16

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Kickers — Tim Masthay

1) Introduction: Signed to a reserve/future contract in January of 2010, Tim Mathsay came to the Packers as a  former All-State High School soccer player, who both punted and kicked off for the Kentucky Wildcats. One thing he had never done, however, was punt in an NFL game. He was brought in to compete with another punter who had never had a sniff of the NFL, Chris Bryan, the Australian Rules footballer. To this scenario I,  like most Packers fans, could only shake my head and ask, “Really Ted?”

2) Profile

Tim Masthay

Position: P
Height: 6-2    Weight: 198 lbs.

Born: March 16, 1987 in Pittsburgh, PA
College: Kentucky   (school history)

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player:  The  expectations for Masthay were pretty low; be better than Jeremy Kapinos was and don’t cost the Packers any games. The knock on Masthay was that he had a slow get-off and was inconsistant, pretty typical for a young inexperienced punter. After beating out Bryan in a tight pre-season battle, Mathsay had improved his mechanics but still had much work to do on his inconsistancy.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Over the first half of the season, Masthay was meeting his low expectations, doing a pedestrian job without making any glaring mistakes. And then came the Jets game. I was at that game, and really couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The Packers had somehow coaxed Ray Guy out of retirement.

Masthay punted 8 times that game, only one was returned (0 yds.) and five were downed inside the 20 yard line. Mike McCarthy called it the finest punting performance he had ever seen and Masthay was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Masthay had almost as good a game in the NFC Championship against Chicage, once again dropping 5 of 8 punts inside the 20.

While Masthay didn’t have any glaring lowlights, he was in a bit of a funk (as were the rest of the Packers) for the Miami and Washington games. masthay had only a 35yd net average for those games, allowing 5 of his 11 punts to be returned for a total of 70 yards.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Nobody appreciates the value of a good punter and winning the field position game more than I do. I have been told by many people how it’s a different league and punters don’t matter any more. Bull.  Over the second half of the season, Masthay was as important to the Packers as any other special teams player.

22

December

Why are the Green Bay Packers so Damn Frustrating?

Yes, I’m quite frustrated. The past two Packer football seasons have started with Super Bowl aspirations and ended with “hopefully we’ll make the playoffs.” I guess that’s ok if you are the Rams, but the Packers are supposed to be loaded with talent.

In fact, I believe we do have a lot of talent. I also believe we are underachieving and there is too much of a pattern here to ignore it any longer. 2008 was bad, but I figured the first year post-Favre would go that way. 2009 and 2010, while better record-wise, have revealed a trend of mental mistakes culminating in close loses (often to BAD teams).

It is no secret McCarthy’s record in close games is pitiful. You can find numerous references to that on most Packer blogs. The question is why? I would like to approach this from a different angle, albeit a snarky one (because I’m frustrated damn it!).

Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again but somehow expecting the results will be different. Consider this…

I have no idea what Mike McCarthy thinks or what he says in the locker room or behind other closed doors. What I do know is that he is mentally ill if he means only a fraction of what he says at the podium during press conferences. Coach, you were ok with the way the 2 minute unfolded Sunday night? Standard stuff? Look, I don’t care what his personality is.

What I do care about is that Packer Management looks honestly at this team and tries to improve areas where we are not getting it done. I’m simply seeing too little of that. Definition of insanity…let’s keep defending the troops and using the word “excellent” and “good job” every time we describe a player or a game situation. That’s working well.

Then we have the whole “availability” and “accountability” mantra from MM. Well, availability might be honored but accountability? To say it is hypocritical would be too
polite. Brady Poppinga played snaps for years while Desmond Bishop sat on the bench. Poppinga got to make mistakes but God forbid if Bishop made one in his limited playing time. No, they don’t play the same LB position in the 3-4, but they did in the old 4-3.

21

December

Dear Mike McCarthy; Hope You Learn from the New England Game

Dear Mike McCarthy,

It is with the deepest pride in the Green Bay Packers that I write to you today. Despite their loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday, I thought they played “one heckuva game.” And for the first time this year, I saw the passion, fire, and determination they had been looking for all season.

First, let me say that Matt Flynn is a keeper. He wasn’t flashy or dramatic, but he got the job done. He kept his head clear and stood tall the entire game, even in the face of adversity. After throwing a pick-six at the start of the third quarter, he came back to march the Packers down the field on thirteen plays for a touchdown.

If that doesn’t speak to his character and ability, then I don’t know what does.

Furthermore, there is a lot both you and Aaron Rodgers can learn from what Flynn and the offense did today.

Did you notice what a solid running game can do for you? Finally, for the first time this season, you gave the ball to Brandon Jackson more than 20 times in a game. And what did he do with those carries? That’s right: 99 yards on the ground, for an average of 4.5 YPC. Of the nine rushing first downs, Jackson had seven and John Kuhn had two.

You ran a balanced offense, and it paid off. Of the 80 snaps on offense, 38 were running plays and 42 were passing plays. Combined with the short yardage passing game, this was a recipe for success.

(Except when you got a little overconfident too deep in your own territory. See three-and-out, fourth quarter.)

But don’t think you have to keep this game plan only for Matt Flynn. I would be willing to bet this strategy could work even better with Aaron Rodgers, who can make the occasional deep throws that Flynn simply doesn’t have the arm for. Not only could you control the clock, but the opposing defense would have to play at every level. They wouldn’t always know where you were going to attack next.

Look, your offense controlled almost 41 minutes of this game. They outplayed Tom Brady and the Patriots for crying out loud!

It’s just these little mistakes that keep getting in the way.

16

August

Packers vs. Browns: Film Study Observations (Preseason 2010)

The following are my observations on the Packers – Browns game after re-watching the game with the benefit of rewind and slow-motion:

Bryan Bulaga is an NFL starting lineman. Right now. Bulaga won his one-on-one battles while at guard and at tackle. He also looked noticeably better than Daryn Colledge. Bulaga was a little unsure of himself at guard on a few plays, which is to be expected. But once he found his mark an locked on to someone, they did not get away. I also saw Bulaga do something I haven’t seen from a Packers guard in some time. This was one of my pet peeves last season. In pass coverage, with Wells on the tackle and Clifton taking a blitzing linebacker, as Cleveland sent a defensive back on the edge outside of Clifton, Bulaga quickly slid over behind Clifton to meet the blitzing DB and stop his rush. Simple, effective, and something I just never saw as I would watch the game films last season. I don’t know if we credit Bulaga or the coaches for that, but either way, it’s a very good thing.

Bryan Bulaga at Left Guard:

In general, the Packers did a very good job in picking up the blitzes, especially the running backs. I observed Jackson, Lumpkin and Porter each make nice pickups, with Lumpkin having the most impressive play, coming all the way from being lined up on the right side to pick up a blitzing linebacker coming off the edge on the opposite side. I now believe Packers running backs coach Edgar Bennett when he says protecting the quarterback is the primary concern for his running backs, even over effective running of the ball.

Speaking of the running backs, I think Quinn Porter is showing enough to make this team. He has some nice moves, and is the type of running back I’ve been wishing for as a compliment to Ryan Grant. He showed me something when running between the tackles, too. While not very big, Porter is a fighter and his legs never stop churning. I saw him make a few extra yards on a few occasions when he appeared to be stopped. If Porter shows any pass-catching ability, and continues blocking well, then I say sign him up. I believe, as others have suggested, we could see James Starks get put on IR so the Packers can keep both of them without having to carry 4 running backs on the roster.

31

May

Green Bay Packers Eyeing a “Special” 2009 Season

Shawn SlocumThe 2008 Packers season has been categorized in many ways. “Special” was not one of them. It was the start of a new Favre-less era, the year the defense became an absolute horror show, Aaron Rodgers showing he can put up top-10 quarterback numbers, the purging of the defensive coaching staff, etc., etc.

While the defensive struggles have been talked about ad-nauseum, I don’t believe the Packers’ special teams struggles have been emphasized enough. In the interest of fairness, lets take a look at what happened and what’s being done about it.

First, a few fun facts about 2008 to paint a picture:

The Packers were 32nd in the NFL in Kickoff return yardage.
The Packers were 20th in the NFL in Kickoff coverage.
The Packers were 26th in the NFL in field goal percentage
The Packers were 27th in the NFL in average punting yardage

However you picture “awful”, that’s what you should be seeing in your mind’s eye right now.

So how does this get fixed? Well, if you’re Mike McCarthy, you start by encouraging Mike Stock, your 69-year old special teams coordinator to “retire” (just days after he told Green Bay beat reporters how he planned to be back for another year).

“Should I be looking over my shoulder? Do you know something I don’t know?” Stock kiddingly asked following the team’s Christmas Day practice. “It all depends on one thing and one thing only: How long does he (McCarthy) want me to stay? That’s what it depends on.”

Yes, after his post-season interview with Mccarthy, Stock suddenly changed his mind and decided to retire after three years with the Packers and 44 years in coaching overall. Call it a win-win.

Unlike his search for a new defensive coordinator, McCarthy did not look far from the team to fill the special teams position. On January 15th, 4 days before announcing Dom Capers’ hiring, McCarthy promoted Shawn Slocum from his special teams assistant position to Special Teams Coordinator.

Slocum had spent the last three seasons with the Packers and before that, coached 15 college seasons for four different schools. He was a special teams coordinator at both USC and Texas A&M, and was also an assistant head coach at Ole Miss. So the Packers seem to have an experienced coach whose time has come for his first pro coordinator position.