13

January

Purple Cheese: A Green Bay Packers Season in Vikings Country

Burkie, you ain’t in Wisconsin anymore!

With the 2013 Green Bay Packers season officially in the books, there is a plethora of articles all over the World Wide Web looking back at the year and what the Packers can do to improve and contend for a Super Bowl again in 2014.

This is not one of those articles.  Well, not 100% anyways.

As you may or may not know, due to a promotion at my real job, I packed my bags and moved from Wisconsin to Minnesota this past August.  From the moment I was born until roughly one month from my 30th birthday, I lived in the great state Wisconsin and Packer Country.  As of August 1st, that was no longer the case.

Of course the state of Minnesota is home to one of Green Bay’s most bitter rivals, the Vikings.  For the first time in my life, I would not be able to watch every single Packer game on television.  This fact actually weighed heavily on me when I was debating whether or not to accept the promotion, but I figured that, thanks to the advent of the internet and NFL Game Rewind, I would survive.

I arrived at the start of training camp and it was seemingly clear at that point even to Vikings fans what the NFC North would look like in 2013: the Packers would win the division with perhaps a somewhat stiff challenge from Minnesota. The optimism amongst fans here was that the Vikings made the playoffs in 2012 and thanks to the addition of former Packer wide receiver Greg Jennings, they could challenge Green Bay for the division crown.

As is usually the case in the NFL, things did not go according to the script….for either team.

The Packers stumbled early, but were able to right the ship to sit at 4-2 entering their Week 8 matchup against the Vikings at Mall of America Field.  Minnesota, meanwhile, stumbled early and often as their record stood at 1-5 heading into their first game against Green Bay.

Heading into that game, all I could think was “Just win this game. Lose the rest if you must, I just don’t want to get swept by the Vikings while I live here.” Everyone at work at that point knew who I backed and the smack talk was in jest, but there’s a difference between Packers fans and (most) Vikings fans: we Cheeseheads take our team as a source of pride. When they lose, our pride is wounded.

6

January

Takeaways From The 2013 Green Bay Packers

2014 Green Bay Packers

McCarthy faces a big offseason and many personnel decisions

The 2013 Green Bay Packers season is unfortunately in the books.  I have already read a bevy of Packers-related news, tweets, Facebook posts, you name it.  There is much speculation as to what the Packers are going to do in preparation for the 2014 season.

If it is not already posted, our own Adam Czech has an upcoming piece on the Packers’ free agents heading into this offseason.  It is sure to be a good read so stay tuned!

Obviously and any time a season ends with a playoff loss, there is a degree of disappointment.  While it’s impossible for a team to win a Super Bowl every season, that doesn’t stop avid fans from hoping that their team can get hot and make a run through the postseason.  For Packers fans, 2010 was all that it took to recalibrate their hope-o-meters and create a “never say never” mentality.

So now for all intents and purposes, it’s the 2014 season.  There will undoubtedly be changes via free agency departures and (dare I say?) gains, the draft in May and possible coaching changes.  Below are some of my biggest takeaways from this season with some thoughts heading into next.

- Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in football right now.  He’s worth every penny that the Packers are paying him and for the next six years, the Packers will be contenders because of it.  That is assuming that Rodgers is healthy, of course.  Every bit of excitement that you felt during yesterday’s game is thanks to Rodgers.  His timely return in week 17 against the Bears probably single-handedly catapulted the Packers into another division title and postseason.

- The Packers need to re-sign Matt Flynn.  Scott Tolzien might be a nice project that Mike McCarthy can work with, but we all saw what happened when Rodgers and backup Seneca Wallace went down.  Green Bay needs a proven backup.  Flynn led comeback efforts in four of his five starts and which led to two wins and one tie.  They were within a single better decision on a last play of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers.

1

September

New Life: Packers Practice Squad Signings – 2013

Reserved for the Packers Practice Squad

Reserved for the Packers Practice Squad

Eight players will escape the grip of the Turk as the Packers form their 2013 Practice Squad.

The following players have been signed so far according to various reports and sources.  Any reported signings will not be listed here, however, if not reported by a verified member of the media.

2013 Packers Practice Squad:

QB Scott Tolzien: As reported last night by Bill Huber of PackerReport.com, the Packers have added the former Univ of Wisconsin QB to their practice squad. Recently cut by the 49ers, one has to wonder if he’s here for a “brain-drain” on the Packers’ first opponent.

CB James Nixon: Pete Dougherty of the GB Press-Gazette reports Nixon is in the fold.

WR Charles Johnson: per Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post, Johnson cleared waivers and was added to the Packers’ practice squad.

WR Myles White: Wes Hodkiewicz of the GB Press-Gazette says the Packers have added the speedy white to the PS.

TE Jake Stoneburner: This one comes from Stoneburner himself, who tweeted, “The dream continues. Still a packer. #gopackgo

G Bryan Collins: Per Rob Demovsky of ESPN, via Twitter.  Collins was an undrafted rookie recently released by the Houston Texans.  With Patrick Lewis off to Cleveland, the Packers wanted to add another developmental body at O-line.

OT Aaron Adams: Packers.com reports the 2013 UDFA cut by Cleveland has been added to the squad.

RB Michael Hill: Packers.com says the Packers have filled out their practice squad by adding Missouri Western’s all-time rushing leader to their practice squad.

Check back here for more signings as they are reported…

 

While we’re waiting, several sources have confirmed that Green bay have brought  RB Joe McKnight, WR Sam McGuffie & guards Bryan Collins & Chandler Burden in for workouts.

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, 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 Drafttek.com.

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1

August

2013 Packers: Who’s Returning?

Randall Cobb vs St. Louis Rams

Cobb remains the Packers top kick return man

The Green Bay Packers entered this year’s training camp with several position battles promising to stand out.  The running back competition, the battle for the starting safety position opposite Morgan Burnett and the defensive line, to name a few.

One of the battles that has taken a bit of a backseat is at kick returner.  It’s interesting because at face value, there should be no battle to begin with.  The Packers have a great return man in that of Randall Cobb.  The problem with that scenario is that Cobb is just as, if not more important as a wide receiver.  Some past players have had success in being both a returner and playing their natural position, but Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has made it known that he would like for someone else to emerge and take hold of the return duties.

With the loss of Greg Jennings, Cobb will be asked, along with Jordy Nelson and James Jones, to carry much of the load in the passing game this season.  Questions started to emerge last season as to how long the Packers could afford to keep Cobb on special teams.  Cobb was injured on a kick return in the week 16 game against the Tennessee Titans and he did not return to that game.  He also missed the following week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.  Many reports were that Cobb could have played in that game if he was really needed, but alas, he was held out and the Packers fell to the Vikes.  Suddenly those questions about the risk of hanging Cobb out there in a sometimes-vulnerable situation became more pronounced.

So far and between the team’s organized team activities in the spring and in the few training camp practices, the team has given some of Cobb’s usual return reps to others such as Nelson, Deangelo Pease, Sam Shields, Jeremy Ross, Omarius Hines, Loyce Means, Johnathan Franklin and James Nixon.  Ross spent some time returning kicks last season after Cobb was injured, including an appearance in the postseason as well.  Despite some of his ball-handling woes, many are hopeful that Ross can secure the job and relieve Cobb.  Even if not Ross, with some decent alternatives to Cobb, surely someone is bound to stand out, right?  Well, after today’s practice, McCarthy stated that if games started now, Cobb would still be the return man.

1

July

Bishop Likely Another Feather in Ted Thompson’s Cap

Desmond Bishop

Bishop’s release signals the Packers waning patience for health issues

As we are in the slower part of the 2013 NFL preseason, I thought I’d take another stab at what the Green Bay Packers’ release of linebacker Desmond Bishop is really about and what it means for the Packers in moving forward.

Bishop’s deal with the Minnesota Vikings is for one year at $750,000 with just $50,000 guaranteed.  Bishop can earn a total of $1.35 million through bonuses and incentives.  This includes $100,000 in roster bonuses, and $500,000 in incentives dependent on his playing time.

Bishop is another in an increasing line of former Packers to sign with the division-rival Vikings.  Should he defy the odds and become productive, the Packers, and specifically General Manager Ted Thompson, could face some criticism for being quick to pull the trigger on letting him go before taking a look at him in training camp.  Many fans are still riled up that another has crossed the border to the West where they could end up playing well against and sticking it to the Packers.  Still, Thompson continues to, and has marched to the beat of his own drum when it comes to doing what he sees as best for the Packers.

The deal that Bishop inked with the Vikings certainly falls into the “low risk” category.  If healthy, he would immediately upgrade Minnesota’s linebacking core and defense as a whole.  The key there is the “if healthy” part.  But if a player of Bishop’s caliber was willing to accept such a deal, why wouldn’t Thompson at least have kicked the tires a bit longer?  After all, this was one of the team’s best defensive players just two seasons ago.  Sure, he missed all of last season with the torn hamstring, but if the risk was minimal, why send Bish packing?  Some will say his ego would not allow him to take a pay cut with the Packers, but the deal he inked with the Vikings has to suggest that he would have been open to at least some discussion.

20

June

Green Bay Packers: Good, Lucky or Both?

Favre and Rodgers

Favre and Rodgers stand to represent nearly 30 years of elite quarterback play in Green Bay

While we are in between the NFL off season and the start of the preseason, football happenings are in short supply.  Well, at least the on-field happenings are.  With some added time to reflect, I’m reminded of the fortune that has befallen the Green Bay Packers.  Which fortune, you ask?  I’d argue that it’s the most important one for a football team to be successful:  the quarterback position.

2013 marks nearly 21 years since Brett Favre made his first career start, the first of just over 250 consecutive starts for the Packers.  Favre spent 16 seasons in Green Bay and played at a high level during each and every one.  It’s fair to say, save for the 1999 and 2005 teams, those Packers teams were, at the very least, good.

Quarterbacks like Favre come along only once in a great while, if you look at the general averages among all 32 NFL teams and their histories.  To have a signal caller of that caliber is something to cherish and I have made mention of that before.

Then came Aaron Rodgers.  Expected to possibly go #1 overall in the 2005 draft, we all know the story.  Rodgers fell to the Packers towards the end of the first round and spent his first three seasons behind Favre, learning the in’s and out’s of being an NFL quarterback.  The way that Rodgers fell wasn’t something that the Packers or Ted Thompson planned on.  No amount of convincing will change my mind on that thought.  There was an element of luck associated with that day and it is now one that not many of the Packers faithful will forget.

When the team decided to move on from Favre in 2008, Rodgers stepped in and statistically, had a good season.  The team went 6-10 that year and many of those losses were by fewer than five points and came down to the last few plays.  In 2009, Rodgers led the team to a winning record and a playoff appearance.  The Packers have been to the postseason every year since.  What started out as a stroke of luck turned out to also be good.

17

June

2013 Green Bay Packers: An Early Look At The Depth Chart

Green Bay Packers huddle

Who are your 2013 Green Bay Packers?

With the off-season activities now officially over with, we now turn our attention to the upcoming training camp and preseason.  The big question is:  What will the 2013 Green Bay Packers look like?

I’m taking a look at each position and listing who I think are the likely starters, as of today.  Training camp always tends to change that list quite a bit so this is obviously as of today, as it stands, and without having really seen many of these guys play.

Quarterback

Starter:  Aaron Rodgers

Backup: BJ Coleman

Bubble: Graham Harrell, Matt Brown

Quick hits: Rodgers is the league’s highest-paid player and let’s not forget he’s pretty good at what he does.  No question there and so the biggest debate is whether Coleman can leapfrog Harrell and will the team carry three active quarterbacks?  My thought is that if Coleman wins the backup spot, they will likely cut Harrell.  Illinois State’s Matt Brown could be a good candidate to land on the practice squad, much like Coleman did last season.

Running Back/Fullback

Starter:  DuJuan Harris

Backup:  Alex Green, Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin

Bubble: John Kuhn, James Starks, Angelo Pease, Jonathan Amosa

Quick hits: Harris came on and was effective late in the season for the Packers.  He didn’t participate in much of the team’s offseason due to having a cyst removed near his lung.  He is expected to be ready for training camp.  Green will get every opportunity to remain a part of the team’s plans but will face very fierce competition from rookies Lacy and Franklin.  Still, I see the team keeping all four.  James Starks is likely all but out of Green Bay after being largely ineffective during his three-season stint with the team.  And we may have seen the last of John Kuhn, which will make the team’s decisions at this position easier.

Wide Receiver

Starters: Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb

Backups:  Jarrett Boykin, Charles Johnson

Bubble:  Jeremy Ross, Kevin Dorsey, Alex Gillett, Terrell Sinkfield, Myles White, Tyrone Walker, Sederrick Cunningham