15

April

Cory’s Corner: Julius Peppers is No. 56…remain excited

I’ve never seen a number unveiling get this much excitement.

And for those of you that may not know, Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next season for the Packers.

Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next fall as he will play a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position called the elephant.

Julius Peppers will be wearing No. 56 next fall as he will play a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position called the elephant.

That’s quite a change for someone that was consistently coming off the edge as a defensive end in a three-point stance wearing No. 90.

But Peppers isn’t just an end. Thanks to Dom Capers and his crazy names, which have brought us the ‘Psycho’ defensive package, Peppers will be playing a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker called an elephant.

Personally, I don’t care if you call it strawberry shortcake because the name of Peppers’ position is meaningless. His stats and his motor speak for themselves. He’s been under double-digit sacks in a season just four times in his 12-year career.

The thing I like about Peppers most is his drive. I realize that he’s 34 and might be reaching the final leg of a strong NFL career. But the last time he didn’t play a full 16-game season was in 2007. That really says a lot to me. Especially for a guy that has played through a sprained MCL in his left knee, a broken right hand and a right knee sprain among other things. And the season that he suffered his right knee sprain was in 2007, a season in which he tallied his lowest sack output of his career with 2½. Yet he still managed to lead the Panthers in quarterback hurries.

Peppers is a guy that the Packers desperately needed. He’s a guy that will come in and not only contribute with a pass rush that has been forgotten, but he’s a vocal veteran that wants to win.

That’s a great combination for a team that has youngsters like Nick Perry and Datone Jones, who the Packers are counting on to break out and flourish.

Is it fair to compare Peppers to the 31-year-old Reggie White when he signed with Green Bay? No way. And I’m surprised I’ve seen people even make that comparison because it’s not not even close. White was a once-in-a-lifetime pass rusher who may never be copied again.

But that doesn’t mean Peppers doesn’t have plenty to play for.

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.

1

February

Cory’s Corner: Helping Rodgers should be Packers’ priority

Aaron Rodgers needs to be surrounded with weapons and protection.

Aaron Rodgers needs to be surrounded with weapons and protection.

Super Bowl XLVIII is a collision course of two different team-building philosophies.

In 2012, the Broncos paid 36-year-old Peyton Manning, the owner of four neck surgeries, a five-year $96 million contract to take them back to the promised land. Many saw it as a surprise because nobody knew how Manning would respond to contact and if his arm strength would return.

The Seahawks, on the other hand, decided to spread out most of its resources. Sidney Rice ($8.5M), Russell Okung ($7.06M) and Marshawn Lynch ($7M) are the three highest-paid players on the team. But that doesn’t mean Seattle doesn’t spend money. The Seahawks were the second-highest payroll in the NFL this year with over $103M in salaries.

But the difference is at the quarterback position. Russell Wilson is the 44th-highest paid player on the Seahawks, making just $526,217 this year. Obviously that number is going to skyrocket when he’s a free agent in 2016, but until then Seattle is going to ride the wave of an efficient and cheap quarterback while they fill holes on the rest of their team.

Which is exactly how the 49ers have approached their quarterback position. Colin Kaepernick is the 26th-highest paid player on the roster with a salary of $740,844. San Francisco will have some difficult choices to make when he’s a free agent in 2015.

But it speaks to an interesting philosophy. The quarterback is and always be the most important player on a football team. However, if a team can strike oil in the draft with a rookie that doesn’t make a flurry of mistakes while adjusting quickly to the faster NFL game, it definitely behooves them to go with the unproven rookie.

The 49ers and Seahawks have been playing with house money ever since Wilson and Kaepernick became household names.

The Broncos meanwhile are going all-in for a potential Super Bowl streak with Manning. But in order to do so, they have left gaping holes in the secondary and on the offensive line but Manning has been able to overcome those.

After showing Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews the money last April, the Packers have to decide where their priorities lie. Jordy Nelson becomes a free agent in 2015, which will limit money spent on expiring contracts this spring.

23

August

Packers vs. Seahawks: A Preseason Game In Name Only

A picture that needs no caption.

The calendar still reads August.  If I’m the Green Bay Packers, I don’t care.

Tonight is just not another preseason game.  For Green Bay, it shouldn’t be a preseason game at all.  Coach Mike McCarthy of course will eventually get his backup players into the game, but since the third preseason game is the closest to a dress rehearsal as you can get in the NFL, McCarthy very well could roll with his starters into the third quarter.

As well he should.

The game tonight at Lambeau Field against the Seattle Seahawks doesn’t count at all in the standings.  The results will have absolutely no bearing on either team making the playoffs.  As long as they both emerge without any major injuries, the game could be considered a win for both sides.

Not for the Packers.  Preseason game be damned, this is war.

There’s no need to sit here and recap the “Fail Mary” game in Seattle last year that ended up costing the Packers a first round bye in the playoffs.  Had the correct call been made, Green Bay (more than likely) would have still faced the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round but at Lambeau Field rather than San Francisco.

No matter how much McCarthy or the players said otherwise, that “loss” to Seattle had to sting all season long.  The coach and his players did an admirable job in public, but that kind of situation just has to sting a locker room.  Imagine being passed over on a promotion at work because someone read your resume wrong. You’d be upset for a long time, wouldn’t you?

The Packers went on to win six of their next seven games and still won the division and made the playoffs.  Still, you can’t help but wonder what might have been.

Never before did I think it possible that a preseason game could set the tone for the regular season, but the game tonight against the Seahawks very well could.  This summer everyone has been going gaga over Seattle and second year quarterback Russell Wilson and the Packers have largely been ignored except when former players open their mouths about the leadership of the best quarterback in the league.

23

August

Pre Season Week 3 – Packers vs. Seahawks: Keys to the Game

Packers vs Seahawks

Wilson will provide the Packers with their first test with a mobile quarterback in 2013

Please forgive my hiatus for last week’s Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams contest.  I was temporarily brainwashed to think that my post would write itself.  But I digress. . .

This week’s pre season game has the Seattle Seahawks visiting Lambeau Field to face the Packers on Friday.  As John Rehor of Packers Talk has said, this is not a rematch of last year’s Monday Night Football debacle.  Dubbed the “Fail Mary” game, it incited a lot of controversy and left many Packers fans wanting vengeance against both the man (the Seahawks) and the machine (Roger Gooddell and the NFL).  But alas, as John said, it’s not a rematch.  It’s just a pre season game.

Still, week three of the NFL pre season has long been considered a dress rehearsal for the upcoming season and the starting units typically see their longest stint on the field during this game.  It’s more of a true litmus test to see how a team looks and how prepared they are for the upcoming regular season.  While there may be some chatter from the players and media, the Packers need to drown that out and focus.

During the offseason, the Seahawks got busy in acquiring more pieces to complete their team and get even better than last year when they came within inches and seconds of advancing to the NFC Championship game.  They traded a first round draft pick for receiver Percy Harvin to give quarterback Russell Wilson another solid target.  Harvin promptly injured his hip and had to have surgery, which will prevent his Seattle debut until some time in November, if at all.  Seattle also brought in former Lions defensive end Cliff Avril to help with their pass rush and former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield to add some experience to their defensive backfield.

Seattle comes into this season as not only a favorite to win the NFC West, but they are also considered by many to be front runners for the NFC and the Super Bowl.  This should provide a solid test for the Packers, who also figure to be in the mix for a deep playoff run.  Let’s drill down on the keys for the Packers in this week’s game and also some of the position battles that are still in full swing.

28

September

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 3 at Seachickens

I’m not going to detail the “innacurate reception” as I’m sure that’s been done to death and frankly I’m tired of seeing it, so I’m going to be analyzing another play that popped out to me.  Overall, there’s nothing special going on on either side of the ball, the Seahawks are playing a vanilla formation and the Packers counter with a vanilla formation.  No crazy pre-snap motions, no crazy hand-offs or reverses, no psycho package or amoeba defenses or exotic blitz packages.  So what’s so surprising?  AJ Hawk makes the play.

The situation: It’s still the 1st quarter with the score still tied at 0 a piece.  The Seattle Seahawks have been playing a very conservative game plan by establishing a solid running game with running back Marshawn Lynch and trying to keep quarterback in 3rd and short passing situations.  Unfortunately, the Packers defense is also well aware of the Seahawks game plan and has done a remarkably good job holding Lynch in place.  This play occurs on 2nd and 8, after Lynch rushes for a 2-yard gain.

The formation: The Seahawks line up in a 1-3-1 set (1WR-3TE-1RB) with WR Golden Tate (I believe) out wide left (he’s outside the screen cap), Tight ends Zach Miller, Ben Obomanu and Anthony McCoy are lined up inline of the right tackle with RB Lynch aligned about 5 yards behind the center.  The Packers respond with their nickel package with NT BJ Raji (90) and DE Jerel Worthy (99) being the only two down linemen, the standard 4 linebackers of OLB Clay Matthews (52), ILB AJ Hawk (50), ILB DJ Smith (51) and OLB Erik Walden (93) with the secondary being composed of CB Sam Shields (37, also outside the screen cap), CB Tramon Williams (38), CB Charles Woodson (21, playing the nickel cornerback position), SS Jeron McMillian (22) and FS Morgan Burnett (43).

Pre-snap: The Seahawks motion TE Miller (86) to inline to the left tackle, and is followed by CB Woodson.

Snap: Wilson and Lynch perform perhaps the poorest play action pass ever seen in the NFL (seriously, Lynch doesn’t even bother to come up to Wilson and immediately runs a flare route, leaving Wilson “handing off” the ball with no one within 2 yards of him).  I’ve labeled the defensive assignments by color: red arrows indicate pass rush, blue arrows indicate man coverage and green arrows indicate zone coverage.

25

September

Green Bay Packers Deserve The Victory They Earned

Packers vs. Seahawks "Fail Mary"

The Packers earned a victory and nothing less.

These last 24 hours have been so surreal, I don’t think my adrenaline has stopped pumping at full blast since before kickoff. Time seemed to slow down as I waited in intense anticipation for the Green Bay Packers to take on the Seattle Seahawks in what I figured to be a great football game.

Could I have been more wrong?

It started off with Aaron Rodgers and his offensive line giving up eight sacks in the first half. Eight! Then, the previously contained passing game of Russell Wilson fired off a long touchdown, with errors in the secondary. I was so livid, I could have screamed bloody murder. The game plan for the offense was all wrong, and the defense was briefly exposed by a rookie quarterback.

But I persevered and stayed to watch the second half. Fortunately, Mike McCarthy finally realized the error of his ways and made offensive adjustments that started to get the chains moving.  Things were looking up.

And then it all came crashing down with the officiating. I don’t need to go into the details, because I’m sure we’ve all read about as much as we’re capable of today.

Yet, even after the “Fail Mary,” things continued to get my blood boiling. Watching the Packers have to trot back out as slaughtered lambs to play the extra point. Hearing Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson talk about how well they performed at the end to get the win. Seeing the response by the NFL in support of the final touchdown call.

The icing on the cake, though, goes to all those Packers fans and Packers haters who seem to think the Packers should have won despite the officiating.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY!?

I actually visited this issue after the Packers-Cardinals 2009 playoff game, when missed calls seem to cost Green Bay the overtime win. Here’s a little bit of what I said:

Now let me get this out of the way before I continue: I make no excuses for the Green Bay Packers and the way they played this game. Each team earned their score going into overtime, and if the Packers would have secured the ball better in the first quarter and played better on defense, then perhaps they wouldn’t have been in that situation.