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.