Category Archives: Erik Walden

4

February

Erik Walden: 2012 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Erik Walden

Erik Walden

1) Introduction:  Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden came into the 2012 training camp with slim odds of staying on the roster.  The team had just drafted Nick Perry with their first round pick and Perry would surely get every opportunity to start opposite Clay Matthews.  The team also saw undrafted rookie Dezman Moses emerge durin camp and it looked lik Walden was all but out the door.  When it became apparent that the Packers would need some depth as Perry developed, they decided to hang onto Walden.  When Perry went down early in the season and Moses wasn’t quite ready to be an every-down player, Walden became the starter at LOLB as he had been in 2011.

2) Profile:

Erik Lashawn Walden

  • Age: 27
  • Born: 8/21/1985 in Dublin, GA
  • Height: 6’02″
  • Weight: 250
  • College: Middle Tennessee State
  • Rookie Year: 2008
  • NFL Experience: 5 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Walden’s initial expectations were low as his ability to stay on the roster was in question from day one of the Packers offseason program.  When he was kept after training camp, Walden was there to serve as a veteran backup.  With Frank Zombo on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, the Packers needed the depth at this vital position in its defense.  When Perry went down early in the season, Walden became the starter and was expected to solidify the left side of the pass rush/run defense and improve over his 2011 performance.  Walden moved to the left side when Matthews moved back to the right side.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Walden had very few highlights in 2012 and unfortunately showcased why he was supposed to be no more than a backup and depth at the OLB position.  His best game came in week five against the Indianapolis Colts.  It wasn’t a flashy game for Walden, but he did post three quarterback hurries.  He was effective in his pass coverage as well.  That was just one of three weeks in which Walden scored in the positive according to Pro Football Focus.  In the week nine game against the Arizona Cardinals, Walden had a key interception that kept momentum on the Packers’ side until they eventually ran away with that game.  Walden’s low lights were weeks six and beyond.  If that seems harsh, consider that Pro Football Focus had Walden graded lower than every other outside linebacker in the NFL in 2012.  He was largely ineffective and showed no improvement over 2011.  He was a complete non-factor in the two playoff games and was manhandled badly in the divisional playoff game against the 49ers.

28

January

Talking Packers Linebackers: Present and Future?

Packers linebackersLet’s talk Linebackers, inside and outside. These positions in the 3-4 are what can make it a dominating defense or just another also ran. The roles of the ILB and OLB really quite different then any other scheme. The OLB’s are more like a right side DE in the 4-3 then the OLB in the 4-3. Playing both on the line and off, playing more of the 7 and or 9 spots along the defensive front. Both need to rush the passer and in the 3-4 coverage is a big part of the OLB’s duties.

Linebackers get a lot of discussion when it comes to the Packers. At the start of the season many comments were that the Packers were in good shape with there ILB’s. The comments on Hawk were from the biggest bust ever to a steady but not flashy starter, Bishop was gone and Smith would fill in just fine.

At OLB Perry needed to develop quickly for the OLB’s to be better then in 2011. Walden was liked by some and not liked so much by others. Moses got a lot of pre season hype, anyone else was a big question mark.

I have a some what radical view on the Packers linebackers, I am not a fan of Walden at all, he has some good games against weaker opponents but lacks so much at a starter he needs to be replaced. He cannot hold point against the run, he is a one trick pony in pass rush, if he can’t get around a OT he is done. He has no bull rush ability, and lacks inside moves or twists.

Moses to me is Walden in the different package. The only thing with Moses is we don’t know how much he can be developed, what will NFL level strength training and coaching do for him, so I put him as Walden’s replacement as a back up and situational player. Zombo has packed his bags and should not see them come back to Green Bay and I am a Zombo fan, I thought he just might develop nicely, but injuries put and end to that.

23

January

Packers Stock Report: End of Season, Full Roster Edition

CB Tramon Williams and S Morgan Burnett fight for an interception against the Saints

Packers CB Tramon Williams found himself in the falling category. Safety Morgan Burnett was steady.

The Packers end of season, full roster stock report is upon us. Below are over 2,300 words of insight, analysis, opinions and nonsense about every player currently on the Packers roster.

Read closely and enjoy, because many of these players likely won’t be around in 2013.

I incorporated each player’s performance from this season, and their future outlook while categorizing. Please agree or disagree in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading the weekly stock reports. Onto the last one:

Rising

Aaron Rodgers
It wasn’t as great as his MVP campaign, but it was still damn good. With chaos and injuries swirling all around, Rodgers kept the Packers offense moving forward and limited mistakes. A fine all-around performance and no reason to think it won’t continue in 2013.

Randall Cobb
With Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson hobbled most of the season, Cobb broke out and turned into the Packers most dangerous weapon. I worry a little about his durability, but his production when healthy was great. Oh, and he needs to drop fewer passes.

DuJuan Harris
Is this too much praise for the 5-foot-7, 210-pound rolling ball of butcher knives? Maybe. But if I’m buying Harris stock, I want in right now. I think he’s going to stick with the Packers and get a chance to make some noise.

Casey Hayward
Lost in the disastrous playoff loss and grumbling about the Packers lack of physicality was Hayward’s dynamic rookie season. I don’t care if the read-option sticks or not, stopping the pass will still be a defense’s top priority and Hayward can do it.

Sam Shields
He’s on the rise now. Will he remain on the rise if the Packers pay him? Or will he morph back into the timid and non-aggressive cornerback of 2011? There’s no denying his raw talent, and I’d like to see him develop that talent as a member of the Packers.

Clay Matthews
Microsoft. Apple. TRowe Price. Fidelity. With the contract that Matthews will get from the Packers, he’ll be able to buy all the stock he wants.

Nick Perry
How can a guy who was hurt most of the season land in this category? The same way Matthews landed in the rising category when he was injured. The Packers can’t afford another season with Erik Walden as the primary outside linebacker opposite Matthews. Perry is rising by default.

21

January

A Green Bay Packers Spy Story: WHODUNNIT?

Packers Spy 49ers

Erik Walden and Clay Matthews – Packers Spys?

I spy… a blitz?

The impetus for writing this post was to determine once and for all, how much actual “spying” of Colin Kaepernick did the Green Bay Packers do and who was involved? On twitter after the game, there was a wide disparity of opinions on this topic. Some bemoaned why the Packers didn’t employ a spy, others claimed they were spying most of the game. I knew the truth lied somewhere in-between.

I had spotted two instances myself during the first half, always with a linebacker as the spy. As the second half rolled along, I started looking for the Packers to possibly spy the speedy Kaepernick with a DB, but it never came. I was thinking perhaps a modified version of nickel, where a linebacker (Hawk or Jones) would come out instead of a defensive lineman.

My first thought was to use Woodson in this role, but that would have made things a lot easier for Vernon Davis. So I settled on fan favorite Jarret Bush. As the gunner on punt returns, he is face to face at high speed with a guy trying to run by him with the ball. Bush could have handled the job.

In any case, I just had to find out how hard the Packers tried to contain Kaepernick. So, I went through the coaches’ All-22 film of the game and noted every time Kaepernick either ran the ball or threw a pass.  A complete listing of the plays is found below, along with video of the four plays where the Packers employed a Spy.

But first, lets summarize and discuss what I found:

37    PASSES:  Number of times Kaepernick dropped back to pass.

4       SCRAMBLES:  Number of times Kaepernick scrambled after dropping back to pass.

8       PLANNED RUNS:  Number of times Kaepernick kept the ball on a planned run.

4      SPYS:  Number of times Packers used a spy (all in second quarter)

13     BLITZ:  Number of times Packers rushed five or more players.

 

So, I pretty much found what I expected with regards to spy plays. They tried it four times, all in the second quarter. They used Walden twice and Clay Matthews twice. Video and a brief discussion of each play is a little further down in this post.

16

January

Injuries Took Their Toll on the Packers Linebacker Corps

D.J. Smith Injury 2012

The injury to D.J. Smith was one of many among the Green Bay Packers linebackers.

When the injuries started compounding for the Green Bay Packers this year, fans didn’t seem to flinch. Too fresh in their memories was the story of 2010, when the Packers overcame several key injuries to become Super Bowl champions. “Next man up” became the rally cry for the team, its fans, and the media.

The motto’s resurgence in 2012 showed the confidence of Packers Nation in Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy’s ability to add and develop depth throughout the team. While concerns still brewed in the back of our minds, they were overshadowed by what we’ve come to expect from Green Bay’s second string players.

No more Desmond Bishop? Bring in D.J. Smith. Now Smith goes down? Get Brad Jones in there. Lose Cedric Benson, James Starks, and Brandon Saine? Promote Alex Green and DuJuan Harris, then re-sign Ryan Grant from free agency. Even undrafted rookie Don Barclay surprised us with his ability to take over for Bryan Bulaga and not get Aaron Rodgers killed.

The specific team building philosophy of Thompson and McCarthy have allowed the Green Bay Packers to succeed even when some of their best players end up on injured reserve. Many other teams would struggle to handle such losses, whereas the Packers push through, fill in the holes, and still win their division.

Unfortunately, with all this confidence in the “next man up” mentality, we tend to lose sight of the fact that Green Bay’s offensive, defensive, and special teams units still lose some of their effectiveness from these starters going down.

In 2012, the position group that suffered the most was by far the linebacker corps. If you compare this season’s final roster to last year’s, the differences are striking. Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk didn’t go anywhere, despite Matthews missing a few games; however, the losses of Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith were huge.

Yes, Brad Jones filled in admirably, but he is not the playmaker that Bishop is. (Nor is Smith.) Desmond Bishop is perhaps the biggest playmaker on the defense outside of Clay Matthews. His tough and ruthless attitude brings a punch that helps to balance out the lack of plays made by Hawk. While the “assignment sure” Hawk has been a perennial disappointment to many fans, he and Bishop complement each other extremely well. Without one, the other suffers.

15

January

Packers Stock Report: Season’s Over Edition

Sam Shields was one of the bright spots for the Packers against the 49ers.

The Packers season is over. They got smoked by the 49ers in the NFL playoffs on Saturday night.

I’m sick of writing about it. I’m sick of talking about it. I’m sick of thinking about it.

On to the stock report:

Rising

Sam Shields
The combination of Shields getting healthy and realizing he’s a restricted free agent really got him going. Shields will likely get a first-round tender and I expect the Packers to open their checkbooks and lock him up for the next few years. Let’s hope he stays motivated, keeps improving, and plays like he did down the stretch.

James Jones
With Greg Jennings likely gone and Jermichael Finley possibly following him out the door, Jones can establish himself as an upper-echelon receiver next season. Jones came to play on Saturday night. It was nice to see Jones use his size a bit this season. I always thought he played smaller than he was, but he went up and got a few balls in traffic this season and played angrier.

Marshall Newhouse
How often did we hear about Newhouse down the stretch? Hardly at all. And that’s a good thing. Jared Allen and Aldon Smith didn’t do much against Newhouse in the last three games. I was thinking about the offensive line today. Would T.J. Lang have any trade value? He’s young, decent enough, and has a favorable contract. Perhaps the Packers could move him for an extra pick and the line in 2013 could be Newhouse at LT, Barclay at LG, Dietrich-Smith or a rookie at C, Sitton at RG, Bulaga at RT, Sherrod as the backup T and Dietrich-Smith or a rookie at backup G. Who knows. This is just me daydreaming and pretending I’m Ted Thompson.

Steady

DuJuan Harris
Another solid game for Mr. Car Salesman. I have no idea why McCarthy ignored Harris in the second half against the 49ers. Look for Harris to be in the mix for the starting running back job next season.

Clay Matthews
Matthews probably belongs in the rising category. He closed the season strong and I’m looking forward to getting Nick Perry on the other side once again for next season.

Falling

13

January

Packers Defensive Struggles Go Beyond Capers

Are Dom Capers’ days in Green Bay over?

Before you read further, I want to make one thing clear: This post is not a defense of Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. After the Packers got shredded for almost 600 yards on Saturday night, Capers cannot be defended.

Go ahead and call for Capers’ firing and criticize him all you want. He deserves it.

However, Green Bay’s problems on defense go much deeper than Capers. I don’t think there was any magical scheme that Capers could have come up with that would have stopped the 49ers from winning Saturday. San Francisco was bigger, stronger, faster and tougher than the Packers. It’s too simple to just pin that performance solely on the guy with weird hair who sits in a booth high above the field.

Look at the Packers’ linebackers. Brad Jones, Erik Walden and A.J. Hawk are no match for a team like the 49ers. An elite offensive line combined with an athletic quarterback, bruising running back, and talented tight ends? The 49ers had to be salivating all week while watching film and preparing to face that unfearsome trio.

The Packers are built to take a lead, then play aggressive defense that relies on blitzes and creating turnovers. They’re not the type of team that is able to stand toe-to-toe against physical teams and out-tough them. That’s extremely frustrating, but true.

I suppose Capers deserves some blame for his defense’s lack of toughness, but I’m not sure what he’s supposed to do to prevent Walden from losing contain over and over or Jones looking helpless trying to chase down Colin Kaepernick.

Again, Capers’ gameplan was pathetic on Saturday (no spy on Kaepernick?). There’s no excuse for it. He probably deserves to get canned.

But even if he gameplanned better, I’m not sure if the Packers could have pulled that one off. The 49ers are a better team, a tougher team. Regardless of who is calling the plays, the Packers are not a team that is able to line up and feel confident that they’re better physically than their opponent.

Getting Desmond Bishop, Nick Perry and D.J. Smith back should make the Packers defense tougher next season. Further development from Jerron McMillian should also help.

Go ahead and vent about Capers. He deserves it. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that some magic scheme could have shut the 49ers down on Saturday.