Category Archives: 2013 – 2014 Season

2

July

What Packers Fans Should Know About Neck Injuries

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers, Packer People, Packers players, Johnny Jolly, Packers character, Packers off the fieldAt this point, Packers fans are all too aware of neck/cervical injuries and the effects and repercussions of returning to play after an injury and surgery.  At this point, Ted Thompson has had likely six neck injuries and four surgeries, all with various results, some positive but mostly negative. The latest was defensive linemen Johnny Jolly, who after battling a prescription drug addiction was a surprising addition to the Packers roster last year.  News recently came out that Jolly has been cleared by his doctors to return to play and now the question is whether or not the Packers will take him up on that offer.  However, many fans don’t really know the diagnosis, treatment or outcome of neck injuries and surgeries and it’s important to really understand the injury before deciding whether or not Jolly should or could return to the Packers.  As a matter of disclosure, I am not a doctor but an immunologist, so while I do have plenty of experience in the medical field I am not qualified to present a medical opinion; below is research I have done from a variety of medical journals and other sources.

Packer players who suffered a neck injury under the Ted Thompson regime

1. Terrance Murphy: Murphy suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit by Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis on a fumble recovery off of a return and was later discovered to have spinal stenosis, which ultimately ended his career.

2. Jeremy Thompson: Thompson suffered a neck injury during a practice after sustaining a collision with running back Kregg Lumpkin, who from reports suffered temporary paralysis on the field, necessitating the need for an ambulance and an overnight stay at Bellin Hospital.  Thompson subsequently also announced his retirement after the injury.  On a completely unrelated note, Thompson is now a medical student at the University of North Carolina, so the stereotype of football players being dumb jocks isn’t always true.

3. Nick Collins: Perhaps the most famous Packer to suffer a neck injury, Collins collided with Carolina running back Johnathan Stewart from above and suffered temporary paralysis. Collins spent the night at a hospital in Carolina before rejoining the team on IR.  Collins then had single fusion neck surgery to fuse the C3 and C4 vertebrae together.  Collins was subsequently released by the Packers and while he hasn’t officially retired, no team has been willing to even try him out, which indicates the severity of the injury.

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27

June

2014 Packers Roster Analysis June 2014: Youth Will Be Served Again

packers roster I printed up a copy of the Green Bay Packers roster last Saturday, the 14th of June. After looking through the 90-man list I came up with a few information odds and ends that might interest their die-hard fans who don’t want to comb through and spend their time accumulating such mundane numbers. I confess I am a detail geek, which is part of having an anal personality. So let’s get on with it.

Did you realize:

The current roster contains only 6 players who are 30 or older. A few more will turn 30 between now and the end of the season, but not many my friends.

There are only 2 players with double digit years of playing experience on the roster. JULIUS PEPPERS, who you will get used to as DR PEPPERS in my writings, is entering his 13th NFL season, and AARON RODGERS who is about to start season 10. My how the time does fly. I certainly realized RODGERS sat some seasons while getting ready to replace FAVRE, but a 10-year vet already?! No wonder I feel old most days. As another aside it should be noted that RODGERS is still only 30, turning 31 late in the upcoming season.

In keeping with the age/experience theme I will also note that of the 90 current roster members, 27 are Rookies and 26 are entering their second NFL seasons. I should point out that I consider these 1-year vet listings as second year guys, because that’s how long most have been out of college. That means that 53 out of 90 players (59%) have been in the League less than 2 years.

Most of the above numbers are far from the NFL average for age and experience, especially on a perennial Play-Off team like the PACKERS. During the TED THOMPSON regime the roster has been one of the 5 youngest teams around every season, once the SHERMAN era roster purge was completed. They have ranked youngest overall on multiple occasions.

As any good PACKERS fan realizes, the team also prides itself on acquiring and keeping their own players. No change in that regard this year. I count 71 of the 90 players on the present roster as having been originally signed or drafted by the PACK. MATT FLYNN/QB was their draft pick, went away and came back, so he counts. And a few current players like AARON ADAMS/OT, CHRIS BANJO/S, JARRETT BOYKIN/WR and others never played a down for another team, but did originally sign elsewhere. They aren’t even included in this count.

25

June

What is fair value for Eddie Lacy?

Eddie Lacy Pro Bowl

How much would you pay this guy?

Packers fans have been quipping that the running back is the most fungible position in the NFL; I’ve said it, my colleagues here on the blog have said it and tons of you have said it in your comments (yes we do read your comments).  In truth, it’s an easy thing for Packers fans to say simply because the Packers aren’t the type of team that revolves around running the ball; with Mike McCarthy at the helm, Aaron Rodgers behind center and Ted Thompson on top of the front office, the Packer’s have been a pass-first, pass-second, run as an afterthought type of franchise.

On the flip side, ask any Minnesota Vikings fans what they think about the running game and I’m sure you’ll get a completely different response.  Outside of a miraculous 2009 season, there hasn’t been much for Vikings fans to hang their hat on; sure the defense has been occasionally good but their football identity is running the ball with Adrian Peterson.  However Peterson is a once in a generation type of player and the simple fact is that running backs are not very valuable in the NFL; they’re production has plateaued lower than their receiving counterparts, the massive toll playing the position takes on their body and future production and the shift from the workhorse back to the running back by committee approach means you don’t need to find a running back that can do it all.  As a result, less and less running backs are being drafted, especially in the first round.

Packer’s fans might just have to start rethinking about the value of the running back position as the Packers might have a real star on their roster with Eddie Lacy in green and gold.  While Lacy was a godsend for the Packers last year and was essentially the offense while Aaron Rodgers recovered from his broken clavicle, Lacy was paid a mere $405,000 for perhaps the best season a running back has had since Ahman Green in his heyday. Keep in mind this is after winning rookie of the year honors; when Charles Woodson won defensive player of the year honors in 2010, the Packers responded by giving him a huge increase in pay even though he still had plenty of years left on his contract.

9

June

Xs and Os: The Three-Deep Zone Defense (Cover 3)

The cover 3 pass defense has the cornerbacks and free safety splitting the deep half into thirds.

The cover 3 pass defense has the cornerbacks and free safety splitting the deep half into thirds.

Continuing with our series of defensive coverage shells, this week we’ll take a closer look at the three-deep zone defense, which is more commonly known as the cover 3.

Previously, we looked at the cover 1 and cover 2 defenses.

Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers predominantly prefers the single-high safety look, but he has deployed the cover 2 shell frequently over the years.

However, the Packers don’t use the cover 3 all that often, but it’s a defense that every NFL team must have in their arsenal because what it brings to the table.

Of course, this article comes with my standard disclaimer that this is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes only.

Cover 3 Defense Defined

When defending the field, the defense usually divides the area vertically into “halves.” The underneath half typically extends 7 yards from the line of scrimmage and the deep half usually extends 15-20 from the line of scrimmage.

In the three-deep zone defense (cover 3), the free safety and both cornerbacks play zone defense and each guard a third of the deep half. They must cover any receiver entering their respective third of the field and drive towards to the ball once it is in the air. Additionally, they must carry the receivers vertically all the way to the goal line.

The GIF below highlights the assignments.

output_SaDK67

Strengths of Cover 3

There is no perfect defense in football. If the defense sells out to stop the run, they are extremely vulnerable to the pass. Likewise, setting up a strong back end to guard the pass makes them susceptible to the pass.

The cover 3 is a compromise defense of sorts. Because the deep third is covered by the free safety and both cornerbacks, the strong safety is free to align in the box.

This means the defense can play eight in the box to stop the run. The front seven (defensive line and linebackers) are in the box in addition to the strong safety.

In a nutshell, the cover 3 allows the defense the flexibility. It can be considered a “jack of all trades” defense. It is a very popular run defense, with pass flex, in the NFL because it allows the defense to pack eight in the box and still drop seven into zone pass coverage.

6

May

Would you Give Packers Coach Mike McCarthy a new Contract?

MM- lombardi trophyBy now you’ve all probably read Bob McGinn’s piece in Sunday’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about the Packers talking to Mike McCarthy about a contract extension. McCarthy signed a 5-year deal in the spring of 2011 that runs through the end of the 2015 season.

McCarthy and Packers general manager Ted Thompson will have nine NFL drafts under their belts after this week. That’s a remarkable stretch of organizational consistency and one of the benefits of not having a “real” owner. God knows what someone like Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones would have done before, during and after the Favre divorce.

But the past doesn’t mean much in the NFL. We’re all happy for McCarthy and Thompson’s long working relationship and the Packers philosophy of not emotionally overreacting to organizational adversity by handing out pink slips. That philosophy, however, doesn’t protect the Packers from having to make difficult decisions.

One of those difficult decisions is whether to extend McCarthy’s contract well before it’s due to expire. It appears that the Packers are looking to do just that, and I agree with their decision.

One of the points McGinn made in his piece revolved around the wisdom of extending McCarthy before the Packers know for sure if Thompson will want to sign another contract after the GM’s deal runs out following the 2016 draft. It’s worth thinking about — if the Packers bring a new general manager, odds are good he will want to hire his own head coach. That organizational stability could go out the window if a new GM asks to fire McCarthy with 3 years and $20 million left on his contract.

But is that reason enough to not extend McCarthy? The Packers think highly of McCarthy as a head coach and I happen to agree with them. I wouldn’t want to risk losing McCarthy simply because Thompson might be close to calling it a career.

Packers fans, myself included, can get quite angry at McCarthy for certain playcalls during games. I got news for ya: Fans of the other 31 NFL teams do the same thing every Sunday. McCarthy is a good coach and the Packers would be wise to keep him around beyond his current contract. Here are a few reasons why:

6

May

Xs and Os: The Single-High Safety Defense (Cover 1)

Safety Morgan Burnett hopefully will get some free safety help via the 2014 NFL draft.

Safety Morgan Burnett hopefully will get some free safety help via the 2014 NFL draft.

In the 2014 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers will most likely target a free safety to help out strong safety Morgan Burnett.

Selecting a starting-caliber free safety is paramount because defensive coordinator Dom Capers relies heavily on a safety to play single-high coverage (cover 1) in many of his defensive alignments. No one will argue that safety play was suspect, at best, during the 2013-2014 season.

Many draft pundits believe that selecting a free safety will help strong safety Morgan Burnett play a more comfortable and natural role within the defense, which is closer to the line of scrimmage. The new free safety can patrol deep center field. Doing so will greatly improve the overall defense.

This article breaks down the basics of the cover 1 defense. In a nutshell, it combines aspects of zone and man-to-man coverage. You can get refresher about man-to-man coverage here and zone coverage here.

Cover 1 Defense Defined

When defending the field, the defense typically divides the field vertically into “halves.” The underneath half typically extends 7 yards from the line of scrimmage and the deep half extends 15-20 yards from the line of scrimmage.

In the single-high (cover 1), the free safety plays zone coverage, guarding the deep half all to himself. He is responsible for any receiver that enters the zone. He must make a play on the ball as it enters the zone. The GIF below demonstrates his assignment.

Cover1 Fig1

No matter where the free safety lines up at the snap of the ball, if the play is a pass, he must backpedal to the landmark, which is usually between the hashmarks about 15-17 yards deep. Typically, he lines up on the open side (away from the tight end). The whole time his eyes are looking forward at the play. He isresponsible for the deep half, which includes assisting someone else cover a receiver entering the area or guarding anyone who is potentially uncovered. See the GIF below.

Cover1 Fig2

The underneath half may be man-to-man, zone, or a combination of both.

Why Play Cover 1?

The single-high safety defense is an aggressive defense. Generally, it allows for more defenders near the line of scrimmage that can attack the offense.

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.