20

June

The Uncertain Future of James “Rocksteady” Jones in Green Bay

If you’re a 20-something fan like me (and I should apologize to the readers who may have no idea what I’m talking about in the following lines), the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were likely one of your favorite cartoons growing up. If that’s the case, you’ll also likely remember “Rocksteady,” one of the evil henchmen that the four turtles routinely fought against.

Naturally, I’m sure you’re thinking: What in the world does this have to do with Green Bay Packers receiver James Jones?

To be honest, there’s very little comparison between the two in either appearance or personality. Jones is neither a bi-pedal rhino or a crime-loving henchman from my own observations.

But the nickname? It’s perfect for Jones.

He’s proven to have “Rock” hands in some of the worst situations over his short career, dropping a handful of big passes in 2010 that nearly cost the Packers several games. Drops against the Jets, Eagles and Steelers are the first to come to my mind, but there has been several others.

And I think most fans will admit that they’ve grown tired of passes that have no business being dropped hitting the turf because of Jones. Honestly, who didn’t post something on Twitter in the moments after Jones’s drop against the Eagles in the Wild Card round about his long-term future in Green Bay?

In fact, I’m sure there will be commenters on this very post that say they want nothing to do with Jones because of those drops—and that’s understandable.

But to be fair to Jones, you also have to say he’s been “steady” too.

As the Packers’ third, and sometimes fourth, receiving option over the past four years, Jones has caught 149 passes for over 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns. During his two best seasons (2007 and ’10), Jones caught over 45 passes for nearly 700 yards in both years. What more could you expect or want out of a guy in his role?

To that point, I think there is very few who would say Jones isn’t a talented receiver. Even if the Packers’ offense gives him favorable opportunities, you have to be able to take advantage of those mismatches—and Jones, for the most part, has done that.

Obviously, the similarities between James Jones and Rocksteady are striking.

21

April

Packers Prospect Profile — CB Cortez Allen, The Citadel

1) Profile:

Cortez Allen

College: The Citadel

Position: CB

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 196 lbs.

Born: October 29, 1988 From: Ocala, FL

2) High School / College Highlights: For his first three years at North Marion High School, Allen was strictly a track star. His senior year, however, he gave football a try and was an immediate standout. North Marion improved from 6-6 in 2004 to 10-4 during Allen’s senior season in ’05, and Allen was named to Florida’s Class AAA All-State, All-City and All-District teams.

Still a raw recruit, Allen saw playing time in only five games his first two collegiate seasons, including being redshirted after just one game in 2007. Once Allen took over the starting spot mid-way through 2008, however, he would never again give up it during his final 2.5 years.

After intercepting three passes in 2009, Allen was named a Third team All-American and Second team All-Southern Conference. He followed up that performance with two interceptions in 2010, good for a Second team All-American and All-Southern Conference selection.

3) College Stats: 39 games played (28 starts), 121 tackles, five interceptions, 16 passes broken up, two touchdowns, one blocked punt

4) NFL Combine Results: 4.51 second 40-yard dash, 18 bench-presses of 225 pounds, 35.5-inch vertical jump, 129-inch broad jump, 6.76 second 3 cone drill, 4.01 second 20-yard shuttle, 10.87 second 60-yard shuttle

5) Strengths/Weaknesses: With his big frame and long arms, Allen is adept at playing press coverage, and he used these skills to be a dominant cornerback at the Citadel. In his 28 career starts, Allen only allowed 69 completions (35.03 percent) and three receiving touchdowns with an average of 4.42 yards per pass attempt.

He wasn’t just a shutdown corner either. Allen contributed as an active supporter against the run, and he made no qualms about playing special teams. In fact, Allen recorded 13 tackles on special teams during his career. Finally, Allen played well in the East-West Shrine game and didn’t seem overwhelmed by the occasion.

Despite that performance, Allen is still a raw prospect with very little experience against big-time competition. And while he certainly has plenty of short-area quickness, Allen lacks the straight line catch up speed that most of the top flight cornerbacks possess.

8

April

Packers Prospect Profile — DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State University

1) Profile:

Cameron Heyward

College: Ohio State

Position: DE (3-4), DE (4-3), DT (4-3)

Height: 6′5″   Weight: 295 lbs.

Born: May 6, 1989 From: Suwanee, GA

2) High School / College Highlights: In Heyward’s senior year of high school, he totaled over 100 tackles and 16 sacks. For his efforts, he was voted Georgia Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year.

Scout.com rated Heyward as their No. 20 defensive end and 15th best prospect in Georgia, and he was ranked No. 13 and 7th in those same categories on Rivals.com. Heyward was also a good high school basketball player and graduated with a 3.25 GPA.

Once at Ohio State, Heyward got right to work. He started eight games his freshman season and had 2.5 sacks, earning him freshman All-American and freshman All-Big Ten honors. He continued to start his sophomore year, but Heyward’s production leveled out. In 13 starts, he accumulated just 36 tackles and 3 sacks.

However, Heyward put his name on the draft map with a solid 2009 season. In 13 starts for the Rose Bowl Champions, Heyward had 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for losses. He was a Lombardi Award nominee—given to the nation’s best defensive lineman or linebacker—and was voted Second Team All-Big Ten.

Heyward had the option to put his name in the 2010 NFL draft, but he came back to Ohio State for his much-anticipated senior season. Many pegged Heyward as a top-10 pick before the season, but his production in 2010 didn’t match the hype. Heyward tallied just four sacks and 13 tackles for losses, but he did look like a dominant player in the Sugar Bowl against Ryan Mallett and Arkansas. He was voted First Team All-Big Ten.

3) College Stats: 51 games/46 starts, 162 tackles, 15 sacks, 37.5 tackles for losses, 4 forced fumbles, 1 interception

4) NFL Combine Results: 30-inch vertical jump (did not partake in any other workout at Combine). Pro Day: 4.95 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical.

5) Strengths/Weaknesses: While not your classic speed rusher at defensive end, Heyward is an agile and explosive player for a man his size (6’5″, 295 pounds). His main strength, however, is rushing the passer with power. He’s strong in the upper body, and uses his hands well to disengaged blockers. This kind of power also makes Heyward a disruptive force against the run.

1

April

Packers Prospect Profile – LB Justin Houston, University of Georgia

1) Profile:

Justin Houston

College: Georgia

Position: OLB (3-4), DE (4-3)

Height: 6’3″   Weight: 260 lbs.

Born: January 1, 1989 From: Statesboro, GA

2) High School / College Highlights: According to his Georgia bio, Houston was a class 4A All-State Honorable Mention his senior season, and was All-Region in both his junior and senior years.

Coming out of high school, Rivals.com ranked him as their No. 21 defensive end prospect, ESPN had him at No. 27, and Scout.com ranked him No. 42. During his junior season, Statesboro High won the class 4A State championship.

Houston decided to stay home and attend the University of Georgia. Like many mid-level freshman recruits, Houston began his college career by redshirting in 2007. He played in 13 games (2.5 sacks) the next season, but 2009 was the year that he really broke out. In 10 games, Houston had a team-leading 15 tackles for losses and 7.5 sacks, and was awarded with AP Second Team All-SEC honors.

While still somewhat of an unknown before last season, Houston stamped his name among the draft’s top pass-rushers with a dominant 13-game showing. He racked up 10 sacks, 18.5 tackles for losses and 44 quarterback pressures on his way to being named an AP First Team All-SEC selection. Originally slated in the middle rounds, Houston’s play last season shot himself into the first round discussion.

3) College Stats: 36 games/24 starts, 70 solo/26 assisted tackles, 20.0 sacks/134 yards lost, 38 tackles for losses/168 yards lost, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 5 passes broken up, 1 interception, 78 quarterback pressures.

4) NFL Combine Results: 4.68 second 40-yard dash, 30 bench presses, 36.5″ vertical jump, 10’5″ broad jump, 6.95 second cone drill, 4.37 second 20-yard shuttle, 11.46 60-yard shuttle.

5) Strengths/Weaknesses: His 4.68 40-yard dash at the combine suggests Houston might not be explosive off the edge, but that number is very misleading. Houston has an excellent first step, and his flexibility has allowed him to dip his shoulder around offensive tackles. He also counters the dip move with a solid outside-to-inside fake that kept SEC tackles on their heels all season.

Georgia also switched their defense to a 3-4 last season, so Houston has experience rushing the passer from a standing position. His performance at the both the combine and his pro day erased many of the big concerns about playing in space.