21

April

Lattimore Remains Unsigned

Jamari Lattimore

Lattimore remains unsigned on the eve of Packers team workouts

According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN, Green Bay Packers linebacker Jamari Lattimore remains unsigned one day before the Packers will begin offseason workouts.  Without being signed, Lattimore won’t be permitted to join his teammates.

The Packers were not expected to tender Lattimore following the 2013 season, thereby making him an unrestricted free agent.  Instead in early March, the Packers did designate the original round tender on Lattimore.

Under the original round terms, Lattimore can sign an offer sheet with another team.  The Packers then have an opportunity to match those terms and keep Lattimore.  If they do not match another offer sheet, Green Bay would receive no compensation from the receiving team because Lattimore was originally an undrafted free agent back in 2011.

The current offer is for one year and $1.431 million for the 2014 season.

Lattimore filled in last season when starting inside linebacker Brad Jones was forced out with a hamstring injury.  In limited time, Lattimore was adequate and appeared to be making a case for more playing time.  After the 2013 season, there will still talk about whether Lattimore might push for a starting spot in 2014.

With the draft just over two weeks away and with much chatter about what the Packers could do to address the linebacker position, Lattimore’s unresolved contract will continue to hamper his prospects of moving up the depth chart.

In many instances and as former Packers Vice President Andrew Brandt has often said, deadlines spur action.  With the Packers starting to gather tomorrow, this could very well be a non-story soon.

 

 

 

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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2

January

All eyes on Packers’ linebackers against Kaepernick, 49ers

Although not on the radar before the season, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba is playing a key role for a beaten-up Packers defense as the playoffs are set to begin.

Although not on the radar before the season, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba is playing a key role for a beaten-up Packers defense as the playoffs are set to begin.

A year ago, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick set a single-game NFL record for a quarterback by rushing for 181 yards against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Kaepernick totaled 444 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, as the Packers were perplexed by the 49ers’ offense throughout the game, allowing 45 points to the 49ers despite a Sam Shields pick-six in the first quarter.

The Packers’ secondary, too, had its fair share of problems, as did the defensive line, but perhaps no position group was overmatched against the 49ers’ offense more than Green Bay’s linebackers. Erik Walden signed a four-year contract worth $16 million with the Indianapolis Colts this offseason, but money can’t buy instincts, and Walden is still looking for Kaepernick almost a year after last season’s dud in the playoffs.

Entering the 2013 season, the Packers were determined to be better prepared for the 49ers offense–and specifically, Kaepernick–as a rematch was scheduled for opening weekend in San Francisco.

And the Packers got mixed results. While Green Bay was able to contain Kaepernick to just 22 yards rushing, the quarterback racked up a career-high 412 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry started for the Packers at outside linebacker that game and helped keep Kaepernick in the pocket, but four months later, Matthews is out with a (re)broken thumb and Perry, due to battles with injuries and subpar play, is now merely a rotational player.

Last January, Walden’s debacle against the read-option left many clamoring for Perry’s return to the lineup after he suffered a season-ending wrist injury as a rookie. Because, at the very least, the 270-pound Perry would be a significant upgrade over Walden setting the edge against the run, right?

As one Lee Corso might say, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Perry played a season-high 57 snaps (of a possible 81) against the 49ers in the season opener, but he played just 12 snaps last Sunday against the Chicago Bears in a must-win game. Mike Neal–still in his first season at outside linebacker–played 47 of 51 snaps against the Bears, and undrafted rookie Andy Mulumba played 43.

6

November

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Bears 27, Packers 20

With the Bears behind them, the Packers will move on without Aaron Rodgers.

With the Bears behind them, the Packers will move on without Aaron Rodgers.

On top of suffering their third loss of the season, which puts the Green Bay Packers in a three-way atop the NFC North, the team lost its unquestioned leader for at least several weeks.

On the game’s first series, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked by Bears defensive end Shea McClellin. The hit wasn’t violent, but Rodgers was slammed hard into the Lambeau Field sod and reportedly suffered a fractured left collarbone.

Of course, many Packers will point the finger at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Bob McGinn. Last week, McGinn wrote a column suggesting the Packers could win without Rodgers. The article ran Nov. 2–two days prior to Rodgers suffering what he calls a “significant injury.” If you haven’t yet read McGinn’s piece, you should do so.

Now, obviously, losing Rodgers is a tough blow for the Packers. Rodgers probably the best quarterback in the NFL, and Seneca Wallace is a significant downgrade from the 2011 league MVP, but while expectations for the rest of the Packers’ season are different now than they were Monday, the Wallace-led Green Bay Packers aren’t quite the Curtis Painter-led Indianapolis Colts when the Colts were forced to play without injured quarterback Peyton Manning.

In 2006, Manning led the Colts to a 10-6 record. The following year, which Manning missed with a neck injury, the Colts plummeted to 2-14 and “earned” the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. In recent years, losing Rodgers for any amount of time may have been a fatal blow to the Packers’ season.

But now, I’m with McGinn. This Packers team can win without Rodgers.

The team’s newfound offensive balance has been a pleasant addition to the team and will now act as the crutch the team will rely on as they tackle the start of the second half of the season without Rodgers. A hungry Eddie Lacy and healthy James Starks, along with a dramatically improved offensive line have the Rodgers-less Packers offense in a much better place than they’ve been in recent years.

After losing Rodgers to injury Monday, Wallace was clearly not ready game action. This much we know. But with a week of preparation, it’s hard to imagine Wallace turning in anything short of an improved performance Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

16

August

Checking Up on the Packers’ Third-Year Players

Packers RB Alex Green could have the most to lose among third-year players.

Packers RB Alex Green could have the most to lose among third-year players.

At a time where rookies are looking to make an impression, sophomores are trying to make that jump, and veterans are honing their skills, it’s easy to overlook the third-year players. These guys are knee-deep into that transition between being a “young guy” and being a “veteran.” And for many of them, it’s this transition that will make or break their careers. When a football player goes looking to sign his second contract after three or four years, he’s going to know exactly what he’s worth – both to his own team and other teams.

The third-year players for the Green Bay Packers are an interesting group, to say the least. After winning the Super Bowl in 2010, the Packers picked at the 32nd spot in the 2011 NFL Draft. It’s a double-edged sword, because it represents a great achievement, but also provides a great challenge on draft day.

General Manager Ted Thompson ended up taking ten players that day, and four of them are no longer on the roster: G Caleb Schlauderaff (Round 6, No. 179), LB D.J. Smith (Round 6, No. 186), LB Ricky Elmore (Round 6, No. 197), and their final pick DE Lawrence Guy (Round 7, No. 233). Schlauderaff was traded to the New York Jets at the beginning of the regular season, Elmore was a disappointment who left with the cuts, Guy spent a year on injured reserve before being signed from the practice squad by the Indianapolis Colts, and D.J. Smith was a semi-surprising cut by the Packers last April.

The remaining six picks and two undrafted rookie free agents have made it this far, so let’s take a quick look at where they might be headed:

T Derek Sherrod (Round 1, No. 32)

  • Fate hasn’t been kind to Sherrod. No matter what people gleaned about his abilities from his short time in training and practices, there’s no avoiding the fact that his injury killed the value of Thompson’s first round pick. Sherrod’s been off the field since December 2011, and there’s no telling when he’ll get back on, not to mention how he will perform if he does. The Packers will be as patient as possible, but the outlook just isn’t promising.

WR Randall Cobb (Round 2, No. 64)

21

February

Will the Packers Remain Uncomfortably Married to A.J. Hawk?

AJ Hawk

Cut him or keep him? The Packers might just stay uncomfortably married to AJ Hawk.

The topic of A.J. Hawk gets debated to death by Packers fans every offseason.

Some fans view Hawk as an overpaid bust who has no business on the field. Others view him as a serviceable player even though he hasn’t lived up to his status as a high draft pick. A few delusional fans even think some other team would trade a first or second day draft choice for Hawk.

If I were in charge of the Packers, I’d release Hawk. If released after *June 1, it would save $5.45 million against the salary cap — money that could be used to extend Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji — and cut ties with a player who hasn’t forced a turnover since 2010 and didn’t break up a single pass in 2012.

Hawk has always been a ho-hum player. I believe the Packers committed to him because they weren’t sure about their other options. The Packers were the 35-year-old woman who married a guy that wasn’t quite perfect, but time was running out and the other options were iffy. Settling on Hawk was better than being left alone and vulnerable (with a house full of cats).

Here’s the big question regarding Hawk’s future in Green Bay: Are there finally some other options for the Packers this offseason?

Desmond Bishop is a high-energy playmaker. D.J. Smith is capable. Brad Jones proved his worth after Bishop and Smith got hurt. Terrell Manning and Jamari Lattimore are young players who could emerge if given a chance. Do those players give the Packers enough confidence to divorce Hawk? What if Thompson drafts a physically gifted middle linebacker early in the draft?

On paper, you would think so. But can Ted Thompson really be swept off his feet by two guys coming off major knee injuries, a career backup (who is also a free agent), two kids who have never played a meaningful snap, or a draft pick?

Perhaps the names are a bit sexier this time around, but when you look beneath the surface, the Packers might decide to stay uncomfortably married to Hawk. He had 157 tackles last season, and he at least tries to play physical, even if he isn’t talented enough to make much of an impact.

20

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Inside Linebackers

Packers Inside Linebackers:  If nothing else, the 2012 team showed us how deep we are at inside linebacker. After losing two starters in Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith, the Packers were still able to keep things together with Brad Jones in the lineup. The caveat, however, is that while the group is deep, there are no real “blue chip” players to be found.

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

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

A.J. Hawk (1st Round, 2006)
Desmond Bishop (6th Round, 2007)
Brad Jones (7th Round, 2009)
Robert Francois (UDFA, 2009)
D.J. Smith (6th Round, 2011)
Jamari Lattimore (UDFA, 2011)
Terrell Manning (5th Round, 2012)

For all the talk of the deficiencies at defensive line and outside linebacker, we seem to forget about the fact that inside linebacker is leaving us with something to be desired. It’s not a horrible group by any means, but there’s also nothing special about it. Desmond Bishop is currently the best player of the bunch, A.J. Hawk isn’t worth his contract weight, D.J. Smith was a bit of a disappointment this year, and despite his solid play, Brad Jones wasn’t much of a playmaker either. Terrell Manning seems to be the current roster’s last shred of hope among an otherwise lackluster crew, but he needs to make it onto the field first and foremost.

  • Hawk: Even though A.J. Hawk had one of his best years in 2012, it was still not great. He’s no Vince Young when it comes to first round busts, but he lacks the playmaking ability and athleticism you would expect from a player drafted at his position. His work ethic and football intelligence have kept him around for seven frustrating years, though it’s clear his salary will be more than his worth in 2013. The Packers could save $5.45 million in cap space by releasing Hawk.
  • Bishop: It’s hard to believe that Desmond Bishop will be going into his seventh season in 2013, because it took him so long to gain a starting role. His lack of consistency held him back until Nick Barnett’s season-ending injury in 2010. Since then, he has proven himself to be a hard-charged thumper that brings an attitude to the defense. More of a red chip than a blue chip player, he is easily the best inside linebacker on the squad right now.
6

February

Packers Jamari Lattimore: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

Jamari Lattimore

Jamari Lattimore

1) Introduction: Jamari Lattimore was one of the Packers’ undrafted free agent projects in 2011. He has floated between the outside and inside linebacker positions during practices, but Lattimore’s live game experiences have come exclusively at outside linebacker. Aside from that, he’s been just another special teams player.

2) Profile:

Jamari Lattimore

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 10/06/1988, in Miami, FL
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 237
  • College: Middle Tennessee State
  • Rookie Year: 2011
  • NFL Experience: 2 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: There was never too much to get excited about with Jamari Lattimore. Making it onto the 53-man roster is an accomplishment in and of itself, but beyond that, there was never any real chance of him becoming a starter. He’s been relegated to the back-up role and special teams core player.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: How many times can one make the highlight reel on special teams?

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: With only seven combined tackles on the year, Jamari Lattimore is nothing to write home about. He played the fourth-most snaps on special teams units with 269, so that counts for something, however small. Lattimore also filled in at left outsidel linebacker for eight snaps against the Arizona Cardinals, but didn’t do much with them.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Nothing of note outside of his normal special teams duties.

 

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-

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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