18

July

Bringing in the Cavalry: A Look at the Packers Injured Reserve

Ryan Grant Injury - Packers injured reserved

Ryan Grant's injury against the Philadelphia Eagles was one of the biggest blows to the offense last season.

With the NFL lockout well into its fourth month now, there has been ample talk of which teams will fare better with a limited offseason. One of those teams, of course, is the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. But it’s not their championship status that has people convinced they’ll be ready. No, most people point to the (now cliché) fact that they have “16 players returning from injured reserve.”

While this is certainly the case, I started thinking about this claim a little more in depth. I wondered: Will all sixteen of those players really be making a difference?

Sure, guys like Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant will have a HUGE impact upon their return. But what about a guy like Spencer Havner or even Brady Poppinga? What are they really going to be bringing back to the table?

Here’s a quick look at each player that ended up injured reserve last year and what their potential impact will be upon their return. They are ordered by the date of their injuries:

Josh Bell, CB

Type of Injury: Foot Sprain
When Injured:
Training Camp (August 10, 2010)
Impact for 2011:
None – The Packers offered Bell an injury settlement during camp, which he refused. After the Super Bowl ring controversy in June, it’s clear the team plans to go on without him next season.

#91 Justin Harrell, DE

Type of Injury: Knee (ACL)
When Injured:
Week 1 @ Philadelphia Eagles
Impact for 2011:
Questionable – Harrell could actually be a big influence on the 2011 season; however, one still has to be cautious with his downright unlucky injury history. If Harrell can manage to stay active for more than a game, then he might be able to do some damage along the line. We all know how big of an “if” that is, though.

#25 Ryan Grant, RB

Type of Injury: Ankle
When Injured:
Week 1 @ Philadelphia Eagles
Impact for 2011:
High – There’s no question that the Packers severely missed their primary running back for most of last season. Brandon Jackson just couldn’t get the job done, and James Starks, while showing a lot of promise, is still young and relatively inexperienced. Grant will provide some much-needed consistency to the ground game, even if he is splitting carries with Starks.

30

March

2011 Draft Prep: Green Bay Packers Needs by Position – Tight Ends

In this third installment of our 2011 Draft Prep series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ needs by position, we are going to analyze how the tight end position currently stands. Strengths, weaknesses, depth, and uncertainties will all be examined to determine the urgency of need in regards to next season.

This series is meant to help us figure out the needs of the team and how the draft could be used to improve the weaker areas. While Ted Thompson largely uses the “best player available” (BPA) approach, his decision to trade up or down the board is affected by what position players he would prefer to have. Additionally, the picking up of players in the later rounds and in undrafted free agency is often based on need, since the talent is less defined.

CURRENT PLAYERS:

#88 Jermichael Finley
24 yrs. old / 3 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2011

#81 Andrew Quarless
22 yrs. old / 1 yr. exp.
Signed through 2013

#83 Tom Crabtree
25 yrs. old / 1 yr. exp.
Signed through 2012

#41 Spencer Havner
28 yrs. old / 2 yrs. exp.
Free Agent (tender offered)

* Contract information acquired from RotoWorld.com

POSITION STRENGTHS:

Jermichael Finley could be the best receiving tight end in the league right now, and his case for this distinction would be much stronger if not for his season-ending knee injury. In the first four games of 2010, Finley had 21 receptions for 301 yards and a touchdown, which would have put him on pace for a 1,000 yard season.

But beyond the numbers, Finley is just a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses. Mike McCarthy has lined him up as both a tight end and wide receiver, trying to take advantage of his height and his speed. He is also a big red zone target, not only because of his size, but also because of his great hands.

Behind Finley, the Packers have picked up two promising, young tight ends in Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree. Though neither player was stellar in his role this season, each one has shown the potential to be solid cogs in the offensive machine.

For a position that McCarthy likes to utilize in his offense, he has a great group of talent and depth to work with next season.

POSITION WEAKNESSES:

2

August

Green Bay Packers 2010 Roster Overcrowding: Is Tight End the New Fullback?

Just about any Packers fan knows (and laments about) how Green Bay kept 3 fullbacks on the 2009 roster. Could tight end be the position for roster overcrowding in 2010? As I mentioned on Cheesehead Radio last week, I think there’s a decent chance. Let me expand on that thought…

In 2009, the Packers selected Quinn Johnson in the 5th round of the NFL draft. Johnson had a hot and cold college career, but was unquestionably looked at as a physical specimen with athletic ability and raw talent that will require some time to develop.

In 2010, the Packers selected Andrew Quarless in the 5th round of the NFL draft. Quarless had a hot and cold college career, but was unquestionably looked at as an immature kid with athletic ability and raw talent that will require some time to develop.

Sound familiar?

In 2009, the Packers did not want to lose Quinn Johnson, by taking a chance on putting him on the practice squad. Certainly, a team like Carolina, who signed Tyrell Sutton and then later had to use him at fullback, would have taken Johnson in a heartbeat. If Johnson can learn to use his skills wisely and improve his pass blocking, the Packers will be very pleased with this pick in a few years.

In 2010, they have drafted a tight end that has a similar skill set as Jermichael Finley, and fits the mold of the modern-day NFL tight end. Putting Quarless on the practice squad is probably not an option. Let me tell you, as a Penn State fan that has seen him play in person several times, the kid has talent. If he can grow up and focus on his job, the Packers will be very happy with this pick in a few years.

Sound familiar?

In 2009, the Packers were supposedly putting an emphasis on special teams (not to say that it worked, though). Not being very deep at talent in the running back position, rather than keep a 4th RB that would never see the field, they kept 3 fullbacks, holding on to Hall and Kuhn, special teams contributors.

In 2010, the Packers are putting a major emphasis on special teams again (no. really! Mike McCarthy said so!). This year, with the drafting of James Starks and signing of Quinn Porter, keeping 4 running backs and two fullbacks is a more logical possibility. That means they probably lose a special teams contributor (Kuhn or Hall) at FB, but can gain one somewhere else – the logical choice would be at tight end.