25

January

Tramon Williams 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers CB Tramon Williams

Packers CB Tramon Williams

1) Introduction: For running backs, perhaps the most demanding position in football, hitting age 30 can be the death blow to a player’s career. But for Tramon Williams, a cornerback in his age-30 season, the veteran remained relatively consistent before a late-season surge that now may have the Packers rethinking their stance on the cornerback this offseason. Prior to the season, it looked as if this past year may be Williams’ last in Green Bay, but he was undoubtedly one of the team’s best defenders late in the season. Along with the uncertain future of Sam Shields, the Packers face several question marks at what may be one of their deepest positions.

2) Profile: Tramon Williams

  • Age: 30
  • Born: 3/16/83 in Houma, LA
  • Height: 5’11″
  • Weight: 191
  • College: Louisiana Tech
  • Rookie Year: 2006
  • NFL Experience: 8 years

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: Williams was a big question mark for the Packers coming into the 2013-14 season. Since his breakout season in 2010, Williams was up-and-down through the subsequent two seasons as he battled a shoulder injury. With a crowded group of cornerbacks (Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House and Micah Hyde) geared up for the season, it was unknown how Williams’ playing time would be affected. If at all.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: While not the All-Pro caliber player he was in 2010, Williams may have been the Packers’ best defensive player in the late-season stretch run that landed them in the playoffs as the NFC North champions. Against the Dallas Cowboys, Williams intercepted Tony Romo on the Cowboys’ final possession to clinch the Packers’ one-point victory, setting up a division-deciding game against the Chicago Bears. After beating the Bears, Williams intercepted San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, proving that No. 7 in red was, in fact, human. The first half of the season was different for Williams, as he wasn’t a reliable tackler and struggled to handle slot duties in Hayward’s absence.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: There have been plenty of knocks on Williams for his post-2010 play, but nobody can question is durability. Not even you. Since becoming a member of the Packers’ 53-man roster in 2007, Williams has missed one game. One. So while the injury bug bit the position, Williams was a crutch for the Packers to lean on. Was this his best season? No, but he showed significant improvement this year from his previous two seasons and was on the field every Sunday. And he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 39th-best cornerback, which was up from No. 61 in 2012.

19

January

Packers, Capers really missed Casey Hayward in 2013

Casey Hayward wasn't the Packers' only missing link in 2013, but he was certainly missed. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Casey Hayward wasn’t the Packers’ only missing link in 2013, but he was certainly missed. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

As a rookie in 2012, Packers cornerback Casey Hayward was one of three finalists for the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best cornerback–the second-round pick trailed only established veterans Antoine Winfield, Richard Sherman and Charles Tillman.

After Hayward intercepted a team-best six passes and holding opposing passers to an abysmal 31.1 passer rating, the Packers had high hopes for Hayward, as they cut ties with their veteran leader and turnover-creator Charles Woodson following the 2012 season.

But Hayward’s encore was disrupted by a recurring hamstring issue, limiting him to appearing in just three games. He played 88 snaps.

With Woodson playing in Oakland and Hayward on the sideline, the Packers were left searching for a solution in the slot early last season. Sam Shields and Tramon Williams had fine seasons, but both are better suited for the perimeter. Micah Hyde didn’t play like a rookie, as he took over as the primary punt returner while proving to be a reliable run defender and a versatile cover man.

All things considered, the Packers’ cornerbacks fared well, but they were seriously lacking in one area.

For as long as Dom Capers has served as defensive coordinator in Green Bay, the Packers defense has relied heavily on takeaways. Woodson intercepted 19 passes and forced 11 fumbles during Capers’ tenure, which began in 2009. When Capers served as defensive coordinator with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1992-1994, he had another Woodson (Rod), who intercepted 16 passes in three seasons with Capers.

But for the first time since taking over in Green Bay, Capers was without his X-Factor in 2013. He didn’t have a play-maker. He certainly didn’t have a Woodson.

For a defense that had grown accustomed to bending but not breaking, losing its turnover-creating wild card would be like throwing Capers in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean without a raft. Hayward’s 88 snaps were a makeshift life vest, but Capers and the defense remained stranded and searching for answers.

It would be foolish to assume Hayward’s career will unfold like Woodson’s, but you don’t let go of your high-school sweetheart without a winner on deck. The Packers had a plan for Life After Woodson, but that plan (Hayward) fell by the wayside thanks to the injury bug.

7

January

Game Balls and Lame Calls: 49ers 23, Packers 20

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers couldn't get past the 49ers, so their focus now shifts to 2014.

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers couldn’t get past the 49ers, so their focus now shifts to 2014.

It was a different final score but the same result for the Green Bay Packers when their season clock expired Jan. 5 against the San Francisco 49ers.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick didn’t have 181 rushing yards, as he did in last year’s playoffs. But he had 98 on just seven carries.

Kaepernick fell short of the second 400-yard passing day of his career after racking up 412 in September’s season opener. But he moved the chains through the air and threw a dart to Vernon Davis for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter en route to extending his record against Green Bay to 3-0.

As things currently stand, the San Francisco 49ers of the 2010s are to the Green Bay Packers what the Dallas Cowboys were in the 1990s. Sunday’s game was a nail biter. In fact, it wasn’t decided until Phil Dawson’s field goal snuck through Davon House’s arms and inside the right goal post as time expired. But the win over the Packers was the 49ers’ fourth in two seasons. It was Green Bay’s second postseason loss to the 49ers in as many seasons.

But, top to bottom, the NFL is probably the most competitive of the major sports on a weekly basis. Anyone can beat anyone, and the Packers–yes, the same team that has allowed 132 points in its last four games against San Francisco–can beat Kaepernick and the 49ers.

They just haven’t yet.

While much of Packer Nation continues to reflect on the 2013-14 season and wonder what might have been, let’s look ahead at the future. And despite some obvious holes on the defensive side of the ball and the likely reappearance of Packer the Injury Bug, the team’s future is bright.

Because the offense has the potential to be phenomenal.

The Packers took a giant step forward this season by relying on a steady running game behind Rookie of the Year candidate Eddie Lacy. The Packers’ second-round pick shouldered the load all season, as he carried the ball at least 20 times in 10 games. Due to injuries at the quarterback position, Lacy became the focal point of the Packers’ offense, and they managed to squeak into the playoffs.

30

December

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 33, Bears 28

Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers make the Packers a dangerous team in the playoffs.

Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers make the Packers a dangerous team in the playoffs.

In what began as a promising year and at one point took a dive into early NFL draft talk, the Green Bay Packers’ regular season ended Sunday exactly how they’d always hoped it would. With a division championship and a spot in the NFC playoffs.

It really has been a roller-coaster year for the Packers. After two losses in their first three games, the panic button seemed to be within arm’s distance. Then, suddenly, they were 5-2 with a favorable second-half schedule. But when Aaron Rodgers went down and Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn were forced to start games for Green Bay, the team’s playoff aspirations were in serious doubt.

But the team kept playing, stayed alive and played well enough to win the division, and it’s now time for a new season to begin.

This season–the postseason–is different than the regular season. It’s a five-week season with four possible games. It doesn’t matter who was starting for each team in September or who’s been lost along the way. Right now, there are 12 teams sitting at 0-0 while the other 20 teams reflect on their season and look ahead to the offseason.

The Packers are one of those 12 teams still alive. And they have a guy who wears No. 12 who makes them a contender to win the whole thing.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers were unspectacular if not just good enough. They’re not the Seattle Seahawks, nor the Carolina Panthers or San Francisco 49ers, but they have an offense that could score enough points against any defense in the postseason.

Right now, Rodgers is leaning on one of the NFC’s most consistent running games behind Eddie Lacy and an improving offensive line, and Randall Cobb has returned to the lineup to once again give the Packers one of the league’s top receiving corps. Jarrett Boykin has stepped up in a big way in his second NFL season, and Nelson has been able to handle some slot duties, but Cobb is undoubtedly the Packers’ best playmaker in the middle of the field–an area the Packers haven’t gotten much production out of since Cobb and Jermichael Finley were injured in October.

16

December

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 37, Cowboys 36

Andrew Quarless (81) and Eddie Lacy (27) turned in big games for the Packers against the Dallas Cowboys, and in the process, may have saved Green Bay's season.

Andrew Quarless (81) and Eddie Lacy (27) turned in big games for the Packers against the Dallas Cowboys, and in the process, may have saved Green Bay’s season.

Last week, it looked like the Green Bay Packers may have saved their season with a 22-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons. They were 6-6-1 with three games to play, and Aaron Rodgers appeared to be on the verge of returning to the lineup.

Rodgers didn’t play Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, but that didn’t stop Matt Flynn from leading a dramatic second-half comeback, which, in the process, may have saved the Packers’ season. They’re still breathing.

Despite last week’s win, much was made of the “boo birds” amongst Packers fans just before halftime against the Falcons. Had this week’s game been played at Lambeau Field, the boo birds likely would have returned as the Packers trailed by 23 points at the break. But the team recharged its batteries for the second half and kept its head above water with two winnable games to play and a division championship on the line.

For the Packers, the first 30 minutes against the Cowboys were ugly.

But the second half was so very different.

For all the things that have went wrong for the Packers this season, a lot of things went their way in the final 30 minutes. And when push came to shove, the Packers Chicago Bear’d the Dallas Cowboys with timely turnovers and out-of-nowhere explosive plays. A lot of football has yet to be played, as the Packers (7-6-1) try and play catch up to the Bears (8-6) and Lions (7-6) for first place in the NFC North, but hope still remains in Green Bay.

Super Bowl XLVIII is still a month and a half way, and the Packers certainly don’t appear to be the class of the NFC at this point, but there’s a 2010 feeling to this team, isn’t there? A week 15 matchup in Dallas (where the Packers won Super Bowl XLV), a week 16 game against Pittsburgh (whom they beat in Super Bowl XLV) and a regular-season finale against the Bears (whom they beat to clinch a playoff spot in 2010 and again in the NFC Championship) brings back memories of the Packers’ last hardware-winning season.

Two games remain on the 2013 schedule. And the Packers are still alive.

19

November

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Giants 27, Packers 13

Tramon Williams was making tackles near the line of scrimmage and intercepted a pass in the red zone. It was a big day for No. 38.

Tramon Williams was making tackles near the line of scrimmage and intercepted a pass in the red zone. It was a big day for No. 38.

For the first time in three weeks, the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback (Scott Tolzien) played beyond the game’s first series. So, there’s that.

In his first career start, Tolzien was able to move the Packers offense down the field on his way to three scoring drives. But much like Tolzien’s first outing with the team, his day was clouded with turnovers.

Although he completed 70 percent of his passes en route to a 339-yard day against a good Giants defense, Tolzien’s second interception to Jason Pierre-Paul clinched the game for New York, as JPP picked off the pass and raced into the end zone, extending what was a seven-point lead to 14.

And here we are. The Packers are 5-5 on the season and likely need to win five of their last six to make the playoffs.

With the Vikings next on the schedule, the Packers have a good chance at getting back over .500, despite being without Aaron Rodgers for at least another week. But then again, it’ll more than likely be another ugly slugfest in which the winner is decided by a late score.

The value of Rodgers is undeniable. Not only is he really, really good at throwing the football, eluding pressure and making pre-snap reads, but simply having No. 12 under center completely opens things up for the running game. It’s not exactly rocket science, I know. Eddie Lacy is a great back, but defenses are stacking the box in a way I–having grown up watching Rodgers and Brett Favre–have never seen.

On the sideline, Rodgers has to be looking at these defensive fronts, shaking his head and thinking “If only.” Favre is probably sitting on his recliner in his Wranglers and laughing.

Either way, the Tolzien-led Packers are the Tolzien-led Packers. The Rodgers-led Packers can beat any team in the league, in my opinion. But the Tolzien-led Packers cannot.

This week? I believe the Tolzien-led Packers can beat the Christian Ponder, Matt Cassell or Josh Freeman-led Vikings. But we will see.

Game Balls

Tramon Williams

11

November

“Reoccurring Issues” Doom Packers Again, McCarthy vows Action

Will someone in the Packers organization get the pink slip on Monday?

Yes, the Packers are all beat up. Yes, the injury situation keeps going from bad to worse to seriously, WTF? Yes, the Packers are down to their third-string quarterback.

But not all of the issues dragging the Packers down during this ugly two-game home losing streak can be blamed on the quarterback or injuries.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy seemed to acknowledge this after Sunday’s loss to the Eagles and vowed to take action to address “reoccurring issues” plaguing the Packers on Monday.

That phrase — “reoccurring issues” — caused Twitter to light up on Sunday night. What could McCarthy possibly mean by “reoccurring issues,” and how will they be addressed on Monday?

Firings? Benchings? More angry press conferences? All of the above? None of the above?

You can CAST YOUR VOTE below…

I have a few theories:

Dom Capers gets fired
Capers’ defense helped the Packers win a Super Bowl in 2010 and…that’s about it. The defense has been the weak link on this team for much of Capers five-plus years calling the shots. The problems seem to be the same every season: Bad tackling, lack of toughness and confusion in the secondary. Has McCarthy had enough?

I don’t see the Packers making a drastic move like this during the season, but you never know. I wouldn’t be opposed to it — firing a coordinator during the season worked for the Ravens last season — but would an internal replacement like Darren Perry or Winston Moss really be an upgrade? Maybe…

M.D. Jennings cut
He was benched on Sunday and hasn’t improved much during his time in Green Bay. Jeremy Ross got the boot after several major screw ups. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jennings is next.

Marshall Newhouse cut
What’s the point of keeping Newhouse around at this point? It’s like he’s afraid of contact. The Packers could get equal or better production from a street free agent.

Tramon Williams cut
Nah, not happening. Especially if Casey Hayward is hurt again.

Tramon Williams benched
This I could see happening. But what does getting benched mean in this secondary? They’re in dime and nickel a lot. I doubt a benching would result in Tramon never seeing the field again.