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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Adam Czech usually puts together this post on Sunday, but he had other commitments this week, so I’ll do my best to pick up the slack.

Last Sunday, Adam called into attention the injury woes of the Packers’ recent first-round picks. Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod and Nick Perry missed a combined 33 regular-season games last year. It’s a concern to a certain degree, but at the same time, all three players will be expected to compete for a major role with the team in 2013.

On the flip side, the Packers have struck gold recently in round two. This past week, the team decided not to place the franchise tag on wide receiver Greg Jennings, a second-round pick in 2006. Jennings played seven years with the Packers, made two Pro Bowls and helped the team to Super Bowl XLV.

This year’s draft may lack elite talent in the top-half of the first round, but it’s an extremely deep class in the first few rounds. The NFL went to a three-day format in 2010, featuring round one on Thursday and rounds two and three on Friday.

Let’s take a look at the Day 2 gems Ted Thompson has brought to Green Bay:

  • 2012: Casey Hayward (2nd, No. 62)
  • 2011: Randall Cobb (2nd, No. 64)
  • 2010: Mike Neal (2nd, No. 56) and Morgan Burnett (3rd, No. 71)
  • 2008: Jordy Nelson (2nd, No. 34) and Jermichael Finley (3rd, No. 91)
  • 2007: James Jones (3rd, No. 78)
  • 2006: Greg Jennings (2nd, No. 52)
  • 2005: Nick Collins (2nd, No. 51)

Every year since taking over as Packers GM in 2005, Thompson has found a starter in either the second or third round. Now, guys like Brian Brohm, Aaron Rouse and Abdul Hodge may not have lived up to their expectations, but Thompson’s track record is impressive nonetheless.

With Jennings on his way out, perhaps wide receiver is a position to consider on Day 2 this year. There will be receivers galore available on in rounds two and three.

Packers News, Notes and Links

  • Here’s a piece I wrote on Bleacher Report focusing on the depth of the wide receiver position in this year’s draft. They come in all shapes in sizes, and value will certainly be there on Day 2.


Packers Will Be “Fine” With Current Backup Quarterbacks

Graham Harrell

Will the Packers be "fine" with Graham Harrell as the backup quarterback?

I’ve had about enough. After reading Football Outsider’s NFC North installment of their “Four Downs” series, it’s finally time to make known this humble blogger’s opinion regarding the backup quarterback situation in Green Bay. In a word, they’ll be “fine.”

For some reason, though, there are a good number of writers out there sounding the alarm. Perhaps they haven’t seen enough of Graham Harrell to put a lot of faith in him. (Of course, no one outside of the coaching staff really has.) Or perhaps they’re still clinging to the annual call for a veteran backup.

Whatever the case, it just needs to stop.

And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’ve read some of the comments at Football Outsiders and our fellow Packers blog CheeseheadTV, and there seem to be a good number of people who all share the same opinion I do.

Look, I get it. Harrell, despite being in his third year with the team, is unproven. He’s never played a down outside of the preseason, and last year’s lockout kept him from developing in Mike McCarthy’s annual quarterback school. Now with the release of Nick Hill, seventh-round draft pick B.J. Coleman remains as the only other backup.

It’s not unreasonable to be dubious of a two-year practice squad player and a rookie. But it’s just crying wolf to say the Packers’ season might be in jeopardy without a more competent backup.

The truth of the matter is that if Aaron Rodgers goes down for the season, it’s probably over anyway. Even if you were to bring in a veteran quarterback, there’s not going to be anyone who will be able to pick up and run the Packer’s offensive system adequately. And spending a higher draft pick for someone other than B.J. Coleman is no more of a guarantee. Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm are proof enough of that.

There is little chance that anyone could carry the offense through the playoffs and to the Super Bowl other than Rodgers himself. When we get right down to it, isn’t that all that matters?

“But wait!” you might say. “What if having a backup in causes them to miss the playoffs, even if Rodgers returns from an injury?”



Monday Morning View: Bounties Have No Place in the NFL

If you’ve been away this weekend or cooped up in a hole to avoid the weather, you might have missed the big story that hit all the media outlets on Friday afternoon. I first found out through our friends at CheeseheadTV that the New Orleans Saints have been found guilty of offering bounties (or payouts) to defensive players as a performance incentive. It wasn’t only for interceptions or fumble recoveries, though. No, they were getting rewarded for injuring other players.

I, for one, found this appalling.

Now, I’m no fool. I am well aware that the rules of the league are often broken to gain a competitive advantage. And some people in the CheeseheadTV comments section feigned a sarcastic state of shock in light of this news.

But what really got to me were the comments and tweets around the internet that this is commonplace and not that big of a deal. The only reason it’s a huge story is because the Saints actually got caught. Some people likened it to the use of performances enhancing drugs (PEDs), in that it happens all the time, yet only a few are ever found out.

There was even an article penned by Matt Bowen for the Chicago Tribune, titled “Bounties part of game across the NFL.” In the article, Bowen shares his experience as a player who was coached by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams with the Washington Redskins. Daily player fines for breaking the rules or miscues during practice would be gathered and “stashed away at the team facility.”

Then, after the coaches reviewed the game film, the money would be handed back out for things like “big hits, clean hits by the rule book.” Extra cash was earned for interceptions, sacks, and forced fumbles, and during the playoffs, the bounty rewards would increase.

“I ate it up,” admits Matt Bowen.

And really, who wouldn’t? Cash incentives for performance can be a big motivator. It is a classic case of B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning. (Sorry, it’s the teacher in me.) Behaviors are supported through positive and negative reinforcers, as well as positive and negative punishment. In this case, breaking the rules and mental errors during practice are met with negative punishments (fines), while exceptional performances are met with positive reinforcers (bounties).



Tom Crabtree: The Fan-Friendly Green Bay Packer

Tom Crabtree’s green mohawk, as posted on Twitter, after getting over 10,000 followers in April 2011.

“He is notable for the large number of tattoos on his arms.”

This is about all the personal information you’ll get when you look up Tom Crabtree on Wikipedia. He’s the tattooed tight end wearing #83 for the Green Bay Packers, and he was born November 4, 1985, in Columbus, Ohio. An undrafted free agent from Miami University, he made his debut with the Packers in his second year, performing mostly as a blocking tight end, yet also managing to accumulate 4 receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown.

These are the cold, hard facts anyone can find out.

But the “plugged-in” cheeseheads know the real @TCrabtree83 as the most fan-friendly Packer to embrace the Age of Social Media.

Just this past week, Crabtree made an impromptu phone call to Bill Johnson and Jason Wilde on their “Green and Gold Today” talk show (which has been suffering from lockout depression). He appeared as a special guest on the latest episode of Cheeshead Radio, co-hosted by our own “Jersey” Al Bracco. And at 8:00 p.m. CDT on June 8th, he will be hosting a live Book Club discussion on CheeseheadTV to discuss Annie Jacobsen’s newest release, “Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base.”

Of course, aside from his gracious appearances in the world of internet radio and podcasts, Tom Crabtree is most often found “tweeting” his thoughts and interacting with his 11,000+ followers in 140 characters or less.

“I think it’s so cool today, that fans can interact with us like that and talk to celebrities and athletes,” said Crabtree in his “Tuesdays With Wilde” interview last December. “I like to interact with the fans, because I know if I was in their shoes, it’d be cool to talk to the people I look up to.”

Sometimes you will find him talking about movies or TV shows like “The Office” (one of his favorites). Other times you will see him discussing music, such as getting to see Avenged Sevenfold on his recent trip to Rock on the Range in his home city of Columbus.

And when he’s not working out, you can probably find Tom Crabtree playing Call of Duty: Black Ops on his PS3 or Xbox 360.



Will You Recognize the Packers’ Offense in 2011?

No NFL team is the same from year to year. Players come and go, coaching changes are made, and injuries occur throughout the season. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We change, whether we like it or not.”

The successful franchises, then, are the ones that can adapt to the changes and work with them rather than against them. They accept that things won’t be the same this year as they were the year before. Ted Thompson knows this. Mike McCarthy knows this. Dom Capers, Joe Philbin, and the rest of the Packers’ coaching staff know this.

So don’t be surprised when you see some alterations to McCarthy’s offense next season.

The change in personnel should prove to be the biggest factor in how McCarthy will operate the offense. In the 2011 NFL Draft, Green Bay used its top three picks on players who could be expected to contribute right away: OT Derrick Sherrod, WR Randall Cobb, and RB Alex Green. While these three might be considered potential replacements for players lost through free agency, they will each bring something new to the table, and McCarthy will look to capitalize on those strengths.

In addition, the now-crowded tight end position, the dwindling fullback corps, and the co-availability of Ryan Grant and James Starks will make things even more interesting.

As you can see, the distribution of personnel has shifted quite noticeably this offseason. But even without that, Mike McCarthy made it very clear that he wasn’t satisfied with the performance of his offense in 2010.

“We weren’t the best offense in the league,” McCarthy said at the NFL Scouting Combine. He later added: “We feel we have more to offer, we have more offense that we never really got to last year and we feel like we can do a better job looking forward.”

In hindsight (and some foresight), McCarthy is absolutely right.

From a statistical standpoint, the offense actually regressed from 2009 to 2010.  They went from 3rd (461 pts.) to 10th (388 pts.) in points scored, 6th (6,065 yds.) to 9th (5,730 yds.) in total yards gained, and 1st (+1,514 yds.) to 7th (+785 yds.) in yardage differential.

And really, it wasn’t until Week 16 against the New York Giants where Aaron Rodgers and the offense flashed the offensive muscle we knew they had.  They scored four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns for their first 40+ score of the season.



The Good and the Bad of the Packers Blogosphere

I actually had some free time last night, which hasn’t happened for awhile. I decided to do a bit of surfing around the Packers’ blogosphere and soon encountered what you might call the two completely diametric opposite poles of said blogosphere.

I’ll start with the good – or more specifically, the excellent.

As you may or may not have noticed, I haven’t even addressed the lockout on these pages. If one of the other fine authors on this site wish to do so, they are more than welcome. But it’s just not my cup of tea. I would have made an awful lawyer, and I frankly have little interest in paying attention to some really wealthy people on both sides argue over money (that we, as fans, supply to them).  I can spend all day watching game film, but 5 minutes of lockout talk, and I feel this urge to rush out of the room.

A few recent things, though, have caught my attention – mainly the blatant propaganda the NFL is putting out to fans to convince us that the players are the bad guys. Threatening to “close down” the NFL was the last straw. I’m not a big fan of bullshit (probably the MAIN reason why I could never be a lawyer). But as angry as I am about some of these things that have briefly caught my attention, I could never sit down and write an entire article about it (nor would I have any desire to).

Fortunately,  I don’t have to. The task of laying out the current landscape of this whole asinine mess has been taken on quite nicely, and succinctly, by Aaron Nagler over at CheeseheadTV.com.  Highly recommended reading.

And now, on to the seamy side of the Packers Blogosphere. No, I’m not talking about some racy Packers fan site where everyone’s butt-naked except for their cheeseheads, I’m talking blatant plagiarism. Complete word-for-word plagiarism. And no, I’m not talking about someone stealing this amateur’s writing.  I’m talking about taking articles written by an award-winning journalist, publishing them on your own piece of shit website, and having the balls to call it your own. What kind of a sleaze would do that?



Green Bay Packers 2011 NFL Draft Guide to be Released this Week

Packers NFL Draft Guide

I’ve often thought to myself, if only there were a guide to the NFL draft specifically for Packers fans. No offense to the other 32 teams, but I really don’t care what their needs are and who they want  to draft.  All I care about is the Green Bay Packers (hence, our slogan here, All Packers All the Time).  Well, that day is about to arrive.  Introducing the Cheesehead TV 2011 NFL Draft Guide.

It’s a 60-plus page, Packers-centric, digital publication in .pdf format available for ordering for the low, low price of only $5. It will be available on April 7, exactly three weeks before the NFL Draft.

Do get a better idea of what you will and wont find inside, here is the Editor’s letter to subscribers:

Dear Packers fan,

Thank you for purchasing the inaugural edition of the Cheesehead TV 2011 Draft Guide, a digital publication designed specifically for Green Bay Packers fans. I’m confident you’re going to love our new take on what a draft preview publication should be like.

As a Packers fan, your attention to the rest of the NFL is probably limited. More than likely you probably only have a passing interest in, say, what the San Diego Chargers or Jacksonville Jaguars are going to do in the draft. That’s where we come into play. We figure, why pay for the magazines on the newsstands when what you really want is cover-to-cover Packers content?

The bulk of any draft publication is the position-by-position previews for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, etc. But we take a different approach with certain positions.

With the Packers running a 3-4 defense, we don’t just categorize players in linebackers, defensive ends and defensive tackles. We’ve broken up linebackers into outside linebackers and inside linebackers. And because players like B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett have all played the 3-4 defensive end position at one time or another and then become a pass-rushing tackle on passing downs, we’ve lumped all those types of players into the category of 3-4 defensive linemen. They have to be versatile enough to play both tackle and end in Dom Capers’ defensive system.

On the offensive line, we’ve broken up players into tackles and interior offensive linemen, because you’ve seen Packers such as Jason Spitz have to be able to play both guard and center.