Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Take -> Preseason Week 4

Greetings, G-Force.

There is reason for enthusiasm. While it's only the pre-season, the Packers have played with animation over the last 5 quarters. Offensively, we are on a mission. Rodgers is playing at a ridiculously high level. He's using his check-downs. Finding the backs. The safety valves are allowing the big plays down the field as defenses are having to respect both the underneath routes and the middle of the field due to J-Mike's stardom. Thus, our WR's are finding 1 v 1 opportunities. And Rodgers is utilizing the field to spread the ball. On the epic 2-minute drive to close the 1st half, Rodgers connected with 5 different receivers. Sublime.

Rodgers' high command of the offense was displayed on the audible in which he connected with J-Mike for a TD. Phenomenal. His toughness was elite. Standing in the pocket. Taking the hit. Absorbing the pain. 7 points. Beautiful.

As we yearn for health on the defensive side of the ball, the defense made a big statement as it rebounded from a putrid 1st Quarter. We forced turnovers. We applied pressure. While we only sacked Manning once, he was hurried on a number of occasions. The performance reminded me of the 2009 New Orleans Saints. An offense that is nearly impossible to defend only requires a defense that will alter the tide of the game with a crucial turnover. Judging from what we've seen thus far, the Packers defense will give up points. We'll give up yards in abundance. But, that same defense has a knack for making the game changing play.

This defense looks like a team that could force 40 turnovers and notch 40 sacks. We'll call it the "40-40" club. And we'll track it all year. In fact, this might be a requirement to position ourselves for a Super season. Since our special teams is a work in progress, we must depend on our defense to occasionally switch the field. While it would be an "amazing" stat if the Packers had 4 DB's with 5 picks each, it would not "amaze" me. In fact, I'm half-expecting Woodson, T-Mon, Nintendo Nick & Morgan Burnett to pick off 5 passes each.

Speaking of Morgan Burnett, he's the Pimp with the Limp! Loved watching him bounce after the pick. I was also stoked to see Nintendo Nick relishing the moment with Burnett. As Burnett was bouncing, Collins was a leader in celebration right next to him. I like the flavor. I wished Burnett would have had the pick on the deep ball as well, but good to see him in position.

J-Mike looks prime for a 100-catch, 1,000 yard season. He's not only claiming his nickname as TGIF, but he's also shouting that YOTTO is his MOJO. While Greg Bedard is reporting that YOTTO means "Year of the Take Over", the urban dictionary claims that YOTTO is "one who is great..has all power and huge cock. Is almost like god except he walks the earth. Is gorgeous and has sex-appeal. There can be only one Yotto. All others bow to him for Yotto is the greatest." Either way, J-Mike, whatever gets you thru the night...it's alright!

Unless the Packers are able to add a #3 CB via trade over the next week, Sam Shields has earned the right to be our nickel corner in Week 1. Since Ras Al can't play, it wouldn't shock me if Shields is the 5th DB at Philly. In fact, he should be. Props to Shields for proving me wrong thus far. He's a lock for this team & he's been the most pleasant surprise of camp. Well done, Sam. Keep it up, mate.

Frank Zombo has guaranteed himself a spot on this team as well. High intensity. Great motor. Still slow off the ball, but his hustle will find him around the ball. He also plays intelligently. Drops in coverage decently. I've yet to see him tracking a TE down the seam, but when he's dropped inside 10 yards, he's done well.

Mike Neal can play in this league. The artist known as "Bam-Bam" has shown growth & understanding of the defense. He spreads his way down the line of scrimmage like wild fire. He'll be a terrific compliment to Cullen Jenkins. As for Jenkins, we you healthy. NOW! Get well, bro. You're a vital component to our success. On 3rd down, I'd like to see Jenkins, Neal, CM3, & Zombo come after the QB. I'd expect pressure.

Massive props to Chery! Curious to see what he does this week. He'll get an opportunity to repeat the deed. If it happens, it'll earn him an improbable roster spot. I am interested in his kick-off return ability.

Looks like we have solid developmental depth of ILB with Francois, Simpkins, and the little we've seen of Alex Joseph. It'll be an interesting practice squad battle this weekend.

B-Jack continues to master the blitz pick-up.

Andrew Quarless! Drew-Q! Go up & get it, Drew-Q! Then, get up in the stands, kid! Flex those muscles. Lets party. Become a secret weapon. The Drew-Q/J-Mike combo could revolutionize the NFL.

It's too bad Lumpkin can't stay healthy as he can do things with the ball that none of our other backs offer. I like his style. Not sure if we can keep him as we've learned this lesson before with DeShawn Wynn. Since Starks goes to the PUP list, it appears we'll look at Lumpkin on an additional 6-week trial basis.

Said it before. Sayin' it again. I am really impressed with the continued growth of Marshal Newhouse. Looks like he could be a player in this league.

I fear that our DL depth is a weakness. We might only have 4 players who can play. Jenkins, Neal, Raji, Pickett. Might be wise to trade for an additional DL.

Heavy credit to Colledge for shutting his mouth. Taking the right approach. Winning the starting LG job. Moreover, cheers to Bulaga for the way he conducted himself after it was announced that Colledge had won the starting job.

I know I've beat it up, but I really hope we keep Chastin West. Every time they throw the ball in his direction, he makes a play. He's an imposing target. I think he has great potential.

I hope Nick Barnett hasn't lost a step. He seems a bit hobbled.

Tom Crabtree wasn't on the same page as A-Rodge on the crossing route in the 2nd Quarter. I'm sure A-Rodge wasn't happy when Crabtree stopped his route. While Crabtree has not shown a lot catching the ball in the preseason, he has impressed with his blocking. It was great to see him throwing Jerry Hughes around like a rag-doll. No doubt that Crabtree can block.

Finally, BIG UPS to Ted Thompson! The man has endured fierce scrutiny. Instead of crumbling, he's rising to the top. From what I've seen this preseason, I believe Bulaga, Neal, Burnett, Newhouse & Quarless all have futures with this franchise. In some capacity, each looks capable of having a positive impact. Furthermore, I felt the Indy game was Wilson's best game thus far. And I'm jonesin' to see James Starks!

Ted Thompson, I admire your courage. I buy into your vision. Keep building it your way. And, most importantly, stay brave, Ted.

This week the Packers travel to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs in the "Stay Healthy" game of the preseason. If you are a starter, you get one series this week. ONE. Make it count.

It's Aaron Rodgers, the Surgeon, finding 4 different receivers. Driver, Jones & Nelson all grab balls for 1st downs. The Surgeon finds TGIF for the TD.

Playing without Sir Charles, Ras AL, Barnett, Brad Jones, CM3 & Cullen Jenkins, the defense gets the stop as Neal squirms thru & forces a hurried 3rd down throw by Matt Cassel.

Then the evaluation begins. Coming off his best performance in Green & Gold, Matt Flynn gets his change. Using West, Williams, Dillon, Chery, and Swain as his weapons, Flynn gets after it. These 5 WR's are all competing for the final WR spot. Flynn finds confidence in the underneath routes. I'm begging for West to get a glowing chance. I'm confident he'll shine.

Lumpkin grabs 20 carries. Playing to ensure a roster spot, Lumpkin spins, lowers his shoulder & finds additional yardage. Eventually, he finds the end zone.

Flynn finds Donald Lee for a potentially farewell TD. Lee, a consummate pro, deserves this TD. Regardless of what happens to his Packers fate over the next week.

The Packers defense continues to give up yards. Points as well. But, in true fashion, we find turnovers. Zombo gets to the QB. Shields grabs his 3rd pick of the preseason.

Packers 30. Chiefs 20.

Stay healthy.


Talkin' S-Mac.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Take -> Preseason Week 3

Greetings, G-Force.

Couple the Thursday Night game with a mid-week flight to Colorado & the take comes a bit earlier than normal this week.

The 1st win of the season tastes great. Good to see the defense force a couple of turnovers in the 4th Quarter. Good to see the offense grab a game winning TD drive. Good to see the Packers able to pick up a game clinching 1st down to run out the clock. Victory is nice.

The overall versatility of our Offensive Line was the best highlight for me. I believe that the Packers should only keep 9 OL. Bulaga is a stud. He was in control. Regardless of whether he was at LG or LT, Bulaga showed good footwork & he uses his hands extremely well. Great addition. Clifton, Bulaga, Wells, Sitton, Tauscher. That'd be my starting OL. Throw in Colledge, Spitz, Lang, and Newhouse and you've got your 9 OL. If Spitz can be traded, then you keep Diedrich-Smith. But, Colledge is the back-up LG, Bulaga at LT, Spitz is the back-up C/G, Lang is the back-up RG/RT & Newhouse is the developmental prospect.

Speaking of Newhouse, did anyone else notice where the Packers ran the ball on the drive in which we grabbed the lead? The sequence was: Left for 5 yards. Left for 5 yards. Pass to Chastin West for 23 yards. Left for 6 yards. Left for 3 yards. Left for 26 yards. And then the 12-yard TD run to the right. The drive was 80 yards. 45 of them on 5 plays in which we ran to the left. Right behind Newhouse. On 3rd and 1, he sealed the corner with exceptional skill. B-Jack noticed it. Grabbed the corner. The rest is history. I'm excited to watch Newhouse this Thursday night to see how he performs against the speed rushers of the Colts. It'd be interesting to watch Newhouse line up against Jerry Hughes. I'm not sure whether the Colts have been lining Hughes up on the right or left side of the line. But, as a reminder, many thought Hughes would be both a solid fit & 1st round draft pick for the Packers this year. It's also noteworthy that Hughes & Newhouse were college teammates at TCU.

Maybe I've gone crazy, but hear me out on this one. And let me preface, I don't go to the practices. I've seen the Family Night, nearly 3 quarters of the Browns game and the Seahawks game in its entirety. But, from what I've watched, I am wondering if the Packers 5 RB's should be Ryan Grant, B-Jack, Kuhn, Hall, and Quinn Johnson. First, props to B-Jack. I've been critical in the past. He was impressive against the Seahawks. Loved the cutback on the 26 yard run. I want to like Lumpkin, but we can't trust him. He has DeShawn Wynn syndrome. I want to like Quinn Porter, but he hasn't shown me enough to warrant a spot & I bet we can get him to the practice squad - if we want him. Also, didn't John Kuhn show enough with his 4th Quarter carries that he could be an emergency back? Don't get me wrong, I'm not begging for Kuhn to get carries. In fact, far from it, but from what I've seen, it might be a spot to save a roster spot and utilize player versatility. Further, the coaches have raved about Korey Hall's special teams play in the past. If he's a top 5 special teams player on the roster, he'll be kept.

Since 2003, 3rd & 1 has seemed to be a struggle for the Packers. Remember the days of Ahman Green pounding behind William Henderson, Nick Luchey, Kevin Barry and Bubba Franks in our U-71 package? Those days are the distant past. Now 3rd & 1 is a challenge. Kuhn is not a great blocker. He's more of a threat to run it from short distance. However, Quinn Johnson will pound you. You can run behind him. If Quinn Johnson can assure us a 1st down on 3rd & 1, I want him. Lord knows, he can't catch the ball. And, since he has limitations, as each of our FB's do, I'm keeping the ONE guy that will knock the LB backwards nearly every time. Hence, I'm keeping Quinn Johnson. And I'm playing him in short yardage situations.

I'm also keeping 4 TE's, unless Donald Lee can be traded. J-Mike is Hawaii bound. As my brother Chad says, Havner has good karma. How classic was his pick! If Lee, can't be traded, keep him. Finally, Quarless is an investment. He won't make it to the practice squad. You gotta keep him. I will say that I was disappointed that he neither celebrated nor congratulated Kuhn after his TD. They were both in the same area. A-Rodge chose Kuhn. Quarless seemed to pout. Note to Andrew: it's a team game. We relish TD's. Join the club. Also, I've read great things about Tom Crabtree. I just haven't seen it.

Allow me to fantasy for a bit: The Buffalo Bills are loaded with RB talent with CJ Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, and Joique Bell. They also have Andre Anderson - who many thought fit into the Matt Forte mold before the 2010 NFL Draft. In FA, they also signed Chad Simpson who had some decent snaps for the Colts last year. In the past, there have been rumors of the Packers being interested in the oft-injured Lynch. While the Bills are stacked at RB, they are left with next to nothing at TE & OL. Consider this: Jamon Meredith is fighting for a starting job. We have Donald Lee, Jason Spitz, Daryn Colledge, and J-Bush as trade bait for the sometimes complicated & problematic Lynch. I believe that a change of scenery would be good for Lynch & it wouldn't shock me if the Bills looked to unload him. I was hoping Breno Giacomini would be included in our list of trade bait prospects, but he is beyond awful.

Speaking of J-Bush, it looks as though we've FINALLY reached the end of his tenure as a Green Bay Packer. Forever to be remembered as the guy who did not pick up the R.W. McQuarters fumble in the '07 NFC Championship, Bush appears to have fallen off the depth chart. If there was any doubt about it, hopefully his fate was sealed when - on two occasions - Sam Shields made great plays as a gunner. The first time he made the tackle & the second time he forced a fair catch. Clearly, we should NEVER see Shields as a KR/PR again, but he's done enough to guarantee himself a roster spot.

Thanks to Cullen Jenkins. Great effort, mate. I'm not sure that anyone else on the #1 defense showed up to play football. Tough to judge the 1st unit defense as we were missing 5-6 starters. We applied no pressure. We didn't blitz. But, there were some concerning facets. For the 2nd week in a row, Nintendo Nick looked lazy on an out-route & got beat for a TD. Morgan Burnett was a step slow against the run & didn't take a great angle to the ball on a play to his left. After the first drive, when the U-HAUL made a great play against the run & then P-Lee got us off the field on a 3rd down pass play; both Underwood & Lee struggled. Picked apart. Again, can't fully judge them as we had ZERO pressure. But, an occasional incompletion or pass defensed would have been nice to see.

Mason Crosby! Showing confidence.

The offense is in rhythm. Rodgers is in sync with Jennings & J-Mike. It's a thing of beauty. Hoping this is just the beginning of a special offensive season.

In 2008, the Packers drafted Brian Brohm & Breno Giacomini. Both from Louisville. The Packers were psyched about both of them. In 2010, neither of them will be on the roster. Giacomini is bad. Awful. Pathetic. He can't cut it. Get rid of him.

Our kickoff units remain suspect, at best.

Desmond Bishop looks like Bernardo Harris in zone coverage. Lost.

I'd love to shake Chillar's hand for his mentality towards learning the OLB spot. He's handling it the right way. Thus far, it hasn't worked. I'm not saying that it won't work, but so far, it hasn't. The games start for real in 3 weeks. We need to be ready. I'll be surprised if Chillar is able to be productive in Week 1.

Frank Zombo > or = Brady Poppinga. Both are a step slow off the ball. Both are aggressive with never say die attitudes. Both play until the whistle. Frank Zombo has 1 sack in 2 preseason games. Brady Poppinga has 1 sack in the last 3 years & 4 sacks in his 5 year career.

This week the Colts come to Lambeau. National TV. ESPN. The annual Bishop's Charities game. You gotta love it.

The Colts are 0-2 in the preseason. The 3rd preseason game is the ultimate warm-up for the regular season. Both teams are going to want this one.

The Colts WR weapons will provide a stiff test for the Packers DB's. Wayne, Gonzalez, Garcon, and Collie. Throw in Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, and Donald Brown...and man, Peyton Manning has some weapons.

The Packers get the ball to start. Finally, our offense establishes the run game. Running it behind Sitton & Tauscher, the Packers attack former Packer Daniel Muir. It's Grant pounding away at the Colts. Banging out 7 yards. 5 yards. 6 yards at a pop. The Packers offense finds a new rhythm. Moving into the Colts territory, it's Rodgers to J-Mike. As his twitter account proclaims, TGIF! 1st down, Packers.

It's Rodgers to Driver who makes his way into the South End Zone via a Lambeau Leap.

Manning moves the ball into Packers territory, but the drive stalls as Nick Barnett comes thru on a center blitz.

Rodgers grabs the ball. Extending plays with his legs. Rolling to his right. Connecting with Jennings. Fantasy junkies leap with excitement. Jennings becomes a 2nd-3rd round prospect with his epic preseason!

It's Grant up the middle. Into the Red Zone. Inside the 5, it's A-Rodge rolling out on play-action and finding Andrew Quarless for a TD.

Throw in a Crosby FG and it's a 17-10 Packers lead at the half.

Almost amazingly, the Colts have worse back-up QB play then the Packers. Thankfully.

Frank Zombo comes at Curtis Painter. Grabs a sack. Oh,oh! Ted Thompson & Mike McCarthy have a decision to make.

Quinn Porter looks to make me eat my words. He wants to get noticed. Grabbing chunks. Running left behind Newhouse. Newhouse shows us he's a lock for this roster.

The Packers seem to want either Charles Dillon to make a run at this roster. I want Chastin West to get his shot. It'll be interesting to see who gets the ball in the 4th Quarter. Whoever gets the chance, must prove he's worthy. It might be his last crack. Once again, I'm predicting West is a success.

Packers 27. Colts 20.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Take -> Preseason Week 2

Greetings, G-Force.

The 2009 season taught us that the preseason is not a valuable indicator of what to expect from your team when the regular season begins. However, while we can't necessarily judge the performance of a team, we can certainly assess the talents of an individual player & whether he is capable of producing. Therefore, Aaron Rodgers' play was the most positive aspect of the 1st preseason game. If Rodgers is kept upright in 2010, we'll will win more than we lose regardless of how pathetic our special teams might be.

Rodgers will have a plethora of options this year. When our playmakers are lined up in single coverage, we'll dominate. If teams decide to blitz us, we'll be an offensive juggernaut - assuming we're skilled enough to both recognize the pressure & skilled enough to protect against it. Major props to B-Jack who did a great job with regards to pass protection against the Browns. Additionally, as Rodgers has shown in the past, if teams drop back in coverage, he'll pick 'em apart.

I watched the game in an airport bar and to catch my plane shortly before the end of the 3rd Quarter. Throw in approximately 8 beers & a none HD TV...and needless to say, it was tough to evaluate.

Some small observations:

* The U-HAUL appears to have grown tremendously. I like his development. He was aggressive. Attacking the ball. Good to see him with a pick. He seems energized & appears to believe that he belongs. He gives a sense that he's a part of the team. I liked his energy.
* Good to see the Greg Jennings of 2007 & 2008.
* I was pleased with the play of the #1 OL unit.
* I miss Johnny Jolly already.
* Though I miss Jolly, Mike Neal showed good awareness - recognizing the screen. Dropping in coverage. Making the tackle. Getting us off the field. Word.
* Frank Zombo showed enough for me to want to see more.
* I miss Johnny Jolly already.
* Though I miss Jolly, I was happy to see Ryan Pickett shed a blocker & make contact on a ball carrier in the backfield.
* Lumpkin & Porter. 2 men. 1 spot. Fighting for every yard.
* Did we "win" a play on special teams against the Browns? Maybe when Cleveland shanked a punt. Again, I didn't see the end of the game, but from what I've gathered, special teams was the difference between winning & losing.
* How many players do you keep because they are good special teams players? Derrick Martin. Havner. Bishop. Willie B. Poppinga. Swain. And if we're classifying them as "good" special teams players, why can't anyone find the ballcarrier prior to a decent return? Frustrating!
* Seems as though the Packers are giving Crabtree every chance of winning a spot. Playing him early in the 2nd Quarter. Putting him on the 1st special teams units. I was hopeful that he'd close the gap and make the tackle after the Packers 1st TD on the kickoff return. Not to be. Didn't have the quickness and took the wrong angle.
* Morgan Burnett = a young Darren Sharper. Not just because they both wear 42. Not because Burnett has dreads & Sharper wore corn rolls. Not because Burnett is 6-1, 209 & Sharper is 6-2, 210. Not because they look similar in uniform at first glance. Think back to Sharper in 1997. Missing tackles in the open field. The same happened to Burnett last Saturday. Remember Sharper on Sunday Night against the Lions at Lambeau? Tight game. Scott Mitchell drops back to pass. Throwing a short-out to his right. Sharper jumping the route. Returning it 50 yards for a TD. At some point, in 2010, Burnett will do the same. Granted, Sharper was playing as a nickel or dime back for the majority of 1997, while Burnett will be inserted into the starting line-up at S. Nonetheless, to me, there are striking similarities.
* Surprised that Chastin West did not have a catch. Like his approach. Standing, sitting next to Jennings during breaks. You know that Chastin is picking Greg's mind. I'm pull for Chastin.
* It's mighty disappointing that we did not play well in the first 7 minutes of the game. It's even more disappointing that we played poorly in the last 3 minutes. Lets hope this is not a precedent for the future.
* The Brandon Chillar/Brady Poppinga combo at OLB in the 3-4 doesn't work. No need to try it out with the 1st unit anymore. I understand that Chillar is still a work-in-progress at OLB, but he doesn't look to be a natural when it comes to rushing the QB from the outside.
* Giving up two 3rd down TD passes hurts. Need more defensive intensity. Did I mention that I missed Johnny Jolly?

Clearly, the Packers have things to clean up. I believe Mike McCarthy will do so. He'll get it done. We'll be better prepared. We'll see improvements this week in Seattle.

I expect the Packers to be able to control Seattle's first unit. I foresee Dom Capers utilizing a variety of blitzes with our 1st team defense and carrying an aggressive approach. He blitzed on less than 18% of the downs in the first game. I look for this number to increase early in the game. A team cannot proclaim "Super Bowl or Die" and then come out flat 2 weeks in a row. Even if it is the preseason.

I've been impressed with Brad Jones thus far. Look for him to help get us off the field as he hurries a Hasselbeck throw after beating Sean Locklear around the corner. He gets a push and swims underneath Locklear. Incomplete pass.

Rodgers & Company go to work. With Grant seeing limited to no action post the concussion. They prepare for the possibility of a game or two without Grant. B-Jack sees an early work load. Additionally, they try to shore up run-blocking issues with the 1st team OL. B-Jack plugs for yardage.

Rodgers standing confidently in the pocket. Hits Jones across the middle. A-Rodge finds J-Mike over the top of Aaron Curry. He finds Jordy down the right sideline for 6!

Again the defense gets a stop. Raji grabs a hold of Julius Jones at the line of scrimmage as he throws Chris Spencer into the backfield. A 3rd down completion to TJ Houshmanzadeh leaves the Seahawks short of 1st down yardage. Packer ball.

Our offense appears unstoppable. Rodgers to Jennings for 22 yards. Kelly Jennings cannot guard Donald Driver in the slot. It's Thank God It's Finley for 6!

The Packers 1st team leaves with a 14-0 lead. The statement is made.

And now, the evaluation begins. Is Frank Zombo better than Brady Poppinga? CJ Wilson or Jarius Wynn? Can Bulaga fill-in, if necessary? Who to keep at TE? Can somebody PLEASE beat out Charlie Peprah? The Seahawks 2nd unit will provide a stiff test for the Packers. Prior to the draft, the Seahawks traded for Charlie Whitehurst. They gave up a 2nd & a 3rd in exchange for San Diego's 2nd & Whitehurst. Further, Whitehurst performed in the 1st preseason game throwing 2 TD's.

Whitehurst experiences some success with the Packers getting little to no pass rush. All day to throw, he finds Anthony McCoy in the heart of the Packers defense as McCoy beats Bishop up the middle.

But, this is about the Packers...

And so is the 4th Quarter. Lumpkin. Porter. Lumkin. Porter. Lumpkin. Porter.

And, I'm calling it...it's gotta happen! It's Harrell to West for a TD! West is 6-1, 216! Just throw the ball in the air & let the guy get it!

Packers 27. Seattle 23.

It's Time. Time for a victory. I want to taste it.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Take -> Preseason Week 1

Greetings, G-Force.

And so it begins. With mighty expectations. Self-labeled a "Super Bowl or Die" season. Whether you agree or disagree, jump on board. Let's go for it.

The Family Night is always a fun gathering. It's a celebration of us. A parade of sorts. A national reminder that Packer Nation is truly unique. As the local media wonders why attendance was "down" to 50,000, the national audience stands in awe. And, of course, it was great to meet the 2010 Green Bay Packers.

I hope I'm wrong with my Sam Shields prediction. I really do. I hope he can play in this league. Clearly, he had the play of the day. It was epic to see Shields bring the "U" swagger to Lambeau! Fun to see some high stepping! Due to that play coupled with the national attention that Family Night garners via the NFL Network, it's a near guarantee that Sam Shields is on an NFL Roster this season. I found it interesting that the Packers had him listed as the 7th rated CB on the roster in the release of the current depth chart. Additionally, he was ranked 3rd in KR. Though it was his play that stood out.

Other things that stood out to me from this past weekend:

* Double-D will retire as a Packer. Yes, Donald Driver in the Green & Gold for Life!
* AJ Hawk wearing smaller pads and looking like he is lighter. Yet, he found himself in the offensive backfield. Acting on instinct. Rather than reaction. Was it a solid play by Hawk or poor blocking by Kuhn? Was as it a phenomenal pass rush by Hawk or can Diedrich-Smith not play? Either way, good to see AJ making plays!
* BJ Raji looks fit. And ready to be a difference maker.
* J-Mike = Hawaii
* I liked the way Mike Neal extends his arms and pushes his way into the backfield. Pure strength.
* P-Lee impressed me. So did the U-HAUL.
* Great to see the added attention that Nintendo Nick was giving Morgan Burnett. Between each play and right before each snap, Collins was sure to offer direction. Also great to see Burnett in pursuit. His hit on Quinn Porter was dynamite!
* Brad Jones playing ROLB was an interesting twist. He played really well against the run & certainly held the point of attack on nearly every play that he was on the field. I really liked what I saw.
* I liked the pursuit of ALex Joseph. Too bad that he may not play this weekend.
* Quinn Johnson is in a fight for his life to make this roster.
* Jordy! Could this be his bust out year? Towards the end of last year, Rodgers became more aware at noticing weaknesses in the defense & finding the mismatch. If Jordy is going to be lined up against nickel & dime DB's, he could be in line for a NICE season.
* Also good to see the Packers using James Jones on a crossing route. I believe it to be his best route. Short and underneath. Let him use his vision and turn upfield.
* I really like Chastin West's physique. Wouldn't be shocked if he competes for a spot.
* The Packers are giving Quinn Porter every chance to make the roster. As my good mate, Vargas, reported from camp last week, Porter was having a great practice. Well, it was eye-catching to see him as the #1 kick-off returner.
* Don't overlook the addition of Carnell Lake to our secondary coaching staff. You know his present day best friend is Morgan Burnett.
* I felt that Jarius Wynn was far more impressive than CJ Wilson. More push. Quicker to the ball and off the snap. Better penetration. More instinctive. I know that each player in the 3-4 has a role, but I like Wynn's movement better than Wilson's, thus far.
* This just in - Allen "The Barbie Doll" Barbre is no good.
* It infuriates me that Andrew Quarless drops that pass.
* Oh, neither is Charlie Peprah. Guy can't play in this league. Him on the roster gives me great concern about the depth at the Safety position.
* I'm absolutely shocked that the Packers back-up QB is Matt Flynn as Jeff Garcia goes onto the UFL. Makes no sense to me. Remember that in 1995, Jim McMahon came in and got a BIG 3rd down against the Steelers in the season finale. Without that victory, we don't win the Division. Also, don't forget that this was the FIRST division title under Mike Holmgren. Garcia could pick up that 1st down. He could take us to 2-2 during a 4 game stretch. It's doubtful that Flynn could pick up the first down & with him, we'd likely finish 0-4 in a 4 game stretch. Not hating, just saying.

This Saturday, the Cleveland Browns head to Lambeau Field in the Midwest Shrine Game. The Browns should not be overlooked. Over the last two years, the Browns have stockpiled draft picks and added decent depth. Holmgren has done a decent job of adding a good mix of veterans & rookies this offseason to a roster that finished with 4 straight wins. If you've followed college football over the last couple of years, the likes of Colt McCoy, Montario Hardesty, James Davis, Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie, Peyton Hillis, Alex Mack, Kaluka Maiava, Joe Haden, TJ Ward, and Larry Asante are not foreign. Throw in some solid FA signings such as Ben Watson, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Sheldon Brown, Matt Roth, Scott Fujita, and Eric Barton & the Browns field a respectable team in an extremely physical AFC North Division.

While I don't expect CM3, Nick Barnett, Sir Charles & Double-D to play (if Woodson, Barnett & Driver play - it will be extremely limited), I do foresee the Packers jumping out to an early lead. By the way, injuries do concern me right now - especially at OLB. Poppinga, Obi, CM3, Jones have all missed time. We need to get healthy. Now. We need rhythm & continuity.

The Lambeau Faithful is in midseason form on the defense's first stop. T-Mon with a decent punt return. Rodgers grabs control.

Spread 'em out. Quick work. Picking on the undersized Brandon McDonald, Rodgers finds Jordy. He seeks out J-Mike for a 1st down. Jones on a crossing pattern. Jennings on a puma route. Grant walks into the end zone. 7-0 Packers.

BJ Raji disrupts Jerome Harrison at the line of scrimmage. Delhomme forces one, tests the rookie. Burnett makes the play.

Rodgers leads the Packers into FG range The Packers starters exit with a 10-0 lead. And then it gets interesting.

I'll be curious to see how our back-ups compare to the Browns. It'll be also interesting to note where Bulaga plays. Does he see snaps at LG or is he strictly limited to LT?

The U-HAUL & P-Lee are put to the test. Both respond well. Using a variety of blitzes, Desmond Bishop applies the pressure and forces an errant throw. It lands in the hands of the U-HAUL.

The Packers go to work by mixing short passes to Chastin West & pounding away with a combination of Quinn Porter & Lumpkin. An occasional curl finds Tom Crabtree as he grabs extended snaps in light of the injury to Quarless. These types of plays encourage both the local media & the Packers coaches to use words such as "moxie", "leadership" & "tough minded" to describe Flynn. Nonetheless, he'll hold onto the ball & rarely throw down the field. He'll scramble & fight for a first down. He'll get us into FG range.

Flynn departs with a 13-3 lead. In comes, Graham Harrell. Wouldn't surprise me if he slings it a bit. Looking towards Patrick Williams on a deep ball. However, mostly, I expect to see heavy doses of Porter & Lumpkin as they battle for the #3 RB spot as James Starks attends to his lingering hammy issue. Porter slips into the second line of the Browns defense. Fighting for 1st down yards. Finally, he punches it in the end zone.

Green Bay 20. Cleveland 10.

The Packers in 2010. I expect it to be sync with a mature, youthful energy. Classy. Fun. Let's dance in style!


Talkin' S-Mac.

Monday, August 2, 2010

2010 Outlook: A Favorable Enthusiasm!

Greetings, G-Force.

The hype is over. Let's play football!

It must be mentioned - the G-Force enthusiasm will play a role in the 2010 season. We bring it. We never take a Sunday off. In fact, the G-Force presence is so mighty that I could argue that the G-Force equals football fanaticism, which represents a terrific energy within the human spirit. In turn, this vibe captivates the imagination of all sports fans who truly understand the dynamic bond between the organization & its fans. In Green Bay, football is sacred. In some ways, the Packers are what one lives for, works for, plays for. In American sports, this bond doesn't exist anywhere else. Nowhere. Eventually, this enthusiasm & kinetic energy will produce another Super Bowl title. It has to. Why not now?

Don't get me wrong - I'm not predicting a Super Bowl this year. Our QB has yet to win a playoff game. While that is not a prerequisite, it would certainly enable me to feel more comfortable in making a bold statement that equated the Green Bay Packers and feeling Super. However, from a distance, the camaraderie & attitude that surrounds the Packers camp feels like a winner.

Including 2010, in 14 of the last 17 years, the Packers will have had one of the best QB's in the league. The exceptions being '05, '06, & '08. The NFL is predicated on spectacular QB play. In '01, St. Louis had Kurt Warner playing at an exceptional level. They made it to the Super Bowl & lost to Tom Brady's NE Patriots. In '02, Rich Gannon was the MVP. Oakland made it to the Super Bowl. In '03 & '04, Tom Brady was the man you had to beat. He won 2 more Super Bowls. 2005 was the exception. In '06, it was the year of Peyton Manning. In '07, Tom Brady had the greatest year any QB has ever had & the Patriots played in the Super Bowl. In '08, Kurt Warner was having an MVP type season until the Cardinals went into cruise control in mid November. When the playoffs began, they flipped the switch back on & Warner carried the Cards to the Super Bowl game. '09 was dominated by Manning, Brees, & Favre. They were the last 3 standing.

Again, I'm not predicting a Super Bowl. Not yet. But, last year we saw a late game poise out of Rodgers that elicits a positive reaction. Heightened enthusiasm. Renewed belief. Aaron Rodgers is our catalyst for enormous events with the game on the line. Think Week 1 against the Bears at Lambeau in '09. Rodgers evolved tremendously from '08 to '09. Via repetition & commitment, I have no doubt that Rodgers will become the master of our offensive display. His biggest obstacle will be remembering that protection is the ultimate variable. Defenders are paid to make plays & Rodgers must be mindful of getting rid of the ball in a timely fashion. If he improves on this flaw, look out.

The 2010 Packers will penetrate defenses with a variety of weapons. Defenses won't be able to plan for just one guy. Greg Jennings, Double-D, J-Mike, JJ, Ryan Grant, & Jordy Nelson are all expected to make plays. Then consider that the Packers opened training camp with a double TE formation - uniting AQ & TGIF. It's thrilling to imagine the prospects of these two lining up together. I was surprised that we drafted Quarless. I didn't think we needed another TE. Now, I'm animated that he's on our squad. I'm sure that most of you have watched Greg Bedard's daily videos on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's web site. In today's video, it showed Quarless running down the seam & reaching across his body to catch an errant pass. After making the catch, he absorbed a hit by Charlie Peprah and carried on for extra yardage. E.P.I.C!

I envision offensive mastery with many magnificent plays resulting in yards gained by the masses. It'll be a thing of beauty. Metaphorically, the running & passing games must be two rivers in which the same water flows. One must set up the other. Thus, offensive harmony is achieved through an unpredictable offensive attack. In '96, Levens ran out of spread formation with great success. Pounding it up the center of the defense. Swiveling the hips. Picking up additional yardage. I was hoping the same would be expected of James Starks. Starks' injury is a total bummer. The injury also has me - once again - asking for the Packers to visit with Brian Westbrook.

Defensively, my bet is that the Packers keep 7 DL, where typically a 3-4 defense would keep only 6. Bedard's video has showed Mike Neal plowing over players. Vargas & my cousin, Danny McKenna, have attended practices. They've both mentioned Neal's brute strength. I believe that Neal, Jenkins, Pickett, Raji & CJ Wilson are locks to make the team. If Harrell stays healthy, he'll be on the opening day roster. I also expect Wynn to make the roster though it wouldn't shock me if either Talley or Toribio beat him out. Either way - look for the Packers to keep 7 DL due to uncertainty with regards to the current abilities of those on the roster. MM & TT might feel that the Packers are best suited with power in numbers.

A quick shout to Ras Al in regards to his undying fight to recover from this nasty injury. 'Nuff Respect, Al!

While Ras-A-tari is battling another nagging injury, Morgan Burnett is looking to complete our stellar starting defensive backfield. Burnett would be the 4th defender in our secondary that has the potential to grab 5 interceptions. I'm elated that he's a Packer. There's no question that he has the size & the speed to be a stallion. I wonder if he has the mental capacity to be an effective every down player as a rookie. My cousin Danny knows football much better than most & he offers such hope. He went to the practice on Sunday morning & said: "Bigby doesn't have a shot -- Burnett is going to be that good. One play he took away Finley going deep down the seam."

I can't wait for Family Night when I can witness all of the fun with my own eyes. For the non-locals, the replay can be seen on Monday Night on the NFL Network.

The optimism is fully justified.

Good buzzes to you,

Talkin' S-Mac.