Category Archives: Mike Neal

12

October

Which Joe Flacco will the Packers see in Baltimore?

Joe Flacco has been pretty average for most of his career, except for the 2012 playoffs.

Joe Flacco has been pretty average for most of his career, except for the 2012 playoffs.

Prior to the 2012 season, Joe Flacco rejected a contract worth about $14 million per year. At the time, that contract seemed generous for a quarterback who had won five playoff games yet had never thrown more than 25 touchdowns in a season through four years.

But Flacco thought otherwise, so played out the final year of his rookie contract.

After a 9-2 start last year, the Ravens lost four of their last five regular-season games and backed into the playoffs at 10-6.

Then, Flacco put together a four-game postseason stretch in which he led the Ravens to a Super Bowl title, throwing for 11 touchdowns without an interception, while posting a passer rating of at least 106.2 in each game.

Following Super Bowl XLVII, Flacco cashed in with a six-year contract worth around $20 million annually. He may be only slightly more (or not) than an average NFL quarterback, but he took a gamble—and it paid off.

This week, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers may be forced to put all his chips on the table to generate a pass rush against Flacco and the Ravens, as Green Bay will be without Clay Matthews for about a month.

Last season, with Matthews and Nick Perry out of the lineup nursing injuries, the Packers were forced to go with Erik Walden and Dezman Moses as their outside linebackers. This year, they’ll start Perry and Mike Neal in Matthews’ absence.

Matthews is unquestionably Green Bay’s most valuable player on the defensive side of the ball, and thanks to a hamstring injury that kept safety Morgan Burnett out of the lineup for the first three games, the Packers have yet to play a full game with their top two defensive players.

But even if the secondary is taking form with Burnett back, Flacco figures to have plenty of time to throw the ball behind a strengthened offensive line and against a Matthews-less Packers defensive front. Baltimore traded for Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe a couple weeks ago, and he’s expected to make his first start this weekend on Flacco’s blindside.

Flacco is what he is. As far as NFL quarterbacks go, Flacco’s a pretty Average Joe.

7

October

Poll: Are the Packers a Good Team Playing Mediocre or Just a Mediocre Team?

Packers WR Jordy Nelson hauls in a pass against the Lions

After the Packers yawner of a win over the Lions on Sunday, I keep asking myself one question: Are the Packers a good team playing mediocre or just a mediocre team?

Let’s take a look at the case for each:

Good team playing mediocre

  • The Packers are 2-2 despite another barrage of early-season injuries, playing a good chunk of two games without Clay Matthews and dealing with the loss of Eddie Lacy and Jermichael Finley early in two other games.
  • As I was writing this, reports surfaced that Matthews has a broken thumb. Well, Nick Perry and Mike Neal showed signs of life on Sunday after Matthews went out. Can they keep improving and fill in at least somewhat admirably if Matthews is out for a while , or, gulp, the rest of the season?
  • Hey, a running game! Eddie Lacy was one yard away on Sunday from giving the Packers their third straight 100-yard rusher.
  • Dropped deep passes from Ryan Taylor and James Jones made the Lions win seem much more ugly than it actually was. If one of those plays goes for a TD, do the Packers blow away the Lions and we all leave that game feeling better about the state of the team?
  • If the Packers set their mind to stopping a certain aspect of the other team’s offense, they’ve done it. Shut down Colin Kapernick’s and Frank Gore’s running, corral RG3, contain A.J. Green, bottle up Reggie Bush. Done, done, done and done.
  • Mason Crosby is actually making field goals.

Mediocre team playing mediocre

  • The Packers are 2-2. A .500 record is the very definition of mediocrity.
  • If so and so didn’t drop this pass or such and such made that play….Teams that are better than mediocre don’t have to worry about those “what if” questions. They just make the damn play.
  • The Packers two wins have come against a gimpy RG3 and a Lions team playing without Calvin Johnson. Big whoop.
  • There’s no rhythm on offense. Unless Rodgers is throwing deep to a WR who makes a circus catch, the offense is predictable and boring.
  • Someone needs to tell Mike McCarthy that with Lacy, he finally has a RB that gives him a chance on third down. Lacy was on the bench twice during third-and-short situations on Sunday.
18

September

Packers Stock Report: Flashback to 2011 Edition

Only this end zone pylon slowed down Packers WR James Jones on Sunday.

Anyone else have flashbacks to 2011 as the Packers cruised to an easy win over the Redskins on Sunday?

The lasers from Aaron Rodgers. Jordy, Randall, James and Jermichael making tacklers look like fools after the catch. The defense forcing a couple of turnovers. Sloppy tackling from the Packers defense. Not quite delivering the knockout punch.

Even though many of the players are different, the sentences in the previous paragraph would have summarized a lot of the Packers’ 15 wins during the 2011 season. The Packers aren’t about to rattle off 14 straight wins and repeat their run from 2011, but the overall stock of this team is rising right now.

Let’s take a closer look at exactly why that is:

Rising

James Jones
You could easily put Nelson and Cobb in the rising category as well, but they were risers last week and investors snatched up all the available shares. Investors who bought low on Jones — shutout in the season opener — are cashing in big time after his 11-catch game against Washington. The only thing that stopped Jones on Sunday was a fumble-inducing end zone pylon (hat tip to whomever I stole that joke from on Twitter).

Aaron Rodgers
I hate putting Rodgers in the rising category because it’s just assumed that the best QB in the world belongs in the rising category every week. After a game like the one Rodgers had on Sunday, though, he deserves to have someone physically take the time to type his name in the rising category. Rodgers obviously decided to take a couple of sacks early in the game just to make things a little more challenging for himself. That didn’t even slow him down.

Ryan Pickett
Now Big Grease is swatting down passes while filling gaps and squashing running backs. Nasty.

Steady

Mike Neal
I was a serious doubter about the Mike Neal at LB experiment, but I’m starting to come around. He can move a little better than I thought and he’s tough to get off the edge against the run. Raise your hand if you predicted that Neal would drop into coverage and get an interception sometime this season? Those of you that raised your hands, go sit in the corner and take a timeout for lying.

19

August

Revisiting My 10 Top Training Camp Topics for the Packers

Eddie Lacy may not get the first carry of the season, but he's the "starter" in my eyes.

Eddie Lacy may not get the first carry of the season, but he’s the “starter” in my eyes.

About three weeks into camp and halfway through the NFL preseason, many of the Packers’ key question marks are starting to take shape.

Some of such unknowns have since seen new faces (Vince Young) enter the conversation, while other questions (Jermichael Finley) are still completely up in the air.

Prior to training camp, we put ten Packers training-camp topics under the microscope for further review. Now two games into the preseason, it’s time to revisit some of these questions and predictions.

1. Who will be the Packers’ opening-day starter at running back?

Answer: Eddie Lacy, and I feel the same. Kinda.

The Packers clearly didn’t want to (literally) hand the job to a rookie running back without some competition; the team routinely gave veterans Alex Green and James Starks run with the No. 1 offense early in the offseason.

But after the “fat” Eddie Lacy thing blew over, the rookie quickly separated himself from the pack at the position. Coach McCarthy has been effusive in his praise of DuJuan Harris, who returned to practice this week, but if “Fat” is healthy, he’s going to get at least a share of the workload.

Fat was exceptional in his preseason debut against the St. Louis Rams, racking up 51 total yards on nine touches. He broke tackle after tackle, picked up the blitz and caught the ball out of the backfield. It was certainly an impressive showing for the rookie.

But if Harris and Lacy are both available on opening day, I really think both players will get a share of the load. Harris played well against the 49ers in the playoffs, but the Packers abandoned the running game in the second half.

So, in this case, the “starter” label may be a bit subjective. It could be a “starter and closer” or “thunder and lightning”-kinda situation.

2. How many defensive linemen will the Packers keep?

Answer: Six. Now, I think they’ll keep seven, including Mike Neal.

I was cautiously optimistic and mildly skeptical about the Neal-at-outside linebacker thing, but it looks like it’s working so far. Injured second-year defensive end Jerel Worthy told me and Cheesehead TV’s Zach Kruse to “look out” for Neal in his new role, and halfway through the preseason, he certainly looks like one of the team’s best pass rushers.

18

August

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Preseason

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers 

Packers beat Rams
The Packers got an exhibition win over the Rams on Saturday night. I didn’t get a chance to watch the game, but here is what I gathered about the Packers’ performance from those Tweeting while watching: First-team offense looks good, Johnny Jolly took a giant step forward, Micah Hyde has promise, Eddie Lacy is big and tough, the Packers don’t have a kicker, pass-rush from players on the first-team defense not named Clay Matthews isn’t there, D.J. Williams keeps dropping passes. For a more in-depth recap of the game, be sure to check out Jersey Al’s post.

Williams ready for week 1?
Out with a knee bruise since July 30, cornerback Tramon Williams said he should be ready for the season-opener against the 49ers. Of course, in the same interview, Williams also said he thought he’d be back by now. Never trust a player’s timetable for returning from an injury. Players always claim that the injury “isn’t that bad” or “should only take a couple of days.” They’re rarely right. I’m no doctor myself, but given how cautious the Packers are with injuries, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Williams misses at least the 49ers game.

Woodson praises Rodgers
Former Packers defensive back Charles Woodson doesn’t understand why Greg Jennings and Donald Driver were questioning Aaron Rodgers’ leadership lately. As soon as Jennings started spouting off, I remembered an interview Rob Demovsky — former Packers beat writer with the Green Bay Press Gazette and now at ESPN — did on Packer Transplants where he called the Packers wide receiving corp “the biggest group of frontrunners he’s ever been around.”  It’s scary how I remembered that quote, but it’s looking more and more like Mr. Demovsky was spot on.

Grading Packers’ rookies
Here’s a nice report card of the Packers rookies’ through three weeks of training camp. If I was the teacher, I’d probably put tackle David Bakhtiari and Datone Jones at the top of the class. I don’t think any parents need to be called in for a special conference yet.

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.

24

July

Pigskin Paul’s Packers Preview: 12 Young Players Who Need to Step Up

Packers Nick Perry - Time to Step Up.

Nick Perry – Time to Step Up…

We have done it my friends. We have survived the dreaded football off-season. This coming week NFL teams will begin pouring into Training Camps with about 90 players per team ready to compete for jobs on 2013 regular season rosters. The Green and Gold will be amongst them obviously with high expectations and goals, but lots of questions to be answered as well. Not to be considered all inclusive by any means, here are some topics that come to mind for yours truly.

Nice to see that MARK MURPHY continues to wield the financial magic wand that continues to reap revenue and profit to keep the franchise competitive with the power brokers like JERRY JONES down in Texas. With the South end zone expansion project well on its way to completion local revenue should get a nice boost for future seasons. My only question in that regard is one for the entire NFL: At what point does your thirst for money hit “the wall” because of fan saturation/exposure and expense of access to your game?

Still can’t help but wonder whether Free Agency and Salary Cap haven’t left the team dangerously thin of proven NFL talent at the LB and S positions? Of course some younger players will get better and contribute more, but is the organization counting on more of that phenomenon than is reasonable? We shall see.

So then who might be the younger players to step it up and emerge as legit NFL starters, perhaps even stars? The other key question is often, who can return to the field and bounce back (and up) from injuries? With a young, home grown roster like that of Green Bay that list might include half of the roster, but let me pinpoint a dozen guys who might make a performance leap this season for various and sundry reasons.

NICK PERRY/OLB    Last year’s No. 1 Pick missed most of the season after a September wrist injury eventually landed him on injured reserve (with a knee injury to boot).  Assuming he’s healthy it would be nice to think that he spent a lot of  his down-time in 2012 talking with coaches and watching film that helped him better understand the position switch from DE to OLB he is making. Hopefully, that study will help him do more playing than thinking in 2013.