Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Few Generic Notes...

Greetings, G-Force.

As a football fan, this is the most frustrating time of the year for analyzing the roster. It's easy to rest with the analysis of the roster in June & July when the team is preparing for training camp. But, right now, the team is gathered for the OTA's and the fans are provided with limited information & knowledge from the media. Essentially, we are left to make judgments through a small sample of pictures that can be seen on the web.

As was expected, Aaron Rodgers is the man of the moment in Green Bay. He's slowly growing on me. First, I hear that Rodgers has repeatedly been seen in the local taverns with Tauscher. Then, I hear he's hosting catered food & video game parties at his house. It should be noted that Brohm and Flynn have been invited to these gatherings. Rodgers has carried himself tremendously throughout his tenure as the back-up QB and he's handling his role as the heir apparent to Favre. ESPN reports that his hometown of Chico, CA is stoked for his opportunity to lead the Pack. Previously, Chico, CA was best known for brewing the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Hopefully, soon, Chico, CA will be best known for brewing the starting QB for the 2008 NFC North Champions.

As I drank my "Mother's Neighborhood Bistro" gourmet coffee, which is grown in Buena Vista, CO, this morning, I turned my attention to the Packers OTA's. I looked at all pictures that I could find on the 'net that dealt with this year's OTA's. In each picture, I was impressed with Rodgers. He looks to be focused. He looks to be uniting the team. He looks to be enjoying himself and the opportunity that is in front of him.

Other things that caught my attention:

Jordy Nelson dwarfed Donald Driver.

Ryan Grant was active & in attendance. Sign him.

Troy Humphrey was running.

Brandon Jackson seems to be holding the football a lot.

Justin Harrell has to get off of the bike and onto the field.

It's great to see Chuckie Woodson participating and carrying a smile.

Brian Brohm looks focused & intense.

Allen Barbre looks punishing.

I hope your Summer is Sunny. I'll be dodging for Tropical Storms for the next four months.

A Football Yawn,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

New Kids On The Block

Greetings, G-Force.

Before I get into the '08 vibe, I had to give a quick reflection on the past - Kiln is my Graceland. Sorry, I had to get that out of my system.

Each year, it's fun to buzz into undrafted, unknown guys that may not make the team. Yet, you pull for them. In some ways, they become favorites. Last year, we talked Rory Johnson, T-Mon Williams, and Daniel Muir as names that we hoped would make the squad. Long shots. We hoped they'd make it.

As of today, Rory Johnson was just cut by the Giants. T-Mon is a fast rising player. Gotta like his game and development. Daniel Muir remains a work in progress. I expect Muir to be a useful back-up at DT this year.

In the early stages of the '08 season, I'm looking at 4 guys: Kregg Lumpkin, Rod Harper, Marcus Riley, and Kyle Ward.

Lumpkin is fresh blood. Vernand Morency has brought frustrations. So has DeShawn Wynn. If the Packers keep 5 RB's these three backs could be fighting for one spot. Grant is a lock. So is B-Jack. The Packers used the double FB set a lot last year, which would mean Korey Hall & John Kuhn will probably make the team. Unless one of the other backs outperforms a DB or WR on special teams, I expect the Packers to only keep 5 players. At this point, wishful thinking has me pulling for the Bulldog.

I'm choosing Rod Harper over Jake Allen. Other than the youtube clips, I've never seen either of them run before. But, when I look into the eyes of Harper on his Packer profile, he looks intense. He looks focused. He looks like he's going to battle. He looks confident. He looks determined. In college, he had 8 TD's in '06 and 10 TD's in '07. Combine that with my unforgiving attitude towards Ruvell Martin and that's enough for me to pull for him.

Marcus Riley is a wild card for the Packers this year. On paper, the LB position appears set with Hawk, Poppinga, Chillar, Barnett, White, and Bishop. If Riley is anything like the videos that Stack posted on the blog, he could stir the pot. From what I read, Riley is good in pass coverage and attacks with a vengeance. I've always been hard on Tracy White. Last year, I was overly critical of his play prior to the '07 campaign. I did not want him to make the team. He proved me wrong. Now, we gave him a contract, which probably makes him a lock. In 1996, we kept 6 LB's: George Koonce, Brian Williams, Wayne Simmons, Lamont Hollinquest, Bernardo Harris, and Ron Cox. Hollinquest, Harris, and Cox dominated on special teams. In 2007, the Packers kept 5 LB's. Could we keep 6 in 2008 and see Poppinga, Riley, Bishop, and White all attacking on special teams? This will be interesting to monitor throughout the mini camps and training camp.

I've also got my eye on Kyle Ward. I'm choosing him over Condrew Allen. Much like the WR competition, I do not know much about either of them except that I like their size. I'm thinking that there is a possibility that T-Mon & Ward might develop a Louisiana connection. Ward is a Ragin' Cajun from Louisiana-Lafayette. I also like the way Ward presents himself on his Packer profile. There'll be more to come on this in the future as I'm sure that Chuckie & Al will have limited action in the mini camps and the early parts of training camp/pre-season games.

I have high excitement for the fresh blood at the Don Hutson Center this summer.


Talkin' S-Mac.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Youth Movement!

Greetings, G-Force.

Imagination is required while building a championship caliber football team. Yes, the fantasy element excites me. Ted Thompson's vision is founded upon youthful exuberance, heightened competition and salary flexibility.

Each year, Thompson has taken the approach that the Packers are going to build from within. He has acquired players that were going to develop under the tutelage of Mike McCarthy and his staff. To the average fan, it may even appear that the Packers have adopted the Chicago Cubs "Wait 'Till Next Year" approach. We've concocted a roster that includes hard working yet exciting players. But, as of today, there seems to be a missing ingredient within the roster. The missing component of the recipe is called "The Face."

"The Face" is that player that carries a team through adversity. He makes the big play when the game is on the line. He's your player that is marketed. It's Tom Brady and the Patriots. It's Peyton Manning and the Colts. It's LT and the Chargers. It's Adrian Peterson and the Vikings. It's Brian Urlacher/Devin Hester and the Bears. For the most part, as these guys perform, so do their teams.

I believe that the Packers thought AJ Hawk could become this guy. So far, AJ has let us down in this capacity. We need someone on our team to bring this degree of separation. We need someone to step up as the leader or else this will have to be our #1 priority in the 2009 off-season. Thus far, Thompson's disposition has been to add young, athletic competitors. He's brought in an abundance of guys that are fighting for their football lives. He's loaded up on selfless, win-at-all-costs football players. However, if none of these guys can elevate his game to take us to the next level, then Thompson must reach out to find this guy as a big time FA signing. With Seattle, Thompson acquired an abundance of young talent, but they did not make a Super Bowl appearance until they signed Grant Wistrom & Julian Peterson in FA.

The release of K-Rob is another example of the Packers continued push towards youth movement. To no surprise, Stack was on top of this transaction. Good journalism, Stack! A small piece of me is sad that K-Rob will longer wear the Green & Gold. While I believe that K-Rob was a mere image of his former self, I was pulling for him to fulfill his comeback dream. However, the NFC Championship proved that K-Rob was not the elusive runner that once made him a Pro Bowler. He could no longer evade tacklers to get himself into the open field.

K-Rob's departure also signals a big opportunity for guys like Brett Swain, Shaun Bodiford, Johnny Quinn, Jake Allen, Rod Harper, Chris Francies & Taj Smith. I have to believe that they showed promise during the rookie camp, which helped enable the K-Rob roster move to occur so early in the off-season.

You have to be impressed with what you read and see about Swain thus far. He's shown that he is committed to doing whatever it takes to make the roster. His hard-nosed, tough-minded mentality is a welcomed addition to our locker room.

Bodiford has shown me that his best is not good enough. I'd be disappointed if he makes the roster. His best value is kick returning and his ability is 2nd to T-Man's. Therefore, Bodiford does not have a spot on this roster.

I know almost nothing about Johnny Quinn.

My research on Jake Allen showed a 6-4 WR. I also found this:

Rod Harper is 6-0 and weighs 209 lbs. He played well against poor competition. His highlights show that he will fight in traffic to catch the football and he's active with the ball in his hands. See for yourself:

I am excited to see what Francies can bring to the table. He showed glimpses of promise while healthy two years ago. I'll never forget the slant pass he caught on third down at Miami. A crucial play on the decisive drive in the 4th Quarter. And then one week later, at home against Arizona, he kept a TD drive alive by drawing a pass interference call on Antrell Rolle in the end zone. Since, he's been injured and his durability might prevent him from ever making it in this league. I do not see the difference between Francies & Ruvell Martin. Francies did not drop a game changing pass in the NFC Championship. Therefore, I'll take him over Martin.

Taj Smith is an interesting FA acquisition. He was a topic in the pre-game talk when Syracuse played WVU. WVU blew the Orangemen away and I never heard from Smith. I'm curious to see what he brings to the table in training camp.

Thompson and McCarthy have shown that they like to keep the best 53 players on the roster. Last year they chose to start the season with 11 Defensive Linemen. I would like to see the Packers keep 6 WR's, but it'll be interesting to see whether the Packers keep 5 or 6 WR's. I figure that the Packers will keep 3 Specialists (K, P, LS), 3 QB's (Rodgers, Brohm, Flynn), 5-6 RB's (Grant, Jackson, Hall as locks), 2-3 TE (J-Mike, D. Lee as locks), 9-10 OL (Tauscher, Clifton, Wells, Colledge, Spitz, Barbre, Coston, Giacomini, Moll, and Sitton have all been drafted in the last 3 years as players to grow with the team), 9-11 DL (KGB, A-to-the-K, Jenkins, Thompson, Jolly, Pickett, Cole, Harrell, and Muir should all be on the team), 6 LB's (Hawk, Barnett, Poppinga, Chillar, and White leave Bishop/Hodge/Havner/Riley fighting for one spot), and 8-10 DB's (Chuckie, Al, Ras-A-tari, Nickie C, Patrick Lee, Rouse, and T-Man are locks with others battling for what will most likely be 2 positions). I agree with you, Stack. It'll come down to whether a DB or a WR can perform best on Special Teams unless the Packers only keep 2 TE.

When the Packers cut K-Rob, they also saved $730,000 in cap space. Can we please re-up the likes of Pickett, Kampman, Grant, Jennings, Clifton & Tauscher? Show them the $$$! Give it to them NOW! Let's keep the locker room's attitude healthy. The price of a proven WR & RB will not go down. They are both young enough to invest in them. I understand potential concerns that Grant might be a 1 year wonder, but he showed me enough to bet on him having a successful NFL career.

It's time to spend some of our cap space. It's time to secure our roster through 2011 and plan that we have built an infrastructure that includes a solid, young nucleus. And if one of our young guys can elevate his game enough to become "The Face" of the organization, hopefully youth will be served in the form of a Super Bowl caliber team.

Must Be Spring Time Again,

Talkin' S-Mac.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Who Is Jordy Nelson?

Greetings, G-Force.

My wife & I just went for a Road Trip. We met friends & family in New Orleans to hit up Jazz Fest. Michael Franti does wonders for an individuals spirit. A* & I prefer to drive to this sort of thing. That way, you get to see more. And the dogs can come. Have you ever been through Mobile, AL? Have you ever eaten Crawfish in Gulfport, MS? Have you ever stopped in Kiln, MS? Maybe this would not interest you, but for me & my wife, these things brought tremendous joy.

I found it ironic that during the 1st Packers team gathering in the post-Favre era, I just happened to be in Kiln, MS where I met Deanna Favre's cousin. He was a bartender at the Broke Spoke. A* and I passed through for a pint and a picture of the Brett Favre statue. The buzz was real.

It was nice to return to Miami and know that there was a plethora of reading material at my disposal. At this stage, I've read almost none of it, but it's there for when I find the time. With that being said, Jordy Nelson has garnered enhanced interest for me.

Jordy Nelson will bring an upgrade to our offense. I believe he will do so this year. I'm confident that he will make an impact this year even if he catches only 30-35 balls. Nelson will be an option on 3rd down. He'll catch the ball in traffic. He'll fight for yardage.

Nelson will not start. He may not even play in our 3-wide sets. Regardless, he'll be on the field. And when the ball is thrown his way, he'll catch it.

I've compared his height and frame to superstar WR's. I did not do this because I believe he will be them rather I did such to give an idea of his size. What intrigues me is that when you look at Nelson, you see a guy that has a lot of room to grow. When he enters the Packers weight training program, this kids body is going to grow. While he's 217 lbs, he's still got fairly thin arms.

With Nelson, I expect consistency. Consistency from Day 1. I expect him to pick up the offense. I expect him to run his routes with precision. I expect him to perform each day and to improve mightily along the way.

In his senior year, Nelson had 122 catches. He also broke a number of Kansas State receiving records. Throughout the year, he was continuously a performer. Each game. He played against strong competition and in every game he had over 80 yards. Only once was he held below 90 and that was against San Jose St. Take a look:

Week 1 vs Auburn: Nelson had 9 catches for 90 yards.
Week 2 vs San Jose St: Nelson had 6 catches for 82 yards.
Week 3 vs Missouri State: Nelson had 15 catches for 209 yards and 1 TD.
Week 4 vs Texas: Nelson caught 12 balls for 116 yards and 1 TD.
Week 5 vs Kansas: Nelson lit up Aqib Talib for 10 catches and 137 yards. He also added a TD.
Week 6 vs Colorado: Nelson was held to 93 yards on 4 catches.
Week 7 vs Oklahoma State: Nelson lit up the pitch to the tune of 12 catches for 176 yards and 3 TD's.
Week 8 vs Baylor: Nelson added 8 catches for 105 yards and 1 TD.
Week 9 vs Iowa State: Nelson caught 14 balls for 214 yards and 1 TD.
Week 10 vs Nebraska: Nelson had 9 catches for 125 yards and 1 TD.
Week 11 vs Missouri: Nelson was limited to 94 yards and 1 TD on 8 catches.
Week 12 vs Fresno State: Nelson had 15 catches for 165 yards and 1 TD.

Oh, and don't be alarmed to see Nelson throw the football this year. He also chipped in by throwing the football last year.

True to his last name, Nelson was a "Man's Man."

In college, Nelson was a performer. I expected him to be around much later than when the Packers drafted him. I was surprised that he was our pick at that stage, but I'm happy to have him. He's a small town guy who seems to relish the opportunity to play in the NFL's smallest market. With that, I say, hey Jordy, let's enjoy the ride of your career together. I'll make trips to Tampa Bay and J'ville to see you play on the road this year. A* & I will travel by car. That way, we'll be able to see more. And, hopefully, it'll be highlighted by seeing you in the end zone.

Carry On,

Talkin' S-Mac.