Category Archives: Seasons

22

April

Best “Not First Round” Safety Prospects in this Year’s NFL Draft

Florida State Safety Terrence BrooksOK kids it is that time of year again, draft talk is everywhere. Who will be taken number one and who are the top ten picks gets way more play then it should. In fact, I think it has got to the point of being sickening.  We as Packer fans don’t get included in all that TOP ten blather and that is a good thing.

Over the off season a lot of what I hear at my usual hang out TalkinPackers and just about every place else I partake in everything Packers is about the Packers having to fix the middle of the defense, specifically at Safety.  I can’t disagree that safety is a top need. I disagree on the type of safety needed. I have even gone so far as to say that two need to be drafted, both a Free Safety and Strong.

The two highest ranked Safeties are HaHa Clinton-Dix out of Alabama and Calvin Pryor from Louisville. I like Haha, not so much Pryor. I would take Clinton-Dix at #21 but not Pryor. Some of the recent mocks have the Packers taking Jimmy Ward at #21, that would be a reach to me, I just can’t believe that there would not be prospects rated a lot higher at that point in this draft.  I like Ward and you can’t discount ninety five tackles and seven int’s his senior year.

With changes in the passing game in the NFL today you need a FS/CB and SS/FS.   And in Capers defense the ability to play either spot is even more important. You can hide coverage’s, roll the FS to the slot and blitz the slot CB.  To go with that, disguise who is playing SS and who is FS, who drops, who stays in the box. With so many 3, 4 and 5 players running pass routes, coverage ability is a premium.

Clinton-Dix is the safety in this draft that I think can do everything and do it well.  He can play in the box, deep third, deep half and slide over to the slot to cover. Pryor to me is more an in the box guy then coverage. I would even take Ward over Pryor, but as I said neither at #21.

21

April

Xs and Os: Introduction to West Coast Offense Route Combinations

Aaron Rodgers is the trigger man in Mike McCarthy's modern version of the West Coast Offense.

Aaron Rodgers is the trigger man in Mike McCarthy’s modern version of the West Coast Offense.

The Green Bay Packers offense is commonly referred to as a “West Coast Offense.” Likewise, Aaron Rodgers is often called a “West Coast Quarterback.”

For this article, I’ll take a look at some of the basic route combinations that exemplify the West Coast Offense, particularly those that you are likely to see on Sundays in Lambeau Field.

Disclaimer 

This is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes. There are nearly endless route and personnel combinations. I’m only going to cover a few of the most common and basic concepts.

The West Coast Offense Defined

We must start any discussion about the West Coast Offense with Bill Walsh. He, of course, is the greatest West Coast Offense coach in NFL history and won three Super Bowls.

Over the years, the moniker “West Coast Offense” has come to mean many things, and if you ask three people to define it, you might get three different answers.

Certainly, offenses evolve over time in that ever-changing game of cat-and-mouse between the defenses, but some of the defining aspects of the West Coast Offense haven’t changed for decades.

I’ve come to understand the West Coast Offense to mean how Walsh modified Sid Gillman’s passing principles to match his own attack philosophy. Specifically, Walsh utilized a short, precision timing passing game to attack the underneath coverage to supplement the run game.

However, that doesn’t mean the West Coast offense is strictly a short passing game. There are plenty of vertical routes that come open once the underneath dominance is established.

Numerous of Walsh’s offensive-minded descendants, including current Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, former head coach Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden, Mike Shanahan, and Brian Billick, have all won their own championships with their own flavors of Walsh’s offense.

By inspecting the coaching tree below, you can see that Walsh was a disciple of Sid Gillman, who I mentioned last week as being the father of the modern passing game. Gillman’s imprint revolutionized the game during the 1960s and his concepts are still widely used today.

Gillman_Coaching_Tree

The Sid Gillman coaching tree. (Public domain image from Wikipedia).

I’m not saying that the passing game was primitive and haphazard before Gillman, but it certainly was more refined and orchestrated after him.

20

April

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

As we sit here waiting…and waiting…and waiting for the NFL draft to come around, now is as good a time as any to look back on Packers general manager Ted Thompson’s draft classes.

This draft will be Thompson’s 10th. Let’s rank his first nine classes best to worst, even if it’s still too early to judge some of the more recent classes.

  1. 2005. How do you not put the draft where Thompson selected Aaron Rodgers and Nick Collins in your top slot? I scratched my head when Thompson took Rodgers (apparently he couldn’t find a trade partner in time), but, unlike 23 other general managers, Thompson pulled the trigger and rescued Rodgers from the green room at Radio City Music Hall. It might have been a bit of a head-scratcher at the time, but now the Packers have the best quarterback in the league. The Packers would probably still have one of the best safeties in the league if Collins didn’t have his career shortened by a neck injury. Thompson’s first draft was 2005 and was a helluva way to start off as the new general manager. I suppose if you’re a glass-half-empty type of person, you could say Thompson’s drafts have all gone downhill since.
  2. 2009. After taking B.J. Raji ninth overall, Thompson traded back into the first round to nab Clay Matthews. He also picked up T.J. Lang in the fourth and Brad Jones in the seventh. Yeah, Raji fell off a cliff last season, but let’s not forget what he did to help the Packers win a Super Bowl. When Matthews is healthy, he’s one of the most dynamic defensive players in the game. Grabbing a starting guard in Lang and solid backup/fringe starter in Jones later in the draft gave 2009 a slight edge over…
  3. 2008. I probably would have given 2008 the nod over 2009 if not for Brian Brohm, a complete bust of a pick in the second round. But Thompson did end up finding his backup quarterback/oh-crap-what-if-Aaron-Rodgers-flops option later with Matt Flynn in the seventh round. Before finding Flynn, Thompson took Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finely and Josh Sitton. Yeah, that’s a helluva haul.
19

April

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: TE Troy Niklas

Player Information:

Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame, 6-6, 270 pounds

Hometown: Fullerton, CA

 

Troy Niklas' physique is so imposing that his teammates have nicknamed him "Hercules."

Troy Niklas’ physique is so imposing that his teammates have nicknamed him “Hercules.”

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.84

Vertical jump: 32″

225 lb. bench: 27 reps

Broad jump: 9’06″

News and Notes:

Began his career at Notre Dame as an outside linebacker and started one game as a freshman. … One of five Notre Dame receivers to tally multiple catches of 25 yards or more in 2012 … Had a career-high six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown in a  41-30 loss at Michigan on Sept. 7, 2013.

 What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com: Prototypical build for today’s matchup nightmare at tight end. Excellent height, long arms and a well-built frame. Experience on the defensive side of the ball is shown with his physical nature on the field. Uses his height and strength to get open against tight coverage, consistently winning the physical battle with opponents to create space. Good leaping ability, flashing the ability to extend and pluck. Used in a variety of roles for the Irish, including as an inline blocker from both sides, split out wide and even used as an occasional H-back or as a third tackle in pass protection. Secures the football quickly and turns aggressively upfield, dragging would-be tacklers along the way. Good bloodlines. Nephew of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews.
  • NFL.com:   Work in progress as an in-line blocker — lacks ideal base strength, grip strength and overall body power. Bends at the waist and falls off some blocks. Route running needs refinement. Is still learning to use his frame advantageously — inconsistent traffic player. Lacks elite top-end speed. Average elusiveness and creativity after the catch. Could stand to play with more physicality and become a better finisher

Video:

Video Analysis:

  • This is a highlight reel so don’t forget, it doesn’t show the plays he missed.
  • It is scary how much Niklas resembles Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
  • Does a good job of coming back to the ball.
  • Has developed soft hands after transitioning over from defense.
  • Sheds and can give blocks with ease.
  • Is a little slow getting out of his break, which forces him to post-up his huge frame.

If drafted by the Packers:

18

April

Should Packers Add Competition for Crosby?

Mason Crosby

Crosby bounced back in 2013. Will his success continue into 2014?

Green Bay Packers placekicker Mason Crosby is coming off of his best season in 2013, in terms of field goal percentage.  After facing the worst year of his career and posting the worst mark for a starting kicker in the NFL in 2012 (63.6%), Crosby finished 2013 at 89.2%.

He converted on 33 of 37 tries, seven of which were 50 yards or longer.  Crosby also made all 42 of his extra point attempts.

Still, let’s not forget some of the circumstances that Crosby faced to reach that success.

Entering the 2013 season, one had to search long and hard to find any amount of confidence that Crosby would bounce back from the horror that was 2012.  Towards the end of that year and any time Crosby lined up to kick a field goal, fans and media alike held their collective breath, hoping that the ball was at least somewhere near the crossbars.

That season, during a game against the Indianapolis Colts, Crosby kicked a ball so far off base that some wondered if he had hurt himself on the kick.

After the 2012 season, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy immediately began fielding questions about Crosby and his future with the team.  The head coach expressed frustration about the output from his kicker but seemed to be supporting Crosby throughout the offseason and preseason.  McCarthy has had a tendency to remain loyal to “his guys” and players that he is familiar with, even when those players are sometimes not performing to acceptable standards.

This appeared to be the case as Crosby entered training camp the lone placekicker on the roster.  Shortly after it seemed that Crosby was still struggling to find his groove, the team signed Giorgio Tavecchio to come in and compete with Crosby.

The left-footed Tavecchio actually out-kicked Crosby in terms of field goals made during practice and preseason games, but lacked the ideal leg strength to offer the complete package the Packers would have needed to move in another direction.

Tavecchio was cut (much to the chagrin of our own Jersey Al) and McCarthy seemed ready to ride or die with Crosby in 2013.  Crosby didn’t let his coach down.

17

April

Brandon Bostick: The Packers’ Darkhorse at Tight End

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Brandon Bostick, Green Bay Packers tight end, Packers tight end, Packers 2014 draft

Packers TE Brandon Bostick scored his first NFL touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013

As everyone continues to wait and watch for news on the football future of Jermichael Finley, the Green Bay Packers are facing a point where they will soon have to make a decision at the tight end position.

Drafting a tight end in the upcoming NFL Draft seems like a foregone conclusion for the Packers, but they’d be wise to take a long hard look at a player currently on their roster before taking a tight end too high.

That player is not named Andrew Quarless either, though he showed some promise late last season after finally getting healthy from a 2011 knee injury.

No, the dark horse to watch is Brandon Bostick.  He saw action in 11 games in 2013 and had seven catches for 120 yards with one touchdown and three dropped passes. Those three drops all came in the Week 12 tie against the Minnesota Vikings, however.  It wasn’t an overwhelming performance, but Bostick showed enough that should warrant at a least a shot at the starting job in training camp.

The undrafted Bostick beat out former fifth round pick D.J Williams and veteran Matthew Mulligan last year in camp and had shown some flashes in practice. Bostick played wide receiver for small Newberry College and the Packers knew transitioning him to tight end would take some time.

By making the roster in 2013, Bostick must have shown he was making significant progress.  During the regular season, Bostick saw action in 11 games and scored his first NFL touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Scott Tolzien.

Looking at 2014 and beyond, Bostick could be the long term answer at tight end for Green Bay. He plays in a similar manner to Finley and having a tight end with that kind of ability does wonders for the Packers’ offense. While Finley never put up “huge” numbers for the Packers, his presence on the field alone affected how teams would attack the Green Bay offense.

By inserting Bostick, the Packers would have to do little tweaking to their style of offense.  There are going to be growing pains, but the reward in this case outweighs the risk.  It would also give Aaron Rodgers one more weapon in the passing game.

14

April

Historical Perspective: Vince Lombardi’s Offense Was More Complex Than You Think

Vince Lombardi ran a precision offense that may be remembered incorrectly within his legend.

Vince Lombardi ran a precision offense that may be remembered somewhat incorrectly within his legend.

Former Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi is arguably the greatest coach in the history of the NFL. However, I believe that his legacy is actually underrepresented in the annals of fame.

Lombardi is often credited for having his teams seek perfection. As part of this perfection, the legend suggests that his offensive playbook was more simple than his peers. But, since his players ran the smaller offensive category to perfection, it was the winning formula en route to five NFL championships over a seven-year stretch.

The legend perpetuates the notion that the Packers Power Sweep was the main driving force for the 1960s dynasty. They swept their way into the history books.

Pundits today also continue their accounts by suggesting that the modern game has surpassed Lombardi and he wouldn’t be able to compete with the contemporary sophistication.

Granted, Lombardi’s offense wasn’t as open as Tom Landry’s multiple-shift and intricate “System” at the time, but it was much more complex than history seems be crediting him.

I have always been a great fan and student of Lombardi’s playbook. It started when I was a young child and was given a copy of his posthumous book “Vince Lombardi on Football,” edited by George L. Flynn. Throughout the book, Lombardi painstakingly teaches the reader, down to the finest detail, the mechanisms of executing his football plays.

Allow me to highlight some of Lombardi’s offensive philosophies and play calls to demonstrate that his offense was quite contemporary and multiple for the time, and to also showcase how some of his staples are still present in today’s modern NFL.

Exhibit A: The Passing Tree

Sid Gillman is often called the “father of the modern passing game.” He was among the first to standardize receiver routes and attach them to precision timing. The routes were perfectly constructed to match the quarterback’s drop back with the break of the receivers to mesh in a completion.

He was one of the reasons the AFL exploded on the scene with wide-open passing attacks. The game would never be the same after his imprint.

Before Gillman, oftentimes receivers only ran a few routes to match their skill set and simply would try to “get open” and then look for the ball.