14

January

So You Want To Fire Dom Capers?

A lot of fans have been clamoring for the head of Dom Capers, the perceived problem to all of the Packers woes.  Some have argued that Dom Capers is getting too old to be coaching, his defensive philosophy and schemes too outdated and too complex for players to handle and perhaps most puzzling his lack of coaching causing injuries, missed assignments and miscommunication between the defensive unit.  However, before you start cleaning out his office, you have to have a plan B; namely if the Packers did fire Dom Capers, who would be the new 3-4 defensive coordinator?  Before all of you shout “I don’t care, anyone would be better than Dom Capers”, you and I are “anyone” and we all know that anyone that comments on this site would make a terrible defensive coordinator (let’s not even pretend).  With that in mind, I’ve created a list of the some of the potential coaching candidates that could replace Dom Capers

In House Options:

  1. Mike Trgovac: Trgovac has the most experience among the assistant coaches and is the only one with previous defensive coordinator experience having been the DC for the Carolina Panthers from 2003-2008. However in Carolina the Panthers ran a 4-3 alignment so it’s unclear how much experience he has with the 3-4 defense as a whole.  Furthermore, Trgovac turned down a 2-year contract extension with Carolina in order to take the Packers defensive line coaching position, which is interesting in itself considering Trgovac essentially took a pay cut and dropped down a rung on the coaching ladder to work for the Packers, which might be an indication that he doesn’t have an interest in being a defensive coordinator any more.  Of the in house choices, Trgovac probably has the best chance of being promoted to defensive coordinator; while he has turned down several coordinator interviews over the last couple years stating that he doesn’t want to move his family, obviously becoming the defensive coordinator for the Packers would not have this issue.  Furthermore, 3-4 defensive line production is largely a stat less critique, which would likely help Trgovac hide some of the poor performances the defensive line has had over the years.
2

January

All eyes on Packers’ linebackers against Kaepernick, 49ers

Although not on the radar before the season, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba is playing a key role for a beaten-up Packers defense as the playoffs are set to begin.

Although not on the radar before the season, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba is playing a key role for a beaten-up Packers defense as the playoffs are set to begin.

A year ago, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick set a single-game NFL record for a quarterback by rushing for 181 yards against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Kaepernick totaled 444 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, as the Packers were perplexed by the 49ers’ offense throughout the game, allowing 45 points to the 49ers despite a Sam Shields pick-six in the first quarter.

The Packers’ secondary, too, had its fair share of problems, as did the defensive line, but perhaps no position group was overmatched against the 49ers’ offense more than Green Bay’s linebackers. Erik Walden signed a four-year contract worth $16 million with the Indianapolis Colts this offseason, but money can’t buy instincts, and Walden is still looking for Kaepernick almost a year after last season’s dud in the playoffs.

Entering the 2013 season, the Packers were determined to be better prepared for the 49ers offense–and specifically, Kaepernick–as a rematch was scheduled for opening weekend in San Francisco.

And the Packers got mixed results. While Green Bay was able to contain Kaepernick to just 22 yards rushing, the quarterback racked up a career-high 412 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry started for the Packers at outside linebacker that game and helped keep Kaepernick in the pocket, but four months later, Matthews is out with a (re)broken thumb and Perry, due to battles with injuries and subpar play, is now merely a rotational player.

Last January, Walden’s debacle against the read-option left many clamoring for Perry’s return to the lineup after he suffered a season-ending wrist injury as a rookie. Because, at the very least, the 270-pound Perry would be a significant upgrade over Walden setting the edge against the run, right?

As one Lee Corso might say, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Perry played a season-high 57 snaps (of a possible 81) against the 49ers in the season opener, but he played just 12 snaps last Sunday against the Chicago Bears in a must-win game. Mike Neal–still in his first season at outside linebacker–played 47 of 51 snaps against the Bears, and undrafted rookie Andy Mulumba played 43.

18

August

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Preseason

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers 

Packers beat Rams
The Packers got an exhibition win over the Rams on Saturday night. I didn’t get a chance to watch the game, but here is what I gathered about the Packers’ performance from those Tweeting while watching: First-team offense looks good, Johnny Jolly took a giant step forward, Micah Hyde has promise, Eddie Lacy is big and tough, the Packers don’t have a kicker, pass-rush from players on the first-team defense not named Clay Matthews isn’t there, D.J. Williams keeps dropping passes. For a more in-depth recap of the game, be sure to check out Jersey Al’s post.

Williams ready for week 1?
Out with a knee bruise since July 30, cornerback Tramon Williams said he should be ready for the season-opener against the 49ers. Of course, in the same interview, Williams also said he thought he’d be back by now. Never trust a player’s timetable for returning from an injury. Players always claim that the injury “isn’t that bad” or “should only take a couple of days.” They’re rarely right. I’m no doctor myself, but given how cautious the Packers are with injuries, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Williams misses at least the 49ers game.

Woodson praises Rodgers
Former Packers defensive back Charles Woodson doesn’t understand why Greg Jennings and Donald Driver were questioning Aaron Rodgers’ leadership lately. As soon as Jennings started spouting off, I remembered an interview Rob Demovsky — former Packers beat writer with the Green Bay Press Gazette and now at ESPN — did on Packer Transplants where he called the Packers wide receiving corp “the biggest group of frontrunners he’s ever been around.”  It’s scary how I remembered that quote, but it’s looking more and more like Mr. Demovsky was spot on.

Grading Packers’ rookies
Here’s a nice report card of the Packers rookies’ through three weeks of training camp. If I was the teacher, I’d probably put tackle David Bakhtiari and Datone Jones at the top of the class. I don’t think any parents need to be called in for a special conference yet.

11

June

Which Packers Assistant is the next to Become a Head Coach?

Could Tom Clements be the next Packers assistant to become a head coach?

Could Tom Clements be the next Packers assistant to become a head coach?

John Schneider to Seattle. Reggie McKenzie to Oakland. John Dorsey to Kansas City.

A lot of talented executives have left the Packers front office for general manager jobs with other teams over the last three years.

Joe Philbin has been the only Packers assistant coach to land a head coaching gig in that time period. Philbin departed as offensive coordinator and took over as Miami’s head coach after the 2012 season.

There’s plenty of talent on the Packers coaching roster. Linebackers coach Winston Moss and safeties coach Darren Perry have been loosely linked to head coach openings in the past. Current offensive coordinator Tom Clements is also highly regarded for his role in the Packers’ offense and the development of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Edgar Bennett has received some publicity lately as a firey up-and-comer. Kevin Greene is also an intense guy that could catch the eye of a general manager who wants a motivator as a head coach.

It’s impossible to predict which way the wind will blow on the assistant coach open market. One season an assistant might be the next big thing and a cinch to become a head coach. Then his team falters, he doesn’t get offered a head coaching job, and we never hear from him again.

Even Dom Capers was whispered to be on some team’s head coach lists after the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Can you imagine anyone offering Capers a head coaching job now? Doubtful, but if the Packers make a drastic turnaround on defense, you never know.

I consider myself an obsessive NFL fan — not just a Packers fan — and even I never heard of Mike McCarthy when the Packers hired him. Now, he’s one of the most successful head coaches in franchise history.

If I had to guess, I’d guess that Tom Clements gets a shot at being a head coach before any other assistant. Guys that understand offense and the quarterback position will always have an advantage in today’s NFL. Based on what little I know about Clements, he also seems to have the demeanor to be a strategic and level-headed coach.

10

June

Nick Perry preparing for an important sophomore season

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews

Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry faced a tough transition from a college defensive end to outside linebacker in his first NFL season.

Perry showed flashes of promise throughout training camp and through the early stages of the season before a wrist injury landed him on the injured reserve. Appearing in six regular-season games, Perry recorded a pair of sacks and eight quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.

But since allowing the 49ers to rack up 579 yards in the playoffs, the Packers have made some changes to their defense. Perry, last year’s first-round pick, and Datone Jones, this year’s top pick, project as opening-day starters for the Packers in 2013.

Tyler Dunne wrote a piece outlining the importance of Perry and Jones at JSOnline.com, and Jacob Westendorf tabbed Perry’s improvement as the key to the Packers’ defense at PackersTalk.com.

Last season, the Packers ranked fourth in the NFL with 47 sacks. Clay Matthews racked up a team-high 13 sacks, while defensive end Mike Neal was second on the team with 4.5.

But if Perry lives up to his first-round draft position, the Packers finally have their bookend complement to Matthews. And although it’s only June and the team has yet to practice in full pads, head coach Mike McCarthy likes what he sees from Perry.

“He looks so much smoother and athletic than he did as a rookie,” McCarthy said, according to ESPN.com. “A lot of that is the transition he was making. Nick is a powerful man.”

Perry’s physicality will be a welcome addition not only to the pass rush, but to the Packers’ run defense as well. For the second consecutive season, Pro Football Focus graded former Packer Erik Walden as the worst 3-4 outside linebacker in football. Against the run, Walden came in at No. 26 among 34 players at his position.

Just six games into his professional career, it’s far too early to rush to any conclusions about Perry’s NFL future. But athletically, Perry certainly gives the Packers a lot to be excited about.

At last year’s NFL Scouting Combine at 271 pounds, Perry clocked a 4.55 in the forty-yard dash, put up 35 reps on the 225-pound bench press and recorded a vertical jump of 38.5 inches. Perry’s ten-yard split of 1.51 seconds bests 2013 fourth-round running back Johnathan Franklin’s time of 1.54.

29

May

Packers Curious Love Affair with Nate Palmer

Packers sixth round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Nate Palmer, OLB, Illinois St.

Nate Palmer, OLB, Illinois St.

Ted Thompson didn’t have to do it. Nate Palmer was not going to be drafted. You would be hard pressed to find him breaking the top 400 in anyone’s big board or player rankings.

Yet, when the Packers’ turn came up in the sixth round, they made Palmer the 193rd player drafted. This despite the fact they were holding three seventh round picks, and could have surely taken him with their last pick at # 232. Even better, as the only team that had him in for a tryout, the Packers would have been frontrunners to sign him as an Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA), although I can understand not wanting to risk that.

But why jump the gun and take him in the sixth? This is a question that’s been bugging me for the last month. In a draft where the Packers got fantastic value by not jumping the gun on Eddie Lacy or Johnathan Franklin, why not let Palmer fall to them in the 7th? That’s what Ted does.

Now, I can hear you all out there saying, “Hey Al – that’s speculation, some other team could have taken him.” Of course that’s a possibility, but pretty remote, as neither Palmer or his coach expected him to be drafted at all. He wasn’t even listed as a Free Agent signee on most draft boards, meaning he was expected to be a tryout invite guy. He was shocked when he got the call from Green Bay.

The Packers have had some measure of success in bringing in DE to OLB conversion projects from small schools (Zombo, Lattimore, Moses), but all were free agents. So does drafting Palmer mean they think he is a better prospect than the rest?

By now, you probably know the story of how Packers OLB coach Kevin Greene and Illinois State coach Spence Nowinsky spent a day together exchanging pass-rushing knowledge and watching tape of Clay Matthews (if not, read about it here). As he watched the Packers defense and how they used Matthews, Nowinsky kept thinking to himself how well Palmer would fit in the Packers’ defense. “As I’m watching that, I’m thinking Nate has a great opportunity with the Packers because his skill, his athleticism, his work ethic, he fits in really good,” Nowinsky said.

10

August

Packers Injuries: Bishop’s Pass Rushing Tough to Replace

Desmond Bishop

Packers LB Desmond Bishop is helped off the field after huring his knee Thursday in an exhibition game against the Chargers.

As the Packers wait for (hopefully good) news about the seriousness of Desmond Bishop’s injury, let’s take a quick look at where the linebacker will be missed most if he’s out for an extended period, or (gulp) the season.

Bishop was one of the few defensive players who made plays in 2011. That’s a vague phrase, but if you watched every Packers game you know what I’m talking about.

Very few Packers defenders flew to the ball last season and actually made something happen at the point of contact. Bishop did, and if he’s out, that playmaking ability will be sorely missed.

D.J. Smith likely will fill in for Bishop. I think Smith has the skills to replace a good chunk of Bishop’s playmaking ability beyond the line of scrimage. If Smith is around the ballcarrier, odds are he’s going to bring him down. He’s a tackling machine.

If you’re a sound tackler, you’re bound to make a few higher impact plays as well. Cause a fumble, lay out a TE going for a catch over the middle, tip away a would-be TD pass. Those types of plays tend to happen for guys who are fundamentally good at football, and I think Smith is fundamentally good at football.

It’s in the other team’s backfield where Bishop will be tough to replace.

Bishop is a good pass rusher. He’s not  known as a pass rusher, but he got after the QB when asked to blitz last season. His five sacks were second on the team and he added a number of QB pressures as well.

When Smith filled in for Bishop in the latter half of 2011, he had no problems tackling. If Smith was around the ballcarrier, the ballcarrier ended up on the ground.

But Smith looked lost when blitzing. He wasn’t a factor at all and usually got swallowed up by a lineman or easily discarded to the outside and away from the play.

If Bishop is out, and Nick Perry or Jerel Worthy don’t immediately help the pass rush, the loss of Bishop is a serious blow. It puts even more pressure on a secondary that struggled to cope with a nonexistent pass rush a season ago.