Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Now, Let's Build a Defense!

Greetings, G-Force.

Dom Capers will control our defense. I'm happy McCarthy brought in a big name. He should be a significant upgrade over Bob Sanders, but he'll need players - in abundance. If we think that we have the arsenal to play a 3-4, we're fooling ourselves.

It should be noted that I wanted Gregg Williams. He says that he chose New Orleans over Green Bay. That tells me that either we didn't offer him enough money, he was not confident in McCarthy's plan or Green Bay is simply not an attractive place for an Assistant Coach to plan his future. All could be possible.

I have not seen the contract for both Williams and Capers. Clearly, Williams was McCarthy's first choice. He would have been mine as well. In his past, Williams has done a lot with a little. Capers has been the architect of some stellar defenses. He's also had terrific LB's when his defenses have been at the top of the NFL. He's pressured the QB. When he has not had an extraordinary front 7, it could be argued that Capers has failed. With our current roster, Capers will mightily struggle. With Carolina, he had Sam Mills, Lamar Lathon and Kevin Greene. With Pittsburgh, he had Levon Kirkland, Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene. He was wise to take Greene with him to Carolina. If I can recite this from memory 12-15 years after the fact, you know these defenders could play. I believe that all were Pro Bowlers at one stage of their career.

It'll be interesting to watch both the Saints and the Packers defenses this year. McCarthy vs. Payton. Capers vs. Williams.

Clearly, Capers has what it takes to bring our defense to an elite status. But, in order to to this, the Packers have to make investments via FA and the Draft. This investment has to be made in our Front 7. Capers needs his Kevin Greene. In fact, it'd be great to bring a guy like Kevin Greene into our program to partner alongside Capers. Sure, Greene does not have coaching experience, but he was a master in Capers system. And our organization could use his toughness.

Capers also needs his Sam Mills/Levon Kirkland. Both were tremendous in the middle of Capers' defense. They flourished in Capers defense. They pressured the QB. They stopped the run. They attacked the line of scrimmage and covered the field from sideline to sideline. They filled passing lanes. Our LB's have failed in each of this criteria.

Ted Thompson has some major decisions to make during this offseason. Does AK-74 fit in a 3-4? What about Cullen Jenkins? Ryan Pickett? Johnny Jolly? In a 3-4, is Colin Cole worth minimum wage? If McCarthy fails in '09, the media will be calling for both his and Thompson's head. While I disagree with this notion, '09 must be a success. In order for it to be, we need to focus on building a defense. And this starts in FA.

Terrell Suggs is a terrific 3-4 DE/OLB. He gets to the QB. He'd be one of the solutions to our most pressing problem. We were miserable at rushing the passer. I doubt that the Ravens will apply the franchise tag to Suggs as other valuable Ravens, such as Ray Lewis, are FA's. Although, I suppose, it depends on what happens between today and February 27th.

Obviously, I'd be stoked to see Peppers as a Packer. But, I would not give up the #9 pick to get him. A Franchise tag on Peppers would rule out my desire to bring him in.

If Karlos Dansby is not tagged, I'd aggressively pursue him. He can do it all. And would be a guy that our Front 7 could build around.

I'd also be excited to make a run at Thomas Howard. Two years ago, Howard had 6 picks. He also had 11 passes defensed. He finds the football. He plays sideline-to-sideline. He can play on the inside in a 3-4. He'd start immediately. He can be had at a reasonable cost.

Bart Scott is a proven commodity in a 3-4 defense. Can he play without Suggs and Ray Lewis on the same front? I'm not positive. But, I'd talk to him.

When healthy, Leroy Hill has also been a legitimate playmaker, but I'm not certain that he'd transition to a 3-4.

It's also worth talking to Michael Boley and Angelo Crowell.

I'd also bring in Mike Peterson for a visit. I'd see if he's still serious about playing football. Does he still have the legs? We know he'd bring the attitude and the physical presence. But, does he still have what it takes to be a premier NFL LB? If I'm not positive about it, I would not bring him in.

Also, at S, I'd love to complete the secondary with Oshiomogho Atogwe. He's a ball hawk. Plays the ball well in the air. He's looking for the strip when making the tackle. He'll come up and stop the ball carrier.

While I'd love Suggs, I'd be absolutely stoked with an offseason that would bring in Dansby and Atogwe. If Dansby is tagged, I'd be totally satisfied with an offseason that brought in Atogwe and Howard. Spend the money, Ted Thompson.

A quick updated look at the Mock Draft now shows:

1.) Michael Johnson. When I think 3-4, I think of guys like Kevin Greene, Greg Lloyd, Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips, James Harrison, DeMarcus Ware, Adalius Thomas, Willie McGinest, and Mike Vrabel. All these guys have the ability to rush the passer. They all could drop in coverage. They all are above average against the run. While Johnson is occasionally run over, I believe he has the physique in which he will put on upper body strength. Sure, the draft is 3 months away, but at this stage, Johnson is my overwhelming favorite to be our pick at #9. I'm interested to see how he performs at the combine, but if he performs like I think he will, he could be the guy that you build a defense around. But, again, since the draft is still 3 months away, I do reserve the right to change this pick as the draft nears. I will say that we cannot afford a bust at this pick and Johnson can disappear.

I'm also high on BJ Raji as there does not seem to be as much depth at the DT position once you drop below the 2nd round. Clearly, we need a steadying force to clog the middle Raji might be that guy. For as much as you need dominant edge rushers in the 3-4, you also need your Haloti Ngata. Raji would fit that role.

2.) Larry English, DE/OLB, Northern Illinois. Kevin Greene had Greg Lloyd. Then, he had Lamar Lathon. Shawne Merriman has Shaun Phillips. Harrison has Woodley. Suggs had Adalius Thomas during his best years. Joey Porter had Jason Gildon. DeMarcus Ware has Greg Ellis. People might not notice, but Ellis has over 20 sacks combined over the last 2 years.

As for English, I have not watched him play in a game. I've listened to the NFL Network's talking heads glow about him. I've seen him in pads. I watched him in some drills. He looks like the real deal. And his stats are outrageous. Can he drop in coverage?

I'd also consider Clay Matthews at this spot. It's in his genes.

3a) Sean Smith, CB, Utah. Saw him once. Was totally buzzed. But, he fully caught my eye. Grabbed my attention. I watched the game without volume, but everytime I looked at the TV screen, I felt that #4 was making plays. Big. Fast. Nose for the ball. This might be a little late for him as he could be a 2nd rounder.

3b.) Zach Follett, LB, Cal. This offseason is about getting the QB. Becoming a nasty defense. This guy punishes. Zach Follett will make plays at the next level. Follett, too, might be drafted before this when draft time arrives.

4.) Myron Pryor, DT, Kentucky. If Raji is not the pick in Round 1, I'd be excited to see him drafted in the middle rounds.

5.)Asher Allen, CB, Georgia. Pimp with a limp. I love his game. He'd be a potential steal at this spot. He's a bit small, but he makes up for it in heart. And he's got all the confidence in the world. I cannot believe that he's listed as being this low, but from what I see, he's not rated very high.

Interesting to note - for those that follow the blog - Bradley Fletcher is now listed as the #18 CB in the draft.

6a.) Phillip Hunt, DE/LB, Houston. I watched him in the East-West Shrine Game and I was not as impressed with him as I was when I first watched him. Nonetheless, his stats earn him street cred and the memory of his Bowl game continues to last in my mind. Again, I'll be interested to follow where he's projected come draft time.

6b.)Keith Fitzhugh, S, Mississippi St. Plays with attitude, totally intense. A mean competitor. Sometimes, he comes across as a punk. But, the guy believes in himself. And when he hits you, you feel it. Overshadowed on the field, at times, by his S mate, Derek Pegues. From what I saw, I thought he played well in the East-West Shrine Game. He's worth a look.

7.) Terrill Byrd, DT, Cincy. Everytime I watched him, he performed. He made a lasting impression. Sure, he's undersized. Still, he's slippery and might be a good inside rusher on passing downs.

Spend the $$$. Build a defense.

Talkin' S-Mac.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Needed: A Defensive Revival!

Greetings, G-Force.

3-4 or 4-3? With our current personnel, it does not matter. At this stage, we aren't built for a 3-4. As we saw in '08, we aren't built for a 4-3 either. Either way, we need a massive upgrade of infrastructure.

Regardless of the business, a company is only as good as its people. You can have a masterful strategy, but without the people to implement that strategy, more often than not the organization will fail. Management requires subordinates to perform in order to be successful. At this stage, not only do we need a coordinator, but we need players.

I look at the NFL Playoffs and I see 8 teams that play defense with an aggressive mentality. They are looking to get to the QB. 6 of the teams are absolutely looking to punish people. The Chargers and Cardinals pressure the QB. They've also invested in defense through the draft and they drafted well. It should be noted that there is a healthy mix of 3-4 & 4-3 defenses. You can win with both. But, you need an aggressive, physical mentality. A passive nature does not win.

I feel that it would be easier to improve via the 3-4. The college game has moved to a format that allows smaller, quicker defensive ends to perform. Occasionally, these ends get eaten up in the NFL. See: Jamal Reynolds. Reynolds was a speed end who excelled in the college game. He was 6-3, 260. Brian Orakpo dominates the college game. He stands 6-4, 260. With Orakpo, there was almost no middle ground. He either pressured the QB or he was eaten up. 4 times, he impacted the game. Nearly every other play, he was going backwards. He was swallowed. Don't get me wrong, he could develop into the next Dwight Freeney. I did not see enough of him to judge. But, to me, in one game watching him, he looked fragile. He looked like a guy that might sustain injury at the next level. But, boy, he is quick around the corner. A couple of times, he looked unstoppable.

I want to be mean. I want to have speed. I want to pursue.

What's more important to me is to watch how Thompson and McCarthy work together this offseason. It's a vital offseason for the future of this franchise. When Holmgren & Wolf joined forces, Holmgren brought the West Coast offense. In return, Wolf got him Favre to lead the charge. Favre became Holmgren's Montana. Wolf drafted RB's that could effectively run the screen in Bennett & Levens. They became Holmgren's Roger Craig. Wolf drafted him a blocking FB that could also catch the ball out of the backfield in William Henderson. Henderson became Tom Rathman. Wolf drafted Chmura who became Russ Francis/Brent Jones. Physical over the middle of the field. Tough blocker. Soft hands. Reliable. Good runner after the catch. Holmgren needed WR's that could run the slant, the down and out, and the deep post. Brooks, Freeman, and Rison soon followed.

But, a telling point of the Holmgren & Wolf relationship came when Holmgren lost Ray Rhodes to the Philadelphia Eagles. Holmgren chose Fritz Shurmur. Shurmur demanded a big front 4. A physical front 4. In came Sean Jones and Santana Dotson. Shurmur needed a playmaking Safety to play next to LeRoy Butler. In came George Teague and then Eugene Robinson. Shurmur needed aggressive LB's. He drafted Brian Williams and paired him with Wayne Simmons on the outside. Shurmur needed physical, in-your-face CB's. Wolf drafted Craig Newsome in the 1st round to play across Doug Evans.

Holmgren had requirements. Wolf delivered results. Together, they won a Championship.

McCarthy and Thompson are at this crossroad. McCarthy is faced with a big decision. It'll arguably be a choice that defines his legacy. Soon after, Thompson will be faced with his biggest offseason as a GM in Titletown, USA. Thompson needs to bring defenders to our defense. We need maniacs. We need attitude. Thompson has given McCarthy the tools to produce results on offense.

Last offseason, Thompson his time in defense. Defending his decision not to bring back Brett Favre. This offseason, Thompson must spend his time on defense. We need major alterations.

All Good to You,

Talkin' S-Mac.

****Quick side note from the OSU-Texas game. Anyone catch Steve Rehring? Guy is huge! 6-7, 335. And he plays RG. Seemed to be able to move. He was the guy pulling in front of Beanie Wells in the first half. Opening huge holes. He was also the pulling guard on the TD that gave OSU the lead. Draftcoundown has him listed as the 26th best Guard in the draft. I'd take a shot on him. Plus, you had to love his desire. In the 1st half, when OSU was driving and the RT was called for a false start, Rehring grabbed his face mask. Looked him in the eye. Gave him a word. And then gave him a 335 lb. love tap of encouragement on the back of the head. I liked what I saw.

Marcus Freeman will not be a better player than Nail Diggs was as a Packer. Limited ability. Average in coverage. Average against the run. Average on the blitz. Above average effort.

While watching James Laurinaitis, I kept seeing AJ Hawk wearing #47. Making those same plays. Pursuing the QB. Stopping the run. Getting beat in coverage, but still making the tackle. Playing with a fierce nature. And then, I wondered what happened to AJ Hawk? You know, the guy that, in his rookies season, led the Packers' defense with 119 total tackles, 82 of them solo. Additionally, he had 2 interceptions, 3.5 sacks, 6 passes defended and 1 forced fumble. AJ, where did you go?

Finally, that was not the way Malcolm Jenkins expected his college career to end. He deserved better than that. In my mind, he's a better player than what we saw last night.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Makin' the Beauty of the World...

Greetings, G-Force.

Saturday morning. 2 miles. 1,000 sit-ups. 250 push-ups. That's what a 12-pound, 10-day vacation will do to you.

Pot of Blue Heeler Organic coffee. Thanks, PatRad. Michael Franti on random iTunes. Everyone Deserves Music. All The Freaky People Make the Beauty of the World.

Defense wins championships. The Packers defense needs music. We need freaky people. The Bowl games are leading me to hypothesize. So, I'm going to have some fun. I'm going to add a freaky nature to our defense. After all, for the most part since 1998, I've watched my team have one of the best QB's in the league and a defense that was not good enough to win a Super Bowl. I'm sick of it.

***Quick side note as I'm the BuzzBoy. It's random encouragement from an interrogated spirit. Unknown in identity. Profound with intention. Why is there never a peep as to whether LeRoy Butler belongs in the NFL's Hall of Fame? In some way, didn't he alter the way the Safety position is played in the NFL? He was the first defensive back to have both 20 sacks and 20 interceptions. If it weren't for an injury, he would have eclipsed 40 interceptions (he had 38) and 20 sacks. He won a Super Bowl. Played in another. He was on the All Decade team in the 1990's. He was a leader both on the field and off. It should not be ignored that he invented the Lambeau Leap.***

As for rebuilding a defense, first, I'm going to trade Al Harris to the Baltimore Ravens for a 2nd round pick. The Ravens defense is aging and has a small window to bring home another Super Bowl title. Al harris still has plenty of game, but his NFL life is dwindling. Harris needs the Ravens. The Ravens need Harris. He fits their scheme and defensive mentality. The Ravens defense gets in your face. Not many do it better than Ras-Al.

Our defense has so many requirements that, once again, I'm going to trade down unless Malcolm Jenkins is available. Since it appears that the Packers are going to stay in a 4-3, I'm goiong to pass on Michael Johnson. Don't trade too far down, but we'll dip down either 2 or 3 spots in a trade with either the Bills or the Broncos who will want to jump the 49ers in an effort to land Johnson. The Bills will get their Cornelius Bennet type end. In return, the Packers add a 4th and a 6th. These two trades give the Packers 12 picks.

***Another quick side note, Corey Williams had 0.5 sacks this year. Ted Thompson has been bashed a lot over the last 12 months, but he deserves major props for that trade regardless of how either Brohm or Patrick Lee perform.***

Mock Draft 1.0a gives a different look. It's highly speculative and it includes only defenders. Through the draft, the Packers should build a freaky defense. My apologies go out to Brandon Spikes and Asher Allen who have yet to declare. If they both become eligible for the draft, I would not mind them being our 1st & 2nd round picks respectively. Until then, I'm only going to include players that have already stated that they are going to enter the draft.

Round 1: After trading down a couple of spots, the Packers draft BJ Raji, DT, Boston College. The Packers defensive line got abused against the run in '08. Raji is a solution to the problem. He's quick as a cat. He's got force. He lives in the backfield. He can also get to the QB.

Round 2a: Victor Harris, CB, Virginia Tech. I was disappointed in Mickens' play during the Orange Bowl. Clearly, his knee still bothered him. He was playing on one leg and lacked confidence. So, for now, I'm going to pass on him. This may change after the combine, but Harris makes sense. He's electric on special teams. With Willie B. being a FA, he may need to be replaced. Thompson like Virginia Tech kids. Harris is a ballhawk. Chuckie would like to mentor this kid.

Round 2b (Al Harris trade): Kevin Ellison, S, USC. Solid player. Good against the run. He'd complete our secondary. Everything I read is positive. Has the size and the speed. Use to big time competition and carries a winning attitude.

Round 3a: Zach Follett, LB, Cal. This guy's game excites me. I've wrote about him with length repeatedly. No need to repeat myself.

Round 3b (Brett Favre trade): Phillip Hunt, DE/LB, Houston. Kid can flat out get to the QB. He's 6-2, 260. By comparison, Trent Cole is 6-3, 270. Dwight Freeney is 6-1, 268. Robert Mathis is 6-2, 245. In '06, Hunt had 8 sacks. 12 tackles for loss. In '07, he had 10.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. In '08, he had 14 sacks and two forced fumbles. I saw him dominate his Bowl game late. Playing with what appeared to be a cramp. He'll come with the spin. He'll run around you. He'll try to bull rush you. He'll play with one hand on the ground. He'll line up with two hands on the ground. He piqued my interest. I'm intrigued. I'm going to pay EXTRA attention to him as the draft nears. It's also noteworthy that Jim Jeffcoat was his college position coach.

Round 4a: Myron Pryor, DT, Kentucky. Early in the year, I stated that he'd be an upgrade over what we've got on our team now. I still stand by that statement. In his bowl game, he's the one that forced the fumble in the backfield that was subsequently returned for the game winning touchdown.

Round 4b (trade down in 1st round): Terrill Byrd, DT, Cincinatti. I have watched him with interest over the last two years. He capped off his career with a 10 tackle, 1 sack performance in the Orange Bowl. He's quick off the ball. Moves up and down the line with grace. Can play the run and the pass. He had 8 sacks last year. I know that this gives the Packers taking three DT's in the first 4 rounds, but did you see our run defense? We need an immediate upgrade. Pickett is a soon-to-be FA. Cole is a FA. Harrell can't stay healthy. Jolly's status is in the air with the law and the league. We need DT help.

Round 5: David Bruton, S, Notre Dame. Interesting, but Bruton, Otis Wiley, and Keith Fitzhugh are all considerd 4th-6th round picks depending on where you look. I love Bruton's special teams play. He's a heady defender who is fearless on special teams. Thinking about forcing the turnover when making the tackle as well. Say bye-bye to Charlie Peprah.

Round 6a: Tim Jamison, DE, Michigan. Amazingly, he's considered a 6th round pick. A bust for a Senior year at Michigan. Both his and Terrance Taylor's stock have plummeted. Taylor looks to be had in the 4th round at this stage. At times, he's lazy. Other times, he's dominant and in the backfield. Disappeared a lot this year. Seemed to give up a bit. But, he has upside. As a Junior, he looked like a prime NFL prospect. On the DL, Michigan has sent out flops to the NFL. In two years with Arizona, Alan Branch has 0 sacks in 15 games. Still, as a 6th rounder, I'm taking a long look at Jamison. His college career reminds me of Alex Brown. Sort of an underproducer, but has the ability to play at the next level, if motivated. Jamison is 6-3, 266. Alex Brown is 6-3, 260. They play a similar style of football.

Round 6b (trade down in 1st round): Antonio Appleby, LB, Virginia. Worst case scenario, his speed and quickness improves our special teams. ILB that can run with most. Pressures the QB. Not a liability in coverage. Instinctive. Good late round pick.

Round 6c (last year draft day trade): Kaluka Maiava, LB, USC. He didn't get the hype because he's surrounded by future Pro Bowlers, but Maiava can play football. Good instincts. Plays on the fly. Pursues the football. He, too, would upgrade our special teams units.

Round 7: Brandon Fletcher, CB, Iowa. I saw him play once and that was in his Bowl game. In the first half, he intercepted a pass and forced a fumble. Both led to scores and an Iowa blowout. Iowa has a reputation for producing NFL DB's. At this point in the draft, I'm taking a chance and waving goodbye to J-Bush.

We're Getting Freaky,

Talkin' S-Mac.