Friday, May 30, 2014

Observations of a Railbird

May 29, 2014 by Ted Verges

               O.K., I’ll admit it; I was excited to attend my first Packer practice of the season.  There are many issues to check out ranging from the free agents to the rookies to improvement of the young veterans to the new defensive scheme. As excited as I was going to practice, I was even more excited after practice based on what I had just seen.

               I think Edgar Bennett must live a charmed life based on the amount of talent he has at his position. The wide receiver group is very good and very deep.  Nelson and Cobb are just outstanding and are on the same wavelength as Rodgers.  But what caught my attention was the two rookie receivers, Abbredaris and Janis. Janis is bigger than Abbredaris, particularly in the chest and shoulders. Abbredaris has a little more explosive speed. They both run the 40 in about 4.5, but I’m sure Abbredaris is faster in takeoff speed.   Both guys were worked mostly at a split end position although Abbredaris got some work in the slot; both caught everything thrown their way; both demonstrated good run after the catch ability; both scored touchdowns; both played with considerable poise, and neither required corrective coaching.  Finally, both got some special teams work: Janis as a gunner on the punt team, and Abbredaris as a punt returner.

               Let me share some action I observed involving Abbredaris.  He scored two touchdowns on punt returns.  We were having trouble getting anything done with other guys returning punts. Then they sent Abbredaris back there. The first time he was up, he took it to the house. He started right and burst back up the middle and scored untouched.  He also took his second rep back for a touchdown. Again, it was up the middle with an impressive burst.  He also made two noteworthy plays as a receiver. 

On one particular play, Abbredaris was lined up wide right as a split end.  At the snap, the defense blitzed the two inside linebackers in a cross charge into the “A” gaps. Flynn saw it and threw hot into the general direction of Abbredaris.  Abbredaris also read it, cut his route off, and turned it into a stop. He caught the ball and turned up field for a 20-yard gain.  It was an impressive play for a veteran to say nothing of a rookie, mid-level draft choice in his second practice. On another play Abbredaris was lined up in the slot on the right side.  He ran a post – corner route that got him wide open.  It was the type of double move that he does so well.

               Davante Adams was not at practice today, but some other receivers also had good practices.  Boykin made some tough catches usually of a short nature. He is a physical presence on the field.  Kevin Dorsey looked good, as did Myles White.  There’s going to be some tough decisions to be made at the wide receiver position.

               One of the plays that got a big reaction from the spectators, and teammates, was an impressive catch and run by Colt Lyerla. He was lined up tight right, ran a post, had to stretch out and made a great hands catch and immediately avoided the other safety who was closing in for the hit. He took it the length of the field for a TD.  Not only did the crowd respond, but also so did his teammates.  He got lots of attention when he got back to the offensive group, and he had a huge smile on his face. I think the guys like him and are rooting for him to make it.  He is a big guy who can really move.  The other new tight end, Richard Rodgers, didn’t do much today, but he did look good getting off the bus. He was physically impressive.  He looked like he would have been a nice 5th or 6th round pick (Just had to get that comment in there!).

               Another play that earned cheers from the crowd was a screen pass right to Lacy.  He caught the ball in stride, made a couple nice cuts, and outran the pursuit. I didn’t know he had that kind of speed and open field ability.  Again, he got a great reception from his offensive teammates.  He appeared to be very well liked.

               Some more random observations were:

               I was pleased with the work of Derek Sherrod.  He showed no signs of his injury. He did everything full go. I root for him because he’s had to overcome so much.

               When you fill out your final roster predictions, don’t forget the name of DuJuan Harris at running back.   The man is so very, very quick. He was impressive.

               They had Hyde at safety and he worked with the first team defense.  I spent considerable time watching Clinton-Dix when he was in there.  I couldn’t help but notice his good use of angles.  He almost always arrived at the ball at the same moment as the receiver. He looks like a clone of Burnett . . . same height and weight.

               Tretter was starting center, and I watched him quite a bit. I wanted to see if he could execute a reach block.  He did.  All his snaps were good and he is quick, and poised.  I also focused on Linsey when he was in at center.  He missed his reach block and followed it up by committing another error.  When you miss that block you should do one of two things: follow your man and block him past the hole or turn back and pick off the first opposite color jersey that shows from the backside. He did neither. He stood there and showed anger at himself. But, the guy is physically impressive with huge arms.

               BJ has gained weight, which surprised me. It was interesting to focus on him, as he seems to enjoy the game and his fellow teammates.  He was having fun.

               Bakhtiari looked to have put on some good weight around his middle, and he didn’t lose any foot quickness.

               Peppers played outside linebacker and he worked both sides. I never saw him drop into coverage.   He usually was on the split end side and often ran down the ball carrier when running to the opposite side.  Peppers is really an imposing figure on the field.

               Matthews and Perry were on the field but didn’t participate in any action. Worthy and Davante Adams were not at practice. I’m not sure why.

               I really enjoyed this practice and what I observed.  But, there’s so much more I want to see, so the old Railbird will be at his perch quite often in the coming days. I hope you’ll enjoy these reports.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Post Draft Thoughts: Offense

There was a lot of curiosity leading up to the draft.  I know that most Packers fans like myself were thinking about having both a TE and WR in rounds 2 and 3.  I know that those same fans were frustrated and saddened when the top 4 TE went in round 2 right before the Packers selection, because I think there would have been a chance for the Packers to select a top TE then, like Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jace Amaro, or Troy Niklas even, but they were all gone.  We can sit here and digress about that, but instead I will take some time to focus on exactly who the Packers have taken and what kind of potential there could be in those players.  Obviously I know that this was not a perfect draft, but I think I want to take a look at some facts about who we've taken and imagine a best and worst case scenario for each player.

2nd Round--Davante Adams WR Fresno State 6'1" 212 lbs (Will wear #17 for the Packers)

Facts:  Davante Adams played 2 seasons at Fresno State, and had a total of 233 catches, 3031 yards, and 38 TD's.  I know that it's the Mountain West, but those numbers are impressive even on video games.  His top skill at the combine is his vertical leap, with a leap of 39.5", which is better than Julio Jones (38.5"), same as Emmanuel Sanders (39.5"), better than Kenny Britt (37.0"), Hakeem Nicks (36.0"), Greg Jennings (36.5"), and Brandon Marshall (37.0").  He did win the Paul Warfield Trophy last season, awarded to the nation's top WR.  Also, he is currently 21 years old, which means he could be around for quite some time.  He beat Sammy Watkins at the 3 cone drill and the 20 yard shuttle.

Best Case:  Davante Adams gets some solid playing time this year and ends up in red zone packages where Rodgers learns to trust him for his ability to outleap the cornerback, scoring the game winning TD in the first game by outleaping Richard Sherman (who only has a 38" vertical), to a end zone lob pass.  He gets the Packers a 2nd consecutive ROY by putting up a season with 75 catches, 1,100 yards, and 10 TD.  Putting up even better numbers than Keenan Allen did last year for the Chargers.  He ends up becoming the 2nd WR for the Packers behind Jordy Nelson and by the end of his career has the career reception record from Donald Driver, having 850 total catches for his career.

Worst Case:  Adams has trouble separating from NFL corners and has trouble getting himself on the field with the logjam of WR that the Packers currently have.  His 9" hands have trouble catching the Rodgers' rockets that are flying down the field to him.  Packers cut him after 2 seasons considering the worst second round pick they have spent since Bryan Brohm.

5th Round--Jared Abbrederis WR Wisconsin 6'1" 195 lbs (Will Wear #84 for the Packers)

Facts:  Abbrederis has been getting open for Wisconsin QB's for several years now.  He had a better 3 cone drill than Martavis Bryant, had a 4.5 40 yard dash.  Tied Wisconsin record with 202 catches.  2nd in school history with 3140 yards and 23 TD's.  He has had previous concussion problems and only did 4 bench press reps.  I'm worried about his strength, because is he going to become strong enough to block any cornerbacks on a screen pass?  Will he be able to get off the line if defense does any press coverage on him?  I know that in general Wisconsin fans and Packer fans go together, so there is probably no one we would like to have succeed more than Jared.  And I would like to officially state that any time he catches a pass from Rodgers, the official tweet will be, "He went to Jared."

Best Case:  Jared stays healthy with the Aaron Rodgers helmet that is being used to help avoid concussions in the future.  He works in the slot across from Randall Cobb as they carve up linebackers and safeties in zone coverage up the middle.  This year he goes out and gets 40 catches, 550 yards, and 7 TD.  Being an old HS quarterback he even plays a wildcat role for us and goes into a large special teams role that was held by Jarrett Bush for the last few years.  He is a valuable part of a successful team and is proud to be with his hometown dream roster.

Worst Case:  Jared gets hurt in one of the first preseason games and they figure out that he had a few more concussions in college than they had previously let on.  He has another head injury and the Packers put him on the PUP list for the rest of his rookie season.  After a rough training camp in year 2 then the Packers decide that they need to cut their losses.

7th Round--Jeff Janis WR Saginaw Valley State 6'3" 219 lbs (Will Wear #83 for the Packers)

Facts:  Jeff Janis has the best measurables of all the WR that we have drafted this year, Best 40 (4.42 sec), Best bench press (20 reps), not the best vert (37.5), tied Adams for broad jump (123), Best 3 cone (6.64 sec), best 20 yard shuttle (3.98 sec).  Last year he had 83 catches, 1572 yards, and 14 TD.  The possible problems that come with Janis are all developmental.  He doesn't have firm route running ability, he played against 2nd level competition in DII.  This is most certainly a boom or bust pick.

Best Case:  Janis figures everything out and is not fazed by the higher level of competition in the NFL.  He takes all the advice from the coaches and soaks it in.  Ends up being a high caliber WR for the Packers for years to come.

Worst Case:  Janis simply can't figure everything out.  He has all the ability and none of the mental game needed to get him on the field.  Even Myles White ends up beating him out and we try to stick him on the PS but instead he signs with the Vikings.

3rd Round--Richard Rodgers TE California 6'4" 257 lbs (Will Wear #89 for the Packers)

Facts:  I realize that many people are surprised by the pick of Rodgers in round 3, especially after the top 5 TE's had been taken.  Looking at measureables, he did out perform both Niklas in the 3 cone drill and 20 yard shuttle.  I keep reading that Rodgers has a good first step, to either start his route or start on a block.  Averaged 15.6 YPC during his Junior season, and had 39 catches for 608 yards.  He did this after transitioning into a new offense and missing all of spring practice, and lowering his weight by 30 pounds to be more of an interior receiver instead of a tight end.

Best Case:  The coaches are able to polish some better catching skills out of Richard, making the Rodgers to Rodgers connection one with promise.  He plays in our goal line package and in our inverted wishbone back by John Kuhn.  He gets about 25 catches for 250 yards and 3 TD during his rookie season.  He continues to develop and becomes one of the best tight ends in Packer history, which really isn't saying all that much.

Worst Case:  Rodgers simply is unable to get his hands around the balls that Rodgers sends his way.  He misses a critical block in the deciding game against the Chicago Bears, and the Packers miss the playoffs in the first time in years.  Rodgers gets cut from the team before his second season.

5th Round--Corey Linsley C Ohio State 6'3" 296 lbs (Will Wear #63 for the Packers)

Facts: He was on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy (Best Center).  He was a backup OL until Urban Meyer moved him to C during his first season at coach.  He was named all First Big Ten team Center during his Senior year.  I did read that he was suspended for violating Team Rules during his Sophmore season, but that was his only trouble with the team.  He was responsible for all of the blocking assignments for the team.  He did 36 reps on the bench press at the combine, which was better than Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan, Jake Matthews, and basically everyone except Russell Bodine from this season.

Best Case:  Beats out JC Tretter and Garth Gerhart to be the new member of the OL between Sitton and Lang.  Starts all 16 games and does an excellent job calling out line assignments against our opponents.  Lacy runs for 1300 yards, Rodgers gets sacked the fewest amount of times during a season in his career with 26, and doesn't get hurt at all during the season either.

Worst Case:  Has an ankle injury during training camp.  JC Tretter plays like a stud all season long instead.  Basically becomes a career backup, one offseason becomes unmotivated and puts on too much weight.

No matter what happens with the team, I'm certain that the Packers will keep drafting and developing talent for our team.  Personally, I want everyone to meet their potential best case scenario, but I know that people balance between each scenario when it comes to each individual player.  Anyway, we still have to wait another 113 days before they take on the Seahawks in the season opener.  September 4th cannot get here soon enough.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

2014 NFL Draft: Full 1st and all Packers selections

Well, I've been looking at mocks for a long time now.  Here's my full first round with analysis and every Packers pick.

1.  Houston Texans--Jadeveon Clowney DE South Carolina

Highly rated out of High School, and just the same out of college.  I don't think that anyone will trade up to number one.  He is the premier player in this draft class.  The Texans will take a Quarterback later, since all of them have been dropping the last month.  Clowney just makes the most sense here. 

2.  St. Louis Rams--Greg Robinson OT Auburn

Played great during the run to the National title.  Big guy who can just move people.  The Rams have been trying to find a great tackle for years it seems like, but kept drafting the wrong people, aka Jason Smith.  Now they finally make up for their mistake. 

3.  Jacksonville Jaguars--Khalil Mack DE Buffalo

I am glad that the Jaguars didn't take Dion Jordan last year, since it didn't seem like he did much last year for Miami.  Mack is supposedly in the same discussion as Clowney, but I find that hard to believe.  Anyway, he played great against Ohio State when he faced better talent last year, and the Jaguars need to find more people to rush the passer.  Mack can do just that for them. 

4.  Cleveland Browns--Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M

This is not the first time in recent years that the Browns have had 2 first round picks.  Last time they took Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden, neither of which are on the team, and they could have drafted Ryan Tannehill at least with their higher pick.  I think the Browns just need to change their course from 2 years ago, and they are going to not let their top QB go past them here.

5.  TRADE  Buffalo Bills--Sammy Watkins WR Clemson

Buffalo gives up 9, 41, and 109.  Oakland gives up 5 and 67.  Oakland currently only has 5 picks in the top 200 of this draft.  It goes without saying that they could use several quality players.  Buffalo goes crazy like they sometimes do and trade up for Watkins, which isn't as bad as it could be.  Buffalo needs more production from their WR and Watkins would change the face of that division. 

6.  Atlanta Falcons--Jake Matthews OT Texas A&M

I remember Matthews was projected high in the 2013 draft before he decided to stay at college for another year.  I think that he is a great fit for the Falcons since Matt Ryan got sacked 8 times against the Panthers last year.  With the Panthers defense, Rob Ryan defense, and Lovie Smith now being the head coach for the Bucs, they need even more pass protection.

7.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers--Mike Evans WR Texas A&M

The Bucs have finally acquired a top WR when they got VJax from the Chargers.  And they had a pretty good compliment with Mike Williams, but then they oddly traded him away this offseason.  Evans gives them a different Mike at the WR position, and they need more weapons for McCown to play remotely decent at QB.

8.  Minnesota Vikings--Blake Bortles QB Central Florida

The Vikings QB situation was even worse than the Packers QB situation last year.  Ponder, Freeman, and Cassel were the 3 way competition of awfulness that they put in last year.  The way to fix this is to draft a QB high, and make him the opening day starter.  Bortles has a lot of upside, and the new regime needs a QB to be their guy.

9.  Oakland Raiders--Taylor Lewan OT Michigan

Lewan was great at Michigan, and the Raiders had an awful time with the Roger Saffold situation.  Not only did they get some extra picks from the Bills, but they are able to fill a huge need at the same time.  Maybe people will forget about how Saffold failed his physical there in Oakland over time. 

10.  Detroit Lions--Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State

Dennard is a very physical cornerback, and the Lions are a rough defense, just look at their defensive line.  I think he fits the personality of the team.  The Lions have needs at cornerback as well, despite taking Darius Slay last year.  Dennard is a local college product and would be a great fit here at 10.

11.  Tennessee Titans--Anthony Barr OLB UCLA

With the switch to the 3-4 defense, the Titans are in definite need of getting the right pieces to fit that defense.  Barr is a major prospect, but his measureables have been fantastic.  The Titans will have time to let him grow while they go through this change.

12.  New York Giants--Aaron Donald DT Pittsburgh

The Giants take a game changing DT, and they get back to what they had been doing best during their 2 Super Bowl runs under Coughlin.  They ramp up their "NASCAR" package.  Donald can play out there on all 3 downs, which should make one of their strengths even better when Donald gets into the field.

13.  St. Louis Rams--Haha Clinton-Dix S Alabama

The Rams are currently accomplishing their dream draft, not only did they get a top notch OT, but now they get a highly rated safety.  Dix is a good tackler, and the Rams need someone at the back lines to protect against Vernon Davis and Larry Fitzgerald.

14.  Chicago Bears--Calvin Pryor S Louisville

The Bears keep seeing Randall Cobb go deep on them on 4th down.  They have to get a safety to try to give them some peace of mind in what ended their season last year.  Just like we keep wanting to get more people who can stop Kaepernick.

15.  Pittsburgh Steelers--Eric Ebron TE North Carolina

Pittsburgh was doing quite well when Roethlisburger had a big TE to throw it to in the Red Zone.  They have lost several WR the last few years, and Heath Miller is not as good as he used to be.  Ebron gives them a new red zone target and should make things better for Big Ben.

16.  Dallas Cowboys--Zack Martin OT Notre Dame

Martin can play all five positions on the offensive line, and the Cowboys need quite a bit of help on offensive line because it is still a funnel, because Jerry Jones was awful at just selecting offensive lineman.  Martin would be an instant starter.

17.  TRADE  San Fransisco 49ers--Odell Beckham Jr. WR Louisiana State

49ers give up 30, and 56 Ravens give up 17.  Everyone keeps saying the 49ers will trade up for a WR, but now they trade up with the Harbaugh brother.  Keep everything in the family business.  Beckham gets to learn under Boldin for a year.  Will be on the other side from Crabtree next year.

18.  New York Jets--Brandin Cooks WR Oregon State

Cooks is a burner, and I really wish that he would fall all the way to the Packers, but I just don't think that's a likely option.  The wide receivers are deep in this class, but the Jets want to have some immediate help for their new QB Geno Smith, and they actually draft someone this year to help him, even though they never really did that for Sanchez.

19.  Miami Dolphins--CJ Mosley  MLB Alabama

The Dolphins just need to keep improving on both sides of the ball, they would love to have a great offensive tackle or guard fall to them, but it just didn't quite fall that way for them.  Mosley is the top linebacker, and they are happy to have him here.

20.  Arizona Cardinals--Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville

Bridgewater stops his fall a little bit earlier than everyone was expecting.  The Cardinals do a surprise move and take a QB in the first round to learn and possibly supplant Palmer as the top QB this year.  Teddy hopes to make the Mount Rushmore of the players for the Arizona Cardinals.

21.  Green Bay Packers--Justin Gilbert CB Oklahoma State

Gilbert is considered to be a boom or bust CB who is willing to take some risks, but the Packers need someone with some ball skills and Gilbert can do just that.  He fell right to us because of the other selections on the board.  I think that most of us would enjoy this selection on the forum.

22.  Philadelphia Eagles--Marquise Lee WR Southern California

The Eagles have to get someone to fill in for the recently cut DeSean Jackson.  Lee is a high quality player who, despite being recently off of injury, will be a great deep threat for the Eagles right away.  Lee has a lot of promise and had some huge games for USC.

23.  Kansas City Chiefs--Xavier Su'a-Filo G UCLA

Kansas City still needs more offensive line help, and Xavier would be a great guard fit here for them at 23.  Xavier will be a run blocker for Charles and help provide Alex Smith with better blocking in the passing game.

24.  Cincinnati Bengals--Kyle Fuller CB Virginia Tech

Kyle Fuller is a great talent and the Bengals need some new corners now that they lost their previous DC to the Vikings.  Zimmer had some underperforming DB's step up in his system, and now Fuller is a top talent that can help shut down the passing game.

25.  San Diego Chargers--Louis Nix III NT Notre Dame

The Chargers face the Broncos and Chiefs twice a year.  They need Nix so that he can occupy two blockers against Manning and his decision to run or pass, and against Charles the do it all back for the Chiefs.  Nix would be a great fit in their 3-4 defense.

26.  Cleveland Browns--Ryan Shazier LB Ohio State

Speed is always a good idea to have on defense.  Shazier has a lot of speed, another local player who can fit in with what the Browns need.  Just good players.  There are some doubts about what Shazier can do with his weight, but the Browns have a lot of needs and can fit him where they need.

27.  New Orleans Saints--Cody Latimer WR Indiana

Latimer has been flying up draft boards in the last few weeks, the Saints want a WR and Latimer would be a great weapon for Drew Brees to throw to down the field.  Some people would say that this is a reach for the Saints, and they have other needs, but they start with a strong WR.

28.  Carolina Panthers--Allen Robinson WR Penn State

Another team that is desperate for help for their QB.  Cam Newton can't run an entire offense by himself.  But they bring in a WR to replace Steve Smith and they will probably draft several more receivers in the later rounds.

29.  TRADE  Jacksonville Jaguars--Derek Carr QB Fresno State

Patriots give up 29, Jaguars give up both 39, 70, and 144.  Getting a 5th year option and getting ahead of the Texans are huge motivators for the Jaguars to overpay the Patriots and get the QB of their choice.  Jaguars fans, all 8 of them, are excited for the future.

30.  Baltimore Ravens--Morgan Moses OT Virginia

This is the player that the Ravens would have been eyeing at 17, and they are able to grab him despite moving all the way down to 30.  Ravens fans keep needing more help on their offensive line, plus Rice and Flacco both had lackluster seasons last year, and need to get help to bounce back.

31.  Denver Broncos--Rasheed Hageman DT Minnesota

Hageman is considered a boom or bust prospect.  Hageman fits what the Broncos are doing then, throwing everything they have to try to get back to and win the Super Bowl.  I think that he could be great, but I cannot be certain.  I wouldn't put him as a perennial pro bowler, but compare him more like Fairley.

32.  Seattle Seahawks--Joel Bitonio OT Nevada

Bitonio is the offensive line prospect that the Seahawks want.  He can start at guard this year and move to tackle if needed in the future.  A steal right at the end of the first round.  The Seahawks are delightfully pleased to get their man without needing to move up.

Other Packers selections.

53-Jace Amaro TE Texas Tech

Love getting a TE at this spot.  Amaro is arguably the 2nd best TE in the draft class compared to ASJ.  I think he could help solve some of our red zone problems

85-Terrence Brooks FS Florida State

Obligatory safety pick.  We have to take one in the early rounds, Brooks is good value in round 3. 

98-Jared Abbrederis WR Wisconsin

This guy always found a way to get the ball, now he has a chance to be the #2 WR in our offense, and we got him in round 3.  I would put him across the field from Nelson, and let Cobb and Amaro work the slot positions. 

121-Caraun Reid DT Princeton

Reid is a 3-4 DT who could either fill in after Raji next year or push for playing time this year.  Also gives Boyd some extra competition. 

161-Trevor Reilly OLB Utah

A 3-4 defense can never have enough pass rushers.  Reilly can come in and hopefully be an impact player on the other side, or give Clay a few plays off a game, since he plays all 3 downs and gets hurt a lot. 

176-David Fales QB San Jose State

Fales is a good QB prospect and the Packers have to make sure that we don't have a revolving door behind Aaron Rodgers like last year.  I like this pick even if he just comes in and competes with Tolzein and Flynn for the backup spot. 

197-Tyler Gaffney RB Stanford

Great value if available in round 6, Gaffney was a work horse at Stanford, and to be honest, he's probably a little bit bigger than most RB, so I feel like we could try him at FB as well.  Versatility, gotta love it.

236-Greg Blair ILB Cincinnati

I haven't heard much about Blair but I wanted an ILB and took one with my last available pick.  The value kept missing the right spots for me earlier, where I just wasn't as high on a ILB as I was other positions.  Any 7th round pick is good if they can make the roster, and I would like to see Blair do that.

This is obviously a rough estimate.  Looking forward to the draft tonight!!