Archive for September, 2008

Is evaluating offensive line talent a Ted Thompson weakness?

September 24, 2008

So far, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say TT has made mostly high quality GM moves. Mike McCarthy, Jennings, Grant, Rodgers, Woodson, Crosby, Tramon, Blackmon, Pickett, James Jones, Bigby – quite a list of really important coaches/players he is responsible for bringing to Green Bay. While his handling of the Favre situation still irks a good many and the Harrell pick appears to be a poor one, for the most part, this guy has done a good job overall as the GM.

One thing I wonder about, however, is whether or not TT’s keen evaluative skills include an ability to judge offensive linemen. When he arrived, he opted not to re-sign Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera. Probably should have re-signed Wahle at that time. The result in his first couple of years was a weak offensive line. So, like he does with most positions, he tried to build through the draft. He’s selected Will Whitticker, Junius Coston, Colledge, Moll, Spitz, Barbre, Sitton and Giacomini. (Wells was a 2004 pick, I too thought he was 2005…) Of this group, only Spitz and Sitton to a lesser extent have received some positive feedback from scouts and those in the O-Line know. Colledge continues to disappoint, Moll is a penalty machine and Barbre hasn’t put it together yet.

Since TT took over, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the O-Line has been one area that has been inconsistent and below average. Only last year, for about 9 games, was the line pretty good. I don’t know if it fair to pin all of this on TT though – coaching, injuries and the scheme may be factors here too. I think the question may in fact be: is the consistency not there yet because players keep shuffling in and out due to MM, injuries and/or the scheme or is it not there yet because there are simply poor quality players shuffling in and out? Either way, this is an area that needs to improve if the team plans to balance their offensive attack with a more present running game. Perhaps TT might consider making a splash in free agency for a big-time O-lineman, we’ll see.

Mark Bradley available – should Packers pick him up?

September 24, 2008

I read this morning on the Bears’ team site that they waived Mark Bradley. I am not sure if he is injured or something, but the move is curious considering Chicago now only has 4 healthy receivers.

When he was drafted in 2005, Mark Bradley looked like one of those players who had scary good potential. I know an injury kept him off the field one year and it may have slowed him down overall. I’ll admit, I just don’t know. But considering the Packers’ present lack of depth at WR (due to Jones, Martin injuries), he may not be a bad player to consider picking up. He has (or at least had) great hands.

I guess there are two ways to really look at this:

  1. How could we consider picking up a reject from the lowly Bears – ever!?!
  2. The Bears’ management also believe that Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman make for a good QB group – so their ability to judge talent is questionable at best.

Leroy Butler: Rodgers “much better” than Romo

September 23, 2008

Interesting nugget here from Leroy Butler (originally from jsonline, but I link to it here at si.com).

Ex-Packer: Rodgers better than Romo Former Packers all-pro safety LeRoy Butler analyzed the Cowboys-Packers game: “I saw the game in person and I played 12 years so I want people to know that, from what I saw, Aaron Rodgers is a better quarterback than Tony Romo. Based on throwing the ball in certain areas. The interception Romo threw to Collins and some of these other passes and the way he moves around, Aaron is a much better quarterback. Aaron doesn’t put his team in those kinds of situations. When you look at Romo’s stats, you’ll see those long passes and those glamour things. Aaron’s stats are OK, too, but if he gets the opportunity to throw 40 or 50 times a game, he’s going to be good.” (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).

Leroy Butler isn’t afraid to say what he thinks, and if you pay enough attention to what he does say (weekly game keys, sports radio interviews, etc), you’ll learn that he has a tremendously insightful and fascinating take on things. This is an interesting comment considering I compared the two on Sunday night saying to my dad that I thought they had very similar styles (agile, good arms, smart passers mostly, choose to run in similar circumstances, etc). I’m encouraged that Leroy believes this because he often ends up being right.

That said, I wouldn’t go as far as Leroy does here just yet. While Romo’s interception was a really bad one (2 of our guys were waiting to just pick it off), he had some other really nice throws and played a solid game. Both of his long “glamour” passes to Austin hit the guy in stride and he had a bunch of other quality passes/good decisions out there Sunday night. I’d say he played a better overall game than Rodgers (though I’ll concede he faced a bit less pressure than Rodgers – though he got pounded on the Austin TD). Rodgers played decently, but he had some questionable throws too – one of which should have been an easy pick for Pacman. I think what Butler is getting at here is that he thinks Romo is a riskier passer than Rodgers and may not be quite the game manager Rodgers may be. That may end up being true, but I do think it’s premature to reach a conclusion like this after just 3 games. Romo has played at a high level for several years now. He is an established player. So far, I agree with Butler that Rodgers looks really good. But I’d stop short of claiming he’s “much better” than one of the best QBs in the NFL…for now anyway.

Silverstein doubtful Harris coming back

September 23, 2008

Read here from jsonline this morning. Tom Silverstein paints a relatively bleak picture for a possible return by Al Harris this season. So, in the interim, it would be smart to start thinking about who will replace him. As Silverstein points out, it will likely be Tramon Williams or Will Blackmon. By the way, there is no way Tramon is 5’11”. Blackmon is listed at 6’0” – no way they are one inch apart. I suppose it’s possible that Blackmon just plays bigger and more upright or something, but Tramon seems quite small out there in comparison. Still, it was interesting during the Cowboy game to see Tramon matched up on the much bigger TO (this happened 3 times by my count when another WR went in motion and Woodson dropped TO to cover that other WR). Tramon’s tight coverage on TO each time forced Romo out of his first read. And, as Kurt Shottenheimer notes, outside of the big play against Miles Austin, Tramon had a solid game.

In the end, I’m OK with Tramon Williams filling in next to Woodson as the starting corner. He’s a good player and his speed could really be helpful out there not just for marking his own man, but to run down players who break free into the open field. One of the most amazing things I’ve seen in a long time on a football field happened during the Dallas game. Felix Jones had turned the corner on the far side of the field and started flying upfield to eventually score a TD on that 60 yard run. He was moving really fast. Tramon Williams was defending against a WR on the near side, far from the play. When he realized Jones was making a bee line for the end zone, Williams turned on the jets and if it weren’t for a solid block by TO right near the end zone I believe, Williams might have made the tackle. I can’t remember seeing live, a player closing that fast. It was absolutely unreal to watch. Williams had far more ground to cover than Jones and yet he nearly beat Jones to the end zone – and Jones isn’t slow.

That said, if Tramon struggles (as teams will inevitably game-plan to throw the ball his way now), having Blackmon as an alternative is a good thing. He is proving to be one of those players who makes things happen as he proved Sunday against Dallas. While it’s nice to have a couple quality back-ups like this, the Harris injury does deplete our overall secondary depth though – leaving us vulnerable if any other injuries happen. (We’ll see though, Pat Lee did have a nice preseason and showed flashes of some play-making ability). In the end, I wish Al well and hope for a speedy recovery.

Braylon Edwards — Now We Know

September 22, 2008

As the proud owner of Braylon Edwards in  the Chesapeake Bay Fantasy Football Conference, I have been dismayed by his subpar performance to date.  It’s been grim and I haven’t been able to figure out why.  Now I know, thanks to Fantasyguru.com.

Braylon Edwards Cle) – He’s literally half the player he was last year. Chicago’s Brandon Lloyd is a much better player right now. Seriously.

Literally?

Al Harris may be out for year????

September 22, 2008

Read here from the newer blog (and a good one) called the nationalfootballpost (edited in part by former Packer VP Andrew Brandt). Harris may have ruptured his spleen which could be a season-ending injury. Not sure why Brandt and co are speculating re this, but fact is, they have really good sources inside the Pack’s organization.

Game thoughts – Packers/Cowboys

September 22, 2008

I was lucky enough to go to the game last night. It was exciting and the atmosphere before the game was playoff-like. It was a fun game really until the second half. Players were pumped on both sides and the fans were all energized. Fun game to see live. In the end, the Packers were over-matched. I picked Dallas to win the Super Bowl because I expect them to continue playing like this.

The Concerns:

  • Dallas is good, very good on offense and defense. Their O-Line averages 6’6″ tall and 327.4 pounds a guy. That helps explain why our D-Line was noticeably dragging by the 3rd quarter or so.
  • The Packers were seriously out-coached. When is Wade Phillips going to get credit for being a really good coach? We couldn’t keep up with their offense and their defense seemed to know exactly what was coming.
  • Barber/Jones make for a scary duo – really good backs.
  • Nobody is better at finding space than Jason Witten – this guy is really good.
  • Aaron Rouse struggled with positioning in coverage on a few occasions – some of which were important (several Witten passes). There were a couple plays (the second Miles Austin catch) where I thought Bigby might have been in a better position to make a play. Overall he was OK but he seems a bit off in coverage
  • Collins’ injury issues hurt the Packers. He often gets hurt during games and his absence then appears to disrupt the secondary. He had one break-down in coverage on Austin’s first catch, but outside of that, he was solid. There was a big drop-off when Peprah came in.
  • Communication in the secondary was not effective, especially after the injuries.
  • At one point in the 4th quarter I asked my friend why Dallas was throwing the ball at all considering they were running at will, and then we noticed that Woodson was the only secondary starter on the field. Smart coaching by Dallas and it worked.
  • Rodgers was flustered. I don’t think he was bad necessarily, but he wasn’t good either. Romo faced similar pressure and seemed to demonstrate to me anyway, that he is a level above Rodgers because he found a way to make some key passes in the face of massive pressure. There were a few occasions when Rodgers tucked and ran prematurely. But his second half problem was that his eyes were locking on targets. He forced a few incomplete passes Jordy Nelson’s way because he was locked on him and the Cowboys knew where he was throwing it.
  • Mike McCarthy’s play-calling was poor. He had poor game-flow and a poor mix of plays. I believe it was the second quarter when McCarthy seemed to abandon the run making defending the Pack fairly predictable. But throughout the game Dallas, to their credit, appeared to know exactly what was coming.
  • Being at the game was helpful in that I noticed some stuff the TV coverage can’t pick up. One of these things was Dallas’ handling of our slant patterns. Not only was Rodgers pressured a lot, but his receivers weren’t getting too open. Dallas was dropping linebackers back and bringing safeties forward into the slant pattern zones cutting off that option – they did this very effectively. And, their corners were playing the slants big-time in part because they didn’t seem to feel threatened a pass over their heads.
  • Before the game, I had indicated that Rodgers needed to try a few deep balls early to stretch the field and keep Dallas honest. Again, the Cowboys’ safeties were able to cheat up pretty far at times to make plays on the many slant patterns run and to even stop the run. The Dallas secondary bunched the field like an U-8 soccer game.
  • Donald Lee needs to get more involved in the passing game. He wasn’t getting open in space or down the seam.
  • The O-Line was very bad. They didn’t defend the pass rush and the holes our RBs had were pretty small. Grant and Jackson did well to get the yards they did.
  • Our D-Line was dragging – lack of depth apparent. There were several 3rd and 4th quarter series-changes when a few of the guys seemed to barely make it off the field before our offense resumed play.
  • A little concern from this Packergeek re Packer depth right now.
  • Frost’s punting was not stellar. While his #s may not appear to be bad (49 yard average), his hang-time was weak.

The Positives:

  • Rodgers didn’t throw a pick or fumble in a game he could have easily done so.
  • Mason Crosby continues to show he may be one of the quietest, most effective draft picks in a long time. FGs and kickoffs.
  • Will Blackmon. I love his energy on special teams and if it weren’t for the automatic flag thrown on 2 of his returns, he would have had good return numbers. He just makes plays too as he showed on defense prying the ball loose from Barber with 5 minutes left. He also would have had an interception if Collins hadn’t picked that one off in the end zone.
  • Outside of giving up the costly TD to Miles Austin, Tramon Williams’ coverage disrupted 3 pass plays to TO. The first, he batted the ball down. The second two, Owens was Romo’s first read and Romo immediately had to alter his read (to Witten of course) because Williams was on TO tight.
  • Good pass rush by the Pack – Romo too was under a lot of pressure last night.
  • Donald Lee had some quality blocks on run plays and a few pass plays – especially against DeMarcus Ware.
  • Jennings is a major playmaker. Sorry, I’ll say it right here – at least right now, he’s better than Moss and TO.
  • Jackson was good – slippery.

Mike McCarthy – the non-Holmgren-halftime-guy?

September 22, 2008

I like Mike McCarthy as a coach and I think he’s good at what he does. That out of the way, I must say I have some concerns about what he’s been saying lately at halftime – he’s no Mike Holmgren in this regard. Here are some guesses:

Week 1: “Ok D, let’s let the uneven Tarvaris Jackson run around and make a bunch of plays and make this a closer game than it should be. We also need to tone it down on offense.”

Week 2: “We have this one in the bag. Just coast. We’ll run some Mike Sherman specials guarding against fumbling so we can go 3 and out and rely on our punter. Speaking of punting, new guy, Frost, don’t worry about catching the ball punting from our end zone – it’s cool man, only 2 points.”

Week 3: “Ok, we played them close. They are much better than we are so I’m just glad we hung in there for a half. In the 2nd half, Rodgers I need you to be more panicky back there, O-Line don’t open many holes for Grant and give Aaron just a second or two to make a play, and D-Line continue to be exhausted.”

Cowboy fans not belligerent or anything, just obnoxious

September 22, 2008

I was at the game last night. Very disappointing. I didn’t write this post because I’m a bad loser and I’m bitter etc. We were thoroughly outplayed, we weren’t as physical, we were out-coached big-time and we lost the game at the line of scrimmage. I write this post because the Dallas fans in attendance were obnoxious. They weren’t belligerent Eagles’ fan obnoxious – there was just a lot of annoying self-promotion and taunting going on – especially toward the end of the game. Most of their fans spent a majority of the game standing up (blocking the view of those behind them) so that they could point to Cowboy jerseys they were wearing. Several near us were making the U of Texas horns symbol with their fingers even though the U of Texas wasn’t playing (and I don’t think the Cowboys have hardly any U of T players playing for them). In fact one guy was making that symbol throughout the game and screaming “hook ‘em horns” – and I don’t think he was drunk. What? He also had a blue tooth cell phone headset thing on the whole game and a giant class ring on his finger. He also appeared ruffled when the guy next to him accidentally messed up his carefully coiffed hair during one TD celebration.

I did think for a fleeting moment that maybe they were just having a good time and I wasn’t so I drifted negative/critical. But I did have a good time despite the loss and I recognize we lost to a better team. Maybe it’s just that the way they were having a good time was a lame way of having a good time.

Quick Thoughts on Cowboy Loss

September 22, 2008

“The Dallas Cowboys are farther ahead than we are right now.  And that’s the facts.”  Mike McCarthy.

That gets it pretty much right.  The Cowboys were better last night and are a better team.  We’ll have more throughout the day — including Andy’s report from the game.  But here are a few quick thoughts.

*Cullen Jenkins was a monster.  If the Packers can get that from him every game, it’ll go a long way toward easing my mind about our defensive line.

*That said, the defensive line was pushed around a lot in the run game and the linebackers were absent for large stretches of the game.

*Aaron Rouse was a decent replacement for Atari Bigby.

*I like Brandon Chillar.  He made several plays yesterday, particularly in coverage.  (McGinn says he wasn’t as good against the run — I didn’t see it, but I wasn’t looking.)  Chillar himself seems to think he did well — he was way too happy in his interview with Packers.com after the game.  We lost.

*But I want Bigby back as soon as possible.  His thumping hits set the tone for the defense and scare receivers.

*Contrary to Bob McGinn, who writes today that Aaron Rodgers had a “mistake-punctuated night,” I thought Rodgers played well, given the relentless pressure he faced.  It’s true that Rodgers held the ball too long a couple of times, but he also avoided several sacked by scrambling and made a couple of truly exceptional throws — the one he threw jumping off of his right leg to Greg Jennings should make Rodgers’ career highlight reel.  Amazing.  Rodgers wasn’t flawless, but if you would have told me before the seasons that he’s play this well against the Cowboys — and that it would be his worst game of the season by far — I would have cracked a PBR to celebrate.

*Jordy Nelson alligator-armed a pass badly in the second-half yesterday.  He made some nice catches, but the one he wussed out on was the most memorable.

*Ryan Grant looks like he’s getting back to form.  He didn’t have any explosive plays, but he was pretty solid.

*Brandon Jackson looked good.  I’ve been skeptical of Jackson pretty consistently since the Packers picked him in the second round last year.  I don’t think he’s special and I think there were plenty of more talented players available when we took him.  But he did seem to run strong yesterday and consistently found holes — big and small.

*The offensive line was mediocre, bordering on very bad.  They opened some holes for the running backs, but were beaten badly in the passing game.  The injury to Scott Wells has demonstrated just how valuable he is.  It’s in part because of Wells and his play but also because it allows Spitz to play in his regular slot.  What we can know is that all of the shuffling on the O-line is problematic and needs to end as soon as possible.


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