15

April

Cory’s Corner: Julius Peppers is No. 56…remain excited

I’ve never seen a number unveiling get this much excitement.

And for those of you that may not know, Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next season for the Packers.

Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next fall as he will play a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position called the elephant.

Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next fall as he will play a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position called the elephant.

That’s quite a change for someone that was consistently coming off the edge as a defensive end in a three-point stance wearing No. 90.

But Peppers isn’t just an end. Thanks to Dom Capers and his crazy names, which have brought us the ‘Psycho’ defensive package, Peppers will be playing a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker called an elephant.

Personally, I don’t care if you call it strawberry shortcake because the name of Peppers’ position is meaningless. His stats and his motor speak for themselves. He’s been under double-digit sacks in a season just four times in his 12-year career.

The thing I like about Peppers most is his drive. I realize that he’s 34 and might be reaching the final leg of a strong NFL career. But the last time he didn’t play a full 16-game season was in 2007. That really says a lot to me. Especially for a guy that has played through a sprained MCL in his left knee, a broken right hand and a right knee sprain among other things. And the season that he suffered his right knee sprain was in 2007, a season in which he tallied his lowest sack output of his career with 2½. Yet he still managed to lead the Panthers in quarterback hurries.

Peppers is a guy that the Packers desperately needed. He’s a guy that will come in and not only contribute with a pass rush that has been forgotten, but he’s a vocal veteran that wants to win.

That’s a great combination for a team that has youngsters like Nick Perry and Datone Jones, who the Packers are counting on to break out and flourish.

Is it fair to compare Peppers to the 31-year-old Reggie White when he signed with Green Bay? No way. And I’m surprised I’ve seen people even make that comparison because it’s not not even close. White was a once-in-a-lifetime pass rusher who may never be copied again.

But that doesn’t mean Peppers doesn’t have plenty to play for.

13

April

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Last season it was Mike Daniels. The season before it was Randall Cobb. If the Packers are going to contend for a Super Bowl in 2014, at least one player will have to make the leap from potential to breakout star.

Here are the top contenders:

WR Jarrett Boykin
Boykin is probably at the top of most people’s most likely to break out lists. He was successful last season and he has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Teams will be ready for him in 2014, though. If he’s going to make the leap, he’ll have to do a better job of getting separation.

DL Datone Jones
Unlike Boykin, Jones is probably near the bottom of most people’s lists. Fans soured on Jones late last season and, apparently, so did the coaching staff as fellow rookie Josh Boyd got more snaps down the stretch. I still have high hopes for Jones and I think he can fulfill those hopes. You need to be patient with young defensive linemen. They rarely break out in their rookie seasons. Let’s see what year two brings for Jones.

CB Davon House
We’ve been waiting for House to take the next step for a while now, haven’t we? If he doesn’t take it in 2014, he probably never will. House’s size appears to make him an ideal fit in Green Bay’s defense, but whenever he strings together some good plays, he follows it up with a couple of stinkers and winds up on the bench. With Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward on the roster, House doesn’t have much room for error.

LT David Bakhtiari
We all groaned when Bryan Bulaga went down and the rookie Bakhtiari ended up starting at left tackle. By the end of the season, those groans turned into “Huh. That kid can play.” Yes, it was a good debut for the kid whose last name I hate spelling, but his ceiling is higher than just a feel-good, surprising rookie playing well in a tough spot. The Packers offense can be a whole lot better if Bakhtiari transforms from promising rookie to left-tackle anchor.

TE Brandon Bostick
Based on what little I’ve seen of him, Bostick seems to do everything well except catch the ball. He especially seems to struggle with drops in traffic. If he develops his hands, especially in tight spaces, I like what he can do in the passing game.

6

February

Datone Jones 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers DE Datone Jones

1) Introduction: Rookie defensive linemen rarely light up the league during their first season. There was hope that Datone Jones could be an exception to that rule.

2) Profile:

Datone Jones

  • Age: 23
  • Born: 7/24/1990 in Los Angeles, CA
  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 283
  • College: UCLA
  • Rookie Year: 2013
  • NFL Experience: 1 year

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Give the base defensive line some much-needed pass rush. Jones got after the quarterback here and there, but rarely from base formation and not on a consistent basis.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Jones notched three sacks and registered five tackles over a two-game stretch against the Bears and Eagle. Before that outburst, Jones didn’t have any sacks and only managed one measly tackle. Jones also rarely played late in the season.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Jones would show flashes of pass-rushing ability here and there. He’s also fast enough to make plays downfield if a runner reaches the open field. Jones needs to spend the offseason studying game film of teammate Mike Daniels to learn how to better use leverage and to always play angry.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: As the season wore on, Jones’ playing time was decreased (never a good sign). Fellow rookie Josh Boyd was actually getting more playing time in the end. Jones managed to flush Collin Kaepernick out of the pocket on one of the 13 snaps Jones played in the playoff loss.

Season Report Card:

(D) Level of expectations met during the season

(D) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(D) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade:  D

——————

Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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11

November

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Eagles 27, Packers 13

With Aaron Rodgers injured, the Packers are relying on Scott Tolzien at quarterback.

With Aaron Rodgers injured, the Packers are relying on Scott Tolzien at quarterback.

Scott Tolzien played the majority of the game for the Green Bay Packers at quarterback.

Scott. Tolzien.

To his credit, he was a solid quarterback for the Wisconsin Badgers, but he was, in essence, a puppet carrying out Paul Chryst’s game plan, which relied heavily on a dominant power run game. But in his two years as the Badgers’ starter, never did I think Tolzien would be playing in the NFL, much less for a playoff contender like the Packers.

But against the Philadelphia Eagles, Tolzien filled in for an injured Seneca Wallace and played pretty well. Despite being intercepted in the red zone, which took points off the board, Tolzien moved the ball much better than Wallace did last week against the Chicago Bears after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone.

For a fan base that’s used to watching Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre under center, the past couple games have been a wakeup call. Last week, Rodgers played one series before getting injured, and this week, the Packers again lost their starting quarterback (Wallace) after the first series.

Since 1992, the Packers have had three quarterbacks start a football game: Favre, Rodgers and Matt Flynn. Next week, with Tolzien slated to get the start, will mark the Packers’ third starting quarterback in three weeks. Crazy.

By no means was the Packers’ loss on Sunday due to Tolzien’s struggles. The blame falls on the defense.

Game Balls

Datone Jones

As bad as the defense was, Jones had (by far) the best game of his young NFL career against the Eagles. Jones was responsible for two sacks on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, which isn’t bad for a guy who was only on the field for 19 plays. After a debacle like Sunday’s, it’s easy to look past the few positives, but the rookie had a big day.

Jarrett Boykin

With a pair of backup quarterbacks throwing him the football, Boykin tied a career high with eight catches and set a new career best with 112 receiving yards. Quietly, Boykin is having a really nice season as his opportunities have increased. Despite subpar speed, Boykin always seems to be where he’s supposed to be, and he catches the ball when it’s thrown to him. That’s a really good thing for a wide receiver.

31

October

The 2013 Class is Packers’ Best Draft Yet Under Thompson

Packers RB Eddie Lacy leads a ridiculously strong 2013 rookie class for the Green Bay Packers

Ted Thompson has made a lot of brilliant draft picks since taking over as Green Bay Packers general manager in 2005.

He drafted some guy named Aaron Rodgers in the first round in 2005, Greg Jennings (current issues aside) in the second round in 2006,  Jordy Nelson in the second round in 2008 and both Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji in the first round in 2009. Don’t forget Randall Cobb in the second round of 2011 either.

The middle rounds have seen success too. James Jones was a third rounder in 2007 and Josh Sitton was selected in the fourth round in 2008.  Sitton’s partner-in-crime, T.J. Lang, was a fourth rounder as well in 2009.

This is just a partial list of great picks Thompson has made during his tenure with the Packers.  He’s hit more than he’s missed and has Green Bay poised to be in Super Bowl contention for the next several years.    We could go on and on about how deft Thompson has been at drafting over the years and that doesn’t even include undrafted free agents.

That being said, no draft class of Thompson’s has made quite the impact, especially right out of the gate, as the 2013 class of rookies.  Some of it may not have been planned on due to yet another injury epidemic on the Packers’ roster, but this group of youngsters has come to play and very well could down as Thompson’s finest draft class to date.

To review, here is the 2013 Green Bay Packers draft class:

1. Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

2. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

4a. David Bakhtiari, T, Colorado

4b. J.C. Tretter, T, Cornell

4c. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA

5a. Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa

5b. Josh Boyd, DE, Mississippi State

6. Nate Palmer, LB, Illinois State

7a. Charles Johnson, WR, Grand Valley State

7b. Kevin Dorsey, WR, Maryland

7c. Sam Barrington, LB, South Florida

Go down that list and you will see many reasons why the Packers are still in control of the NFC North despite Lambeau Field once again doubling as an infirmary.

2

October

Mike Daniels Fitting in Nicely with the Giants Along the Packers Defensive Line

Mike Daniels tries to chase down RGIII

While Packers first-round pick Datone Jones got the hype, Johnny Jolly grabbed the headlines and B.J. Raji wondered aloud about a new contract, Mike Daniels kept plugging away.

The undersized fourth-round pick out of Iowa made the team out of training camp and has been the most disruptive Packers pass rusher on the defensive line this season.

Despite playing only 74 of a possible 198 snaps Daniels leads the defensive line in QB hurries (3) and is one of only two defensive lineman to record a sack. He also has four solo stops — the same as B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett, who have played 115 and 95 snaps, respectively.

Daniels won’t overwhelm anyone with his size and strength, but he makes up for it with explosiveness, athleticism, and a motor that runs on high all the time. He’s kind of the DuJuan Harris of the defensive line — a rolling ball of butcher knives that is all over you before you know it.

Take a look at this video of Daniels sacking Andy Dalton.

Daniels didn’t dominate the offensive lineman and make a highlight-reel sack, but he stood his ground and used his quickness and burst to disengage and make a play once Dalton tried to escape the pocket.

Do Raji, Pickett or Jolly have the athleticism to make a play like that? Maybe. But Daniels for sure has it, and he’s an excellent complement to the slower behemoths that make up the rest of the Packers defensive line.

As Jones goes through the same struggles that most rookie defensive lineman go through, Daniels has stepped up and provided the pass rush and versatility that many thought Jones would provide out of the game.

Now that Daniels has put several exceptional plays on film, we’ll see if he can keep it up as more teams become aware of his ability.

Raji, Pickett and Jolly provide a nice base along the Packers defensive line. Daniels is an excellent change of pace that can provide some much-needed pass rush up front. Will Daniels become more than just a nice change of pace? You could argue that he already has.

We’ll see if he can sustain it.

18

September

Packers Stock Report: Flashback to 2011 Edition

Only this end zone pylon slowed down Packers WR James Jones on Sunday.

Anyone else have flashbacks to 2011 as the Packers cruised to an easy win over the Redskins on Sunday?

The lasers from Aaron Rodgers. Jordy, Randall, James and Jermichael making tacklers look like fools after the catch. The defense forcing a couple of turnovers. Sloppy tackling from the Packers defense. Not quite delivering the knockout punch.

Even though many of the players are different, the sentences in the previous paragraph would have summarized a lot of the Packers’ 15 wins during the 2011 season. The Packers aren’t about to rattle off 14 straight wins and repeat their run from 2011, but the overall stock of this team is rising right now.

Let’s take a closer look at exactly why that is:

Rising

James Jones
You could easily put Nelson and Cobb in the rising category as well, but they were risers last week and investors snatched up all the available shares. Investors who bought low on Jones — shutout in the season opener — are cashing in big time after his 11-catch game against Washington. The only thing that stopped Jones on Sunday was a fumble-inducing end zone pylon (hat tip to whomever I stole that joke from on Twitter).

Aaron Rodgers
I hate putting Rodgers in the rising category because it’s just assumed that the best QB in the world belongs in the rising category every week. After a game like the one Rodgers had on Sunday, though, he deserves to have someone physically take the time to type his name in the rising category. Rodgers obviously decided to take a couple of sacks early in the game just to make things a little more challenging for himself. That didn’t even slow him down.

Ryan Pickett
Now Big Grease is swatting down passes while filling gaps and squashing running backs. Nasty.

Steady

Mike Neal
I was a serious doubter about the Mike Neal at LB experiment, but I’m starting to come around. He can move a little better than I thought and he’s tough to get off the edge against the run. Raise your hand if you predicted that Neal would drop into coverage and get an interception sometime this season? Those of you that raised your hands, go sit in the corner and take a timeout for lying.