28

January

Jarius Wynn: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Jarius Wynn

Jarius Wynn

1) Introduction: For a couple games early in the season, it looked like Jarius Wynn had a shot at becoming the next no-name player to become a name player on the Packers roster. Unfortunately, Wynn fizzled out and got stuck in no-name playerville, a city populated by several Packers defensive linemen.

2) Profile:

Jarius Jessereel Wynn

Position: DE
Height: 6-3
Weight: 285 lbs.
AGE: 22

Career Stats:

3) Expectations coming into the season: Pass rusher. Nobody expected Wynn to morph into Reggie White, but as a smallish DE, the Packers needed him to use his quickness to get after the QB. He got after it for a while, but couldn’t sustain his early-season success.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Wynn had two sacks against the Bears in week three and three sacks through the first three games. Some of us were saying, “Cullen Jenkins who?” Unfortunately, Wynn never recorded another sack and the rest of the season was mostly a low-light.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: He helped out a lot the first month of the season. But once the QB pressures dried up, he was a liability against the run.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Like the rest of the defensive line, Wynn didn’t contribute much in the playoffs.

Season Report Card:

(D) Level of expectations met during the season
(D+) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(F) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: D

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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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23

December

Packers DLs Ryan Pickett Out, Mike Neal Questionable Against Bears

Ryan Pickett was ruled out for the Packers on Sunday. (Photo: Jim Biever, Packers.com)

The Green Bay Packers could very well be without two of their most heavily used defensive lineman against the Chicago Bears, as coach Mike McCarthy ruled out Ryan Pickett and made Mike Neal questionable for Sunday’s game.

Pickett suffered a concussion against the Oakland Raiders in Week 14 and hasn’t played since. McCarthy made it sound early in the week like they were holding him out of practice just to be cautious, but Pickett obviously hasn’t shown enough improvement to give it a go on Sunday. His situation is worth monitoring now that this second concussion has caused him to miss two straight games.

Neal, who has dealt with shoulder injuries throughout his brief career in Green Bay, hurt his shoulder against the Kansas City Chiefs and has been limited this week in practice. It’s 50/50 whether he’ll play on Sunday. He’s been ineffective since returning from a knee injury suffered in training camp.

If neither can go, the Packers will be relying on a rotation of B.J. Raji, Jarius Wynn, C.J. Wilson and Howard Green as down lineman on Sunday. Even Green was listed with a foot injury but is probable to play.

A matchup to watch on Sunday will obviously be the Packers’ injury-plauged defensive line against Chicago’s much-maligned offensive line.

McCarthy also ruled out Chad Clifton (hamstring, back) and Greg Jennings (knee) on Friday. Neither were expected to play. McCarthy also said Jennings will be challenged to play against Detroit, but remained confident that Jennings would be back for the postseason.

Everyone else listed on the injury report, including James Starks, Brandon Saine and Desmond Bishop, are probable to play.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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30

October

Packers: Answering 5 Bye Week Questions on the Defense, Schedule

The Green Bay Packers are undefeated at 7-0, but they still have question marks as they finish up their bye in Week 8. Let’s breakdown some of the most-asked questions I’ve seen about the Packers during the bye. You know you need your fix on this Packers-less Sunday, anyway.

Is there reason to think the defense can improve during the last 9 games?

One thing we know is that any improvement from the Packers defense will have to come from within. Guys like Chris Harris have been released in recent weeks, but Ted Thompson doesn’t typically bite on those kind of re-treads from other teams. So, the question becomes: Can this defense, as it looks now, improve over the next couple of months?

There’s definitely reason to think so. Tramon Williams is finally getting healthy, and we finally saw him bumping at the line against the Vikings and being more physical. That’s a big part of his game that was lost when he hurt his shoulder. A week off can only help that injury. Same goes for Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett, each of which have dealt with dings early on. Frank Zombo should return. Mike Neal, who we’ll address next, could be back. Healthy ammunition is always dangerous for a defensive gunner like Dom Capers.

But to reach their 2010 level, the Packers are going to need a player or two to step up that isn’t one of the stars. Last season, it was Shields. Someone along the defensive line, like Jarius Wynn or C.J. Wilson might be a candidate. Possibly Neal if he returns soon. Vic So’oto could potentially provide something in the pass rush. Either way, someone needs to emerge as a standout playing next to the established stars.

What’s the deal with DE Mike Neal? Will he play in 2011?

The first week after the bye was always the target date for Neal, but that looks highly unlikely now. His rehab is behind schedule, and you get the feeling that Neal might not make a big contribution this season. Regardless of when he can start practicing again, the Packers are going to take his comeback slow. It’s going to take him awhile to work his way back into the rotation.

16

October

Packers vs. Rams – Game Day First Impressions, Unfiltered: Packers 24, Rams 3

Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams:

Here is my unfiltered game day blog post of comments, observations and first impressions.

It’s #Throwbackweekend in Green Bay and the Packers are looking to go 6-0 against the winless Rams. Al Harris returns to Green Bay, along with Brady Poppinga. Harris will be matched up against the Packers’ explosive receiving corp and will have all he can do to make his homecoming a successful one. Good luck, Al. You’re going to need it.

Mike McCarthy Pregame Show on 620 WTMJ:

Sorry, no pregame comments again this week. I was making a batch of chicken and wild rice soup and lost track of time. Call me Martha Stewart. Or Betty Crocker.

Packers vs. Falcons – First Impressions – First Half:

That club on Morgan Burnett’s hand looks vicious. I wouldn’t mess with him if a scrap breaks out on the field.

The Rams move the ball on their first drive, but stall and settle for a 47-yard field goal attempt that Josh Brown misses. Jackson ran up the middle on 3rd and 11, a conservative call to make sure the Rams remained in FG range. I hate the conservative call on 3rd and 11 if I’m a Rams fan. You’re the Rams. You’re 0-4. Three points won’t beat the Packers. Take a chance and go for the first down.

Weird holding call on Newhouse, but Rodgers takes a sack anyway and the Packers have to settle for a FG. I have a sense that this offense will have no problem moving the ball today even though they were held to a FG on this first drive.

AJ Hawk is showing some life today.

DJ Williams blocks nobody and Starks gets stuffed for a loss. I much prefer Crabtree to line up as the blocker on those plays.

Kuhn stopped on 3rd and 2. You have Aaron Rodgers and a bunch of good WRs, and your third-down call is a pitch to Kuhn from the shotgun?

The Rams get the ball back and start moving it again. I’d like to see a little better pass rush from the Packers on early downs.

Packers stop the Rams on 4th down and take over near midfield.

27

September

Week 4 Packers Stock Report: Burnett and Wynn Rising, Peprah and Sherrod Falling

Jarius Wynn's sacked Jay Cutler twice on Sunday and earned a spot on this week's stock report.

The Green Bay Packers showed why they are the best team in the NFL on Sunday by beating the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field and improving to 3-0. The Packers were by far the more talented team on the field Sunday, and should have won by more than 10 points.

The Packers stock continues to rise, but there are still a few things the Packers need to do in order to be considered dominant:

  • Put teams away. Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers finally figured out how to win close games last season. Now they need to figure out how to not make games so close.
  • Improve against the pass. I don’t know if it’s possible to be a dominant defense in today’s NFL, but the Packers need to do a better job against the pass.
  • More consistency in the pass rush. I’m looking at you Clay Matthews. We can talk about containment and setting the edge all we want, but Matthews needs to get in the QB’s face and bring him down. He hasn’t done that so far.
If the Packers continue to do what they’re doing, and figure out the above three things, look out.
That’s enough chatter. Lets get to the Week 4 stock report.

Rising

Morgan Burnett
The Packers have to be very happy with everything they’ve gotten out of Burnett so far. Essentially still a rookie, he’s been in on a couple of big run stops, picked off three passes and showed tremendous athleticism. Some people questioned his aggressiveness out of college, but he’s looked aggressive to me. With Nick Collins done for the season, Burnett needs to keep playing the way he is (and stay healthy).

Jarius Wynn
Who needs Cullen Jenkins? Or Mike Neal? Not the Packers, especially with the way Jarius Wynn is playing. Wynn had two sacks on Sunday and has plugged holes up front admirably. Teams can’t run the ball on Green Bay so far and Wynn is a big reason why. He’s also providing some much needed pass rush. You could put Raji or Pickett in the rising category as well, but I went with Wynn because few people expected him to play at this level.

Jermichael Finley
I told you Finley needed to kick down the door against the Bears. And he did.

26

September

Packers vs. Bears: 5 Observations from Green Bay’s 27-17 Win In Chicago

Photo: Getty images.

Packers vs. Bears: Aaron Rodgers found Jermichael Finley three times for touchdowns and the defense held the Bears to four yards rushing as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Chicago Bears, 27-17, Sunday at Solider Field in Chicago.

Here are five observations from the game:

1. Big man in the red zone

Jermichael Finley sounded confident that he was going to make a major impact on this game, and he backed it up on the field. The Bears didn’t have an answer for him in the intermediate passing game and they certainly couldn’t handle him in the red zone. Rodgers found him three times inside the 20 for back-breaking scores.

On the first, Finley put a fantastic outside-in move on Bears safety Brandon Meriweather, who trailed Finley by a few yards by the time Rodgers found him in the back of the end zone. His second touchdown came when Rodgers rolled right to avoid pressure, and Finley broke off his route perfectly to give Rodgers an area to throw him the football. Finally, on a third-and-9 play in the fourth quarter, Finley exposed a misplaced Cover-2 look where backup safety Craig Steltz was far too slow rotating over. That left 88 wide open in the back corner of the end zone for an easy pitch and catch. All three were fairly routine plays for both Rodgers and Finley, but the fact that the Bears were helpless to stop them is an encouraging sign. If Finley is on the field for 16 games, there is no way he doesn’t score 10 or more touchdowns. He’s just too much inside the 20.

2. Grounding the run

With the way the Bears have struggled to protect Jay Cutler, you’d think the Bears would have wanted to establish the run early and often on Sunday. I definitely thought so, and I figured Matt Forte, who has looked so good through two weeks, would find room running the football against the Packers if he got the opportunities. That couldn’t have been further from what happened. The Packers were dead set on containing Forte and it showed, as the Bears running back Forte had  just two yards on nine carries. Five of those carries went for zero or negative yards. Forte did catch seven passes for 80 yards, but a majority of that came in garbage time with the Bears struggling to stay in the game.

29

August

Despite Losses, Packers’ A.J. Hawk Expects Big Things in 2011

Green Bay Packers Linebacker AJ Hawk

Jim Biever, Packers.com

A.J. Hawk knows the score. In the National Football League, roster turnover is part of the business. Teams change and evolve every season due to the draft and free agency.

The 2011 Green Bay Packers are no different.

After winning their fourth Super Bowl title in February, the Packers were forced to cut ties with several contributors from that championship team, including defensive end Cullen Jenkins and linebacker Nick Barnett.

In their place, the Packers are turning to two players—one who has proven he can play and the other who has failed to show he can stay on the field in his short NFL career. Of course, we’re talking about Desmond Bishop and Mike Neal.

When I talked to Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk on the phone last week, he said the team has high expectations for their defense despite the losses.

However, he did express that it might be difficult to replace Jenkins in the Packers defense.

“The thing about Cullen Jenkins is that you just can’t replace a guy like him,” Hawk said. “He’s a special player. He’s one of the best interior pass rushers I’ve ever seen. Just super quick, with good moves and a knack at getting to the quarterback.”

An unrestricted free agent this offseason, Jenkins signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles a week or so after the lockout was lifted. When asked if he thought the team would bring back Jenkins, Hawk seemed a touch surprised but also cognizant of the NFL’s business landscape.

“Yeah, I was hoping we were going to find a way to bring him back, but I understand there’s a business side to this,” Hawk said. “It hurts us, but I know those kind of things don’t always happen, especially this offseason with the lockout. We only had a short time to negotiate with him, which I’m sure made it tough on both sides.”

The Packers never did get serious in bringing back Jenkins, either because of the perceived cost it would take or the confidence the organization had in the players behind him. Being 30 years old and having an injury history likely also led to the Packers’ failure to offer any deal that Jenkins would have accepted.