15

August

Is Tyrone Walker the Packers’ Sixth Man?

Tyrone Walker

Walker has caught on and is making a strong push to crack the Packers roster

For at least the past three or four seasons, we have seen a player come seemingly out of nowhere and forge their way onto the Green Bay Packers roster.  In 2010, the team’s Super Bowl championship season, it was cornerback Sam Shields.  In 2011 it was linebacker Vic So’oto.  Last season, it was linebacker Dezman Moses.  This year, it’s the offensive side of the ball’s turn as wide receiver Tyrone Walker seems to be “that guy” in this year’s training camp.

Just before camp broke last month, our very own Thomas Hobbes penned a profile on Walker and compared him to former Packers receiver Greg Jennings.  The comparison was that Walker is not the fastest or biggest guy on the field, but he runs fluid routes, gets open, and he can hang onto the ball.

Coming from a small school in that of Illinois State, Walker’s road to the NFL was not only hampered by a lack of spotlight, but Thomas notes that some of his teammates (LB Nate Palmer, QB Matt Brown) were bigger priorities for the Packers.  Brown has already been cut and Palmer is buried behind a bevy of guys competing at linebacker.  Meanwhile, Walker has established himself as a player that the coaching staff needs to keep a close eye on.

It’s always a good sign when your All-Pro quarterback is noticing you and asking you if you were open on a previous play during live game action.  Walker had five catches for 41 yards in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals.  Just a few days ago, JSOnline’s Tom Silverstein wrote about Walker and how many of the current Packers’ starters are recognizing his talents.

With receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb both trying to heal from previous injuries, Walker is making the most of the increased opportunity to practice and see the field.  He is constantly mentioned in practice updates and seems to take steps forward each day in pushing for a roster spot.  Both Nelson and Cobb are expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, but the team is also an injury away from becoming thin at a very crucial position.  Walker’s value could skyrocket in a hurry depending on the team’s health at receiver.

27

July

Packers Sign Arkansas State S M.D. Jennings

The Green Bay Packers have agreed to terms with Arkansas State safety M.D. Jennings, who caught the Packers eye early on in the process.

While he didn’t visit Green Bay, JSOnline reported that Jennings “was heavily pursued by the Packers and signed as a priority free agent.”

Jennings stands 5-11 and weighs 187 pounds. At his pro day, Jennings ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds and had a vertical leap of 35.5 inches. He also benched-pressed 225 pounds 10 times.

College summary

Jennings was a three-year starter and a tw0-time All-Sun Belt first team selection at Arkansas State.

He started all 12 games his sophomore season and led the Red Wolves in interceptions (three) and pass-deflections (five). The next season, Jennings started 11 games before hurting his ankle and missing the final contest. He finished the ’09 season with one interception and a team-high three fumble recoveries.

2010 saw Jennings put together the finest season of his collegiate career. He tallied 83 total tackles and three interceptions while also recording a sack. His performance vs. Louisiana-Monroe sticks out on the game log, as he intercepted two passes and recorded six stops. Overall, Jennings finished with eight total interceptions and two forced fumbles in over 30 collegiate games.

Commentary

Jennings primarily played free safety at Arkansas State, but he needs to add considerable weight to play that position in the NFL. 187 pounds simply isn’t enough to withstand the pounding and he’d struggle to keep up physically with NFL tight ends.

However, the Packers’ plan could be to allow Jennings to grow into the hybrid corner/safety role that Charles Woodson has perfected. That might be a long shot, but it’s certainly a possibility. Either way, Jennings’ best chance to stick in Green Bay will be on the practice squad. You can say that about every undrafted free agent, but it’s especially true for Jennings. He needs time to add weight before he can play safety at this level.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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27

July

Packers Sign Middle Tennessee LB Jamari Lattimore

The Green Bay Packers agreed to terms with Middle Tennessee State linebacker Jamari Lattimore on Tuesday, according to his representatives and JSOnline.

Lattimore (6-2, 230 pounds) wasn’t invited to the NFL combine but ran a 4.71-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. He also posted 20 reps at 225 pounds and had a vertical leap of 31 inches.

College summary

Lattimore was a three-year starter at defensive end for the Blue Raiders, but he saved his best season for his senior year. He tallied 11.5 sacks in 2010, tying the school record set by the Packers own Erik Walden, and was named the 2010 Sun Belt defensive player of the year. A four-sack effort at Louisiana-Lafeyette and three more vs. Louisiana-Monroe  helped his numbers. Overall, the 11.5 sacks were good enough for sixth in the nation and first in the conference.

Lattimore ended his collegiate career with 20.5 sacks, placing him second on Middle Tennessee State’s all-time list.

Commentary

While a defensive end at Midde Tennessee, Lattimore is best suited for outside linebacker at the NFL level. Like any end making the transition, he’ll need to make the adjustment from rushing the passer with his hand down to standing up. Lattimore appears to have the body type and athleticism to make the switch.

There’s also no way you can count him out of the competition at outside linebacker, as the Packers aren’t afraid to play a young player if he can handle the position. Frank Zombo, Brad Jones and Erik Walden are all examples of that. You’d still have to assume he’s a long shot, but you just never know what camp will bring for that position. If he can show an ability to get to the quarterback at the NFL level, he’s obviously worth a look.

It’ll be interesting to see if linebackers coach Kevin Greene can shape another undrafted free agent into a NFL player. If he can’t crack the 53, then the practice squad would be a good place to stash Lattimore away while he hones his craft.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

26

July

Packers Sign Delaware Safety Anthony Bratton

The Green Bay Packers signed Delaware safety Anthony Bratton Monday night, their fourth confirmed undrafted free agent pickup of the 2011 offseason.

Bratton visited the Packers before April’s NFL draft, along with fellow Delaware safety Anthony Walters. He signed with the Chicago Bears.

At Delaware’s pro day, Bratton ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 and 4.50 seconds, and bench-pressed 225 pounds 15 times. He had a vertical leap of 37 inches and a 20-yard shuffle time of 4.09 seconds. Bratton stands 6-1 and weighs 215 pounds.

College summary

Bratton saw the field in all four of his years at Delaware, as he took over one of the starting safety positions in just his sophomore year. That season (’07), Bratton delivered a team-high 73 solo tackles and was second on the team with 103 total stops.

His ’08 season was lost to a torn ACL after just one game, but Bratton came back in ’09 with a second-team All-CAA performance where he led the team with four interceptions. Bratton then turned in a first team All-CAA season last year, helping the Blue Hens possess the best pass defense and total defense in the conference and the best scoring defense in the nation. He also had two interceptions and 66 tackles his senior season.

Commentary

I was high on Anthony Walters, his safety running mate at Delaware, but both Bratton and Walters are underrated players moving forward.

The Packers are likely losing much of their depth at the safety position, so a guy like Bratton stands a decent shot at making the roster or landing on the practice squad. Anthony Levine is a candidate to move from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, which would leave a theoretical opening for Bratton to grab in camp. But he could make the 53-man roster too, as the Packers already let go of Derrick Martin and may not re-sign free agents such as Atari Bigby or Anthony Smith.

And even though Bratton comes from a smaller school, I like his physical traits and experience in a secondary. It appears he can run and isn’t afraid to play near the line of scrimmage, but his three years of starting experience at Delaware might make him an interesting guy to watch in Packers camp.

25

July

Packers Sign South Carolina WR Tori Gurley

The Green Bay Packers signed South Carolina wide receiver Tori Gurley Monday night, following up their acquistion of Utah kick returner Shaky Smithson.

Gurley didn’t make an official visit to the Packers before the draft. At 6-4, 220 pounds, Gurley is an imposing receiver who surprised some by coming out after just his redshirt sophomore season. At the NFL combine, Gurley ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, the 20-yard dash in 2.67 and the 10 in 1.62. He also benched 225 pounds 15 times and had a vertical leap of 33.5 inches. He chose not to run at his pro day in March.

College summary

Gurley certainly didn’t light up the stat book in his two years at South Carolina. He caught just 31 passes for 440 yards and two touchdowns in his redshirt freshman season, and he followed that up with 44 catches for 465 yards and four touchdowns the next season. Joe Schad of ESPN did state that Gurley was “one of the most sure-handed receivers in the nation with no drops the entire season.”

During the 2010 season, Gurley had one of the best games in South Carolina’s receiving history. He caught 13 passes (one short of the school record) for 109 yards and a touchdown. But for most of his career at South Carolina, Gurley was stuck behind likely 2012 first rounder Alshon Jeffrey and his production lagged behind.

Commentary

From a purely physical standpoint, Gurley looks the part of a NFL receiver. At 6-4 and 220 pounds, Gurley would appear to be a size mismatch for any cornerback and a legitimate red zone threat. He’s trimmed down from his playing weight of 233 pounds, and at the combine, he told reporters that the lost weight helped him increase his speed. If that’s the case, he could be a scary option down the road.

But even with the physical traits, it’s hard to look past the lack of production at South Carolina. He had one of the premier receivers opposite him, and he wasn’t able to take advantage of the mismatches that likely created for him. And though he’s almost 24 years old, Gurley had just two years of playing time with the Gamecocks.