8

April

Cory’s Corner: Aaron Rodgers equals a capable Jarrett Boykin

The equation was proven when Greg Jennings left for Minnesota. And it’s going to be proven again when James Jones suits up for Oakland for the first time.

Jarrett Boykin will be slotted into the coveted No. 3 wide receiver next season. He's ready because of one person.

Jarrett Boykin will be slotted into the coveted No. 3 wide receiver next season. He’s ready because of one person.

I’ve heard many say that Jarrett Boykin is a question mark and cannot be counted on to truly be a No. 3 wideout in the NFL. Those are true and warranted sentiments.

However, don’t be like Jennings and Jones and forget about the most important part of the equation: Aaron Rodgers. Jones is a capable receiver but he has a tendency to grow alligator arms and forgets what route to run.

But this isn’t about Jones. It’s about how Rodgers made Jones and basically got him a three-year deal in 2011. It’s also about how Rodgers found Jones for 14 touchdowns in 2012.

Boykin has only played two seasons and only started in eight games. When the Packers open next September he could very well get the deer in the headlights and look completely confused.

However, the odds of that happening are quite slim. Why? Well, Scott Tolzien made Brandon Bostick look superhuman last year for a possession. I think it isn’t out of Rodgers’ realm to make Boykin look pretty good.

But in Boykin’s defense, he’s not that bad. He runs routes hard and has shown a willingness to learn. He will have to continue that inquisitiveness by peppering Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb — arguably the best wide receiving tandem in the game.

Wide receivers are even more critical now that NFL offenses resemble a seven-on-seven passing drill.

Yet, it all comes back to the quarterback. A subpar quarterback will make even Pro Bowl receivers look average as opposed to a preeminent quarterback that makes average pass-catchers good.

Boykin will be fine, but when you boil it down it doesn’t really matter. There are plenty of warm bodies with pass-catching experience that could be slotted into the Packers’ No. 3 job and succeed. It’s pretty hard to fail when the ball is placed on a platter and is in a tight spiral nearly every time.

This is the year that Boykin must learn and make strides. He must process plenty of information during training camp so that he can be called upon if Nelson or Cobb go down with injury.

17

March

Former Packers WR James Jones Joins Oakland Raiders

James Jones

Jones leaves Green Bay after six seasons and will join the Oakland Raiders

James Jones is now a former Green Bay Packer.  The free agent wide receiver has signed a three-year deal with the Oakland Raiders.  The move will reunite Jones with former Packers personnel man and current Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.

Jones reportedly received some early interest from the New York Jets and was said to be in favor of joining the Carolina Panthers, had they expressed interest.  On Monday, Jones chose the Raiders and the San Jose native is headed home to California.

The Packers didn’t seem to have an early interest in bringing Jones back according to Frank Bauer, Jones’ agent.  This report emerged in late February.

Jones was a third round draft pick by the Packers in 2007 and his departure leaves only placekicker Mason Crosby left from that draft class on the current Green Bay roster.

Jones had 301 catches for over 4,300 yards and 37 touchdowns in his career with the Packers.  Jones led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 2012 with 14.  Jones overcame early problems with dropped passes and entrenched himself as a top option in the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers offense.

Jones’ departure leaves the Packers with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boyking at wide receiver.  The emergence of Boykin last season likely gave the Packers confidence that he could fill some of Jones’ role.  With the draft upcoming in May and what is said to be a deep class for wide receivers, don’t be surprised to see the Packers get after one sooner than later.

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

Follow Jason at:

Jason Perone
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18

February

James Jones 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction: James Jones is another example of a Packers wide receiver increasing the team’s overall toughness. Jones missed more than two games with a knee injury, then returned and played hurt for the next month. He also played through a broken rib late in the season. Jones risked further injury during a contract year, which says a lot about his character and toughness.

Packers WR James Jones

2) Profile:

James Jones

  • Age: 29
  • Born: 3/31/1984 in San Jose, CA
  • Height: 6’1″
  • Weight: 208
  • College: San Jose St.
  • Rookie Year: 2007
  • NFL Experience: 7 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: I’m not sure anyone expected Jones to catch 14 touchdowns like he did in 2012, but they were expecting him to continue being a reliable target in the passing game.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: An 11-catch, 178-yard game in week 2 against Washington tops Jones’ list of highlights. Catching an 83-yard touchdown against Detroit is also up there. Injuries and the loss of Aaron Rodgers caused Jones’ production to dip in the middle of the season. He also dropped a couple of tough, but catchable, passes against the 49ers in the playoffs.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Jones averaged almost 2.5 more yards per catch in 2013 than he did during his breakout campaign of 2012. He seemed to be having more success getting downfield before he was slowed by the knee injury (he struggled to get separation the remainder of the season). When he was healthy, Jones was exactly what the Packers needed him to be: a tough, fundamentally strong, dependable receiver.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Jones’ performance against the 49ers is a game he’ll want to forget. He failed to come down with the ball on three separate occasions when he had a chance to make a big play. Each catch wold have been a difficult one, but it’s those types of plays that need to be made in the playoffs.

Season Report Card:

(B) Level of expectations met during the season

(B) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(D-) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade:  B-

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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22

January

Packers Free Agents: Top 10 to Re-Sign

Sam Shields is only the second most important UFA the Packers need to re-sign. Who's number one?

Sam Shields is only the second most important UFA the Packers need to re-sign. Who’s number one?

A couple weeks ago, our own Adam Czech took a look at the Green Bay Packers players hitting free agency this offseason.  Of the 19 offensive and defensive players, 16 are unrestricted and 3 are restricted. What I’ve done below is made a list of the top ten unrestricted players Ted Thompson should consider re-signing. They are listed in descending order of importance.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the ranking? Is there someone you would add or replace? Comment below!

 

10. Ryan Pickett

This could be the first year where Pickett’s age has been noticeable. The “Big Grease” has never been a flashy player, and he’s a true two-gap guy, but even in that role he saw some decline. Pickett could still be useful as a veteran leader and run-stuffer; there’s just not much more than that. If he returns, it shouldn’t be at a price anywhere near his last contract.

9. Matt Flynn

It seems like Matt Flynn is destined to be the back-up to Aaron Rodgers for the majority of his career. He got his payday in Seattle, never really saw the field as a starter, and eventually ended up back in Green Bay. The Packers have Scott Tolzien as a project this offseason, but wouldn’t they want to avoid the mess of a situation they had this year and sign Flynn as insurance?

8. B.J. Raji

This guy is going to be the biggest free agent storyline for the Packers. His performance doesn’t command a big contract, but his draft position does. It will all depend on the market, and I have a feeling Ted Thompson will let him test it. Still, if the price is right, it would be foolish for the Packers not to bring him back on board.

7. James Jones

Yes, James Jones can be considered “replaceable.” But this is the same guy who caught 14 touchdown passes for the Packers in 2012. In 2013, he was second in most statistical categories only to Jordy Nelson, and the only player who had fewer drops than him was Randall Cobb. (And Cobb was out most of the season.) James Jones didn’t get much from the market the last time he was a free agent, and he probably see less interest now that he’s hitting 30.

7

January

Packers Free Agent Overview: Offense

Will Packers running back James Starks return and once again team up with Eddie Lacy?

With 17 free agents and just under $10 million in salary cap space carrying over into 2014, changes are coming to the Green Bay Packers roster.

We’ve already taken a look at upcoming Packers free agents on defense. Now let’s examine the decisions Packers general manager Ted Thompson has to make about free agents on offense.

WR James Jones
When Jones hit the open market in 2011, there were few buyers and he ended up back in Green Bay. After three good seasons, will Jones find more suitors this time around? He’s been a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver his whole career, but Jones has had stretches where he kinda sorta looks like a No. 1. At 29 years old, though, I doubt anyone will pay Jones as a No. 1 receiver and it could lead to him once again landing back in Green Bay at another Packers-friendly contract. With the emergence of Jarrett Boykin down the stretch, Thompson has plenty of leverage when negotiating with Jones and might even feel comfortable enough to move on entirely from the man who wears a sleeveless turtleneck. It’ll be interesting to see if Aaron Rodgers lobbies for Jones to be re-signed like he did back in 2011.

TE Jermichael Finley
This one will be up to the doctors. If Finley is cleared to play football again, how big of a contract is a team willing to give him? Does Finley sign a cheaper one-year deal and try to prove himself all over again to land a fat deal in 2015? Even if he is cleared to play, are the Packers interested in re-signing him?

TE Andrew Quarless
Quarless didn’t come close to filling the playmaking void left by Finley, but he did have a few moments. Quarless’s future will be determined by what happens with Finley and whether the Packers address the tight end position in the draft.

C Evan Dietrich-Smith
The Packers put the lowest restricted free-agent tender on Dietrich-Smith last offseason and were able to retain him. When Dietrich-Smith hits the market this offseason, he should have more interest. The Packers were effective on the ground in 2013 and Dietrich-Smith’s physical play was a contributing factor. But with J.C. Tretter waiting in the wings and capable centers available in the mid-rounds of the draft, Thompson could choose to save some money for other areas of the team and let Dietrch-Smith find work elsewhere.

25

November

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 26, Vikings 26

Matt Flynn led a fiery comeback for the Packers. And in some ways, the tie is a win.

Matt Flynn led a fiery comeback for the Packers. And in some ways, the tie is a win.

Despite playing to a 26-26 tie, the Green Bay Packers gained ground on the division-leading Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears. And as far as the NFC North title is concerned, that’s a win for the Pack.

Without quarterback Matt Flynn’s late-game heroics, it’s hard to imagine the Packers pushing the game to overtime. But Flynn, down by 16 in the fourth quarter, led his team back and tied the game at 23.

And the game was played on my 23rd birthday, so of course, yours truly had something to do with the comeback. Duh.

Some players just fit in a certain system. And there’s no way around it–Matt Flynn’s ceiling is as a backup with the Packers.

Some–myself included–overestimated Flynn’s value when he hit the free agent market after the 2011 season. Sure, he’s been traded from the Seattle Seahawks and cut by the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills since leaving Green Bay, but at this point it’s pretty clear that the Packers’ system is good for Flynn and Flynn is good for the Packers.

“We were looking for a spark,” head coach Mike McCarthy said of Flynn after the game. “We had a history with Matt. He went out there and played football.”

Sounds simple. And it is. Flynn went out there and played football. He made the throws he had to make and took what the leaky Vikings defense was giving him.

At the very least, Flynn gives the locker room a shot of confidence as they head into a season-altering game Thursday against the Detroit Lions. The last time Flynn played in Detroit was when he entered the game in relief after Aaron Rodgers left the game with a concussion. The offense sputtered, and the Packers lost that game 7-3.

Now, the Packers head into their Thanksgiving showdown with the Lions needing a win, which would put them in first place in the division. The only question is: Will they have Aaron Rodgers?

Game Balls

Eddie Lacy

Teams know they’ll be getting a heavy dose of Lacy when they play the Green Bay Packers, but it doesn’t matter. Stacking the box can only do so much against a bruising back who routinely breaks through arm tackles. Lacy finished the game with 110 yards on 24 carries and proved his worth in the passing game, totaling 48 yards on six catches. The guy is really, really good.

21

November

Numbers up for Packers receivers, down for Vikings corners

Packers receiver Jordy Nelson is really good. Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes is alright, but his fellow corners are not.

Packers receiver Jordy Nelson is really good. Vikings rookie Xavier Rhodes is alright, but his fellow corners are not.

Numbers never lie. Except when they do.

Numbers lied when they said that Robert Griffin III had a big day against the Packers. After all, 320 yards and three touchdowns isn’t a bad day at the office, but in reality, Griffin really just benefitted from a garbage-time stat stuffer.

But thanks to new-age stats sites like Pro Football Focus, anyone and everyone can access in-depth stats at the click of a mouse. So if I want to see how good/bad a player does in coverage, it’s pretty easy.

And the numbers say Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson is bad. Awfully bad.

Opposing quarterbacks have completed 56 of 66 targets on Robinson this season. That’s 84.8 percent of their passes–the worst mark in the NFL for a cornerback, along with a league-high 716 receiving yards. Add three touchdowns and no interceptions, and you’ve got yourself a 127.0 cumulative passer rating.

Robinson’s partner in crime, Chris Cook, has allowed 19 completions on 26 targets–again, a staggering 73.1 percent. Cook has been a sieve as far as allowing touchdowns, as he’s been responsible for four scores, despite being thrown at only 26 times. That’s not good for him, but really good for opposing offenses.

Xavier Rhodes, one of the team’s three first-round picks from last April, has shown flashes of why he was a Day 1 pick, although he’s certainly been exposed. The secondary’s lone bright spot will likely see a heavy dose of Jordy Nelson on Sunday, as the Packers will likely move him all around the formation, including the slot which is where he caught both of his touchdowns when the teams met in the MetroDome Oct. 27.

Of 107 cornerbacks that have played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps, the Vikings have three players who rank 83 or lower on the list, according to Pro Football Focus. Here’s a closer look at how they’ve fared so far this season:

83. Xavier Rhodes (60.8% completion, 293 yards, o TD o INT. 79.3 QB rating)

84. Chris Cook (73.0% completion, 241 yards, 4 TD 0 INT. 141.2 QB rating)

101. Josh Robinson (84.8% completion, 716 yards, 3 TD 0 INT. 127.0 QB rating)