Monday, August 27, 2012

My Take -> If I Were Ted Thompson

Greetings, G-Force.

Sitting down to write about the Packers is a precious time in my week. Without fail, my lil' dog Ziggy jumps on my lap. Yeah, he's my kid and he loves talking Packers football. I grab a tasty treat; today, it's Double Stout from Green Flash Brewery. It's 12 ounces and 8.8% of absolute goodness. I put on my favorite music at the time; today it happens to be Papa Wemba, a Congolese musician who offers a solid mix between inspiring and soul settling musical tones. Hopefully, these vibes will allow me to channel my inner Ted Thompson. With that, I present to you what I'd do if I were Ted Thompson. No, this is not a prediction. I'll leave that to the journalists. This is simply how I'd act if I were the GM of the 13-time World Champions.

QB: (3) Aaron Rodgers is the MVP and the starting QB. I wholeheartedly wish that we could make a move at back-up QB. Graham Harrell is not the answer. While it's been well documented that James Jones has not been desired in trade attempts, I'd have to imagine that Joe Philbin and the Miami Dolphins might be interested in a straight-up swap of Jones for Matt Moore. I'd be all over it. If Moore isn't obtainable, what's happening with Colt McCoy and Matt Hasselbeck? Both are going to be back-ups. Is either available? Also, I know it's not happening, but say what you want about Vince Young - no matter your take, he's better than Graham Harrell. With that said, if i don't have a trading partner, I have to keep Harrell. Also, I'm in the minority in my beliefs, but I'd keep BJ Coleman. The Packers have tried with great intent to hide Coleman from scouts. It doesn't matter. I wouldn't expose Coleman. And, if Coleman gets his chance this weekend, he will impress. Sure, he'll be inaccurate on some throws, but he'll also show glimpses that he's a legitimate developmental prospect.

RB: (5) Cedric Benson looked better in Green & Gold than anyone we've seen at RB since Ryan Grant went wild in the '07 Divisional Playoff game against Seattle. Preseason or not, Benson looked fluid, well rested and full of burst. James Starks is a must keep. Yes, he has injury problems. But, we don't need him for 16 games. We need him healthy in December, January and February. And the memories of 2010 are still too fresh. Alex Green will get his chance to make an impact this year. Brandon Saine showed promise as a 3rd down back last year. It's been frustrating that he hasn't been healthy. Kuhn is the lone FB on the roster. With the way McCarthy shifts his TE's, there is no reason to keep more than one FB.

WR: (5) Jennings, Driver, Cobb and Nelson are obvious. They're sticking around. By the way, it was great to see Jennings "Be Great" and bust ankles in the open field. Good stuff. As mentioned earlier, I'd be targeting a trade that involved Jones. Assuming it doesn't happen, he, too, is kept. Here's where the problem comes. Coming into the preseason, all the rage followed Gurley & Borel. Well, we're 3 preseason games in and neither has done anything to stand out. In fact, I can't imagine a scenario in which Borel sticks around. Further, I can't be convinced that Jarrett Boykin has not been one of the best 53 players in the preseason games. He's displayed legitimate gifts. Purely as a WR, I'd rather have Boykin than Gurley and Borel. However, Gurley has shown skills in punt coverage. And, last year, we read about Gurley's punt blocking skills. Still, there is only so much room on the roster. And, with that, the hardest cut on the roster is Jarrett Boykin. It'll surprise if he makes it to the practice squad. Borel & Gurley also have practice squad eligibility. Doubt either makes it that far.

TE: (4) J-Mike, DJ Williams, Crabtree and Ryan Taylor are all going to be on the team. McCarthy values TE's. I was hoping Finley was ready for a Pro Bowl season, but his injuries have been frustrating. DJ Williams has shown that he's enhanced his skills in the route running department. Really liked him running the slant against Cleveland. Crabtree has not had consistent hands, but he's the best of the TE's with respect to blocking. Ryan Taylor's development from year 1 to year 2 has been disappointing thus far. Still, he has special teams talents and he sticks around. Though, I will admit that it was awfully tough to send Boykin to the practice squad instead of releasing Taylor. Quarless is on the PUP list.

OL: (8) This is the biggest challenge. Newhouse, Lang, Saturday, Sitton and Bulaga make up a nice OL. Reggie Wells has grit and experience. He also has guard and tackle versatility. Dietrich-Smith was reliable as a back-up last year. He sticks around. Sherrod has not been healthy and I wondered if he was destined for the PUP list, but the Packers clearly think he'll be back sooner than that since he was not placed on the PUP list today. Since he's not on the PUP list, he's obviously a lock to be on the active roster. Datko wasn't as good as we had hoped he'd be this preseason and therefore, he goes to the practice squad.

DL: (6) BJ Raji, Jerel Worthy, Ryan Pickett, CJ Wilson, and Mike Daniels are locks to be rotating on the defensive front. The last spot goes to either Merling or Muir. I really wanted Merling to grab it. He didn't do so. The job goes to Muir who has played with great energy and heart. Muir might only last 4 weeks with Mike Neal coming back after then.

LB: (9) Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, DJ Smith, and AJ Hawk are the starters. Man, does that Bishop injury hurt. Totally sucks. I've been really impressed with Robert Francois. Loved his two tackles on special teams against the Browns. He, too, is battling an injury, but he's a keeper. So is Jamari Lattimore. Epic pick-6 by Lattimore! Moses hasn't impressed me like he has others, but he did look like he was more aware against the Bengals. Still, he's slow off the snap of the ball. And, that is concerning. Regardless, Moses gets a spot. We have not heard the last of Erik Walden. He will make some plays for the Packers in 2012. I had high hopes for Terrell Manning. He's been timid. Almost afraid of making a mistake. Still, Manning makes the team as the 9th LB. So'oto is a solid practice squad candidate. We've seen the end of Brad Jones in Green Bay.

DB: (10) Woodson, T-Mon, Burnett, Shields, Bush, Hayward, Shields, House, McMillan and MD Jennings make the squad. Jennings has not been as impressive as I hoped and I considered keeping Richardson over him, but I believe that Richardson can sneak his way onto the practice squad.

Specialists: (3) Crosby, Masthay and Goode. All are in the upper tier of their positions.

Practice Squad: (8) I'm assuming Borel and Gurley don't make it this far. Though I would be shocked if Boykin did as well. Still, I have to have some fun with this! So I'm keeping: Boykin, So'oto, Richardson, Datko, Ross, Guy, Barclay, Tyler.

A couple of quick notes:

* Rodgers looks like he's having fun out there. I like it.
* Benson. Yes, Cedric Benson! Tell me that you were as stoked as I was!!!
* Greg Jennings. Be Great, Greg. Be Great.
* Randall Cobb. Love watching him run the slant. Only a matter of time before McCarthy gets creative with him. Likely in Week 1.
* DJ Williams. Like his route running this year. Looks to have grown in that area.
* TJ Lang. Don't feel like he's been finishing blocks well.
* BJ Raji. Man, it feels like he's been pushed backwards more this preseason than I ever remember before. With that said, love the combination of Worthy, Raji, Matthews, and Perry on 3rd Downs. They'll get to the QB. Often.
* Nick Perry. He has a phenomenal bull rush. Get to work, Kevin Greene. When this guy develops a spin move to compliment the bull rush, he'll be wicked.
* Clay Matthews. Great to see his energy last week.
* DJ Smith. The most sure tackling player on the team.
* Casey Hayward. Catch the ball, mate.
* Sammy Swagga Shields. Keep it up, playa!
* Lattimore and Francois offer good versatility.
* If one thing is certain, I'm not exposing BJ Coleman to the prospect of FA. He's not a practice squad guy, he needs to be kept. Painful for the numbers, but it's a requirement. QB's with that arm are tough to find.

With the '12 College Football Season beginning this Thursday, I had to kick it off with a Mock NFL Draft for April '13. After all, this is the "If I Were Ted Thompson" Edition. I'm giving the Packers a bonus 4th for Scott Wells and a compensatory pick in the 6th for Matt Flynn. Total bummer that Wilson beat out Flynn. Hurts our draft stock. Due to time constraints, I've solely used the CBS Draft Scout Tracker to give rough estimates as to where players will be picked.

Round 1: With the 32nd pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M. Yes, he's Clay's cousin. So, that part of it is fun. But, really, the reason for the pick is that the Packers OL needs more depth. Newhouse has been good, but he's not a superstar. Matthews has that ability. Further, Sherrod has yet to prove he's worthy of protecting the NFL's MVP. Last year, you might recall that my good mate, Stack, suggested the Packers draft Kawaan Short, DL, Purdue. Today, he's my runner up for the 1st Round. I also considered Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford.

Round 2: If I didn't like BJ Coleman so much, this pick would be Geno Smith, QB, WVU. Instead, I'm going with Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas. Hate to say it, but Sir Charles Woodson is getting older. Vaccaro can play in the box. He can cover. He mixes it up in run defense. Vaccaro edges out Robert Lester, S, Alabama; Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas; Sylvester Williams, DL, UNC; and Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama.

Round 3: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington. Looks like this is early for him. Doesn't matter. I'm high on his game. Gets his head turned. Not afraid to be physical, even though he's only listed at 185 lbs. I like his game. Excited to see more of him this year.

Round 4a: Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma. First of all, he's the son of Ken Stills! Yes, THE Ken Stills! So, he has NFL genes. Further, I love his bounce. He's got game. He loves to compete. He has a thrill for the lights. He'd be great in our system.

Round 4b: Cierre Wood, RB, Notre Dame. Wood has the play making skills, the elusiveness and the size to be an every down back in the NFL. I love his football instincts. He makes defenders miss in the open field and he has a nose for the 1st down marker. At this stage, I rank him higher than Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford.

Round 5: Jon Bostic, ILB, Florida. Love how Bostic gets sideline-to-sideline. Sure tackler. Has the size, speed and athleticism to make it at the next level. Florida has legitimate NFL prospects (Sharrif Floyd & Dominique Easley) on the DL in front of Bostic, so he should be put in position to make plays in the SEC this year.

Round 6a: Anthony Rashad White, DL, Michigan State. I really hope he can play as he did at the end of last year. I also hope he measures at 6-2, 330. If so, this guy has beastly skills, if he's motivated. He was unrecognized due to the dynamite play of Worthy and Gholston, but don't sleep on Rashad White! Guy can play. He was huge in the bowl game against Georgia last year and it wouldn't surprise me if he gets off to a great start at the beginning of the '12 campaign.

Round 6b: Ray Ray Armstrong, S, Faulkner College. The former product from the []_[] is a legitimate prospect. Loaded with skills. Yet, it seems he was in constant trouble since enrolling at the University of Miami. Still, I love Ray Ray's game. At one stage, the []_[] thought he might be the next Sean Taylor. They even gave Ray Ray the #26. It wasn't meant to be. And, Armstrong was kicked off the team this year.

Round 7: James Vandenberg, QB, Iowa. Vandenberg is a decent decision maker and a good late round prospect. The Packers have had good fortune with Iowa prospects in the past.

One last thing, if I'm Ted Thompson, I'm doing everything I can to sell Jennings, Rodgers, and Matthews on signing a reduced rate contract with the Packers.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Take -> Preseason Week 2

Greetings, G-Force.

Sure, it's always nice to see your team pull out a victory. Even if it's the 1st preseason game of the year. But, unfortunately, we'll have to wait a week to put on our victory smiles. With that said, here's some quick vibes that I have taken away from the last week of Packers football:

* Have to start with Ted Thompson. We're seeing a different Ted Thompson than we've ever seen before. And, I like it. Like he's normally done, he's put together key components of this team in a masterful way. We have an abundance of young talent. We have great depth at a number of positions. But, over the last two weeks, we've seen Ted Thompson get aggressive. It tells me that he's all in. He wants another Super Bowl Title. This year.

Injuries have decimated the roster. Especially at Tackle and RB. While it's nice to see Newhouse make his way back, Sherrod has yet to make an appearance. That's scary. But, in a fashion that is absolutely unlike anything Ted Thompson has done previously, he went out and signed Reggie Wells and his 9 years of NFL experience. It's worth mentioning that Wells has experienced what it takes to make it to the Super Bowl. In '08, he started 16 games for the Arizona Cardinals team that made it to the Super Bowl. Further, the Packers are down to 3 healthy RB's. Thompson responded by bringing in Cedric Benson. I'll get to Benson in a bit, but man, I was shocked to see Thompson go out and grab players in aggressive fashion. Some may point to when Thompson brought back players like Ahman Green and Mark Tauscher in 2009. But, this is a completely different situation. Green and Tauscher were familiar with the organization. The were well-respected in the locker room. Wells and Benson are foreign. This tells me that Thompson and McCarthy have absolute confidence in the camaraderie of this team. It's also interesting that Thomspon skipped over Ryan Grant in favor of Cedric Benson.

In familiar Thompson fashion, it was brilliant to see him sign TJ Lang to a 4-year extension. It's great to have Sitton and Lang locked up for the prime of their careers.

* The Desmond Bishop loss is devastating. There was one player in the NFL last year with 115 tackles and 5 sacks. His name: Desmond Bishop. Now, he might be lost for the season. Devastating. It's painful to think about.

* There will be some that wonder whether Benson has any legs left to him. I am not one of those guys. For three years in a row, Benson has eclipsed 1,000 yards. This year - he won't be asked to pound out that yardage. He won't need to carry the ball 250-275 times. He'll be in the rotation. He'll be asked to pound out tough yards. He'll need to keep the clock ticking after the Packers build leads in the 2nd half. My only concern is whether or not he'll hold onto the football. The Packers have become among the league's elite due to their ability to protect the football. Over the last 2 years, Benson has put the ball on the ground 12 times. That's scary. If Benson holds onto the football, he's going to be a huge addition to this roster.

* It was terrific to see Nick Perry get to the QB! That penalty was rubbish! HORRIBLE CALL! Really liked his effort on the next play when he drove Randy McMichael to the ground. When he's lined up against the TE and he's not asked to drop out in coverage, I'd like to see him not hesitate. Rather, I'd like to see him either attack the QB or I'd like to see him knock the TE off of his route. I've been asked whether Nick Perry will be nicknamed Super Nintendo Nick. Well, let's see how he progresses. He's got to earn that one.

* I didn't like seeing Aaron Rodgers on the field with Herb Taylor as the starting LT. I hope we never see that again.

* Loved how aggressive McCarthy was in his play calling with Graham Harrell. He didn't hold anything back. Wanted to see how he'd perform in a "real-life" situation. Harrell didn't impress me. I liked the drive right before the half, but I thought that Harrell missed a number of throws that he should have made. In his defense, he wasn't given many favors from his OL nor his receivers. I'm curious to see him play against Cleveland this Thursday.

* We didn't see much of BJ Coleman. But, when he was on the field, we saw what I figured we'd see. He stands tall in the pocket. He has a rocket. He's fairly quick to make decisions. He is hungry to look downfield.

* At RB, there were heavy issues.
1.) James Starks was a buzzkill. Straight up. Beyond the dropped pass and the fumble, one thing that caught my eye was how he reacted to contact. In '10, what I loved about Starks was that when he found contact, he fell forward. Last week, we Starks met a defender, he went backwards.
2.) We didn't see enough of Alex Green to make a judgment.
3.) Brandon Saine and John Kuhn need to get healthy.
4.) It was nice to see Marc Tyler run. He played like I expected. He runs hard. Looks for contact. Not going to run away from anyone, but he's going to hit the hole with a vengeance and more often than not, he's going to get positive yards.

* At WR, a couple of things stood out to me:
1.) Randall Cobb will be a focal point of the offense. Loved seeing the ball in his hands in the middle of the field. He's in for a big season. It's been widely reported that he's taken an occasional hand-off in training camp. I fancy that Mike McCarthy has watched the way the 'queens have used Percy Harvin and it's very possible that Cobb will be used in a similar fashion. He's a weapon and I'm looking forward to seeing him touch the football in a variety of ways.
2.) I really liked Jarrett Boykin. He instantly caught my eye. Looked the part. I want to see more of him.
3.) Sure, there was a penalty on the play, but regardless, James Jones has to catch the ball. 'Nuff said.
4.) Dale Moss looks like he's a prime candidate for the practice squad.
5.) Shaky Smithson should be the next player cut.
6.) If Borel and Gurley continue to have injury issues, it's possible that one of them may end up being tucked away on the IR for the season. Borel looked like he could continue to use some seasoning. I'm hoping to see Gurley running routes this week.
7.) Curenski Gilleylen is what he is: a training camp body.

* At TE, it was nice to see Crabtree grab the 3rd down pass to keep the chains moving. Wished I would have seen more of DJ Williams. I'd like to see Williams dominate these preseason games. This unit needs a healthy J-Mike.

* On the OL, there are both health and depth concerns:
1.) Herb Taylor is not a LT in the NFL.
2.) Marshall Newhouse is a key to the Packers success.
3.) Derek Sherrod & Ray Dominguez must get healthy.
4.) I'm excited to see Reggie Wells this week.
5.) Andrew Datko wasn't as bad as he's been made out to be in the media throughout the preseason.
6.) It's worth repeating: STOKED to have Lang & Sitton locked up.

* The Packers DL is going to be much improved from last year.
1.) I'm ecstatic to see a well-rested BJ Raji.
2.) It's a total treat to see Jerel Worthy jab OL like they are punching bags.
3.) Make note: Both Philip Merling and Mike Neal made tackles for loss!
4.) Anthony Hargrove got his hands on a ball and knocked it down.
5.) I even liked the play of Lawrence Guy. Played with good speed and activity.
6.) Unless injuries come in abundance, I can't see a scenario in which Wynn makes the team.

* Outside of the Bishop injury, there were plenty of positives at the LB position as well.
1.) You can't replace Desmond Bishop. He's a beast. But, man, DJ Smith looks legitimate. He plays on his toes. He's active. He's our best tackler in space. He needs to be on the field. He did get turned around on the TD pass to Gates, but he'll improve in that area.
2.) I thought Erik Walden was terrific. Granted, he was playing against the 2nd stringers, but Walden looked like he wants to see significant playing time this year.
3.) Vic So'oto! Man, he's a preseason stallion! Quick off the ball. He looked like he was thinner.
4.) I was disappointed when Terrell Manning got caught inside and took a bad angle to the ball on the run to the left side of the OL. I have high hopes for Manning. Want to see him perform this year. He hasn't shown that he is up for it yet.

* Once again, the secondary was stalking the football!
1.) Loved seeing T-Mon jump the route! Played like he's ready to return to his XLV form.
2.) Poor Ras-House. Can the guy stay healthy? House looked like he was ready to run away with the starting role. The 3rd & 3 play against Malcolm Floyd - I mean, are you kidding me? We didn't see a CB make that play ALL YEAR in '11. Great hand work. Turned his head. Knocked the ball away. Additionally, other than Sir Charles, who have we seen make that tackle for loss play? He flew into the backfield. He was reckless. And, right when he was offering hope, the shoulder pops. Unreal. We need him back. ASAP.
3.) Anthony Levine was a highlight. Beyond the interception, he led the team with 5 tackles.
4.) Thought there were some positives that came out of Casey Hayward's play as well. He's physical. I was surprised that he didn't swing his head. In the future, it'll happen. It's in his instincts. But, in the future, we can expect to see more of what the Chargers did to Hayward: double moves and deep routes. Hayward can be caught with his eyes in the offensive backfield as he looks to make a big play.
5.) Morgan "Heritage" Burnett showing up a step late. Let's hope this isn't a trend. He's intimidating in stature. He's still so young and learning. I have high hopes for him in '12.
6.) MD Jennings also got turned around by Gates. But, like DJ Smith, I hope this is only part of the learning curve.
7.) I was hoping to see more of Jerron McMillan.

This week, it's the Browns. In some ways, this might be the battle between a couple of Texas QB's: Colt McCoy vs Graham Harrell. McCoy went to Texas. Harrell went to Texas Tech. While Brandon Weeden is expected to play throughout the 1st half, it might be a chance for the Browns to showcase McCoy. It's been rumored that the Packers have interest in him. If Harrell fails to perform this week, it's possible that Thompson and McCarthy will look outside the organization for a back-up QB. Presently, McCoy might be the #3 QB in Cleveland. Might it be a match?

With Marshall Newhouse playing, look for Rodgers to have more time. With additional time, he'll have more success. And more confidence. We'll see Rodgers put points on the board. Rodgers to Nelson for 6 points.

It'll be nice to see Alex Green running with the 1st team. Look for McCarthy to try and get him into space with a designed screen play early in the game.

We could also see a small wrinkle with Cobb in the backfield as McCarthy continues to tinker with the offense.

With safety being of the utmost importance, look for Robert Francois and Jamari Lattimore to see increased playing time. Francois has been getting looks with the starting dime defense. This is an important role in the Packers defense.

Weeden isn't the most mobile of QB's. He's not a sitting target. But, he has limited range. Look for Perry's bull rush to disrupt the Browns offense.

I'm expecting a Casey Hayward interception this week.

I'm excited to see Sir Charles' season debut at safety.

Look for BJ Coleman to see more snaps than he did last week. And, he'll put points on the board. Thought it'd happen last week, but I'm calling it this week. Coleman to Boykin for a TD and a Lambeau Leap to go with it!

Green Bay 27. Cleveland 13.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My Take -> Preseason Week 1

Greetings, G-Force.

Annually, I offer you a reminder. My blog is an opinion. I'm not a journalist. I'm a Green Bay Packers fan. And when I write, it's the norm for me to view the Packers as an optimistic realist.

Before I get into my quick hits from the Family Night, I have to deliver an annual rant. As I flipped through the NFL Hall of Fame ceremony, once again, I wondered when LeRoy Butler will enshrined in Canton. He was a member of the All-Decade team in the 1990's. He was 2 interceptions short of becoming the first player in the history of the NFL with 40 interceptions and 20 sacks. Had he not gotten injured, he would have absolutely become that man. In many ways, he changed the way the safety position was played. He could play center field. He could cover the slot. He was terrific in the box. He could blitz with the best of them. He won a Super Bowl. Played in another. He invented the Lambeau Leap. And, importantly, he set the standard for the #36 in the Green & Gold. After Nintendo Nick's performance in the Green & Gold, the #36 for the Packers is akin to the #44 at Syracuse, the #55 at USC and the #3 at Notre Dame. Book it. The only way you can wear #36 in Green Bay is if you're an ultra-talented safety. Vote Butler into Canton.

With more than 55,000 in attendance, Family Night was a terrific success. My recap is a little light as I watched the replay without volume and with a fuzzy picture. Additionally, you can only take so much from a scrimmage in which the #1 offense plays the #2 defense and when the #2 offense battles the #1 defense. But, I like to assess the way people move. I like to see hip movement, angles, leverage, the jump off the ball and how a player attacks contact. Here are some of my quick vibes:

* Exciting to see Aaron Rodgers whipping the ball around. Loved to see him having some fun on the Field. When he seemed to initiate the pre-planned full-on Jump In The Stands, it was great fun and a kind way to show the fans the appreciation they deserved.

* Liked seeing J-Mike running across the middle. Looks buff. Put together. If he stays healthy, he looks prime for a break-out 80-catch season.

* Double D looking youthful!

* Paid extra attention to Nick Perry. I see a lot of promise. Like his burst off the ball. Seeks contact at the line of scrimmage. Gets the edge. Dips his shoulder well, but also has a solid bull rush. Good speed in pursuit. However, he looked a little awkward when he turned to cover. Somewhat uncertain. On one play, it looked like he was smoked on a down-and-in crossing route. Had BJ Coleman looked his way, it could have been the most talked about play of the Family Night Scrimmage. As fans, it's important to remain patient. Perry has played the position for less than 2 weeks in his life. There will be a learning curve. Mistakes will occur. From the little I saw at Family Night, I'm confident that he can grow into a solid bookend to the Claymaker. It'll take time, but I believe he was the athletic ability to make the transition from a 4-3 DE to a 3-4 OLB.

* Thought Ras-House had good coverage. Wish he would have picked off the pass that hit him in his hands. Would have been a highlight of the evening.

* Be Great Jennings finding pay dirt!

* Liked that Casey Hayward got a look on the outside. Happy to see him step up in run support. Hoping to see more of this during the preseason.

* JEREL WORTHY! Sure, it was against the 2nd team OL. An OL that lacks depth. But, still, it was nice to see his cat-like quickness burst off the snap and make a play 5-yards deep. He looks good in Green & Gold. He's going to make everyone on the DL better, especially BJ Raji. It was interesting to see him standing up on a couple of occasions. Bottom line: in 2012, Jerel Worthy will dramatically improve the Packers defense.

* Watching Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy walk Lambeau Field together is an epic reminder that really good things are happening in Titletown, USA.

* Liked Erik Walden's physicality in the run game. But, it looked like he lacked recognition when he was beat down the seam on a big play to Crabtree.

* Big highlight for me was the interior LB play by Jamari Lattimore and Terrell Manning. Had it been full contact, Rodgers might not have connected with Jennings for the TD. Rather he might have been sandwiched by Lattimore and Manning. Both showed a great burst. Quickness in the first couple of steps. Fun stuff!

* Jarrett Boykin looked to have some shake to him.

* Was disappointed in T-Mon's approach towards tackling. With all of the emphasis that's been placed on the topic this offseason, I'd have thought that T-Mon would take a leadership role in that category.

* Need Tom Crabtree to be sure handed.

* Tried to watch Dezman Moses as much of possible, but it was tough to give an analysis. My potentially inaccurate initial assessment is that he seeks contact when he approaches a blocker. He comes after blockers with a head of steam, but he looked slow in space. I know Brandon Saine is fast, but man, Moses didn't even look like he was running when he was chasing Saine. Further, I worry that Moses when he's in a one-on-one situation with ball carrier, he might get caught on his heels.

* Thought there was an instance in which Saine might have missed a blitz pick-up.

This week - it's off to Qualcomm Stadium. On ESPN. To kick off the Packers preseason. The Chargers will provide a stiff test for the depth of our football team. Their 3rd-5th WR's include Vincent Brown, Roscoe Parrish and Eddie Royal. All have made plays in the NFL. They'll be solid competition for the secondary. It'll be a big test for Ras-House. I view Vincent Brown as a highly underrated WR prospect. If House can man up against the likes of Brown and Royal, it'd be an encouraging performance. Wish Sammy Swagga nicked up and with J-Bush's known weaknesses, this Thursday is a HUGE opportunity for House and Hayward to perform.

There is talk that Aaron Rodgers might not play. I'd like to see him on the field. For one series. Short drops. Quick hits. Throw the slant. Quick passes to the WR. I'd like to see the NFL's reigning MVP in rhythm. I believe he'll play. I believe he'll lead the Packers to a TD drive.

It'll be interesting to see Nick Perry potentially having to cover Antonio Gates and Randy McMichael. Two proven veterans against the young rookie.

In limited reps, look for Worthy to be pushing he way into the backfield. Look for Raji to do the same.

It'll be super exciting to watch the nickel and dime defenses. Francois and Smith played well last year when they were called into action, but Manning and Lattimore will surely get their opportunities to impress.

I envision the Packers picking off 2 passes. One by MD Jennings. One by Casey Hayward.

Marc Tyler gets his chance to run. He'll be a straight ahead runner and if our 2nd-3rd team OL can create holes, he'll hit the hole with conviction. He won't run away from anyone, but he'll run hard.

With the uncertainty of our OL, I expect McCarthy to try and protect Harrell. It wouldn't surprise me if he calls play action and rolls Harrell out of the pocket to try and buy time. Harrell will have solid receiving options in Cobb, Gurley and Borel. If Harrell gets protection, there is no reason for him not to succeed.

BJ Coleman should get the majority of the 2nd half. It'll be a tight game and Coleman will shine. He'll put points on the board. He'll find Moss on a back shoulder pass for 20 yards. He'll find Boykin on a hitch route. He'll also find Gilleylen on a crossing route. Coleman will be put in position to find positive results and he'll perform. On the final drive, it's Coleman to Boykin for the game winner.

Packers 23. Chargers 20.

I'm looking forward to my first real glimpse of this team.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.!/buzzboy3

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Take -> Family Night!

Greetings, G-Force.

It's here. The Green Bay Packers are at Lambeau Field. Welcome to the best time of the year. As Family Night nears, I have to give a phat shout-out to my Godson, Vargasito, who will be making his first trip to the most hallowed theater in all of American sports. Cherish it, Vargasito!

As the Lambeau Faithful prepare to see the Sunrise on the new season,  important to remember that Family Night has provided a platform for players to get recognized. In the case of Sammy Swagga, it was the springboard to his spectacular rookie season. The first time we saw him pick off a pass in the Green & Gold was on Family Night. Later that year, he sealed the "Trump Card" for Packers fans as he picked off Caleb Hanie to give the Packers the Halas Trophy. At Soldier Field. In the Visitors Locker Room. Sorry, but it's fun to reminisce. Last year, Family Night featured Brandian Ross picking off Aaron Rodgers and returning it for a TD. Instantly, Ross had caught the attention of the 13-time World Champions followers. Some may remember Kevin Kaesviharn and his two interceptions off Brett Favre in the '01 Family Night game. After he was released, he signed with the Bengals. He was a solid Safety for the Bengals. Yes, the Family Night provides an opportunity for the welterweights on the roster to perform under the Lambeau Lights. And, on some occasions, the welterweights perform with BELT-like goodness and rise their status to roster worthy levels.

I apologize if I am a bit repetitive in this post from my last writing, but I feel it's importance is worth reiterating. Sure, the defense was awful last year. But, let's face it, the unit couldn't get any worse, with the exception of the turnovers. With that: Feel fine, Packers fans. We're on our way for a big season. And, believe it or not, it's going to come through enhanced youth on our defense. The "juice" that our youthful exuberance will add to the defense cannot be overlooked. Sure, mistakes will come with the inexperience. But, expect the defense to be faster, more aggressive and to have more versatility. I wouldn't be surprised if as many as 7, yes, SEVEN rookies contribute on defense. Perry, Worthy, Hayward, Daniels, McMillan, Moses and Manning. All will have a chance, in one way or another. Here's what to watch for on Family Night with each of them:

Nick Perry: How often does he have his hand in the dirt? I'm sure that -since it is a practice - he will be standing up more often than not as the repetitions he gets dropping in coverage during live action are absolutely priceless. Plus, he's played on big stations before, but he's never played at Lambeau Field. It's possible that the 1st team defense will line up against the 2nd team defense, which will provide an opportunity for Perry to shine. It'll be interesting to see him drop into space.

Jerel Worthy: Watch this man get off the ball. People often talk about his first step and yes, Worthy is quick, but what'll really impress is how quick he is off the snap. He's great at guessing the count. Penalties come with this, but Worthy speed off the snap cannot be coached. It's innate. Either you have it or you don't. Worthy has it in a fashion similar to the way KGB got off the ball. KGB ran around the outside of tackles. Worthy will slide between guards and tackles with cat-like quickness and solid hand work.

Casey Hayward: He's being prepped to play in the slot, but I want to see him on the outside. As I've wrote before, the first time I watched Hayward was last year against South Carolina. I tuned into the game to watch Alshon Jeffery, who was drafted this year by the Bears in the 2nd round. In the game, Jeffery had two catches. So, did Hayward. After that game, I wanted to watch Hayward play weekly. It also didn't hurt that Jordan Rodgers, Aaron's brother became the starter for Vanderbilt. Nonetheless, as I watched Hayward, he was often on an island. On the outside. Against top flight SEC talent. Hayward was a ballhawk.  I want to see if he can play on the outside at the pro level.

Mike Daniels: Hope he can stay healthy. If he's in action, watch his pad level. If he's understands leverage and stays low, his bowling ball figure might roll through many guards this year.

Jerron McMillan: If he's going to make his way into the lineup, like I believe he will, he will have to display terrific range and he's going to have to seek out contact. Aggressiveness will be key. I'm interested to see how he takes angles to the ball and when he's in Centerfield, how does he get sideline to sideline? Does his sprinters speed translate to football speed?

Terrell Manning: No one is talking about him, but he has a GOLDEN opportunity in front of him. We've seen that Bishop and Hawk are not ideally suited for the dime defense. I really like DJ Smith's game, but he doesn't seem to be an ideal dime LB either.  In college, Manning was a turnover creator. Additionally, his agility and size are terrific assets. He's used to playing in space. Plus, he has experience rushing the passer. His versatility is unmatched among our ILB's. When the Packers turn to the 2nd team dime defense, I hope Manning is manning the middle of the defense. Rastaman Vibrations, Terrell. Bring the fire and the positivity to the defense on 3rd down, mate!

Dezman Moses: No one is better at finding the undrafted gems than Ted Thompson. This year, Moses might be that guy. Blessed with pass rushing ability, this physical gem has done nothing but impress. Daily, it seems. Stoked to see what this guy does when the light comes on. Go SmokeStack on 'em, Dez. Blow 'em up, young man!

Other key things to watch:

Alex Green: If he plays, how does he move in space? Can he cut with his typical grace that we saw glimpses of last year? How does he approach contact? He could be an added weapon to the NFL's most lethal offense. And, yes, he, too, is a Rastaman.

James Starks: sure, he runs with reckless abandon. But, how's he approaching life as a blocker? Is he still whiffing on blitz pick-ups? Is he attacking blockers too high? Is he even recognizing where the blitz is coming from?

DJ Smith: Smith might be the biggest benefactor to the minor injury that Bishop sustained. It gave him more reps. 1st team reps. It lined him up right next to AJ Hawk. The two of them have been able to battle it out in order to earn playing time alongside a healthy Desmond Bishop in the starting lineup. With Bishop's return fast approaching, the Family Night is Smith's time to shine. Polish the helmet, DJ. Look good. Feel good. Play good. 

MD Jennings: The Doctor currently owns the role at safety in the nickel and dime packages. It'll be interesting to see if "Doctor Karma" is around the ball again. Thus far, when we've seen him, he's been Johnny On The Spot. He will need to continue to find the football and prove that he's physical enough in the box in order to keep his grip on this enhanced role. Carpe dime, Doctor Karma!

Davon House: Another Rasta! It's time to roll, Ras Davon. It's time to roll, baby! Thus far, it appears that he's been a highlight in Training Camp. He's been physical. He's played the ball well in the air. And, with that, it appears that he has taken over the starting spot opposite T-Mon. I'm really curious to see him cover a vintage double move by either Jordy or Be Great Jennings.

DJ Williams: Once again, DJ Williams has been a star early in camp. I'd love to see him elevate his game, so that he could be the TE opposite J-Mike in double TE sets. But, in order to do so, he'll have to improve as a blocker. Last year, he was a liability as a blocker. And, with the way McCarthy shifts his TE's, Williams will have to improve as a blocker or the Packers will become predictable when he's on the field. He has the natural talent to be a lethal weapon down the middle of the field, but he'll have to answer the same questions that I listed for James Starks earlier.

Ryan Taylor: Last year in Training Camp, Taylor made me reminisce about the great Paul Coffman. Then, we saw very little of him in the regular season. Taylor looks to have the special teams gifts, the blocking skills, the route running and the hands to be a rotational TE in the NFL for a long time. 

OL Depth: My biggest concern on this team is the depth of the OL. If we suffer an injury at OT, who will play the back-up role? Thus far, Datko looks to be a sieve. Sherrod hasn't recovered. It's a major concern. We know that EDS will do an admirable job backing up Lang, Sitton, and Saturday, but who is going to step up to back-up Bulaga and Newhouse? Further, can Newhouse continue to develop into a legitimate starting LT? Another guy to watch is Sampson Genus. Though he's only a Center, can he legitimize himself enough to stick around as more than a practice squad player.

QB play: This isn't about the NFL's MVP. Rather, we've heard a lot about the high hopes the Packers have for Graham Harrell. Will he have the confidence to whip it down the seam? Or will he stick to the underneath stuff? It's possible that he'll be facing the first team defense, so we will get a good look at how he's progressed. On the contrary, watch BJ Coleman. Dude, will be fearless. He will rocket the ball all over the field. He will try to squeeze it into traffic. Hell, in some ways, he might even remind you of a young gunslinger from 20 years ago. He definitely has a cannon. His maturity is potentially worth questioning, and with that, only time will tell.

The boys are back in town, G-Force. And, as my Dad said on ESPN NFL Countdown last year, "It's Party Time! Party On!" 

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.