16

August

Checking Up on the Packers’ Third-Year Players

Packers RB Alex Green could have the most to lose among third-year players.

Packers RB Alex Green could have the most to lose among third-year players.

At a time where rookies are looking to make an impression, sophomores are trying to make that jump, and veterans are honing their skills, it’s easy to overlook the third-year players. These guys are knee-deep into that transition between being a “young guy” and being a “veteran.” And for many of them, it’s this transition that will make or break their careers. When a football player goes looking to sign his second contract after three or four years, he’s going to know exactly what he’s worth – both to his own team and other teams.

The third-year players for the Green Bay Packers are an interesting group, to say the least. After winning the Super Bowl in 2010, the Packers picked at the 32nd spot in the 2011 NFL Draft. It’s a double-edged sword, because it represents a great achievement, but also provides a great challenge on draft day.

General Manager Ted Thompson ended up taking ten players that day, and four of them are no longer on the roster: G Caleb Schlauderaff (Round 6, No. 179), LB D.J. Smith (Round 6, No. 186), LB Ricky Elmore (Round 6, No. 197), and their final pick DE Lawrence Guy (Round 7, No. 233). Schlauderaff was traded to the New York Jets at the beginning of the regular season, Elmore was a disappointment who left with the cuts, Guy spent a year on injured reserve before being signed from the practice squad by the Indianapolis Colts, and D.J. Smith was a semi-surprising cut by the Packers last April.

The remaining six picks and two undrafted rookie free agents have made it this far, so let’s take a quick look at where they might be headed:

T Derek Sherrod (Round 1, No. 32)

  • Fate hasn’t been kind to Sherrod. No matter what people gleaned about his abilities from his short time in training and practices, there’s no avoiding the fact that his injury killed the value of Thompson’s first round pick. Sherrod’s been off the field since December 2011, and there’s no telling when he’ll get back on, not to mention how he will perform if he does. The Packers will be as patient as possible, but the outlook just isn’t promising.

WR Randall Cobb (Round 2, No. 64)

24

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #1 — The Main Event

The Packers spent two draft picks on running backs, but could DuJuan Harris steal the starting job?

The Packers spent two draft picks on running backs, but could DuJuan Harris steal the starting job?

Quick. Think of a more anticipated Packers training-camp battle in recent years than this summer’s competition at running back. Good luck.

In 2012, the running back position saw a great deal of turnover. Desperate for a true feature back, the Packers opted to sign veteran Cedric Benson during the preseason. But Benson went down with a Lisfranc injury, opening the door for 2011 third-round pick Alex Green.

When Green failed to take full advantage of his opportunity, James Starks got a chance to prove his worth. Outside of a few nice runs, Starks was pretty average in his six regular-season appearances.

But late in the season, the team got a massive boost from journeyman DuJuan Harris. Just months after selling used cars in Florida, Harris was the feature back for the No. 3 seed in the NFC Playoffs.

In six games with the Packers between the regular season and the playoffs, Harris carried the ball 62 times for 257 yards, an average of 4.1 yards per carry. While not spectacular, that’s a sizable upgrade over Benson’s average of 3.5, Green’s 3.4 and Starks’s 3.6.

Harris also scored four touchdowns in those six games.

This will be his first offseason with the Packers, and he’ll face the stiffest competition at the position in recent memory. Leading up to this year’s draft, Eddie Lacy was considered by most to be the best running back available, possibly cracking the first round and Johnathan Franklin was thought to be a surefire second rounder before falling to the Packers in the fourth round.

The rookies have yet to show what they can do in full pads, but there’s certainly reason to be excited about both. Lacy provides the Packers with their most physical running back in some time, and Franklin appears to be a natural fit within the Packers’ fast-paced, spread offense.

Franklin joined us last month at Packers Talk Radio Network for an interview.

Prior to the draft, I considered Franklin to be the second-best running back in the draft, behind Giovani Bernard and just ahead of Lacy. Ultimately, teams were scared off by Franklin’s small frame and ball-security issues which were on display through his first three years at UCLA. But fresh off his senior season in which he racked up over 2,000 total yards, Franklin expected to hear his name called much earlier than he actually did.

2

November

Rating the Rookies: Cobb Leads Packers 2011 Class Through 7 Games

The rookies on the Green Bay Packers roster have yet to complete a half-season in 2011, but the bye week in Week 8 gave us an opportunity to gauge how the Packers’ first-year players look through seven games.

Snap-counts and statistics are courtesy of Pro Football Focus

T Derek Sherrod (R1)

The Packers wanted him to take hold of the left guard position coming into training camp, but that experiment died in a hurry when Sherrod couldn’t handle the switch. He’s a right or left tackle from this point on. The only major action Sherrod has seen this season came against the Falcons in Week 5. After Chad Clifton went down with a hamstring injury, Sherrod filled in at right tackle as Marshall Newhouse slid over to the left side. Of the 51 snaps he played, 36 came on passing plays, and Sherrod allowed just two quarterback pressures and no sacks or hits. That kind of snap distribution shows the confidence that the Packers have in their rookie at right tackle in pass protection. Sherrod also came in on seven snaps (five run, two pass) against the Broncos in Week 4.

WR/KR Randall Cobb (R2)

GM Ted Thompson drafted Cobb in the second round to be the Packers primary return man and a sub-package receiver that can make plays in space. So far, that’s exactly what Cobb has been. He has returned every punt and kick save one, which was a squib kick that Tom Crabtree got his hands on. Cobb has done his best work on kicks, where his 30.5-yard average (13 returns, 396 yards) ranks fifth in the NFL among players with eight or more returns. Of course, his 108-yard TD against the Saints on opening night is the highlight of the season. He also lost a fumble in Carolina that contributed to the Packers falling down by 13 points in the first quarter.

Cobb hasn’t had the same impact on punt returns, where his 12 returns have yielded just 97 yards (8.1 average). Cobb has 11 fair catches. His only muffed punt of the season in Minnesota gave the Vikings good field position to re-take the lead, 14-7.  In the same game, Cobb had a 42-yard punt return that set up a Packers touchdown.

17

October

McCarthy: Packers Won’t Overlook Struggling Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers are just two years removed from playing a pair of games that essentially decided the NFC North in 2009, but the franchises couldn’t have veered in more different directions since then.

The Packers rebounded from two crippling losses to Brett Favre in ’09 to win the Super Bowl last season, and they’ve started 2011 with six straight victories. Green Bay is the last remaining undefeated team in the NFL and the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season.

The Vikings, on the other hand, went through a circus year in 2010 which saw them stumble to a disappointing 6-10 record. Things haven’t gotten better this season under coach Leslie Frazier, as the Vikings are fresh off a 39-10 drubbing at the hands of the Chicago Bears which dropped them to 1-5.

But despite everything suggesting an easy path for Green Bay to get to 7-0 this week in Minnesota, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is standing firm that Sunday isn’t a game that his team will overlook on the schedule.

“We’re not overlooking the Minnesota Vikings, I can promise you that,” McCarthy said during his Monday press conference. “The Vikings are a different team in the Metrodome than they are on natural grass. Hard lesson this team has learned in years past.”

The Packers have won three of the past five games at the Metrodome, including a 31-3 win there last season. The two losses during that stretch came in ’09 when the Vikings beat the Packers, 30-23, on Monday Night Football, and in ’08, when Adrian Peterson’s late touchdown run gave the Vikings a 28-27 win.

The Vikings quarterback situation is as foggy this week as it was at times during the 2010 season, when Favre was hurt for most of the year. Minnesota has started 34-year-old Donovan McNabb, whom they traded for this past offseason, in each of the Vikings first six games. But he’s struggled mightily at times, and McNabb has just a 82.9 passer rating with four touchdowns so far in 2011. In the second half Sunday night, Frazier pulled McNabb in favor of rookie Christian Ponder, and the first rounder showed some poise behind the Vikings leaky offensive line. Ponder saw both his drives end with completions short of the sticks on fourth down, but he finished the night 9-of-17 for 99 yards and wasn’t sacked.

25

May

Can the Green Bay Packers 2011 Draft Picks Stay Healthy?


Mike Neal missed most of the 2010 season with a shoulder injury.

There isn’t much to criticize Ted Thompson for these days. If you’re searching for something, it would probably be the fact that his recent high draft choices, particularly on defense, have gotten themselves injured with some frequency .

Green Bay Packers’ defenders drafted in the first three rounds since 2009 have missed 29 games. That total rises to 39 games if you count Brad Jones, a seventh round pick in 2009.

It’s not like Thompson has been drafting players that had injury issues in college. But for some reason, they get hurt once they join the Packers.

The first three picks in the 2011 draft were all pretty durable in college. Will they stay off the IR once they join the Packers? Hopefully.

Just for fun, lets review the NFL injury history of the first three picks in 2009 and 2010, then take a look at the durability of the 2011 class.

2009

BJ Raji
Raji was hobbled by a sprained ankle early in his rookie season. He missed two games, started only one, and never really got going. He rebounded in 2010 and now looks like one of the more promising interior defenders in the league.

Clay Matthews
Matthews has been slowed by hamstring injuries throughout each of his first two training camps. He’s only missed one regular season game, though, and is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.

TJ Lang
Offseason wrist surgery hampered Lang’s progress last season. Lang saw action in all 16 games as a rookie, but was not a factor in 2010.

2010

Bryan Bulaga
Bulaga dealt with a shoulder injury after the wild card win over the Eagles, but didn’t miss any time. He played in all 16 regular season games and will hopefully do the same this season.

Mike Neal
Neal only played in two games because of a shoulder injury. He looked good in those two games, but the Packers need him to stay healthy and contribute this season.

Morgan Burnett
The strong safety tore his ACL in week four and missed the rest of the 2010 season. Like Neal, the Packers need Burnett to come back strong and compete for a starting spot in 2011.

2011

11

May

My Newest Favorite Packers Draft Pick – Alex Green

Um, who is Alex Green? I have to admit, that was my first reaction to the announcement of the Packers’ third round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. I hadn’t really paid much attention to running backs in my pre-draft research. I can blame that on the CheeseheadTV Draft guide, which had me spending all of my free time studying offensive tackles and outside linebackers.

I did expect the Packers to take a running back, but not until day three of the draft. So when the Packers selected Green, I raised my eyebrows a bit, read a few scouting reports and was satisfied that it seemed like a decent pick. When the draft concluded, I have to say that there was a lot that I liked about how it had all worked out for the Green Bay Packers. The Packers took three players I was really hoping for (Sherrod, Cobb and Guy), and a few I consider very pleasant surprises (House, Williams, & Elmore).

But what about this Alex Green? Well, since the draft ended, I’ve been quietly compiling information and watching tape. I can now truly say – I like this pick as much as I do those of Sherrod and Cobb.

First, a little background. I’ve been watching football for over 40 years and I’ve always been a bruising running game kind of guy. I’ve always been drawn to teams that could run it down your throat and there was nothing you could do about it. The Packers with Taylor and Hornung. The Dolphins with Csonka, Kiick and Morris. The Steelers with Harris and Bleier. Of course, those were all a long time ago and it’s a different NFL now.

As recently as during the 2010 season, I was still steadfastedly holding to my belief that a championship caliber team needs at least a “consistent” running game.  Of course, the Packers went out and proved that to be just a bunch of hooey, and finally broke though that wall of denial I had built around myself. Yes, I am now a believer. Running game, schmunning game – who needs it?

But while the Packers proved to me you don’t “need” it, I don’t think anyone would argue it would be a hell of an additional weapon to have. Well Good Golly Miss Molly, I believe the Packers agree. With their selection of Alex Green, adding to the Ryan Grant – James Starks mix, the Packers are saying to opposing defensive coordinators – good luck game planning us.

2

May

The Complete Green Bay Packers NFL Draft Class of 2011

Round 1 (32): Derrick Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State (@dsherrod78)

Sherrod measured 6’5” 321 lbs with a 35 3/8 inch wingspan and at the combine and posted a 5.18 second 40-yard dash, 23 bench presses, 28 inch vertical jump, 97 inch broad jump, 7.43 second 3-cone drill and 4.63 second 20-yard shuttle. Sherrod is one of the most decorated college football players in the nation both on and off the field; he was named to seven All-American teams this year as well as winning the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Award, which is given to the top 16 players in the nation for their academic and leadership ability.  Sherrod graduated in August of 2010 with a 3.54 grade point average in business.

Round 2 (64): Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky (@rcobb18)

Cobb measures in at 5-11, 196 pounds with 31″ arms. He posted a 4.46-second 40-yard dash, 16 bench-presses, 33.5″ vertical leap, 115″ broad jump, 7.08-second 3 cone drill, 4.34-second 20-yard shuttle and 11.56-second 60-yard shuttle.  Over his three years in college, Cobb racked up 5,000 all-purpose yards, including 1,661 receiving and 1,313 rushing. In his final year, Cobb posted 84 catches for 1,017 yards and was selected as a First Team All-American for his efforts.

Round 3 (96): Alex Green, RB, Hawaii
Green measures in at 6-0, 225 pounds with 32″ arms. Green posted a 4.53-second 40-yard dash, 20 bench-presses, 34″ vertical leap, 114″ broad jump, 6.91-second 3 cone drill and 4.15-second 20-yard shuttle. Playing in Hawaii’s pass-happy offense, Green was able to rush for 1,199 yards on 146 carries (8.2 ypc) and 18 touchdowns his senior season. He also caught 27 passes for 363 yards and another touchdown. Green was named Second Team All-WAC in 2010.

Round 4 (131): Davon House, CB, New Mexico State (@davonhouse4)

House measures in at 6-1, 200 pounds.  At the NFL Combine, he posted a 4.44-second 40-yard dash, 14 bench-presses, 4.12-second 20-yard shuttle and a 33.5″ vertical leap. House played 12 games as a true freshman and continued to improve throughout his entire college career. He intercepted 11 passes in four years and returned three for touchdowns. He also demonstrated an ability to stop the run, racking up 202 solo tackles.

Round 5 (141): D. J. Williams, TE, Arkansas (@dj45williams)