9

August

Maybe Greg Jennings is jealous of Randall Cobb

If Greg Jennings is so happy in Minnesota, why does he keep talking about Green Bay?

If Greg Jennings is so happy in Minnesota, why does he keep talking about Green Bay?

Enough is enough.

Former Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings simply cannot stop talking about his former team. And despite his assertion that the grass is greener in Minnesota, his repetitive jabs at the Packers suggest otherwise.

The breakup between Jennings and the Packers wasn’t a “he dumped her,” or “she dumped him” situation. It was a mutual divorce that made sense for both sides.

Even without Jennings, the Packers still have one of the top receiving trios in the league in Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson. Extending Jennings likely would have resulted in the departure of someone else. Morgan Burnett was signed to an extension last month, and Jones, B.J. Raji and Jermichael Finley are scheduled to hit free agency next summer.

Jennings, on the other hand, wasn’t ready to give up his “go-to receiver” label. In Green Bay, he’d have to share targets with three talented receivers and an athletic tight end. In Minnesota, Jennings is the clear-cut No. 1 receiver and figures to be towards the top of the league in targets.

But throughout this mutual breakup, a cloud of jealousy is hovering over Jennings’ head.

After all, his ex (Green Bay) has continually replenished their receiving corps under the watchful eye of Ted Thompson, grooming potential replacements for players on the decline. After taking Jennings in 2006, the Packers drafted James Jones in 2007, Jordy Nelson in 2008 and Randall Cobb in 2011.

And now, it seems like Jennings is having trouble seeing his ex with a younger, prettier (and less costly) girl.

In October 2012, quarterback Aaron Rodgers made a bold statement about Cobb, telling Packers beat writer Jason Wilde on their weekly in-season radio show “Tuesdays with Aaron” that Cobb “is probably going to go down as one of the best picks in Ted Thompson’s career, if not the best.”

Thompson’s draft résumé boasts Rodgers, Nick Collins, Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews, among others. But still, Cobb, after appearing in just 21 games in the NFL, was already in the conversation, according to the 2011 league MVP.

Later in the season, in Week 17, Jennings’ sister Valyncia trashed Rodgers on Twitter during the Packers-Vikings game in Minnesota. On top of urging her brother to “go to South Beach and get paid” after the 2012 season, Valyncia suggested that Rodgers favors Cobb over the other receivers.

3

August

Jarrett Boykin off to a fast start to 2013

Packers WR Jarrett Boykin shined during the Packers' only night practice of the summer.

Packers WR Jarrett Boykin shined during the Packers’ only night practice of the summer.

With Greg Jennings playing in Minnesota and Donald Driver out of football altogether, the Green Bay Packers have some job openings at wide receiver, and in the early stages of training camp, Jarrett Boykin is taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb will assume the top three spots. But behind Nelson, Jones and Cobb, there’s a competition for the No. 4 spot, featuring Boykin, Jeremy Ross and a handful of rookies.

Seventh-round picks Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey have been sidelined due to injuries, allowing the incumbents (Boykin and Ross) to showcase their abilities. And at Friday night’s practice at Ray Nitschke Field, Boykin had a big day.

Boykin made several nice plays during the one-on-one portion of practice.

Lined up against cornerback Jarrett Bush, Boykin got a couple steps on Bush before making a leaping, acrobatic catch in the endzone. The play drew cheers from the packed audience, and even Bush looked impressed by the catch.

On Boykin’s next rep in the drill, he plucked a short out route with one hand.

Later during Friday’s practice, Boykin made his presence felt by making a diving catch deep down the right sideline. Perhaps even more impressive than the athletic catch was the fact that it came against Davon House–one of the most impressive players at Packers training camp thus far.

Now through one week of practice, Boykin is turning heads much like he did last summer. Boykin led the team with 13 catches and 166 yards during the 2012 preseason, en route to cracking the 53-man roster as the team’s sixth receiver.

In June, wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett called Boykin “a tremendous player”–per JSOnline.com. In Jennings’ absence, whoever wins the No. 4 job may be in for an expanded role within the offense.

Although not the fastest–4.62 in the forty–Boykin uses his size (6-2 218) to his advantage against physical cornerbacks. As things currently stand, Boykin is the frontrunner for the team’s vacant No. 4 receiver spot, although Ross has had an impressive camp of his own–as a receiver and return man.

The Packers kept six wideouts in 2012; one would figure the team will keep at least five this year. Through the first week of camp, the top five appear pretty clear–Nelson, Jones, Cobb, Boykin and Ross. Behind the top five, undrafted rookie Tyrone Walker has been the most consistent of the young bunch.

18

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #7 — Nelson, Jones, Cobb and?

Jarrett Boykin was a pleasant surprise last summer. Is he ready to be the Packers No. 4 receiver?

Jarrett Boykin was a pleasant surprise last summer. Is he ready to be the Packers’ No. 4 receiver?

A year ago, the Packers had a crowded group of wide receivers. A declining Donald Driver was buried on the depth chart behind veterans Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones, as well as a budding star in Randall Cobb.

But that was then, and this is now. Driver is retired, and Jennings is playing for the Minnesota Vikings and (apparently really excited about) catching passes from Christian Ponder. Last season, Driver barely played and Jennings missed eight games.

But between Jennings and Driver are six career Pro Bowl selections and ten 1,000-yard seasons. So needless to say, the Packers face some unanswered questions at the position headed into the 2013 season.

Nelson, Jones and Cobb will all return.

Of the three, Jones was the only player to play all 16 games last season, but the trio combined for 2,483 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns. That accounts for 57.8 percent of Aaron Rodgers’s passing yards and 74.3 percent of his touchdowns in 2012.

Nelson missed four games with a lingering hamstring injury and Cobb missed the regular-season finale. But if all three players can stay healthy for the entire season, there’s very little to be concerned about in regards to the Packers receiving corps.

Without Jennings in the fold, the Packers may not have a true No. 1 receiver. But between Nelson, Jones and Cobb, the Packers may have three legitimate No. 2 receivers. The jury is still out on Cobb at just 22 years old.

But chances are, at some point this season, either Cobb, Jones or Nelson will get hurt and be forced to miss time. And if that’s the case, someone will be called upon to step in and contribute to the offense.

But who?

Last year’s training-camp standout Jarrett Boykin is one possibility. After signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars following the 2012 NFL Draft, Boykin was cut in May. The Packers picked him up, and the undrafted rookie cracked the 53-man roster despite Jennings, Driver, Jones, Nelson and Cobb all but guaranteed roster spots.

The coaching staff felt strongly enough about Boykin’s 2012 preseason that they kept six wide receivers on the roster.

But this summer, Boykin will face stiff competition against Jeremy Ross (who wasn’t in Green Bay last summer) along with a pair of seventh-round picks–Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey.

11

July

Packers Undrafted Rookie Scouting Report: Myles White, WR Louisiana Tech

Packers UDFA WR Myles White

Packers WR Myles White

Player Information:

  • Myles White, WR Louisiana Tech
  • 6’1”/182 lbs
  • Hometown – Livonia, Michigan

Pro Day:

  • 40 yard: 4.42
  • 20 yard: 2.55
  • 10 yard: 1.53
  • Bench: 11
  • Vertical: 37.5″
  • Broad: 121”
  • Shuttle: 4.15
  • 3-cone: 6.90

Introduction:

White was voted Second Team All-Western Athletic Conference (Coaches selection) in 2012. He was the pass receiving sidekick to Quinton Patton in Tech’s high-powered, conference-leading offense.   White caught 56 passes for 718 yards and six touchdowns as a senior. White started his college career at Michigan State, but was involved in several off-field incidents. White decided he needed a change of scenery, so he transferred to Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he was sixth in the nation in receptions at the JUCO level. After spending a year there, White accepted Louisiana State’s offer and had a solid two seasons for the Bulldogs.

Video: (adult language warning…)

Analysis:

  • A legitimate deep threat that can accelerate past defensive backs.
  • Seems adept at finding the open spaces in the field.
  • Has very effective moves to pick up extra yards after the catch. Will shake and bake to create some space, then accelerate downfield.
  • Appears to have a fairly slight build. Will need to get stronger to combat NFL press coverage.
  • Initial small area burst is impressive, and backs up his fine 20yd shuttle time.
  • Sometimes catches the ball into his body when he doesn’t need to.
  • Shows very good ball awareness and uses his vertical leaping ability to his advantage.

 

Packers rationale:  Ted Thompson definitely had speed on his mind when he signed White and drafted Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey. The Packers are obviously looking to fill one of their open receiver spots with a legitimate deep threat who can extend the field and create open spaces underneath for the dynamic trio of Cobb, Nelson and Jones. White would seem to fit the bill, but I have concerns about his size (Randall Cobb at only 5’10″ weighs 10lbs more than White). If healthy, I expect Charles Johnson to be the guy who wins the speed wide receiver spot (I like his other attributes better), but White is the kind of guy the Packers will gladly keep on the practice squad and put him to work in the weight room.

23

May

Ted Thompson Back to Collecting Wide Receivers

Ted Thompson looking for wide receivers

Wait, is that a wide receiver over there?

Shhhhhh… be vewy, vewy qwiet… It’s wabbit wide receiver season…

Trapper Ted is up to his old tricks., i.e.,  his normal off-season compulsive collecting of no-name wide receivers. On Wednesday, the Packers signed Alex Gillett, a 6’1″, 214lb former QB turned receiver from Eastern Michigan.

That brings the number of wide receivers currently on the Packers roster to eleven. That may seem like a lot at first glance, but it’s actually fairly normal for the Packers. I know this because I remember calling a few years in a row for the Packers to carry one less wide receiver on the camp roster so that they could bring in a second placekicker to make Mason Crosby actually, you know, earn his spot.

But no, we can’t waste a precious roster spot on a second kicker, I kept hearing. Well lo and behold, look what the Packers have done this season. Hey, they even went out and got an Italian kicker – Mama mia!

But before this veers off into another epic Crosby rant (I’m kind of due, aren’t I), let’s get back to the subject at hand.

The argument in favor of bringing so many receivers to camp has always been that they need camp bodies to run routes during practices so the main receivers don’t get worn out. I totally bought into that theory, but still felt it was a waste with the Packers only keeping five wide receivers – until last year.

Last season, the Packers actually brought 12 receivers into camp. (Borel, Boykin, Brewer, Cobb, Driver, Curenski, Gurley, Jennings, Jones, Moss, Nelson, Smithson). Many speculated they could keep seven. I expected them to keep six, what with Donald Driver being given a mercy roster spot after his fan popularity shot through the roof thanks to his Dancing with the Stars win. But seven?

The two players most assumed had the best chances of being #6 and #7  (Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley) were sent packing, while relative unknown Jarret Boykin (a rookie camp tryout invitee) was the surprise choice as the #6 receiver. In October, the Packers signed Jeremy Ross to the practice squad and signed him to the active roster on Dec 1. So the Packers did end up with seven wide receivers after all.

20

May

Who’s to Blame for Aaron Rodgers’ Record High Sacks?

Aaron Rodgers sacked by SeahawksWe’ve all seen the numbers. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked a total of 51 times in 2012 – more than any other NFL quarterback – and 55 times if you count the playoffs. It eclipsed his previous record of 50 sacks in 2009 and brings his five-year total as a starter to 202. His lowest sack count in that span was 31 in 2010, the same year they won the Super Bowl.

Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling that Packers fans have in response to this data. Arguably the best player in the game right now is on his back way more often than he should be, and we are all left wondering why. Well, perhaps some fans are looking more for an answer to “who” than for “why.”

Who is to blame for this risk to our precious franchise quarterback? Who can we channel our anger towards when we’re yelling at the 60-inch plasma television?

Unfortunately, that’s not easily answered. But we can give you some suspects to choose from . . .

(don’t forget to cast your vote in the poll below…)

SUSPECT #1: The Blockers (Offensive Line, Running Backs, etc.)

In most cases, the offensive line is usually who we shout profanities at immediately after Aaron Rodgers gets sacked. After all, when it comes to the passing game, their number one responsibility is to protect the quarterback long enough for him to complete a pass. If he goes down, then it means they failed.

During the 2012 season, the two biggest culprits were Marshall Newhouse and T.J. Lang. They each allowed 9 sacks according to ProFootballFocus.com, which accounts for roughly 35% of the 51 total sacks. It’s not surprising that Mike McCarthy felt the need this offseason to shake up the offensive line, pointing specifically to a weakness “on the left side.”

There’s plenty of blame to go around, though. Josh Sitton, Jeff Saturday, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Bryan Bulaga, and Don Barclay combined for another 17 sacks allowed. All in all, that makes 35 sacks from the offensive line, which is a clear majority of the season total.

Let’s not forget, though, that tight ends and backs also share some responsibility for blocking pass rushers. Fullback John Kuhn allowed two sacks and tight end Tom Crabtree allowed one. (Some might be surprised that none of the halfbacks allowed a sack according to PFF, especially in recalling the major gaffes by James “Neo” Starks.)

27

April

Packers 2013 NFL Draft: Day 3 Grade and Analysis

UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin

UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin

Entering the final day of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers were slated to make ten selections. But when it was all said and done, the Packers added only nine players to the team.

Their first two selections of the day were offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter.

Bakhtiari was a three-year starter at Colorado, and I had a late-second to early-third round grade on him entering the draft. He was a tackle at the college level but will probably play guard at the NFL level. The Packers drafted Bakhtiari with pick No. 109 in the fourth round.

Tretter started at left tackle the past two seasons at Cornell. He was a unanimous All-Ivy League First Team selection as a senior after beginning his college career as a tight end. He was a high school quarterback. With the Packers, Tretter will likely play on the interior of the offensive line.

Later in round four, Ted Thompson continued his trading ways by moving up for UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin.

Many scouts thought Franklin would be a second-round pick, and some even had Franklin and Eddie Lacy as the top two players at the position. My final rankings had Franklin as the No. 2 back in the draft, just ahead of Lacy and behind Giovani Bernard who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals at the top of the second round.

It was my belief that Franklin would be a better fit for the Packers offense than Lacy. But now that the Packers have both young backs, the running game should be vastly improved in 2013.

After making UCLA defensive end Datone Jones their first selection of the draft, the Packers went with four straight offensive players: two linemen and two running backs.

But in the fifth and sixth round, the Packers went back to the defensive side of the ball by selecting Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde, Mississippi State defensive end Josh Boyd and Illinois State outside linebacker Nate Palmer.

Hyde faces an uphill battle to earn regular playing time at cornerback, perhaps the Packers’ deepest position, but his versatility and ability to play special teams could help him crack the 53-man roster. Boyd will be a part of the team’s defensive line competition come training camp. Palmer started his college career at Illinois before transferring to Illinois State; he racked up 17 sacks his past two seasons at Illinois State and led the country in quarterback hits in 2012.