7

February

Packers News: Four added to coaching staff, five get new titles

Alex Van Pelt was a backup quarterback in the NFL and will now coach Aaron Rodgers and the quarterbacks after spending two seasons in charge of the Packers' running backs.

Alex Van Pelt was a backup quarterback in the NFL and will now coach Aaron Rodgers and the quarterbacks after spending two seasons in charge of the Packers’ running backs.

The Green Bay Packers have announced the final changes to their coaching staff, according to the team’s official website.

Winston Moss was named assistant head coach/linebackers, Scott McCurley assistant linebackers coach, Alex Van Pelt quarterbacks coach, Jason Simmons defense/special teams assistant, John Rushing defensive quality control coach, Sam Gash running backs coach, Ron Zook assistant special teams coach, Luke Getsy offensive quality control coach and Chris Gizzi strength and conditioning assistant.

Five coaches–Moss, McCurley, Van Pelt, Simmons and Rushing–have been with the Packers for at least the past two seasons.

Moss had served as assistant head coach/inside linebackers for the past five seasons but will now add the outside linebackers to his responsibilities. Former outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene decided earlier in the offseason to step away from coaching. Moss was the only defensive coached retained by head coach Mike McCarthy following the 2008 season and his role on the coaching staff has continued to grow. He will be assisted by McCurley, who had been the team’s defensive quality control coach since 2007.

Van Pelt, a career backup quarterback, joined the Packers in 2012 as running backs coach but will now serve as the quarterbacks coach, replacing Ben McAdoo who joined the New York Giants as offensive coordinator. Overseeing the running backs this past season, Van Pelt helped the Packers’ run game improve to No. 7 in the NFL. Van Pelt was the quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons (2010-2011) and helped quarterback Josh Freeman enjoy his most successful season as a professional in 2010.

Simmons is entering his fourth season with the Packers after joining the coaching staff in 2011 following a ten-year NFL playing career. Having served as coaching administrator the past three seasons, Simmons will now work with special teams, defensive backs and quality control.

Rushing, entering his sixth season in Green Bay, served as offensive assistant/special teams for the past two seasons after starting his Packers coaching career as an offensive quality control coach for 2009-10 and assistant wide receivers/special teams in 2011.

The four newcomers–Gash, Getsy, Gizzi and Zook–bring different backgrounds to Green Bay’s coaching staff.

22

August

Eddie Lacy, Jermichael Finley and the Play-Action pass

Jermichael Finley enjoyed a big day against the Rams, due, in part, to Eddie Lacy.

Jermichael Finley enjoyed a big day against the Rams, due, in part, to Eddie Lacy.

Despite not punching the ball into the endzone, the Packers’ (kinda) first-team offense passed the eye test Saturday night against the St. Louis Rams.

Eddie Lacy continually punished defenders with his smash-mouth, bulldozer-like running style. Jermichael Finley was running free in the Rams’ secondary, four times catching wide-open passes from Aaron Rodgers.

On 18 snaps against the Rams on Saturday, Finley managed to catch four passes for 78 yards. Last season, Finley set a franchise record for receptions by a tight end with 61, but his 78 yards Saturday night would have been his highest single-game total in 2012.

And with Lacy providing the Packers with a newfound physical ground game, totaling Finley’s job may be a little easier in 2013.

The former Alabama running back racked up 40 yards on eight carries despite subpar offensive line play, as outlined earlier this week by Jersey Al. And although it was Lacy’s first game appearance in the NFL, it’s pretty clear that the Rams already respected the 22-year-old bruiser.

Let’s take another look at Lacy’s two best runs of the night.

1st Quarter 14:31 remaining

In a two-tight formation, Lacy gets the handoff as the single back. The line is sliding to the right, but center Evan Dietrich-Smith doesn’t quite have the quickness to cross his man’s face.

But instead of being stopped for negative yards, Lacy uses his well-documented spin move to get upfield. It was only a seven-yard gain, but a runner creating something out of nothing hasn’t been a common occurrence in Green Bay as of late.

1st Quarter 13:23 remaining

Again, Evan Dietrich-Smith is beaten off the line, but Lacy’s power bails him out.

After breaking out of the defensive tackle’s tackle, Lacy sheds another arm tackle from rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree. The 15-yard gain was Lacy’s longest of the night. It was at this point that Packers fans were all like, “Wow.”

On two of Finley’s four catches, Rodgers began the play with a fake handoff to Lacy. Let’s take a look at those two plays.

1st Quarter 14:01 remaining

Finley is lined up in the slot, Lacy is the deep back and the Rams are in zone coverage. Finley has a cornerback lined up across from him, but he’s released into the middle of the field upon his break.

11

August

Open Invitation to the 2013 ALLGBP Fantasy Football League

Peyton Manning quarterbacked TouchedByTedThompson to the 2012 league Championship. It's now time for another season.

Peyton Manning quarterbacked “TouchedByTedThompson” to the 2012 ALLGBP Fantasy Football Championship.

This invitation will work a lot better–and be a lot more exciting–if you open this video (HINT: it’s Jock Jams) in a separate window before continuing to read.

“And look at him go, and look at him go. He could. Go. All. The. Way.”

After a successful inaugural season in 2012, the AllGBP.com Official Fantasy Football League is back for round two.

We made history a year ago. First, we instituted this prestigious league. And second, we successfully badgered The Boss into playing Fantasy Football for the very first time. Jersey Al used a team-first approach in assembling a group of guys who valued friendship and hustle. As a result, his team went 7-6 in the regular season and earned a spot in the playoffs.

From the Writers Division, Adam Czech and I joined Al in the playoffs. Here are last year’s standings for the Writers:

2012 Writers Division
*1. Rockwood Lodge (9-4)
 Marques Eversoll
*2. The Gilbert Browns (7-6) Adam Czech
*3. St. Cecilia’s HS (7-6) Jersey Al
4. Jordy’s Stiff Arm (6-7) Chad Toporski
5. Calvinball (5-8) Thomas Hobbes
6. Salute Your Jorts (4-9) Kris Burke
* Playoff berth

My team, “Rockwood Lodge” racked up a league-leading 1624 points last season but laid an egg in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the content-producing side of the league, our combined playoff record was 0-3.

The Readers Division ran right through the postseason. Despite top-seeded “Finley Named My Kids” losing a 1.52-point heartbreaker in his first playoff game, the Readers went 5-2 in the playoffs, boasting the league champion “Touched By Ted Thompson.” The champs won the league despite not having a single Green Bay Packer on the final roster.

Here’s how the Readers ended up last season:

2012 Readers Division
*1. Finley Named My Kids (11-2)
 Sam Goodwin
*2. TouchedByTedThompson (8-5) QOTSA1
*3. Lambeau’s Legends (7-6) HBuff
4. Milwaukee Packers (5-8) Abraham
5. SuperBowl or Bust (5-8) topgbpackfan
6. Cheeseheads (4-9) Matt Bove
* Playoff berth
League champion

Now, one-time Fantasy Ice Bowl Champion Ian, will look to defend his title in 2013 in a 14-team league.

AllGBP added Jason Perone to the staff after the beginning of last year’s fantasy season, so in appreciation of Jason’s ongoing contributions to the site and his overall swell character, he’s being welcomed as the seventh member of the Writers Division. To balance it out, we’ll be adding another team to the Readers side as well.

3

August

Jarrett Boykin off to a fast start to 2013

Packers WR Jarrett Boykin shined during the Packers' only night practice of the summer.

Packers WR Jarrett Boykin shined during the Packers’ only night practice of the summer.

With Greg Jennings playing in Minnesota and Donald Driver out of football altogether, the Green Bay Packers have some job openings at wide receiver, and in the early stages of training camp, Jarrett Boykin is taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb will assume the top three spots. But behind Nelson, Jones and Cobb, there’s a competition for the No. 4 spot, featuring Boykin, Jeremy Ross and a handful of rookies.

Seventh-round picks Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey have been sidelined due to injuries, allowing the incumbents (Boykin and Ross) to showcase their abilities. And at Friday night’s practice at Ray Nitschke Field, Boykin had a big day.

Boykin made several nice plays during the one-on-one portion of practice.

Lined up against cornerback Jarrett Bush, Boykin got a couple steps on Bush before making a leaping, acrobatic catch in the endzone. The play drew cheers from the packed audience, and even Bush looked impressed by the catch.

On Boykin’s next rep in the drill, he plucked a short out route with one hand.

Later during Friday’s practice, Boykin made his presence felt by making a diving catch deep down the right sideline. Perhaps even more impressive than the athletic catch was the fact that it came against Davon House–one of the most impressive players at Packers training camp thus far.

Now through one week of practice, Boykin is turning heads much like he did last summer. Boykin led the team with 13 catches and 166 yards during the 2012 preseason, en route to cracking the 53-man roster as the team’s sixth receiver.

In June, wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett called Boykin “a tremendous player”–per JSOnline.com. In Jennings’ absence, whoever wins the No. 4 job may be in for an expanded role within the offense.

Although not the fastest–4.62 in the forty–Boykin uses his size (6-2 218) to his advantage against physical cornerbacks. As things currently stand, Boykin is the frontrunner for the team’s vacant No. 4 receiver spot, although Ross has had an impressive camp of his own–as a receiver and return man.

The Packers kept six wideouts in 2012; one would figure the team will keep at least five this year. Through the first week of camp, the top five appear pretty clear–Nelson, Jones, Cobb, Boykin and Ross. Behind the top five, undrafted rookie Tyrone Walker has been the most consistent of the young bunch.

31

July

Wednesday 7/31 Packers practice: Davon House shines

Packers cornerback Davon House may have been the most impressive player at Wednesday's practice.

Packers cornerback Davon House may have been the most impressive player at Wednesday’s practice.

With fellow cornerbacks Casey Hayward and Tramon Williams on the sideline nursing injuries, Packers cornerback Davon House stepped up during Wednesday morning’s practice at Ray Nitschke Field.

It’s risky business comparing an unproven player to an established veteran. In fact, comparing any two players is like playing with fire. Some comparisons carry some stereotypes–racial or otherwise. After all, who is Jordy Nelson compared to other than Ed McCaffrey?

But throughout practice, House made play after play. And after a strip of an unsuspecting Jarrett Boykin during a team drill, I thought of Bears cornerback Peanut Tillman. Now, Tillman is likely the best in the business at stripping (or punching) the football from the ball carrier, and House’s 11 career game appearances are dwarfed by Tillman’s 33 interceptions and 39 forced fumbles.

So needless to say, House isn’t in Tillman’s league as things currently stand. But from a physical standpoint, Tillman isn’t a bad comparison for House.

Tillman stands slightly over 6’1″, slightly taller than the 6’0″ House, but both players weigh in at just under 200 pounds and have (slightly) above-average straight-line speed.

Since House wears No. 31 and has dreadlocks hanging out the back of his helmet, he’s often likened to former Pro Bowl cornerback Al Harris. That’s not a bad comparison either, but I think House is naturally more physical than Harris at the point of attack. Harris was a physical corner, no doubt, but House likes sticking his nose in there in the running game.

And now that the team’s best turnover maker, Charles Woodson–owner of 38 interceptions and 15 forced fumbles in seven seasons in Green Bay–is playing with the Oakland Raiders, the Packers will need someone to step up and fill that void.

Last season, Hayward stepped up and picked off a team-high six interceptions. This season, House could be the secondary’s breakout player.

During Thursday morning’s practice, House provided blanket coverage on the perimeter. On one play, Jordy Nelson had a step on House on a deep post route, but House recovered and punched the ball out of Nelson’s hands, breaking up what would have been about a 40-yard gain.

Back in May, I took a stab at five potential breakout players for 2013, and House came in at No. 2, behind only Morgan Burnett.

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.

23

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #2 — Defensive Line Depth

Packers first-round pick Datone Jones will be asked to play a big role as a rookie. Is he ready to be a starter?

Packers first-round pick Datone Jones will be asked to play a big role as a rookie. Is he ready to be a starter?

When the Green Bay Packers took the field against the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs, they did so with just five defensive linemen: B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson and Mike Neal.

This offseason, the Packers have a mess of defensive linemen, competing for six or seven roster spots. Raji, Pickett, Wilson, Daniels, Neal and Jerel Worthy return to the team this year, along new competition from 2013 first-round pick Datone Jones, fifth-round pick Josh Boyd and Johnny Jolly.

With nine defensive linemen competing for spots on the 53-man roster, it’s a foregone conclusion that some players will be let go.

Last year, the Packers kept six defensive linemen: Raji, Pickett, Wilson, Worthy, Daniels and Phillip Merling. Merling only played in three regular-season games, as Neal was forced to serve a four-game suspension to start the season.

The Packers may very well have a similar situation this offseason with Worthy. Coming off a torn ACL suffered in Week 16 of last season, Worthy seems like a candidate to begin the season on the PUP list. If that’s the case, it seems likely that the Packers would, again, keep six linemen before making a decision on who is let go once Worthy returns.

Throughout OTAs, the Packers wanted to get a look at Neal at outside linebacker. And earlier this month on Packers Central, hosted by Zach Kruse and me, Worthy said there’s reason to be excited about Neal standing up.

“All I can say about Mike Neal moving to outside linebacker is look out,” Worthy said. “That’s all I can say. There’s about to be some hell to pay for whoever has to deal with him.”

Whether Neal plays as a true outside linebacker or as an interior pass rusher, it’s clear the team views him as one of its most talented pass rushers. And towards the end of the season, Neal may have been the team’s second-most efficient pass rusher after Clay Matthews.

With a deeper group of defensive linemen this season, players who specialize in the pass-rush department may be able to focus on that more than in years past. Raji and Pickett will assume two starting spots, and the third spot will likely come down to Jones or Wilson.