29

September

Could the Packers go with Burnett and Banjo at safety?

Chris Banjo's playing time is on the rise, while Jerron McMillian's is declining. Could the Packers pair Banjo with a healthy Morgan Burnett?

Chris Banjo’s playing time is on the rise, while Jerron McMillian’s is declining. Could the Packers pair Banjo with a healthy Morgan Burnett?

Following the Packers’ week two win over Washington, defensive coordinator Dom Capers hinted at a bigger role for undrafted rookie Chris Banjo.

“You could see more and more of Chris Banjo,” Capers said, per Ty Dunne. “I thought he did well. He had one missed tackle one of those long runs, but other than that, I thought he did a nice job. He’s been a physical guy for us there through the preseason.”

And see more and more of Banjo, we did. Banjo was on the field for 54 of 56 snaps last week against the Bengals–more than M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian, according to Pro Football Focus.

Banjo’s snap count could very well go down once starter Morgan Burnett returns to the lineup. But from a physical standpoint, pairing Banjo with Burnett may give the Packers their most talented duo on the back end.

If the Packers could pull the best attributes from Jennings and McMillian, they’d have a top-notch player alongside Burnett. But Jennings (6-0 187) is limited as a run defender, and McMillian struggles in coverage.

Banjo, despite only playing 87 snaps on the season, may be the most complete player of the trio.

Jennings is coming off one of his best games as a professional at Cincinnati. He ranks 25th among 8o safeties who have played at least 25 percent of their team’s defensive snaps, per PFF. McMillian had an impressive pass deflection against the Bengals, but his playing time has decreased dramatically since week one.

McMillian played all 81 snaps in the season opener at San Francisco but was on the field for just 14 plays two weeks later at Cincinnati.

After quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews, Burnett may be the Packers’ toughest player to replace. Burnett isn’t Nick Collins at this point of his career, but there’s a sizable talent gap at safety behind Burnett.

If the trend continues, McMillian could be demoted to Banjo’s role to start the season, which was primarily on special teams. Jennings, barring injury, will continue to see the field in some capacity, while Banjo’s role when Burnett returns remains up in the air.

25

September

No reason to panic despite Packers’ 1-2 start

With Aaron Rodgers under center and Randall Cobb in the lineup, the Packers will be just fine, offensively.

With Aaron Rodgers under center and Randall Cobb in the lineup, the Packers will be just fine, offensively.

Through three weeks, the Green Bay Packers sit at 1-2 entering their much-needed bye week.

Coming into the season, the Week 4 bye may have been seen as a disadvantage, but now, the timing could not have worked out better.

After giving up a 16-point lead and losing in dramatic fashion at Cincinnati, the Packers were left in a cloud of dust, wondering what had happened. The loss gives the Packers a much different feeling during their week off than they would have had they held onto their lead.

But coming out of the bye, the Packers figure to be in their best shape of the young 2013 season. And it’s not time for Packers fans to jump off the cliff just yet.

Perhaps the Packers’ biggest individual boost will be from safety Morgan Burnett. Likely the team’s most irreplaceable part of the secondary, Burnett (even without his dreads) is arguably the Packers’ second-most valuable defensive player behind Clay Matthews.

While the team is deep enough at cornerback to recover from losing a player–such as Casey Hayward–the depth at safety is not as strong.

Against the Bengals, Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings played pretty well overall. But against top-tier quarterbacks, a Burnett-less back end could spell a field day for the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the world.

Some are quick to point out that Burnett is not Nick Collins; Burnett may not be the savior for Green Bay’s defense, but there’s a reason why the Packers gave him a healthy long-term contract extension.

Whether it’s in Week 5 against Detroit or shortly after, the secondary will get an added boost from Hayward, who led the team with six interceptions as a rookie last season.

Hayward has been nursing a hamstring injury since training camp. Tramon Williams and Sam Shields have fared well through three games and adding Hayward to the slot–along with Burnett returning at safety–would give the Packers their best possible secondary.

Offensively, the Packers are fine.

That may sound overly optimistic following a disappointing performance in Cincinnati in which Aaron Rodgers threw a pair of interceptions. But there’s no panic going on at 1265 Lombardi; Rodgers remains one of the best in the business, and as long as No. 12 is under center, the Packers are going to be among the league’s top offenses.

11

September

Packers Memes and Myths: It’s Dom Capers’ Fault

Packers Dom Capers

Dom Capers – Is it his fault?

After the 49ers had a big day once again this past Sunday against the Packers, Twitter and Facebook were rocking with fans calling for Dom Caper’s head. He doesn’t make in-game adjustments. He’s too old – the game has passed him by.  His scheme was all wrong. And those were just the nice comments, I won’t repeat some of the other ones.

There’s just one problem with this groundswell of emotional hysteria – it’s dead wrong – well, at least as far as this game goes. Look, I’ve been on both sides of the Capers fence myself. The soft zone on third and a few yards? Three man rush on 3rd and long? Yeah, I’ve had my complaints too. But if you watched this 49ers game and came out thinking the loss was Capers’ fault, then I don’t know what to say to you.

Capers had almost eight months to prepare for this game and he came up with a pitch perfect plan. Don’t let Kaepernick break your resolve with his feet when you think you’ve got them stopped. Make Kaepernick beat you in the air, especially with the 49ers missing their #1 and #3 receivers. The fact that Kaepernick was able to do so is not Dom Capers’ fault. To re-work a Bill Clinton phrase, “it’s the players, stupid.”

Up until the Friday before the game, I had every confidence the Packers would win this game. I had them winning 31-27 in our staff picks, despite realizing they’re probably not the better team overall, personnel-wise. After all, the 49ers had nine players in last year’s Pro Bowl, the Packers just two.

So what happened on Friday? The Packers found out they’d be without Morgan Burnett for the game, after having practiced and prepared all week with Burnett as the defensive backfield quarterback. Basically, the Packers had one day to re-work their roles and assignments in the secondary and make do with two players who are accustomed to being the direction followers, not the direction takers.

You saw what happened. the secondary looked like that of two years ago, when there was more finger-=pointing than play making. Cornerbacks handed off receivers to safeties only to find the safeties were out of position. There were plenty of holes in the Packers secondary on Sunday, and Anquan Boldin is the wily veteran who knows how to find them.

24

August

Cory’s Corner: Packers Defense Will Be Back This Year

Johnny Jolly could add an edge to the Packers defense.

Johnny Jolly could add an edge to the Packers defense.

There are a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about this Packers season. Aaron Rodgers is the game’s best quarterback at the most important position. A capable running game is now firmly in place after drafting Alabama bulldozer Eddie Lacy. And the leaner, stronger Jermichael Finley is keeping his tongue muzzled.

Those are great reasons. But I’m the pegging the defense to have a bounce-back season.

I understand if a lot of you are raising your eyebrows right now. Heck, the Packers were 22nd in the league in defensive yards per game (336) and tied for 30th — that’s second to last — with 123 penalties.

Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy made a bold move by bringing back defensive tackle Johnny Jolly. He hasn’t seen game action in 3 ½ years, spent six months in jail and tried to get his life back after a codeine arrest. But Jolly is looking like the left defensive end that started all 16 games in 2009. He had a sack, a pick, two fumble recoveries and 24 tackles back then.

Jolly has looked great in the preseason, showing that the fire for football never went out. His presence is even more important now that first round pick Datone Jones has been dealing with a pesky ankle injury.

Like Jolly, linebacker Nick Perry is another key cog this year. The first round pick saw his rookie campaign truncated due to nagging knee and wrist injuries. He is trimmer than last year and has a better understanding of the outside linebacker position, which was different than defensive end which is what he played at USC.

That makes two great bookend linebackers in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme. Clay Matthews has played out of this universe thanks to his impressive closing speed, his array of moves to get to the quarterback and his seemingly limitless energy. With a solid linebacker on the other side, Matthews will not be double-teamed nearly as often, which will open the door for Matthews to make his fifth Pro Bowl in his fifth NFL season.

The Packers front seven is better. Jolly brings a needed edge and nastiness that hasn’t been seen in awhile and A.J. Hawk brings the necessary leadership because he doesn’t care about the pay cut, he just wants to win. And as he heads into his eighth season, Hawk is like a quasi coach at inside linebacker.

31

July

Packers Stock Report: Too Early to Know Much of Anything Edition

It’s been a healthy start to training camp for Packers OLB NIck Perry.

It’s way too early to know much of anything about the 2013 Packers, but I can’t help myself. It’s time for this season’s first Packers stock report.

Here is who I see rising, falling and remaining steady on the Packers after only a few practices:

Rising

Datone Jones
Jones added 20 pounds since his pro day and it appears as if it didn’t come from drinking beer and eating cheese curds. Most reports of Jones have been glowing, and the rookie from UCLA has Packers fans drooling at the possibility of finally having a versatile 3-4 defensive lineman to take the place of Cullen Jenkins.

Micah Hyde
Mike McCarthy singled Hyde out for praise after the first practice and it sounds like the rookie from Iowa has been solid in other practices as well. With a number of cornerbacks out with injuries or illness, Hyde has gotten an opportunity to show what he can do. So far, itsounds like he’s taking advantage.

Nick Perry
There hasn’t necessarily been a ton of ooohhhs and aaahhhs about Perry’s play so far in camp, but it sounds like the defensive end turned outside linebacker is healthy and ready to restart his career after a season-ending wrist injury knocked him out for most of his rookie campaign. If Jones is as advertised and Perry bounces back and provides pressure on the quarterback opposite of Clay Matthews, this defense could get better in a hurry.

Steady

Randall Cobb
It’s typically rookies who end up in the rising category this early in the season. Everyone is impressed with the Packers’ shiny new toys. A strong camp is now expected from a player like Cobb, who is entering his third season and is the leading candidate to become the team’s top receiver after Greg Jennings’ departure. We haven’t heard too much about Cobb thus far — a good thing because it probably means that he looks fine and there’s nothing much to report.

Sam Shields
Didn’t it seem like yesterday when Shields was a converted receiver just learning to play cornerback? Now he’s talked about as the Packers’ most talented corner and playing for a big payday. McCarthy said Shields looks a little rusty after missing OTAs because of a contract dispute, but it sounds like he’s continuing to play more physical and improving.

28

July

Puttin’ on the Pads: Packers Training Camp 2013 Day 3 Roundup

Today was the day Packers fans and players alike have been waiting for – the first full padded practice of the 2013 training camp. Since we both couldn’t be there, I’ve culled through the hundreds of tweets by Packers beat writers (so you don’t have to) to bring you what I consider the most important happenings and observations of the day: Enjoy!

 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

 

 

15

July

Packers News: Morgan Burnett signs contract extension

Packers safety Morgan Burnett

Packers safety Morgan Burnett

The Green Bay Packers have reached an agreement with safety Morgan Burnett on a four-year contract extension worth $24.75 million, according to Ian Rapoport via Twitter.

Burnett’s deal includes $8.25 million guaranteed.

Following the 2012-13 season, the Packers entered the offseason in hopes of signing several players to contract extensions. The team locked up Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers earlier this offseason, leaving Burnett, B.J. Raji and Jermichael Finley as the next players in line for new deals.

Burnett, 24, is entering his fourth season in the NFL. He missed the majority of his rookie year after suffering a torn ACL in Week 4, but he’s started all 16 games in each of the past two seasons.

The Packers will hope Burnett takes a step forward in his fourth year, which is when former safety Nick Collins was named to his first of three Pro Bowls.

Last year was Burnett’s best individual season as a professional. He set new career highs with 123 tackles and two sacks. Burnett’s two interceptions came against the Minnesota Vikings against quarterback Christian Ponder.

It was a matter of when, not if the Packers would strike a deal with Burnett. But with the deal done before training camp, the Packers can now shift their attention to someone else on the roster with an expiring contract.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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