12

October

Cory’s Corner: Randall Cobb is too valuable to return kicks

Aaron Rodgers has said that Randall Cobb has the tools to be a 100-catch receiver.

Aaron Rodgers has said that Randall Cobb has the tools to be a 100-catch receiver.

In everything you do, there’s a certain element of risk.

I’ve seen numerous pedestrians nearly get hit by cars or walk into street signs because they’re too busy texting. The water we drink is becoming more and more flammable thanks to your home’s proximity to fracking wells and returning kicks and punts is and has always has been hazardous to your health.

I’m not sure coach Mike McCarthy and special teams coach Shawn Slocum understand the last portion. The kickoff is a bull rush where 11 guys run full blast at the ball carrier in attempt to decleat him.

For the last several years, the NFL has been looking at ways to make the game safer and one of the topics that popped up was eliminating the kickoff entirely. Just have the receiving team take the ball at their own 20 every time has been discussed. The number of injuries that result from the returner getting pulverized and the kicking team getting plowed under in the wedge by the receiving team would go down dramatically.

Yet, Slocum is still going to put Cobb back there. He said he won’t use him all the time, but will insert him when the time is right. I didn’t know there was a right time to put the team’s most dynamic weapon in harm’s way?

Cobb opened the season with back-to-back games with over 100 yards receiving and last week had two carries for 72 yards thanks to an impressive 67-yard run where he kicked in the afterburners down the left sideline and nearly scored.

Let’s also not forget about Cobb’s hidden value. He was a quarterback at Kentucky and if there’s ever a time where the Packers need a gadget play to kick-start the offense or to quickly put some points on the board, he would be a great person to start with.

I realize that Cobb has averaged over 25 yards a return in 72 kick returns the last two years and has gotten over 9 yards a return in 57 punt returns the last two seasons. Those are decent numbers. And in today’s NFL where parity is the new buzzword, an extra 10-15 yards of field position each time out could mean the difference between winning the division and starting your own “Terrible for Teddy” campaign that Jacksonville unfortunately has already started.

30

August

Packers News: Kickalicious works out for Green Bay

Havard Rugland was in Green Bay for a workout on Friday morning, according to his Twitter account.

Havard Rugland was in Green Bay for a workout on Friday morning, according to his Twitter account.

According to Havard Rugland’s official Twitter account, the Green Bay Packers worked out the YouTube sensation known as “Kickalicious” on Friday morning.

Rugland spent the summer as a member of the Detroit Lions, but he was cut after being beaten out by established veteran David Akers. Akers, 38, will fill in for 43-year-old Jason Hanson who recently retired after 21 seasons in the NFL.

The workout seems surprising, considering the team just restructured kicker Mason Crosby’s contract this week. After bringing in Giorgio Tavecchio and Zach Ramirez to challenge Crosby for the job, the Packers turned to financial motivation for their placekicker.

The team bringing Rugland in for a workout could mean trouble for Crosby, especially if the Packers ever have an opportunity to punt the ball through the uprights from 90 yards away. Or kick a ball to a dude standing in a boat on the Fox River.

In all likelihood, the Packers are likely seeing what else is on the free-agent market in case Crosby struggles to start the 2013 season. It’s highly unlikely that the team would replace Crosby after restructuring to an incentive-based deal Thursday.

Through four preseason games, Crosby was a perfect 6-for-6, including a long of 48 yards. After a thoroughly unimpressive Family Night scrimmage, Crosby separated himself from Tavecchio and Ramirez late in training camp.

For now, it would be a surprise if anyone not named Crosby was the kicker to start the season. But again, the Packers appear to be preparing themselves for a backup plan should Crosby falter early in the season.

In three preseason games with the Lions, Kickalicious was three-for-three on field goals with a long of 50 yards. He also converted both of his extra point attempts.

One additional interesting fact: Every NFL team is allowed to add one international player to their practice squad, as a ninth member. However, that international player can not be signed to an NFL contract with any team while on a practice squad. here are the full rules:

Section 1. Practice Squads:

  • (a) The League may elect in any League Year in accordance with this Article to establish Practice Squads not to exceed eight (8) players per Club. The League’s election in any one season shall not determine or affect its election in any subsequent season.
26

August

Packers News: Tavecchio released, team down to two kickers

Ciao, Giorgio. The Packers have cut ties with Tavecchio.

Ciao, Giorgio. The Packers have cut ties with Tavecchio.

Just one day after signing street free agent Zach Ramirez, the Green Bay Packers have released kicker Giorgio Tavecchio.

Incumbent kicker Mason Crosby has, again, had an up-and-down, left-and-right summer, and it seems the Packers are determined to provide some competition for Crosby all the way up to the regular season. Still, despite his inconsistency, it looks like the job is Crosby’s to lose.

Crosby certainly had a rough season in 2012, missing 12 of 33 regular-season field goal attempts. But believe it or not, his challenger this summer, Tavecchio, has missed kicks in his life, as well. As a senior at California, Tavecchio failed to connect on six extra points.

Now, it’s down to Crosby and Ramirez–another Internet-sensation-turned-NFL-kicker-hopeful. The Detroit Lions signed Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland to compete with David Akers this summer, and the Packers turn to Ramirez–a young kicker with some pretty impressive YouTube highlights.

Obviously, kicking field goals with the wind at your back in an empty stadium in front of one person holding a camera is much different than kicking in front of 80,000 in a packed NFL stadium. But we’ll see how this kicking competition shakes itself out.

During the Family Night Scrimmage, Tavecchio got the better of Crosby, connecting on five of six field goal attempts. Crosby, on the other hand, had an awful night, missing four of six.

At that point, just a week into training camp, Twitter exploded with fans calling for Crosby’s release. However, due to the Tavecchio’s limitations in terms of leg strength, the concept of Crosby being cut in favor of Tavecchio seemed farfetched–at least to me.

I’m not saying Crosby is God’s gift to kicking field goals, but if he’s going to be beaten out for the job, it wasn’t going to be by Tavecchio. You can’t make fun of me for that prediction; however, feel free to point and laugh at my suggestion that Graham Harrell would be a “pleasant surprise” this summer.

In my opinion, Crosby will win the job. He’ll be the Week 1 kicker, although it wouldn’t at all be surprising if the Packers made a change in the regular season, should Crosby’s struggles continue.

21

December

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 15 at Chicago Bears

So special teams is one of those things that no fan knows about but we all love to gripe about.  For instance, other than the kicker, punter, long snapper and gunner, do you know the name of any other position?  I sure don’t but I will yell at the screen when the guy misses a block.  This is essentially what happened during the “punt, pass and puke” play as quoted by Drew Olsen on Green and Gold Today.  We all know it was a terrible play, and head coach Mike McCarthy and special teams coach Shawn Slocum both got plenty of heat for the call.  But why call the play in the first place?

 

 

 

The Situation: The score is Green Bay 21, Chicago 10 with 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  The Packers are sitting pretty well at the moment, the Bears offense hasn’t been able to move the ball (i.e. failing to convert a single 3rd down) while the Packers have had success both on the ground as well as in the air and look to burn some time with a two score lead.

Snap: The Packers come out with two players matching each gunner.  This is typically done to give the punt returner some more space on the edges but they give up any real chance of blocking the punt as well as being overmatched in the middle

The Kick: This picture was taking immediately after the kick, as you can see the Packers didn’t get anywhere close to blocking P Adam Podlesh’s punt (the closest Packers is 5 yards away and has already turned for pursuit).  I’ve circled WR Jeremy Ross (10) so keep an eye out for him as the play progresses.

Fielding The Punt: You can now see PR Randall Cobb (18) relative to WR Ross, also notice at this point, Ross still appears to be blocking the gunner.

Beginning of Trick Play: At this point WR Ross begins to peel away from the action and get ready for the lateral.  Also notice at this point no Bear has noticed that WR Ross is doing something other than blocking the gunner

The Lateral: This is just before PR Cobb makes the lateral pass.  Notice the vast majority of Bears players are still heading towards PR Cobb.

17

December

Packers Coach Mike McCarthy: What Is He Thinking?

Mike McCarthy

Some of McCarthy’s decisions have led to many questions about whether they will help or hurt the Packers from here on out

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has a track record that speaks for itself:

73 wins

37 losses

.664 winning percentage in regular season

5-3 record in playoffs including a Super Bowl Championship

Two appearances in the NFC Championship game

Three NFC North division titles

Not bad, right?  Even by the sky-high standards of the Green Bay Packers and their fans, those numbers exude success.  But McCarthy has become somewhat of an intrigue lately.  As we know, he calls the offensive plays for the Packers during games.  He has done so since his arrival in Green Bay.

At times, especially this season, he has had fans and analysts alike scratching their heads with some of his decision making.  Now, I realize that he gives quarterback Aaron Rodgers some freedom to alter the play at the line if Rodgers sees something he thinks he can take advantage of.  It’s hard to say exactly whether some of these offensive failures were McCarthy calls or Rodgers check-out’s.  Whichever is the case, McCarthy is responsible for all of it as head coach.

Despite having clinched the NFC North division with today’s win over the Chicago Bears, the Packers still have a chance to improve their playoff seeding over the last two weeks of the season.  They return home to face the Tennessee Titans next week which screams (and I mean a blood-curdling scream) “trap game”.  Any lapse in that game and even worse, a loss, will fall squarely on the shoulders of McCarthy and how he prepares the team this week.  In week 17, they will face the Minnesota Vikings in what will surely be a tough game as the Vikings are now in great position to reach the postseason.

Any Packers player or coach who is asked will tell us:  “We believe in coach McCarthy and what we are trying to accomplish”.  And that’s not a bad thing.  I’d rather have that type of team culture than some others that I see (the Philadelphia Eagles come to mind).  At the same time, I think Packers nation is starting to grow anxious as we watch McCarthy baffle everyone from fans to the TV analysts (even Joe Buck and Troy Aikman) with some of his play calling.  And specifically late in games when the Packers have a decent lead and their destiny is in their own hands.

22

May

Packers Coaches Campen, Slocum Out of the Fire?

James Campen

Is James Campen finally off the hook in the eyes of Packers fans?

There’s been something missing this offseason, and I’ve finally figured out what it is: the annual tirade of Packers fans against special teams coach Shawn Slocum and offensive line coach James Campen. What once was a common occurrence has quietly but certainly escaped from our foremost thoughts. They have only been mentioned in mere passing in recent news stories, and even the most rabid of fans have barely even whispered their names.

All of this, evidently, must be a good thing.

Just about 11 months ago, our own Zach Kruse wrote a post detailing five areas in which the Packers could improve in 2011, despite having won a Super Bowl title the previous year. Three of those areas were Kick and Punt Returning, Kick and Punt Coverage, and Pass Protection. In revisiting those now, we’ve seen some noteworthy improvements.

In first looking at Special Teams, the addition of Randall Cobb as a punt and kick returner was huge. Not only did he win the NFL Honors Play of the Year for his 108-yard kickoff return against the New Orleans Saints, but he made a significant mark on the statistics sheets. In yards per punt return, Cobb ranked third in the NFL (13.4), and he ranked seventh in yards per kickoff return (27.6).

While a lot of this is due to the athletic talent and vision that Cobb possesses, these plays would not have been possible without the blocking of the special teams units. And for that, we have to give credit to Slocum. If we are going to blame him for the failures, then it would only be right to praise him for the successes.

In fact, if you go by the advanced statistical measurements of Football Outsiders (FO), the Packers special teams unit ranked 8th in DVOA (3.5%) across the league in 2011. Last year they ranked 26th (1.6%).

Now how about that offensive line?

Well, to look at it statistically, they actually slid back a little bit. Their 41 sacks allowed last year numbered three more than the year of their Super Bowl run, and according to FO, their Adjusted Sack Rate rose from 7.2% to 7.4%. But if this is the case, why haven’t we heard the rallying cry against Campen lately?

8

August

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Green Bay Packers Training Camp Edition, Volume 1

Green Bay Packers 2011 Training campDespite a lockout that made fans sweat bullets, the calendar has turned to August and football is indeed back. Even though it seems Packer Nation didn’t really get to celebrate the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl XLV title due to the work stoppage, we must put last season behind us and focus on the new season that has just begun

For Cheeseheads, the start of football season means players on bicycles and practices at Ray Nitschke Field behind the Don Hutson Center.  While it may feel different this year due to free agency occurring at the same time training camp opened, there are many other things that remain timeless at Packers training camp.

The aforementioned bicycles are one.  Players ride kids’ bikes to and from practice each day.  It’s a tradition like no other in the National Football League.

A couple thousand fans turn out in the stands for each practice with hundreds more lining the fence waiting to get a glimpse of how their team is shaping up for the upcoming season.

That said, enough about the experience.  Today we take a look at the practice of Thursday August 4th as “Game Balls and Lame Calls” makes its return for the 2011 season.  Yes, I know it is practice and game balls aren’t given out, but for the sake of consistency let’s just go with it.

Game Balls:

WR corps—mainly Donald Driver, Randall Cobb and Shaky Smithson.

The reported demise of Donald Driver so far seems to be greatly exaggerated.

While many saw the drafting of Randall Cobb as writing on the wall for Driver’s time in the starting lineup, he showed no signs of slowing down during the practice I witnessed.  Driver made a stellar tiptoe catch on the sideline on one play and then later caught the ball from Aaron Rodgers over the middle (Driver’s specialty) and was able to spin and juke his way out of a tackle.

As for Cobb, what else can I say? I don’t want to place unrealistic expectations on the kid, but he has incredible athletic skills.  During kick return drills, he twice burnt the coverage unit and in passing situations his agility as on full display as he made leaping catches and plays down the middle.  He definitely has promise. Someone even mentioned Desmond Howard when watching Cobb return kicks.