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.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

It is no help to lose backup WR Shockmain Davis to a broken leg, as reported happened to Davis during practice. Davis actually has some NFL experience, and none of the wide receivers projected behind WR Donald Driver, WR Robert Ferguson, or WR Javon Walker have more than one year of NFL experience. reported that P Nathan Chapman will get a chance this weekend. Why not? He is a longshot in the NFL, a 29 year old rookie with previous experience in Australian rules football, but rookie P B.J. Sander was dismal in the first preseason game. Chapman would have to resemble fellow Australian NFL punter P Darren Bennett to have any chance of playing in the regular season.

Last season, the Packers signed free agent FB Nick Luchey, and it appeared that FB William Henderson's days with the Packers were numbered. The Packers wouldn't pay for two starting fullbacks in the modern NFL which devalues the fullback position. Instead, Henderson kept his starting job last season, appears in no danger of losing it this season, and Luchey seems likely to remain on the roster as the backup fullback and special teams player. It is just surprising how this situation turned out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004 reported that the Packers cut LB Marcus Wilkins. Wilkins showed good speed off the corner on Monday night, but the Packers apparently did not like what they saw when he attempted to drop back in coverage. It is not surprising that Wilkins was cut as a linebacker, the Packers have a number of backup linebackers that are playing well in training camp, but Wilkins was one of the few situational pass rusher candidates in training camp. reported that the Packers are kicking the tires of free agent defensive ends Kenny Holmes and Chad Bratzke. Both players are over 30 and had major injuries in recent seasons. Holmes seems more likely at this point, because he visited the Packers and appears likely to take less than money than Bratzke. Holmes has played very well at times in his career while at other times seemed ineffective, unfortunately, he is coming off November knee surgery. Both players appear to have more reputation than ability at this point in their careers. Overall, the Packers do not appear satisfied with their depth at defensive end, especially with the severe hamstring injury to DE Chukie Nwokorie. The article did mention that DE Cullen Jenkins had some success against Seattle, but defensive ends Tyrone Rogers and Corey Williams didn't make much of an impression in the 2nd half. After the first preseason game, the only backup defensive lineman that played well were Jenkins, DT Kenny Peterson, and NT James Lee.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Preseason: Packers 3, Seattle 21. "Wretched. Just plain wretched" were the words used by Bob McGinn to open his column about the first preseason game. McGinn was primarily commenting on the awful performances by QB Tim Couch and P B.J. Sander. Overall, the Packers had a poor performance, but the first team offense played well, there were no turnovers, some players had outstanding individual performances, and the mental mistakes and penalties were as good as could be expected for the first preseason game.

First Quarter: The first team offense played well, although they only scored 3 points on 2 drives. QB Brett Favre threw 5 completions to 5 different receivers, the big one a 19 yard pass to RB Tony Fisher. Fisher was wide open because the Seattle cornerback to that side of the field blitzed late. Favre's two incompletions were an incomplete-almost touchdown to WR Donald Driver and an incompletion in the end zone to backup TE David Martin. On the pass to Martin, Seattle had starting CB Ken Lucas cover him, which should tell Favre (again) that the entire NFL knows he likes to throw deep to his tight end and that is hasn't worked since 1996. RB Ahman Green ran well considering C Mike Flanagan and LG Mike Wahle sat out. TE Bubba Franks had a great game; catching one pass and opening a giant running lane on a run off left tackle for Green.

The starting defense played flat, like it did during most 1st quarters last season. The Packers run defense played well (although ESPN's Paul McGuire thought otherwise) and RB Shawn Alexander only had 10 yards on 5 carries. Seattle tried to run at DE KGB but he played great run defense. On 3rd down, the Packers called on DE Cullen Jenkins (who?) to rush from right defensive end opposite KGB. Jenkins didn't have much success in the 1st quarter, but he showed why he had this opportunity in the 4th quarter. The Packers couldn't stop Seattle on 3rd down; on one play, a late cornerback blitz left WR Bobby Ingram wide open for the conversion, and on another play, a ineffective linebacker blitz left the middle open and WR Darrell Jackson blew by CB Michael Hawthorne for the reception. Seattle picked on Hawthorne, which should continue to happen in the regular season, unless CB Mike McKenzie returns. Seattle had some success throwing to TE Jerramy Stevens, but LB Na'il Diggs was not playing (is he injured?) who ordinarly would be responsible for the tight end. The blitzes were not hidden or very effective (I counted 2 out of 5 blitzes created QB pressure), but in the preseason, the Packers wouldn't show off their real blitz packages. The TD run by Seattle FB Mack Strong had to be a missed assignment (NT Grady Jackson jumped out of the way and it looked like LB Torrance Marshall didn't jump into the Jackson's spot fast enough).

Second Quarter: The wheels come off. CB Ahmad Carroll was returning kicks instead of RB Najeh Davenport. Why? Hopefully Davenport is still number 1 on kickoffs and Carroll is number 2, however Carroll needs the practice more than Davenport. The second unit offense, with who's that at left and right tackle (LT Atlas Herrion and RT Jason Jimenez), was awful. No running lanes for Davenport and weak pass protection. I would expect that OL Steve Morley is the real backup left tackle, OL Kevin Barry is the real backup right tackle, but they both played at guard tonight because they are the backups at those positions too and they need more practice at guard. QB Tim Couch was awful. Wretched. The rest of the second team offense didn't help him, but Couch was not following through with his passes, his accuracy was off, and that hitch in his delivery can't be helping him. Couch might be injured, but who knows. Let's see if he improves during the preseason. QB Seneca Wallace has little chance of success in the NFL (at best he will have QB Jeff Blake's career) but the Packers second team defense made him look respectable (and made ESPN's anchors gush about Wallace). Backup NT Larry Smith did not hold the line well and gave RB Maurice Morris some cutback opportunities, plus the 3rd quarter gave Smith reason to worry about his backup nose tackle spot and potentially his spot on the roster. Smith played well with limited opportunities in 2003, but he has a roster battle on his hands. CB Bhawon Jue looked awful Monday night, he had an awful (and wretched) 2003 season, and he missed at least two assignments and tackles in the 2nd quarter. Carroll got a big pass interference call, WR Alex Bannister actually started the grabing, but Carroll grabed last and drew the penalty. All the backups played in the secondary and they looked confused, for example when they forgot to cover WR Jerheme Urban for a wide open TD pass.

Third and Fourth Quarter: I decided to lump the two quarters together, because in both quarters the Packers second (third/fourth) team offense wasn't productive in any way (couldn't pass, couldn't run), and the Packers second (third/fourth) team defense played well but spent too much time on the field and got tired. The Packers offense gave Sander plenty of opportunity to punt and he looked awful. Wretched. He didn't kick a single punt longer than 40 yards, and only a couple of his 10 punts had good hang time. He is supposed to be a quality directional kicker, but none of his kicks were anywhere near the end zone (he was kicking from Packer territory) so it was hard to tell. Backups WR Carl Ford, WR Scotty Vines, and TE Tony Donald had plenty of playing time, but the offense was struggling so bad, it was hard to tell if any of them played well. QB Doug Pederson had a lot of opportunities, but he wasn't effective. The first play of the second half was a run that was stuffed when third string NT James Lee got into Seattle's backfield. It was like starting nose tackle Jackson was still in the game. Depth at nose tackle was a concern with the injury to rookie DT Donnell Washington, but Lee just turned the position into a strength. Lee repeatedly beat Seattle's offensive line into the backfield and had an effect on every run play Seattle ran in the 2nd half. The Packers secondary played much better in this quarter, which is not surprising since they had never played together before this game. LB Steve Josue had a big hit, but he still has a roster battle on his hands (the Packers have good depth at linebacker this season). LB Marcus Wilkens played well on the outside, and he looks recovered from his 2003 injuries. Jenkins, the defensive end who is the brother of Pro Bowl DT Kris Jenkins from Carolina, had a fantastic spin move in the 4th quarter and got a sack. Jenkins does not have a guaranteed contract, so he slipped through the cracks, and I hadn't noticed him yet this preseason. He looked good in the 4th quarter, played very well in NFL Europe this spring, played with the first team defense in the 1st quarter, and it looks like he will be in the Packers' defensive line rotation this season.

Overall, the Packers offense looked awful without Favre in the game, which should come as a surprise to no one. The Packers defensive line and linebackers played well, but the secondary is a work in progress, which is what should be expected of it at this point. The special teams didn't have any big kick returns, K Ryan Longwell looked as good as ever (accurate but without much strength), and Sander looked awful (which is disappointing but not unexpected because of his poor reviews so far in minicamps and training camp). The disappointments were not surprising and some players were much better than expected. It was a good start to the preseason, although it would be even better to actually win the game.

Monday, August 16, 2004

C Mike Flanagan thinks his current injuries, which have kept him out for most of training camp, were caused by the major leg injury he suffered in his 1996 rookie season, according to Flanagan said "you start getting old, you start playing with stuff. It changed my gait, the way I ran, everything. So then I compensated with this leg. It has been years and years of playing." Although he expects to play through the aggrevation caused by this old injury and he is an excellent center who is clearly an asset to the team, you wonder if a friend or family member shouldn't intervene with Flanagan and ask him if he wants to retire now so he can walk when he is 50 years old. has had multiple articles in the last week about the quality play by backup linebackers Maurice Jones, Torrance Marshall, and now Paris Lenon. Its unlikely any of them will start, unless an injury happens to either linebackers Nick Barnett, Na'il Diggs, or Hannibal Navies. Overall its good to read that this group of linebackers appear to be talented and deep, because coming into last season, the linebackers were unproven and a concern. had some injuries to report coming into the preseason opener Monday night. Rookie CB Joey Thomas will sit out with a bum knee, but its not a long term concern. WR Robert Ferguson hyperextended a knee on a run play when he planted wrong. Ferguson didn't think much of the injury, but it sounded like the type of play that have caused some serious knee injuries, so its good to read that he isn't hurt for the long term.

It is anyone's guess who will play at quarterback tonight after QB Brett Favre takes a seat. reported that QB Tim Couch still hasn't thrown much over the weekend with a "tired arm" injury. QB Craig Nall has a bad hamstring and he has sat out all training camp. QB Doug Pederson should get some playing time, but if Couch and Nall sit out, I have never seen a preseason game where Pederson has played 3+ quarters.

Thursday, August 12, 2004's reporters should start reading each other's articles. On August 8th, Bob McGinn reported that "Camp has been going for a week and [RT Kevin] Barry is doing fine, but there appears to be no competition. Now 22 months removed from surgery, [RT Mark] Tauscher is getting back to his pre-injury level of performance and seems entrenched in the starting job that he assumed from Earl Dotson in Week 3 of 2000." However, on August 11th, Rob Reischel titled an article "Barry makes bid as a starter" and wrote that Tauscher "might have a fight on his hands to maintain his starting job. Third-year pro Kevin Barry continues to improve...". So which is it Starting right tackle Tauscher or starting right tackle Barry? Tauscher started at right tackle in last Friday's scrimmage, while Barry played at right guard with the second unit, so right now it appears to be starting right tackle Tauscher. reported, again, that QB Tim Couch has so far sucked. Well they didn't write suck ("mediocre"), but that is just a diplomatic choice of words. Once again, QB Doug Pederson who should have never had a career as a quarterback in the NFL in the first place, who resigned with the Packers this offseason for a little insurance, who was all set to start his new career as a NFL coach (probably as a QB coach with another team, or with the Packers if current QB coach Darrell Bevell wants to move on), is the second best quarterback so far in training camp behind QB Brett Favre. Its likely the Packers will give Couch at least two preseason games to prove himself with the first unit, but so far it looks like Couch will be lucky to make the roster. reported that the Packers resigned salary gap guru (officially VP of Player Finance) Andrew Brandt this week. He was signed through the end of this season, but with the unexpected loss of Mark Hatley, the Packers front office couldn't be hurt by some stability. Brandt has done a good job of keeping the Packers out of salary cap jail since 1999, while working around some unexpected retirements (WR Robert Brooks, TE Mark Chimura, S LeRoy Butler) that could have forced some hard roster decisions. He has not appeared to defer many contracts into the future that could restrict the Packers in the future, but a sudden retirement by either FS Darren Sharper or Favre could be a possible salary cap disaster next season, if the Packers want to resign all their expected free agents next offseason. The Packers never have a lot of salary cap room (unlike Philadelphia) but they have never been in a position where they have had to let quality players go because of their poor salary cap management (unlike Tennessee). Brandt and Mike Sherman seem to work well together, so its good to read that Brandt will continue working with the Packers into the future.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 reported that rookie DT Donnell Washington suffered "arch damage" and that Washington said "they don't think it's surgical." This sounds like something that will heal on its own time given two months, but that would be about week 4. Washington was likely to see a lot of playing time this season, because he is the only obvious nose tackle to backup DT Grady Jackson. DT James Lee has the size to play nose tackle, but Lee has to prove he deserves to be on the roster first. Depth on the defensive line is very important in the NFL, the Packers rotate multiple defensive lineman in and out depending on the down and distance, so any injury that might hurt that depth is a concern.

Last week the Packers waived LB Armegis Spearman. Spearman was signed as a restricted free agent by the Packers in 2003, but Cincinnati matched the offer, however, Cincinnati proceeded to release Spearman after the 2003 season and the Packers signed Spearman this April. Spearman would have had the first shot at the middle linebacker position in 2003, and if Cincinnati had not matched the offer, the Packers might not have drafted LB Nick Barnett. Based on Spearman's quick departures from two teams since he signed as a free agent in 2003, Spearman has fallen far out of favor with NFL coaches and he would have not been a good choice as the Packers starting middle linebacker. Sometimes its better when your first choice (Spearman) doesn't work out, and your second choice (Barnett) turns out to be the better decision after all.

Monday, August 09, 2004

The first week of training camp has come and gone, ending with the Friday night scrimmage in Lambeau Field. had several good articles reporting all of the activity.

C Scott Wells already has secured a roster spot. Wells was drafted in the 7th round and seemed like a long shot, but I thought he would make the roster all long because the Packers are somewhat thin on the interior of the offensive line. T Kevin Barry was expected to challenge RT Mark Tauscher, but reported that Tauscher has already won the position battle and now Barry is getting some playing time at guard. OL Steve Morley was a free agent from the CFL, he played tackle in the CFL but he too was reportedly taking reps at a guard position. Wells, Morley, and Barry should be the primary offensive line backups this season.

Surprisingly, WR Antonio Chatman appears to be the number 4 wide receiver, reported. The roster is thin at wide receiver behind top 3 WR Donald Driver, WR Robert Ferguson, and WR Javon Walker. Chatman did not look great during the brief time he played in 2003, instead he received most of his touches on punt returns and he remains the punt returner for the 2004 season. Last season, WR Antonio Freeman only had 1 or 2 catches per game as the 4th WR, so its not a substantial position, unless Driver, Ferguson, or Walker are injured. Behind Chatman is WR Carl Ford, who spent all 2003 on the IL, and practice squad WR Scottie Vines. Ford had a strong training camp in 2003, and I expected he would make the roster in 2004, but Vines has played well while still rehabbing from a knee injury, and Vines might kick Ford off the roster, reported.

QB Brett Favre abused the 2nd (3rd) string cornerbacks during the Friday scrimmage, reported. He abused CB Jason Horton, who I had forgotten about until the Friday scrimmage (he was signed in January along with a number of other NFL Europe candidates and I hadn't consider him likely to make it into training camp), and CB Chris Watson, who is coming back from injuries that wiped out his 2003 season while he was playing for Detroit. The injuries to starting CB Michael Hawthorne and rookie CB Joey Thomas made the cornerback depth look even thinner than expected. CB Chris Johnson showed some promise in 2003 in limited action, but he too is out with an injury, although his injury is more serious and he was placed on the IL. reported that CB Mike McKenzie still has no intention of playing for the Packers again, but we shall see. The cornerback position should remain questionable at first, but as the season rolls on and rookie cornerbacks Ahmad Carroll and Thomas are worked into the nickel and dime packages, it should continue to improve.

LB Na'il Diggs and LB Nick Barnett were given blitz opportunities during the scrimmage, reported, that they didn't have in 2003. Diggs was resigned last offseason with the intention of giving him more pass rush opportunities, but it never materialized. Barnett had some opportunities in 2003, but he was injured midseason and he didn't seem to blitz much after he came back from it. Only DE KGB and DT Cletidus Hunt are reliable pass rushers on the defensive line, so if the Packers want to improve its pass rush, it will have to look to the linebackers for help.

P B.J. Sander uncorked two poor punts during the scrimmage, reported, while free agent P Nathan Chapman had one good 53 yard punt. Chapman isn't on the roster, so when the Packers released P Travis Dorsch last month, I thought Chapman had been released previously. It is good that the Packers have an extra punter in camp in case Sander falls apart, and Sander isn't off to a good start.

Thursday, August 05, 2004 had two stories on the other candidates to backup QB Brett Favre; QB Craig Nall and QB Scott McBride, one day after having a piece on backup QB Tim Couch.

Nall has an injured hamstring and will not start practicing until next week. Nall held off QB Akili Smith in training camp last season, because Smith was too inconsistant, however, reports that Nall has the same problem as Smith (consistency), and Nall will have a difficult time making the team. It is surprising to read that Nall has not improved much since a promising season with NFL Europe in 2003.

McBride has started off training camp strong, which is not a surprise to his college coach, Maryland's Ralph Friedgen, who thought the Packers got a steal in signing McBride as an undrafted rookie free agent last April. reported that McBride is throwing well and making good decisions, which is a contrast to what had been reported about Nall and Couch, however was quick to report that McBride is small for NFL QB standards (6'0", 188 lbs.). Both Couch and Nall are over 6' and 200 lbs. McBride did a good job in selecting the Packers as his first NFL team, because he is likely to see a lot of playing time in training camp and preseason while Favre is often sitting out. It will be interesting to see if the Packers give McBride a quarter or more audition in an early preseason game to see if he can make the roster.

I did not mention QB Doug Pederson, who I suspect remains in camp as a tutor for Couch, Nall and McBride, when he is not hanging out with Favre. Pederson does not need to show the coaches what he can do, although I am sure he is practicing in order to stay sharp in case he makes the final roster. The only way Pederson makes the roster is a collapse by Nall and McBride, along with a struggling Couch. If the final roster had to be set today, I would imagine the Packers would release Nall and McBride. It is likely Pederson will remain in camp for a while, and then end up accepting a position to remain with the Packers' coaches or front office for the 2004 season.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004 had an article about QB Tim Couch and compared his arm strength to QB Doug Pederson. Ouch. How did this guy get picked first overall in 1999? The article suggested Couch's lack of arm strength in camp might be due to a lack of confidence while he learns the Packers offense. The article also reported that Couch has never been asked to run a naked (without blockers) bootleg to his left, something QB Brett Favre has excelled at for many seasons. It sounds like we should expect QB Craig Nall to outperform Couch this preseason and force the Packers to name Nall as the backup and Couch at third string. If Couch is named the third string QB, I would expect Couch to ask for his release.

Monday, August 02, 2004

It was good to read that CB Ahmad Carroll was signed right at the start of camp. Carroll needs as much time in camp as possible, if CB Mike McKenzie is serious about holding out all season.

P Travis Dorsch was released last week. It is a little surprising to see Dorsch cut loose so soon, but he was a long shot to beat out 3rd round pick P B.J. Sander. Dorsch outperformed Sander in the April mini-camp, but Sander's performance since April must have convinced the Packers that Dorsch wasn't necessary. Keeping Dorsch throughout training camp wouldn't have been a bad idea, because recent kickers that the Packers have drafted haven't been able to play in their first seasons. P Josh Bidwell was diagnosed with cancer in his first season, and K Brett Conway was injured in training camp and replaced by unsigned free agent K Ryan Longwell. Hopefully all goes well for Sander in training camp and the Packers aren't left scrambling for a new punter at the end of the preseason. had a story on the injuries suffered by C Mike Flanagan and OG Mike Wahle. Flanagan has tendinitis in his knee, and it sounds like a lingering injury that could stay with him all season. Wahle's injury, he was injured performing in a Strongman workout regimen, sounded more serious. Wahle had trouble walking right after the injury in early July, but now it sounds like he is almost over the injury. This falls under into the "ignorance is bliss" category, because if Wahle's injury was reported when it occured, it would have been a substantial concern for the Packers offensive line.