Category Archives: Robert Francois

17

June

2013 Green Bay Packers: An Early Look At The Depth Chart

Green Bay Packers huddle

Who are your 2013 Green Bay Packers?

With the off-season activities now officially over with, we now turn our attention to the upcoming training camp and preseason.  The big question is:  What will the 2013 Green Bay Packers look like?

I’m taking a look at each position and listing who I think are the likely starters, as of today.  Training camp always tends to change that list quite a bit so this is obviously as of today, as it stands, and without having really seen many of these guys play.

Quarterback

Starter:  Aaron Rodgers

Backup: BJ Coleman

Bubble: Graham Harrell, Matt Brown

Quick hits: Rodgers is the league’s highest-paid player and let’s not forget he’s pretty good at what he does.  No question there and so the biggest debate is whether Coleman can leapfrog Harrell and will the team carry three active quarterbacks?  My thought is that if Coleman wins the backup spot, they will likely cut Harrell.  Illinois State’s Matt Brown could be a good candidate to land on the practice squad, much like Coleman did last season.

Running Back/Fullback

Starter:  DuJuan Harris

Backup:  Alex Green, Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin

Bubble: John Kuhn, James Starks, Angelo Pease, Jonathan Amosa

Quick hits: Harris came on and was effective late in the season for the Packers.  He didn’t participate in much of the team’s offseason due to having a cyst removed near his lung.  He is expected to be ready for training camp.  Green will get every opportunity to remain a part of the team’s plans but will face very fierce competition from rookies Lacy and Franklin.  Still, I see the team keeping all four.  James Starks is likely all but out of Green Bay after being largely ineffective during his three-season stint with the team.  And we may have seen the last of John Kuhn, which will make the team’s decisions at this position easier.

Wide Receiver

Starters: Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb

Backups:  Jarrett Boykin, Charles Johnson

Bubble:  Jeremy Ross, Kevin Dorsey, Alex Gillett, Terrell Sinkfield, Myles White, Tyrone Walker, Sederrick Cunningham

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13

June

Packers Inside Linebackers: Now what?

Desmond Bishop, Green Bay Packers

Bye Bye Bishop?

While nothing has been officially announced yet, by many accounts Desmond Bishop’s days as a Green Bay Packer appear to be over.

Speculation is rampant as to whether it’s strictly a “numbers” decision or if the Packers don’t believe he’ll ever be the same after a very serious injury. Bishop claims to be 100%, but has not participated in the Packers OTAs or mini camp.

Whatever the real reason, the big question is, now what?

I’ve seen a lot of  fans asking, “are we supposed to be happy with AJ Hawk and Brad Jones as our starting linebackers?”

My answer to that is, you won’t have to be. What you are likely to see is a lot of situational substitutions at the ILB spots. The Packers have a cadre of linebackers with complimentary skills. Dom Capers’ task will be to pick the right player/scheme for the specific situation.

Also remember the experimentation you’re seeing with Mike Neil and Mike Daniels being used in more of a linebacker role. The Packers suddenly find themselves very deep on the defensive line, and I would not be surprised to see some brand new defensive packages with fewer linebackers and more DL & DBs in the game.

We really won’t know until they line up against San Francisco in the first game that really matters, but you can bet they will have some new looks for Colin Kaepernick.

In the meantime, let’s take a quick look at the ILBs on the Packers’ roster:

AJ Hawk:  Always the team player and good soldier, Hawk has lasted this long as  a starter thanks to his firm grasp of the defensive schemes, ability to make the right defensive calls and his own assignment assuredness. There is no argument he has not lived up to expectations as the fifth player taken in the 2006 NFL draft, but the packers have been using him wisely.

As pointed out in this interesting piece over at Acme Packing Company, the Packers started using Hawk differently in 2012. Firstly, he was in on only 67% of the defensive snaps, as compared to over 90% each of the two previous years. Secondly, he was in on a higher percentage of running plays, a lower percentage of pass plays, and a very low percentage of pass rush attempts.  Expect those trends to continue.

15

March

Packers News: Francois returns to Green Bay on one-year deal

Packers LB Robert Francois

Packers LB Robert Francois

Who says the Packers never do anything in free agency?

On Friday afternoon, inside linebacker Robert Francois agreed to a one-year contract to remain in Green Bay, according to ProFootballTalk via Twitter. In the days leading up to free agency, Francois openly discussed his preference to stay with the Packers.

“They brought him in,” said Noel LaMontagne, one of Francois’ agents, according to JSOnline.com. “They gave him the opportunity. He’s been through the highs and lows there and obviously that organization is built for long-term success and Rob wants to be a part of it.”

By signing the one-year contract, Francois will spend his fourth season in Green Bay in 2013. Between 2010 and 2012, Francois has started a total of three games for the Packers, racking up 14 tackles, two pass deflections and an interception as a starter, according to NFL.com.

But his primary role with the Packers is on special teams.

As things currently stand, Francois joins Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, Terrell Manning, D.J. Smith and Jamari Lattimore as the team’s inside linebackers. Brad Jones is a free agent and visited with the Tennessee Titans Mar. 15.

There has also been some debate regarding Hawk’s future with the team, as he’s currently set to count $5.45 million against the cap. Linebacker is certainly a position to keep an eye on this offseason.

(UPDATE: Hawk has accepted a pay cut to remain with the team, as of Friday afternoon)

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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12

March

Packers News: Team issues Restricted Free Agent tenders

Sam Shields received the second-round tender

Sam Shields received the second-round tender

Today is the day free agency is officially set to kick off, and it’s also the deadline for teams to tender their restricted free agents.

Yesterday, the Packers surprised some by hitting Evan Dietrich-Smith with the lowest possible tender. Because Dietrich-Smith was undrafted, the Packers would get no compensation if they he signed with another team and they opted not to match the contract. If the Packers don’t reach an extension with him before the season, he’ll make $1.323 million next year, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Dietrich-Smith is expected to step in as the team’s starting center if he returns. He replaced Jeff Saturday in the starting lineup in week 16 after starting four games at left guard earlier in the season.

According to Silverstein, Green Bay slapped Sam Shields with the second-round tender worth $2.023 million. If a team signs Shields to an offer sheet and the Packers choose not to match, they’ll get a second-round draft pick in return.

The Packers clearly don’t want to take a chance with Shields, as they are with Dietrich-Smith. Shields bounced back from a poor 2011 season and played well in 2012. Along with Casey Hayward, Tramon Williams and Davon House, Shields makes the team’s cornerback group one of the deepest positions on the team.

While Dietrich-Smith and Shields received their tenders, the team has decided not to tender linebackers Frank Zombo and Robert Francois, or tight end Tom Crabtree. Zombo and Francois would figure to generate only moderate interest on the open market, but Crabtree could garner some interest as a reserve tight end.

With the uncertain future of tight end Jermichael Finley, some were quick to point to Crabtree in identifying the team’s next starting tight end. And while Crabtree had his fair share of big plays in 2012, the team clearly doesn’t view him as a starting-caliber player or they would have handed down a tender.

Zombo, an undrafted rookie in 2010, has appeared in 12 of a possible 32 regular-season games the past two seasons. It’s possible the Packers could bring him back on a minimum contract.

Francois has been open about his desire to return to Green Bay after spending the last three seasons with the Packers. He made two starts in 2011 with Desmond Bishop sidelined with an injury, but his role is primarily on special teams.

11

March

If Brad Jones Leaves, Packers Affected More Than You Think

 

Jones has garnered much interest in free agency.  If he departs, Jones could create a big void at inside linebacker for the Packers

Jones has garnered much interest in free agency. If he departs, Jones could create a big void at inside linebacker for the Packers

With free agency somewhat underway in that teams are free to contact players’ agents to discuss a deal, much of the talk in Green Bay has centered around wide receiver Greg Jennings.  Jennings is unquestionably the marquis name out of Green Bay that has very solid potential to be wearing a different uniform this next season.  He has even been debated as the top free agent receiver on the market with Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace the other half of that conversation.

But lost in the shuffle are some of the other free-agents-to-be in Green Bay, one of which is linebacker Brad Jones.  According to a piece published by Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel, at least eight other teams have already contacted Jones’ agent.

Jones filled in for the injured DJ Smith in week six last season and remained the starter for the balance of the season.  He did an adequate job in that role and gained some valuable playing time in the defense.  With 2012 being Jones’ fourth in the team’s defensive scheme and with his contributions on special teams, Jones has become a stronger veteran presence on this roster.

Now I’m not saying that Jones is a “must sign”.  If eight teams have already expressed interest, he will surely have some options to choose from, outside of Green Bay, when Tuesday rolls around.  As a reminder, Tuesday is the first day that free agent deals can be finalized.  But in possibly losing Jones, it does change the perspective of what the Packers may do in the draft and in free agency.

Many of you will recall that the Packers are hoping to get solid veteran linebacker Desmond Bishop and third year backer DJ Smith back in 2013.  While there is a good chance that both will return, it is not a given.

Bishop needed to have his hamstring re-attached to the bone.  He has been rehabbing the injury and has expressed his readiness when camp opens this summer, but that is going to be left up to the medical staff.  My guess is that Bishop will be on a snap count initially and so therefore is a bit of a question mark.

20

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Inside Linebackers

Packers Inside Linebackers:  If nothing else, the 2012 team showed us how deep we are at inside linebacker. After losing two starters in Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith, the Packers were still able to keep things together with Brad Jones in the lineup. The caveat, however, is that while the group is deep, there are no real “blue chip” players to be found.

(Note: Listen to the combined linebackers podcast at the end of this article:)

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

A.J. Hawk (1st Round, 2006)
Desmond Bishop (6th Round, 2007)
Brad Jones (7th Round, 2009)
Robert Francois (UDFA, 2009)
D.J. Smith (6th Round, 2011)
Jamari Lattimore (UDFA, 2011)
Terrell Manning (5th Round, 2012)

For all the talk of the deficiencies at defensive line and outside linebacker, we seem to forget about the fact that inside linebacker is leaving us with something to be desired. It’s not a horrible group by any means, but there’s also nothing special about it. Desmond Bishop is currently the best player of the bunch, A.J. Hawk isn’t worth his contract weight, D.J. Smith was a bit of a disappointment this year, and despite his solid play, Brad Jones wasn’t much of a playmaker either. Terrell Manning seems to be the current roster’s last shred of hope among an otherwise lackluster crew, but he needs to make it onto the field first and foremost.

  • Hawk: Even though A.J. Hawk had one of his best years in 2012, it was still not great. He’s no Vince Young when it comes to first round busts, but he lacks the playmaking ability and athleticism you would expect from a player drafted at his position. His work ethic and football intelligence have kept him around for seven frustrating years, though it’s clear his salary will be more than his worth in 2013. The Packers could save $5.45 million in cap space by releasing Hawk.
  • Bishop: It’s hard to believe that Desmond Bishop will be going into his seventh season in 2013, because it took him so long to gain a starting role. His lack of consistency held him back until Nick Barnett’s season-ending injury in 2010. Since then, he has proven himself to be a hard-charged thumper that brings an attitude to the defense. More of a red chip than a blue chip player, he is easily the best inside linebacker on the squad right now.
6

February

Packers Robert Francois: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

Robert Francois

Robert Francois

1) Introduction: Since being picked up by the Packers in 2009, the most action ILB Robert Francois has seen was in 2011. He filled in as the right-side starter for three games when both A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop were out with injuries. His performance was admirable, snatching a couple interceptions in athletic fashion, but he hasn’t done much since.

2) Profile:

Robert Joseph Francois

  • Age: 27
  • Born: 05/14/1985, in Highlands, TX
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 250
  • College: Boston College
  • Rookie Year: 2009
  • NFL Experience: 3 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Despite the sudden influx of talent at the inside linebacker position, some fans were holding out hope that Robert Francois would be able to build on the limited success from 2011. No one pegged him as starting material, but he could serve as a solid backup in emergency situations and fulfill the needs of the special teams units.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: None to speak of, really. His only noticeable low-light was a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty during the Seattle Seahawks game.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Robert Francois was a core special teams player this season, which is better than nothing for professional athlete. He didn’t see a single snap on defense, but he did have the second most special teams snaps of all Packers players with 348. (Ryan Taylor led the team with 377.) Francois recorded 13 combined tackles on the season.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Nothing of note outside of his normal special teams duties.

 

Season Report Card:

(C-) Level of expectations met during the season

(D+) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(D+) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: D+

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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