Category Archives: Features

29

July

What Packers Rivals Really Think – Vikings Edition

Packers Vikings RivalryHere’s our second installment of this series that takes a look at the NFC North from the eyes of a rival.  Jesse Cook (aka Bearmeat), one of our regular readers/commenters here, contacted a few friends who are (somewhat) sane fans of our Division rivals and peppered them (pun intended) with questions about our team and theirs.

CCNorseman: Hey, first off thanks for asking me to do this. We’ve had “Ask the Enemy” features on the Daily Norseman before, and they are always a good time. Let me start off by saying, “I come in peace!” And I’ll do the best I can to answer your questions and give an accurate representation of the Vikings fan experience.

1. Let’s start big picture here: What is the fan perception of the Vikings organization in the next 5 years? Where is the arrow pointing? Do you approve of the job that Spielman has done so far?

The arrow is definitely pointing up, and it all starts with the hiring of a new coaching staff. We are all pretty high on head coach Mike Zimmer, and can’t believe how many times he’s been passed over for head coaching jobs. If you’ve seen any part of his coaching style from HBO’s Hard Knocks, then you understand how much energy and enthusiasm he brings to coaching. He is pretty much the antithesis of mild-mannered Leslie Frazier, which is exactly the kind of change of direction this team needs. We’ve also had three pretty strong drafts in a row with 7 first round picks in the last 3 years. Obviously, the jury is still on out all of those drafts for at least a few more years, but preliminarily, things look pretty good. I’ve been a critic of Rick Spielman in the past, but if these most recent drafts turn out to be as strong as we all hope, then that combined with the new coaching staff definitely has this Viking longboat pointed in the right direction.

2. The most important position in pro sports is undoubtedly the QB: aside from 2009 (and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named), that position has also been a pig’s ear for the Vikings in the past decade. Give me reasons why Teddy B can change the Vikings fortunes in that run of bad luck/mismanagement in the near future. Do you think he will succeed where other Vikings QB draft picks have recently failed (cough..Ponder, TJack…cough)?

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29

July

Cory’s Corner: Mike McCarthy’s style is perfect for Packers

In eight seasons as the Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy has an 82-45-1 record and a 6-5 playoff record. He has five double-digit win seasons.

In eight seasons as the Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy has an 82-45-1 record and a 6-5 playoff record. He has five double-digit win seasons.

Mike McCarthy has been called a lot of things by a lot of people.

Some may not like his play-calling, while others may not prefer his player development.

But the Packers coach isn’t afraid to think out-of-the-box. How many NFL coaches are approaching NFL training camp with Jell-O? That’s right, the Bill Cosby snack has been infused into Packers practice.

It is evident that McCarthy is sick and tired of seeing nagging injuries pester his players. And if it takes a Jell-O cup and a granola bar to do it, so be it.

McCarthy is entering his ninth season as coach of the Packers. The reason he has been able to be successful is because he is willing to change. In 2006 he changed his practice routine and gave the players more of a break. Usually accustomed to practicing in the morning and afternoon, he slashed practices by only having one workout following days with two workouts.

Last year, McCarthy proved what kind of a coach he really is. The knock on McCarthy has been similar to Phil Jackson when he coached Michael Jordan — any coach can win with arguably the best player in the league in Aaron Rodgers. But the Packers started four different quarterbacks last year and McCarthy made them look pretty good.

Scott Tolzien started zero games coming into last season and McCarthy made him look decent, including lighting up the Giants for 339 yards. Matt Flynn, a career backup journeyman, turned out to be the savior by somehow getting wins against Atlanta and Dallas to keep the slim playoff hopes alive.

And the person that needs to get the credit for that is McCarthy. His preparation and more importantly his positive attitude continually flowed through this team, even though Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews and others were hurting.

And as he proved a couple years ago that he isn’t afraid of taking a risk with an onside kick, fake field goal and fake punt all in the same season.

His biggest job right now is to develop wide receiving depth. It is unclear if Randall Cobb will be back with the Packers following Jordy Nelson’s extension. Also, it is unclear if Jarrett Boykin is in the team’s best interest as the Packers’ No. 3 receiver.

28

July

Packers Xs and Os: What We Might See From McCarthy’s Up-Tempo Offense (Part 2)

Will Aaron Rodgers be leading an up-tempo or no huddle offense in 2014? (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today).

Will Aaron Rodgers be leading an up-tempo or no huddle offense in 2014? (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today).

Last week, we started to discuss some offensive concepts we might see rolled out this year if Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is true to his word about going up-tempo with three-down personnel.

This week, we’ll look at some basic passing route combinations I expect to see the Packers to use in an up-tempo, and possibly no huddle, game plan.

Of course, there is a huge combination of formations and routes an NFL offense can roll out to attack complex defenses. So, for this article, I’m making some very basic assumptions and this carries my standard disclaimer that this is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes only. Also, we’ll only look at some of the most common route combinations found in the west coast offense playbook.

Assumptions

  • The offense is in the 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers).
  • The offense is in a 2×2 alignment.
  • Even if a play is called in the huddle, sight adjustments at the line of scrimmage during the pre-snap read trump the huddle. The quarterback and receivers will adjust their routes to attack the coverage the defense is showing. This may be from a quarterback audible or automatic sight adjustments.
  • The defenses discussed here will only include man-to-man, man-to-man/blitz, cover 2, and cover 3.
  • Most of the route combinations will spread and attack the defense using the high/low principle to stress the cornerbacks.

Attack Keys

The quarterback and receivers must see the same thing in terms of how the defense is covering the field. Of utmost importance is reading the backpedal of the safeties. For simplicity sake, I’m assuming here that the quarterback and receivers have properly read that. Therefore, the keys of the routes will be reading and stressing the cornerbacks.

The route combinations described below are designed to attack the cornerbacks and make them make a decision and force them into a bad angle or coverage.

All-Purpose Route Combinations

It’s important that the offense has route packages that can attack any coverage the defense rolls out. Not only is the defense really good at disguising their coverage pre-snap, but sometimes the offense also wants to run a play before the defense can even align and get into a coverage. So, it’s good strategy to have route concepts that can attack either man-to-man coverage or zone coverage equally as effective.

27

July

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football

Packers training camp opened Friday and we now have plenty of Packers storylines to analyze and break down. That means today’s “Surviving Sunday” will be the last until the Packers 2014 season comes to an end, hopefully after Feb. 1 and a victory in Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona.

Now that training camp has started, what Packers storyline would you like to see go the way of “Surviving Sunday ” and disappear for the rest of the season?

I’m sick of talking about the defense. I mean really sick of it.

I’m sick of hearing about how bad Packers’ safeties were last season. I’m sick of being worried about having to watch A.J. Hawk for another season. I’m sick of speculation about B.J. Raji ever being a useful player again. I’m sick of wondering if Nick Perry will ever stay healthy. I’m sick of Clay Matthews’ thumb (and his damn hamstring) and I’m sick of trying to figure out if Dom Capers is a good defensive coordinator or not.

The sooner the Packers defense improves, the happier my life will be. I’m not asking for the Packers D to morph into the second coming of the Purple People Eaters or the Steel Curtain, but show enough promise that fans can have reasonable hope that the defense could catch fire late in the season and ignite a Super Bowl run.

That seems to be the formula for success in today’s NFL: Have a good to great quarterback who goes on a run late in the season and back that up with a good defense that heats up as the weather turns cold.

If I have to put up with #FireCapers hashtags and another season of bumbling play from the middle of the defense, it’s going to be a trying season.

Packers News, Notes and Links

  • Now that I’m done ranting, we can get to some happier news, like the Packers signing Jordy Nelson to a 4-year, $39 million contract extension. I see Nelson as a Cris Carter type of receiver. He has very good physical ability, but stretches those physical tools even further by catching anything he can reach and always thinking a step or two ahead of the defense.
26

July

Cory’s Corner: Ted Thompson will show Jordy Nelson the money

Jordy Nelson picked a pretty good time to break out. He caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in a Super Bowl XLV win.

Jordy Nelson picked a pretty good time to break out. He caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in a Super Bowl XLV win.

Jordy Nelson wants $10 million per season.

The question isn’t if Nelson is worth that much dough. The question is if Nelson is worth more than Greg Jennings or James Lofton.

We all know how squeamish general manager Ted Thompson gets about signing guys that are within a whisper of age 30. Jennings was 29 and coming off a sports hernia injury in 2012 that only allowed him to start five games.

Even though Jennings was the Packers’ No. 1 option from 2008-2011, Thompson made the right call in letting him go.

James Lofton is a little bit more interesting. He led the Packers in receiving from 1978-1986 and went to seven Pro Bowls while in Green Bay. When he left the Packers, Lofton was the team’s all-time leading receiver, a record that’s now owned by Donald Driver.

But the Packers surprisingly moved on. Lofton’s last season in Green Bay was at age 30 and it turned out to be a good decision, as Lofton never caught more than 60 balls again and only notched one more 1,000-yard season.

Which brings us to Nelson, who might be one of the most undervalued receivers in the league. Last year he proved his worth by producing when all-everything quarterback Aaron Rodgers was out for seven games and he had to adjust to four different starting quarterbacks. Nelson’s running mate, Randall Cobb, was injured as well. So with all that, Nelson still caught a career-high 85 balls for a career-high 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns.

Nelson just turned 29 in May and despite not getting any Pro Bowl love, he’s worth every penny of the $10 million that he is asking. Barring an unforeseen injury, I don’t see Nelson’s production falling off. That’s because he wasn’t consistently starting at wideout until his third year in the league.

Conversely, Jennings and Lofton started the majority of games right away.

Thompson may be pacing back-and-forth with this decision, but the right call is to give Nelson the money. Cobb is a dynamic athlete, but with his stop-on-a-dime mentality, he is more susceptible to a knee or ankle injury.

23

July

What Packers Rivals Really Think – Bears Edition

Packers, Bears, fans, interview, NFC North, rivalryAs Packers fans, we know how we view our team and their NFC North Rivals. But I’d guess most of us are curious as to how opposing fans view the same subjects. So to find out, one of our regular readers/commenters here, Jesse Cook (aka Bearmeat) contacted a few friends who are (somewhat) sane fans of our Division rivals and peppered them (pun intended) with questions about our team and theirs.

First up, Chicago Bears:

1.     Let’s start big picture here: What is the fan perception of the Bears organization in the next 5 years? Where is the arrow pointing? Do you approve of the job Emery and Trestman have done so far?

  • “In Emery we Trest”.  That seems to be the motto amongst most Bears fans in town these days.  I would say that the fan perception of the Bears is that this organization has finally joined the modern era of football, both from a General Manager and Coaching standpoint.  As every failed player from the Lovie/Angelo Era is shed, more positivitiy takes its  There is much optimism for the near future of this organization as Emery and Trestman continue their growth together.

2.     What do Bears fans think about the Cutler contract? Seems like a t for (so far) middling production?

  • Cutler has and will always be a polarizing topic in Chicago.  There is some reason for optimism for his 2014-15 season.  Another year under the high-powered Trestman offense, an improved offensive line, most of his top offensive weapons back.
  • In regards to Cutler’s contract, I think it’s beneficial for both sides.  For the Bears, it gives them options on how to handle their future at QB.  It’s basically a 3 year deal (average $18 mil a year *cough*), giving the Bears the option to turn it into a 4-7 year deal as they choose.  If they like what Cutler is doing, they can stick with him, or if they don’t they can cut him. Or maybe they bring him back for an extra year as they groom a potential new QB.  So yes, there’s a lot of money to be handed out the next three years, but they have plenty of wiggle room after that.

3.     A lot of Packer fans wanted Shea McClellin at ROLB 2 years ago. Yo got him and he hasn’t worked out at RDE, so he’s now moving to SLB. How does he look?

22

July

Cory’s Corner: Packers’ 2014 D Begins and Ends with Raji

With the signing of Julius Peppers, B.J. Raji could have a snice year.

With the signing of Julius Peppers, B.J. Raji could have a nice year.

I gave B.J. Raji a lot of grief last year.

After setting career lows in total tackles (12) and tallying no sacks for the second straight season, it was completely warranted.

Raji’s argument was that he barely played his true position as a bona fide nose tackle. He dabbled in playing end and also spent time as a three-technique lineman that is more prevalent in a 4-3 scheme.

True position or not, his production nose-dived to the point that many — including myself — were surprised that the Packers didn’t let him walk in free agency.

But then Julius Peppers signed.

Which of course means that Raji will be going back to his usual perch at the middle of the defensive line as the team’s nose tackle. The fifth-year pro should be ecstatic about getting help on the outside to assist him bull-rushing up the gut.

And there’s another twist that makes it even better for the Packers: Raji signed a team-friendly deal this past offseason. Of course, there’s no way Green Bay can lose when Raji turns down $8 million a season. Now the 28-year-old is operating under a 1-year $4,000,000 deal.

Will Peppers have a big year? He may surprise a lot of people, but even if he plays like an average 34-year-old, the Packers will be OK.

And the reason is because Green Bay will be playing to the strengths of the guy that was one of the best run-stoppers in the game in 2010.

Is it a gamble? Sure. First of all, Clay Matthews cannot get hurt again. A consistent pass rush must be executed from each side in order to give Raji space up the middle.

In more ways than one this is Raji’s year. He needs a big year for a big payday, but he also wants a solid year to end the criticism he took all of last year for giving up on plays early. Obviously, there is no excuse for loafing and there’s no reason to do that no matter what position you play.

Raji cannot be satisfied with how he played last year. I mean he was tied for 540th in the league in combined tackles. He will need to be more of a ball hawk this year because the Packers take on eight teams with a dominant running back.