17

March

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Of the many things that make the NFL great, one of my personal favorites is how new trends tend to pop up out of nowhere.  Just when know-it-all types like yours truly think we have it all figured out, some new wrinkle arises that brings us crashing back down to Earth.

For example, we all understand that the NFL is a passing league these days, but it’s probably safe to say that next to nobody saw the read-option and power-running game trend that came on and played such a major factor in the league last season.

Read option? Power running? In today’s NFL? Nah! What coach is stupid enough to try that? Well, thanks to a new breed of quarterback, several coaches gave it a try and it worked. We’ll see if it continues.

In NFL free agency this offseason, thanks to a stagnant salary cap, there are a lot of usable veterans cut by teams and left on the market. In the past, many of these veterans would have signed bloated new deals with new teams on the first day or two of free agency.

These types of deals are still happening, but not quite like they used to.

Is this the new trend in free agency? It appears to be, for this offseason, anyway. More  teams are taking the Packers’ Ted Thompson approach and being patient, either because they think it’s the right thing to do, or because they have no other choice due to the stagnant salary cap.

Don’t get me wrong, few teams — if any — are taking the extreme draft and development approach that Thompson takes, but the general trend appears to be heading in that direction.

This raises several questions:

  • Will all of these unsigned veterans eventually just sign cheap one-year deals after a while?
  • Will prices for these unsigned veterans actually go up as free-agency wears on and teams realize they need to fill a few holes on their rosters?
  • Prices appear to be down for wide receivers and defensive backs this offseason. Is that because there are too many on the market? Is it becasue there are so many on the market? Is it because teams feel it makes more sense to draft and develop their own WRs and DBs?
3

March

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

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

When is it time to get worried about the Packers recent history in the first round of the NFL draft?

  • Bryan Bulaga (2010): Missed four games in 2011 with a knee injury and seven games in 2012 with a season-ending hip injury.
  • Derek Sherrod (2011): Broke his leg toward the end of a ho-hum rookie season and missed all of 2012.
  • Nick Perry (2012): Broke a bone in his wrist and missed the final 10 regular season games and the playoffs.

Ouch.

Of those three, Bulaga appears to be a good to great player if he can stay on the field. The jury is still out on the other two.

If you’re looking for a silver lining with these three, you could probably say that these are not re-occurring and nagging types of injuries. It’s not like these three are always hobbling around with a strained hamstring, sore back or migraine headaches. If these injuries heal as they should, the chances are good each player’s development could get back on track.

Or maybe the serious nature of these injuries has set each player back so far that they will never reach their potential.

Either way, I’m sick of the tough luck (or maybe the fragility) of the Packers recent first-round picks. Here’s hoping things turn around this April and Ted Thompson finds another Clay Matthews or B.J. Raji who is productive and stays on the field.

Packers News, Notes and Links

  • Bob McGinn had some great stuff in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel this week. He got Mike McCarthy for a one-on-one and covered issues such as the Packers toughness, the salary cap and the Packers draft outlook. I like how McCarthy took some ownership for the Packers defense in the story on toughness. He needs to do more of that this season.
  • Evan Western at Acme Packing Company goes over Jermichael Finley’s comments about not being willing to take a pay cut. I’m on Finley’s side here. He shouldn’t have to take a pay cut. And he shouldn’t be vilified for taking that position.
  • Jacob Westendorf, the newest scribe at Packerstalk.com, also chimes in on Finley. Packerstalk.com podcasts this week include a breakdown of the corners and safeties, the Out of the Pocket Podcast with Richard, Kelly and Colleen, and a personal favorite of mine, the ‘Ol Bag of Donuts podcast on Charles Woodson, free agents and other stuff.
28

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Safety

Morgan Burnett

Burnett returns as a leader of both the safety group as well as the Packers team as a whole in 2013

Packers Safeties:  One of the youngest groups on the current Green Bay Packers roster, this is a position that is expected to take a big step forward in 2013.  The team will be without long-time veteran Charles Woodson and will rely on Morgan Burnett to assume that leadership role.  Third-year player M.D. Jennings joins second-year player Jerron McMillian opposite Burnett with Sean Richardson likely in the fold as well.

For expanded coverage of this topic, listen to the podcast using the player below or download the podcast from the Packers Talk Radio Network on Itunes.

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

Morgan Burnett (3rd round)

M.D. Jennings (UDFA)

Jerron McMillian (4th round)

Sean Richardson (UDFA)

Burnett was a steady rock for the Packers in 2012, playing in all 16 regular season games and both playoff games.  After missing most of his rookie season of 2010 and being hampered by a hand injury in 2011, Burnett showed that he can be counted on and durable enough to play a full season.  His play improved both in coverage and run support.  The assumption is that he will continue that trend in 2013 and become one of the defensive leaders on this team.

Jennings platooned with the rookie McMillian opposite Burnett after Woodson went down.  He doesn’t have blazing speed but he has a knack for sticking his nose into the play and is not afraid to get after the ball.  He scored the team’s first interception return for a touchdown and had seemingly sealed a tough road win at Seattle before. . well, we all know that story by now.  Jennings will certainly be a part of the team’s plans at safety in 2013 in one capacity or another.  He is also a contributor on special teams so I fully expect him on the 2013 roster.  For an undrafted free agent, Jennings has, at the very least, matched the expectations he had when he was brought in.  He is trending upward and should continue on the path to exceeding them if he can stay healthy.

17

February

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

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

As I get older, I can’t tell if I’m getting soft, getting smarter, or both.

I was always one of those people who wasn’t bothered by the use of American Indian imagery and slang for team logos and nicknames. I went to school at St. Cloud State University (the Harvard of the Midwest), which was in a hockey conference with the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

The Fighting Sioux nickname has been debated endlessly in North Dakota and Minnesota for years. Some say it’s offensive to American Indians and should be scrapped. Others say it’s honorable and should be kept.

In college, I proudly supported keeping the Fighting Sioux nickname. I was the guy at parties who had one too many Keystone Lights and got into fierce political debates. When someone said that the Fighting Sioux nickname should be changed, I would shout them down while cracking open another can of Keystone.

I’ve grown up a lot since then. Most importantly, I now drink good beer, not Keystone Light. Almost as importantly, I now hate American Indian team logos and nicknames.

The Fighting Sioux nickname is bad enough, but nothing gets me going more than the Washington Redskins.

I mean, seriously. The Redskins?! How is it ok to name your team after an obvious racial slur? The fact that our nation’s capital still refers to its professional football team as the Redskins in the year 2013 makes me embarrassed to be a football fan.

Nicknames like the Braves, Fighting Illini or Fighting Sioux are questionable enough, but at least they aren’t blatant racial slurs.

Of course the people in my life who knew me during my pro-offensive-Native American-nickname days are stunned by my change of heart. They ask me when I became so politically correct, why I turned into a weak-ass liberal, or why I care either way.

I tell them it’s got nothing to do with being PC, and it sure as hell has nothing to do with liberal or conservative politics.

15

February

Packers News: Team set to release Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson may have played his last down as a member of the Green Bay Packers.

Woodson has had an illustrious NFL career up to this point. After winning the Heisman Trophy and being drafted No. 4 overall in the 1998 NFL Draft, Woodson spent seven seasons in Oakland before signing with the Packers.

The Packers and Woodson agreed to a seven-year, $52-million contract on April 26, 2006.

After the best season of his professional career in which he recorded nine interceptions and three touchdowns, Woodson was named the AP Defensive Player of the Year in 2009.

But Woodson has been on the decline athletically the past few seasons, and he missed nine games in 2012 due to a broken collarbone. Per Ian Rapaport of NFL Network, the team is now prepared to cut ties with the 36-year-old defensive back.

According to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel, “Woodson was due a base salary of $6.5 million with a roster bonus of $2.5 million the first day of training camp” in 2013.

Prior to breaking his collarbone against the St. Louis Rams, Woodson was used as a hybrid safety/cornerback. With Woodson out of the lineup, rookie Jerron McMillian and second-year player M.D. Jennings filled Woodson’s duties at safety. Rookie Casey Hayward took over as the team’s slot cornerback, emerging as a key playmaker on Green Bay’s defense.

It’s unknown as to whether or not Woodson refused to take a pay cut, or if the Packers simply decided to sever ties with the veteran.

By the time Woodson returned to the lineup, Hayward had a firm hold on the team’s slot cornerback position. Hayward figures to have an expanded role with the defense next season. The team could be in the market for another young safety to compete with McMillian and Jennings for playing time.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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11

February

Charles Woodson: 2012 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Charles Woodson

Charles Woodson

1) Introduction:  Packers S Charles Woodson was moved to safety in the team’s base 3-4 defense.  A broken collarbone injury at St. Louis on October 21st forced Woodson to miss the rest of the regular season.  He did not return until the Packers’ Wild Card matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.

2) Profile:

Charles C. Woodson

  • Age: 36
  • Born: 10/07/1976
  • Height: 6’01″
  • Weight: 200
  • College: Michigan
  • Rookie Year: 1998
  • NFL Experience: 15 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: The Packers wanted to extend Woodson’s career and make him more effective in the defense by moving him from cornerback to safety.  They also hoped that he could help develop some of the younger defensive backs as well as be disruptive in run support and in the team’s blitz packages.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Woodson’s best performance came against the Chicago Bears in week 2 when he posted two quarterback hurries and five tackles.  Woodson’s worst performance unfortunately came in Green Bay’s most important game of the season, the Divisional playoffs, when he was largely ineffective against Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers offense.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success:  Woodson’s biggest contribution this season came off the field.  Due to his injury, he was largely ineffective in his play but he has continued to be a vital piece of the Packers locker room and was undoubtedly helpful in developing the team’s young defensive backs.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Woodson had eight tackles in the team’s two playoff games.  He was largely ineffective in the team’s season-ending loss to the 49ers

Season Report Card:

(C-) Level of expectations met during the season

(C-) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(D) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: C-

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

Follow Jason at:

Jason Perone
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28

January

The Statistical Reason Why The Packers Defense Has Declined

 

While doing research on my last article, I noticed one very interesting fact: Dominant 3-4 defenses tended to have a star 5-technique defense end.  The 3 best 3-4 defenses in terms of Advanced NFL Stats’ dEPA (defensive expected points added) in the NFL right now are San Francisco, Arizona and Houston and each team boasts impact 5-technique defensive linemen like Justin Smith, Calais Campbell and JJ Watt, each of which is among the top five 5-technique defensive linemen according to ProFootballFocus.  This got me to thinking: everyone knows that the quarterback effects offensive success more than any other position on the field (hence why Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning can keep winning games without good offensive lines and running backs), but is there a position on a 3-4 defense that is most important to defensive success?

Traditionally, the hallmarks of a good 3-4 defense has been it’s nose tackle and outside linebackers; indeed in 2009 when Green Bay switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, general manager Ted Thompson drafted nose tackle BJ Raji with the 9th overall pick and then traded up back into the 1st round for outside linebacker Clay Matthews III.  The argument has always been made that a dominant nose tackle that can eat up multiple blockers and outside linebackers who are athletic enough to rush the passer are the keys to a dominant 3-4 defense.  You could argue that Green Bay seems have both positions covered, both Clay Matthews III and BJ Raji are both dominant players but while that seemed to have translated to success in 2009 and 2010, it didn’t seem to matter much in 2011 and 2012.

What I’ve done is a correlation analysis using ProFootballFocus’ player grades and comparing them to overall defensive efficiency measured in dEPA.  I’ve flipped the signs for dEPA to just to avoid making it an inverse correlation.  I’ve included both Pearson’s r and chi2, I’m not really much of a statistics guy so I have no idea what the difference is between them, but if you happen to know more about this, leave a comment and I can adjust my analysis if needed.  Overall, the way to read these figures is that a value of 0 means there is no correlation at all while a value of 1 means that there is perfect correlation.  So for this case, the higher the number the more “valuable” that position is to defensive efficiency.  I’ve also included a positive control by correlating dEPA vs. dDVOA (from Football outsiders) and they are 91% correlated, which basically means this analysis holds for both metrics.  Finally, I’ve included a negative control by looking at the correlation between how well the offensive center plays versus how well the defense does; presumably how well the center plays has no relationship to how well the defense plays.