26

August

Packers News: Tavecchio released, team down to two kickers

Ciao, Giorgio. The Packers have cut ties with Tavecchio.

Ciao, Giorgio. The Packers have cut ties with Tavecchio.

Just one day after signing street free agent Zach Ramirez, the Green Bay Packers have released kicker Giorgio Tavecchio.

Incumbent kicker Mason Crosby has, again, had an up-and-down, left-and-right summer, and it seems the Packers are determined to provide some competition for Crosby all the way up to the regular season. Still, despite his inconsistency, it looks like the job is Crosby’s to lose.

Crosby certainly had a rough season in 2012, missing 12 of 33 regular-season field goal attempts. But believe it or not, his challenger this summer, Tavecchio, has missed kicks in his life, as well. As a senior at California, Tavecchio failed to connect on six extra points.

Now, it’s down to Crosby and Ramirez–another Internet-sensation-turned-NFL-kicker-hopeful. The Detroit Lions signed Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland to compete with David Akers this summer, and the Packers turn to Ramirez–a young kicker with some pretty impressive YouTube highlights.

Obviously, kicking field goals with the wind at your back in an empty stadium in front of one person holding a camera is much different than kicking in front of 80,000 in a packed NFL stadium. But we’ll see how this kicking competition shakes itself out.

During the Family Night Scrimmage, Tavecchio got the better of Crosby, connecting on five of six field goal attempts. Crosby, on the other hand, had an awful night, missing four of six.

At that point, just a week into training camp, Twitter exploded with fans calling for Crosby’s release. However, due to the Tavecchio’s limitations in terms of leg strength, the concept of Crosby being cut in favor of Tavecchio seemed farfetched–at least to me.

I’m not saying Crosby is God’s gift to kicking field goals, but if he’s going to be beaten out for the job, it wasn’t going to be by Tavecchio. You can’t make fun of me for that prediction; however, feel free to point and laugh at my suggestion that Graham Harrell would be a “pleasant surprise” this summer.

In my opinion, Crosby will win the job. He’ll be the Week 1 kicker, although it wouldn’t at all be surprising if the Packers made a change in the regular season, should Crosby’s struggles continue.

17

August

VIDEO: “An American Coach in London”

This has absolutely nothing to do with the Green Bay Packers, but in anticipation of the preseason game this evening, I thought it would be nice to share in some laughter. Our fearless leader, “Jersey” Al, and some of our regular readers are also fans of European football (i.e., soccer), so this one goes out to them, as well. Enjoy!

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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4

June

Colin Kaepernick: Revisiting the Packers’ defensive debacle

Colin Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback-record 181 yards against the Packers in the playoffs.

Colin Kaepernick rushed for a quarterback-record 181 yards against the Packers in the playoffs.

Football is the ultimate team sport, so crediting just one player for a win in the NFL is foolish.

But in the divisional round of last year’s NFC Playoffs, the Green Bay Packers fell victim to a dominant performance by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In his first career playoff sart, the second-year quarterback put up video game-like numbers.

Kaepernick was sharp as a passer and electric as a runner, racking up 181 yards on the ground — a new NFL record for a quarterback.

Kaepernick may have been the NFL’s biggest breakout star throughout the entirety of the 2012 season. To start the year, Kaepernick carried the ball just once for 17 yards against the Packers in Week 1 at Lambeau Field. Four months later in the playoffs, Kaepernick accounted for 444 total yards and four scores.

After flexing his biceps in the end zone and drawing a 15-yard first-quarter penalty for taunting, it’s almost as if Kaepernick is now to Packers fans what Lord Voldemort is to Harry Potter.

He’s the archenemy. Don’t even speak his name in Packers country.

The Packers, again, will open up the season against the 49ers, so they’ll get an early look at the quarterback who dominated their playoff matchup. The effects from Kaepernick’s performance against the Packers, specifically, have been evident throughout the offseason in Green Bay.

For the second consecutive year, the Packers have focused on the defense early in the NFL Draft.

After being selected with the 26th overall pick in April’s draft, Datone Jones weighed in on Kaepernick’s playoff performance. “I thought he was pretty good,” Jones told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “But I don’t think they’re going to be able to run him like that. He takes one good hit, there goes their season.”

But while plenty of Kaepernick’s production against the Packers came on designed run plays out of the read-option, the fleet-footed quarterback continually escaped the pocket and caught the Packers out of position on designed pass plays.

Facing a third down early in the first quarter, Kaepernick eluded the pressure and found running back Frank Gore, who got behind Charles Woodson, gaining 45 yards down the left sideline. With the exception of a first-quarter pick-six by Sam Shields, Kaepernick torched the Packers through the air.

21

May

Casey Hayward: What’s in store for his encore?

Packers CB Casey Hayward

Packers CB Casey Hayward

Packers cornerback Casey Hayward was the 62nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but he was among most impactful defensive backs in football last season.

According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks had a collective passer rating of 31.1 when throwing at Hayward. And among cornerbacks who played at least 50 percent of their team’s defensive snaps, Hayward came in at No. 3 in the league, sandwiched between Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield.

The rookie went from being buried on the depth chart early in the season–Hayward played just three snaps in the season opener against the 49ers—to being, perhaps, the most irreplaceable part of the secondary.

When veteran Charles Woodson suffered a broken collarbone in Week 7, Hayward’s presence became increasingly important. From Week 7 to Week 14, Hayward played 88.5 percent of the Packers’ defensive snaps.

Coming into the season, Woodson was expected to play safety in the base and bump up to slot cornerback in the nickel. But when Hayward emerged as the team’s most reliable turnover creator, playing primarily in the slot, Woodson’s role was drastically reduced by the time he returned for the playoffs.

This offseason, the Packers decided to cut ties with Woodson, who was set to count nearly $10 million against the salary cap. Woodson, 36, remained a fan favorite at the time of his release, but the presence of a promising young talent in Hayward made the move easier to swallow.

As a team, the Packers accounted for 18 interceptions in 2012, which was tied for eighth-most in the NFL. Hayward led all rookies and tied for fifth in the league with six picks.

 

1. Week 5 @ Indianapolis (4th Quarter, 13:09)

QB: Andrew Luck / WR: Reggie Wayne / Position: Slot

Hayward’s first career interception came against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5. Matched up against Colts receiver Reggie Wayne in the slot, Hayward matched him stride-for-stride and made the play on the ball.

Wayne dominated the Packers throughout the game, catching 13 passes for 212 yards and a score. But according to PFF, Hayward allowed just one reception on three targets on the afternoon. Luck’s passer rating when throwing at Hayward was an abysmal 6.9.

2. Week 6 @ Houston (4th Quarter, 7:11)

1

May

Reminder: Don’t sleep on Johnathan Franklin

Packers RB Johnathan Franklin

Packers RB Johnathan Franklin

Much has been made over the Packers’ running game in recent years, and this year’s draft class proves that upgrading the ground game is a top priority headed into 2013.

No, the Packers may not have landed the No. 1 running back in the draft — last Giovani Bernard mention — but they may have gotten Nos. 2 and 3.

Bernard was the first back off the board, going to the Cincinnati Bengals with the 37th pick. Former Michigan State power back Le’Veon Bell went to the Steelers at No. 48, and the Denver Broncos drafted Montee Ball ten picks later.

Prior to the draft, Eddie Lacy was expected by most to be the first back off the board. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock had Lacy as the 18th-best player in the draft.

But then draft day happened, and the Packers grabbed him with the second-to-last pick in round two.

As Bob McGinn put it, the Packers almost reluctantly turn in the card for the former Alabama standout when he was still on the board at No. 61. Most draft analysts loved the pick. Everyone (Mayock, Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Matt Miller) had Lacy as the top running back in the draft, and the Packers — a team that lacked a running game — stole him with a late second-rond pick.

With a potential three-down back (Lacy) already in the fold, the Packers focused on the offensive line. After selecting linemen David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter early on Day 3, Thompson made a trade for a third fourth-round pick. They had their running back in Lacy, but Franklin was still sitting on the board.

“I’ve watched Ted Thompson enough times in the draft room that when he goes up, it’s going up for something and it’s really good and that was definitely the case,” head coach Mike McCarthy said in a post-draft press conference. “Very dynamic player, I’m excited to work with him.”

It probably means nothing, but whereas the Packers moved down and took Lacy, they felt strongly enough about Franklin to trade up for him in the fourth round.

Both players should see carries next season along with DuJuan Harris. Which isn’t bad for a team that relied almost solely on Harris as its starting running back into last year’s playoffs. It’s pretty safe to say the days of almost-desperate Ryan Grant signings are over.

10

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Markus Wheaton, WR Oregon State

Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton

Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton

Green Bay Packers NFL Draft prospect profile: WR Markus Wheaton

Player Information:

Markus Wheaton, WR Oregon State
5-11, 189 pounds
Hometown: Chandler, AZ

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.45
Vertical: 37″
225-pound bench: 20 reps
20-yard shuttle: 4.02
60-yard shuttle: 11.16

News and Notes:

Three-year starter … Holds the Oregon State school record for career receptions … During his four-year career, Wheaton caught 227 passes for 2,994 yards and 16 touchdowns … Also in the running game on jet sweeps and end arounds … Was a first-team All-Pac 12 selection as a senior in 2012 … Caught 91 passes for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior … Carried the ball 83 times during his college career … Sprinter on the track team … Beat Oregon speedster De’Anthony Thomas in the 100m dash in May 2012 with a time of 10.58

 What they’re saying about him: 

  • NFL.com: ”His quickness is blatant and dangerous. Whether taking off from the slot or outside, his feet are literally a step ahead of his defender on everything from speed outs, crossers, to jerk routes. Displays the flexibility to grab throws behind him or over his shoulder when running deep. He’ll also extend away from his body to bring in high or wide throws, and will stutter on the sideline to ensure he makes the catch in-bounds. Possesses some thickness to his frame, and is willing to lower his shoulder to get the extra yard – often diving under defenders to get as many as possible. Wheaton also dabbled in track while at OSU, reminding scouts of his elite speed.”
  • eDraft.com: “Wheaton’s biggest asset is definitely his speed. Though he only ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the combine, he has elite football speed. He was often used on jet sweeps and bubble screens where the Beavers just gave him the ball and let him do the rest. He can eat up cushion off the line in a heartbeat, and he can pull away from defensive backs in the open field. Often players with Wheaton’s speed are just track stars who get lost on the gridiron … He has smart and quick in his route running, showing an understanding of most of the routes on the route tree. He sets defensive backs up with head fakes and route angles, and sinks his hips well, exploding out of his breaks … In the games I viewed, he faced press a few times and showed great quickness and technical ability to overcome it.”
22

September

Packers Video: Green Bay Packers in TV Commercials

Seems the Aaron Rodgers State farm Commercials got the ball rolling and now we’re seeing more and more commercials featuring Packers players. Here’s a collection of recent ones:

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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