Category Archives: 2012 NFL Draft

20

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #5 — Perry’s improvement

Nick Perry was a project last summer. Is he ready to be a difference-maker across from Clay Matthews?

Nick Perry was a project last summer. Is he ready to be a difference-maker across from Clay Matthews?

When the Green Bay Packers selected Nick Perry with their first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, they envisioned him and Clay Matthews being their version of LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison.

Prior to the draft, the 270-pound Perry made it clear that he’d rather play with his hand in the ground in a 4-3 scheme.

“I prefer 4-3,” Perry said. “I like to keep my hand in the dirt, but as long as I’m rushing and getting to quarterback I’m fine whatever it is.”

Last summer throughout training camp, Perry was brought along slowly by outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene. Athletically, the transition wasn’t much of a problem for Perry, who clocked a 4.55 40-yard dash and posted a 38.5-inch vertical at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The biggest obstacle for Perry was the mental aspect of playing in space after playing on the defensive line for four years at USC.

As a rookie in Green Bay, Perry was the opening-day starter at outside linebacker across from Matthews. Perry appeared in six games before suffering a wrist injury which caused him to miss the remainder of the season.

The highlight of Perry’s rookie year was the crushing blow he delivered to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Perry wasn’t blocked on the play and drew a 15-yard penalty for hitting Luck on the chin; however, that type of aggressiveness is what the Packers envisioned when they spent the No. 28 overall pick on him a year ago.

When Perry went down, Erik Walden stepped in and filled his shoes in the starting lineup. Walden signed a four-year, $16 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts earlier this offseason, leaving the Packers thin at the position.

Behind starters Matthews and Perry, the Packers have an inexperienced group that includes second-year player Dezman Moses and rookies Nate Palmer, Andy Mulumba and Donte Savage. Needless to say, the Packers are counting on an improved Perry for a more effective pass rush in 2013.

Will Nick Perry show considerable improvement this season?

It’s not as if Perry got a ton of on-field experience as a rookie. Sure, he was a Week 1 starter, but the wrist injury ended his rookie year after just 211 regular-season snaps.

18

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #7 — Nelson, Jones, Cobb and?

Jarrett Boykin was a pleasant surprise last summer. Is he ready to be the Packers No. 4 receiver?

Jarrett Boykin was a pleasant surprise last summer. Is he ready to be the Packers’ No. 4 receiver?

A year ago, the Packers had a crowded group of wide receivers. A declining Donald Driver was buried on the depth chart behind veterans Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones, as well as a budding star in Randall Cobb.

But that was then, and this is now. Driver is retired, and Jennings is playing for the Minnesota Vikings and (apparently really excited about) catching passes from Christian Ponder. Last season, Driver barely played and Jennings missed eight games.

But between Jennings and Driver are six career Pro Bowl selections and ten 1,000-yard seasons. So needless to say, the Packers face some unanswered questions at the position headed into the 2013 season.

Nelson, Jones and Cobb will all return.

Of the three, Jones was the only player to play all 16 games last season, but the trio combined for 2,483 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns. That accounts for 57.8 percent of Aaron Rodgers’s passing yards and 74.3 percent of his touchdowns in 2012.

Nelson missed four games with a lingering hamstring injury and Cobb missed the regular-season finale. But if all three players can stay healthy for the entire season, there’s very little to be concerned about in regards to the Packers receiving corps.

Without Jennings in the fold, the Packers may not have a true No. 1 receiver. But between Nelson, Jones and Cobb, the Packers may have three legitimate No. 2 receivers. The jury is still out on Cobb at just 22 years old.

But chances are, at some point this season, either Cobb, Jones or Nelson will get hurt and be forced to miss time. And if that’s the case, someone will be called upon to step in and contribute to the offense.

But who?

Last year’s training-camp standout Jarrett Boykin is one possibility. After signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars following the 2012 NFL Draft, Boykin was cut in May. The Packers picked him up, and the undrafted rookie cracked the 53-man roster despite Jennings, Driver, Jones, Nelson and Cobb all but guaranteed roster spots.

The coaching staff felt strongly enough about Boykin’s 2012 preseason that they kept six wide receivers on the roster.

But this summer, Boykin will face stiff competition against Jeremy Ross (who wasn’t in Green Bay last summer) along with a pair of seventh-round picks–Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey.

17

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #8 — Backup QB Competition?

Graham Harrell has played in Green Bay's system longer than B.J. Coleman. But will Coleman's physical tools win him the backup quarterback job?

Graham Harrell has played in Green Bay’s system longer than B.J. Coleman. But will Coleman’s physical tools win him the backup quarterback job?

Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. And as long as he’s under center in Green Bay, the Packers will be in good shape at football’s most important position.

But behind Rodgers, incumbent Graham Harrell and 2011 seventh-round pick B.J. Coleman leave the team with a training-camp battle between a pair of unknowns.

Harrell has been in the system longer than Coleman, but the duo has combined to attempt just four regular-season passes.

Between garbage time and briefly filling in for a shaken-up Aaron Rodgers, Packers quarterback Graham Harrell played all of 32 snaps in 2012. But everyone remembers one of those 32 plays in particular.

On the first play after Rodgers was poked in the eye by Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins, the Packers faced a first-and-goal on the Saints’ two yard-line. Harrell came in for one play–a handoff to Cedric Benson.

But in the process of handing the ball off, Harrell tripped on Jeff Saturday’s foot and fumbled. The Saints recovered, making an already close game even more nerve-racking for Packers fans.

But despite the generally low perception of Harrell, there’s been some good Graham the past two preseasons.

Last summer in the preseason finale against Kansas City, Harrell posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3. He completed 13 of 15 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over.

In Week 2 of the 2011 preseason, Harrell completed seven of nine passes for 81 yards and a touchdown–good for a 141.2 passer rating.

After losing Matt Flynn as an unrestricted free agent last summer, the Packers backup quarterback position has been a question mark. They still had Harrell but decided to spend a seventh-round pick on B.J. Coleman in hopes of adding some competition at the position.

Coleman was never a serious threat to Harrell for the backup spot a year ago, but this summer will be different.

Question: Will Graham Harrell back up Aaron Rodgers, or will B.J. Coleman?

Physically, Coleman (6-3 231) has the edge, but another year within the Packers system may be exactly what Harrell needed to be a solid NFL backup.

16

July

Packers 1st Year Free Agent Scouting Report: Garth Gerhart, OC Arizona State/Cleveland Browns

Player Information:

  • Garth Gerhart, OC Arizona State
  • 6’1”/305 lbs
  • Hometown – Norco, California

Pro Day:

  • 40 yard: 5.38
  • 20 yard: 3.09
  • 10 yard: 1.90
  • Bench: 25
  • Vertical: 30.5
  • Broad: 96
  • Shuttle: 4.27
  • 3-cone: 7.63

Introduction:  While not an undrafted rookie, Garth Gerhart falls into the same category as a player who not many people know about on the Packers squad who has a good chance of making the team.  Garth, brother of current Vikings running back Toby Gerhart, went undrafted out of Arizona State in 2012 and was signed to the Browns practice squad, where he spend the entire season.   Gerhart was signed onto the Packers practice squad 4 days before their loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs.

Outside Analysis:

Pro Football Weekly: Good arm length and weight-room strength. Has a strong lower body and good base. Flashes a substantial punch. Works to position and get in the way. Smart and aware. Tough and competitive. Good character. Dependable, blue-collar worker. Experienced, three-year starter. Has NFL bloodlines.

Draft Insider: Zone-blocking lineman with marginal athletic skills. Incredibly quick in all aspects, uses effective body positioning and seals defenders from the action. Intelligent and effectively quarterbacks the offensive line. Works to get a pad on defenders and knocks them from their angle of attack.

 

Video:

Analysis:

  • #52, playing center
  • The shotgun snap error was mostly on him
  • It’s very interesting how many times ASU runs the bubble screen, I’m not sure if it’s assignment or coincidence, but Garth doesn’t block anyone on any of occasions shown. Then again, if it’s a bubble screen going to the sideline, what chance does any center have in making a block anyways?
  • Gets good movement up to the second level, but often ends up looking for someone to block.  Again is this coincidence?
  • Does a good job switching assignments and helping out his guards
  • At 3:22, Gerhart actually slides out and blocks the pass rushing defensive end, quite impressive (Ironically, the defensive end turns out to be none other than Nick Perry!)
  • Better technician than athlete, keeps his feet under him and usually stalemates his defender.  He’s not going to throw many pancake blocks or just wall off a defender, but will get the job done.
10

June

Nick Perry preparing for an important sophomore season

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews

Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry faced a tough transition from a college defensive end to outside linebacker in his first NFL season.

Perry showed flashes of promise throughout training camp and through the early stages of the season before a wrist injury landed him on the injured reserve. Appearing in six regular-season games, Perry recorded a pair of sacks and eight quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.

But since allowing the 49ers to rack up 579 yards in the playoffs, the Packers have made some changes to their defense. Perry, last year’s first-round pick, and Datone Jones, this year’s top pick, project as opening-day starters for the Packers in 2013.

Tyler Dunne wrote a piece outlining the importance of Perry and Jones at JSOnline.com, and Jacob Westendorf tabbed Perry’s improvement as the key to the Packers’ defense at PackersTalk.com.

Last season, the Packers ranked fourth in the NFL with 47 sacks. Clay Matthews racked up a team-high 13 sacks, while defensive end Mike Neal was second on the team with 4.5.

But if Perry lives up to his first-round draft position, the Packers finally have their bookend complement to Matthews. And although it’s only June and the team has yet to practice in full pads, head coach Mike McCarthy likes what he sees from Perry.

“He looks so much smoother and athletic than he did as a rookie,” McCarthy said, according to ESPN.com. “A lot of that is the transition he was making. Nick is a powerful man.”

Perry’s physicality will be a welcome addition not only to the pass rush, but to the Packers’ run defense as well. For the second consecutive season, Pro Football Focus graded former Packer Erik Walden as the worst 3-4 outside linebacker in football. Against the run, Walden came in at No. 26 among 34 players at his position.

Just six games into his professional career, it’s far too early to rush to any conclusions about Perry’s NFL future. But athletically, Perry certainly gives the Packers a lot to be excited about.

At last year’s NFL Scouting Combine at 271 pounds, Perry clocked a 4.55 in the forty-yard dash, put up 35 reps on the 225-pound bench press and recorded a vertical jump of 38.5 inches. Perry’s ten-yard split of 1.51 seconds bests 2013 fourth-round running back Johnathan Franklin’s time of 1.54.

5

June

What Is Mike Neal Doing At Outside Linebacker?

Admittedly, the Packers can’t claim to have much depth at outside linebacker at the moment; of course they have one of the best in Clay Matthews III, another 1st round selection they are high on and hope to see marked improvement in Nick Perry and a undrafted free agent looking to make a big jump in year 2 in Dezman Moses.  But that’s pretty much it in terms of actual experience; the Packers did draft Nate Palmer, a projected outside linebacker in the 6th round from Illinois State (much to the chagrin of commenters apparently) but they also did lose Frank Zombo to Kansas City and interestingly Erik Walden to the Colts for a 4-year $16 million contract (this is after the Packers signed Walden last year to a veteran minimum contract worth $700,000).  There has been some speculation that either Brad Jones or Jamari Lattimore, both who joined the Packers as outside linebackers but where converted to inside linebacker last year, could again make the transition back to the outside.

However, one dark horse candidate making headlines in OTAs was Mike Neal.  Just from initial impressions, you have to wonder what the Packers are doing.  2012 1st round pick Nick Perry was a little bit of a “square peg” weighing in a 271 pounds at the draft, but Neal outweighs Perry by a good 25 pounds.  Add to that Neal’s inexperience in playing from a two-point stance, and the multitude of extra responsibilities outside linebackers have (most notably dropping back into coverage) and Mike Neal is probably the last guy you’d think could have a shot at playing outside linebacker. Ironically most 3-4 outside linebackers in the NFL are converted 4-3 defense ends, but this is the only occasion I can think of where a college 4-3 DT has been asked to transition to 3-4 outside linebacker.

Yes the Packers are tinkerers during the offseason; they love to mix and match offensive linemen and you’ll see players line up all over the place, but at least in my opinion, most of these were just small experiments to see how players would react to a new position; after all if getting the most out of a player is the main goal of a coaching staff, it would make sense to see how much positional versatility or even positional potential each player has.  Again, I would argue that if Neal had been a complete disaster the moment he lined up at linebacker (and I don’t think that should be a fault on him), the Packers probably would have pulled the plug on that idea in a hurry.  However, it does seem like the Packers like what they have seen and are willing to expand the experiment further.

21

May

Casey Hayward: What’s in store for his encore?

Packers CB Casey Hayward

Packers CB Casey Hayward

Packers cornerback Casey Hayward was the 62nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but he was among most impactful defensive backs in football last season.

According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks had a collective passer rating of 31.1 when throwing at Hayward. And among cornerbacks who played at least 50 percent of their team’s defensive snaps, Hayward came in at No. 3 in the league, sandwiched between Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield.

The rookie went from being buried on the depth chart early in the season–Hayward played just three snaps in the season opener against the 49ers—to being, perhaps, the most irreplaceable part of the secondary.

When veteran Charles Woodson suffered a broken collarbone in Week 7, Hayward’s presence became increasingly important. From Week 7 to Week 14, Hayward played 88.5 percent of the Packers’ defensive snaps.

Coming into the season, Woodson was expected to play safety in the base and bump up to slot cornerback in the nickel. But when Hayward emerged as the team’s most reliable turnover creator, playing primarily in the slot, Woodson’s role was drastically reduced by the time he returned for the playoffs.

This offseason, the Packers decided to cut ties with Woodson, who was set to count nearly $10 million against the salary cap. Woodson, 36, remained a fan favorite at the time of his release, but the presence of a promising young talent in Hayward made the move easier to swallow.

As a team, the Packers accounted for 18 interceptions in 2012, which was tied for eighth-most in the NFL. Hayward led all rookies and tied for fifth in the league with six picks.

 

1. Week 5 @ Indianapolis (4th Quarter, 13:09)

QB: Andrew Luck / WR: Reggie Wayne / Position: Slot

Hayward’s first career interception came against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5. Matched up against Colts receiver Reggie Wayne in the slot, Hayward matched him stride-for-stride and made the play on the ball.

Wayne dominated the Packers throughout the game, catching 13 passes for 212 yards and a score. But according to PFF, Hayward allowed just one reception on three targets on the afternoon. Luck’s passer rating when throwing at Hayward was an abysmal 6.9.

2. Week 6 @ Houston (4th Quarter, 7:11)