11

January

Cory’s Corner: Criticize Mike McCarthy not Dom Capers

Mike McCarthy turned up the conservative calls when Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 9.

Mike McCarthy turned up the conservative calls when Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 9.

Now that you’ve all had some time to thaw out after watching Phil Dawson put this season’s hopes and dreams on ice, it’s time to reflect on what just happened.

First of all, Mike McCarthy needs to get the lion’s share of criticism. He is under contract through the 2015 season at roughly $5 million per year. If any season was a good example of how much he needed to prove his coaching mettle, this was the one. He lost his star quarterback in Week 9 and magically backed into the playoffs thanks to the combined efforts of said quarterback’s right arm and the inept Bears’ defense.

He was also dealt the second-most important injury on the team in Jermichael Finley. Without him eating up the middle of the field, receivers had more work to do to get separation and move the chains.

Granted, he was blessed with the Offensive Rookie of the Year in my opinion in Eddie Lacy but McCarthy didn’t exactly utilize him very well. Too often when backups Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn were under center he was more apt to call the predictable running plays on first and second down which usually set up the usual 3rd-and-7. That’s a tall task for an NFL starter let alone a backup.

As soon as the Packers lost Aaron Rodgers they lost who they were. And the head coach, who is also known as a quarterback guru, cannot let that happen. I’m not saying McCarthy should expect left rollouts thrown on a dime by his backups, but he shouldn’t pare the playbook down to the JV level either. The best example is that fateful game when Rodgers suffered that left collarbone injury.

With the Bears beating the Packers 24-20 very early in the fourth quarter, McCarthy dialed up a Lacy run on 2nd-and-7 from the 50. The run around the left end generated two yards setting up a tough third down which ultimately failed. And that came on the heels of the Packers throwing for 29 yards on back-to-back plays that took place on second and first down.

There’s a time and place to be conservative. I realize that coaches’ jobs have been lost due to knee-jerk risky decisions but when your team is losing in the fourth quarter, it’s at least a good time to start contemplating moves against the grain.

31

December

Cory’s Corner: Eddie Lacy deserves Rookie of the Year

Eddie Lacy has been a bull this year as he leads the nation with 441 yards after contact.

Eddie Lacy has been a bull this year as he leads the league with 441 yards after contact.

If there was a tinge of doubt before, there shouldn’t be any now.

And no, I’m talking about Aaron Rodgers or Randall Cobb returning from injury — which by the way, was amazing.

I’m talking about handing Eddie Lacy the offensive rookie of the year. It should be all his, no questions asked.

He shrugged off a concussion, nagging right ankle and foot pain and asthma that flares up in winter. He came into an offense that was predicated by the pass and won over the hearts of Packers fans with his grit, coal-churning engine and his stubborn-as-a-mule mentality.

Lacy is the reason the Packers are in the second season. When Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 9, it was Lacy that remained the consistent performer on an offense struggling to find an identity. With a roller coaster ride of four different starting quarterbacks, Lacy has churned out 10 games with 20-plus carries and five with 23 or more.

And to think none of this could’ve happened. Packers general manager Ted Thompson passed on Lacy, who was projected to go in the first round last spring, with Datone Jones in the first round. After Giovanni Bernard, Le’Veon Bell and Montee Ball were taken, Thompson swooped in and took Lacy as the 29th pick in the second round. Lacy was the fourth of five running backs taken in the second round.

The reason Lacy has been such a welcome sight in Green Bay is because the running back position has been an afterthought for 10 years when Ahman Green ran for over 1,800 yards and scored 15 touchdowns in his third Pro Bowl season. Lacy closed out the regular season by running for over 1,100 yards, scored 11 times and he started one less game than Green but didn’t get a Pro Bowl sniff.

Without Lacy, the offense would’ve resembled a ship with unsealable holes. It might’ve been able to move the ball every once in awhile, but when the time would come to get those needed yards, that is where they would’ve been sunk.

26

December

Cory’s Corner: Time is running out for Derek Sherrod

Offensive lineman Derek Sherrod has missed over a year-and-a-half since being selected as the 32nd player in the 2011 draft.

Offensive lineman Derek Sherrod has missed over a year-and-a-half since being selected as the 32nd player in the 2011 NFL Draft.

While the rest of the nation seems affixed to the Aaron Rodgers watch, there is another injury concern that needs more attention.

Enter Derek Sherrod.

The 6-foot-6, 321-pound offensive lineman came to the Packers with a mountain of promise as the 32nd selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. He was supposed to be the next offensive line anchor that would protect franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers as long as he wore that G on the side of his helmet.

But then he broke his right leg in December 2011 causing him to miss the entire 2012 season. He began this season on the physically unable to play list and wasn’t added to the 53-man roster until Nov. 5.

He has gotten scant playing time the last four weeks but hasn’t been able to really do anything of note. The Packers have a club option for 2015 before he becomes a free agent the following season.

So that puts the Packers in a precarious situation. Over a year-and-a-half has been lost already and if he cannot crack the starting lineup against guys like T.J. Lang or Don Barclay, then the Packers should be concerned.

Bryan Bulaga will come back next season and should quickly become the best lineman that has allowed jailbreak pressure for all four quarterbacks the Packers have started this year.

I doubt it’s time to give up on Sherrod just yet, but if he continues to struggle next August and into next season, how many more chances can the Packers give and afford? Ted Thompson got lucky with David Bakhtiari as a fourth round pick this past spring. Right after Bulaga went down with an ACL tear in the Family Night scrimmage, Bakhtiari has been inserted into the starting lineup and has protected the Packers’ quarterback’s blind side each week.

Even if Sherrod cannot get back to the college player that started 35 games at tackle for Mississippi State, including all 25 his junior and seasons, the Packers must try and forecast the future. Obviously, the Packers cannot continue to pay him first round money when his time in the trainer’s room outnumbers his time on the field. But if they can come to a compromise and rework his deal that suits both parties, Sherrod could find new life in Green Bay.

21

December

Cory’s Corner: Packers’ 12 Days of Christmas

Aaron Rodgers hasn't played since Nov. 4.

Aaron Rodgers hasn’t played since Nov. 4.

On the first day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the second day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me two offensive linemen and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the third day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me three Festy Burgers, two offensive linemen and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the fourth day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me four healthy hamstrings and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the fifth day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me five straight playoff appearances! Four healthy hamstrings, three Festy Burgers, two offensive linemen and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the sixth day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me six retired numbers and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the seventh day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me seven sideline snags by Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the eighth day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me eight fumble recoveries and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the ninth day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me nine tackles for a loss by A.J. Hawk and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the 10th day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me 10 rushing touchdowns by Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the 11th day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me 11 new defenders from the 26th ranked defense and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

On the 12th day of Christmas, the Packers gave to me 12 beer brats sizzling on the grill and Aaron Rodgers on the field to see.

 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn

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14

December

Cory’s Corner: Key to future NFL safety lies in its past

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a torn ACL and MCL on this play. Fines and flag have forced defensive players to aim lower.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a torn ACL and MCL on this play. Fines and flags have forced defensive players to aim lower.

Perhaps now the NFL will realize it has a problem.

Rob Gronkowski, arguably the best tight end by far when he’s healthy, had his season cut short when he tore his ACL and MCL in his right knee.

Many people will blame Browns safety T.J. Ward for the hit on Gronk’s knees but NFL players have no choice now. Anywhere near the head is a no fly zone so defensive players have naturally migrated south in terms of where they hit people.

Randall Cobb was also taken out at the knees back in Week 6. If you remember, Aaron Rodgers barked about the injustice on the field, but his argument was and is futile.

The hardest thing for a defensive player is to disseminate where they will hit someone in the fraction of a second they have to make a tackle. It’s a bang-bang play. There have been plenty of times this season where a defensive player was punished for a hit that he had no way of preventing.

I completely understand the argument to prevent player’s melons. With the latest CTE research that bridges a link between hard hits to the head — causing Alzheimer’s, mind-numbing headaches and complete physical pain. Which is why the NFL agreed to a $765 million settlement for the over 4,500 former players that suffered from serious head injuries. What’s forgotten about was figuring out when the NFL had the CTE research presented to them and continued to do nothing.

All the NFL is doing is now is transferring those nasty hits from the head and forcing players to target the knees. So instead of seeing retired players with dementia, you’ll see guys hobbling on reconstructed knees that have coat-zipper scars. And there’s been plenty of those guys before they changed the defensive rules.

So where does that leave the NFL? And no, I’m not going to preach about a so-called wussification, or that the league will be morphed into elevated flag football.

Over the years, the helmet has been used as a weapon. Former Packers safety Chuck Cecil made a living by spearing players and even had the cut nose each game to prove it.

7

December

Cory’s Corner: Thompson must lock up Jolly from 14

There's been a spring in Johnny Jolly's step after missing three years due to a codeine addiction.

There’s been a spring in Johnny Jolly’s step after missing three years due to a codeine addiction.

As if Ted Thompson hasn’t been stressing enough about this season.

Fourteen Packers’ contracts expire in the offseason and Thompson has to make some important decisions.

This season has been one of the worst of recent memory. I’m not saying that purely based on Green Bay’s record but also based on competitiveness of the entire team. There have clearly been moments when players mailed it in and took plays off this season.

The first expiring contract that comes to mind is James Jones. He’s been stricken with alligator arms ever since he became a Packer in 2007. Despite Aaron Rodgers’ insistence that Green Bay sign Jones in 2011, Rodgers still has been known to verbally dress down Jones for running the route or not hauling in a catchable pass.

Now I realize that ever since Jones was a Packer he has had to battle for catches. When he first got here out of San Jose State it was Donald Driver and now it’s Jordy Nelson. But he’s a 6-foot-1, 208-pound wideout and I’ve always said that he has to be more assertive in the offense instead of just letting the defense or the situation dictate how he plays.

Another guy that caught my attention was Andrew Quarless. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jermichael Finley will not be a Packer in 2014 after suffering a devastating head injury that bruised his spinal cord. Most people thought that would leave the door open for Quarless to grab the tight end reins. But he has started six games this season and in those games he has caught just 12 passes. Very underwhelming numbers for a guy that had so much promise coming out of college as the career record holder for receptions by a tight end at Penn State.

When Finley was healthy, he proved how much this offense can thrive with a solid pass-catching tight end. The Packers do not have a dynamic tight end currently on the roster, which means Thompson is going to have to address that.

The final guy that Thompson needs to think about this offseason is Johnny Jolly. Now I didn’t think Jolly was going to produce after being out of the game for three years thanks to his codeine addiction. But he has been a big part of the defensive line and has exceeded expectations by starting six games.

30

November

Cory’s Corner: Who’s to blame for Packers’ mess?

B.J. Raji has amassed only 13 total tackles and no sacks.

B.J. Raji has amassed only 13 total tackles and no sacks.

The main theme that trickled out of the Packers’ locker room on Thanksgiving was embarrassment.

The Packers didn’t just take a loss, they endured the worst loss in the Mike McCarthy era.

And with four games left, Green Bay must win out or stay home for the playoffs for the first time since the Packers missed the playoffs in 2008 with a miserable 6-10 record.

But how did they get here?

It’s too simple to say that the left collarbone of Aaron Rodgers is the genesis of all that ails the Packers. That isn’t responsible for the 95 defensive missed tackles or the 20 special teams missed tackles.

It also isn’t responsible for B.J. Raji looking like he is on cruise control when the Packers could use his girth and power to shut down the running game. Coincidentally, the Packers are 27th in the NFL by allowing 126 rushing yards a game.

It’s also not the collarbone’s fault that Marshall Newhouse and Co. have suddenly forgotten how to block. The Packers have allowed 32 sacks, which is surprising seeing as how successful Eddie Lacy has been behind a patchwork offensive line.

So where does the blame lie for a stunning 5-6-1 season that could easily end up in the history books as a dumpster fire?

First and foremost it has to lie with the coach. McCarthy has leaned on Rodgers so much that he may have taken him for granted. McCarthy never had to worry about trick or gadget plays because the impeccable precision and undeniable arm strength of Rodgers overcame a lot of the offense’s weaknesses. Let’s also not forget that McCarthy is a quarterback guru and it’s not exactly a feather in his cap to have four quarterbacks start for an NFL team that isn’t even finished with the season.

McCarthy obviously cannot do more than put players in position to succeed. But it’s the players’ job to take it from there. The biggest example of players not doing all they can is Raji. The 27-year-old defensive lineman becomes a free agent in March and has been offered a shocking $8 million a year offer by Green Bay — and what’s even more shocking is that Raji hasn’t accepted it yet. McCarthy can continue to put Raji in positions and places to make plays but if Rajij continues to take plays off and play soft, then the Packers should take that offer off the table immediately. Raji only has 13 total tackles and no sacks for a guy that plays a lot more than 30-year-old Johnny Jolly. Yet Jolly has 16 total tackles and one sack.