30

October

Packers: Answering 5 Bye Week Questions on the Defense, Schedule

The Green Bay Packers are undefeated at 7-0, but they still have question marks as they finish up their bye in Week 8. Let’s breakdown some of the most-asked questions I’ve seen about the Packers during the bye. You know you need your fix on this Packers-less Sunday, anyway.

Is there reason to think the defense can improve during the last 9 games?

One thing we know is that any improvement from the Packers defense will have to come from within. Guys like Chris Harris have been released in recent weeks, but Ted Thompson doesn’t typically bite on those kind of re-treads from other teams. So, the question becomes: Can this defense, as it looks now, improve over the next couple of months?

There’s definitely reason to think so. Tramon Williams is finally getting healthy, and we finally saw him bumping at the line against the Vikings and being more physical. That’s a big part of his game that was lost when he hurt his shoulder. A week off can only help that injury. Same goes for Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett, each of which have dealt with dings early on. Frank Zombo should return. Mike Neal, who we’ll address next, could be back. Healthy ammunition is always dangerous for a defensive gunner like Dom Capers.

But to reach their 2010 level, the Packers are going to need a player or two to step up that isn’t one of the stars. Last season, it was Shields. Someone along the defensive line, like Jarius Wynn or C.J. Wilson might be a candidate. Possibly Neal if he returns soon. Vic So’oto could potentially provide something in the pass rush. Either way, someone needs to emerge as a standout playing next to the established stars.

What’s the deal with DE Mike Neal? Will he play in 2011?

The first week after the bye was always the target date for Neal, but that looks highly unlikely now. His rehab is behind schedule, and you get the feeling that Neal might not make a big contribution this season. Regardless of when he can start practicing again, the Packers are going to take his comeback slow. It’s going to take him awhile to work his way back into the rotation.

26

May

Who Might Not Survive the Packers Final Roster Cut in 2011?

Packers GM Ted Thompson once again put together a solid draft class a month ago, adding more talent to a roster that was already among the best in the NFL.

But with a roster full to the brim in depth, several players that are currently on the roster won’t be making it back for 2011. Here a list of the players who may not be back on the Packers 53-man roster next season.

Also, to keep this post away from free agency, players not currently under contract were excluded from this list.

 

LB Nick Barnett

His situation remains one of the trickier to assess. Are the Packers going to float his name in trade discussions? And would any team bite at a price that makes sense?

Either way, his $6 million contract and recent demotion makes him an expensive backup. The Packers have a tough decision to make regarding Barnett’s future in Green Bay if they don’t trade him. A straight up release could be in the cards.

 

T Mark Tauscher

With the Packers taking Derek Sherrod in the first round, Tauscher becomes even more expendable. And even without a high draft pick on the roster, there was a chance the Packers weren’t going to bring him back.

He’s almost 34 years old, hasn’t been healthy in three years and is owed over $4 million next season. The only chance he has of returning is if he takes a substantial pay cut.

 

RB Dimitri Nance

Nance’s future might be solely tied into the free agent dealings with Brandon Jackson. If Jackson returns, there’d likely be little-to-no chance the Packers could afford using another roster spot on a running back.

But if Jackson isn’t retained, the Packers might be able to squeeze four running backs—Ryan Grant, James Starks, Alex Green and Nance—onto the roster. He’ll have to sit and wait. He could ultimately be a candidate for the practice squad, however.

 

TE Tom Crabtree

It pains me to say it, as he has quickly become a fan favorite, but Crabtree will have to really fight for his spot during training camp. Of course, that is nothing new to him. But the Packers did take two tight ends in the draft, and it’s possible that both D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor could bring more to the football table than Crabtree.

27

November

Stuffing the Dirty Birds: Green Bay Packers – Atlanta Falcons Preview – NFL Week 12

After the Green Bay Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings 31-3 in a game that cost Brad Childress his job, Packer fans could have stayed on cloud nine all the way into next training camp. But here come the Dirty Birds (AKA the Atlanta Falcons)…

So let’s snap back to reality here. The Packers have six games left and have a realistic shot at the Super Bowl and that means a lot more than one win over the Vikings, right?

Right?

Anywho, the Packers head to Atlanta this week to face the Falcons who currently own the best record in the NFC at 8-2 and are led by a quarterback that is darn near a clone of Aaron Rodgers.

How’s that for a sobriety check?

Breaking down the Falcons

The aforementioned Rodgers clone is Falcons quarterback Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan.  The third year quarterback out of Boston College continues the spectacular play that began in his rookie year of 2008.

Ryan is smart with the ball and doesn’t cost his team games. He is well respected in the locker room after taking over for a quarterback (the since redeemed Michael Vick) who had a messy divorce from the organization.

Sound familiar?

Besides Ryan, the Falcons offense is led by running back Michael Turner and wide receiver Roddy White. Turner is one of the most bruising backs in the league whose big frame and ability to break tackles will provide a tough challenge for the Packers’ stout run defense.

As for White, he can make any catch anywhere on the field.  He’s good down the sideline or in the middle of the field. His strong hands and elusiveness have made him Ryan’ number one target.

Defensively, the Falcons are led by defensive end John Abraham. Playing the position like a linebacker, Abraham hits as hard as anyone and is able to cover the entire field.

The Falcons secondary is a weak link with Dunta Robinson being their strongest player. They don’t match up well with the Packers receivers so the Falcons could have their hands full all day.

When the Packers have the ball….

I think Mike McCarthy might be on to something.

Last week, the Packers featured a two-pronged rushing attack consisting of Brandon Jackson and former Falcon Dimitri Nance.  Nance performed well as the third down back and his knowledge of his former team could come in handy.