22

May

Packers Coaches Campen, Slocum Out of the Fire?

James Campen

Is James Campen finally off the hook in the eyes of Packers fans?

There’s been something missing this offseason, and I’ve finally figured out what it is: the annual tirade of Packers fans against special teams coach Shawn Slocum and offensive line coach James Campen. What once was a common occurrence has quietly but certainly escaped from our foremost thoughts. They have only been mentioned in mere passing in recent news stories, and even the most rabid of fans have barely even whispered their names.

All of this, evidently, must be a good thing.

Just about 11 months ago, our own Zach Kruse wrote a post detailing five areas in which the Packers could improve in 2011, despite having won a Super Bowl title the previous year. Three of those areas were Kick and Punt Returning, Kick and Punt Coverage, and Pass Protection. In revisiting those now, we’ve seen some noteworthy improvements.

In first looking at Special Teams, the addition of Randall Cobb as a punt and kick returner was huge. Not only did he win the NFL Honors Play of the Year for his 108-yard kickoff return against the New Orleans Saints, but he made a significant mark on the statistics sheets. In yards per punt return, Cobb ranked third in the NFL (13.4), and he ranked seventh in yards per kickoff return (27.6).

While a lot of this is due to the athletic talent and vision that Cobb possesses, these plays would not have been possible without the blocking of the special teams units. And for that, we have to give credit to Slocum. If we are going to blame him for the failures, then it would only be right to praise him for the successes.

In fact, if you go by the advanced statistical measurements of Football Outsiders (FO), the Packers special teams unit ranked 8th in DVOA (3.5%) across the league in 2011. Last year they ranked 26th (1.6%).

Now how about that offensive line?

Well, to look at it statistically, they actually slid back a little bit. Their 41 sacks allowed last year numbered three more than the year of their Super Bowl run, and according to FO, their Adjusted Sack Rate rose from 7.2% to 7.4%. But if this is the case, why haven’t we heard the rallying cry against Campen lately?

23

June

Looming Questions for the Packers in a Post-Lockout NFL World

With NFL owners set to meet Tuesday in Chicago, a very important week in the sport’s labor situation is about to unfold. Optimism is starting to take hold in this lockout, and while I’d hesitate to say an agreement is imminent, things are finally starting to look like football will be played next season without interruption.

If an agreement is reached—and most of the NFL big-wigs, including Peter King and Adam Schefter, think sometime in July is the best bet—then the Packers and the rest of the NFL will have training camp as scheduled and the 2011 season will be played in its entirety. That also means that we will finally have some answers on the variety of questions about the team that we’ve all pondered over this lockout-striken offseason.

Let’s dive into the biggest questions surrounding the Packers in a post-lockout NFL world, starting with some obvious ones but ending with the most important question of all. And considering I already touched on James Jones in a previous post, I won’t touch that question again in this one.

 

Might the Packers Keep Five Tight Ends on the Roster?

The Packers are no strangers to having uncommon numbers at certain positions, as they’ve recently carried three fullbacks when most NFL teams only have one or two. Could next season see the Packers repeat this trend, but at the tight end position?

They certainly have the talent on board to pull it off.

Jermichael Finley’s spot is secure, and Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree return from 2010. But the Packers added two more tight ends in April’s draft, selecting D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor in the fifth and seventh rounds, respectively. Williams should be a lock, and Taylor appears on paper like the kind of versatile special teams player the Packers favor.

If the Packers don’t decide to keep all five, training camp should feature some kind of roster battle. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that group forced the Packers to keep all five players.

 

Where Will Nick Barnett be Playing in September?

There’s been plenty of discussion over Barnett’s future, but the lockout has robbed us of any clear answer on which way it could play out. I’m not positive that once the lockout ends there’ll be a quick resolution of the situation either. It’s a tough call for the Packers, and one that’s loaded with factors.