Category Archives: Charlie Peprah

3

July

Packers Rookie Jerron McMillian: Will Ted Thompson Strike Gold Again?

Jerron McMillian

Can Jerron McMillian fill the shoes of Nick Collins?

It was a formula that paid dividends for the Green Bay Packers the last time around so GM Ted Thompson figured it was worth trying again.

In his first draft as head of the Packers football operations in 2005, Thompson selected a player from a small school who in time had a big impact on the organization.   In the second round of the 2005 draft, Thompson selected safety Nick Collins from small Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida.  At the time, it was viewed as a reach taking a player from such a small school so early in the draft.  Many wondered what the then-rookie general manager was doing.

The “reach” paid off big time as Collins became the best safety the Packers have had since the retirement of Leroy Butler (no offense to Darren Sharper).  Collins will forever immortalized in Packers lore for his highlight reel pick-six of Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XLV and the celebration following that was the cover image for the Green Bay Press Gazette following the Packers’ victory.

Fast forward to this past spring.  Thompson again found himself in need of safety, ironically because Collins suffered a likely career-ending neck injury in Week 2 last season.  Thompson found a diamond In the rough in Collins, so Thompson may have thought he could do it again.

Enter Jerron McMillian, the Packers’ fourth round pick in the 2012 draft.  Like Collins, McMillian hails from a small college—Maine.  Perhaps a state university isn’t necessarily “small” but since it’s Maine I doubt many people will consider his university a powerhouse.

The tale of the tape on McMillian from video and the scouting combine is that he’s a very physical player, a shutdown safety if there ever was one.  He plays the run well, but struggles with the pass.  McMillian rarely misses a tackle (music to Packer fans’ ears after the debacle of the 2011 unit) and is an effective blitzer.

Sound familiar?  While he may not be Pro Bowl-ready right out of the gate for the Packers, McMillian’s speed and physical play will fit in well on a Dom Capers-coached unit that prides itself on being aggressive and forcing turnovers.  He may not beat out Charlie Peprah or M.D. Jennings in training camp but Capers and his staff can take McMillian’s current skillset and mold him into a decent safety that can push Peprah or Jennings should either of them struggle.

2

July

Packers Starters Most Likely to Lose Their Spots

Most of the offseason chatter about Packers starters getting benched has centered on A.J. Hawk being replaced by D.J. Smith. That very well might happen, but what about other starters that could find themselves on the bench once the season starts?

Erik Walden
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Walden totaled just three sacks, 14 QB hits and 22 QB hurries in 15 starts. From week 12 through the playoff loss, Walden had zero sacks, four hits and six hurries (he also got arrested). His (-20.5) overall rating by PFF was the worst among 3-4 OLBs by almost 10 points.

Packers fans don’t need fancy stats and analytics to know that Walden was bad. If he was simply average, and provided at least a little pressure on the QB down the stretch, who knows how last season might have ended? Rookie Nick Perry likely will take over here.

Jarius Wynn/C.J. Wilson
These two combined to start six games, so it’s a stretch to call them starters. Howard Green also started five times, so we’ll consider Wynn/Wilson/Green a sort of three-headed monster that started most games somewhere on the defensive line. With Green gone, there’s only two heads of the monster left, and I’m not sure that either head will start this season.

Wilson seems like a good athlete, which gives me some hope that he could eventually turn into a serviceable player. A permanent starter? The jury is out.

The Packers need more defensive lineman that cause chaos. It’s a common misconception that the only role of a 3-4 defensive lineman is to “occupy blockers.” That’s true to a point, but the lineman needs to do something that actually occupies the blocker. Simply being a large body with a pulse that walks upright isn’t enough.

Jerel Worthy caused chaos at Michigan St. He occupied blockers, and he also beat the hell out of the blockers he occupied. If he can do that in the NFL, he’ll be starting over Wilson and Wynn in no time.

Marshall Newhouse
Thanks to Chad Clifton’s injury, Newhouse started 13 games at left tackle. He’s got the inside track to begin as the starter this season unless Derek Sherrod recovers from his leg injury and plays out of his mind in training camp. I don’t see Newhouse losing his spot.

25

June

How to Tackle The Problem Of Tackling?

Imagine you’re a student and you have a practical exam coming up; in this test you’re asked to perform a specific skill and the instructors will not only be grading you for your ability to conceptualize what you are doing and why but to also that you can put it all together and actually get some results.  I’ve been tested this way dozens of times as a undergraduate and graduate student and I can safely say that just because you know what you are doing and why doesn’t always mean you can do it in real life.

The same is true for football players; as instructors to the game, coaches often will be assessing a player’s ability to conceptualize what they are doing and why, but also how well they perform that skill.  And just the same as any other student, just because you know what you are doing and why doesn’t always mean you can do it in real life.  There are countless examples of players who have the mental aspect of football down pat but lack the technique required to be successful in the league.

Now imagine a practical exam where you can study and figure out what you need to do and why, but weren’t actually given a chance to practice that skill before the exam, how well do you think you would do? Again from experience I can tell you you often don’t get the desired results because while your mind knows what to do your body doesn’t have the muscle memory to successfully perform that skill.

So where is this all going?  For football players, that practical exam where they’re given time to study but not to practice is tackling.

“We’re going to put our face in people. We will tackle,” Whitt said when asked if the Packers will actually practice the art of tackling each other in training camp. “We will get that solved. Guys who tackle will be out there. Guys who don’t won’t.” – cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr.

The Packers had a pretty dismal season when it came to tackling (refer to: LeGarrett Blount) and mostly this has been rightly or wrongly been laid on the feet of the defensive secondary.  I’ve mostly attributed this to the defensive backs aiming for “big plays” like interceptions and strips rather than just tackling soundly but for whatever reason; the Packers defense missed a ton of tackles.

6

June

Packers Stock Report: Offseason Edition

Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Donald Driver

Two of the three in this pictures are rising.

A little over a week ago, a few folks over at ESPN put together NFL power rankings for the 2015 season. Yes, you read that correctly, the 2015 season.

Thanks to Aaron Rodgers, a young core of talented players on both sides of the ball and a steady front office and coaching staff, the Packers finished first in the rankings. It’s silly to talk about 2015 power rankings in 2012, but that’s what NFL nerds like us talk about in June.

Perhaps a more appropriate exercise would be to examine each team’s roster and determine which players are rising and which are falling. It’s impossible to project anything clearly all the way to the 2015 season, but if you can assign a rising/falling grade to everyone currently on the roster, you at least can get a somewhat reasonable projection of the team’s future beyond the upcoming season.

All of this sounds like the perfect recipe for a Packers offseason stock report. Which players are on the rise and which are falling? This isn’t like the normal stock reports I do during the season. Those reports go week-to-week with heavy emphasis on the last game played.

For this offseason report, I’m looking more long term. Heck, I’ll use the 2015 season as a benchmark. Between now and 2015, can we reasonably expect (insert player’s name) to get better, keep playing at a consistently good level, or regress? I’m not going to label any player as steady, either. They’re either rising or falling.

Also, it doesn’t mean that a player is bad if he’s tagged with the falling label. For example, I think Charles Woodson is falling. I don’t think he’ll be playing at his current level in 2015, but that doesn’t mean he’s bad now and should be cut.

Finally, I’m just going to look at starters and I’m not touching the rookies. We don’t know enough about the first-year guys to slap any sort of label on them.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Here we go:

Aaron Rodgers, QB: Rising. Expect Rodgers to keep playing at an MVP level well into the future.

James Starks, RB: Rising. I’m giving Starks the benefit of the doubt here. I think if he stays healthy he can be the type of running back the Packers need.

30

May

Packers Draft Picks Compared to their Current Players

Jerel Worthy and the many position battles on the defensive line will be worth watching in training camp.

I’m reading Michael Holley’s War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team. It’s a great read so far and I regret not getting around to reading it until now (it was released in November). The book tells the story of how the Patriots dynasty came to be with excellent insight into modern-day NFL scouting, team building and football operations.

The Patriots evaluate college players by comparing them to a player that is already on their roster. This requires scouts to know the pro roster as well as they know the college kids they’re scouting, and ensures that scouts are looking for more than just how big, strong and fast a guy is. Factors like how a player fits into the Patriots’ overall scheme and specialized skill sets also are taken into consideration.

This strategy has proven effective for the Patriots over the years and also makes an excellent topic for a blog post. How do the Packers draftees compare to their counterparts currently on the roster? Of course, we don’t know as much about the draftees as an NFL scout might, but we can at least give this exercise a try.

Nick Perry vs. Erik Walden/Frank Zombo/Brad Jones
If a wooden fence post was compared to Walden/Zombo/Jones, most Packers fans would probably give the edge to the wooden fence post. In terms or raw talent, there’s not much comparison between Perry and the others. The only question is fit. Can Perry play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme? Or is he a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end?

The answer to this question is who cares? I know I just spent the opening paragraphs of this post talking about scheme fit and all that other stuff, but given the Packers desperate need for a pass rusher, they weren’t allowed to be too picky with their top draft choice. There’s no rule against the coaching staff adjusting the current scheme to fit the roster if needed, and that’s what Dom Capers will do if necessary with Perry.

Winner: Perry.

4

May

Brass Balls and the Packers Defense

Frank Zombo

Frank Zombo is one Packers defender that could be on the chopping block.

If using almost all of his draft picks on defensive players wasn’t enough of a warning, Ted Thompson could re-enact Alec Baldwin’s brass balls speech from Glengarry Glen Ross on the first day of training camp if he feels the Packers defense hasn’t gotten the message.

Replace Cadillac with a spot on the roster. Replace steak knives with a spot on the end of the bench. Replace getting fired with getting cut.

Message received.

Of course, this message doesn’t need to be delivered to everyone on defense. Clay Matthews is probably the Alec Baldwin of the Packers D. He can point to his $975,000 watch and automatically command respect. Desmond Bishop and Charles Woodson can point to their own watches, which aren’t quite as big as Matthews’, but are impressive nonetheless.

Because of their ineptitude last season and infusion of new blood for the upcoming season, the following defenders who received regular playing time in 2011 could be on the chopping block. They’ll have to prove during training camp that they have the “brass balls” to play in the NFL.

Jarius Wynn
After a strong start, Wynn disappeared and became just another guy (who couldn’t get to the quarterback) on the defensive line.

C.J. Wilson
Did Wilson make any memorable plays last season? He’s another guy you can add to the just-another-guy list.

Charlie Peprah
When Peprah was paired with pro-bowler Nick Collins, he did what needed to be done at safety. Without Collins, Peprah couldn’t keep up in coverage and looked a step behind on most plays.

Frank Zombo
It seems like the Packers want to give Zombo a chance, but he can’t stay healthy. Of course, when he’s been healthy, he hasn’t exactly set the world afire.

Erik Walden
Walden was adequate last season before dropping off after being arrested. The Packers resigned him this offseason, which makes me think he’s got the inside edge in making the squad. Of course, I’m sure it’s a minimal deal and the Packers wouldn’t be hurt much if they cut him, but why go through the through the trouble of resigning a replacement-level player with legal issues if you don’t think he has a shot at getting better?

28

March

2012 Packers Position Group Analysis: Defensive Backs

Green Bay Packers defensive backs, Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, Charlie Peprah

Defensive Backs Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, Charlie Peprah

Packers Defensive Backs: We’re back with the third of this series where we examine each Packers position group as it currently exists. Today we finish the defensive side of the ball by examining the Packers’ secondary. As before, this article will examine three main points from the Packers’ perspective: where we are, where we want to go and what we need to do to get there.

Previous installments can be found here:

Packers Defensive Line:

Packers Linebackers:

 

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

Charles Woodson (1st round)
Tramon Williams (undrafted)
Sam Shields (undrafted)
Jarrett Bush (undrafted)
Davon House (4th  round)
Brandian Ross (undrafted)

Nick Collins (2nd round)
Morgan Burnett (3rd round)
Charlie Peprah (5th round)
M.D. Jennings (undrafted)
Anthony Levine (undrafted)

While this position group has six undrafted players, only three are regulars and overall there is better representation near the top of the draft than in the defensive line and linebacker groups. That’s especially true if you count Pat Lee, a second round choice the Packers recently allowed to leave via free agency.

The Packers’ secondary had a tough time in 2011. As a group, they gave up 71 plays of 20 yards or more, and a lot of those were significantly more than 20 yards. The Giants alone had four plays over 40 yards in two games against the Packers. Yes, it was not pleasant.

So let’s start with Charles Woodson: In 2011, Woodson was a bit of a paradox. On one hand, he was what we have come to expect from Charles Woodson; the guy who makes the big play. Woodson had 3 sacks, 7 interceptions and a total of nine turnover plays on the year. On the other hand, his tackling, which used to be a strength, almost became a liability.  Woodson finally started showing signs of age, as he lost some of that quickness he previously counted on to avoid blockers and track down ball carriers in open space. Woodson was charged with 18 missed tackles on the season and nine penalties (more than twice as many penalties as any other Packer player). He also gave up five touchdowns, leading the team in that category as well.