Archive for August, 2008

An Overreaction

August 16, 2008

Interesting non-football question.  A Swedish wrestler was stripped of his bronze medal after he complained about a penalty called on him.  The New York Times reports:

A contentious penalty that cost him a chance to compete for a gold medal in the middleweight division Thursday left Abrahamian furious. News reports said that he had to be restrained from wrestling officials after the incident.

I understand being upset, but wrestling officials?


Favre Solid

August 16, 2008

I can’t get the Packers-49er game until tomorrow at 1pm on NFL Network.  But I did see Brett Favre debut with Jets.  Wow.  He looks very, very good — and this after a week in which he said his arm was “fatigued.”  Five-of-six for 48 yards and a touchdown.  At one point the play-by-play announcer — I think it was Mike Patrick — said Favre looked to be in “mid-season form.”  (I guess that’s better than post-season form for Favre of late, right?)

He could do very well this year.

Favre take – Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN

August 15, 2008

Read this take on the Favre situation (if you can stomach any more Favre situation talk) by one of the best writers out there – Gregg Easterbrook. Makes some sense to me, and echoes Steve’s post re this now being Ted Thompson’s team.

Also, wanted to add that I am still waiting for the “upcoming firestorm” from Favre and company for which the Packers apparently hired Ari Fleischer. Much of the reason I wanted to hold out on completely bashing Favre for his behavior during this episode was based on my firm belief that something bigger happened that the public just hasn’t been told about yet. While I acknowledge there was some justification for Favre feeling unwanted based on things we do know (especially if McGinn’s claim is true that TT didn’t want Favre back dating back well into last year), if this is all the info we have, I can’t help but be more bothered by Favre’s handling of this than the team’s handling of this. Perhaps we’ll hear more as time rolls on, who knows.

In the meantime, I’m focused on the Packers this year and really pulling for Rodgers. We still have a pretty good team I believe if the D-Line can come together. I will also though, be keeping an eye on how Favre does in NY. Maybe in some sense, it is fitting for Favre, who has played his entire career in the NFL’s smallest city, to go to its biggest city for a rousing send off. We’ll see.

Position Review – Receivers

August 14, 2008

Donald Driver: Driver should start again and produce at a high level. There is just something about him that has made him alarmingly reliable. He’s not a big guy and he plays so fearlessly that it sometimes doesn’t add up that he can produce so much sine injury (I threw “sine” in there so that you’d all say, wow, Andy knows Latin and must be so smart that he assumes the rest of us know other languages – a pet peeve of mine re academic types). Anyway, Driver is a stud and I expect a 60-70 reception season from him.

Greg Jennings: Jennings is also a stud. I have to admit, brother Steve called this and has been a big fan of his since Day 1. One thing Jennings has going against him this year, however, is that he’s not a secret anymore. Teams know now that if they don’t pay enough attention to him, he will not only make the catch, but very possibly take it to the house. Jennings took almost 1 in every 4.5 passes to the end zone…very impressive. For defenses, it will be a bit difficult to determine who to give more double-team help against, Driver or Jennings. Nice problem to have. I expect Jennings to maybe have more receptions this year (60-70) but fewer TDs.

James Jones: Jones is very good (shy of stud level for now) and something tells me he hasn’t really even given us a glimpse of his true talent yet. I think the pre-season play last week with the helmet is more typical of the kind of Sterling Sharpe-dragging-CBs-down-the-field type play we’ll see from Jones. Also, Jones is clearly going to be Rodgers favorite target this year and his number will show that. Interestingly, last year Jones only had 6 fewer receptions than Jennings (though 300 fewer yards and 10 fewer TDs). I expect Jones to have quite a few more receptions this year (70 or so) and to be a disruptive force in 3 receiver sets as it will become very difficult to defenses to know who to key on.

Ruvell Martin: I put Martin here in the #4 spot because he deserves it. Assuming his recovers OK from his concussion the other night, this guy need to be on the field. It’s hard to believe I’m writing that about a guy I considered mostly a scrub a couple years ago. But he just plain does something productive, whether it’s making difficult catches (though he dropped a critical one in the playoffs last year) or blocking better than any WR out there today. He’s got a great attitude and he helps this team. Martin, could surpass the 25 reception mark if he gets in enough.

Jordy Nelson: So far, Jordy has been OK. I heard someone raving about how smooth he was in the Cincy game the other night…didn’t see that necessarily. I can see his potential though in watching him play. I didn’t realize either that he was a 1st team All-American last year, no small honor. I know he had one decent return and I realize he’d be somewhat tough to bring down for opposing special teamers, but I still prefer Blackmon returning punts and kicks. Jordy might be at his best in a 4 receiver set where he gets a back-up/back-up CB on him. He also may be good on some jump ball kinds of throws or catching the ball in traffic. I did see a bit more juke in him on one play than I was expecting. Still, the jury on Jordy is still out until I see something more from him. I can see Jordy ending up with 15-20 receptions this year.

The rest: Johnny Quinn seems like the kind of tough I’ll-do-anything-you-ask guy who can really help out a team. But I don’t think he’s a keeper. Brett Swain looks like Brett Favre trying to catch passes. Not seeing the quickness or the apparent quality route-running. I had irrational dreams of him being the next Wes Welker. Chris Francies has to keep sticking around the team for a reason. It seems the team is reluctant to let him go. He had a bad game Monday night, but reports around indicate he’s had a decent camp so far. Taj Smith doesn’t seem to be that good, but may be able to be developed (practice squad type). Jake Allen – know very little re this guy???

By the way, anyone know what happened to Carlyle Holiday? I thought that guy was starting to look really good before his injury last year. I’m surprised he wasn’t at least invited to camp. Ok, I just read that he was released by the team 2/29/08. Too bad – I also liked having an emergency QB floating around just in case.

Not Very Jolly

August 14, 2008

Interesting nugget from Greg Bedard’s post at JS Online last night.

Johnny Jolly is straddling the line between being competitive and being a punk. He got into it a couple of times in practice, including once when he took some swings at Tony Moll. You know it’s bad when Mark Tauscher has to say something to you. And get this: Jolly got in Tauscher’s face and the two had to be separated. Something’s wrong when that happens.

No kidding.  I remember seeing Jolly up close once early last year.  He had made the team, but wasn’t playing much and certainly wasn’t a star.  But he was strutting around like he’d one the Pro-Bowl, wearing movie-star shades and fifteen pounds of glistening gold jewelry.  Although others were signing autographs, Jolly seemed to busy to be bothered.  (That said, it might just be that no one wanted one from him.)

Jolly wouldn’t be the first professional athlete with a fondness for bling and he’s certainly proven himself to have been a good value in the 6th round.  But I’m with Bedard — if you’re picking fights with Mark Tauscher you’re a punk.  (Not to mention the reports of drug possession.)

If Jolly implodes — or gets into additional trouble — the Packers will really be in trouble.  It’s looking more and more likely that the really questionable move Ted Thompson made this offseason might have been trading Corey Williams rather than trading Brett Favre.  We’ll.

Tons of good stuff in the Bedard post, including an update on the battle for the #2 QB spot and an injury update on AJ Hawk.

Chicago Bears personnel decisions – horrendous

August 13, 2008

What is wrong with the Chicago Bears and GM Jerry Angelo? I hesitate to write what I’m about to write only because I wouldn’t want the Bears to read it and get smart, saying to themselves: “Holy crap, we are so freakin’ stupid!

In 2005, the Bears drafted Cedric Benson with the 4th overall pick in the draft. When they did this, I remember telling Brother Steve immediately that it was a big mistake. Steve disagreed largely because of Benson’s quality college work. But my argument was based on what the Bears already had – Thomas Jones, a rising star. The Bears could have been in a much better position long-term by drafting any of a number of other guys with the #4 pick and sticking with the Jones/Adrian Peterson duo. I know some people believe that the platooning of Benson and Jones helped the team reach the Super Bowl that year, but that is just not the case. Jones by himself was very good and Benson’s #s weren’t bad only because he was in mostly on 3rd down, free-RB-yardage plays. And the offense as a whole was just not good leaving Devin Hester and the defense to win most of the games. Deciding to then jettison Jones after the season was really shortsighted. Sure, it’s easy to say now that things have played out this way, but again, I didn’t like the move the day they drafted Benson. And, on top of everything, Benson had a horrible attitude from day 1, something there were rumblings about before the draft. He eventually would whine about not being the guy and the Bears gave him what he wanted. And then he sucked. And the Bears sucked…and they still suck.

The second major error of course is this insistence that they are fine at the QB position. Grossman and Orton both are at best back-ups and maybe even on a good number of teams, third-stringers. These guys are not good. Again, I know the floating logic in the Bears’ personnel offices is that Rex took them to the Super Bowl, but again, that is not what happened. They got to the Super Bowl despite having Rex out there and had no chance to win that big game with him on the field. Here, by the way, is case-closed evidence for their respective terribleness, if you will:

  • Orton’s career numbers: 62 QB rating, 12 TDs, 15 INTs, 52% completion rate
  • Grossman’s career numbers: 70 QB rating, 31 TDs, 33 INTs, 54% completion rate

These are horrendous numbers and the fact that these two are “battling it out” is really unbelievable, but great for the rest of us in the NFC North.

The third major error is drafting Chris Williams with the 16th pick in this year’s draft. The Bears front office was right, maybe for the only time since drafting Devin Hester (and Garrett Wolfe who will be good this year), to think about bolstering the offensive line. As bad as Benson, Orton and Grossman are, they weren’t helped especially last year by shoddy O-Line play. Williams to most observers was a highly revered O-Line guy. But many teams had taken him off their draft boards when they learned re his chronic back problem. Sure enough, camp has barely started and the guy is going to get surgery on his back – and one scout even noted here that it may not just be a season-ending injury, but possibly a career-ending injury. But it’s this kind of quote from Lovie Smith that really makes me wonder sometimes if there is a cloud of denial that hangs around the Bears front office re obvious personnel mistakes:

”We don’t know anything about [Williams being removed from other teams’ draft boards],” coach Lovie Smith said. ”He wasn’t falling off ours. This injury, from what I am told, isn’t a pre-existing injury, so that is what we’re going with. Injuries happen in camp, and you go from there. We were unlucky a little bit with this, but Chris will be OK and we’ll go from there.”

(Incidentally, their other O-lineman Terrence Metcalf also appears to be out for a while with a knee injury. So much for building up their O-line).

Again, as a Packer fan, I really like Jerry Angelo. I think he’s great at what he does if his goal is helping the Packers win the NFC North. But knowing how many Bears fans criticized the Packers for their role in pushing Favre out, I think they ought to remove the logs from their own eyes first…to get misquoted Biblical on you.

Brother Steve to be blindsided by Tarvaris Jackson?

August 12, 2008

Despite Brother Steve’s firm belief that Minnesota starting QB Tarvaris Jackson is horrible (a belief he shares with a good many other Packer fans), there is growing evidence to the contrary. Read here as Vic Carucci writes about how Jackson has matured and progressed to the point where the Vikings are quite confident in him. Also, read about how he handled the Favre’s rumors. I especially liked this snippet:

Besides, Jackson knew he wasn’t alone. He knew that in addition to the speculation that Favre could join the Vikings, there also was buzz about him winding up with a team — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — that has a far more established quarterback.

Jeff Garcia led them to the playoffs last year, and is a pretty good quarterback, a Pro Bowl quarterback,” Jackson said. “So why do I have a right to be mad about my situation when I haven’t even done that yet?”

Steve and I continue to see Jackson’s abilities and potential very differently. I think he could be really, really good this year and in the next few years. I think it’s significant that he was 8-4 as a starter last year. Sure, he had Peterson in the fold which helps any QB, but 8-4 is a good record. He has amazing physical attributes and apparently he’s reached a much greater comfort level with the play-book and the whole being a team leader duty. And, I’m not just reacting to this article. I’ve read several other articles like it in the off-season and dating back to last year – so multiple sources have observed these improving qualities. I think it’s about time Steve and many other Packer fans who are so willing to cast this QB aside, wake up and realize that he could be responsible in good part for helping the Vikings battle for NFC North supremacy.

Game Recap

August 11, 2008

Following are some observations from the game:

  • Rodgers looked really really good. He needed this for himself, for the team and for the fans. Huge game Aaron.
  • Great reception for Rodgers by the fans – just fantastic.
  • Rodgers’ main target this year will be James Jones. They are very good friends and you can already see the comfort level. I wouldn’t mind that considering Jones is a guy Brother Steve has accused me of having a mancrush on.
  • Jackson is quicker than I thought he was.
  • I LOVE that Jackson didn’t just run out of bounds on 2 occasions – he kept driving and stayed in. Jim Brown was interviewed in the last few years about the state of the NFL running game and one comment he made, something I’ve wondered about too, is that RBs tend to run out of bounds way too often, when they don’t have to. He said it’s soft. Jackson was not soft tonight.
  • Blackmon should return kicks. Jordy seems like a nice guy and had one good return, but the fact is Blackmon is a very natural returner and importantly, it’s something he takes great pride in. I’m getting to the point where I’m reluctant to use Tramon back there because we may not be able to afford him getting hurt – he’s that good now.
  • Barnett/Hawk look very strong.
  • Offense looked very similar with Rodgers under center – compared to last year.
  • Ruvell Martin does nothing but make plays. As a coach, I’d have a hard time not giving him more playing time considering he does more when he’s on the field than just about anyone.
  • Tight pass defense by the Pack in the beginning of the game.
  • Defense could be a problem for the Packers though this season, especially on the line. Weak line play (Pickett makes a huge difference though).
  • Humphrey is huge- looks like Sterling Sharpe in that 84, didn’t play like Sharpe though.
  • The Bengals defense is shoddy – made us look good.
  • The Bengals running game started taking off due to HUGE holes, bad Pack d-line play.
  • Interesting TT was shown watching the game alone. Wonder if that’s common.
  • Brohm does not look ready or something for the NFL. Maybe he’s just nervous, but he just does not look sharp.
  • Flynn appears significantly more poised than Brohm and my guess is with the #1 offense, he may not be a bad player at all.
  • Jon Ryan is struggling.
  • Rouse has to get more consideration for starting if he goes through the pre-season and continues to make plays/get interceptions.
  • Craig Lumpkin is better than Noah Herron – he has some nice chip blocks in the backfield too.

UPDATE: Thanks to “The Choj” for pointing out that nobody seems to be mentioning Hodge. I made a note to include him in this post last night but forgot. Criminal almost, that I didn’t include the guy. He was outstanding last night. The first few great plays I sort of chalked up to adrenaline and him probably just being so pumped to be out there. But then he had a blocked pass and a tackle for loss and a monster hit and…He was really, really good last night. If that continues, I think it may be hard for the team to justify keeping him off the field (though I think he was lined up at middle linebacker and Barnett also looked very, very good). Nice problem to have perhaps.

Packers vs. Cincinnati – game keys

August 11, 2008

This may be the lamest game keys posting of the year because there are really only three main ones:

  1. How does Rodgers to respond to all of this – will he give us some reassurance that he should be the man…more reassurance than he offered on Family Night?
  2. How will the team respond to Rodgers and the whole situation? Will they come out fired up or will they come out like they did back during Sherman’s demise…lifeless?
  3. NO SERIOUS INJURIES! Pre-season seems to be in place not only to evaluate players but also to make sure at least several NFL teams go into their seasons with injuries to key players they would much rather have on the field. Not a big fan of a 4 game pre-season.

(Minor keys: how will Poppinga vs Chillar shake out? Who will emerge as the most sensible option as punt returner?….should be Blackmon. Which back-up QB will begin to give us a better sense of security in the event that one of them is needed? Which RBs will be kept after Grant/Jackson? Will Wynn play? Will Josh Sitton really be considered for a starting role if he plays well?)

Big Night for Rodgers

August 11, 2008

Let’s assume that Ted Thompson is correct.  And that he, like Mike McCarthy and the many other analysts and observers who think Aaron Rodgers will be be a good quarterback (like ESPN’s John Clayton), are right.  The key to his success, then, may be his ability to handle the pressure of replacing Brett Favre and how it affects him mentally.  It seems to me that quarterback, more than any other position (d-back is a close second) requires supreme confidence, and that quarterbacks with extraordinary athletic ability succeed or fail because they are confident in their ability and remain so.

So Rodgers’ performance tonight — as the unquestioned starter for the Green Bay Packers, as the guy who is good enough to get Brett Favre moved out of Green Bay — will be huge for his confidence.

In general, I think Rodgers has handled the past month very well.  But Tom Silverstein has an interesting and potentially revealing snippet from Rodgers about his mental state going into the game tonight

“You think about that all the time,” Rodgers said of running through the tunnel as the Packers’ starting quarterback. “Definitely, it’s going to be an exciting time. Hopefully there will be more cheers than boos.

“Sometimes there’s more boos than cheers in my dream. But we have a great group of fans and I’m excited about the opportunity to be one of the leaders on this football team and just get things rolling into the regular season.”

I hope there are more cheers than boos tonight…