Archive for January, 2008

Packergeeks season grades – Offense/Special Teams

January 31, 2008

Quarterback:
Favre – A. I considered A- for Favre due to his relatively bad games against the Giants/Bears/Dallas, but he really had a great season and I think it is significant that he had his career-high completion percentage this year – that means better quarterback thinking and better coaching.
Rodgers – B-. Many may wonder how he could not get an A for a top-notch relief effort against the Cowboys – his only real action of the season. He gets the B- for being unable to stay off the injury report. His delicate nature should be a powerful reminder to Packer and NFL fans that Favre’s record streak is one of the greatest records in all of sports. Sure, he had bye weeks at the right time and he may have played too hurt at some points in his career, but when you consider all the other QBs other teams have gone through and the fact that our own back-ups can barely make it through a game, it is impressive. And let me add, Brady and/or Manning may someday break the streak if they both keep it up, but neither of these guys get hit like Favre has – they would have to get an asterisk.
Nall – D+. Nall was really bad in his only opportunity. He was not with the team too long so that is an excuse, but still, he had the previous week of practice and laid an egg with his opportunity.

Running Backs/Full Backs:
Morency – C-. If I graded him based on my expectations going into the season, he would get an F. I thought he would be a big contributor with his shifty style and determination. Unless it changes next year, (if he even makes the team), I might have to admit to Brother Steve that this mancrush was a mistake.
Grant – A. Ryan Grant had an incredible season. He deserves an A, maybe an A+. He runs hard, he has an extra gear we’re all surprised to observe, and he has a great attitude. I disagree with those who think we shouldn’t be somewhat confident that he’s the long term answer – he will be. He will be able to build off of this year and become an even savvier (if you will?) runner going forward. I hate to admit it, but Brother Steve called this one big-time right when the trade happened.
Wynn – C+. Wynn kind of got hosed when he was put on IR mid-season. I know the decision to put him on IR was not just due to the injury he had at the time, but due instead to his history of being a wuss, but still – he could have come back in a few weeks. He did have some flashes and made some special plays this year. If he can be a little more pain-tolerant, I think he could end up being a contributor to this team.
Jackson – C. Poor guy – he had a chance to start for a big-time team and blew it. He was bad and rightfully was replaced as the starter. The end of the year, however, he showed that TT may not have been on something when he drafted him afterall. He looked darn good in some of the final games. I also loved his penalty against Seattle trying to block a punt – when was the last time any Packer coach went after a punter! It was a somewhat costly penalty, but I’d much rather take some chances here and there than play lame/conservative ball all the time.
Hall – B-. Did well for making transition from linebacker. Without game video, it’s so hard to really understand who is screwing up when a run play goes nowhere, but I can’t help but suspect several times, Hall wasn’t making the right block. On the other hand, he clearly, sometimes single-bodiedly (as it were) opened holes for Grant. Overall, I do think this guy has promise and think this year of experience will be a solid foundation for years of productivity.
Kuhn – C+. He stepped in and did a decent job when called upon and made some nice special teams plays. Don’t mind having him around.

Offensive Line:
Colledge – D+. Not sure if it was as much his fault as people make it out to be, but judging from what the coaches said throughout the season (including the refreshingly blunt Joe Philbin), he did not play well. Platooning with Coston may have disrupted his rhythm, though a solid argument could be that he never had rhythm.
Spitz – C+. I’d have to go back and check, but I think it was Spitz who filled in admirably at center when Wells was out. I don’t think he had a great year at guard, but he was a center in college, so we should probably expect some development time for him in this new position.
Wells – B-. Though some coaches really think highly of him, from my perspective, a good number of the run plays that didn’t go anywhere seemed to have defenders shooting through the middle area, where Wells is. Maybe it wasn’t always his man, but it made me wonder. Still, very solid young player.
Clifton – B. I’m surprised he is going to the Pro Bowl. He has had a few very strong years for the Packers and should have gone before, but I didn’t see this necessarily as a strong year. I’ve read articles from national writers saying he was one of the best in the league this year and I just don’t see it. As McGinn noted, he’s always been a good pass protector which is a critical skill needed in a left tackle with a right-handed quarterback (blindside guy). However, I just don’t think he moves that well on the run blocking. I think Tauscher is quite a bit better than Clifton overall.
Tauscher – A-. He may have had a few errors this year here and there, but overall, he was rock solid again. He should go to the Pro Bowl. His game against Kerney was one of the best games I’ve seen from an O-Lineman. He is very good on the run and more than adequate on pass plays. He is smart and level-headed (and a great guest on Tuesdays with Tauscher on the new 540 ESPN Radio Milwaukee).
Coston – C+. He apparently showed some flashes when he did play, but I didn’t watch him that carefully frankly. There must be a reason they keep him on the roster though.

Receivers/Tight Ends:
Driver – A. He is a true professional. He gracefully stood by as more and more national attention was going to Jennings (and even acknowledged at one point that he thought Jennings should be the one going to the Pro Bowl). I think he genuinely takes guys like Jennings under his wing and provides valuable insight. Jennings and the other receivers are really lucky to have Driver on the team. All class.
Jennings – A. Brother Steve has a huge mancrush on Jennings, sometimes scary. He has said from day one that Jennings just has it – just like what Favre said. He does. He has a way of managing his body that seems so fluid, making moves that usually only talented veterans make. The only issue I had with Jennings this year were a couple times on interceptions where he didn’t seem to very aggressively try to disrupt the D-back or prevent the pick.
Jones – B-. I really like James Jones and am trying hard to assess him bias-free. I think he has huge potential and is already quite good. But the truth is, he had rookie moments. It is surprising to me that he led the team in drops considering he has great hands, but he did have some important drops. His fumbles against Chicago also hurt. But these are learning experiences and I expect him to be even better next year.
Martin – B+. When he’s in the game, I don’t know if there is anyone more active than Ruvell Martin. If he is not running a route, he is making tight-end quality blocks. He plays hard and outside of a pretty crucial drop in the Giants game, he had a great year.
Bodiford – C-. He’s another player who had a few opportunities this year that he didn’t seem to take advantage of. Like a few others though, there must be a reason he keeps being asked to come back
Robinson – C+. He had a couple nice kick returns and was an important emotional spark for the team at a time when lots of teams start to mentally/emotionally fatigue. However, he clearly has lost speed and his moves do not appear to be very fluid/evasive. I wouldn’t mind if he sticks around though because he could end up becoming one of those savvy veteran receivers that make contributions somehow whenever called upon.

Special Teams:
Coverage Units – B-. Solid overall effort. Few (if any?) runbacks allowed and overall held opponents to average field position.
Return Units – B-. There were a few spectacular plays by Williams, Blackmon, Woodson and one by Robinson. Overall the efforts were solid. But championship teams can usually get a bit more out of the return game to make it a solid X factor in games. Hopefully this will happen next year.
Jon Ryan – B-. Wacky year. Some horrendous plays and at least 2 unreal plays (monster punt in the Detroit game after the bad Bears game and the improv panic run for a first down – up there for play of the year). Still, stats-wise he did reasonably well and he seems to be growing nicely into his potential.
Mason Crosby – B. Very solid rookie year. One hallmark of great teams is that the GMs aren’t afraid to make what seem like questionable personnel moves if they really believe an upgrade is possible. I don’t know of anyone who complained about Dave Raynor after last year so we all assumed finding a kicker was not a priority. TT must have thought differently and seen something in Crosby. He’s tough, he has a good leg, he’s reasonably accurate, he held his own as a rookie and, like this whole roster it seems, he has a great attitude.

Stay tuned for coaching grades.

Headed to the Super Bowl

January 31, 2008

Yes, I’m going despite the fact that I have to watch a team other than the Packers lose to the Patriots. I’ll try to check in a few times with whatever Packer news I can pick up or just funny stuff I see out there. Mike McCarthy was there and so are our fearless beat writers for JS Online. Does Greg Bedard drink Pabst? That’s the kind of reporting you’ve come to expect from PackerGeeks and I will do my best to deliver.

Also, does any else find it ironic that the Giants are now whining that the Patriots are a dirty team? The same Giants — and the same fans — who suggested the Packers were wimps for complaining about a few obvious cheap shots from the first game? Ah, short memories. And they have the advantage of still getting to talk since they beat us two weeks ago.

Feel free to leave Phoenix restaurant recommendations in the comments.

Packergeeks season grades – Defense

January 30, 2008

Defense – Secondary:
Bigby – B-. Bigby had a bunch of exciting plays and appears to be a developing playmaker in the secondary. He did make quite a few boneheaded plays too though, thus the B-.
Collins – C. Collins has been one of my major disappointments. I thought after his rookie year, he would be fantastic but he’s only been a little above average. I would give him at least another year to develop his unreal athletic ability before worrying too much.
Harris – B. Harris had his share of shut-down games taking on #1 receivers. Even one shut-down game against a #1 receiver should be a big deal, but for Harris we’re spoiled and have become used to it. However, he failed to show up in two of our biggest games (Dallas, Giants) and it hurt us. I’d say Harris has one more good year left.
Woodson – A-. Charles seemed to me to be playing hurt down the stretch and I think this affected him more than he let on. Still, he’s an exciting and opportunistic player who may still be effective for another year or two. He should be going to the Pro Bowl this year (not Harris), but Harris should have gone last year.
Tramon Williams – B+. Considering he came from nowhere, did some nice kick returning and filled in admirably as the new nickel back, he should get an above average grade. However, because he made the play of the year (tracking down Cason on that kick return on Thanksgiving), he gets an B+.
Jarrett Bush – C-. Some might have a problem with this grade considering how bad he looked at times. However, it is important to point out, he was phenomenal in the first few games of the season on both special teams and in the secondary (he won the Philly game for the Packers).
Peprah – C. Didn’t do much of note all season, but has a neat story (parents from Africa, went through a lot to be where he is).
Frank Walker – B. Didn’t play that badly when he was given the chance. Still think it was a bad coaching decision to make him inactive against his former team in the playoffs – any player would be pumped to play in that situation and he may have brought some missing fire to the defense/special teams.
Will Blackmon – C+. He showed some brilliant flashes of the natural athlete he apparently is, but he’s got to be more durable.
Aaron Rouse – B+. This guy had some injury issues, but he flashed serious potential with some big hits and some important picks. While Collins may still have the edge mostly due to his speed, Rouse definitely has to be considered for a starting role when all he’s done is produce effectively when he has started.

Defense – Linebackers:
Hawk – C+. Hawk plays hard, and apparently plays effectively in his role in the scheme, which is not a glamorous role – more the hardworking role. Still, he has not had many big hits or special plays and I’d by lying if I said I’m totally pleased with how this #5 overall pick has played in his career.
Barnett – A. He had a great season this year. He didn’t seem to overrun plays as much has he had before and seemed to also be quite good at shedding blockers to make important tackles. He should be going to the Pro Bowl outright.
Poppinga – D+. He tries hard and works hard. However, whenever I watch him make a good play, it almost seems like a surprise to me and even to him – sort of like the little kid on your son’s soccer team who runs around really hard all game with no real sense of what is going on and then suddenly he accidentally scores an important goal. He did play well against the Giants though and I will hold out for the possibility that he has developed some over this season. His pass coverage was heinous until about game 9-10 of the season when his gaffes at least became less noticeable. Bishop should be given the chance to replace him.
Bishop – B. For someone who didn’t have much opportunity, he had a few monster hits on special teams and brings an exciting quality that I believe would be best served as starting OLB.
White – A-. He is primarily a special teams player and because I’m not in the McGinn business of just handing out low grades for no real reason, he gets an A- because he was the leader of a strong special teams unit and he made a few disruptive plays.
Hunter – B-. Hunter had his moments this year, mostly on special teams. He’s a guy who has a motor and likes to be in the game, but I thought he’d surprise more people this year than he did.

Defense – Linemen:
Jenkins – C. He got his big contract and sort of Cletidused, if you like. He had a few strong games and I suspect he’s decent against the run (definitely better than KGB against the run), but he’s got to have a good year next year to justify the raise he got.
Kampman – B+. Kampman gets a lot of love from everyone (brother Steve, McGinn), but I am one person who wonders what happened to him in the last 6 games of the year. Was he constantly double-teamed? Was he injured? Was he busy being ticked off because people call him “hard-working”? For someone who was so vital to the success of the team early on, he really didn’t show up when it mattered most. He was one of the 4 veterans I felt failed to show up in the Giants game (along with Favre, Woodson and Harris). He was incredible in the first 11 or so games, no question, but truly great players finish strong and I don’t think Kampman did.
Corey Williams – B-. He played decently here and there, but he’s another guy who can play better than he did. His loss will hurt.
Johnny Jolly – B+. McGinn tries to point out some stats where Jolly was not up to speed, but my thought is that his injury really put a damper on the overall performance of the D-line. At 6’6”, he caused all sorts of problems for opposing quarterbacks – not just batting down 5 balls, but constantly interfering with their line of vision. Again, I think it’s not a coincidence that the D-Line was weaker when he got hurt.
Justin Harrell – C-. He didn’t do much. When making this grade, I think it’s important to remove expectation from the equation and just grade him on performance. Poor performance overall, but he did make a few intriguing plays I can remember where he penetrated effectively up-field.
Colin Cole – C+. His injury also could have affected the D-line quite a bit. He is solid, though he didn’t seem as effective when he played this year as he was last year.
Michael Montgomery – C-. He didn’t do as much as I thought he could do. I thought Montgomery and his Paul Pressey-like arms would help him be as disruptive visually for the passer as Jolly was, but I don’t think that happened. He had a few nice plays on the year, but I expected him to produce more considering the opportunity he had due to injuries.
Pickett – B+. He had a solid year against the run this year and he continues to draw the praise from most football analysts. However, maybe I’m missing something, but he doesn’t seem to plug up the middle quite as effectively as I thought Grady Jackson did. He is more mobile perhaps and can nicely close the pocket sometimes when the QB is passing, but I do feel like I need to see more from him before he gets into any sort of elite class.
Daniel Muir – C. Didn’t get to evaluate him very much as I didn’t see him in that often. Seems to work hard and is definitely a big body.

Packer season review – Bob McGinn…what?

January 29, 2008

McGinn reviewed the Packers season in Sunday’s journal/sentinel. I’d link to the article but for some reason, it costs money to link to it online. There were a few themes he mentioned: Favre, Bob Sanders, the zone blocking scheme and Ryan Grant – and I disagree with him on each one.

The most problematic was his take on Favre. He was clearly very upset with how Favre played in the second half of the Giants game and talked about how badly Favre has played in his last six playoff games (presumably excluding the Seattle game). He then went on to talk about whether or not the Packers should have Favre come back next year pointing out Rodgers is ready and implying that he and some in the Packers organization believe it’s time to move on. I will admit, I have started to question Favre’s mental toughness myself over the last few years. We have all seen that face he makes from time to time (fortunately not too often this past year) on the sideline when the team starts losing – you can almost tell from his non-verbals that he doesn’t seem to have faith in a comeback. And, I too have noted that he’s struggled to rise up in some big games (Dallas, Chicago, Giants) like we expect our veteran HOFer to do. And, it might be pointed out that some of Favre’s poorer games happened at the end of the season, when I would argue that he may have been mentally fatigued (at his age especially).

However, I think when McGinn goes so far as to wonder if the PACKERS should have Favre back, it is almost a case of journalistic sensationalism – just trying to spark a controversy in the wake of brutal loss. While I can appreciate his disappointment in the loss, I think it’s ridiculous to go on and suggest Favre should be gone. Favre is probably THE major reason the Packers got to the NFL Championship game in the first place. He had near MVP numbers (might have been MVP without Brady’s historic NFL season), he was a positive leader of a very young group and I think he also had a role in developing McCarthy. Sure, Favre’s final pass of the season was a bad and yes, he wasn’t able to push his team into the Super Bowl – but he had an amazing season that shouldn’t be tossed aside because of one mediocre game. McGinn also tries to trumpet the rise of Aaron Rodgers, who has only played extensively in one NFL game and though he played well, he was injured immediately afterward in practice. I just can’t get excited about a player who is so injury-prone and who gets tossed around like Phillip Epps. The irony is that McGinn gave the Packers passing offense an “A” this season and Favre and “A-” – interesting how he can go from that sort of grade (which he rarely gives out) to suggesting Favre step aside.

But McGinn also took on the Packers defense implying that perhaps Sanders should be cast aside in favor or Gregg Williams. Williams may have a decent mind, but I think Sanders did a decent job this year (except for deciding Poppinga should start). The defense is young and should continue to grow more comfortable with Sanders’ system – don’t see the need for much change there. McGinn also wondered about ditching the zone blocking scheme. I also disagree with this. I wouldn’t ditch it just yet because once the O-Line woke-up and Grant emerged, this system was working very effectively. The only possible tweaks I see for the run game/zone blocking might be drafting or otherwise bringing in a few new O-Linemen to replace Colledge and maybe Spitz too.

Then McGinn took a shot at Ryan Grant, again implying that because Grant didn’t have a big playoff game against the Giants, he may not be the long-term answer. (He also gave Grant a season grade of “B” – which makes no sense when a player leads the NFL in rushing in the 12 games he started – no sense whatsoever). Again, reading his stuff, I just get the sense that he is intentionally being harsh and or questioning things just to create controversy.

Stay tuned for Packergeeks final season grades as well as Super Bowl analysis.

Brandt leaves Packers after 9 years

January 28, 2008

Read here about Brandt moving on and here re Tom Silversteins take on it.

Brandt is a professional who has, for the most part, done a nice job in Green Bay (or at least a nice job when working with TT and not Mike Sherman). It is not an easy job I’m sure and it sounds like TT didn’t exactly open up other opportunities for him. It will be interesting to see what other kinds of “opportunities” he is looking for. Now my bias is tremendous, but what other kind of relatively high-paying job could be better than one working for the Packers!

Painful picture of Favre’s Pick

January 28, 2008

Click on this favres-pick.jpg for a larger view of some seriously missed opportunities. Oh well, while frustrated, at least I’m not Bob McGinn-frustrated with Favre (apparently). Comments on his Sunday article and season summary forthcoming.

And here we go – the first 2008 NFL Mock Draft?

January 25, 2008

Don Banks from Sports Illustrated posted his first Mock Draft today. Let the speculation begin.

We’ll get more into the individual players in the draft as the time gets closer as I am sure we’ll post an official Packergeeks Mock Draft. For now, I have to agree with Banks’ projection that the Packers might take someone like TE Fred Davis, he may not be a bad player to pick up. He’s solid and TE is a position of need. However, if RB Felix Jones and/or LB Keith Rivers are available, I would be excited to get either of these guys – especially Keith Rivers from USC. He is very athletic, seems to have a good football sense and while Poppinga was indeed less of a liability as the season went on, I still think we could use a stronger OLB.

Just thinking quickly here, I would identify corner, D-line, OLB, OG, long snapper, RB, and safety as areas we might consider improving through the draft.

Have to admit, Packer loss still smarts

January 25, 2008

I was trolling the internet again this morning for Packer info, which is a daily activity, and I realized that the excitement of stumbling across a good read on the Packers has, oh my, actually decreased. Prior to the loss, I couldn’t possibly have enough info. I would be pumped to read an article about anyone/anything Packers. I’d read about the Quality Control Assistant with great satisfaction. (Though I do wonder, what does the person with this title really do on a football team? Does he stand on the sidelines and just get worked up when Jon Ryan shanks a punt because, despite his best efforts, he’s unable to control the quality of the punt?).

I am realizing more now that not only did the Packers lose a heartbreaker at home, but the season is essentially over. I’m not a big fan of either of the Super Bowl teams so it’s hard to get really excited about it. Now we have that painful gap of time between now and pre-draft speculation (though one could argue that has already begun). This is a time sportswise, in general, that the American male (or in some cases female) suffers greatly. While I am a big PGA Tour fan and have 4 Wisconsin guys I can follow weekly (Stricker, Kelly, Hayes – no relation, Mark Wilson) that only is fun to follow online Thurs and Fri and then watch on Sunday. The rest of the week, I’m left to…I don’t know, actually work.

Anyway, had to get that off my chest. I think I’ll go search for some Mock Drafts or something to help me overcome my despair.

Re-Sign Ryan Grant

January 25, 2008

If I were asked to name the Green Bay Packers MVP this season, it would be Brett Favre. He was exceptional. If Tom Brady hadn’t had one of the greatest years in team sports history, Favre would have gotten strong consideration across the league for his fourth NFL MVP.

But after Favre, I think there are three players that deserve consideration for team MVP: Aaron Kampman, a team leader who has become of the best d-lineman in the league; Greg Jennings, who was a veritable touchdown machine and is well on his way to being a dominating wide receiver in the NFL; and Ryan Grant, who was acquired for a 6th round pick and, after becoming a starter, led everyone but last year’s MVP (Ladanian Tomlinson) in running back productivity. If I were voting, I’d pick Grant behind Favre.

Which raises an interesting question. When do you re-sign him? Pete Dougherty explores the issue here.
You’ll be stunned to learn that Grant’s agent, Alex Herman, thinks his guy is extraordinarily valuable and should get a big contract soon.

A player that’s accomplished what he has, I don’t think there’s any secrets what he’s brought to the Packers this year. It’s clear around the league (for) anyone who’s astute in terms of football that it wasn’t a fly-by-night type of thing. He changed their offense and enabled them to have a running game. Since he’s an exclusive-rights free agent, it’s up to the Packers to decide how they want to approach the situation. You have leverage situations in this business, and right now Ryan’s under contract. We’ll sit back and see what position the Packers take.

One reason they’ll sit back and see what position the Packers take is because they don’t really have an option. If Grant wants to play for the Packers — or play in the NFL, since the Packers have his rights — he can be forced to play for the league minimum in each of the next two years.

He shouldn’t have to.

It is certainly possible that Grant will prove to be a flash in the pan. But if so, he has already had a long flash — 12 weeks. Grant showed a knack for the kind of cutback runs that generate most of the big runs in a zone blocking scheme. And he had a surprising burst once he hit the hole. (Surprising not just to those of us who watch, but to the linebackers who often found themselves tackling air as Grant raced into the seconday). And he put up some of his biggest games against the league’s top run defenses.

I think we’ve seen enough to re-sign him to a long-term deal. We have the cap space. And if we do it now, before he has another big season, we will be able to have him for a relative bargain.

Sign him now.

Packernet’s Al, Still Unhinged

January 24, 2008

Our man from Packernet, Al, has responded to this post in which I criticized him for, among other things, comparing the Packers loss to the Giants to the Michael Vick killing dogs and erroneously accusing Mike McCarthy of distracting the team by putting his new contract before winning. It was all nonsense.

And there was also this postgame rant:

Brett, don’t go away mad, just go away. It is clear you can’t carry a team any longer, you are no Joe Montana, you are no John Elway, you are just a chucker who should have won more championships than you did. I’m done with the Packers and you should be too. Game over. Please do not respond to this entry. In fact, go away and leave me alone. No more to come…

As it turns out, there was more to come. Al wrote to us yesterday.

Does being a Packers’ fan mean that you can’t speak the truth? Do I have to only promote the positive and hide the negative? If that is what you want, don’t come to Packernet. We won’t miss you.

We won’t spend too much time him. You’ve read his rants, they don’t warrant much of a response. Allow me to point out, however, that we’re not opposed to criticism of the Packers. In fact, the top post on our site at the time he wrote was critical of Mike McCarthy for the gameplan against the Giants. But Al wasn’t speaking the truth. He was, among other things, likening a tough loss in a football game to the brutal torture of dogs. That, my friends, is unhinged, but it’s also pretty hilarious.

So we’ll keep visiting Packernet and we’ll keep the link up. I think we can all use a good laugh these days.


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