20

May

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sunday with no Packers football.

Surviving Sunday with no Packers Football

This is the time of year when we plant our flowers/veggies while NFL teams hold rookie camps. There are some parallels there.

We select what we think look like healthy new plants/vegetables, and give them an initial strong foundation, planting them firmly in the ground. We then watch over them, monitoring their progress and giving them the care and nurturing they need to sprout into flower or veggie-producing mature plants.

NFL teams pick this years plants (rookies) in the April draft and the free agency period in the days following. Rookie mini-camps are held, where the players are given their initial foundation of knowledge with regards to team operations and offensive/defensive schemes. They are evaluated by the coaching staff, who then decide what kind of individualized ongoing attention and care they will need.

Training expectations are established and their progress is monitored and assisted. The goal is for these young players to develop and blossom into valuable producers in their own right.

Staying on that theme, today’s “Surviving Sunday” will focus on these new Packers players. While we all know their names by now, here are some articles that will tell us a little more about some of these players.

Tyler Dunne of JSOnline.com does an in-depth profile of Packers UDFA running back Marc Tyler.

Over at Acme Packing Company, they take a look at Nick Perry getting all his camp reps at left OLB.

Lori Nicke of JSOnline.com  takes a closer look at new Packers defensive back Casey Hayward.

Brian Carriveau of CheeseheadTV devotes a full podcast to a discussion of the rookie camp happenings.

Tom Silverstein of JSonline.com looks at the boom or bust potential of Packers 7th round draft pick Andrew Datko.

B.J. Coleman researched Packers history before coming to camp.

Jerron McMillian plans to prove the doubters wrong.

The longest of longshots: the 5 players signed as tryout invitees are discussed at Packersnews.com.

Our own Chad Toporski take a closer look at Packers’ UDFAs Sean Richardson and Dezman Moses.

 

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

9

August

Will Any of the 2011 Undrafted Free Agents Make the Packers 53-Man Roster?

Green Bay Packers 2011 Undrafted Free Agents - UDFAs

It probably goes without saying that the 2011 Green Bay Packers should have a deep, talented roster.

That was likely the case before the last season begun, too, and it was proven time and time again during the course of the season when 15 players went to IR. Because of that talent and depth in the roster, the Packers were able to overcome the injuries and win the Super Bowl.

Heading into this season, the Packers only lost a handful of players from that run. The list of players from 2010 playing elsewhere this year: Cullen Jenkins (Eagles), Nick Barnett (Bills), Brandon Jackson (Browns), Daryn Colledge (Cardinals), Jason Spitz (Jaguars), Korey Hall (Saints) and Brady Poppinga (Rams). Brandon Chillar, Mark Tauscher, Anthony Smith, Atari Bigby, Matt Wilhelm, Justin Harrell and Derrick Martin are currently free agents without a team.

From those names, only Jenkins, Jackson, Colledge, Spitz and Hall were with the team the entire season. All the others were either mid-season pickups or went on IR at some point during the year. The point here is that the Packers found adequate replacements for the rest of the players listed, somewhat nullifying their impact on this year’s roster.

It’s a testament to GM Ted Thompson and his team of scouts, as they have done a terrific job of identifying talent, regardless of which avenue they’ve taken to acquire it.

However, the impressive depth of the Packers 2011 roster could mean that Thompson has to back off a strategy he’s used so well in recent years: keeping an undrafted free agent or two on the 53-man roster.

The lockout robbed many of them of valuable time during summer practices, but it’s also forcing both the UDFA’s and Thompson to make quick evaluations during training camp.

The players have had to learn an entire playbook quickly and still impress coaches with their play on the practice field. As if they were already behind, who do you think lost out the most from Saturday’s rainout at Family Night? These guys. Only the No.1 offense and No. 2 defense got any reps in team action. Typically, the scrimmage is just another critical evaluation period for the bottom of the roster. But that didn’t happen Saturday night, as storms called off the practice just 30 minutes or so in.

12

May

15 Undrafted Free Agents the Packers Could Target

While the NFL draft is certainly where Packers GM Ted Thompson does the majority of his best work, the undrafted free agent market has also been kind to Thompson.

His most notable finds—Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Frank Zombo—were all important contributors to the Packers Super Bowl season in 2010.

With that in mind and the 2011 draft over, who could be the next undrafted player that Thompson discovers? Here are some interesting prospects who could be brought in by Thompson (whenever teams are allowed to do so).

CB/S Anthony Walters, Delaware

He’s a cornerback/safety hybrid who can play on special teams and add depth to the Packers secondary. Thompson worked out Walters, and despite taking Davon House, Walters has a solid chance at landing in Green Bay.

WR Jarred Fayson, Illinois

Thompson did well on the last highly skilled but under-acheiving speedster he signed after the draft. If the Packers could harness some of the explosiveness Fayson has (he’s a former five-star recruit), maybe he could be a Sam Shields type player early on.

DT/DE Anthony Gray, Southern Miss

Gray has the type of body and playing style that will remind most of Ryan Pickett and Howard Green. At 5-11, 335 pounds, Gray could help bolster a defensive line that is losing Cullen Jenkins.

OLB Mario Addison, Troy

The Packers added Ricky Elmore in the draft, but there’s nothing wrong with adding competition at rush linebacker. Addison had 10.5 sacks in his final year at Troy, which also happens to be the same school that produced Demarcus Ware.

DE Martin Parker, Richmond

While he impressed at the East-West Shrine Game and looks like a natural fit in the 3-4, Parker went undrafted. The Packers are losing Jenkins, and I’d assume defensive line is a position where Thompson would bring in a few undrafted free agents.

DE Cedric Thornton, Southern Arkansas

Thornton is another guy who looked set to be drafted in the mid-to-late rounds. His size and power make him a candidate to play the five technique for the Packers 3-4 defense.

OT Willie Smith, East Carolina

Smith is only starting to reach his potential at offensive tackle. He’s played the position for just two years, and he could be worth a look as a developmental tackle prospect.

LB Marc Schiechl, Colorado School of Mines

9

August

Green Bay Packers Sam Shields – The Florida Flash

Call him the Florida Flash.  By now, most Packers fans know that Sam Shields can outright fly. Shields himself knows that putting that speed to use on the playing field will be his ticket to outpace other candidates for a spot on the 53-man roster. Let’s just say that after his 98 yard interception at the family night scrimmage, Shields has made a good first impression.

I generally like to do my undrafted free agent evaluations before training camp starts, so I can make more of a “blind”  evaluation uninfluenced by camp performances (I like the challenge). While in the previous weeks I covered the wide receivers, running backs and offensive linemen free agents, there just hasn’t been time to get to the defensive UDFAs.

But there are a couple of defensive UDFAs in camp that are worthy of a “better late than never” evaluation, and we’ll start with Sam Shields.

Shields was born in Sarasota Florida and played football there for Booker High School. After a senior year where Shields caught 67 passes for 1,201 yards (17.9 avg.) and 22 TDs, as well as two TDs on punt returns and a 44 yd average on kickoff returns, Shields was a top-20 nationally ranked WR recruit. Shields chose the University of Miami over Florida, LSU and other suitors.

Shields contributed immediately as a true freshman at Miami. He started 7 of 13 games at WR, caught 37 passes with 4 TDs and was named Honorable Mention Freshman All-American. His production as a wide receiver dropped the next two seasons as he caught 27 passes as a sophomore and only 11 passes as a junior. He excelled as a gunner on special teams, however, and was named Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior.

With Shields having lost playing time as a wide receiver because of too many drops, Miami head coach Randy Shannon looked for another way to get Shields and his speed on the field more often. So they moved Shields to CB, where he started 10 of 12 games as a senior and was named the team’s most improved player.

Fast Forward to March 18th, about a month before the NFL Draft. After arriving at his grandmother’s house to pick up his daughter, Shields was caught in a police raid on the house and charged with possession of marijuana. Sarasota police raided the residence shortly after he arrived because they suspected drugs were being sold there. Shields said he was not using marijuana and was falsely arrested.

28

June

Green Bay Packers Undrafted Free Agents With a Real Shot…

Vince Lombardi had 30 picks in his first draft.  The next year the AFL had its first draft of 33 rounds. Competition for picks was an all out war.  In today’s draft when the final pick is made, it becomes the Wild Wild West for GM’s working to sign the best of the UDFA’s.  With 32 teams drafting, and 7 rounds of picks, getting those picks right can cure or kill a team. Signing the lesser-known players you have scouted is just as important as getting those draft picks right.

(This article is by Lifetime Packer fan Don Christensen, a frequent contibutor as “Yoop” on the TalkinPackers Message Board, who weighs in today with his choices for the UDFAs with the best chances to stick with the team.)
NFL General Managers build teams from the top down with the draft, then from the bottom up developing young players. Many expect their top picks to start right away.  Last year, Clay Matthews made it to the Pro Bowl his rookie year.  But many high draft picks end up playing limited roles in their early years.  I believe the expectations the fans have of higher draft picks is unrealistic and the development of late round picks and undrafted players is greatly overlooked.

Before free agency, NFL GMs drafted players to develop, knowing it takes years to do so. They knew it took time for players to make that jump from college prospect to NFL player. Free agency sees players moving from team to team and that mindset hinders the development of players.

UDFA’s are fighting for a chance, with little or no signing bonus, and no guaranteed contract money. They are players doing whatever they can just to earn a spot on the roster.  I have always followed late round picks and undrafted free agent players.  The struggle is intriguing and these players are critical for team depth.

Undrafted players play a larger role in the NFL than most people realize. Two years ago, the 12 playoff teams carried 167 undrafted players on their rosters.  Every year teams sign more undrafted players than they draft. This year the Giants signed eleven undrafted players with an additional twenty-four for try outs. The Broncos signed twenty undrafted players.

Just take a look at the Packers, then and now.  Some of these players would not have been drafted today: