15

April

Cory’s Corner: Julius Peppers is No. 56…remain excited

I’ve never seen a number unveiling get this much excitement.

And for those of you that may not know, Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next season for the Packers.

Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next fall as he will play a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position called the elephant.

Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next fall as he will play a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position called the elephant.

That’s quite a change for someone that was consistently coming off the edge as a defensive end in a three-point stance wearing No. 90.

But Peppers isn’t just an end. Thanks to Dom Capers and his crazy names, which have brought us the ‘Psycho’ defensive package, Peppers will be playing a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker called an elephant.

Personally, I don’t care if you call it strawberry shortcake because the name of Peppers’ position is meaningless. His stats and his motor speak for themselves. He’s been under double-digit sacks in a season just four times in his 12-year career.

The thing I like about Peppers most is his drive. I realize that he’s 34 and might be reaching the final leg of a strong NFL career. But the last time he didn’t play a full 16-game season was in 2007. That really says a lot to me. Especially for a guy that has played through a sprained MCL in his left knee, a broken right hand and a right knee sprain among other things. And the season that he suffered his right knee sprain was in 2007, a season in which he tallied his lowest sack output of his career with 2½. Yet he still managed to lead the Panthers in quarterback hurries.

Peppers is a guy that the Packers desperately needed. He’s a guy that will come in and not only contribute with a pass rush that has been forgotten, but he’s a vocal veteran that wants to win.

That’s a great combination for a team that has youngsters like Nick Perry and Datone Jones, who the Packers are counting on to break out and flourish.

Is it fair to compare Peppers to the 31-year-old Reggie White when he signed with Green Bay? No way. And I’m surprised I’ve seen people even make that comparison because it’s not not even close. White was a once-in-a-lifetime pass rusher who may never be copied again.

But that doesn’t mean Peppers doesn’t have plenty to play for.

8

February

Cory’s Corner: Assistant coaches don’t excite me

Ron Zook was the head coach at Florida at Illinois. And is now the Packers assistant special teams coach. How did that happen?

Ron Zook was the head coach at Florida at Illinois. And is now the Packers assistant special teams coach. How did that happen?

It’s usually pretty hard to get excited about assistant coaches.

But now the Packers have the highest number of middle management in the NFC North.

And I’m still not excited.

Granted, Mike McCarthy knows that changes need to be made, but I don’t think having 21 assistants is going to be the difference. Does Ron Zook really get anyone excited? And what exactly does an assistant special teams coach do?

That’s quite a fall from grace for a two-time major college football head coach.

But new assistants are just window dressing. This team needs personnel. It needs players that don’t give a half-hearted effort like B.J. Raji and then turn down $8 million from the Packers.

It needs Tramon Williams to play like it’s 2010 and Derek Sherrod to start his first NFL game in his fourth season.

This team needs Clay Matthews to start 16 games for the first time in his career. It needs a tight end to fill Jermichael Finley’s shoes but do it without chirping.

I think we all saw how important a mean streak is. The Seahawks and 49ers approach the game like the movie, “Slapshot.” Both teams try to blow you up on every single play and it’s about time the Packers thought the same way.

Green Bay doesn’t have that on-field sergeant that will not only impose its will but make the opposition think twice about something just because of the physical ramifications.

By the end of the first quarter of Super Bowl XLVIII, the Broncos wide receivers knew they were beaten. They knew they weren’t going to outmuscle, out tough and outwork the best secondary in football.

I need to see more out of guys like Nick Perry and Andy Mulumba to get an accurate gauge. But adding a dynamic linebacker for the 3-4 defense wouldn’t be a bad thing.

This team needs more creativity from the offensive play calling. Just because it’s first down, it doesn’t automatically mean you have to run the football. This team needs more quarterback pressure out of the front seven to ease the burden on the secondary.

28

January

Nick Perry 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction: When Perry was selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, he was expected to take some pressure off of Clay Matthews as far as generating a pass rush.   Unfortunately, a wrist injury derailed his rookie season and found himself on injured reserve in early November.   Expectations were high once again for Perry entering his sophomore season, but once again injuries were the name of the game.  Perry missed significant time for the second consecutive season, raising questions about his long-term viability with the Packers

2) Profile: Nick Perry

  • Age: 23
  • Born: 04/12/1990 in Detroit, MI
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 265
  • College: USC
  • Rookie Year: 2012
  • NFL Experience: 2 years
  • Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Finally healthy again, Perry was expected to rebound and build on some early season successes as a rookie.  His bone jarring hit on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck in 2012 had Packers fans salivating at what he could potentially become.  He showed decent ability in coverage, but Green Bay took him for his speed and pass rushing ability.  A higher sack total was in order for Perry along with continuing to adjust to playing as a 3-4 linebacker after playing as a 4-3 defensive end at USC.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: The biggest highlight for Perry was his two-sack performance at home against the Detroit Lions in Week 5.   He had only two sacks for his entire rookie campaign and his two sacks of Matthew Stafford in that game gave Green Bay the edge and got the team’s record back to .500 after some early season struggles.  His low-light was that he once again battled injuries, this time with a broken foot.  Perry missed five games this year and is becoming yet another injury concern for a team that every season seems to face multiple critical injuries.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Perry was part of a linebacker unit that failed to meet expectations this year, mainly due to injuries.  Perry’s injury didn’t help but it was really Clay Matthews’ twice broken thumb that really doomed the unit.  Perry hasn’t yet truly emerged as the Robin to Matthews’ Batman, but he showed progress in the 11 games he played this year.

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.

7

November

Packers Fans Should Blame Injuries, Not Ted Thompson

Clay Matthews towel

How easy is it for Ted Thompson to replace talent at this level?

I feel like I’m listening to a broken record. Except when this record plays, it’s only after the Green Bay Packers lose a game. For some strange reason, I never hear this record after wins. So it’s been a while that this song has played. The Packers won four straight games before losing to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Throw a bye week in there, and it’s been rather blissful for a good solid month.

But now the axe-grinding fans are crawling back out of the woodwork to lambast Ted Thompson for putting together a weak roster.

The last time I addressed this crowd was after the Cincinnati Bengals game, when the Packers blew a gigantic lead to end up losing. While fingers were being pointed in all sorts of directions, there seemed to be few fans dealing sensibly with the problems of the team.

One theme that has persisted between then and now, however, is the injury bug. The Packers have it bad, and it’s starting to cost the team. Yet for some reason, we don’t give this fact its due consideration. Should teams be able to find success beyond their key starters? Absolutely. General managers need to put together a roster that can handle the adversity of a football season. But injuries to enough key players can be crippling.

Take a look at the following names for a moment:

  1. Nick Perry
  2. Derek Sherrod
  3. Bryan Bulaga
  4. B.J. Raji
  5. Clay Matthews
  6. A.J. Hawk
  7. Aaron Rodgers

Figure out the common thread yet? Yes, those are all of the Packers’ first round draft picks that are currently on the team’s payroll (listed in reverse chronological order). Now I want you to look back at that list and count the number of players who played a majority of the Packers-Bears game. What do you get?

Yup, two. Out of seven.

That means five first round draft picks were absent from the game on Monday. What do you expect Ted Thompson to do in a situation like this? There aren’t any players wandering around on the streets who can make up for that level of talent. And when one of those players is the highest paid quarterback in the league right now – and arguably one of the best three quarterbacks in the league – then you’ve got a problem on your hands.

14

October

Packers News: Injury updates on Perry, Jones and Cobb

Packers receiver Randall Cobb will miss "multiple weeks," according to head coach Mike McCarthy. He offered no further details.

Packers receiver Randall Cobb will miss “multiple weeks,” according to head coach Mike McCarthy. He offered no further details.

The Packers left Baltimore with a 19-17 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens, but they lost several core players to injury.

Coming into the game, the team was already shorthanded, as they were without outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who suffered a broken hand last week against the Detroit Lions.

Perry, filling in for the injured Matthews, reportedly suffered a broken foot on his sack of Joe Flacco at the end of the first half. Perry missed the final ten regular season games last season, but prior to his injury, the former first-round pick was coming into his own, as his sack of Flacco was his third in the past two games.

Head coach Mike McCarthy said at Monday’s press conference that Perry would not have a chance to play this week. He wouldn’t go into detail about any of the team’s new injuries.

The injury was first reported by WDUZ’s Chris Havel, via WDUZ’s official Twitter page.

James Jones exited Sunday’s game with a knee injury, but Adam Schefter reported Monday that the injury was merely a sprained PCL. Immediately after leaving the game, Jones returned to the sideline for the second half sporting a full leg brace.

McCarthy confirmed that Jones’ injury was the least severe of the three, saying the wide receiver did, in fact, have a chance to play this week against the Cleveland Browns.

Randall Cobb’s injury, however, sounds like it’s a bit more serious than that of Jones. After being hit low by Ravens safety Matt Elam, Cobb remained on the ground for an extended period of time before being carted into the locker room. McCarthy said Cobb would miss “multiple weeks” with his knee injury but, again, did not go into specifics.

12

October

Which Joe Flacco will the Packers see in Baltimore?

Joe Flacco has been pretty average for most of his career, except for the 2012 playoffs.

Joe Flacco has been pretty average for most of his career, except for the 2012 playoffs.

Prior to the 2012 season, Joe Flacco rejected a contract worth about $14 million per year. At the time, that contract seemed generous for a quarterback who had won five playoff games yet had never thrown more than 25 touchdowns in a season through four years.

But Flacco thought otherwise, so played out the final year of his rookie contract.

After a 9-2 start last year, the Ravens lost four of their last five regular-season games and backed into the playoffs at 10-6.

Then, Flacco put together a four-game postseason stretch in which he led the Ravens to a Super Bowl title, throwing for 11 touchdowns without an interception, while posting a passer rating of at least 106.2 in each game.

Following Super Bowl XLVII, Flacco cashed in with a six-year contract worth around $20 million annually. He may be only slightly more (or not) than an average NFL quarterback, but he took a gamble—and it paid off.

This week, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers may be forced to put all his chips on the table to generate a pass rush against Flacco and the Ravens, as Green Bay will be without Clay Matthews for about a month.

Last season, with Matthews and Nick Perry out of the lineup nursing injuries, the Packers were forced to go with Erik Walden and Dezman Moses as their outside linebackers. This year, they’ll start Perry and Mike Neal in Matthews’ absence.

Matthews is unquestionably Green Bay’s most valuable player on the defensive side of the ball, and thanks to a hamstring injury that kept safety Morgan Burnett out of the lineup for the first three games, the Packers have yet to play a full game with their top two defensive players.

But even if the secondary is taking form with Burnett back, Flacco figures to have plenty of time to throw the ball behind a strengthened offensive line and against a Matthews-less Packers defensive front. Baltimore traded for Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe a couple weeks ago, and he’s expected to make his first start this weekend on Flacco’s blindside.

Flacco is what he is. As far as NFL quarterbacks go, Flacco’s a pretty Average Joe.