Category Archives: Tom Crabtree

8

November

Packers Periscope: Week 10 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The Past

Last time these two teams met was in the NFC wildcard game in 2010.  However, the Packers got to experience the beast that they themselves had created; during the season opener Clay Matthews III knocked out starting quarterback Kevin Kolb with a concussion, which paved the way for the resurgence of Michael Vick, who had been just released from jail after pleading guilty to operating a dog fighting ring.  With the more dynamic Vick leading the way with vertical receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles boasted one of the most dangerous offenses that head coach Andy Reid had ever fielded.

However, during the playoffs the Eagles failed to get much going on offense while the Packers watched as rookie James Starks, who had been hobbled by injuries all season, burst onto the scene with 123 yards rushing, a Packers record for a rookie running back in the playoffs and saw a little glimpse of what was to come in their stunning 2011 season when an unknown undrafted rookie blocking tight end named Tom Crabtree made his first touchdown reception by sneaking past a linebacker.

On special teams, the Packers didn’t make many mistakes, which couldn’t be said for the Eagles as kicker David Akers left 6 points off the board with two missed field goals.  The Packers also enjoyed several big plays on defense, notably Clay Matthews completely destroying tackle Winston Justice and a last minute end zone interception by Tramon Williams that pushed the Packers into the divisional round against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Present

A lot has changed for the Eagles since the 2010 playoff game.  13 year incumbent Andy Reid was replaced by college football phenomenon Chip Kelly, who had lead the Oregon Ducks to a 46-7 record with 4 bowl appearances with his fast-paced, spread offense.  While Kelly and his super speed offense sent shockwaves throughout the NFL after their opening game against the Redskins after calling 53 plays in the first half, the rest of the NFL adjusted and the Eagles have been the epitome of “up and down” with some thrilling victories and some crushing defeats which explains the 5-3 record.

While Michael Vick still holds the starting quarterback position in name, Nick Foles has made a case to remain under center after a record breaking 7 touchdown, 158.3 QB rating touchdown performance last week against the Oakland Raiders.  On the other side of the ball, the Eagles defense has been largely ineffective, sorting out much like the Green Bay Packers in terms of defensive efficiency.

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3

October

Where Are They Now: Following Former Packers

With the 2013 season now a quarter of the way over, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at all the Packers who played for the 2012 team who are now playing somewhere else.  Have the Packers really missed them?  Have they made a contribution to their new teams?  (note: snaps are only counting offense and defense, not special teams)

Alex Green (New York Jets)

  • 2012 season: 343 snaps, 135 attempts for 464 Yds, 3.4ypc, 0 TDs, 1 Fum
  • 2013 season (projected): 40 snaps, 28 rushing attempts for 60 Yds, 2.1ypc, 0 TDs, 0 Fum
  • Alex Green never really was able to overcome the ACL injury he suffered as a rookie and became one of the few high draft picks to be quickly dumped by the Ted Thompson regime.  Green quickly found a new home with the New York Jets, one of the teams that curiously have been linked to the Packers (numerous trades of picks, Caleb Schlauderaff and of course Brett Favre).  As of yet, Green hasn’t been able to make much of an impact even with an apparent opening at the running back position with the Jets; Chris Ivory has been hobbled with injuries, Mike Goodson just returned from suspension and KR/RB Joe McKnight was sent packing.  At the moment, Green is projected as the 3rd running back and is on pace for about 60 yards rushing with a 2.1 average.   For the Packers James Starks has played pretty well and Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin have both showed promise.  the Packers are fine at running back without Green.

Greg Jennings (Minnesota Vikings)

  • 2012 season: 416 snaps, 36 Rec for 366 Yds, 10.2 YPC, 4 TDs, 0 Fum
  • 2013 season (projected): 664 snaps, 56 Rec, 1,008 Yds, 18.0 ypc, 8 TD, 0 Fum
15

August

Matthew Mulligan is Blocking his way onto the Packers’ Roster

Matthew Mulligan has shown his blocking ability so far in Packers training camp.

Matthew Mulligan might not charm fans on Twitter, have arms covered in tattoos or take a fake field goal flip all the way to the end zone against the Packers biggest rival. But so far, it looks like the Packers lone veteran free agent signing is filling in nicely for departed fan favorite Tom Crabtree at tight end.

Bob McGinn wrote in Wednesday’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Mulligan has been “solid as a rock” and is close to locking up a roster spot. The journeyman was signed mainly as a blocker, but with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, as long as you have two hands and can take three steps forward without falling over, you might end up eventually becoming part of the passing game.

Crabtree was a durable and scrappy tight end who understood his role and always lined up where he was supposed to. Players like that have value — A.J. Hawk has become a rich man by being that type of player for the Packers on defense. Crabtree and Hawk are also the types of players where you set a value on how much you’re willing to pay them and you don’t exceed that value under any circumstances.

This offseason, the Packers determined Hawk wasn’t worth what he was making, so they told him to take a pay cut or else. Hawks said yes and remains a Packer.

Crabree was a free agent and felt he was worth more than what the Packers were offering (which was something around the league minimum). The Buccaneers agreed with Crabtree, offered him closer to what he thought he deserved, and Crabtree is now trying to build the same rapport with all the blue-hair retirees in Florida that he had with the cheeseheads in Wisconsin.

What does all of this have to do with Mulligan? Even though Crabtree had value, the Packers felt they could find a better player at a more team-friendly price. It’s still early, but it looks like they might have found that player in Mulligan (making $820,000 on a one-year deal).

Pro Football Focus gave Mulligan a 4.9 run blocking rating last season and a 6.5 in 2011. Crabtree was a -7.7 as a run blocker last season and a -8.4 in 2011. Obviously, Pro Football Focus metrics aren’t gospel, but that’s quite the difference. If you believe the reports from training camp, Mulligan is backing up those metrics by passing the eye test as well.

29

March

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Tight Ends

What chemistry problem?

With such a deep receiving corps, the Green Bay Packers have been able to let things slide a bit at the tight end position.  The question is how much longer they can afford to do so.  Starting tight end Jermichael Finley set a franchise record for receptions by a tight end while the departed Tom Crabtree seemingly scored a touchdown every time the Packers played on national television.

With Crabtree gone and Finley entering the final year of his contract, the tight ends face a crucial year in 2013.  Could the Packers draft a tight end early in this spring’s draft? Will Finley become the game changing weapon everyone thought he could be back in 2009? Who will replace Crabtree as the blocking specialist among them?

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

Jermichael Finley (3rd round, 2008)

D.J. Williams (5th round, 2011)

Ryan Taylor (7th round, 2011)

Brandon Bostick (undrafted free agent, 2012)

Andrew Quarless (5th round, 2010)

For expanded coverage of this topic, listen in using the player below or download the podcast from the Packers Talk Radio Network on Itunes.

 

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Finley: The player so many fans love to hate.  His mouth got him into trouble early in the season but he came around late and had some solid games to close out the regular season.

Williams: Disappointing 2012.  He was expected by some to potentially push Finley for the starting role in training camp or at the very least take some snaps away from him.  Instead he potentially finds himself on the roster bubble heading into 2013.

Taylor: Special teams contributor and that was about it. Made headlines when he was fined during the season for an illegal block against the Arizona Cardinals.

Bostick: Non contributor, added for depth.

Quarless: Injury from 2011 rendered him useless for 2012.

So that’s where we are. Next let’s look at…

Where we want to be:

For all the depth Green Bay has at wide receiver,  they are still lacking that difference maker at the tight end position. After his strong season in 2009, many though Finley was going to be one of the best tight ends in the game.  Thanks to an injury in 2010 followed by a case of the drops and a bout with oral diarrhea, Finley finds himself potentially on the way out of Green Bay.

18

March

All Eyes on Jermichael Finley in 2013

Packers TE Jermichael Finley

Packers TE Jermichael Finley

Jermichael Finley carries himself with a swagger; he’s been the “big man on campus” ever since high school.

Before committing to the University of Texas to play tight end, Finley was offered a dual scholarship by the University of Arizona, which would have allowed him to play both basketball and football at the D1 level. But as a freshman at Texas, Finley, then just 205 pounds, redshirted and learned the tight end position behind David Thomas, who is now a backup tight end for the New Orleans Saints.

But when Thomas graduated, an opportunity presented itself for the redshirt freshman Finley. In 2006, Finley caught 31 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns–all three totals set new school records for a freshman tight end.

As a third-year sophomore, Finley improved upon his individual numbers, racking up 45 catches for 575 yards. The Longhorns went 20-6 in Finley’s two years in Austin before the talented tight end decided to declare for the 2008 NFL Draft.

The Green Bay Packers snagged Finley with the No. 91 overall pick, throwing a 21-year-old Finley into a close-knit locker room that was looking to rally around quarterback Aaron Rodgers in his first season as the starter.

But the confident, occasionally outspoken rookie was in for a rude awakening, as he barely touched the field. Incumbent starter Donald Lee was coming off the best season of his career, in which he caught 48 passes for 575 yards and six touchdowns; he remained the starter during Finley’s rookie year.

But in Week 9 in Tennessee, Rodgers called Finley’s number. Facing a fourth-and-one in the first quarter against the then-undefeated Titans, Rodgers went to Finley on a back-shoulder throw.

The two were not on the same page, the pass was incomplete, and the Titans took over on downs. Finley was asked about the play after the game.

“I think he should have led me a little more, well a lot more,” Finley said. “Really, he didn’t throw it good at all, to be honest. He knows my game, coaches know my game. I’m more like a run and jump (receiver). I’m really not no back shoulder or whatever he had going on back there. They just have to know what kind of player I am and use me in that aspect of the game.”

17

March

Farewell, Tom Crabtree

For those who have known me for any extended period of time, you know how long I’ve always wanted to become a sports writer. I’ve always been a Green Bay Packers fan but I knew that if I wanted to make that career jump I would have to exercise some kind of objectivity and hopefully I have been somewhat successful.

Right now, however, I’d like to at least somewhat circumvent that objectivity.

As you’re probably aware by now, now former Packers tight end Tom Crabtree signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.   On the surface, this move should not be that painful for the Packers. Crabtree was mainly a blocking tight end and highlights from 2012 aside, he wasn’t much of a threat in the passing game. This should not be that big of a deal.

That’s at the surface. Deep down, this is painful and in ways I never imagined.

I remember the first time I heard Crabtree’s name—when he scored his first career touchdown against the Eagles in the Wild Card round in the 2011 playoffs.  The Packers won that game en route to the Super Bowl XLV title.   We didn’t see much else from Crabtree in the rest of that playoff game but he did make many appearances on this thing called Twitter (or “the tweeter” as Mike McCarthy once referred to it as).

This was early 2011. I followed (and still do) quite a few Packers players and enjoyed the banter  between the players as well as the interaction with fans. I’d reply every once in a while but never really expected a response due to the massive number of mentions the players had to have been getting.

One day, Crabtree made a joke of some kind. I wish I could remember what it was but I don’t.  I replied back with my own wisecrack and Crabtree actually replied.  As someone who was aspiring to be a writer and wanted to build a good reputation  with the players, this was like Christmas.  Crabtree and I exchanged a few more tweets and I really enjoyed the conversation.  At that moment he ceased to be a Packer for me and was just a regular guy.  I know many others feel the same.

16

March

Tom Crabtree Leaves Packers, Signs With Bucs

Tom Crabtree Lambeau Leap vs. Chicago bears

Unfortunately for Packers fans, we won’t be seeing Tom Crabtree making any Lambeau Leaps this season.

The next time Tom Crabtree catches a touchdown, executes a fake field goal, or makes you laugh out loud with one of his Tweets, it won’t be as a member of the Green Bay Packers.

The tight end reportedly has signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Packers declined to place a low tender on Crabtree that would have cost about $1.3 million, thus making Crabtree an unrestricted free agent.

The Bucs will be getting a versatile player who can play tight end, line up as an H-back and contribute on special teams. Packers fans are losing a player who built a connection with cheeseheads everywhere through social media and general accessibility.

I’m sad to see Crabtree go, just like I’m sad to see any Packers player depart who is a solid contributor and appears to be a decent guy. But from strictly a football sense, I don’t blame the Packers for only offering Crabtree the minimum.

Crabtree only caught eight passes in 2013 (although three went for touchdowns) and Pro Football Focus gave him a negative run-blocking grade of -7.7. With Andrew Quarless returning, the Packers probably didn’t feel that Crabtree was worth more to them than the minimum.

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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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