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.

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.

14

August

Barclay Stepping Up Tops List of What I Want to see from the Packers vs. Rams

Don Barclay winning the right tackle job would help the Packers running game.

I’ve been away from home for the past 10 days and haven’t had much time to consume everything Packers like I normally would as the preseason wears on and opening day gets closer.

I’ve got a few minutes here before I have to cover a baseball game between a terrible team and not-very-good team, so I thought I’d crank out a few thoughts about what I want to see from the Packers in Saturday’s exhibition game against St. Louis.

Remember, I’ve been on the road and out of the loop for 10 days. I’m not as up to speed on Packers storylines and developments as I should be. After you’re done reading about what I want to see on Friday from the Packers, head to the comments section to let me know what I’m missing and what you’d like to see.

  • Don Barclay to move another step closer to winning the right tackle job. I’m all-in on Barclay after Bulaga’s injury. I’m glad that David Bakhtiari looks capable of filling in for Bulaga, but I don’t think he’s going to be much of a run blocker (at least not yet). If Newhouse is the right tackle, that means both tackles would be lacking in the run blocking department. I want Barclay to step up because I think he adds to the running game. Sure, he might struggle in pass protection, but Aaron Rodgers is good enough to cover for him most of the time. I’d like another mauler like Barclay on the line, but he needs to step up and take the job and prove he’s actually the mauler I think he is.
  • Graham Harrell to air it out. Enough dinking and dunking, Graham. The Packers like to launch bombs and unless you prove that you can air it out once in a while, you won’t be the backup quarterback on this team. I know, I know. If Harrell ever does have to take regular season snaps, Mike McCarthy will adjust the gameplan accordingly, but that doesn’t mean he wants a checkdown machine out there.
  • Eddie Lacy to play. I hate getting new toys and not being able to use them. I want to see Lacy play and truck the snot out of defenders.
6

August

Jordy Nelson Out For The Preseason After Knee Procedure

Jordy Nelson

WR Jordy Nelson is done for training camp and the preseason after knee surgery to reportedly correct a nerve issue

In a stunning development after the conclusion of this morning’s training camp practice, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy announced that wide receiver Jordy Nelson is out for the remainder of training camp and the preseason after a procedure was done on his knee.

According to ESPN.com, the procedure was to correct a nerve issue with his knee that flared up during training camp.  The ESPN report says that Nelson could have made it through the season with pain and by taking medication, but he opted for the surgery that would correct the problem.

McCarthy said he was “hopeful” Nelson would be ready for the regular season opener against the San Francisco 49ers but that is not  certain at this pont.  With Randall Cobb leaving today’s practice with what McCarthy called a bicep injury, the Green Bay wide receiver corps is suddenly getting thin.  Cobb’s injury does not seem severe, but the loss of Nelson leaves James Jones as the only receiver from the team’s top three to remain healthy.

This is good news for Jarrett Boykin as well as Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey to make noise on the practice field.  Johnson and Dorsey have missed practice with injuries but with Nelson confirmed out, this may still give them one last shot at making an impression.  Don’t rule out Myles White either.

After emerging from the first week of camp relatively healthy, the injury bug struck the Packers hard this week with the news about Nelson as well as the reported ACL tear suffered by left tackle Bryan Bulaga.  For a team that was decimated by injuries last season, Green Bay can’t be too thrilled with the injury news coming out of training camp this week.

 

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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4

August

Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Training Camp

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Another week of Packers training camp is in the books. Is it Sept. 8 yet?

Finley pipes down
I’ve never been one of those people who gets all bent out of shape whenever Jermichael Finley says something that stirs the pot — I’ll take honesty and candor over canned cliches any day. But it looks like Finley is at least trying the cliche route…for now. Will a boring Finley in front of the microphones lead to a more exciting Finley on the football field? I don’t think one has anything to do with the other. If Finley becomes a force at tight end, it won’t be because he zipped his lips during training camp. Besides, if he does finally break out, people would probably be more tolerant of whatever does come out of his mouth.

Hawk OK with pay cut
Calling it “more of an ego thing than anything that guys can’t get over,” LB A.J. Hawk spoke about taking a pay cut this offseason in order to stay with the Packers. After the slash in pay, Hawk is due to make $10.6 million over the final three years of his deal. That sounds like more than enough money for a guy who rarely makes impactful plays. It’s good to hear Hawk speak openly about taking a cut and being a team guy, but deep down, even he has to know that there probably wasn’t another team out there that would be willing to pay him over $10 million. It’s still a great deal for Hawk, and the Packers obviously think it’s a fair price for a LB that hasn’t made many flash plays, but is healthy and ready to go every Sunday.

Bakhtiari making a move
We’ve been hearing nothing but good things about David Bakhtiari. There are even rumblings that he might end up winning the starting right tackle job. The rookie from Colorado appears to be plenty athletic to be the kind of pass protector the Packers like. And with Marshall Newhouse being, well, Marshall Newhouse, and Don Barclay horsing around at backup center, perhaps the window is open for the rookie to win the job. But remember: We haven’t made it to the first exhibition game yet. All rookies are getting loved up right now because they’re new, they’re fresh, their ceilings are perceived to be high and we don’t know their shortcomings yet.

4

August

It’s Time For The Packers To Part Ways With Mason Crosby

Mason Crosby may have just kicked himself out the door at 1265 Lombardi Avenue.

When the Green Bay Packers signed Giorgio Tavecchio to “compete” with Mason Crosby for the starting kicker job, Packers fans everywhere chuckled.

There was no way Tavecchio, an undrafted free agent in 2012 cut by the 49ers, would unseat Green Bay’s long-time incumbent kicker right? This was just a move by general manager Ted Thompson to appease those calling for Crosby’s head after a poor 2012. It had to be.

Well, that very well may have been Thompson’s mindset in March when Tavecchio was brought on board but it’s not anymore.  Thanks to a poor showing by Crosby in the team’s annual Family Night scrimmage (3-8 overall) and a solid night by Tavecchio (6-7 overall), the kicking competition is serious, and don’t call it Shirley.

Everyone hoped Crosby’s 2012 struggles were behind him and the early news from training camp looked promising.  Things went right back downhill during Family Night however and the frustrated look on Crosby’s face Saturday night didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the veteran.  It is clear Crosby’s confidence has been on thin ice since last season ended and it’s beginning to break before the first preseason game.

Further proof that the vultures may be circling over Crosby was the comment coach Mike McCarthy made about his kicker after the scrimmage. In short, he wasn’t pleased.  McCarthy said that Crosby “definitely didn’t take a step in the right direction” and that “he’s definitely got to do better than that because that’s not going to cut it.”

That’s quite the change from the defiant McCarthy who stood firmly behind his kicker last season despite some serious accuracy problems.

What did Crosby think of his performance? Well, he said he was “way past” his issues from last year and that he’s “just working on things.”  Not exactly a ringing self-endorsement. In Crosby’s defense, he did say he knows his performance in the scrimmage was “unacceptable and I have to do better.”

So where do (or should) the Packers go from here?

It’s time to cut the cord with Crosby.  With as much time between the end of last season and training camp, Crosby should have had enough time to exorcise the mental demons that were plaguing him in 2012 and come back strong in 2013.