Category Archives: Team Units

22

July

Cory’s Corner: Packers’ 2014 D Begins and Ends with Raji

With the signing of Julius Peppers, B.J. Raji could have a snice year.

With the signing of Julius Peppers, B.J. Raji could have a nice year.

I gave B.J. Raji a lot of grief last year.

After setting career lows in total tackles (12) and tallying no sacks for the second straight season, it was completely warranted.

Raji’s argument was that he barely played his true position as a bona fide nose tackle. He dabbled in playing end and also spent time as a three-technique lineman that is more prevalent in a 4-3 scheme.

True position or not, his production nose-dived to the point that many — including myself — were surprised that the Packers didn’t let him walk in free agency.

But then Julius Peppers signed.

Which of course means that Raji will be going back to his usual perch at the middle of the defensive line as the team’s nose tackle. The fifth-year pro should be ecstatic about getting help on the outside to assist him bull-rushing up the gut.

And there’s another twist that makes it even better for the Packers: Raji signed a team-friendly deal this past offseason. Of course, there’s no way Green Bay can lose when Raji turns down $8 million a season. Now the 28-year-old is operating under a 1-year $4,000,000 deal.

Will Peppers have a big year? He may surprise a lot of people, but even if he plays like an average 34-year-old, the Packers will be OK.

And the reason is because Green Bay will be playing to the strengths of the guy that was one of the best run-stoppers in the game in 2010.

Is it a gamble? Sure. First of all, Clay Matthews cannot get hurt again. A consistent pass rush must be executed from each side in order to give Raji space up the middle.

In more ways than one this is Raji’s year. He needs a big year for a big payday, but he also wants a solid year to end the criticism he took all of last year for giving up on plays early. Obviously, there is no excuse for loafing and there’s no reason to do that no matter what position you play.

Raji cannot be satisfied with how he played last year. I mean he was tied for 540th in the league in combined tackles. He will need to be more of a ball hawk this year because the Packers take on eight teams with a dominant running back.

---- Get AddToAny
21

July

Packers Xs and Os: What We Might See From McCarthy’s Up-Tempo Offense (Part 1)

Will Aaron Rodgers be leading an up-tempo or no huddle offense in 2014? (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today).

Will Aaron Rodgers be leading an up-tempo or no huddle offense in 2014? (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today).

This off season, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy mentioned two philosophical adjustments he would like to see his offense implement this year: 1) run a faster up-tempo game plan with 75 plays per game, and 2) have three-down players on the field to limit the number of substitutions, which will speed up the game tempo.

These are pretty lofty goals, but the Packers do have the offensive personnel to execute it, particularly because their top three running backs (Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and DuJuan Harris) are three-down backs. The biggest question mark will be if their starting tight end is up to the task of multiple formations and assignments.

In order to execute those two offensive objectives, it’s more than just snapping the ball with plenty of time left on the play clock; it’s an elaborate implementation of situation football.

As my standard disclaimer, I’ve never seen McCarthy’s playbook and none of us will know how he will go about carrying out these plans until the week one opening game against the Seattle Seahawks. But, I will speculate about some things I expect us to see while the Packers are in their up-tempo game.

When to Go Up-Tempo

The offense should only go up-tempo when the score is close or they are behind. If they are sitting on a large lead, it makes sense to slow down the plays to bleed the clock. But, there’s also down and distance rules, as well as clock management strategies, that should be considered.

  • 1st and 2nd downs at almost any distance to gain are acceptable for up-tempo and no huddle.
  • 3rd down and 7 yards or less are also acceptable for up-tempo and no huddle. Longer 3rd downs often necessitate a huddle to ensure the best play call and allow the offense to slow down and gain composure. That is, unless, the offense is in a two-minute drill.
  • Re-huddle after clock stoppages (penalties, out of bounds, incomplete passes, change of possession, instant replay review, etc).

Three-Down 11 Personnel 

20

July

2014 Packers ILB Position – Last Year’s Safety?

Brad Jones and AJ Hawk

Brad Jones and AJ Hawk

Won’t be long now! We can stop speculating on all things Packers in a few long days from now.  This offseason has been very good, talent has been added in Peppers and Guion for Defensive line.

There is a ton of talent heading into their second year. Baktiari, Boyd, Lacy, Jones, Hyde, Barrington, Palmer, Mulumba and White all earned playing time last year.  Every NFL coach and GM will tell you the biggest jump is going into that second year.

You add the players returning from injury in Bulaga, Sherrod, Matthews, Tretter, Worthy and getting players that were just banged up for most of the year like the Jones, both Datone and Brad were hampered with injuries, Perry played on a broken foot. These returning players account for five first round picks a second and a 4th. Not having those players on the field hurt the Packers in 2013 and will add a big boost for 2014.

You add another draft class to increase competition and this camp will be fun to watch.

I have heard more about the Packers not drafting an Inside Linebacker then about getting the best all around safety in the draft. From a lot of comments through out the Packer world, many think the defense is doomed because of not getting an ILB.  I am not one of those.

Safety was a bigger need, Changing the lineup of the Defensive line was a bigger need, Wide Receiver was a bigger need. When you are one injury away from Miles White being your #3 WR, it is a big need.

The situation at ILB is far from bad or will even be a hindrance to the 2014 defense. I have never understood the crap piled on Hawk for his eight years with the team. In 2013 Hawk became the Packers All Time Leading Tackler. When you look at the history of the Packers that is no small feat. That record stood for 24 years and that player took 11 years to do it.  He again lead the team in tackles last year, had 5 sacks and one Int with 5 passes defensed. He has missed 2 games in 8 years and yet so many just plain hate him.

20

July

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football

As training camp approaches, I feel really good about the Packers cornerbacks this season.

It’s a deep group, and the depth includes a nice mix of players. There are proven players (Tramon Williams), good players still on the upswing (Sam Shields) and talented players who have yet to establish themselves, but have still achieved some type of success in their short careers (Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde).

There’s also players like Davon House and Demetri Goodson who could come out of nowhere and exceed expectations.

I wish I could say the same about the rest of the defense. No, I’m not predicting another season of doom and gloom when the other team has the ball, but the depth mix isn’t there with the other defensive position groups like it is at cornerback.

I realize that every position group can’t be stacked, especially with the salary cap. And I get that there will be questions in many spots when you’re a team like the Packers who rely so heavily on young talent. I just wish the depth mix was different at linebacker, safety and defensive line.

If you look at the offensive side of the ball, every position group (except maybe for tight end) has a good depth mix of proven veterans, players who are already good but could be great, and youngsters with potential.

If A.J. Hawk gets hurt or Brad Jones flounders again, there’s not much to be excited about beyond Jamari Lattimore. If Ha Ha Clinton-Dix doesn’t pan out, we’re looking at another season of crossing our fingers that Morgan Burnett turns into a player. If Julius Peppers is past his prime, we have to hope that Nick Perry stays healthy or some other player we’ve never heard of breaks out. If B.J. Raji is useless again, who’s going to anchor the middle in the base package?

Hopefully players like Datone Jones, Sam Barrington, Sean Richardson, Josh Boyd and Carl Bradford shine in the preseason and put some of these concerns rest. Back in 2010, I thought the cornerback group would struggle with depth. Then a guy named Sam Shields emerged and helped the Packers win the Super Bowl.

Here’s hoping something like that happens again.

Packers News, Notes and Links

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.

30

June

The Returning Question: Who Will Be Kickoff and Punt Return Men for the Packers in 2014?

Will Packers rookie Jared Abbrederis be the featured return man in 2014? (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

Will Packers rookie Jared Abbrederis be the featured return man in 2014? (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

When the Green Bay Packers drafted Randall Cobb in the second round of the 2011 draft, it appeared they had their kickoff and punt returner of the future. However, his recent emergence in the offense necessitated others to handle the return duties.

Rookie defensive back Micah Hyde filled in admirably last season, but with his apparent increased role in defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ new look defense, and head coach Mike McCarthy’s traditional reluctance to use integral starters as returners, we might be looking at someone other than Hyde returning kicks this season.

So, here we are again asking a question we’ve asked several times before: who will be returning kickoffs and punts for the Packers in 2014?

Let’s take a look at the options.

Kickoffs

While no team will refuse a 100-yard kickoff return taken to the house, that is not the primary responsibility of returning a kickoff. The return man is responsible for securing good field position for the offense to begin a drive.

Over the years, in the interest of player safety, the NFL has revised kickoff rules several times. The kickoff line has been moved up, to encourage touchbacks, and the number of blockers allowed to form the wedge has been lowered to reduce violent player collisions. Essentially, by design, the kickoff itself no longer has the same potential to flip the field like a punt return or an interception return.

In other words, the need for a 4.3-second, 40-yard dash track athlete is no longer the most desirable trait in a potential kickoff returner. Simply making a man or two miss and breaking a tackle or two will suffice as long as he can advance the ball beyond the 25 yard line. Many coaches simply just want to get out of the kickoff without any injuries. Then, let the $100 million quarterback do his thing.

Going into training camp, I see the kickoff return competition being a three man race.

Likely Contenders

  • Micah Hyde. He was the featured returner for most of 2013. It has yet to be determined if Hyde will see an increased playing load in 2014, let alone crack the starting lineup at free safety. If Ha Ha Clinton-Dix secures the starting free safety position, it’s likely we’ll see Hyde returning kicks again this season. If not, and Hyde starts on defense, it’s unlikely he will be the featured returner.
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.