Category Archives: Pat Lee

6

May

Cory’s Corner: Ted Thompson averages a draft whiff a year

Packers general manager Ted Thompson selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as the Green Bay GM.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson selected future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as the Green Bay GM.

This will be Ted Thompson’s 10th NFL Draft as the Packers general manager. He has been arguably the biggest lightning rod for criticism over the years.

There is inherent value in every round of the draft, but the most consistent value lies in rounds 1-3, which is where I also focus my attention.

Thompson did a masterful job early on. When you land a guy like Aaron Rodgers as your first pick to begin your new job, things are looking pretty good. He added safety Nick Collins and wide receiver Terrence Murphy, who were both forced to leave pro football early after suffering neck injuries.

The next year, Thompson did another excellent job by adding fifth overall pick in linebacker A.J. Hawk, second rounders in guard Daryn Colledge and wide receiver Greg Jennings and third round guard Jason Spitz. The only guy that was a question mark was third round linebacker Abdul Hodge because injuries forced him to only start one game in four NFL seasons.

But after hitting so many home runs in his first two seasons, Thompson was due for some whiffs. And that’s exactly what happened in 2007. Justin Harrell, arguably the worst pick of Thompson’s career, started just two of 14 games in his three-year career. It was a little head scratching that the Packers even used a first round pick on Harrell, who entered the league hurt after tearing his biceps at Tennessee.

Brandon Jackson is another strikeout. The former Nebraska track star/football player was able to play bit roles but is now looking for a job. James Jones gave the Packers a good return on its third-round investment. He proved he could start but was never capable of winning the top receiver job. The final whiff of 2007 is Aaron Rouse. The safety played just three seasons before signing with the now-defunct United Football League.

The following year, there were two more whiffs sandwiched in between a couple of home runs. Obviously, second rounder Jordy Nelson has carved out a pretty nice career as one of Rodgers’ go-to targets. However, second rounder Brian Brohm, after not being able to get comfortable with the speed of the NFL game, is now playing quarterback for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. The other miss was second round cornerback Patrick Lee, who only started one game in his Green Bay career. The other great get that Thompson secured was third rounder Jermichael Finley. Although his mouth got in the way early on, Finley was one of the most athletic tight ends in the game when healthy.

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23

April

Packing the Stats: How the Packers Invest

Packing the StatsOne thing that many fans have noticed over the years is that Ted Thompson does not like to draft interior offensive linemen, instead preferring to draft tackles and converting them into the interior once they reach the NFL.  This concept seems to indicate that in the NFL there is a premium placed on some positions while not others; for instance quarterback is naturally considered the premium position of premium positions, traditionally followed by some combination of pass rushers and wide receivers.  However each team is different, for instance while the Packers do not put much stock into interior offensive linemen, the Packers have shown a love for fullback/H-backs which most team’s don’t even keep a roster spot for anymore.  So the question is, what are the positions that Ted Thompson favors or is willing to spend precious draft resources for and does Thompson’s weight of draft investment differ significantly with other teams?

To measure this, I took every draft selection made by Ted Thompson during his tenure with the Green Bay Packers, assigned each player to the position they played for the majority of the time and then assigned them a draft value based on which pick they were selected using the “Jimmy Johnson’s Dallas Cowboys” draft trade chart as a metric.  Some caveats of course is that the Packers did switch from a 4-3 bump and run style defense to a blitzburgh 3-4 defense in 2009, which obviously changes what type of players the Packers select and where players ultimately end up playing (for instance AJ Hawk was supposed to play OLB in the 4-3 and moved to ILB in the 3-4).  Also the trade chart has come under scrutiny as of late (myself included); it’s unlikely to be all that accurate or precise in determining trade value and it’s likely that every team has their own modified chart with different values for each draft pick.  However, since all of this information is kept tightly in war rooms (unless you happen to be ironically the Dallas Cowboys), the original trade chart will be used knowing that the rough values are likely to be similar.

Workbook1

25

June

How to Tackle The Problem Of Tackling?

Imagine you’re a student and you have a practical exam coming up; in this test you’re asked to perform a specific skill and the instructors will not only be grading you for your ability to conceptualize what you are doing and why but to also that you can put it all together and actually get some results.  I’ve been tested this way dozens of times as a undergraduate and graduate student and I can safely say that just because you know what you are doing and why doesn’t always mean you can do it in real life.

The same is true for football players; as instructors to the game, coaches often will be assessing a player’s ability to conceptualize what they are doing and why, but also how well they perform that skill.  And just the same as any other student, just because you know what you are doing and why doesn’t always mean you can do it in real life.  There are countless examples of players who have the mental aspect of football down pat but lack the technique required to be successful in the league.

Now imagine a practical exam where you can study and figure out what you need to do and why, but weren’t actually given a chance to practice that skill before the exam, how well do you think you would do? Again from experience I can tell you you often don’t get the desired results because while your mind knows what to do your body doesn’t have the muscle memory to successfully perform that skill.

So where is this all going?  For football players, that practical exam where they’re given time to study but not to practice is tackling.

“We’re going to put our face in people. We will tackle,” Whitt said when asked if the Packers will actually practice the art of tackling each other in training camp. “We will get that solved. Guys who tackle will be out there. Guys who don’t won’t.” – cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr.

The Packers had a pretty dismal season when it came to tackling (refer to: LeGarrett Blount) and mostly this has been rightly or wrongly been laid on the feet of the defensive secondary.  I’ve mostly attributed this to the defensive backs aiming for “big plays” like interceptions and strips rather than just tackling soundly but for whatever reason; the Packers defense missed a ton of tackles.

13

June

Did Too Much Toughness Backfire on Tramon Williams Last Season?

Maybe being so tough backfired on Tramon Williams last season.

If you haven’t read Tyler Dunne’s story on Packers CB Tramon Williams and his injured shoulder in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, take a few minutes and check it out.

Williams sounds like a tough guy, doesn’t he? Sounds like the type of guy that would fit in just as well in the Vince Lombardi era as he does in the Mike McCarthy era. From Dunne’s story:

 

 “His shoulder was torn, strained, bruised – and worst of all – Williams suffered nerve damage. That nerve damage zapped Williams’ aggressiveness and his play suffered.”

 

You can’t question Williams’ toughness, but is too much toughness a bad thing?

After a breakout season in 2010 earned him a new contract, Williams was terrible in 2011. The lack of a pass rush and overall ineptitude of the defense didn’t help, but there’s no sugar-coating the fact that Williams got torched way too often.

It sounds like Williams’ injured shoulder changed how he played and probably was to blame for at least a few of those torchings.

The injury also meant that Williams couldn’t press cover. When teammates were in the area of the ballcarrier, Williams avoided contact as much as possible, letting other players make tackles (or miss them). He also stayed away from pile-ups.

Now Williams is saying that the shoulder still bothers him and he might not be back to 100 percent before training camp.

Yikes.

As I write this, I’m sitting on my deck, enjoying a glass of water after my bike ride home from work (I’m also avoiding grocery shopping until my wife gets mad and orders me to go). In other words, I am in no position to judge whether an NFL cornerback is fit to play or not.

But the question has to be asked: What was gained by having an injured Williams take the field over and over again? Was a one-armed Williams really a better option than a healthy Davon House, Jarrett Bush or Pat Lee?

Yes, House is unproven and Bush and Lee make us wince whenever they run on the field, but Williams was in their shoes at one point, too. At the very least, Williams should have sat out the regular season finale where he was abused by Calvin Johnson and “was in visible pain in the locker room” after the game.

14

May

Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks Part II

NFL Draft Logo Image

2012 NFL Draft

So here is part II of the reasons behind the draft picks (see part I here)  Again, I’m not assigning grades to the draft or to the players because I don’t believe you can tell whether or not a player will pan out within the first 30 something days.  What I am interested in is what the Packers were thinking of when they decided to draft a player; with that in mind, this is what I think the Packers want to accomplish with each draft pick and which player each rookie could be potentially be replacing.

Jeron McMillian – Projected Strong Safety – Round 4, Pick #38 (#133 overall) – Replaces Pat Lee

Rationale: First off let’s be honest here, I don’t think we have the next Nick Collins in McMillian; I was actually very surprised that McMillian was drafted at all by the Packers simply because he doesn’t fit into the mold of what the Packers look for in safeties.  The Packers are probably more interested in playing two free safeties (which there really wasn’t one this year in the draft), consider their preferred pairing of Collins and Morgan Burnett (who ironically never really played together): both have good ball skills and the ability to jump passing routes.  What McMillian does best is run support, which is almost the exact opposite of a ball hawk.   Then again even if McMillian is the next Collins I highly doubt that the Packers can afford to stick him out there in his first year, which is even more reason why I think Woodson will have to make the move to safety.

What McMillian can do, and almost immediately, is play on special teams.  One of the less covered bits of news in the offseason was that cornerback Pat Lee was not resigned by the Packers but was curiously signed by the Oakland Raiders; many assumed this was just because of new Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie’s background knowledge of Lee, but I think its apparent that Lee is always going to be a liability in coverage so more realistically McKenzie wanted his special teams ability.  Lee actually was the gunner opposite of Jarrett Bush and it’s an important position, just look at who was the Packers priority signing this offseason (and it wasn’t Matt Flynn).  My assumption is that the Packers are hoping that McMillian contributes immediately to special teams as a gunner while refining his coverage technique and perhaps becomes a starter on the defense in the future, but anything more than special teams ace in his first couple of years is probably wishful thinking.

25

March

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

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

The Packers signed free agent center Jeff Saturday this week to replace the departed Scott Wells. Yes, I said the Packers signed a free agent. A free agent that I actually heard of, nonetheless.

I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to react to this occasion.  It’s been a while since Ted Thompson blew the dust off the checkbook he uses to sign free agents from other teams and actually brought someone in. Fans from other teams often celebrate like they just won the Super Bowl after inking a free agent so….congrats fellow Packers fans?

Thompson obviously didn’t know how to react to the occasion, either. He was so confused and out of sorts about what he just did that he turned around and did it again, signing free agent defensive lineman Daniel Muir.

Now, Muir fits the mold of a Packers free-agent signing much more than Saturday. Muir is a journeyman that Thompson signed and released once before. He’ll have to fight hard just to make the team and anything he contributes during the season will be a bonus.

Saturday, on the other hand, will be expected to be what he’s been his whole career: A reliable pass-blocking center who quarterbacks the offensive line for one of the most explosive offenses in the league, often during no-huddle situations. I’m sure Saturday is up to the task, but he’s also going to be 37 years old when the season starts.

Yes, Saturday has started all 16 games in six of the past seven seasons, but the thing with 37-year-olds is that they’re, well…old. You never know when the body of a 37-year-old football player might say enough is enough, or their skill set diminishes almost overnight.

Saturday was a good signing. No arguments about that. But it’s still going to be business as usual for the Packers at the center position. Saturday will (hopefully) fill in nicely this season and possibly next, but the Packers will still likely draft a center in April, both to solidify the position long-term and provide insurance in case age gets the best of Saturday.

Tim Tebow, Pat Lee/Jarrett Bush, Anthony Hargrove

23

March

Pat Lee Out, Jarrett Bush In: Looking at the Packers’ Cornerback Situation

Pat LeeWith Pat Lee headed out of Green Bay and Jarrett Bush re-signed for three years, the Packers’ defensive back situation is looking more and more clear for next season.

Pat Lee’s four years with the Packers have to be considered a disappointment after being drafted in the 2nd round with the 60th overall pick. Lee struggled to make an impact on defense and failed to stick as a return man, but was a contributor in Super Bowl XLV following Charles Woodson’s shoulder injury. Although it didn’t show on the stats (1 tackle), Lee was decent enough to keep the Packers from complete collapse defensively.

There are no immediate plans to move Charles Woodson to safety, so he will continue to cover the slot with Tramon Williams and Sam Shields working the outside. Jarrett Bush will continue to be the team’s fourth cornerback with Davon House taking Pat Lee’s spot behind Bush. That would leave one more roster spot if the Packers keep six corners like they did last season. Brandian Ross from the practice squad will likely compete with a draft pick.

Shields was probably the player most hurt by the lockout and lack of off-season workouts following his successful rookie campaign in 2010. Instead of building on his success, Shields regressed in many ways in 2011, including his tackling and other fundamentals.

Williams struggled throughout the year following a shoulder injury in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers. He only missed one week, but it was clear that the shoulder was effecting him throughout the year. With a clean bill of health, Williams will hopefully get back to the success he had in 2010 as one of the league’s top cover-men.

Woodson may have finally started to show his age in 2011 as he missed tackles that you wouldn’t expect out of the potential future hall of famer. Despite this, Woodson still has plenty left to offer and will continue to fill the role of covering the slot receiver.

Bush, with his new contract, will continue to be the Packers’ top special teams player and serve as the nickel back. Bush has improved his defensive play, but still has his issues. He specifically struggles to get his head turned around and locate the football in the last moment.