22

August

Walking Wounded: Eight Packers Candidates for Injured Reserve Or PUP

Andrew Quarless Injury

TE Andrew Quarless will probably start the year on the PUP list.

The first NFL roster cut-down of the season is fast approaching. On Monday, August 27th, the Green Bay Packers will need to have trimmed their roster down to 75 players from their current total of 90.

Even though these are essentially the worst players on the team, the decision of who to cut is a tough one. Not only do Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson need to consider the skill of each player, but they also have to take into account the remaining depth they’ll have to work with for the remainder of the preseason. This being the case, the first roster cut-down can be a good time to declare some of the Injured Reserve (IR) or Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) players for the start of the season.

As a reminder, only players who did not practice at all during training camp are eligible for the PUP. They remain on the list for the first six weeks of regular season, after which they have a three-week window to return to practice. From the point at which the player returns to practice, the team has an additional three weeks to decide whether to elevate them to the 53-man roster, place them on injured reserve, or release them.

Here is a group of eight players who could possibly end up on one of these lists during the upcoming roster cut-down:

Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)

  1. TE Andrew Quarless – On December 4, 2011, Quarless suffered a severe knee injury in kickoff coverage against the New York Giants. On January 9th, he had reconstructive knee surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). There was always a chance he could miss the entire 2012 season, and with the depth at tight end, there’s no reason to rush Quarless back from recovery. Chances are good he’ll remain on the PUP list to start the season.
  2. T Derek Sherrod – On December 18, 2011, while filling in for RT Bryan Bulaga against the Kansas City Chiefs, Sherrod broke his left leg when LB Tamba Hali rolled onto it. Though his progress as has been good, there’s not really a timetable on his return. The situation at back-up left tackle could really help to determine his fate. If the Packers feel comfortable with Reggie Wells, Herb Taylor, and/or Andrew Datko, then the PUP list could be the way they go for Sherrod. Otherwise, they might keep him active in hopes of an earlier return.
15

June

Two Ways to Fit Six Wide Receivers on the 2012 Packers Roster

Tori Gurley

Can the Packers make room for a sixth WR like Tori Gurley?

The recent contract restructuring that Donald Driver agreed to with the Green Bay Packers has stamped a gigantic question mark over the wide receiver position. Namely, will the Packers’ 53-man roster include six wide receivers now that a roster spot is virtually guaranteed for Driver? Second-year players Diondre Borel, Tori Gurley, and even Shaky Smithson will all be competing for a spot on the roster, but it might require an additional receiver spot to make it possible.

Instead of debating the validity of keeping six wide receivers, I’ve decided to consider how this could actually happen. What roster moves would have to happen, and which option is the most likely?

Before diving in, I decided to do a little preliminary work and see how Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson have built their opening day rosters in the past. I first charted how many players were kept at each position, then went through and looked at the minimum number of players McCarthy has kept throughout the years. I didn’t take an average, since I though it more important to see how low the Packers were willing to go at a given position and use that as kind of a breaking point.

(Note: I only went back to 2009 due to the defensive scheme shift. Defensive positions prior to that point, especially DL and LB, would carry significantly different numbers.)

POS 2011 2010 2009 MIN
QB 2 2 2 2
WR 5 5 5 5
TE 5 4 3 3*
RB 3 2 3 2*
FB 1 3 3 1*
OL 8 10 9 8
DL 6 6 6 6
ILB 4 4 4 4
OLB 6 4 5 4
CB 7 6 6 6
S 3 4 4 3**
SP 3 3 3 3
TOTAL: 53 53 53 47 (51)

* – The TE, RB, FB positions comprised a total of 9 players throughout each year. TEs and FBs as blockers could be considered as mostly interchangeable, while some years the FB position took on a bigger ball-carrying role along with the RBs.

4

June

Show Me The Money!: Comparing Donald Driver and James Jones’ Contract

Donald Driver

Packers WR Donald Driver took a pay cut to stay in Green Bay.

Someone once said “show me the money!”; as we all know, what players and front office men say in public is often not what’s really happening behind closed doors (for instance, we’ll probably never know what the real reason behind the “Favre divorce”).  This is especially true for the Packers, where General Manager Ted Thompson has made it an artform to talk a lot without actually saying anything.  However, one thing that will always be true is the value of a contract (minus all the technical jargon, i.e. Washington Redskins and Donovan McNabb).  Money never lies and it gives us fans a true indication of what the Packers think of Donald Driver and what Donald Driver thinks of the Packers.  Below is the contract that Donald Driver recently signed and how it compares to another Packers wide receiver, James Jones.

  • Contract:
    • James Jones: 3 year contract worth $9.4 million
      • Yearly average: $3.1 million
  • Donald Driver: 1 year contract worth $2.5 million
    • Yearly average: $2.5 million
    • Signing Bonus
      • James Jones: $1.5 million
        • Yearly average: $500,000
  • Donald Driver: $500,000
    • Yearly average: $500,000
    • 2012 Base Salary
      • James Jones: $2.3 million
      • Donald Driver: $2 million

I would argue that on a yearly basis, Jones’ and Driver’s contracts are essentially identical.  Obviously Jones has a little more security with 3-year deal (and more guaranteed money), but considering Driver is nearly a decade older than Jones, it’s a pretty good sign for Driver and a pretty bad sign for Jones.

What this means for James Jones: This is pretty bad news for the Jones camp because essentially what it says is that Jones (at age 28) is essentially worth the same as Driver (age 37), who is nearly a decade older. Based purely on the contract that Jones and Driver have signed, I think it’s unlikely that Jones finds any suitors for the Packers to trade with.  For one thing, while Jones rebounded somewhat last season in terms of drops (which was the biggest issue in 2010), he didn’t really distinguish himself in any meaningful regard in 2011, so what rationale outside of injuries would a team not sign Jones when he was a free agent last year (and therefore not cost any picks) but now want to trade for him?  My current opinion is that the NFL believes Jones’ production is more a product of Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings/Jordy Nelson/Jermichael Finley and the Packers pass first offense rather than his own talent.  I will say that I’m on the fence on how good Jones truly is, but it would seem that the NFL has already decided that it’s mostly the Packers offense and Aaron Rodgers.

2

November

Rating the Rookies: Cobb Leads Packers 2011 Class Through 7 Games

The rookies on the Green Bay Packers roster have yet to complete a half-season in 2011, but the bye week in Week 8 gave us an opportunity to gauge how the Packers’ first-year players look through seven games.

Snap-counts and statistics are courtesy of Pro Football Focus

T Derek Sherrod (R1)

The Packers wanted him to take hold of the left guard position coming into training camp, but that experiment died in a hurry when Sherrod couldn’t handle the switch. He’s a right or left tackle from this point on. The only major action Sherrod has seen this season came against the Falcons in Week 5. After Chad Clifton went down with a hamstring injury, Sherrod filled in at right tackle as Marshall Newhouse slid over to the left side. Of the 51 snaps he played, 36 came on passing plays, and Sherrod allowed just two quarterback pressures and no sacks or hits. That kind of snap distribution shows the confidence that the Packers have in their rookie at right tackle in pass protection. Sherrod also came in on seven snaps (five run, two pass) against the Broncos in Week 4.

WR/KR Randall Cobb (R2)

GM Ted Thompson drafted Cobb in the second round to be the Packers primary return man and a sub-package receiver that can make plays in space. So far, that’s exactly what Cobb has been. He has returned every punt and kick save one, which was a squib kick that Tom Crabtree got his hands on. Cobb has done his best work on kicks, where his 30.5-yard average (13 returns, 396 yards) ranks fifth in the NFL among players with eight or more returns. Of course, his 108-yard TD against the Saints on opening night is the highlight of the season. He also lost a fumble in Carolina that contributed to the Packers falling down by 13 points in the first quarter.

Cobb hasn’t had the same impact on punt returns, where his 12 returns have yielded just 97 yards (8.1 average). Cobb has 11 fair catches. His only muffed punt of the season in Minnesota gave the Vikings good field position to re-take the lead, 14-7.  In the same game, Cobb had a 42-yard punt return that set up a Packers touchdown.

23

August

Packers Fans – Do We All Think Like Ted Thompson Now?

Let’s change the pace a little bit, let’s talk about you.

Let’s talk about you the fan.

Now that General Manager Ted Thompson has won a Super Bowl using the “Thompson Method ™”, he can apparently do no wrong in the eyes of the fans.  People who had been clamoring for years to get more veteran free agents and big name signings have quieted down, ready to admit the error in their ways and venerate the white-haired one.  Even the most staunch Thompson hater is now ready to board the “draft and develop” bandwagon that Thompson preaches.

One interesting fact that I’ve noticed is that almost as adamantly as fans were criticizing him before he won a Super Bowl, fans are now just as adamantly supportive of him now that he has won one.  Fans now seem to think the same way as Thompson now, which brings up a interesting question: are Packers fans now psychologically predisposed to think like Ted Thompson?

It’s an interesting thought.  If you are a Packers fan right now, you couldn’t be happier and you’d like status quo to continue (repeat anyone?).  Obviously Ted Thompson did something right to win a Super Bowl (right?), so it makes sense that people are following in Thompson’s rationale now.

For example, currently one of the big stories in the news is how long veteran wide receiver Donald Driver is going to remain a Packer.   Jason Wilde and Bill Johnson at Green and Gold Today have argued that if you took Driver’s name out of it, he’s one of those players that Thompson typically likes to cut and fans seem to echo that sentiment.  What I think people have forgotten is that Driver beat out Jordy Nelson and James Jones for the #2 wide receiver spot behind Greg Jennings last year and appears to still be the #2 wide receiver in training camp this year.

It’s not like the Packers gave him the spot because of his name either, he’s had to hold off every other wide receiver for that spot just like everyone else.   One other thing to consider is that the only way they will cut Driver (or any player for that matter) is if they get a player with more upside.  Do players like Brett Swain, Shaky Smithson, Tori Gurley etc. have more upside than Driver?

13

August

Browns 27 Packers 17 – First Impressions of Preseason Game 1

Green Bay running back Ryan Grant vs. Cleveland BrownsBefore a way-less than capacity crown in Cleveland, the Green BayPackers saw their first real action of the 2011 season against Mike Holmgren’s Cleveland Browns:

 

Rodgers calls tails and wins the toss. Randall Cobb is back to return the kick and does a nice job extending the return for another 5-8 yds when it looked like nothing was there.

On the Brown’s first drive, Cleveland showed they knew exactly who to attack, going after Jarret Bush and Pat Lee. Lee with his man all the way but never turns to see the ball. It was Ahmad Carroll-like.

Packers kickoff team lines up in a three point stance to start. Intended to give them more explosion (quicker start with only a 5 yd run-up) and less chance of anyone cheating and going offsides.

Marshall Newhouse gets totally abused at right tackle. But what is he doing there? I don’t remember one report of his lining up there in practice, and he was a 3 year starter at LT in college. I guess they’re throwing him in there like they did with Bulaga?

Seems like when Matt Flynn is in trouble, he either doesn’t see or is afraid to throw downfield. Always goes to the closest guy.

Spencer Havner is a touchdown magnet. Footballs in the end zone are just drawn to him.

The Packers are doing a lot of juggling on the O-line in the first half. Lang and Sherrod aleternate at LG, then Lang goes to LT with Sherrod at LG. Then they swap.  All the while Newhouse is over at RT.

Matt Flynn hangs in there under some heavy pressure to lead a nice two-minute drive at the end of the first half.

DJ Williams looks like a wide receiver running routes downfield.

Blocking is a whole other issue for Williams. Browns overload the right side with four player. DJ Williams in the backfield to help. He chooses to block a rusher that is already being blocked. never looks outside. The sack of Harrell resulting in the TD is on Williams.

Cobb’s been getting interfered with all night. Finally got a call.

Graham Harrell off to a very shaky start – does not look comfortable handling pressure at all.

I’m liking how my guy Tori Gurley looks. Hope he gets more chances.

9

August

Will Any of the 2011 Undrafted Free Agents Make the Packers 53-Man Roster?

Green Bay Packers 2011 Undrafted Free Agents - UDFAs

It probably goes without saying that the 2011 Green Bay Packers should have a deep, talented roster.

That was likely the case before the last season begun, too, and it was proven time and time again during the course of the season when 15 players went to IR. Because of that talent and depth in the roster, the Packers were able to overcome the injuries and win the Super Bowl.

Heading into this season, the Packers only lost a handful of players from that run. The list of players from 2010 playing elsewhere this year: Cullen Jenkins (Eagles), Nick Barnett (Bills), Brandon Jackson (Browns), Daryn Colledge (Cardinals), Jason Spitz (Jaguars), Korey Hall (Saints) and Brady Poppinga (Rams). Brandon Chillar, Mark Tauscher, Anthony Smith, Atari Bigby, Matt Wilhelm, Justin Harrell and Derrick Martin are currently free agents without a team.

From those names, only Jenkins, Jackson, Colledge, Spitz and Hall were with the team the entire season. All the others were either mid-season pickups or went on IR at some point during the year. The point here is that the Packers found adequate replacements for the rest of the players listed, somewhat nullifying their impact on this year’s roster.

It’s a testament to GM Ted Thompson and his team of scouts, as they have done a terrific job of identifying talent, regardless of which avenue they’ve taken to acquire it.

However, the impressive depth of the Packers 2011 roster could mean that Thompson has to back off a strategy he’s used so well in recent years: keeping an undrafted free agent or two on the 53-man roster.

The lockout robbed many of them of valuable time during summer practices, but it’s also forcing both the UDFA’s and Thompson to make quick evaluations during training camp.

The players have had to learn an entire playbook quickly and still impress coaches with their play on the practice field. As if they were already behind, who do you think lost out the most from Saturday’s rainout at Family Night? These guys. Only the No.1 offense and No. 2 defense got any reps in team action. Typically, the scrimmage is just another critical evaluation period for the bottom of the roster. But that didn’t happen Saturday night, as storms called off the practice just 30 minutes or so in.