Category Archives: Erik Walden

26

March

Patience and Proactivity Pay Off for Packers GM Ted Thompson

Ted Thompson manages the Packers roster by balancing patience and proactivity.

Ted Thompson manages the Packers roster by balancing patience and proactivity.

General manager Ted Thompson runs the Green Bay Packers football operations his way.

The Thompson way is characterized by accumulating draft picks, developing drafted players, re-signing young Packers players on the rise, and largely avoiding bidding wars with players leaving other teams during the opening of free agency.

Depending on the fans prospective, this is usually a love or hate relationship. Fans either love the draft and develop approach or long for big name signings in free agency.

However, Ted Thompson has utilized a combination of patience and proactivity to bring his vision of building a franchise to life.

Thompson isn’t afraid of free agency. Rather, he waits until the initial frenzy is over to avoid overpaying players. Doing this has yielded quality players in the past, including Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, who were both signed in 2006.

Both Pickett and Woodson were integral players in the 2010 Super Bowl run, and when looking back at their contracts, they appeared to be relative bargains when compared to their contributions to the team.

When free agency opened in 2014, Thompson appeared to be quiet. While teams like the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints were throwing money around like they printed it, Thompson waited.

By waiting until the overpaying binge subsided, he was able to sign defensive end Julius Peppers at a very competitive contract (3 years, $30 million) and bolster the interior defensive line with Letroy Guion (1 year, $1 million).

Will Peppers have the same impact as either Woodson or Pickett? We certainly hope so, but only time will tell.

Rather than panicking and overpaying impeding offensive free agents running back James Starks and tight end Andrew Quarless, Thompson was able to bring them back for a modest investment (2 years, $3.17 million and 2 years, $3 million, respectively).

Not only is Thompson patient, he’s also proactive.

He’s great at extending players before they ever hit free agency. Similarly, he has knack for re-signing his own players in that small window between when their contracts expire and when they’re able to test the market.

3

January

Packers Periscope: Wild Card vs. San Francisco 49ers

The Past: Do we really need to remind ourselves of the past?  Sometimes it seems like certainly match-ups become one sided rivalries; in the 1990′s the Packers seemed never able to beat the Dallas Cowboys and recently it’s seemed like the Packers have always gotten better of the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears but the team that seems to give the Aaron Rodgers Packers the most problems is the Jim Harbaugh lead San Francisco 49ers.  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick stole the show in their last playoff meeting, setting a new record for yards on the ground for a quarterback and added 263 yards in the air and two touchdowns.  On the other side of the ball, Aaron Rodgers just couldn’t get anything going against the stout 49ers defense and was stymied into a 1 dimensional passing attack.

The Packers drew the unfortunate luck of having to see their rivals right out of the gate this season with similar results. Again Aaron Rodgers couldn’t get much going against the defense, the running game lead by two rookies just wasn’t ready and the defense fell apart, this time only through the passing game as Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and 3 touchdowns and made aging receiver Anquan Boldin look like the second coming of Jerry Rice.

Since then the Packers have mostly been licking their wounds quietly with bigger issues to fry such as replacing Rodgers for 8 games while his shoulder blade recovered, or having to find a new defensive line and linebacking core as players shuffled in due to injuries.  Getting to the playoffs was essentially a pipe dream until week 17 (the Packers at the lowest had a 6% shot at getting into the playoffs), when they secured their playoff berth with a miracle 4th down touchdown from Rodgers to Randall Cobb, who was also coming back from a horrific bone break of his own.  While neither the Packers nor the Bears were really expected to fare all that well in the playoffs, getting in is an accomplishment on its own, especially considering the wretched season they had to endure just to get to this point.

2

January

All eyes on Packers’ linebackers against Kaepernick, 49ers

Although not on the radar before the season, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba is playing a key role for a beaten-up Packers defense as the playoffs are set to begin.

Although not on the radar before the season, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba is playing a key role for a beaten-up Packers defense as the playoffs are set to begin.

A year ago, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick set a single-game NFL record for a quarterback by rushing for 181 yards against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Kaepernick totaled 444 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, as the Packers were perplexed by the 49ers’ offense throughout the game, allowing 45 points to the 49ers despite a Sam Shields pick-six in the first quarter.

The Packers’ secondary, too, had its fair share of problems, as did the defensive line, but perhaps no position group was overmatched against the 49ers’ offense more than Green Bay’s linebackers. Erik Walden signed a four-year contract worth $16 million with the Indianapolis Colts this offseason, but money can’t buy instincts, and Walden is still looking for Kaepernick almost a year after last season’s dud in the playoffs.

Entering the 2013 season, the Packers were determined to be better prepared for the 49ers offense–and specifically, Kaepernick–as a rematch was scheduled for opening weekend in San Francisco.

And the Packers got mixed results. While Green Bay was able to contain Kaepernick to just 22 yards rushing, the quarterback racked up a career-high 412 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry started for the Packers at outside linebacker that game and helped keep Kaepernick in the pocket, but four months later, Matthews is out with a (re)broken thumb and Perry, due to battles with injuries and subpar play, is now merely a rotational player.

Last January, Walden’s debacle against the read-option left many clamoring for Perry’s return to the lineup after he suffered a season-ending wrist injury as a rookie. Because, at the very least, the 270-pound Perry would be a significant upgrade over Walden setting the edge against the run, right?

As one Lee Corso might say, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Perry played a season-high 57 snaps (of a possible 81) against the 49ers in the season opener, but he played just 12 snaps last Sunday against the Chicago Bears in a must-win game. Mike Neal–still in his first season at outside linebacker–played 47 of 51 snaps against the Bears, and undrafted rookie Andy Mulumba played 43.

3

October

Where Are They Now: Following Former Packers

With the 2013 season now a quarter of the way over, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at all the Packers who played for the 2012 team who are now playing somewhere else.  Have the Packers really missed them?  Have they made a contribution to their new teams?  (note: snaps are only counting offense and defense, not special teams)

Alex Green (New York Jets)

  • 2012 season: 343 snaps, 135 attempts for 464 Yds, 3.4ypc, 0 TDs, 1 Fum
  • 2013 season (projected): 40 snaps, 28 rushing attempts for 60 Yds, 2.1ypc, 0 TDs, 0 Fum
  • Alex Green never really was able to overcome the ACL injury he suffered as a rookie and became one of the few high draft picks to be quickly dumped by the Ted Thompson regime.  Green quickly found a new home with the New York Jets, one of the teams that curiously have been linked to the Packers (numerous trades of picks, Caleb Schlauderaff and of course Brett Favre).  As of yet, Green hasn’t been able to make much of an impact even with an apparent opening at the running back position with the Jets; Chris Ivory has been hobbled with injuries, Mike Goodson just returned from suspension and KR/RB Joe McKnight was sent packing.  At the moment, Green is projected as the 3rd running back and is on pace for about 60 yards rushing with a 2.1 average.   For the Packers James Starks has played pretty well and Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin have both showed promise.  the Packers are fine at running back without Green.

Greg Jennings (Minnesota Vikings)

  • 2012 season: 416 snaps, 36 Rec for 366 Yds, 10.2 YPC, 4 TDs, 0 Fum
  • 2013 season (projected): 664 snaps, 56 Rec, 1,008 Yds, 18.0 ypc, 8 TD, 0 Fum
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.

12

March

Packers News: Erik Walden bolts for the Colts

The Colts gave Walden $16 million

The Colts gave Walden $16 million

Who says there’s no such thing as exciting free agent news in Green Bay?

Former Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden raised some eyebrows today by reaching an agreement with the Indianapolis Colts on a contract worth $16 million over four years. Walden, 27, expects to be a starter opposite Robert Mathis, according to Bob McGinn on Twitter.

In three seasons with the Packers, Walden accounted for nine sacks. Among the 34 outside linebackers that played in a 3-4 scheme last season, Pro Football Focus graded Walden dead-last. In 2011, Walden also graded out dead-last among the 28 3-4 outside linebackers that played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps.

Just last summer, the Packers signed Walden to a one-year contract worth $700,000. Apparently, the Colts felt Walden’s 2012 season justified a pay raise of over $15 million.

Free agency never disappoints. The first wave of free agency brings both the expected moves (Mike Wallace to the Dolphins) as well as some head scratchers (Walden).

Not surprisingly, the financially cautious Packers have yet to dive into the free agent market.

Pro Football Talk reported that Green Bay is the favorite to sign running back Steven Jackson. Take that for what it’s worth, as it could simply be Jackson’s agent trying to drive up his client’s price tag. Personally, I’d be surprised if the Packers are willing to match the 30-year-old running back’s financial demands.

Free agent defensive lineman Chris Canty visited the Packers last week, but he visited and signed with the Baltimore Ravens today, according to his Twitter account.

If you’re sitting on pins and needles waiting for the Packers to make a big free agent splash, it’s probably safe to stand up and find your recliner.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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20

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Outside Linebacker

Clay Matthews and Nick Perry

Matthews and Perry will anchor the Outside Linebacker spots in 2013

Packers Outside Linebackers:  This is a group that had a lot of promise heading into 2o12 but after an injury to rookie Nick Perry and an underwhelming season from 2011 incumbent Erik Walden, there wasn’t nearly as much production as the defense needed nor wanted.  The Green Bay Packers enter the 2013 offseason with some questions at this vital position.

(Note: Listen to the combined linebackers podcast at the end of this article:)

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

Clay Matthews III (1st round)

Nick Perry (1st round)

Erik Walden (UDFA)

Dezman Moses (UDFA)

Frank Zombo (UDFA)

Jamari Lattimore (UDFA)

Matthews was, once again, the steady rock of this group.  He had has second-best season, posting 13 sacks despite missing several games with a hamstring injury.  Not much more can be said of Matthews other than he makes the entire Packers defense better and he has to be a top priority of the team to retain when his contract expires at the end of the 2013 season.

Perry had high expectations after being drafted in the first round.  He showed some flash early in the season but was shelved after just six games due to an injured wrist ligament that required surgery.  It’s hard to say what Perry’s impact would have been but the team will enter the 2013 season program with him slated to start at left outside linebacker.

Walden stepped in as the starter when Perry went down and played very marginally.  He missed the first game due to a suspension for an off-field incident during the 2011 season.  After that, he posted two interceptions and a handful of sacks, but he was largely ineffective in games thata mattered most.  He was virtually non-existent during the playoffs and is now an unrestricted free agent.  He is likely low on the Packers list of priorities to bring back, if even at all.

Moses is another undrafted free agent who made a splash during the 2012 OTA’s and training camp.  He earned a roster spot and platooned with Walden and Zombo when Perry and Matthews were injured.  He wasn’t very flashy and while he surely be in training camp this season, his roster spot is all but locked in.