Thursday, July 29, 2004 had a bunch of Packers stories posted today.

The headline "McKenzie is unhappy camper" was stating the obvious, but it is not surprising that DB Mike McKenzie is aggressively training for the start of the season, because he has to give another team a reason to overpay for his rights in a trade. confirmed that the Packers offensive line is one of the best in the NFL.

The article on players who remain in Green Bay over the offseason had a great description of RB Najeh Davenport's inability to shovel his driveway.

More on Davenport: speculated that Davenport would be an excellent fit in Miami. In no way should the Packers trade Davenport now. He should be the number one kickoff return man in 2004 and he is an asset in the running game. He is only a restricted free agent after 2004 and he might become a number one running back if the Packers have concerns with resigning RB Ahman Green after 2005. If Davenport has a great 2004 season, it would not be surprising for the Packers to offer Davenport the top qualifying offer in the offseason and trade him for draft choices before next April, when they can draft another running back and/or kickoff returner.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The sudden death of VP of football operations Mark Hatley is a huge loss for the Packers. I knew next to nothing of Mark Hatley personally, go read Pat Kirwan's column on for some personal background on Mark Hatley, so I will talk about what he did for the Packers. described Hatley as the "second in command" of personnel decisions behind Mike Sherman. Although Sherman is technically the GM and Coach, I believe Sherman is the head coach first and he has the final decision on personnel, but Hatley did much of the routine travel and day-to-day grunt work of a GM, because Sherman worked day-to-day as the head coach. I became familar with Hatley while he was in charge of player personnel for Chicago from 1997 to 2001. Hatley might always be remembered in Chicago for his bad decisions to draft RB Curtis Enis and QB Cade McNown in the first rounds, but Hatley did a good job of rebuilding Chicago from stratch after Chicago bottomed out in the mid-1990s post Dave Wannstedt. He drafted Chicago icon LB Brian Urlacher and assembled the great (and lucky) 13-3 Chicago team of 2001. It appears that Chicago improved every offseason under Hatley, and you can't yet say that about current GM Jerry Angelo. All the top players in Chicago over the last 3 seasons (LB Brian Urlacher, S Mike Brown, RB Anthony Thomas, C Olin Kreutz, WR Marty Booker) were drafted and signed during Hatley's tenure.

With the Packers, Hatley contributed to the draft classes of 2002-2004. The 2002 draft class netted star WR Javon Walker along with current Packers DB Marques Anderson, RB Najeh Davenport, and DE Aaron Kampman who are all likely to contribute significantly in 2004 (hopefully QB Brett Favre stays healthy and QB Craig Nall remains firmly on the bench). The 2003 draft class hasn't turned out as well, but it did net star LB Nick Barnett along with possible contributors DT Kenny Peterson and DT James Lee. Overall, the Packers roster has improved since Hatley was hired in 2001, and Hatley deserves credit for it as much as anyone. Hatley's death is a huge loss for the Packers.

Monday, July 26, 2004

One week to go before training camp opens. How's Drew Rosenhaus doing on trading his client, DB Mike McKenzie? I expect McKenzie will report to training camp a week or two before the start of the season, because he won't give up his money or pay back his prorated signing bonus to the Packers, and Rosenhaus won't be able to find a team willing to offer a useful current NFL player or a future number 1 draft pick for McKenzie.

The Packers signed former Cleveland DE Tyrone Rogers to a minimum contract. Cleveland couldn't come to terms with their free agent Rogers, the Packers didn't want DE Jamal Reynolds, so it ends up as a pseudo-trade of two defensive ends. Rogers just turned 30 so he probably won't be better with the Packers than he was with Cleveland. Rogers appears to have some pass rush ability; in limited playing time in 2003 he recorded 1 sack and 2 tackles for a loss, and in limited playing time in 2002 he recorded 3 sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss, which out performed former top picks DE Courtney Brown and DT Gerard Warren that season. It would appear that Warren has as much ability to get into the backfield and make a play as DE Chukie Nwokorie, and he has better stats than starting DE Aaron Kampman. Rogers is a good size to play defensive end at 6'5" and 280 lbs. The Packers have a lot of defensive tackles on the roster but only 4 defensive ends, including Rogers. If Rogers has a good training camp and the Packers decide they need more depth at defensive end then at defensive tackle, its possible Rogers could take away a roster spot from someone like DT Larry Smith, DT Kenny Peterson, or rookie DT Corey Williams. had an article about RB Najeh Davenport opening training camp as the primary kick returner. Everything that special teams coach John Bonamego said in the article is true; "He's a big, powerful bull with speed." Last season, Davenport looked just as fast as any kick returner in the NFL, plus he has size and running back instincts that help him run through arm tackles and he has good vision in the open field. I thought had him rated highly on kickoffs in 2003, but I can't find any mention of it on their website. Davenport could be the best kick returner in the NFL in 2004. also had an article about how TE Bubba Franks isn't a good fit in the Packers offense. Franks has been invited to a couple of Pro Bowls because this isn't a golden age of tight ends, and his 30 catches, 500 yards, a few TDs is good enough to make him one of the best in the non-TE Tony Gonzalez NFC. As a general rule, a team should never let a Pro Bowl talent in his 20s leave in free agency, because such players (who are healthy) are rarely available in free agency. Franks won't get a contract like Gonzalez in free agency, but he will get a big (for a tight end) contract because of his Pro Bowl appearances. ranked Franks very poorly in 2003, below TE Jason Witten and TE Mark Campbell, but surprisingly above even lower ranked Pro Bowl Baltimore TE Todd Heap. Heap was hurt in 2003 because although he caught 112 passes, he only caught a lowly 51% of the passes thrown to him, which is a criticism of Baltimore's offense (Heap was their only threat for 2/3 of the 2003 season in the passing game) as it is a criticism of Heap. Franks was ranked low by because he didn't do much with the opportunites when they presented themselves. He is an asset to the Packers, but lesser players might be able to replace his current level of production in the Packers offense.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

DE Jamal Reynolds was claimed by Cleveland off waivers, according to, who also report that Reynolds will be battling for a roster spot as a backup defensive end against former Dallas first round draft choice bust DE Ebenezer Ekuban. As I have said before, Reynolds's knee injuries have probably ended his NFL career before it ever started, and its unlikely Reynolds will beat out Ekuban and make Cleveland's opening 2004 roster.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Packers picked up LB Tyreo Harrison on waivers from Philadelphia, who was probably released because Philadelphia signed LB Jeremiah Trotter. On a side note, Philadelphia's signing of Trotter has to be the best value signing in the NFL this offseason. Philadelphia reacquires a 27 year old former Pro Bowl linebacker who lead Washington in tackles in 2003 for under $1 million. For comparison, Cincinnati signed part-time starting LB Nate Webster, 26, from Tampa Bay as their new middle linebacker back in March for 5 years, $11.3 million with a $2.5 million signing bonus, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer online.

There is very little available regarding Harrison online. ranked Harrison as the 157th best player available in the 2002 draft, which would have projected out into the 5th round, and Philadelphia selected him in the 6th round. Harrison hardly played on defense at all for Philadelphia in 2003 and he was inactive for 4 of their 16 games, but he was activated for both of their playoff games. Its possible that the Packers remember his efforts on special teams in their playoff game against Philadelphia last season, and they think he could contribute on special teams for them in 2004. The Packers now have 8 linebackers on their roster, and it is likely that only 6 linebackers will make the opening roster. Harrison has some work ahead of him to move up the depth chart and make the opening roster in 2004.

Monday, July 19, 2004

The Packers lost out on free agent LB Jason Gildon. Gildon could have helped the Packers as a pass rusher on 3rd downs, opposite DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, and as an outside linebacker if the Packers occasionally switched to a 3-4 alignment. Gildon's career is winding down, and its possible that any number of players currently on the Packers roster can perform as well as Gildon and equal or exceed the 6 sacks Gildon recorded in 2003. Buffalo gave Gildon a $500,000 signing bonus, and the Packers might have had trouble fitting Gildon along with all the unsigned rookies under the salary cap.

Football announcers love to say that defense wins championships, but are the most consistant teams in the NFL great offensive teams? Aaron Schatz on was writing about Baltimore and he hinted at a new projection system he is working on that projected Baltimore as the worst team in the AFC in 2004. Why? Baltimore has a 2000 yard runner in RB Jamal Lewis and the best defense in the NFL? Because defense is less consistant than offense says Aaron. He hasn't published his system yet, but his theory sounds reasonable.

How did Tampa Bay fall from Super Bowl champion in 2002 down to missing the playoffs in 2003? Tampa Bay's defense was ranked the second best in the NFL in 2003 according to (ahead of 2003 Super Bowl winner New England) and the team was essentially the same roster in 2003 as in 2002. Tampa Bay's DT Anthony McFarland was on ESPN's Cold Pizza saying that Tampa Bay's defense was just as good in 2003 as in 2002, except for a few plays over the course of the season. That makes some sense, as Tampa Bay's defense slipped from a percentage ranking on of -30% in 2002 down to -22.5% in 2003. A defense as good as Tampa Bay's defense should have carried that team into the playoffs, but a great defense appears to be no guaranty of success.

Aaron's theory also explains the Packers success with QB Brett Favre as a starting quarterback. The Packers have not had a losing record with Favre as their starting quarterback, which is a remarkable run of winning in the NFL. The Packers have only one championship during Favre's career, but only the 1996 defense could have been considered the best in the NFL. Maybe defense does win championships and maybe a team is unlikely to win the championship without a great defense, but the odds are long of making the playoffs without a consistant offense. Its just another reason that the Packers need to reassure Favre everyday that retirement isn't even an option for him.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

DE Jamal Reynolds has come back (after flunking his physical with Indianapolis) and now has left again (having been released), according to various news sources. It is a weird situation because Reynolds was healthy enough to participate in two mini-camps with the Packers, but now Indianapolis is blaming a 2002 knee injury and surgery?

Maybe Reynolds was undersized to play at defensive end, but it could be that his knee injury ended his career before it ever started. Reynolds had microfacture surgery on his knee, the microfacture procedure attempts to regrow cartilage, and players have rarely come back from it to play at a high level.

Retired DT Eric Swann and DT John Randle never were the same impact players after they had the surgery. CB Jason Sehorn was a superstar, but now after the surgery he has been released by two different teams in two consecutive seasons. Denver OL Dan Neil has come back from it, but Denver's offensive line is only just slightly above average according to Carolina RB DeShawn Foster has come back from it to have an outstanding 2003 playoffs, but rated him as one of the worst running backs during the 2003 regular season. LB Kevin Hardy has come back from it and had two solid seasons in Dallas and Cincinnati, but it does not appear that anyone considers Hardy a premier linebacker anymore.

Various articles on Reynolds over the years have questioned his work ethic, but even if that rumor is true, its hard for someone with superior physical skills to immediately turn himself around into an overachiever type player when suddenly the explosiveness that he used to take for granted is gone. It is unlikely that Reynolds will get a second chance in the NFL, because teams are unlikely to take chances on defensive linemen with knee problems (see fellow "can't miss" Florida State alum DE Andre Wadsworth as Exhibit A). In the end, Reynolds was a talented player who's career was derailed by injuries before it ever got a chance to start.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Publications are gushing about WR Robert Ferguson and WR Javon Walker. reported that a prominent agent said that Ferguson sold himself short (has an agent ever felt like a client got too much from a team?) while "one league source" said Ferguson is a "solid investment". compared Ferguson to Pro Bowl wide receivers Rod Smith and Hines Ward. Its too hard to compare Ferguson to many NFL wide receivers because he came into the league a couple of years younger than most wide receivers and with so little experience. He had to sit out his first season entirely just to learn how to play. Its easy to compare Smith and Ward to Ferguson because they are all about the same size (6'0" 200 lbs. approximately), but both Smith and Ward were more productive in their first season as a starter than Ferguson was in his first starting season. Ferguson's lesser production could be the result of Ferguson younger age in comparison to the age of Smith and Ward in their first seasons as a starter. Overall, it was a risk for the Packers to reward Ferguson with a relatively large signing bonus (over $3 million) based on modest production so far in his career.

John Clayton reported on that Walker had "an exhausting offseason training regiment" and is ready to become the number one wide receiver for the Packers in 2004. Clayton reported that Walker "was virtually unstoppable against the Packers' cornerbacks in minicamp". Walker is a fantastic, but inconsistent, talent. Sometimes in 2003, Walker looked like a young Jerry Rice with his size and speed, and sometimes he looked lost. It should be expected that Walker will be "virtually unstoppable" at times in 2004, but it also should be expected that he will make some bad plays in 2004.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Former GM Ron Wolf rebuilt the Packers into a champion, but he had very little success with first round draft choices during his tenure. Although 6 of his 10 first round picks are still playing in the NFL, only TE Bubba Franks remains with the Packers, but he is the best of the bunch, and the only one of the six to be named to a Pro Bowl. Only T Ross Verba and DE Vonnie Holliday might be starting for other teams in 2004. It is highly unlikely that DE Jamal Reynolds will find himself starting for Indianapolis in 2004.

Still this was a nice trade for Indianapolis, who acquired a potentially useful situational pass rusher in Reynolds at a low price. Reynolds has sporatically shown some pass rush ability when given the opportunity and he only cost Indianapolis a modest roster bonus ( reported it was just over $200,000) plus a low future draft choice. Reynolds has the potential to provide just as many sacks on 3rd down plays as any of the free agents currently available, such as LB Jason Gildon, but at a much lower price.

It was good to see the Packers receive something in return for Reynolds, when it was apparent all offseason that they did not have any plans for him in the 2004 season. While the Packers have a lot of options to play at defensive end on rushing downs, the Packers still need to find out who is going to be rushing the quarterback on 3rd down from the defensive end position opposite DE KGB. DE Chukie Nwokorie and DE Aaron Kampman had a lot of opportunities in 2003, but neither is a situational speed rusher. LB Marcus Wilkins was injured for much of 2003 and he would also be considered as the 3rd down pass rusher at defensive end if he is healthy. The Packers could find themselves mixing and matching a lot at defensive end in 2004, although the situation became clearer with the departure of Reynolds.