Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Take -> Preseason Week 4

Greetings, G-Force.

Sure, it was only the preseason. But, it was also terrific drama! It grand fashion the comeback was complete. With a fine last name like McCarthy, it's almost a certainty that the Green Bay Packers Head Coach has some Irish flavor to him. In Indianapolis, the site of the XLVI Super Bowl, the luck of the Irish shone brightly on the Green Bay Packers. If you're a die hard and you were watching each snap, you can't tell me you didn't jump out of your seat with excitement on the 4th down throw from Harrell to Ryan Taylor. If you know me, you know that I was standing up prior to the play, but that's beside the point. You also can't tell me that you sat down during the 2-point conversion. the onside kick was grand. Harrell to Gurley and we're in range. DJ Williams carrying a defender for an extra two yards to clearly place the Packers within Crosby's range. Crosby from 50 yards. BOOM! A preseason thriller!

Here are a couple of takeaways from the game:

* I can't believe I'm about to write this, but Pat Lee's special teams play could earn him a roster berth. He has shown solid KO coverage skills. I'm hopeful that Lee doesn't make the roster as his best hasn't been good enough and I'd like to see how a guy like Gordy might develop, but don't be surprised if Pat Lee's special teams play grant him a spot on the defending champs.

* If J-Mike stays healthy, he could produce numbers a Green Bay Packers TE has never seen before.

* When Charles Woodson comes on the blitz on the same side that Clay Matthews is rushing from, exciting things happen.

* Morgan Burnett intrigues me, but man, when he makes a mental error, it's an enormous mistake.

* DJ Smith has tremendous football instincts. Love his heart.

* So'oto has played himself onto this team. He's outclassed Brad Jones, by far.

* It'll be tough to cut Lattimore, but he'll be on the Practice Squad if he doesn't sign with another team. Great effort. Plays with speed and conviction.

* Bulaga has played well. Some might level the competition he's played against, but he seems to be moving his feet smoothly and he's been more patient than last year. For my eye, he's been the brightest spot on the OL.

* Rough day for Chad Clifton, but he'll be fine. If you have questions about Clifton, ask James Harrison how the XLV contest went against Clifton. I'm not concerned. Clifton can still play.

* If we protect Aaron Rodgers, this team could do SUPER things.

* Ryan Taylor continues to be a bright note in the preseason. He's going to have a role on this team - this year. That's possibly bad news for Tom Crabtree, who if you follow Twitter, is a funny, engaging, personable man. It's also potentially bad news for Quinn Johnson.

* Hard to imagine Graham Harrell not making the team. So, if we're keeping 3 TE's, a minimum of 4 TE's and possibly 6 WR's, the roster will be thin in other areas...probably keeping only 9 at the OL, 9 at DB and potentially only 4 RB's.

* Interesting to see Starks as the 3rd down back. I though Kuhn would win the job. But, fun to watch Starks showing us a glimpse of his receiving abilities.

* Chastin West or Tori Gurley? Both are deserving. But, there's only one spot. That's a good problem to have. While West is the better WR today, might Gurley's punt blocking skills be the difference? It's the type of threat that could alter a game.

* Aaron Rodgers feels very comfortable throwing the ball to Jordy Nelson. I foresee Nelson as having the 2nd most receptions out of a WR at the end of the year.

* When I watch the 2nd team OL, I see as much potential in Dominguez as I see in anyone. Hope he makes the team. Loved his celebration with Taylor after the TD!

The fourth and final preseason game is about the 53 man roster, so here's my prediction:

QB: (3) Rodgers, Flynn, Harrell. Props to Harrell. He's earned this spot. He's also rocking the handle bar 'stache, which tells me he wants to be a member of this QB fraternity. Rodgers looks to be taking him under his week based on their interactions.

RB: (4) Grant, Green Starks, Kuhn. It hurts me to cut Quinn Johnson. Johnson was huge against Philly in the playoffs. He played a major role in the XLV title as he dominated the Eagles. I imagine Ryan Taylor having enough versatility to drop into the wishbone attack when McCarthy goes to this formation. Brandon Saine is a talent. I hope he makes the practice squad.

WR: (6) Driver, Jennings, Jones, Nelson, Cobb, Gurley. West has earned the praise of Rodgers. Presently, he's a better WR than Gurley. Since it's doubtful that the Packers could slide Gurley to the practice squad, Thompson is forced to make a decision. He unloads West and gets something in return - either a 7th rounder, a Guard, or possibly an ILB. I hope Kerry Taylor gets a practice squad look, but I predict Borel gets the nod.

TE: (4) Finley, AQ81, Taylor, DJ Williams. I wholeheartedly believed that DJ Williams would be the training camp winner at TE. But, Ryan Taylor has stolen the show. It pains me to cut Crabtree. He'll find a spot in this league. He's a tough, gritty blocker. A solid special teams player. Good hands. Wish him well. Would love to keep him, but it's a numbers game. All preseason, I felt the Packers would keep 5 TE's, but I've had a change in thinking. In part, this is because So'oto has should great promise.

OL: (9) Clifton, Lang, Wells, Sitton, Bulaga, Newhouse, Sherrod, Dominguez, McDonald. McDonald wins a spot over Diedrich-Smith as a back-up Center. McDonald's development has been a disappointment, but he is versatile enough to also play Guard. Either way, if Wells gets hurt, it'd be troublesome for the Packers. Dominguez gets the nod over Schlauderaff, which is probably wishful thinking. Schlauderaff is a Thompson draft pick. Thompson likes his draft picks, but it's important to note that Dominguez was a coveted undrafted FA, so that might carry weight in Thompson's eyes and trump his philosophy of keeping his draft picks.

DL: (6) CJ Wilson, Neal, Raji, Green, Pickett, Wynn. Wynn has come on as of late. He's been playing well as a pass rusher. It wouldn't shock me if Lawrence Guy is put on IR for the year out of fear that he might take an offer to join another teams practice squad.

LB: (9) Matthews, Walden, Jones, So'oto, Zombo, Bishop, Hawk, Smith, Francois. I really hope there is an ILB addition. I liked Francois coming out of college. He hasn't progressed. Apologies to Brad Jones, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him not make the squad. He hasn't been able to stay healthy. So'oto has shown me more than Jones. So, has Lattimore. Lattimore finds his way onto the practice squad. Elmore was a buzzkill. Let's hope Zombo doesn't end up on IR.

DB: (9) Sir Charles, T-Mon, Sammy Swagga, Nintendo Nick, Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, Davon House, J-Bush, Pat Lee. Unreal, but yes, I just included Pat Lee on the roster once again. Gordy has provided an admirable run at a roster spot, but he loses out due to special teams skills. Brandian Ross, Anthony Bratton and MD Jennings all have shown enough to warrant practice squad consideration.

Specialists: (3) Crosby, Masthay, Goode. Masthay has Pro Bowl potential.

Practice Squad: (8) Schlauderaff, Saine, Borel, MD Jennings, Lattimore, Brandian Ross, Jay Ross, and Kerry Taylor. I suppose Elmore is also a candidate. I'm pulling for Kerry Taylor to get this spot! This is all based on the assumption of my prediction that Lawrence Guy will be placed on the IR for the year. Otherwise, he'll be an ideal candidate.

In my mind, 49 of the roster spots have been taken. But, there is an open spot at OL, in which I'm giving it to Dominguez. There is an open spot in the secondary, which I'm giving to Lee (regrettably). And then for the 52nd and 53rd spot, the battle is between Quinn Johnson, Tom Crabtree, Brad Jones, Tori Gurley & Chastin West.

This Thursday night - in the preseason finale - the Chiefs visit the most legendary stadium in American sports. The Lambeau crowd will be stoked to kick off the Labor Day weekend in winning fashion. It'll be a fun environment. If you're in attendance, litter yourself in the Fat Squirrel prior to the game. This game will feature a generic preview of a December date in which the Packers will go to Arrowhead. On a side note, I've got my tickets. You should get yours as well. And, on the Saturday before the game, I feel there should be a Packers party at the Boulevard Brewing Co. Just sayin'.

One thing to be fully cognitive of when watching this game: the Chiefs have placed an emphasis on the return game. It'll be a good challenge for the Packers. I'm curious to see how the Packers respond.

Aaron Rodgers gets one drive. This week - the Packers work on the run game to start. Starks gets some early work. And then it's play-action to Jordy. Rodgers on the roll-out finds AQ81. The offense is in motion. It's Starks on a screen. The drive ends with a Rodgers to Nelson TD. And a Lambeau Leap into the South End Zone.

The 1st team defense gets limited reps as well. There's a lot of work that needs to be done with the depth of the defense. DJ Smith needs reps. So does Davon House. This game is arguably as important for House as anyone else on the team. While House is a lock to make the team, his role is highly in question. Thus far, he'd probably be inactive for the season opener. But, if House can prove his worth in the final preseason game, he might warrant a look in the opener. Expect House to perform.

So'oto continues to impress with his endless motor. Lattimore uses his speed to get into Tyler Palko's face. Judging from Palko's college career, he's prone to making mistakes when he's pressured. This will mean opportunities for our secondary. It's time to be a ball hawk in the secondary!

Matt Flynn gets some solid work in. He targets West & Gurley who get extended looks as the WR core is depleted for this contest. Flynn finds riches in Ryan Taylor. Due to shoddy OL play, it's tough for Alex Green to find his way into the open field, so McCarthy calls the screen and the dreadlocks are flowing...

When Graham Harrell enters. He connects with Kerry Taylor on crossing routes. He gets DJ Williams involved as Williams runs down the seam and snatches the ball out of the air. Brandon Saine flashes soft hands as he's Harrell's outlet.

In the end, the Packers prevail. Once again. And it's a 3-1 preseason record.

Green Bay 27. Kansas City 23.

Have a Happy & Safe Labor Day. I'm off to see Phish for 3 days. And with that, to the NFL Season, I say "and I'm glad, glad, glad that you've arrived!"

Go Pack Go!


Talkin' S-Mac

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Take -> Preseason Week 3

Greetings, G-Force.

For the first time since the XLV title, the Packers were able to celebrate a post-game victory. It wasn't always pretty, but it was a victory. While winning & losing isn't the main priority of the preseason, it's always nice to walk off the field as a winner - regardless of the situation. Next week - the roster must be trimmed down to 80 players. By my count, the Packers have 86 players on the roster. Thus, it's possible that 6 players will wear the Green & Gold for the last time this Friday. As of now, my prediction is that those 6 players will be Antonio Robinson, Sampson Genus, Adrian Battles, KC Asiodu, Spencer Havner, and Chris Donaldson. Chris Campbell is also a candidate. I'm unaware of anyone that could be given injury settlements and I'm hoping that Zombo will not have to be placed on IR.

A quick position by position breakdown:

QB: The preseason has made things interesting for the Packers at QB. Rodgers has been sensational in the no-huddle. How much of a role will this play in the 2011 Regular Season? Matt Flynn has looked terrific. I doubt anyone will make a play for him via trade, so expect him to be signed away as an UFA next year. Graham Harrell is making it tough for the Packers to move on without him. He won't make it to the practice squad. And, in some ways, the Packers have to keep him as an insurance policy for next year. He's growing comfortable with the system and as a QB, he played with great confidence. It's hard to imagine the Packers keeping only 2 QB's. It was super fun to see the camaraderie between Rodgers, McCarthy and Harrell as Harrell led the team to the final TD. When McCarthy bailed Harrell out with a timeout just prior to the play clock violation, Rodgers was there to welcome Harrell on the sideline. McCarthy gave Harrell a thumb's up. Team unity is abound at the QB position.

RB: With Starks injured, Grant saw enhanced carries. With that, we saw glimpses of Grant's old self. Since Starks is back practicing, I'm excited to see how Grant & Starks are utilized with both available. Alex Green! I really wish he could have found his way into the end zone on the screen. Beautiful run. Patient. The spin move to keep his balance! Bouncing off a tackler! Epic! Had to love TJ Lang reminding him to give the fans kind vibes via the Lambeau Leap. Never let a brother down, TJ. Green will never forget again. It was good to see Nance get to the corner. Though we didn't get to see much, Saine looks like a practice squad addition. While Green learns how to block at this schedule, look for Kuhn to be our 3rd down back. I still believe Quinn Johnson makes the roster.

WR: Jennings in the corner of the end zone. Get used to it. Double-D showing that he's still got it! Chastin West states his case. A week after West played a game in which he didn't look motivated, West played with complete confidence. With a vengeance. My brother Chad posed an interesting question: Jordy Nelson or Chastin West? All preseason, we've been reading about West. Last year, he looked to have the physique to play in the league. What trade value would Jordy have? If you believe in West and if Jordy has a 3rd round tag on him, it's worth considering. Especially considering that Jordy will be a free agent after this year. Let's hope Randall Cobb is healthy. In the first preseason game, he looked like a young Wes Welker. Tori Gurley showing that he's worthy of the practice squad. I keep reading/hearing that Borel has been impressive in preseason. To my eye, Kerry Taylor has been better than Borel.

OL: As a unit, the OL has struggled. But, congrats to TJ Lang. Now go out and show that you deserve the position! I thought Dominguez looked strong. Fitting himself for a run at a roster spot. I'm not going to jump off the bridge with regards to Sherrod. Been put in a tough position. He's not playing up to expectations, but I believe he has a future in this league. Without question, he'll need time to develop, but barring injury or poor play by Lang, he'll have a year to develop.

TE: GREAT to see J-Mike back on the field! YOTTO! What a weapon. I still believe that the Packers keep 5 TE's. However, DJ Williams inability to block has clearly stunted his development and the faith that the coaching staff has in him.

DL: Injuries have caused depth to be a concern. CJ Wilson and Mike Neal must get healthy. Lawrence Guy's health is also a concern. If Guy can't get healthy this week, it wouldn't shock me if he ends up on the IR for the year. The Packers might tuck him away. BJ Raji looks like he's Hawaii bound. Ryan Pickett and Howard Green are playing at a high level. Good to see Jarius Wynn playing with intensity and putting pressure on the QB. Injuries might be saving Wynn's job in Green Bay. Thus far, Eli Joseph and Jay Ross have not been deserving of roster spot consideration. I don't see them as practice squad additions either.

LB: After the Alex Green screen and the Chastin West TD, DJ Smith was the highlight of the game for me. While it was discouraging to see AJ Hawk and Desmond Bishop getting pushed around and dragged backward, it was refreshing to see Smith in pursuit. He showed great quickness. He was able to sneak his way into the offensive backfield. While he didn't always finish the play, he was in position. Clearly, he has terrific football instincts. Let's hope Zombo is not done for the year. It's good to hear that Clay is back. But, I'd take it easy with him and potentially shelve him for the majority of the rest of training camp. Walden is deserving of the starting spot. He earned it towards the end of last year when he was given a chance, but I hate to see it happen due to an injury to Zombo. Further, Brad Jones is dealing with injury. And, once again, depth is of high concern at OLB. So'oto should make the team. He gives great effort. I like his intensity. Good motor. I see him on the 53-man roster. Lattimore showed enough last week to warrant roster consideration. He's still ultra light for an OLB and if he doesn't make the roster, he's definitely practice squad material. Ricky Elmore is a stiff. If it weren't for depth concerns and the Packers ability to get through the final preseason game without having to play our starters into the 2nd Quarter, Elmore would be on my list of players who should be cut this week.

DB: It was sublime to see Sir Charles playing cat & mouse with the oppositions OL once again. The penalty on T-Mon was an injustice. I'm not concerned with the play of Sammy Swagga, but it was clearly the worst that we've ever seen him play in a Packers uniform. Nintendo Nick all over the place as he roams the secondary is always fun to witness. Really wish Morgan Burnett would have picked off the deep ball, but it was good to see him cover significant ground and make a play on the ball. Pat Lee & J-Bush continue to disappoint. With Levine & Underwood injured, M.D. Jennings has made the most of the opportunity. I was thinking it would be Bratton who would elevate. I was wrong. At this stage, Bratton might not make it through the first round of cuts. I have liked what Bratton has done, but he has yet to make a splash. He seems to understand positioning and angles. He understands where he is supposed to be on the field, but he hasn't been a playmaker. Instead, that's been Jennings. Jennings have been more physical than his size would suggest. He's been aggressive to the ball. He's making a run at having a place on this team - either on the roster or as a practice squad player. Underwood is back at practice, so it'll be interesting to see how many reps Jennings & Bratton get this week. Brandian Ross with a game saving interception in the end zone! How can you not be cheering for this guy? We've seen him twice. He's grabbed two picks. Sure, he got burnt a couple of plays prior to the interception, but it was a treat to see him in position to rebound. With regards to J-Bush & P-Lee, as I've said before, we've seen there best and in general, it hasn't been good enough. Again, thanks to both of you for your roles in XLV, but I'd be shopping J-Bush in hopes that I could get either an ILB/DL or a 7th rounder for him. P-Lee has no trade value. Josh Gordy continues to make the most of his opportunity. He's not going to go away without a fight. It's doubtful that he makes the team, but you have to appreciate his heart.

This week - the Packers travel to Indianapolis, the site of the 2011 Super Bowl. You can be sure that this is a part of McCarthy's pre-game speech. The White House trip is behind us. Yes, we still own XLV. We will forever. But, now, the sole focus is returning to Indianapolis for XLVI. Without Peyton Manning, don't expect the Colts to be much competition. Adam Schefter recently tweeted this: "Since 2005, the Colts have lost more preseason games than regular-season games (4-24 in preseason, 75-21 in regular season)." Soon, the Colts will be 4-25 since 2005.

Through 2 preseason games, the Packers have looked less than average. It's not cause for concern as the third preseason games, but it's time to show our might. The starting line-up is essentially set. No more rotating along the offensive line. Let's pummel the Colts. So far, Rodgers has been unable to generate points while conducting the offense out of the huddle. Against Indy, that will change. With the offensive starters playing throughout the 1st half, the Packers find both yards and points in abundance. So far, the defense has been far from stout. We've bit on play action. Beanie Wells ran with a mission. On occasion, Wells ran through defenders. Against Indy, that will also change. I've been envisioning a blowout for two weeks, but this week, it happens!

Rodgers finds his rhythm early. He stays in rhythm.

The connection between Rodgers and J-Mike is undeniable. They see the field together. Against Indy, in the first half, J-Mike grabs 5 balls and a TD. Rummaging through the middle of the field. Indy cannot cover him.

Again, Rodgers finds Jennings in the end zone.

Through two preseason games, the Packers have yet to notch a sack by a LB. Desmond Bishop changes that on an inside blitz. The starters have yet to force a turnover. That also changes as Burnett grabs a pick.

Flynn gets involved in the action as he gets the 3rd Quarter. Flynn finds Chastin West for good yardage. He connects with DJ Williams down the seam for a 1st down. He finds Alex Green on a screen. Finally, Green punches it into the end zone for 6 points.

For the 3rd week in a row, DJ Smith is the most aggressive player on the 2nd unit. His endless motor allows him to get sideline to sideline.

Davon House - the Rastaman - gets on the field for the 1st time. He plays with conviction. Plays the run. Finds the football in the air. Shows why it's likely that he'll be the Dime CB.

Brandian Ross continues his pursuit of a roster spot with another big play in the secondary. BOOM!

Graham Harrell comes in and solidifies a roster spot. Once again, he's looking toward Kerry Taylor. He finds Taylor.

Dmitri Nance is playing for a spot on another team's roster. Could he be dealt prior to the 53-man deadline?

Getting an extended look - both Lattimore and So'oto continue to play with a vengeance.

Sherrod plays extensively in the 2nd half. Playing strictly LT, Sherrod plays much better than he did in prior weeks.

The Marshall Newhouse at RT experiment continues - by default - and he continues to improve at his new position. Granted, he's still the back-up LT, but as mentioned previously, his versatility is vital to him being active on the Game Day roster.

Green Bay 30. Indianapolis 6.

We're playing like Champions in the building, which will determine the XLVI winner.

Go Pack Go.

Talkin' S-Mac.!/buzzboy3

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Take -> Preseason Week 2

Greetings, G-Force.

With the exception of Family Night, for the first time since winning the XLV crown, the Green Bay Packers will play in front of the Lambeau faithful. Expect the crowd to be incredibly rowdy. Expect the Packers to play with a sense of urgency. Expect the Packers to walk away with their first win of the preseason.

A fan can only take away so much from the first preseason game. It only carries so much weight, but nonetheless, it was great to see the defending champions take the field once again. It was refreshing. Officially, football is back. Here are some thoughts that I took with me after Saturday's preseason opener in Cleveland:

* I enjoyed the no-huddle offense. For those that have followed the blog for a bit, you know that I'm a staunch McCarthy supporter. I'm not sure why he went to the no-huddle, but I liked it. Was it possibly to give the Saints something to chew on in preparation for the Regular Season opener? Or was it to ignite a fire under this team? Let's be honest - back-ups or not - the first possession for the offense and the defense did not go the way any of us wanted it to. In my mind, the no-huddle was quite possibly McCarthy's way of installing a sense of urgency in the team. Clearly, the results were scintillating. The intensity picked up. Rodgers responded with brilliance - pure precision. Regardless of the reason, props to McCarthy.

* Quick RB thoughts: Starks played the way he left off last year. Quick to the corner. Powerful. Interesting to see him only running out of single back formations. Meanwhile, Grant was clearly getting used to contact once again. Additionally, Grant was mainly seen running out of 2-back sets. Dmitri Nance didn't leave a lasting impression. I thought Brandon Saine did some nice things. He looked like a solid practice squad player. I'm interested in seeing more of him this week. He caught the ball well. He was shifty at the line of scrimmage and seemed to have a grasp for finding the hole.

* At WR: Great to see Jennings snatch the ball out of the air and find pay-dirt! How epic was it to watch Randall Cobb? He was sensational. Not only did he grab 3 balls, but he also drew 2 penalties as defenders couldn't keep up with his quickness as he came out of his breaks. Also, in the 2nd Quarter, on 3rd & 6 from the 13, Cobb was WIDE OPEN over the middle. Prior to the play, I thought he should have been the hot read. Flynn looked to the outside and threw incomplete to Chastin West. Had he looked towards Cobb, it would have been 6 points. Speaking of Chastin West, he left plenty to be desired. So did Gurley. Granted, I haven't seen much. Truly, a small sample size. But, from what I watched, both were practice squad material. Kerry Taylor had a couple of nice grabs and should be in competition for a practice squad role.

* To no one's surprise, TE is clearly a position of strength. Pleased to see AQ81 grabbing a couple of Rodgers passes. Crabtree had a solid game as a blocker. Ryan Taylor was dynamite. Fighting for each inch after the catch. Not to get ahead of myself, but wearing #82, he reminded me of Paul Coffman! DJ Williams looked athletic snatching the ball out of the air. On the sack-fumble-TD play, clearly, either he or TJ Lang missed the blitz pick-up.

* McCarthy's desire to have versatility on the OL was ever present. In part, this is why we saw the consistent shifting of Sherrod & Lang from LG to LT. It's also partially why we saw Newhouse playing RT. In the past, as the Packers have declared inactives on Game Day, they often are left with only 7 active OL. Thus, it was a chance for each to display the versatility that they offer. I'm high on Newhouse, but man, he was awful at RT. Sherrod and Lang were both average. At times, Lang did a decent job of getting to the 2nd line of defense. On Starks' 9-yard run, Lang whiffed. Had he made the block, it's anyone's guess as to how long Starks could have run. Ray Dominguez also struggled at RT.

* On the DL, it was nice to see Mike Neal make a play at the line of scrimmage. Raji was also disruptive on 2nd and short when Morgan Burnett stepped up to finish the play. Howard Green goes Johnny Jolly and swats a pass to the floor! CJ Wilson with a nice move to get into the backfield, but he wasn't able to finish the play as B-Jack shed his tackle. Lawrence Guy showed enough effort to keep me enthused.

* At OLB, there were deficiencies as Zombo bit on a play fake and lost containment. Walden got beat down the seam. Brad Jones was non-existent. Ricky Elmore looked like he couldn't play. He might be kept as a practice squad player, but in my mind, he was the worst of the OLB we saw on Saturday night. I was pleasantly surprised with Vic So'oto. I haven't read nor heard much about him at camp. I thought he played well. Gave strong effort. He looked like a solid candidate to make the team, especially if the Packers begin to experiment with Brad Jones at ILB. Lattimore looks to light to make an impact.

* The least amount of depth on the roster is at ILB. Bishop and Hawk must stay healthy. DJ Smith showed promise. Played with passion. He offers hope and appears to have a future in the league. Francois was a non-factor. Peanut Joseph couldn't shed a block. If the Packers could take a look at Brandon Chillar at OLB last year, there is no reason to not sneak a peak at Brad Jones at ILB. The first time I watched Jones play football was when he played for Colorado at WVU. For the most part, he shadowed Pat White all game. He was able to get sideline to sideline. He applied some pressure up the gut. It's worth a look.

* In the non-breaking news category: Pat Lee can't play in this league. Thanks for playing a role in the Super Bowl, Pat, but, your time as a Packer is over. The same can be said for J-Bush. I'm so anxious to see Davon House. This Rastaman needs to get healthy! I'm jonesin' for some Davon House. I also want to see more of Brandian Ross. Josh Gordy making the most of his opportunity with the sack and an interception was cause for excitement. If the Packers are to keep 5 CB - at this stage - I'd hope they would be Sir Charles, T-Mon, Sammy Swagga, Ras-Davon, and Gordy.

* Safety also appears to be a position of depth. Nintendo Nick is a Pro Bowler. Morgan Burnett played well in limited action. While Peprah was not at his best against the Browns, he can play on my team any day after the way he elevated last year. MD Jennings looked like a natural playing the ball in the air. Levine was solid in run support and on special teams. And don't sleep on Bratton. Kid played really well in the box. He was in on the action with 3 solo tackles. I liked the way Bratton stuck his nose into each play. He's a fighter.

* Interesting stat of the day: On August 14, 2010, the Cleveland Browns beat the Green Bay Packers in a preseason opener, 27-24. On August 13, 2011, the Cleveland Browns beat the Green Bay Packers in a preseason opener, 27-17. We know how 2010 ended. Let's hope the same happens in 2011.

This week - it's the Arizona Cardinals. And, this much we already know, the Cardinals cannot stop Aaron Rodgers. In 2009, Rodgers torched the Cardinals in the preseason, in the Regular Season and in the playoffs. Though the Cardinals added Patrick Peterson in the draft, they'll be without the departed DRC and Adrian Wilson, who is injured. Expect Rodgers to go to work.

Early in the game, Rodgers tries Nelson on a deep ball. And connects. 7-0 Green Bay.

Arizona will be fun to follow with the Kevin Kolb to Larry Fitzgerald combination. It's also a make or break year for Beanie Wells. I also like the prospects of Ryan Williams. I feel his talents translate to a solid NFL career.

Look for the Packers to play their full compliment of starters into the 2nd Quarter. With Sammy Swagga healthy and Sir Charles on the field, we get to see the wicked secondary that has tormented opposing QB's in the past. I'll be shocked if the Cardinals have the success that the Browns had last week - regardless of how vanilla the defense is playing.

With Starks ailing and the Packers being cautious, it's Grant who sees early carries. He shows a burst and gets to the 2nd level. With the Packers in the Red Zone and J-Mike seeing his first live action since returning from injury, Rodgers finds him in the corner of the end zone for a 14-0 lead.

As the starters exit, showing consistent effort, Vic So'oto grabs a sack. Lawrence Guy continues to push the pocket with heavy pursuit and consistent determination. CJ Wilson makes a play in the backfield as Ryan Williams tries to spring a play to the outside. Since the Packers will be playing with a lead, Bratton won't be playing as an 8th man in the box. Instead, we'll see his coverage skills. He drops well. I predicted it last week and I was wrong, but I'm sticking with it, this week, he grabs a pick!

On offense, Flynn finds Cobb over the middle. Running a skinny post out of the slot, Cobb is loose and in the open field. We witness his first TD as a Packer.

We see the first of Alex Green in the Green & Gold. Running with a bounce in his step, he finds his way for a double digit gain. Saine gets in on the action and powers into the end zone from 5 yards out.

This one is a blowout.

Green Bay 31. Arizona 13.

Go Pack Go.

Talkin' S-Mac.!/buzzboy3

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Take -> Preseason Week 1

Greetings, G-Force.
Pardon me while I tap my head with excitement. Repeatedly. Yes, it's pure bliss. The XLV Champs will start their title defense in Preseason battle this Saturday at Cleveland. Of course, the game will be televised live via the NFL Network. The last time the Packers won the Super Bowl, Mike Holmgren was the Head Coach. Fritz Shurmur was the Defensive Coordinator. This Sunday, Holmgren will be in the oppositions colors and Fritz's son, Pat, will be the Head Coach for the Browns. Additionally, Brandon Jackson will be wearing Browns colors for the 1st time since departing from Green Bay via Free Agency. Needless to say, there are plenty of fun story lines as we anticipate the Preseason opener.
As a fan who used to attend practices on an almost daily basis, I live for the Family Night Scrimmage. I was totally bummed to see it get rained out. Thankfully, I tuned in online and was able to catch what I could. Living out of town, the Family Night is my only way to catch the Packers prior to the Preseason opener. I enjoy the thought of Family Night. 50,000 fans coming to support an organization. A brand. An identity. With ecstasy. It's a National Reminder that the Packers remain the most authentic organization in all of American sports.
It's worth noting: last year during the Family Night scrimmage, an undrafted FA - Sammy "Swagga" Shields - picked off a pass and danced down the sidelines for a TD. Dating back to 2001, you may remember Kevin Kaesviharn. Kaesviharn returned a Favre interception for a TD. While Kaesviharn did not make the Packers roster, he did go on to have a solid NFL career. This year - another undrafted FA, Brandian Ross, picked off a pass and returned it for a TD. I'm not saying. I'm just saying. I was stoked about his play when I watched his YouTube video. He is not afraid to jab you at the line. He seeks contact. Maybe Ross has a chance. It'll be fun to follow.
Here are a few random thoughts as we enter Preseason play:

* Erik Walden will be our starting ROLB. The more I watch the final 6 games, the more convinced I become that his style of play best compliments Clay Matthews. When Zombo replaced Walden in the Super Bowl, Zombo was the OLB that was consistently rushing the QB, while Clay occasionally dropped in coverage. Walden is talented in space. He drops well. Zombo is the better pass rusher, but he's occasionally a liability in space.

* Sometimes you watch a guy play for a second and you get that feeling. For me, that feeling came with Anthony Bratton. Call me crazy, but I'm looking for him to make a run at making this squad. At this stage, I have him on my 53-man roster.

* Prediction: Mike Neal gets at least 6 sacks this year.

* I was pulling for Chastin West to make the team last year. I'm doing the same this year. Really like his game. Good frame. Like the way he uses his hands. His versatility is a concern. He hasn't shown special teams skills. Last year, the Packers tried him as a PR and he didn't show enough. I don't recall seeing him as a gunner. Maybe he gets a look during the Preseason this year? Doubtful. But, possible. The Packers are loaded at WR. In fact, my good mate, Vargas, went to practice on Tuesday night. He sent me a message that said, "Gurley. Gurley. Gurley." When we spoke the next day, I said to him, "Well, who do you like better: West or Gurley?" He says that he says both can play. "Different styles of receivers. Gurley can get deep on you. A run after the catch guy. West is more of a possession receiver." As I mentioned after the Packers signed Gurley, we have yet to see Gurley's full talent as he was under-utilized at South Carolina due to the complete arsenal of talent that the Gamecocks have. With Lattimore running the ball and with Jeffery across from Gurley at WR, he shouldn't be worried with being the 3rd option. This might be an area in which we're able to pull off a trade prior to the final cutdown. Or could this mean the end of Donald Driver's career in Green Bay? Driver is due a significant bonus prior to the 2012 season, so I imagine that this might be his last year, but if West and/or Gurley shows worth and Cobb continues to develop, well, as hard as it is to say - the best move for the future of this franchise might be to move on with out our loved one, Double-D. It's also noteworthy that one "source" says Aaron Rodgers commented last December that he believed West had a future in the NFL.

* Roster projection: The Packers keep 5 TE's this year. It's possible to see 4 TE sets this year. Give Rodgers 2 plays. Let him be a decision maker. Great fun!

* I'll be interested to see how the Packers utilize Grant & Starks. While Starks is the best back on the roster, I wonder if one of them will be used in single back formations and the other in two-back formations? Or will they both be used interchangeably? Further, who will be the 3rd down back? Does Starks get this job? Or does it go to Kuhn? Does Alex Green get a crack at the 3rd down job?

Bring on the Preseason. I'm ready to see this team play. Let's Repeat!

The Browns represent a solid opponent for the 1st preseason game. They have solid young talent. They've also brought in some solid veterans in Ben Watson, Scott Fujita and Sheldon Brown. In many ways, Holmgren is building the Browns much like the Packers & Seahawks were created under Holmgren's eye. As of now, the Browns future is in the hands of Colt McCoy's development.

Thus far, it sounds as though the Packers offense has struggled in practice. While this is not abnormal at this stage of training camp, it sounds as though the OL has had trouble. Protecting Aaron Rodgers is priority #1 in this game. And, hopefully, the first string offense will generate points. I expect Rodgers to have 1 Quarter to get in rhythm. It's important for Rodgers and Cobb to get some action together. Timing is vital. This is the time to learn the offensive cadences and to get on the same page. It'll be interesting to see if Finley gets on the field or whether the Packers give him the night off.
The Packers jump out to an early lead. While Grant gets the first carry, it's Starks who pounds away and finds the defensive secondary. Rodgers hits Jennings on a 12-yard puma route. He finds Jordy on a crossing route for a 1st down. He finds Jones for 6 yards on a comeback route. Finally, Starks rumbles into the end zone for a 7-0 Packers lead.

The 1st team defense comes out blazing. It wouldn't surprise me if Woodson gets the night off. Nonetheless, Mike Neal, BJ "The Freezer" Raji and Ryan Pickett control the line of scrimmage. Peyton Hillis pounds away without results. The Browns pick up one first down before Mike Neal gets the Packers off the field by applying pressure and forcing an errant throw from McCoy.

Cobb drops back for the punt return...OH BABY! OH BABY! OH BABY!

Rodgers gets one more drive. On this possession, it's Rodgers to Finley. Grant pushes his way for 5. Again, Rodgers finds Jennings. This time it's on a deep one and the Packers are in the Red Zone. After settling for a FG, the Packers first team offense leaves with a 10-0 lead.

Again, the first team defense, plays with a physical nature. Walden comes on a delayed pressure up the gut and gets to McCoy. The first team unit exits after a dominating 1st Quarter.

And then, the game finds rich excitement as the Packers depth and talent goes on display.

In the 2nd & 3rd Quarters, Alex Greene and Dmitri Nance share the bulk of the load. For the most part, they'll be running left behind Newhouse and either Lang or Sherrod. Newhouse dominates! Flynn comes out and has excellent targets in the form of DJ Williams, Cobb, Swain, West and Gurley.

Defensively, Zombo and Brad Jones are applying pressure. DJ Smith is getting sideline-to-sideline. There is legitimate speed found in the depth of the Packers defense.

Late in the 3rd, we get our first glimpse of Harrell. Rumored to be much improved, he, too, should have solid options in R. Taylor, K.Taylor, Gurley, West and Diondre Borel. We also see the first action from Brandon Saine as a Packer. The offense continues to move the ball.

Defensively, Peanut Joseph makes a name for himself. Playing with a vengeance - he's all around the ball. Bratton gets his hands on a pick. And - after missing time with a concussion - Lawrence Guy gets in on the action.

Packers 23. Browns 13.

What can I say? I'm excited for my first real glimpse of the Defending Champs! Should be a rager.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

2012 Mock Draft - Who Are You Watching Now?

Greetings, G-Force.

Truth, I'm a football nerd. Thus, for me, it's never to early to talk items such as a a Mock Draft and rising stars at the college level. As the collegiate season progresses, I'll continue with the "Who Are You Watching Now?" portion of the blog, however at this point we're 3 weeks away and I'm wishing college football was on the television today. Therefore, with excitement, even though it's 8 month away, the scouting process begins.

This mock draft will work off of the assumption that the Packers will receive 4 compensatory picks due to the losses of Cullen Jenkins, Daryn Colledge, Jason Spitz, Brandon Jackson and Korey Hall. With that, I'll project that the Packers will receive a 4th, a 5th a 6th and a 7th. Really, I have no clue how the picks will be awarded, but it's a good starting point. As always, I don't select OL as I don't follow them closely enough. And, of course, I have the Packers selecting at #32 in each round.

Round 1 - Bruce Irvin, OLB, WVU. Irvin is a dynamite pass rusher. He'd be a sublime addition across from Clay as a 3rd down pass rusher. A secondary option is Don'ta Hightower, ILB, Alabama. Hightower will be among the elite ILB in college football this year and would provide suitable depth to the defensive line.

Round 2 - Devon Still, DL, Penn State. Still is a closer. He has great physical power at the line of scrimmage and knack for making plays late - to seal games. Listed at 6-5, 305 - Still is massive. He'd translate to a quality 3-4 DE. Another to watch has been the highly inconsistent and underachieving Marcus Forston, DL, []_[]. When he shows up, at times, he's unblockable. Consistency is his problem. It'll be fun to watch how he performs in his crucial Senior Year. It'll also be good to watch Trevor Guyton, DE, Cal. Over the last 2 years, a DL from Cal has jumped in the draft - partially due to the fact that Cal plays in a 3-4 defense. This year, it's Guyton's turn. He's a little lighter than you'd like as he is listed at less than 290 lbs, but he has the frame to add a little weight. He had 4.5 sacks last year and he has the quickness and hands to continue to progress. Depending on the growth of Mike Neal & CJ Wilson at DE in the 3-4, this could be the most pressing position for Ted Thompson to address in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Round 3 - Donnie Fletcher, CB, BC. One thing is for sure - Ted Thompson likes CB's who can play the ball. Fletcher is exactly that.

Round 4 - Michael Egnew, Missouri, TE. Depending on what happens with the contract of J-Mike, the Packers might be in the market for a playmaking TE. Egnew is a first class receiver. After 90 receptions last year, my buddy Mike, a Tiger alum, was positive Egnew would head to the pros. Instead, he returned to college. And, even though Blaine Gabbert left for the NFL, Egnew is prime for another big year. It'll also be fun to see what happens to the stock of Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State. Kid can play football. Hard runner. Gifted with the ball in his hands. Surprisingly power. Good ability to escape. But, how much will the legal troubles affect his stock?

Round 4 - Kellen Moore, QB, Boise St. Kellen Moore is a gamer. He wins. With accuracy. With poise. McCarty would like his chops to get his hands on Moore. Jacquies Smith, OLB, Missouri is another player to watch. What I'll be curious to uncover is whether he has the skills that translate to OLB in the 3-4. Clearly, he can rush the QB. He has a knack for the football, but his size is a question mark. Can his skills translate to OLB in the NFL? The 2011 College Season will be a determining factor.

Round 5 - Antonio Allen, S, South Carolina. I am a huge Morgan Burnett fan. I want him to be a Superstar. But, I'm not convinced that he can play in the box. Our defense improved when Charlie Peprah replaced him. Due in part to Peprah's ability to play the run. Antonio Allen can play in the box. He seeks contact. Hasn't shown me that he's overly gifted in coverage, but he burst onto the scene last year and it'll be good to see how he developed throughout a Spring Season as a starter.

Round 5 - Brandon Bolden, RB, Mississippi. Recently, while on a plane ride to Nashville, I sat next to Jim Steele, who covers the SEC for ESPN Radio near Memphis. Naturally, we talked football for the entire 2 hour and 30 minute flight. At length, he talked about Mississippi and how he thought they were going to be tough to beat this year. One name that he brought up multiple times was Brandon Bolden. With that, take note. He had 14 TD's last year and he's likely to explode in the 2011 college season.

Round 6 - TY Hilton, WR, FIU. If this guy had better size, he'd be a complete superstar at the next level. Ever dangerous with the ball in his hands. To my eye, he's every bit the player that Jerel Jernigan was at the college level. Size will be a limitation, but he was great to watch at the college level while I was living in Dade County.

Round 6 - Jerry Franklin, ILB, Arkansas. Franklin can run. He's a tackling machine. He can get sideline to sideline and plays with a speed in the fastest conference in football, the SEC.

Round 7 - Darius Fleming, OLB, ND. Always tough for me to select a Golden Domer, but Fleming has the athleticism to play at the next level and you can't argue with his performance on an underachieving Fighting Irish squad. As an OLB, he had 6 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss while starting every game.

Round 7 - Travis Benjamin, WR, []_[]. Benjamin has swagga. He wears #3. He can return kicks. He's always dangerous with the ball in his hand. Kid can dance in the open field. Another guy I'll be watching is Benjamin's teammate: Aldarius Johnson, WR, []_[]. Johnson has the body of an NFL superstar. In fact, in many ways, in uniform, he looks like Andre Johnson, the former Cane. He hasn't lived up to expectations. It'll be interesting to see how his senior season evolves.

While the 2012 NFL Draft is far away, the collegiate season is fast approaching. Now is the time to pay attention as you'll be better educated when next April rolls around.

Go Pack Go!


Talkin' S-Mac.!/buzzboy3