Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Minor Packer Transactions: Release Josh Boyd and Jeremy Vujnovich

This is a busy time of year for the Green Bay Packers as they sign their draft picks and sign/release undrafted players. The undrafted guys are unlikely to see any playing time, even in a preseason game, but a couple notable players were released to make room for them:
DT Josh Boyd. I was expecting him to be healthy for training camp and compete for a job against the new draftees (Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry) though I didn't expect him to actually make the team in 2016. The combination of his mediocre play over the last three seasons, combined with his recovery from a broken ankle and ligament damage, made it unlikely he'd find a spot on the roster. Though his release is coming right after the draft, my guess is that his release has to do with his rehab. That was a major ankle injury he suffered, and it's unlikely he'd be available to participate in the mini-camps or even during training camp. Boyd isn't a player that the Packers can wait on. They need bodies to practice during these upcoming camps, and they need to figure out their 2016 roster. I wouldn't be surprised if they keep an eye on Boyd while he rehabs, and maybe give him a call mid-season if they need another lineman and he's healthy.

OL Jeremy Vujnovich. He's not as well known as Boyd but he wasn't the worst backup offensive lineman last preseason. Unfortunately he looked undersized while they tried him at guard and tackle. He didn't look good at tackle. His release seems to be directly related to them drafting two offensive tackles. Right now, the Packers probably have too many lineman.

Among the undrafted free agents, a few players stood out:

OL Josh James. He's 6-6, 315 lbs and one of the top non-Division I prospects. The Packers now have a lot of lineman but he might find a role this season on the practice squad.

P Peter Mortell. The "Holder of the Year" award gimmick was fun, but it's great to see some competition for P Tim Masthay. He needs it after a poor 2015 season.

S Kentrell Brice. The Packers always have one of two of these types of players on the roster to play on special teams with a head of steam. With S Sean Richardson's career over due to injury, there is a spot for someone who can challenge S Chris Banjo.

OLB Beniquez Brown. He's not an outstanding athlete but he was very productive in the SEC last season. He could earn a role based on his experience and hustle.

DE/OLB Reggie Gilbert. The Packers always seem to have a Frank Zombo/Andy Mulumba/Jayrone Elliott type guy emerge as a tweener DE/OLB during the preseason. Gilbert could be that guy in 2016.

TE David Grinnage. They didn't draft a TE but they did sign a guy who looks the part (6-5, 248 lbs.). Unfortunately he isn't an exceptional athlete and wasn't very productive last season.

CB Josh Hawkins. With Casey Hayward in San Diego and Demetri Goodson starting the season on suspension, plus they didn't draft a defensive back, there could be a spot on the practice squad or even the roster to start the season for an unknown CB, and he had a lot of success at East Carolina over the past three years.

Monday, May 02, 2016

2016 NFL Draft: Packers Select Seven Players at Four Positions

The Green Bay Packers' 2016 draft didn't exactly work out like I expected (I thought they'd select a cornerback and tight end in the mid-rounds) and I got a big surprise when GM Ted Thompson traded up in the 2nd round for one of the best offensive tackles in the entire draft.

It wasn't a flashy year and it won't get any high grades from the pundits who grade every team's draft the day after, but they filled a three gaping holes on the roster and they added a lot of size.
Defensive line. They had to replace NT B.J. Raji and they got DT Kenny Clark (who could be another Mike Daniels) in the 1st round before selecting Northwestern's DE Kyle Lowry at the end of the 4th round. Lowry's selection was a bit of a surprise because I thought the Packers were done with DE types who eventually became converted LB (Mike Neal, Datone Jones). Jones hasn't officially converted to OLB so maybe nothing's changed yet with their defensive scheme. Lowry seems like an early down, 3-4 DE who can play the run and record the occasional coverage sack.

Offensive tackle. I didn't think they'd spend a high pick on an offensive lineman when the starting five are already set, but instead they moved up to the middle of the 2nd round to draft Indiana's OT Jason Spriggs, who could have been selected at the end of the 1st round. After all the injuries last season, and all the fail by their backups (Don Barclay in particular), they had to do something, and I'd rather they'd error on the side of too much when it comes to protecting QB Aaron Rodgers. For good measure, they also drafted Stanford OT Kyle Murphy at the end of the 6th round. Before the draft, I was hoping they could select Murphy in the 4th round to take over as their top backup, so getting him in the 6th round as their 2nd backup OT is a great value. It's looking like Lane Taylor or JC Tretter will find themselves in a training camp battle to be the top inside backup because Spriggs and Murphy should both make the team.

Linebacker. I liked Utah State OLB Kyler Fackrell before the draft as a poor man's Clay Matthews. He had a lost 2014 season to a knee injury and he's old for a rookie (he'll turn 25 during the 2016 season), but he's good in coverage and he should be able to help take off some of the load from Matthews and be an upgrade over LB Joe Thomas. Stanford ILB Blake Martinez's draft profile is very similar to the one for Jake Ryan last year and that's a good thing. At worst, Martinez will push to Ryan and play on special teams. Neither Ryan or Martinez are great in coverage but the Packers need early down starters like Martinez and Ryan to play against the run.

Wide receiver. They needed another receiver for developmental purposes, and they grabbed a 5th round speedster in Cal's WR Trevor Davis who they can stash on the practice squad next season. If he's fast and has good hands, then he's got something they can work with and we check back in on him in 2017.

They didn't address all their needs, but they added multiple players at the three positions where they needed depth. I don't expect any of their draft choices will be starting Week 1, but the defensive lineman should find themselves in the rotation right away and the linebackers might not be far behind, once they figure out their roles. Neither tackle will win a starting job but they're very welcome. Just a solid draft to add some size and depth where they needed it.