Category Archives: Opinion

Trade Talk: Who could the Packers pick up before Thursday?

The trade deadline in the NFL, as opposed to other leagues, has always been a non factor. The early date of the deadline and NFL’s focus on drafted players or free agency render it essentially another passing day on the calendar. However, with the deadline moved back this year there could be some more action before Thursday.

To be clear, I’m certainly not saying the Packers are going to make a trade. Signing the number of free agents that Thompson did over the past off season was ground breaking enough. A mid season trade would cause me to wonder if Thompson was ill or crazy. But just because its not in his nature to make sudden moves mid-season (see: M. Lynch) doesn’t mean I can’t fantasize.

That being said, I’m going to focus on the Running Back position because after the Rams and Jaguars it’s clear that’s an area of concern. Certainly the offensive line isn’t helping (I’m looking at you Saturday) but it is what it is.

So here are three big name backs rumored to be in trade talks:

1. Stephen Jackson | St. Louis Rams – NFL fans have are very aware of Jackson’s skill set. The man who was considered to be carrying that Rams offensive for years is still a big boy, standing 6’2 and weighing in at 240 pounds. He is a solid, bruising runner and has the ability to contribute in the passing game. The problem is he’s nearing 30 years old and has had a number of injuries in recent years. Not to mention the $3.7 million left on his contract, which the Packers are likely not looking to pay.

Verdict: Highly Unlikely – To much money, to much risk.

2. DeAngelo Williams | Carolina Panthers – Another high profile runner who has seen a downturn in value recently. Seemingly being phased out in Carolina, his running style and skill set could be of use to the Packers. The problem with Williams is again money related, as he has $2.7 million remaining on his salary.

Verdict: Highly Unlikely – Too much money, not to mention that the Panthers would have to pay $1.4 million if they traded him. That is a lot of money to pay for a player who they would no longer have.

3. LeGarrette Blount | Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Another bruiser who has fallen out of favor with his team, his bruising style is well-known to Packer fans after his huge run last season. The Bucs have the depth to move him and his inexperience/lack of production means he is inexpensive both contract and trade wise. He does have that incident in college to his name, but since entering the league has straightened up.

Verdict: Possible – Yes. Possible. Would likely cost a late round pick, doesn’t have a huge contract and can fill in until Benson returns. I’m just saying, it is vaguely, maybe, possibly possible.

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Losing Woodson: Who steps up in the next 6 weeks?

It’s tough losing one of your best players to injury. Their leadership, experience and skills will obviously be missed.

But what happens when you lose a player who is the engine of your defensive scheme?

Woodson is the most versatile player for the Packers, as his ability to step up and play the run while still being able to read and drive in zone allow for him to be played near anywhere on the field. (Even “Outside Linebacker”, as Chris Collinsworth said in the Houston game. It’s called the Nickel Corner, Chris…)

The question that is presented with his injury is now two fold. Does the scheme change? Who steps up in it?

In the base 3-4 defense, the scheme will likely stay the same. Instead of Woodson, Jerome McMillan or M.D. Jennings will step into the safety role. But in the Nickel, things get much more complicated. It would be a lot of fans and coaches to expect someone to come into the Nickel Corner position and play it the same way Woodson does. That being said, I feel as though their are three simple ways for them to proceed:

1. Play a more traditional Nickel using Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Sam Shields and Davon House

This option would involve less blitzing from the Nickel spot and more from the Linebackers. The corners and safeties would play straight man or zone coverage while relying on the linebackers and lineman to get pressure. The Packers play this coverage regularly, but usually mix it in with their zone blitzes to create some uncertainty for the opposing offense. The challenging part about this is you would be taking away the uncertainty and essentially challenging the offense to beat you.

2. The 1DL-5LB package

This rarely seen package is a form of the nickel with one down lineman and five moving linebackers. With the injuries on the defensive line, this option seems likely. This package is designed to create instant uncertainty as any player can drop in coverage or rush the passer. It also lends itself to both zone and man coverage, as it is difficult to discern exactly what coverage is being played with all the moving parts.

3. Jarrett Bush (No seriously, keep reading)

Is he rough at time in coverage? Yes. Has he caused Packers fans to facepalm in anger numerous times? Yes.

But in the preseason, when Woodson isn’t playing, typically Bush fills his spot. He has the  size to play the run while having the tenacity from gunning on special teams to take on blockers. While he may be suspect in coverage, his ability to keep the Packers playing in a similar fashion could be beneficial

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Beyond the Stats: AJ Hawk’s Value to Green Bay

In the 2006 NFL Draft, the Packers were coming of a 4-12 season and were looking to add a young, impact player to their roster. In picking AJ Hawk with the 5th pick, the Packers believed they had a three down linebacker who would change games and be their defensive leader going into the future.

Now in his 7th season, it would be fair to say that he hasn’t lived up to the status of a 5th overall pick. His lack of “impact” plays (INT, FF or Sack) and his troubles in coverage has led to him having a rather average looking career. But it’s his contributions beyond the stats that make him of value to the Packers Defense.

His work ethic is well documented, a trait that has marked his time in Green Bay and was apparent back at Ohio State. He complained about being locked out of the Green Bay weight room on weekends because the trainer insisted the team rest and recover. He spends most of his time studying film and working out because he says he “wasn’t born a genetic freak…and has to make himself that through training”

What that work ethic has lead to is a calm and collected demeanor on the field. Despite losing his play calling duties to DJ Smith this year, he still makes the adjustments and checks at the line of scrimmage. When the player who isn’t the main play caller is calling strengths and adjusting run fits, it shows how much the coaches trust his vision and preparedness. In this scheme, where the DBs can be making read adjustments entirely different from the front 7, keeping everything in line is no easy task.

AJ Hawk is an anchor. He is the player who you ask when you don’t know what to do. His poise and focus allow him to be that guy.

And don’t be mistaken, he has that linebacker fire. Just look at these sack celebrations!

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Losing the Safety Net: Why Benson’s injury may not be all bad for Green Bay

It’s never easy to see a key player get injured, but you have to feel a little extra for Benson. After 8 years and 3 teams, he’s been treated like a disposable camera through out his career. His past run ins with the law and the NFL haven’t helped his case, but he was continuously asked to carry the ball at an above average rate then let go as teams felt he was used up.

Let’s also not sugar coat what this means for the team. This is bad. Benson brought a balance and a tenacity, which I mentioned before, to a team that didn’t have that traditionally at running back. He may not have struck fear, but teams knew he was an established back who could run for power and grind you down as the game went on. But it may not be all bad.

Rodgers hasn’t exactly been himself this year. While his numbers aren’t terrible, it can’t be ignored that he hasn’t played at an MVP caliber like in the past. He’s been holding the ball too long, missing throws and that edge that drove him in past years is missing.

In those past years, Aaron Rodgers knew he was the guy. There was no running game to lean on and he was going to have to carry the load himself. Yet this year, it was clear that Benson could be a threat in the run game. Rodgers was still the man, but he was no longer the only guy.

I’m not going to say that this is the reason Rodgers hasn’t been on point this year. I’m just saying that in the past years the offense was all Aaron Rodgers and there was no real running game. So when Green Bay got one, its possible Aaron realized he didn’t have to be superman anymore.

But now Green bay needs their Superman back and they need him more than ever. Sometimes when you take away the safety net, you have no choice but not to fall.

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Counting to Ten: Packers not dead, but surely in the ER

I write this after talking myself off the “SEASON IS OVER, WHO WE DRAFTING” ledge, because honestly the Indianapolis game that was just played certainly deserves that reaction. But something I want to remind everyone is that the season isn’t over just yet.

Let’s go back to the beginning of week 7 2010, where the 3-3 Packers were coming off losses to Miami and Washington, in overtime, in back to back weeks. (Even writing that made me look at the panic ledge again) If anyone remembers those games, they looked eerily similar to what the Packers were experiencing right now. No offensive chemistry, O-Line unable to provide a pocket, Rodgers holding the ball too long, in-efficient defense, injuries out of the blue etc.

But then a meeting occurred, where the team aired out their problems and then things began to change. Rodgers and the O-line fixed their issues, the defense was suddenly motivated.

The point is: This team has seen this before and fixed itself. And after this Houston game, while the schedule isn’t easy, it certainly isn’t the 49ers, Bears, Seahawks gauntlet that the start of the season was.

Keep faith Packer fans, these aren’t uncharted waters. The games upcoming are winnable, teams that Green Bay can beat if they play to the best of their ability. The team is fixable, it will just take some good luck with injuries and a team wide re-commitment to winning games. So all at once now, join me in stepping of the ledge.

In similar circumstance, this group has come together and conquered once before. Let’s give them the chance to do it again.

The Spread and The Power Back: An Unlikely Marriage?

Traditionally, the spread and the power back were thought to be like oil and water. “They can’t mix!”, they’d say.

Power backs can’t run out of the shotgun! They need to build up speed before the line of scrimmage! They aren’t effective out of the backfield! The personnel needed to run the spread won’t work in a power scheme! The pass catching back provides WAY more value!

And yet up in Green Bay we see Cedric Benson, a power back if there ever was one, smashing his way to 3-7 yard gains. He’s running out of the shotgun. He been called “one of the biggest additions to our offense” by Mike McCarthy. So why is it that a running back who seems to have no value to the Packers system so important?

Variety, Physicality and Attitude

Benson is a running back who can offer them a change of pace form the spread game (The I form and the I-form w/ H-Back formations). He makes the offense not only acknowledge the running game, but also know that the Packers can go from a spread offense to a ‘run to pass’ offense in a heartbeat (SEE: Game vs. Seahawks).

He also runs with a tremendous amount of physicality, which over the course of a game can wear out the opposing defense. He isn’t being asked to hit the home run, but rather to abuse the opposition and make them respect his presence. The value in this is that by wearing out the opposing team, it opens up options in the pass game that plays off the oppositions mental and physical fatigue.

Finally and most importantly, he brings an attitude to Green Bay that they didn’t have in past years. A phrase I saw often used to describe this team in the past was “talented, but clearly finesse” or even more common, “soft”. Now, his addition provides the offensive line with a back they know will finish his run. He brings a power attitude to a finesse system, a mental boost to those around him to match his physicality on every snap.

Time will tell how the Packers offense performs this season and much attention will be payed to how Rodgers and the passing game progresses. If successful, don’t forget the potential impact a power back could have on a spread offense.

It could be the tale of the square peg that didn’t just fit in the round hole, but bull dozed right through it.

Dom Capers’ Defense: Can it stay Elite?

(Chart Source: pro-football-reference.com)

Dom Capers has been around the game of football for a long time, with his Attacking 3-4 defense not far behind. But as he has traveled, a commonality has occurred among the defenses he has overseen. Starting as a Head Coach in Carolina, Capers defense typically ranks near the top of the league in his first year. Capers will install as much of the playbook as he feels his players can handle in the first year so that his players can get used to the complex adjustments, hot calls and tight communication between teammates his defense requires. For one reason or another, this leads to a good to great first year for most of teams.

Then suddenly, the years go on and things take a bit of a different turn. As you can see in Carolina, his defense goes from 7th to 30th in yards allowed over 4 years. In Jacksonville, his squad goes from 4th to 12th. In Houston, 16th to 31st. The points against average follows a similar trend for those teams as well.

I don’t need to remind fellow Packer fans about the defense last year. It was bad. Historically Bad. But from years 1 to 3, the defense has followed a similar trajectory as his other teams in the past. This year the defense has gotten of to a good start, but that was with the first 3 games being against teams that aren’t offensive juggernauts and barely escaping a always dangerous Drew Brees.

Why does this occur? Could be a large variety of factors. Lack of enthusiasm from players as time goes on, other teams figuring out the schemes/Capers’ playcall tendencies, players getting comfortable with their past success in the scheme. The list could go on and on.

The point is while the Green Bay defense will hopefully buck the trend, history says that a consistently strong defense isn’t in the cards.

Any idea why this phenomenon occurs with Capers’ squads or comments on the Defense in general? Leave them below!

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DJ Williams: The Lost TE

When remembering DJ Williams from his days at Arkansas, he looked to be the little engine that could. He wasn’t physically eye popping and without knowing who he was, you wouldn’t know he was a impact player. Yet for Arkansas, he was a crucial safety valve for their offence and consistently found a way to gain Yards after Catch.

When he was drafted as a Packer, many people scratched their heads. He looked like nothing more than a value pick, as the team was already stacked at TE. How was he going to fit in, experts asked? Would he be a special teamer, someone who fit the army of 6’2, 240 lb. players that Green Bay possesses? Would he be an H-Back type, lining up at both Fullback and Tight End? Not a bad pick, for sure, but how would he help the Packers?

As Williams was scratched yesterday, I couldn’t help but wonder if he would be better served playing elsewhere. He does have some skills as a pass catcher, his time at Arkansas showed that. But with Finley’s contract and everlasting potential, there is little chance he will get to really show what he can do. In the running game, Tom Crabtree is the clear cut blocking TE for the Packers. Not to mention the fact that when he is thrown the ball, on the rare occasion, he seems to be reliable enough to catch it (Which is no guarantee for this team). Ryan Taylor is the special teams ace and can block in a pinch as well.

When weighing all the options, it seems like a team that needs a young Tight End with some upside could shell out a late round pick for him. The Packers seem to have all the typical roles of a TE covered, and with Quarless still rehabbing there is no telling if he could come back and complicate the TE picture even more. Williams has the upside to warrant a look from other teams while also be relatively expendable for the Packers.

Any thoughts on what Green Bay could do with him, both on the team or in return for his services?

 

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Nearly Finished?: Is Jermichael Finley running out of time in Green Bay?

As per Pro Football Weekly,

Scouts around the NFC have apparently begun to question Finley’s future in Green Bay. Check the link for the meat and potatoes of the supposed rumor, but the bigger question is: How long does Finley have left in the Green and Gold?

As Packer fans know, Jermichael Finley is one of the most polarizing players on the team. While the fans have been told about his athletic prowess ever since arriving in Green Bay, there are glaring flaws in his game. The Drops. The hit and miss blocking. His agent speaking publicly about Aaron Rodgers’ leadership.

But at the same time, there are those moments where he shines. His seam routes and ability to extend for the ball. His use of body positioning to shield defenders from the ball. His prowess at running the goal line fade and attacking the football (which he very rarely gets the chance to do) 

After watching for years, I can’t help but think that all these issues are mental. A lack of focus? Maybe. Lack of Confidence? While it may seem unlikely, some of the most confident looking people in the world are also the most insecure under the surface.

Regardless of what could be the cause, the possibility of both Finley and Jennings becoming free agents next year might not be as crazy a thought as it once was.

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