13

June

Did Too Much Toughness Backfire on Tramon Williams Last Season?

Maybe being so tough backfired on Tramon Williams last season.

If you haven’t read Tyler Dunne’s story on Packers CB Tramon Williams and his injured shoulder in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, take a few minutes and check it out.

Williams sounds like a tough guy, doesn’t he? Sounds like the type of guy that would fit in just as well in the Vince Lombardi era as he does in the Mike McCarthy era. From Dunne’s story:

 

 “His shoulder was torn, strained, bruised – and worst of all – Williams suffered nerve damage. That nerve damage zapped Williams’ aggressiveness and his play suffered.”

 

You can’t question Williams’ toughness, but is too much toughness a bad thing?

After a breakout season in 2010 earned him a new contract, Williams was terrible in 2011. The lack of a pass rush and overall ineptitude of the defense didn’t help, but there’s no sugar-coating the fact that Williams got torched way too often.

It sounds like Williams’ injured shoulder changed how he played and probably was to blame for at least a few of those torchings.

The injury also meant that Williams couldn’t press cover. When teammates were in the area of the ballcarrier, Williams avoided contact as much as possible, letting other players make tackles (or miss them). He also stayed away from pile-ups.

Now Williams is saying that the shoulder still bothers him and he might not be back to 100 percent before training camp.

Yikes.

As I write this, I’m sitting on my deck, enjoying a glass of water after my bike ride home from work (I’m also avoiding grocery shopping until my wife gets mad and orders me to go). In other words, I am in no position to judge whether an NFL cornerback is fit to play or not.

But the question has to be asked: What was gained by having an injured Williams take the field over and over again? Was a one-armed Williams really a better option than a healthy Davon House, Jarrett Bush or Pat Lee?

Yes, House is unproven and Bush and Lee make us wince whenever they run on the field, but Williams was in their shoes at one point, too. At the very least, Williams should have sat out the regular season finale where he was abused by Calvin Johnson and “was in visible pain in the locker room” after the game.

14

May

Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL Draft: The Reasons Behind the Picks Part II

NFL Draft Logo Image

2012 NFL Draft

So here is part II of the reasons behind the draft picks (see part I here)  Again, I’m not assigning grades to the draft or to the players because I don’t believe you can tell whether or not a player will pan out within the first 30 something days.  What I am interested in is what the Packers were thinking of when they decided to draft a player; with that in mind, this is what I think the Packers want to accomplish with each draft pick and which player each rookie could be potentially be replacing.

Jeron McMillian – Projected Strong Safety – Round 4, Pick #38 (#133 overall) – Replaces Pat Lee

Rationale: First off let’s be honest here, I don’t think we have the next Nick Collins in McMillian; I was actually very surprised that McMillian was drafted at all by the Packers simply because he doesn’t fit into the mold of what the Packers look for in safeties.  The Packers are probably more interested in playing two free safeties (which there really wasn’t one this year in the draft), consider their preferred pairing of Collins and Morgan Burnett (who ironically never really played together): both have good ball skills and the ability to jump passing routes.  What McMillian does best is run support, which is almost the exact opposite of a ball hawk.   Then again even if McMillian is the next Collins I highly doubt that the Packers can afford to stick him out there in his first year, which is even more reason why I think Woodson will have to make the move to safety.

What McMillian can do, and almost immediately, is play on special teams.  One of the less covered bits of news in the offseason was that cornerback Pat Lee was not resigned by the Packers but was curiously signed by the Oakland Raiders; many assumed this was just because of new Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie’s background knowledge of Lee, but I think its apparent that Lee is always going to be a liability in coverage so more realistically McKenzie wanted his special teams ability.  Lee actually was the gunner opposite of Jarrett Bush and it’s an important position, just look at who was the Packers priority signing this offseason (and it wasn’t Matt Flynn).  My assumption is that the Packers are hoping that McMillian contributes immediately to special teams as a gunner while refining his coverage technique and perhaps becomes a starter on the defense in the future, but anything more than special teams ace in his first couple of years is probably wishful thinking.

25

March

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

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

The Packers signed free agent center Jeff Saturday this week to replace the departed Scott Wells. Yes, I said the Packers signed a free agent. A free agent that I actually heard of, nonetheless.

I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to react to this occasion.  It’s been a while since Ted Thompson blew the dust off the checkbook he uses to sign free agents from other teams and actually brought someone in. Fans from other teams often celebrate like they just won the Super Bowl after inking a free agent so….congrats fellow Packers fans?

Thompson obviously didn’t know how to react to the occasion, either. He was so confused and out of sorts about what he just did that he turned around and did it again, signing free agent defensive lineman Daniel Muir.

Now, Muir fits the mold of a Packers free-agent signing much more than Saturday. Muir is a journeyman that Thompson signed and released once before. He’ll have to fight hard just to make the team and anything he contributes during the season will be a bonus.

Saturday, on the other hand, will be expected to be what he’s been his whole career: A reliable pass-blocking center who quarterbacks the offensive line for one of the most explosive offenses in the league, often during no-huddle situations. I’m sure Saturday is up to the task, but he’s also going to be 37 years old when the season starts.

Yes, Saturday has started all 16 games in six of the past seven seasons, but the thing with 37-year-olds is that they’re, well…old. You never know when the body of a 37-year-old football player might say enough is enough, or their skill set diminishes almost overnight.

Saturday was a good signing. No arguments about that. But it’s still going to be business as usual for the Packers at the center position. Saturday will (hopefully) fill in nicely this season and possibly next, but the Packers will still likely draft a center in April, both to solidify the position long-term and provide insurance in case age gets the best of Saturday.

Tim Tebow, Pat Lee/Jarrett Bush, Anthony Hargrove

23

March

Pat Lee Out, Jarrett Bush In: Looking at the Packers’ Cornerback Situation

Pat LeeWith Pat Lee headed out of Green Bay and Jarrett Bush re-signed for three years, the Packers’ defensive back situation is looking more and more clear for next season.

Pat Lee’s four years with the Packers have to be considered a disappointment after being drafted in the 2nd round with the 60th overall pick. Lee struggled to make an impact on defense and failed to stick as a return man, but was a contributor in Super Bowl XLV following Charles Woodson’s shoulder injury. Although it didn’t show on the stats (1 tackle), Lee was decent enough to keep the Packers from complete collapse defensively.

There are no immediate plans to move Charles Woodson to safety, so he will continue to cover the slot with Tramon Williams and Sam Shields working the outside. Jarrett Bush will continue to be the team’s fourth cornerback with Davon House taking Pat Lee’s spot behind Bush. That would leave one more roster spot if the Packers keep six corners like they did last season. Brandian Ross from the practice squad will likely compete with a draft pick.

Shields was probably the player most hurt by the lockout and lack of off-season workouts following his successful rookie campaign in 2010. Instead of building on his success, Shields regressed in many ways in 2011, including his tackling and other fundamentals.

Williams struggled throughout the year following a shoulder injury in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers. He only missed one week, but it was clear that the shoulder was effecting him throughout the year. With a clean bill of health, Williams will hopefully get back to the success he had in 2010 as one of the league’s top cover-men.

Woodson may have finally started to show his age in 2011 as he missed tackles that you wouldn’t expect out of the potential future hall of famer. Despite this, Woodson still has plenty left to offer and will continue to fill the role of covering the slot receiver.

Bush, with his new contract, will continue to be the Packers’ top special teams player and serve as the nickel back. Bush has improved his defensive play, but still has his issues. He specifically struggles to get his head turned around and locate the football in the last moment.

27

February

Thomas Hobbes’ Green Bay Packers Offseason Blueprint

Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson
  1. Release LT Chad Clifton: The writing is on the wall.  Even Chad Clifton knew that it was unlikely that he would ever finish his 3 year and had most of the money guaranteed up front (which was helped by the cap-less season before the lockout).  Clifton has had issues staying healthy in the twilight of his career and this year was no different with Clifton being out for the majority of the season.  Added to that a $5.5 million salary in 2012, ascending player in Bryan Bulaga, 1st round draft choice Derek Sherrod and up and at least a serviceable backup in Marshall Newhouse and the Packers have set themselves well for life after Clifton.
  2. Renegotiate Charles Woodson and Donald Driver contracts:
    1. Charles Woodson: Woodson has undeniably lost a step and his high-risk high-reward style of play backfired a couple times last season.  Woodson currently leads the Packers roster with a salary of $11.5 million, some of which was a bonus for a NFL defensive player of the year award in 2009.  But what Woodson is still capable of is shutting down the new breed of tight end, like Jermichael Finley.  For instance, Woodson is still quick enough and physical enough to handle a Jimmy Graham, and I’m not sure who else on the defense could.  Unfortunately Woodson will turn 36 next season and at some point he’s going to have to realize that aging veterans start getting marginalized.  Hopefully Woodson doesn’t let his fiery attitude get in the way of business.
    2. Donald Driver: At 37, Driver has exceeded even the greatest expectations by still being in the NFL at all.  However, his production dropped drastically with the emergence of Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson and has Randall Cobb and James Jones breathing down his neck for more playing time.  What Driver has to his benefit is experience, he’s well versed in the offense and isn’t likely to miss an assignment or a read.  What hurts him is that he’s not player he used to be and he wouldn’t survive playing on special teams.  In my opinion Driver should be retained since consistency at wide receiver (even as the 5th wide receiver) outweighs any benefits a player has on special teams.  Furthermore, I’m not convinced that any free agent/undrafted rookie would be better than Driver.  Are Cobb and Jones better than Driver?  Probably.  Are Tori Gurely or Diondre Biorel better?  I doubt it.
2

February

Pat Lee: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers defensive back Pat Lee

Pat Lee

1) Introduction: Excuse me for sounding like Jon Gruden, but here’s a guy that really needs no introduction.   Pat Lee has emerged as a convenient scapegoat for Packer fans ever since his embarrassing performance against the Detroit Lions.  Throw in multiple mishaps the past couple seasons, and this is likely the final time AllGreenBayPackers.com will be evaluating Lee.

2) Profile:

Pat Lee
Height: 6’0”
Weight:  196
AGE: 27

Career Stats

3) Expectations coming into the season: Lee was expected to be nothing more than a contributor on special teams.  While he’s no Jarrett Bush,  Lee was expected to step it up on a special teams unit that notoriously stuggled throughout 2010 (Dan Connolly anyone?)

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights:  Highlights? Well, he recovered a fumble  against the Chiefs in the preseason.  That about covers it.

Now there are plenty of low-lights. Let’s start with the game in Detroit on Thanksgiving.  Before the famous Ndamukong Suh stomp, Lee was ejected after a punt return when he supposedly took a swing at Aaron Berry of the Lions.  It was a classic case of the second person getting caught, but it still stung to see a Packer player.

Lee also made the blooper of the season in the season finale also against the Lions.  Lee ran out of the end zone to recover a kickoff at the one yard line and then kneeled in the end zone. POOF! Instant safety and an instant “face palm” for Packer fans.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: I’d say he was more of a detriment when he actually sniffed the field.  The Packers special teams were much improved this season but that may have been due to the presence of Randall Cobb.  Many hoped Lee would evolve into another Bush, but his season (and his career thus far) ultimately proved disappointing.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Like most of team, he didn’t show up to play.  The Packers needed a big game from their return teams and just like the defense, they were flat.  The Giants won the battle for field position and that’s part of what led them to win the game.

Season Report Card:

(D) Level of expectations met during the season
(D) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(N/A) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: D

19

January

Green Bay Packers Free Agency: Rating the Packers 2012 FAs

C Scott Wells is one of eight free agents for the Packers in 2012.

It’s far from a Moneyball style stats movement, but the guys over at Pro Football Focus have slowly but surely put together one of the premier stat-organizing sites available for the NFL and its legion of fans. It’s not a fool-proof system, and I occasionally disagree with a rating or two from a given game. But PFF grades every player on every play for all 32 teams, so there’s no shortage of work these guys put into their grades and ratings.

With the 2011 season over in Green Bay, I used PFF’s ratings/grades to analyze the Packers’ eight free agents this offseason. If you’re not familiar with the ratings at PFF, don’t fret—a higher score indicates a better rating, and a negative score obviously isn’t what you’re looking for.

Also, for another look at the Packers’ free agents in 2012, check out this article from AllGBP’s own Adam Czech.

CB Jarrett Bush (-4.0, 321 snaps)

There was a time early in the season that Bush was rated as the Packers’ best cornerback. As the season wore on, however, teams exploited Bush in the passing game more and more. In the Packers’ final regular season game against Detroit, Bush played a season-high 83 snaps and allowed 105 receiving yards on 10 targets. Overall on the season, Bush allowed 19 completions on 38 attempts for 302 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions (72.5 passer rating). Bush also finished with seven tackles on special teams, which was good for third on the team.

TE Jermichael Finley (-4.4, 832 snaps)

A couple of factors hurt Finley’s rating in 2011. As you’d expect, one knock was drops. PFF had Finley for 14 on the season, which led tight ends by a wide margin and was fifth overall in the NFL. The other was run blocking, where Finley had just two positive games and finished at -8.3 (46th among tight ends). During a year in which so many tight ends put up shocking numbers across the board, Finley was a big disappointment to PFF’s eyes. He completed the season ranked as the 37th best tight end.

QB Matt Flynn (4.6, 119 snaps)