Friday, August 31, 2012

Final Preseason Game (Brief) Recap: Packers Defeat Chiefs, 24-3

While it was good to see Graham Harrell establish himself as a legitimate backup quarterback, I didn't really gain a lot of insight as to who will be the final players to make the roster. When a team wins by 21 points, there are usually a lot of players making good plays and only a few making bad ones. Some players struggled such as LB Terrell Manning, S Anthony Levine, CB Brandian Ross, and CB Otis Merrill. While Shea Allard didn't impress as the backup left tackle either. But I wouldn't go so far to say their performances in this game lost them their spots on the team.

Also, for whatever reason, the Chiefs have been a lousy preseason team over the past few years, so they might not be the best measure.

As for Harrell, his improved performance had as much to do with his teammates as it did with him. The lineman did a better job blocking and none of the receivers dropped any passes. Plus, he got an early boost when the coaches left TE Jermichael Finley in with the second team offense, so Finley could make up some of the reps he missed out on when he didn't play against the Bengals. At least we can have some confidence that Harrell's good enough to backup Aaron Rodgers.

The only criticism might be the run defense, which let the Chiefs run all over them, but I think that bug is partly by design in Dom Capers's defense. For example, the Chiefs ran down the field on their first two drives, but eventually had to settle for two field goal attempts and one missed wide right. No opponent is going to match scores with the Packers's offense by driving for field goals, and not making big plays of their own.

The cuts are coming soon, and minor trades are certainly being explored by GM Ted Thompson's staff. There will be a lot more news later today.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Looking At The Packers Dime Defense

Jason Wilde tweeted from practice on Monday about the No. 1 dime defense:
Unless something surprising happens in the final preseason game, I would expect this is the defensive rotation for the start of the season. They don't usually line up in the dime package, it was only used 7% of the time in 2011 (they were in the nickel on 63% of their snaps) according to the Football Outsiders 2012 Almanac. If this were the nickel, I'd expect Bush or Shields would be pulled for A.J. Hawk. Otherwise, this is the defense that should be on the field about 70% of the time.

Defensive line. Rookie Mike Daniels was one player I wasn't sure about coming into the season. He was great as a senior, but he's a little short (6-0) and was coming off a shoulder injury. After a strong camp and preseason, he's emerged as their No. 3 defensive line pass rusher (apparently B.J. Raji was being given a break during practice). Worthy hasn't been outstanding this preseason, but it's clear he'll be playing a lot. Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson will be starters in the base 3-4 defense. That leaves Daniel Muir as the backup NT, and probably room for another defensive lineman. Maybe Lawrence Guy can make the practice squad.

Linebackers. Smith has taken over for the injured Desmond Bishop, though I'm surprised that he's playing ahead of Hawk in the dime package. Maybe that won't be the case in the regular season. As for the backups, I wouldn't really be surprised by any combination to make the squad, except Dezman Moses should be a lock.

Defensive backs. I didn't think Jerron McMillian would make the jump from Maine to nickel safety as a rookie, but it looks like he's in line for some significant playing time to start the season. If Davon House were healthy, he'd probably be on the field during this drill. Shields is probably the fifth CB, but after a shaky start to the preseason, he's moved back ahead of the even more shaky trio of Hayward, Merrill, and Ross. Shields made a great jump on an INT against the Bengals' No. 3 QB, but was beaten on a couple other occasions. It looks like Hayward will be in a reserve role to start the season and I hope Ross winds up back on the practice squad. I've thought Merrill has been awful on defense and special teams, though he's received praise for being so fast. I'm not sure what combination of backup safeties (Levine, Jennings, and Richardson) will make the team; they've all had a lot of playing time without any one of them standing out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Emergence Of Dezman Moses

The Green Bay Packers find promising undrafted talent every year, and they've done a good job of finding free talent at outside linebacker (Erik Walden, Frank Zombo, Vic So'oto). Unfortunately, after promising starts from them, they've each fallen back on the depth chart.

This year's surprising undrafted talent is former Tulane DE Dezman Moses. Just like the previous three players, Moses is a former college DE making the switch to outside linebacker. But plays like the one below hint that he may have more athleticism than any of them.
He had 9.5 sacks in 2011, and 15.5 over the last two seasons at Tulane. That school was a mess last season as they fired their head coach in October. As an undersized (for the NFL) defensive end who played for a bad team, I'm not surprised he went undrafted. He probably drew little attention from scouts.

With the Packers, he's been noticed since the summer OTA practices began. While he's not been a real threat to challenge LB Nick Perry for the starting job, he has played a lot with the first team defense. But I hadn't really seen anything exceptional from him during the preseason; until the game against the Bengals.

His stats during don't jump out (4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 pass defense, and 1 QB hit), but each of those single stats were an exceptional play on it's own, and he looked like the second team defender that the Bengals had to pay attention to. His pass defense was almost a gem, when he ran at the quarterback on a naked bootleg, tipped the pass up in the air, and almost had an interception off the jump ball. He really stood out and looked like the player I had been reading about all summer.

But can he keep it up? That is the question, and I don't have an answer to it either. It depends on his health, his opportunities, and his continued development.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Packers Down To 75 Players: Jarius Wynn Released

The Green Bay Packers announced 10 roster moves to shrink down to 75 players by today's deadline. Most of the transactions involved injured players and only one healthy player was released.

DE Jarius Wynn. This isn't the first time he's been released by the Packers, so it's not a big surprise. He was re-signed during the great injury rush of 2010, after Justin Harrell's annual season-ending injury. He's also one of the few players I've actually interviewed, so I'm disappointed to see that he's gone, but his play on the field didn't earn him a roster spot. He had a strong couple months down the stretch in 2010, and he was useful during their playoff run to the Super Bowl, but he was a non-factor last season after recording 3 sacks in their first three games. He was involved in a couple plays last week against the Bengals, but he was clearly behind other players like Philip Merling. The Packers might have to release three defensive lineman by the end of the week, so the final game will be very important for Merling, Lawrence Guy, and Mike Neal.

FB Jon Hoese was released, but he's also been out with a hamstring injury, so it's a release related to an injury. The former undrafted free agent was released last season too, and then brought back onto the practice squad late in the year, so we might see him again.

TE Andrew Quarless and LB Frank Zombo have been hurting all training camp, but they both have a chance to return after six weeks on the PUP list. I'm a little surprised OL Derek Sherrod wasn't listed here too, which may be a sign that he'll be ready to play soon.

It's too bad to see LB Desmond Bishop's season end before it began, but his hamstring injury was serious and he'll be out for the season on I.R. A few other players were also placed on I.R. (RB Du'ane Bennett, TE DeMarco Cosby, G Ray Dominguez, DE Johnny Jones, and WR Shaky Smithson) but I wouldn't have expected any of them to make the roster if they had been healthy. Rob Demovsky expects those last five players will "receive settlements and be waived."

There are a few other players that I expected to be released (OL Shea Allard, OL Greg Van Roten, and WR Diondre Borel all stood out in a bad way against the Bengals) but they still need players for the final preseason game against the Chiefs. The starters aren't likely to play, and Aaron Rodgers might not play at all. The front office might have a good idea of their final roster, but some guys will get at least one more chance to make a good impression.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Packers Release Five: Led By Anthony Hargrove

Here's the report from on the five players they released on Friday, as they work on trimming the roster to 75 players by Monday, and they still have 10 more players to go. As for the first five, it included a couple of better known players but really no surprises.

WR Andy Brewer. He was recently claimed off waivers from the Eagles, and with a deep group of receivers already on the roster, he was the longest of long shots. No surprise here.

DE Anthony Hargrove. A lot was written about the troubled free agent and his ongoing battle over bounties with the commissioner's office. Instead, his release comes earlier than expected, but it shouldn't be a surprise because he never played with the first team defense this preseason. He was a poor fit from the start because he was an undersized 3-4 defensive end. He really had to standout to earn a roster spot, and it never happened.

S Micah Pellerin and CB Dion Turner. A couple of undrafted free agents who played little during the preseason. Again, it's no surprise that they've been released.

T Herb Taylor. The season ending injury to Derek Sherrod led to his signing last December. Sherrod's continued absence, and an injury to Marshall Newhouse, briefly led to Taylor becoming the starting left tackle for the preseason opener. His fate was probably sealed the moment he allowed a big hit on Aaron Rodgers. He wasn't good as a run or pass blocker, and only a show of supreme optimism could have kept him on the roster any longer.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Packers Win A Preseason Game Over The Bengals, 27-13

The second half wasn't pretty for the backups, but that's for a later post. The starters are what's most important, and while there were some concerns, it overall looked like a good warm up for the regular season.

Aaron Rodgers. While he was under center, the offense had possession six times and scored on three drives, which is a pretty good success ratio. Rodgers was doing a bit more running than anyone wants, but he wasn't taking any chances. The Bengals defensive line was over-rushing and finding themselves blocked out of the play, while their secondary was chasing the deep receivers, so Rodgers had a lot of green in front of him.

The big concern was his accuracy. The interception was either a terrible pass or a bad route by the receiver, but he had a few other bad passes too. His accuracy is usually flawless, so showing a few flaws doesn't even make him an average quarterback, but it was unlike him.

Greg Jennings is back from his concussion, and he already looks in mid-season form. That alone was great news.

Cedric Benson had a solid debut, and it looks like he'll be a good addition. His strength is his strength; on a couple delayed hand-offs, he fought through arm tackles to pick up some extra yards. While the first team offense was on the field, Benson played about half the time, splitting the duties with Alex Green, and that might be what to expect if James Starks can't return for the season opener.

The worst QB rating of the game went to Bengals' QB Andy Dalton, which is a great sign for the Packers' defense. They only recorded 2 sacks and 7 QB pressures for the game, but Dalton was constantly harassed as they generated pressure against a good offensive line. Rookies Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, and Mike Daniels were often involved in the pursuit, and they all seem likely to play key roles this season. The defense did blitz more in this one than the previous two preseason games. CB Tramon Willams did a great job against Bengals star WR A.J. Green, but the other cornerback position seems unsettled as neither Jarrett Bush or Sam Shields played great. Shields was almost beaten badly on a long pass downfield, but Dalton overthrew Green. Still, having Williams back to 100% after a shoulder injury took away his bump-and-run effectiveness last season is a huge boost.

It wasn't pretty, but the preseason is about shaking off the rust. The first team offense and defense outplayed a 2011 playoff team, and while they still have some room for improvement, they look ready for the regular season.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Preseason Preview: Packers at Bengals

I have to admit, I'm getting bored of the preseason. I want to see the starters on the field and watch the Packers get a win that matters. I want to see the 2011 Green Bay Packers offense, and not the one that lost to the Giants. Only a couple more weeks to go.

In the meantime, there's a preseason game against the Bengals tonight, and there are still a couple questions to sort out on defense.

Who's going to be the nickel safety? I think these final two preseason games will make that decision for us.

Who's going to be the starting cornerback? It looks like it should be Davon House, if his shoulder is healed, or Jarrett Bush if it's not. But the Packers could surprise us, and in the meantime, we'll probably see a lot of Casey Hayward.

What role will Nick Perry play? His pass rushing skills are already the second best on the team, but we haven't seen much of him as a run defender. In pass protection, he looked lost in coverage on one long completion by the Browns. He's the starter, but he might be in a heavy rotation by the start of the regular season if he doesn't improve the rest of his game.

On offense, it's all about getting healthy and giving some more reps to Graham Harrell. The offensive line is back to full health, and once Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley return to the field, the offense will be playing like it's 2011.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Halfway Point Of The 2012 (Pre)Season

Can I write a mid-preseason review of the Green Bay Packers after only two games? Apparently I am.

Overall, 0-2 record is obviously bad. They're trying to win, but it's clearly not their top priority. It falls somewhere behind rotating every player into the game and keeping the starters healthy. Mike McCarthy seems to be calling only his most basic routes, and letting his receivers and quarterbacks react to the defense. During past preseasons, I've read that Dom Capers leaves the defense in their base formation and lets them go, which appears to be the case again this season.

On offense, I think all the problems start at offensive tackle. Graham Harrell (and his receivers) have made some mistakes, but backup tackles Andrew Datko and Herb Taylor have struggled. Datko has shown some promise as a pass blocker, but he's been beaten when bull rushed and Taylor almost got Aaron Rodgers killed. Their run blocking appears to be a weakness too, which explains why the ground game (and Marc Tyler in particular) hasn't gone anywhere.

On defense, I've seen a lot of athletic guys running hard, but I haven't seen anyone in particular stand out. While I feel like the offensive roster is largely determined, the Packers will probably have a tough time sorting out the defensive side. None of the backup players look like a slam dunk, but nearly every one of them has shown some promise. The nickel safety position is a good example: which one of M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian or Anthony Levine has played the best? They've each looked a little different when on the field, each player seems to have his own strength, but it's not obvious which one is better. Maybe they'd be about the same over a 16 game regular season.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012 Openings

I'm acting as the commish of a Yahoo! Fantasy Football League. If anyone is interested in joining, send me an email at acmepackingcompany at gmail dot com, and I'll send you an invite.

Though you'll have to watch the Yahoo! default rankings closely. Aaron Rodgers is only ranked No. 6 overall (No. 1 QB), one spot behind WR Calvin Johnson, which I can somewhat understand because Johnson's clearly the No. 1 fantasy WR. Fitzgerald's No. 2, but the QB drop-off from Stafford to Kolb/Skelton is huge.

But Yahoo! has Ryan Mathews at No. 4? Sure, he's talented, playing on a strong offense in a conference full of weak defenses, but even the Onion is mocking his injury prone ways.

In Defense of Graham Harrell

Hey, it could be worse.
Seriously, after re-watching the preseason game against the Browns, I'm going to stick up for Graham Harrell. I'd rather have him as the backup over Colt McCoy or Tarvaris Jackson. Harrell made some poor throws and he'd be an average replacement starter, at best, but he was let down by his teammates on his turnovers:

The second quarter INT that was returned for a touchdown, overturned by a penalty. Maybe the pass was a little off target, but it still hit TE Tom Crabtree in the hands, who tipped it up in the air for a gift INT to a nearby Browns defender.

The end of the second quarter Hail Mary. It wasn't the best attempt, but that's a pass you expect to be intercepted. When Football Outsiders ranks quarterbacks, it removes Hail Mary INTs from their definition of a turnover because it really isn't one.

The third quarter INT that was returned for a touchdown. I had been hoping to see some good things from TE Ryan Taylor this preseason, but he was held out against the Chargers due to a previous concussion. He returned against the Browns, but he tripped over his own feet on a crossing route and the Browns defender made a diving INT at the spot where Taylor should have been standing. If Taylor doesn't fall on his face, there's no chance that this pass is intercepted.

The fourth quarter intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety. It's been a mixed bag among the backups on the offensive line. Rookie Andrew Datko did a fine job in pass protection and the players at guard looked good, but on this play, the Browns' DE ran a stunt over center that neither the left guard nor center Evan Dietrich-Smith picked up, and the defender ran untouched right up the middle. That looked like Dietrich-Smith's responsibility, and Harrell had no chance.

On three bad plays (excluding the Hail Mary pass), Harrell was let down when a teammate made a bad play. His stats wouldn't have been great even if his teammates had helped him out, but it wouldn't have been a disaster either.

As a final note, if there was ever a competition between Harrell and rookie B.J. Coleman, it ended when Coleman's only attempt against the Browns was a pass he should have never thrown against even a college subdivision team. It looked like the receiver ran a different route, probably in response to the double-team he was facing, and Coleman failed to read the defense. The silver lining is that Coleman should have no problem passing through waivers, and they can stash him on the practice squad. The new question is whether they should keep Coleman under any circumstances.

As a final, final note, I liked what I saw from Datko against the Browns. He's a natural left tackle who's got great size and seems to move his feet well, but he was beaten against the Chargers when bull-rushed and he got no push when asked to run block against the Browns. If you're wondering why the Packers haven't ran the ball well this preseason, it's because their two tackles (Datko and Herb Taylor) can't get any push off the line. It looks like the shoulder Datko injured in college is still holding him back, and he might not be anything more than an emergency option until it's fully healed, but he could be very good by next season.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Two Key Young Players: Alex Green and Jerel Worthy

GM Ted Thompson and his staff have made few personnel mistakes, but the decision to let DE Cullen Jenkins leave in free agency has left it's mark on the pass rush. I'm not expecting anything from their Plan A, Mike Neal, but I'm watching Plan B, 2nd round DE Jerel Worthy, closely. There hasn't been much to watch so far.

The analysis at from an anonymous scout was pretty spot: he's average, at best. That's similar to what PackApologist wrote a couple weeks ago; he's looked okay in camp but on at least one night, he made some noise. It's still early, but I'd be disappointed if Worthy didn't show something this preseason. The good news is that I've been impressed with Nick Perry so far; he might not be a future All-Pro, and he looked lost in coverage on one play against the Browns, but he'll be a strong pass rusher.

RB Alex Green hasn't been able to show much, the trainers are limiting his plays from scrimmage while he rehabs his knee, but I liked what I saw from him against the Browns. He almost broke one run off left tackle, an arm tripped him up before he was able to make a move in the second level, but he showed a potential explosive burst that looked like Ahman Green in his prime.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Packers Lose Ugly In The Preseason To The Browns, 35-10

The good news is that the starters played well, with a couple exceptions. On the Packers's second offensive drive, WR Randall Cobb had the ball stripped and I expect he'll see more ball drills in his near future. Later in the second half, Aaron Rodgers failed to convert a 4th down play, on their side of the field, that the Packers would have never attempted during the regular season. Both plays gave the Browns great field position and led to two scores.

On defense, the Packers forced a fumble on the Browns' first drive. Though the defense held the Browns to only 39 yards on their next two drives combined, the Browns had great field position and kicked two field goals. Rookies Casey Hayward and Nick Perry had some struggles in pass coverage that set up the Browns's first touchdown, but overall the first team defense did a good job tackling and putting pressure on rookie QB Brandon Weeden.

So how bad was Graham Harrell? Pretty bad. Not Brian Brohm bad, but he'll have to show something over the remaining preseason games. Right now, I'm not a believer in him, but I don't think they'll make a trade or free agent signing at this point for the 2012 season.

And I'm starting to become a Jarrett Boykin fan. He made some nice grabs (5 for 63 yards).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Packers Preseason Preview: Browns at Packers

The Cleveland Browns are coming off a 4-12 season and looking for a lot of improvement throughout the roster, but their main focus will be the development of Brandon Weeden. They won't get any better until Weeden is ready to start, and he'll need quality reps during the preseason to make that happen. His first start against the Lions wasn't too encouraging.

For the Packers, maybe it's best if they focus on staying healthy. There's only a couple starting jobs on defense to be determined so long as WR Greg Jennings, TE Jermichael Finley, and RB James Starks are ready for the start of the regular season. Charles Woodson is moving to his new safety position, but I'm not worried about a veteran like him.

It's not a make-or-break game, but with CBs Davon House and Sam Shields out, this is a great time for rookie Casey Hayward to show what he can do. He'll still split time with Jarrett Bush, but the coaches know Bush well, and one preseason game is unlikely to change their minds. House looked pretty good against the Chargers last week, and while Hayward wasn't bad, he'll have to play better to move ahead of House. Right now, I still expect Bush will be the starting cornerback.

It probably doesn't matter who's named the starter at defensive end because the lineman are expected to rotate so frequently. Though he made little impact in 2011, it looks like C.J. Wilson is technically ahead of rookie Jerel Worthy, but Worthy seems to be the lineman of choice alongside B.J. Raji in their nickel package. Philip Merling was very active during their first preseason game against Chargers, and he looks like the next lineman on the depth chart.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Packers Defend The Signing of Cedric Benson

Sure RB Cedric Benson was completely unwanted by any team, and he signed with the Green Bay Packers at the minimum salary with no signing bonus, only after four of their five running backs were either injured or limited due to prior injuries, but GM Ted Thompson said "We liked what we saw with Cedric."

He's talking about him as a player he wanted, not a player he was forced to sign, and he probably could have re-signed RB Ryan Grant instead. He's made his choice, one that could turn out to the wrong choice based on Benson's decline over the past two seasons, and he's sticking with it.

I have to admit, while I was cool on the idea at first, I'm warming up to him. Statistically, re-signing Grant looked like the better move, but with all the injuries (and the inexperience in the Packers's backfield), I'm glad to see a veteran back on the roster. The addition of Benson reminds me of when they re-signed Ahman Green back in 2009.

Just like Benson, the Packers brought Green in for a try out and thought he could still play. They were right; Green ran for 3.9 ypc that season. That's hardly elite, but it's good enough to deserve a roster spot. He also added some veteran stability when the Packers seemed to need it in the backfield, and they seem to need it again now. Also, if Benson does end up starting and he manages to deliver a big run or two, he could give opposing defenses something else to worry about.

Benson will also have the advantage of playing behind the first offensive line, whenever he finally gets on the field, because starting LT Marshall Newhouse has returned from his concussion. Depth is still a concern until Derek Sherrod returns to practice, but he will return at some point this season and it's possible that Andrew Datko can improve over the course of the preseason. Also, I liked what I saw from undrafted rookie Don Barclay at left guard during the first preseason game against the Chargers. That's not outstanding depth, but it should be good enough.

There was a rumor that Chad Clifton might take a physical for the Patriots, who have their own injury problems on the offensive line, but that turned out to be false. If he is able to return, I'd hope he come back to Green Bay.

Monday, August 13, 2012

T.J. Lang Agrees To A Four-Year Extension

It's been reported by Adam Schefter that the Green Bay Packers have extended the contract of T.J. Lang.
After they allowed Daryn Colledge and Scott Wells to depart as free agents over the past two years, it's not a big surprise to see them extend Lang's contract. I've been expecting it for a while.

He struggled as a rookie when he was forced to start at tackle, but last season he beat out Derek Sherrod for the starting LG job, and started every game while surrendering only 2.5 sacks and committing 7 penalties. He could do a better job of avoiding the false start penalties, but Aaron Rodgers has a notorious hard count and Lang has never been flagged for holding.

The terms haven't been released, but GM Ted Thompson isn't known for overpaying players. I guess he'll receive around $5 to $6 million per season, which would be less than Josh Sitton is being paid (over $8 million per season), and approximately what Colledge and Wells are being paid by Arizona and St. Louis, respectively. That's a fair deal for a 24 year old starter.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Should The Packers Sign Cedric Benson

Simple answers to simple questions: No. But the Green Bay Packers might sign RB Cedric Benson anyway, as was reported by Ian Rapoport at, and they (hopefully) have a good reason.

While I don't believe this line of thinking, here's why he could be a good signing. I questioned last week whether James Starks was really the answer, and pointed out that there isn't a strong Plan B on the roster. Cedric Benson has shown great athleticism and production in the past, and a strong work out could be a sign that he still has some game left in him. After weak performances by Starks (5 carries for 16 yards) and undrafted rookie Marc Tyler (13 carries for 32 yards) in their opening preseason game, they understandably might want an upgrade.

On the other hand, there are many reasons why he's not the answer. He has rushed for over 1000 yards each of the last three seasons, but he's done it while averaging under 4 yards per carry. Football Outsiders had him ranked near the bottom of the pack last season for good reason: his low ypc and his tendency to fumble. I double-checked their section on him in the 2012 Football Outsiders Almanac, and there's nothing positive to recommend him there either.

Other red flags abound, he's frequently in trouble with police and he's on the wrong side of age 30, but his fumbles, on a team that prides themselves on winning the turnover battle, is my biggest concern. However, he might not be given more than 150 carries even under the best of circumstances, which would only add one or two more fumbles (potentially) over the course of the season.

It's disappointing to see his signing receive serious consideration, they should have planned this better during the offseason, but his arrival wouldn't have a major impact one way or another.

Preseason Recap: Packers Beaten By The Chargers 13-21

It was an ugly, sloppy preseason game (which happens) but this might have been the best play for the Green Bay Packers: a Nick Perry sack. The Packers need a pass rush and Perry showed what he can do:
My notes on some other major points:

  • I never like seeing injuries during the preseason, and it sounds like Desmond Bishop suffered a serious one. The very limited description reminded me of the multiple leg injuries sustained by Chad Clifton last season, and it wasn't something he wasn't able to come back from. The only silver lining is that the Packers have some depth at inside linebacker, and Bishop was far from great last season.
  • No one should been surprised that Herb Taylor isn't the answer at left tackle. I guess the Packers had to give him a shot while Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod were both out, and luckily Aaron Rodgers lived to throw another day.
  • Rodgers looked extra sloppy with two turnovers in three possessions, however, he's been so good at protecting the ball over his career that this should be just viewed as a blip on the radar.
It's hard to tell whether one bad (or good) preseason game should be a make-or-break moment for any backup player. I'm waiting until at least next week to give them a thumbs-up or down. Bring on the Browns!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Marshall Newhouse's Concussion Challenges The OL Depth

I don't think the Green Bay Packers really wanted to enter the 2012 season with Marshall Newhouse as the only experienced, healthy left tackle on the roster. Despite their faith in Newhouse, his concussion (and it could keep him out a while, the recovery time is different for everyone) has exposed the lack of depth at offensive tackle.

The only way the free agent adverse Packers would have added veteran depth was if Chad Clifton returned healthy, but that dream ended when he failed his physical in April and he was released. It's possible he could come back in 2012 and I recall reading somewhere that the Packers were initially pleased with Clifton's recovery. The Packers have re-signed players months later, once they're healthy; that's what they did with Anthony Levine last season. However, his likely desire to start makes his return seem less likely.

They probably expected Derek Sherrod to return to practice by now, though he's still not ready. Fortunately, he should return at some point this season. After using two consecutive first round selections on offensive lineman, I can't blame the Packers for avoiding the position in the 2012 draft. They did select Andrew Datko in the 7th round, and he looked good during the OTAs back in May, but reality has set in and he's getting overwhelmed in practice. He doesn't appear to be 100% recovered from a serious shoulder injury during his senior season.

Until Newhouse returns, it's Herb Taylor with the No. 1 offensive line, but even Mike McCarthy didn't seem too excited about Taylor's prospects when he called him "raw" despite the Packers being his fourth NFL team. Taylor is probably their fifth option (behind Newhouse, Clifton, Sherrod, and Datko) but they probably would survive with him at left tackle. However, if Newhouse and Sherrod don't return soon, I don't expect the Packers to stand pat.

GM Ted Thompson has been known to make a trade or two at the end of the preseason, and I wouldn't be surprised if this season's no exception. After they've scouted all the preseason games around the NFL, they could trade a 6th or 7th round draft choice for a tackle that could help them now.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Maybe James Starks Isn't The Answer At Running Back

If a running back's ability to pass block was the main talent required by the Green Bay Packers, then they might have never let RB Brandon Jackson leave in free agency last year. They seem to consider pass blocking as a secondary skill, maybe believing it's something they can teach. But this recent tweet made me think about it again:

I've been comfortable with James Starks as the running back of the near-future. He isn't a home-run threat, but he's a powerful runner who can keep defenses honest, and they can't teach just any player to be big and fast. While the Packers have been willing to let him pass block, it's never been seen as his strength, and he doesn't appear to be a natural at it.

Adam Czech paid some attention to pass blocking in his recent breakdown of the position, and reasonably decided to go with James Starks anyway. Apparently the coaches agree: it's better to play the running back that defenses' have to respect and then teach him how to pass block.

If they did want to go with a better pass blocker, it's not clear who's that would be. Maybe Alex Green or Brandon Saine are better, but I haven't seen enough from either player to know for sure. John Kuhn's probably a better blocker, but he's struggling with a bad knee and no defense has to give him any respect as an open field runner when he's healthy.

Of course, Ryan Grant is still a free agent, but he's never been known for his blocking either. The only free agent running back who came to mind was Clinton Portis, but that's not a Ted Thompson-like move (signing an unwanted veteran) and Portis sounds retired anyway (even if it's not official).

I don't have an answer to this question, going into the season with Starks as the starter sounds as good as any alternative, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a change if some problems pop-up during the preseason.

Punter Tim Masthay Gets Paid

I'm sure this is exactly how Tim Masthay's agent pitched it to his client. You'll be Number 15!
The Green Bay Packers have signed punter Tim Masthay to a four-year contract extension that will make him the 15th highest paid player at his position.
Snark aside, that contract ($5.465 million, $1.2 million signing bonus) sounds about right. The coaches have done a nice job of finding some free talent and turning him into a useful player. And they didn't waste a 3rd round pick trying to solve the problem (cough...B.J. Sander).

But there's nothing extraordinary about him either: he was ranked No. 22 overall last season in net average and Football Outsiders gave him a negative score. Still, it was a nice recovery by Ted Thompson's staff after they made one of their few personnel mistakes: releasing Jon Ryan. Their first two attempts at replacing him with Derrick Frost and Jeremy Kapinos were complete disasters, but the third time was the charm.

They could do better at the position, but as with Mason Crosby, the Packers seem content with a good enough kicker.