Archive for August, 2010

Somewhat concerning Al Harris update…

August 31, 2010

Bedard is reporting that Mike McCarthy told someone at USA Today this week that Al Harris will begin the season on the PUP list (meaning he’d miss the first 5-6 regular season games). While I’m not totally surprised given the seriousness of his injury, I was holding out hope Harris might be ready by game 3-4 or so. I’m not thrilled about this because I do think Harris’ presence in the line-up provides a certain stability. But I also don’t think at this particular point, he’s likely to be much better than Tramon considering Al hasn’t played/practiced for so long. The bigger issue, as Bedard notes, is who will then start at the nickel position?

Thoughts on Indy preseason game

August 27, 2010
  • Rodgers continues to look so good – scary good.
  • Finley is impossible to defend.
  • I disagree with all those fantasy “experts” who say Donald Driver is going to be weaker this year. I just see no slowing down with this guy. Does any Packer better embody what it means to be a Packer? I just love the guy and he’s still playing at a high level.
  • For the first time in a long time, our 2nd, 3rd and 4th string offenses (at least, and also defenses to some extent I suppose) looked like they really knew what they were doing. I just got the feeling watching them that we may finally have established a quality overall system of both consistent incoming talent and a workable overall coaching scheme. To have the 3rd string offense come in and tear up the field was just odd to see in a preseason game. Usually 3rd string play is fraught with constant penalties and mental errors. Mike McCarthy had the whole team prepared to play last night (except the make-shift first team defense).
  • Graham Harrell threw some bullets and overall looked quite strong. Tough decision cut-wise after how he played last night.
  • I’m comfortable with Flynn as the #2. He’s good. He does seem to struggle with any throws over 25 yards or so, but he had some great throws on plays requiring shorter throws.
  • Still don’t know what they are doing with Hawk, Poppinga, now Zombo, Chillar, etc in the preseason LB rotation. Not sure if this is all more audition time or what (I’m guessing this is the case), but for a long time in the beginning of the game, our line-up had 5 DBs, Zombo and Poppinga as OLBs, Chillar and Barnett as MLBs and Raji and Pickett manning the middle on the D-Line. It will be interesting to see where all the pieces fall into place once everyone is healthy.
  • James Jones should get more opportunities this year – I hope. With enough opportunities, I do think Jones could end up making a name for himself as one of those WRs that DBs don’t like to tackle. I have visions for him of Sterling Sharpe-drag-DBs-down-the-field type plays.
  • Still feeling like our RB situation isn’t bad – but that it could be better.
  • Quinn Johnson makes some punishing blocks but he still doesn’t seem quite as polished as Hall or Kuhn. Between QB (keep 2-3 guys?), FB (keep 2-3 guys?), TE and LB there will be some tough decisions. I can actually see the Pack keeping 3FBs again and only 2 RBs on the active roster – perhaps keeping Quinn Porter on the practice squad.
  • Morgan Burnett had some awkward angles on tackles at time (missing 1-2 by my unofficial count), but his read on Manning for the INT was sweet. He moved a tiny bit inside leading Manning to assume he was going to run with the inside WR and then quickly stepped into the other passing lane for a very easy pick. Manning doesn’t throw them that easy – leading me to believe it was more of a nice play by Burnett than a poor play by Manning.

2010 AFC East Predictions

August 22, 2010

AFC East

  • NE Patriots, 11-5 – Why? Not sure. They have some older players, they shouldn’t be that good and Belichick continues to be weird. But they always have older players, they always end up being good anymore and Belichick’s weirdness is often smart weirdness (like going for 4th downs). Borrowing from soccer’s apparent claim on the word “mercurial”, Belichick’s mercurialness hasn’t faded a bit and I can’t help but think he will mercurially help the Patriots achieve success once again. In particular, the Brady/Moss/Welker trio will remain brutally difficult to defend and some may be surprised when the Laurence Maroney/Fred Taylor duo ends up being shockingly productive. Watch out for the Pats this year.
  • Miami Dolphins, 9-7 – Most will be shocked that I’ve put the Jets in at least 3rd place in this division. But the Dolphins have been quietly solid since coach Tony Sporano has taken over. He’s a good coach who goes about things quietly, yet effectively. They have a young group but they also have players who can just plain get the job done. The signing of Brandon Marshall was huge. Huge. This guy is good and his presence will immediately help the passing game – especially the other WRs like Davone Bess, Brian Hartline and Greg Camarillo. And I don’t see why Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown will slow down at all. Now that there is a greater threat in the passing game (especially with the emergence of Chad Henne over the last few games of last season – 4 300 yard games in a row), it stands to reason that an already potent running game could be even better. This team could be quite good.
  • NY Jets, 8-8 – What? The Jets not winning the division? AW not buying the puffery surrounding Fat Ryan?  Does AW predict this because of the Revis controversy?  How could someone dare not believe in the Jets after their surprising ascent last year? Joey, have you ever been to a Turkish prison? A potential Revis holdout will hurt, yes, but it won’t ruin them. What will ruin them is a few setbacks. I’m envisioning a team having a seriously difficult time bouncing back from a few crucial setbacks. Rex Ryan is a coach who is so full of himself (and hot air), that I really doubt the “you should believe in yourself because I’m making you believe in yourself” approach will work this year. When he settles down some, it’s possible the Jets will settle down and be good again…in a few years. But not this year. The Jets won’t be bad and may contend for the playoffs because they do have talent. But they don’t have THAT much talent and I think people will be surprised by how good the Pats and the Dolphins are this year.
  • Buffalo, 4-12 – Whenever there’s even the potential that someone like Brian Brohm, the slow-motion Brian Brohm, could start at QB, your team is hurting. Buff has some offensive talent (though both Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch have recently been slowed by injuries), but overall, they mostly suck. Too bad. I like the Buff and their fans and root for the team, but I just don’t think they’ll be bringing much this year at all. And hiring Chan Gailey was questionable.

The Packers should trade for Steve Slaton

August 18, 2010

Like many of my free agent/draft/trade scenarios – this will never happen. The team obviously likes Ryan Grant as the starter and Mike McCarthy recently went on and on about Brandon Jackson eventually saying he believes Jackson could easily be THE featured back. If anyone is wondering why Brandon Jackson has not lost his spot as the #2 RB, it’s not just because there haven’t been many good players brought in to compete with him (besides Tyrell Sutton), but it’s also because the head coach is squarely in his corner. I don’t think Brandon Jackson is bad, I’m not saying that. But I am saying that neither he nor Grant are as good as our coaching staff/GM seem to believe they are and that our RB group should be improved.

I tend to agree with those who say Ryan Grant is a very solid back, but that he’s not special. He plays hard, he has a great attitude and many people are actually just off when it comes to assessing his productivity – he has top 10 RB stats as a starter. But he’s not special and we could use the contributions of a special player at RB. That’s why I wrote earlier about Marshawn Lynch (whom I still believe has the potential at least to be special) and now about Steve Slaton. Both of these guys can make plays that Ryan Grant simply can’t make.

A couple years ago, I wrote a post encouraging the Packers to look at Slaton in the draft because he had slipped significantly in all the pre-draft hype for no reason whatsoever. A year after I wrote that post and a year after Slaton went crazy his rookie year, Brother Steve temporarily backed off of his comments re my crack use by writing a rare post acknowledging my Slaton-will-be-good call. The guy was fantastic with all of his dynamic skills on display: juking, running, catching, scoring TDs. He was special.

Last year, however, he wasn’t as good. He had some fumbling issues and then a major neck injury. His yards-per-carry stat also was down significantly from 2008. One factor few seem to acknowledge though about the 2009 Texans is that they became a pass-happy team and consequently the O-Line’s focus shifted to pass-blocking – not so much run-blocking. And, after just a couple fumbles, Slaton was thrown in Gary Kubiak’s doghouse – reducing his per-game touches and his overall chances to contribute.

Steve Slaton would be a great fit with the Packers right now. His neck is fine, several accounts I’ve read recently have indicated that he’s been looking like his old self this summer, he has a unique talent for scoring TDs and he is no longer THE guy in Houston. (He has been relegated to 3rd down duty – Arian Foster is their starter now…Slaton’s price tag may not actually be THAT high.) But one other reason I would want him on the team is that he could pose a threat to Ryan Grant. Ryan Grant did have a period of time a couple years ago when he actually was special. When he first started back in the middle of 2007. His stats were out of control (when projected for the whole year, he would have been the #2 back in the NFL). Remember how hard he ran and how many long runs he broke off? He was playing for something – for a job. Since then, he got a huge raise and he hasn’t been challenged for his starting spot. I can’t help but wonder if this has given him less incentive to reach that higher level of play that he may still be capable of achieving. Steve Slaton, if he plays like himself, could not only challenge Grant for the starting job (perhaps pushing Grant to play better in the process), but he could also be a tremendous back-up/3rd down back to have if Grant remains the starter.

Having the RB duo of Ryan Grant and Steve Slaton would be quite nice and I’d say it’s at least worth it to look into what it might take to acquire Slaton.

Thoughts on first preseason game

August 15, 2010
  • I was at the game.
  • One thing everyone saw was our starting defense get used by Cleveland’s offense. I know some guys were missing, but we had most of our starters. The Cleve was able to run the ball OK, but they carved us up through the air. And it was Jake Delhomme doing it too – not pretty. It was a poor start to the overall season but I’m not ready to get too worked up about it yet.
  • AJ Hawk seemed to be solely at fault for one of the TDs (the third one I believe). He really struggles in coverage. The guy put one quick move on him and had an easy TD.
  • I was seriously relieved to see what seems to be a legit punting duel. While I know I missed some apparently questionable punts at the end of the game, I saw a couple huge punts with fantastic hang time. I realize that there’s not really anywhere to go but up for our punting game, but I was still encouraged by the legs of both punters.
  • Brady Poppinga had a couple nice plays – but I have no idea why he started the game (or at least played most of the snaps) at LOLB. From what I could tell Brandon Chillar barely played with the starting group (it was Jones and Poppinga in the outside spots).
  • Finley will be unstoppable this year. The guy is seriously talented and perhaps more importantly, seems to absolutely love playing the game. Not sure what the TV crowd could see, but Finley was pretty active getting the crowd pumped up before series would start, after getting a first down, etc. I’m already thinking Finley may end up being one of the sneaky best draft picks by TT. And while we’re at it, let’s give credit to the coaching for bringing him along like they have.
  • On a related Finley note, it was very evident to me just how much his presence (especially when he spreads out wide) causes serious match-up issues for defenses. LBs in coverage have no chance – none. And CBs are too small (and also when CBs switch over to cover him, it seems to open things up for Driver and Jennings.)
  • Last year, when Rodgers was asked why he was sacked far less frequently in the 2nd half of the season, his answer was simple and somewhat surprising: Jermichael Finley. He essentially said that when Finley is in there, defenses have so much trouble figuring out how defend him that Rodgers can get rid of the ball quicker.
  • Didn’t take much from this game overall – but here were a few players who looked decent to me: Charlie Peprah, Mike Neal, Quinn Porter, Andrew Quarless.

Packers first depth chart (thanks Travis)

August 10, 2010

Check here for the Packers first depth chart of the season. Can’t believe they’ve moved Graham Harrell up to starting QB over Rodgers! Rodgers must be having trouble with his pad level.

Not many surprises here except that Chillar is listed as the #1 OLB opposite Matthews. Not sure how much of that is a reflection of concern for Brad Jones’ injury or if this simply means that Chillar has just taken over, period. Don’t really mind this move at all – I believe he’ll succeed at OLB in the 3-4. Only other things that stood out were: that Pat Lee is considered the 2nd string CB behind Woodson (he’s had to have had a good offseason to be put in that position at this point); that Sam Shields is #4 deep for CBs and #3 deep for KR and PR (I thought they were higher on him than that); that Tim Masthay is listed as the back-up kicker – if he can kick in addition to punt, that may give him a leg up on the punting job, if you will.

Why is it…

August 10, 2010

that whenever I read something about posture, I spend the next 30 minutes pretending like I don’t actually have terrible posture?

Bulaga at left guard now?

August 10, 2010

Reader Katie asked what we thought of this move: moving first round pick Brian Bulaga from left tackle to left guard. Mike McCarthy is apparently trying this and has indicated that the competition for the LG spot is open. Interesting. As Bob McGinn speculates, this means that McCarthy is either not satisfied with Colledge’s play over the last few years or that he just thinks Bulaga has THAT much upside. (Or, of course most likely, both.)

I have written before about my concerns with McCarthy shuffling the O-Line and how this has can be disruptive to team chemistry and disruptive to the overall development of our O-Linemen. I generally believe that players are drafted to play certain positions because they played those positions well in college. Messing with that too much is usually not a good idea.

However, there are exceptions. When one guy just isn’t that good, it is the job of the coach (and the GM) to figure out how to get a better player in there. And when a guy is talented enough to make a position change at the NFL level, it might be worth at least investigating because if it works out, fundamentally, the coach is doing his job of putting the best players on the field. So in this particular case with Colledge and Bulaga, I’m all for trying Bulaga out at LG mostly because Daryn Colledge is not that good. Colledge isn’t terrible and he’s had some good games. But overall, he’s just not that good and replacing him might yield better overall productivity from our LG position. I’ve said this before about Colledge: he strikes me as one of those guys who doesn’t have that nasty streak you want your O-Linemen to have. (The tattoos are a farce, my guess is that they are of the stick-on variety…) Colledge just seems too comfortable with his station in life as an NFL player – earning a nice paycheck, having a nice life – he appears to me to lack that edge.  So again, because Bulaga by most accounts appears to be extra talented and the coach believes that he would be talented enough to be able to make a position switch at the NFL level, I’m all for trying it out at least. One very important part of any experiment like this, however, is that the coaches monitor the situation carefully and that they not be afraid to abandon the whole thing if it’s not working. It’s not good to have starting positions up for grabs right up to Week One. Try this for a few weeks to see how it works out and go from there.

What do you all think about this proposed move?

Why will the Bears be good this year?

August 9, 2010
  • Brian Urlacher is back. Urlacher hasn’t been THAT great the last few years (and of course, he was injured all of last year). And there will still be times when I’ll think he’s overrated. But he brings a soul to the Chicago defense. He knows what he’s doing out there and in tandem with Lance Briggs, the Chicago LB group can play at a high level. His return is big.
  • Chris Harris is back at safety. The Bears lost Harris to Carolina a few years ago but have decided to bring him back – mostly because the guy is a quality safety. The secondary is a bit suspect overall, but bringing Harris back was smart and he will help this team.
  • Unfortunately for the rest of the NFC North, I think Mike Martz will settle in well. For the last few years, there has been some controversy in Chicago over who calls the defensive plays. Most recently, Lovie Smith himself has done this. But whenever a head coach is so involved in one aspect of the game like Lovie is with the defense, it necessarily has to detract from his overall ability to contribute to the other aspect of the game (in this case, the offense). To get around this, some teams just have their head coaches be head coaches and leave offensive/defensive playcalling to the respective coordinators. Other teams (like the Packers and Mike McCarthy) decide to hire a strong personality (often a former head coach) who can just handle that whole other aspect of the game (like Capers does with the Pack’s defense). Mike Martz will handle the offense and now Lovie can just focus on the defense. This will work well in Chicago. Also, remember, these two have coached together (with success) earlier in the decade for the Rams.
  • The Martz offensive system will also work well because Martz has some quality personnel to carry out his elaborate offensive game plans. I know many who will disagree with this, but I think what Jay Cutler actually needs is a coach with a huge ego who can run interference with Cutler getting carried away with himself. Think Holmgren/Favre. I hate to say this, but with two very good RBs, some fast and quick WRs and a couple quality TEs, and a creative offensive system, this offense could take off this year.
  • Matt Forte will be back. Last year, Forte dealt with some nagging injuries and a porous O-Line. While the line does remain a big question mark for this team, Forte was so dangerous his rookie year it’s hard to imagine that he’d repeat his performance from last year and not the performance from his rookie year now that he’s healthy again. He’s a really good player.
  • Chester Taylor will be there in case Forte isn’t that good – or, as a nice complement to Forte if he is good. Taylor is a very good RB – MN was unwise to let him slip away this past offseason and especially unwise to let him go to a division rival. Taylor seems to me to be a scary fit for a Mike Martz style offense.
  • WR Devin Aromashodu is good. This guy came out of nowhere last year and dominated in his last 4 games. (4 TDs, 280 or so yards receiving). Cutler likes throwing to him. He will be a big key to this offense because if he can stretch the field and make big plays, it will open things up for quick passes underneath to Hester and Johnny Knox. If these WRs get things rolling, Chicago could be really difficult to stop.
  • Chicago has to be good or everyone gets fired. There is a lot of pressure right now on this Bears team. If they suck this year, everyone (including the GM) will get canned. There won’t be give-up at least from the coaching staff. Couple this with the fact that the Bears are not expected to be that good and it makes for a team that will have plenty of incentive to play well (I believe Lovie is well-liked by the players) and a team that doesn’t have the weight of expectations outside the locker room.

Bigby toast for 2010?

August 5, 2010

Things aren’t looking good for Bigby. He now needs surgery Friday to “clean up” his ankle – the same one that has been bothering him for a while now. It’s looking more and more like Morgan Burnett will start next to Nick Collins this year and frankly, from what I’ve heard so far about Burnett, that’s fine with me. I still don’t think Bigby is a bad player by any means but for some reason I just don’t think there will be much of a drop-off (if any) with Burnett in there vs Bigby. Only real issue now may be depth at safety, I’m not too pumped about our other choices there. (Though I have to say, I hold out some hope that Derrick Martin can grow comfortable enough with the defense that he could some day wreak the havoc on defense that he does on special teams.)