After reading a few quick items in he sports pages this morning I’m not sure how much extra insight I’m going to bring to the table regarding the PACKERS win over the COLTS Friday night, but here goes…
What more can a coaching staff hope for in the Pre-Season than a game that goes right down to the wire and requires back-ups and rookies to secure a victory in the clutch? How psychologically rewarding is it for MASON CROSBY to redeem himself from an earlier FG miss with a clutch game-winning kick in the final minute?
I would say I saw two negatives that I am sure MIKE McCARTHY and his staff will be concentrating on in the next two weeks. The first team offense was plagued by some untimely (not that there is any such thing as timely) penalties that hampered several scoring drives. The OL was a bit less than stellar in protecting AARON RODGERS from the COLTS pass-rush… in particular DWIGHT FREENEY.
FREENEY, who is still at the top of his game, made CHAD CLIFTON look like an old man on multiple occasions. CLIFTON should be OK most weeks, since there are not many DEs in the league of FREENEY’s caliber. But I’ll just voice the opinion that for the long term DEREK SHERROD had better make a ton of progress during the 2011 campaign so that he can handle that LT position by the time the 2012 season rolls around.
Though not dominant by any means, I thought the PACKERS RBs looked good overall. RYAN GRANT showed flashes of his old self, and JAMES STARKS was monster as a receiver out of the backfield. ALEX GREEN continues to show some ability, and tons of potential, in limited time as the 3rd RB. BRANDON SAINE continues to show flashes both as a runner and a receiver, but there isn’t room on the roster for 4 RBs this year. Not with the quality logjam at TE. And don’t forget JOHN KUHN will be a FB/RB swing man once again this season.
Overall, the PACKERS OL would seem to be the unit most in need of improvement as camp winds down. This is not unexpected because of their youth and the team’s decision to let DARYN COLLEDGE leave town as a VFA, and hold open auditions for his replacement. My money is still on T.J. LANG, but he shows some of the same inconsistency that plagued COLLEDGE for years.
It is also clear that even though DEREK SHERROD has a world of potential he is not likely to provide a lot of help to the unit in 2011. CHAN GAILEY his coach in Mobile at the Senior Bowl was quick to point out at a January Presser that SHERROD was a work in progress, with definite NFL starting potential down the road.I think he has shown that assessment to be quite accurate with his work thus far in Camp. Let’s just say I hope he is not forced into a starting role this year like BULAGA was last season. He is not as pro ready as BULAGA at this stage of his career.
How about some quick thumbnails on youngsters who got my attention last night…
continues to show good things out on the grass. He shows flashes both as a receiver and a return man. I think if he could make some progress on coverage units the job of BRETT SWAIN could be in jeopardy. Actually it is already, but the battle continues between those two for the 6th WR slot, if there is one in September. WEST has a definitive edge in the straight-line speed category if he can just translate that into productivity on the field.
As if the TE position group wasn’t crowded enough here comes the 7th Rounder with 3 clutch receptions in the fourth quarter last night including a TD and two-point conversion. He looks like a natural athlete and productive football player… as advertised. His potential and versatility make him a virtual lock for a team like the PACKERS. If he could serve as a TE, FB and H-B, as well as play effectively on Special Teams he could fill the final slot at multiple position groups and force the team to make room for him.
From the start of Camp this young man has been making plays and opening eyes. He’s strong and athletic and appears to be very versatile. He has begun to show well on Special Teams and is earning a reputation as a difference maker as a position player. He will struggle for a while in pass drops at OLB, but as a pass-rusher and a ball chaser he is the kind of aggressive, attacking player every Defense needs to force the action. He got into the pocket on several occasions last night and forced a fumble for his efforts. I think he has several vet OLBs fighting for their roster lives.
Most of us thought SAINE was a nice addition to the training camp roster who would provide some depth and speed to the RB group and cover up for nicks and bruises amongst the core group. I’m not saying he’s winning a roster slot, but he is contributing more than was expected to date. He is a smooth runner with the most speed at the position on the current roster. He has also shown excellent hands, and awareness out in space. If he gets cut in the second group don’t be shocked, but I would presume that the PACKERS coaches sees him as someone they want to have on their Practice Squad.
He made a couple of mistakes last night, including a rare dropped ball from HARRELL, but as PHIL SIMMS pointed out he always seems to be open somewhere on the field, having beaten coverage somehow. He has decent speed for his size, normally excellent hands and good run after the catch ability. He got open out in the medium right flank shortly after his drop and was badly overthrown by HARRELL. Some fans seem to be down on him, but I don’t think the staff is disappointed overall in his body of work to date. And like COBB, I think Coach MM goes to sleep some nights with visions of multiple ways to make use of this guy.
Just a quick positional group thought or two for you regarding the crowded TE position. I could see the team keeping 5 guys who currently are listed as TE.
JERMICHAEL FINLEY The obvious starter and most talented, but a guy I could see them using as the 6th WR in some of their multiple receiver formations.
TOM CRABTREE The most efficient in-line blocker of the TE corps. He can catch a little but he makes the team as a blocking TE for the Red Zone and running game in general.
ANDREW QUARLESS Perhaps their best overall TE, who is a decent blocker who should be able to improve that facet of his game. He is a decent receiver who needs to be more consistent. Work habits & attitude will have a lot to do with his future.
RYAN TAYLOR All the versatility and potential in the world as a virtual newcomer to the TE position. If he could back-up at FB, fill the H-B role and improve his TE skills he could merit a roster spot. CRABTREE beware long term, if this guy develops as a blocker.
D.J. WILLIAMS He has a chance to fill multiple roles in MIKE McCARTHY’s multiple receiver sets. He could also help himself by improving as a Special Teamer. I can’t believe they want to let go of this player.
That’s a lot of guys to carry as a TE corps, but their ability to fill multiple roles could allow the team to short itself a bit at let’s say the FB and WR positions. This staff, under the TED THOMPSON plan, will work to keep the best 53 players they have as opposed to being slaves to specific position numbers. Heres a possible roster position breakdown:
Just thinking out loud a bit at this point. It is highly likely that over the next two weeks a couple of injuries will help sort through some roster position logjams, for better or worse.