Category Archives: 2010 Regular Season

16

May

It’s Sam Shields’ Turn to “Improve From Within”

Sam Shields - Green Bay Packers defensive back

Sam Shields sends the Packers to the Super Bowl.

Think back to the beginning of the 2010 season for a minute. The Packers defense was coming off an embarrassing playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals and the secondary faced many of the same questions that the pass rush faces today.

But instead of answering those questions in the draft, Ted Thompson’s solution was to plug in an undrafted rookie free agent that few people had heard of and actually had more experience as a wide receiver than a defensive back. Sam Shields came into camp with the reputation as a speedster, and that’s about it. Besides his ability to run really fast, nobody knew much else about him.

“This is how you’re going to fix the secondary, Ted?” Packers fans asked.

“Yup,” Thompson replied before taking another sip from his bottled water and turning away.

“Improving from within” was a talking point that Thompson and Mike McCarthy hammered home through training camp and the preseason. By 2010, most reasonable Packers fans understood that Thompson was rarely going to sign a free agent or make a trade that grabbed headlines.

But Sam Shields? Really? The Packers were supposed to be a Super Bowl caliber team and Thompson’s answer to the team’s main weakness was an undrafted converted receiver? This decision really put the “In Ted we Trust” mantra to the test.

Well, we know how it worked out. Shields had an excellent rookie season and sealed the Packers trip to the Super Bowl with a game-clinching interception in the NFC championship. Shields was so good, the Packers cut fan favorite Al Harris halfway through the season.

The Packers improved from within, alright. But it was Shields — an unknown outsider — who kickstarted some of that improvement.

The following season didn’t go so well for Shields, or the entire Packers defense. There were too many games where the defense looked outmatched like they were against Warner and the Cardinals. But instead of taking the improve from within approach again, Thompson used almost all of his draft picks on defense. He even signed a few free agents.

That doesn’t mean improving from within doesn’t apply to this group. Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Heyward and the others are nice additions, but they’re not going to rescue this defense by themselves. Several players are going to have to get better, or improve from within. Shields tops the list.

9

April

Packers Beer Mug Perspective: The Catch and Release of Mike Neal?

Packers Beer MugYesterday afternoon, our fellow blogger in crime Zach Kruse shared an interesting bit of information over at CheeseheadTV.com. Apparently some Green Bay Packers sources indicated to Pro Football Weekly that they “will not be shocked in the least if the team releases injury-prone DE Mike Neal after the draft.”

Neal’s recent violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy earned him a four-game suspension to start the 2012 season, and this has most likely put him on the short list in the mind of Ted Thompson. Of course, this is also just adding to the fact that, due to injuries, Mike Neal has only been active for 9 games in his first two years as a pro football player. And in only 3 of those games did he actually record a tackle.

A lot of fans have been hailing him as the second coming of Justin Harrell, though perhaps a bit prematurely. Now, though, it seems he also has a little bit of Johnny Jolly in him, too.

This is not the way to start an NFL career, especially one that carried so much promise (or “potential”) with it. Mike Neal is a second-round draft pick who showed some good flashes of ability in training camp, but not much else. A decent number of fans have already called for his release, and I’m sure they’re happy with this recent news from Pro Football Weekly. Yet the question remains:

Will Mike Neal play for the Green Bay Packers in 2012?

In this installment of the Packers Beer Mug Perspective, we’ll take a look at the issue from both angles, then determine whether our mug is really “half empty” or “half full.”

THE MUG IS HALF FULL

If the situation with former Packers defensive end Justin Harrell is any indicator, Ted Thompson will ride out the prospect of Mike Neal until there is simply no hope left.

While Neal’s situation is different in many ways from what Harrell went through, the similarities are enough to help us draw some conclusions about what Thompson will do. Both missed significant playing time due to injury despite the potential that came with their draft status. (Harrell was selected in the 1st Round of the 2007 NFL Draft at the 16th overall pick, while Neal was taken as the 56th overall pick in the 2nd Round of the 2010 draft.)

3

April

Last Day at Lambeau: A Film Review

Last Day at Lambeau Film

Last Day at Lambeau Premieres April 18, 2012, Wisconsin Film Festival

When I first heard about the film project called “Last Day at Lambeau,” my initial reaction was, WHY? Why re-open Packers fans’ wounds when the scars have been healing so nicely? After watching the film, I learned the answer to that question (but we’ll get to that a bit later).

I received an advance press copy of the film in the mail last week. I resisted the temptation to watch it right away, instead deciding to wait for the weekend, when I would have more time to devote to it and watch it more than once, if needed (I watched it twice).

Saturday night came along and the time to watch had arrived. I popped the DVD into my DVD player with a certain level of trepidation. I didn’t really need to go back there, and was sure I knew everything there was to know about the events of that offseason.  I was wrong on both counts.

The name of the film is quite catchy, but doesn’t give the film justice, as this documentary covers the entire period from Favre’s last game as a Packer to his last season with the Vikings (specifically, his final game at Lambeau).

The film makes heavy use of interviews with media members, bloggers and fans in Green Bay who lived and breathed the situation. For someone who doesn’t live in Wisconsin, it helped to give me, for the first time, a true feeling for what it must have been like. Only now can I begin to truly comprehend thn emotional toll these events took on the citizens of Green Bay.

The film opens with some conversations with young autograph seekers outside of Lambeau Field, showing off their collections of cards and items players had given them. It sets the tone for the adulation these players receive in Green Bay, but soon after that, we are painfully re-living Favre’s last completion as a Packer – to Corey Webster of the Giants. And then all hell broke loose.

What follows is a detailed chronological examination of the Brett Favre retirement saga, in the poignant and reflective words of local media members, juxtaposed with the emotional reaction of fans.

24

February

Adam Czech’s Green Bay Packers Offseason Blueprint

1) Release LT Chad Clifton, WR Donald Driver and S Charlie Peprah.
Saying goodbye to Clifton and Driver won’t be easy, but it’s time. The Packers save over $10.5 million by releasing the two veterans, money that can be used to resign Scott Wells. Ted Thompson has a good track record when it comes to drafting WRs and I’m confident he can fill Driver’s role quickley. If Clifton was healthy for even two-thirds of last season, I’d say keep him. But with Bryan Bulaga ready to take over at left tackle and Marshall Newhouse (or someone else not yet on the roster) capable of taking over at right tackle, it’s time to move on. One more thing on Driver: I wouldn’t bother asking him to take a pay cut. It’s time to move on and give Randall Cobb a chance to fill Driver’s role. As a diehard Packers fan, I hate myself for writing that, but it’s the correct move.  
 
2.) Let free agents RB Ryan Grant, DL Howard Green, QB Matt Flynn, LB Erik Walden and CB Pat Lee sign elsewhere.
It’d be nice to keep Grant around, but only if he takes a one-year deal at a bargain price. I think someone will offer him more than that and he’ll walk. Flynn earned a chance to start, and I hope a team, preferably a team in the NFC, overpays for his services. I think Flynn has a chance to be a decent QB, but I want an NFC team to overpay him and mess up their salary cap for a few years. Green, Walden and Lee are all replacement level players whose roles can be filled by just about anybody else.
 
Of course, with Finley now signed, the franchise tag is open for Flynn. Continue reading for more of my thoughts on that issue.
 
3) Re-sign C Scott Wells (3 years, $19 million), Re-sign CB Jarrett Bush (2 years, $3 million) and franchise TE Jermichael Finley (approximately 1 year, $5.5 million).
If I had to guess, I’d guess that the only reason Wells didn’t sign an extension during the season is because Thompson totally low-balled him, going below the typical “Packers-friendly deal.”  Thompson probably thinks there won’t be much interest in giving a huge contract to a 31-year-old center once he hits the open market, thus shifting the leverage in the Packers’ favor. I don’t think Thompson is completely off-base in that assumption, but I don’t think he’s totally right, either. Three years and $19 million sounds fair for both sides. The yearly salary is comparable to other top centers in the NFL and the three-year deal doesn’t tie the Packers to a player who is already on the wrong side of 30.
 
(On the flip side, perhaps Wells refused to sign an extension because he knows the Packers don’t have a replacement center on the current roster and he’s using that as major leverage. Or he’s got a major chip on his shoulder because of how the Packers have treated him during his career. Or he just wants a boatload of money. Probably some combination of everything.)
 
Signing Bush for two years would have sounded asinine a few years ago, but he’s earned a little security. Bush has been a major boost to the Packers special teams and his play in the secondary, while not stellar, has improved. I don’t see any reason why Bush can’t fill Charlie Peprah’s role as the emergency safety.
 
About Finley: I originally wrote this blueprint on Feb. 7, and the Packers signed Finley to a 2-year deal on Feb. 22. Finley’s signing opens the franchise tag for Flynn or Wells, which forced me to amend my blueprint.
 
3a) Re-sign Wells (3 years, $19 million), re-sign Bush (2 years, $3 million) and franchise Flynn only if there’s a trade already worked out.
 
Not much changes here. I still think Wells at 3 years and $19 million is good for the Packers. Ditto for Bush. It doesn’t make any sense for the Packers to franchise Flynn unless there’s a trade worked out. I really don’t think franchising Flynn now gives the Packers much additional leverage in trade talks.
 
4) Keep Charles Woodson at CB and leave him alone if he doesn’t want to re-structure his contract.
All this talk about moving to Woodson to safety needs to stop. Woodson’s best position is cornerback and that’s where he needs to stay. Woodson is a high-risk, high-reward type of player. He excels when he has a safety behind him and is able to take a few more chances that a corner probably should. Can you imagine Woodson being the last line of defense at safety? I’m not saying it would be a disaster — Woodson is an all-time great, I’m sure he’d be competent — but I wouldn’t be comfortable with a guy in his mid-30s playing safety for the first time and taking the sort of risks Woodson does.
 
On a separate issue, if Thompson approaches Woodson about re-structuring his contract and Woodson tells him to get lost, Thompson should get lost. Yes, Woodson showed his age a bit last season, but he’s still an important member of the defense. He’s always around the ball and his instincts for playmaking remain strong. Also, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields showed no sign of being able to handle the top two corner positions last season. The Packers need Woodson.
 
5) Sign free agent DE Red Bryant (4 years, $16 million)
This is the part of the blueprint where readers laugh hysterically at the author. Free agency?! The Packers?! It’ll never happen! The readers are probably right, but in case they aren’t, Bryant is a realistic option for the Packers to pursue (sorry folks, guys like Mario Williams and Brandon Carr won’t be wearing green and gold any time soon).
 
Bryant has battled injuries most of his career, but was healthy all of last season and became a force. At 6-4, 323 pounds, Bryant would fit right in at DE in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme. Plus he’s only 27 years old, making him more than a one-season stopgap. I don’t see Thompson signing an older guy just to plug a hole for one season, which makes signing Bryant sound even more realistic. Bryant isn’t the dynamic pass rusher that the Packers (and just about every other team in the league) could use, but I’ll remind everyone again: Mario Willaims is not walking through the door at Lambeau Field any time soon.
 
Another note on Bryant: Most reports indicate that the Seahawks will do everything they can to keep him. Even if Thompson is interested in Bryant, I don’t think he’d engage in a major bidding war for his services. Bryant is significant part of my offseason blueprint, but he’s probably buried somewhere toward the end of Thompson’s offseason blueprint.
 
I’d also look for Thompson to shop for a bargain basement cornerback or pilfer a corner off another team’s practice squad.
 
6) Follow the best-player-available method in the draft.
Between now and when the draft finally starts in April, you’ll hear analysts and fans screaming about the Packers need to load up on pass rushers and other defensive players in the draft. Let those people scream. Thompson will draft the best player available regardless of position or perceived need. And he’s absolutely right in doing so.
 
Reaching for picks that are lower on your draft board based on need is always a dangerous proposition. The odds of that player coming in and immediately filling that need aren’t always that good. Every team has needs. Every team has areas that need fixing. The Packers are no exception. As long as Thompson continues to draft the best player available on his board, the number of areas where the Packers need fixing will remain low.
 
7) Move Bryan Bulaga to left tackle.
Bulaga has improved just about every game since starting at right tackle halfway through the 2010 season. According to Bob Mcginn of the Milwauke Journal Sentinel, Bulaga allowed only 1 1/2 sacks and had a team-low six bad run blocks. There’s something to be said for continuity on the offensive line, but in this case, I think moving Bulaga to the left side would improve the line’s continuity. The last position you want to take a chance with is left tackle. The line, and the offense as a whole, can’t function like it should if Aaron Rodgers has to constantly worry about his blindside. With Bulaga over there, I don’t think he’d have to worry so much.
 
8) After a stock sale that netted millions, the Packers should not raise ticket prices.
Guess I’m a little late on this one.
 
That wraps up my offseason blueprint. To close, here is how the Packers opening day starting lineup will look if my blueprint is followed:
 
Offense
QB Aaron Rodgers
RB James Starks*
FB John Kuhn
WR Greg Jennings
WR Jordy Nelson
TE Jermichael Finley
LT Bryan Bulaga
LG TJ Lang
C Scott Wells
RG Josh Sitton
RT Marshall Newhouse*
 
Defense
NT Ryan Pickett
DE BJ Raji
DE Red Bryant
OLB Clay Matthews
ILB Desmond Bishop
ILB AJ Hawk
OLB Brad Jones*
CB Charles Woodson
CB Tramon Williams
FS Nick Collins
SS Morgan Burnett
 
Special Teams
K Mason Crosby
P Tim Masthay
KR/PR Randall Cobb
LS Brett Good
 
*Denotes players most vulnerable to losing starting job to a yet-to-be drafted rookie.
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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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30

January

Vic So’oto: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers outside linebacker Vic So'oto

Vic So'oto

1) Introduction: My, what lofty expectations some fans placed on Vic So’oto for the 2011 season.  Coming to the Packers offseason as an undrafted rookie free agent from BYU, So’oto was a converted 4-3 DE who exploded onto the scene during the last preseason game against the Kansas City with 1.5 sacks and an interception against starters who were constantly double teaming him.  During the regular season his star faded considerably since he was oft injured and not fast enough for special teams, So’oto was often deactivated in favor of fellow undrafted free agent rookie Jamari Lattimore

2) Profile:

Vic So’oto

Position: OLB
Height: 6-3
Weight: 263 lbs.
AGE: 24
Career Stats

 

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Low; as a undrafted rookie free agent not much was expected from So’oto, though the Kansas City preseason game showed a glimpse of So’oto potential.  So’oto figured to see some time in obvious pass rushing situations due to his inexperience in pass defense and see a lot of time on special teams.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: The highlights in So’oto’s short career would be the entire Kansas City game where he looked like the second coming of Clay Matthews III.  The lowlights would unfortunately be the entire regular season, where So’oto was often inactive due to a persistent back injury and a lack of talent on special teams

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Next to nothing; So’oto did not start a game and So’oto’s only statistics were one sack against Detroit in week 17 in mop up duty and 7 tackles during the season

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Not applicable; So’oto was a healthy scratch and inactive during the Giants game in the playoffs

Season Report Card:

(D) Level of expectations met during the season
(F) Contributions to team’s overall success
(N/A) Contributions to team during playoffs

Overall Grade for the year: D-

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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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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18

January

Analyzing Dom Capers. A Track Record of Success and Regression

Dom Capers

Dom Capers has a lot of cleaning up to do in 2012.

One of the issues discussed on Twitter immediately after the Packers took a dump against the Giants was the track record of defenses coached by Dom Capers. The Twitter chatter focused on the fact that Capers’ defenses generally decline in years two and/or three.

Actually this topic came up before Sunday but now that us Packers bloggers have some extra time on our hands, we can actually look up the numbers and discuss the issue using more than the 140 characters allowed on Twitter.

In the chart below, the numbers represent where the team finished in respect to the rest of the 31 teams.

Let’s take a look:

 

Defense Rushing Def Passing Def
Year Tm Yds Pts TkA Att Yds TD Y/A FR Att Yds TD Int nY/A
1992 PIT 13 2 1 12 17 4 23 1 14 8 6 7 10
1993 PIT 3 8 3 4 3 1 2 11 17 15 7 2 11
1994 PIT 2 2 13 7 7 1 4 7 12 3 1 13 2
1995 CAR 7 8 5 18 10 26 4 8 23 14 4 6 6
1996 CAR 10 2 5 2 8 4 26 4 22 12 6 7 5
1997 CAR 15 13 26 25 22 12 17 21 5 9 8 27 14
1998 CAR 30 27 7 24 26 23 25 7 12 28 30 10 29
1999 JAX 4 1 17 3 7 2 14 18 10 3 6 12 4
2000 JAX 12 16 14 17 11 20 8 3 1 14 17 25 23
2002 HOU 16 20 30 32 28 11 14 17 6 10 18 26 11
2003 HOU 31 27 25 30 31 23 22 27 11 31 21 20 32
2004 HOU 23 15 13 7 13 1 23 28 24 24 30 5 24
2005 HOU 31 32 32 28 32 29 30 27 4 24 26 31 31
2006 MIA 4 5 18 20 8 2 5 2 7 5 20 31 8
2007 MIA 23 30 28 32 32 30 30 27 1 4 28 23 31