Category Archives: 2011 OTAs / Mini-camp

22

July

Can Bishop, Peprah and Shields Build on Their 2010 Seasons?

Green Pay Packers cornerback Sam Shields

Can the young Sam Shields improve after his impressive rookie campaign?

The Green Bay Packers allowed the second fewest points in the NFL last season mainly because Clay Matthews became one of the best pass rushers in the league, BJ Raji held down the middle of the line, Tramon Williams emerged as a high-end cornerback and players like Charles Woodson, Nick Collins and Cullen Jenkins were their usual outstanding selves.

But to go from good to great, a team needs more than just its most talented and proven players making big plays. It needs under-the-radar guys to step up and not only provide depth, but also chip in with a big play every now and then. The Packers defense got just that last season from Desmond Bishop, Charlie Peprah and Sam Shields.

Can they do it again in 2011?

Desmond Bishop
2010 Expectations: Talented backup, but not quite good enough to start.
2010 Reality: Got his chance to start and proved he is more than capable.
2010 Highlight: Pick-six against Brett Favre in week seven.
Outlook: If there was a defensive player of the year award for the preseason, Bishop would probably have a few of them by now. Every preseason Bishop flies around the field and looks like the second-coming of Ray Lewis. Then the regular season starts and he gets stuck in the linebacker logjam.

Last season that logjam broke up because of injuries and Bishop got his chance. While he probably won’t become the regular season version of Ray Lewis, I expect Bishop to officially establish himself  as a good player instead of a talented wild card.

And the Packers are going to need him. Dom Capers likes to mix and match his personnell packages and Bishop will be needed to hold together many of them.

Charlie Peprah
2010 Expectations: If Peprah is on the field, the Packers are either losing or winning by several touchdowns late in the game.
2010 Reality: Took over after Morgan Burnett went down and played better than a career backup should play.
2010 Highlight: Key interception against the Bears in season finale.
Outlook: Of the three players we are reviewing, Peprah is probably the one most people would select to regress. It wouldn’t surprise me if Peprah goes back to being Peprah, but there are a few reasons why he might continue to surprise:

2

July

No Workouts? No Problem For The Packers

Brothers Aaron and Jordan Rodgers work out together at Whole Body Fitness in their hometown of Chico, CA.

It’s become the big topic of debate during the lockout and it unfortunately involves the entire Green Bay Packers squad.

No, they haven’t gone on a cruise “Love Boat” style like the Minnesota Vikings did a few years ago. Rather, it’s a question about the Packers ON the field.

Why haven’t the Packer players held an informal team workout yet?

It’s a fair inquiry to make.  Most NFL teams have held some kind of group workouts involving a good chunk of the squad.  Yet the world champions have yet to do so with training camp possibly about a month away (assuming the lockout ends relatively soon).   This has not set well with many members of the media, including several former NFL players—namely former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi.

To them I say, relax. The Packers will be fine.  Just because a majority of league has had team workouts does not put Green Bay at a significant competitive disadvantage.

Where is the proof of this? First, one has to look no further than the Packers squad that won Super Bowl XLV.  The team enjoyed outstanding chemistry in the locker room which is remarkable given all the injuries the team suffered and having to bring in some players basically off the street.

These new players were welcomed into the fold by the veterans.  Erik Walden comes to mind in this situation.  Here is a guy that comes in literally off the street and in a matter of weeks has a monster game which helped propel the Packers into the postseason.   On some other teams, Walden would have been forced to pay his dues and let the established stars make all the plays.

Not in Green Bay, where players take joy and pleasure in each other’s accomplishments.  This Packers squad was a team in the truest sense of the word and with a vast majority of players coming back for 2011, there is no reason to believe that strong chemistry will not continue.  Mike McCarthy and his staff will see to that.

Speaking of McCarthy, he’s another reason why the Packers don’t necessarily need to hold informal team workouts.   When asked about workouts during the lockout, McCarthy continued to emphasize that he trusts his players and expects them to report to camp in shape whenever it begins.

15

June

Will the NFL Lockout Impact the Green Bay Packers Offense?

When the lockout started, many NFL observers thought the Green Bay Packers were built to survive an offseason without OTAs and a shortened preseason. Truth is, nobody knows for sure how a team will react to an entire offseason without contact with coaches and organized workouts.

Speculating which team is built to withstand a lockout is kind of silly, anyway. It’s not like Ted Thompson built the Packers with the idea that they wouldn’t be able to practice one offseason. I don’t think he instructed his scouts to find him players that perform better without the benefit of OTAs and a full training camp.

Thompson built the Packers by acquiring talented players. And talented players should perform with or without the benefit of offseason practices.

Unfortunately, the Packers are not the only team with talented players. Every team has talented players. It’s the teams that get the most out of that talent that ends up winning. OTAs, training camp and exhibition games play some sort of role in determining which players get the most out of their talent.

That said, let’s take a look at the Packers position group by position group and try to determine how the lockout and lack of OTAs (and possibly a shortened training camp and reduced preseason games) might impact them. We will give each position group a rating after some brief thoughts. One means the lockout has minimal negative impact on the position group, 10 means the lockout has a major negative impact on the group.

The offense is up first. We will address the defense later in the week.

Quarterback
The more reps a QB has with his receivers the better, so the lockout definitely isn’t helping Aaron Rodgers. However, Rodgers is a veteran – a veteran with a championship – that should have little problem getting reacquainted with a receiving corps he’s already familiar with.
Impact: 4

Running Back
I’m not that worried about James Starks and Alex Green (and Brandon Jackson if he’s resigned) getting extra carries during offseason workouts and training camp. Actually, taking it easy and reducing wear and tear on running backs in practice is probably a good thing. But it would be nice to get Starks and Green some live looks at different blitz pickup situations. If Jackson leaves, they’re going to have to pick up the blocking slack.
Impact: 7

13

May

Is Packers Jermichael Finley Ready for Another YOTTO?

When Jermichael Finley found out the final bad news about his knee injury suffered in the week five game against the Redskins, he turned to twitter to let Packers fans know that, “YOTTO has been rescheduled for the 2011-2012 Green Bay Packer Season.”

Of course, whether Finley likes it or not, the Packers’ “Year Of The TakeOver” continued on just fine without him in 2010. In fact, it continued on just fine without more than a dozen Packer players lost for the season. I’m still amazed by that…

But getting back to Jermichael Finley, he’s talking about his knee again, but this time it’s all good. Back on April 22, Finley tweeted, “Today was the first time since Week 5 that I caught a ball & ran routes. An my my my I look good.” (never one afraid to kiss the mirror is Finley…)

Yesterday, just 20 days later, Finley let Packer Nation know, “I just thought to myself that its May & this knee feels brand new already. smh. This what my Pack Fans been waiting 4 huh.”

So here we are in this spring of much discontent in the world of the NFL, and the Packers’ star tight end is obviously healthy and chomping at the bit to get a piece of that championship feeling. Sadly, at a time when Finley could be running routes on Ray Nitschke field and we would all be hanging on every tweet about how good Finley looks in OTAs, we have nothing.

It  was rather ironic that Finley missed being a participatory piece of the Packers’ YOTTO. All he has now is hopes that football will be played again in 2011 and that the Packers make a run at repeating as World Champions. But he can’t call it YOTTO again – Green Bay has already taken over the NFL. Perhaps he needs to change it up a bit. Here are some suggestions for Jermichael:

 

YOTTOR (Year Of The TakeOver Repeat)

YOATO (Year Of Another TakeOver)

YOTSTO (Year Of The Second TakeOver)

Whatever he calls it, I’ll just be glad we will once again be able to say, TGIF -  Thank God It’s Finley.

 

——————

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

6

May

Bryan Bulaga vs. Derek Sherrod: Battle for Left Tackle!

With the 32nd pick, the Super Bowl Champions selected Derek Sherrod, offensive tackle from Mississippi State and raised one big question, where is he going to play?  The question stems from the 2010 NFL draft, where the Packers used their 1st round selection to nab offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga from Iowa.

Bulaga and Sherrod seem to have a lot in common; both players were predicted to be drafted far ahead of where they actually ended up and both were technically sound and athletic offensive linemen who weren’t as highly touted as some of the other offensive linemen in their respective drafts (such as Russel Okung and Trent Williams in 2010 and Gabe Carimi and Tyron Smith in 2011).  Both are considered more technicians than maulers and were considered left tackle prospects.

The Packers have claimed after drafting Sherrod that both will get a chance to battle it out in training camp, but lets see how they compare to each other and who fits the mold of a left tackle.  Below is a side by side comparison of Bulaga and Sherrod.  I don’t claim to be a evaluator of talent, so I’ve used analysis from CBSports.com (most likely written by Rob Rang), Doug Farrar (of Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner and Football Outsiders) and Kevin Seifert (of ESPN).

 

Name Bryan Bulaga Derek Sherrod
Pass Blocking Takes a strong angle on kick slide, keeps knees bent, head up, and arm extended to keep defenders at bay. Very difficult to get off his blocks if he’s mirroring. Has a strong punch. Tends to lunge against inside moves, lacks great recovery speed and can be beaten by secondary rush. Slow to recoil once extended. Hesitates when defenders let up. Gets bull rushed into the pocket by strong ends because he allows their hands into his chest, but typically anchors before reaching the quarterback. Must improve his arm-bar to keep rusher out of the pocket. Inconsistent quickness after the first step in his kick slide makes him susceptible to giving up the edge to quicker pass rushers.-NFLDraftScout.com 

 

Good initial quickness. Eases out of his stance and has the lateral agility and balance to mirror the defender. Good hand strength and has long arms that he uses to latch onto and control his opponent. Generally plays with good knee-bend and leverage, but can lose his anchor when he tires. Can become fundamentally lazy and lean into the defender; gets knocked off-balance and gives up the inside lane. Should improve in this area with greater focus on his technique, but has an upside-down triangle build due to broad shoulders and relatively narrow hips, making him top-heavy and susceptible to being overpowered. Among his better attributes is his recognition. Recognizes the blitz coming and gets a good initial pop on his primary target (defensive end) before passing him off to the guard and working his way outside to catch the rushing linebacker or stunting defensive tackle.-NFLDraftScout.com
9

April

According to Hobbes: Packers Offseason Primer on the NFL Combine: Defensive Ends (Defensive Linemen)

Defensive Ends (Defensive Linemen): Here’s the seventh of a series of articles and first for the defense, looking specifically at the NFL combine and the Packers’ drafting tendencies. (Read here for the rationale for this serieshere for quarterbackshere for running backs, here for wide receivershere for tight ends here for offensive tackles and here for offensive interior linemen).  This article will use the combine numbers from previous players drafted by GM Ted Thompson as a guide for what defensive ends are likely to fit into the Packers’ scheme.

Again, this is merely an attempt to make a best guess based on statistics at which players the Packers might be interested in, game tape naturally trumps combine numbers, so take all of this with a grain of salt.  But I believe it will make for some interesting discussion.  Also listed below are also two defensive ends in this year’s draft who I think fit the Packers scheme the best, based on their combine numbers.

Statistics of offensive interior linemen drafted by the Packers:

Name Height Weight 40-Yard 3-Cone Shuttle Vertical Broad Bench
Mike Montgomery 6’5” 276.00 5.05 7.39 4.33 34.50 115.00 19.00
Johnny Jolly 6’3” 310.00 5.41
Justin Harrell 6’5” 300.00 5.04 7.63 4.79 30.50 108.00 24.00
Jarius Wynn 6’5” 273.00 4.94 19.00
Mike Neal 6’2” 294.00 4.95 7.53 4.53 33.00 113.00 31.00
C.J. Wilson 6’4” 271.00 4.93 4.77 33.00 116.00 32.00
Average 6’4”
287.33
5.05 7.52 4.61 32.75 113.00 25.00
StDev 1.26
16.24
0.18 0.12 0.22 1.66 3.56 6.28

 

What the Packers are looking for: Obviously one of the biggest differences between the offense and the defense in regards to drafting is the switch to the 3-4 defense under Dom Capers in 2009.  As a result some players were slotted into other positions, such as Aaron Kampman moving from defensive end to outside linebacker.  Ideally this article would only analyze players drafted from the 2009 season and beyond, but unfortunately there haven’t been enough drafts and picks to make a good analysis.

5

April

According to Hobbes: Packers Offseason Primer on the NFL Combine: Offensive Interior Linemen

Offensive Interior Linemen: Here’s the sixth of a series of articles and final for the offense, looking specifically at the NFL combine and the Packers’ drafting tendencies. (read here for the rationale for this serieshere for quarterbackshere for running backs, here for wide receivershere for tight ends and here for offensive tackles).  This article will use the combine numbers from previous players drafted by GM Ted Thompson as a guide for what offensive interior linemen are likely to fit into the Packers’ scheme.

Again, this is merely an attempt to make a best guess based on statistics at which players the Packers might be interested in, game tape naturally trumps combine numbers, so take all of this with a grain of salt.  But I believe it will make for some interesting discussion.  Also listed below are also two offensive interior linemen in this year’s draft who I think fit the Packers scheme the best, based on their combine numbers.

Statistics of offensive interior linemen drafted by the Packers:

Name Height Weight 40-Yard 3-Cone Shuttle Vertical Broad Bench
Junius Coston 6’3” 317.00 5.31 7.93 4.64 29.50 102.00 21.00
Will Whitticker 6’5” 338.00 5.35 7.90 4.75 29.50 97.00 29.00
Daryn Colledge 6’4” 300.00 5.05 7.46 4.60 32.50 110.00 21.00
Jason Spitz 6’4” 310.00 5.40 7.82 4.56 28.50 102.00 25.00
Tony Moll 6’4” 285.00 18.00
Josh Sitton 6’4” 320.00 5.30 7.55 4.50 29.00 108.00 28.00
Marshall Newhouse 6’3” 319.00 5.00 7.40 4.60 25.00 97.00 25.00
Average 6’4” 312.71 5.24 7.68 4.61 29.00 102.67 23.86
StDev 0.69 16.77 0.17 0.23 0.08 2.41 5.43 4.02

What the Packers are looking for: Offensive interior are considered incredibly safe picks, perhaps even more than offensive tackles; offensive linemen are the most likely to start as rookies of any position and probably command the cheapest contracts of any 1st round pick.  I’ve decided to combine offensive guards and centers together since it seems like many of the players that the Packers use have the ability to play any one of three positions.

Thompson has never traditionally been very high on interior offensive linemen, the average draft pick for an offensive interior linemen is in the middle of the 4th round, and it always seems as if a undrafted rookie free agent offensive interior linemen sneaks onto the active roster, with Evan Detrich-Smith getting in last year and Nick McDonald getting in this year (both who were developmental guard-centers that the Packers think highly of).