4

April

Packers Cannot Gamble At Safety

Micah Hyde

The Packers need to finally find a solution at the safety position.  Micah Hyde is one of a few options

The Green Bay Packers have already made some moves in free agency to help bolster their roster and chances in 2014.  The addition of defensive lineman Julius Peppers made big headlines a few weeks back and indicated a shift in the team’s approach to improving on the past few seasons.

With the  addition of Peppers, the Packers Super Bowl odds dropped from 16-1 to 10-1, according to sites like FootballBettingCenter.com.

But will the addition of Peppers really have that much of an impact on this Packers team? With just one playoff victory since winning Super Bowl XLV in 2011, the Packers have lacked that spark and edge that got them over the hump during that incredible run over three years ago.

With Aaron Rodgers and quarterback and a solid stable of receivers, Green Bay has been able to maintain its production on the offensive side of the ball.  The addition of Eddie Lacy last season (NFL Rookie of the year) rounded off the offense and took it a step closer to being more complete.

The defense has been the point of emphasis in looking at the most glaring needs that the Packers have had and continue to have.  In 2011, defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins departed in free agency and the Packers struggled to get consistent production from the defensive line.  Jenkins was replaced by Jarius Wynn, and I use the term “replaced” very loosely there.

The Packers D-line has seen flashes of production since, but not consistently.  The addition of Peppers will hopefully help that unit make more of an impact on Sundays.

Prior to the start of the 2012 season, the Packers lost inside linebacker Desmond Bishop to a season-ending injury and the team released him prior to the start of the 2013 season.  Bishop’s spot has since been replaced by a combination of DJ Smith, who is no longer with the team and was released last offseason, and Brad Jones.

Jones has spurred debates about whether he is the future at inside linebacker, was worth the contract that he received last offseason (three years, $11.75 million), and most importantly,  whether he still has room to turn into the player the Packers need him to be.  That remains to be seen but there have been many rumblings that inside linebacker should be addressed relatively early in this upcoming draft by Green Bay.

20

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: S Jimmie Ward

Jimmie Ward

S Jimmie Ward

Packers prospect profile:  S  Jimmie Ward

Player Information:

Jimmie Ward,  S  Northern Illinois,  5-11, 192 pounds  Hometown: Mobile, AL

STATS

Pro Day:

40 time: 4.47

Vertical jump: 38″

225 lb. bench: 9 reps

Broad jump: 10’5″

News and Notes:

Third-team All-American in 2013. . .First-team All-MAC in 2012 and 2013. . . had 92 tackles, 62 solo in 2013. . .seven interceptions in 2013. . .semi-finalist for Jim Thorpe award. . . had three blocked punts in 2010 as a true freshman

 What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com:  Compact frame. Remarkably fluid athlete with quick feet, smooth change-of-direction agility and easy acceleration. Dropped down to cover slot receivers with solid man-to-man skills to handle a similar role in the NFL. Good balance and lateral agility, including the ability to sprawl to avoid cut-blocks. Physical, competitive defender who doesn’t back down from the challenges of bigger opponents. Very good diagnosis skills and closes quickly and forcefully. Takes proper angles in pursuit, limiting breakaway opportunities for opponents. Shorter than scouts prefer, a fact that could lead to some projecting him at cornerback. Good but less-than-ideal speed to recover if beaten initially. Gets too grabby once he’s turned around. Leaves his feet to tackle, creating some impressive collisions but occasionally failing to wrap up securely. Misses tackles against the bigger, stronger athletes.
  • NFL.com:  Flies around the field. Aggressive run supporter. Shoots downhill and chops down ball carriers. Breaks on throws and shows short-area burst to close. Has quick hands to snatch interceptions. Confident and energetic. Has a special-teams mentality and four blocked kicks to his credit. Size is just adequate — lacks ideal bulk and is built more like a cornerback than a safety. Can be a tick late diagnosing pass, gaining depth and digesting route combos. Lacks elite top-end speed. Has man-coverage limitations. Inconsistent downfield ball reactions with his back to the throw. Limited functional strength to discard blockers when he gets snagged. Shows lower-body stiffness in space. Has some maturing to do and needs to learn what it means to prepare like a pro. Could rub some people the wrong way.

Video:

Video Analysis:

  • As I always disclaim, this is a “highlight” reel, so does not show any of Ward’s weak spots
  • Flies to the ball and not afraid to get physical with receivers
27

July

Packers Undrafted Rookie Scouting Report: Ryan McMahon, S, Sacramento State

Player Information:

  • Ryan McMahon, S Sacramento State
  • 5’11”/207 lbs
  • Hometown – Laverne, California

Pro Day:

  • 40 yard: 4.44
  • 20 yard: 2.49
  • 10 yard: 1.55
  • Bench: 14
  • Vertical: 38
  • Broad: 126
  • Shuttle: 4.19
  • 3-cone: 6.65

Introduction:  Ryan McMahon is a pretty interesting story.  Initially enrolled at USC, McMahon played three years with the Trojans mostly featured on special teams.  After which the story becomes a little vague (if anyone knows, please comment), but McMahon transfers to Sacramento State University, where he starts his last two years of eligibility at safety.  Presumably since his name isn’t associated with any legal issues, his transfer was most likely due to lack of playing time behind a loaded USC secondary.  While McMahon wasn’t drafted, he was invited to a tryout with the Packers but unfortunately wasn’t offered a contract.  However as several defensive backs were held out for the start of training camp (Sean Richardson, Chaz Powell, Casey Hayward and Davon House), the Packers made the call at the beginning the week to bring back one of their own tryout players.  Is McMahon the diamond in the rough that got a second chance or just another warm camp body?

Outside Analysis:

None.  Talk about under the radar

 

Video:

Analysis:

  • #6, playing safety, seems to rotate at free and strong
  • Run defense is not his forte, often gets pushed out of the play or stonewalled, doesn’t show much ability to disengage from blockers
  • You can watch fellow Packer David Bakhtiari (Colorado LT #59) block him out of a couple plays
  • If he can get to the play, he is a consistent tackler
  • Doesn’t look to be the most fluid in coverage, but good enough to get the job done
  • Good speed; may not be able to go sideline to sideline but pretty close to it.
  • Shows good ability to flip hips and change direction
  • Backpedal seems a little awkward
  • Didn’t see any playing time on special teams at Sacramento State, but led the team in special teams tackles at USC
  • For a guy who transferred from USC, he doesn’t dominate lower competition like he should. 

 

4

June

Four Things the NHL Playoffs Teach Me About the NFL

NHL and NFL LogosThose of you who regularly read my posts know that I live in Pittsburgh. I arrived here after making a few different stops in my life journey, though my mom did grow up in Western Pennsylvania, so I do have roots here. And while I am a football fan to the extreme, I have grown to enjoy watching ice hockey. Put two and two together, and you should not be surprised to know that I have been following the Pittsburgh Penguins in their run towards another Stanley Cup championship.

Right now, the Penguins are favored to win, despite their disappointing loss on Saturday against the Boston Bruins. It was the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals, so they’re down but certainly not out.

However, as I was watching the game, my mind couldn’t help but explore the similarities and differences between the two sports. Football is far and above more popular, and you could probably even rank hockey below baseball and basketball in terms of viewership. Nevertheless, here are some things I learned about the NFL as I watched the NHL playoffs:

1. Individual games hold more value.

I probably should have noted in the beginning that I am a very, very casual fan of ice hockey. In fact, I generally only tune into games when the playoffs roll around. Each NHL team plays 82 games in the regular season, for a grand total of 1,230 games across the league. In short, I simply don’t have the time to commit to my team.

Contrast that with the 16-game schedule of NFL teams, and it’s easy to see why each game holds more value. Now, this it not a new revelation, but it’s a model that has helped football become the biggest sport in the nation. When so few games are played, each one carries more weight in determining playoff chances for a team. And that means more fans will feel the urgency to tune in and see what happens.

Like the NHL, the NBA teams also play 82 games each in the regular season. Meanwhile, MLB teams see nearly twice the action, with 162 games per season. It’s great for the statisticians, because the large sample size makes the numbers more meaningful, but it can be too much to follow for the average fan.

30

April

2013 Draft Leaves Packers In Need

Packers WR Greg Jennings

Who will replace Greg Jennings in 2013 is one of many questions left after the draft

The Green Bay Packers added 11 new players to their offseason roster via this past weekend’s NFL draft.  Packers GM Ted Thompson, as he does every year, maneuvered around and was able to add some additional picks to the stash that he began the draft with.

Heading into the draft, the team’s biggest needs were Defensive Line, Safety, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End and Offensive Line.  The team addressed the defensive line with two selections in the first five rounds.  At running back, they added two players in the first four rounds and they selected two offensive linemen in the fourth.  Any pick within the first five rounds should be expected to stick on the team’s final 53 man roster.  The key word is “should” so I cautiously say that those three areas seemingly were covered.

While some GM’s draft more for need, Thompson’s philosophy has been more about taking the best player available on his board at the time.  Two good examples are his selecting two offensive tackles within 10 draft slots of each other in round four and trading back into the fourth round to select running back Johnathan Franklin when he had already selected a top-tier running back two rounds earlier in the form of Eddie Lacy.

With that said and as has been the case in year’s past, Thompson did not address every position of need that the Packers had going into the draft.  With so many teams jockeying and moving around constantly, it would be tough for any GM’s board to fall exactly how he wants and leave draft weekend with every hole plugged up.  Three positions left with the biggest question marks are Safety, Wide Receiver and Tight End.

Safety

Mock drafts and big boards had the Packers possibly addressing this position in round one.  It was unlikely that top-rated safety prospect Kenny Vaccaro would still be available when the Packers were set to choose at #26, so the biggest possibilities were Jonathan Cyprien, Matt Elam and Eric Reid.  Reid was taken at 18th overall and was already off the board.  Thompson clearly didn’t feel that Cyprien nor Elam were what he wanted in a first round pick and he drafted defensive lineman Datone Jones instead.

17

April

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: JJ Wilcox, Safety, Georgia Southern

Georgia Southern Safety JJ Wilcox

Georgia Southern Safety JJ Wilcox

Green Bay Packers NFL Draft prospect profile: Safety JJ WIlcox

Player Information:

JJ Wilcox, Safety, Giorgia Southern, 6’0″, 213 pounds Hometown: Cairo, Georgia

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.57

225-pound bench: 17 reps

Vertical: 35″

Broad jump: 1o’ 4″

3-cone: 7.02

20yd shuttle: 4.09

News and Notes:

Wilcox has only one year of experience playing the safety position, having moved there after three years of playing on offense as a wide receiver and slotback. Despite his inexperience and small-school status, Wilcox was honored with an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Wilcox was second on the team with 88 tackles, three passes broken up and two interceptions.

 What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com: ”Athletic frame with a thick lower half. Stands out at this level due to his athleticism and proved he deserved to be on the same field with the top prospects in Mobile. Good lateral agility. Surprisingly adept as an open field tackler. Attacks the line of scrimmage when he reads run but while fast to the action, breaks down pretty well, showing enough balance, patience and strength for the effective stop… Showed some instincts and range operating as a single-high safety during Senior Bowl drills…” “Tends to bend at the waist rather than the knees. Attacks the line of scrimmage as a run defender, slipping by most blocks but too often is tied up when he they do get to him. Tools worthy of developing but isn’t ready for prime time yet.”
  • Ourlads.com: ”A tough and physical strong safety who will contribute on special teams’ coverage and returns. Also played on the goal-line offense. Wrap tackler. Plays with confidence. Good ball reactions and hands for a safety who was a former receiver. Returns kickoffs, averaging 25.5 yards per return. Was invited to the Senior Bowl on strong showing his senior year. Just learning to play the position.”

 

 

Video Analysis:

  • Closes  well on the ball carrier.  Solid open-field tackler.
  • Angles taken not always the best, but recovers well.
  • Not afraid to mix it up, drives through the tackle.
  • Shows above average range.
  • Not ready for man coverage on a receiver.
  • Returned kickoffs, but does not look like anything special in that department.
  • Getting by mostly on athletic ability.
15

April

NFL Draft Prospect: Matt Elam, Safety, Florida

 

Matt Elam

Florida Safety Matt Elam

Player Information:

Matt Elam, Safety, University of Florida

5’10″, 202 pounds

Palm Beach Gardens, FL

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.54

225-pound bench: 17 reps

Vertical: 35 1/2″

Broad:  118″

News and Notes:

Elam began his Gator career as a starter on special teams.  Once given the chance to play at safety, he quickly showcased his talents and was a full-time starter in 2012. . . led the team in tackles for a loss (11) and had four interceptions along with two sacks and a forced fumble. . .Elam has been known to be a “big personality” off the field and was hot on many schools’ radar coming out of high school in 2010.  He elected to attend Florida and play for Urban Meyer. . .was voted first-team All American in 2012. . .ran just .01 second behind the fastest 40 time among safeties at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. . .older brother Abe Elam is currently an NFL free agent safety who has spent his first eight seasons with several teams

What they’re saying about him:

  • CBSSports.com: “Athletic, instinctive and quite physical, Elam demonstrated the ability to walk up into the box and be a force near the line of scrimmage while also dropping back into coverage as a single-high safety when coaches called for it — showing off the type of versatility NFL teams are demanding from today’s hybrid safeties.”
  • NFL.com: “Plays close to the line of scrimmage or in the box very often. At his best when asked to make a play, either blitzing or one on one on the edge. Frequently assigned to cover the slot receiver. There are times when he flashes tremendous disruption when the play is developing in front of him. Has catch up speed to chase down when he wants to. Gets hand up to disrupt at the catch point even if head is not turned to locate the football. Gets downfield very quickly as a gunner in punt coverage.”

 

Video Analysis:

  • Physical and plays well in the box, near the line of scrimmage
  • Blitzes well and is disruptive
  • Closes well on the play in front of him
  • Quick to the backfield in run support
  • Height is a concern against taller receivers