9

April

Pigskin Paul’s NFC North Mock Draft

2013 NFL Draft

2013 NFL Draft

Since my Packers Mock Draft a little while back, I’ve received request for a Bears mock draft as well.  So here goes nothing. But I do have one disclaimer. I am not familiar with the long term work of PHIL EMERY, so this one is purely on me with no inside information to draw from. And at the request of more than a few folks whose favorite division is the NFC North, here’s the whole division for you.

(As with my previous PACKERS MOCK the number in parenthesis after the Pick name and vitals is where I currently have the player ranked on my Regardless of Position Prospect list.)

 

DA BEARS   2013 MOCK DRAFT

Round 1, Pick 20    ALEC OGLETREE/LB/GEORGIA/6’3/242(22)

The LB position is the biggest rebuild unit on this team now that VFA has been used to finally upgrade the OL. If EMERY can get past the off-field issues OGLETREE could be an instant starter for them, on the outside in my opinion. He’s an excellent athlete and his ex-S skills can be put to best use outside rather than in the Middle where he’d be a bit undersized for the NFL.

Round 2, Pick 50    MARKUS WHEATON/WR/OREGON STATE/5’11/189(50)

DA BEARS have a solid group of WR, but none of them is the quick/fast combo slot type. WHEATON plays faster & quicker than his Combine 40-time of 4.45. And remember EMERY has announced that DEVIN HESTER is now a  RS not a receiver. Combine that decision with the injury retirement of JOHNNY KNOX and this team needs a fast slot receiver. You can’t have too many weapons when your centerpiece is JAY CUTLER. On my Board all the value DT types were gone when this Pick came up, or I would have gone there with the selection.

Round 4, Pick 117    AKEEM SPENCE/DT/ILLINOIS/6’1/307(116)

No, he’s not the behemoth they should have inside but he’s a young, athletic player who can play the run and push the pocket a bit. He’s an example of the quality depth in the middle of this Draft class. He’d come in real handy if OKOYE & IDONIJE both price themselves out of town. Could become an instant starter, or at the least a viable part of a DT rotation.

Round 5, Pick 153    TRAVIS KELCE/TE/CINCINNATI/6’5/255(152)

21

December

Packers Drive Rewind: Defense Takes a Stand

Sam Shields

Last week’s Packers Drive Rewind highlighted how a seven-play drive that featured all running plays buried the Lions. Watching it made you want to pound your chest and yell. Loudly.

This week, we’re going to stay with the tough-guy theme and highlight how the Packers defense stood tall with a goal-line stand after Ryan Grant fumbled.

The Situation
Third quarter. Packers 21, Bears 7. Grant just fumbled away a chance to blow the game open. The Bears are on the Packers’ 5-yard line after a 53-yard pass interference penalty against Morgan Burnett.

The Result
Matt Forte can’t get in the end zone on three straight runs and a touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery on fourth down is nullified by offensive pass interference. The Bears settle for a field goal.

Play 1: Forte up the middle for 4 yards


Ryan Pickett gtets stood up by Chris Spencer, but doesn’t get erased from the play. Forte ends up basically running back toward Pickett and getting swallowed up by the big guy. Forte had James Brown pulling to the outside. Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields do a nice job of setting the edge. However, I wonder if Forte would have had better luck following Brown to the outside and taking on Shields near the goal line instead of running back into the teeth of the Packers’ defense?

Play 2: Forte up the middle for no gain

Great stick by Brad Jones. He flows to the other side of the line and meets Forte head on after Dezman Moses occupies two blockers. Pickett torpedoes his gap and B.J. Raji blows up Edwin Williams, taking away any hope for a cutback. Once again, it looked like Forte might have had better luck trying to keep going around the end and taking on Jarrett Bush instead of plowing into the pile.

Play 3: Forte up the middle for no gain

A.J. Hawk fills the gap and Jones comes free to stand up Forte before he can get into the end zone. Everybody up front for the Packers does a nice job of fighting their way to a stalemate, allowing Jones to come in untouched and prevent the touchdown. Another nice play from Jones here. Who knew he would look so smooth flowing to the ball inside?

Play 4: Alshon Jeffery catches a 1-yard touchdown, nullified by offensive pass interference

19

December

Packers Film Study: B.J. Raji peaking late in the season

Packers DL B.J. Raji

Packers DL B.J. Raji

When looking at the box score of a given football game, it can be easy to overlook some of the unsung heroes.

Sometimes it’s the offensive line paving the way for a 100-yard rusher and going largely unnoticed. Other times it’s a cornerback shutting down an opposing receiver, only to be ignored because he never got his hands on the ball.

On Sunday, defensive tackle B.J. Raji may have been the best player on the field for the Packers.

From his pick-six that sent the Packers to Super Bowl XLV in 2010 to his dominant performance on Sunday, it sure seems like Raji enjoys playing in the Windy City. Raji played what was likely his best game of the season with the NFC North championship on the line.

Pro Football Focus credited Raji with a +4.4 grade against the Bears–his best PFF grade since the NFC Championship during the 2010 season.

The box score only gives Raji credit for one solo tackle. No sacks, no forced fumbles. Just one tackle.

But looking beyond the numbers and watching the tape, it’s impossible to ignore Raji’s impact on Sunday’s win over the Bears.

Let’s take a look at four plays this past Sunday in which Raji made his presence felt.

1) Situation: 2nd and 9, 5:09 remaining – Q1

Breakdown: Raji lines up at right defensive end alongside Clay Matthews. Left guard James Brown is supposed to chip on Raji and block inside linebacker Brad Jones, but Raji blows the play up before even got started. Left tackle J’Marcus Webb is a split-second late getting to Raji.

Raji’s penetration single-handedly made this play, although Clay Matthews and Morgan Burnett were credited for the tackle in the box score. This was a drive-killer for the Bears, as they were ultimately forced to punt.

2) Situation: 2nd and 10, 1:05 remaining – Q1

Breakdown: Raji is lined up across from Bears right guard Gabe Carimi. As soon as the ball is snapped, Raji is in the backfield and the play is doomed.

Carimi is forced to lunge at Raji and is called for a 10-yard holding penalty. This play set up a 2nd-and-long situation for the Bears, and they didn’t score on the drive. Again, this is another play that won’t show up on the stat sheet, but it will certainly catch the eye of the coaching staff.

18

December

Packers Stock Report: NFC North Champions Edition

Clay Matthews

Ravishing Rick Rude would be proud of this Clay Matthews sack dance.

Watching the Packers this season can be very frustrating. You have shoddy pass blocking, dropped passes, a horrible kicker, failure to put teams away, shaky run defense, all kinds of injuries, odd playcalling and Fail Mary.

Yet here the Packers are, NFC North champs for the second season in a row.

It really is amazing what Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have been able to do with this team. They’ve adjusted the offense once it became apparent that they weren’t the juggernaut from a season ago. They’ve also overcome all kinds of injuries.

Yes, watching this team can be maddening. But this is a group we can be proud of.

On to the stock report:

Rising

Clay Matthews
The Packers best pass rusher returned, sacked Jay Cutler twice and made several other plays on run defense. In other words, it was a typical day for Matthews against the Bears. More importantly, Matthews busted out a Ravishing Rick Rude sack dance. Seriously, it was amazing. For those of you who don’t know who Ravishing Rick Rude is, click here. I hope Matthews wears pants with a picture of his own face on the rear-end next week. Turn the music off!

Randall Cobb
Defensive coordinators must just start screaming “FIND COBB!!! FIND COBB!!!” whenever Aaron Rodgers breaks the pocket. Cobb dropped an early touchdown pass (well, the throw was a little off, but Cobb will probably tell you he should have caught it), but made up for it throughout the rest of the game. Needs to get a little more zip on those punt throwback tosses, though.

B.J. Raji
It’s good to see the big guy getting stronger as the season wears on. Raji was very good against the Lions and was strong early against the Bears. It looked like the Bears were going to have no problem moving the ball on the ground at the start of Sunday’s game, then Raji woke up and put a stop to that.

Steady

Sam Shields
Somebody got to Shields in the offseason and convinced him that he had to be more physical. I would like to buy this person a beer. Shields missed a tackle on Matt Forte early, but when the ball was in the air in pass coverage, Shields fought hard. He also overcame another bogus call against him and managed to get Alshon Jeffrey flagged for offensive pass interference a few times. There were times last season where physical contact made Shields coil up into the fetal position. Not the case any more.

17

December

While We Scratch our Heads, the Packers Win Games

James Jones

James Jones and the Packers are NFC North champs. (Photo from the Associated Press.)

What was your favorite head-scratching moment from Sunday’s Packers win over the Bears? Here are your options:

  • Dropped passes from Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley on the first drive. Tough catches, yes, but catchable.
  • Aaron Rodgers getting sacked three times in the first half.
  • Cobb dropping a touchdown pass in the second quarter. The pass was slightly off, but it was catchable.
  • Mason Crosby whiffing on two more field goals.
  • Mike McCarthy going for it on fourth and 6 in the third, then trying a field goal on fourth and 1 in the fourth. Why not go for it both times?
  • McCarthy calling a throwback on a punt return up 11 points in the fourth that resulted in a turnover. Ugh.
  • Rodgers launching a bomb to Greg Jennings on third and 3 late in the fourth when a simple first down would have been fine.
  • Ryan Grant’s fumble.

That’s a lot of head-scratching moments to choose from. Oh, and by the way, the Packers won 21-13 and are NFC North champions.

The Packers have made me scratch my head a lot this season, but they keep winning. Through all the injuries, all the missed field goals, all the stalled drives and all the weird playcalling, the Packers are NFC North champions.

It’s amazing what this team has been able to accomplish so far.

Of course, there is still a lot more to accomplish. All of the perseverance and fortitude shown by the Packers will be for not if they blow their first playoff game.

How many head-scratching moments can the Packers afford in the playoffs? It’s one thing to have those moments against the Arizona Cardinals or Jay Cutler. It’s another to have them against the San Francisco 49ers or Eli Manning.

Clawing out victories and digging yourself out of holes shows that your team has mettle. Mistakes like the ones made by the Packers may also burn you big time against a good team in the playoffs.

We’ll see how this season turns out. For now, I’m going to stop scratching my head and enjoy another NFC North title.

——————

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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12

December

Packers-Bears: Brandon Marshall adds fuel to the fire

Bears WR Brandon Marshall

Bears WR Brandon Marshall

The Packers-Bears rivalry has been going on for 91 years. The Bears have won 92 of those games, the Packers have won 87, and they’ve played to six ties since the rivalry began in 1921.

When the Bears named Lovie Smith head coach in 2004, he clearly stated that his team’s No.1 goal would be to beat Green Bay.

But recently, the Packers have owned the rivalry. Green Bay has won seven of the past eight matchups, including a victory in the NFC Championship at Soldier Field in the 2010 season.

The most recent chapter of the longstanding rivalry was week two this year when the Packers dominated the Bears 23-10 at Lambeau Field. The offense was crisp, and the defense was stellar.

The Green Bay defense was tough against the run and the secondary silenced the Bears’ top receiver–Brandon Marshall.

Marshall caught just two passes for 24 yards in the first meeting. And after the game, Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson were vocal in their assessment of the Bears’ offense, and mainly, quarterback Jay Cutler.

“It’s the same old Jay,” Woodson said after the game. ”We don’t need luck, Jay will throw us the ball. Proof is in the pudding.”

Cutler, of course, publicly wished the Packers’ secondary “good luck” before the two teams met at Lambeau Field. It seems Cutler’s well wishes turned out well for the Packers, as cornerback Tramon Williams caught as many passes from Cutler as Marshall did–two.

And on Wednesday morning, it was clear that there was no love lost between Marshall and the Packers. Tyler Dunne, of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentiel, got the scoop from Marshall’s time at the podium.

To that comment, one might ask this question–who really cares who Marshall wants to give the credit to? Dom Capers dialed up the scheme, and the players made it happen. Williams shadowed Marshall for most of the night, and Capers opted to have safety help over the top with either Charles Woodson or Morgan Burnett.

Marshall is the Bears’ only true game-breaker on the perimeter, so what else is Capers supposed to do? From coaching to execution, the Packers did their job. Period.

Oh yeah, and Marshall dropped a wide open touchdown in the game as well. But anyways. What’s next?

11

December

Packers Stock Report: Shooing Away the Lions, Bringing on the Bears Edition

Packers CB Casey Hayward played his way onto the rising list this week.

Since the Packers handled the Lions on Sunday, they should be able to handle the Bears this week, right?

Think about it. The Lions have:

  • A talented but erratic QB
  • One dominant receiver
  • A tough defensive line
  • A cover-2 strategy designed to contain the Packers

Sounds very similar to the Bears. The main difference is the Lions have a better offensive line and the Bears have a better secondary and running back. The Bears are also beat up.

That’s my preliminary analysis, anyway. Very in-depth, right?

We’ll see if my perception changes later in the week, but I don’t see many reasons to pick the Bears, especially when you factor in the hopeful return of Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and (maybe) Jordy Nelson.

It was good to get the Lions out of the way. They annoy me for multiple reasons.

On to the stock report:

Rising

Casey Hayward
For some reason, Tony Scheffler was giving the Packers some trouble on Sunday. So the Packers called on Hayward and soon Scheffler wasn’t a problem any more. The rookie played all 84 snaps and had another strong game despite dropping another interception late. Now if he could only get home on blitzes like Charles Woodson used to….

Mike McCarthy
Bashing McCarthy’s decision-making and infatuation with calling downfield passes is a very popular thing to do during games. I do it myself. Every fan gets mad at the head coach of his favorite team on ocassion. But if you’re going to bash, it’s only fair to praise when praise is deserved. McCarthy seems to have the Packers living in their own world, a world where throwing in the towel because of injuries and bad breaks is not acceptable. Having Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback helps make this world a better place to be, but McCarthy still deserves a ton of credit. Getting the most out of reserves and young talent has become the norm with McCarthy. Whatever you’re doing behind the scenes, Mike, keep it up.