The time is now. It's when Ted Thompson finds gems in unknown talent. It's when Dan Snyder overspends on the oppositions Free Agents. One philosophy led to XLV. The other has led to multiple seasons of disappointment.
The motto surrounding the Packers attack on the undrafted Free Agent market is "Getting Shaky Wit' It!" Since Allen Rossum left the Packers before the 2002 season, the Packers have been in search for a threat as a return specialist. Willie B. showed flashes of brilliance. But, for the most part, the Packers return game has been the most disappointing portion of our franchise for the better part of a decade. Enter: Randall Cobb and Shaky Smithson. Shaky led college football in punt yards per return after averaging more than 19 yards per return. Yes, more than 19 yards PER return! Wicked! Expect to see Shaky high-stepping down the sidelines. He's a north-south returner. Wish a legit shake to his step. Additionally, he averaged more than 24 yards per kickoff return. I fully expect Smithson to make an impact for the defending Super Bowl champions in 2011. Through the addition of both Smithson and Cobb, look for the Packers to incorporate the bubble screen into the office in attempt to get these guys into space.
Other than Shaky, the guy I'm most stoked about is Brandian Ross. He's 6-0. More than 190 lbs. Not afraid of contact. Plays the ball in the air. A former safety. Turned CB. He looks for contact. He'll be a special teams gem. It's clear that Ted Thompson wanted to improve the special teams unit. Look for Ross to have the opportunity to win the job as the gunner. Further, his versatility in the secondary is invaluable - though I imagine he'll enter into training camp strictly as a CB.
Thompson went for riches at the WR position. Reportedly, he's agreed to terms with Tori Gurley, Kerry Taylor, and Diondre Borel. I don't have any insight to add on Borel other than what you read in highly publicized circles, but I have seen much of both Gurley and Taylor. I'm excited about the prospects. During the 2010 college season, I wondered how good Gurley could be. He has elite size. Great physique. Looks to have good hands. In the epic game against Auburn last year, he found his way into the end zone, but the problem is that Alshon Jeffery was across the field from him. For those not familiar with Jeffery, he might enter the 2011 college football season as the best player in the game. Thus, Gurley's opportunities to shine were limited. Taylor - the nephew of former 49er star, John Taylor - is an exciting addition as well. Taylor should be pro ready having played in Dennis Erickson's offense. While it's true that Taylor and Erickson didn't always see eye-to-eye, Taylor was a consistent performer. Taylor won't be a speed demon, but he's fast enough. He's physical for his size and runs with might. He's sure handed and a go-to guy on 3rd down. In the dramatic Arizona-Arizona State game in which Arizona State's Alex Zendejas got his Extra Point blocked in double overtime to lose, Taylor was dynamite grabbing 6 balls for over 100 yards.
Undoubtedly, the Packers need depth at the Safety position. Thompson got what he wanted in Anthony Bratton. Bratton is a workout wonder. He's 6-0, 213. He ran a 4.46. He notched 2 picks and forced two fumbles showing he has a nose for the football. He is a safety that likes to enter the box as he laid down the wood to the tone of 99 tackles his senior year. Thompson also targeted MD Jennings. Jennings is a playmaking, small school safety who had a statistically loaded collegiate career.
Brandon Saine had solid production when he was on the field. He simply had difficulty staying healthy. Good one-cut runner. Runs low to the ground. He'll power through defenders - almost surprisingly for his size. In many ways, he runs like Brandon Jackson. Not going to out-run you, but he'll find a way to sneak into the defensive secondary and he'll also occasionally bust a decent size run.
I like the OLB additions. Gotta enjoy depth and young prospects with a successful resume with regards to getting to the QB. Jamari Lattimore looks like a legit prospect. He has the speed and athleticism to take the corner, but at only 230 lbs, I wonder whether he can sustain the point of attack. After watching nearly 15 minutes of his video on YouTube, he looks like a lighter Erik Walden, another former MTSU player. Great hustle. Never quits on a play. Likes the speed rush. Looks like he played in a 3-4 defense, but he's looks more accustomed to having his hand in the dirt rather than standing up. He'll be a good project for Kevin Greene. Vic So'Oto is a virtual unknown to me.
The interior of the OL could use depth. Thompson signed three undrafted free agents. Most notably, he agreed to terms with Arkansas standout Ray Dominguez. I don't have familiarity with neither Theo Sherman nor Sampson Genus.
Thompson also grabbed the Joseph twins from Temple as he signed Peanut and Eli Joseph. Eli has the power necessary to play the 3-4 DE spot. He played NT in the 3-4 for the Owls in college, but he won't be big enough to do the same at the next level. I imagine he'll get the opportunity to compete at DE instead.
Finally, Thompson added to his FB group. With the uncertain return of John Kuhn and with Korey Hall likely headed to Seattle, Thompson brought in the former Gopher, Jon Hoese.
All in all, I like it. Frankly, prior to yesterday, I only had familiarity with Shaky, Ross, Taylor, Gurley, Bratton, Saine, Lattimore and the Joseph brothers. And with the exception of Shaky, Taylor, Gurley and Saine, my familiarity came via reading a variety of internet articles prior to the draft. Nonetheless, in Ted I Trust. I like the positions that he targeted via Free Agency. I'm ready to get this thing going. Let's Get Shaky Wit' It!
Go Pack Go!