13

April

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Last season it was Mike Daniels. The season before it was Randall Cobb. If the Packers are going to contend for a Super Bowl in 2014, at least one player will have to make the leap from potential to breakout star.

Here are the top contenders:

WR Jarrett Boykin
Boykin is probably at the top of most people’s most likely to break out lists. He was successful last season and he has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Teams will be ready for him in 2014, though. If he’s going to make the leap, he’ll have to do a better job of getting separation.

DL Datone Jones
Unlike Boykin, Jones is probably near the bottom of most people’s lists. Fans soured on Jones late last season and, apparently, so did the coaching staff as fellow rookie Josh Boyd got more snaps down the stretch. I still have high hopes for Jones and I think he can fulfill those hopes. You need to be patient with young defensive linemen. They rarely break out in their rookie seasons. Let’s see what year two brings for Jones.

CB Davon House
We’ve been waiting for House to take the next step for a while now, haven’t we? If he doesn’t take it in 2014, he probably never will. House’s size appears to make him an ideal fit in Green Bay’s defense, but whenever he strings together some good plays, he follows it up with a couple of stinkers and winds up on the bench. With Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward on the roster, House doesn’t have much room for error.

LT David Bakhtiari
We all groaned when Bryan Bulaga went down and the rookie Bakhtiari ended up starting at left tackle. By the end of the season, those groans turned into “Huh. That kid can play.” Yes, it was a good debut for the kid whose last name I hate spelling, but his ceiling is higher than just a feel-good, surprising rookie playing well in a tough spot. The Packers offense can be a whole lot better if Bakhtiari transforms from promising rookie to left-tackle anchor.

TE Brandon Bostick
Based on what little I’ve seen of him, Bostick seems to do everything well except catch the ball. He especially seems to struggle with drops in traffic. If he develops his hands, especially in tight spaces, I like what he can do in the passing game.

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.

20

February

Is the Next Jarrett Boykin on the Packers Roster?

Myles White

Could Myles White end up contributing to the Packers next season?

With Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb due to hit free agency next offseason, the Packers could be looking to draft a wide receiver in April.

Or maybe they’re confident that they can re-up with Nelson and Cobb and aren’t worried about finding another receiver in the draft.

Or maybe they think they have a capable replacement for Nelson or Cobb already on the roster, and the rest of us just don’t know about him yet.

That last scenario seems by far the least plausible, but you never know. Nobody heard of Jarrett Boykin, but he became a reliable receiver and might step into James Jones’ role in 2014 if Jones signs elsewhere.

Of the Packers four “unknown” wide receivers currently on the roster, which one has the best chance of turning into a player? Here’s what I think:

Myles White
Some were saying White was the fastest receiver in training camp. He was also a hurdling star in high school and was signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech. Speed and athleticism isn’t the issue for White. Size is.

White is barely over 180 pounds and probably needs to buff up if he wants to stick around and have a legitimate shot at cracking the lineup. If White gets bigger and improves, he can potentially be a deep outside burner who would be a nice complement to the bigger Jordy Nelson, Jones (if he re-signs), Boykin and Cobb (who likes to work inside).

White was called up off the practice squad for the middle part of the season and didn’t do much in 123 snaps. Of course, he didn’t have Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, either. White’s season came to an end early when he tore cartilage in his knee.

Chris Harper
He used to play for the Seahawks so he must be halfway decent, right? Well, maybe.

Harper has the size (228) to be another Boykin-type of receiver — tough to bring down and holds his own blocking. But there must be a reason he was cut by the Seahawks (and later by the 49ers) not long after getting drafted in the fourth round. Bob McGinn ranked Harper 12th in his pre-draft wide receiver rankings and quoted scouts who said Harper catches well in traffic and can play in the red zone.

19

February

Jarrett Boykin 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction: When Jarrett Boykin replaced Randall Cobb in the Ravens game, Boykin  looked like me trying to get a date back in high school: awkward, bumbling and completely out of his element. My game never improved. Boykin’s did.

Packers WR Jarrett Boykin

2) Profile:

Jarrett Boykin

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 11/4/89 in Chattanooga, TN
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 218
  • College: Virginia Tech
  • Rookie Year: 2012
  • NFL Experience: 2 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Be ready in case of injury. With Cobb missing most of the season and James Jones also missing time, Boykin got his chance and made the most of it after a slow start.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Lowlights don’t get much lower than Boykin against the Ravens. He caught one pass in five targets, dropped two balls and was on a completely different planet than Aaron Rodgers. The following week against Minnesota, Boykin caught all five passes thrown his way and began showing that he may be more than just a backup.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Boykin is an aggressive receiver who is tough to deal with after the catch. Might he be the replacement for James Jones if Jones departs via free agency? I would’ve said “no way” earlier this season, but Boykin showed improvement, and with a little more consistency catching the ball and separating from defensive backs, he’ll stick.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Boykin was only targeted once and didn’t catch a pass. Is Boykin fast enough to separate from good cornersbacks? It didn’t look like it against San Francisco

Season Report Card:

(A-) Level of expectations met during the season

(B) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(D) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade:  B-

——————

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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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)

11

November

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Eagles 27, Packers 13

With Aaron Rodgers injured, the Packers are relying on Scott Tolzien at quarterback.

With Aaron Rodgers injured, the Packers are relying on Scott Tolzien at quarterback.

Scott Tolzien played the majority of the game for the Green Bay Packers at quarterback.

Scott. Tolzien.

To his credit, he was a solid quarterback for the Wisconsin Badgers, but he was, in essence, a puppet carrying out Paul Chryst’s game plan, which relied heavily on a dominant power run game. But in his two years as the Badgers’ starter, never did I think Tolzien would be playing in the NFL, much less for a playoff contender like the Packers.

But against the Philadelphia Eagles, Tolzien filled in for an injured Seneca Wallace and played pretty well. Despite being intercepted in the red zone, which took points off the board, Tolzien moved the ball much better than Wallace did last week against the Chicago Bears after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone.

For a fan base that’s used to watching Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre under center, the past couple games have been a wakeup call. Last week, Rodgers played one series before getting injured, and this week, the Packers again lost their starting quarterback (Wallace) after the first series.

Since 1992, the Packers have had three quarterbacks start a football game: Favre, Rodgers and Matt Flynn. Next week, with Tolzien slated to get the start, will mark the Packers’ third starting quarterback in three weeks. Crazy.

By no means was the Packers’ loss on Sunday due to Tolzien’s struggles. The blame falls on the defense.

Game Balls

Datone Jones

As bad as the defense was, Jones had (by far) the best game of his young NFL career against the Eagles. Jones was responsible for two sacks on Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, which isn’t bad for a guy who was only on the field for 19 plays. After a debacle like Sunday’s, it’s easy to look past the few positives, but the rookie had a big day.

Jarrett Boykin

With a pair of backup quarterbacks throwing him the football, Boykin tied a career high with eight catches and set a new career best with 112 receiving yards. Quietly, Boykin is having a really nice season as his opportunities have increased. Despite subpar speed, Boykin always seems to be where he’s supposed to be, and he catches the ball when it’s thrown to him. That’s a really good thing for a wide receiver.