Category Archives: Defensive Players

31

July

The old B.J. Raji has shown up early in Packers training camp

BJ Raji

Packers NT B.J. Raji has started strong in training camp.

Early reports out of Packers training camp indicate that the old B.J. Raji is peeking out of whatever hole he’s been hibernating in since early last season.

It sounds like Raji is giving J.C. Tretter — the Packers newly minted starting center — a rude awakening to the NFL. That’s concerning for the offense, but good news for the defense as Raji tries to regain his 2010 form and anchor the middle of a Packers defensive line that gets pushed around far too often.

To be fair, Raji wasn’t that bad at the start of last season. If he could’ve maintained his early-season level of play all the way to the end of 2013, it wouldn’t have been a pro bowl campaign, but it would have been much better than the complete disappearing act he pulled.

I wondered if conditioning played a role in Raji’s decline in 2013. Supposedly, he showed up to minicamp last season out of shape.

We have no way of knowing for sure what role, if any, Raji’s fitness level played as he faded away, but if he’s in better shape this year and off to a fast start, it at least shows he serious about improving. It also probably shows he’s super ticked off about having to settle for a one-year “prove-it” deal after his bad season, costing himself a lot of money.

I don’t care what motivates Raji. If it takes money, basic pride, or a desire to move his name back onto the list of good NFL defensive linemen, the Packers need him to bounce back.

Hopefully Tretter braces up and gives Raji more of a challenge during camp. And hopefully Raji treats opposing centers the same way he’s currently treating Tretter once the season begins.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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30

July

No worries if Packers’ Ha Ha Clinton-Dix isn’t an Immediate Starter

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

If Packers first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix isn’t a day one starter, don’t panic.

Packers general manger Ted Thompson’s batting average on recent first-round draft picks is below the Mendoza Line. For you non-baseball fans, that means Thompson is hitting under .200 with a lot of tappers back to the pitcher or lazy popups instead of line drives to the gap or tape-measure home runs.

Bryan Bulaga: Talented, some good stretches of play, but can’t stay healthy.

Derek Sherrod: Wasn’t overly impressive before breaking his leg and missing most of two seasons.

Nick Perry: Switched to a 3-4 OLB and can’t stay healthy.

Datone Jones: Hyped during training camp, slowed by an ankle injury, passed on the depth chart by fifth-rounder Josh Boyd.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: Currently behind converted slot cornerback Micah Hyde on the Packers safety depth chart.

Should we be worried that Clinton-Dix is behind Hyde to start camp? Did the Packers take another lackluster player in the first round, one who isn’t even talented enough to start the season ahead of a converted corner on a team desperately in need of a competent safety?

Or should we celebrate that the safety position finally has some depth? If Hyde turns out to be good, wonderful! Play him ahead of Clinton-Dix while the rookie improves and learns the defense, waiting to seize his opportunity after an injury to a starter or because Morgan Burnett has another ineffective season.

I can see both sides, but the correct side is probably this: It’s way too early to tell. Yes, Hyde might look good at safety now, but let’s see where he stands after an exhibition game or two. Give Hyde some time to learn the defense, figure out his role and see what he can do when the ball is in the air during an actual game.

While the focus remains on Hyde vs. Ha Ha, don’t be surprised if it turns into a three-way dance with Burnett getting added to the match. The perception seems to be that Burnett is a lock as a starter, but if he resembles the stumbling and too-slow-to-react player we saw last season, his starting shot should be put up for grabs.

30

July

NFL Suspensions Should Not Be “Cold Turkey”

Packers Jolly FootballJonny Jolly is one of the few bright spots in the NFL of a player who was suspended from the league but managed to make a comeback; in 2008 Jolly was arrested for selling codeine, a control opiate intended to be used typically as a cough suppressant but in this case was being used to make purple drank, a recreational drug.  Jolly was suspended indefinitely and was caught again for attempting to sell codeine again in 2011 and was subsequently sentenced and sent to jail, where he was granted an early release with shock probation.

For most players, no matter how talented, the story ends here.  Teams, rightfully wary of having to deal with more negative press and a out of shape, older player who hasn’t been practicing for years would likely have just released the player and gone about their business.  However the Packers gave Jolly a shot and were rewarded with a very good season in 2013; while Jolly was never a great player at any point in his career, he definitely was a good player and while he might never play again after suffering a neck injury, at least he can exit the game knowing that he didn’t waste his opportunity.

Throughout all of this, Aaron Rodgers offered up an interesting take; yes Jolly had screwed up, but was suspending and barring him from the Packers organization really the best course of action?

“I think the commissioner’s done a great job of cleaning up some of the stuff in the league. That said, if you take a guy away from his support system … I don’t think that’s helping.” – Aaron Rodgers on Johnny Jolly, ESPN Milwaukee

Rodgers isn’t alone in this mentality either.

“It’s a big blow to us. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t, it’s not a big blow.  But the thing is, we have to rally around him. I know all the things people say — ‘he should be cut, he should be this’ — he shouldn’t. He’s a 23-year-old kid. He made some mistakes. A lot of people’s 20-year-old sons make mistakes. We have to help him, and that’s the bottom line. We have to help him collectively. It’s not going be one person that helps him, it’s not going to be two people that help him. I’m talking about from the front office, the coaching staff, the players and his whole family. We have to help him not only for football purposes, but for life purposes to get his life in order.” – Donte Whitner on Josh Gordon, SirusXM NFL Radio

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.

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.
20

July

2014 Packers ILB Position – Last Year’s Safety?

Brad Jones and AJ Hawk

Brad Jones and AJ Hawk

Won’t be long now! We can stop speculating on all things Packers in a few long days from now.  This offseason has been very good, talent has been added in Peppers and Guion for Defensive line.

There is a ton of talent heading into their second year. Baktiari, Boyd, Lacy, Jones, Hyde, Barrington, Palmer, Mulumba and White all earned playing time last year.  Every NFL coach and GM will tell you the biggest jump is going into that second year.

You add the players returning from injury in Bulaga, Sherrod, Matthews, Tretter, Worthy and getting players that were just banged up for most of the year like the Jones, both Datone and Brad were hampered with injuries, Perry played on a broken foot. These returning players account for five first round picks a second and a 4th. Not having those players on the field hurt the Packers in 2013 and will add a big boost for 2014.

You add another draft class to increase competition and this camp will be fun to watch.

I have heard more about the Packers not drafting an Inside Linebacker then about getting the best all around safety in the draft. From a lot of comments through out the Packer world, many think the defense is doomed because of not getting an ILB.  I am not one of those.

Safety was a bigger need, Changing the lineup of the Defensive line was a bigger need, Wide Receiver was a bigger need. When you are one injury away from Miles White being your #3 WR, it is a big need.

The situation at ILB is far from bad or will even be a hindrance to the 2014 defense. I have never understood the crap piled on Hawk for his eight years with the team. In 2013 Hawk became the Packers All Time Leading Tackler. When you look at the history of the Packers that is no small feat. That record stood for 24 years and that player took 11 years to do it.  He again lead the team in tackles last year, had 5 sacks and one Int with 5 passes defensed. He has missed 2 games in 8 years and yet so many just plain hate him.

20

July

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football

As training camp approaches, I feel really good about the Packers cornerbacks this season.

It’s a deep group, and the depth includes a nice mix of players. There are proven players (Tramon Williams), good players still on the upswing (Sam Shields) and talented players who have yet to establish themselves, but have still achieved some type of success in their short careers (Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde).

There’s also players like Davon House and Demetri Goodson who could come out of nowhere and exceed expectations.

I wish I could say the same about the rest of the defense. No, I’m not predicting another season of doom and gloom when the other team has the ball, but the depth mix isn’t there with the other defensive position groups like it is at cornerback.

I realize that every position group can’t be stacked, especially with the salary cap. And I get that there will be questions in many spots when you’re a team like the Packers who rely so heavily on young talent. I just wish the depth mix was different at linebacker, safety and defensive line.

If you look at the offensive side of the ball, every position group (except maybe for tight end) has a good depth mix of proven veterans, players who are already good but could be great, and youngsters with potential.

If A.J. Hawk gets hurt or Brad Jones flounders again, there’s not much to be excited about beyond Jamari Lattimore. If Ha Ha Clinton-Dix doesn’t pan out, we’re looking at another season of crossing our fingers that Morgan Burnett turns into a player. If Julius Peppers is past his prime, we have to hope that Nick Perry stays healthy or some other player we’ve never heard of breaks out. If B.J. Raji is useless again, who’s going to anchor the middle in the base package?

Hopefully players like Datone Jones, Sam Barrington, Sean Richardson, Josh Boyd and Carl Bradford shine in the preseason and put some of these concerns rest. Back in 2010, I thought the cornerback group would struggle with depth. Then a guy named Sam Shields emerged and helped the Packers win the Super Bowl.

Here’s hoping something like that happens again.

Packers News, Notes and Links