Category Archives: Michael Dulka

14

July

Packers Playbook: Randall Cobb on the Reverse?

Randall Cobb

Could we see Packers KR/WR Randall Cobb on the reverse in 2012?

I was wandering around my usually Green Bay Packers news and blog sites the other day, when I happened across this article on Bleacher Report from our very own Michael Dulka. It’s a list of “5 Ways to Utilize Randall Cobb’s Skill Set,” and one way in particular really intrigued me. This is what Michael had to say about Cobb being used in the running game:

Cobb is undeniably fast. The Packers can take advantage of his speed by directly handing him the ball. With a weak running game, this is a way to give the defense a different look and force them to adapt to a non-passing look.

In the past, Donald Driver has had success running reverses because his speediness allows him to get to the edge quickly. Cobb perfectly fits the mold of a receiver ideal for running reverses. Any way to get Cobb in space should be effective.

Last season, Cobb had two running opportunities, though none of them actually came on a reverse. His first chance was on a handoff from Rodgers in the shotgun formation. It was during a Week 7 game against the Minnesota Vikings, and it only managed to gain the offense a yard. (Though to be honest, having Cobb motion to the backfield was kind of a giveaway.)

Cobb got another shot at running the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15. It was the Packers’ second play of the third quarter, and Cobb received a direct handoff as the quarterback (Rodgers was on the sidelines). The Packers were in a Wildcat/Joker formation with four wideouts (including TE Tom Crabtree) and TE D.J. Williams lined up as a fullback. They managed 4 yards on the play as Cobb took off running directly after the snap.

Though none of these plays highlighted Cobb on a reverse route, Michael makes a great point about Cobb’s speed. Along with instinctive vision for finding running holes, this could make him a big play threat on the reverse.

But why stop there? As a part-time Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I can’t help but recall a play from Super Bowl XL that could fit Cobb’s skillset. Here’s the video from YouTube:

13

July

NFC North Sending Sending Three Teams to the Playoffs This Season?

The NFC North is set to be one of the NFL’s toughest divisions during the 2012-13 season, despite being home to the lonely Minnesota Vikings. The Packers are the reigning kings, but the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions are certainly formidable foes.

With so much talent in the division, there is a good chance the North could see three playoffs with the Packers, Bears and Lions continuing their season past the first weekend in January.

Green Bay Packers
The Packers aren’t only favorites to win the division, but likely the conference and possibly even the Super Bowl. Dominating their way through the regular season last year, minus a Kansas City hiccup, the Packers were able to bring back the majority to key contributors.

The team lost center Scott Wells via free agency and cut Chad Clifton due to financial reasons, but replaced Wells with veteran Jeff Saturday. Clifton had fallen out of rotation due to his back troubles.

The Packers didn’t lose much in terms of personnel and added reinforcements on the defensive side of the ball via free agency and the draft. Key draft picks Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward as well as free agent signing Anthony Hargrove (after his suspension) and many others will have opportunities to not only make the team but improve the defense.

After finishing 15-1 and sweeping the division last season, the Packers should be even better in 2012.

Detroit Lions
Following their first playoff appearance in more than a decade, the Lions will look to get back into the postseason rather than start a new streak of missing out. The Lions are filled with talent on both sides of the ball.

Wide receiver Titus Young is a player to watch while defensives focus their attention on stopping Calvin Johnson. With good health, Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best could provide more stability for the Lions offense in terms of a running game. With strong cores on both sides of the ball and even more young talent, the Lions are in good shape.

This offseason, the biggest and most frequent news out of Detroit has been the legal issues hanging over the team’s players. Leshoure and Nick Fairley have seen their names pop up in legal mess. In addition to the off-field issues Ndamukong Suh has had his separate issues on field.

5

July

All Signs Point to Improvement for Packers’ Defense

Clay Matthews aims to lead an improved Packers' defense in 2012.

“The first step is admitting you have a problem.”

The Packers have taken that step with regard to their pitiful defensive performance during the 2011 season. Many Packers have expressed their dissatisfaction with how the team played on that side of the ball, the latest of them Tramon Williams.

According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Williams voiced his thoughts on the 2011 campaign.

“But at the end of the day, (did) we have a terrible defense? Yeah, we did, but we were productive out there. We did what we’ve always done. We turned the ball over. We have some things to build off now. We have some more pieces to the puzzle and we’re excited about it, and just ready to get back out there now.”

Williams joins Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, who each criticized the team’s defense down the stretch of last season. All three acknowledged that the defense just wasn’t good enough and gave up too many yards and points. The saving grace throughout much of the year was the defense’s ability to create turnovers, as mentioned by Williams. The amount of turnovers created likely masked the depth of Packers’ defensive issues.

While the players have publicly spoken out regarding the defensives issues, the Packers front office acknowledged those issues in a different way. Ted Thompson used the first six selections in the NFL Draft to add defensive talent. In an unprecedented move, Thompson also traded up multiple times to grab significant talent after doing so just a few times in years prior. In addition to the draft, the Packers also signed multiple defensive linemen in hopes that somebody will step up.

With the Packers’ players individually acknowledging their issues defensively and the overhaul of defensive talent, it would seem that the Packers will be a better defense team in 2012. Getting better on paper is that just that, though.

The Packers have plenty of work to do during training camp and preseason, but the important thing to note is that signs are pointing to a much improved defense.

On the defensive line, the Packers added Daniel Muir and Anthony Hargrove through free agency. Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels were both added through the draft. The influx of defensive linemen should bring about competition not only for the newcomers, but another chance for Mike Neal, Jarius Wynn, C.J. Wilson and Lawrence Guy.

25

June

James Jones, Respect and the Packers Plethora of Receivers

James Jones is looking for more respect.

They say you can never have enough talent. When you’ve acquired all that talent, the question becomes how do you get the most productivity and value out of said talent.

The Green Bay Packers have no shortage of talent on the offensive side of the ball, especially when it comes to pass catchers. The record-breaking group is back intact after the team re-signed Jermichael Finley and restructured Donald Driver’s contract.

While the talent is unquestionable, there are only so many balls to go around during the course of each game, even in the Packers’ high octane offense. This can lead to frustration which appears to be the case for James Jones.

“I still don’t get no respect around here, though,” Jones said. “That’s why, in all my interviews, I’m just going to start saying ‘Respect.’ Get me some shirts made.”

Part of the lack of respect may have been brought on by Jones himself as he spent most of 2010 dealing with drops. Many fans have had a hard time forgiving Jones, despite his drops having been overcome by the team and his turning the corner in 2011.

Playing with the likes of Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb and more, Jones doesn’t have the opportunity to separate himself like he would elsewhere. Jones had a quiet, but very good statistical season last year. His catches in 2011 were down to 38 from the 50 he caught in 2010, but his yard per reception was all the way up to 16.7 yards in 2011, an increase of 3.1 yards from his 13.6 yards per reception in 2010. He also scored  more touchdowns in 2011 (seven) than he did in 2010 (five).

While Jones put together a very solid season, he hasn’t gotten the attention he might elsewhere for similar numbers.

This isn’t to say Jones is unhappy being in Green Bay. It comes with the territory.

“When you’ve got a lot of weapons, you need an unselfish group,” Jones said. “I think we’ve done that and been unselfish because we all know the ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl. At the end of the day, we win a Super Bowl, everybody will be happy. That’s what we’re here for.”

19

June

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers Still Haunted by Playoff Loss: Good or Bad?

Green Bay Packers Coach Mike McCarthy

Mike McCarthy

After flirting with a perfect regular season and entering the playoffs as the NFC’s top seed, not many expected the Packers to drop out of the playoffs in the manner that they did.

Coming into the playoff matchup with the New York Giants, it felt as if the Packers were locked in towards winning the second of back-to-back titles and it was just a matter of playing out the games.

The crashing down caused significant heartache, disappointment, and regret of a missed opportunity. For many, those feelings have not subsided yet. After reading Albert Breer’s article for NFL.com, we can add head coach Mike McCarthy to that list of people.

In speaking with Breer, McCarthy admitted he wasn’t over the playoff loss and that “it’ll always bother [him].” McCarthy continued, “That’s the thing that kicks me around at night: Did I do the right thing the Giants week? Is there something I could’ve done differently with our team? That’s what you learn from.”

While McCarthy admitted the playoff loss still bothers him, Aaron Rodgers said he was able to move past that game. Graham Harrell begs to defer.

“He starts to get worked up,” Harrell told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He starts mumbling under his breath whenever he sees stuff about how close we were. At times, he says, ‘God, we played so bad.’ It just eats at him.”

From the perspective of fans, it’s definitely a good thing that McCarthy and Rodgers are still upset about the loss. This Packers team is made up of guys who have dealt with rejection, being overlooked, or whatever the case maybe.

Just look at “America’s Game: 2010 Green Bay Packers” and the stories of Aaron Rodgers being overlooked, Clay Matthews having to fight as a walk-on at USC, and McCarthy paying his dues by slowly working his way up the coaching ranks. Add in Donald Driver’s experience growing up in poverty and being a seventh round draft pick. All these individuals used the painful experiences and memories as motivation, to fuel their fires and reach the top level.

Coming off the Super Bowl win in 2010, these individuals had to find new motivations. The majority of the year, it wasn’t a problem as the Packers cruised to 15 wins, one more win than they accumulated in 2010 during the regular season and playoffs.

12

June

Alex Green: Fitting Into the Packers’ Offense in 2012

Green Bay Packers Alex Green

Will Alex Green be able to contribute in 2012?

Alex Green didn’t have much of a rookie season, registering 17 yards from scrimmage on three carries and one reception before tearing his ACL. The injury that cost Green the majority of his season and the beginning of this offseason isn’t keeping Green from entering 2012 with full confidence.

While many expected the Packers to add a running back during the draft, the team stayed pat with their current stable before adding a few backs as undrafted free agents.

“Not drafting a running back showed they have some faith in me,” Green said in Pete Dougherty’s article for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “We’ll see how things turn out when training camp comes around.”

The Packers are looking to enter the 2012 season with James Starks, Brandon Saine and Alex Green as their running backs.

There is some question as to whether Green will be ready by the time training camp goes around. If Green can’t get fully back to full strength, he may start the year on the Physical Unable to Perform list, eliminating him from the first six games of the season. If it becomes clear that Green won’t be ready, the Packers should have Ryan Grant on speed dial trying to bring him back into the mix.

Regardless of when Green is fully back from the ACL injury, he should have an opportunity to be a contributor in the Packers offense. Each of these running backs has something different to offer when they step onto the field.

One thing that Green brings to the table is his size. Despite being 2-inches shorter than James Starks, Green is the heaviest of the trio of backs. He is a physical, always moving forward back, but still possess speed necessary to elude tacklers and get into open space. Starks has shown some ability to absorb contact, but his frame just doesn’t compare to Green’s. Starks is more the balanced back of the three, while Brandon Saine did a good job in the passing game last season catching 10 passes for 69 yards in his eight appearances.

Despite the record breaking season that the offense put together, they were largely one dimensional behind the incredible play of Aaron Rodgers. The running game left much to be offered, but was masked by the high point production and efficiency of the offense as a whole.

29

April

Thoughts and Reactions to the Packers 2012 Draft Class

Green Bay Packer Draft Pick Nick Perry USC

USC DE/OLB Nick Perry

Saying that Ted Thompson and the Packers focused on defense in the 2012 NFL Draft wouldn’t be strong enough. Thompson used the Packers’ first six draft picks exclusively on defense before drafting Andrew Datko in the seventh round.

The heavy emphasis on defense wasn’t the only difference in this years’ draft for the Packers. After trading up just three times since taking over draft day responsibilities for the Packers, Thompson traded up not once, not twice, but thrice to get players.

Round 1: Nick Perry, OLB, University of Southern California

Perry fulfills a specific need while providing great value to the Packers at the 28th pick. Perry should be able to make the transition to OLB and fit nicely opposite Clay Matthews. It would appear that Perry will be the starter making the jump over Erik Walden, Brad Jones and Frank Zombo. With some coaching, Perry should be able to make an immediate impact on the Packers defense.

Round 2: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State

With a pick I would have been pleased with in the first round, the Packers traded up and grabbed Worthy. The combo of Perry and Worthy will come into Green Bay with big expectations, similar to Matthews and B.J. Raji. Worthy will immediately improve the Packers defensive line lined up alongside Raji and Ryan Pickett. Worthy not only adds to the pass rush, but allows the Packers flexibility on the line because of his size.

Round 2a: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt

As if one trade up wasn’t enough, Thompson did the previously unthinkable and got back into the second round to grab Casey Hayward. The pick should provide the Packers with better depth at cornerback and flexibility to adjust their defensive backfield accordingly. There were whispers of the possibility of Hayward switching to safety and the possibility of Woodson to safety seems more likely now than ever.

Round 4: Mike Daniels, DT, Iowa

Apparently the Packers are taking their issues up front seriously. Before taking Daniels in the fourth round, the Packers had already added Anthony Hargrove in free agency and drafted Jerel Worthy in the second round. In addition to the newcomers, Lawrence Guy should be back in camp fighting for a chance. Daniels will have every opportunity in camp to crack the rotation and get some playing time. This could be a deathblow to Jarius Wynn and C.J. Wilson.