Category Archives: 2012 Postseason

3

January

Packers Periscope: Wild Card vs. San Francisco 49ers

The Past: Do we really need to remind ourselves of the past?  Sometimes it seems like certainly match-ups become one sided rivalries; in the 1990′s the Packers seemed never able to beat the Dallas Cowboys and recently it’s seemed like the Packers have always gotten better of the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears but the team that seems to give the Aaron Rodgers Packers the most problems is the Jim Harbaugh lead San Francisco 49ers.  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick stole the show in their last playoff meeting, setting a new record for yards on the ground for a quarterback and added 263 yards in the air and two touchdowns.  On the other side of the ball, Aaron Rodgers just couldn’t get anything going against the stout 49ers defense and was stymied into a 1 dimensional passing attack.

The Packers drew the unfortunate luck of having to see their rivals right out of the gate this season with similar results. Again Aaron Rodgers couldn’t get much going against the defense, the running game lead by two rookies just wasn’t ready and the defense fell apart, this time only through the passing game as Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and 3 touchdowns and made aging receiver Anquan Boldin look like the second coming of Jerry Rice.

Since then the Packers have mostly been licking their wounds quietly with bigger issues to fry such as replacing Rodgers for 8 games while his shoulder blade recovered, or having to find a new defensive line and linebacking core as players shuffled in due to injuries.  Getting to the playoffs was essentially a pipe dream until week 17 (the Packers at the lowest had a 6% shot at getting into the playoffs), when they secured their playoff berth with a miracle 4th down touchdown from Rodgers to Randall Cobb, who was also coming back from a horrific bone break of his own.  While neither the Packers nor the Bears were really expected to fare all that well in the playoffs, getting in is an accomplishment on its own, especially considering the wretched season they had to endure just to get to this point.

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16

July

Packers 1st Year Free Agent Scouting Report: Garth Gerhart, OC Arizona State/Cleveland Browns

Player Information:

  • Garth Gerhart, OC Arizona State
  • 6’1”/305 lbs
  • Hometown – Norco, California

Pro Day:

  • 40 yard: 5.38
  • 20 yard: 3.09
  • 10 yard: 1.90
  • Bench: 25
  • Vertical: 30.5
  • Broad: 96
  • Shuttle: 4.27
  • 3-cone: 7.63

Introduction:  While not an undrafted rookie, Garth Gerhart falls into the same category as a player who not many people know about on the Packers squad who has a good chance of making the team.  Garth, brother of current Vikings running back Toby Gerhart, went undrafted out of Arizona State in 2012 and was signed to the Browns practice squad, where he spend the entire season.   Gerhart was signed onto the Packers practice squad 4 days before their loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs.

Outside Analysis:

Pro Football Weekly: Good arm length and weight-room strength. Has a strong lower body and good base. Flashes a substantial punch. Works to position and get in the way. Smart and aware. Tough and competitive. Good character. Dependable, blue-collar worker. Experienced, three-year starter. Has NFL bloodlines.

Draft Insider: Zone-blocking lineman with marginal athletic skills. Incredibly quick in all aspects, uses effective body positioning and seals defenders from the action. Intelligent and effectively quarterbacks the offensive line. Works to get a pad on defenders and knocks them from their angle of attack.

 

Video:

Analysis:

  • #52, playing center
  • The shotgun snap error was mostly on him
  • It’s very interesting how many times ASU runs the bubble screen, I’m not sure if it’s assignment or coincidence, but Garth doesn’t block anyone on any of occasions shown. Then again, if it’s a bubble screen going to the sideline, what chance does any center have in making a block anyways?
  • Gets good movement up to the second level, but often ends up looking for someone to block.  Again is this coincidence?
  • Does a good job switching assignments and helping out his guards
  • At 3:22, Gerhart actually slides out and blocks the pass rushing defensive end, quite impressive (Ironically, the defensive end turns out to be none other than Nick Perry!)
  • Better technician than athlete, keeps his feet under him and usually stalemates his defender.  He’s not going to throw many pancake blocks or just wall off a defender, but will get the job done.
29

May

I Have a Feeling: Atlanta Falcons Most Important Packers Opponent in 2013

The Atlanta Falcons could be the Green Bay Packers most important 2013 opponent.

The Atlanta Falcons could be the Green Bay Packers most important 2013 opponent.

Last offseason, our fearless leader “Jersey” Al Bracco predicted that Ryan Grant would return to the Green Bay Packers. Though the circumstances were different from what he envisioned, Al’s gut feeling came true, and Grant signed with the Packers in December as back-up insurance. This year, I am going to announce my own bold prediction that the Atlanta Falcons will be Green Bay’s most critical opponent in the coming 2013 season.

I was sizing up the schedule recently, wondering to myself what the most important game of the year would be for the Packers. Many fans have the Week 1 game against the San Francisco 49ers circled in fire engine red, but for me that game comes way too early to have a truly significant impact. As a conference opponent, it will certainly have some sway on playoff seeding; nevertheless, there is still plenty of time to recoup a loss.

That line of thinking led me to the latter portion of the season, where the playoff picture slowly starts sliding into place and a single win or loss could change things drastically.

Within the final six games, the Packers face off against all three division opponents, two conference rivals in the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys, and the lone AFC foe Pittsburgh Steelers. There is a strong chance that the Week 17 game versus the Chicago Bears will be significant when it comes to the playoffs, especially after last season. We shouldn’t soon forget that Green Bay’s loss to the Vikings in 2012 bumped them out of the #2 seed and a first-round bye.

However, my sights are set on Week 14, when the Falcons travel to Lambeau Field for a Sunday night showdown in the December cold. At that point, both teams will have played twelve games and should have a rather clear idea of their chances in their respective divisions, as well as in the NFC. The outcome of the match-up will certainly affect the urgency with which both teams approach the remaining three games.

But even beyond that, the Atlanta Falcons could be a top contender in the NFC next year. Many folks are focused on the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks as Super Bowl prospects, but as Jeff Fedotin of the National Football Post points out, Atlanta is quietly flying under the radar as the team to beat.

17

May

Could Fewer Touches Lead to More Production for Packers WR Randall Cobb?

Packers WR Randall Cobb

Packers WR Randall Cobb.

Breakout WR/HB/KR/PR Randall Cobb touched the ball 159 times and amassed a Packers franchise record 2,342 all-purpose yards in 2012.

It was quite the season for the second-year talent out of Kentucky, and very necessary. Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson all missed significant time with injuries. Cobb, along with James Jones, stepped up to fill the void left by Jennings and Nelson and helped negate the Packers struggles running the ball.

But 159 touches is a lot for a player who is 5-foot-10 and 191 pounds. Cobb injured his ankle and missed the season finale against the Vikings. He also managed just six catches for 31 yards in two playoff games and was taken off of punt returns against the 49ers, only to see rookie Jeremy Ross muff one deep in Green Bay territory that led to a San Francisco touchdown.

I was at the wild-card win over the Vikings and watched Cobb limp around on that ankle. He was hurting. The explosion wasn’t there.

With Jennings gone, it’s assumed Cobb will have an even bigger role in the offense. His role probably will be bigger, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll touch the ball 159 times again.

Cobb was targeted 104 times in 2012, the most since Jennings’ 125 targets in 2010. If Nelson stays healthy, and Jones repeats his stellar 2012 season, perhaps that number will come down a bit.

The addition of Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin — and the shuffling of the offensive line — could also lead to more success in the running game and fewer touches for Cobb.

Of those 159 touches, 10 came as a halfback. You have to figure he won’t carry the ball any more with Lacy and Franklin around.

As great as Cobb is, a little bit less of a workload might be good for him and ensure that he’s just as productive in the playoffs as he is in week eight.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Packers should purposely look away from Cobb and reduce his role in the offense. He’s too talented to set off to the side.

All I’m saying is that other players stepping up might take some of the burden off the shoulders of the smallish Cobb, making him that much more explosive when he does get the ball.

24

March

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Forgive me, Packers fans, I’m about to stick up for the Chicago Bears.

(*The author pauses for a moment to put on his bullet-proof vest, change the locks on his home, and take a deep breath*)

I have no problem with the Bears one year, $2 million contract offer to Brian Urlacher. I’m actually insulted that Urlacher called the offer “insulting.”

Football is a business. Good teams make roster decisions not to reward once-great players or keep local heroes around to appease the fanbase. Football has been trying to teach us this lesson over and over again, but most people will never learn it, or simply refuse to even try to learn it.

Urlacher was a free agent for the first time in 13 seasons. He’ll be 35 years old in May and he missed the last month of the 2012 season with a hamstring injury.

In the 12 games that Urlacher did play, Pro Football Focus graded him out positively in only three of them. He finished with an overall season grade of -11.3. Pro Football Focus is not the be-all, end-all of player evaluation, but from what I saw of Urlacher in 2012, a -11.3 seemed generous. I thought he was slow and a shadow of his former self.

Does a $2 million contract offer for a once-great, but now aging player coming off an injury and likely on the downswing of his career really sound that insulting to you?

It doesn’t to me.

To be fair, there are two counter-arguments to this: 1) Urlacher’s leadership means a lot and is worth more than $2 million, and 2) the Bears have next to nothing at middle linebacker now that Urlacher is gone.

I don’t know how much “leadership” is worth, especially for a player who is declining on the field. To me, not very much, but I’m not in an NFL locker room, so who knows?

Yes, it’s true that the Bears now have next to nothing at middle linebacker, but that’s still not a good enough reason to overpay for an aging player. Draft a rookie to develop. Find a younger player who could do what Urlacher did for a fraction of the price. Sign Brad Jones.

8

March

Packers B.J. Raji in 2012: Warrior or Shrinking Violet?

B.J. Raji 2012

B.J. Raji

From the time BJ Raji was drafted in 2009, I’ve taken a special interest in this player. Maybe because he’s from a local town here in NJ, maybe because I was hoping he would be one of the linchpins for Dom Caper’s new 3-4 defense – the next “Gravedigger.”

I wrote a profile on Raji back in May of 2009, and later talked to some people who saw him in his HS playing days. “Really nice kid from a nice family,” I heard repeatedly, followed by, not sure if he has enough “mean” in his personality to thrive in the trenches in the NFL.

I discounted those comments for the most part. Surely the Packers wouldn’t have spent a top-10 draft choice on him if the Packers didn’t think he was a potential star.

B.J. Raji made the Pro Bowl in 2011, probably based on the rep earned by his 8 sacks and strong sophomore season  in 2010 (film study here).  Ironically, though, he just wasn’t that good in 2011.

Raji’s 2012 season for the Packers was noticeably better than 2011, but one major thing was missing; consistency.  It seemed to these non-expert eyes that as the season unfolded, Raji had some very strong performances, and some downright awful ones.

Raji terrorized the Bears (film study here) late in the season and a few weeks later was bounced around like a pinball machine by the 49ers offensive line. With those two offensive lines being on opposite ends of the talent scale, a thought crossed my mind; were’s Raji’s “good” performances all against “bad” offensive lines and vica versa?

While a film study would be the optimal way to examine this hypothesis, that kind of free time eludes me, especially with all our NFL Draft prep going on. So, I decided to go to the folks that examine every player on every play over the course of an entire season; Pro Football Focus.

For a little background, lets first take a look at how Raji has graded out over his first four seasons in the NFL.

Year OVERALL Pass Rush Run Defense
       
2009 -4.8 -5.5 1.8
2010 15.1 12.7 -4.3
2011 -20.8 -2.4 -21.2
2012 6.5 2.8 5.9
25

February

Packers Graham Harrell: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

Graham Harrell

Graham Harrell

1) Introduction: Was Harrell’s 2012 season the best ever by a backup quarterback? The second-year player from Texas Tech held the clipboard with perfect form. His posture and facial gestures while watching games from the sideline was second to none. His bored-to cup-to pour time — aka the amount of time it takes Harrell to snap out of staring straight ahead and being bored, sprint to the water cooler, grab a cup, fill it, and deliver it to Aaron Rodgers without spilling — was the best in league history. I can think of no other quarterback that is better suited to back up Rodgers than Mr. Graham Harrell.

2) Profile:

Graham “Mr. Wonderful” Harrell

  • Age: Ageless
  • Born: to play backup quarterback
  • Height: He’s bigger than the game
  • Weight: Harrell doesn’t wait for anything or anybody
  • College: School of Hard Knocks
  • Rookie Year: Doesn’t matter. Harrell has played like a veteran ever since setting foot on the field
  • NFL Experience: Watching Harrell play is an experience we all should cherish.

Career Stats and more:

3) Expectations coming into the season: Stay the hell off the field. The Packers kept extra beer in the coolers at Lambeau just in case Harrell ever had to enter a game. It is unclear whether the beer was intended to distract the fans from Harrell actually being in the game, or to calm the nerves of the Packers coaching staff who had to try and make sure Harrell didn’t injure any teammate by hitting them in the nuts with an errant pass.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Starr’s QB sneak in the Ice Bowl, Favre sprinting down the field after a TD with his helmet off in the Super Bowl, Kevin Greene telling Clay Matthews that “it’s time,” Harrell tripping over himself and fumbling at the 1-yard line after he entered the Saints game for an injured Aaron Rodgers. These are the greatest moments in Packers’ history (in no particular order).

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Being from Brownwood, Texas, I bet Harrell grills a mean steak. The offensive linemen probably appreciate that. I bet McCarthy does, too.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Harrell did just as good of a job tackling Colin Kaepernick as the entire Packers defense.

Season Report Card:

(A+) Level of expectations met during the season (Harrell exceeded my wildest dreams)