Category Archives: 2012 OffSeason

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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2

February

Packers News: Rodgers, Favre to present award together

Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre

Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre

…And then there was peace.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and former quarterback Brett Favre will share the stage together, presenting the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award tonight on CBS.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy hinted at it early Saturday evening via Twitter, tweeting, “There’s an unlikely pairing of presenters you will have to see on #nflhonors 9p ET on CBS. their numbers added up to 16.”

Some basic math suggested that Favre and Rodgers were the “unlikely pairing of presenters.”

The NFL Honors program will be televised at 8 p.m. Central tonight on CBS.

The award winners have already been announced. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was named Offensive Rookie of the Year, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly won Defensive Rookie of the Year, Adrian Peterson was named Offensive Player of the Year and J.J. Watt won Defensive Player of the Year.

Peterson was also named league MVP for the first time in his career.

Packers cornerback Casey Hayward finished third in the voting for Defensive Rookie of the Year behind Kuechly and Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Rodgers and Favre will present the Comeback Player of the Year Award to Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

The relationship between Rodgers and Favre has certainly been rocky, so it’s nice to see them smoothing things out. According to NFL Network’s Michelle Beisner, both men were ready to move on.

Beisner tweeted, “Favre told me, he has total respect for (Rodgers) and that the things that happened in Green Bay had nothing to do with him,” and also, “(Rodgers) told me they wanted to do this because it was time and needed to squash any questions about there being issues.”

The Packers have yet to retire Favre’s No. 4, but this is certainly a step in the right direction with Packers fans. Tune into CBS for the NFL Honors show tonight, as it figures to be must-see TV.

(UPDATE: Below is the video of Rodgers and Favre presenting the award. Watch it. You won’t regret it.)

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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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25

January

If Jennings leaves, Wide Receiver Becomes a Pressing Need

Packers WR Greg Jennings

Packers WR Greg Jennings

Most expect wide receiver Greg Jennings to leave the Packers as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Jennings has spent the past seven seasons in Green Bay after being drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft. And after 425 catches, 53 touchdowns, two Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl, Jennings’s time in Green Bay appears to be over.

When the Packers played the Minnesota Vikings in week 17, the wide receiver’s sister was critical of quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Twitter, suggesting that Jennings should “take (his) talents to South Beach and get paid.”

Miami is certainly a potential landing spot for Jennings. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was the Packers’ offensive coordinator from 2007-2011. And whether it’s with the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings or another team, Jennings is likely in line for a healthy payday this offseason.

In which case, one of Green Bay’s strongest positions in recent years could become a pressing need.

The Packers saw a preview of life-after-Jennings in 2012, as he only appeared in eight regular season games. In his absence, James Jones and Randall Cobb emerged as key playmakers for the Packers. With Jordy Nelson on one side, Jones on the other and Cobb in the slot, the Packers have a talented trio of wide receivers even if Jennings signs elsewhere.

But having three talented receivers does as much good as having one great quarterback. If the all-too-popular injury bug bites, the team could suffer.

And beyond Nelson, Jones and Cobb, the Packers face a great deal of uncertainty at the position. Undrafted rookie Jarrett Boykin was a pleasant surprise in the preseason and cracked the final 53-man roster in August. Jeremy Ross showed promise as a return man late in the season, but he didn’t make an impact on the team offensively.

Donald Driver was used sparingly in 2012 and is reportedly leaning towards retirement.

At tight end, the future of starter Jermichael Finley is up in the air. Packers beat writer Bob McGinn wrote Dec. 15 that the Packers appeared to be finished with Finley, but the much-maligned tight end improved down the stretch. Following the article’s publication, Finley caught 18 passes in the Packers’ final three regular season games. Finley signed a two-year, $14 million contract last February, leaving the team with a tough decision on what to do with the five-year veteran.

22

January

2013 NFL Free Agents the Packers Could Sign, but Probably Won’t

Dan Kopen

Center Dan Koppen is a free agent the Packers could possibly sign, but likely won’t.

We started the conversation about the Packers biggest draft needs by position group on Monday. Now let’s take a look at possible free-agent targets for Ted Thompson.

It’s probably best to get this discussion out of our system right away. As usual, I doubt Thompson will do much in free agency. He signed Jeff Saturday last offseason, and Saturday ended up on the bench. That’s not going to entice Thompson to run back to the free-agent pool for immediate help.

If Thompson does bring in some free agents, they will probably be system-types — role players that most of us have never heard of that may or may not even make the team. But, hey, posting a blank page probably wouldn’t generate much discussion, so let’s pretend Thompson might want to bring in a guy or two from the outside.

Who might be a good fit? Again, don’t get your hopes up, but it’s at least worth discussing.

Jason Jones, DL
The Seahawks signed Jones to a one-year deal last offseason and he finished with just three sacks in 12 games before getting hurt. Since pass rush from the defensive line is a big need, Jones could fit well with the Packers as a situational pass rusher that can play all three defensive line spots. Jones likely won’t attract a lot of attention, but is still viewed as a guy with some upside, so who knows? The Seahawks signed Jones to a one-year “prove yourself” sort of deal. If he can’t get a multi-year offer anywhere, perhaps the Packers would offer him something similar to what he got with Seattle.

Dan Koppen, C
If one guy who used to snap it to Peyton Manning doesn’t work, why not try another one? Koppen is like a younger version of Saturday, with a little bit left in his run-blocking tank. As Manning’s center in Denver this year, Koppen also is likely used to the no-huddle and setting protection while the quarterback changes things at the line of scrimage. I’m sure Koppen isn’t a realistic option for the Packers, but you never know. Falcons center Todd McClure also will be on the market, but he’s probably not a good fit, either.

13

January

Packers Defense Not Built to Stop the Run

Colin Kaepernick, Packers-49ers

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was out of the Green Bay Packers’ reach all game.

Colin Kaepernick killed the Green Bay Packers defense on Saturday night. It was a one-man show, and he was unstoppable.

“We thought that passing-wise, we would be alright, regardless of how he was throwing,” said veteran safety Charles Woodson, as quoted by Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin. “What we didn’t anticipate was him running and getting out of the pocket the way he did. Those things killed us. Broke our backs.”

He also seemed to break their souls, sucking the hope right out of the defense. Every time the defense would make good stops on first and second down, Kaepernick would come right back and burn them on third-and-long. The 49ers were 8-of-13 on third down, for a 62% conversion rate.

On the eight third down conversion, each play went for at least 12 yards. In total, the 49ers made 153 yards for an average gain of 19.1 yards. Five of them were running plays, and two of them went for touchdowns. And in looking at yards-to-go, five of those eight third downs needed at least 8 yards to convert.

The big question on everyone’s mind is: Why couldn’t the Packers stop Kaepernick and his running attack? Whether it was the option read or a scramble, he gashed them repeatedly for gigantic chunks of yardage.

Many people are pointing the finger at Dom Capers, and rightly so. His play calling and game plan did nothing to stop what the 49ers were doing. In fact, it almost seemed like he was completely unprepared for what Kaepernick was capable of. Spies were used minimally, and when the blitz was called, there was no one left on the back end for clean-up duty when Kaepernick escaped.

But was it all Capers’ fault? Our own Adam Czech suggests that this problem goes beyond the defensive coordinator. San Francisco, he writes, was simply “bigger, stronger, faster and tougher than the Packers.” And he’s right. The 49ers out-muscled Green Bay’s defense the entire game.

Let’s take a trip back in time, though. Think back to last season and what we were saying about the Packers defense. While the offense was having an historic season, the defense was struggling to be even mediocre. They kept getting burned by veteran quarterbacks and made the rookies look like veterans. The defense relied on the turnover to make their stops and was otherwise a sieve through the air.

3

September

Packers LB Terrell Manning Battled Health Issues Throughout Camp

Packers LB Terrell Manning

Packers LB Terrell Manning

Packers rookie linebacker Terrell Manning had a mysteriously quiet training camp.

Although Manning was just a fifth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, many draft experts had drafted rated much higher than where he ultimately came off the board–ESPN tabbed Manning the tenth-best outside linebacker of the 2012 draft class.

Fast forward to the summer, Manning was buried behind D.J. Smith and Robert Francois on the depth chart and starving for an opportunity to showcase his abilities. When starting linebacker Desmond Bishop suffered a season-ending injury in the team’s first preseason game in San Diego, the door opened for Manning to step into the spotlight.

But the former North Carolina State standout continued to hide in the shadows.

And as Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay-Press Gazette points out–Manning was battling more than just his fellow linebackers this summer:

His problems began the first week of training camp, and the Packers’ medical staff quickly realized this was no ordinary stomach flu or food poisoning. The 6-foot-2, 237-pound Manning was tested for everything from Crohn’s disease to cancer before he was diagnosed with a parasite that caused colitis, an inflammation of the large intestine.

Manning says at one point during training camp, he weight as little as 220 pounds–which is less than the average weight of the Packers’ top four running backs. However, the rookie linebacker refused to use his health as an excuse to sit out of practice, as he was on the field for all 21 training camp practices and all four preseason games.

Now that Bishop is out of the picture for 2012, the Packers will lean on Smith and A.J. Hawk as their starting inside linebackers. But behind them, Manning is competing with Francois and Jamari Lattimore as the Packers’ top reserves in the middle of their 3-4 scheme.

It remains to be seen what a healthy Manning is capable of accomplishing in a Packers uniform, but after what he endured throughout his first training camp, his competitiveness cannot be called into question.

If you haven’t yet read Demovsky’s article about Manning and his mysterious health condition, you really should. If you’re a fan of the Packers, it’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

28

August

Marques Eversoll: My Initial Packers 53-man Roster Prediction

Packers GM Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson has some tough decisions to make by Friday.

With the final cuts just around the corner, here are my initial predictions for how things may play out. There are a couple surprises, but overall, I think much of the roster is pretty much decided other than maybe two or three spots.

Although I assumed the Packers would keep six wide receivers all offseason, I simply no longer think that’s the case. Both Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel have been injured for part of training camp, and neither has made the same splash they made last summer at this time. I think they’ll both be let go, and the Packers will look to a different young wide receiver to stash on the practice squad.

Other than that, there aren’t too many surprises. So here goes…

Quarterback (2): Rodgers, Harrell

Although I don’t believe Graham Harrell is a No. 2 quarterback in the NFL right now, I think it’s more likely than not that the Packers will keep the position as is–with Harrell as Rodgers’s top backup. If a late-round pick could pry Colt McCoy away from the Cleveland Browns, Thompson would likely consider making that move. And despite Vince Young being an convenient punch-line for football fans, who would you rather have if you had to win a game without Rodgers: Young or Harrell? I’d take Young, and it’s not even remotely close. It’s highly unlikely that Thompson would bring in Young as a free agent, but then again, Ted hasn’t been typical “Ted” this offseason.

Running Back (5): Benson, Green, Saine, Starks, Kuhn

My oh my, how things have changed for James Starks. After choosing not to bring back veteran Ryan Grant, it appeared the Packers were set to put all their chips in on Starks. But fast forward to August, and Starks is the most likely of the four running backs to be cut. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Packers cut Starks, but I’m not confident enough to make it one of my predictions. I see Cedric Benson as the clear-cut feature back in Green Bay, I’m a believer in Alex Green, and I like Brandon Saine’s versatility. So if there’s one back the Pack will cut, it’s Starks. Kuhn will be the only full back on the roster.

Wide Receiver (5): G. Jennings, Nelson, Cobb, J. Jones, Driver