3

October

Where Are They Now: Following Former Packers

With the 2013 season now a quarter of the way over, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at all the Packers who played for the 2012 team who are now playing somewhere else.  Have the Packers really missed them?  Have they made a contribution to their new teams?  (note: snaps are only counting offense and defense, not special teams)

Alex Green (New York Jets)

  • 2012 season: 343 snaps, 135 attempts for 464 Yds, 3.4ypc, 0 TDs, 1 Fum
  • 2013 season (projected): 40 snaps, 28 rushing attempts for 60 Yds, 2.1ypc, 0 TDs, 0 Fum
  • Alex Green never really was able to overcome the ACL injury he suffered as a rookie and became one of the few high draft picks to be quickly dumped by the Ted Thompson regime.  Green quickly found a new home with the New York Jets, one of the teams that curiously have been linked to the Packers (numerous trades of picks, Caleb Schlauderaff and of course Brett Favre).  As of yet, Green hasn’t been able to make much of an impact even with an apparent opening at the running back position with the Jets; Chris Ivory has been hobbled with injuries, Mike Goodson just returned from suspension and KR/RB Joe McKnight was sent packing.  At the moment, Green is projected as the 3rd running back and is on pace for about 60 yards rushing with a 2.1 average.   For the Packers James Starks has played pretty well and Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin have both showed promise.  the Packers are fine at running back without Green.

Greg Jennings (Minnesota Vikings)

  • 2012 season: 416 snaps, 36 Rec for 366 Yds, 10.2 YPC, 4 TDs, 0 Fum
  • 2013 season (projected): 664 snaps, 56 Rec, 1,008 Yds, 18.0 ypc, 8 TD, 0 Fum
13

June

Packers Inside Linebackers: Now what?

Desmond Bishop, Green Bay Packers

Bye Bye Bishop?

While nothing has been officially announced yet, by many accounts Desmond Bishop’s days as a Green Bay Packer appear to be over.

Speculation is rampant as to whether it’s strictly a “numbers” decision or if the Packers don’t believe he’ll ever be the same after a very serious injury. Bishop claims to be 100%, but has not participated in the Packers OTAs or mini camp.

Whatever the real reason, the big question is, now what?

I’ve seen a lot of  fans asking, “are we supposed to be happy with AJ Hawk and Brad Jones as our starting linebackers?”

My answer to that is, you won’t have to be. What you are likely to see is a lot of situational substitutions at the ILB spots. The Packers have a cadre of linebackers with complimentary skills. Dom Capers’ task will be to pick the right player/scheme for the specific situation.

Also remember the experimentation you’re seeing with Mike Neil and Mike Daniels being used in more of a linebacker role. The Packers suddenly find themselves very deep on the defensive line, and I would not be surprised to see some brand new defensive packages with fewer linebackers and more DL & DBs in the game.

We really won’t know until they line up against San Francisco in the first game that really matters, but you can bet they will have some new looks for Colin Kaepernick.

In the meantime, let’s take a quick look at the ILBs on the Packers’ roster:

AJ Hawk:  Always the team player and good soldier, Hawk has lasted this long as  a starter thanks to his firm grasp of the defensive schemes, ability to make the right defensive calls and his own assignment assuredness. There is no argument he has not lived up to expectations as the fifth player taken in the 2006 NFL draft, but the packers have been using him wisely.

As pointed out in this interesting piece over at Acme Packing Company, the Packers started using Hawk differently in 2012. Firstly, he was in on only 67% of the defensive snaps, as compared to over 90% each of the two previous years. Secondly, he was in on a higher percentage of running plays, a lower percentage of pass plays, and a very low percentage of pass rush attempts.  Expect those trends to continue.

21

February

Will the Packers Remain Uncomfortably Married to A.J. Hawk?

AJ Hawk

Cut him or keep him? The Packers might just stay uncomfortably married to AJ Hawk.

The topic of A.J. Hawk gets debated to death by Packers fans every offseason.

Some fans view Hawk as an overpaid bust who has no business on the field. Others view him as a serviceable player even though he hasn’t lived up to his status as a high draft pick. A few delusional fans even think some other team would trade a first or second day draft choice for Hawk.

If I were in charge of the Packers, I’d release Hawk. If released after *June 1, it would save $5.45 million against the salary cap — money that could be used to extend Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji — and cut ties with a player who hasn’t forced a turnover since 2010 and didn’t break up a single pass in 2012.

Hawk has always been a ho-hum player. I believe the Packers committed to him because they weren’t sure about their other options. The Packers were the 35-year-old woman who married a guy that wasn’t quite perfect, but time was running out and the other options were iffy. Settling on Hawk was better than being left alone and vulnerable (with a house full of cats).

Here’s the big question regarding Hawk’s future in Green Bay: Are there finally some other options for the Packers this offseason?

Desmond Bishop is a high-energy playmaker. D.J. Smith is capable. Brad Jones proved his worth after Bishop and Smith got hurt. Terrell Manning and Jamari Lattimore are young players who could emerge if given a chance. Do those players give the Packers enough confidence to divorce Hawk? What if Thompson drafts a physically gifted middle linebacker early in the draft?

On paper, you would think so. But can Ted Thompson really be swept off his feet by two guys coming off major knee injuries, a career backup (who is also a free agent), two kids who have never played a meaningful snap, or a draft pick?

Perhaps the names are a bit sexier this time around, but when you look beneath the surface, the Packers might decide to stay uncomfortably married to Hawk. He had 157 tackles last season, and he at least tries to play physical, even if he isn’t talented enough to make much of an impact.

20

February

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Inside Linebackers

Packers Inside Linebackers:  If nothing else, the 2012 team showed us how deep we are at inside linebacker. After losing two starters in Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith, the Packers were still able to keep things together with Brad Jones in the lineup. The caveat, however, is that while the group is deep, there are no real “blue chip” players to be found.

(Note: Listen to the combined linebackers podcast at the end of this article:)

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

A.J. Hawk (1st Round, 2006)
Desmond Bishop (6th Round, 2007)
Brad Jones (7th Round, 2009)
Robert Francois (UDFA, 2009)
D.J. Smith (6th Round, 2011)
Jamari Lattimore (UDFA, 2011)
Terrell Manning (5th Round, 2012)

For all the talk of the deficiencies at defensive line and outside linebacker, we seem to forget about the fact that inside linebacker is leaving us with something to be desired. It’s not a horrible group by any means, but there’s also nothing special about it. Desmond Bishop is currently the best player of the bunch, A.J. Hawk isn’t worth his contract weight, D.J. Smith was a bit of a disappointment this year, and despite his solid play, Brad Jones wasn’t much of a playmaker either. Terrell Manning seems to be the current roster’s last shred of hope among an otherwise lackluster crew, but he needs to make it onto the field first and foremost.

  • Hawk: Even though A.J. Hawk had one of his best years in 2012, it was still not great. He’s no Vince Young when it comes to first round busts, but he lacks the playmaking ability and athleticism you would expect from a player drafted at his position. His work ethic and football intelligence have kept him around for seven frustrating years, though it’s clear his salary will be more than his worth in 2013. The Packers could save $5.45 million in cap space by releasing Hawk.
  • Bishop: It’s hard to believe that Desmond Bishop will be going into his seventh season in 2013, because it took him so long to gain a starting role. His lack of consistency held him back until Nick Barnett’s season-ending injury in 2010. Since then, he has proven himself to be a hard-charged thumper that brings an attitude to the defense. More of a red chip than a blue chip player, he is easily the best inside linebacker on the squad right now.
7

February

Packers Terrell Manning: 2012 Player Evaluation and Report Card

Terrell Manning

Terrell Manning

1) Introduction: Terrell Manning was selected in the fifth round (pick 163) of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He was considered by some to be a bit of a sleeper pick with hidden potential. Unfortunately, he suffered a major setback during training camp when a stomach parasite caused colitis. Not only did it hinder his development and training, but he also lost 15 pounds in the process.

2) Profile:

Terrell Manning

  • Age: 22
  • Born: 04/16/1990, in Laurinburg, NC
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 237
  • College: North Carolina State
  • Rookie Year: 2012
  • NFL Experience: 0 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: While we sometimes put too much stock into the immediate impact a draft pick will have, there was reason to expect more from Terrell Manning. As a fifth round pick, he was at least expected to contribute heavily on special teams while learning the finer points of his primary linebacker position. Being a draft pick doesn’t guarantee a roster spot, but it’s good bet with Ted Thompson as GM.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Even though it might not really count in this category, Terrell Manning’s low-light of the season was training camp. His unlucky stomach parasite destroyed whatever chances he had at really being a competitor at inside linebacker. Manning also suffered a nerve injury in his shoulder during the regular season.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Terrell Manning played zero snaps on defense, and his special teams snaps only add up to a paltry 44. And 39 of those snaps came in the two postseason games. While it might be a sign that he’s starting to recover, it could also just be a sign of the Packers not having many other alternatives in light of injuries.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: See above. He made his biggest impact in the postseason, though that’s not really saying much. As a final thought to just put out there, it’s tough to give Terrell Manning any reasonable grade for the year. The Packers weren’t really in a position to cut him and hope they could stash him on the practice squad for the future.

 

Season Report Card:

(N/A) Level of expectations met during the season

3

September

Packers LB Terrell Manning Battled Health Issues Throughout Camp

Packers LB Terrell Manning

Packers LB Terrell Manning

Packers rookie linebacker Terrell Manning had a mysteriously quiet training camp.

Although Manning was just a fifth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, many draft experts had drafted rated much higher than where he ultimately came off the board–ESPN tabbed Manning the tenth-best outside linebacker of the 2012 draft class.

Fast forward to the summer, Manning was buried behind D.J. Smith and Robert Francois on the depth chart and starving for an opportunity to showcase his abilities. When starting linebacker Desmond Bishop suffered a season-ending injury in the team’s first preseason game in San Diego, the door opened for Manning to step into the spotlight.

But the former North Carolina State standout continued to hide in the shadows.

And as Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay-Press Gazette points out–Manning was battling more than just his fellow linebackers this summer:

His problems began the first week of training camp, and the Packers’ medical staff quickly realized this was no ordinary stomach flu or food poisoning. The 6-foot-2, 237-pound Manning was tested for everything from Crohn’s disease to cancer before he was diagnosed with a parasite that caused colitis, an inflammation of the large intestine.

Manning says at one point during training camp, he weight as little as 220 pounds–which is less than the average weight of the Packers’ top four running backs. However, the rookie linebacker refused to use his health as an excuse to sit out of practice, as he was on the field for all 21 training camp practices and all four preseason games.

Now that Bishop is out of the picture for 2012, the Packers will lean on Smith and A.J. Hawk as their starting inside linebackers. But behind them, Manning is competing with Francois and Jamari Lattimore as the Packers’ top reserves in the middle of their 3-4 scheme.

It remains to be seen what a healthy Manning is capable of accomplishing in a Packers uniform, but after what he endured throughout his first training camp, his competitiveness cannot be called into question.

If you haven’t yet read Demovsky’s article about Manning and his mysterious health condition, you really should. If you’re a fan of the Packers, it’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

20

August

What’s Going On With Ted Thompson?

Cedric Benson

Former Bears/Bengals running back Cedric Benson,

How many of you were caught off guard with the Reggie Wells signing?  How about the Cedric Benson signing?  Me too.  Now for all of us who think we know Ted Thompson, we’d naturally think that in response to the spate of injuries (which is also unusually high enough for a training camp that head coach Mike McCarthy has had to tone down and shorten practices just to keep his players fresh), Thompson would go and sign some young guy we’ve never heard of, probably from a school that we’ve never heard of and also probably with only a few, if any, years of experience in the NFL.

The “standard” Ted Thompson MO has so far been low-risk/high reward, meaning that by signing young unknown players, he is minimizing the risk of his investment (i.e. the contract) since young unproven players can be had for much lower costs.  When Thompson hits he gets Tramon Williams, when he doesn’t he gets Maurice Simpkins (who?); either way the Packers can’t really lose.

So how about Wells and Benson, who are both players with 8 years plus playing experience in the NFL?  I would argue that the entire league knows what you are getting with both players; Wells has a ton of experience and multiple positions on the offensive line and makes a good emergency swing offensive linemen but isn’t exactly starting material and Benson is the no-nonsense, straight ahead runner that the Packers love, but has a very long list of off the field problems as well as a penchant for putting the ball on the ground.

Both presumably signed the veteran minimum (also presumably with no guaranteed money) so basically the cost is about the same, so why not pick a player that’s younger and has a chance to factor long term into the Packers plans?  Here are a couple reasons I’ve thought up, if you have any other ideas, please leave them in the comment section below.