25

August

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Preseason

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Graham Harrell cut
Somebody alert the Minnesota Vikings, another Packers player has hit the open market. Reports are out there that Graham Harrell is getting cut, meaning Vince Young has won the Packers’ backup QB job. The Packers are effed if Vince Young needs to play for an extended stretch of games, but probably not as effed as they would’ve been with Harrell. I thought Harrell would come around to at least be a Matt Flynn type of backup, but obviously, I was wrong. His accuracy went from bad to worse, and that ultimately did him in.

Knowledge of offense?
The only thing Harrell had going for him was his knowledge of the offense. I suppose it would be nice for Aaron Rodgers to have a backup that is familiar with the offense and can offer insight when needed, but that knowledge didn’t make up for Harrell’s poor play. Besides, the Packers have a QB coach, offensive coordinator, head coach and who knows how many other people that know this offense just as well, if not better than Rodgers. If Vince Young is playing catchup in the classroom, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

Meat wagon makes the rounds at Lambeau
Five more Packers were struck down with injuries in Friday’s loss to the Seachickens. Casey Hayward, Brad Jones, Morgan Burnett and Jarvis Reed left the game on defense. On offense, DuJuan Harris re-injured his knee. Of the five, Burnett worries me the most. Who’s going to play safety if Burnett is on the shelf?

Sherrod’s family speaks
Since the Packers and Derek Sherrod aren’t providing any updates on why it’s taking so long for the big tackle to return from a broken leg, Bob McGinn contacted Sherrod’s family to try and learn more about what’s going on. Turns out Sherrod has had to deal with many challenges on his road to recovery. I don’t get why the Packers and/or Sherrod have been so secretive about the injury and recovery process. I get that all teams are paranoid about releasing injury news, but what good has that paranoia done the Packers in Sherrod’s case? All it’s done is frustrated the fan base and caused some misguided people to question Sherrod’s work ethic or toughness as he tries to return.

23

August

Packers vs. Seahawks: A Preseason Game In Name Only

A picture that needs no caption.

The calendar still reads August.  If I’m the Green Bay Packers, I don’t care.

Tonight is just not another preseason game.  For Green Bay, it shouldn’t be a preseason game at all.  Coach Mike McCarthy of course will eventually get his backup players into the game, but since the third preseason game is the closest to a dress rehearsal as you can get in the NFL, McCarthy very well could roll with his starters into the third quarter.

As well he should.

The game tonight at Lambeau Field against the Seattle Seahawks doesn’t count at all in the standings.  The results will have absolutely no bearing on either team making the playoffs.  As long as they both emerge without any major injuries, the game could be considered a win for both sides.

Not for the Packers.  Preseason game be damned, this is war.

There’s no need to sit here and recap the “Fail Mary” game in Seattle last year that ended up costing the Packers a first round bye in the playoffs.  Had the correct call been made, Green Bay (more than likely) would have still faced the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round but at Lambeau Field rather than San Francisco.

No matter how much McCarthy or the players said otherwise, that “loss” to Seattle had to sting all season long.  The coach and his players did an admirable job in public, but that kind of situation just has to sting a locker room.  Imagine being passed over on a promotion at work because someone read your resume wrong. You’d be upset for a long time, wouldn’t you?

The Packers went on to win six of their next seven games and still won the division and made the playoffs.  Still, you can’t help but wonder what might have been.

Never before did I think it possible that a preseason game could set the tone for the regular season, but the game tonight against the Seahawks very well could.  This summer everyone has been going gaga over Seattle and second year quarterback Russell Wilson and the Packers have largely been ignored except when former players open their mouths about the leadership of the best quarterback in the league.

22

August

Save my Seat on the Jermichael Finley Bandwagon

I’m off the Jermichael Finley bandwagon, but could return shortly.

Every offseason I’m as big a supporter of Packers tight end Jermichael Finley as there is.

While many fans get frustrated about what Finley says, or his (lack of) production based on his (perceived) talent, I point out the value that Finley does bring to the Packers’ offense, and remind people that he’s young and probably hasn’t reached his full potential yet.

I backed off that stance this offseason, at least somewhat. I didn’t join the large group of torch and pitchfork carrying Finley haters, but I no longer have a shot at getting elected president of the Finley fan club, either.

I suppose you could say that I got off the Finley bandwagon, but asked the person next to me to save my seat in case I decided to hop back on.

We hear all the typical training camp cliches about Finley every offseason: He’s more mature. He’s grown up. He’s more focused. He looks great in camp. He’s ready to break out. He’s physical. He’s working as hard as ever. This is the year. Finally. No, really — this time it really is his year.

We’re hearing all those things again this training camp. Even Mike McCarthy is piling the love on J-Mike.

I suppose hearing the typical training camp talk about a player being “in the best shape of his life” or being “more focused” is better than hearing that a player is fat and distracted by the new season of “Duck Dynasty.” But forgive me for tuning out all that talk about Finley this offseason. I’m not going to buy any of it until it transfers to actual results.

I won’t be at all surprised if Finley does, in fact, break out this season. I suppose it wouldn’t shock me, either, if he flops. Either way, I won’t be patting myself on the back, telling the world “I told you so.”

A lot of Packers fans are sick of Finley talking. I’m sick of hearing myself and others talk about Finley, so I’m going to zip it. It’s time to stop hoping, prognosticating, predicting, forecasting, wishing, and praying for Finley to break out. Let’s just sit back, watch, and see if he actually does.

20

August

Packers Stock Report: It’s Still too Early to Know Much of Anything Edition

Hey No. 21, you’re not going to tackle Packers RB Eddie Lacy with one arm.

Before I get started on this week’s Packers stock report, let’s review exactly what the stock report is and why I do it:

  • The stock report is based on more than a single game or day of practice. Generally, it takes more than one good performance to become a riser and more than just one bad day to land in the falling category. Of course, there are always exceptions.
  • The stock report is also about projecting somewhat into the future. Like any good investor, you want to buy a stock before it hits its peak value so you can sell it at a profit later when it maxes out in price.
  • If a player is playing well under the radar and it looks like he could become more visible in the coming weeks, I’ll throw him in the rising category. If he’s been playing well, but slipping a bit of late, he might end up falling.
  • The stock report is not about putting my favorite players in the rising category and putting certain players I don’t care for in the falling category. Besides, I love all players who wear the green and gold, which makes all Packers players risers!
  • Stock reports after two exhibition games are tricky. See the title to this week’s stock report. Therefore, a few of these rules might get ignored because it’s so early. Actually, all of the rules might be ignored (besides rule No. 4).

Rising

Eddie Lacy
Yup, I’m already ignoring one of the rules I laid out above. After only eight carries, I have decided that Eddie Lacy is rising. Did you see him trucking defenders on Saturday?! If that carries into the regular season and all of Lacy’s body parts that are glued on stay together, I no longer will be so scared of 3rd and 1 and the Packers might have a back who can close games in the fourth quarter.

Johnny Jolly
So far, so good for Johnny Jolly. Up until Saturday’s exhibition games, Jolly had been decent, which probably wasn’t going to be good enough to make the team. Then he came up with an interception Saturday and played a great game all around — exactly the kind of playmaking performance the Packers have been lacking from a defensive lineman since Cullen Jenkins left.

18

August

Packers 19, Rams 7: Game Balls and Lame Calls

Johnny Jolly made his presence known against the Rams on Saturday.

B.J. Coleman to Jake Stoneburner.   If you had that as the first Green Bay Packers touchdown of the 2013 season, congratulations on your new found wealth.

For the other 99.999% of Packer Nation, they were just happy to see Green Bay get its first win of the preseason in a 19-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis.  The starting units saw action into the second quarter in preparation for Friday’s “dress rehearsal” against the Seattle Seahawks, and improvement was visible from last week’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Aaron Rodgers was his usual accurate self, finishing 10 for 12 with 134 yards.  The backup quarterbacks improved but still left a lot of room to grow. Defensively, the loathed “soft zone” reared its ugly head again as the Packers gave up chunks of yards but didn’t allow any points until late in the fourth quarter. The “bend but don’t break” defense Green Bay has become known for under Dom Capers seems to still be the name of the game.

As for those who stood out, and those who need to stand down, here is the 2013 premiere of “Game Balls and Lame Calls.”

Game Balls

RB Eddie Lacy

People were closer than they thought when they accused Lacy of being “fat” after an unflattering picture of him emerged from an early training camp practice.

Turns out he wasn’t “fat” but rather “phat.”

The long drought of the Packers not having a powerful and bruising running back seems to finally be over.  Lacy just refuses to go down on first contact. He finished the night with 40 yards on five carries and gained another 11 yards on a swing pass.  His power and spin moves dazzled many Packers fans and have put Lacy at the forefront to be the Packers’ starting running back.

DL Johnny Jolly

So much for Jolly being out of football shape while he was suspended.

Jolly showed what type of player he can be and still is as he made tackles at the line of scrimmage, batted a ball that led to a Jarrett Bush interception and even made an interception  of his own (with a spin move!).

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.

15

August

Matthew Mulligan is Blocking his way onto the Packers’ Roster

Matthew Mulligan has shown his blocking ability so far in Packers training camp.

Matthew Mulligan might not charm fans on Twitter, have arms covered in tattoos or take a fake field goal flip all the way to the end zone against the Packers biggest rival. But so far, it looks like the Packers lone veteran free agent signing is filling in nicely for departed fan favorite Tom Crabtree at tight end.

Bob McGinn wrote in Wednesday’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Mulligan has been “solid as a rock” and is close to locking up a roster spot. The journeyman was signed mainly as a blocker, but with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, as long as you have two hands and can take three steps forward without falling over, you might end up eventually becoming part of the passing game.

Crabtree was a durable and scrappy tight end who understood his role and always lined up where he was supposed to. Players like that have value — A.J. Hawk has become a rich man by being that type of player for the Packers on defense. Crabtree and Hawk are also the types of players where you set a value on how much you’re willing to pay them and you don’t exceed that value under any circumstances.

This offseason, the Packers determined Hawk wasn’t worth what he was making, so they told him to take a pay cut or else. Hawks said yes and remains a Packer.

Crabree was a free agent and felt he was worth more than what the Packers were offering (which was something around the league minimum). The Buccaneers agreed with Crabtree, offered him closer to what he thought he deserved, and Crabtree is now trying to build the same rapport with all the blue-hair retirees in Florida that he had with the cheeseheads in Wisconsin.

What does all of this have to do with Mulligan? Even though Crabtree had value, the Packers felt they could find a better player at a more team-friendly price. It’s still early, but it looks like they might have found that player in Mulligan (making $820,000 on a one-year deal).

Pro Football Focus gave Mulligan a 4.9 run blocking rating last season and a 6.5 in 2011. Crabtree was a -7.7 as a run blocker last season and a -8.4 in 2011. Obviously, Pro Football Focus metrics aren’t gospel, but that’s quite the difference. If you believe the reports from training camp, Mulligan is backing up those metrics by passing the eye test as well.