1

August

Packers See Questions, Answers in the Middle

J.C. Tretter and B.J. Raji

Tretter and Raji have had quite opposite showings in camp thus far. The Packers need improvement from both this season (Photo: H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media)

The Green Bay Packers are just four practices into this year’s training camp and already, some realities are starting to take shape.

As is the case with all teams, there are needs coming into a new season.  The theme for the Packers in 2014 was fixing some existing issues in the middle.  What that refers to is both the middle of the defense and the offensive center positions.

The Packers seemed to have found a solution at center last season with Evan Dietrich-Smith.  EDS fared well for most of the season and had the all-important endorsement from his quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.  It seemed that EDS would be a priority for the Packers to re-sign after the 2013 season.  Instead, the Packers chose to let him go and turned their focus to J.C. Tretter.

Tretter was a fourth round selection in 2013, having played offensive tackle at Cornell.  As with any high draft pick, the Packers had high hopes for Tretter until he suffered an ankle injury during the offseason that landed him on the physically unable to perform list until very late in the year.

Having missed all of last season, Tretter is, for all intents and purposes, a rookie this season.  He has been with the team for a full season and surely has taken mental reps during practice but nothing is a substitute for reps on the field, with the pads on.  Not only is Tretter expected to be the team’s starting center, having had no previous experience in a NFL game, but he will be the Packers fourth starting center in as many seasons.

There was a mix of doubt and optimism surrounding Tretter coming into this offseason and the true telltale sign would be the padded practices.  Those began on Monday and immediately, it became evident that Tretter has a lot of work to do.  He faced up against nose tackle B.J. Raji during one-on-one drills and was mauled.  Whether Raji has a new attitude and excitement about being turned loose at nose tackle again or Tretter just isn’t in regular season form, there is still some cause for concern.  During this week’s No Huddle Radio podcast, we joked that perhaps Tretter was asked to go easy on Raji and help boost the big man’s confidence this year.  All kidding aside, I wish that were the case.

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31

July

Undrafted LB Thomas Raising Eyebrows at Packers Training Camp

Linebacker Joe Thomas

Joe Thomas could be Green Bay’s perennial undrafted free agent stud in 2014

Green Bay Packer training camp is less than a week old and there have already been some stellar performances at the padded practices.  Defensive lineman B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels have shown well along with newcomer Julius Peppers, to name a few.

It’s great to see the veterans performing well, as the Packers will count on them this season.  But with a continuous emphasis on youth, the Packers are always looking for the next young star to emerge.  That’s exactly what general manager Ted Thompson said was his biggest goal in his role:  To find that next diamond in the rough.

In mid-May and after the draft, the Packers went through their usual process of signing the undrafted free agents they’ll invite to training camp.  Besides the true draft gurus among us, many of us looked at those names and said “who?”.

Prior to the start of training camp, most of the attention on that group has gone to former Alabama linebacker Adrian Hubbard, who was projected as a mid-round draft pick before a heart condition was discovered and many teams shied away.

I have yet to hear Hubbard’s name from anyone, in terms of plays made or any type of impact that he’s making.  One name I have heard on numerous occasions is that of inside linebacker Joe Thomas.  Thomas came out of South Carolina State and was the Mideastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) defensive player of the year in 2013.  He had 19 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and an interception.

Thomas isn’t a flashy-type player and there’s obviously a reason why he went undrafted, but he’s catching the eye of the coaching staff in Green Bay and could be this year’s undrafted free agent darling.

Thompson places a heavy emphasis on undrafted free agency and has been successful in finding some gems in the past.  There have also been some who faded out as soon as the bright lights of the regular season came on.  See Vic So’oto and Dezman Moses as two recent examples.

One reason to keep an eye on Thomas is that the inside linebacker position has been one described as a weaker spot for the Packers.  A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones have been serviceable, but aren’t standouts and they are both a big liability in pass coverage.  Hawk is entering his ninth season and while he may stick around a few more seasons, the Packers will eventually have to replace him.  Jones seems to be starting by default and could likely be unseated by a player with any type of playmaking ability.

30

July

Packers Extend Contract of GM Ted Thompson

Packers GM Ted Thompson

Packers fans have to hope to see a similar image in the near future. This was Thompson celebrating the team’s last Super Bowl victory in 2010. (Photo: Corey Wilson/Press Gazette)

The Green Bay Packers announced on Wednesday that they have signed general manager Ted Thompson to a multi-year contract extension.  Terms have not been released.  Earlier this month, team President Mark Murphy said that getting an extension done with Thompson was a high priority.

With more years added to Thompson’s tenure in Green Bay and barring a sudden change in the team’s fortunes, this likely means that we will see the tandem of Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy in Green Bay for the foreseeable future.

Thompson spoke about the extension on Wednesday and said that he was honored to be in his position as the team’s GM and that he considers himself a scout first, over everything else.

Thompson originally joined the Packers organization as a scout in 1992 under general manager Ron Wolf.  Thompson was with the Packers until after the 1999 season when he joined the Seattle Seahawks as vice president of football operations under general manager and former Packers head coach Mike Holmgren.

Thompson returned to Green Bay in 2005 as general manager and after one season, hired McCarthy to replace then head coach Mike Sherman.  This season will be Thompson’s 10th as GM for the Packers.

There were some questions about Thompson’s health during the offseason and questions arose about how much longer he would stay in his post as GM in Green Bay.  This extension indicates that he has no desire to slow down anytime soon and plans to continue to guide the Packers for a while longer.

 

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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29

July

Cory’s Corner: Mike McCarthy’s style is perfect for Packers

In eight seasons as the Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy has an 82-45-1 record and a 6-5 playoff record. He has five double-digit win seasons.

In eight seasons as the Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy has an 82-45-1 record and a 6-5 playoff record. He has five double-digit win seasons.

Mike McCarthy has been called a lot of things by a lot of people.

Some may not like his play-calling, while others may not prefer his player development.

But the Packers coach isn’t afraid to think out-of-the-box. How many NFL coaches are approaching NFL training camp with Jell-O? That’s right, the Bill Cosby snack has been infused into Packers practice.

It is evident that McCarthy is sick and tired of seeing nagging injuries pester his players. And if it takes a Jell-O cup and a granola bar to do it, so be it.

McCarthy is entering his ninth season as coach of the Packers. The reason he has been able to be successful is because he is willing to change. In 2006 he changed his practice routine and gave the players more of a break. Usually accustomed to practicing in the morning and afternoon, he slashed practices by only having one workout following days with two workouts.

Last year, McCarthy proved what kind of a coach he really is. The knock on McCarthy has been similar to Phil Jackson when he coached Michael Jordan — any coach can win with arguably the best player in the league in Aaron Rodgers. But the Packers started four different quarterbacks last year and McCarthy made them look pretty good.

Scott Tolzien started zero games coming into last season and McCarthy made him look decent, including lighting up the Giants for 339 yards. Matt Flynn, a career backup journeyman, turned out to be the savior by somehow getting wins against Atlanta and Dallas to keep the slim playoff hopes alive.

And the person that needs to get the credit for that is McCarthy. His preparation and more importantly his positive attitude continually flowed through this team, even though Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews and others were hurting.

And as he proved a couple years ago that he isn’t afraid of taking a risk with an onside kick, fake field goal and fake punt all in the same season.

His biggest job right now is to develop wide receiving depth. It is unclear if Randall Cobb will be back with the Packers following Jordy Nelson’s extension. Also, it is unclear if Jarrett Boykin is in the team’s best interest as the Packers’ No. 3 receiver.

28

July

Packers Training Camp: “The Collisions Have Started”

Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams

Rodgers and Adams emerge and prepare for the 2014 season. Adams is one of several young receivers vying for a roster spot (Photo credit: Morry Gash/AP)

Monday brought day three of training camp for the Green Bay Packers and they seemed to pack a lot into a two-and-a-half hour period.  One of the first tweets by the media came from Wed Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette that simply stated “the collisions have started”.

Among those who have already made news in the three days of camp practices are Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Julius Peppers, Casey Hayward and Colt Lyerla.  Some have made good impressions while others, not so much.

Head coach Mike McCarthy has made some adjustments to this year’s schedule and some changes for the first time in his nine seasons in Green Bay.  These include the timing of practice, specifically as they prepare for their preseason games.

McCarthy will not hold practice two days prior to the game and will instead hold the usual team walkthrough the day prior.  In previous years, the team held their walkthrough two days before the game with no practice the day prior.  He plans to implement this schedule during the regular season as well in the hopes that it reduces the lull before the game and his players will remain more focused.

Monday’s practice lasted about an hour longer than most OTA and mini camp practices so the team is spending a bit more time on the field and preparing for the upcoming season.

There have not been any new nor significant injuries to report.  This may not seem like a big deal this early into the preseason, but over the past few years, the Packers have seen some early injuries that impacted their roster.  At this same point last year, they had already lost offensive lineman J.C. Tretter to an ankle injury that forced him to miss most of the 2013 regular season.

The Packers are using some advanced technology to monitor their players and try to avoid too much stress on their bodies in the hopes that it will also reduce injuries.

Jay Sorgi of 620WTMJ and the Green Bay Packers Radio Network and Dan Koob of the NBC affiliate, WGBA in Green Bay, offered nice recaps of Monday’s work and below is a recap with some commentary.

Camp recap

28

July

Packers Xs and Os: What We Might See From McCarthy’s Up-Tempo Offense (Part 2)

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).

Last week, we started to discuss some offensive concepts we might see rolled out this year if Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is true to his word about going up-tempo with three-down personnel.

This week, we’ll look at some basic passing route combinations I expect to see the Packers to use in an up-tempo, and possibly no huddle, game plan.

Of course, there is a huge combination of formations and routes an NFL offense can roll out to attack complex defenses. So, for this article, I’m making some very basic assumptions and this carries my standard disclaimer that this is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes only. Also, we’ll only look at some of the most common route combinations found in the west coast offense playbook.

Assumptions

  • The offense is in the 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers).
  • The offense is in a 2×2 alignment.
  • Even if a play is called in the huddle, sight adjustments at the line of scrimmage during the pre-snap read trump the huddle. The quarterback and receivers will adjust their routes to attack the coverage the defense is showing. This may be from a quarterback audible or automatic sight adjustments.
  • The defenses discussed here will only include man-to-man, man-to-man/blitz, cover 2, and cover 3.
  • Most of the route combinations will spread and attack the defense using the high/low principle to stress the cornerbacks.

Attack Keys

The quarterback and receivers must see the same thing in terms of how the defense is covering the field. Of utmost importance is reading the backpedal of the safeties. For simplicity sake, I’m assuming here that the quarterback and receivers have properly read that. Therefore, the keys of the routes will be reading and stressing the cornerbacks.

The route combinations described below are designed to attack the cornerbacks and make them make a decision and force them into a bad angle or coverage.

All-Purpose Route Combinations

It’s important that the offense has route packages that can attack any coverage the defense rolls out. Not only is the defense really good at disguising their coverage pre-snap, but sometimes the offense also wants to run a play before the defense can even align and get into a coverage. So, it’s good strategy to have route concepts that can attack either man-to-man coverage or zone coverage equally as effective.

26

July

Packers Sign Jordy Nelson to Four Year Extension

Jordy Nelson gets four-year contract extension from Packers

Jordy Nelson gets four-year contract extension

The Green Bay Packers today took care of wrapping up the first of their potential 2015 free agents, signing first-priority receiver Jordy Nelson to a contract extension.

According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, Nelson received a four year extension for 39  million dollars, just short of the 10 million per season he was looking for. The deal includes 14.2 million of guaranteed money and an 11.5 million signing bonus. Nelson, woefully underpaid in the eyes of most Packers observers, gets a deal roughly equal to that of Pierre Garcon (based on per year average), and slightly below Victor Cruz.

In a statement released by the Packers, Ted Thompson said, “Jordy’s hard work and dedication has made him a good player, teammate and a core member of this team. We are pleased to come to an agreement that will extend his Packers career.”

Coach McCarthy, finding out after today’s practice, said, “Jordy Nelson is an outstanding football player and great ambassador for the Packers. It’s something everybody is excited about. I’m glad to see Jordy will be here for some time. Just made aware of it. I think Jordy is so consistent. He shows up each and every day, performs at a high level consistently. He’s the ultimate pro.”

Last season, Nelson had 85 receptions for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns, mostly without Aaron Rodgers throwing the passes. That put an end to the “Rodgers makes his receivers look better than they are” narrative some of those who doubted Nelson’s worth were putting forth. 

At 29 years old, Nelson is the same age as Greg Jennings and James Jones were when the Packers chose not to re-sign them.Keeping money in reserve for “core” player signings is something Ted Thompson is very aware of and factors into every decision to let someone go. For those still complaining about Evan Dietrich-Smith not being re-signed, this is where that money went. happy now?

And from the perfect timing department. just this morning, our own Cory Jennerjohn predicted Packers GM Ted Thompson would show Nelson the money.

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He is a PFWA member who can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.