24

November

Packers Young Secondary Can Erase Bad Memories of Playoff Hail Mary

Casey Hayward

Packers rookie CB is leading a younger and more aggressive secondary.

I know your belly is still full of Thanksgiving turkey and you’re probably all excited that you managed to outlast the middled-aged lady next to you for that discounted Xbox at Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

If you can overcome your full stomach and pause your Xbox euphoria, take a minute and watch the video of the Packers allowing a Hail Mary touchdown to the Giants’ Hakeem Nicks before halftime in last season’s playoff loss.

Makes your full tummy feel more like the stomach flu, right?

Now, take another look at the play. Notice the four players around the ball when Nicks comes down with it? Not one of them will be on the field for this Sunday night’s rematch.

Charlie Peprah is off the team. Charles Woodson is injured. Sam Shields is injured. And Jarrett Bush mainly plays special teams (I suppose it’s conceiveable that Bush could end up out there, but hopefully not).

If Eli Manning launches another Hail Mary on Sunday, the players around the ball will likely be a combination of Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings.

That group is a lot more aggressive than the group that stood there with their thumbs up their butts while Nix caught the ball in the playoffs.

Hell, Jennings has already intercepted a Hail Mary pass this season, even though it counted as a touchdown for the other team.

Sunday night is a big test for the new faces in this secondary. They’ve held their own agaisnt the likes of Sam Bradford, Blaine Gabbert, John Skelton and Matthew Stafford. But Manning, Nicks and Victor Cruz are on a completely different level that what this secondary has seen over the last six weeks.

If Hayward continues getting his hands on passes, House keeps using his size to his advantage, Burnett, McMillian and Jennings keep developing their nose for the ball and Tramon just does what Tramon does, I think this group will hold its own.

If all of that happens (and it’s a big if), and the Packers claw out another road win in November, the sky is the limit for this team.

At the very least, it’d be another step in erasing the image of Peprah, Woodson, Shields and Bush looking helpless on the playoff Hail Mary.

25

July

Safety Charlie Peprah Released By The Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers released safety Charlie Peprah on Wednesday

In the first stunning move of training camp in 2012, the Green Bay Packers have released safety Charlie Peprah according to Jason Wilde of ESPN 540.

Peprah, who was the incumbent starter from 2011, reportedly had offseason arthroscopic surgery on his knee and didn’t participate in the offseason program. With the players just recently completing their physicals,  some speculation is surely going to be that Peprah failed his physical but no official word from the team has been given as of yet.

With Peprah gone, that leaves MD Jennings and Jerron McMillian to battle it out for the other safety spot should Charles Woodson remain in the cornerback decision.   Morgan Burnett is expected to be the other starting safety entering the preseason.

With Nick Collins out with a neck injury, Peprah ranked second on the team last season in interceptions and was first in interception return yardage.  However, thanks to his regression from 2010 when he played a key role in the Packers’ run to Super Bowl XLV,  Peprah’s starting spot was in danger entering training camp this summer.

Peprah, however, will not even get the chance to compete to keep his own job.

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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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8

July

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

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

The Green Bay Packers are huge in Oregon.

If you’re too lazy to click on the link, it basically highlights how a recent poll showed that most Oregonians cheer for the Packers over the nearby Seattle Seahawks. This doesn’t surprise me. The Packers are the greatest team ever. Everybody should cheer for them.

Unfortunately, not everyone realizes this. On July 4, Deadspin asked which sports team is the most American. They shouldn’t even have to ask. It’s the Green Bay Packers. And it’s not even close.

What’s more American than having a professional football stadium next to a K-Mart? Instead of being surrounded by fancy clubs and five-star restaurants, the area around Lambeau Field boasts local pubs that serve beer and fatty foods that are dipped in batter and deep-fried. People tailgate before, during and after Packers games. In the stadium, you don’t sit in a cushioned seat with a back rest, you sit on old-school metal bleachers.

Packers fans wear Styrofoam cheese on their heads. And blaze orange deer hunting gear.

This is America, people.

I know the Packers are no longer the Little Engine That Could. They’re a large, rich organization that is trying to squeeze every last dollar they can out of their fans and customers, just like every other NFL franchise. But I don’t care. They’re still located in Green Bay, Wis., population 104,057. They’re still small-town in my book.

The Packers are about as American as you can get.

(Note: I realize that not all Packers fans are cheesehead-wearing, fried-food eating, beer-swilling bumpkins. I’ve been on vacation all week and I’ve drank a lot of beer and eaten a lot of bad food, so that’s the sector of Packers fan that I’m identifying most with at the moment.)

Packers Links

  • There was another must-listen interview on Green & Gold Today this week. This one was with former Packers president Bob Harlan and is more than worth your time.
  • One of the things that Harlan discussed is steps Favre could take to get back on the good side of Packers fans. John Rehor shared his thoughts on the subject over at Dick’s Favorite Blog.
  • Mike at Packerpedia.com takes a look at Ted Thompson’s compensatory draft picks.
  • Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press Gazette thinks the Packers will keep seven WRs.Seven WRs?!?! The Packers have kept a ton of TEs and FBs in the past. Maybe WR is the position group this year that keeps an extra player or two.
3

July

Packers Rookie Jerron McMillian: Will Ted Thompson Strike Gold Again?

Jerron McMillian

Can Jerron McMillian fill the shoes of Nick Collins?

It was a formula that paid dividends for the Green Bay Packers the last time around so GM Ted Thompson figured it was worth trying again.

In his first draft as head of the Packers football operations in 2005, Thompson selected a player from a small school who in time had a big impact on the organization.   In the second round of the 2005 draft, Thompson selected safety Nick Collins from small Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida.  At the time, it was viewed as a reach taking a player from such a small school so early in the draft.  Many wondered what the then-rookie general manager was doing.

The “reach” paid off big time as Collins became the best safety the Packers have had since the retirement of Leroy Butler (no offense to Darren Sharper).  Collins will forever immortalized in Packers lore for his highlight reel pick-six of Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XLV and the celebration following that was the cover image for the Green Bay Press Gazette following the Packers’ victory.

Fast forward to this past spring.  Thompson again found himself in need of safety, ironically because Collins suffered a likely career-ending neck injury in Week 2 last season.  Thompson found a diamond In the rough in Collins, so Thompson may have thought he could do it again.

Enter Jerron McMillian, the Packers’ fourth round pick in the 2012 draft.  Like Collins, McMillian hails from a small college—Maine.  Perhaps a state university isn’t necessarily “small” but since it’s Maine I doubt many people will consider his university a powerhouse.

The tale of the tape on McMillian from video and the scouting combine is that he’s a very physical player, a shutdown safety if there ever was one.  He plays the run well, but struggles with the pass.  McMillian rarely misses a tackle (music to Packer fans’ ears after the debacle of the 2011 unit) and is an effective blitzer.

Sound familiar?  While he may not be Pro Bowl-ready right out of the gate for the Packers, McMillian’s speed and physical play will fit in well on a Dom Capers-coached unit that prides itself on being aggressive and forcing turnovers.  He may not beat out Charlie Peprah or M.D. Jennings in training camp but Capers and his staff can take McMillian’s current skillset and mold him into a decent safety that can push Peprah or Jennings should either of them struggle.

2

July

Packers Starters Most Likely to Lose Their Spots

Most of the offseason chatter about Packers starters getting benched has centered on A.J. Hawk being replaced by D.J. Smith. That very well might happen, but what about other starters that could find themselves on the bench once the season starts?

Erik Walden
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Walden totaled just three sacks, 14 QB hits and 22 QB hurries in 15 starts. From week 12 through the playoff loss, Walden had zero sacks, four hits and six hurries (he also got arrested). His (-20.5) overall rating by PFF was the worst among 3-4 OLBs by almost 10 points.

Packers fans don’t need fancy stats and analytics to know that Walden was bad. If he was simply average, and provided at least a little pressure on the QB down the stretch, who knows how last season might have ended? Rookie Nick Perry likely will take over here.

Jarius Wynn/C.J. Wilson
These two combined to start six games, so it’s a stretch to call them starters. Howard Green also started five times, so we’ll consider Wynn/Wilson/Green a sort of three-headed monster that started most games somewhere on the defensive line. With Green gone, there’s only two heads of the monster left, and I’m not sure that either head will start this season.

Wilson seems like a good athlete, which gives me some hope that he could eventually turn into a serviceable player. A permanent starter? The jury is out.

The Packers need more defensive lineman that cause chaos. It’s a common misconception that the only role of a 3-4 defensive lineman is to “occupy blockers.” That’s true to a point, but the lineman needs to do something that actually occupies the blocker. Simply being a large body with a pulse that walks upright isn’t enough.

Jerel Worthy caused chaos at Michigan St. He occupied blockers, and he also beat the hell out of the blockers he occupied. If he can do that in the NFL, he’ll be starting over Wilson and Wynn in no time.

Marshall Newhouse
Thanks to Chad Clifton’s injury, Newhouse started 13 games at left tackle. He’s got the inside track to begin as the starter this season unless Derek Sherrod recovers from his leg injury and plays out of his mind in training camp. I don’t see Newhouse losing his spot.

4

May

Brass Balls and the Packers Defense

Frank Zombo

Frank Zombo is one Packers defender that could be on the chopping block.

If using almost all of his draft picks on defensive players wasn’t enough of a warning, Ted Thompson could re-enact Alec Baldwin’s brass balls speech from Glengarry Glen Ross on the first day of training camp if he feels the Packers defense hasn’t gotten the message.

Replace Cadillac with a spot on the roster. Replace steak knives with a spot on the end of the bench. Replace getting fired with getting cut.

Message received.

Of course, this message doesn’t need to be delivered to everyone on defense. Clay Matthews is probably the Alec Baldwin of the Packers D. He can point to his $975,000 watch and automatically command respect. Desmond Bishop and Charles Woodson can point to their own watches, which aren’t quite as big as Matthews’, but are impressive nonetheless.

Because of their ineptitude last season and infusion of new blood for the upcoming season, the following defenders who received regular playing time in 2011 could be on the chopping block. They’ll have to prove during training camp that they have the “brass balls” to play in the NFL.

Jarius Wynn
After a strong start, Wynn disappeared and became just another guy (who couldn’t get to the quarterback) on the defensive line.

C.J. Wilson
Did Wilson make any memorable plays last season? He’s another guy you can add to the just-another-guy list.

Charlie Peprah
When Peprah was paired with pro-bowler Nick Collins, he did what needed to be done at safety. Without Collins, Peprah couldn’t keep up in coverage and looked a step behind on most plays.

Frank Zombo
It seems like the Packers want to give Zombo a chance, but he can’t stay healthy. Of course, when he’s been healthy, he hasn’t exactly set the world afire.

Erik Walden
Walden was adequate last season before dropping off after being arrested. The Packers resigned him this offseason, which makes me think he’s got the inside edge in making the squad. Of course, I’m sure it’s a minimal deal and the Packers wouldn’t be hurt much if they cut him, but why go through the through the trouble of resigning a replacement-level player with legal issues if you don’t think he has a shot at getting better?

28

March

2012 Packers Position Group Analysis: Defensive Backs

Green Bay Packers defensive backs, Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, Charlie Peprah

Defensive Backs Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, Charlie Peprah

Packers Defensive Backs: We’re back with the third of this series where we examine each Packers position group as it currently exists. Today we finish the defensive side of the ball by examining the Packers’ secondary. As before, this article will examine three main points from the Packers’ perspective: where we are, where we want to go and what we need to do to get there.

Previous installments can be found here:

Packers Defensive Line:

Packers Linebackers:

 

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

Charles Woodson (1st round)
Tramon Williams (undrafted)
Sam Shields (undrafted)
Jarrett Bush (undrafted)
Davon House (4th  round)
Brandian Ross (undrafted)

Nick Collins (2nd round)
Morgan Burnett (3rd round)
Charlie Peprah (5th round)
M.D. Jennings (undrafted)
Anthony Levine (undrafted)

While this position group has six undrafted players, only three are regulars and overall there is better representation near the top of the draft than in the defensive line and linebacker groups. That’s especially true if you count Pat Lee, a second round choice the Packers recently allowed to leave via free agency.

The Packers’ secondary had a tough time in 2011. As a group, they gave up 71 plays of 20 yards or more, and a lot of those were significantly more than 20 yards. The Giants alone had four plays over 40 yards in two games against the Packers. Yes, it was not pleasant.

So let’s start with Charles Woodson: In 2011, Woodson was a bit of a paradox. On one hand, he was what we have come to expect from Charles Woodson; the guy who makes the big play. Woodson had 3 sacks, 7 interceptions and a total of nine turnover plays on the year. On the other hand, his tackling, which used to be a strength, almost became a liability.  Woodson finally started showing signs of age, as he lost some of that quickness he previously counted on to avoid blockers and track down ball carriers in open space. Woodson was charged with 18 missed tackles on the season and nine penalties (more than twice as many penalties as any other Packer player). He also gave up five touchdowns, leading the team in that category as well.