Category Archives: Nick Collins

9

February

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

The other day I was playing Front Office Football 7 when I realized that I’d fit right in as an NFL owner.

Front Office Football 7 (FOF 7) is a management simulation (I’ve written about similar games in this space before) that puts you in control of an NFL franchise. But instead of mashing buttons and controlling players on the field like you would in Madden on the PS4 or XBox1, you call all the shots behind the scenes. You’re sort of a hybrid version of Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Jerry Jones.

Want to take control of the Packers and see what happens if you ditch draft and develop and sign a bunch of free agents every offseason? Want to see if the Dallas Cowboys could actually make the playoffs with competent management? Want to take control of the Jacksonville Jaguars and see if you can remake their roster into a contender? It’s possible with FOF 7.

I like to use my brain more than my thumbs when playing sports games, and FOF 7 makes that possible. There are other football simulations on the market, but FOF 7 is the only career-based option. In FOF 7, your career lasts as long as you want it to (assuming you don’t get fired), putting you in control of the draft, free agency, hiring and firing of coaches, setting ticket prices, managing depth charts, designing gameplans and pretty much everything associated with running a football team.

It’s an incredibly immersive experience (I don’t call it a game, I call it an experience) and the perfect way to get through these next seven depressing months without Packers football. The FOF franchise has been around for a long time, but FOF 7 was just released a couple of months ago. It’s the first new version to come out since 2007, and the upgrades and improvements are instantly noticeable.

Anyway, the other day I was playing, and at the point in the offseason where you set ticket prices, I caught myself not caring whatsoever about my (pretend) fans. I just jacked those ticket prices sky high. I was coming off an appearance in the NFC Championship game and fan “loyalty” had increased substantially.

“Let’s see how loyal you fans really are,” I thought to myself. “Are you loyal enough to pay $10 more per ticket to sit in the nosebleed section?”

6

February

Former and Current Free Agent Packers Want To Return

Jermichael Finley

Finley seems determined to return to football and prove that he is back to full strength

The NFL season has been over for a measly three days now but the Green Bay Packers season has been over for nearly a month.  Things obviously slow down when teams aren’t preparing for games each week and the constant news hits dwindle.

Still, this has been a busy week for some Packers chatter and I thought I’d offer a break in between our player evaluation and reports cards here at allgbp.com and highlight a few of the stories that have been most widely discussed.

“Discussed” and “news” are two different things, but if nothing else, there are at least a few debate topics here.

The first was a story by NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling about tight end Jermichael Finley.  Finley is currently a free agent after having spent the first six years of his NFL career with the Packers.  Finley’s agent has gone on record as saying that J-Mike, as he is frequently called, would love nothing more than to finish his career in Green Bay.  Whether that will happen is another thing.

Finley was seriously injured early in the 2013 season on a play in which he took a shot to his neck by Cleveland Browns safety Tashaun Gipson.  Finley was placed on season-ending injured reserve and needed surgery to fuse the C3 and C4 vertebrae in his neck.  Many question swirled about whether Finley would play football again, let alone return to the Packers.

Finley stated earlier this week that he expects his doctors to clear him to resume football activity, most notably contact, within the next month or so.  Gaining medical clearance from a doctor is one thing.  Gaining that clearance from a NFL team doctor is another.

While Finley and his agent have expressed a preference to remain in Green Bay and get a new contract worked out, Finley has also stated that he does not plan to discount his services.  With 19 total players set to hit free agency next month, the Packers are going to have some decisions to make as far as who to keep and at what price.

Finley certainly represents a risk, even if cleared to return to football.  There can be no guarantee that he won’t re-injure his neck and such an occurrence would have major implications not only for Finley the football player, but also Finley the man, husband and father.  It’s hard to say which direction Finley’s return and potential negotiations with interested teams will go.

11

January

Cory’s Corner: Criticize Mike McCarthy not Dom Capers

Mike McCarthy turned up the conservative calls when Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 9.

Mike McCarthy turned up the conservative calls when Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 9.

Now that you’ve all had some time to thaw out after watching Phil Dawson put this season’s hopes and dreams on ice, it’s time to reflect on what just happened.

First of all, Mike McCarthy needs to get the lion’s share of criticism. He is under contract through the 2015 season at roughly $5 million per year. If any season was a good example of how much he needed to prove his coaching mettle, this was the one. He lost his star quarterback in Week 9 and magically backed into the playoffs thanks to the combined efforts of said quarterback’s right arm and the inept Bears’ defense.

He was also dealt the second-most important injury on the team in Jermichael Finley. Without him eating up the middle of the field, receivers had more work to do to get separation and move the chains.

Granted, he was blessed with the Offensive Rookie of the Year in my opinion in Eddie Lacy but McCarthy didn’t exactly utilize him very well. Too often when backups Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn were under center he was more apt to call the predictable running plays on first and second down which usually set up the usual 3rd-and-7. That’s a tall task for an NFL starter let alone a backup.

As soon as the Packers lost Aaron Rodgers they lost who they were. And the head coach, who is also known as a quarterback guru, cannot let that happen. I’m not saying McCarthy should expect left rollouts thrown on a dime by his backups, but he shouldn’t pare the playbook down to the JV level either. The best example is that fateful game when Rodgers suffered that left collarbone injury.

With the Bears beating the Packers 24-20 very early in the fourth quarter, McCarthy dialed up a Lacy run on 2nd-and-7 from the 50. The run around the left end generated two yards setting up a tough third down which ultimately failed. And that came on the heels of the Packers throwing for 29 yards on back-to-back plays that took place on second and first down.

There’s a time and place to be conservative. I realize that coaches’ jobs have been lost due to knee-jerk risky decisions but when your team is losing in the fourth quarter, it’s at least a good time to start contemplating moves against the grain.

20

December

Packers Periscope: Week 16 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Past: I’ve mentioned notable games of the past in this series (the Ice Bowl, Aaron Rodgers dismantling of the Falcons in the 2010 divisional game), but perhaps the most important game in the last decade for the Packers was their win in Super Bowl XLV in 2010 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Not only did it cement quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ position as one of the NFL’s elite players but it also justified Ted Thompson’s 6 year “draft and develop” philosophy which brought the Packers back from a salary cap nightmare.  Fans will remember Clay Matthew’s “It is time” moment of stripping the ball away from Rashard Mendenhall which preserved a Packers 4 point lead in the 4th quarter, but perhaps the biggest defensive play came from defensive tackle Howard Green, who knocked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s pass into the arms of safety Nick Collins, who returned the ball for a touchdown and at least historically sealed away the fate of the Steelers right then (no team has gotten a interception returned for a touchdown and lost the Super Bowl).

Moving back further, the Steelers and Packers last regular season game occurred in 2009 which quickly became a shootout; Rodgers threw for an impressive 383 yards but Roethlisberger proved even more dangerous, finishing the game with an astonishing 503 yards.  It also marked the rise of Jermichael Finley, who moved from a up and coming player to a serious receiving threat, which would continue until his injury in 2010.

The Present: The Steelers have been effectively eliminated from the playoffs; the Cincinnati Bengals have run away with the AFC North and are almost definitely going to win the division this year.  Baltimore trails behind Cincinnati, but also has a shot at a wild card berth.  Pittsburgh unfortunately only is predicted to get in as a wildcard team .8% of the time according to Football Outsiders, effectively making this game more of a statement game more than anything else.  Furthermore, the Steelers have always been a very deliberate and conservative organization and the coaching staff has not been rumored to be on the hot seat, this game probably does not have much meaning to the Steelers, aside for maybe extracting some revenge against the Packers for their Super Bowl loss.

11

May

Three-year comparison: Morgan Burnett vs. Nick Collins

Morgan Burnett and Nick Collins

Morgan Burnett and Nick Collins

When the Packers were forced to release Nick Collins prior to the 2012 season, they were left with a gaping hole at the most important position in the secondary.

Collins, a three-time Pro Bowler, was among the best safeties in football at the time he suffered a career-threatening neck injury in 2011, while his counterpart, Morgan Burnett, was coming off a season-ending injury of his own in his second NFL season.

Burnett’s rookie year (2010) ended in week four, and Collins’ 2011 season–and possibly career–ended in week two. Those six games comprised the entirety of the Collins/Burnett Era at safety for the Packers.

In 2010, the Packers selected Burnett with the 71st overall pick in the third round. Three years later and entering the final year of his rookie contract, Burnett may be poised to fill Collins’ shoes as the team’s key defensive playmaker.

Athletically, Burnett compares favorably to the former second-team All-Pro safety.

At the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, Burnett put up impressive numbers in the tests that best measure a player’s range at the safety position. He clocked a 6.87 in the three-cone drill, leaped 11 feet-8 inches in the broad jump, posted a 39.5-inch vertical jump and rushed out to a 1.57 10-yard split.

Burnett tested better than Collins in nearly every category, but Collins, a college cornerback, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds, which trumped Burnett’s 4.51.

Obviously, athletic ability doesn’t necessarily determine a player’s on-field ability. If it did, Bengals safety and workout warrior Taylor Mays would be one of the best in the league–and he’s not even close.

As a rookie for the 4-12 Packers, Collins started all 16 games and showed flashes of his seemingly limitless potential. But those glimpses were rare, as Collins slowly made the transformation from a little-known defensive back from Bethune-Cookman to a starting safety for the Green Bay Packers.

It wasn’t until his fourth NFL season that Collins put it all together and made his first of three Pro Bowls. His first three seasons were relatively modest, as he started 45 of a potential 48 games, racking up four interceptions and four forced fumbles.

Nick Collins: First 3 NFL seasons

Nick Collins: First 3 NFL seasons

Burnett, coming from Georgia Tech, didn’t face the same transition that Collins did entering the NFL from a small school. But regardless, holding a starting spot at a position that requires sound communication can be a rough wake-up call for a 21-year-old player.

22

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: D.J. Swearinger, S South Carolina

DJ Swearinger

South Carolina S D.J. Swearinger

Green Bay Packers NFL Draft prospect profile: S D.J. Swearinger

Player Information:

D.J. Swearinger
5-10, 208 pounds
Hometown: Greenwood, SC

STATS

NFL Combine:

Vertical: 37 inches
40 time: 4.67
225-pound bench: 17 reps
Broad jump: 124 inches
3-cone drill: 6.7 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.11 seconds

News and Notes:

Hard-hitting three-year starter and captain of the South Carolina defense. … Played every position in the secondary while at South Carolina. … Totaled 80 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass breakups his senior season. … Blitzes off the edge. … Suspended for one game in 2012 after drilling a defenseless receiver. … Says he models his game after Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. … Gets a lot of praise for being a team leader. … Reputation as one of the hardest-hitting players in college football.

What they’re saying about him:

  • National Football Post: ”The game is not too big for him and he should be able to translate immediately at the NFL level. Worst case scenario is he is a solid special teamer and adds quality depth to a defensive backfield. He could work his way to being a starter but don’t expect him to be a difference maker but more a strong piece to the puzzle that doesn’t make the big error. Overall Swearinger is a great pick up in the 4th round and should have a long NFL career for some team.”
  • DraftInsider.net: “Underrated safety with a complete game. Tough run defender that also displays outstanding ball skills. Size and speed may be questioned.”

Video:

Video Analysis:

  • Appears to have no fear about sticking his nose in the middle of the action and taking on offensive lineman and fullbacks that are almost twice his size.
  • He looks bigger than 5-10, 208 pounds to me…
  • Check out the play at about the 1:30 point of the video. Swearinger needs to get off that block from the WR and make a play.
  • Puruse the ball well and makes a good, solid tackle when he has to.
  • Attacks the ballcarrier violently. Fights and claws and does whatever is necessary to bring the ballcarrier down.
  • Looks capable in pass coverage. I’d rather not see him covering NFL WRs, but he should hold his own against TEs.
28

January

The Statistical Reason Why The Packers Defense Has Declined

 

While doing research on my last article, I noticed one very interesting fact: Dominant 3-4 defenses tended to have a star 5-technique defense end.  The 3 best 3-4 defenses in terms of Advanced NFL Stats’ dEPA (defensive expected points added) in the NFL right now are San Francisco, Arizona and Houston and each team boasts impact 5-technique defensive linemen like Justin Smith, Calais Campbell and JJ Watt, each of which is among the top five 5-technique defensive linemen according to ProFootballFocus.  This got me to thinking: everyone knows that the quarterback effects offensive success more than any other position on the field (hence why Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning can keep winning games without good offensive lines and running backs), but is there a position on a 3-4 defense that is most important to defensive success?

Traditionally, the hallmarks of a good 3-4 defense has been it’s nose tackle and outside linebackers; indeed in 2009 when Green Bay switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, general manager Ted Thompson drafted nose tackle BJ Raji with the 9th overall pick and then traded up back into the 1st round for outside linebacker Clay Matthews III.  The argument has always been made that a dominant nose tackle that can eat up multiple blockers and outside linebackers who are athletic enough to rush the passer are the keys to a dominant 3-4 defense.  You could argue that Green Bay seems have both positions covered, both Clay Matthews III and BJ Raji are both dominant players but while that seemed to have translated to success in 2009 and 2010, it didn’t seem to matter much in 2011 and 2012.

What I’ve done is a correlation analysis using ProFootballFocus’ player grades and comparing them to overall defensive efficiency measured in dEPA.  I’ve flipped the signs for dEPA to just to avoid making it an inverse correlation.  I’ve included both Pearson’s r and chi2, I’m not really much of a statistics guy so I have no idea what the difference is between them, but if you happen to know more about this, leave a comment and I can adjust my analysis if needed.  Overall, the way to read these figures is that a value of 0 means there is no correlation at all while a value of 1 means that there is perfect correlation.  So for this case, the higher the number the more “valuable” that position is to defensive efficiency.  I’ve also included a positive control by correlating dEPA vs. dDVOA (from Football outsiders) and they are 91% correlated, which basically means this analysis holds for both metrics.  Finally, I’ve included a negative control by looking at the correlation between how well the offensive center plays versus how well the defense does; presumably how well the center plays has no relationship to how well the defense plays.