Category Archives: Cullen Jenkins

23

January

Mike Neal. 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Mike Neal

Mike Neal

1) Introduction: With Cullen Jenkins wearing an Eagles uniform, the Packers turned to Mike Neal to replace Jenkins’ pass rush and grasp of the 3-4 defense. It didn’t work out. Letting Jenkins go and relying so heavily on Neal turned out to be a rare miscalculation by Packers GM Ted Thompson, one that played a huge role in the Packers early exit from the postseason.

2) Profile:

Michael Jamel Neal

Position: DE
Height: 6-3
Weight: 294 lbs.
AGE: 24

Career Stats

3) Expectations coming into the season: Up and coming. Neal was supposed to be the next man up and fill the void left by Jenkins. After starting strong, Neal’s 2010 season was cut short due to injuries. Injuries got the best of Neal again in 2011, and the chiseled DE never came close to replacing Jenkins’ production.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Neal’s only highlight was finally making it onto the field. From there, everything else was a low-light. Neal manged just two tackles in seven games.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: The NFL allows teams to put 11 players on the field. When Neal played, it ensured that the Packers took full advantage of this rule. They probably could have put Neal on the bench and only played with 10, but that would have looked silly on TV.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Actually, Neal’s best game came against the Giants in the playoffs. It still wasn’t a good game, but it was his best game this season. I don’t think Neal’s knee was anywhere close to 100 percent when he returned and the playoff bye week probably helped him. I still think Neal can be a player if he’s healthy, but that’s a major if right now and Packers can’t rely on him to be a contributor.

Season Report Card:

(F) Level of expectations met during the season
(D) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(C) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: D-

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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

January

2011 Packers Defense: Where Does The Buck Stop?

I have been watching a lot of football these past two weekends, and I think the only NFL game I didn’t watch at least part of was Denver vs. New England. (Really, was there a point to seeing that one?) And while I’ve cached away a lot of observations, there are a couple big things that have stuck with me. The most impressionable of these, I believe, was the way the San Francisco 49ers defense handled the New Orleans Saints.

If any of you watched this game, you should know what I am talking about. To put it succinctly, I rather enjoyed watching their physical play, discipline, and unrelenting attacks on the ball.

But if you asked me to name more than three players from that unit, I don’t think I could do it.

Which made me think . . . what is wrong with the Packers’ defense, then? They have what I believe to be a group of fairly solid players that compliment some big talent, yet they never played like it this season. Last season they did, and it won them quite a few games where the offense sputtered.

Now, we could easily turn this into a “blame game” and start pointing fingers, and I guess I will be depending on how you look at it. What I really want to know, though, is where and how this group needs to improve.

After Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants, I noticed a significant number of fans voicing their extreme displeasure with Dom Capers. Let him go. Reggie McKenzie can take him to Oakland. Or just let him be on his way.

Of course, others retaliated to this, mostly mentioning his lack of playmaking defensive linemen and linebackers.

Now, both sides do have valid points. On the one hand, the loss of Cullen Jenkins and Nick Collins could have been the right recipe for disaster. Take away your biggest asset from the line, then subtract your best safety valve in the secondary, and what are you going to end up with? Nobody was really able to replace either of these two like some of the injured players were last year. Their loss was felt all season, and it was extremely painful to watch the amount of time Eli Manning had in the pocket.

9

September

Green Bay Packers: 5 Observations from 42-34 Win Over Saints

Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Benny Sieu)

The Green Bay Packers held Mark Ingram out of the end zone on the game’s final play Thursday night at Lambeau Field, giving the Packers a 42-34 win over the New Orleans Saints and capping off a thrilling season-opener which gave NFL fans plenty of offensive fireworks and explosive plays on special teams.

Here are some quick observations from the game:

First half fireworks

For those who thought the Packers offense might look rusty to open the season—and I was one of them— those fears were put to rest early. Aaron Rodgers was a surgeon in the first half, completing 18-of-24 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns while carving the Saints defense throughout the first 30 mintues. 188 yards and two of those scores came in the first quarter, as the Packers built a 21-10 lead. By the time the first half was over, the Packers (28) and Saints (17) had combined for 45 points.  So much for shaking off the rust. The Packers performance in the first half was eerily similar to how they played in Atlanta in the playoffs.

Corn on the Cobb

Even for the most optimistic supporters of Cobb, no one could have envisioned this kind of start to his NFL career. He caught a 32-yard touchdown in the first quarter on a short, underneath route that was turned into a score on a great effort after the catch by Cobb. He willed his way into the end zone. Then, in the third quarter, Cobb gave the Packers something they haven’t had in 11 years: a kick return for a touchdown. Cobb caught the kick eight yards deep in the end zone, then proceeded to bounce off several tackles—using a nifty spin move to elude one—and outraced the Saints coverage for the touchdown.To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve seen a more impressive kick return in its entirety. The irony in both scores was that Cobb shouldn’t have had either. He ran the wrong route on the first and was instructed to take a knee when that deep in the end zone on kick returns.

Later in the second half, Cobb nearly broke a punt for another touchdown. He was eventually tripped up in Saints territory, and the play was nullified by a penalty. But his performance in all aspects tonight showed exactly why the Packers took him in the second round. Cobb couldn’t have asked for a better NFL debut.

30

August

Talking Packers With Mike Tanier From Football Outsiders

Mike Tanier wrote the Packers chapter in the 2011 Football Outsiders Almanac. Tanier took the time to answer a few questions about the Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com.

The 2011 Football Outsiders Almanac was released last week and, as is the case every year, it’s a must-read for fans of the Green Bay Packers and the NFL. Mike Tanier wrote the chapter previewing the Packers upcoming season and focused a good portion of his preview on GM Ted Thompson.

Tanier was kind enough to answer a few questions for AllGreenBayPackers.com and expand on this thoughts about Thompson, the Packers pass rush, no-huddle offenses and statistical analysis.  If you’re not familiar with the Football Outsiders, you should visit their website and learn more about some of their unique stats and measurements discussed in the interview.

Adam Czech: Do you think Ted Thompson knows what DVOA is? If not, how do you think he would react after you explained it to him? 

Mike Tanier: Thompson probably does not know what DVOA is. Every time we have spoken at length to a coach or GM about our methods, we have gotten reactions like this: “We do something similar, though the calculations are different, and it is based off our game film and internal methods.” The coach and GM know exactly what play was called and what each player’s assignment is, so they can analyze film in ways no one outside the organization can. One thing we always hear is that we are doing the right thing by making our stats situation-dependent: coaches want different things on 1st-and-10, 3rd-and-15, and 3rd-and-inches in the red zone, and DVOA reflects those differences.

AC: We’ve seen some major changes in the methods MLB and NBA GMs use to evaluate players and build teams over the last 10 years. Will Thompson’s team-building strategy — finding value players off the scrap heap that fit his coach’s system and provide depth — become the newest NFL team-building trend? Or have teams always been using the Thompson method, but we just haven’t noticed because a) Nobody is as good at the Thompson method as Thompson is or b) Few organizations have the patience to actually see if the Thompson method works?

29

August

Despite Losses, Packers’ A.J. Hawk Expects Big Things in 2011

Green Bay Packers Linebacker AJ Hawk

Jim Biever, Packers.com

A.J. Hawk knows the score. In the National Football League, roster turnover is part of the business. Teams change and evolve every season due to the draft and free agency.

The 2011 Green Bay Packers are no different.

After winning their fourth Super Bowl title in February, the Packers were forced to cut ties with several contributors from that championship team, including defensive end Cullen Jenkins and linebacker Nick Barnett.

In their place, the Packers are turning to two players—one who has proven he can play and the other who has failed to show he can stay on the field in his short NFL career. Of course, we’re talking about Desmond Bishop and Mike Neal.

When I talked to Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk on the phone last week, he said the team has high expectations for their defense despite the losses.

However, he did express that it might be difficult to replace Jenkins in the Packers defense.

“The thing about Cullen Jenkins is that you just can’t replace a guy like him,” Hawk said. “He’s a special player. He’s one of the best interior pass rushers I’ve ever seen. Just super quick, with good moves and a knack at getting to the quarterback.”

An unrestricted free agent this offseason, Jenkins signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles a week or so after the lockout was lifted. When asked if he thought the team would bring back Jenkins, Hawk seemed a touch surprised but also cognizant of the NFL’s business landscape.

“Yeah, I was hoping we were going to find a way to bring him back, but I understand there’s a business side to this,” Hawk said. “It hurts us, but I know those kind of things don’t always happen, especially this offseason with the lockout. We only had a short time to negotiate with him, which I’m sure made it tough on both sides.”

The Packers never did get serious in bringing back Jenkins, either because of the perceived cost it would take or the confidence the organization had in the players behind him. Being 30 years old and having an injury history likely also led to the Packers’ failure to offer any deal that Jenkins would have accepted.

3

August

Packers 2011 Training Camp: New Faces and Some Old New Faces

For the 2011 Green Bay Packers, the term “new faces” means more than just rookies. It also means veterans coming off the injured list or career bench players hoping to secure a starting job.

Lets take a look at how some of these key new faces have fared after a couple days of training camp. Some of the players examined below are not new to the team, but feel new since they missed most of 2010 with an injury or were stuck on the bench.

Randall Cobb, WR
Fans attending Monday night’s first practice in pads took to Twitter to sing the praises of Cobb. The rookie made several acrobatic catches and appeared to have no problems picking up Mike McCarthy’s offense. I expected Cobb to contribute as a kick and punt returner, but if he also develops as  receiver, that would be a bonus. It’s way too early to make any judgements, but the early returns on Cobb look good.

D.J. Williams, TE
Jermichael Finley is easing his way back to football after his knee injury and Williams is taking full advantage. According to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press Gazette, no rookie is seeing more time with the startersbesides Derek Sherrod. I envisioned Williams as more of a FB when he was drafted, but with Kuhn resigned, it looks like Williams has a shot to be the pass-catching tight end behind Finley. This leaves Tom Crabtree as the blocking tight end and occasional FB with Kuhn. It’s way to early to say anything with certainty, but right now second-year TE Andrew Quarless is the odd-man out.

T.J. Lang, G
Rookie Derek Sherrod has been getting time with the first team at LG, but T.J. Lang has reportedly looked goodwhen given a chance. I like that the Packers are giving Sherrod a look at LG, but I still think Lang is the opening-day starter.

Derek Sherrod, G/T
Even if Sherrod starts on the bench, initially putting him on the field with the first team was a smart move by McCarthy. It’s a message to the rookie that he’s expected to contribute this season and he better hit the ground running. I also don’t mind trying him at LG. Call me old fashioned, but I still believe that playing the offensive line is more about beating up the guy you’re lined up against instead of worrying too much about schemes.

1

August

Dirty Birds: How The Philadelphia Eagles Have Set The Stage For A Packers Encore

Will the Eagles' new "Dream team" allow the Packers to fly under the radar?

While the Packers have gone about their usual ways of signing undrafted rookies and their own free agents, the Philadelphia Eagles have taken a different approach. In the blur that has been the first week of free agency since the lockout ended, the Eagles swooped in (pun intended) and gathered up many of the big name free agents of the 2011 class.  Nnmadi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins (that stings a little), Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie, Vince Young and Jason Babin are all new members of the team. NFL.com this morning already declared this a “dream team.”

My question to Reid, the Eagles and the NFL media is this: Have you learned nothing from the Miami Heat?

Yes, the Heat made it to the NBA Finals but they lost in six games which really is all that matters.  The Heat, with their “big three” lost to a team that was truly a better team than they were.

Sure, the Eagles added a lot of superstars but are they truly the best team in the NFC? My answer is no.

In fact, the Eagles have set the stage for the true best team in the NFC to fly under the radar and make a run at Super Bowl XLVI.  It just so happens that this team is the defending world champions.

Thanks to the big splashes made by the Eagles in free agency, the Packers are now in an ideal situation with everyone fawning and drooling over what Andy Reid and company have accomplished in such a short period of time.  As crazy as it sounds, the Packers now have the element of surprise in their corner and they are (it bears repeating) THE DEFENDING WORLD CHAMPIONS.

It’s obvious Packers coach Mike McCarthy will use the Eagles’ spending spree to his team’s advantage.  His team is suddenly yesterday’s news despite winning the Lombardi Trophy six months ago.  It’s rare that a team defending its title goes from hunted to the hunter, but that’s what the Green Bay Packers have become.

Aaron Rodgers and company must be salivating.  A few short months after having everyone sing his praises, Rodgers suddenly finds himself on the back page.  One would think the rest of the NFL should have learned by now what happens when you scorn Aaron Charles Rodgers but apparently they haven’t.