20

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #5 — Perry’s improvement

Nick Perry was a project last summer. Is he ready to be a difference-maker across from Clay Matthews?

Nick Perry was a project last summer. Is he ready to be a difference-maker across from Clay Matthews?

When the Green Bay Packers selected Nick Perry with their first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, they envisioned him and Clay Matthews being their version of LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison.

Prior to the draft, the 270-pound Perry made it clear that he’d rather play with his hand in the ground in a 4-3 scheme.

“I prefer 4-3,” Perry said. “I like to keep my hand in the dirt, but as long as I’m rushing and getting to quarterback I’m fine whatever it is.”

Last summer throughout training camp, Perry was brought along slowly by outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene. Athletically, the transition wasn’t much of a problem for Perry, who clocked a 4.55 40-yard dash and posted a 38.5-inch vertical at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The biggest obstacle for Perry was the mental aspect of playing in space after playing on the defensive line for four years at USC.

As a rookie in Green Bay, Perry was the opening-day starter at outside linebacker across from Matthews. Perry appeared in six games before suffering a wrist injury which caused him to miss the remainder of the season.

The highlight of Perry’s rookie year was the crushing blow he delivered to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Perry wasn’t blocked on the play and drew a 15-yard penalty for hitting Luck on the chin; however, that type of aggressiveness is what the Packers envisioned when they spent the No. 28 overall pick on him a year ago.

When Perry went down, Erik Walden stepped in and filled his shoes in the starting lineup. Walden signed a four-year, $16 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts earlier this offseason, leaving the Packers thin at the position.

Behind starters Matthews and Perry, the Packers have an inexperienced group that includes second-year player Dezman Moses and rookies Nate Palmer, Andy Mulumba and Donte Savage. Needless to say, the Packers are counting on an improved Perry for a more effective pass rush in 2013.

Will Nick Perry show considerable improvement this season?

It’s not as if Perry got a ton of on-field experience as a rookie. Sure, he was a Week 1 starter, but the wrist injury ended his rookie year after just 211 regular-season snaps.

21

May

Casey Hayward: What’s in store for his encore?

Packers CB Casey Hayward

Packers CB Casey Hayward

Packers cornerback Casey Hayward was the 62nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but he was among most impactful defensive backs in football last season.

According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks had a collective passer rating of 31.1 when throwing at Hayward. And among cornerbacks who played at least 50 percent of their team’s defensive snaps, Hayward came in at No. 3 in the league, sandwiched between Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield.

The rookie went from being buried on the depth chart early in the season–Hayward played just three snaps in the season opener against the 49ers—to being, perhaps, the most irreplaceable part of the secondary.

When veteran Charles Woodson suffered a broken collarbone in Week 7, Hayward’s presence became increasingly important. From Week 7 to Week 14, Hayward played 88.5 percent of the Packers’ defensive snaps.

Coming into the season, Woodson was expected to play safety in the base and bump up to slot cornerback in the nickel. But when Hayward emerged as the team’s most reliable turnover creator, playing primarily in the slot, Woodson’s role was drastically reduced by the time he returned for the playoffs.

This offseason, the Packers decided to cut ties with Woodson, who was set to count nearly $10 million against the salary cap. Woodson, 36, remained a fan favorite at the time of his release, but the presence of a promising young talent in Hayward made the move easier to swallow.

As a team, the Packers accounted for 18 interceptions in 2012, which was tied for eighth-most in the NFL. Hayward led all rookies and tied for fifth in the league with six picks.

 

1. Week 5 @ Indianapolis (4th Quarter, 13:09)

QB: Andrew Luck / WR: Reggie Wayne / Position: Slot

Hayward’s first career interception came against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5. Matched up against Colts receiver Reggie Wayne in the slot, Hayward matched him stride-for-stride and made the play on the ball.

Wayne dominated the Packers throughout the game, catching 13 passes for 212 yards and a score. But according to PFF, Hayward allowed just one reception on three targets on the afternoon. Luck’s passer rating when throwing at Hayward was an abysmal 6.9.

2. Week 6 @ Houston (4th Quarter, 7:11)

26

June

Speed and the Newest Packers: Perception vs. Reality

Packers rookies speed

How do the new Packers compare speed-wise to other rookies?

Even though most of my time for the past month has been spent doing team draft grades, I have indeed been watching roster activity and the rumor mill. I want to touch on a couple of aspects of the Packers’ current roster and it’s composition.

But before I head in that specific direction I want to debunk one of the myths I heard during and just after the Packers 2012 draft. I heard talk on national TV and read several articles in print that a big goal for the team this off-season was upgrading team speed. My observation two months after the draft would be that rumors to that affect were greatly exaggerated. Either that or they absolutely had one of the League’s slowest collection of players coming out of the 2011 season, during which they went 15-1. Yes they lost to the Giants in their first Playoff game, but I think that has more to do with their D having problems (like many do these days) containing ELI, and the fact the Packers’ O suddenly decided to become a turnover and mistake machine.

I will grant you that some of their rookie additions could increase team speed incrementally if they pan out, but based on the simple numbers coming out of the combine, Green Bay is still going to look a tad slow indoors on fast tracks. Let’s just look at the numbers of players who are now Packers who ran a 40-yard dash at the combine and how they fared.

NICK PERRY, Pick 28, ran a 4.64/40 which was the second fastest of any DE in Indy. But as an OLB, which he is currently listed at, he would have been tied for 4th fastest. That’s good and I will grant you, a significant upgrade.

JEREL WORTHY, Pick 51timed at 4.79, which placed him tied for 10th out of 22 as a DT. IF he’s a 3-4 DE then you don’t want to know how far the list he was as a DE.

CASEY HAYWARD/CB, Pick 62 was timed with a 4.57/40, which made him the 17th fastest CB out of 32 to run at the COMBINE.

JERRON McMILLIAN/S, Pick 133 recorded a 4.56/40 in indy which made him the 5th fastest S out of 20. That’s a real plus.

18

May

Looking at the Packers’ NFC North Rivals: How the Lions, Bears and Vikings did in the NFL Draft

NFC North DivisionPigskin Paul analyzes the 2012 NFL Draft Class of the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings.

 

LIONS

The LIONS made the Play-Offs with 10-Wins and but for a few less injuries, and a bit more talent at certain positions they might have been able to make a solid run at a Super Bowl appearance. Lots of teams could say the same thing, but those other teams weren’t setting a League record for futility by going 0-16 but a few years ago. The team has truly come a long way since the FORD family parted ways with MATT MILLEN, and turned most of the personnel matters, including the DRAFT, over to MARTIN MAYHEW. The 2011 DRAFT didn’t even yield much immediate help because of serious injuries to NICK FAIRLEY & MIKEL LESHOURE.

The 2012 LIONS DRAFT looks promising on paper. RILEY REIFF may be the most talented OL that the team has drafted in the past decade. Whether he takes over at LT or RT he almost certainly guarantees that MATTHEW STAFFORD will take less hits in the pocket starting now. He’s a good athlete and comes from the FERENTZ school of OL play, which means he’s fundamentally sound and tough already. He’s a great value at Pick 23. The team took a slight flier in Round 2, by picking OKLAHOMA/WR/RYAN BROYLES. He’s coming off a serious knee injury and will most likely start the season on the PUP list. But if he returns to pre-injury form he’ll make NATE BURLESON an extra piece by season’e end. He’s only the NCAA D1 all time receptions leader, and is a dangerous Return Man as well. Healthy, he was a marginal late first rounder only lacking in great speed.I like the calculated gamble.

Rounding out their Top 100 Picks at No. 85 was DWIGHT “BILL” BENTLEY/CB who may have been a slight unknown to those who only study Top 25 Boards on the internet, but is well regarded overall as potential starting CB, who should be ready for sub-package work at the least, immediately. These three Picks represent some very solid work by the end of Friday Draft Night.

14

May

Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks Part II

NFL Draft Logo Image

2012 NFL Draft

So here is part II of the reasons behind the draft picks (see part I here)  Again, I’m not assigning grades to the draft or to the players because I don’t believe you can tell whether or not a player will pan out within the first 30 something days.  What I am interested in is what the Packers were thinking of when they decided to draft a player; with that in mind, this is what I think the Packers want to accomplish with each draft pick and which player each rookie could be potentially be replacing.

Jeron McMillian – Projected Strong Safety – Round 4, Pick #38 (#133 overall) – Replaces Pat Lee

Rationale: First off let’s be honest here, I don’t think we have the next Nick Collins in McMillian; I was actually very surprised that McMillian was drafted at all by the Packers simply because he doesn’t fit into the mold of what the Packers look for in safeties.  The Packers are probably more interested in playing two free safeties (which there really wasn’t one this year in the draft), consider their preferred pairing of Collins and Morgan Burnett (who ironically never really played together): both have good ball skills and the ability to jump passing routes.  What McMillian does best is run support, which is almost the exact opposite of a ball hawk.   Then again even if McMillian is the next Collins I highly doubt that the Packers can afford to stick him out there in his first year, which is even more reason why I think Woodson will have to make the move to safety.

What McMillian can do, and almost immediately, is play on special teams.  One of the less covered bits of news in the offseason was that cornerback Pat Lee was not resigned by the Packers but was curiously signed by the Oakland Raiders; many assumed this was just because of new Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie’s background knowledge of Lee, but I think its apparent that Lee is always going to be a liability in coverage so more realistically McKenzie wanted his special teams ability.  Lee actually was the gunner opposite of Jarrett Bush and it’s an important position, just look at who was the Packers priority signing this offseason (and it wasn’t Matt Flynn).  My assumption is that the Packers are hoping that McMillian contributes immediately to special teams as a gunner while refining his coverage technique and perhaps becomes a starter on the defense in the future, but anything more than special teams ace in his first couple of years is probably wishful thinking.

11

May

Packers Draft Picks Starting to Sign Contracts

The Packers have signed DT Jerel Worthy

With rookie camps set to begin today for the Green Bay Packers, it is quite encouraging to see numerous rookies signing contracts before camp starts.

Rob Demovsky at the Green Bay Press-Gazette has reported that three of the Packers’ draft picks signed contracts yesterday.  Those three players were second-round pick Jerel Worthy, fourth-round pick Jerron McMillian and seventh-round selection Andrew Datko.

Each of these three players look to be critical to the future for Green Bay, which makes them being signed and ready for camp even more encouraging.  If that wasn’t enough, it was reported this morning via Casey Hayward’s agent Scott Smith that he had signed a contract this morning.  Hayward is another rookie who will likely see limited playing time as a rookie, but will be a future starter for Green Bay.

The only draft picks that haven’t signed are OLB Nick Perry, DT Mike Daniels, OLB Terrell Manning and QB B.J. Coleman.  However, Demovsky reported earlier in the week that Green Bay is expected to have all draft picks signed by the end of this week.

While this may not be the most exciting of news, the fact that rookies are getting signed early is great for the team.  It also means that real football is closer than we can imagine.

I hope we’re all ready.

Update:

As of late this morning, the Packers are now reporting that all their picks except for OLB Nick Perry have signed with the team.

30

April

4 Main Themes Emerge From Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Draft

  1. NFL Draft Logo Image

    2012 NFL Draft

    Ted Thompson hasn’t gone crazy:  While many people were surprised by the fact that Thompson traded up several times, a good indication that Thompson is still following his MO is that he’s trolling the media about his “change” in personality.  If you’ve followed Thompson enough, you’d know that he’ll never tell anyone anything, so if he’s saying he’s doing things differently, chances are he really isn’t.  I now think Thompson wasn’t as averse to trading up in the past as we all thought; it simply didn’t make much sense in previous years to do so.  For instance right now Thompson probably has one of the best teams in the NFL in terms of depth so he can afford to trade picks to move up the draft but when Thompson took over in 2005 the team was in a salary cap nightmare and salary cap nightmares usually also mean that there were no quality backups on the team (or else why pay more for an aging veteran?).  Secondly, the rookie salary cap has altered the draft to a point where the picks at the top of the 1st round are the most valuable (as they should be) and teams have adjusted accordingly by trading up in order to secure the best talent for them. In fact the majority of 1st round draft picks ended up being selected by teams who were not the team originally award the pick.  I am a little surprised that Thompson was so quick to recognize the change and act upon it, which is why I now think that Thompson isn’t averse to trading up, he just could justify paying the price in the past.

  2. Draft and Develop: Thompson again hasn’t changed his stance that the best method of improving a team is to draft and develop its own players.  If you take a look at the players selected in the 1st 3 rounds (which is usually where stars are found, although the Packers did not draft in the 3rd round), each has the physical/mental capacity to succeed in the draft, but isn’t really all that polished in their technique.  Nick Perry is going to have to learn to play out of a two point stance and drop back in coverage, Jerel Worthy is going to need to learn how to play 5 technique in a 3-4 defense and keep his motor up and Casey Hayward is going to need to learn how to play more in a zone scheme.  I would guess that the effect of these players in the first year is going to be a wash, remember even Clay Matthews didn’t really explode onto the scene until his 2nd year.