Thursday, July 19, 2018

2018 Packers Training Camp Roster: Tight Ends

Some years I wouldn't give the TE position a post all its own, but this has been quite the offseason.
Despite name recognition and the highlight real above, its easy to be critical of this signing. TE Jimmy Graham isn't what he was during his peak days with the Saints. According to Football Outsiders, he was the 27th best TE last season, a few spots behind the Packers's other free agent TE signing, Marcedes Lewis. While he was a big red zone target (10 TD receptions) he wasn't much of a help otherwise with a poor 59% catch rate and only 520 receiving yards on 96 targets.

But they had to have him. Over the past few seasons, the offense has struggled without a quality receiving TE. The offense stalled in 2015 without WR Jordy Nelson and a receiving TE, and the 2016 offense only got in gear after TE Jared Cook returned from an early season injury.

Also, they had to go to into free agency because to draft and develop a rookie TE is a crapshoot. After Jermichael Finley retired, they drafted Richard Rodgers, but he never developed into much and wound up signing a small contract with Philadelphia in free agency. They can't afford to miss on another Richard Rodgers.

As a receiver, Lewis will sort of duplicate Graham's role as a red zone target, which isn't a bad thing. Though neither of them will stretch the middle of the field. TE Lance Kendrick might look better in 2018 catching passes from Aaron Rodgers instead of being used as a short yardage dump-off receiver who had trouble with dropped passes, as he was in 2017.

It's depressing that Graham is only in Green Bay because the 2017 offseason was such a disaster. That's not to blame them for viewing TE Martellus Bennett as an upgrade over Jared Cook, I agreed with their decision, but it obviously backfired in about the worst way possible and set them back a year.

Despite having three veteran TEs already on the roster, the Packers have another four previously undrafted TEs coming into training camp, led by former practice squad player Emanuel Byrd, who received a dozen snaps during their embarrassing Week 17 surrender in Detroit last season. Mike McCarthy's love of blocking TEs might create an opportunity for one of them with a strong camp.

Friday, July 13, 2018

2018 Packers Training Camp Roster: Running Backs

And the Green Bay Packers' fullbacks too. Unfortunately any discussion of this group has to start with this unfortunate news:
At least it's only 2 games and it had to do with an activity that's now legal in a lot of states.

Explosive you mention? Aaron Jones was the one back I wanted to see last season because of his big play ability. Six carries of more than 20 yards:
Player Attempts Average Carries of 20+ FO EYards
30-J.Williams 153 3.6 1 760
33-A.Jones 71 5.5 6 542
88-T.Montgomery 81 3.8 1 341
32-D.Mays 4 0.3 0 0
The coaches didn't trust the rookie enough to give him the bulk of the playing time, on the other hand maybe they were torn because they had two other very good running backs on the roster.

Jamal Williams. He only had one carry of greater than 20 yards to go along with an ugly 3.6 ypc average but his Effective Yards ranking by Football Outsiders was 12th best last season. That was the best season for a Packer running back since Eddie Lacy in 2014. He ran hard at the line and was one defender away from busting a big run on several carries plays last season. He should open the season as the starter.

Ty Montgomery. He can't stay healthy but he played OK last season before his injury. If he can stay healthy for 16 games (big if) the dynamic player we saw during the 2016 season could quickly return.

Devante Mays didn't show much when given an opportunity, which wasn't very often, and he was overshadowed by his fellow rookies Williams and Jones. But there's a two game suspension on Jones's horizon so Mays should make it to Week 3 before the Packers have to make a decision on him.

Joel Bouganon was an undrafted rookie in 2017 and spent some time last season with the Bears. He has an interesting combination of athleticism and size, but he might not have the straight-line speed to stick. Him and Mays might be an interesting preseason decision.

Aaron Ripkowski only had 178 snaps last season (less than 20% of offensive plays) and the idea of him as a short-yardage runner seemed to have died when he fumbled during the 2016 NFC Championship game. Last season he blocked a lot, caught a few passes out of the back field and played a lot on special teams. He'll probably do the same next season, and backup FB Joe Kerrigan will be his understudy again, if they have still have an available roster spot for a backup fullback.

Monday, July 09, 2018

2018 Packers Training Camp Roster: Quarterbacks

It's been hard for me to write about the Green Bay Packers over the past few months for a couple reasons. The 2017 season showcased all of the roster weaknesses and how they could barely compete without QB Aaron Rodgers. The offseason hasn't been much better, with the departures of GM Ted Thompson and WR Jordy Nelson, the release of the latter still hurts.

But there's no time to look back and its time to look ahead to the 2018 roster. As I go through the offensive and defensive positions, I'll start with an easy position.

Here are the 2017 snap counts per NFL GSIS via Football Outsiders:
Player Snaps Off. Snap % Total QBR
7-B.Hundley 622 59.4% 41.2
12-A.Rodgers 418 39.9% 62.6
9-D.Kizer (CLE) 887 83.0% 29.4
8-T.Boyle 0 0% 0
There's no question who the starter is going to be.
While Rodgers's Total QBR fell by over 10 points in 2017 from 2016, most of the fall might have come from his only start after breaking his collarbone, a 3 INT performance in Carolina. There should be no concern about his return from injury, he came back from his previous collarbone injury to win the 2014 MVP.

Brett Hundley is still on the roster. He was useless in most of his starts last season, with an inexplicably good game in Pittsburgh in-between. He has no trade value anymore. He's not practice squad eligible and I can't see them keeping a 3rd QB on the 53-man roster. It won't happen until the end of the preseason, but they're going to release him.

DeShone Kizer. He was so terrible last season in Cleveland. Though he does have NFL size and athleticism, and his college stats are good. They paid too much in trade for him, but he should be better than his 2017 Total QBR of 29.4 and also better than Brett Hundley. Also, he's still so young.

Tim Boyle. How young is Kizer? He's a year younger than undrafted rookie Tim Boyle, who also has NFL size and athleticism though his college stats are a disaster. He sat out the 2016 season after transferring to Eastern Kentucky and he was a lot better in 2017 as their starter. Though he threw too many INTs last season in college. He's a candidate for the practice squad, where they usually stash a Joe Callahan-type, but he might be so raw that another better option could appear on the waiver wire during the preseason.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Former Jaguar TE Marcedes Lewis Signed With The Packers

I'm a little mixed on the signing of TE Marcedes Lewis. He's an OK receiver (ranked in the mid-20s overall by Football Outsiders last season, with a poor 50% catch rate) but he's an outstanding blocker and I love what he can bring to their run offense.
And if the Packers go with a 13 personnel formation it can create a one-on-one size mismatch in coverage or a jumbo run formation, which is probably making Mike McCarthy's eyes light up.

Unfortunately this reminds me of all the good I thought was coming from the signing of Martellus Bennett last season, which instead was a disaster. Of course my disgust of that signing shouldn't disqualify Lewis. This will be a great signing, this will be a great signing...

Speaking of great TEs, Jermichael Finley had something to say:
Sometimes it's unclear what Dez Bryant is doing on a particular play. Given all the nasty looks Aaron Rodgers has showed his receivers in past seasons for running the wrong routes, Bryant might receive a death stare once per game and maybe Gute too for signing him in the first place.
PFF ran the numbers and Bryant didn't grade as an elite receiver because he only effectively runs three routes. Rodgers and Bryant might never achieve the mind meld necessary to work together and Bryant is unlikely to provide the sideline deep threat that the offense needs. Those are good reasons not to pursue him but then I take a look at the current depth chart...
and it makes me worry about any injuries. Lewis should (knock on wood) be a solid signing. All the signs point to danger regarding Bryant but that WR depth chart...Someone better step up during the preseason. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

With The 18th Pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, The Green Bay Packers Select Louisville CB Jaire Alexander

The Green Bay Packers caused some whiplash in the 1st round of the 2018 NFL draft by trading down from No. 14 to No. 27, and then trading back up to No. 18 to select Louisville CB Jaire Alexander.

But first about the trades, which reminded me of last year when they traded out of the 1st and into the high 2nd round before drafting CB Kevin King. The move down netted them a 4th round pick (Vince Biegel) for basically no cost.
A 5th and a 6th round pick also changed hands but neither of those picks have a lot of value. If Alexander was always their guy, and they took advantage of the Saints to turn a 2018 3rd round pick into a 2019 1st round pick, that's a nifty piece of work. However, should Alexander have been the guy?
Alexander to the Packers wasn't talked about until Mike Mayock's mock draft came out on Wednesday. I didn't want the Packers to reach for a corner just because the depth chart is paper thin, but a productive college player who had a fantastic workout isn't a reach. However there are reasons why Alexander was a mid-1st round player while a similar CB in Ohio State's Denzel Ward was always considered a Top 10 pick and ended up at No. 4 overall to the Browns.
It was already mentioned above that Alexander missed time in 2017 due to injury (concern #1) and in the above video it's discussed that he gave up a lot of touchdowns (concern #2). That second concern seems like something that can be fixed with experience and coaching, but injury concerns can plague a guy. But if Alexander can stay healthy, he could be as good as Denzel Ward.

But trading down meant that the Packers passed on Florida State SS Derwin James, who was typically in the Top 10 in every mock draft.
The Packers needed a cornerback more than another safety, but going into the draft I thought that if they have a chance to draft a great defensive back, take him and figure out positions later. One knock on James is that while Alexander posted fantastic times in the shuttle and 3-cone, which measures quickness, James skipped both at the NFL combine. Maybe that was enough to bring some doubt into it, plus the fact that the Packers really needed a cornerback more than a safety.

There's some risk here with Alexander because of past injuries and college inconsistencies (too many touchdowns allowed) but he's a 1st round talent and not a reach. Plus the move back to acquire an extra 1st round pick in 2019 made it a successful 1st round for 2018.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Or The Green Bay Packers Select CB Josh Jackson

Iowa CB Josh Jackson is exactly the sort of quality player I want the Green Bay Packers to select in a later round, not the 1st round.
Jackson has all the tools, and the great college career, you could want except the great speed. Jackson's former college teammate, CB Desmond King, entered the draft process last year with the expectation of being drafted in the 1st or 2nd round before he fell to the 5th round due to speed concerns. It all worked out for the Chargers, who plugged King into the slot and he became one of the best rookie CBs in the NFL. But the Packers have let slot corners like Corey Hayward and Micah Hyde leave in recent years so I can't imagine they'll use their highest draft choice in years on a slot corner to replace the ones they lost.

The more I look at No. 14 overall, the more it seems like a no man's land. I'm thinking right along with Zach Kruse, there aren't 14 impact players in this draft and the Packers are going to be a couple spots away from drafting one. Trading up is going to cost a lot (the Jets gave up three 2nd round picks to move up three spots). While that was at the top of the draft for a QB, a team like the Raiders at No. 10 might be looking at their choice of SS Derwin James or CB Minkah Fitzpatrick vs. missing out on an impact player at No. 14. To make it worth the Raiders's time might cost the Packers their 2019 1st round pick, which I hope they don't offer.

If OLB Harold Landry isn't there at No. 14, it might be time to move down but I'm not sure which team wants to move up. If they have to stand pat, they could look at one of the offensive lineman (Will Hernandez or Mike McGlinchey) or a project like Marcus Davenport, who might be a better fit in a different defense.

Still, it's the 14th overall selection and they should be able to draft a quality player even if he's a clear step behind someone like James or Fitzpatrick. The best available player might look unspectacular and that might OK.

Friday, April 20, 2018

With The 14th Pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, The Green Bay Packers Select

Here are a couple of basic expectations I have from the Green Bay Packers in the upcoming draft. They need help in the secondary, but please don't reach for a DB. If Denzel Ward or Derwin James is still available, great, but don't go looking for the 4th or 5th best DB with No. 14 overall, just take the best available player at any non-Quarterback position. And please don't trade up for one of those DBs though I'm not against trading down.

I'm not a college scout so I'm looking at other mock drafts to see who's getting mentioned. Rob Rang's 5.0 mock draft has the Packers selecting Boston College OLB Harold Landry.
If you're looking for a 2018 need pick, this is not for you. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are penciled in as the high priced starters (and they should be worth the money in 2018, if they stay healthy) while Reggie Gilbert and Vince Biegel are lurking in the background as Making The Leap candidates. Kyler Fackrell is also there, doing whatever it is he does, mostly just taking playing time away from Reggie Gilbert.

But Landry will be on the roster for the next five seasons while Matthews is a free agent in 2019. Perry's not going anywhere with that fat contract and all the potential dead money attached to it. Gilbert and Biegel have upside (drink!) but neither one is a lock to become a future starter. It never hurts to have too much pass rush and it's easy to see Landry becoming their best pass rusher in a year.