8

November

Packers Periscope: Week 10 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

The Past

Last time these two teams met was in the NFC wildcard game in 2010.  However, the Packers got to experience the beast that they themselves had created; during the season opener Clay Matthews III knocked out starting quarterback Kevin Kolb with a concussion, which paved the way for the resurgence of Michael Vick, who had been just released from jail after pleading guilty to operating a dog fighting ring.  With the more dynamic Vick leading the way with vertical receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles boasted one of the most dangerous offenses that head coach Andy Reid had ever fielded.

However, during the playoffs the Eagles failed to get much going on offense while the Packers watched as rookie James Starks, who had been hobbled by injuries all season, burst onto the scene with 123 yards rushing, a Packers record for a rookie running back in the playoffs and saw a little glimpse of what was to come in their stunning 2011 season when an unknown undrafted rookie blocking tight end named Tom Crabtree made his first touchdown reception by sneaking past a linebacker.

On special teams, the Packers didn’t make many mistakes, which couldn’t be said for the Eagles as kicker David Akers left 6 points off the board with two missed field goals.  The Packers also enjoyed several big plays on defense, notably Clay Matthews completely destroying tackle Winston Justice and a last minute end zone interception by Tramon Williams that pushed the Packers into the divisional round against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Present

A lot has changed for the Eagles since the 2010 playoff game.  13 year incumbent Andy Reid was replaced by college football phenomenon Chip Kelly, who had lead the Oregon Ducks to a 46-7 record with 4 bowl appearances with his fast-paced, spread offense.  While Kelly and his super speed offense sent shockwaves throughout the NFL after their opening game against the Redskins after calling 53 plays in the first half, the rest of the NFL adjusted and the Eagles have been the epitome of “up and down” with some thrilling victories and some crushing defeats which explains the 5-3 record.

While Michael Vick still holds the starting quarterback position in name, Nick Foles has made a case to remain under center after a record breaking 7 touchdown, 158.3 QB rating touchdown performance last week against the Oakland Raiders.  On the other side of the ball, the Eagles defense has been largely ineffective, sorting out much like the Green Bay Packers in terms of defensive efficiency.

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
15

August

Matthew Mulligan is Blocking his way onto the Packers’ Roster

Matthew Mulligan has shown his blocking ability so far in Packers training camp.

Matthew Mulligan might not charm fans on Twitter, have arms covered in tattoos or take a fake field goal flip all the way to the end zone against the Packers biggest rival. But so far, it looks like the Packers lone veteran free agent signing is filling in nicely for departed fan favorite Tom Crabtree at tight end.

Bob McGinn wrote in Wednesday’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Mulligan has been “solid as a rock” and is close to locking up a roster spot. The journeyman was signed mainly as a blocker, but with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, as long as you have two hands and can take three steps forward without falling over, you might end up eventually becoming part of the passing game.

Crabtree was a durable and scrappy tight end who understood his role and always lined up where he was supposed to. Players like that have value — A.J. Hawk has become a rich man by being that type of player for the Packers on defense. Crabtree and Hawk are also the types of players where you set a value on how much you’re willing to pay them and you don’t exceed that value under any circumstances.

This offseason, the Packers determined Hawk wasn’t worth what he was making, so they told him to take a pay cut or else. Hawks said yes and remains a Packer.

Crabree was a free agent and felt he was worth more than what the Packers were offering (which was something around the league minimum). The Buccaneers agreed with Crabtree, offered him closer to what he thought he deserved, and Crabtree is now trying to build the same rapport with all the blue-hair retirees in Florida that he had with the cheeseheads in Wisconsin.

What does all of this have to do with Mulligan? Even though Crabtree had value, the Packers felt they could find a better player at a more team-friendly price. It’s still early, but it looks like they might have found that player in Mulligan (making $820,000 on a one-year deal).

Pro Football Focus gave Mulligan a 4.9 run blocking rating last season and a 6.5 in 2011. Crabtree was a -7.7 as a run blocker last season and a -8.4 in 2011. Obviously, Pro Football Focus metrics aren’t gospel, but that’s quite the difference. If you believe the reports from training camp, Mulligan is backing up those metrics by passing the eye test as well.

19

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #6 — Finley’s finale?

Jermichael Finley came on after the bye week last season. Will this be Finley's last season in Green Bay?

Jermichael Finley came on after the bye week last season. Will this be Finley’s last season in Green Bay?

In five years with the Packers, Jermichael Finley has gone from being the outspoken tight end to a focal point of the offense, and again, back to the outspoken tight end.

And in a circus-cautious locker room such as the one in Green Bay, Finley has been one of the most scrutinized players on the team since being drafted in 2008.

To most fans, for every positive from Finley, there’s two negatives. But to the Packers, for every negative, there’s a plethora positives. And for that reason, the team has committed to (at least) one more year from the 26-year-old tight end.

Finley enjoyed a breakout 2009 season, his second in the NFL. Finley caught 55 passes for 676 yards and five scores. His per-game averages of 4.2 catches and 52 yards are still the highest of his five-year career.

Fan perception of Finley throughout the past two seasons has been predominantly negative.

Due to dropped passes, the 2011 season was largely a disappointment. In total, Finley dropped 14 passes–the most by any tight end in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. But Finley started the season well. Through the first nine games of the season, Finley dropped just three passes and caught 33. Over the final eight games, Finley’s number of drops ballooned to 11.

Still, his season numbers were nothing to scoff at. His 55 receptions tied a career high, and he set new personal bests with 767 yards and eight touchdowns.

This past season was, again, a tale of two halves for Finley.

He dropped nine passes through the Packers’ first 12 games. But after a Week 13 win over the Vikings, Finley didn’t drop another pass the rest of the season. Over that six-game stretch, Finley caught 25 balls on 33 targets.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy took note of the improvement by praising Finley after the season.

“I really felt Jermichael Finley was a different man, a different player from the bye week on,” McCarthy said, per JSOnline.com. “I had an opportunity to talk to him about that at length in his exit interview, so I feel very good about the way he finished the year.”

15

July

Packers Undrafted Rookie Scouting Report: Jake Stoneburner, TE Ohio State

Player Information:

  • Jake Stoneburner, TE Ohio State
  • 6’4”/252 lbs
  • Hometown – Dublin, Ohio

Pro Day:

  • 40 yard: 4.62
  • 20 yard: 2.65
  • 10 yard: 1.63
  • Bench: 18
  • Vertical: 34.5
  • Broad: 116”
  • Shuttle: 4.27
  • 3-cone: 7.12

Introduction:

Outside of Jermichael Finley, the Packers like their tight ends to be versatile.  Whether it be playing special teams, in the slot, inline, in motion, or even behind the line of scrimmage as a fullback, if the Packers want a jack-of-all-trades, they are going to go with a tight end.  However jack-of-all-trades usually means master of none, and with the Packers, they have a ton of tight ends that all sort of fit the same mold.  Jake Stoneburner is another, a former wide receiver turned tight end from Ohio State, he can do a little bit of everything, but doesn’t shine in any particular spot.  Add to that his arrest for urinating on a building and then hiding from the police (which in light of the recent news Aaron Hernandez has made can be considered a “boys will be boys” mistake) and Stoneburner surprising fell out of the draft after being predicted a late round pick.  Will Stoneburner be another diamond in the rough that Thompson digs up or another tight end who is never good enough at one thing to warrant seeing the field?

Outside Analysis:

CBS: Stoneburner is a tall athlete with good length and catching radius. He plays with excellent body control to adjust and come down with the catch, showing very good field awareness. Stoneburner has usually strong hands and focus to snatch the ball out of the air and make some tough catches look easy. He makes plays after the catch, showing good effort and power to pick up tough yards. Stoneburner has smooth footwork in his routes and straight-line speed to make plays downfield. He displays some tenacity as a blocker and does a nice job on the perimeter. Stoneburner did a nice job finding the end zone with 13 career touchdowns, scoring once every 4.1 times he touched the ball.

21

June

Who’s Next on the Packers’ Chopping Block?

tramon-picksix-atlanta

Could Tramon Williams fall victim to Ted Thompson’s axe before next season?

Packers fans have seen a lot of big names and sentimental favorites either cut or allowed to sign elsewhere in free agency over the last two seasons.

The most recent casualty was Desmond Bishop. The inside linebacker’s exit came after guys like Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson, Tom Crabtree and Scott Wells were given their walking papers or not resigned in the last two offseasons.

Of course, losing name players always gets a certain segment of Packers fans riled up. Never mind the fact that the vast majority of players cut or not resigned by Packers GM Ted Thompson have gone on to do very little once they’re picked up by another team. The initial shock of losing a player who fans have formed some type of connection with usually causes some sort of backlash.

So, who’s next? Which one of our beloved Packers will be axed by the evil Thompson or not resigned because Packers salary cap whiz Russ Ball says, “Screw the fans! This guy isn’t worthy half of what he’s asking!”

Here are some possible candidates (I tried to limit it to players that the fans generally like. Hence, Jermichael Finley was not included):

CB Tramon Williams
Throwing Williams’ name out there makes me feel like Skip Bayless, but consider: 1) Williams will be 31 next season; 2) He’s due to make $6.9 million in 2014; 3) He hasn’t been able to repeat the success he had in 2010; 4) The Packers have a lot of young talent in the secondary; 5) He’s been bothered by a bum shoulder going on two years now. Kind of sounds like a prime candidate to fall victim to Thompson’s axe, doesn’t it?

FB John Kuhn
If the Packers had any sort of confidence in the pass-blocking ability of the running backs currently on the roster, I think they would wave bye-bye to Kuhn and his $1.8 million salary today. Packers fans boo Kuhn whenever he touches the ball, anyway, so maybe they wouldn’t be too upset about this. Wait…oh, they’re saying “Kuuuuuuhn!” Never mind, fans would be pissed. But Kuhn isn’t going anywhere unless one of the young backs shows the immediate ability to read blitzes and be a shut-down pass blocker.

18

March

All Eyes on Jermichael Finley in 2013

Packers TE Jermichael Finley

Packers TE Jermichael Finley

Jermichael Finley carries himself with a swagger; he’s been the “big man on campus” ever since high school.

Before committing to the University of Texas to play tight end, Finley was offered a dual scholarship by the University of Arizona, which would have allowed him to play both basketball and football at the D1 level. But as a freshman at Texas, Finley, then just 205 pounds, redshirted and learned the tight end position behind David Thomas, who is now a backup tight end for the New Orleans Saints.

But when Thomas graduated, an opportunity presented itself for the redshirt freshman Finley. In 2006, Finley caught 31 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns–all three totals set new school records for a freshman tight end.

As a third-year sophomore, Finley improved upon his individual numbers, racking up 45 catches for 575 yards. The Longhorns went 20-6 in Finley’s two years in Austin before the talented tight end decided to declare for the 2008 NFL Draft.

The Green Bay Packers snagged Finley with the No. 91 overall pick, throwing a 21-year-old Finley into a close-knit locker room that was looking to rally around quarterback Aaron Rodgers in his first season as the starter.

But the confident, occasionally outspoken rookie was in for a rude awakening, as he barely touched the field. Incumbent starter Donald Lee was coming off the best season of his career, in which he caught 48 passes for 575 yards and six touchdowns; he remained the starter during Finley’s rookie year.

But in Week 9 in Tennessee, Rodgers called Finley’s number. Facing a fourth-and-one in the first quarter against the then-undefeated Titans, Rodgers went to Finley on a back-shoulder throw.

The two were not on the same page, the pass was incomplete, and the Titans took over on downs. Finley was asked about the play after the game.

“I think he should have led me a little more, well a lot more,” Finley said. “Really, he didn’t throw it good at all, to be honest. He knows my game, coaches know my game. I’m more like a run and jump (receiver). I’m really not no back shoulder or whatever he had going on back there. They just have to know what kind of player I am and use me in that aspect of the game.”