4

July

Where To Overload The Green Bay Packers Roster

Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis

With a strong preseason, Abbrederis and Janis could force the Packer to carry six wide receivers

I want to start off by wishing everyone a happy 4th of July!  I was supposed to be born on the bicentennial and decided to arrive early so I’m forever reminded of my need for patience on this glorious day in American history!

Heading into training camp in just under a month, the Green Bay Packers and their coaching staff are likely already discussing possible scenarios that the team can emerge with when they head into the 2014 regular season.  However, it’s way too early to make any hard and fast decisions on who will and won’t be on the final 53-man roster, save for the obvious guys.

One part of that discussion that has already started some buzz is which positions the Packers may consider carrying an extra player.  There is no real requirement for how many players a team has to carry at a certain position, but there are some historical averages that most teams operate under.  Below are the usual number of players seen on a roster that employs a base 3-4 defense.  Again, these are averages and many teams have used different combinations in the past, based on need and talent level.

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Quarterback (2)

Running Back/Fullback (4)

Wide Receiver (5)

Tight End (4)

Offensive Line (9)

Defensive Line (8)

Linebacker (8)

Cornerback (6)

Safety (4)

Kicker (1)

Punter (1)

Long snapper (1)

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Keep in mind that while teams carry 53 men on their roster, only 45 are dressed on game day.  Teams need to be sure that they’re giving themselves enough depth at each position based on who is most likely to suit up on a regular basis.

One example of why is last season when the Packers were faced with the harsh reality that they didn’t have what they needed at the quarterback position behind Aaron Rodgers.  Heading into the regular season, they carried only one backup, Seneca Wallace, and had Scott Tolzien on the practice squad.  By the time Rodgers returned in week 17, Wallace was on injured reserve, Tolzien was promoted to the active roster and Matt Flynn was signed mid-season.  The Packers ended the season with three quarterbacks on the active roster and I fully expect the same this season.

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27

June

Packers See Dramatic Turn at Tight End

Richard Rodgers

High expectations have been set for Rodgers in 2014. Is he the Packers next starting tight end?

At this time last season, the Green Bay Packers were preparing for training camp and the position battles that would ensue.  Tight end was not among them, as they had veteran Jermichael Finley in the fold and the annual talk about his having a “breakout” season was in full swing.

In 2012, Finley had just over 60 catches for two touchdowns.  Hardly the kind of numbers you would expect from a guy who was regularly hyped as a focal point in the Packers offense.

Through six games last season, Finley had 25 catches and three touchdowns.  He missed most of week three against the Cincinnati Bengals due to a concussion so those stats actually came in just five games.

Finley’s form seemed to look closer to the version we saw in 2009 versus that over the past three seasons.  He seemed primed to finally achieve the infamous “p” word that has followed him throughout his career:  potential.

That’s when catastrophe struck.  Mid-way through their week seven game against the Cleveland Browns, Finley took a shot from Browns safety Tashaun Gipson that left him motionless on the Lambeu Field turf.  Finley was taken off the field and immediately to a local medical center for evaluation of his spine.  His season was over and the Packers were facing a big loss at the tight end position.

Fast forward to today and we know that Finley has been medically cleared by the surgeon who performed the surgery to fuse his spine.  Still, Finley’s future remains a question mark, as no NFL team has cleared him to resume his career and he remains a free agent.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy did speak about Finley during recent organized team activities (OTA’s) and, in essence, said that Finley is a free agent but that he sees him as a Packer and wishes him the best.  The known entity that was Finley surely still intrigues the Packers, but I’m one of those in the camp that doubt his return to the team.  Not this season or any, for that matter.

Under the assumption that Finley won’t be back, that leaves the Packers in the midst of their search for their next starting tight end.  With Finley, the Packers had a piece to their offense that they could feature and build quite a bit of the scheme around.  Behind Finley, that’s not so much the case.

28

May

How Much is Jermichael Finley Worth?

“In my mind he is a Green Bay Packer — hopefully, he is going through a tough medical situation. I think we all recognize that it was a serious injury. My understanding is he is doing everything and beyond to get himself ready. We’ll continue to watch that.” – Mike McCarthy, SiriusXM Radio

Well that’s interesting.  As most of you are quite aware, the Packers are a fairly conservative and tight lipped organization so Mike McCarthy actively wooing Jermichael Finley back might actually have some deeper meaning to it.  Add to that the Packers have reportedly left Finley’s locker room open during the offseason (which is a big deal since the roster limit is at 90 and some players are already have their lockers in a adjacent room) and it is starting to look like the Packers are doing the full court press to keep Finley in the Green and Gold.  But how much money would it take to keep Finley a Packer and how much would the Packers be willing to fork over?  On one hand Finley has the potential to be one of the best tight ends in the league but on the other he’s been wildly inconsistent and now has to worry about a neck injury that left him paralyzed on the field and a cervical fusion surgery that has a iffy prognosis for playing football again?  In the NFL, contracts are weighed by how they stack to other contracts at the position so its good to see what the tight end salary landscape. (contract values courtesy of Over the Cap).

Top 5 tight end average yearly salary – $7.604 million: Keep in mind this number is likely to skyrocket very soon because Jimmy Graham is currently the 5th highest paid tight end, but he’s on the tight end franchise tag at the moment and if arbitration rules in his favor this could rise to as much as $12.312 million; which is probably a moot point either way because the Saints are going to make him the highest paid tight end in the NFL at some point, eclipsing Rob Gronkowski’s $9 million dollar average.  There’s essentially no way that Finley is going to get anywhere near this range, while he has the physical tools to match the production of Gronkowski or Graham, he’s never actually done it and his neck injury was serious enough that no team was willing to take their chances on him during the offseason so far.   Players in this range are Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis and Jason Witten; obviously Gronk, Graham and Davis are better tight ends and Witten and Gates have been consistent enough producers to warrant their high price tag.

19

May

Packers Sign TE Colt Lyerla

Colt Lyerla

The Packers signed troubled tight end Colt Lyerla following last week’s rookie mini camp.

The Green Bay Packers continue to raise eyebrows as they signed troubled and undrafted tight end Colt Lyerla to a contract, following last week’s rookie mini camp.  The news broke on Monday and Packer Report’s Bill Huber was one of the first to announce the signing.

Lyerla was on almost all of our FUBAR lists just prior to the draft and not many expected him to be in Green Bay under any circumstances.  He’s not typically the type of player the Packers bring in but his stature and potential were apparently enough for Packers general manger Ted Thompson to take a flier on the 6’4″ prospect out of Oregon.

Lyerla has had his issues with attitude problems as well as an arrest for cocaine possession within the last year.  Lyerla left the Oregon football team after he and the team reportedly mutually agreed that he should last season.  According to Lyerla’s twitter account, he seems to understand the opportunity that has been presented to him and hopefully can get his football career back on track.

Lyerla will go into the Packers’ offseason ready to compete with incumbents Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, Jake Stonburner and rookie draftee Richard Rodgers.  Colt is the type of low risk-high reward scenario that Thompson likes.  Should the team need to part ways with him, nothing is lost.  If Lyerla surprises and can somehow crack the practice squad or team roster, this could prove to be another big gem find for Thompson.

 

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

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23

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: TE C.J. Fiedorowicz

C.J. Fiedorowicz

TE C.J. Fiedorowicz

Packers prospect profile:  TE  C.J. Fiedorowicz

Player Information:

C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE  Iowa,  6-7, 265 pounds  Hometown: Johnsburg, IL

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.76

Vertical jump: 31.5″

225 lb. bench: 25 reps

Broad jump: 9’8″

News and Notes:

Named Most Outstanding tight end at 2014 Senior Bowl. . .2013 First-team All-Big 10 by coaches. . .had a reception in 31 straight games. . .career-high six touchdown catches in 2013. . .Coaches Appreciation Award, Offense recipient

What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com:  Good versatility, showing the ability to come off a down block to get past defenders as a receiver. Good body control and soft hands for such a large man.  Fast in a straight-line and is a physical and attentive blocker.
  • NFL.com:  Has outstanding size and big hands. Has size to widen the hole or seal defensive ends. Good balance and body control for his size. Surprising lower-body flexibility to sink his hips to run sharp-angle routes. Has stature and enough speed to threaten the seam. Understands how to use his frame and physicality to create subtle separation. Makes athletic hands catches off his frame. Sizable catch radius. Shows toughness and concentration in traffic. Lowers his shoulder to deliver a blow after the catch. Can line up in-line or split out. Smart and durable. Builds to average speed. Fairly straight-linish athlete. Not elusive after the catch. Can improve as a move blocker and develop more of a mean streak to finish blocks. Average production. Could stand to adopt a more blue-collar work ethic when people aren’t watching — is not a self-starter and has been able to cruise on his rare size and natural ability.

Video:

Video Analysis:

  • As I always disclaim, this is a “highlight” reel.
  • Shows quite a bit of Fiedorowicz’s blocking abilities, which are good.  Spent more time in three-point stance than a few other TE’s I have profiled
  • Not quick getting into his routes and does not change direction well
  • Speed is not an asset, won’t pick up much yardage after the catch
  • Can make some tough grabs in traffic and uses his size well
  • Seems to be the type of receiver who needs to be in the right offensive system to thrive.  Won’t likely do it on ability alone

If drafted by the Packers:

22

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: TE Eric Ebron

Eric Ebron

TE Eric Ebron

Packers prospect profile:  TE Eric Ebron

Player Information:

Eric Ebron, TE  North Carolina,  6-4, 250 pounds  Hometown: Greensboro, NC

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.60

Vertical jump: 32″

225 lb. bench: 24 reps

Broad jump: 10′

News and Notes:

Second-team All-American in 2013. . . semi-finalist for Mackey award (most outstanding tight end in college football). . . had 973 receiving yards in 2013, breaking Vernon Davis’ ACC record. . . started at least one game in all four years at North Carolina. . . was second-leading receiver on the team during his sophomore season

What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com:  Smooth, gliding athlete with easy acceleration to speed past defenders in coverage and finish. Agile feet and dangerous after the catch to create with quick cuts to make defenders miss. Quick release off the LOS with route fluidity and natural flexibility. Smooth adjustments to pluck the ball with his hands away from his body – large catching radius. Physical when he wants as a blocker with strong initial power at the point of attack. Very good toughness and plays unintimidated and confident. Good football awareness and plays alert. Versatile experience lining up in-line, but mostly in the slot – also plays on special teams coverage. Still far from his ceiling. Still developing his body with room to add bulk and get stronger. Still learning how to use his size to his advantage. Needs to show more authority in his routes and is too easily redirected – needs to be more physical in this area to match up in tight spaces. Needs to be more aggressive and strong at the catch point, especially in contested situations. Has his share of focus drops and needs to be more consistent finishing catches. Good length, but won’t overwhelm defenders in the run game. Blocking technique needs developing – somewhat untested as an in-line blocker. Room to refine and sharpen his routes. Right shoulder injury in 2013.
17

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: TE Jace Amaro

Jace Amaro

TE Jace Amaro

Packers prospect profile:  TE Jace Amaro

Player Information:

Jace Amaro,  TE  Texas Tech, 6-5, 265 pounds  Hometown: San Antonio, TX

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.74

Vertical jump: 33″

225 lb. bench: 28 reps

Broad jump: 9’10″

News and Notes:

AP first team All American . . .had 1,352 receiving yards in 2013 and averaged 104 yards per game. . .His 106 catches were most by a college tight end in 2013 and second most all time in NCAA history. . .was arrested in 2012 on suspicion of unauthorized use of a debit card.

 What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com: Lining up mostly in the slot, Amaro is a big, fluid athlete who uses his thick body to gain proper positioning in coverage and uses his large, soft mitts to attack the ball in the air. He is a balanced route-runner and collects himself when changing direction with smooth moves to create separation. Amaro is dangerous after the catch and isn’t an easy ballcarrier to bring down, running with power and toughness.  Some maturity and attitude questions that will need to be addressed. Receiving tight end who won’t be a fit for all schemes unless he can get in an NFL training program and bulk up
  • NationalFootballPost.com:  Very athletic for a big guy and has excellent speed and body control. He is quick off the line and is a very good route runner. He can break down and get in and out of cuts very quickly for a big guy. On the shorter one-cut routes, he consistently gains separation. He has the play speed to get open on post and flag routes versus defensive backs. He has very good hands and can adjust to the ball. He is a competitive and tough kid who consistently competes for the ball in traffic. After the catch, he has a quick burst to pull away and has the quick feet and moves to make a defender miss. He uses his size well and can easily break tackles. He is an instant mismatch because of his size and athleticism. As a blocker, he looks like a big wide receiver blocking. He can use his hands and can stay with a block but he is not overly physical.  Amaro is the type of “tight end” that most NFL teams are now looking for. He has the speed and athleticism to play split out and can really be called a jumbo wide receiver.