Friday, December 31, 2004

Reggie White's funeral was today. When I first heard the news, it really surprised me, and reminded me of the too young passing of former Chief Derrick Thomas. White's signing with Green Bay was the fourth and final major step that led to the Packers two mid 90s Super Bowl appearances, after signing Ron Wolf, signing Mike Holmgren, and trading for Brett Favre. There is a lot of commentary on the internet over the last week regarding Reggie White the man and player. While no one has disputed Reggie White as a great football player, many comments have been made about White has said over the years (his comments on homosexualty apparently cost him a job with CBS) and charitable activites he never actually did (failed to pay a promised donation to a charity in Denver and never rebuilt the church destroyed by fire in the mid 90s). I'm not the best person to address Reggie White the person, so I'll leave that for other websites. But Reggie White the player was dominate at times, always the first concern of every opposing offense and made the entire defense better, and the second greatest Packer player since the end of the Lombardi era.

The only regret of Reggie White's Packer career should be the way it ended. If it hadn't been the salary cap era, it would have never been a problem. But White was unsure about retirement over the entire 1997 season (he played hurt most of the season) and throughout and after the 1998 season. Ron Wolf was trying to plan for life after Reggie on defense, but needed the salary cap relief Reggie's retirement would bring after the 1998 season. New head coach Ray Rhodes asked Reggie to reconsider retirement and he appeared to be considering a return in 1999, but Ron Wolf ran out of time and had to ask Reggie to officially retire with the NFL. Reggie was NFC defensive player of the year in 1998 and obviously wanted to play again or he wouldn't have played for Carolina in 2000. Its a small regret, but it would have been great to have seen White play for the Packers in 1999 and 2000.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Packers 28, Jacksonville 25. The good news is that this game truly didn't matter. When the Packers beat Minnesota next week, the Packers essentially assure themselves the #3 seat and the NFC North championship. A Packers loss would result in the top wild card spot and a game at probably Seattle (someone has to win the NFC West). All the problems that resulted in the Packers loss were fundamental problems with the team that aren't going to be fixed this season if ever.

First Half: Jacksonville scores an easy TD. Who's fault is it? Just about everyone (defensive coaches and players) can take some blame. QB Brett Favre/RB Ahman Green fumble in the red zone (1 of 3 red zone turnovers). Fumbles and Green just seem to go together and there is nothing to be done about it. Then the defensive penalties start...Are the Packers defensive players frustrated or poorly coached or both? All 3 top CBs Al Harris, Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas keep constantly grabbing the receivers. Jacksonville has two of the top DTs in the NFL in Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, rookie 3rd string C Scott Wells held his own, and he even handled Henderson one-on-one on a big Green run play. Great heads up play by FS Darren Sharper (everyone on both sides gave up on an apparent incompletion except Sharper who stripped the ball from an offensive lineman who picked up the ball and ran in it for a TD). K Ryan Longwell missed his first field goal within the 40 yard line in a long while and it cost in this game (this again isn't a problem that needs or can be fixed but it cost the Packers big in this game). Overall it was a very poor half with a lot of Packer turnovers and penalties. Packers 10, Jacksonville 14.

Second Half: TE Ben Steele has been useless for weeks, but he caught a couple of short passes in
this game and finally started to show his usefulness. The Packers took advantage of their blocker overload on short yardage running plays to set up the TD pass to WR Donald Driver (who is sneaking up on an outstanding season). They had been overloading blockers to the strong side all season, usually ran for the short gain for the first down, and used that tendency to set up the TD pass. How did the Packers run defense set up a big RB Fred Taylor TD run? Everyone (coaches and players) can take some blame. Sharper blitzed to the wrong side and took himself out of the play (was it his fault or a bad scheme?), DT Cletidus Hunt was blocked by one blocker and pushed out of the hole, NT Grady Jackson was blocked by the left guard one-on-one, if either Hunt or Jackson had occupied more than one blocker then the center couldn't have come out and blocked LB Nick Barnett out of the play, and finally SS Mark Roman (who has had a bad last few games and might have played his way out of the lineup for next season) took a bad angle and couldn't make the tackle. Maybe LB Hannibal Navies should be the middle linebacker (he is bigger than Barnett) because he showed again that he can't cover anybody. Rookie DE Corey Williams had a lot more playing time this game and made some plays to show that he might be a starter next season. How many times can Favre throw an interception in the end zone? In this game, the answer is twice. The interception to CR Rashean Mathis in the end zone was a true stinker (Favre just lost sight of him) and Mathis's second interception appeared to be caused by the cold when Favre's out pass just lost its zip across the field. FS Deon Grant's interception was a great play on Grant's part with perfect timing. How can coach Jack Del Rio defend SS Donovan Darius's attempt to take WR Robert Ferguson's head off? That was the most vicious attempt to intentionally hurt a Packer since DT Warren Sapp broke LT Chad Clifton's hip a couple of seasons ago and it can't be defended. WR Antonio Chatman got his first TD reception for his career, which is great for him since he has played better than now injured WR Robert Ferguson and truly is the 3rd wide receiver. The Packers almost got the onside kick, but that was a long shot anyway. Packers 25, Jacksonville 28.

Overall the Packers should just forget about this game, threaten to amputate the cornerbacks' hands if any of them keep grabbing at the wide receivers, and go win in Minnesota next week.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Below this post is the current post regarding the Packers/Detroit game. I posted this about Philadelphia right after the game two weeks ago but apparently blogger ate it. So I'm reposting it.

Packers 17, Philly 47. Well forget about that one. Instead of going over the shelling blow-by-blow, lets talk about the...

Offense. By far their worst game of the season. QB Brett Favre had his string of games with a TD pass end, the offensive line was physically beaten, and the receivers didn't get seperation/make plays. Minor minor note: TE Ben Steele dropped his 5-6 pass attempt in the last 3-4 games (replacing injured TE David Martin in the offensive scheme) without catching a pass and he has to be removed from the scheme. Mike Sherman needs to take a close look at this game film and find out what needs to be adjusted. QB Craig Nall has only played in two games this season (the last preseason game and this game). In the preseason, he convinced the Packers that they could safely release QB Tim Couch, and in this game he showed he has some potential. He is QB A.J. Feeley (Miami) good and a pretty good backup QB.

Defense. The secondary played poorly today, but they weren't helped by a very poor defensive scheme (especially on the first TD pass to WR Terrell Owens when they played 20 yards off of him) that employed a lot of zone/cover 2/matador schemes. Just a horrible defensive scheme. Philadelphia followed the Indianapolis game plan of passing for the entire first half and building up a giant lead. This would be awful, except Indianapolis has been torching the entire NFL this season and Philadelphia has a great pass offense, so its not just the Packers problem. Obviously nothing can be wholesale fixed this season, but this is the third 40+ point game allowed this season, so it needs to be fixed for next season. The secondary is pretty set with big contracts for CB Al Harris and FS (maybe 2005 SS?) Darren Sharper and both rookies (CB Ahmad Carroll and CB Joey Thomas) should be better next season. The linebackers need to be fixed; maybe wholesale changes, maybe replacing LB Hannibal Navies (he just doesn't make any plays), maybe something else, etc. The defensive line needs the most work. DE KGB has good games, he played well against Pro Bowl OT Orlando Pace last week, but some weeks he isn't a factor. DE Aaron Kampman never gives up on a play and has accumulated some sacks this season. There has been zero push from the interior, where DT Cletidus Hunt has been pulled on passing downs for DT Cullen Jenkins and NT Grady Jackson is the best interior pass rusher. Finding a defensive tackle who can create a pass rush is the top priority. Maybe changing the defensive coaching staff is in the future too.

Everyone in the NFC is playing poorly, except Philadelphia which is battling for best team in the NFL status along with Pittsburgh and New England, so the Packers should still win their division. Forget about this game and get ready to beat Detroit next week at Lambeau.
Packers 16, Detroit 13. A game they should have won, although Detroit is playing better than the Packers this season, and they won it. How can Detroit be the better team with a worse record and an anemic/pathetic offense? The Packers turn the ball over (-11 turnover differential) while Detroit doesn't (+8) and Detroit's defense is average while the Packers defense is bottom 5 in the NFL. Because Detroit protects the ball on offense and plays solid defense, they have been in a position to win games this season, but if this game was any indication, QB Joey Harrington just can't finish the opponent off in the 4th quarter.

First half: QB Brett Favre continues his offensive malaise. Favre's human and he goes through slumps and this one started in the first quarter in Philadelphia. The offense couldn't get anything going in the first half. It wasn't just Favre, WR Javon Walker was held in check almost the entire game and WR Donald Driver and TE Ben Steele (for about the fifth game in a row) contributed alongside Walker as each had a dropped pass. Could the refs call some more penalties? They were all legitimate penalties, but the refs called this game tight. Detroit's first scoring drive was all penalties. RB Kevin Jones continued to look good. He's been one of the best backs in the NFL during the 2nd half of the season and the Packers missing tackles (DE KGB blew a tackle on Jones's TD run) did help. In the game vs. St. Louis, two DBs ran into each other on a crossing route and WR Issac Bruce ran for about 50 yards after the catch. Same thing happened in this game and WR Az Hakim ran for about 15 yards. The Packers have to fix this because the next three opponents are going to try and exploit this confusion. The defense played poorly (considering they were only trying to stop Detroit) but held them to two field goals on two of the scoring drives. Packers 0, Detroit 13.

Second half: The refs tight calls started helping the Packers and the first scoring drive was fueled almost exclusively by penalties (55 penalty yards and 13 offense yards). Harrington: 2 completions in the 3rd quarter and 0! in the 4th quarter. How can you not come back from a two score deficit against Detroit? Harrington looked awful but the pass coverage was very tight in the half and the run defense was much better (no missed tackles). This was the worst wind I have seen in an NFL game this season. The wind gave an additional 15 yards one direction and took away 15 yards the other. The receivers stop dropping passes and Favre shakes off the slump with a 90 yard TD drive. The wind killed P Nick Harris's last punt and gave the Packers the field position they needed to win the game. Packers 16, Detroit 13.

Overall this was an ugly game to watch. The Packers weren't playing their best, Detroit's offense was inept, and a ton of penalties. Jacksonville is slumping bad (and coming up from Florida to play in Green Bay in December) and should have no chance, but they too have played better than the Packers this season. Jacksonville is very comparable to Detroit, although they are playing better thanks to better QB play. Just need to keep winning and don't have to worry about what your conference foes are doing.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Packers 45, St. Louis 17. QB Brett Favre and RB Najeh Davenport. I haven't talking enough about the great season Favre is having, and I've just been taking his great play for granted. His completion percentage is over 65% again this season, while on pace for 30 TDs again this season. Further, Favre is keeping better care of the ball (only 11 INTs so far this season), while on pace for the fewest sacks in a season. In 2003, Favre had a couple of games (losses) when he seemed he could do no right (week 1 vs. Minnesota, at Arizona, and Turkey Day at Detroit) but he has had none of those games in 2004. This might be the most consistent season of his career. During his MVP seasons, Mike Holmgren would defer if the Packers won the coin toss because he knew Favre was too juiced early in the game and he was better off with the extra possession in the second half after Favre calmed down. Mike Sherman doesn't have to coach that same player anymore. Davenport has been battling injuries all season long, and because of them we had to wait until week 12 for Davenport to really show off this season. Davenport showed off his great speed to accelerate past the line of scrimmage, the Packers offensive line owned St. Louis's defensive line in this game, and he has the strength to shove smaller defensive players (paging S Rich Coady) out of his way in the open field. The third unsung star of the game was the football itself; the Packers had multiple fumbles bounce out of bounds and any one of them could have turned the whole game around. St. Louis defense isn't good at all this season, but the Packers offense still played a nearly perfect game.

The defense was a problem again, although forcing 3 turnovers was a big improvement. Over 400 yards of passing by QB Marc Bulger in the game. Only 47 yards of rushing, but RB Steven Jackson looked good (40 yards on 8 carries) when he had the opportunity. Bob Slovik didn't call a great game; St. Louis caught the Packers with 4 defensive backs on 4 wide receivers a couple of times in the game, the Packers blitzes didn't force much pressure on Bulger, and the coverage was very soft. The defense benefited from zero turnovers by the Packers offense; St. Louis always had to drive the length of the field and the Packers defense gave up no big yardage plays once St. Louis drove into Packer territory. The Packers appeared to turn up their intensity after the Mike Martz last minute time out cost the Packers a fumble recovery. Rookies CB Ahmad Carroll and CB Joey Thomas each had their best games so far; Thomas forced the early fumble which led to Carroll's TD run and Carroll had an interception in the end zone. With FS Darren Sharper's return to the starting lineup, the secondary could turn into the defense's strength in the last 5 games. The only downside was SS Mark Roman probably had his poorest game of the season with a couple of missed tackles (including RB Marshall Faulk's TD reception) but he has been a solid tackler all season (and preseason) long.

The Packers play at Philadelphia next week. Philadelphia should clobber the Packers, but these are the two hottest teams in the NFC at this point. If the Packers seriously believe they can make it to the Super Bowl this season, then they have to find a way to beat Philadelphia this season. If the Packers can avoid committing turnovers and force turnovers like they did against St. Louis, then they can win at Philadelphia. Its common knowledge you can run against Philadelphia's run defense, but actually their pass defense is worse than their run defense this season according to Unfortunately the Packers defense has been one of the worst in the NFL (thanks again Aaron). For all the Packers might have tried to fix the problems of 4th and 26 from last season's playoff loss, the Packers defense is still suspectible to allowing conversions on 3rd and long this season and is basically playing the same cast of characters in the secondary and at linebacker.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Starting Packers RB James Jackson!!! If Jackson starts on Monday night, the Packers will have some problems. It sounds like RB Tony Fisher and RB Ahman Green could be available on Monday night, but its too early to tell. Green's injury (ribs) probably will sideline him for a week. Fisher is good enough to carry the load, but his neck stinger is the type of injury that should he let heal for a couple of weeks. The problem with Jackson is not so much is awful career rushing average (barely 3 yards/carry), because the Packers offensive line should help him run like a competant running back (they even made RB Walter Williams look good against Houston), but that he doesn't understand the offense at all and might miss a blocking assignment that leads to a hit on QB Brett Favre. Luckily, St. Louis's defense has looked awful this season, and this is a good time to hide a bushel of injuries at running back until Green and Fisher are fully healthy in another week. The Packers signed RB Chris Robertson to the practice squad as well, but if it comes down to Robertson it could get scary.
Packers 16, Houston 13. The Packers had a lot of first half opportunities, but the offense stalled in Houston territory. In the second half, Houston had plenty of opportunities to put the game away, but their offense couldn't put anything together and gave the Packers one too many opportunities. A five game winning streak is good news, but the Packers are still one of the premier pretenders in the NFL this season. If it weren't for awful awful St. Louis somehow managing a 5-5 record (thanks Seattle!) the Packers would be the number one over achiever in the NFL this season. The Packers defense has to start creating more turnovers for any long term success.

First Half: RB Walter Williams; who knew he was on the roster? The bad news of course is RB Ahman Green's rib injury and he might have to miss a week (similar to the week Philadelphia RB Brian Westbrook missed earlier this season with his rib injury). Williams actually ran the ball pretty well in the first half, due to the fact that the Packers offensive line has been kicking ass the last three weeks. If it weren't for two killer holding penalties on LG Mike Wahle during the game, the offensive line (no sacks for the game and 4.3 yards/carry with Williams carrying the load) would have been the unit of the game. Bob Trumpe (he's still around doing the radio commentary) was critical of the Packers run defense, but the yards per carry stats were very skewed by the long scrambles by QB David Carr. The Packers continued the league trend of stopping RB Dominick Davis for a short yards per carry average during this game. LB Hannibal Navies was victimized again this game on the TD pass by Carr to Davis. The play wasn't Navies fault, he was stuck in no man's land (cover Carr or cover Davis), but Navies has been abused in the passing game the past few weeks. CB Al Harris had his second great game in a row. It doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but he neutralized WR Andre Johnson. Johnson had over 100 yards for the game, but Johnson was clearly the most dangerous wide receiver the Packers have seen this season. He should be a constant Pro Bowl invitee with his size and speed, and was clearly the most dangerous player on the field. Additional kudos to rookie CB Ahmad Carroll, because only three Houston players caught passes during the game and his primary assignments of WR Javar Gaffney and WR Corey Bradford caught a combined zero passes in this game. Houston's defense had a great first half; they stopped the Packers offense three times in Houston territory and it only resulted in 3 Packer points and shut down QB Brett Favre on the last drive of the first half, which led to an end of half field goal. Packers 3, Houston 13.

Second Half: The Packers defense takes over. Houston only drove into Packer territory twice in the second half, and both times they were sacked back into Houston territory. Davis couldn't run the ball, Carr didn't scramble for big yards, and receivers were rarely open. If the Packers had forced a turnover or two, it would have been a perfect 10 defensive half. The secondary looks better every week with Carroll in at starting cornerback, and this was rookie CB Joey Thomas's best game (not great, but his best game so far). NT Grady Jackson had another solid game, and DT Cullen Jenkins has worked himself into as many snaps as DT Cletidus Hunt (the Packers primary six man defensive line rotation is DEs R-Kal Truluck, KGB, and Aaron Kampman and DT Jackson, Jenkins, and Hunt). Unfortunately, neither Truluck or Kampman have made many plays, but overall the group is playing as well as they have all season. There have been few plays as sweet in the NFL this season as the TD pass where WR Donald Driver quickly grabs the ball out of the air for the TD pass. RB Tony Fisher can often be confused with Green (similar number and their styles of running are very similar) but the Packers rarely used Fisher in the second half (probably due to his neck stinger). Ho-hum. Another game winning Favre drive, to set up the field goal by K Ryan Longwell. For the second week in a row, Favre made it look easy. Packers 16, Houston 13.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Packers 34, Minnesota 31. Probably the two most evenly matched teams in the NFL this season,

although when WR Randy Moss was healthy and playing alongside QB Daunte Culpepper (playing at MVP

level this season), Minnesota was the better team. Until Minnesota rallied for two 4th quarter

touchdowns, the Packers defense clearly outplayed Minnesota's defense. What happened in the 4th

quarter? Announcer Moose Johnson was absolutely correct that when Culpepper attacked the middle of

the field, Minnesota's offense made big plays. Minnesota had success all game long with TE Jermaine

Wiggins but it really opened up once WRs Marcus Robinson and especially Nate Burleson started working

the middle of the field. CB Al Harris had his best game of the season and CB Ahmad Carroll was ok

for the first three quarters until Burleson started abusing him in the 4th quarter, but FS Bhawoh Jue

(sub for still injured FS Darren Sharper) and the linebackers (all of them, but especially LB

Hannibal Navies) had a lot of trouble in coverage.

First Quarter: The Packers run defense has been much better since NT Grady Jackson returned from

injury (both and had articles this week spotlighting his play) but the

improved run defense started the week before his return against Detroit (although Detroit's run

offense is not good). The Packers outstanding run blocking offense line from 2003 returned again

this week, keeping defensive players out of the back field. Minnesota P Darren Bennett was great in

San Diego in the 1990s but he is awful now and helped the Packers with every punt he kicked. Packers

7, Minnesota 7.

Second Quarter: After the Packers scored a touchdown, Minnesota almost answered back with a

touchdown, but as Michael David Smith from noted, Jackson busted the 3rd and 2

rush on the Packers 4 yard line, and Minnesota settled for a field goal. The next Packer touchdown

was one of those drives where it all looked too easy; two big runs for RB Ahman Green with giant

rushing lanes, and a play action TD pass to TE Bubba Franks. QB Brett Favre had 4 TDs and 0 INTs for

the game; it was just one of those games when he looked unstoppable. Packers 24, Minnesota 10.

Third Quarter: The Packers defense needs to force and recover more turnovers. This was another game with no recovered turnovers, and it made the game much closer than it really was. The Packer defense held Minnesota twice on their first two possessions and a long Packer drive ended on a failed 4th down conversion (it was a bad spot on the run by FB Nick Luchey, but the Packers had success rushing off tackle all game and it wasn't clear why they didn't call a run off "TE" Kevin Barry's side one more time). WR Donald Driver's fumble on a successful run after a fake handoff to Green led to a quick Minnesota touchdown that brought Minnesota back to life. The Packers offense can't be expected to have zero turnovers every game, and the defense has to force a turnover or two each game to improve the margin for error. Packers 24, Minnesota 17.

Fourth Quarter: The Packers responded, after a big WR Robert Ferguson kickoff return in the 3rd quarter, with a TD drive to add some cushion. But Minnesota finally figured out how to attack the middle of the field with their wide receivers, had an article this week about how rookie CB Joey Thomas was abused badly in this quarter. Jue broke a route and almost had a big interception, but dropped it, early on Minnesota's 16 play TD drive. If the Packers had this one turnover, the turnover battle is evened for the game and the Packers have clobbered Minnesota. Instead it gave Minnesota another opportunity, and eventually led to a tied score. Both Carroll and Thomas are playing like rookies, but you can see the talent each player possesses. It is a lot to ask of a rookie to step in and play at a high level at any position in the NFL, so both players are playing as well as should be expected of them, however, both players should show improvement as this season progresses. Although Jue has played ok this season, his awful 2003 season still hasn't been forgotten and he still hasn't proven that he is a long term answer for the Packers' secondary. Minnesota's defense looked really frustrated on the Packers last TD drive, and they have to be very frustrated that they couldn't stop the Packers on the last drive that led to the game winning field goal. Sometimes in the same situation, Favre is off his game and forces the game losing interception, but Sunday he was on his game and he found the open receivers. Packers 34, Minnesota 31.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

I've been offline for a couple of weeks due to a crashed hard drive. I didn't expect it would take me 3 weeks to fix the problem, but I left it to an unmotivated friend to fix it for me. Lucky for me, it was a bye week and therefore a good time to suffer technical difficulties. FS Darren Sharper was able to heal, and the defense comes back with all its starters for the first time since week 1. There are probably no two teams in the NFL more similar then the Packers and Minnesota (great offense and little defense) but Minnesota's offense slips a lot without WR Randy Moss. Not much has happened for the Packers (other than everyone getting a little healthier) expect the release of S Corey Fuller for about the 15th time in the last two seasons and promising CB Chris Johnson who has missed the last two seasons due to injury.

Packers 28, Washington 14. The Packers controlled the first half, but let it slip away from them in the second half. If Washington avoided the stupid illegal shift that cost them a long TD catch by RB Clinton Portis, then the score was Packers 20, Washington 21 and the game is easily lost. That is life in the NFL; you can outplay your opponent all game, but a big play late in the game can cost you the game.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Packers 41, Dallas 20. Lots of good in this game. The Packers offense continued to roll, although against a struggling Dallas defense, and the Packers had their first win at Lambeau in 2004 (1-3). Some bad in this game too. FS Darren Sharper and CB Al Harris got banged up. Harris was burned in the second half after the injury (the long TD pass to TE Jason Witten comes to mind). Plus QB Brett Favre continues to have one of the crappiest 12 months of his life. First he breaks his thumb, then his father dies, then his brother-in-law dies, he suffers through a couple more injuries (hamstring and hand) before disclosing that his wife has breast cancer. Favre played through his concern for her against Dallas, but this is a very serious illness for Deanna Favre and it would be very understandable if Favre is distracted by it. Hopefully Deanna learned of her illness early and her treatments will be successful.

First Quarter: So far Dallas's offense has been playing well with AARP members QB Vinny Testaverde and RB Eddie George leading the way. Dallas was able to run and more effectively pass against the Packers, even before the injuries to Sharper and Harris. The good news is that the Packers defense is adopting a bend-but-don't-break philsophy (Dallas was held to two field goals on two good 1st quarter drives while overall held to under 50% on third down (5 for 13)). The Packers offense scored on their first 7 possessions and was humming all day. Packers 3, Dallas 6.

Second Quarter: FOX wanted everyone to know that Favre is 1-8 in his career against Dallas. All 8 losses coming in Dallas and occuring during the 1995 season or earlier. Yes, the NFL schedule makers hated the Packers pre-1995 and loved the glam Aikman, Smith, Irvin Cowboys. Although some of those games were playoff games and awarded due to regular season records, how often does one NFL team play 8 straight times at another opponent? This quarter killed Dallas. The Packers offense continued to hum along, while Dallas was stopped on two three-and-outs to kill any momentum they had after a strong offensive 2nd quarter. Packers 20, Dallas 6.

Third Quarter: RB Tony Fisher throws what I am assuming is his first TD pass as a pro to TE Bubba Franks. The Packers are 2-0 in games this season when a RB throws a TD pass (RB Ahman Green threw one in Detroit last week). Dallas responds with a TD of their own, once Testaverde begins connecting up with Witten, but they can't keep up with the Packers offense. The special teams is playing much much better for the Packers this week (especially on kick coverage). Maybe the release of CB James Whitley did send a message to the team last week. Green rips off the 2nd 90+ yard TD run of his career (tying him with RB Bo Jackson on the all time list). Dallas's offense is trying but they can't keep up with the Packers. Packers 41, Dallas 13.

Fourth Quarter: NT Grady Jackson is back. He had one great play in the 1st half, but the Packers's defense is playing worse this week then they did against Detroit last week. This can only help the Packers for the rest of the season and Jackson made plays on his first game back, but his return did not show up on the scoreboard or the defensive stats (the Packers defense didn't create any turnovers either). Dallas scores another TD but this game never was in any doubt after the Packers scored 21 in the 2nd quarter. The Packers's offense eat up a bunch of time (5 minutes) in the middle of the quarter to put the game out of reach. Bad sight: OL Marco Rivera being taken off on a cart during the 4th quarter. Packers 41, Dallas 20.

The Packers have some players returning from injury, but other players getting injured. The Packers are heading to Washington next week, and Washington is struggling this season. The Packers should be favored for the first time in a couple of weeks, but Washington has an ailing offense (only Miami's trainwreck is worse) and all it might need to improve is to play the NFL's third worse defense (the Packers). Rankings courtesy of

At best, the Packers can only expect to finish 6-2 in the second half. The Packers need to win to keep a path towards a 10-6 season. Anything less isn't likely to make the playoffs. Unfortunately Washington has the 3rd best defense (thanks again and they will be a very tough challenge.

Saturday, October 23, 2004 reported that the coaches and trainers are cautious, but both NT James Lee and NT Grady Jackson expect to play on Sunday against Dallas. Neither Lee or Jackson are world beaters, but both hold the middle of the line better than anybody else on the Packers roster, they increase the Packers size inside (moving sub 300 lb. DT Cullen Jenkins to a part time role), and improve the entire defensive line. Jackson isn't known for his pass rushing skills, but the Packers pass rush improved substantially in 2003 when Jackson was in the game. Obviously the run defense will be improved with more size on the defensive line.

Last week offensive coordinator Tom Rossley had a heart procedure and surprisingly reported that Rossley will return to the press box on Sunday against Dallas. He still isn't calling plays, but he will talk with Mike Sherman during the game. The offense involved all three running backs for the first time all season, something that was very successful in 2003. Is Sherman better at play calling then Rossley? The Packers running backs had numerous injuries early in the season, so it isn't that simple. It always appeared that no play was called without Sherman's blessing and Rossley had a smaller role during the game itself. It will be interesting to see if the Packer offense continues to look better with Sherman calling the plays instead of Rossley.

The kick coverage was awful vs. Detroit, and CB James Whitley lost his job because of it. LB Nick Rogers was signed in Whitley's place (Rogers was just cut last week when WR Robert Ferguson's injury required the Packers to sign WR Kelvin Kight from the practice squad to take his place) and Rogers has a good reputation for special teams play during his 2 years in Minnesota. But this is still a scapegoat move. Whitley played poorly vs. Detroit, but the entire kick coverage played poorly. Whitley was a good tackler, but he was far down the depth chart in the secondary and not a major contributor on defense anyway.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Packers 38, Detroit 10. The 2004 Packers took the week off and let the 2003 Packers play this game. When RB Ahman Green is throwing a TD pass, everything is working. There are a few negatives for the game (K Ryan Longwell still can't kick a deep kickoff, CB Ahmad Carroll got turned around and abused in the first half, the defense only created one turnover) but everything else was working for the Packers.

First Quarter: Detroit gets the ball first and goes three and out. LBs Nick Barnett and Na'il Diggs made plays early, after spending the last couple of weeks MIA. The first TD drive was the first drive all season when all three running backs (Green, RB Tony Fisher and RB Najeh Davenport) contributed on a single drive, which happened all the time in 2003. Detroit answers with a TD drive to tie the score (the defense overpursued on a big screen to RB Artose Pinner and Carroll was abused by WR Az-Zahir Hakim). Detroit has spent a lot of high draft picks and big free agent money on their offensive line in recent seasons, but it hasn't shown any improvement. The Packers defensive line had been shoved around the last couple of weeks, but Detroit got little push against them. Packers 7, Detroit 7.

Second Quarter: Injury to WR Javon Walker. Walker has been far and away the highlight of the 2004 season, so his injury is a major concern. It looks like he just has sore ribs, which is bad enough but he probably will be able to play through it while it heals over the next few weeks. Touchdown pass to Fisher; when Davenport and Fisher are involved in the game, the Packers offense is rolling. After QB Joe Harrington threw a 11 yard pass to WR Tai Streets to get into field goal position, Detroit's offense was officially done for the afternoon. Longwell kicked a 50 yard field goal? P Bryan Barker had a 50+ punt in the game. The ball absolutely flies in Ford Field. Packers 17, Detroit 10.

Third Quarter: FS Darren Sharper has a gift interception and returns it for a touchdown. WR Roy Williams is the only offensive weapon for Detroit, he was injured for the game, and Harrington started pressing. Detroit's receivers never had seperation from the Packers coverage in the second half. Detroit only had 33 yards rushing for the game? Wow. Is WR Eddie Hammond a great kick returner? He's pretty good, but the Packers kick coverage was awful in the game, and not helped by short line drive kicks. Davenport has his first good game of the season as he runs over a tired Detroit defense. Packers 31, Detroit 10.

Fourth Quarter: Detroit is held to 3 plays and 5 yards in the fourth quarter. The Packers ran the ball for over 13 minutes in the quarter, with the occasional pass, and a trick pass by Green to WR Donald Driver? Why run this trick pass when you're up big? Aren't you just running up the score? Its probably better to run a trick play in a blowout just to give your future opponents something extra to think about instead of running it in a close game when something bad could happen. Packers 38, Detroit 10.

Is this a fluke one game improvement or a sign of better things to come? The Packers were bound to look better than they had in their last four games, so it was a game when everything went right but the Packers should continue to improve as the season continues. Now its time to get a win at Lambeau.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Reading after the Monday night disaster, it sounds like the newspaper has jumped off the bandwagon. Now the Packers have no depth at nose tackle. The Packers started the season with more nose tackles (NT Grady Jackson, NT Donnell Washington, and NT James Lee) then any of their recent rosters have boasted, but all three have gotten injured. doesn't even remember Washington, who the Packers acquired by trading up for in the 3rd round of the last draft, but he injured his foot in preseason and had to go on the IR. It was also wondering why the Packers hadn't acquired a better backup cornerback then CB Jason Horton, after it spent the preseason prasing him. CB Mike McKenzie really hurt the Packers by giving up on them, and it has forced the team to play cornerbacks who are in over their heads (CB Michael Hawthorne) or cornerbacks who don't have any experience (CB Ahmad Carroll and Horton). Both players have the physical ability to play, but they need more practice and playing time before they are good enough for the NFL. The cornerbacks should look a lot better in the second half of the season. could spend its time picking on the Packers linebackers. Other than LB Nick Barnett, the Packers are getting little play out of their linebackers. LB Na'il Diggs has made far too many plays and the other linebacker position has provided little either. None of the linebackers have been very good in coverage.

Football starts in the middle of the field and works its way out from the snap. The Packers aren't getting a good push off the ball either on defense (down to their 4th string nose tackle) or on offense (down to their 2nd string center). also got on the Packers for not blitzing more. Earlier in the season, the Packers were getting burned by the blitz. It was worthwhile to see if the defense can play opposing offenses straight up, but its apparent that they can't do it. Defensive coordinator Bob Slovak should go back to being more aggressive with blitzing.
Packers 27, Tennessee 48. Well that was the worst ass kicking the Packers have taken since the Ray Rhodes era, when the Packers had their ass handed to them by Denver and Seattle (at Lambeau). In 1999, the Packers were trying to overcome the loss of DE Reggie White, QB Brett Favre's elbow injury, and the season ending injury to starting RB Dorsey Levens. The Packers finished the 1999 season 8-8, but the Packers would have to turn several things around to improve the 2004 season.

First Quarter: Indianapolis could have made it four running backs in a row to run for well over 100 yards against the weak Packers run defense, but they elected to shred the weak Packers pass defense. The Packers defense has been the worst in the NFL for a couple weeks, but they only made it worse tonight. The first long TD run was off left tackle and the second long TD run by RB Chris Brown was off right tackle when DE R-Kal Truluck was pushed way way out of the play (by the fullback), LB Paris Lenon ran out of the play (and was replaced in the 2nd quarter by LB Torrance Marshall), LB Nick Barnett filled the hole but was blocked, and poor tackling in the secondary. FS Darren Sharper (who clearly has lost a step) was a step late on both long runs. It was poor tackling (especially the angles) but also players out of position. The offense might have been on the field, but I blinked and missed it (except for RB Ahman Green's fourth lost fumble of the season). Packers 0, Tennessee 14.

Second Quarter: When Favre gets behind big early, he starts forcing plays and creating turnovers. Another good example was in 2001 when the Packers were up against a great St. Louis team on the road and Favre threw 6 picks trying to make something happen. His first pick to CB Samari Rolle was even overturned on replay. The refs helped the Packers more than in any game I can remember, but it just wasn't enough...

I left this post for a couple of days and my memory of the game is fading, which is probably the best thing that can happen for it. If the offense could do one thing to improve itself after 5 games it is changing the look of the offense. You know when RT Kevin Barry is in the game, its a run. Its a run too if FB Nick Luchey comes into the game. If FB Robert Henderson goes in motion, then its a pass in the flat to Henderson. Favre doesn't throw to Green enough. Green is having trouble getting past the line of scrimmage untouched, so motion Green out of the backfield to catch a short pass in space past the line of scrimmage. Throw to the tight ends more. Although TE Bubba Franks had two TD passes on Monday, he didn't catch many passes other than that and TE David Martin has been used little in the last two weeks. Design more plays to involve WR Robert Ferguson. The offense is playing well, but they have to keep the opposing defense guessing. If the defense is going to play badly, it might as well take a lot of risks. Defensive coordinator Bob Slovak played the defense on its heels on Monday night and it forced no turnovers and had no sacks. The defense is having trouble playing straight up against teams, the offense has the firepower to keep up in a shootout, so the Packers might as well play aggressive. If the special teams could change one thing, it should be to sign a long kicker. K Ryan Longwell is great at field goals, but he can't get a kickoff inside the 10 yard line. If the Packers can have a long snapper, then they should spend the roster spot on a long kicker who can keep teams from getting past the 30 yard line after a kickoff.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Mike Sherman continues to covet mediocre quarterbacks because reported that the Packers are interested in San Diego QB Drew Brees, maybe in a trade this season or as a free agent next season. Brees is off to a hot start this season (note to Sherman: Brees got off to a hot start last season too, before he was benched) although Brees's true value is reflected by his career 73.7 passer rating. Bob McGinn unearthed the definitive quote regarding Brees from former GM Ron Wolf in 2001 "I think [Brees]'s just average." To recap: QBs acquired by Wolf = QB Brett Favre, Mark Brunell, Aaron Brooks, Matt Hasselbeck; compared to QBs acquired by Sherman = QB Craig Nall, Akili Smith, Tim Couch, Scott McBrien, J.T. O'Sullivan. If Wolf thinks Brees's was average, then don't try to acquire him.

Friday, October 08, 2004

The Packers finally traded CB Mike McKenzie for a 2nd round pick from New Orleans. McKenzie was good, but not worth a 1st round pick. The Packers traded a 2nd round pick for a similar cornerback, CB Al Harris, last season. If McKenzie was really lying about his hamstring injury, although he was probably just being overcautious because he was playing for a new job, then McKenzie should have been punished instead of rewarded with the trade he wanted. Unfortunately, McKenzie was making a bad situation worse by managing to get paid for sitting out games. At that point, the Packers probably made the best of the situation by trading McKenzie while they could still acquire something for him. If McKenzie was really hurt, would New Orleans have actually traded for him?

Of course the real steal of this deal is up-and-comer QB J.T. O'Sullivan. And I've got a bridge for sale too. Other than New Orleans coaches and diehard preseason fans, almost no one is probably familar with O'Sullivan. One thing Mike Sherman has established as general manager of the Packers is that he has a bad eye for quarterbacks. Sherman has acquired QB Craig Nall, QB Akili Smith, QB Eric Crouch, and QB Tim Couch, who have all shown an inability to improve into useful NFL quarterbacks. If O'Sullivan turns out to actually be a good NFL quarterback, then he will be a first for Sherman.

After the Packers traded for O'Sullivan, it seemed unlikely that the Packers would keep four quarterbacks on the roster, so QB Doug Pederson's back injury might have encouraged the trade for O'Sullivan. reported that Pederson was hurt in the 3rd quarter, and he probably shouldn't have played after it, but Pederson apparently didn't tell the Packers how serious it was. QB Craig Nall couldn't have entered the game until the 4th quarter (because 3rd QBs are technically inactive until the 4th quarter), so that might have encouraged Pederson to hide the injury.

DT Larry Smith is back with the Packers. Smith can play nose tackle, although he didn't look good in the preseason at the position. His poor preseason play might have been due to the fact that he was playing injured, but who knows if he is yet 100%. Smith played well down the stretch in 2002, so he has proved himself useful in the past. Signing Smith doesn't hurt, but it might not be a big improvement.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Packers 7, New York 14. I didn't check the last time the Packers started the season 0-2 at Lambeau, but I think its been a while. Although the score was close, the game wasn't. The Packers were more competitive while giving up 45 points in Indianapolis then they were in this game. A few points to bring up in this game:

RB Ahman Green fumbles. The Packers are 0-2 in 2004 when Green fumbles, they were 0-5 in 2003 when Green fumbles, and haven't won a game when Green fumbles since October 2002. Green's fumble vs. New York didn't lose the game, although Green's fumble vs. Chicago probably did.

QB Brett Favre has a concussion. QB Kurt Warner ended his career in St. Louis when he came back in week 1 of the 2003 season with a concussion, and didn't tell his coach about it, so Warner probably agreed when the Packers held out Favre after he suffered his concussion. Favre says he will be back next week, he probably will play, but he might not be the same player for a few weeks.

Defensive line. Although Indianapolis could have exploited the Packers poor run defense, it wasn't truly exposed until RB Tiki Barber tried to have a career game. As long as DT Cletidus Hunt is forced to play nose tackle and DT Cullen Jenkins is starting, the defensive line will continue to get shoved around. Add in that neither DE KGB and DE Aaron Kampman excel at run defense, and this is one troubled unit. The only good news is that NT Grady Jackson and NT James Lee should both come back mid-season.

Offensive line. C Grey Ruegamer had played well in limited action so far this season, but he had an awful game. Ruegamer aside, the offensive line has been no where near as dominant as it was in 2003. All blame for this can probably be assigned to the injuries to C Mike Flanagan and OG Mike Wahle. Wahle has started every game this season, but he missed most of the preseason after he injured himself during training last offseason. This unit needs to regroup and start dominating again.

Secondary. The Indianapolis game was bad enough, but the Packers secondary still looks confused. CB Michael Hawthorne isn't good enough to start, FS Darren Sharper should be moved to strong safety because he looks like he's lost a step, and CB Ahmad Carroll and CB Jason Horton have played like rookies. Hawthorne was playing a few yards off WR Tim Carter and WR Amani Toomer was wide open for a first half TD if Warner had only seen him.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Injuries, injuries, injuries...

Is CB Mike McKenzie really hurt? Apparently nobody knows, except McKenzie, reported quoted OG Marco Rivera who said McKenzie did pull up lame in practice, so the article overall gives McKenzie the benefit of the doubt. Its too bad this situation has gotten so rotten, but the Packers need McKenzie and McKenzie needs the Packers to release or trade him. The situation with McKenzie remains the same; the Packers need him on the field unless they can trade him for a comparable player or high draft choice. The Packers traded a 2nd round draft choice for CB Al Harris in 2003, so there is no reason anyone should expect the Packers accept less in return than a 2nd round pick for McKenzie.

C Mike Flanagan is lost for the season. He hasn't been healthy all season, so this is not a big surprise. C Grey Ruegamer has been playing well all season, so this is not a huge dropoff in talent, but Flanagan is a very good center and he will be missed. Depth isn't a problem at the position either if backup C Scott Wells is over the injury problems he had for much of August. It hurts the depth on the offensive line, because Flanagan was probably the backup left tackle and there is no obvious backup left tackle currently on the roster. OL Steve Morley and OL Kevin Barry were considered left tackle candidates, but neither has played well enough at the position.

QB Brett Favre is hurting too, according to The knee he took to the back of his leg looked like the type of leg bruise that someone would walk off given an hour or two. Its not surprising he sat out the final series in Indianapolis, but it would be shocking if he missed any more time due to the injury. also reported that Favre has a trick shoulder that has been bothering him on and off for a couple of years. Who knows what to make of that.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Packers 31, Indianapolis 45. This would have been a big win for the Packers, so its not surprising that they lost. It would have been an upset victory under any circumstances, but to win after all the injuries at nose tackle and cornerback would have been a big upset. Fortunately, the self-destruction occured in the first half and the Packers spent the second half proving they made the proper adjustments at halftime.

First Half: How did the run defense play? Who knows. Indianapolis didn't bother to run the ball in the first half. Defensive coordinator Bob Slovik had good reason to worry about Indianapolis's run offense, because the Packers were without any nose tackles (DT Cleditus Hunt filled in at NT), but Indianapolis's offensive coordinator Tom Moore was apparently much more interested in attacking the banged up secondary. The pass rush was good considering that QB Peyton Manning is one of the hardest QBs to sack in the NFL. They got some pressure on Manning, but it wasn't nearly enough. Troy Aikman even commented on it that Indianapolis was playing 3 WR (that is their base/opening snap offense) but the Packers only played 4 defensive backs and the Packers were getting shredded. WR Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison abused CB Al Harris and Michael Hawthorne, and when the Packers blitzed it left the middle of the field open for WR Brandon Stokley. The Packers offense almost kept up with Indianapolis. Favre had two long TD passes to WR Javon Walker to answer each of Indianapolis first TDs. The Packers third drive was halted by a drop by WR Donald Driver, who had two big dropped passes in the first half. The Packers had three scoring drives and one missed field goal in the first half, which would have been enough in other games. Packers 17, Indianapolis 28.

Second half: The Packers opened the half as well as it could have went. The Packers scored a TD on the opening drive and the defense actually stopped Indianapolis. Two turning points for the defense; switching to the dime and bringing in CB Jason Horton. Horton didn't play well, but he moved Hawthorne over to cover the slot receiver, where Hawthorne plays much better. Indianapolis recognized the extra defensive backs (Horton and CB Bhawoh Jue) and ran RB Edgerin James, but James never really got on track (no runs over 10 yards). James had a TD run, but that was after a few previous attempts to pound the ball in at the goal line. WR Antonio Chatman and WR Robert Ferguson had two great kick returns, probably the best two kick returns in at least the last two seasons. Hopefully the special teams continue to block that well on kicks. The Packers were stopped on three offensive drives in the second half; the first two were stopped on 3rd and long after penalties and the other was the fumble by Walker. It was the only turnover of the game, but it was huge. Its hard to blame Walker; Walker was protecting the ball, but CB Jason David perfectly ripped out the ball. Favre took a knee to the back of the leg on his last drive of the game, and hopefully that is not a lasting injury. Packers 31, Indianapolis 45.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Now the Packers are down to zero nose tackles. NT James Lee tore a ligament in his knee early in Sunday's game and proceeded to play the entire game with the injury, reported. Unbelievable! If you are keeping score, that's the third nose tackle lost with an injury. NT Donnell Washington is on injured reserve and done for the season. NT Grady Jackson and Lee both might come back in November. Now the Packers are reduced to playing DT Cletidus Hunt at nose tackle, and Hunt was struggling with what appeared to be a rib injury during Sunday's game. DT Kenny Peterson could be another nose tackle candidate, but he is still struggling with an ankle injury. Everyone should get used to poor run defense from the Packers for at least the next month.

C Mike Flanagan needs knee surgery, according to This injury has been bothering Flanagan all preseason too, so its not a big surprise. C Grey Ruegamer can play in place of Flanagan and maybe if he is given an opportunity he can play just as well. Ruegamer hasn't been an obvious weakness in any of the games he played in so far this season. reported that CB Mike McKenzie might still be traded before the deadline in three weeks. What a side show. He played well on Sunday, but now that the Packers only have three defensive tackles left on their roster (Hunt, DT Cullen Jenkins, and DE Corey Williams-although Williams has been playing exclusively at end so far this season, reported that defensive coordinator Bob Slowik would move Williams inside this week) no team should spend too much time bothering to pass against a suspect run defense, and the Packers might as well trade McKenzie. Maybe they can acquire a healthy nose tackle in return.

RB Ahman Green has fumbled twice in two games. Is this a problem? Yes, fumbles are bad, but Green had no fumbles in the last 9 games in 2003. Does he just have a problem only early in the season?

Monday, September 20, 2004

Packers 17, Chicago 14. That could have been the score, but it was Packers 10, Chicago 21. If RB Ahman Green hadn't been stripped of the ball at Chicago's 5 yard line and S Mike Green hadn't ran it back 95 yards for a touchdown, then the Packers would have won. Overall it was a very close game; both teams struggled throwing the ball but each piled up big rushing numbers. The biggest problem was a poor run defense. This game is similar to the loss at Arizona early in 2003; a game that looked like a win on the schedule became a loss. Hopefully this game was just a bump in the road to another NFC North championship, just as in 2003.

Offense: QB Brett Favre did not have a good game. He had a rhythm early in the game which was disrupted by a long interception on a pass attempt to WR Donald Driver. After the first quarter, he never got going for an entire drive, although he had a great second half TD pass to WR Robert Ferguson. Green looked good, except for the above mentioned fumble, although it was created on a great play by LB Brian Urlacher. The offense line played well early, but seemed less effective as the game went on. Usually it works the other way around; the o-line tires out the d-line. The pass protection was solid all game long. Once again C Mike Flanagan was replaced in the 4th quarter; was he ineffective or still trying to get back to 100%?

Defense: Solid pass defense, although the Packers had trouble covering the tight end during the first quarter. Lots of problems with RB Thomas Jones, but the Packers had problems with RB Anthony Thomas vs. Chicago last year too. Maybe the Packers run defense has a let down against Chicago. LB Na'il Diggs had a great 1st quarter but then quieted down. LB Nick Barnett was named NFC defensive player of the week in week 1, so of course he struggled. Jones usually had a big run when he squeeked past the defensive line and Barnett and/or FS Darren Sharper were caught overpursuing. CB Mike McKenzie played some and almost had an interception in his first week back from his holdout, although he did not start. CB Bhawoh Jue followed up a solid week 1 game with two penalties, although his illegal contact penalty on defense was almost a phantom call. NT James Lee, and DT Cleditus Hunt and DT Cullen Jenkins held their ground on run plays, but generated little pass rush. The defensive ends generated little pass rush and had trouble keeping their gaps on running plays. Chicago took advantage on a couple plays by reversing the play when the Packers were overpursuing, but it eventually caught up to them when WR David Terrell fumbled a reverse in the 4th quarter (unfortunately Favre threw an interception a couple plays later).

Overall, it was a very even game but the Packers had more turnovers (plus the huge fumble recovery for a TD against them) and more penalties than Chicago. Sometimes you win the games you should lose (at Carolina in week 1) and lose the games you should win (any game against Chicago). Hopefully the Packers learn from mistakes made against Chicago and win a game they are expected to lose next week in Indianapolis.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

With the first week of the season done and no word from CB Mike McKenzie, I had finally accepted that McKenzie was serious about sitting out for the entire season, but then Len Pasquarelli on reports that McKenzie will be back with the team by Wednesday. McKenzie's the best cornerback in the NFC North, but he might be eased back into the lineup. Overall its a good problem to have too many cornerbacks. McKenzie's return means the release of either S James Whitley or CB Jason Horton. Unfortunately McKenzie still wants to be traded which could lead to some clubhouse problems.

NT Grady Jackson has a dislocated knee cap, reported, which is probably as good as can be expected because the injury looked season ending on the replay. Hopefully Jackson can return for the second half of the season, because no one on the roster can replace what Jackson can do for the team.

RB Najeh Davenport injured his hamstring on a kickoff return, he just froze in midstep and fell untouched on his last play in Carolina. Hamstrings can linger and sure enough reported that Davenport has been strugling with hamstring problems all preseason, so this is a problem that won't go away anytime soon. Davenport is the best kick returner on the Packers and won't be easily replaced on special teams, but RB Tony Fisher can back up RB Ahman Green with the offense adequately in Davenport's absence.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Packers 24, Carolina 14. No turnovers and 38:04 time of possession. The Packers offense got the ball early, often, and they kept it for big chunks of time. Not glamourous, but dominant. Carolina actually outgained the Packers in yardage (300 to 279) but they didn't overtake the Packers in yardage until their last drive.

First Quarter: The Packers were able to run right from the start of the game. The yardage per carry was not impressive, but the Packers controlled the line of scrimmage and usually gave the Packers running back an opening. QB Brett Favre looked off in the first quarter, but no interceptions. If any Packers fans haven't regressed the memory of Favre's stinker 3 interception performance in the first half versus Minnesota last season in week 1, then we can appreciate no interceptions. DT Grady Jackson was injured on the third play on defense, and he could be done for the season with a torn knee. Jackson's loss could be huge (rim shot) because the Packers are already without NT Donnell Washington (out for the year with a foot injury) and DT Kenny Peterson is recovering from a leg injury. This created a lot of playing time for NT James Lee and DT Cullen Jenkins. TE David Martin played a lot in the first half, but steadly was phased out as the game went along. P Bryan Barker was the primary punter for the Packers and he didn't look too good. The Packers offense controlled most of the quarter by running the football and keeping Carolina's offense on the bench. Packers 3, Carolina 0.

Second Quarter: The Packers defensive line was not too effective and the Packers could only generate pressure by blitzing. Carolina had their one good drive this quarter, which dominated most of the quarter. The Packers had some sloppy tackling, two big 15 yard face mask penalties (one on LB Nick Barnett brought Carolina's drive back to life), and the secondary looked confused when it tried to drop back in a zone coverage. The offense answered immediately back, Favre threw his big pass of the night (24 yard sideline pass to WR Javon Walker), and RB Ahman Green ran for his first TD. The Packers started blitzing on nearly every play on the previous drive, with mixed success because Carolina did score a TD, but after the Packers took the lead on the Green's first TD, the blitz really started to bother QB Jake Delhomme. This was also the time at which Carolina stopped running the ball. Carolina's offensive coordinator Dan Henning seemed to get the best of the Packers defensive coordinator Bob Slovik for the first quarter and a half, but Slovik outcoached Henning the rest of the game. Packers 10, Carolina 7.

Third Quarter: Fumble! DE Aaron Kampman fell on a fumbled handoff when Delhomme tried to handoff to FB Brad Hoover right in front of two other Packers who had blitzed. Lee had a great preseason, but he didn't make any plays in place of the injured Jackson (minus Lee had one of the 15 yard facemask penalties in the 2nd quarter). Favre warmed up in the 2nd quarter and found a groove in the 3rd quarter. He actually threw two TD passes on the same drive (one was called back after WR Robert Ferguson pushed off). Carolina had a good drive going, including a 34 yard pass to WR Ricky Proehl when FS Darren Sharper let Proehl get behind him on a zone coverage, but a tipped pass to WR Steve Smith bounced into Barnett's hands. This was the only interception, but CB Michael Hawthorne might have dropped two interceptions in the game. Hawthorne struggled in the preseason, he got beat once early in the 1st quarter, but became more effective as the game went on. Rookie CB Ahmad Carroll played a great game if it had ended in the middle of third quarter. Carroll had one penalty on a punt return in this quarter. Packers 24, Carolina 7.

Fourth quarter: A whole lot of Packer running. 13 run and 5 pass plays for the Packers on offense in the quarter. The big one was a 13 yard pass to Walker that ate up a couple of minutes late in the game. Carroll had another penalty on special teams and then got mixed up on coverage and gave up a 30 yard TD pass to a wide open WR Muhsin Muhammad. Carroll played like a talented rookie; made some plays but made some mistakes. Whipping boy CB Bhawoh Jue played a lot in the dime and had two great pass defenses in the 4th quarter, hopefully a sign of good things to come. SS Mark Roman was hurt early in the game but wasn't out long and played a solid overall game. All the Packers' starting linebackers were very active in the game. C Mike Flanagan sat out part of the 4th quarter, his last play might have been a sack on Favre when DT Kris Jenkins bull rushed Flanagan back into Favre. Hopefully Flanagan isn't hurt and was just tired from playing a lot tonight after missing most of the preseason with a leg injury. Carolina ends the game with an ineffective two minute drill (less than two minutes to go, down by 10, no timeouts, and their first play was a handoff). Packers 24, Carolina 14.

Saturday, September 11, 2004 reported that CB Michael Hawthorne will start at cornerback ahead of CB Ahmad Carroll in Carolina. Carroll looked really good in the last preseason game and he should start ahead of Hawthorne, but starting the first game of your NFL career on the road, on national TV, and against the defending NFC champs is probably not for the best. Hawthorne and Carroll should both expect a lot of passes to be thrown their way, because neither of them is named Al Harris.

Speaking of CB Al Harris, reported that Harris signed a contract extension. This extension makes a lot of sense because Harris is the best cornerback on the Packers roster that has reported for the season, he was a free agent after this season and his departure would have left a big hole in the Packers secondary, and the Packers can put some of the contract burden on this season's salary cap. Harris received $7 million in guaranteed bonuses, which is reasonable/market value for a veteran cornerback of Harris's ability. Despite the good reasons to resign Harris and the reasonable contract expense, this was not a good signing. Harris is 29 years old, he does not have great speed, and it is unlikely Harris will remain productive for the entire length of his 5 year contract. Hopefully Harris remains a productive cornerback into his 30s, he has three or four more quality seasons left in his career, and I am proven wrong about him.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

More roster moves. reported that the Packers picked up LB Nick Rogers and TE Sean McHugh, while releasing LB Tyreo Harrison and FB Vonta Leach. It looked possible that Rogers would start at linebacker this season in Minnesota, but Minnesota has drafted a linebacker in the second round in each of the last two drafts. Rogers has started over 20 games in his first two NFL seasons, Packers personnel analyst John Schneider was impressed with Rogers' special teams play last season against the Packers, and he appears to be an upgrade over Harrison. The Packers search for another tight end has now led them to McHugh. Will the Packers keep four tight ends? McHugh is a converted college fullback, but do the Packers need a fourth tight end/third fullback? Maybe the Packers had a good opportunity to see McHugh in Tennessee on Friday and liked what they saw of him. Leach was a surprising release because reported last week how high the Packers were on him.

The Packers made the first moves for their practice squad. reported that C Scott Wells, QB Scott McBrien, WR Kelvin Kight, S Julius Curry and OT Atlas Herrion were all signed. Kight was a surprise addition over WR Carl Ford or WR Scottie Vines, but the Packers probably like his kick return abilities. Curry is a mild surprise because the Packers only had him in camp for a week. The addition of Herrion over OT Jason Jimenez was unexpected. The only player added to the practice squad from outside of the Packers training camp roster was TE Ben Steele from Minnesota. If Steele can show the Packers some catching ability in practice, he could have a shot at knocking TE David Martin off the roster.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Roster Moves. reported on Saturday that the Packers waived OL Joseph Hayes, Atlas Herrion, and Jason Jimenez, RB Walter Williams, WR Wilson Thomas and LB Jermaine Taylor. Williams played fine on Friday, but he did not look better than RB Tony Fisher or RB Najah Davenport for either backup position. Thomas looked promising on Friday, but he was caught up in a numbers game too. Early in the week, it looked liked Jimenez had a backup position secured, but he would have been the 9th offensive lineman, which is too many.

The Packers traded SS Marques Anderson to Oakland for a 5th and a 6th round pick in 2005. Anderson was a big hitter in the secondary, but his coverage skills were lacking. In the end, the Packers chose a strong safety (SS Mark Roman) with better coverage skills. Its too bad that Anderson did not work out after a promising rookie season in 2002, but its good that the Packers got some draft choices in exchange for Anderson instead of releasing him for nothing.

The biggest news was the release of QB Tim Couch. He did not look good in the preseason, but it seemed likely that the Packers would keep him as the 3rd QB so he could learn the offense. reported a number of other roster moves. It was news that P B.J. Sander was not released. Mike Sherman would hear "I told you so" about Sander all over the league if he gave up on Sander so early, although Sander had a couple of good punts in the 2nd half in Tennessee which probably saved his job. The Packers were high on S Curtis Fuller when they picked him up in before the start of the 2003 season, but he did not show much this preseason. DE Kenny Holmes seemed guaranteed a spot when the Packers signed him last month, but he did not produce any big plays against Tennessee. DE Tyrone Rogers had a good preseason game against New Orleans, but he was caught up in a numbers game. DT Larry Smith was pushed off the roster by the solid preseason of DT James Lee. CB Chris Watson did not have too many opportunities, but he was a longshot after coming back from a lost 2003 season in Detroit. Releasing WR Carl Ford, Kelvin Kight and Scottie Vines was a surprise, because it seemed likely Vines or Ford would remain as the number five wide receiver, but instead the Packers only kept four wide receivers. S Julius Curry did not have much of a chance, only signing with the Packers last week. TE Tony Donald had a great season in NFL Europe, but did not make many plays in the preseason. LB Steve Josue was a surprise release, because he had a strong training camp and looked good on Friday. QB Scott McBrien looked too small to play in the NFL. C Scott Wells was a minor surprise, although he started out strong, he missed several practices due to injury and ended the preseason poorly. DE Chukie Nwokorie had some success in 2003, but he was injured all preseason, so his release was not a surprise.

The Packers made two trades, as reported by DE R-Kal Truluck has an odd name and was essentially traded for Anderson because the Packers gave up the 5th and the 6th round draft pick in 2005 acquired from Oakland to obtain Truluck from Kansas City. The website for UW-River Falls revealed that Truluck's real name is "R-Kal K-Quan Truluck" which translates to "Ruler of the Lake" in Swahili, but do the Packers really want the backup defensive end behind DE Vonnie Holliday? Wesley Pinkham wrote an article for last July and said "It is beyond me why Truluck didn’t get more playing time last year. When this guy was in the game, he made plays, simple as that" and he mentioned that Truluck was second on Kansas City last season with 5 sacks in limited playing time. Truluck is a smaller defensive end (6'4" 260 lbs.) and almost the same size as DE KGB, which makes him an unlikely starter opposite KGB on 1st and 2nd down, although it looks like Truluck has potential and will be rushing the quarterback on 3rd downs opposite KGB, however, the article published by was not nearly as complementary of Truluck as The Packers also traded for OL Brad Bedell, however, the draft pick he was traded for was a conditional 6th round pick in 2006, which means the Packers might end up flying Bedell to Green Bay to see him in person, decide he does not fit the Packers current needs, and then release him. It is most likely that the Packers end up cutting Bedell before the first game of the season.
Packers 7, Tennessee 27. The score was more lopsided than the actual game. The Packers actually looked better than Tennessee except on four big plays: the interception returned by LB Keith Bulluck for a touchdown, the interception by CB Samari Rolle and subsequent TD pass to WR Derrick Mason, and the 73 yard run by RB Chris Brown. In the regular season, the big play can make or break a season, but QB Brett Favre and RB Ahman Green were not given a full (or any) game of opportunities to make up the big plays. Overall, the Packers made few penalties and other mental mistakes, and many backup players were given the opportunity to prove they belong on the roster.

First Half: The Packers offense moved the ball pretty well against a very tough Tennessee defense. Two seasons ago the Packers went down to Tennessee for a regular season game and Green ended up with 10 yards rushing, so rushing for over 100 yards without Green against essentially the same defense was a big improvement. The Packers had success running the ball against the best run defense in 2003. Favre moved the team well down the field, until he threw an interception. On the first interception, Favre's pass was off slightly and Rolle was in a perfect position to jump the route and tip the ball to Bulluck, who ran it back for a touchdown. The second interception was another great play by Rolle. Hopefully the subsequent TD pass by QB Steve McNair to Mason was not a sign of things to come; CB Al Harris blitzed from the corner and SS Mark Roman rotated up to cover Mason, but he was late and missed an open field tackle which allowed Mason to run into the end zone. The Packers ran the same blitz and coverage rotation later in the half and it led to a tipped pass and an incompletion. Sometimes the blitz is an asset and sometimes it kills you. Favre made up one of the touchdowns with a beautiful pass to WR Robert Ferguson on a blown coverage by Tennessee's secondary. Last season, the Packers run defense looked susceptible early in games but then clamped down as the games went on, and the Packers followed that same pattern in the first half of this game. The Packers offensive line looked solid in pass protection during the first half. CB Ahmad Carroll got to start the game, was picked on all half by McNair, but played a great half. Carroll looks noticeable better from the first to the last preseason games and he should be the starting cornerback for the start of the season. P B.J. Sander had a 5 yard punt...

Second half: The offense looked inept without Favre, just as it had all preseason, but QB Craig Nall played in the 4th quarter and probably saved his NFL career. He should have had a long TD bomb to WR Kelvin Kight but Kight dropped the pass, probably could have had some more success with some help from his receivers, and played very well with a lot of confidence. Although Nall threw an interception in the end zone to essentially end the game, the offense looked competant without Favre in the game for the first time all preseason. Unfortunately for WR Scottie Vines, he made a big catch on a pass from Nall but fumbled the ball when he was hit and probably fumbled away his NFL career. Sander probably saved his NFL career with some good punts in the second half. QB Tim Couch did not kill his NFL career with his one poor outing on Friday night, but it is probably on life support. Tennessee had a lot of success running the football against the Packer backups in the second half, which probably lost many players their roster spots. On the other hand, the pass defense excelled in the second half, especially rookie CB Joey Thomas. How CB/S Bhawoh Jue has kept his roster spot is unexplainable. LB Tyreo Harrison played well on special teams and as the backup at middle linebacker, and probably has made the team. DT Kenny Peterson had his knee rolled up on by DT Cullen Jenkins and its likely Peterson is done for the season. Although the pass defense looked good in the second half, the pass rush vanished.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Packers 7, Jacksonville 9. Once again, I missed the game, so I have to read the recaps again. The Packers are lucky that RB Ahman Green did not suffer a major injury on Friday, although it sounds like something that might linger for a couple of weeks. Hopefully Green sits out the last preseason game because he has nothing to prove. Overall, the game resembled the first two preseason games for the Packers: not much offense without QB Brett Favre playing, good defense, and a lot of penalties.

QB Brett Favre. The 2nd Quarter was typical Favre. Two interceptions, the first when Favre tried to zip it into WR Donald Driver and franchise SS Donovan Darius jumped the route, and the other on a fluke bounce off TE Bubba Franks. Although both interceptions led to field goals, the quarter was a net gain when Favre threw a perfect deep pass to WR Robert Ferguson. It was the typical high risk-high reward you expect as a Packer fan while watching Favre play.

Backup quarterbacks. Does anybody really expect the Packers to play well without Favre? QB Craig Nall and QB Scott McBrien did not look good, but that is not really surprising. Hopefully QB Tim Couch continues to heal and learn the offense, and he can be expected to perform well if needed.

Penalties. They do not mean anything, yet. It is hard to tell if it is a problem with so many players on the field who will not remain on the roster for the start of the season or rookie players receiving so much additional playing time.

Injuries. The injuries to Green and LB Na'il Diggs do not sound serious, but this is the danger of the preseason. So far, knock on wood, the Packers have not any signifcant injuries.
CB Michael Hawthorne. Although offenses do not show their regular offense during the preseason, all three opponents the Packers have faced this preseason have shown one thing in common; attack Hawthorne. He does not have the speed to start at cornerback in the NFL, he is likely to be attacked in the passing game by every opponent this season, and he does not have the speed to win every battle with every wide receiver in the NFL. Hopefully CB Mike McKenzie returns and Hawthorne can settle in as the 3rd or 4th cornerback, otherwise Hawthorne will start and be abused by starting wide receivers until the Packers feel CB Ahmad Carroll can start.

Special Teams. It did not read like either P B.J. Sander or P Bryan Barker looked very good. It is a concern and a problem that needs to be resolved and corrected by the start of the season. had an article that the Packers were reluctantly awarding the starting punt return job to WR Antonio Chatman. Chatman looked ok last season as the punt returner. If Chatman is good enough to win the 4th wide receiver spot on the roster, then he should be given another chance this season at punt returning.

Wide receivers. It looks like WR Scottie Vines and Chatman will be the 4th and 5th wide receivers this season. This can be important for the Packers. Last season, the Packers depth at wide receiver was tested early with injuries to Ferguson and Driver. Some seasons, the Packers 5th wide receiver never saw the playing field, except on special teams. In 2003, the Packers promoted a former 5th wide receiver, Driver, to the starting lineup and he turned in a 1000 yard season. These players might be very important or an afterthought to a great season.

There are many things I would like to address, such as how the offensive and defensive lines are playing, how many of the backups are playing, but those things don't show up well on a game recap. Hopefully I can watch the last preseason game.

The Packers released 15 players on Monday. None of them are a surprise, although it is likely that RB Dahrran Diedrick finds himself back on the practice squad. All the players were undrafted free agents.

Friday, August 27, 2004 and each had stories about QB Scott McBrien, who has outplayed QB Tim Couch and QB Craig Nall in training camp. McBrien is almost 6'0" tall and weighes 188, which is very small for the NFL. The only QBs playing in the NFL who are of similar physical stature as McBrien are QB Jeff Garcia, QB Ty Detmer, and QB Doug Flutie. Not an elite company, but each one has had some success while Garcia has had a solid NFL and CFL career. What this really says is that quarterbacks of McBrien's height and weight don't play and/or survive in the NFL, as a general rule. While there are plenty of QBs in the NFL of similar height and weight as Couch and Nall, there are no other unproven small QBs in the NFL. Although Detmer played with the Packers, that was before Mike Sherman's time with the team and he has never shown a preference for smaller QBs. It is unlikely that McBrien would beat out Nall and Couch for a roster spot, but he remains a very likely candidate for the practice squad, because it remains unlikely that any other NFL team would give him an active roster spot.

Thursday, August 26, 2004 posted a "Keep or cut?" column. A few decisions caught my attention.

Quarterback: The Packers will cut QB Craig Nall and QB Scott McBride, although it is likely that one of them would end up on the practice squad. QB Tim Couch's past performance in Cleveland was better than any past performance by Nall or McBride. Pederson will probably remain the number two QB until Couch gets healthy. If Couch's arm injury doesn't linger and Couch can learn the offense, he signed late and did miss the first two minicamps, then Couch could be good enough to start by midseason.

Wide Receiver: WR Carl Ford will lose to WR Scottie Vines for the 5th WR spot, which is a surprise since Ford had a shot as the number 4 WR but has lost camp battles to Vines and WR Antonio Chatman.

Offensive Line: OL Jason Jimenez will make the roster, but he didn't look impressive in the game versus Seattle and he will probably be inactive for the early season games.

Defensive Line: DE Kenny Holmes, DE Larry Smith and DE Corey Williams will knock DE Cullen Jenkins, DE Tyrone Rogers, and DE Chukie Nwokorie off the roster, although this is the toughest decision since of each of these defensive ends have something to offer. Williams is a surprise since he was a low draft choice from a small school, but the Packers have been impressed with him.

Defensive Backs: Keep CB Jason Horton and Bhawoh Jue over SS Marques Anderson. CB Chris Watson seemed a good candidate to make the team when he was signed this summer, but he has apparently didn't show enough this preseason. Anderson has his flaws, but he is the biggest hitter in the secondary. Horton has been burned at times this preseason, during the games and the scrimmage, but defensive coordinator Bob Slovik was said on that Horton has been a real find by the Packers scouting department. The team should cut their losses with Jue, who looked awful last season and in the Seattle preseason game, although he might be the best athlete in the secondary.

Special Teams: The Packers will cut P B.J. Sander. Sander seemed like a bad decision during the April draft, but it is surprising that Sander didn't have any chance during the regular season. This cut seems the most unlikely because Mike Sherman wants to prove others wrong and prove that Sander was worth a high draft choice.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Multiple sources reported that the Packers signed DE Kenny Holmes. He came cheap, reportedly for $660,000 with a $25,000 signing bonus, and he could help the Packers in 2004. Last week, it sounded like Holmes was done because he turned 30 and he has a history of knee problems, however, Len Pasquarelli of reported that his latest knee surgery was an arthroscopic procedure, which is common and easily recoved from these days. In his three seasons with the Giants, Holmes averaged 2 sacks every 5 starts, which would lead to 6 or 7 sacks if he starts 16 games and that would have been the 2nd most sacks by a player on the Packers in 2003. In comparison to other free agents, DE Grant Wistrom, 28, who signed with Seattle for a $14 million signing bonus, has averaged 7.5 sacks for every 16 games he has started over the last three seasons. Wistrom has a slight age and production advantage over Holmes, both have injury problems (Wistrom has an injured foot, Holmes has a history of knee problems), and Holmes is substantially cheaper. with the injury to DE Chukie Nwokorie, Holmes could find himself playing 30 snaps per game, averaging 6 or 7 sacks for the season, and become an important contributor in 2004. reported a rash of boils in training camp this summer. Mike Sherman said he didn't "think it's a major issue" but it has kept NT James Lee out of the last preseason game and out of daily practices. Lee looked outstanding against Seattle in the first preseason game. With Lee and rookie NT Donnell Washington sidelined, DT Larry Smith not looking good as the backup nose tackle against Seattle, and no one else apparently playing behind NT Grady Jackson, the nose tackle depth has become a concern. The Packers run defense takes a major step back without a quality nose tackle. had a story about the Packers increased use of the blitz in 2004. It is irrelevant how much the Packers blitz. The blitz can be very effective and create a big play, and it is just as likely that the blitz can create a big play for the opposing offense if it doesn't work. It really is a matter of performance. The Packers should blitz, because it adds a different look to the defense and can confuse or frustrate the other team's offense, but if the blitz isn't well executed, then the Packers shouldn't blitz. In the end, it doesn't matter what percentage of plays the Packers blitz on. If the Packers out coach and out play their opponents, whether they blitz every play or never, then the Packers will have a great defense.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004 reported that backup OL Brennan Curtin is done for the season after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee. Its a horrible injury, but Curtin was likely to play the same role in 2004 as in 2003. He was likely to be inactive for most games, and would be the third or fourth tackle. This comes after the injury to reserve C Scott Wells, while starting LG Mike Wahle and C Mike Flanagan continue to sit out with leg injuries. was concerned about the various injuries, but Wahle and Flanagan have said they would play if this was the regular season, while Curtin and Wells are at the end of the bench. The primary backup linemen, OL Steve Morley, OL Grey Ruegamer, and OL Kevin Barry, are playing as it was expected of them, so the top 8 offensive linemen are set. Although it would be better if Wahle and Flanagan were completely healthy, which in Flanagan's case is never going to happen, these players are likely to follow RG Marco Rivera's lead and play through injuries (Rivera has played through a torn MCL in two recent seasons).

Monday, August 23, 2004

Oops. reported that the Packers signed 40 year old P Bryan Barker. Barker has 15 seasons of experience in the NFL and the Packers are looking to see if they made a mistake drafting P B.J. Sander in the 3rd round (Yep). Ironically, Barker lost his punting job in Jacksonville after the 2000 season to P Chris Hanson, who the Packers signed after P Josh Bidwell was diagnosed with cancer in 1999, but Hanson was soon released by the Packers in favor of P Louie Aguiar. Hanson made the Pro Bowl after the 2002 season, but missed most of the 2003 season with an injury. Too bad the Packers hadn't kept Hanson back in 1999.

On the other hand, it is obvious that Sander isn't really as bad as he played in the first two preseason games. Sander is either pressing too hard or he's hurt. Len Pasquarelli on pointed out that Sander averaged in the two preseason games 36 Gross/31 Net while last season at Ohio State he averaged 42.2 Gross/39.8 Net. That is a big difference. Hopefully Sander proves he is good enough to kick in the NFL in the last two preseason games.
Preseason: Packers 19, New Orleans 14. I did not watch the game, so I don't have much to say. This is essentially a review from reading the game recap on and ESPN highlights.

First; the Packers are playing like a team in the preseason. Sloppy offensive line blocking and multiple defensive offsides, along with miscommunication between new and young players which should be expected by all. Hopefully the sloppy play is out of their system by week 1, unlike last season when the Packers played a poor first half and lost to Minnesota at Lambeau.

Second; the secondary is a work in process. This was expected, especially since the Packers have two rookie cornerbacks, CB Ahmad Carroll and CB Joey Thomas, who still have a lot to learn. It is unlikely that they will contribute much in their first seasons, although they might contribute later in the season in the dime and nickel packages. SS Mark Roman appears to be playing the same role as SS Antuan Edwards played last season; a safety with above average cover skills but not a big hitter, to complement SS Marques Anderson's big hitting but lesser coverage skills. It is unclear who can win the starting battle between them, because they are different players who bring different skills to the position. It will probably end up that the two rotate depending on the defensive scheme and opponent all season long. CB Michael Hawthorne is a good third cornerback, but when he has to start, he is beaten by starting wide receivers like WR Darrell Jackson of Seattle and WR Joe Horn of New Orleans. This is not a surprise; Hawthorne drew faint interest as a free agent this spring due to his lack of speed and it is why the Packers have been unwilling to trade CB Mike McKenzie. had some McKenzie-is-preparing-to-report speculation, but it was all unconfirmed. Hawthorne is good as the third or fourth cornerback going against the slower third or fourth wide receivers, but he will be exposed all season long as a starter. The big 70 yard touchdown pass by New Orleans in the 4th quarter was not a big disappointment. Thomas, who still has a lot to learn, was beaten, and safety Kevin Curtis, who was just signed last week, missed the play in the open field. It was a lot to ask of them to play well together so soon with the Packers when they are not expected to be contributing in the starting secondary this season. The entire secondary is much better when ballhawking FS Darren Sharper is on the field.

Before the game, Chicago traded starting WR Marty Booker for Miami DE Adewale Ogunleye, who led the AFC last season with 15 sacks. Ogunleye fills a big need for Chicago, a proven pass rusher to ignite a morbid pass rush. The knock on Oguleye is that he is a product of a good team, and he was made better by rushing the QB opposite Pro Bowl DE Jason Taylor. Ogunleye had double digit sacks in 2002 and 2003, so he is not a fluke. This trade is a major improvement for an average defense's weakest attribute. Unfortunately, this trade makes a weak offense even weaker. Chicago is trying to ease QB Rex Grossman into starting in the NFL, but he is playing with two average running backs (RB Thomas Jones and RB Anthony Thomas), a rebuilt offensive line, and now he is playing without the two leading receivers from 2003 (WR Booker and WR Dez White). Booker and White did not play very well in 2003, but their likely replacements, WR David Terrell and WR Justin Gage, are not well regarded and Terrell was almost released this spring. At least Booker would deserve attention in coverage, but now opposing defenses can really attack Grossman and force him to make plays. Ogunleye is still a superior individual player to Booker, but this trade could really hurt Grossman plus Miami received a little kicker for the deal (a 2005 3rd round draft pick) that could make this trade a bad trade for Chicago. Overall, the trade is a mixed bag of bad and good, and it is unclear that it has improved Chicago.

Friday, August 20, 2004

The Packers signed safety Kevin Curtis. Curtis was drafted by San Francisco in 2002 in the 4th round and rated him as the 85th best player in the 2002 draft so he was a value pick (although what does San Francisco know because they drafted bust K Jeff Chandler in the same round). Unfortunately he has never played in the regular season because he had two seperate knee injuries in each of the past two preseasons, as reported. His signing does not sound like any risk at all, but it is unlikely he contribute or make the team at this point. On the other hand, Curtis had been available since he reached an injury settlement with San Francisco back in August 2003 according to why sign him right now? Is he finally healthy or is this just a desperate move to bring in more bodies into a backup secondary that underperformed in the first preseason game?

There was no previous mention about the Packers claim of WR Kelvin Kight off waivers from St. Louis last week, because there is little online about Kight. He was an undrafted free agent signed by St. Louis in April and played college ball last season at Florida, but that's about it. He was standing on the sidelines for most of the preseason game, and he might have had one pass attempt thrown at him. Unless injuries attack the wide receivers or Kight is a demon on special teams, especially as a punt or kick returner, he has little chance of staying with the team, although maybe he can stick on the practice squad.
What is going through the mind of CB Mike McKenzie? reported that New Orleans is still interested in McKenzie but apparently will not trade a 1st round pick for him. Nonetheless, the recent story made me reexamine why McKenzie will not report to the Packers.

Enough has been reported about McKenzie to give the impression that he is someone who frustrates other people. He averages about one agent per season, and his last agent quit once McKenzie's current disagreement with the Packers was made public. On the other hand, not one Packer has said anything negative about McKenzie, other than that he should honor his contract. FS Darren Sharper appears to be the closest friend McKenzie has on the team, although Sharper appears to be an outgoing man who makes friends with almost everyone on the team. Sharper has been willing to talk to the media about McKenzie, but all he can say is that this disagreement is not about money.

It is reasonable to assume that their disagreement is about money. McKenzie's current contract is less than he would be paid if he had been a free agent this past offseason. If this is a holdout for more money, then it is unlikely that the Packers will rework the contract (other than to guaranty some money that is currently unguaranteed) and McKenzie is likely to report once he starts missing game checks. It is easy to assume that this is a contract disagreement, because most holdouts are about money, unfortunately, this disagreement seems to be about something other than money. Assuming money is not the issue, as McKenzie has told people (including Sharper), then only three other issues have been suggested.

The first possibility is that he is engaged in a battle of pride and ego with Mike Sherman. Sherman had problems effectively communicating with some players in the past, such as the time last offseason when he created a misunderstanding that led to LB Na'il Diggs signing an offer sheet with Detroit, before the Packers matched it and Sherman worked it out with Diggs. Would someone risk their career because of pride and ego? It has happened many times in many different situations outside the NFL, but it would seem ridiculous to people who are not personally involved in such a dispute. This possibility seems the least likely scenario, because Sherman has a history of working out misunderstandings with his players and McKenzie has never showed much ego or been very outspoken in the press.

The second possibility is that he was upset with the 4th and 26 meltdown in the Philadelphia playoff game and how the season ended. It wasn't the first blown coverage in NFL history and these mistakes are correctable through better practice and coaching, unless this was somehow the final straw for McKenzie in a pattern of poor play and coaching. Did McKenzie tell the team "I told you so" regarding the bad defensive scheme and then in the offseason the Packers failed to acknowledge that he was correct?

The third possibility is that he was upset with the defensive coaching changes. It has been mentioned that McKenzie wanted assistant secondary coach Lionel Washington promoted to either defensive coordinator or secondary coach, although McKenzie has not made any such demand public himself. Maybe he was disappointed in the firing of Ed Donatell? Maybe he thinks former secondary coach and new defensive coordinator Bob Slovak was responsible for the 4th and 26 blunder, and the fact that he got promoted despite his blunder is ridiculous. Maybe he thinks poorly of new secondary coach Kurt Schottenheimer, who he probably knows to some extent because Schottenheimer coached Detroit last season.

The third possibility seems the most likely situation at this point. If McKenzie thinks Slovak is part of the problem, Schottenheimer is not likely to help situation, and the Packers seemed headed in the wrong direction, then it is reasonably for someone to want to leave and start over with a new team. Such a situation would also make the problem impossible to correct. No amount of talking and listening can change the fact that the wrong men are in charge of the defense. This is not an attack on Slovak or Schottenheimer, because there is no way to know at this point whether they will coach the defense better than the Packers were coached in 2003 and McKenzie could be completely wrong in his assessment of both men, if McKenzie does in fact think they are the problem.

Another question is why has McKenzie drawn so little interest from teams around the NFL. Why isn't there a bidding war for him in trade? He's proven he can play at a high level, he's in his prime, and he's cheap. None of the cornerbacks drafted this past season are guaranteed to ever play as well as McKenzie has played in the past, and teams are just as likely to draft a bust with their first round pick as draft a talented contributor. If a situation like this occured in MLB, McKenzie would be traded within a week (see the meltdown between the Cleveland Indians and CF Milton Bradley for a comparable situation - and it wasn't just a salary dump because Cleveland acquired a legitimate and talented prospect in return for Bradley). Maybe it is because that there are so few trades in the NFL, few teams would ever consider trading for an established player under any circumstances.

This is all just speculation, because all the parties involved are keeping the whole story underwraps, which is probably the professional way to handle the situation. The Packers can have a good secondary in 2004 without McKenzie, but the secondary is probably better with McKenzie than without him. This situation cannot be compared with any player/coach dispute in recent history; it is not about money, contract, or playing time. It will be interesting to hear McKenzie's side of the story some day. Hopefully he and the Packers come to an understanding and McKenzie will play for the Packers in 2004.