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.

10

May

Packers Undrafted Free Agents: Running Backs

Duane Bennett

Minnesota Gophers RB and Packers undrafted free agent Duane Bennett.

If you’re looking for a position group on the Packers roster that might be infiltrated by an undrafted free agent, running back is a strong possibility.

Ryan Grant is likely gone, James Starks can’t stay healthy, Alex Green is coming off a bad knee injury and Brandon Saine is unproven. Here’s a look at the Packers 2012 undrafted free agent running backs and why they might have a shot at making the team.

Duane Bennett, RB, Minnesota
Height: 5-9
Weight: 213 pounds
Pro Day Results: 40-yd. dash — 4.62; 20-yd dash — 2.70; 10-yd. dash — 1.56; 225-lb. bench reps — 28; Vertical jump — 35.5″; Broad jump — 10’00″; 20-yd shuttle — 4.16; 3-cone drill — 6.92.
Career Notes: Finished with 2,126 rushing yards, 13th in Gophers history. … 639 rushing yards on 166 carries (3.85 avg.) senior season. … 96-yard kickoff return for TD against Wisconsin week 10 of senior season. … Blocked a punt and returned it for TD senior season. … Earned freshman All-Big Ten honors. … Sophomore season ended after two games due to knee injury.

Overview
Because I live in Minnesota, I get a chance to see the Gophers play on a regular basis. The Gophers are usually a chore to watch, but they had a few intriguing teams under Glen Mason. Using offensive lineman that were a bit undersized but extremely mobile, Mason built the Gophers’ offense around a running game that featured guys like Marion Barber III, Laurence Maroney, Thomas Hamner and Gary Russell.

After Mason left, the Gophers went from being a mediocre team that was somewhat fun to watch to a terrible team that is painful to watch. Those impressive offensive lines and dynamic running backs now seem like a distant memory, especially the offensive lines. Just ask Duane Bennett.

Bennett was recruited by Mason and kept his committment to the Gophers after Mason was fired. Because Bennett was a Mason recruit, and because Minnesota’s offensive line has been abysmal in the post-Mason era, I have some hope that Bennett might be a better player than his college stats indicate.

Bennett is strong, his 28 bench press reps at Minnesota’s pro day would’ve tied for the most among running back at the NFL combine. He’s also overcome a serious knee injury and makes an impact on special teams. He looked indecisive at times in college, but it was hard to tell if he was actually indecisivie or if the Gophers line was so bad that he just didn’t know what to do with himself.

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

26

July

Packers Undrafted Free Agent OL Nick McDonald & Chris Campbell Vying for a Roster Spot

In the third of this multi-part series, I will examine the  Green Bay Packers 2010 undrafted free agent offensive linemen (Nick McDonald and Chris Campbell) and their chances of making the 53-man roster or practice squad.

You can find Part 1 of this series (Wide Receivers) HERE
You can find Part 2 of this series (Running Backs) HERE

Will one of these offensive linemen spin the wheel of fortune and land a big jackpot or will they hit bankrupt and go away empty-handed?

In each of the last five  years, at least one UDFA has made the Packers’ 53-man roster. In 2009, it was offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. Lets look at the 2010 UDFA OL candidates and evaluate their chances…

Part Three – OFFENSE – Offensive Linemen

Nick McDonald: Grand Valley State, 6’4”, 316lbs,  5.21 40yd time, 1.85 10yd time, 27” vertical, 27 reps@225lbs, and a 8’6” broad jump. He pulled a hamstring during his 40, so he could not participate in the short shuttle or cone drills.

Video:

Scouting Report: Quick and strong – often leads ‘around the corner’ on sweeps. 300+ pounds but still agile and able to get position on LB/DBs. Makes solid contact and destroys his opponent. Great footwork and mechanics in pass protection against some of D-II’s best pass rushers.
McDonald played special teams and multiple positions along the line during his career, making him a versatile player that should make a roster because of his versatility and ability to help in multiple positions.

Signed by Green Bay as a non-drafted free agent on April 30, 2010… A four-year letterman, he played in 44 games with 29 starts during his career at Grand Valley State (Allendale, Mich.)… Started all 15 games at LT for the Lakers as a senior, and was named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year… Was named Division 2 first team All-American, Helped the Lakers rush for 227.5 yards per game (11th in the country) and have two RBs eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season… Anchored a line that allowed only 0.6 sacks per game, which ranked No. 3 in the nation… Earned second-team All-GLIAC honors as a junior in 2008 when he started all 12 games at RG… McDonald had a better 40 time then top guard prospects, Iupati, Petrus, Johnson, Beadles.  Only Iupati had a better 10 yard time at 1.84 seconds.

21

July

Packers Undrafted Free Agent Running Back Quinn Porter Looking to Surprise

In the second of this multi-part series, I will examine the only Green Bay Packers 2010 undrafted free agent running back (Quinn Porter) and his chances of making the 53-man roster or practice squad.

(You can find Part 1 of this series HERE)

Will Porter’s spin of the wheel land the Packers a big jackpot or will they hit bankrupt and go away empty-handed?

In each of the last five  years, at least one UFA has made the Packers’ 53-man roster. Will Porter be the one to continue the trend in 2010? Lets take a closer look at Porter and what he is up against.

Part Two – OFFENSE – Running Backs

The Packers kept three running backs last year, stashed Kregg Lumpkin on the practice squad, and of course kept the now infamous trio of fullbacks.  While many are assuming they won’t do the same this year, I say it’s just as possible as it was last year.

UDFA Rookies:

Quinn Porter,  Stillman College, 6’0″, 205 lbs, 4.48 40yd time. Signed by Green Bay as a non-drafted free agent on April 30, 2010……

VIDEO: (FF to 2:30 mark)

AUDIO INTERVIEW:

Originally walked on at Stillman College (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) before eventually earning a scholarship and lettering all four years. After spending his redshirt season and first four games of his freshman year at WR, asked the coaches if he could move to RB due to injuries at that position… Made his collegiate debut at RB at Miles College (Sept. 24), and stayed there for the rest of his career.  Rushed for 2,788 yards and 24 TDs on 511 carries (5.5 avg.) in 37 games… Added 68 receptions for 887 yards (13.0 avg.) and 12 TDs and posted a 32.0-yard average on 19 kickoff returns. Porter was also the starting punter soph & junior years (35 yd avg) and was 2 for 2 on passes thrown for over 50 yds each and 1 TD.

As a senior, received honorable mention All-America honors from D2Football.com. His average of 138.1 rushing yards per game ranked fifth in Division II. Posted a 39.8-yard average on 10 kickoff returns, highlighted by a pair of 90-yard TDs.

19

July

2010 Packers Undrafted Free Agent Wide Receivers Battle for Brett Swain’s Spot

In this multi-part series, I will be examining the Green Bay Packers 2010 crop of undrafted free agents and analyzing  their chances of making the 53-man roster or practice squad. This first installment will deal with the wide receivers.

With 13 undrafted free agent rookies (UDFAs) currently on the 2010 roster, the Packers’ Ted Thompson will once again be spinning the “Undrafted Free Agent Wheel of Fortune.”

Will any of these 13 spins of the wheel land them a big win or will they hit bankrupt and go away empty-handed? Recent history indicates the Packers will walk away with at least a consolation prize. But before that happens, three of these players are likely to be let go to make room when Mike Neal and Bryan Bulaga sign contracts and if and when Atari Bigby signs his tender.

Since 1992, 21 undrafted free agents who signed with the Packers immediately after the draft have made the Packers season opening roster. Presently, there are 32 players on the Packers current roster who entered the league as undrafted free agents.

In each of the last five years, at least one UDFA has made the Packers’ 53-man roster. Will the trend continue in 2010? Lets first take a quick look at the wide receiver position and some of the candidates.

Part One – OFFENSE – Wide Receivers

The Packers kept five wide receivers last year and stashed one on the Practice Squad (Jake Allen and later, Patrick Williams). They are almost certain to do the same in 2010.

UDFA Rookies:

Shawn Gore,  Bishop University, Canada. 6’0″, 198 lbs, 4.50 40yd time.

VIDEO

Signed by Green Bay on May 3, 2010, after participating in Green Bay’s rookie orientation camp on a tryout basis… Played in 29 games with 28 starts during his career, and posted 72 receptions for 1,141 yards (15.8 avg.) and seven TDs… Started all eight games at slotback as a senior, and led the Gaiters with 32 catches for 496 yards (15.5 avg.) and five TDs. Gore was a special teams contributor as a gunner and blocker. He did not return kicks as there was another player handling that job on his team.

Nice interview here with Shawn Gore by Greg Bedard.

Jeff Moturi, Texas El-Paso, 5’11”, 186lbs, 4.43 40yd time.    Ranked 48 out of 273  Wide receivers by NFLDraftScout.com.

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: