Category Archives: Defensive Players

30

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

At this point in the NFL offseason, what would you say is your biggest concern about the 2014 Packers?

For me, it’s the safety position. When Morgan Burnett is the best safety on the roster, there are issues. Yes, the draft is right around the corner, but you never know if a) the Packers will be in a position to draft a safety who can start right away or b) if whatever safety they draft will be any good.

But forget about your biggest concern for the time being. What do you see as potential concerns that few people are talking about?

Because those are probably the concerns that will come to fruition in 2014. With all the roster turnover and other unknowns from year-to-year in today’s NFL, it’s impossible to predict in March what an NFL team might be scrambling to try and fix in November.

At this time last year, we were all worried about the Packers not being big enough to stand toe-to-toe with physical teams like the 49ers or Seahawks. Then halfway through the season, we were worried about the Packers being too big to compete with teams like the 49ers and Seahawks.

I remember back before the 2010 season being worried about an undrafted rookie named Sam Shields serving as the Packers nickel cornerback. An undrafted rookie playing a key role on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. That’s insane!

Then Shields goes out and has a good season and picks off two passes in the NFC Championship to send the Packers to the Super Bowl.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Burnett is playing well once November comes around, a young safety is holding his own next to Burnett, and the Packers problems at safety are problems no more.

Teams can make grand plans to plug holes in March, and fans can do the same on blogs and social media, but once the season starts, all bets are off. A few key injuries or important players underperforming ruins the most thought-out plans.

My under-the-radar concern for the Packers is offensive tackle.

David Bakhtiari had a good rookie season, but what if he doesn’t take a step forward in 2014? Or what if the injury bug strikes him down in his second year like it did to Casey Hayward in his second season?

28

March

Xs and Os: Do the Packers Have an Elephant in the Room?

Julius Peppers hopes to be a disruptive force for the Green Bay Packers defense.

Julius Peppers hopes to be a disruptive force for the Green Bay Packers defense.

When the Green Bay Packers signed defensive end Julius Peppers in free agency, lots of speculation about his future role with the team erupted.

We heard rumors circulating about a possible deployment of a “hybrid defense” and the “elephant end” position.

The reason for this speculation is Packers’ defensive Dom Capers employs a base 3-4 defense, which utilizes 3 defensive linemen and 4 linebackers.

However, Peppers is a 4-3 defensive end. The 4-3 defense utilizes 4 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers.

Because of this alignment difference, the defensive ends between both schemes have different body types and responsibilities.

Typically, 4-3 defensive ends are usually between 260-285 pounds and are long, fluid athletes. On the other hand, 3-4 defensive ends are between 300-340 pounds and are more of the wrecking ball type.

The reason for these different body types has to do with defensive gap control.

Gap control is how the defense puts its players in proper position, mainly for stopping the running game, but also secondarily when establishing pass rushing lanes.

The 3-4 defense typically uses a double gap system, meaning that each defender in the front 7 is responsible for defending 2 gaps in the offensive formation.

This is very much a read and react system where each player anticipates where the ball will go and move to that location as the play develops. At the snap of the ball, the defensive linemen stand up their blockers, clog the position, and move to the lane where the ball is.

Linebackers also have double control and flow to the ball as the runner hits the lane.

Legend: T = Tackle G = Guard C = Center TE = Tight end DE = Defensive end NT = Nose tackle S = Sam (strong side linebacker) M = Mike (middle linebacker) W = Will (weak side linebacker) J = Jack linebacker

Legend:
T = Tackle, G = Guard, C = Center, TE = Tight end, DE = Defensive end, NT = Nose tackle, S = Sam (strong side linebacker), M = Mike (middle linebacker), W = Will (weak side linebacker), J = Jack linebacker

The 3-4 defense relies on strength to control the gaps, which is why the defensive linemen are large. However, the Jack linebacker, such as Clay Matthews, is free to roam and do damage over a large portion of the field, including rushing the passer.

In contrast, the 4-3 defense is traditionally a single gap defense, which means each front 7 defender controls only 1 lane.

Legend: DT = Defensive tackle

Legend:
DT = Defensive tackle

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.

23

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Mike Tanier is one of my favorite, and one of the most underrated, NFL writers on the web. Earlier this week he had a brilliant idea that I am now going to rip off, expand, and give a Packers’ slant.

Tanier tried to come up with the worst mock draft ever. He did a pretty good job, too. Most of his selections made little sense and would probably cause fanbases to unleash a stream of Twitter rage should their teams actually draft any of the players Tanier suggested.

For the Packers, Tanier selected LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Why? Because the Packers need a backup quarterback and what better place to find one that in the first round of the NFL draft!

Tanier’s worst mock draft ever only lasted one round and covered all 32 NFL teams. I’m going to take a shot at creating the worst mock draft ever for all seven rounds, but only pick for the Packers.

Will I strike gold and recreate the awfulness of the Justin Harrell first-round selection in 2007? Do I have the knowledge and foresight to find someone as terrible as Jerron McMillian in the middle rounds? My goal is to have draft pundits lauding me for finding the next great awful player in the second round like Ted Thompson did with Brian Brohm in 2008.

Here we go:

1st round
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Because when you have Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Jonathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris and glaring holes on defense, you should definitely draft another running back in the first round. Perhaps if the Packers stock their roster with running backs, Aaron Rodgers will become expendable and Thompson can trade him to Seattle for the Seahawks entire defense. Oh, and any time you can draft a running back in the first round who “lacks exceptional skills” and is compared to Marion Barber III by NFL.com, you have to do it.

2nd round
David Yankey, G, Stanford
Who cares if Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang are doing fine at both guard positions? The Packers need more guards! And drafting Yankey might entice the Packers to move Lang to center, because whenever the Packers start unnecessarily shuffling offensive linemen around, it always works out well.

21

March

What To Make Of Julius Peppers’ Contract

The poster boy of why total contract value is overrated.

For all you Packers fans that were hoping for a big name free agent splash, Ted Thompson would like to introduce you to one Julius Peppers, a guy you might have seen around on the Bears and the Panthers before.  Some of you (including a fair proportion of our dear commentors) will never be happy because Peppers has never played in a 3-4 scheme, no one really knows exactly what his role will be outside of rushing the passer, has a long injury history and he’s 34 with a motor that’s starting to get cold (you do know that experienced and old usually go hand in hand right?).  Well if you want to know what the Packers are going to do with Peppers, this isn’t the article for you. What this article will be looking into is not how Peppers will fit on the field, but how Peppers fits in the Packers salary cap.

As I’ve mentioned before in my previous article, the media and fans often fixate on the total value of the contract, which is probably the least important piece of information.  One only has to remember how Donovan McNabb’s 5-year $88 million contract with the Redskins turned out to be more $3.75 million which he actually earned.  Ironically, this is also probably the best example to use for Pepper’s contract with the Packers.

Julius Pepper signs 3-year, $30 million contract with the Packers (courtesy of Over The Cap)

2014: $1 million base salary, $2.5 million prorated signing bonus

2015: $8.5 million base salary, $2.5 million prorated signing bonus, $1 million roster/workout bonus

2016: $7 million base salary, $2.5 million prorated signing bonus, $1 million roster/workout bonus

21

March

Why Haven’t the Packers Signed S Chris Clemons?

Free agent safety Chris Clemons seems like a logical fit for the Packers.

Free agent safety Chris Clemons seems like a logical fit for the Packers.

The Packers need a safety. Chris Clemons is a decent safety still on the NFL free agent market. So why haven’t the Packers signed Clemons?

Clemons isn’t a star, but he’d be an immediate upgrade over what the Packers already have. He hasn’t missed a start in two seasons and has 187 tackles, three interceptions and 12 passes defended over that stretch.

He won’t light up receivers over the middle like Earl Thomas, but Clemons has range and can cover. That’s what the Packers need.

If you’e into advanced metrics, Pro Football Focus ranked Clemons as the 19th best safety in the NFL in 2013 and the ninth best safety in pass coverage, one spot behind big-money free agent Jarius Byrd.

Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings were ranked as the 63rd and 67th best safeties, respectively. In pass coverage, Burnett came in 58th and Jennings 74th.

So what gives? Clemons seems like the type of player Packers general manager Ted Thompson would bring in. He’s still young, he won’t cost too much, and he’s a solid player.

Perhaps Thompson just doesn’t want to pay a safety again after committing so much money to Burnett. Maybe Clemons has injury concerns we don’t know about. There’s always the possibility of Micah Hyde moving to safety. Or maybe Thompson just wants to do what he always does: bring in someone through the draft.

I’ll be interested to see if Clemons to the Packers gains any steam as free agency advances. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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17

March

How Overpaid Is Sam Shields?

Sam Shields is one happy camper.

Sam Shields is one happy camper.

Ted Thompson likely got done with his top priority this offseason when he resigned cornerback Sam Shields to a 4 year deal worth a total of $39 million.  At the time, reactions were rather mixed; many national writers who don’t cover the Packers specifically probably didn’t know too much about Shields and as a result many were taken aback by the size of the contract.  Few writers even predicted that it would set the pace for free agent signings, and contracts were going to be sizably bigger than previous years; so far this has yet to pan out and likely won’t.

For Packers beat writers, the response was a lot more subdued, while Shields did receive a hefty contract, there were times where Shields was obviously the best cornerback on the team and considering Ted Thompson almost never gets suckered in free agency (mostly because you can’t lose when you don’t play), Packers beat writers just assumed that Thompson likely got good value for a player who had other options.

So how much did the Packers really “overpay” for Shields?  Now that free agency is fully underway, I’ve compiled a list of the top free agent cornerback additions and compared the contracts they received with that the contract Shields received. PFF 3 stands for the 3 year average of that player’s grades from ProFootballFocus while PFF+ is the best season that player recorded in the last 3 years.  Before we start, I’ve intentionally left out perhaps the biggest free agent cornerback, Darrelle Revis, who was recently cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and signed by the New England Patriots 4 hours later with a 1 year $12 million deal with a purported $10 million guaranteed.

My primary reason for leaving Revis out is his contract demands and penchant for holding out are well known and therefore his contracts have always been unusual for a cornerback, starting from holding out as a rookie to get a bigger contract than his draft slot, holding out again with multiple years left on his rookie contract, and of course the bizarre contract he signed with the Buccaneers which netted him $16 million yearly but with 0 guaranteed money.  Simply put every once in a while there is a player that defies convention and logic and teams typically disregard these contracts when trying to establish fair value; Mario Williams, Ndamukong Suh and Tony Romo’s contracts are prime examples of contracts gone awry and not actual market value of a player.