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.

14

August

Jeremy Ross’ Hands Will Be His Undoing

Jeremy Ross, Training Camp DrillIn the grand scheme of the game, it might not have been the significant difference between a win and a loss, but it’s a moment Green Bay Packers fans won’t soon forget, no matter how hard they try to repress the memories.

Mike McCarthy won’t soon forget it, either. His decision to have rookie wide receiver Jeremy Ross return punts in the playoffs against the San Francisco 49ers backfired in the worst way possible. With the Packers up 14-7 and building some momentum, they managed to stop the 49ers offense at midfield to begin the second quarter. Unfortunately, the ensuing punt was muffed by Ross at the Packers’ 10-yard line, and Colin Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for a touchdown three plays later. The game was now tied, and all the momentum had shifted.

Make no mistake, Jeremy Ross could be an exceptional return man – maybe even better than Randall Cobb. He has the right combination of vision, speed, and elusiveness that can create substantial returns. The one ingredient that is missing, however, is ball security. And all things considered, it’s perhaps the most important ingredient. Teams can recover from poor field position, but it’s ten times harder to recover from a turnover.

Fast-forward to training camp, and Ross hasn’t shown any improvement in being able to field punts or make catches. He’s been given multiple reps as a returner, and it’s no secret that McCarthy would prefer him to be “the man” at that position. The head coach’s decision to put Ross into the Divisional Round game was, in large part, due to his desire to keep star wide receiver Cobb from unnecessary injury, and that desire hasn’t changed much. If the Packers can have a back-up wide receiver fielding punts and kickoffs, it reduces the risk of them losing a key player in the part of the game where injuries occur most often.

But so far, Jeremy Ross hasn’t done much to help the situation.

As training camp reports from the beat writers come out, we’ve seen some all-too-frequent accounts of muffed punts and dropped passes from Ross. JSOnline’s notes from Tuesday’s practice mention another pair of dropped passes by Ross, which adds to a growing list. Dropped passes obviously aren’t the same as muffed punts, and the mechanics of each type of catch are completely different; nevertheless, they both show a propensity for poor ball security. But even besides that, if he wants to make the 53-man roster, Ross will still need to show he’s valuable as both a wide receiver and a punt returner.

12

July

Packers Undrafted Rookie Scouting Report: Tyrone Walker, WR Illinois State

Player Information:

  • Tyrone Walker, WR Illinois State
  • 5’10”/191 lbs
  • Hometown – Indianapolis, Indiana

Pro Day:

  • 40 yard: 4.59
  • 20 yard: 2.64
  • 10 yard: 1.60
  • Bench: 11
  • Vertical: 39
  • Broad: 129”
  • Shuttle: 4.41
  • 3-cone: 6.99

Introduction:

Walker is the latest player to come out of the Packers farm team, also known as Illinois State but whose road was harder than even his teammates.  He saw defensive end Nate Palmer selected in the 6th round by the Packers and then heard that his quarterback, Matt Brown signed as a priority rookie free agent (i.e. a player that signs immediately after the draft finishes).  Walker however, was only asked to come in as one of 27 try out players looking to snag on of the last spots on the 90-man roster.  Walker apparently showed enough during the tryouts and was signed to a contract and perhaps even more surprising was he recently caught the attention of one of the guys throwing the football.

Outside Analysis:

Draft Insider: Dependable small-school receiver with poor size/speed numbers. Comes back to the ball out of breaks, easily adjusts to errant throws, and makes the reception in stride. Fights with his hands to separate from defenders, displays outstanding hand/eye coordination, and competes to make receptions. Stays in bounds running after the catch and gives effort trying to pick up positive yardage.

Aaron Rodgers: Tyrone reminds me of Antonio Chatman, who not many people know I actually played with. But Deuce had very similar size and agility but he was a good route runner, very good in and out of his breaks. And I see that with Walker. I think he has very good hands, he’s a good route runner and I think he has a chance to be a good player in this league.

Video:

Analysis:

  • Keep in mind this video only shows catches, not drops.
  • Also keep in mind this is from 2011, but Walker increased his production in 2012.
  • Not a burner by any means but definitely quick enough
  • Good awareness, knows what’s going on in coverage and down and distance
  • Often motioned to the slot, probably will make his career at slot initially, runs good intermediate routes and can find the soft spots in coverage.
30

April

2013 Draft Leaves Packers In Need

Packers WR Greg Jennings

Who will replace Greg Jennings in 2013 is one of many questions left after the draft

The Green Bay Packers added 11 new players to their offseason roster via this past weekend’s NFL draft.  Packers GM Ted Thompson, as he does every year, maneuvered around and was able to add some additional picks to the stash that he began the draft with.

Heading into the draft, the team’s biggest needs were Defensive Line, Safety, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End and Offensive Line.  The team addressed the defensive line with two selections in the first five rounds.  At running back, they added two players in the first four rounds and they selected two offensive linemen in the fourth.  Any pick within the first five rounds should be expected to stick on the team’s final 53 man roster.  The key word is “should” so I cautiously say that those three areas seemingly were covered.

While some GM’s draft more for need, Thompson’s philosophy has been more about taking the best player available on his board at the time.  Two good examples are his selecting two offensive tackles within 10 draft slots of each other in round four and trading back into the fourth round to select running back Johnathan Franklin when he had already selected a top-tier running back two rounds earlier in the form of Eddie Lacy.

With that said and as has been the case in year’s past, Thompson did not address every position of need that the Packers had going into the draft.  With so many teams jockeying and moving around constantly, it would be tough for any GM’s board to fall exactly how he wants and leave draft weekend with every hole plugged up.  Three positions left with the biggest question marks are Safety, Wide Receiver and Tight End.

Safety

Mock drafts and big boards had the Packers possibly addressing this position in round one.  It was unlikely that top-rated safety prospect Kenny Vaccaro would still be available when the Packers were set to choose at #26, so the biggest possibilities were Jonathan Cyprien, Matt Elam and Eric Reid.  Reid was taken at 18th overall and was already off the board.  Thompson clearly didn’t feel that Cyprien nor Elam were what he wanted in a first round pick and he drafted defensive lineman Datone Jones instead.

25

January

If Jennings leaves, Wide Receiver Becomes a Pressing Need

Packers WR Greg Jennings

Packers WR Greg Jennings

Most expect wide receiver Greg Jennings to leave the Packers as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Jennings has spent the past seven seasons in Green Bay after being drafted in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft. And after 425 catches, 53 touchdowns, two Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl, Jennings’s time in Green Bay appears to be over.

When the Packers played the Minnesota Vikings in week 17, the wide receiver’s sister was critical of quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Twitter, suggesting that Jennings should “take (his) talents to South Beach and get paid.”

Miami is certainly a potential landing spot for Jennings. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was the Packers’ offensive coordinator from 2007-2011. And whether it’s with the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings or another team, Jennings is likely in line for a healthy payday this offseason.

In which case, one of Green Bay’s strongest positions in recent years could become a pressing need.

The Packers saw a preview of life-after-Jennings in 2012, as he only appeared in eight regular season games. In his absence, James Jones and Randall Cobb emerged as key playmakers for the Packers. With Jordy Nelson on one side, Jones on the other and Cobb in the slot, the Packers have a talented trio of wide receivers even if Jennings signs elsewhere.

But having three talented receivers does as much good as having one great quarterback. If the all-too-popular injury bug bites, the team could suffer.

And beyond Nelson, Jones and Cobb, the Packers face a great deal of uncertainty at the position. Undrafted rookie Jarrett Boykin was a pleasant surprise in the preseason and cracked the final 53-man roster in August. Jeremy Ross showed promise as a return man late in the season, but he didn’t make an impact on the team offensively.

Donald Driver was used sparingly in 2012 and is reportedly leaning towards retirement.

At tight end, the future of starter Jermichael Finley is up in the air. Packers beat writer Bob McGinn wrote Dec. 15 that the Packers appeared to be finished with Finley, but the much-maligned tight end improved down the stretch. Following the article’s publication, Finley caught 18 passes in the Packers’ final three regular season games. Finley signed a two-year, $14 million contract last February, leaving the team with a tough decision on what to do with the five-year veteran.

30

July

Packers 2012: Randall Cobb is Here, There, Everywhere

Randall Cobb at Packers training camp

The Year of Cobb?

Following along with the twitter training camp reports from Packers beat writers, one name seems to be popping up (pun intended) everywhere: Randall Cobb.

Wide receiver

Kickoff returner

Punt returner

Tailback

Quarterback

Place kick holder

That pretty much covers everything an offensive skill player can do with the football. An impressive list, for sure.

Back in the early spring of 2011, with the Packers having just come off a Super Bowl XLV win in Dallas, there were three positions I considered to be “needs” for the Packers going forward.  One was offensive tackle (In came Derek Sherrod, then cornerback (in came Davon House) and my final need was an all-purpose WR/KR. I had grown so tired of the Packers’ futility in the return game, but beyond that, I felt the Packers offense could be fairly unstoppable with the addition of a different type of wide receiver to their group.

What if the Packers offense had a smaller, quick, shifty receiver with the ability to make defensive backs miss after the catch? A guy you can use on quick wide receiver screens that can make something out of nothing. A guy that could be used for the occasional end-around.  Why not present your opponents with another dimension they’ll need to prepare for? A Percy Harvin-type player, for example.

In my draft research that year, I had narrowed down my WR/KR “wish list” to 2 players; Jerrel Jernigan and Randall Cobb. In all honesty, I preferred Jernigan. Watching tape of these two players, Jernigan looked like the faster and more dynamic of the two. But I would have been pleased if the Packers drafted either one.

When the Packers selected Cobb, I was a happy man, but I could never have envisioned what we are seeing now.  While Jernigan has struggled to see the field in any capacity for the NY Giants, Cobb was an immediate contributor and as listed above, is being looked at in a myriad of ways to help the Packers in 2012.

5

July

Packing the Stats: James Jones vs. Donald Driver

Here’s a post that is sure to spark some heated debate. We’ve had quite a few comments lately about the infamous James Jones and his comparison to the esteemed Donald Driver. Most of this has stemmed from two points of contention: (1) the Green Bay Packers’ decision to keep Driver despite his declining performance, and (2) the reputation of Jones in regard to dropped passes.

So, as I am wont to do, I took some time to research each of these player’s performances in 2011. I discovered some interesting things along the way, but let me first present to you some of the raw statistics (thanks to PFF):

 

J. Jones D. Driver
Snaps 514 521
Pass 376 419
Run Block 179 144
PFF Rating -2.2 -4.4
Penalties 1 0
Targets 54 54
Receptions 38 37
Catch % 70.4 68.5
Yards 635 445
Yds. / Rec. 16.7 12
YAC 292 142
YAC / Rec. 7.7 3.8
Longest 70 35
TD 7 6
INT 2 0
Drops 6 8
Missed Tackles 6 1
Fumbles 1 0

 

As you can see, Jones and Driver are very comparable as Packers receivers, with just about the same number of snaps and targets each. They do fill slightly different roles, though, as Jones provides more support in run blocking than Driver. Jones is also more of a deep threat, being targeted 11 times on passes of 20 yards or more, compared to Driver’s 3 targets in that range. That said, they both saw about 30 targets each in the 0-9 yard range, with most of their targets coming over the middle.

Now, it’s quite obvious that Jones was an overall more productive player. He caught just one more pass than Driver in the same number of targets, yet he put up almost 200 yards more. And while the deep balls do make a difference, Jones was able to rack up 150 yards more than Driver after the catch and recorded more missed/broken tackles.

The two marks against Jones are that he had one fumble and two interceptions on passes thrown at him (though only one of those was on a dropped pass, as we’ll see later).