Category Archives: ESPNMilwaukee.com

13

October

Packers at Ravens: Keys to the Game

Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs

Ngata and Suggs remain as standout holdovers from last year’s Super Bowl championship team

The Green Bay Packers will hit the road again and head to Baltimore to face the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens.  The Packers have yet to have back-to-back home or road games this season and they will alternate home and road games until early November.

Winning on the road in the NFL is never easy, regardless of the opponent and the Packers have shown a tendency to win the hard way when away from Lambeau Field.

The Ravens entered this season having lost some of their salty veterans, but were still favorites to compete in the AFC in 2013.  The Packers were also among the NFC favorites and are looking to take another step towards solidifying that notion with a big road win.

While it has been close to eight years since Green Bay visited Baltimore, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was there.  It was his rookie season and he saw some playing time that Monday night.  Unfortunately that was because the Ravens were pounding the Packers and then-quarterback Brett Favre.  Rodgers was sacked three times and had an interception in relief of Favre.  On ESPN’s “Tuesdays with Aaron” show this week, Rodgers recounted that game, showcasing more of his innate memory skills.

While Baltimore has had their share of struggles with a shaky offensive line and a lack of playmakers in the passing game, they are still the defending champions and they have not lost at home yet this season.  If the Packers are going to emerge victorious, they will need a top-flight performance all around and mistake-free football to get it done.

Let’s look at this week’s keys to the game.

Pressure On

On defense, the Packers will be without linebacker Clay Matthews and they will need to find a way to keep pressure on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.  Flacco has been sacked 14 times already this season and the Baltimore offensive line has struggled overall.  Last week, the Ravens traded for Jacksonville Jaguars starting left tackle Eugene Monroe to help solidify the line, and Monroe is expected to make his debut on Sunday against Green Bay.

Last week against the Detroit Lions, the Packers were able to keep pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford with outside linebackers Nick Perry and Mike Neal.  Both are expected to start on Sunday and an equally productive performance will be needed this week.  Green Bay could be very thin on the outside, as rookie Andy Mulumba is nursing a knee injury and has not practiced this week.

11

September

Should We Support Clay Matthews’ Late Hit?

I think everyone agrees Clay Matthews made a bone headed decision by trying to take down Colin Kaepernick on 3rd down; but deep down, especially after the miserable loss to the 49ers in the playoffs last year, we all cheered.  Admit it, you were happy when Colin Kaepernick hit the turf (I’ll admit it).  I’ll even wager some Packers fans kept cheering as Matthews and the rest of the defense got in the ensuing brawl.

This in my mind was a sort of collective validation for Packers fans, who were sick and tired of listening to the allegations of the Packers being a “soft” team and were looking for some example to show everyone otherwise.  On Green and Gold Today, surprisingly multiple callers chimed in that they had no problem with late hit and wouldn’t mind seeing Matthews do the same again.

To me this is a very dangerous slippery slope; it’s one thing to play aggressive and at the edge of the rules, it’s another thing to break them.  You simply have to look east to see what happens when a team takes it’s aggressiveness too far.

The Detroit Lions to become the first ever team in NFL history to go 0-16 after 7 years of catastrophically poor management by general manager Matt Millen.  Obviously with such a dumpster fire there was a clean sweep within the organization and the Lions ownership sought to bring in a new mentality to the team.  Starting with head coach Jim Schwartz, the Lions sought to be “tougher”, a team that wouldn’t be a push over and get back to being a relevant organization.  Sounds like a good plan, but ultimately I think it’s backfired; in the past couple seasons the Lions have been a far better team than their record suggests, which is directly due to their “toughness” literally losing them games.

Since Schwartz’s hiring, the Lions have perennially been one of the most penalized teams in the NFL and are now famous for their lack of control and abundance of head scratching personal fouls.  Ndamukong Suh has been voted as the dirtiest player in the NFL after multiple questionable hits and some very stupid mistakes including the EDS stomp, the Matt Schaub’s stomp and just last week the John Sullivan low block that apparently will cost him $100,000.

25

August

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Preseason

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Graham Harrell cut
Somebody alert the Minnesota Vikings, another Packers player has hit the open market. Reports are out there that Graham Harrell is getting cut, meaning Vince Young has won the Packers’ backup QB job. The Packers are effed if Vince Young needs to play for an extended stretch of games, but probably not as effed as they would’ve been with Harrell. I thought Harrell would come around to at least be a Matt Flynn type of backup, but obviously, I was wrong. His accuracy went from bad to worse, and that ultimately did him in.

Knowledge of offense?
The only thing Harrell had going for him was his knowledge of the offense. I suppose it would be nice for Aaron Rodgers to have a backup that is familiar with the offense and can offer insight when needed, but that knowledge didn’t make up for Harrell’s poor play. Besides, the Packers have a QB coach, offensive coordinator, head coach and who knows how many other people that know this offense just as well, if not better than Rodgers. If Vince Young is playing catchup in the classroom, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

Meat wagon makes the rounds at Lambeau
Five more Packers were struck down with injuries in Friday’s loss to the Seachickens. Casey Hayward, Brad Jones, Morgan Burnett and Jarvis Reed left the game on defense. On offense, DuJuan Harris re-injured his knee. Of the five, Burnett worries me the most. Who’s going to play safety if Burnett is on the shelf?

Sherrod’s family speaks
Since the Packers and Derek Sherrod aren’t providing any updates on why it’s taking so long for the big tackle to return from a broken leg, Bob McGinn contacted Sherrod’s family to try and learn more about what’s going on. Turns out Sherrod has had to deal with many challenges on his road to recovery. I don’t get why the Packers and/or Sherrod have been so secretive about the injury and recovery process. I get that all teams are paranoid about releasing injury news, but what good has that paranoia done the Packers in Sherrod’s case? All it’s done is frustrated the fan base and caused some misguided people to question Sherrod’s work ethic or toughness as he tries to return.

4

August

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Training Camp

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Another week of Packers training camp is in the books. Is it Sept. 8 yet?

Finley pipes down
I’ve never been one of those people who gets all bent out of shape whenever Jermichael Finley says something that stirs the pot — I’ll take honesty and candor over canned cliches any day. But it looks like Finley is at least trying the cliche route…for now. Will a boring Finley in front of the microphones lead to a more exciting Finley on the football field? I don’t think one has anything to do with the other. If Finley becomes a force at tight end, it won’t be because he zipped his lips during training camp. Besides, if he does finally break out, people would probably be more tolerant of whatever does come out of his mouth.

Hawk OK with pay cut
Calling it “more of an ego thing than anything that guys can’t get over,” LB A.J. Hawk spoke about taking a pay cut this offseason in order to stay with the Packers. After the slash in pay, Hawk is due to make $10.6 million over the final three years of his deal. That sounds like more than enough money for a guy who rarely makes impactful plays. It’s good to hear Hawk speak openly about taking a cut and being a team guy, but deep down, even he has to know that there probably wasn’t another team out there that would be willing to pay him over $10 million. It’s still a great deal for Hawk, and the Packers obviously think it’s a fair price for a LB that hasn’t made many flash plays, but is healthy and ready to go every Sunday.

Bakhtiari making a move
We’ve been hearing nothing but good things about David Bakhtiari. There are even rumblings that he might end up winning the starting right tackle job. The rookie from Colorado appears to be plenty athletic to be the kind of pass protector the Packers like. And with Marshall Newhouse being, well, Marshall Newhouse, and Don Barclay horsing around at backup center, perhaps the window is open for the rookie to win the job. But remember: We haven’t made it to the first exhibition game yet. All rookies are getting loved up right now because they’re new, they’re fresh, their ceilings are perceived to be high and we don’t know their shortcomings yet.

31

July

Packers Stock Report: Too Early to Know Much of Anything Edition

It’s been a healthy start to training camp for Packers OLB NIck Perry.

It’s way too early to know much of anything about the 2013 Packers, but I can’t help myself. It’s time for this season’s first Packers stock report.

Here is who I see rising, falling and remaining steady on the Packers after only a few practices:

Rising

Datone Jones
Jones added 20 pounds since his pro day and it appears as if it didn’t come from drinking beer and eating cheese curds. Most reports of Jones have been glowing, and the rookie from UCLA has Packers fans drooling at the possibility of finally having a versatile 3-4 defensive lineman to take the place of Cullen Jenkins.

Micah Hyde
Mike McCarthy singled Hyde out for praise after the first practice and it sounds like the rookie from Iowa has been solid in other practices as well. With a number of cornerbacks out with injuries or illness, Hyde has gotten an opportunity to show what he can do. So far, itsounds like he’s taking advantage.

Nick Perry
There hasn’t necessarily been a ton of ooohhhs and aaahhhs about Perry’s play so far in camp, but it sounds like the defensive end turned outside linebacker is healthy and ready to restart his career after a season-ending wrist injury knocked him out for most of his rookie campaign. If Jones is as advertised and Perry bounces back and provides pressure on the quarterback opposite of Clay Matthews, this defense could get better in a hurry.

Steady

Randall Cobb
It’s typically rookies who end up in the rising category this early in the season. Everyone is impressed with the Packers’ shiny new toys. A strong camp is now expected from a player like Cobb, who is entering his third season and is the leading candidate to become the team’s top receiver after Greg Jennings’ departure. We haven’t heard too much about Cobb thus far — a good thing because it probably means that he looks fine and there’s nothing much to report.

Sam Shields
Didn’t it seem like yesterday when Shields was a converted receiver just learning to play cornerback? Now he’s talked about as the Packers’ most talented corner and playing for a big payday. McCarthy said Shields looks a little rusty after missing OTAs because of a contract dispute, but it sounds like he’s continuing to play more physical and improving.

28

July

Puttin’ on the Pads: Packers Training Camp 2013 Day 3 Roundup

Today was the day Packers fans and players alike have been waiting for – the first full padded practice of the 2013 training camp. Since we both couldn’t be there, I’ve culled through the hundreds of tweets by Packers beat writers (so you don’t have to) to bring you what I consider the most important happenings and observations of the day: Enjoy!

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

 

 

28

July

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Training Camp

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Now that Packers training camp is underway, Surviving Sunday is shifting gears a bit.

Gone is the lengthy opening column where I wax poetic about a topic that may or may not relate to the Packers. Also gone are the non-Packers links to non-sports items and other nonsense.

Starting now, Surviving Sunday will be 100 percent focused on the Packers and all the happenings from the previous week’s training camp practices and exhibition games. With training camp in full gear, the Packers are getting serious about the 2013 NFL season. It’s time for Surviving Sunday to get serious, too.

Aches and pains
Before the first practice even started, there were several Packers standing on the sidelines, injured. Perhaps the Packers need to fire their medical staff and just hire a bunch of people who work at a Fed Ex store and specialize in using bubble wrap to protect delicate items.

Here is the list of the walking wounded: DL/OLB Mike Neal (abdomen), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), RB DuJuan Harris (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg), DL Jerel Worthy (knee), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Davon House (illness) and LB Jamari Lattimore (illness).

Neal and Hayward hurt themselves training on their own and were surprise injuries (although, I’m not sure how surprising it should be any more when Neal turns up injured). It sounds like Hayward and Harris should both be out a week or two, but who knows.

Depending how long Harris is out, it could open up the door for Alex Green or James Starks to A) stay on the team and/or B) impress in camp and move up the depth chart.

If those injuries weren’t enough, rookie WRs Charles Johnson, Kevin Dorsey and Sederrik Cunningham also went down on the first days of practice. Someone needs to make a sacrifice to the football Gods so they show a little mercy on our favorite team. (Update: Sounds like Johnson will be fine.)

Drama and gossip
Aaron Rodgers’ first news conference of camp sounded more like a group of high school kids catching up on the latest gossip than a football media session. Rodgers addressed the Ryan Braun/PED situation — saying “it doesn’t feel great being lied to” — and basically dismissed the recent barbs Greg Jennings sent his way from across the border in Minnesota.