15

March

Packers News: Francois returns to Green Bay on one-year deal

Packers LB Robert Francois

Packers LB Robert Francois

Who says the Packers never do anything in free agency?

On Friday afternoon, inside linebacker Robert Francois agreed to a one-year contract to remain in Green Bay, according to ProFootballTalk via Twitter. In the days leading up to free agency, Francois openly discussed his preference to stay with the Packers.

“They brought him in,” said Noel LaMontagne, one of Francois’ agents, according to JSOnline.com. “They gave him the opportunity. He’s been through the highs and lows there and obviously that organization is built for long-term success and Rob wants to be a part of it.”

By signing the one-year contract, Francois will spend his fourth season in Green Bay in 2013. Between 2010 and 2012, Francois has started a total of three games for the Packers, racking up 14 tackles, two pass deflections and an interception as a starter, according to NFL.com.

But his primary role with the Packers is on special teams.

As things currently stand, Francois joins Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, Terrell Manning, D.J. Smith and Jamari Lattimore as the team’s inside linebackers. Brad Jones is a free agent and visited with the Tennessee Titans Mar. 15.

There has also been some debate regarding Hawk’s future with the team, as he’s currently set to count $5.45 million against the cap. Linebacker is certainly a position to keep an eye on this offseason.

(UPDATE: Hawk has accepted a pay cut to remain with the team, as of Friday afternoon)

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Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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12

March

Packers News: Team issues Restricted Free Agent tenders

Sam Shields received the second-round tender

Sam Shields received the second-round tender

Today is the day free agency is officially set to kick off, and it’s also the deadline for teams to tender their restricted free agents.

Yesterday, the Packers surprised some by hitting Evan Dietrich-Smith with the lowest possible tender. Because Dietrich-Smith was undrafted, the Packers would get no compensation if they he signed with another team and they opted not to match the contract. If the Packers don’t reach an extension with him before the season, he’ll make $1.323 million next year, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Dietrich-Smith is expected to step in as the team’s starting center if he returns. He replaced Jeff Saturday in the starting lineup in week 16 after starting four games at left guard earlier in the season.

According to Silverstein, Green Bay slapped Sam Shields with the second-round tender worth $2.023 million. If a team signs Shields to an offer sheet and the Packers choose not to match, they’ll get a second-round draft pick in return.

The Packers clearly don’t want to take a chance with Shields, as they are with Dietrich-Smith. Shields bounced back from a poor 2011 season and played well in 2012. Along with Casey Hayward, Tramon Williams and Davon House, Shields makes the team’s cornerback group one of the deepest positions on the team.

While Dietrich-Smith and Shields received their tenders, the team has decided not to tender linebackers Frank Zombo and Robert Francois, or tight end Tom Crabtree. Zombo and Francois would figure to generate only moderate interest on the open market, but Crabtree could garner some interest as a reserve tight end.

With the uncertain future of tight end Jermichael Finley, some were quick to point to Crabtree in identifying the team’s next starting tight end. And while Crabtree had his fair share of big plays in 2012, the team clearly doesn’t view him as a starting-caliber player or they would have handed down a tender.

Zombo, an undrafted rookie in 2010, has appeared in 12 of a possible 32 regular-season games the past two seasons. It’s possible the Packers could bring him back on a minimum contract.

Francois has been open about his desire to return to Green Bay after spending the last three seasons with the Packers. He made two starts in 2011 with Desmond Bishop sidelined with an injury, but his role is primarily on special teams.

20

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Inside Linebackers

Packers Inside Linebackers:  If nothing else, the 2012 team showed us how deep we are at inside linebacker. After losing two starters in Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith, the Packers were still able to keep things together with Brad Jones in the lineup. The caveat, however, is that while the group is deep, there are no real “blue chip” players to be found.

(Note: Listen to the combined linebackers podcast at the end of this article:)

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

A.J. Hawk (1st Round, 2006)
Desmond Bishop (6th Round, 2007)
Brad Jones (7th Round, 2009)
Robert Francois (UDFA, 2009)
D.J. Smith (6th Round, 2011)
Jamari Lattimore (UDFA, 2011)
Terrell Manning (5th Round, 2012)

For all the talk of the deficiencies at defensive line and outside linebacker, we seem to forget about the fact that inside linebacker is leaving us with something to be desired. It’s not a horrible group by any means, but there’s also nothing special about it. Desmond Bishop is currently the best player of the bunch, A.J. Hawk isn’t worth his contract weight, D.J. Smith was a bit of a disappointment this year, and despite his solid play, Brad Jones wasn’t much of a playmaker either. Terrell Manning seems to be the current roster’s last shred of hope among an otherwise lackluster crew, but he needs to make it onto the field first and foremost.

  • Hawk: Even though A.J. Hawk had one of his best years in 2012, it was still not great. He’s no Vince Young when it comes to first round busts, but he lacks the playmaking ability and athleticism you would expect from a player drafted at his position. His work ethic and football intelligence have kept him around for seven frustrating years, though it’s clear his salary will be more than his worth in 2013. The Packers could save $5.45 million in cap space by releasing Hawk.
  • Bishop: It’s hard to believe that Desmond Bishop will be going into his seventh season in 2013, because it took him so long to gain a starting role. His lack of consistency held him back until Nick Barnett’s season-ending injury in 2010. Since then, he has proven himself to be a hard-charged thumper that brings an attitude to the defense. More of a red chip than a blue chip player, he is easily the best inside linebacker on the squad right now.
6

February

Packers Robert Francois: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

Robert Francois

Robert Francois

1) Introduction: Since being picked up by the Packers in 2009, the most action ILB Robert Francois has seen was in 2011. He filled in as the right-side starter for three games when both A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop were out with injuries. His performance was admirable, snatching a couple interceptions in athletic fashion, but he hasn’t done much since.

2) Profile:

Robert Joseph Francois

  • Age: 27
  • Born: 05/14/1985, in Highlands, TX
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 250
  • College: Boston College
  • Rookie Year: 2009
  • NFL Experience: 3 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Despite the sudden influx of talent at the inside linebacker position, some fans were holding out hope that Robert Francois would be able to build on the limited success from 2011. No one pegged him as starting material, but he could serve as a solid backup in emergency situations and fulfill the needs of the special teams units.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: None to speak of, really. His only noticeable low-light was a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty during the Seattle Seahawks game.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Robert Francois was a core special teams player this season, which is better than nothing for professional athlete. He didn’t see a single snap on defense, but he did have the second most special teams snaps of all Packers players with 348. (Ryan Taylor led the team with 377.) Francois recorded 13 combined tackles on the season.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Nothing of note outside of his normal special teams duties.

 

Season Report Card:

(C-) Level of expectations met during the season

(D+) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(D+) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: D+

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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1

November

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 7 vs Jacksonville Jaguars

So I’m going to do something a little bit unusual from the usual Packers Playbook series; first off I’m going to breakdown a special teams play, namely Davon House’s blocked punt which turned into a special teams touchdown, but ru because I want to hear your rationale for running this play because frankly I don’t really understand it.

The Situation: The score is 7 to 3 in Green Bay’s favor and the Packers defense has just forced a 4th down.  The Jaguars have stayed in the game longer than most people had predicted but it’s probably more because the Packers seem to be off rather than any offensive firepower displayed by the Jaguars.

The Formation: To be honest I wasn’t able to find any of the position names for any of the positions, so I will be using my best approximations.  Naturally first off is KR Randall Cobb (18), who for obvious reasons is not in the picture and since this is a blocked punt play, is irrelevant to the play.  In the gunner/jammer positions are CB Davon House (31) aligning to the top of the screen and CB Jarrett Bush (24) and CB Casey Hayward (29) aligned to the bottom of the screen.  In terms of linemen (are they called linemen?), at RDE is ILB Jamari Lattimore (57) and at LDE is OLB Dezman Moses.  In the “middle” at DT is ILB Robert Francois (49) and TE Ryan Taylor (82).  In the “backfield” are SS Sean Richardson (28) and FS MD Jennings (43).

For astute readers out there will have noticed that this only adds up to 10 players, which is probably another reason why the Jaguars aren’t probably winning many games.

Pre-snap: SS Richardson approaches the line and looks to blitz while CB Hayward motions from the jammer position to the outside shoulder of LDE Moses.  After that CB House motions to the outside shoulder of RDE Lattimore.  Essentially at this point there are 8 players in the box, which is even with the 8 players the Jaguars have to block.

The Snap: CB Hayward bails out of the blitz to cover WR Kevin Elliot (87) who is the gunner that CB House was originally covering.

“OT” SS Chris Harris (43) blocks DT Francois leaving one of the upbacks, #35 to deal with RDE Moses.

25

July

Packers Training Camp Rewind: LB Robert Francois

Robert Francois

ILB Robert Francois, #49, celebrates an interception against the Detroit Lions.

As we head into our first days of the Green Bay Packers training camp, I decided to spotlight a few back-up players from last year’s team who could be contenders to make the roster again. My first selection is Robert Francois, an inside linebacker who made some bright flashes as a temporary starter when he managed two athletic interceptions in coverage.

During the Thanksgiving Day game against the Detroit Lions, injuries to both Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk thrust back-ups Robert Francois and D.J. Smith into action. (Incidentally, the coaches had to communicate to players via hand signals in the second half, as both Bishop and Hawk were the only two players designated to wear speakers in their helmets.) Francois went on to start the next two games: Week 13 against the New York Giants, and Week 14 against the Oakland Raiders.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, these are some of the stats for Francois in those three games:

Snaps 166
Thrown At 15
Receptions 10
Catch % 66.7%
Yards 96
Average Yards 9.6
Yards After Catch 42
Longest 17
Touchdowns 0
Interceptions 2
Passes Defensed 1
QB Sack 0
QB Hit 0
QB Hurry 0
Tackles 14
Assists 2
Missed Tackles 4
Stops 5

 

After watching just about every snap that Francois played, his strengths and weaknesses became pretty clear. In fact, Francois was just about manhandled during his first series against the Lions in Week 12. His first five plays saw him get sealed off from the run, allowing two receptions in man coverage, and provide a poorly executed blitz. All that, of course, was made up for on the sixth snap, when he deftly intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass over the middle of the field.

In his subsequent starts against the Giants and Raiders, however, Francois showed a significant increase in his level of play. He exhibited more patience, better timing on blitzes, and improved run support. Where he often got sealed off and controlled by blockers against Detroit, he did a better job against New York and Oakland of squaring up with the run and not over-pursuing, allowing himself to get free of blockers more easily. Francois’s lateral agility/quickness leaves something to be desired, though, and it’s part of the reason for this missed tackle of Brandon Jacobs:

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.