15

April

Cory’s Corner: Julius Peppers is No. 56…remain excited

I’ve never seen a number unveiling get this much excitement.

And for those of you that may not know, Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next season for the Packers.

Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next fall as he will play a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position called the elephant.

Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next fall as he will play a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position called the elephant.

That’s quite a change for someone that was consistently coming off the edge as a defensive end in a three-point stance wearing No. 90.

But Peppers isn’t just an end. Thanks to Dom Capers and his crazy names, which have brought us the ‘Psycho’ defensive package, Peppers will be playing a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker called an elephant.

Personally, I don’t care if you call it strawberry shortcake because the name of Peppers’ position is meaningless. His stats and his motor speak for themselves. He’s been under double-digit sacks in a season just four times in his 12-year career.

The thing I like about Peppers most is his drive. I realize that he’s 34 and might be reaching the final leg of a strong NFL career. But the last time he didn’t play a full 16-game season was in 2007. That really says a lot to me. Especially for a guy that has played through a sprained MCL in his left knee, a broken right hand and a right knee sprain among other things. And the season that he suffered his right knee sprain was in 2007, a season in which he tallied his lowest sack output of his career with 2½. Yet he still managed to lead the Panthers in quarterback hurries.

Peppers is a guy that the Packers desperately needed. He’s a guy that will come in and not only contribute with a pass rush that has been forgotten, but he’s a vocal veteran that wants to win.

That’s a great combination for a team that has youngsters like Nick Perry and Datone Jones, who the Packers are counting on to break out and flourish.

Is it fair to compare Peppers to the 31-year-old Reggie White when he signed with Green Bay? No way. And I’m surprised I’ve seen people even make that comparison because it’s not not even close. White was a once-in-a-lifetime pass rusher who may never be copied again.

But that doesn’t mean Peppers doesn’t have plenty to play for.

19

September

Packers vs. Panthers: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 30-23 Win Over Carolina

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers gave the Green Bay Packers a serious upset scare at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, as the rookie quarterback helped give the Panthers a 13-0 lead in the first quarter before the defending Super Bowl champions found their footing and took over in the second half. Three turnovers to start the second half helped the Packers score 16 points in the third quarter, and Aaron Rodgers found Jordy Nelson for an 84-yard touchdown pass that put the dagger in the Panthers’ upset bid.

Here are five observations from the Packers’ Week 2 win:

1. Concern in the secondary 

Many were quick to attribute the Packers struggles on defense in Week 1 to playing a passing magician in Drew Brees, but the fears were confirmed against  Newton and the Panthers. You could probably count 10 or so occasions where the Panthers had receivers wide open for completions. Newton spared no one, as Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, Jarrett Bush, Morgan Burnett, Clay Matthews and Erik Walden were all beat. It all equaled another 400-yard passing day against the Packers defense, who now ranks 32nd in the NFL in passing yardage.

Add in the fact that safety Nick Collins will miss the year due to a neck injury, and there are legitimate concerns in the Packers pass defense. There’s no way to sugar coat it two weeks into the season. They need to be better for the Packers to reach their high expectations in 2011.

2. Starks emerges

If there was any doubt going into Carolina who should be the Packers No. 1 back, James Starks erased them with a nine-carry, 85-yard day. He also caught three passes for 30 yads. While Ryan Grant is the established veteran in the equation, Starks simply looks like a better running back at this point. I’ve said all along—Starks just runs angry. That violence ensures he never goes down on the first hit. Grant can still be used in certain situations, but Starks deserves at least an 80-20 share of the touches until he shows otherwise.

3. Covering running backs

For the second straight week, the Packers were unable to get a hold of running backs in the passing game. After watching the Saints back field catch 11 passes for 112 yards—seven and 75 coming from Darren Sproles—the Packers allowed Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams to haul in 12 passes for 123 yards. Stewart alone caught eight balls for 100 yards.

17

September

Green Bay Packers vs. Carolina Panthers Preview: 5 Things to Watch

The Green Bay Packers (1-0) and Carolina Panthers (0-1) face off in Week 2 of the NFL season Sunday.

The basics 

When: Noon CST, Sunday, September 18, 2011

Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC

TV: FOX, Ron Pitts and Jim Mora, Jr.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network

Series: Packers lead, 6-4 (Panthers won last regular season game, 35-31, in Nov. 2008 at Lambeau Field)

Five things to watch

Cam vs. the doubters

In the past year or so, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been doubted about everything from the authenticity to his smile to his ability to pick up a simple NFL offense. While his 422-yard NFL debut emphatically silenced most of those critics, they’ve been replaced by new doubters who think there’s no chance he’ll do well against a more talented Packers defense Sunday afternoon.

I, for one, hesitate to doubt Newton, who has risen to nearly every football challenge laid before him. There’s just something special about Newton that’s hard to attribute with stats or scouting terms. He has that “it” factor.

This will arguably be the biggest test of his football career, however, as Newton has never seen a defense as talented or multi-faceted as the Packers team he will face Sunday. Can he rise to this task as well? He might not lead the underdog Panthers to an upset win, but it’s hard to bet against Newton playing well, especially with Tramon Williams potentially on the sidelines.

Spreading the wealth

Much has been made in the 10 days leading up to this game about the disappearance of receiver James Jones in the offense during the Packers’ Week 1 win over the Saints. I think any competitor would be upset in his shoes, and he’s voiced that opinion a few times this week. It’s been discussed more than it needed in the lead up to this game, in my opinion.

Every dog will have his day in the Packers offense, but every dog won’t be satisfied every week. That’s just how it will go this season. Would anyone really be surprised if Jones caught a handful of passes this season?

16

September

Know Your Packers Enemy: Breaking Down Packers vs. Panthers With James Dator

We’re kicking off our season-long series of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” where every week I will talk with a blogger from the Packers’ opponent of that respective week. We’ll breakdown each game from the view of the opponent’s blogger, who should be able to give us some valuable insight on the team they cover. And while Week 1 would have naturally seemed like the right time to start this series, you wouldn’t believe how hard it was to find a Saints blogger. Nonetheless, the Panthers in Week 2 will be our jumping off point. In our first edition, I talked with James Dator from Cat Scratch Reader, the Panthers blog on SB Nation.

Here is the exchange:

1. Zach’s Question: Cam Newton was going to be a talking point in this game even before his record-setting debut, but tell me a little bit about the excitement surrounding that performance in the Panthers fan base. I, for one, was completely blown away by some of the things he did against Arizona. How are fans reacting to Newton in Week 1 and leading into the Packers game?

James’ Answer: Fans are ecstatic, and the excitement is probably at dangerous levels right now. As a whole I think there are some unreasonable expectations for Cam this weekend, but he tends to rise to the occasion. You have to understand the Panthers have really never had a true franchise QB, and we’ve been in the league for 16 years now, so there’s definitely a cautious optimism that Newton could be ‘the one’.
2. Q: Staying with Cam, what impressed you the most about his debut? I couldn’t believe I was seeing the same guy who couldn’t complete 50 percent of his passes in the preseason. He was cool in the pocket and was absolutely fearless throwing the ball down the field. What’s your take?

A: What impressed me the most wasn’t the 422 yards, or the three total TDs he scored, but rather when they cut to him after the game his head was hanging low, a towel over it and he was upset at the loss. That alone told me more about Cam Newton than the gaudy stats. What we’ve seen is a misunderstood player; sure he wants to be an ‘icon’, but he also wants to win, and is as competitive as anyone on our football team. Seeing him unsatisfied showed that he puts team success over personal glory, and that’s great to see.

27

July

NFL Free Agency Underway: What is Green Bay Packer James Jones’ Value?

Well the lockout has  finally ended and we can all get back to talking about real football. One of the first topics to tackle is free agency, which the Packers should have a pretty easy time with.  The Packers, who under General Manager Ted Thompson have a long history of ignoring free agency and locking up their own players well in advance, should be able to stay clear of the feeding frenzy that will ensue for players like Nmandi Asomugha and other big profile free agents.

Closer to home, the Packers are pretty much squared away with their own players as well.  Players like John Kuhn and Mason Crosby make up the majority of the Packers free agent class and should be resigned (if the Packers choose to do so) without much issue.  The two notable exceptions are Cullen Jenkins and James Jones.

Cullen Jenkins in my opinion is good as gone, he has a shot at setting the bar for free agent defensive linemen this year and felt a little snubbed that the Packers made no attempt to try to resign him during the season, which probably has to do with his age and injury history.  However his versatility in 4-3 and 3-4 defensive fronts and his overall production will make him a hot commodity.

James Jones on the other hand is a little bit of an enigma.  Head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers have said all along that Jones would likely be a #1 or #2 receiver for any other team other than the Packers, but at the end of the day his production doesn’t reflect that.  How much of that is the Packers fault for having so many other options for Rodgers to throw at and how much is Jones fault for not making himself more available for Rodgers to throw to and dropping balls?

Tier 1 – $5 million and over per year average salary: Antonio Bryant (Cincinnati Bengals, $28 million, 4 years), Braylon Edwards (New York Jets, $6.1 million, 1 year), Nate Burleson (Detroit Lions, $25 million, 5 years), Chris Chambers (Kansas City Chiefs, $15 million, 3 years)