15

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #10 – Who Starts at Cornerback?

Sam Shields is coming off a great 2012 season, but how will he fare in 2013?

Sam Shields is coming off a great 2012 season, but how will he fare in 2013?

Headed into training camp, the Packers’ depth at cornerback is not in question, but which players find the field is something to keep an eye on.

Returning from last season is Casey Hayward, who led the team with six interceptions. Hayward took over as the team’s nickelback when Charles Woodson suffered a broken collarbone, and the rookie went on to finish third in the voting for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. In May, we put Hayward’s rookie season under the microscope and looked ahead to what he has in store for his sophomore campaign.

The training camp competition at cornerback will feature Hayward battling it out against Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Davon House. But of all possible scenarios, it’s hard to imagine one in which Hayward is the odd-man out.

Last season, the Packers led the NFL in nickel and dime usage. ESPN Stats & Information, the team used five or more defensive backs on 66.8 percent of the plays.

This would suggest that three of the four players will emerge from the competition and become a part of the rotation. However, the team is four-deep at the position for the first time in recent memory, so it’s certainly possible that all four players will see the field, depending on the matchup.

Williams, the now-30-year-old elder statesman of the group, has started 66 games in the past five seasons. But after suffering a shoulder injury in 2011, Williams hasn’t played at 100 percent the past two seasons. According to JSOnline.com, he has worked his way back to being closer to full strength.

And without Charles Woodson in the fold, Williams, in some capacity, will take on a larger leadership role in the secondary.

Question: Which three players “start” at cornerback?

Shields signed his restricted free agent tender to remain with the team in 2013, but he and the Packers have yet to agree on a long-term extension, perhaps in part because they still have a largely unknown commodity in House.

Last summer, the position battle focused on the starting spot opposite Williams. Prior to suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason opener, House appeared to be in line to win the job. Shields capitalized on House being sidelined and, after a disappointing 2012, had a great rebound year.

14

July

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

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Packers training camp is only a few weeks away, which means it’s time to get excited.

And worry.

Any good fan worries. It’s normal. You get excited about all the possibilities of the upcoming season, but you also can’t help but fret over certain worst-case scenarios that could play out and ruin the season.

Some people might call this worrying “negativity.” Those people are wrong. They worry just as much as you, and their way of coping is by criticizing others who worry openly.

What’s your biggest worry about the Packers as training camp gets closer?

I suppose Aaron Rodgers’ good fortune running out and missing multiple games with an injury is always a concern, but I tend to not worry about injuries so much because you literally have no ideal from year to year what a team’s injury luck might be.

For me, I worry about impact players in the middle of the Packers defense. A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Morgan Burnett and either Jerron McMillian or M.D. Jennings will likely be roaming the middle of the field for the Packers on defense.

Do any of those players strike fear into opposing offenses?

It’s nice to have an impact player up the middle to wallop somebody and force a fumble or range across the field and make a pick to change the momentum of the game or make up for shortcomings in other area’s of the defense.

Hawk definitely isn’t that type player. We’re not sure yet about Jones, but I don’t have my hopes up. Burnett is a good player, but hasn’t yet ascended to playmaker status. McMillian and Jennings are unknowns, but again, I wouldn’t get my hopes up — especially about Jennings who is really small.

So, there’s your does of negativity for the day. Or what some people call negativity and I call worrying like any normal fan would.

I do think the Packers defense will be better, but I’d be a lot more confident if their players up the middle had at least one proven playmaker. Hopefully Jones, Burnett or McMillian/Jennings ascends this season and makes all my worrying for not.

Packers News, Notes and Links

6

July

When will Davon House crack the starting lineup?

Packers CB Davon House

Packers CB Davon House

For the first time in a while, cornerback may be the deepest position on the Green Bay Packers roster.

Tramon Williams is entering his eighth season with the Packers, Sam Shields is coming off his second impressive season in three years and Casey Hayward is fresh off a six-interception campaign in which he finished third in the voting for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Last season, the Packers have led the NFL in dime and nickel packages, so Williams, Shields and Hayward each played a considerable amount. But all three will face stiff competition this summer from third-year cornerback Davon House.

House suffered a left shoulder subluxation in the first week of the preseason, forcing him to play with a harness for the nine games he was able to suit up for. But prior to the injury, House looked like he was on his way to earning a starting job.

“It was mine to lose and I lost it because of injuries to me,” House said, per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “But later on in the season, Shields got hurt and it gave me an opportunity to step in there. I think it showed the coaches that I can play.”

House played 318 snaps in his second season, highlighted by a blocked punt in Week 8 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But for House, 2013 is a new opportunity and another chance at earning (and keeping) a starting job.

“House is back here; he looks great,” McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel‘s Tom Silverstein. “He had his surgery and I thought he had an excellent training camp. He’ll definitely be someone who’ll push for a starting position or definitely a big role in our defense.”

House will have his sights set on an expanded role with the base defense, but it won’t be easy. Williams, 30, has been a mainstay in the starting lineup for five years, while Shields and Hayward did nothing but impressive last season.

Opposing quarterbacks throwing in Hayward’s direction had a combined passer rating of 31.1 last season, and when Charles Woodson went down, Hayward’s role as the nickelback became increasingly important. The rookie proved capable of playing on the perimeter as well, but he enters training camp as the odds-on favorite to be (at the very least) the slot man in the nickel package.

30

June

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

To survive this particular Sunday, I don’t want to write about Desmond Bishop officially signing with the Vikings, Aaron Rodgers getting shafted on the NFL top 100 list or Aaron Hernandez (allegedly) murdering a guy(s). Instead, let’s do a Packers hypothetical:

If Packers GM Ted Thompson calls you tomorrow, rattles off the names of two players, and says he absolutely has to cut one of  them and is calling you for advice, what would you tell him?

Here are the scenarios:

Tramon Williams or Casey Hayward?
I’d keep Hayward and cut Williams. Not an easy choice because I’m not as down on Williams as others, but I’ll take the young guy who isn’t as afraid of contact as Williams has been lately. Having young CBs like Sam Shields and Davon House on the roster would also help cushion the blow from losing Williams.

Mike Neal or Jerel Worthy?
One guy is prone to injuries, the other is actually injured. I’m keeping Neal and cutting Worthy. Neal has showed flashes of being really damn good when he hasn’t been in the trainer’s room. Worthy didn’t show me much last season when he was healthy — not enough explosiveness. I know Worthy is young and defensive linemen need time to develop, but based on what I’ve seen so far, I like a healthy Neal over a healthy Worthy.

Jermichael Finley or James Jones?
Now this is a tough one. I want to say I’d cut Finley and keep Jones, but for some reason, Finley still strikes fear into other teams. You still see coverage shifted to account for No. 88 even though he hasn’t been what I’d consider a playmaker in his career. He’s been a decent enough tight end, but not really a playmaker. Jones seemed expendable until he went nutso last season and I like his ability to go up and catch a jump ball every now and then. I also value a good wide receiver over a one-dimensional tight end, so I’d cut Finley. I might live to regret that decision, though. It’s a tough one.

Adam Czech, Jersey Al, Kris Burke, Chad Toporski, Thomas Hobbes, Jason Perone or Marcus Eversoll?

24

May

Will Tramon Williams return to 2010 form?

Packers CB Tramon Williams

Packers CB Tramon Williams

Coming off a memorable postseason in 2010, Packers cornerback Tramon Williams suffered a serious shoulder injury in the first game of 2011 that still hasn’t fully healed.

A year earlier, in the Packers’ run to Super Bowl XLV, Williams emerged as one of the top cover corners in football.

That season, Williams started all 16 games for the first time in his career. He intercepted a career-high six passes in the regular season and picked off another three balls in the playoffs.

At that point, ProFootballFocus ranked Williams No. 7 among the 69 cornerbacks that played at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps. This past season, Williams came in at No. 43 among 71 players at the position.

The shoulder injury has certainly played a part in Williams’ performance the past two seasons.

“I had some tears in my shoulder and I had nerve damage in my shoulder, and it was tough,” Williams told 107.5 The Fan in March. “I only missed one game because of it, but it should have been one of those things to where I should have sat down for quite a few games. But at the same time, I haven’t been hurt at any point in my career … Everyone goes through adversity at some point in their career — that was one of my points, and I got through it.”

Williams didn’t appear on the injury report in 2012 because he never considered missing any game action, according to ProFootballTalk. But the lingering shoulder issue has prevented Williams from being the physical impact corner he was before the injury.

“It was kind of hard to sit back, because when you’re off, you’re kind of giving away some throws,” Williams said. “You don’t want to give up anything. So you have to kind of compensate your game for the injury, but like I said, I got through it and just continue to progress. I had nerve damage, so that’s one thing that takes time. It could be a year, it could be two years to come back. And it’s made progress, but it’s still coming. So it’s one of those deals to where my shoulder’s still getting better at this point. I’m still working on it and hopefully it comes all the way back this year.”

21

May

Casey Hayward: What’s in store for his encore?

Packers CB Casey Hayward

Packers CB Casey Hayward

Packers cornerback Casey Hayward was the 62nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but he was among most impactful defensive backs in football last season.

According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks had a collective passer rating of 31.1 when throwing at Hayward. And among cornerbacks who played at least 50 percent of their team’s defensive snaps, Hayward came in at No. 3 in the league, sandwiched between Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield.

The rookie went from being buried on the depth chart early in the season–Hayward played just three snaps in the season opener against the 49ers—to being, perhaps, the most irreplaceable part of the secondary.

When veteran Charles Woodson suffered a broken collarbone in Week 7, Hayward’s presence became increasingly important. From Week 7 to Week 14, Hayward played 88.5 percent of the Packers’ defensive snaps.

Coming into the season, Woodson was expected to play safety in the base and bump up to slot cornerback in the nickel. But when Hayward emerged as the team’s most reliable turnover creator, playing primarily in the slot, Woodson’s role was drastically reduced by the time he returned for the playoffs.

This offseason, the Packers decided to cut ties with Woodson, who was set to count nearly $10 million against the salary cap. Woodson, 36, remained a fan favorite at the time of his release, but the presence of a promising young talent in Hayward made the move easier to swallow.

As a team, the Packers accounted for 18 interceptions in 2012, which was tied for eighth-most in the NFL. Hayward led all rookies and tied for fifth in the league with six picks.

 

1. Week 5 @ Indianapolis (4th Quarter, 13:09)

QB: Andrew Luck / WR: Reggie Wayne / Position: Slot

Hayward’s first career interception came against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5. Matched up against Colts receiver Reggie Wayne in the slot, Hayward matched him stride-for-stride and made the play on the ball.

Wayne dominated the Packers throughout the game, catching 13 passes for 212 yards and a score. But according to PFF, Hayward allowed just one reception on three targets on the afternoon. Luck’s passer rating when throwing at Hayward was an abysmal 6.9.

2. Week 6 @ Houston (4th Quarter, 7:11)

23

March

Packers Defense: Who’s Still On the Way Up?

Green Bay Packers defense

Who’s Rising on Defense?

Here we are at the start of the 2013 NFL season. Let the great debates roll on!   Sign a FA?  Keep your own?  Difference maker free agent? Hole filler? Last gasp?  Which leads to next big thing, the team has to draft this position this year! { fill in your choice}.

Everyone goes nuts this time of year, I am of the use Free Agency to fill a hole in depth crowd,  but first and foremost keep your own.

From most of talk across the web, Packer fans are screaming for “DEFENSE” and I can’t disagree, but for many, players already on the team are over looked waiting for that big signing. { like that is going to happen in Green Bay in the first place}

So while many are playing fantasy GM with all the if’s, maybes, should have’s, could have’s, lets look at players on the team that are on the way up and will improve the team from the inside.

I consider C.J. Wilson on the way up. He missed games with a knee injury last year, in the eleven games he played, he was looked at as one of the Packers better run stoppers, he had 24 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Nothing to get excited about, but Wilson did improve in his second year, not bad for 7th round pick that played 4-3 DE in college. He is a better athlete then given credit for at 6-3 300# he ran a 4.83 40, 32 reps at #225, 1.67 ten yard time 4.50 shuttle and 7.65 3 cone drill. His best football is still in front of him.

Mike Neal actually stayed fairly healthy last year and flashed some of what he did as a rookie. He and Matthews got on a bit of roll before Matthews got dinged up. He has the work ethic and gained experience last year.  He now has 22 games played,  11 for 2012 with a 4 game suspension. Still on the way up.

Terrell Manning and Jamari Lattimore are the two inside linebackers I want to see most. Manning was a OLB in college and missed time with a parasite, but made his way on the field for 5 games in 2012. Lattimore was a DE in college, Packers they tried him at OLB first, he moved to ILB last year and showed promise in the preseason. Both are more athletic then Smith and Bishop.