Category Archives: 2012 OTAs / Mini-camp



Packers Sign Free Agent Guard Greg Van Roten – Video Highlights Included

Newest Green Bay Packer, Greg Van Roten

Newest Green Bay Packer, Greg Van Roten

The Green Bay Packers’ team IQ went up a few points yesterday after signing Ivy League guard Greg Van Roten of the University of Pennsylvania. The three-time All-Ivy Selection was originally invited to the Packers rookie mini-camp, but a conflict with the Jets’ camp kept him from participating. Van Roten also attended the San Diego Chargers’ camp but received no offers from either team.

Van Roten kept in contact with the Packers throughout the summer, and they brought him in for a tryout on Monday. The Packers liked him so much, they wouldn’t let him leave, asking him to stay in Green Bay overnight, while they figured out a way to make some room for him. By the next morning, the Packers had released Charlie Peprah along with offensive guard Grant Cook, and Van Roten was a Packer.

Contacted b y the Daily Pennsylvanian, UPenn’s offensive coordinator Jom McLoughlin commented, “I’m so happy for Greg. This opportunity is a real testament to him and all the hard work he’s put in. Coming out of high school, he was told by several coaches that he couldn’t play at the Division I level, and he always used that as motivation.”

Van Roten played left tackle for the Quakers until halfway through his senior season, when injuries on the offensive line necessitated a move inside during some games. The offensive line didn’t miss a beat, continuing to lead the way for the Quakers’ 3rd highest Ivy League scoring offense while allowing the league’s third fewest sacks for the season.

Greg Van Roten at theNFL Regional Combine:


Greg Van Roten Game Highlights (Warning – Adult Language):


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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of, 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




Packers Pre-Training Camp Grades: Defense

Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams will need to lead the defense back from a miserable 2011.

As promised, here are our pre-training camp grades for the Packers defense:

Defensive Line: D
Grading the defensive line depends on what type of grader you are. If you give points for potential, a ‘D’ seems too low. If potential ranks far below production, then a ‘D’ seems fair. Seeing names like Raji and Pickett makes you think this line should be damn good. But Raji was bad last season and Pickett is another year older. Sure, Raji has the potential to be great like he was at the end of 2010, but he had that same potential in 2011 and never reached it. Jerel Worthy is another guy that could make this group potentially better, but right now, I need to see actual improvement on the line before upping my grade.

Link: Listen to CheeseheadTV’s Brian Carriveau discuss the defensive line in this podcast.

Linebackers: B+
Clay Matthews is one of the best all-around players in the league and Desmond Bishop brings much-needed energy, attitude and a knack for making impact plays.  Matthews and Bishop carried the load at LB last season and need some help in 2012. Nick Perry could bring some much-needed relief. Ditto for D.J. Smith if A.J. Hawk continues to be a dud.  Mix in intriguing rookies like Dezman Moses and Terrell Manning and I like what I see at LB.

Link: Here’s what the Green Bay Press Gazette’s Rob Demovsky had to say about the linebackers before April’s draft.

Cornerbacks: C
This is the toughest position group to rank by far. What do we make of Tramon Williams’ miserable 2011 season? Is Sam Shields really just a guy after showing so much promise in 2010? Will age finally catch up with Charles Woodson? How much do we blame the non-existent pass rush for the cornerback’s decline? Based on last season’s historically bad pass defense, a ‘C’ seems a little generous. But I have a hard time believing that all three main CBs went from good/great in 2010 to terrible in the span of one season.

Link: Charles Woodson is old, but if you don’t understand just how important he is to the Packers defense, read this post from Jason Wilde at ESPNWisconsin.



All Signs Point to Improvement for Packers’ Defense

Clay Matthews aims to lead an improved Packers' defense in 2012.

“The first step is admitting you have a problem.”

The Packers have taken that step with regard to their pitiful defensive performance during the 2011 season. Many Packers have expressed their dissatisfaction with how the team played on that side of the ball, the latest of them Tramon Williams.

According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Williams voiced his thoughts on the 2011 campaign.

“But at the end of the day, (did) we have a terrible defense? Yeah, we did, but we were productive out there. We did what we’ve always done. We turned the ball over. We have some things to build off now. We have some more pieces to the puzzle and we’re excited about it, and just ready to get back out there now.”

Williams joins Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, who each criticized the team’s defense down the stretch of last season. All three acknowledged that the defense just wasn’t good enough and gave up too many yards and points. The saving grace throughout much of the year was the defense’s ability to create turnovers, as mentioned by Williams. The amount of turnovers created likely masked the depth of Packers’ defensive issues.

While the players have publicly spoken out regarding the defensives issues, the Packers front office acknowledged those issues in a different way. Ted Thompson used the first six selections in the NFL Draft to add defensive talent. In an unprecedented move, Thompson also traded up multiple times to grab significant talent after doing so just a few times in years prior. In addition to the draft, the Packers also signed multiple defensive linemen in hopes that somebody will step up.

With the Packers’ players individually acknowledging their issues defensively and the overhaul of defensive talent, it would seem that the Packers will be a better defense team in 2012. Getting better on paper is that just that, though.

The Packers have plenty of work to do during training camp and preseason, but the important thing to note is that signs are pointing to a much improved defense.

On the defensive line, the Packers added Daniel Muir and Anthony Hargrove through free agency. Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels were both added through the draft. The influx of defensive linemen should bring about competition not only for the newcomers, but another chance for Mike Neal, Jarius Wynn, C.J. Wilson and Lawrence Guy.



Around the NFC North: Lions in Jail, Vikings Trade Requests, Bears Roaring Quietly

Percy Harvin

Vikings WR/KR has requested a trade.

We know what the Packers have been up to, but it’s been a while since we checked in on the other teams in the division. Let’s take a trip around the NFC North.

Detroit Lions
The Lions will give the Packers all they can handle in the NFC North as long as they stay out of prison. Running back Mikel Leshoure, defensive lineman Nick Fairley, tackle Johnny Culbreath and corner Aaron Berry have had run-ins with the law this offseason. Everybody is clamoring for Lions’ management to take a stand against this stuff, but really, most of it will be forgotten if Detroit plays up to its potential and contends for a division title. Winning makes the fact that your team is filled with morons a secondary story.


Minnesota Vikings
Percy Harvin reportedly requested a trade. There’s no way the Vikings will trade him unless they’re able to get 100 percent return on his value (unlikely). If Peterson remains hurt, Harvin is the Vikings best player on offense, and it’s not even really close. Harvin is due to make $915,000 this year, about half of what Jerome Simpson, the troubled and not-very-good WR signed by the Vikings this offseason, is set to make. Harvin is underpaid, and I don’t blame him for being mad, but I think he’d make more money if he just shut up and continued producing. He gained no additional leverage by requesting a trade, in my opinion. Harvin showed up at minicamp a day after requesting the trade, so who knows where his mind is at this point.


Chicago Bears
Matt Forte still hasn’t been signed to a long-term deal and could hold out once training camp starts. Other than that, the Bears are quietly getting healthy and going about their business. With Jay Cutler healthy, Brandon Marshall on the team, and Mike Martz gone, this offense should do more than enough to keep up with the Packers and Lions high-powered attacks. The offensive line remains shaky, but I think the sack and pressure numbers will get better with Martz gone.


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.




How Much Longer Can A.J. Hawk Remain a Packers Starter?

D.J. Smith

Could D.J. Smith take A.J. Hawk's job in 2012?

Since being drafted in the first round of the 2006 NFL draft, A.J. Hawk has consistently been one of the most criticized players for the Green Bay Packers.  In fact, it would be safe to say that the former No. 5 overall pick has been widely considered somewhat of a bust during his tenure in the league.

It seems that every year Packers fans are wondering whether or not this will be the last time that Hawk remains a starting inside linebacker for Green Bay.  However, every year before the start of the regular season they inevitably see Hawk’s name in the starting lineup without a possible replacement challenging him.

That may no longer be the case for Green Bay and Hawk.  According to a report from Gregg Rosenthal at, Hawk could lose playing time to second-year player D.J. Smith.  Rosenthal does state that it is unlikely that Smith will completely replace Hawk, but could definitely begin taking away snaps from him.

However, the most interesting quote in Rosenthal’s article is the comment from defensive coordinator Dom Capers that basically states that Smith will be competing for Hawk’s job.  It is one thing for a reporter to say Smith could take Hawk’s job, but it is another thing entirely to have the head-honcho of the defense saying the same thing.

Smith became a fan favorite while filling in when Desmond Bishop injured his knee last year.  One reason why fans in Green Bay loved Smith so much was due to his passion for the game.  He played every snap at 110 percent and was widely effective during his time on the field.

While no one would ever say Hawk doesn’t give his all on the field, you have to wonder what happened to the dominant linebacker who ravaged offenses at Ohio State.  Whereas  Hawk seems to have reached a ceiling that is lower than anyone expected, Smith appears to be capable of becoming much better.  He looks like he could become an exceptional player in this league, and that type of talent simply can’t sit on the bench.

The only question that remains is how long does Hawk have before he stops losing snaps to Smith and simply loses his job completely?



DJ Smith Needs to Tackle His Way into Starting ILB Job

Green Bay Packers linebacker D.J. Smith

D.J. Smith needs to show he's a better tackler than A.J. Hawk to win the starting job.

I had a 900-word post drafted about what D.J. Smith has to do to overtake A.J. Hawk as the Packers starting ILB alongside Desmond Bishop, but I scrapped most of it.

Why? Because what Smith has to do to win the job is simple.

He needs to tackle.

If I’m D.J. Smith, I wouldn’t even wait until tackling drills in training camp to start tackling people. If Smith is standing on the field waiting to stretch and an undrafted free agent RB is walking by with a ball, Smith should tackle him.

If the equipment manager is moving a bag of footballs from one part of the field to another, Smith should run him down, wrap him up and take him to the ground.

If Smith’s best friend is walking to the fridge to eat the leftovers from dinner, Smith should light him up.

Only starters and immediately family members should be off-limits. Otherwise, Smith needs to tackle anybody that comes into his line of vision between now and the start of the regular season. Player or non-player. Big or small. Male or female. If they have a football, Smith is tackling them.

It’s not going to be anything fancy that helps Smith overtake Hawk. All he has to do is prove that he’s a vastly superior tackler.

We’re all tired of watching Hawk bouncing off ballcarriers or getting dragged for extra yards whenever he does make a tackle. I’m sure the coaches are tired of it too. It’s time that the job went to the player who can make the greatest impact through the most basic and fundamental part of football — tackling.

The general consensus is that Hawk is favored because of his leadership, intelligence, and familiarity with the Packers defense. That’s all fine and good, but Smith didn’t exactly look like a deer in the headlights when forced into action last season. He also seems smart and more than capable of becoming familiar with the defense.

What’s wrong with getting some production and playmaking ability to go along with leadership and intelligence?

Obviously, Smith is far from a sure thing. He shouldn’t be penciled in as an automatic replacement for Hawk.



Hargrove to Appeal Suspension Today: Agent Rips Into NFL

Green Bay Packers Anthony Hargrove

Hargrove appeals suspension today.

Anthony Hargrove and the three other players suspended in the “BountyGate” scandal will have their appeals heard today by none other than the man who handed them out, Roger Goodell. That is one big bone of contention for the players and their representatives, who previously pushed for an impartial arbitrator but lost that battle.

According to Keven Seifert of ESPN, Hargrove’s agent, Phil Williams, is not the type of loud-mouthed agent who goes spouting off on a regular basis. Yet, he felt so strongly about this case and the “injustice” being layed down on Hargrove that he put his own reputation on the line with a blistering letter questioning the NFL’s honesty and underhanded tactics.

The NFL waited until just days before the appeal hearing to release their “evidence,” in a rather transparent attempt to make it as difficult as possible for the players’ representatives to build an appeals case. While it’s accepted as fact that a bounty program was in place at New Orleans (as it probably was on many other teams), is it fair to single out just four players for punishment when many more participated?

But beyond those types of questions, my main issue with this whole case is how the NFL (and specifically Roger Goodell)  are suing strong-arm tactics and in the process, eliminating any sense of fairness. This would be like a trial judge who imposed a sentence showing up on the judge’s bench when the same “defendant” appeals their case.

The dictionary definition of a czar is an “autocratic ruler exercising great authority or power.” There is no doubt that in the world of football, Roger Goodell has been a “czar” for quite some time. He is quickly approaching the title of despot – a tyrant or oppressor with absolute power.

Perhaps he’s feeling the pressure of this massive concussion suit and is circling the wagons in every way possible. But there’s still no excuse for being that unfair and frankly, I find it distasteful.

(Going off on a tangent, there is a VERY thought-provoking article at the Business Insider on what they see as potential radical changes that may be coming to the sport of football at every level as a result of the concussion issue. A must-read, whether you agree with their conclusions, or not.)