16

May

Packing the Stats: Defense Tackling Improvements

Packing the StatsIn my recent perusal of the internet for some Green Bay Packers news in the offseason, I came across an article at Football Outsiders by editor-in-chief Aaron Schatz. “Broken Tackles 2012: Defense” focuses on the best and worst defensive players when it came to broken tackles last season. Those of us who regularly follow the Packers know that tackling was a big point of interest after an abysmal 2011 season when, according to ProFootballFocus.com, they missed a whopping 109 tackles.

Naturally, I was intrigued to see how the Packers and some of their individual players ranked among the rest of the league for 2012. I braced for the worst, knowing the defense was lacking against opposing rushing attacks. (They gave up 132.6 yards per game, for 25th in the NFL.) And then, of course, were the games against Adrian Peterson.

Imagine my surprise when I found out the Packers were in the top three best teams when it came to missed tackles.

Now, let’s clear something up first. Football Outsiders clearly defined their criteria for a “broken tackle,” which should not be confused with the PFF “missed tackle” statistic. (Though for comparison’s sake, the 109 missed tackles from 2011 dropped down to just 81 in 2012 as charted by PFF.) That aside, here is how FO defines a “broken tackle”:

We define a “broken tackle” as one of two events: either the ballcarrier escapes from the grasp of the defender, or the defender is in good position for a tackle but the ballcarrier jukes him out of his shoes. If the ballcarrier sped by a slow defender who dived and missed, that didn’t count as a broken tackle.

Before we get to the team’s overall numbers, I want to highlight the two Packers players that made “best” and “worst” lists. First, take comfort in the fact that no player from Green Bay recorded 10 or more broken tackles. None of the defensive backs made the bottom ten in broken tackle rate; of course, none of them made the top ten either.

No, our two players in question were linebackers.

Inside linebacker Brad Jones made the “naughty” list as one of the twelve worst linebackers when it came to broken tackles in 2012. For his 61 solo tackles on the season, he had 7 broken tackles, for a rate of 10.3%. That put him seventh from the bottom.

24

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Forgive me, Packers fans, I’m about to stick up for the Chicago Bears.

(*The author pauses for a moment to put on his bullet-proof vest, change the locks on his home, and take a deep breath*)

I have no problem with the Bears one year, $2 million contract offer to Brian Urlacher. I’m actually insulted that Urlacher called the offer “insulting.”

Football is a business. Good teams make roster decisions not to reward once-great players or keep local heroes around to appease the fanbase. Football has been trying to teach us this lesson over and over again, but most people will never learn it, or simply refuse to even try to learn it.

Urlacher was a free agent for the first time in 13 seasons. He’ll be 35 years old in May and he missed the last month of the 2012 season with a hamstring injury.

In the 12 games that Urlacher did play, Pro Football Focus graded him out positively in only three of them. He finished with an overall season grade of -11.3. Pro Football Focus is not the be-all, end-all of player evaluation, but from what I saw of Urlacher in 2012, a -11.3 seemed generous. I thought he was slow and a shadow of his former self.

Does a $2 million contract offer for a once-great, but now aging player coming off an injury and likely on the downswing of his career really sound that insulting to you?

It doesn’t to me.

To be fair, there are two counter-arguments to this: 1) Urlacher’s leadership means a lot and is worth more than $2 million, and 2) the Bears have next to nothing at middle linebacker now that Urlacher is gone.

I don’t know how much “leadership” is worth, especially for a player who is declining on the field. To me, not very much, but I’m not in an NFL locker room, so who knows?

Yes, it’s true that the Bears now have next to nothing at middle linebacker, but that’s still not a good enough reason to overpay for an aging player. Draft a rookie to develop. Find a younger player who could do what Urlacher did for a fraction of the price. Sign Brad Jones.

21

March

Packers Re-Sign LB Brad Jones

With Jones' return, the Packers keep their linebacker core intact from last season

With Jones’ return, the Packers keep their linebacker core intact from last season

It was announced today via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel that the Green Bay Packers have re-signed linebacker Brad Jones.  Terms of the deal have not been announced.  With the signing of Jones, the Packers will bring back the majority of their linebacking unit from last season, including all of the inside linebackers.

After stepping in last year for injured inside linebackers Desmond Bishop and DJ Smith, Jones had his best season in 2012.  He registered 77 tackles, two sacks and four passes defensed.  With some questions still lingering about Bishop’s and Smith’s recoveries, keeping Jones was a solid move by Green Bay.

Jones was a seventh round draft selection of the Packers in the 2009 draft.  After spending the first two years as an outside linebacker, Jones was moved inside.

While it isn’t the flashy move that most were hoping for, Jones does technically constitute a free agent signing by General Manager Ted Thompson.  That makes two including fellow inside linebacker Robert Francois, signed earlier in the week. Who says Thompson doesn’t sign free agents?

——————

Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

Follow Jason at:

Jason Perone
                Add to Circleson Google+

——————


21

February

Will the Packers Remain Uncomfortably Married to A.J. Hawk?

AJ Hawk

Cut him or keep him? The Packers might just stay uncomfortably married to AJ Hawk.

The topic of A.J. Hawk gets debated to death by Packers fans every offseason.

Some fans view Hawk as an overpaid bust who has no business on the field. Others view him as a serviceable player even though he hasn’t lived up to his status as a high draft pick. A few delusional fans even think some other team would trade a first or second day draft choice for Hawk.

If I were in charge of the Packers, I’d release Hawk. If released after *June 1, it would save $5.45 million against the salary cap — money that could be used to extend Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji — and cut ties with a player who hasn’t forced a turnover since 2010 and didn’t break up a single pass in 2012.

Hawk has always been a ho-hum player. I believe the Packers committed to him because they weren’t sure about their other options. The Packers were the 35-year-old woman who married a guy that wasn’t quite perfect, but time was running out and the other options were iffy. Settling on Hawk was better than being left alone and vulnerable (with a house full of cats).

Here’s the big question regarding Hawk’s future in Green Bay: Are there finally some other options for the Packers this offseason?

Desmond Bishop is a high-energy playmaker. D.J. Smith is capable. Brad Jones proved his worth after Bishop and Smith got hurt. Terrell Manning and Jamari Lattimore are young players who could emerge if given a chance. Do those players give the Packers enough confidence to divorce Hawk? What if Thompson drafts a physically gifted middle linebacker early in the draft?

On paper, you would think so. But can Ted Thompson really be swept off his feet by two guys coming off major knee injuries, a career backup (who is also a free agent), two kids who have never played a meaningful snap, or a draft pick?

Perhaps the names are a bit sexier this time around, but when you look beneath the surface, the Packers might decide to stay uncomfortably married to Hawk. He had 157 tackles last season, and he at least tries to play physical, even if he isn’t talented enough to make much of an impact.

20

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Inside Linebackers

Packers Inside Linebackers:  If nothing else, the 2012 team showed us how deep we are at inside linebacker. After losing two starters in Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith, the Packers were still able to keep things together with Brad Jones in the lineup. The caveat, however, is that while the group is deep, there are no real “blue chip” players to be found.

(Note: Listen to the combined linebackers podcast at the end of this article:)

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

A.J. Hawk (1st Round, 2006)
Desmond Bishop (6th Round, 2007)
Brad Jones (7th Round, 2009)
Robert Francois (UDFA, 2009)
D.J. Smith (6th Round, 2011)
Jamari Lattimore (UDFA, 2011)
Terrell Manning (5th Round, 2012)

For all the talk of the deficiencies at defensive line and outside linebacker, we seem to forget about the fact that inside linebacker is leaving us with something to be desired. It’s not a horrible group by any means, but there’s also nothing special about it. Desmond Bishop is currently the best player of the bunch, A.J. Hawk isn’t worth his contract weight, D.J. Smith was a bit of a disappointment this year, and despite his solid play, Brad Jones wasn’t much of a playmaker either. Terrell Manning seems to be the current roster’s last shred of hope among an otherwise lackluster crew, but he needs to make it onto the field first and foremost.

  • Hawk: Even though A.J. Hawk had one of his best years in 2012, it was still not great. He’s no Vince Young when it comes to first round busts, but he lacks the playmaking ability and athleticism you would expect from a player drafted at his position. His work ethic and football intelligence have kept him around for seven frustrating years, though it’s clear his salary will be more than his worth in 2013. The Packers could save $5.45 million in cap space by releasing Hawk.
  • Bishop: It’s hard to believe that Desmond Bishop will be going into his seventh season in 2013, because it took him so long to gain a starting role. His lack of consistency held him back until Nick Barnett’s season-ending injury in 2010. Since then, he has proven himself to be a hard-charged thumper that brings an attitude to the defense. More of a red chip than a blue chip player, he is easily the best inside linebacker on the squad right now.
7

February

Packers Brad Jones: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

Brad Jones

Brad Jones

1) Introduction: Taken in the seventh round of the 2009 draft by the Packers, Brad Jones has so far had an interesting career, to say the least. He was thrust into a starting role during his rookie year when Aaron Kampman suffered a season-ending injury. Jones remained the starter in 2010 until a shoulder injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. Since then, he has seen the field sporadically, not being able to lock down a permanent position on the team.

2) Profile:

Bradley Edward Jones

  • Age: 26
  • Born: 04/01/1986, in Lansing, MI
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 242
  • College: Colorado
  • Rookie Year: 2009
  • NFL Experience: 4 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: With Erik Walden being re-signed and Nick Perry drafted to be the starting outside linebacker across from Clay Matthews, Brad Jones looked to be filling the role of back-up once again. The coaches had experimented with moving him to inside linebacker during OTAs, but come training camp, he appeared to move back to his original role as outside linebacker. Nobody foresaw the need for Jones to take a starting role at inside linebacker.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: I have to be honest here, I can’t recall much in the way of glowing moments for Brad Jones. Of course, I also can’t think of any epic failures, either. He had a good game against the Tennessee Titans, with a sack and six recorded stops for the defense, so take that for what it’s worth.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: For a third-string starter outside of his natural position, Brad Jones filled in rather admirably for the fallen Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith. He didn’t make a lot of impact plays, but he worked hard and took care of his assignments. Despite being the lone ILB in dime packages, Jones wasn’t particularly strong in coverage, though certainly he was a better option than A.J. Hawk.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Brad Jones’ level of contributions in the postseason was consistent with what he did in the regular season. He struggled in run support against Minnesota and San Francisco, but his pass coverage was respectable. Despite allowing five receptions on six targets, they were only for a grand total of 26 yards.

16

January

Injuries Took Their Toll on the Packers Linebacker Corps

D.J. Smith Injury 2012

The injury to D.J. Smith was one of many among the Green Bay Packers linebackers.

When the injuries started compounding for the Green Bay Packers this year, fans didn’t seem to flinch. Too fresh in their memories was the story of 2010, when the Packers overcame several key injuries to become Super Bowl champions. “Next man up” became the rally cry for the team, its fans, and the media.

The motto’s resurgence in 2012 showed the confidence of Packers Nation in Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy’s ability to add and develop depth throughout the team. While concerns still brewed in the back of our minds, they were overshadowed by what we’ve come to expect from Green Bay’s second string players.

No more Desmond Bishop? Bring in D.J. Smith. Now Smith goes down? Get Brad Jones in there. Lose Cedric Benson, James Starks, and Brandon Saine? Promote Alex Green and DuJuan Harris, then re-sign Ryan Grant from free agency. Even undrafted rookie Don Barclay surprised us with his ability to take over for Bryan Bulaga and not get Aaron Rodgers killed.

The specific team building philosophy of Thompson and McCarthy have allowed the Green Bay Packers to succeed even when some of their best players end up on injured reserve. Many other teams would struggle to handle such losses, whereas the Packers push through, fill in the holes, and still win their division.

Unfortunately, with all this confidence in the “next man up” mentality, we tend to lose sight of the fact that Green Bay’s offensive, defensive, and special teams units still lose some of their effectiveness from these starters going down.

In 2012, the position group that suffered the most was by far the linebacker corps. If you compare this season’s final roster to last year’s, the differences are striking. Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk didn’t go anywhere, despite Matthews missing a few games; however, the losses of Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith were huge.

Yes, Brad Jones filled in admirably, but he is not the playmaker that Bishop is. (Nor is Smith.) Desmond Bishop is perhaps the biggest playmaker on the defense outside of Clay Matthews. His tough and ruthless attitude brings a punch that helps to balance out the lack of plays made by Hawk. While the “assignment sure” Hawk has been a perennial disappointment to many fans, he and Bishop complement each other extremely well. Without one, the other suffers.