7

December

Cory’s Corner: Thompson must lock up Jolly from 14

There's been a spring in Johnny Jolly's step after missing three years due to a codeine addiction.

There’s been a spring in Johnny Jolly’s step after missing three years due to a codeine addiction.

As if Ted Thompson hasn’t been stressing enough about this season.

Fourteen Packers’ contracts expire in the offseason and Thompson has to make some important decisions.

This season has been one of the worst of recent memory. I’m not saying that purely based on Green Bay’s record but also based on competitiveness of the entire team. There have clearly been moments when players mailed it in and took plays off this season.

The first expiring contract that comes to mind is James Jones. He’s been stricken with alligator arms ever since he became a Packer in 2007. Despite Aaron Rodgers’ insistence that Green Bay sign Jones in 2011, Rodgers still has been known to verbally dress down Jones for running the route or not hauling in a catchable pass.

Now I realize that ever since Jones was a Packer he has had to battle for catches. When he first got here out of San Jose State it was Donald Driver and now it’s Jordy Nelson. But he’s a 6-foot-1, 208-pound wideout and I’ve always said that he has to be more assertive in the offense instead of just letting the defense or the situation dictate how he plays.

Another guy that caught my attention was Andrew Quarless. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Jermichael Finley will not be a Packer in 2014 after suffering a devastating head injury that bruised his spinal cord. Most people thought that would leave the door open for Quarless to grab the tight end reins. But he has started six games this season and in those games he has caught just 12 passes. Very underwhelming numbers for a guy that had so much promise coming out of college as the career record holder for receptions by a tight end at Penn State.

When Finley was healthy, he proved how much this offense can thrive with a solid pass-catching tight end. The Packers do not have a dynamic tight end currently on the roster, which means Thompson is going to have to address that.

The final guy that Thompson needs to think about this offseason is Johnny Jolly. Now I didn’t think Jolly was going to produce after being out of the game for three years thanks to his codeine addiction. But he has been a big part of the defensive line and has exceeded expectations by starting six games.

19

August

Cory’s Corner: The Bullseye on Aaron Rodgers’ Back Just Got a Little Bit Bigger

Aaron Rodgers - Bigger Bullseye on his back

Aaron Rodgers has a bigger bullseye on his back

In case you somehow haven’t heard, Donald Driver appeared on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike” last week and tried to clear the air between the offseason schism between Greg Jennings and Rodgers.

“If a guy runs the wrong route, it’s easy for the quarterback to say, ‘Hey, I told him to run that route,’ than the guy to say, ‘Hey, I ran the wrong route.’” Which normally shouldn’t be a big deal until the 14-year Packer and three-time Pro Bowler dropped this bombshell: “Sometimes you ask Aaron to take the pressure off those guys so we don’t look bad. He didn’t want to do that. He felt like if you did something bad, you do it. That’s the difference. You want that leadership. I think sometimes you may not feel like you got it.”

Those are strong words from Driver, who was considered to be the team’s mouthpiece during his final six years in Green Bay. Everyone knows the Driver comeback story. How he lived out of a U-Haul trailer, got picked 213th overall in the 1999 NFL Draft and coupled that into a Packers Hall of Fame bust after finishing with team career highs in receptions (743) and yards (10,137).

Driver doesn’t have an ax to grind here. I completely believe him.

But that’s the point — nobody cares.

Rodgers’ predecessor enjoyed being liked by his teammates. Brett Favre was the kind of guy that loved hanging out with the guys, sharing a beer and a laugh or two.

Rodgers isn’t like that. He demands ultimate perfection each play and when it doesn’t happen he puts on his verbal boxing gloves. If you remember, he even lashed out at coach Mike McCarthy when things weren’t particularly going his way last year.

Of course, the reason no one is really concerned with what Driver said is because Rodgers produces. He is the all-time career leader in passer rating with an absurd 104.9, he won a Super Bowl in his third season as a starter and he’s got a 5-3 playoff record.

Those things trump any beef that receivers may have with their quarterback when things go wrong. I understand that Rodgers needs to own it, and often does, when the offense just cannot get on track at all.

18

August

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Preseason

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers 

Packers beat Rams
The Packers got an exhibition win over the Rams on Saturday night. I didn’t get a chance to watch the game, but here is what I gathered about the Packers’ performance from those Tweeting while watching: First-team offense looks good, Johnny Jolly took a giant step forward, Micah Hyde has promise, Eddie Lacy is big and tough, the Packers don’t have a kicker, pass-rush from players on the first-team defense not named Clay Matthews isn’t there, D.J. Williams keeps dropping passes. For a more in-depth recap of the game, be sure to check out Jersey Al’s post.

Williams ready for week 1?
Out with a knee bruise since July 30, cornerback Tramon Williams said he should be ready for the season-opener against the 49ers. Of course, in the same interview, Williams also said he thought he’d be back by now. Never trust a player’s timetable for returning from an injury. Players always claim that the injury “isn’t that bad” or “should only take a couple of days.” They’re rarely right. I’m no doctor myself, but given how cautious the Packers are with injuries, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Williams misses at least the 49ers game.

Woodson praises Rodgers
Former Packers defensive back Charles Woodson doesn’t understand why Greg Jennings and Donald Driver were questioning Aaron Rodgers’ leadership lately. As soon as Jennings started spouting off, I remembered an interview Rob Demovsky — former Packers beat writer with the Green Bay Press Gazette and now at ESPN — did on Packer Transplants where he called the Packers wide receiving corp “the biggest group of frontrunners he’s ever been around.”  It’s scary how I remembered that quote, but it’s looking more and more like Mr. Demovsky was spot on.

Grading Packers’ rookies
Here’s a nice report card of the Packers rookies’ through three weeks of training camp. If I was the teacher, I’d probably put tackle David Bakhtiari and Datone Jones at the top of the class. I don’t think any parents need to be called in for a special conference yet.

16

August

Donald Driver on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: Blah, blah, blah, blah

Donald Driver made no sense when talking about Aaron Rodgers’ leadership.

Normally I don’t care about off-the-field drama involving the Packers. I like talking and writing about football, not TMZ- or WWE-style storylines involving the Packers.

Unfortunately, Donald Driver decided to weigh in on the squabble between Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings and ended up piling onto the “Lets take shots at Rodgers’ leadership” bandwagon.

I don’t want to discuss what Driver (or Jennings) thinks of Rodgers’ leadership because I don’t care. I do want to address one thing Driver said because it was completely asinine. I’m all for players being honest and blunt in their comments — if you think Rodgers is a bad leader, fine, say so. But one thing Driver said wasn’t blunt, it was just dumb.

Once I’m done filleting Driver for the comment, I’ll go back to respecting him again. Everyone else should do the same. Driver’s a legend in Green Bay. Just ask him.

Driver on if Rodgers is a “me” guy:

We’ve always been in the room and we’ve always said that the quarterback is the one who needs to take the pressure off of everyone else. If a guy runs the wrong route, it’s easy for the quarterback to say, ‘Hey, I told him to run that route,’ than the guy to say, ‘Hey, I ran the wrong route.’ Sometimes you ask Aaron to take the pressure off those guys so we don’t look bad. He didn’t want to do that. He felt like if you did something bad, you do it. That’s the difference. You want that leadership. I think sometimes you may not feel like you got it.

Let’s say you’re a waitress. A group of four sits at one of your tables, orders drinks and food, and waits patiently for you to bring it out. Instead of bringing the group what they ordered, you drink all their drinks, eat all their food, and take a nap on the bathroom floor. When the group complains to the owner about what you did, the owner calls you and your manager into his office.

Is your manager a bad manager if he doesn’t take the fall and tell the owner that the only reason you ate all the customers’ food, drank their drinks and passed out in the bathroom is because he — as your manager, boss and leader — ordered you to do so?

28

July

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Training Camp

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Now that Packers training camp is underway, Surviving Sunday is shifting gears a bit.

Gone is the lengthy opening column where I wax poetic about a topic that may or may not relate to the Packers. Also gone are the non-Packers links to non-sports items and other nonsense.

Starting now, Surviving Sunday will be 100 percent focused on the Packers and all the happenings from the previous week’s training camp practices and exhibition games. With training camp in full gear, the Packers are getting serious about the 2013 NFL season. It’s time for Surviving Sunday to get serious, too.

Aches and pains
Before the first practice even started, there were several Packers standing on the sidelines, injured. Perhaps the Packers need to fire their medical staff and just hire a bunch of people who work at a Fed Ex store and specialize in using bubble wrap to protect delicate items.

Here is the list of the walking wounded: DL/OLB Mike Neal (abdomen), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), RB DuJuan Harris (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg), DL Jerel Worthy (knee), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Davon House (illness) and LB Jamari Lattimore (illness).

Neal and Hayward hurt themselves training on their own and were surprise injuries (although, I’m not sure how surprising it should be any more when Neal turns up injured). It sounds like Hayward and Harris should both be out a week or two, but who knows.

Depending how long Harris is out, it could open up the door for Alex Green or James Starks to A) stay on the team and/or B) impress in camp and move up the depth chart.

If those injuries weren’t enough, rookie WRs Charles Johnson, Kevin Dorsey and Sederrik Cunningham also went down on the first days of practice. Someone needs to make a sacrifice to the football Gods so they show a little mercy on our favorite team. (Update: Sounds like Johnson will be fine.)

Drama and gossip
Aaron Rodgers’ first news conference of camp sounded more like a group of high school kids catching up on the latest gossip than a football media session. Rodgers addressed the Ryan Braun/PED situation — saying “it doesn’t feel great being lied to” — and basically dismissed the recent barbs Greg Jennings sent his way from across the border in Minnesota.

18

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #7 — Nelson, Jones, Cobb and?

Jarrett Boykin was a pleasant surprise last summer. Is he ready to be the Packers No. 4 receiver?

Jarrett Boykin was a pleasant surprise last summer. Is he ready to be the Packers’ No. 4 receiver?

A year ago, the Packers had a crowded group of wide receivers. A declining Donald Driver was buried on the depth chart behind veterans Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones, as well as a budding star in Randall Cobb.

But that was then, and this is now. Driver is retired, and Jennings is playing for the Minnesota Vikings and (apparently really excited about) catching passes from Christian Ponder. Last season, Driver barely played and Jennings missed eight games.

But between Jennings and Driver are six career Pro Bowl selections and ten 1,000-yard seasons. So needless to say, the Packers face some unanswered questions at the position headed into the 2013 season.

Nelson, Jones and Cobb will all return.

Of the three, Jones was the only player to play all 16 games last season, but the trio combined for 2,483 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns. That accounts for 57.8 percent of Aaron Rodgers’s passing yards and 74.3 percent of his touchdowns in 2012.

Nelson missed four games with a lingering hamstring injury and Cobb missed the regular-season finale. But if all three players can stay healthy for the entire season, there’s very little to be concerned about in regards to the Packers receiving corps.

Without Jennings in the fold, the Packers may not have a true No. 1 receiver. But between Nelson, Jones and Cobb, the Packers may have three legitimate No. 2 receivers. The jury is still out on Cobb at just 22 years old.

But chances are, at some point this season, either Cobb, Jones or Nelson will get hurt and be forced to miss time. And if that’s the case, someone will be called upon to step in and contribute to the offense.

But who?

Last year’s training-camp standout Jarrett Boykin is one possibility. After signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars following the 2012 NFL Draft, Boykin was cut in May. The Packers picked him up, and the undrafted rookie cracked the 53-man roster despite Jennings, Driver, Jones, Nelson and Cobb all but guaranteed roster spots.

The coaching staff felt strongly enough about Boykin’s 2012 preseason that they kept six wide receivers on the roster.

But this summer, Boykin will face stiff competition against Jeremy Ross (who wasn’t in Green Bay last summer) along with a pair of seventh-round picks–Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey.

12

July

Packers Undrafted Rookie Scouting Report: Tyrone Walker, WR Illinois State

Player Information:

  • Tyrone Walker, WR Illinois State
  • 5’10”/191 lbs
  • Hometown – Indianapolis, Indiana

Pro Day:

  • 40 yard: 4.59
  • 20 yard: 2.64
  • 10 yard: 1.60
  • Bench: 11
  • Vertical: 39
  • Broad: 129”
  • Shuttle: 4.41
  • 3-cone: 6.99

Introduction:

Walker is the latest player to come out of the Packers farm team, also known as Illinois State but whose road was harder than even his teammates.  He saw defensive end Nate Palmer selected in the 6th round by the Packers and then heard that his quarterback, Matt Brown signed as a priority rookie free agent (i.e. a player that signs immediately after the draft finishes).  Walker however, was only asked to come in as one of 27 try out players looking to snag on of the last spots on the 90-man roster.  Walker apparently showed enough during the tryouts and was signed to a contract and perhaps even more surprising was he recently caught the attention of one of the guys throwing the football.

Outside Analysis:

Draft Insider: Dependable small-school receiver with poor size/speed numbers. Comes back to the ball out of breaks, easily adjusts to errant throws, and makes the reception in stride. Fights with his hands to separate from defenders, displays outstanding hand/eye coordination, and competes to make receptions. Stays in bounds running after the catch and gives effort trying to pick up positive yardage.

Aaron Rodgers: Tyrone reminds me of Antonio Chatman, who not many people know I actually played with. But Deuce had very similar size and agility but he was a good route runner, very good in and out of his breaks. And I see that with Walker. I think he has very good hands, he’s a good route runner and I think he has a chance to be a good player in this league.

Video:

Analysis:

  • Keep in mind this video only shows catches, not drops.
  • Also keep in mind this is from 2011, but Walker increased his production in 2012.
  • Not a burner by any means but definitely quick enough
  • Good awareness, knows what’s going on in coverage and down and distance
  • Often motioned to the slot, probably will make his career at slot initially, runs good intermediate routes and can find the soft spots in coverage.