22

August

Walking Wounded: Eight Packers Candidates for Injured Reserve Or PUP

Andrew Quarless Injury

TE Andrew Quarless will probably start the year on the PUP list.

The first NFL roster cut-down of the season is fast approaching. On Monday, August 27th, the Green Bay Packers will need to have trimmed their roster down to 75 players from their current total of 90.

Even though these are essentially the worst players on the team, the decision of who to cut is a tough one. Not only do Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson need to consider the skill of each player, but they also have to take into account the remaining depth they’ll have to work with for the remainder of the preseason. This being the case, the first roster cut-down can be a good time to declare some of the Injured Reserve (IR) or Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) players for the start of the season.

As a reminder, only players who did not practice at all during training camp are eligible for the PUP. They remain on the list for the first six weeks of regular season, after which they have a three-week window to return to practice. From the point at which the player returns to practice, the team has an additional three weeks to decide whether to elevate them to the 53-man roster, place them on injured reserve, or release them.

Here is a group of eight players who could possibly end up on one of these lists during the upcoming roster cut-down:

Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)

  1. TE Andrew Quarless – On December 4, 2011, Quarless suffered a severe knee injury in kickoff coverage against the New York Giants. On January 9th, he had reconstructive knee surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). There was always a chance he could miss the entire 2012 season, and with the depth at tight end, there’s no reason to rush Quarless back from recovery. Chances are good he’ll remain on the PUP list to start the season.
  2. T Derek Sherrod – On December 18, 2011, while filling in for RT Bryan Bulaga against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sherrod broke his left leg when LB Tamba Hali rolled onto it. Though his progress as has been good, there’s not really a timetable on his return. The situation at back-up left tackle could really help to determine his fate. If the Packers feel comfortable with Reggie Wells, Herb Taylor, and/or Andrew Datko, then the PUP list could be the way they go for Sherrod. Otherwise, they might keep him active in hopes of an earlier return.
4

May

Brass Balls and the Packers Defense

Frank Zombo

Frank Zombo is one Packers defender that could be on the chopping block.

If using almost all of his draft picks on defensive players wasn’t enough of a warning, Ted Thompson could re-enact Alec Baldwin’s brass balls speech from Glengarry Glen Ross on the first day of training camp if he feels the Packers defense hasn’t gotten the message.

Replace Cadillac with a spot on the roster. Replace steak knives with a spot on the end of the bench. Replace getting fired with getting cut.

Message received.

Of course, this message doesn’t need to be delivered to everyone on defense. Clay Matthews is probably the Alec Baldwin of the Packers D. He can point to his $975,000 watch and automatically command respect. Desmond Bishop and Charles Woodson can point to their own watches, which aren’t quite as big as Matthews’, but are impressive nonetheless.

Because of their ineptitude last season and infusion of new blood for the upcoming season, the following defenders who received regular playing time in 2011 could be on the chopping block. They’ll have to prove during training camp that they have the “brass balls” to play in the NFL.

Jarius Wynn
After a strong start, Wynn disappeared and became just another guy (who couldn’t get to the quarterback) on the defensive line.

C.J. Wilson
Did Wilson make any memorable plays last season? He’s another guy you can add to the just-another-guy list.

Charlie Peprah
When Peprah was paired with pro-bowler Nick Collins, he did what needed to be done at safety. Without Collins, Peprah couldn’t keep up in coverage and looked a step behind on most plays.

Frank Zombo
It seems like the Packers want to give Zombo a chance, but he can’t stay healthy. Of course, when he’s been healthy, he hasn’t exactly set the world afire.

Erik Walden
Walden was adequate last season before dropping off after being arrested. The Packers resigned him this offseason, which makes me think he’s got the inside edge in making the squad. Of course, I’m sure it’s a minimal deal and the Packers wouldn’t be hurt much if they cut him, but why go through the through the trouble of resigning a replacement-level player with legal issues if you don’t think he has a shot at getting better?

17

February

Could Packers Trade Up in 2012 NFL Draft to Pick a Pass Rusher?

Ted Thompson Packers

Packers GM Ted Thompson traded back into the first round to take Clay Matthews in 2009.

The day was April 25, the Saturday of the 2009 NFL draft, and Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson had a franchise-altering decision staring him in the face.

As he sat in the Packers’ war room, having already acquired nose tackle B.J. Raji from Boston College with the ninth overall pick, there was a name he couldn’t shake and a need he knew he needed to fill.

The name was Clay Matthews, and the need was 3-4 outside linebacker.

Matthews, a wavy-haired overachiever with Hall of Fame bloodlines, remained available as the first round came to a close. A walk-on at USC who didn’t play full-time until his senior year, Matthews was an ideal pass rushing outside linebacker for his new defense. And Thompson knew that if there were two positions most important to making the Packers’ new 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Dom Capers work, it was nose tackle and outside linebacker. Raji was the answer inside, Matthews could be the same on the edge.

In his hand was a weapon he rarely held, and uncharacteristically, Thompson pulled the trigger.

A man notorious for trading back in the draft to stockpile picks, Thompson sent a second and two third-round picks to the New England Patriots for the No. 26 pick in the first round and a later fifth rounder.

Shortly after, Roger Goodell announced Matthews as the Packers’ pick, and the rest, as they say, was history. Matthews turned into a superstar, registering back-to-back 10-sack seasons while helping lead the Packers to a Super Bowl win over the Pittsburgh Steelers just less than 22 months later. Along with sticking with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, Thompson’s decision to move up and get Matthews remains a defining moment in his building of a championship puzzle.

Fastforward to this April, and you could argue Thompson is in a similar state of need that he found himself in 2009.

Just a year after reaching the NFL’s peak, Thompson’s defense shattered in 2011. Better yet, it collapsed after under the weight of Thompson’s failure to find a starting-quality outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews and his decision not to re-sign highly productive but aging defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who bolted to the Philadelphia Eagles but was entirely open to returning to the Packers. Green Bay won 15 games during the regular season despite giving up more passing yards than any other team in NFL history, then threw away their opportunity to repeat as Super Bowl champions with an undisciplined effort on both sides of the football.

29

January

Frank Zombo: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers outside linebacker Frank Zombo

Frank Zombo

1) Introduction: From Super Bowl starter to 3rd stringer, Frank Zombo probably had the worst luck of any member on the Packers team who wasn’t placed on IR.  Zombo didn’t even get to the regular season healthy due to a broken scapula during the preseason and the usual bumps and bruises during the regular season cost Zombo playing time after the scapula was mended.  Zombo’s availability tanked his entire season.

2) Profile:

Frank Zombo

Position: OLB
Height: 6-3
Weight: 254 lbs.
AGE: 24
Career Stats

 

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: High; Zombo was expected to compete for the outside linebacker position along side Clay Matthews and was considered the front-runner along side Erik Walden.  Unfortunately, Zombo broke his scapula after colliding with fullback John Kuhn in warm-ups during the Arizona Cardinals preseason game and was expected to miss the 1st half of the season if not more.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Unfortunately Zombo has nothing to highlight, with only one preseason game played healthy, Zombo didn’t really have a chance to make a 2011 highlight reel.  Perhaps Zombo’s biggest lowlight was getting passed over by Brad Jones for the starting position when Erik Walden was benched during the playoffs even when he was healthy enough to play.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Next to nothing; Zombo started one game and posted 10 tackles and 1 sack in the game against Oakland

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Next to nothing; Zombo posted 1 assisted tackle in the playoffs but did not see any significant time on the field.

Season Report Card:

(D) Level of expectations met during the season
(D) Contributions to team’s overall success
(D-) Player’s contributions in the playoffs

Overall Grade for the year: D

——————

Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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31

December

Packers vs. Lions Preview: 5 Things to Watch

Packers QB Matt Flynn has a perfect stage in Week 17 for his looming free agent status.

The Green Bay Packers (14-1) and Detroit Lions (10-5) face off in Week 17 of the NFL season Sunday.

The basics 

When: 12:00 CST, Sunday, January 1, 2012.

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI.

TV: FOX; Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick with the call, Laura Okmin on the sidelines.

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee); Packers Radio Network; NFL Sunday Drive.

Series: Packers lead, 92-65-7 (Packers won last regular season game, 27-17, on Nov. 24, 2011 at Ford Field.)

Five things to watch

1. Money to be made

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that he wants all three quarterbacks to play on Sunday, but the middle man in the group has a golden opportunity to bump up his price tag this summer. Matt Flynn, the Packers backup quarterback and a free agent after the season, will likely see the majority of the snaps against the Lions. Another solid performance on the big stage may propel a quarterback-needy team to give Flynn the opportunity to start for their franchise—and the money that goes with it—next season.

2. Who needs receivers?

The Packers offense may be one of the most receiver-dependent outfits in the NFL, but they’ll be down two at that position on Sunday. Both Greg Jennings (knee) and Randall Cobb (groin) were ruled out this week by McCarthy. Their absence should mean an increase in snaps for the Packers’ four tight ends, and more specifically, rookies D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor.  Expect the two first-year players to log career highs in snaps and receptions on Sunday.

3. Clifton’s return

Packers left tackle Chad Clifton has played in some big games during his career, but Sunday’s tilt with the Lions might rank near the top. While the game alone has little overall meaning, how Clifton performs may influence whether or not he can play again in the NFL. The Packers get one chance to see him live before the playoffs begin, and if they don’t like what they see from him, McCarthy may have to go with with Marshall Newhouse as his starting left tackle in the postseason. It wouldn’t be overly surprising if Clifton wasn’t the same guy he was before the torn hamstring, as he’s 35 years old and in his 12th season in the NFL. A dud of a performance or set back with the injury could signal the end of Clifton’s NFL career.

26

December

McCarthy: Packers “Playing to Win Game” on Sunday; Chad Clifton Expected to Play

Mike McCarthy wants LT Chad Clifton to play Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy made no mistake about his team’s desire to be 15-1, and he might get to try out a few players in the process, including left tackle Chad Clifton, against the Detroit Lions in Week 17.

McCarthy said Monday that the Packers are preparing to “win the game” and that sweeping the NFC North is an important goal to accomplish.

“We have every intention of being 15-1 come Sunday afternoon,” McCarthy said.

No mention was made about how long his starters will play, but McCarthy did say that he wants Clifton, who’s been out since injuring his hamstring in Week 5, to practice this week and play in Sunday’s game. McCarthy acknowledged the importance of Clifton seeing live action before the playoffs begin, and this week represents the last of those opportunities.

The Packers will also look to get more playing time for both Vic So’oto and Jamari Lattimore at outside linebacker, a position that opposite of Clay Matthews has been nothing short of a disaster this season. McCarthy said that So’oto earned his opportunity to play on Sunday, and Frank Zombo’s healthy scratch was partly due to special teams.

McCarthy gave more encouraging news on the injury front, as Ryan Pickett (concussion) and Bryan Bulaga (knee cap sprain) both appear to be getting close to returning. The duo could play this week against the Lions. The return of Bulaga and Clifton would give the Packers the opportunity to play the opening night starters on the offensive line (Clifton, T.J, Lang, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton, Bulaga, left to right) for the first time since Week 3.

Pickett’s return would be just as significant, as McCarthy said that Sunday’s performance in run defense graded out as the “worst in my time here.” The Packers have been gashed since losing Pickett, who McCarthy called their “best run defender,” to his second concussion of the season against the Oakland Raiders. The Bears ran for 199 yards on Sunday night, including 121 from third-string back Kahlil Bell.

Finally, McCarthy said that running back James Starks bruised his ankle in the third quarter on Sunday night’s game. Both of his ankles have been injured this season, and he’ll be challenged to practice on Wednesday.

Other highlights from McCarthy’s press conference:

12

December

Packers vs. Raiders: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 46-16 Win over Oakland

Photo courtesy of Green Bay Press-Gazette

Using five forced turnovers and a balanced offensive attack, the Green Bay Packers (13-0) raced out to a 34-0 lead over the Oakland Raiders (7-6) before finishing their 19th straight win overall, 46-16, Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Fast start

This game, which some thought could be the one where the Packers would fall for the first time in 2011, was over within the first 20 or so minutes. Following an interception from D.J. Smith on the Raiders’ initial possession, Ryan Grant took the Packers’ first play from scrimmage 47 yards for a touchdown. The vision in the hole and burst at the second level reminded some of the running back that racked up consecutive 1,200-yard seasons from 2008-09. The Packers would score on their next four possessions to go up 31-0 with 7:06 left in the first half. Game, set and match. The rest of the game was played on cruise control.

2. Ground game gets going

After a stretch of games where he was either ineffective or invisible, Ryan Grant had his best game of 2011 on Sunday with 85 yards rushing and two scores on just 10 carries. While the interior of the Packers’ line and the Raiders’ 28th ranked run defense were important factors, it has to be encouraging this late in the year that Green Bay’s offense can run the football with some success.

On his long touchdown to kick off the game, Grant set up middle linebacker Rolando McClain to the right in the hole, then burst past the secondary to get into the end zone. It was classic Ryan Grant in both areas. John Kuhn also added 46 yards as the Packers ran for a 136 yards, a number that ties their season-high (San Diego). As the weather turns more winter-like in Wisconsin, the run game will increase in importance. Sunday was a confidence-building effort from that unit.

3. Takin’ it away

While the Packers’ defense gave up north of 350 yards again, this was far from a poor defensive performance. The majority of the yards came when the Raiders were down by four or more scores. The defense again made their living by causing turnovers, which they did a season-high five times. Four more interceptions give the Packers an NFL-leading 27 this season, and a third quarter fumble recovery from Erik Walden resulted in another defensive touchdown. Say what you want about that side of the ball, but this is the winning formula the Packers defense has created for themselves in 2011.