Archive for April, 2009

B.J. Raji Packer’s #9 pick

April 25, 2009

B.J. Raji is a solid pick. While I’m not exactly sure how they will work this out with Ryan Pickett (could Pickett lose 20 pounds and move to a DE spot in the 3-4…doubtful?), for the team’s future, by all accounts, it does seem to be a good pick. In some mock drafts, Raji was put as high as 4-5, so it’s generally recognized that the guy has some special talent. Brother Steve doesn’t mind the pick either.

To be honest thought, I must say that I find myself a bit less pumped than if we would have been able to land someone like Eugene Monroe – Steve just said the same thing. Oh well, again, not a bad pick in an area that definitely needs some quality depth.

2009 Packer draft needs

April 25, 2009

Here are the areas of the team I hope are addressed in the draft (in order of priority):

  1. Offensive Tackle – One of the biggest concerns I have going into the 2009 season is offensive tackle. Both RT and LT are very important positions for any offense. A shoddy player at either post can really interfere with the effectiveness of an offense. I’ve been saying for a few years now that I think Chad Clifton is pretty much done. He was very good at one time, but the last few years (even during his “Pro Bowl” year – that was a you-should-have-been-in-previous-Pro-Bowls nod), he’s been borderline bad. We may be able to squeeze another year out of him, but I’d be doubtful beyond that. And if Tauscher doesn’t come back, I have concerns about any existing players taking over. Maybe one of them would do fine but I think it would be smart to strongly consider taking a quality OT with one of our first 2-3 picks in this draft. (I’d be happiest with any of the b ig 4 – Andre Smith, Eugene Monroe, then Jason Smith or Michael Oher).
  2. Defensive Line – I’ve noticed a good number of Packer fans are lobbying for BJ Raji. I wouldn’t mind that pick, but I don’t think it’s as much of a need as OT or LB…or DE. I still think Ryan Pickett will end up doing well as THE guy in the middle of the 3-4. He was not great last year but I think he’s the kind of guy who will play better for a better coach – and I’m pretty sure Capers will be better than Sanders. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to add depth behind Pickett – I just would do it with a later round pick. I am presently more concerned re the DE position. Right now, we have a recovering-from-major-injury Cullen Jenkins and I don’t know, probably Johnny Jolly as our DEs. Jolly seemed to take a step backward last year and of course, the uncertainty with Jenkins is a concern. I think we should consider taking a DE with one of our first few picks. (I’d watch for Tyson Jackson here).
  3. Linebacker – Considering we’ve switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4, I’d also like another LB or two in the mix in case any existing players really struggle with the transition. I also just think we need a better overall selection of players because the present group is average at best. One thing I do feel better about now with Capers at the helm is the likelihood that he’ll offer a more honest assessment of the LB talent we have. I think Poppinga and Hawk got free passes last year (actually Poppinga for 3 years now) despite really weak play likely because several loyalists were being stubborn. I’m hoping Capers may be more willing to look harder at Lansanah and Bishop. Still, I think we should draft 1-2 LBs in this draft and maybe even use one of the first 2 picks for him. (Guys to watch for are James Laurinaitis and Larry English and Rey Maualuga – by the way, this post was drafted initially before reading Bob McGinn’s 4/25 article stating that these 3 guys are guys TT likes. The other guys I have to think will be  tempting for TT is Connor Barwin and Clint Sintim. Barwin is the tallest LB at 6’4″ and was one of the fastest at 4.56. There is some thought that he would be an ideal OLB in a 3-4.)
  4. Running back – there are some good RBs in this year’s draft apparently. I think Grant will bounce back this year and his part of the running game will probably be good again. But I’m not dazzled by his back-ups. Brandon Jackson isn’t terrible, and it could be argued that Wynn may in fact have the most potential. But based on the decent possibility that Jackson and/or Wynn don’t progress this year, I think this group could use more competition – ideally in the form of a very fast/shifty scat back type. If Grant can wear defenses down, this guy could tire them out by making them chase. I wouldn’t be too surprised if TT drafted a RB on the first day. (Cedric Peerman or Andre Brown).
  5. Cornerback – draft for the future here. We need a another CB or 2 heading into this year because it’s possible Woodson/Harris may see a decline in their play soon – and because as olders guys, they may be more prone to injury. I’d take a CB in mid to later rounds as the CB group this year is not considered to be that great. (They apparently like Bradley Fletcher from Iowa.)
  6. Tight End – This may seem to be too high a priority for TE, but the reason I placed it here is because this is a year there seems to be major talent at the position. Donald Lee is a bit above average, Humphrey may still be good but doesn’t seem to get the chance and Finley strikes me as one of those guys who will continually frustrate. Again, I can admit that overall, TE is not a desperate need, but I think it would be smart to use a mid-round pick on TE. (People will mock, but I would take a chance on Travis Beckum. He has great hands, he’s fast and he benched more than any TE at the combine. While blocking needs help, he has the strength and athleticism to learn how. I’d also look at Chase Coffman – he was very good in college and of course his dad Paul rules).
  7. Safety – I have concerns about Bigby’s injuries from last year and his overall lack of contribution. I felt like Rouse took a step back last year when he had the opportunity to shine and Collins’ frequent injuries concern me (though he often bounces back). I have heard that newly acquired Anthony Smith has at least the physical talent to be quite good, but I wouldn’t bank on it if Pitt didn’t think retaining him for a relatively low salary was worth it. I would look for a safety in the middle rounds and I would place a specific emphasis on finding a heady player – one reputed to pick things up quickly (though Marquand Manual was supposed to be like that and he sucked). (That’s why I wanted to pick up Jim Leonhard earlier – he’s a smart player whose consistent playmaking is not a coincidence – the guy is very good.)
  8. WR – again, considering Driver and his decent contract may not have much time left in Green Bay, I can see the team looking for another Jennings-like steal at WR in the middle rounds of the draft. (Watch for 6’6″ freak Ramses Bardin).
  9. Punter – while I doubt TT would use a draft choice on a punter, we could use competition here to ensure that we don’t have another disastrous year at the position.
  10. Fullback – We could use a later round pick on FB – not convinced our two FBs do as much to help the running game as they could. (Watch for Tony Fiammetta only because his name sounds like a FB name and someone TT would like.)
  11. Offensive Guard – If McCarthy stops shuffling everyone around this year, I imagine Colledge and Spitz (or Sitton if Spitz moved to center) may end up being at least serviceable. And the addition of Duke Preston may end up being a wise, quiet move as he could find himself a starter. Still, I wouldn’t be bothered if we used a pick on an OG.

McGinn’s info – where did he get it from?

April 25, 2009

Read Bob McGinn’s article this morning about Michael Crabtree and the draft and the first question you have may be the first question I had: how did he get this information? Ted Thompson and co never reveal their favorites in the draft, so why should we take this information as true? Is TT (or whoever offered this info) putting McGinn and now the rest of us intentionally off on the wrong scent? Or, maybe this info is dead one and just maybe, TT is seeing the top players in this draft similarly to how other GMs and mock draft “experts” see it. I don’t know, I guess the skeptic in me finds this hard to believe considering TT’s history of gravitating toward lesser known players.

If this info is accurate, though, I must say that I am somewhat comforted. I’d go so far as to say that I would welcome pretty much every player mentioned in the article as our first pick – and the only one I would be really concerned about actually, would be Crabtree. I am not keen on the fact that several different teams had that same negative impression re this guy. Now, I wouldn’t actually be totally opposed to taking a high quality WR because I personally think this may be Driver’s last year in Green Bay – potentially leaving us with only 1 for-sure excellent WR in Jennings. (As I noted before, I would rather make an offer to the Cardinals for Anquan Boldin – maybe even offer our first round pick, allowing us to then eventually pay Boldin the $20 million guaranteed money that that first round, unproven player would demand.)

TT – call the Cardinals right now

April 24, 2009

If there is truth to the following rumor from  ESPN, I suggest TT make a move for Anquan Boldin before it’s too late. I know WR is a present position of strength for the Pack, but adding someone as talented at Boldin for a 2nd round pick and a throw-in type player would very much be worth it. And, our WR group would then be brutally difficult to line-up against.

ESPN News passes on a report from Sal Paolantonio that the Cardinals have lowered their asking price for Anquan Boldin.

Rate Ted Thompson

April 24, 2009

On the eve of his 5th NFL draft, I wanted to ask for your thoughts on the job GM Ted Thompson has done. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that few figures in Packers history have been as divisive as Ted Thompson. Fans seem to love the guy or hate the guy. So now, as blogs are rife with arguments between TT detractors and TT apologists, I thought I’d ask you: how would you rate TT on a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being the best, 1 the worst)?

For what it’s worth, I would give him a 6.

Pros:

  • I think Ted Thompson is a very dedicated and hard-working GM.
  • He takes lots of pride in being the GM for the Packers.
  • TT takes pride in sticking to a longer-term philosophy of building a football team (through the draft).
  • From most accounts, TT values those who work for him including staff, coaches and players.
  • TT is a well-intentioned individual who has integrity and tries hard to do what he thinks he right.
  • TT fired Mike Sherman. The moment TT did this, I admired him. It was a difficult decision because Mike Sherman was a nice, neat man. He also had a winning record as a coach. But knowing football, TT knew that Sherman actually wasn’t a great coach.
  • TT hired Mike McCarthy. I think McCarthy’s 2008 was an aberration. He was off and he coached poorly. He didn’t seem to be in the moment like he was the previous year. But McCarthy is a good coach and it was a good hire.
  • He picked Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Mason Crosby, Will Blackmon and Nick Collins. Rodgers and Jennings were great picks, and the other 3 I think still have great potential. I also think James Jones, Jason Spitz and Desmond Bishop could still be quite good.
  • He acquired Ryan Grant, Atari Bigby , Ryan Pickett, Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson. Wooson, Grant, Pickett and Williams were great acquisitions and relatively inexpensive acquisitions – all took a certain level of football intelligence to execute. Bigby could end up good enough to say the same thing, but right now, it’s hard to say.
  • He likely had quite a bit to do with the hiring of Capers and the firing of Bob Sanders. This was a good move.
  • He takes his job seriously – and being Packers’ GM is a serious job.

Cons:

  • He has a losing record as a GM – 1 winning season in 4 tries. That’s not good regardless of how anyone tries to rearrange the stats.
  • His teams are too young – they are often penalized and while lots of people look at coaches when that happens, I look at the lack of veterans. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say veterans likely commit fewer penalties.
  • TT does not value veterans like he should. TT has had a number of opportunities to add older players to the team through free agency. And some of them wouldn’t have been too expensive. Veterans not only help with intangibles like leadership, but veterans importantly carry with them precedent (if that can be carried) – they have been in a variety of NFL situations before – and this is something young players simply don’t have. It’s a bit surprising he hasn’t learned this lesson from the veteran players he has brought in like Woodson and Pickett.
  • TT relies too heavily on the draft. If his draft picks ended up contributing more (and yes, some still may), his reliance on the draft would be more justified. After 4.5 years and 43 draft picks, I am disappointed in the small number of players he’s drafted whom I’d say contribute significantly. Rodgers, Jennings, Crosby, Collins, Blackmon have all contributed well. Beyond these guys though, there seem to be a number of average players who haven’t contributed much.
  • Whatever his real role was in the Favre thing, it was a situation that could have and should have been handled better by the GM. Yes, Favre was being a moron and yes it was a tough overall situation, but I still believe TT could have handled it better.
  • TT needs a better overall balance w/re to how he acquires players and he needs to take more occasional risks by picking up a few higher profile guys (like he did with Woodson).
  • TT is in his 5th year as GM – those making the “it takes time” argument need to realize that in modern sports, 5 years is considered a good chunk of time to get the ship headed in the right direction.
  • I have an ongoing concern that TT may take too much pride in making the great call – finding that totally unknown guy in the draft or from another team’s practice squad. He’s had a couple gems, no doubt (Jennings, Tramon, possibly Bigby). But sometimes, not always, but sometimes, some players are hyped because they are just that good.
  • He is not good at communicating and struggles in his role as the (or a) face of the organization.

Why do I give him a score of 6? I figure that right now, he is a bit better than average with the potential to be a top flight GM. Other GMs have done more for their teams in shorter amounts of time – so I don’t necessarily buy the argument that TT should get much more time. But I do think that he’s put the team in a place where with a few more key moves (some quality draft picks, picking up a free agent or two, maybe trading players outright), the team at least may have a chance to surprise critics in the next 2 years. My measure for TT going forward will be simple: whether or not he and the team can put together 2 strong, winning seasons in a row. One thing that would be very interesting to see would be if the Pack struggles again this year and TT is not fired – does TT modify his approach at all?

2009 draft challenge

April 24, 2009

Packergeeks is offering a prize of extra pride for anyone who can predict who the Packers will take (or what they will do) in the 2009 draft. Please comment on these two things:

  1. Who will the Packers take (or what will they do) with their first overall pick at #9?
  2. Guess the name of one other player the Packers will draft – both days. (You can enter up to 3 names).

My guesses are:

Question #1: OT Eugene Monroe

Question #2: LB Clint Sintim, CB Bradley Fletcher, or RB Andre Brown

Tony Gonzalez an Atlanta Falcon

April 23, 2009

Thanks to Scott W in Madison for bringing to my attention that the rumors have given way to truth: Tony Gonzalez went to the Falcons for a 2nd round pick in 2010. I really want to know if Ted Thompson pursued Gonzalez at all this off-season. Who knows, maybe Gonzalez did not want to play in Green Bay anyway, but I sure hope TT pursued the trade. I’d have a hard time understanding it if he didn’t considering that TT made a nice effort mid-season last year and all Gonzalez did after that fell through was go on to dominate all TEs – an incredible year. He would have been a really nice addition for us.

He will be a great addition for Atlanta. I really like what the front office has done in Atlanta the last 1.5 years. They hired a quality coach in Mike Smith – one of those coaches who on the sideline, just seems to get the flow of the game. And now, between adding Michael Turner, Matt Ryan, now Tony Gonzalez – and considering Roddy White’s high level of play – this becomes a scarier team than the one that just went to the playoffs. Nicely done Atlanta.

(Also: just read that Atlanta recently signed veteran free agent LB Mike Peterson to a 2 year deal. That was smart – that guy can still play and like Gonzalez, probably could have also helped the Packers).

Nice Silverstein article on the draft

April 20, 2009

From today’s jsonline, Silverstein has an interesting look at (and explanation for) why the Packers use their 30 prospect visits for later round/free agent type prospects. After reading through this list of lower profile guys, I have to admit, I am reminded that in any draft, sorting through such a huge number of prospects really is a daunting task. And while I contend that TT is somewhat mediocre at drafting, I want to make sure I stop short of making it seem like I think his job on draft day is an easy one. It’s not. There is so much to consider and so many different directions the draft can go at any second. In the end, I’m just hoping this year that we land at least 2-3 high quality guys who can help in 2009.

First draft premonition

April 20, 2009

I’ve been waiting for some kind of a gut feeling about the upcoming draft for the Packers. Especially concerning the first round. For months, I’ve sat here with nothing. Absolutely nothing. Really no clue about what the Pack might do. I have thoughts on what they should do – and will be posting some of these thoughts in the coming days. But I have no idea what TT has planned. TT could trade down if there are any takers, he could shock the world and trade up for Aaron Curry, he could take Malcolm Jenkins because he thinks he’s a great athlete, he could take BJ Raji because it would be nice to add some depth to the D-Line, or he could take one of a handful of decent LB options. Or, he could take another WR, or he might snag a QB from a college nobody has ever heard of, or he might take a punter or he might draft Brother Steve for the new position of “team arguer”  -  the guy who argues with teammates until they get really pissed off leading to angrier and more aggressive play. I have no idea what’s going to happen and I haven’t had a gut feeling about anything…until yesterday.

Lately, my 21 month old son has been making up words…like his father. He thinks it’s very, very funny. (The difference, of course, is that he hasn’t learned about verbal immunity and his need to add “if you will” or “as it were” to any made up word giving him proper license to make up the word…he’ll learn eventually.) Anyway, what he does is say a random word he believes is not a word and then laughs very hard making everyone nearby laugh very hard as well. Repeatedly yesterday, for I’d say 20 minutes, he kept yelling the ‘word’ “maybin, maybin, maybin…” until the room would break out in laughter. Shortly after this Maybin outburst, I happened to review an article on the draft mentioning one Aaron Maybin. Perhaps it’s a sign (actually, I doubt it, but with TT at the helm, this may be as legit a guess as any another).

John Madden calling it quits

April 16, 2009

Read here for more on Madden retiring. Over the years, people have either found Madden to be super annoying or interesting and fun. Earlier on in my football watching days, I was annoyed by John Madden. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to appreciate what he means to the game of football. I also found that if I listened carefully, he would have good insight from time to time – raising points that hadn’t occurred to me. I always had the distinct impression that John Madden was a friendly guy, which was something that contributed to my improved opinion of him. Maybe I just bought his on-air persona which was usually light and friendly, but after this many years, I’d think it would be hard to fake it game after game. So I’m a bit sad re this news. With Madden’s retirement, I think the NFL has lost a great ambassador today.

Interesting that the guy who will be replacing him has evolved for me anyway, in a similar way. Chris Collinsworth (and his voice in particular) used to bug me when he first started out. But after listening enough to him over the years, I have really grown to appreciate 2 things: 1) that he knows the game really, really well and 2) that he is one announcer who isn’t afraid to reverse his opinion on a call for example, after the replay shows something different (though he usually gets it right live).


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