Archive for August, 2008

Shawn Merriman out for the year?

August 22, 2008

This morning on Mike and Mike, Eric Casilias reported that some source in San Diego reported that Shawn Merriman is seeing a specialist about his ongoing knee soreness (had knee surgery in the off-season) and it will be determined “when and if” he will return to the team this year. That would be a huge loss for them.

Position Review – Linebackers

August 21, 2008

Overall – I expect big things from this unit. I particularly expect more turnovers – both picks and  fumbles (causing and recovering). I also expect better overall pass coverage. However, I do have some concerns this LB unit may be stretched thin at times if the D-Line doesn’t come together.

Nick Barnett - Barnett has become one of the better linebackers in the NFL. He plays hard, he’s aggressive, he appears to be unwilling to settle for anything but elite play and finally, he’s starting to get the respect he deserves from teams around the league. In the middle of the field, the Packers have a big-time player. This year, I expect Barnett to be phenomenal. The last couple years he has had coverage lapses or missed angles here and there, but the lapses seem to be fewer and farther between. He has made himself a very consistent performer and he gives us the luxury of not having to worry about performance coming from his position: we can safely assume there will be high quality performance. He also has worked through the issue of having a number of different D-coordinators over his career so now that there is some consistency there he’ll really be able to shine. Big year from Barnett – Pro Bowl.

AJ Hawk – First things first – I hope his injury is nothing serious but frankly, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a “chest sprain”. Is a “chest sprain” this year’s “sports hernia” or “lisfranc injury” (for new readers, each year, Packergeeks accuses the sports world of making up a new injury). I hope he’s OK but I would imagine anything in the chest region for a LB has to be quite limiting. Anyway, assuming he recovers fine and is ready to go at the start of the season…AJ Hawk is above average, but that’s as far as I’ll go right now. I know there are many out there who would disagree already with that assessment, but the fact is, he has been very good at times and noticeably absent at others. Toward the end of last year and especially this preseason, however, Hawk has looked a bit more instinctive. It is almost as though he is settling in to the defensive scheme and letting instinct guide rather than worry about where he should be. Because of this, I expect a very big year from Hawk this year. I think he will cause more turnovers this year than in his previous two combined, make some big hits and pick off a few passes mostly due to seriously improved coverage skills.

Brady Poppinga – Many of you are aware of the Packergeek criticism of Poppinga. He has been no better than mediocre since becoming a starter, and he was deemed not good enough as recently as this past off-season to bring in a direct challenger. He has apparently won that challenge from all indications. Poppinga will have the benefit of being in a system with which he is familiar and my guess is the game has probably slowed down a bit for him by now. Poppinga is very aware of his coverage problems and my guess is that knowing his attitude, he put in quite a bit of extra time working to correct this. Even Poppinga admitted that he has had a difficult time watching tapes of himself from last year because he made so many errors. Poppinga is a good guy and a likeable guy, but for me, this is it – he either busts out this year or the team needs to think hard about replacing him. Sure that would be awkward to do that considering the contract extension – but that is why this Packergeek wouldn’t have given him the extension…yet. One thing I do expect Poppinga to do well this year is rush the QB in the 2-4 line-up. If I had to make a prediction though on how he’ll play this year, despite 4 years of ripping on him, I actually think he might be pretty good this year.

Abdul Hodge – Hodge was very good at Iowa a few years ago now. His injuries had pushed him far into the background until this summer. Now, he appears to be more than ready to jump on the field and play. I’m not sure re the explanation for it, but it appears as though both Hodge and Bishop are slated as back-up middle linebackers, and not so much back-ups for the Sam and Will LB positions. Perhaps it’s just something I don’t understand, but I do wonder why Hodge and/or Bishop wouldn’t have been able to compete for Poppinga’s spot. If Poppinga gets it together this year, he’ll buy himself some job security probably for a couple more years. But if he struggles at all, I have a growing feeling the coaches may find it hard to keep Hodge off the field if he is tearing it up on special teams – which I’m quite sure will happen.

Brandon Chillar – Not sure what he’s done so far except seemingly lose the competition with Poppinga. I have not been overly impressed with his play early on here, but he has had a few moments of veteran-savvy-kind-of-thinking, which could prove valuable. He does play hard and I suspect he, like Poppinga, will really relish the role of rushing the QB on some of the new blitz packages. I expect a solid season from him, but probably nothing special.

Desmond Bishop – what happened to Bishop? Last year, he seemed to be a monster out there with some huge hits in the preseason. Now, he seems to be somewhat forgotten. Having seen him make some fantastic plays last year, especially early on, I know he can do it, but I just haven’t seen it yet. He should make the team but I don’t see much more than some special teams action.

Tracy White – I expect more special teams domination. I still believe that he and the special teams unit of last year didn’t quite get enough credit. They kept opposing returners in check for the most part and did some fine hole-creating going the other way. This guy is really good on special teams.

Danny Lansanah – know zero about this guy, did see him on the field but he wasn’t doing much. Possible practice squad candidate considering he’s a rookie.

Spencer Havner – may be the victim of numbers here. He’s been a practice squad guy before and frankly I’m not sure he’s eligible for the practice squad again. He may be good on special teams, but that may be his only chance.

Invoking the overused “it’s just the preseason”

August 21, 2008

Over the last few weeks, I have noticed a frustrating trend with radio talk show people. They get people worked up about the poor performance of various NFL players, teams, coaches etc during preseason, but when someone else gets worked up about it, the host is often quick to invoke the “it’s just the pre-season, let’s not get carried away” argument – essentially trying to have it both ways. I’ve heard both Bill Johnson on ESPN Radio and “Sparky” on 1250 WSSP doing this. They might spend the first part of the show dissecting problems with the O-Line or D-Line or Rodgers and getting really worked up re poor preseason showings, but then by the end of the show, they suddenly take a more “big picture” or “mature” tact and drop lines like “it’s just the pre-season” or “it’s just one game” or “he’s just a rookie” or “nobody’s perfect” or “it’s not the end of the world”.

Boldin trade revisited – and trades in general

August 21, 2008

I was very interested to read the comments by most of you re the fleeting thought of trading James Jones and a 2nd round pick to AZ for Anquan Boldin. Most of you opposed this idea quite strongly based not so much on the idea of giving up a valuable draft pick as much as giving up James Jones. As I have stated before, I think Jones is really really good and may end up leading the team in receiving this year because Rodgers loves him. So, I wrote that post reluctantly because frankly, I really don’t want to give up Jones either right now. And, I also question my own inclusion of a 2nd round pick – maybe a 3rd or 4th round pick would be more appropriate because with Jones, they’d be getting someone who could start opposite Fitzgerald no problem (or be a great #3).

That said, I don’t think Boldin has an attitude problem on par with the TOs or Mosses of the world. He is a hungry player who is no worse than the 4th best receiver in the NFL. The guy is an absolute beast. James Jones is very good with loads of potential, but Boldin is a superstar right now. Jones needs probably a few seasons before he can be on Boldin’s level. And Rodgers would get over the loss of Jones in a hurry when he realizes Boldin will catch everything thrown in his direction and then drag DBs down the field for huge gains. (Kind of like how Lav;wjfoahgoah Coles has warmed up to Favre despite his best bud Pennington getting cut). I do wonder if Favre were here if he’d be whining for TT to pick up Boldin (and then TT would communicate weirdly about it).

In the end though, as much as I like Boldin and think our passing game would go from very good to unstoppable with him, I too, as GM, would be reluctant to depart with Jones (and a 2nd round pick). I very well might spend some time analyzing Arizona’s needs to see if there were other Packer players and/or draft picks to offer, but I’m not sure how far I would have pushed something like this. (I suppose an even more impressive idea would be to trade someone else and then have Driver, Boldin, Jennings and Jones as the wide outs. That would simply be unfair – the team would probably get fined for “creating unfair playing conditions”).

But to me, the benefit of an exercise like this is to get us all thinking about possibilities for the Packers. It really makes me wonder what goes on behind the scenes at Packers HQ. When word leaks out that a Boldin or a Chad Johnson or a Mike Wahle or a Jason Taylor or anyone good, might be available, are there certain members of the Packers staff who are specifically tasked with sitting down right as these rumors start and thinking about a bunch of trade possibilities? Reggie McKenzie? John Schneider? TT? Does the team keep a list of priority positions that could be upgraded? I would certainly hope that the Packers at least consider these kinds of things and my guess is that they quietly do.

Of course, my wife would probably argue that what this Boldin exercise is really about me just wanting to suggest things. I am a suggester. I have problem with suggesting things. We may have decided on which restaurant to go to and we may even be in the middle of a great meal, and I’ll be sitting there talking about other restaurants that we could have gone to. (You may have noticed some of my other player-acquisition-suggestion-posts: Joe Horn last year, Jason Taylor, Mike Wahle, Warrick Dunn, Michael Turner at one point, Jeremy Shockey, Tony Gonzalez, Chad Pennington, calling back DeMond Parker, etc, etc, etc,). If the Packers are looking for a professional suggester, I may be their guy. But for now, it’s just a problem I’m working on.

Interesting Packer thoughts from Vic Carucci

August 20, 2008

Read here for Vic’s thoughts on Packers camp through the Bengals game (an article from last Friday). Of primary interest to me are 3 things: his thoughts on the back-up QB issue, other people’s alleged thoughts re the O-Line, and Jason Hunter’s speed.

  • First of all, I do think it’s time we weigh in on the back-up QB controversy. Jennings and others have said that Brohm apparently looks better in practice. And yes, Brohm received a $900,000 signing bonus and Flynn received a $64,000 signing bonus. I’m sure that factors in here for the team as to who should be #2. And, Brohm came to the Packers after having a very impressive college career. And, Brohm apparently has the physical tools to not just be a solid back-up but to be a potentially valuable NFL starter someday. But he is being seriously outplayed right now by Flynn. I noticed after the Family Night scrimmage, the first of Flynn’s 3 better games, that Flynn seemed to have a presence or poise out there that I was just not expecting. He hasn’t played great in any of the 3 games so far, but so far he has just seemed more ready to step in and play QB than Brohm. Perhaps it’s because Flynn is playing against 3rd team defenses etc, but keep in mind, then Flynn is also playing with a 3rd team offense. In the end, my position on this would simply be to let the 2 QBs continue to duke it out until the season starts. If the pattern continues, and Flynn continues to outplay Brohm, I think you have to go with Flynn as the #2 guy. But I also think it’s only fair to continue to give Brohm a shot at redeeming himself. He may just be having a slow start and he still does have a ton of potential. So, I’d keep Brohm at #2 for now but considering making a switch if he continues to stink it up in the next 2 games.
  • How can other teams be apparently drooling over our O-Line right now? Sure this comment was made before the San Fran game, but is Carucci serious re this: “In fact, several NFL teams are known to be ready to snatch up any of the players they release on the unit and are also expecting the Packers to trade one or more of their linemen.
  • Carucci mentions that Jason Hunter, a 6’4″ 271lb DE, apparently runs a 4.4 40 yard dash. That’s unreal folks. Maybe he should return kicks! How would you like to tackle a guy running with 4.4 speed at 271lbs. Better yet, maybe he should get a look at Tight End…actually, that’s not a bad idea if he can catch anything at all

UPDATE: Need to clarify my position on the QB situation a bit. I didn’t mean to convey that I would not be open to acquiring a veteran QB. (I was too focused in my post on the battle for #2 QB). I definitely think picking a veteran QB should be on the table. If things continue to go as they have gone, especially if both QBs no-show again for the Denver game, I think a veteran QB may be needed.

Boldin wanting out?

August 20, 2008

Arizona Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin, one of the best in the NFL since day one of his career, has recently indicated he wants to be traded from AZ – read here for more. (Apparently the Cards though have no interest in pursuing a trade). Now, this may sound crazy to some who believe we already have a very good WR corps (which I do), but man would it be amazing to have a receiving corps with Driver, Jennings and Boldin. Having Jennings as the #3 receiver would simply make defending our pass plays impossible and really set Rodgers up for a very positive 1st year starter experience. Here’s my proposal: trade James Jones and a 2009 2nd round pick to AZ for Boldin. We have plenty of cap room to sign him to a nice contract, he’d likely be interested in going to a team that doesn’t lose all the time, and Jones and a 2nd round pick would soften the blow the Cardinals would feel while at the same time, shedding a player whose contract issue has become a thorn in their pre-season side.

Just a thought…

Position Review – Running Backs

August 19, 2008

1)  Ryan Grant – he better get on the field soon. It’s really amazing to me that players who hold out seem to have about a 95% chance of getting injured soon after rejoining the team. It happens all the time. Grant had better get out there and get hit. I share reader Ron L’s concerns re Grant’s status. His presence on the field is very important. Now, if he can pick up where he left off (after the Seattle game anyway), I feel good about having Ryan Grant as our starting RB. He has a good attitude, he seems to understand the offensive scheme well and he runs hard – he’s an effort guy. He also has some natural RB ability and I don’t think he’s necessarily easy to bring down. Assuming he gets past these injuries and assuming the O-Line doesn’t play like it did in San Fran, I can see a 1200+ rushing season for him this year. I can also see a 50+ reception season as I do believe MM will be bringing back the screen pass.

2) Brandon Jackson – Jackson looked good in the 1st pre-season game so I won’t let his no-show performance in San Fran drop his stock too much (and I also recognize that nobody could have run behind that line on Sat). This guy does have talent, a good attitude and a hunger when he runs that we haven’t seen for a while. There are times when he refuses to go down. I prefer RBs like this, even if it means a fumble or two when struggling for a few extra yards. Jackson’s stats are hard to predict because he could get some starting action if Grant has injuries. His most significant stat this year will be yards per carry, and I’m hoping he can push 5ypc. I’m not sure re his receiving skills just yet, but if they develop and are good, he could be a valuable contributor this year.

Essential 4-Way Tie for the #3 spot right now (but here’s my tentative order if I had to make cuts today – I’d keep 4 RBs overall and 2 FBs):

Vernand Morency – Morency has some upside because he can break off some huge-gainers at any moment. He runs with some fury and he blocks fairly well. However, there are times when I wonder if he knows exactly what play to run when because he seems to get stuffed for 0 or -1 yards too much.

Noah Herron – For me, Herron has risen 2 spots at least in the RB race. I have been a Herron detractor for years now because he has very little upside. He will do solid things and solid things only, nothing spectacular or game-changing. That said, considering the state of our O-Line and the inconsistent play of the other RBs, to be safe, I would actually consider keeping Herron on the team.

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Kregg Lumpkin (practice squad)- Right now, I would have a difficult time cutting this guy. For a rookie, no-name kind of guy, he has come in and run well considering he’s playing behind a makeshift 3rd team O-Line (though the 3rd string line may be better than the 1st string line from Sat night!). I haven’t been able to evaluate his blocking too well thus far, but if he is good at blocking, I would not be surprised if the team kept him possibly as a 4th RB or perhaps placed him on the practice squad.

DeShawn Wynn (possible practice squad) – After Wynn had a few nice games last year, I was excited about him. And, I remember the coaching staff being excited about him making those “we knew he could play” type statements. Wynn strikes me as one of those players who probably practices OK to poorly and does non-RB things poorly. But during games, he rises up and plays well. It’s odd, even though I have listed him #6 here on the depth chart, I’m almost more comfortable with him as the starting RB as I am anyone but Grant. This doesn’t make sense I know and I won’t attempt to explain it.

I do think a key position this year will be the 3rd down back. While the pre-season has been up and down, I have seen some nice screen plays designed by McCarthy that I think could play a pivotal role in getting first downs this year. I think the RBs who can catch out of the backfield will have a good shot at playing time and contributing a lot this year. The questions for the coaches at this point are these: can Wynn show more flashes of the talent he showed last year to help him make the team? Can Morency overcome his propensity for no-gainers to more consistently at least gain a few yards? Which RBs will emerge as the better receivers out of the backfield? Is it worth taking a gamble on Kregg Lumpkin, keeping him on the team and giving him real playing time this year or is he better off on the practice squad? Do you keep Herron because he’s solid and reliably average – especially in light of the fact that we’re already inexperienced at QB? Can Grant produce at the same level as he did last year? Can Grant also work harder to erase no-gainers (like in the Giants game)? Can Brandon Jackson continue to employ his relentless style of running later in games and later in the season?

Ted Thompson…shy?

August 18, 2008

For the last few years, I have analyzed Ted Thompson from a psychological perspective. He seems sort of mysterious – sort of like Dick Cheney. (I should add, with a hint of bias, if you want to know more re Dick Cheney, even if you hate him, read Brother Steve’s book on him called Cheney – very interesting glimpse into the VP’s life. Perhaps Steve could help us all by getting to work on a biography about someone who influences our lives way more than any VP does – Ted Thompson!). Anyway, I have reached a conclusion recently that some may see and others will likely dispute: Ted Thompson is shy…he’s painfully shy.

How can someone who runs the most important sports team in the world be shy (sorry Yankees – your team is obnoxious, Manchester United – your fans are positively dangerous, Dallas Cowboys – you guys are just so lame; besides a Packer fan is writing this post)? How could he function in such a public role, and a role that is so frequently subjected to criticism? Answer: it’s his job so he has to do it and he makes himself do it. I don’t think he likes press conferences at all. I don’t think he likes the conflict that comes with his position. I don’t think he likes hearing the criticism and/or being doubted. I don’t think he cherishes the social requirements of being the GM of the Packers. But it is his job and he knows these things are all part of being a GM so he just accepts it. What he does like is the behind the scenes scouting, finding that key player nobody’s been paying attention to and analyzing personnel options.

But TT’s personality is not a warm one and may not appear at first glance anyway to align with the personality of a shy person, so what gives? In fact, Homer, on Milwaukee’s ESPN radio calls him “Stone Cold Ted Thompson”. We’ve all seen it on TV. He comes off as very aloof, very tight-lipped, gives that wide-eyed-deer-in-the-headlights look that can just exude discomfort. But I would argue that he seems to struggle in front of the microphone because he’d very simply rather not be in front of the microphone. He puts himself in front of the microphone only because his job responsibilities require this – not because he wants to. My guess is that TT is a rather quiet guy, who doesn’t mind being alone and who would much rather not have to deal with the limelight part of his job. I’d bet he has a dry sense of humor that among friends can really make people laugh, he’s very intelligent, he’s incredibly focused and dedicated and that social events and interaction don’t drive him.

Listen, I’m not trying to drum up sympathy for TT here nor am I trying to cut him down – it’s just that this thought has occurred to me more than once since he took over and I thought I’d throw it out there.

Not exemplary

August 18, 2008

Why is it exemplary and not examplary? Why is it example and not exemple? One definition of exemplary is:

serving as an illustration or EXAMPLE of something

I’m issuing an ultimatum to whoever gets to decide on the spelling of words: either change example to exemple or exemplary to examplary – OR – I get to take over on decisions on the spelling of words.

Game Recap – 49ers

August 17, 2008

Here are some thoughts on last night’s game – I especially like thought #3. (As always, this is pre-season and not much should be made of this game. That said, it is a game, it’s on TV and a bunch of the players are playing for their careers, so it should count for something).

  • Vernon Davis might be really good this year if the 49ers figure out their QB situation
  • Will Blackmon had a nice defensive special teams play
  • “I don’t see us getting blown out this year” (because I have confidence in McCarthy – final score of course was 34-6).
  • Michael Montgomery had a few nice plays in the first quarter. He seems to have a knack for pursuit.
  • the 4 LB blitz option is interesting – kind of exciting.
  • Seems like Rodgers has learned the hard count/cadence from Favre. He’s getting good at drawing people offsides.
  • Why is it that so many teams start games out with an exciting mix of playcalling that eventually gives way to incredibly boring play calls and incredibly boring first halves – at least that’s what happened last night.
  • Mike Sherman did make a good call drafting Nick Barnett – he’s really good.
  • Hodge continued to be active – he was the 2nd best LB on the team for the 2nd straight game. If this continues, I wonder if they’d consider moving him to compete with Poppinga.
  • Packer games this year may not be as exciting as previous years.
  • Bush is really an inconsistent player.
  • Horrendous O-Line play last night, just horrendous.
  • Morency always seems to have at least one huge run that borders on being an ESPN highlight kind of play – then he settles in for some no-gainers.
  • Hey Rich Gannon, it’s ath-le-tic, not ath-e-le-tic.
  • Gannon was right that some of the sacks and pressure seemed to be due to either good coverage or Rodgers and the receivers being out of sync. I really hope it wasn’t the latter, but kind of suspect it was.
  • Is Jon Ryan…transparent? I got a good look at him right before one of his booming punts (though punts that don’t go very high) and he looked incredibly white to me.
  • Patrick Lee had a monster hit – wow.
  • Josh Morgan for the 49ers might be a sneaky good Fantasy pick this year.
  • Packers did very poorly in pressuring the opposing QBs. Where’s Kampman?
  • Nelson had 2 outrageously good returns. On the second one, he shifted into another gear and almost flew past the last man. Very impressive at returning leaving me to wonder if I still really think Blackmon should return punts. Nelson looks very good. I’m sure teammates though gave him a hard time for being stopped 2x by Nedney.
  • Brohm did have one great throw to Jake Allen – a very professional looking play. Unfortunately for Brohm, there wasn’t much else to hang his hat on.
  • Colledge may not make the team – seriously.
  • Lumpkin still good. I like him back there.

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