Category Archives: Brandon Jackson

3

June

Sam Shields: A Lesson in Decision Making

Restricted free agent Sam Shields

Will we see Shields making more plays like this one in 2013 and beyond?

UPDATE:  As of early Monday afternoon, Sam Shields has signed his restricted free agent tender, valued at $2.02 million.  He and the Packers are reportedly still working on a long-term deal.

Restricted free agent cornerback Sam Shields and the Green Bay Packers have not yet been able to agree on a new contract and as a result, Shields has not participated in any of the team’s organized team activities this offseason.

Surely the missed practice time will open the door for another player to possibly unseat Shields and his starting outside cornerback slot, right?  OK, probably not.

This season will be Shields’ fourth in the NFL and he is hardly a rookie.  Furthermore, he is familiar with the team’s defensive scheme and the defensive coaching staff remains largely intact from last season.  It would be premature to say that Shields is falling behind the others because of that missed time.  If the season started today and Shields were under contract with the Packers, my bet is that he would be at one of the two starting outside cornerback spots.  If not a starter, he would see significant playing time.

Clearly, the Packers have a decision to make regarding Shields, but they aren’t the only ones facing consequences of their actions, or inactions.  Both parties have already made some moves and decisions that will impact how this scenario will play out.  Let’s examine a bit further.

During the 2010 playoff run, Shields made a crucial interception late in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game that sealed the win for the Packers and sent them to Super Bowl XLV.  In 2011, Shields continued to make plays and develop within the team’s defensive scheme.  One of the last highlights that we saw from the 2012 season was Shields’ interception of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the first drive of the Divsional playoff game.  Shields returned it for an easy touchdown and, just like that, the Packers had an early lead.  It is plays like that that have defined Shields’ value to the team.  Most of the attention that Shields has garnered has been because of what he has done on the field.

11

September

Despite Slow Start, James Jones Still a Weapon for Packers

Don't give up on James Jones just yet.

Packers WR James Jones didn’t see much action Thursday Night against the Saints.  Does this mean the Packers don’t need him or won’t use him?

It reminds me of a guy I know who has a basement full of weapons. Guns, ammo, knives, night-vision goggles, explosives, flares, etc., etc. If you hear of  something blowing up and creating a giant hole, it’s likely in his basement.

I always chuckle when I’m at his house. If you go downstairs to get a beer, chances are good that you’ll have to step over an AK-47 or a giant tub full of bullets the size of your arm to gain access to the fridge. People’s reactions to these weapons differ. Some are fascinated, some are frightened, some wonder why he has so many and some don’t know what to think.

It’s the same with the Packers WRs. There are so many weapons, that people get overwhelmed, probably even the WRs themselves.

James Jones is probably the one overwhelmed right now. He was only targeted once on Thursday night while everyone else seemed to get all kinds of opportunities, even if they weren’t open.

People are wondering why the Packers bothered to resign Jones in the offseason. They just drafted Randall Cobb. Jordy Nelson appears ready for a breakout season and Jermichael Finley was returning. Why did the Packers need to spend over $9 million on Jones, a player that causes just as much frustration as he does excitement?

I’ve always liked Jones and probably give him more love than he deserves, but I’m glad the Packers resigned him and I wouldn’t write him off just yet.

While the rest of the roster has dropped like flies, Packers WRs have been abnormally healthy. Jennings hasn’t missed a game since 2007. Nelson missed three games in 2009, but has otherwise stayed on the field; and Driver has only missed three games since becoming a full-time starter in 2002.

If the Packers luck on keeping their WRs healthy runs out, someone is going to have to fill in. Like Frank Zombo, Charlie Peprah and Jackson/Kuhn/Starks were at various positions last season, Jones is an ideal depth guy at WR and could adequately replace one of the other guys (speaking of health, Jones has only missed six games in his career).

7

September

Packers vs. Saints: 5 Things to Watch in Green Bay’s Week 1 Matchup

By the time the dust had settled on the second half of a Monday night onslaught, the scoreboard at the Louisiana Superdome read as follows: Saints 51, visitors 28.

Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints had turned a 21-21 tie into an old fashioned blowout, scoring four touchdowns in the final 30 minutes of play against a Packers defense that had held up so well just a year before. Brees was deadly efficient that entire night in Novemeber 2008, completing 20-of-26 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns—two of which went for 70 yards.

The 51 points was the beginning of the end for both Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders, who was fired after the season, and the Packers playoff chances. After coming into the game 5-5, the Packers left New Orleans beaten and battered at 5-6, limping to a 6-10 finish in Aaron Rodgers’ first season under center.

While the mastermind behind that disastrous performance is gone, the memory of that debacle in New Orleans still remains fresh in the minds of most of the Packers defenders who suffered through that Monday night embarrassment.

Thursday night’s Packers vs. Saints opener doesn’t serve as a rematch, per se, but the Packers are determined to prove that their new defensive scheme under Dom Capers is more than capable of stopping a Saints’ offense that’s still led by Brees and still as explosive as it was in 2008, just a year before they were to become world champions.

Here are some other things to watch in the Saints-Packers matchup:

Dealing with the hoopla

With hosting the NFL’s season opening Thursday night game comes all the bells and whistles of a defending Super Bowl champion. It’s the only game on for the national audience, who by now is starving for regular season NFL action. There is the pregame concert, with Kid Rock and a number of other entertainers scheduled to perform in front of stadium. The Packers will unveil another championship year on Lambeau Field’s facade. Jordin Sparks will sing the National Anthem. There is a ton of fanfare and media reporting before and after the contest.

All this could lead to an overwhelmed team that’s just seven months removed from reaching the peak of the NFL. And of course, the Saints have been there and done that after winning the Super Bowl the year before the Packers. They played the Vikings last September in the Thursday night opener and beat Minnesota. That experience should give the Saints a definite advantage in terms of dealing with the spectacle of the game, right?

31

July

Green Bay Packers Free Agent Tracker

Green Bay Packers 2011 free agency tracker:

 

FB John Kuhn: RE-SIGNED WITH PACKERS

The Packers re-signed fullback John Kuhn on a three-year contract worth $7.5 million. The deal puts Kuhn amongst the highest paid NFL fullbacks.

While you may raise your eyebrows a bit at that, I think it actually makes sense. Kuhn contributed in multiple ways beyond blocking last season, including shouldering some of the running back responsibilities, catching passes, short yardage back and special teams contributor. Kuhn is also a popular player among fans and in the locker room.

Kuhn wanted back in Green Bay all along, but he played it smart and let the market set the price for him. With Houston making a strong push for Kuhn to replace the departed Vonta Leach, the Packers most likely paid Kuhn more than they would have liked. That’s not to say he’s not worth it. Kuhn is a valuable asset for the Packers to have in their hip pocket, but this does affect one of the tight ends being looked at as a possible H back.

He won’t be running the ball as much as last season, but I’d expect Kuhn to help cover for the loss of Brandon Jackson on third downs.

WR James Jones: RE-SIGNED WITH PACKERS

The Packers agreed to terms with Jones on a three-year deal worth $9.6 million.

It sounds as if Aaron Rodgers and Donald Driver went to bat for Jones, and when teams in receiver market went elsewhere, Jones decided to come back with the Packers.

We heard Rodgers say that Jones should be the Packers No. 1 priority, but I still have doubts that he swayed Thompson in any way. The more likely reason for Jones’ return to Green Bay was the fact that receiver-needy teams such as Minnesota and New York signed other players, with the Vikings acquiring Michael Jenkins and the Jets Plaxico Burress.

Now, the Packers return all their pass-catchers from 2010. With this many toys at their disposal, expectations will be sky-high for this offense.

DE Cullen Jenkins: SIGNED WITH EAGLES 

The Philadelphia Eagles have signed Cullen Jenkins to a five-year, $25 million deal.

29

July

Green Bay Packers 2011 Training Camp: Previewing the Offense

Let’s take a quick look at how the Green Bay Packers offense stacks up heading into training camp by breaking down each position individually. Packers training camp starts Saturday, July 30th in De Pere, Wisconsin.

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell

The Packers head into the 2011 season with likely the best 1-2 combination at quarterback in the NFL. Starter Aaron Rodgers put up fantastic numbers for the third consecutive year, throwing for 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while narrowly missing out on becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards in his first three seasons under center.

He didn’t let up once the playoffs started, as he threw for three scores in a win over Philadelphia then thrashed the Falcons in the NFC Divisional round with one of the more impressive playoff performances in Packers playoff history. He completed 86.1 percent of his passes that night (31-for-36) for 366 yards and three touchdowns. In the Super Bowl, Rodgers took home MVP honors for his 304-yard, 3-touchdown masterpiece against the NFL’s No. 1 rated defense. He’s a bonafide regular season MVP candidate heading into the season.

Concussions were Rodgers’ kryptonite, however, as he suffered two (at Washington, at Detroit) during the regular season. The latter kept him out of a huge matchup with the New England Patriots, but that allowed backup Matt Flynn to showcase his ever-improving skill set in primetime. Flynn put up Rodgers-like numbers, throwing for 251 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-27 loss that turned out to be a jumping-off point for the Packers playoff run.

There was talk that Flynn, who will be a free agent after the ’11 season, might be traded to a quarterback-needy team this offseason, but the Packers seem intent on holding onto him as a valuable backup. With Rodgers’ injury history, that could turn out to be an important non-move. Even he if does leave after the season, he’s worth more to the Packers this year as a backup than a mid-to-low draft choice.

If they would have dealt him, any injury to Rodgers might have thrown Graham Harrell into the starting mix. While he put up huge numbers and was fourth in the Heisman voting his senior year at Texas Tech, Harrell is obviously raw in many areas. He went undrafted in ’09 and spent sometime in the CFL before latching on in Green Bay. The league’s lockout also cost him valuable time in Mike McCarthy’s quarterback school. The Packers chose not to draft or sign any quarterback this offseason, so his No. 3 spot on the depth chart seems somewhat secure.

28

July

Brandon Jackson Signs With Cleveland Browns, Spitz Goes to Jaguars

Brandon Jackson signed a two-year deal with the Cleveland Browns Thursday night.

The Green Bay Packers backfield became a little less crowded when news broke Thursday night  that Brandon Jackson signed with the Cleveland Browns. The deal was reportedly for two years and $4.5 million.

Jackson was good in pass protection and figured to see plenty of action on third downs if he remained with the Packers. Two years and $4.5 million is a reasonable deal and I’m surprised the Packers didn’t make more of an effort to keep him.

Perhaps Jackson didn’t want to battle Ryan Grant, James Starks and Alex Green for playing time and felt he would have a bigger role in Cleveland. I can’t see him overtaking Peyton Hillis anytime soon, but Cleveland’s backfield is a little less crowded than Green Bay’s.

Either way, with G Daryn Colledge gone and now Jackson, the Packers pass protection has taken a bit of a hit. Neither Colledge or Jackson is irreplaceable, but both were better players than most people gave them credit for.

Jason Spitz will not be one of the players filling the pass protection void left by Colledge or Jackson. Spitz reportedly signed a multi-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

To summarize: Colledge, Spitz, Jackson and Korey Hall have signed elsewhere. Mason Crosby resigned with the Packers. Nick Barnett, Brady Poppinga and Justin Harrell were cut. Cullen Jenkins and James Jones appear to be on their way out, but nothing is official yet. The status of Atari Bigby, John Kuhn, Anthony Smith and Matt Wilhelm is unknown.

Did I miss anyone?

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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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28

June

Chasing Perfection: A Few Areas Where the Packers Can Improve in 2011

We’ve all read or heard the quote. It’s a time-honored choice of words that transcends football, or any sport for that matter, and it was uttered by the most famous coach in Packers and NFL history.

“Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.” — Vince Lombardi

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if these words, or a variation of it, were said in each NFL locker room every season. The quote in itself  is nearly perfect, as there has only been one “perfect” team record-wise in the Super Bowl era.

Which brings me to my overall point. While the Packers accomplished the goal that every team sets out to at the beginning of the season, they weren’t a perfect team by any means. The 2010 Packers lost six games along the way, overcoming several deficiencies in the process. Every Packer fan from the Pacific to the Atlantic (and beyond, for our international readers) expects the Packers to repeat next season, but that might not be possible unless the Packers continue to chase perfection.

Listed below are several areas where the Packers can continue to improve for next season, and the ways in which they can do it.

 

Kick and Punt Returning

Could Improve:

The Packers averaged just 20.8 yards per return on kicks and 7.9 on punts, good for 26th and 22nd in the NFL, respectively. The group—which consisted of Jordy Nelson, Sam Shields, Pat Lee, James Starks and Tramon Williams—produced zero touchdowns and very few big plays. The Packers were also one of five teams that failed to produce a kick or punt return over 60 yards over the course of the season.

How it Could Improve:

The Packers made their first substantial move in the returning department in some time when they took Randall Cob in the second round of April’s draft. He’ll need to win the spot in camp, but all signs point to Cobb being the Packers primary return of kicks and punts. If that scenario does unfold, Cobb should be a marked improvement. He scored two touchdowns off punts at Kentucky, and averaged 24.7 yards on 44 career kick returns. I’d hesitate to call him the next Devin Hester, but Cobb can help turn around the Packers returning woes in a hurry.