15

March

Cory Corner: Ted Thompson’s loyalty will pay dividends

Instead of bringing outside free agents, Ted Thompson has opted to reward loyalty and sign players to stay in Green Bay.

Instead of bringing in outside free agents, Ted Thompson has opted to reward loyalty and sign players to stay in Green Bay.

Ted Thompson is proving that devotion and dedication mean more than stats.

The Packers general manager has stuck to his draft and develop philosophy. He has signed four free agents in Sam Shields, Mike Neal, Andrew Quarless and even B.J. Raji to come back and play their home games at Lambeau Field.

I’ve seen and heard numerous people bash Thompson for not bringing in free agents from other teams in order to help the Packers win their fifth Super Bowl title.

Frankly, the fact that Thompson likes to embrace loyalty and reward his guys shouldn’t be overlooked.

Remember, when you bring in outside guys, there is a bit of a transition period as the newbies get acquainted with how things are run. They must get acclimated to the playbook, varying types of schemes for different types of situations and know what and how is expected.

Obviously, former players already know that. They’ve already got strong bonds with teammates, which doesn’t hurt the all-important team chemistry, but most importantly, they already know their roles.

Neal is coming back after a season in which he was tied for third on the team in sacks. It would be ridiculous to even assume that he would demand a Clay Matthews role as the focal point of the defense. But if the Packers had brought in a guy like DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen or Julius Peppers who’s to say that wouldn’t have happened?

Same thing on the offensive side. Quarless all-of-a-sudden isn’t going to demand Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb targets because he knows his role in the delicate Packers ecosystem.

There were, heck there still are, decent guys available. Brian Orakpo is still hanging around, but since he was franchised by the Redskins nobody wants to part with two first round draft picks for a guy that is now arguing with Washington about whether he should be franchised as a linebacker or a defensive end. (It should be noted that the franchise designation as a linebacker is $11.455 million as opposed to $13.116 million for a defensive end).

10

March

Jared Allen and the Green Bay Packers: Crazy Enough to Work

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Aaron Rodgers, Jared Allen, Packers free agency

Future teammates? It’s so crazy it just might work!

The Green Bay Packers have enjoyed a long run at (or near) the top of the NFC North and their divisional rivals are trying anything to knock Green Bay off of their perch, particularly the Minnesota Vikings.

It’s been a running joke amongst Packers fans for some time now that Minnesota is taking retread Green Bay Players in the hopes of passing them for supremacy in the NFC North.  History certainly makes it look that way, at least.  From Darren Sharper to Brett Favre to most recently Greg Jennings and Desmond Bishop, the Packers’ rivals to the west seem obsessed with getting as many former Green Bay players as they can.

Is it now turn for the Packers to return the favor?

With Sam Shields having recently signed a four-year contract to remain with the Packers, the team now turns its focus to improving the front seven of a defense that has fallen short of expectations three years running.  While safety seems to be the most glaring need on defense at the moment, the Packers also are still in need of improving their pass rush and allow their talented cornerbacks to get some turnovers.

That’s where a former Viking comes into play.  With the future of pretty much the entire defensive line in question (save Datone Jones), Packers general manager Ted Thompson may not be able to fill all the holes through the draft and very well may have to wade into the free agent waters.

If he does, there is one name he should consider and it’s a name that will make many Packers fans cringe: Jared Allen.

With recent reports that Allen will not be returning to Minnesota, he is set to test free agency for the first time in his career.  At the age of 31, Allen still has good years in him and would by no means be a “stop gap” solution for a team.  Adding him to the Green Bay defensive line would immediately add a pass rush and would take a lot of pressure off of Clay Matthews and the linebackers.

On the surface, Allen would not appear to be a “Packer person” and maybe that’s what the defense and the team as a whole needs.  While Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy focused strongly on toughening up their team in 2013, there is still a perception out there the Packers are not a team to bust the opposition in the mouth especially on defense.

22

November

Packers Periscope: Week 12 vs Minnesota Vikings

The Past: The Packers played their last game at the Mall of America Field at the Metrodome in week 8 and showed exactly how dangerous a balanced Packers offense could be.  In short, the offense was brutally efficient; even without Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley, quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 24 passes out of 29 for 285 yards and two touchdowns to Jordy Nelson while adding 31 yards on 6 scrambles.  However the running attack needed no help from Rodgers this time as Eddie Lacy ground the Vikings defense for 94 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown while James Starks provided the change of pace with 57 yards on only 7 carries (8.1 ypc) and a touchdown.

On defense, the loss of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry certainly didn’t help with the pass rush, but with Adrian Peterson’s body obviously starting to break down plus a “give up” call to put Christian Ponder back after perhaps the worst quarterback play in the history of the NFL by Josh Freeman the week against the Giants before left the Vikings offense in shambles; Peterson only managed 60 yards on a paltry 13 attempts while Ponder completed 50% of his passes for only 145 yards.

Perhaps the most interesting story of the night happened after the game where Greg Jennings purposefully pulled Aaron Rodgers aside and proceeded to awkwardly hug/presumable apologize for about 5 minutes to which Rodgers just nodded dutifully.  Neither Rodgers nor Jennings has fully disclosed what was said on the field, but as both players might be watching from the sidelines this game probably means that this will be a non-issue for either team (not that that will stop the media from covering it like it was).

The Present: The Vikings are perhaps as injury riddled in key positions as the Packers are, which is no small task.  Star running back Adrian Peterson has been hobbled by a groin injury and hasn’t been as explosive as he once was.  Leading wide receiver Greg Jennings was a surprise scratch from last weeks game against the Seattle Seahawks, much to the dismay of head coach Leslie Frasier. If Jennings does indeed miss his homecoming against the Packers, how much of it will because he simply doesn’t want to be on the field when he knows he can’t win back the fans?  The Vikings still also have questions at quarterback, Josh Freeman was expected to see the field at some point after recovering from his concussion due to his relatively large contract, but hasn’t seen the field as Matt Cassel played in relief of starter Christian Ponder when he dislocated his shoulder two weeks ago.  Aside from Christian Ponder’s shoulder injury, he will also be without his favorite target in tight end Kyle Rudolph, who is likely to be out with a broken foot.

28

October

Packers Rookie LT David Bakhtiari Masters the Metrodome

Packers LT David Bakhtiari

Packers rookie LT held Vikings DE Jared Allen without a tackle or sack on Sunday night.

It was Oct. 4, 2009. My wife and I got married two days before and to kick off our honeymoon, we had tickets to watch the Packers play the Vikings at the Metrodome in Brett Favre’s first game against his former team.

We couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to start our new life together than by watching the Packers stick it to Favre under the giant Teflon egg shell that somehow passed for a professional sports venue.

Well, things didn’t work out as planned. Favre was the one sticking it to the Packers and the Vikings rolled to an easy victory that soured our first few days of marital bliss.

Obviously, things have turned around since then for the Packers, but one thing has remained consistently shaky whenever the Vikings visited the Humpty Dumpty Dome: Green Bay’s left tackles always struggle.

On the night-to-forget in 2009, T.J. Lang and Daryn Colledge combined to allow four sacks, six hurries and one QB hit from the left tackle slot. Aaron Rodgers was often doomed before he was able to set his feet as he tried to out-duel Favre.

Lang and College might have turned in one of the worst left tackle performances in Packers’ history that night, but they’re not the only left tackle’s to struggle in the Dome.

According to Pro Football Focus, Packers left tackles allowed six sacks, five QB hits and nine hurries in five games at the Metrodome from 2008-12. The collective pass block rating of anyone who lined up to protect Rodgers’ blind side was a paltry -8.2. Run blocking from left tackle wasn’t much better — a collective -4.1 over the same time period.

Much of that damage has been caused by Vikings defensive end Jared Allen. Allen has eaten up many left tackles over the years, not just left tackles wearing green and gold. In addition to the god-awful horn and piped in noise, one of the most annoying things about the Metrodome is Allen’s calf-roping sack dance, a dance that Packers fans have seen far too much of over the years.

Thanks to Bakhtiari on Sunday night, though, the only thing Allen was roping were a couple of giant goose eggs in the sacks and tackles column.

5

January

Now a Veteran, Newhouse’s Play is Key to Packers Playoff Run

Marshall Newhouse and Jared Allen

Marshall Newhouse vs. Jared Allen will go a long way in determining the Packers’ fate on Saturday night.

If the Packers’ offensive line holds up, Aaron Rodgers and his (finally) healthy wide receivers should be able to score at least 30 points against the Vikings on Saturday night.

If the Packers put up 30, do we really think the Vikings – with Christian Ponder at quarterback – can once again score more than 30 and beat the Packers in a shootout for the second consecutive week? This time on the road, outside, on grass, in freezing temperatures?

I doubt it. Even if Adrian Peterson goes off again, it’s still going to take another strong game from Ponder for the Vikings to top 30 points.

But back to the Packers’ offensive line. We didn’t hear Marshall Newhouse’s or Jared Allen’s name called often during Sunday’s game. That’s because Newhouse was quietly doing a good job blocking Allen.

Newhouse has had his bad moments this season, but for the most part, he’s been decent. If what he did on Sunday against Allen is any indication of how he will perform in the playoffs, the outlook for the Packers’ offense is bright.

Don Barclay has boosted the Packers’ running game since taking over at right tackle. Pass protection has been a different story, especially on Sunday when Everson Griffen and Brian Robinson got around Barclay for sacks.

With three sacks, a hit, and a hurry allowed (to go along with two penalites) Pro Football Focus gave Barclay a -3.1 grade, the lone Packers’ lineman to grade out negatively. Barclay also had a -3.1 grade in week 13 against Minnesota.

If Newhouse holds up on the left side, and the pass protection can be shifted to focus on helping Barclay, that should go a long way in keeping Rodgers upright and giving him time to play pitch-and-catch with his healthy receivers against an outmanned Vikings’ secondary.

But if the Vikings’ front four gets to Rodgers and gets to him early, we could see a repeat of what happened against the Giants in last season’s divisional round: an outmanned Giants’ secondary bolstered by a pass rush that overwhelmed the Packers’ offensive line and rattled Rodgers.

To me, it all hinges on Newhouse. Newhouse is no longer the inexperienced guy on the line who is trying to find his way and doing his best to survive. That guy is now Barclay (and Evan Dietrich-Smith, I suppose).

4

January

Keys to the Game: Vikings at Packers Wild Card Playoff Edition

Matthews tackling Peterson

Matthews & Co. have to find a way to corral Peterson on Saturday or it could be another early exit from the postseason for Green Bay

Well here we are.  The playoffs.  I have been waiting for this game since I watched a hapless Green Bay Packers team get trounced at home in the Divisional round by the Giants last January.  It was a presumptuous wish, as many teams don’t appear in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons but somehow I knew an Aaron Rodgers-led team would.  As far as the Minnesota Vikings as their opponent, I wouldn’t have hand-picked that matchup.

While Green Bay has had the upper hand lately in this series, the Vikings have shown signs of life in 2012 and played the Packers tough both times.  Last week, they earned their first win against Green Bay since 2009 and snapped the Packers’ 12 game winning streak against NFC North opponents.  Anytime a team faces a divisional opponent, all bets are off and anything goes.  In the postseason, that theory is even stronger.

After the Vikings strong performance last Sunday, many believe they have a better chance than most would assume as they head to Green Bay for this Saturday night’s game.  Running back Adrian Peterson posted his second highlight-reel game in a row against the Packers and quarterback Christian Ponder proved he can take care of the football against the Packers’ ball-hawking secondary.

As we look to this week’s Keys to the game, some remain the same but with the Packers getting some new personnel in this matchup, a few wrinkles may emerge.  This is going to be a long one so break out your snacks and get comfortable!

Adrian Peterson

You knew this is where this entire thread would start.  If you didn’t, maybe you missed last week’s game?  Or perhaps this entire season?  Peterson has only defied many odds time and time again.  At the risk of entering “broken record” territory, a quick recap:  2,097 total rushing yards, 12 touchdowns and just four fumbles in 348 attempts this season.  Only six other running backs have hit the 2,000 yard mark.  I am not certain but I’ll bet not many of them did it coming straight off of an ACL tear.

30

December

Packers at Vikings: Keys To The Game

Aaron Rodgers vs. Minnesota Vikings

Rodgers in a baseball cap and waving a celebratory towel would be a welcome sight on Sunday. Green Bay can clinch a playoff bye with a win

Here we are in week 17 and another season is nearly in the books.  The Green Bay Packers end their regular season schedule with a trip to Minnesota to face the Vikings.  A few years back, the NFL changed its schedule making such that the last week of the season would be a divisional game for all teams.  This was in the hopes that the games would be meaningful and teams wouldn’t rest slews of their starters in preparation for the postseason.

The NFL has gotten its wish this year and with this game.  Each team has something on the line.  The Vikings need to win to secure a playoff spot.  The Packers can clinch the second seed in the NFC with a win.  Should the Vikings win, the Packers can still gain the #2 seed with a San Francisco and a Seattle loss.

Last week’s format was a success so I’m going stick with a “Keys to the Game” theme.  Let’s see what will likely determine the outcome of tomorrow’s contest.

Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson

I feel like a broken record with the thoughts I share about Peterson but given the season he is having, they bear some repeating.  According to ESPN, Peterson has 1,898 yards in 15 games.  102 yards shy of 2,000 yards, an accomplishment only six other running backs can claim.  Peterson is also 208 yards shy of the 28 year-old and all-time single-season rushing record set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.

Peterson is surely going to win a major award after this season.  Whether it’s the Comeback Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player award or Offensive MVP, Peterson deserves at least one of those.  I watched some of the tape of Peterson’s first game at Green Bay this season.   He is running as quickly and as hard as ever.  Many of the yards he picked up on long runs in that game came after contact.  Nowadays, we see more and more backs running out of bounds or diving to the ground before the big hit.  Peterson is a throwback and reminds me a lot of Walter Payton.