13

April

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.

Last season it was Mike Daniels. The season before it was Randall Cobb. If the Packers are going to contend for a Super Bowl in 2014, at least one player will have to make the leap from potential to breakout star.

Here are the top contenders:

WR Jarrett Boykin
Boykin is probably at the top of most people’s most likely to break out lists. He was successful last season and he has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Teams will be ready for him in 2014, though. If he’s going to make the leap, he’ll have to do a better job of getting separation.

DL Datone Jones
Unlike Boykin, Jones is probably near the bottom of most people’s lists. Fans soured on Jones late last season and, apparently, so did the coaching staff as fellow rookie Josh Boyd got more snaps down the stretch. I still have high hopes for Jones and I think he can fulfill those hopes. You need to be patient with young defensive linemen. They rarely break out in their rookie seasons. Let’s see what year two brings for Jones.

CB Davon House
We’ve been waiting for House to take the next step for a while now, haven’t we? If he doesn’t take it in 2014, he probably never will. House’s size appears to make him an ideal fit in Green Bay’s defense, but whenever he strings together some good plays, he follows it up with a couple of stinkers and winds up on the bench. With Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward on the roster, House doesn’t have much room for error.

LT David Bakhtiari
We all groaned when Bryan Bulaga went down and the rookie Bakhtiari ended up starting at left tackle. By the end of the season, those groans turned into “Huh. That kid can play.” Yes, it was a good debut for the kid whose last name I hate spelling, but his ceiling is higher than just a feel-good, surprising rookie playing well in a tough spot. The Packers offense can be a whole lot better if Bakhtiari transforms from promising rookie to left-tackle anchor.

TE Brandon Bostick
Based on what little I’ve seen of him, Bostick seems to do everything well except catch the ball. He especially seems to struggle with drops in traffic. If he develops his hands, especially in tight spaces, I like what he can do in the passing game.

5

April

Cory’s Corner: Solidify backup QB job and sign Matt Flynn

Last year proved just how important a backup quarterback is not for just the Packers but for any football team.

Having a bona fide star quarterback is an advantage that coach Mike McCarthy may have gotten a little too comfortable with. He got used to the 50-yard rollout passes on a dime and being able to whistle a fastball into tight windows.

Matt Flynn finished with a 2-2 starting record for the Packers last year. He is an unrestricted free agent after earning a prorated veteran minimum $715,000 by the Packers.

Matt Flynn finished with a 2-2 starting record for the Packers last year. He is an unrestricted free agent after earning a prorated veteran minimum of $715,000 by the Packers.

They say you never really know what you have until it’s gone. Well, that couldn’t have been truer for the Packers last year. With Aaron Rodgers shelved for seven games, the Packers nomadically spun their wheels until Matt Flynn was able to play good enough to fix the leaks and right the ship.

Now I realize Flynn doesn’t exactly strike anything resembling fear into opposing defenses. But he is a six-year NFL veteran and more importantly, he’s a 4½-year vet of the Packers.

Which is exactly why I am surprised that the Packers haven’t signed the unrestricted free agent yet. His 3-4 career starting record may not be anything to brag about but his ability to win over a huddle and lead a team — especially when your No. 1 option goes down — are things you want in a substitute.

Flynn turns 29 this summer and even he must realize that his days of being a starting quarterback are over. After having dreams of leading the Seattle Seahawks, he was upstaged by Russell Wilson. To make matters worse, he was upstaged by Terrelle Pryor in Oakland and the Bills barely kicked the tires before sending him on his way after just 21 days.

The opportunity to become a starting quarterback in the NFL is ever-shrinking, especially with all the dynamic college quarterbacks that are now bursting on to the scene.

The only sticky point could be money. Flynn was paid a pro-rated veteran minimum salary of $715,000 last year for Green Bay. With that money, he salvaged a 16-point deficit against Minnesota, which ended in a tie. And he orchestrated comeback wins vs. Atlanta and the thriller at Dallas.

2

April

What Do Packers Injuries and Winning Have In Common? Packing the Stats…

Packing the StatsA lot has been made about the Packers misfortune when it comes to injuries; injuries was the major hurdle that the Packers overcame to get to the playoffs and ultimately win the Super Bowl in 2010 and injuries again were the major obstacle in 2013 with Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews and Bryan Bulaga all missing significant time due to their respective injuries.

I have always argued that the nature of injuries is in large part random; football is a vicious sport and there are so many different ways to get injured that are largely out of the control of the player, the coaching staff or the front office.  Not many would argue that the tackle that Nick Collins ended his career was unusual nor was the hit that Jermichael Finley took against Cleveland anything out of the norm.  Rodgers breaking his clavicle and Matthews breaking his thumb all occurred on mundane plays that both players have been involved in countless times before in their careers.

In 2013 alone, I would argue that the only two injuries likely could have been avoided were Brandon Merriweather spearing Eddie Lacy and maybe Randall Cobb breaking his leg against Baltimore (but in the defense of Matt Elam, going low is now encouraged to defenders with so many fines being levied to helmet to helmet contact).

Data 1

However, it’s pretty undeniable that the Packers as a franchise have either had consistent terrible luck or something else is at play.  The Packers have had one of the worst strings of injuries over the last 4 years and it’s 99.9% significant compared to the rest of the league.  Fingers have been pointed at pretty much every remote possibility; plenty have blamed Ted Thompson and the front office for drafting players who are injury prone (i.e. Justin Harrell), some have blamed the coaching staff for not teaching proper form while others have blamed the strength and conditioning coaches (there was some ridiculous rumor that floated around that the 49ers had a secret stretching routine that made them impervious to injuries; keep in mind free agency does happen and more importantly players stretch out on the field for everyone to see).

15

March

Cory Corner: Ted Thompson’s loyalty will pay dividends

Instead of bringing outside free agents, Ted Thompson has opted to reward loyalty and sign players to stay in Green Bay.

Instead of bringing in outside free agents, Ted Thompson has opted to reward loyalty and sign players to stay in Green Bay.

Ted Thompson is proving that devotion and dedication mean more than stats.

The Packers general manager has stuck to his draft and develop philosophy. He has signed four free agents in Sam Shields, Mike Neal, Andrew Quarless and even B.J. Raji to come back and play their home games at Lambeau Field.

I’ve seen and heard numerous people bash Thompson for not bringing in free agents from other teams in order to help the Packers win their fifth Super Bowl title.

Frankly, the fact that Thompson likes to embrace loyalty and reward his guys shouldn’t be overlooked.

Remember, when you bring in outside guys, there is a bit of a transition period as the newbies get acquainted with how things are run. They must get acclimated to the playbook, varying types of schemes for different types of situations and know what and how is expected.

Obviously, former players already know that. They’ve already got strong bonds with teammates, which doesn’t hurt the all-important team chemistry, but most importantly, they already know their roles.

Neal is coming back after a season in which he was tied for third on the team in sacks. It would be ridiculous to even assume that he would demand a Clay Matthews role as the focal point of the defense. But if the Packers had brought in a guy like DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen or Julius Peppers who’s to say that wouldn’t have happened?

Same thing on the offensive side. Quarless all-of-a-sudden isn’t going to demand Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb targets because he knows his role in the delicate Packers ecosystem.

There were, heck there still are, decent guys available. Brian Orakpo is still hanging around, but since he was franchised by the Redskins nobody wants to part with two first round draft picks for a guy that is now arguing with Washington about whether he should be franchised as a linebacker or a defensive end. (It should be noted that the franchise designation as a linebacker is $11.455 million as opposed to $13.116 million for a defensive end).

22

February

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

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Note: Relax, no need to go check your calendar – it’s not Sunday. Just a little scheduling snafu. Look for a bonus edition tomorrow, though…  

I’m going straight to the Packers news and commentary this week. No time for a long intro rant or rave. There is snow to shovel. More and more snow to shovel. 

By the time this winter is over, my back is going to snap in half from shoveling and Dr. Pat McKenzie will refuse to clear me in time for training camp.

Packers news, notes and links

  • Tyler Dunne at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel talked to a bunch of folks about Sam Shields. Is Shields worth a mega-contract? You might not find a faster corner in the league. But Shields also has missed games every season with various injuries. And he has a little ways to go before truly being one of the league’s top corners instead of having the potential to be one of the league’s top corners. As with any free-agent decision, it all comes down to value. I’d like to see Shields re-signed, but if he walks, the Packers still have Tramon Williams, a returning Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde and Davon House at cornerback.
  • Mike Mccarthy sounded optimistic in an interview at the NFL Scouting Combine that Jermichael Finley would play again. Finley had the same two vertebrae fused that ended Nick Collins career. I’m rooting for Finley to make it back, but I still have doubts that, if he does return, it’ll be with the Packers. Either way, I’m curious what kind of offer he gets in free agency if he is cleared.
  • Ted Thompson also spoke at the combine. As usual, he said nothing.
  • I agree with John Rehor over at Packerstalk.com: Let’s calm down about Ted Thompson preparing to go all nutso in free agency. I don’t see it happening. I do think Thompson will sign a few guys. There has been value in some under-the-radar veterans in recent years that don’t completely blow up a team’s payroll. Thompson has missed the boat on some of these guys and won’t want to miss it again. At least I hope he won’t…
  • As always, when you’re at Packerstalk.com, check out the latest podcasts from this week.
20

February

Is the Next Jarrett Boykin on the Packers Roster?

Myles White

Could Myles White end up contributing to the Packers next season?

With Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb due to hit free agency next offseason, the Packers could be looking to draft a wide receiver in April.

Or maybe they’re confident that they can re-up with Nelson and Cobb and aren’t worried about finding another receiver in the draft.

Or maybe they think they have a capable replacement for Nelson or Cobb already on the roster, and the rest of us just don’t know about him yet.

That last scenario seems by far the least plausible, but you never know. Nobody heard of Jarrett Boykin, but he became a reliable receiver and might step into James Jones’ role in 2014 if Jones signs elsewhere.

Of the Packers four “unknown” wide receivers currently on the roster, which one has the best chance of turning into a player? Here’s what I think:

Myles White
Some were saying White was the fastest receiver in training camp. He was also a hurdling star in high school and was signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech. Speed and athleticism isn’t the issue for White. Size is.

White is barely over 180 pounds and probably needs to buff up if he wants to stick around and have a legitimate shot at cracking the lineup. If White gets bigger and improves, he can potentially be a deep outside burner who would be a nice complement to the bigger Jordy Nelson, Jones (if he re-signs), Boykin and Cobb (who likes to work inside).

White was called up off the practice squad for the middle part of the season and didn’t do much in 123 snaps. Of course, he didn’t have Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball, either. White’s season came to an end early when he tore cartilage in his knee.

Chris Harper
He used to play for the Seahawks so he must be halfway decent, right? Well, maybe.

Harper has the size (228) to be another Boykin-type of receiver — tough to bring down and holds his own blocking. But there must be a reason he was cut by the Seahawks (and later by the 49ers) not long after getting drafted in the fourth round. Bob McGinn ranked Harper 12th in his pre-draft wide receiver rankings and quoted scouts who said Harper catches well in traffic and can play in the red zone.

19

February

Randall Cobb 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers WR Randall Cobb

1) Introduction: The Packers best offensive play in the season’s final two games was to have Aaron Rodgers magically escape the grasp of an oncoming defender or two, scurry outside the pocket, and throw it Randall Cobb, who somehow managed to improvise, get behind the defense and catch Rodgers’ attention. Cobb was slowed by injuries at the end of 2012 and missed most of 2013 with a fractured leg. He’s a free agent after next season and will need to stay healthy if he wants to cash in.

2) Profile:

Randall Cobb

  • Age: 23
  • Born: 8/22/1990 in Maryville, TN
  • Height: 5’10″
  • Weight: 191
  • College: Kentucky
  • Rookie Year: 2011
  • NFL Experience: 3 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: This year was going to be another progression in Cobb becoming one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL. All was mostly going as planned until Cobb fractured his leg against Baltimore.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Of course, Cobb’s catch against the Bears in the season finale tops the highlight list, not just for Cobb but for the Packers entire season. Receiving honorable mention is Cobb’s long run that woke up the Packers muddling offense against Detroit and a couple of nice catches on improvised plays in the playoffs.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Without Cobb, the Packers probably don’t make the playoffs. When he was on the field, Cobb’s speed from the slot and overall playmaking ability made a good offense much more dynamic.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Cobb only had two catches in the postseason, but they were two memorable catches. Too bad the Packers couldn’t punch it in the end zone after Cobb’s last big catch.

Season Report Card:

(B) Level of expectations met during the season

(A-) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(B) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade:  B

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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