3

October

Where Are They Now: Following Former Packers

With the 2013 season now a quarter of the way over, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at all the Packers who played for the 2012 team who are now playing somewhere else.  Have the Packers really missed them?  Have they made a contribution to their new teams?  (note: snaps are only counting offense and defense, not special teams)

Alex Green (New York Jets)

  • 2012 season: 343 snaps, 135 attempts for 464 Yds, 3.4ypc, 0 TDs, 1 Fum
  • 2013 season (projected): 40 snaps, 28 rushing attempts for 60 Yds, 2.1ypc, 0 TDs, 0 Fum
  • Alex Green never really was able to overcome the ACL injury he suffered as a rookie and became one of the few high draft picks to be quickly dumped by the Ted Thompson regime.  Green quickly found a new home with the New York Jets, one of the teams that curiously have been linked to the Packers (numerous trades of picks, Caleb Schlauderaff and of course Brett Favre).  As of yet, Green hasn’t been able to make much of an impact even with an apparent opening at the running back position with the Jets; Chris Ivory has been hobbled with injuries, Mike Goodson just returned from suspension and KR/RB Joe McKnight was sent packing.  At the moment, Green is projected as the 3rd running back and is on pace for about 60 yards rushing with a 2.1 average.   For the Packers James Starks has played pretty well and Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin have both showed promise.  the Packers are fine at running back without Green.

Greg Jennings (Minnesota Vikings)

  • 2012 season: 416 snaps, 36 Rec for 366 Yds, 10.2 YPC, 4 TDs, 0 Fum
  • 2013 season (projected): 664 snaps, 56 Rec, 1,008 Yds, 18.0 ypc, 8 TD, 0 Fum
4

June

Colin Kaepernick: Revisiting the Packers’ defensive debacle

Colin Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback-record 181 yards against the Packers in the playoffs.

Colin Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback-record 181 yards against the Packers in the playoffs.

Football is the ultimate team sport, so crediting just one player for a win in the NFL is foolish.

But in the divisional round of last year’s NFC Playoffs, the Green Bay Packers fell victim to a dominant performance by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In his first career playoff sart, the second-year quarterback put up video game-like numbers.

Kaepernick was sharp as a passer and electric as a runner, racking up 181 yards on the ground — a new NFL record for a quarterback.

Kaepernick may have been the NFL’s biggest breakout star throughout the entirety of the 2012 season. To start the year, Kaepernick carried the ball just once for 17 yards against the Packers in Week 1 at Lambeau Field. Four months later in the playoffs, Kaepernick accounted for 444 total yards and four scores.

After flexing his biceps in the end zone and drawing a 15-yard first-quarter penalty for taunting, it’s almost as if Kaepernick is now to Packers fans what Lord Voldemort is to Harry Potter.

He’s the archenemy. Don’t even speak his name in Packers country.

The Packers, again, will open up the season against the 49ers, so they’ll get an early look at the quarterback who dominated their playoff matchup. The effects from Kaepernick’s performance against the Packers, specifically, have been evident throughout the offseason in Green Bay.

For the second consecutive year, the Packers have focused on the defense early in the NFL Draft.

After being selected with the 26th overall pick in April’s draft, Datone Jones weighed in on Kaepernick’s playoff performance. “I thought he was pretty good,” Jones told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “But I don’t think they’re going to be able to run him like that. He takes one good hit, there goes their season.”

But while plenty of Kaepernick’s production against the Packers came on designed run plays out of the read-option, the fleet-footed quarterback continually escaped the pocket and caught the Packers out of position on designed pass plays.

Facing a third down early in the first quarter, Kaepernick eluded the pressure and found running back Frank Gore, who got behind Charles Woodson, gaining 45 yards down the left sideline. With the exception of a first-quarter pick-six by Sam Shields, Kaepernick torched the Packers through the air.

12

March

Packers News: Erik Walden bolts for the Colts

The Colts gave Walden $16 million

The Colts gave Walden $16 million

Who says there’s no such thing as exciting free agent news in Green Bay?

Former Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden raised some eyebrows today by reaching an agreement with the Indianapolis Colts on a contract worth $16 million over four years. Walden, 27, expects to be a starter opposite Robert Mathis, according to Bob McGinn on Twitter.

In three seasons with the Packers, Walden accounted for nine sacks. Among the 34 outside linebackers that played in a 3-4 scheme last season, Pro Football Focus graded Walden dead-last. In 2011, Walden also graded out dead-last among the 28 3-4 outside linebackers that played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps.

Just last summer, the Packers signed Walden to a one-year contract worth $700,000. Apparently, the Colts felt Walden’s 2012 season justified a pay raise of over $15 million.

Free agency never disappoints. The first wave of free agency brings both the expected moves (Mike Wallace to the Dolphins) as well as some head scratchers (Walden).

Not surprisingly, the financially cautious Packers have yet to dive into the free agent market.

Pro Football Talk reported that Green Bay is the favorite to sign running back Steven Jackson. Take that for what it’s worth, as it could simply be Jackson’s agent trying to drive up his client’s price tag. Personally, I’d be surprised if the Packers are willing to match the 30-year-old running back’s financial demands.

Free agent defensive lineman Chris Canty visited the Packers last week, but he visited and signed with the Baltimore Ravens today, according to his Twitter account.

If you’re sitting on pins and needles waiting for the Packers to make a big free agent splash, it’s probably safe to stand up and find your recliner.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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20

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Outside Linebacker

Clay Matthews and Nick Perry

Matthews and Perry will anchor the Outside Linebacker spots in 2013

Packers Outside Linebackers:  This is a group that had a lot of promise heading into 2o12 but after an injury to rookie Nick Perry and an underwhelming season from 2011 incumbent Erik Walden, there wasn’t nearly as much production as the defense needed nor wanted.  The Green Bay Packers enter the 2013 offseason with some questions at this vital position.

(Note: Listen to the combined linebackers podcast at the end of this article:)

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

Clay Matthews III (1st round)

Nick Perry (1st round)

Erik Walden (UDFA)

Dezman Moses (UDFA)

Frank Zombo (UDFA)

Jamari Lattimore (UDFA)

Matthews was, once again, the steady rock of this group.  He had has second-best season, posting 13 sacks despite missing several games with a hamstring injury.  Not much more can be said of Matthews other than he makes the entire Packers defense better and he has to be a top priority of the team to retain when his contract expires at the end of the 2013 season.

Perry had high expectations after being drafted in the first round.  He showed some flash early in the season but was shelved after just six games due to an injured wrist ligament that required surgery.  It’s hard to say what Perry’s impact would have been but the team will enter the 2013 season program with him slated to start at left outside linebacker.

Walden stepped in as the starter when Perry went down and played very marginally.  He missed the first game due to a suspension for an off-field incident during the 2011 season.  After that, he posted two interceptions and a handful of sacks, but he was largely ineffective in games thata mattered most.  He was virtually non-existent during the playoffs and is now an unrestricted free agent.  He is likely low on the Packers list of priorities to bring back, if even at all.

Moses is another undrafted free agent who made a splash during the 2012 OTA’s and training camp.  He earned a roster spot and platooned with Walden and Zombo when Perry and Matthews were injured.  He wasn’t very flashy and while he surely be in training camp this season, his roster spot is all but locked in.

4

February

Erik Walden: 2012 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Erik Walden

Erik Walden

1) Introduction:  Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden came into the 2012 training camp with slim odds of staying on the roster.  The team had just drafted Nick Perry with their first round pick and Perry would surely get every opportunity to start opposite Clay Matthews.  The team also saw undrafted rookie Dezman Moses emerge durin camp and it looked lik Walden was all but out the door.  When it became apparent that the Packers would need some depth as Perry developed, they decided to hang onto Walden.  When Perry went down early in the season and Moses wasn’t quite ready to be an every-down player, Walden became the starter at LOLB as he had been in 2011.

2) Profile:

Erik Lashawn Walden

  • Age: 27
  • Born: 8/21/1985 in Dublin, GA
  • Height: 6’02″
  • Weight: 250
  • College: Middle Tennessee State
  • Rookie Year: 2008
  • NFL Experience: 5 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Walden’s initial expectations were low as his ability to stay on the roster was in question from day one of the Packers offseason program.  When he was kept after training camp, Walden was there to serve as a veteran backup.  With Frank Zombo on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, the Packers needed the depth at this vital position in its defense.  When Perry went down early in the season, Walden became the starter and was expected to solidify the left side of the pass rush/run defense and improve over his 2011 performance.  Walden moved to the left side when Matthews moved back to the right side.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Walden had very few highlights in 2012 and unfortunately showcased why he was supposed to be no more than a backup and depth at the OLB position.  His best game came in week five against the Indianapolis Colts.  It wasn’t a flashy game for Walden, but he did post three quarterback hurries.  He was effective in his pass coverage as well.  That was just one of three weeks in which Walden scored in the positive according to Pro Football Focus.  In the week nine game against the Arizona Cardinals, Walden had a key interception that kept momentum on the Packers’ side until they eventually ran away with that game.  Walden’s low lights were weeks six and beyond.  If that seems harsh, consider that Pro Football Focus had Walden graded lower than every other outside linebacker in the NFL in 2012.  He was largely ineffective and showed no improvement over 2011.  He was a complete non-factor in the two playoff games and was manhandled badly in the divisional playoff game against the 49ers.

16

January

Injuries Took Their Toll on the Packers Linebacker Corps

D.J. Smith Injury 2012

The injury to D.J. Smith was one of many among the Green Bay Packers linebackers.

When the injuries started compounding for the Green Bay Packers this year, fans didn’t seem to flinch. Too fresh in their memories was the story of 2010, when the Packers overcame several key injuries to become Super Bowl champions. “Next man up” became the rally cry for the team, its fans, and the media.

The motto’s resurgence in 2012 showed the confidence of Packers Nation in Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy’s ability to add and develop depth throughout the team. While concerns still brewed in the back of our minds, they were overshadowed by what we’ve come to expect from Green Bay’s second string players.

No more Desmond Bishop? Bring in D.J. Smith. Now Smith goes down? Get Brad Jones in there. Lose Cedric Benson, James Starks, and Brandon Saine? Promote Alex Green and DuJuan Harris, then re-sign Ryan Grant from free agency. Even undrafted rookie Don Barclay surprised us with his ability to take over for Bryan Bulaga and not get Aaron Rodgers killed.

The specific team building philosophy of Thompson and McCarthy have allowed the Green Bay Packers to succeed even when some of their best players end up on injured reserve. Many other teams would struggle to handle such losses, whereas the Packers push through, fill in the holes, and still win their division.

Unfortunately, with all this confidence in the “next man up” mentality, we tend to lose sight of the fact that Green Bay’s offensive, defensive, and special teams units still lose some of their effectiveness from these starters going down.

In 2012, the position group that suffered the most was by far the linebacker corps. If you compare this season’s final roster to last year’s, the differences are striking. Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk didn’t go anywhere, despite Matthews missing a few games; however, the losses of Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith were huge.

Yes, Brad Jones filled in admirably, but he is not the playmaker that Bishop is. (Nor is Smith.) Desmond Bishop is perhaps the biggest playmaker on the defense outside of Clay Matthews. His tough and ruthless attitude brings a punch that helps to balance out the lack of plays made by Hawk. While the “assignment sure” Hawk has been a perennial disappointment to many fans, he and Bishop complement each other extremely well. Without one, the other suffers.

15

January

Packers Stock Report: Season’s Over Edition

Sam Shields was one of the bright spots for the Packers against the 49ers.

The Packers season is over. They got smoked by the 49ers in the NFL playoffs on Saturday night.

I’m sick of writing about it. I’m sick of talking about it. I’m sick of thinking about it.

On to the stock report:

Rising

Sam Shields
The combination of Shields getting healthy and realizing he’s a restricted free agent really got him going. Shields will likely get a first-round tender and I expect the Packers to open their checkbooks and lock him up for the next few years. Let’s hope he stays motivated, keeps improving, and plays like he did down the stretch.

James Jones
With Greg Jennings likely gone and Jermichael Finley possibly following him out the door, Jones can establish himself as an upper-echelon receiver next season. Jones came to play on Saturday night. It was nice to see Jones use his size a bit this season. I always thought he played smaller than he was, but he went up and got a few balls in traffic this season and played angrier.

Marshall Newhouse
How often did we hear about Newhouse down the stretch? Hardly at all. And that’s a good thing. Jared Allen and Aldon Smith didn’t do much against Newhouse in the last three games. I was thinking about the offensive line today. Would T.J. Lang have any trade value? He’s young, decent enough, and has a favorable contract. Perhaps the Packers could move him for an extra pick and the line in 2013 could be Newhouse at LT, Barclay at LG, Dietrich-Smith or a rookie at C, Sitton at RG, Bulaga at RT, Sherrod as the backup T and Dietrich-Smith or a rookie at backup G. Who knows. This is just me daydreaming and pretending I’m Ted Thompson.

Steady

DuJuan Harris
Another solid game for Mr. Car Salesman. I have no idea why McCarthy ignored Harris in the second half against the 49ers. Look for Harris to be in the mix for the starting running back job next season.

Clay Matthews
Matthews probably belongs in the rising category. He closed the season strong and I’m looking forward to getting Nick Perry on the other side once again for next season.

Falling