7

April

Ted Thompson Must Not Care Much About the Center Position

Packers Center J.C. Tretter

Packers Center J.C. Tretter

It seemed to me to be a no-brainer. The Packers have no one on their roster with more than minimal NFL experience as  a center.  Before yesterday, there were 19 players on the NFL Free Agent Tracker listed at the center position. Surely Ted would be looking to bring in an inexpensive player with real experience at center in case the JC Tretter conversion doesn’t work out.

Well, Ted has done nothing yet and now there are 18 centers on the market, with arguably the best of the bunch now off the board.

The NFC  North Division rival Bears signed former Saints starting center Brian De La Puente on Sunday. De La Puente was a guy I had on my radar as the best target for Ted Thompson to bring in as cheap veteran insurance. Only I had no idea how cheap.

The Bears signed De La Puente for a veteran minimum contract ($735K for a player with 4 years experience) with a $65,000 signing bonus and only $100,00 in guaranteed money. That’s quite a bargain for a player ranked as the fifth best center in the NFL over the last three seasons, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Still young at only 28yrs old, De La Puente turned down the Lions and the Saints to join the Bears and his old offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. While that makes sense, it is odd that he joins a team where he is expected to be a backup, not a starter. Certainly a team like the Packers could have offered him a better opportunity to win a starting job.  But apparently, that offer never came.

With how inexpensively De La Puente came, one can’t say the Packers (Ted) were being cheap, a common refrain heard from many critics. So that leaves several other possibilities:

1) The Packers are dead-on convinced Tretter is their center of the present and the future.

2) The Packers are planning to draft a starting center.

2) Ted Thompson just doesn’t value the center position that highly.

Let’s take a look at the first option. I recently wrote about the state of the center position for WTMJonline.  Here’s an excerpt from that article:

11

February

Packers Release Offensive Lineman

Greg Van Roten

The Packers released interior lineman Van Roten on Tuesday

The Green Bay Packers released offensive lineman Greg Van Roten on Tuesday.  This was reported by Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Van Roten was signed as an undrafted free agent prior to the 2012 season.  He was added to the practice squad to start that year and then elevated to the 53-man roster mid-season.

Van Roten provided depth on the interior of the offensive line and also contributed on special teams in 2013 before he was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a foot injury.

Van Roten’s release leaves J.C. Tretter, Lane Taylor and current practice squad lineman Garth Gerhart as the remaining interior linemen behind starting guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang.  Center Evan Dietrich-Smith is currently set to be a free agent next month.  If he is not re-signed by the team, Tretter and Taylor would enter the mix to compete for the starting center spot.

Depending on what the Packers do in this year’s draft or in free agency, they could also look to move Lang to center.

 

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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23

December

Marshall Newhouse: Q & A With Adam Czech

Newhouse

Has Newhouse played his last game as a Packer?

Obviously it was disappointing to see the Green Bay Packers drop a home game in December and one that could have helped their confidence heading into next week’s showdown with the Chicago Bears.  The frustrations were high during the game (see my Twitter timeline) among many fans and were directed at coaches, the Packers front office and players.

One player who always seems to draw the ire of Packers fans is offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse.  The burning question with Newhouse is how and why is he still on the team?

Being a somewhat new Dad, I find myself up at odd hours of the night with these questions and thoughts swirling in my head.  So who better to help me tackle this question than another new(er) Dad than our own Adam Czech?  I caught up with Adam for a quick Q & A and to get his thoughts on Newhouse.

JP:  Newhouse has extensive experience with this offense and was a big part of the offensive line during the 15-1 season in 2011.  This year, Newhouse was beaten out by David Bakhtiari at left tackle and Don Barclay at right tackle.  In the few snaps Newhouse has seen, why has he been so ineffective?

AC:  He probably figures it’s not Aaron Rodgers back there, so why bother blocking anybody? Perhaps Newhouse is actually trying to speed up Rodgers’ return. If he whiffs on enough blocks and every single backup QB the Packers sign gets injured, Dr. McKenzie will have no choice but to activate Rodgers and the Packers will march to the Super Bowl.

JP:  When Mike McCarthy needs an extra body on the line, why is he still calling on Newhouse who can’t seemingly move anyone or hold a block?  Does Newhouse have photos of McCarthy in a speedo during his summer vacation or what?!

AC:  Remember Milton from the movie “Office Space?” He was the guy in the basement who loved his stapler. Everyone also forgot that he was still with the company. That’s Newhouse. McCarthy probably forgets that Newhouse is still on the team until he accidentally wanders on the field, screws something up, then tries to trot off without anybody noticing. McCarthy makes a mental note to cut Newhouse after every game, but then a bunch of other players get injured or something else goofy happens to the Packers and McCarthy just forgets.

8

December

Falcons vs. Packers: Keys to the Game

Steven Jackson Eddie Lacy

Which of these running backs would you rather have? It was a valid question for the Packers earlier this year

After a 10-day layoff, the Green Bay Packers return to action this Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Atlanta Falcons.  This game was originally scheduled to be a Sunday night matchup, but after the early decline of the Falcons and the recent plummet of the Packers, the NFL wisely flexed this game into a Sunday afternoon time slot.

Atlanta is 3-9 and has already been eliminated from postseason contention.  Their sole purpose now is to ruin everyone else’s party.  It’s hardly a party in Green Bay, however.  The Packers, once 5-2, have not won in five straight games and sit at 5-6-1.  But the Packers always seem to be in the thick of divisional races down to the wire and despite their horrid play over the past month, are still just a game and a half out of first place.

The big question this week is whether or not Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be cleared to return.  As of Wednesday, Rodgers was practicing with the team (in pads), but still had not been cleared to return to game action.  Matt Flynn was taking reps with the starters in practice and will start if Rodgers can’t go.

Earlier this week, I dubbed this game the “Horrible Bowl” and I stand behind that moniker.  Whichever team emerges the loser this week can officially call themselves “horrible”.  It would give the Falcons double-digit losses for the first time since 2007 when they finished 4-12.  It would drop the Packers to 5-7-1 and with eight wins the highest total they can achieve this season.  It would be the team’s worst finish since 2008 when they went 6-10.

This could be the shortest “Keys” post to date by simply stating “Score more points than the Falcons” but let’s attempt to dive a little deeper into this contest and what we will likely see.

Green Bay’s Offensive Line Health

Missing practice this week for the Packers were center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle David Bakhtiari.

10

October

Four games in, Packers have No. 5 ground game in NFL

Rookies David Bakhtiari and Eddie Lacy have helped recharge the Packers' ground game.

Rookies David Bakhtiari and Eddie Lacy have helped recharge the Packers’ ground game.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, but in the case of the Packers’ new-look backfield, the early results show significant improvement running the football.

One quarter into the 2013 season, and the pass-happy Green Bay Packers have the league’s fifth-best ground game. The Packers are currently grinding out 141 rushing yards per game and 5.3 yards per attempt; Green Bay trails only Philadelphia, Seattle, Buffalo and Indianapolis running the football.

Eddie Lacy, the team’s second-round pick and clear-cut No. 1 back, was just one yard shy of becoming the team’s third-consecutive 100-yard rusher Sunday against the Detroit Loins.

Lacy was knocked out of the Washington game after suffering a concussion, paving the way for James Starks to rush for 132 yards on 20 carries. The following week against the Bengals–with Lacy still out and Starks being forced out of the game early–fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin racked up 103 yards on just 13 carries.

Improving the running game was high on the team’s to-do list this past offseason, according to coach Mike McCarthy.

“We’ll be better,” McCarthy said of his team’s running game following the 2012 season. I promise you that. Big letters.”

And better, they are. Last season, the Packers’ rushing attack ranked 20th in the league after coming in at No. 27 in 2011 and No. 24 in 2010. The last time the Packers ranked in the top half of the league was 2009, when they came in at No. 14 after averaging 117.8 yards per game.

Starks missed the Lions game and is expected to miss “a couple weeks,” according to McCarthy. Franklin stepped in as the No. 2 back behind Lacy against Detroit, but the rookie didn’t get another backfield snap after a second-quarter fumble. Instead, McCarthy opted to use receiver Randall Cobb in the backfield for a third-quarter possession.

Cobb took his first carry and bounced it to the outside for a 67-yard gain down the left sideline. He added another five-yard carry on that hurry-up drive to give himself a modest 36-yard-per-carry average on the afternoon.

Two fumbles in as many games certainly won’t help Franklin’s case to get a share of the workload. Perhaps undrafted rookie Michael Hill will get himself some spot duty depending on the team’s health at the possession. Hill was called up from the practice squad prior to the Lions game.

24

September

Cory’s Corner: Packers offensive line must be adequate

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 10 times already and pressured numerous more.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 10 times already and pressured numerous more.

Many people have been praising the offensive line for two straight solid rushing performances.

Granted, the numbers sure do look gaudy. The Packers racked up 139 yards rushing and 5.8 yards a rush against the Redskins. But let’s not forget that the Redskins haven’t exactly been scaring folks on the offensive side of the ball. Washington is tied for 30th in the league by giving up 155 yards a game. And Johnathan Franklin came in admirably in the second half at Cincinnati by tallying 103 yards, but the Bengals had never seen Franklin on tape before so his tendencies weren’t yet known.

Despite those performances from the last two weeks, the offensive has to play better. In three games, the Packers offensive line has been penalized 10 times, with the majority of the penalties coming by way of holding. Those are inexcusable penalties that can easily be fixed. Coming into the Bengals game the Packers had the ninth most holding penalties in the NFL.

When Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers saw the schedule for the first time last spring, they both saw the first three games and had a little trepidation. Everyone knew how good the 49ers defense was going to be after making an appearance in the Super Bowl last February but I’m willing to argue that the Bengals defense is even better.

And if you know a defense is big and physical, more time should be spent to make sure that Rodgers’ jersey stays clean for as long as possible. Obviously that mantra has been forgotten because Rodgers has been sacked 10 times already, which is tied for fifth-highest in the league.

I realize that Bryan Bulaga, the future personal protector of Rodgers at left tackle for the foreseeable future, going down for the season with a torn ACL was a huge blow.

But at the same time, David Carr was sacked 262 times in six seasons and is now watching his younger brother at Fresno State. Rodgers has been sacked 212 times ever since he took over as the starting quarterback in 2008. Every game he gets knocked sideways and pretty soon he’s not going to be able to get back up. And the moment happens, the Packers go from a legitimate 11-5 team to a 6-10 team.

18

September

Packers Offensive Line Back on the Sack Track – Film Study

Packers Offensive Line

Coming into this season, there were two areas that topped my list of improvements the Packers HAD to make;  Aggressiveness on defense and protecting Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers aided their defense by drafting some players that play fast, tough and aggressive.  They let as few players go who they felt just could no longer do so. They reshaped their defensive mentality by bringing back sparkplug Johnny Jolly and encouraging some current players to play more aggressively and set the tone for the rest of the defense (see Clay Matthews vs. Colin Kaepernick).

As I watched the defense over the course of the preseason, I could see it building, game to game. So much so that I felt really good that the defense would be at least in the upper half of teams this season, if not top 12. An 11th hour injury to Morgan Burnett, the QB of the defensive secondary, forced several players into roles they had not really practiced for that week. The secondary was victimized against the 49ers, but I still felt good about what this defense would become.

With a full week to practice their new roles, the secondary bounced back nicely against the Redskins, before the whole defense took the second half off. When Burnett and Hayward return, the Packers defense will take a quantum leap forward. But I digress –  let’s get back on course to the real topic of this post, the offensive line.

As a former offensive lineman in my not so stellar HS football career, I always keep a close eye on the big uglies up front. Unlike the defense, I did not get any warm fuzzies from what I saw in preseason from the offensive line. I did a previous film study on the Packers Rams preseason game, focusing on some pretty poor run blocking I observed.

Two games into the season, my biggest fear about the offensive line has once again reared it’s ugly head. In two games the Packers have allowed 6 sacks of the deservedly highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. At that rate, they’ll be right back in the same area of the 51 sacks they allowed last season. Absolutely unacceptable.

Of course, the Packers have some excuses. They decided to take a bold step by moving their two best OL over to Aaron Rodgers’ blind side. Their best laid plans went awry as Bulaga was lost for the season and Derrick Sherrod, their other recent year first-round draft pick tackle, still can’t get back on the field.