13

July

NFC North Sending Sending Three Teams to the Playoffs This Season?

The NFC North is set to be one of the NFL’s toughest divisions during the 2012-13 season, despite being home to the lonely Minnesota Vikings. The Packers are the reigning kings, but the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions are certainly formidable foes.

With so much talent in the division, there is a good chance the North could see three playoffs with the Packers, Bears and Lions continuing their season past the first weekend in January.

Green Bay Packers
The Packers aren’t only favorites to win the division, but likely the conference and possibly even the Super Bowl. Dominating their way through the regular season last year, minus a Kansas City hiccup, the Packers were able to bring back the majority to key contributors.

The team lost center Scott Wells via free agency and cut Chad Clifton due to financial reasons, but replaced Wells with veteran Jeff Saturday. Clifton had fallen out of rotation due to his back troubles.

The Packers didn’t lose much in terms of personnel and added reinforcements on the defensive side of the ball via free agency and the draft. Key draft picks Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward as well as free agent signing Anthony Hargrove (after his suspension) and many others will have opportunities to not only make the team but improve the defense.

After finishing 15-1 and sweeping the division last season, the Packers should be even better in 2012.

Detroit Lions
Following their first playoff appearance in more than a decade, the Lions will look to get back into the postseason rather than start a new streak of missing out. The Lions are filled with talent on both sides of the ball.

Wide receiver Titus Young is a player to watch while defensives focus their attention on stopping Calvin Johnson. With good health, Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best could provide more stability for the Lions offense in terms of a running game. With strong cores on both sides of the ball and even more young talent, the Lions are in good shape.

This offseason, the biggest and most frequent news out of Detroit has been the legal issues hanging over the team’s players. Leshoure and Nick Fairley have seen their names pop up in legal mess. In addition to the off-field issues Ndamukong Suh has had his separate issues on field.

14

May

Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks Part II

NFL Draft Logo Image

2012 NFL Draft

So here is part II of the reasons behind the draft picks (see part I here)  Again, I’m not assigning grades to the draft or to the players because I don’t believe you can tell whether or not a player will pan out within the first 30 something days.  What I am interested in is what the Packers were thinking of when they decided to draft a player; with that in mind, this is what I think the Packers want to accomplish with each draft pick and which player each rookie could be potentially be replacing.

Jeron McMillian – Projected Strong Safety – Round 4, Pick #38 (#133 overall) – Replaces Pat Lee

Rationale: First off let’s be honest here, I don’t think we have the next Nick Collins in McMillian; I was actually very surprised that McMillian was drafted at all by the Packers simply because he doesn’t fit into the mold of what the Packers look for in safeties.  The Packers are probably more interested in playing two free safeties (which there really wasn’t one this year in the draft), consider their preferred pairing of Collins and Morgan Burnett (who ironically never really played together): both have good ball skills and the ability to jump passing routes.  What McMillian does best is run support, which is almost the exact opposite of a ball hawk.   Then again even if McMillian is the next Collins I highly doubt that the Packers can afford to stick him out there in his first year, which is even more reason why I think Woodson will have to make the move to safety.

What McMillian can do, and almost immediately, is play on special teams.  One of the less covered bits of news in the offseason was that cornerback Pat Lee was not resigned by the Packers but was curiously signed by the Oakland Raiders; many assumed this was just because of new Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie’s background knowledge of Lee, but I think its apparent that Lee is always going to be a liability in coverage so more realistically McKenzie wanted his special teams ability.  Lee actually was the gunner opposite of Jarrett Bush and it’s an important position, just look at who was the Packers priority signing this offseason (and it wasn’t Matt Flynn).  My assumption is that the Packers are hoping that McMillian contributes immediately to special teams as a gunner while refining his coverage technique and perhaps becomes a starter on the defense in the future, but anything more than special teams ace in his first couple of years is probably wishful thinking.

23

April

Report: Green Bay Packers to Release Chad Clifton

Chad Clifton spent 12 seasons in green and gold.

According to a report from Adam Schefter and ESPN.com, the Green Bay Packers are releasing veteran offensive tackle Chad Clifton.

Clifton was drafted by the team in 2000 in the second round out of Tennessee. Clifton was a remarkable player for most of the past 12 seasons, but found his body beginning to betray itself after missing ten games this past season. According to the ESPN report, Clifton was the oldest starting left tackle in the National Football League.

He started 160 of his 165 career games as Packer and was selected to two Pro Bowls. Clifton and Mark Tauscher provided much needed stability to an offensive line that was greatly in flux during the beginning of Mike McCarthy’s time as Packers head coach.

It’s truly an end of an era in Green Bay. Clifton was the last piece standing from the great offensive line the Packers had in the early 2000s. he helped Ahman Green become one of the the best running backs in Packers history and helped transition the team between Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre

Clifton was owed $5.7 million in salary and bonuses this year.

Marshall Newhouse, Derek Sherrod and maybe even Brian Bulaga wait in the wings to replace Clifton. That could give Packer fans cause for concern as Sherrod went down with an injury last season and Newhouse was inconsistent. Bulaga meanwhile has shown potential to be one of the better right tackles in the game so it may not make much sense the Packers to move him to the other side.

Could the left tackle position be an area of focus for the Packers in this weekend’s NFL draft? Stay tuned.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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22

April

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

 

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Surviving Sundays With no Packers Football

If you missed the three-hour ESPN special unveiling the NFL schedule, congratulations. I was open minded enough to give it a shot, but only managed to last about five minutes before trying to leap through my living-room window.

 

Three hours to unveil the NFL schedule?! I allow the NFL and the Green Bay Packers to monopolize my life from September through January. I can’t let them do the same in April.

 

Besides, why watch an ESPN anchor read off a cue card and a bumbling former player or two unveil the schedule in Bristol, CT, when you could just visit ALLGBP.com and find out all you need to know? Here’s a link to the NFL schedule, and below are some random thoughts on the portion of the schedule that involves the greatest franchise in the history of sports, the Packers.

 

  • I was hoping the Packers would play the Giants in the NFL’s Wednesday kickoff game. I didn’t care about exacting revenge for the playoff loss, but it would’ve been nice for the Packers to get 10 days off after the season opener. It turns out the Packers will get 10 days off early in the season, but it comes after playing the Bears on Thursday night in week two.
  • I’m mad that the Packers don’t have an early October home game. Those first three weeks in October are perfect for football at Lambeau.
  • The Packers should be shooting for 7-2 by the bye week. That’s assuming they’ll go 2-2 against San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans and Houston. I wouldn’t be surprised if they go into the bye 9-0 or 8-1 (I think San Francisco comes back down to earth a little), but 7-2 would be fine.
  • The Packers generally have at least one December clunker where they lose to a bad team. The Vikings might be the bad team that beats the Packers this season. Minnesota will have two chances, the first on Dec. 2 at Lambeau and in the finale on Dec. 30. Perhaps it’ll come on Dec. 30 when the Packers are resting starters (how’s that for confidence?).
  • Speaking of that Dec. 30 game, what if it’s the Vikings’ final game in Minnesota? Do Packers and Vikings fans hug after the game and wish each other well? Do Vikings fans become Packers fans? Do Packers fans allow Vikings fans to become Packers fans? Do Packers fans continue to hate the Vikings even if they’re in Los Angeles? So many questions…
13

April

Packers 2012 Offensive Line Scenarios

Packers offensive tackle Derek Sherrod

2012 is a big season for Packers T Derek Sherrod

Injuries to Chad Clifton, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga meant that the Packers offensive line never really gelled last season. Guys like Marshall Newhouse and Evan Dietrich-Smith did a decent enough job filling in, but the line never got rolling like I thought it would.

This might be a little tricky to attempt before the draft, but let’s take a look at several offensive line scenarios for the 2012 season. If/when injuries hit, what are the Packers options and potential lineups up front?

Scenario 1
LT Chad Clifton, LG T.J. Lang, C Jeff Saturday, RG Josh Sitton, RT Bryan Bulaga.

This is the ideal scenario. In a perfect world, Clifton comes back, he’s healthy and productive, and the Packers trot out the same five guys every week. We can dream, right?

Scenario 2
LT Derek Sherrod, LG Lang, C Saturday, RG Sitton, RT Bulaga

Maybe Clifton gets cut or goes down early in the season and the Packers have to once again fill a hole at left tackle. If that happens, the ideal situation is for Sherrod to come back from his broken leg and step right in, showing improvement from his rookie season and becoming the left tackle of the future. Bulaga would stay at right tackle and the future would bright. If only it was that easy…

Scenario 3
LT Bulaga, LG Lang, C Saturday, RG Sitton, RT Newhouse

Clifton is cut or hurt and Sherrod isn’t ready to start. That makes Bulaga the major chess piece in this scenario. Do you move him from the right side over to Aaron Rodgers’ blind side on the left? I would. Newhouse was adequate on the left side in 2011, but I’m confident that Bulaga would have no trouble adjusting and would be much better than adequate. On a team with Super Bowl aspirations, adequate just isn’t good enough.

Scenario 4
LT Newhouse/Sherrod, LG Lang, C Saturday, RG Sitton, RT Bulaga

If Clifton makes the team, but gets hurt during the season, I’d be fine with keeping Bulaga on the right side. There’s no need to start playing musical chairs during the season unless absolutely necessary. But what if it is absolutely necessary?

Scenario 5
LT Lang LG Evan Dietrich-Smith/Ray Dominguez/??? C Saturday RG Sitton RT Bulaga

14

March

All you Need to Know About Day 1 of NFL Free Agency and the Green Bay Packers

Brandon Marshall

The Bears traded two third-round picks for WR Brandon Marshall.

It’s 11:30 p.m. central time on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. I’m going to read a few pages in my book and go to bed. By the time this publishes around 7 a.m. central time on Wednesday, March 14, 2012, a bunch of other stuff might have happened and the news contained in this post might feel like it’s 10 years old.

Welcome to the start of NFL free agency.

A lot went down on Tuesday when 532 NFL players hit the open market. Let’s take a look at the developments that concern the Green Bay Packers:

  • Packers center Scott Wells is as good as gone according Packer Report. I was a big advocate for bringing Wells back, even if it meant overspending a little. Maybe it’s me accepting the fact that Wells is probably leaving, but I started changing my mind a couple days ago. Is it wise to overspend for a 31-year-old center that’s undersized and isn’t that great of a run blocker? Probably not, especially when there’s extensions for Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews coming up in the near future. The Packers will miss Wells’s pass blocking. They’ll miss his command of the pre-snap calls just as much. But it’s not a devastating loss…I don’t think.
  • And who knows? Maybe the Packers are treating Wells like they treated Clifton a few years ago, letting him explore the market to see what sort of offers are out there and hoping for an opportunity to match.
  • There’s been some scuttle that the Packers might go after Houston center Chris Myers to replace Wells. I’ll believe it when I see it. Myers would be an upgrade over Wells, but replacing his own high-priced free agent with another high-priced free agent isn’t how Ted Thompson typically operates.
  • Packers DE Mike Neal has been suspended four games for using a performance enhancing substance. The injury-prone Neal gets a lot of heat from Packers fans and this won’t make it any better. I always had sympathy for Neal. Why should we get angry at a young player just because he gets hurt? But this changes things. There’s no excuse for taking PEDs. The best thing Neal can do is admit his mistake, take his punishment like a man, and try to come back and salvage his career.
12

March

Packers: Scott Wells “Appears Headed” to Free Agency

Scott Wells is likely to hit free agency, which opens Tuesday.

Barring any late change of heart or mind, Green Bay Packers center Scott Wells will get to the start of free agency without a new contract from the Packers.

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wells “appears headed for free agency barring a last-minute deal.” The sides are still far apart on what the value of Wells’ new contract should be.

In my opinion, the two sides are playing a game of chicken, with the Packers going low and Wells going high and waiting to see which side breaks first. My guess is that the Packers are going to have to give in some, but whether it’s enough to sign Wells, I don’t know. Wells remembers that the Packers gave up on him two years ago only to see him beat out Jason Spitz for the starting job and become one of the most valuable players on the offensive line.

It appears that Wells is wanting a contract that puts him on par with the top centers in the NFL, somewhere in the $7-8 million a year range. The Packers are almost certain not to give him that kind of money, especially considering Wells will be 32 at the end of 2012-13 season and is a touch undersized for the position.

Given that wide impasse in yearly negotiations, the Packers are likely to let Wells scour the open market. Once there, it’s possible Wells will find out a harsher truth about his real value and the Packers will be able to negotiate a more cap-friendly deal for the veteran center.

GM Ted Thompson has seen this same scenario unfold with left tackle Chad Clifton and receiver James Jones, both of which got to free agency but re-signed with the Packers once they got a better grasp at what free agency valued them at.

Clifton flirted with the Washington Redskins back in 2010 but shortly returned on a three-year deal with the Packers. Jones was widely assumed to be finding a team that would make him a more targeted receiver last offseason but found no satisfying offers. He also returned on a three-year deal.

Despite that fact, Wells still has leverage in the talks because he’s coming off a Pro Bowl season and back-to-back years when many considered him one of the NFL’s top centers.