high in Tretter. Plus we have hold overs Van Roten and Lane Taylor. No doubt Thompson always seems to take an OT every draft somewhere in it, but don't have OL rated high, especially when Bulaga returns, and can only see adding a body.

D-Line: pretty much covered this in the free agency section and if things go like what I laid out in that scenario, we will be in the market for another player. Think any way one slices it we will need to get one and most likely that one is a NT. Lucky this is a deep draft and also a deep free agent class so Thompson won't have to press or reach for a guy.

This has all been about improving the Pack to restore them as a Super Contender once again.  So far have covered subtle changes in play-calling on both sides of the ball, Thompson and free agency, and the draft. That leaves one area left.....injuries.

The NFL overall saw a rise in season ending leg/knee injuries this past season after the rule changes to avoid head injuries. Just what can be done is what the Competition Committee will be looking at.

But even so, the Pack have had more then their fair share of injuries from the 2010 year on. Word is that they as a staff will evaluate each injury, the strength and conditioning and see if anything can be changed or tweaked to lessen them.

This has to be a serious area of concern for the team. Of injuries are a part of the game, but the Pack have had more of them then most teams and we play on grass. So whether is because of players drafted had some medical questions, the way players play on the field, strength and conditioning, just bad luck, or some combination, something obviously needs to change to lessen these and injuries have led to more losses then everything else combined the last 3 seasons.

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