Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Take -> Preseason Week 3

Greetings, G-Force.

The heart needs to relax. I sip a New Glarus Apple Ale that has been resting for roughly 10 months. It still has a tremendous fruit buzz, but some of the carbonation has settled down. This beer does not need to age. It's great at the time of purchasing, but sometimes it's fun to watch the way a beer evolves over time. I'm surprised that the fruitiness didn't diminish much. I love the New Glarus Brewery.

The heart also needs a fiery spirit. I listen to Michael Franti's "YELL FIRE" album. Franti is my musical guru. He guides me with passion. Over the last 15 years, our lives have seemed to have followed similar paths. I deeply connect with his music.

I went to Pittsburgh to see the Packers Week 2 preseason game. Here are some of my quick vibes:

* Had to love the way that the offense came shooting out of the gates. Quick precision. Rodgers using his tools. Starks and Lacy hitting holes on a mission. In true attack mode. Rodgers surveying the field with a run or pass option. And the MVP was seeing the field as though he was in mid-season form.

* John Kuhn is a lock to make this team. His blocking was exceptional. With the Nelson injury, we'll see more of Kuhn than we thought we'd see out of him in 2015. I expect to see a bunch of two-back sets. Might even see Kuhn catching the ball 15-20 times this year. By comparison, he caught 4 balls last year.

* I LOVE JORDY NELSON. After the Lacy TD, Nelson was the first player on the field to congratulate Lacy. I was certain that there was nothing wrong with him. What a crushing blow. But, more on this later.

* Richard Rodgers! Wrote last week that I thought he'd score 6-8 TD's this year. It might be 8-10. Love the way he sat down and used his wingspan. His diving 6-yard catch to start the final drive of the 2nd half was a thing of beauty. Great hands. Used his body well. Presented a wide target for Tolzien. We haven't seen that type of play out of a TE since Chmura's injury. True safety valve play by Rodgers. And, then, it was really nice to see him get loose for the 21 yard TD at the end of the half. I expect Rodgers to have a big year catching the football. The jury is still out on him as a blocker, but he's developing into a legitimate receiving threat.


* The Kuhn block on the EDDIE TD was absolutely exceptional!

* Aaron Ripkowski can play special teams. Period.

* I like when Starks hits the hole with conviction!

* Alonzo Harris did himself no favors. Two horrible drops. The first one would have been a 41-yard TD. There was no one in front of him. Great play call. Great play design. Couldn't believe Harris dropped that pass.

* Rajion Neal showing decent burst. After the two Harris drops, I moved Neal above Harris on my depth chart.

* Crockett isn't making the 53-man team.

* Scott Tolzien. Solidifying himself - once again - as a legitimate #2 QB. Shows good command of the offense. Throws a decent ball. Stands with confidence.

* Brett Hundley will have days like that during his development. Especially if his OL fails him.

* Donny Barclay. Oh boy. Not his best performance. He's off to a terrible start to the preseason.

* Matt Rotheram showed good strength. Holds his point at the line really well. Needs to improve his footwork and can't transition to a RT at this stage, but it's possible that someday he'll be able to make that move.

* At this stage, Josh Walker is solely a Guard.

* Oh Heavenly Father, please ensure that our OL stays healthy this year. Get well, Sitton, Lang and Bakhtiari.

* Lane Taylor showed the same kind of fight that landed him on the roster the last two years.

* Great to see Randall Cobb operating out of the slot in wizardly fashion.

* Davante Adams looks fit. Slender. Strong. Athletic. Confident.

* Jeff Janis. It's time to RISE UP, young man. Janis looks like Nelson in his uniform. He runs in a similar fashion as well. He's our best option as a deep route runner. But, does the MVP trust him? They clearly aren't in lock-step like Nelson and Rodgers are. And, that won't be developed overnight. But, the Packers need to trust Janis early on. He's has all of the physical ability. It's in the Packers best interest to see what they have in him early and often.

* Rodgers seems to believe in Myles White. White has not done himself many favors over the first 2 preseason game. It'll be interesting to see if Rodgers' confidence in White earns him a roster spot.

* Wanted to see more out of Ty Montgomery. He wasn't open much. Runs decent routes. Gets low in his cuts. Didn't show much separation. Hence, I believe Janis is the best option as the #3 WR on the outside.

* Can Jared Abbrederis get healthy? If so, he's got a great opportunity in front of him.

* I'm impressed with Larry Pinkard. He'll be on someone's practice squad this year. And, it wouldn't shock me if he makes a 53-man roster somewhere. Runs solid routes. Catches with his hands. Has the physique.

* Kennard Backman. At this stage, I have him as the 3rd TE. Moves well. Clearly, he's the most athletic of the TE's competing for the #3 spot. And, he might be the most athletic TE on the roster. Without question, he's a developmental prospect. But, he has the most upside out of anyone that he's competing with for the #3 spot.

* The most concerning thing of the game was how slow the Packers looked off the snap. Outside of Gaston and Pennel, the Packers DL looked really slow off the snap. Seemed tired. Caught in the heat. Sure, it was a preseason game, but still cause for concern when considering that the Packers open at noon in Chicago. A game in which you can bet that the Bears will be looking to pound the ball at the heart of the Packers defense.

* Mike Pennel. Yes, Mike Pennel was the most impressive DL for the Packers. He really held the point of attack. Showed great push in the run game early on. Also, he collapsed the pocket on the Randall interception.

* As I write, Bruce Gaston is on my 53-man roster. He's been persistent. He's been aggressive. He's been a bruiser. 2 QB Hits. 1 Sack. 1 Tackle for Loss. He's been a great competitor.

* Datone Jones looked really good in limited reps. Looks like he's bigger than last year. Carrying more weight. And, he looks determined. Let's hope he's turned a corner.

* Christian Ringo is making the 53-man roster. Shows good effort. Has a decent push. Gets underneath his blocker. Moves his legs with persistency. Collapses the line.

* Jayrone Elliott didn't have the burst off the line of scrimmage that I wanted to see, but he gives effort. He's determined. And, he can turn the corner.

* Liked to see Adrian Hubbard fight for the loose ball on the fumble recovery. But, is he tough enough? I can't figure him out.

* Nate Palmer can't be an every down linebacker. Thought he showed OK at times, but then he was absolutely exposed.

* Carl Bradford. I'm really surprised that he didn't turn into a solid NFL player. It's year 2 and I've already given up. Man, I was high on him before he was drafted.

* Mike Neal. Moved backwards. Lost his fight. He'll show better as he gets into game shape.

* Tavarus Dantzler. Really liked watching him run down the field on special teams. Sought contact. Delivered punishment.

* Mentioned previously that James Vaughters was better suited for ILB in a 3-4 or OLB in a 4-3. Was happy to see that he was moved inside during practice this week.

* Jermauria Rasco. He's shown me enough to warrant a spot on the Practice Squad. Really good length. Shows flashes that make you yearn for more consistency.

* I get the feeling that the Packers organization is really pulling for Joe Thomas to do something special. He brings a physical mentality that this team needs.

* Sam Barrington looks so much more confident. He also looks comfortable. Loving the way he's wrapping up.

* LaDarius Gunter! []_[]! He looked like a total MAN out there. Covering the crossing routes. Jamming WR's at the line. Covering the deep route and getting his head turned to see the ball. He's a lock to make this roster.

* Quinten Rollins. Stay confident, young man. You'll have better days.

* Damarious Randall. Really, really impressive performance from the 1st round pick. Sure, the pick was phenomenal, but I was more excited about the open field tackle on Bell. Looked like a natural.

* HaHa Clinton Dix. Two games in a row that he's had himself in position. He's attacked like he was Brian Dawkins. And then he's whiffed. On multiple occasions.

* Sean Richardson will make the team because he signed a rich contract, but the Packers need more out of him if he's expected to see the field during the Regular Season. He looks slow and unaware.

* Tim Masthay. Disgusting. Mason Crosby. Brilliant!

* Man, Jordy Nelson. Ouch. The injury cannot be overstated. Not only is he the master of the "shot-play", but he's so in sync with the MVP. The back-shoulder play. He's a gamer. He's a big play constant. He's bailed Rodgers out on many 3rd downs. He's a top-5 WR in the NFL. Get healthy, Jordy. We'll miss you. Greatly.

* Look for McCarthy to design more formations to utilize 2 TE's. Look for more 2-back sets. I expect to see Janis get the first crack on the outside. Look for more formations in which Montgomery and/or Cobb are used in the backfield to confuse defensive coordinators. Look for Lacy to have an absolutely monster year.

It's the Week 3 preseason game. Against the Eagles. With all of the injuries on the OL, I wouldn't play Rodgers. I'd sit him. With Tolzien injured, I'd give the game to Hundley. Let him operate. Give him the reps. Let him play the first 3 Quarters. Hand the ball to Blanchard in the 4th Quarter. I'd also rest Bulaga and Linsley. I'd do the same with Cobb, Adams and Lacy. I'd consider doing the same with Starks. Let's keep our OL, Lacy, Cobb, Adams and the MVP at 100% entering into the Regular Season.

Be festive, Lambeau. Treat it as though it's a regular season game. Let's make it a special season. It starts on Saturday night. Kick it off with volume. Look for Hundley to settle in nicely and move the football. He hits Janis on a deep ball. He hits Pinkley on a deep out. He finds the dump down to Backman.

Elliott grabs a sack. YELLOW JAKE shows up like he did in the first preseason game. Rollins gets back on track and grabs a pick. The swagger is abundant at Lambeau!

Packers 20. Eagles 16.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Monday, August 17, 2015

My Take -> Preseason Week 2

Greetings, G-Force.

I sit with excitement. A bold smile. The SOJA "Amid the Noise & Haste" vinyl spins softly in the background. Modern Reggae music that sets the head boppin' tempo to the night. A 2013 Russian River Consecration slowly opens in a snifter glass. After more than 2 years of age, this beer has lost a lot of its carbonation. It sips at a pleasantly powerful 10% punch. It's sour. It's sweet. It's a great sipper as the mind rejoices on a joyful exhibition opener.

I'm a Packers blogger. A Packers fan. A Packers loyalist. I have not researched this as I'm not a Packers historian nor a Packers journalist. I write with an attempt to offer a different perspective than what a reader would normally receive. With that, I ask: When's the last time you can recall the Packers looking so efficient throughout the duration of a 4 Quarter game in the exhibition opener? Also, when's the last time that the Packers rookies looked so dynamic in the exhibition opener? Personally, I can't recall a time. Ever. Thus, I'm walking with a genuine, newly found enthusiasm for the 2015 NFL Season. Trust me, I get it. It was only a preseason game. Week 1, at that. But, the signs were encouraging.

Here were the quick vibes that hit me:

* Mike McCarthy wants a fast start. He wants to play with tempo to start the season. He's challenging his team and his staff to play with pace. To play with aggression. I was stunned that the NFL's MVP saw an entire Quarter of play. But, McCarthy wants this team in rhythm.

* Sure, it was only a preseason game, but it was nice to see that Tom Clements appeared to be keeping the majority of the formations and offensive concepts in the same fashion as we've seen in past years. Loved the 4th & 1 shot from Tolzien to Janis!

* Rodgers to Adams on the 10 yard slant. Rodgers to Nelson on the back shoulder. Rodgers to Cobb on the short slant. The MVP looks like he's ready.

* EDDIE! Loved seeing him step out of tackles. It's a joy to watch him run. Wish he'd have muscled thru Collins' tackle near the end zone as I thought he'd fight into the end zone, but Collins is a baller.

* JAYRONE ELLIOTT!!! I've said it before. I'll say it again. The Packers need Elliott to have a monster campaign in 2015. He showed KGB-like quickness off the snap. He found the edge and turned the corner with excellence. A very, very encouraging first preseason game from Elliott. I loved how he used his length coming around the edge to swipe at the football. I loved how he used his length to get his arms up when he couldn't get to the QB. I loved how he extended his arms in the run game to hold the point of attack. Big time performance from Jayrone!

* Linsley, Sitton and Lang looked great. Bulaga as well. Bakhtiari will have better games.

* AQ81! was my goat of the game. Dropped ball. Poor blocking. Runs the route a 1/2 yard short of the sticks on 3rd down. These are the basics, AQ81!. Get 'em down. We're a team on a mission. And, want you as a part of it.

* Wish Adams would've caught the ball in the corner of the end zone. Nonetheless, he looks like he's running with confidence. He looked fluid. He looks like he's ready to be a major target in the offense this year.

* James Starks. I'm forever grateful, man. But, dude. New year. Same bounce to the outside that nets nothing. James, plant your foot. Go. Lower the shoulder. Take what you can get. Understand down and distance. I don't get why you try to spring things to the outside so quickly when there's nothing there. Frustrating.

* It was comical to see John Kuhn on the FB Dive.

* Donny Barclay will have better days. I'm not worried.

* Thought Matt Rotheram and Josh Walker both had really solid games. If they continue to play with that toughness, they'll be tough cuts. They're making life difficult for Lane Taylor.

* Thought Tretter did a decent job getting a push and directing traffic.

* Great game, Scott Tolzien. It's a crucial preseason for Tolzien's career. He wasn't perfect, but he was confident. He was in command. He showed mobility. He showed field awareness. When given time, I thought he played really well.

* Brett Hundley. Wow. Couldn't ask for a better first performance. His only two incompletions were perfect balls in which Montgomery didn't get his feet inbounds. Hundley was athletic. He was mobile. He's gifted. He needs to get stronger, but an impressive performance from the youngster. Hundley's reaction after his TD was absolutely wonderful. Sheer joy. I'm animated to see more of him in the preseason!

* Was expecting to see Richard Rodgers as a Red Zone target. I'm looking for him to score 6-8 TD's this year.

* ALONZO HARRIS! Looked like Starks during the XLV year. Pushing forward. Seeking contact. Fighting forward. Taking what he could get. Good to see him catch the ball as well. He runs a little too upright for my preference, but he's looking to deliver punishment. Exciting debut!

* Rajion Neal. Nice to see him fully recovered from the injury. Showed a slash to him.

* John Crockett. Fun to see him get in the end zone. Thought Crockett left a lot of yards on the field. He lacks the speed to get the edge. He ran with nerves. He didn't trust his initial judgment. He's a one-cut back, but he spent too much time dancing in NE.

* Aaron Ripkowski looks as though he might be able to make an immediate impact on special teams.

* Prior to the concussion, Justin Perillo looked to be a dependable target.

* Need to see more of Mitchell Henry, Kennard Backman and Harold Spears. Not able to give much of an assessment.

* JEFF JANIS! Sure, the TD was EPIC. The speed off the line of scrimmage, you just cannot teach that. But, how about the grab on the crossing route when the ball was thrown behind him? That was special. I didn't know that was in his arsenal.

* Myles White had his chance. Two bad drops from White. Janis has to be far ahead of White on the depth chart and White didn't do himself any favors with respect to forcing the Packers to keep a 6th WR.

* Larry Pinkard. Kid looks the part in the uniform. Has some shake to him. Appears to be a prime target for the practice squad.

* Ty Montgomery showing an elusive step to him. He's confident. He looked tough running through the middle of the field. A fearless approach as he pursued extra yardage. He's a natural with the ball in his hands.

* Fabbians Ebbele held his own. He's a big dude. Used his frame well. Worth a look. He's squarely in position to make a run at the practice squad. And, with the injuries at OT, he'll get a heavy look this week.

* Datone Jones played way more snaps than I anticipated he would. He looks like he's put on some weight. He was dominant against the 2nd and 3rd teams. He was playing with purpose. Liked to see his push.

* Christian Ringo played well. Thought he had a great push. Understood leverage. Really encouraging debut from the rookie.

* Mike Pennel came to camp to win a job. Looks to be in excellent shape. He was active throughout.

* Good to see BJ Raji in uniform again. The FREEZER had a quick first step on a couple of plays.

* Bruce Gaston had great energy. He was forceful up front. Consistent in his pursuit. Played angry. He was disruptive.

* Khyri Thornton. All hope is not lost. He played with more desire than I recall him offering last year. He even offered a push. Played with a will to win his individual battle. He's still facing an up-hill climb to make the roster, but that was a positive step in the right direction.

* Andy Mulumba! Super fun to see him on the inside blitz. Strong game from Mulumba. Looked good on the outside as well.

* Really disappointing play by Nate Palmer on the outside. Didn't contain the play. Showed that he's still learning the position. The Packers cannot expect Palmer to be the #3 ILB this season.

* YELLOW JAKE! What a performance! 6 tackles. 2 Tackles for Loss. 1 Sack. 1 QB hit. If that's YELLOW JAKE, then we're in for an exciting season.

* Sam Barrington looked really comfortable. He carried himself as though he was a leader of the defense. He was in attack-mode.

* It brought a large smile to my face when Carl Bradford got home on the sack. But, man, seeing him trying to tackle James White in space was a sore sight for my eyes.

* Adrian Hubbard. Hope he's tough enough to play in the NFL. Gets nicked up often. I'm pulling for him. Really enjoy his style. 1 sack. 1 Tackle for Loss. 1 QB hit. Puts himself in position to make plays. But, need more from him.

* Really wanted to see Tavarus Dantzler. Nothing to note.

* Joe Thomas wants to be a punisher. He gets sideline-to-sideline. But, he looked lost, at times. Wasn't as confident in open space as I thought he'd be.

* Jermauria Rasco has the physique. Looked to have decent burst off the line of scrimmage. 1 sack. 1 tackle for loss. 1 QB hit. Liked what I saw. Has great reach. Practice squad target.

* QUINTEN ROLLINS! SPECTACULAR! I'm surprised that he was only credited with 2 passes defensed. I counted 4. He plants and he attacks the football. Wish he'd have grabbed the two balls that hit him in the hands. Nonetheless, an extremely exciting initial performance from the 2nd round pick.

* LaDarius Gunter! My boy! Da []_[]! He has to be a lock to make this team! He has to be. He was beat deep on two plays and will require over the top help, but he sure seems as though he's one of the top 53 players on the roster. Fantastic play on the interception. Willing tackler in the run game.

* Kyle Sebetic won't make the team, but he played well. Sure tackler. Assignment ready.

* Thought HaHa was out of position in the run game on a couple of plays. Especially on the long TD run. Between HaHa and Palmer that was a fully disheartening play. Both were in position to make play. Neither did. I expect better than that out of HaHa. The Packers need him to be a force in the secondary. He wasn't in the preseason opener.

* Jean Fanor won't make the team, but I like his athleticism. He was present on nearly all of the special teams throughout the game.

* Hey TT, time to wake up, man. Why would we only carry 87 players on the roster with all of the players that we have being nicked up? Doesn't make sense to me. It's time to bring in a couple of Tackles off of the street. Even if it's only from a numbers perspective.

This week - I'm headed to Pittsburgh for the preseason game. My wife's family lives in Wheeling, WV, which is about an hour from Heinz Field. I'm stoked to catch my first in-person glimpse of the 2015 Packers in an XLV exhibition rematch. Just like NE, Pittsburgh will offer a tough match-up for the Packers. I view the Steelers as the AFC favorite this year.

Look for Rodgers to play into the 2nd Quarter. Once again, he's in rhythm. He uses all of his targets. Then, he gives way to Tolzien who - once again - engineers a TD drive. Go get paid, Scott. Hundley comes in and continues the efficiency. He's in lock-step with Pinkard. Pinkard continues to make plays and scores on a deep ball from Hundley. Alonzo Harris bulls forward for big yardage. Jayrone Elliott notches another sack. YELLOW JAKE plugs more holes. This time - Rollins hangs onto the interception.

Packers 27. Steelers 16.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My Take -> Preseason Week 1

Greetings, G-Force.

Let the madness begin. Before it fully ensues, please allow me to indulge in a full-mouthed sip of a Laurelwood Workhorse IPA. I enjoy hitting up new breweries. Recently, my family went on a 10-day vacation through the state of Oregon. The vacation included stops at 15 different breweries. My favorite brewery stop was at Laurelwood. The Workhorse IPA has an epic citrus goodness to it. It's full of fruit aroma and settles with a grand hoppy bite that makes you want to savor each sip. It's a bold hop forward bottle of grandness. At 7.5%, it leaves you smiling. It's smooth. It's earthy. It's perfect. As I enjoy this bottle with pure delight, I listen to the Grateful Dead's "FARE THEE WELL" 7/3/15 show. This was one of the more magical nights of music I've ever experienced. The unity in the crowd that manifested as Trey belted out "As I was walking round Grosvenor Square" was one for the ages. Complete kindness. Sheer joy. Music, man. Music.

The Packers kickoff the exhibition season at the defending Super Bowl Champion, New England Patriots. That's certainly one way to ensure that we're reminded of the disastrous finish to the 2014 Season. I literally just gripped my head and tugged at my hair with two hands. Now that those thoughts are out of my system, I find the bright spot. The youth of the Packers roster will be tested. The depth of the Packers roster will be challenged. New England will be well prepared. The crowd will be animated. It'll be a festive crowd. The environment will offer ideal conditions to make certain that the Packers are getting ready for a tough opening month of the Regular Season schedule.

Last year, I went on record before the season and said that the Packers would win the Super Bowl. This year, I'm feeling a 10-6 to 11-5 season. The schedule is really tough. The Packers could play really good football and finish 10-6. We have ALL of the tools on offense. We have a plethora of weapons at WR. We have the best OL in the NFL. We have the MVP throwing the ball. We have an elite RB. We have a TE who is budding into a reliable receiving target. The pieces are in place. But, our defense concerns me. The OLB and CB positions concern me. Do we have depth on the perimeter at CB? Do we have players that can turn and run with WR's along the sidelines? Do we have dependable pass rushers at OLB? At some point, you know that Perry and Neal will be nicked up and I think that Peppers will see key snaps at DT on passing downs. Obviously, Clay can easily slide outside on passing downs, but in order for that to be a best case scenario, someone needs to elevate at ILB.

Some argue that 4 preseason games are a waste of time. I argue that they're absolutely vital towards determining the best 53 men on the roster. Especially with the lack of contact that's allowed in practice in the modern day NFL. Often, players 45-53 on the roster are the guys that will determine Super Bowl winners and losers. The Packers have to take a deep look at the depth of the CB and LB positions in the preseason.

Here are some things to look for in the preseason opener at New England:

* Who is on the first team special teams units? That'll give a good look at how the Packers view the depth chart at this stage.

* As long as the starters don't get hurt, I'm not worried about how in sync they are at this stage of the preseason. I don't think I'd play Rodgers, Nelson, Cobb, Lacy, Matthews, or Peppers.

* Scott Tolzien. He signed a 1-year contract this offseason. He's playing for a contract next offseason. He's in his third year in the system. He has command of the offense. Expect him to manage the game in great fashion. With lethal talent at WR around him, look for Tolzien to have a monster game. Even though, at this stage, the defenses are normally way ahead of the offense.

* Brett Hundley. While the Packers say they want him to "manage the chaos", I'm looking for much more. It'll be business as usual for Hundley. He'll have nerves to start, but then, he'll get on the move. He'll pick up first downs with his legs. He'll attack the middle of the field to the TE. Let's hope he doesn't stare down a WR on the outside or else it could lead to a big play going the other way. Any way, expect Hundley to play well. To be poised. To be confident. To lead the Packers to points.

* Matt Blanchard. If he's as much of a prospect as some say he is, I hope that the Packers hide him, so that he can be tucked away on the practice squad. Plus, an emphasis of this preseason should be to get Hundley as many snaps as possible to see if they can potentially afford to let Tolzien in FA next year.

* Rajion Neal, John Crockett, and Alonzo Harris. Who gets the bulk of the carries? Neal offers quickness. Crockett brings consistency. Harris brings power. All different. All with capable qualities. How are the Packers looking to build the depth at RB? Or is it possible that the Packers keep 2 RB's and 2 FB's?

* Ty Montgomery. I'm overly curious to see how the Packers use him. I'm certain McCarthy will want to get the ball in his hands early and often. But, on what type of routes? I'm looking for some quick hits to the outside that have him moving up the field to help him generate momentum.

* Myles White. He's always been underrated. He's always shown reliable hands. He runs nice routes. He seems to understand down-and-distance football. I've always thought he's had the talent to play in the NFL. But, the Packers might have too much talent at WR to keep him around.

* Jeff Janis. Fully expect Janis to get an opportunity to use his speed to make a splash play. I'm hoping he's used as a gunner on special teams.

* While much has been made of the battle for the #3 TE spot, I'm most interested to watch Kennard Backman. TT clearly saw enough in him to use a Draft pick on him. I want to see Backman get an opportunity to make a play running down the seam or on a deep crossing route. Which of the TE's will the Packers look to spread out away from Tackle in a stand up position? And, in that scenario, who looks the most natural? Backman, Henry, Perillo or Spears?

* Josh Walker & Matt Rotheram at Guard. Walker's name has been consistently brought up in training camp this year. He's been a standout. I've never seen him play. I'm curious to see if his game translates well when the boys are really able to use their pads. Rotheram was a solid collegiate. His name has been fairly quiet in camp - with the exception of a minor ankle injury. If Walker & Rotheram can play well, the Packers will have a strong 2nd and 3rd string OL with Tretter and Barclay also being mixed in. Additionally, Lane Taylor has been on the Packers roster the last two years and he's likely to see 2nd string snaps.

* Jayrone Elliot. Catch this argument: the Packers value the jump from year 1 to year 2. That's a fact. The Packers need Clinton-Dix to make a big jump from year 1 to year 2. Adams is expected to make the same jump. Linsley should continue to grow into a potential Pro Bowl player. But, Elliot's jump could be crucial to the long-term success of the Packers. Elliot showed burst at OLB. He showed a natural gift to get to the QB against 2nd and 3rd string OL. Now, we need to see Elliot see success against 1st team units. Especially as Neal and Perry deal with injuries and the Claymaker transitions to ILB.

* Adrian Hubbard. Use your frame. Learn leverage. Burst off the ball. Make a play, young man. I'm pulling for you!

* Andy Mulumba. Per all reports, he appears to be fully back from injury. Looking forward to seeing him back in the line-up and dominating 2nd stringers.

* Jermauria Rasco. Anxious to see him move in space. Wonder if he could be a preseason darling? He has the talents. Let's see if he can put it all together.

* YELLOW JAKE! YELLOW JAKE! YELLOW JAKE! Play with fierce intensity. This stage is not new to you, rook. Go make a play. Show versatility. Tackle with confidence.

* Tavarus Dantzler. The Packers have struck gold with Bethune-Cookman talent previously. Chase 'em down, Tavarus.

* Joe Thomas. He showed so much promise early in camp last year. He brought brutality to the field. Forceful contact. Give it to them, Joe.

* Christian Ringo. I'm itching to see this guy. Smaller in height. Supposedly, he has a great work ethic. A motor. I want to see him throw his muscle around.

* Lavon Hooks and Bruce Gaston. Expect both of them to use muscle and toughness to move the Patriots OL backwards. Expect both to fight in the run game.

* Randall, Rollins and Gunter. If you've followed along, you know my stance here. Can Rollins and Randall play on the perimeter? Gunter uses his arms well. He can turn and run with excellence. But, will speed on the deep ball be an issue at this level?

I expect the Packers 2nd units to outperform the Patriots 2nd units. Look for Tolzien to use his weapons, especially if the OL performs as I anticipate that they will. Montgomery and White make plays. Tolzien engineers a TD drive. Elliot grabs a sack. Rollins grabs a pick. Ration Neal squirts forward for good yardage. The Packers take a 7-point lead into the half. Hundley gets over some early nerves. He settles in. He not only manages, but he performs. He shows great athleticism. He finds Backman for a TD.

Packers 23. Patriots 20.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Take -> Training Camp Edition

Greetings, G-Force.

I hope that you are enjoying the Summer as much as I am. There's a reason that this blog is tardy. It's because I've been living a fun-filled personal life. Nonetheless, I hope this blog is received as better late than never. The 2015 NFL Season is upon us. And, much to the joy of Packer Nation, the Packers enter the 2015 Season as the clear favorite to win the Super Bowl.

As I write, I sip a June 2015 version of Crooked Stave's Progenitor. It's a plush, dank sensed dry hopped golden ale. Slightly sour. Medium bodied. Citrus intense. There are no wrong turns in the way this beer opens up. Musically, I listen to Phish's 7/21/15 show from Bend, OR. It was my Son's first show and it coupled as a celebration of my wife & I. The following day, we enjoyed our 9th anniversary. The "Blaze On" from the show is one major reason that I love music. I'd never heard the song before and instantly, I was skipping with an Irish flair that leaves the soul sweating with goodness. The opening lyrics to the song are applicable to the current state of the Green Bay Packers. "Climb that hill. Stay on your feet. Scramble for your footing when it gets too steep." Yes, the journey to the Super Bowl 50 title will not be easy. There will be bumps along the way. The Packers will be tested. Their ability to persevere when dark clouds arise will determine the outcome of the 2015 Campaign.

You only get Aaron Rodgers for so many years. Super Bowl 50 better come home to Titletown, U.S.A. THE TIME IS NOW. Ted Thompson knows this. That's why he approached the Draft in the fashion in which he did. In 2014, the Packers special teams units were pathetic. A major aim of the 2015 Draft was to improve upon those special teams units. Ty Montgomery will instantly improve the Kickoff Return team, which was beyond poor last year. I expect Damarious Randall, Aaron Ripkowski and Jake Ryan to all make impacts on special teams this year. Additionally, Thompson had to bring depth to ILB and CB. Randall and Rollins should immediately contribute at CB. Jake Ryan will bring competition at ILB.

One of the things I miss most about not living in WI is going to Training Camp. I love going to Training Camp practices. You get an up-close and personal look at the way these extraordinary athletes move. If I were at Training Camp, this is what I'd be watching:

10.) OL. Bakhtiari, Sitton, Linsley, Tretter, Lang, Bulaga, and Barclay are locks to make the team. I expect the Packers to keep 8 OL. Matt Rotheram is a name to keep an eye on. A versatile player who can play either Guard or Tackle.

9.) RB. We know that Eddie Lacy and James Starks are locks to make the roster. John Kuhn didn't get brought back to get cut. He'll be on the roster unless his play falls off of a cliff. Aaron Ripkowski was drafted as Kuhn's replacement. He'll make the team and see time on special teams when he's on the GameDay roster. While it wouldn't stun me to see the Packers only keep 4 RB's on the 53-man roster; John Crockett, Rajion Neal and Alonzo Harris will all push for a roster spot. Crockett is the fan favorite as he was the prized undrafted free agent. But, Crockett isn't littered with speed. He's a steady runner who runs with consistency. I'm high on Rajion Neal, but the speed I saw on him at the college level wasn't on display in limited action last preseason. While he did compile yards, he didn't wow you with his talents. I wonder if he's quick enough for the NFL game. Look for Alonzo Harris to turn some heads with his straight ahead power football mentality. He'll toss his weight around to pick up yards. He'll bulldoze forward. He'll bring a bit of a Eddie Lacy's physical mentality.

8.) WR. Nelson, Cobb, Montgomery, and Adams are locks to make this roster. I expect Janis to use his speed to nail down a roster spot as well. Janis will not only perform in the preseason at WR, but he'll also compete for a gunner role on special teams. Will a 6th player command a roster spot? There are a bunch of big bodies in camp. Ideal size. Solid college production. Names that I'm excited to watch: Ricky Collins, Adrian Coxson, and Larry Pinkard - if they can stay healthy.

7.) DL. It cannot be overstated. The Packers will be shorthanded to start the year at DL. They play at Chicago, Seattle and Kansas City to start the year. All 3 teams will jam the football at the Packers throats. They'll be without Datone Jones in Week 1. Guion will miss 3 weeks. I'm concerned. Big time.

Mike Daniels is a beast.

The last time we saw Raji on the field, he was mediocre at best.

Josh Boyd needs to take the next step in his career.

Khyri Thornton looks like a bust.

Mike Pennel has the height and weight, but he looked stiff in limited action last year.

Christian Ringo really interests me. In face, I'm flat-out stoked to see him play. Ringo is an undersized pass rusher. A bulldozer. Much in the mold of Mike Daniels. Look for him to get every opportunity to make a quick push for playing time early in the year. I wish I had the opportunity to see him at practice. I hope he can match Daniels' intensity.

Bruce Gaston was a workhorse - at times - at the college level. He didn't catch up on with Arizona last year, but he has a mean streak to him and could turn some heads at camp this year. Gaston is definitely a prospect for the practice squad.

Lavon Hooks has a great opportunity in front of him. He's an athletic big body. A sound run stopper. He could fill a major need for the Packers who are craving someone with his talents. At the college level, his activity was inconsistent. He flashed. But, he needs to ensure that his battery is charged. He's a personality that would be fun to have around. I am pulling for him.

6.) OLB. CM3 should see the majority of his snaps at ILB. I believe that we'll see a lot of Julius Peppers at DT on passing downs during the season. Mike Neal and Nick Perry are oft-injured. So, the Packers need someone else to elevate. Jayrone Elliot was terrific in the preseason last year. He has the length to make an impact as a pass rusher. Adrian Hubbard was kept around last year on the practice squad. He has the physique. But, can he put it all together? Jermauria Rasco got caught up in a numbers game at LSU, but he has ideal size. He's likely a practice squad candidate. Andy Mulumba did some nice things in his rookie year. He's limited from a speed and quickness perspective, but he fights with tenacity. I'll be surprised if James Vaughters makes the roster. The Packers need someone to elevate. Who will it be?

5.) It's an important preseason for Brett Huntley and Scott Tolzien. Ted Thompson plays for draft picks. Tolzien is on a 1-year deal. If he plays well, he'll be an unrestricted Free Agent next year and he could attract some interest around the league. Well, the Packers might be willing to let him go if Huntley lives up to his potential. At one point, Huntley was viewed as a potential 1st round pick. Possibly even a target to be the top overall pick. He had a below average Junior Year. He came out. The Packers might have scored BIG with the selection of Huntley. Not only might he merit a compensatory pick by allowing the Packers to let Tolzien sign elsewhere next year, but it's possible that Huntley might someday net the Packers a compensatory pick as well. Matt Blanchard could earn himself a spot on the practice squad with a solid preseason.

4.) ILB. Yes, CM3 can solve all problems at one of the ILB positions, but depth and the starter opposite CM3 are question marks. Barrington did some nice things last year. But, he's limited. He lacks speed. He gets exposed in space. He has limitations.

Before the draft, I wrote this about Jake Ryan: "A football player. Smart. Savvy. Finds the football. Wants to succeed. A natural. Awesome hustle. But, somewhat limited athletically. After his ACL tear, he didn’t develop as fast or as much as I thought he might. Plays a little like AJ Hawk." Prior to his knee surgery, I was a big fan of Jake Ryan. I thought he had a really bright future. He was never the same player after the injury. Still, I'm excited about the pick. He's a smart player. A natural, knowledgeable football player. After the Packers picked him, I jumped from my chair with excitement. My Son, Dylan, came running over and said, "What happened, Daddy?" I said, "The Packers selected Jake!" Dylan's favorite TV show is "Jake and the Neverland Pirates." Dylan replied with, "Daddy, pick me up." I did. Soon, Dylan referred to Jake as "YELLOW JAKE" due to Michigan's uniforms. So, from now on, in this blog, Jake Ryan is YELLOW JAKE. I'm excited to see how he's utilized. He and CM3 on passing downs could be a fun tandem. YELLOW JAKE does have experience rushing from the edge. He'd be a natural at coming on the blitz.

Joe Thomas intrigued in the preseason last year. He was a thumper. He was active. I want to see more of him early this year.

I don't believe in Nate Palmer.

I can't believe that Carl Bradford didn't translate to the NFL. He was a Tasmanian Devil at the college level. Undersized, but the ultimate fighter. I hope he can make a push at ILB, but I just don't see it.

Tavarus Dantzler intrigues. He looks the part in his uniform. I want to see him move.

3.) Kennard Backman v Justin Perillo v Mitchell Henry. Three TE's with ideal size. Without question, one of them will make the roster. Backman is both the favorite and the draft pick. Perillo is the incumbent. Henry is a reliable target who will push to make this roster. Don't discount Henry. All 3 will receive opportunities. One will make the roster. One will likely be a practice squad player. And, with AQ81!'s suspension, it's possible that 2 of them are on the Week 1 roster. As the season wore on last year, the Packers TE's became utilized more and more. By the end of the year, they were a major threat on 3rd downs. Often times, they were Rodgers' initial target. Richard Rodgers seems ready to have a great year catching the football. But, can he block? AQ81! is coming off a disastrous offseason in which he was suspended for firing a gun into the air and then he lost his daughter during birth. For good reason, he's going to be in a rough mental state. Backman, Perillo, and Henry. It'll be an interesting position battle. The lights are on young men. Rise up!

2.) Ty Montgomery. If you've followed my blog long enough, you've known that I've been a major fan of Montgomery's for a long time. Before the draft I wrote: "I’m higher on him than most are. He reminds me of a poor man’s Anquan Boldin. Tough, physical receiver who can also move into the backfield. Solid in the return game as well. Would instantly help on kick-off returns. Get the ball in his hands and he’ll find space. At this stage, he might be best used in the slot. He’s a classic Ted Thompson “football player.”" Early in the college football season, I had him ranked as a 1st round prospect. He had issues with catching the ball, at times, last year. But, he'll add versatility to an already dynamic offense. He and Cobb will be interchanged. We'll see a lot of 5 WR formations with either Cobb or Montgomery ending up in the backfield. We'll see Montgomery on the quick hitch or on the swing pass. We may see him on the wheel route out of the backfield. He'll be a major weapon for this offense. After the catch, he's forceful. He's powerful. He's tough to bring down. I'm really excited to see how he's utilized. I can't wait to see Montgomery on Kickoff Returns!

1.) The youth at the CB position. Sammy Swagga will start at one CB. SHOWCASE Hayward will play at either the other CB or he'll win the slot role. But, the Packers have to replace T-Mon. In desperate fashion. With Randall, Rollins, and Gunter; the Packers added three players that I targeted prior to the Draft. All three will immediately have the opportunity to contribute at CB. Of the three, it's possible that Gunter translates best to the perimeter of the field.

Before the draft, I had this to say about Randall: "Hard hitter who finds the football. Great in the run game. Plays with passion. He can also step into the slot and cover a receiver. Gets his hands on the receiver and does a good job directing routes." I stand by that statement. I hope he can adjust to the outside.

Before the draft, I had this to say about Rollins: "Plays like a middleweight boxer. He’s a feisty fighter. Quick on his feet. Utilizing his basketball skills to steal the ball, he displays great coordination. Both hand-eye coordination and foot-eye coordination. But, I see him solely as a slot CB." I stand by that. I question whether he has the speed to turn and run with top-shelf WR's on the outside.

Before the draft, I had this to say about Gunter: "Gunter can turn and run with the best of them. He’s a little soft, but he’s willing. He might translate best to FS, but he has a future in the league. High points the ball. Made some big plays when the lights were on. Some might have him as an undrafted prospect. I think he has a bright future." He doesn't have great track speed, but he uses his length in a fashion that makes him play faster than he times.

Randall. Rollins. Gunter. We need one of the three to be ready for Prime Time. To be playing at a high level for most of this year. The NFL is a passing league. In order to defend in the modern era, you have to be strong on the perimeter. The key to the Packers success might be directly correlated to the progress of Randall, Rollins and Gunter. Thankfully, Joe Whitt is the Packers best positional coach. He'll be getting the kids ready.

Training camp is in full swing. The pads are on. While I don't want summer to end, I'm anxious to hear helmets collide.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.