Monday, August 07, 2017

Did WR Malachi Dupre Break Out At Packers Family Night Practice?

I don't want to make a big deal out of the Green Bay Packers' annual Family Night televised scrimmage. It's not a real game setting which makes player evaluation almost meaningless, though it is fun to watch (when it isn't getting rained out). But it was interesting to see one of their rookies make a big play on Saturday night:
I'm down on CB LaDarius Gunter after last season, in some games he was a life saver when all the other CBs were injured but in other games his obvious weaknesses were completely exposed (see NFC Championship Game). I don't think he has a long-term future with the Packers. So outplaying him isn't a super-impressive feat of strength. But this isn't the first time Dupre's name has come up in training camp and he might be a prospect who was written off too soon.

Amazingly Dupre was thought of as a 2nd round prospect, and even a Top 10 1st round prospect, by some a year ago. But he committed the cardinal sin of having a worse college season than the year before (though he led LSU in receptions and receiving yards in 2015 and 2016) in large part due to a terrible quarterback situation. He also disappointed with his measurables at the NFL combine; he wasn't actually as tall as he was listed in college, he had "small" hands, and he wasn't the fastest receiver with a 4.52 40 time.

But he is a former five-star college recruit who was a high school state champion in track-and-field. And receivers can play a lot faster than they look if they're a great route runner,. Although he measured shorter than expected at the combine, he's still over 6-2 (above average for a Packer wide receiver) and he was the 3rd best WR in the vertical jump at the combine which might mean he'll play taller than his actual height.

Still, so far all he's done is look good in practice and training camp. It's how he does, and whether he can hold onto the ball, during their preseason games that'll really matter. But he should be in a good position to see a lot of playing time because there's no need to give a lot of snaps to Nelson, Cobb and Adams. I'm curious whether they'll hold Nelson out entirely considering he tore up his knee during a preseason game in 2015. Also, QB Brett Hundley missed practically the entire 2016 preseason so the Packers are probably eager to get him throwing as much as possible. Dupre hasn't proven anything yet, but he has become one of the players I'm most eager to see during the preseason.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Rookie DT Montravius Adams Has Foot Injury, Stress Fracture

I wasn't expecting a lot from Green Bay Packers' rookie DT Montravius Adams, who they just selected in the 3rd round, but they did need him for depth. Now it's unknown when he'll be available again:
OLB Vince Biegel had surgery for a break in his foot back in May and he's still currently out of practice. The two injuries might not be similar but Biegel is an example of someone who's been held back for a while due to a foot injury.

Adams wasn't going to start ahead of DT Mike Daniels or DT Kenny Clark. He wasn't going to be the first backup off the bench either, with that role going to DE Dean Lowry or DT Ricky Jean Francois. But with DT Letroy Guion going through whatever he's going through, he's been suspended for the first 4 games of 2017 anyway, the depth behind those top 4 has become thin. DTs Brian Price and Christian Ringo were around last season, but I wasn't expecting either of them to make the team in 2017. If disaster strikes and either Daniels or Clark miss time due to injury, Adams was/is the only player with upside as a future starter.

Still, I'm just writing about a backup who wasn't guaranteed to provide any help in 2017. The drop off from Adams to Ringo might be little, to nothing, this season. Hopefully Adams gets well soon.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Packers 2017 Season Started Today

It wasn't much, only the first practice of training camp, but it was the start of the Green Bay Packers' 2017 season. Except for watching out for injuries, having only two players on the PUP list is a good start, not much is going to change between now and the first preseason game.

The big thing to watch is new look defense as they try and fix the disaster that was the 2016 pass defense. So far it looks like the solution is to get rid of all the linebackers.
That's three lineman, two EDGE rushers, two CBs and three safeties. At under 230 lbs. Joe Thomas is a one of a new breed of players. Ten years ago he'd be way to small to be considered a LB and either bulk up to play inside or go small and play safety. I should correct myself and call him one too but he's a different type of inside backer.

The one glaring weakness is their No. 1 CB. Who should be covering the other team's No. 1 receiver? House and Gunter aren't the answer. The future should belong to 2nd round CB Kevin King but the present is not in his hands:
Ugh. Hopefully he's a fast learner during training camp.

It looks like they'll have good weather in Green Bay this weekend so hopefully everyone in attendance has a good time.

Friday, June 30, 2017

When Does The Packers 2017 Season Begin?

There's not much to write about with the Green Bay Packers until training camp begins on July 27. Looking ahead, there's no easy game to start the regular season, first they host the Seahawks on September 10th and then travel to Atlanta on September 17th. It'll be a huge game for the Falcons because it's their regular season home opener in their new stadium and the beer and food prices are expected to be insanely low!

Those first two games might not even be their toughest ones, looking ahead to road games at Dallas in October and at Pittsburgh in November. At least they get to travel to Cleveland in December.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Ballad of Letroy Guion, Hawaii Edition

Wednesday morning, the Green Bay Packers twitter account had the following message:
If only his birthday had been a day later...
I wouldn't expect this arrest alone would mean he's going to be released. He's already received a second chance after his arrest in 2015 while in possession of a lot of cash and pot, and he was still part of their 2017 plans though he's already suspended for the first 4 games of the season. Maybe this arrest will lead to an automatic longer suspension by the NFL but I'm not an NFL code of conduct guru.

According to Football Outsiders, Guion's 504 snaps last season were second only to DT Mike Daniels, so he was important to their defensive scheme. The Packers did sign free agent DT Ricky Jean Francois and drafted DT Montravius Adams in the 3rd round, maybe both were acquired with an eye towards replacing Guion anyway. But they already have to replace the snaps given last season to DT Mike Pennel, who's not a big loss but those snaps have to be taken up by someone, so releasing Guion would give them little depth behind Daniels and NT Kenny Clark if Adams isn't ready and/or Francois doesn't work out.

At least the Packers aren't in any bind if they have to release Guion. According to Over the Cap, his release would stick them with only $166,666 in dead money when they already have over $18 million in cap space.

It seems like the only time I write about Guion is when he does something stupid. Never trust a former Viking, I guess.

Friday, June 16, 2017

What Will The Packers Offensive Scheme Look Like in 2017?

It's been a roller coaster ride for the Green Bay Packers's offense over the past two seasons. The loss of WR Jordy Nelson in 2015 turned a high powered 2014 machine into an offense that produced the lowest completion percentage of QB Aaron Rodgers's career. Eventually the wheels were put back on last season when Nelson returned, but he wasn't the same until late 2016 which coincided with the return of TE Jared Cook and the emergence of Ty Montgomery as a running back. After all three players were in place and back in game shape, the offense clicked. Though Cook is now a Raider, the signing of TE Martellus Bennett should be an upgrade and they'll likely be even better next season.

I focused primarily on the defense this offseason and I've realized that I haven't written at all about the departure of associate head coach Tom Clements. It's telling that he hasn't caught on with another team this offseason when other top former Packer offensive assistants like Ben McAdoo and Joe Philbin have both had head coaches stints after leaving Green Bay. The injury to Jordy Nelson in 2015 took center stage that season, but it's dance partner was Mike McCarthy's decision to give away and then take back mid-season play calling duties. The departure of Clements but the return of DC Dom Capers seems like a sign that Mike McCarthy thinks bigger changes need to happen on offense than defense.
What makes the situation in Atlanta so much better than Green Bay? Here's what Doug wrote in his article:
It's just that he's operating with a schematic handicap, and it affects not only the entire offense but also Rodgers' faith in what he sees. And when a quarterback has to wait for receivers to get open on their own as opposed to with help from route concepts, it leads to extra defensive pressure as blocks break down over time.
Rodgers still averaged 8.1 adjusted yards per attempt last season, tying for fourth in the league. Watch him on tape and imagine how his stats would surge if he had, say, Atlanta's offense from last season. That's why he's this high on the list: He's a better player than his scheme allows him to be.
It's true, the Packers have been running a scheme that requires their skill players beat the other team's skill players on a weekly basis without much help. That might not be much of a problem in 2017 but it was a big problem in 2015 (and could be a problem in the future if injuries occur). I wasn't expecting them to change their scheme mid-2015 when Nelson was lost in the preseason but it wasn't changed over the 2016 offseason either. Maybe it was effectively changed when Tom Clements wasn't asked back in January.

The Packers haven't given anything away in public OTAs this offseason, and they might not even show any new looks this preseason. During games, the announcers sometimes talk about how many plays there are in McCarthy's playbook. Maybe the Packers intend to explore a different part of that playbook after the departure of Clements with more of the weekly offensive scheme in the hands of McCarthy and hold over OC Edgar Bennett (who as a player thrived in a West Coast style offense that might well suit Ty Montgomery). The offense might look a lot less like it did last season and more like it did when Rodgers was a two-time MVP.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Packers Return To The Practice Field During OTAs

I'm a little late to the party that started last week when the Green Bay Packers returned to the practice field for OTAs. While the rookies were on display immediately after the draft, last week was the first time that the veterans joined them in 2017 and gave us a look at what to expect on opening day.

There are some new free agent faces (TE Martellus Bennett, RG Jahri Evans) but they should be straight-up be taking over for the ones that walked away (TE Jared Cook, RG T.J. Lang). Despite drafting multiple running backs, it looks like it's Ty Montgomery's job to lose in the backfield. Some combination of Jayrone Elliott, Kyler Fackrell and Vince Biegel (when healthy) will take the snaps that last season went to Julius Peppers and Datone Jones. The names have changed but the roles they play are essentially the same.

The big change should happen in the secondary since it was a disaster last season. Maybe the scheme can remain the same or maybe it was the players, but probably it's a little of both. Two big names are gone (CB Sam Shields and DB Micah Hyde) and their top two draft choices (CB Kevin King and S Josh Jones) were brought in to take over their roster spots and maybe even their roles on defense.
King is still in school and not eligible to participate in OTAs. We'll know later whether he's going to take over for Gunter right away or whether he'll have to earn it during the preseason. The other two safeties in that opening lineup were Morgan Burnett and Kentrell Brice, so despite all the glowing articles I read about Jones last week, he's still at least 2nd team and apparently playing along side demoted CBs Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. Brice has replaced Hyde on defense in the slot, which isn't a bad thing because Brice had a strong 2016 preseason and played a role in the secondary last season, but should be a step back at first because Hyde was pretty good.

There are a lot of names and a lot of options, but it's not a top heavy group. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the big name, coming off his first trip to the Pro Bowl, but he was a weak selection. He had some great games last season along with a couple of really bad ones. Davon House is arguably their No. 1 corner and he played his way out of Jacksonville last season. LaDarius Gunter showed everyone his ceiling when he was torched in the NFC Championship game. Maybe Randall and Rollins can both rebound after off-season surgery, but their 2016 seasons were disasters. Both Burnett and Jones might find themselves playing more linebacker in the "nitro" package and maybe taking over for ILB Joe Thomas instead of helping the downfield passing game.

The early result is that the coaches aren't trusting their rookies (yet) as 1st team players in the secondary. Despite the changes to the roster, and all the optimism as a new season begins, the secondary is a suspect and unsettled group that has a lot to prove in 2017.