Sunday, September 27, 2015

My Take -> Week 3

Greetings, G-Force.

That was dope. If you were in attendance on Sunday Night, I hope you are still applauding yourself. The Lambeau Faithful was in terrific form. To celebrate, I pour a Vielle Reserva Prunus Armeniaca. A Crooked Stave GABF treat. A Golden Sour Ale. Aged in Oak Barrels. With Apricots. Gourmet! I'm so stoked that I'm also going to pour the 2015 version of the Crooked Stave Mama Bear's Sour Cherry Pie. It's a burgundy sour ale. Aged in oak barrels. With Colorado Montmorency Cherries. It's sharply sour upfront with a potent cherry feel in the middle of the palate and a perfectly sour finish that resides for a moment before it gracefully settles in the back of the palate. A delicious saliva begs for an additional taste. GABF week is beer heaven. Musically, yes, it's more Jimmy Cliff. The Black Magic vinyl spins. I couldn't find this record in America, so I had it shipped from London. It sounds immaculate. Except the "I Want. I Do. I Get." has a pop feel more than the traditional pop-reggae buzz. Regardless, it's a fitting play. The Packers wanted the victory. They did what was needed to get the victory. They got the victory!

Down 17-16. Seattle ball. 3:12 left in the third. At Lambeau. Here's what ensued:

* Micah Hyde with a good tackle in the open field.

* Pennel and Daniels getting a push.

* LAMBEAU CREATES MAGIC! The ball pops free. But, Pennel has a mental error as he was lined up offside. Unacceptable! Cannot trump the ghosts of Lambeau with stupid play. Combined with a 15-yard penalty by Mike Daniels. The G-Force had energetically created the turnover. The Packers lack of focus nullified it.

* The G-Force, once again, rises to the occasion. They force a timeout. Yes, there was a mystique to the Lambeau air that felt like it was 1996. It was boisterous thru the TV. LAMBEAU WAS ALIVE!

* DATONE JONES WITH THE PRESSURE! Forcing what should have been an intentional grounding call. On back-to-back plays, Jones had a great push.

* Hyde in man-to-man coverage against Baldwin in the slot. Stride for stride, Hyde glides. A monstrous defensive stop! The crowd did it's part!

* Then, it was 80 yards of pure brilliance! The stuff that defines a Champion. 2nd & 15 to start the 4th. 4-WR set. The MVP hits Cobb for 18.

* A bright strategic move: Starks exits, Montgomery enters. Cobb moves to the backfield. Davante Adams earns massive street cred. On a bum ankle, he mans up. He beats Sherman down the sideline. The MVP is looking for him, but Sherman grabs him. There's no call by the official, which is totally ridiculous. Still, it was the type of play that builds a Winning Locker Room. Adams was gutting it out.

* It's Rodgers to Cobb on a wheel route. On the play, Montgomery earns hustle points. Coming across the field, he adds 10 yards to the 19 yard reception. Montgomery got a chip on Wagner and then he drove Sherman backwards out of bounds. Montgomery showed no fear. He attacked the All Pro.

* It was Rodgers to Rodgers for 9 yards. Again, it was Montgomery laying the blocks to add yardage to what would've otherwise been a short gain.

* Rodgers to Cobb for a first down on 2nd and 1.

* If the 2015 Season turns into one to remember, I will point to a 1st and 10 play that started to make me a believer. Yes, for my eye, it was that defining. We'd yet see Montgomery catch a pass. Ball at the 34. 1st and 10. Trailing 17-16 to our greatest present day nemesis. Trips right. Montgomery is tightest to the formation. Adams is lined up close to Montgomery's right. Jones split wide right. Richard Rodgers is lined up to the left side of the formation. Cobb motions from the backfield to the wide left of the formation. The play was designed for Montgomery on a short out. Linsley snaps with 1 on the play clock. Montgomery catches the ball at the 32. Montgomery runs right at Sherman who gets off of the Jones block. Montgomery and Sherman lower their shoulders into each other. Montgomery bounces off of Sherman. 360 spin move. Montgomery absorbs contact from Bobby Wagner. Montgomery keeps his balance. He rumbles for 17 yards, 12 of which came after contact.

* Rodgers goes back to Montgomery for 2 yards.

* 2nd & 8. Rodgers goes to JJ. Rockin' the yellow wrists, JJ draws an illegal contact on a terrific out-and up route.

* 1st and goal. Montgomery in the backfield. Rodgers goes back to Montgomery for 5 yards.

* It's innovation. Busted play. The MVP on the move to his left. He hits Richard Rodgers for a TD.

* The Packers go for 2. With Bobby Wagner draped all over him, Richard Rodgers makes a spectacular grab.

* That was a first class drive. 10 plays. 80 yards. 6:16 off the clock.

* Jayrone Elliott! With the monstrous pick!

* I heart TJ Lang.

* Richard Rodgers isn't a great blocker. But, it was really nice to see him play with great fight. Played with passion. With high emotion.

* The Packers locker room has great camaraderie!


* James Starks. Game ball. Ran hard. XLV-style.

* 3rd & 6. No Jordy. Ball at the 21. Clock ticking beneath 4:20. Seattle with only 1 timeout. I turn to my wife and say: "Star, you have to look to Montgomery here." Three wide with Montgomery in the slot. Richard Rodgers lined up next to the MVP, who is in shotgun. Cobb directly behind the MVP. Cobb goes in motion. The Packers play aggressively. On a crossing route, it's Montgomery locks down 13 yards.

* Jayrone Elliott goes tomahawk chop to force the fumble and seal the victory!

* The demons are behind us. Walk with confidence. We control our destiny. Let's own it. Anything less than 8-0 at Lambeau is unacceptable. We need that same type of crowd fire EVERY game this year. Multiple forced timeouts. Be proud, G-Force.

Here are some other quick vibes from the last week:

* Mike McCarthy might not be calling the plays anymore, but the crucial drive to start the 4th Quarter was vintage McCarthy. It had his stamp all over it.

* It's great to see the MVP with full mobility.

* Get healthy, EDDIE! Even if you need to rest for a week.

* Donny Barclay. Thrown into the fire, he performed admirably.

* TJ & Sitton. The best Guard combo in the league.

* The MVP used all of his tools. Got Richard Rodgers and Ty Montgomery involved when it mattered most. It was a beautiful thing.

* Randall Cobb. Arguably the best slot WR in the NFL.

* The 35-yard run by Starks was a big momentum shifting play. AQ81 had the big block on the play.

* Bakhtiari is such a gritty battler.

* Aaron Rodgers. In belt formation. MVP. MVP. MVP. Yes, for some teams, it's victory formation at the end of the game. For the Packers, it's belt formation.

* JJ! Yellow wrist it! Sorry I ever doubted you.

* Richard Rodgers in the end zone. Get used to it.

* At the end of the first half, how was that not pass interference on the JJ-butt play? And, again on the Richard Rodgers pass?!?! Brutal.

* Mason Crosby. Straight $$$!

* YELLOW JAKE! Epic special teams tackle.

* Throw the stats out the window, Clay was a force. A dictator.

* Like seeing Peppers at DT on 3rd down, even if he was largely ineffective.

* Nick Perry with solid effort. And, for the most part, good containment.

* Jeff Janis was a force on special teams. Fighting for playing time. Loved his fight.

* BJ RAJI! Dude is ballin'. My good buddy, Vargas, appropriately quoted Phish: "WON'T YOU STEP INTO THE FREEZER!" Need Raji to continue to win the line of scrimmage. Thought he made a statement early.

* Mike Daniels seems to be pressing a bit. Good energy. But, over pursuing.

* Great game, Datone Jones.

* Nate Palmer was a good student. In the right place. He just wasn't good enough. Also didn't like when had didn't help HaHa off the turf after HaHa dropped the diving interception. That's not the type of teamship that exudes throughout the Packers sideline.

* That's the Sammy Swagga I know and love.

* Need better, Casey Hayward. SHOWCASE those skills.

* Micah Hyde is playing really good football. Excited to see him get a chance to return a punt this year. Opposing punters have done a good job so far.

* Damarious Randall is earning playing time. Looking the part on the perimeter.

* Nice to see you, Morgan Burnett. Worried about your calf.

* No one on the team looks the part more than HaHa. Need him to take the next step. Desperately. He's in position, he just needs to finish.

* Jayrone Elliott. Two immense plays. But, want to see more effort as a pass rusher.

* Andy Mulumba. Know your role. Keep to your assignment. Do not lose containment.

* Mike Neal started well. But, what was that offsides penalty? Cost the Packers 4 points.

* The Packers no huddle offense is so special.

* I understand why the Packers wanted the ball to start the game. They wanted the fast start. But, it was so predictable that Seattle was going to start off fast in the 3rd Quarter. In the future, I'd trust the crowd to help get the Packers defense off of the field to start the game, so that the MVP gets the ball to start the 3rd Quarter.

* Dom Capers drew up a great game plan.

* Hated the QB draw play call on 3rd down near the goal line. Let's keep the MVP clean.

* At some point, when the Packers go Trips right, I'd like to see Cobb tight to the formation with Janis to his right and Jones split wide. Janis will get a free release. The defense will expect the ball to be thrown underneath with Janis being used as a blocker. Janis would be wide open on a fly route. At some point, they'll need him over the top. I'm probably just impatient right now.

* Really excited that Joe Thomas is back. He has natural instincts at ILB. Brought some force. Logical replacement for Barrington. Should aid the run defense.

* Josh Boyd wasn't playing well. Still, ugly to see that injury.

This week - it's the Chiefs. At Lambeau. On Monday Night Football. In a total trap game. The Packers and the fans better match last weeks intensity or the Packers will be 2-1.

Kansas City has strengths that play to the Packers' weaknesses. Expect some read option. Alex Smith doesn't offer what Russell Wilson does, but he will be plenty dangerous with his mobility. And, Jamaal Charles might be the best back in the NFL. Travis Kelce is a dangerous TE target who will give the Packers fits. James O'Shaughnessy will present a mismatch as well. Where Seatlle didn't use the TE, KC most certainly will. They could see as many as 10-12 targets this week.

The Chiefs have a finesse OL. They do well against speed rushers, but can be moved with power. I'm hoping Peppers, Neal and Perry can all provide a pass rushing lift. Thus far, our pass rush has been nonexistent. I'd also like to think that the Packers will be able to generate pressure via blitz disguise. The Packers defense has to be in attack mode.

The Packers should be able to neutralize Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson and Jason Avant.

Defensively, KC will give the Packers headaches. Especially without EDDIE at 100%. Justin Houston, Allen Bailey and Tamba Hali will pin their ears back. They can win with speed and power. Derrick Johnson still plugs up the middle of the field with excellence. The Chiefs have a great young secondary. Two years ago, I wanted Philip Gaines in GB. Last year, I was hoping the Packers would draft Marcus Peters. I thought he was the best CB in the draft. KC drafted him before he got to GB. Eric Berry, Husain Abdullah and Ron Parker will each make their presence felt. Weekly.

It'll be another test for Donny Barclay and David Bakhtiari. If they can win their battles, the Packers will be in good shape. If not, it'll be a dogfight.

I want to become a full-blown believer in the 2015 Green Bay Packers. Every year, Mike McCarthy teams improve. Except for 2011. But, I question whether we have the defensive personnel to get to the QB on a big 3rd down. Do we have the defensive intensity to stop the run? Is our secondary able to slow down a top shelf receiving core? If a solid TE is targeted, can we defend him? These are all valid concerns. Many of them will be tested. So, too, will be the ability of the Lambeau faithful to match last weeks intensity.

Andy Reid will devise a strategy to take care of the football. He'll try to win the middle of the field. Charles will pound away at the middle of the defense. Kelce and O'Shaughnessy will see multiple passes between the hash marks. Reid will slow down the game. He will try to win by controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. He design a bunch of short routes that gets the fall quickly out of Alex Smith's hands. And, he will count on De'Anthony Thomas to make a big play. With Sean Richardson and Ripkowski questionable for the game, special teams could play a big role.

The MVP strikes first. He hits Cobb on a short down and out for a 3 yard TD. The Packers grab a 10-point lead, but the Jamaal Charles slashes away. Knifing through the defense, he quiets the crowd and cuts into the lead. But, the MVP isn't to be denied. Richard Rodgers grabs another TD. Nick Perry notches a sack. Cobb tops 100 yards. It's Rodgers to JJ on a double move.

Packers 27
Chiefs 20

Take PTO on Tuesday morning, Lambeau. Elevate to peak levels on Monday Night Football. Let's make a statement!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.

Friday, September 18, 2015

My Take -> Week 2

Greetings, G-Force.

THE BEARS STILL SUCK! 1-0. Perched atop the NFC North. In lonely fashion. Just the way it’s supposed to be. After 4 consecutive NFC North titles, we expect it this way. Anything else is considered failing. To celebrate, I pop a 2013 version of the Cascade Figaro. 10.7% ABV. Blissfully aged in chardonnay barrels. A white wine, lemon zest feel that is perfectly tart. Figs and raisins speak loudly from the glass. It joyfully opens as the beer breathes after being poured from the glass. Musically, I play the Cool Runnings Soundtrack. I’ve adopted Jimmy Cliff’s “I Can See Clearly Now” as Simon’s (my newborn) anthem.

The Packers traveled to Soldier to kick-off the 2015 NFL Season. We knew how that one was going to end. Sometimes it ends with a Halas Trophy in the Visitors Locker Room. Sometimes it ends with Bears fans burning jerseys in the Solider Field parking lot. Sometimes it ends on a 4th & 8 pass with 00:38 left in the game to seal the NFC North Crown. Sometimes it ends in a mid-December victory to clinch the NFC North. Sometimes it ends in blow-out fashion as the MVP tells the G-Force to R-E-L-A-X. And, I guess, sometimes it ends in a Packers victory to kick-off the season in a game that was played in ugly fashion.

Here are some quick vibes from the last week:

* McCarthy looked frustrated. Couldn’t believe the Packers were so undisciplined. The Sammy Swagger off-sides penalty was absolutely unacceptable. Terrible play by Sammy. McCarthy was furious. In all, 10 penalties by the Packers. Under McCarthy, the Packers have been a slow starting team outside of the 2007 and 2011 seasons. McCarthy expected this year to be different. If the run defense and the penalties are a sign of the future, 2015 might also end up being a slow-starting season.

* The MVP in MVP form! Calm, casual and under control. Playing with confidence. He wasn’t going to be denied.

* Sporting yellow on the wrists, it was great to see JJ back in action! Far exceeding my expectations. Playing as well as ever.

* Life without Bryan Bulaga. That sucks. He’s a crucial component to the Packers success. Hoping for a speedy recovery.

* The Claymaker! Sure, the interception was heroic! But, how about Clay chasing down Forte when it looked like he’d walk into the end zone? That was phenomenal effort.

* Love that the MVP’s hard count was in mid-season form.

* Lacy played with good patience. Showed vision. Found the hole. Hit the hole. To the tune of 4.5 yards per carry.

* Randall Cobb with the spectacular TD catch!

* Richard Rodgers is in line for a big year. He looks like a different man.

* Eddie Lacy with the one-handed grab!

* Was surprised that AQ81 wasn’t involved in the design of the offense.

* 8 targets for Davante Adams. On a day when the coverage seemed to be focusing on Adams. He has an opportunity to have a big year. He showed great footwork and body control on the catch along the sideline. Hope there’s more of that in the future.

* James Starks running aggressively for first down yardage on 4th down!

* The OL was absolutely dynamite. True domination. They took command of the line of scrimmage. Fantastic performance by the entire unit. Thought that the holding penalty on Bakhtiari that denied JJ of an epic TD was unfair. Bad officiating.

* The Bears still suck.

* Sammy Swagga. Awful, dude. Pathetic performance.

* Ha Ha. Come on, man. We need better. You’re too talented. Pick up your head. Lift your shoulder into the defender. Really disappointing game by the former first-round pick.

* Good to see Raji playing with high activity.

* Nate Palmer isn’t good enough. Need YELLOW JAKE playing instead of him. The Barrington injury hurts. Especially on run downs.

* Josh Boyd was pushed backwards. All game. When Guion returns, Boyd might need to go.

* Julius Peppers! Really strong game from the vet. 1.5 sacks. 5 tackles, 4 of them were solo. 1 tackle for loss. 2 QB hits. Looked youthful!

* Sean Richardson is a total buzzkill. Bad angles. Out of position. Playing with stupidity.

* Jayrone Elliott showed glimpses. Looking for more burst out of him. Looked like he might be banged up. Hope he’s OK.

* Mike Neal got pushed around.

* Impressive debut from Damarious Randall.

* Nick Perry was non-existent.

* Ty Montgomery received great blocking. He displayed good vision. OK burst. Ran with confidence. We should see more big returns in his future.

* Mason Crosby was money!

* Good punting, Tim Masthay. Let’s make that your trend.

* The MVP with the flick of the wrist! Gorgeous!

This week – it’s the long anticipated battle between the Seahawks and the Packers. Finally, at Lambeau. We’ve waited for this game since 2012. The head says that it’d be easy to view the Seahawks as being in a position to win by 2 scores. Recent history suggests that fortune is on the Seahawks side when the two teams meet. First, there was the FAIL MARY. Then, there was the preseason game in which Jake Stoneburner fumbled as it looked like he was going to walk his way towards the end zone. We know what happened last year. Additionally, the Packers will be without Bryan Bulaga. Simply put, when Bulaga didn’t play last year, the Packers lost. But, I believe in the power and the soul of Lambeau. I loved how McCarthy rocked the “GET LOUD LAMBEAU” t-shirt. The Packers will be ready. Lambeau will be electric. It’ll have a playoff atmosphere. And, it’s only Week 2.

The Seahawks will be ready. They’ll be physical. Offensively, they’ll attack with an abundance of read-option. They’ll also extensively utilize Jimmy Graham, who presents a horrible mismatch for the Packers. And, expect a bunch of WR bubble screens to Baldwin, Lockett, and Kearse. They’ll force Sammy Swagga to tackle. They run those short routes right in front of the most experienced CB on the roster. They’ll run Lynch to Sammy’s side of the field. Sammy better be wearing a thick coat of armor because the Seahawks are coming after him. Expect Lynch to touch the ball 20-25 times.

Seattle’s weakness on offense is their OL. Okung, Britt and Sweezy have been tested and all have played well. But, Drew Nowak and Carry Gilliam need to be attacked. Nowak has Green Bay roots. He’ll be stoked to be playing at Lambeau. I’m hoping the Packers overload and come on inside blitzes. I’m hoping Jayrone Elliott gets an opportunity to test his speed rush against Gilliam. St Louis’ DL abused the Rams OL in Week 1. The Packers will need a big game from Mike Daniels on the interior if they plan on having any chance to slow down Seattle.

Defensively, Seattle will be without Kam Chancellor. But, they’re still littered with sublime talent. Michael Bennett is fierce. Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, KJ Wright, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Cliff Avril and Brandon Mebane will all be suited up and ready to lower the boom. Avril vs Donny Barclay is one of the biggest match-ups of the game. There’s no question that Avril will be coming on a speed rush. Barclay struggled in the preseason. He’ll be tested early. He’ll be tested often. Seattle does have some holes on defense this year. Cary Williams is a veteran, but he can be beaten. Tye Smith and Tharold Simon are unproven. Dion Bailey is inexperienced and has flaws. He doesn’t have the speed that we’re accustomed to out of the Seattle defense. Last week – the Seahawks used Sherman in the slot, on occasion. I don’t anticipate that they’ll do the same this week. They’ll use Sherman to take away one side of the field. He’ll likely be against Adams for most of the game. Seattle had success swinging coverage against Cobb with a LB. They got their hands on him and took him off his route. They’ll likely try a similar approach on Sunday night.

Special teams will play a big role. Tyler Lockett returned two kicks for TD’s in the preseason. He returned one vs St. Louis as well. I’m scared of him. He’s elusive. I don’t trust our ability to tackle on special teams.

Against the Bears, Jeff Janis and Ty Montgomery weren’t involved. In fact, the Packers were fairly basic on both sides of the ball. I anticipate that the Packers will play with more play calling aggression on both sides against Seattle. Look for creative design with packages that include Montgomery in the backfield. It’d be nice to see Montgomery on a swing pass. Look for a deep ball to Janis. Ideally, I’d like to see Janis run down the sidelines vs Cary Williams. Williams can’t keep up. A big play could be waiting in the wings.

Defensively, look for a variety of stunts that bring Matthews and/or YELLOW JAKE on the blitz. Especially on passing downs. On run downs, Wilson will have to be shadowed as I expect a bunch of read-option. Early and often. The Packers haven’t been able to defend it previously. Seattle will think that they can find quick results utilizing it again this week.

Early on, the Packers bang away with Lacy. Right between the tackles. Linsley, Sitton and Lang lean with success. Barclay gets a push. Bakhtiari neutralizes. The Lambeau Faithful rises with conviction. Rowdy, in nature. The Packers strike first as Aaron Rodgers connects with Richard Rodgers for a TD. The defense benefits from crazy volume from the stands. They get off the field. The Packers take a two-score lead.

Lynch punches the Green Bay defense in the mouth.

Down late, Rodgers gets the ball. He lays the BELT on the table. He picks it up. He wraps it around his waist. It’s Rodgers to Jones against Cary Williams.

Packers 27
Seahawks 23

Keep the faith. Bleed passion. Turn up the volume.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin’ S-Mac.

Friday, September 11, 2015

My Take -> Week 1

The intensity is at peak levels. Thus, I have to pour something dank. Rich in hoppy love. I select the River North Hoppenberg Uncertainty Principle. This is the 2nd time I’ve poured a bottle of this bomber in the last week. My wife just gave birth to our second Son, Simon Michael. Post delivery, this was her request. It has a fruit aroma, but I don’t pick up a ton of fruit on the flavor. It’s a thoroughly balanced beer with a light bitter finish. It comes across with a funky font. It’s heavy in IBU’s. Yet, it’s a really smooth drink. At 9%, you’re smiling at it’s finish. Musically, I select Derrick Harriott. His “Let Me Down Easy” track combines a mellow Roots beat with lyrics of loving heart break. Still, as background music, it rings smoothly and offers a calmness to tame immense excitement for this Sunday’s opener.

Here are some takeaways from the last week:

* Welcome back, James Jones. Hoping to see the yellow gloves along with the yellow tape and/or yellow wrist bands. I’m also hoping that you’re in-sync with the MVP on the back-shoulder throw. It’s been the ultimate bail-out for the Packers offense. It’s takes true unison between the WR and QB. We’ve seen issues with this in the past. When Jones was at his best, he and Rodgers had great synergy. We know Rodgers really likes Jones. I question whether Jones can truly separate from a DB anymore, but his knowledge of the offense and his ability to play on the outside are necessities right now.

* Bruce Gaston earned a spot on this team. Wondering if it’s possible for him to see some playing time on passing downs early in the year. He consistently showed a push from the interior.

* Prior to the drops at Pittsburgh, I really felt that Alonzo Harris had better upside and was well-ahead of Rajion Neal on the depth chart. Harris’ two drops were painful. Neal took advantage. Still, Neal has limited upside. What you see is what you get. Good player, but never going to be great. Frankly, I thought Neal would’ve been a better pro than he showed during the preseason. Harris could develop into a legitimate #2 back. I liked what I saw. Was happy he was kept.

* At one point, I wondered whether the Packers were going to keep 8 DL on the roster after the suspensions. But, Lane Taylor was an absolute MAN this preseason. He earned a spot. The Packers were wise to keep an extra OL.

* Was surprised that Nate Palmer won a job. Thought that Joe Thomas showed more awareness and punch. Had more potential. The Packers must’ve felt that Palmer was the better special teams player.

* Not sure how much it’s worth, but I believe this to be the best Packers practice squad. Rotheram has a future in this league. Ed Williams has the physique. Robertson Daniel is an intriguing addition at CB. Would be nice to see Abby healthy for a stretch. Another year at ILB might do Carl Bradford well. Would be excited to see what James Vaughters could do with a year at ILB under his belt. Justin Perillo showed well prior to the concussion. Christian Ringo flashed in limited reps. He looked like he’s a developmental prospect who could provide a push.

* Jeff Janis. I really hope the Packers give him a shot this year. He’s a tough cover. He has speed. He has improved route running. He’s a tough cover. And, if he gets a step, you’re not going to catch him. He deserves 3-5 targets a game.

* Jayrone Elliott. I fully expect him to be involved in pass rushing situations. Kid can get to the QB. He turns the corner. He has natural pass rushing ability. From a strictly pass rushing perspective, I view him as the 2nd best player on our team – behind the Claymaker.

* I can’t get over how intimidating HaHa looks in his uniform. Really hopes he takes the next step. No more missed tackles and this guy will be a star for us. In order for the Packers to be an even remotely average run stopping team, HaHa will have to make his presence felt.

* It’s a little uncomfortable to say this, but Aaron Ripkowski, Chris Banjo, Sean Richardson, and Jayrone Elliott are 4 crucial players on this years team. All special teams. We’re counting on them to make plays in our most vulnerable unit. But, someone needs to make the tackle. Oddly, Mason Crosby seems to be one of the few kickers that doesn’t kick the ball out of the end zone on Kickoffs. Therefore, the Packers are forced to make a tackle. Ripkowski, Banjo, Richardson and Elliott will be counted on to make plays.

* Tim Masthay. Time to wake up, man.

* I cannot believe Matt Blanchard isn’t on the Practice Squad.

It’s real. Like FOR REAL. The race for the Legendary and highly coveted Super Bowl 50. 11 am on Sunday morning. It doesn’t get any better than the oldest rivalry in the NFL. Packers at Bears. Week 1. At Soldier Field. Once again, we’re reminded of a brilliant memory in the not too distant past:

Halas Trophy. Soldier Field. Visitors Locker Room. TRUMP CARD FOREVER! Yes, the XLV run remains clearly in the front of my mind.

Dude, that’s bliss. In its purest form.

If this game were in Week 4, I’d be predicting a 45-13 shellacking. But, the Bears have an uncertainty to them. They have a new Head Coach who has a history of successfully managing a game. A new Offensive Coordinator who led one of the more fertile offenses in the NFL over the last couple of years. A new Defensive Coordinator who has had good success against the Packers. Thankfully, Ray Nutler is still the QB.

John Fox is going to micromanage this game. He’s going to run the football. He’s going to utilize the play-action pass into the flat. Look for Martellus Bennett to catch a minimum of 5 balls. Most of them will have him on the run and in space. He’ll be a dangerous cover. Defensively, look for the Bears to use a variety of blitz packages. Additionally, they’ll look to take the deep ball away. They’ll want to keep everything in front of them. They’ll play a bend, but don’t break and they’ll anticipate that – on occasion – they’ll get to the MVP on third down.

The Bears will run the football between the tackles. They’ll run to the Right side extensively. Utilizing Kyle Long who has reportedly moved to RT. Long has dominated the Packers DL in the past. But, outside of Long, the Bears OL is highly questionable. Matt Slauson has had an OK career, but he can be moved off of his spot. I’d be uncomfortable if Will Montgomery was the Packers starting Center. Vladimir Ducasse and Patrick Omameh a journeymen type players. Jermon Bushrod was a talented Tackle before injuries have deteriorated his skills. He’s still a quality player, but he’s no longer in the upper echelon of Tackles. He can be beaten with speed. I hope to see Jayrone Elliott looking to get the corner against him.

The Bears playmakers are beat up. Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson are questionable, but both are expected to play. Still, they won’t be at full strength. Alshon Jeffery is a top-shelf WR, but he has missed all of training camp. He is a dangerous target, but I’m sure he’ll be limited by his calf injury. Martellus Bennett scares me.

The Bears have solid depth at RB. Matt Forte continues to be a dynamic RB. Look for him to get 20 carries. Jacquizz Rodgers is an undersized RB who is a threat as a 3rd down back and is dangerous in the screen game. Jeremy Langford is a solid young talent. He’s a mudder. A pound-it-out type back who has a knack for finding the first-down marker. Ka’Deem Carey is a speedy back with a shifty style. We don’t want to see him in the open field.

Defensively, the Bears are transitioning from the 4-3 to the 3-4. Without the personnel to successfully make the switch. Jared Allen still has pass rushing skills, but he can’t drop into coverage much like Aaron Kampman couldn’t drop into coverage in 2009. Pernell McPhee was a solid situational pass rusher for the Ravens. He’s a pass rushing threat, but he hasn’t been an every down player previously. Ego Ferguson, Eddie Goldman, and Will Sutton were all talented college players. Jarvis Jenkins can be disruptive along the defensive line. All are unproven at the NFL level. I like the way the Packers OL matches up against them. Christian Jones is a developing ILB, but he’s not ready to be a star. Shea McClellin has yet to make his mark in the NFL. He’ll be playing ILB for the first time in his career. The Bears secondary is complete patch-work. Expect a big day from the NFL’s MVP. Kyle Fuller had a solid rookie year, but last year, he struggled against the team that has won 4 consecutive NFC North titles. Tracy Porter isn’t the player he once was. Brock Vereen was torched on a number of occasions last year. Vereen was easily looked off. Sherrick McManis cannot cover Adams, Cobb, Jones or Janis. As the Packers spread the Bears out, the Bears have no ability to cover the Packers.

Look for John Fox to conduct an ultra-conservative game plan. He’ll try to keep the MVP off the field. Early in the game, the Bears cause trouble by running the football. They taste success. Punching the Packers in the nose. Running the clock. But, they settle for FG’s. Rodgers finds the uber slender, Davante Adams on the 12 yard slant. He hits James Jones on the back shoulder. It’s play action and Rodgers is rolling right. He hits Cobb for a 20 yard gain. The Bears see a heavy dose of Eddie Lacy. Lacy pounds at the heart of the Bears defense. It’s Aaron Rodgers to Richard Rodgers for a Packers touchdown.

The Bears keep it close for a half. But, early in the 3rd Quarter, the game changes significantly. HaHa continues to creep towards the line. He makes plays in the run game to force a third and long. And, then, it’s the vintage Nutler interception. Casey Hayward makes the game altering play.

A screen to Lacy reaps big rewards. Starks hits the hole for 7 yards. It’s Rodgers to Janis on a 25 yard TD. “GO PACK GO” chants echo throughout Soldier Field. Once again, it’s mid-way through the 4th Quarter and “Half of the Stadium is Packers fans and half of the Stadium is empty.”

The Packers special teams units do not have any monstrous blunders. Rodgers throws two TD’s. AQ81! has three catches. Adams tops 100 yards. Lacy runs for 85 yards and a TD.

THE BEARS STILL SUCK! Always have. Always will.

Packers 30. Bears 16.

Keep the vibes positive. Energy doesn’t lie. The run for a 5th consecutive Divisional title starts now!

Go Pack Go!

Talkin’ S-Mac.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My Take -> Preseason Week 4

Greetings, G-Force.

If you don't go big, you shouldn't go at all. Sure, it was an exhibition game. I get it. But, I'm not sure why the defensive and special teams units even showed up. It was a total embarrassment. So, in some ways, I feel it's up to me to alter the mojo of the current Green Bay Packers vibe. Therefore, I sit with a pairing that I've waited a year to view side-by-side. The Almanac Dogpatch Sour Batch #3 v the Almanac Dogpatch Sour Batch #4. The Batch #3 was bought a year ago. The #4 is fresh. This is the way that I enjoy drinking beer the most. If you're into barrel aged beers - be it wine, whiskey, bourbon, tequila, etc. - give this a shot. For wine beers, I find that most are best 2-3 years after purchase. For whiskey or bourbon barreled beers, a 5-year aged Stout is a glorious sensation. Sip that beer right next to a fresh one. You'll be amazed as to how the beer changes over time. The Almanac Dogpatch Sour is a cherry sour that is aged in wine barrels. It's not overpoweringly sour. The cherry is tart. After a year, the cherry has rested a bit and the carbonation is down significantly. The beer is wild and clearly, the yeast continues to work it's magic.

I listen the Rockers soundtrack. Arguably - the greatest reggae compilation ever assembled. The Maytones' "Money Worries" is a mint, often-unknown tune that echoes into the ears with glory.

Here are some quick hit vibes that caught my eye during the exhibition debacle against the Eagles:

* Brett Hundley. Dude has a future. A bright one. The Packers got exactly what they wanted out of him. They have assurance that he could easily be the #2 next year. And, therefore, look for Tolzien to get the vast majority of snaps against the Saints. It'll be the Packers mission to put Tolzien on display for opposing teams who will be in the market for a QB. Tolzien will be on the roster in 2015, but you can bet that TT has his eye on a compensatory pick for Tolzien after this season when he's an unrestricted free agent.

* Matt Blanchard. He was great fun with the flick of the wrist! I fully anticipate that he'll be on the Practice Squad this year with a shot to earn the #3 role next year.

* Good to see Starks running straight ahead. Little wasted movement. Ran with purpose on the screen.

* Speaking of the screen, glad to see that the screen is back in the Packers offensive arsenal.

* After the 1st exhibition game, I had Alonzo Harris ahead of Rajion Neal. Well, Harris dropped two balls against Pittsburgh and then he got hurt. Like a professional, Neal has taken advantage of his opportunities. He doesn't possess elite speed, but he runs with decent pace. He's patient, determined and he's been productive. It'll be tough to keep Neal off the roster.

* Brett Hundley was so impressive. Can't get over it. Used his feet with confidence. Stood in the pocket like a seasoned vet. Knew the progressions. Utilized the check-down. Couldn't be more excited for him.

* Jeff Janis. Wish Rodgers had more confidence in him. He's a tough cover off of the line of scrimmage. Loved seeing him catch the TD out of the slot. Plus, the TD happened as the Packers entered the Red Zone. If allowed, Janis will be a weapon. He caught three balls. One was for 16 yards. One was for 29 yards. One was for 27 yards. That's firepower. Imagine a scenario in which the Packers have 4 Receivers and Lacy in the backfield. Rodgers out of shotgun. Montgomery split wide left. Janis in the slot to the left. Cobb in the slot to the right. Adams split wide right. The defense slides to the right side of the offense. Leaving Janis against a dime CB. Name a dime DB that can run with Janis. I can't. I see big plays in Janis' future. If the Packers allow him to be a baller.

* Myles White had the game that he needed to have. For a moment, he put Packers fans pain to rest. White fought for the ball. He played with pride. Given the circumstances, he earned himself a roster spot.

* Ed Williams is a physical specimen. Wanted to see him fully step out of the tackle. Didn't get to see much of him in the preseason, but wonder if he's been hidden as a practice squad target.

* Ty Montgomery. Was great to see him gallop his way out of a tackle to find the open field. Couldn't tell if he hurt himself on the play, but he sure seemed to lose a step as he was running. He had green pastures in front of him. I expected him to take it to the house. But, he looked like his hamstring tightened on him as he was trying to find another gear. I noticed that he was held out of practice today. Might have happened on that play.

* Another Janis thought. I've liked how they've used that underneath crossing route with him. He has speed. You can't teach speed and he's a threat to take it for big yardage every time he touches the ball.

* Richard Rodgers. I'm a broken record on this one, but he'll catch a minimum of 6-8 TD's this year and possibly even more. Additionally, he might catch 50 balls.


* Donny Barclay had his best game of the preseason. Seemed to be playing with more comfort.

* Matt Rotheram is making a push to make this roster. In a year, I see him as a guy that might even be able to slide to RT. Worst case scenario he's a practice squad player, but I'm not sure that he'd last as I'd fancy that someone would sign him to their roster. At this stage, I have him above Lane Taylor.

* Josh Walker. Have to believe that he's on the 53 man roster over Rotheram as he's been utilized at Tackle in back-to-back preseason games. He's displaying the versatility that the Packers like in back-up OL. And, while he didn't have a great game against Pittsburgh, I thought he played well vs Philly.

* I said it often last year: Sam Barrington is vulnerable in coverage. He's confident in the run game. He looks comfortable with the defense. He tackles with desire. But, in the passing game, he's not good enough. He isn't fast enough. And, he gets exposed.

* Mike Pennel has had a great preseason. Possibly our best defender. Yes, I just wrote that.

* Need more out of BJ Raji, Mike Neal, and Nick Perry.

* Hope that Jayrone Elliott is utilized in the regular rotation on passing downs.

* Wishing the best for Adrian Hubbard. Was sad that he never turned the corner. Really liked how he was given a shot to play DT on 3rd downs. Gives me even more conviction that Peppers will be utilized in that role during the Regular Season. I've been begging for it on a consistent basis since last October. It wouldn't shock me if 20-25% of Peppers' snaps this year are at DT on passing downs.

* YELLOW JAKE. Where'd he go? He was so impressive in NE. And, all of a sudden, he's disappeared the last two games. Lights are on, Jake. Ball up!

* Joe Thomas. I had him as the #4 ILB right now. While he hasn't been overwhelmingly impressive, he looks more natural at the position than Bradford and Palmer. But, Bradford has been around the ball more than Thomas in the preseason, so as of now, if it were up to me, Bradford would prevail.

* Thought James Vaughters had his best game. I keep waiting for their to be a player or two to get a mystery injury that'll keep him on the IR for the year. Wouldn't shock me if that happens with Vaughters. TT often likes to store players that way. Vaughters is a candidate.

* HaHa is such an intimidating presence. Liked to see his activity along the line of scrimmage. If he buttons up his tackling, he'll have a monster year. He's in position to make so many plays. But, he's tackling continues to be inconsistent.

* Thought Morgan Burnett played well around the line of scrimmage as well.

* Loved the special teams tackle by Randall!

* In an effort to not get negative and to keep things in perspective, I'll finish my thoughts on the Eagles game right there.

* It won't happen, but I would like it if TT kicked the tires on Phil Taylor who was just cut by the Browns.

By the time I write again, the Packers roster will be down to 53 players. While the Packers are narrowing the roster down to 53 players, consider this: TT plays with the future in mind. He builds through the Draft. While he's constructing his roster, compensatory picks are a piece of the strategy. If TT invests three years in a player on his roster, he's likely going to get a 4th year, so that he can get something in return for him. Heading into next year, the Packers have Mike Daniels, Casey Hayward, Letroy Guion, BJ Raji, Nick Perry, Mike Neal, Scott Tolzien, James Starks, Sean Richardson, Don Barclay, and AQ81! all as free agents. The only one that I believe is a lock to come back is Daniels. And, given Daniels' current contract demands, Thompson is going to have to over pay Daniels in order to keep him. Thompson needs to create cap room. Additionally, the following year, he'll have to lock up Lacy, Bakhtiari, Lang and Sitton. Thompson will need the extra draft picks to reload the roster. Hence, I'm betting that he keeps all of the names that I listed above in an effort to maximize his opportunity to receive additional draft choices. As poorly as Barclay has played, he does have starters experience, which is a valuable commodity in the NFL. He's been a trusted bruiser for the Packers when he's been healthy. He'll receive interest in FA next year. He'll be on the roster before Rotheram and Taylor. Regardless of who outperformed who. I'm guessing that TT is banking on receiving 4 compensatory picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Even if those compensatory picks are between rounds 5-7. Those picks will have relatively low salaries and they will allow the Packers to lock up their stars for years to come.

Here are my top 53:

QB: Rodgers, Tolzien, Hundley.

RB: Lacy, Starks, Kuhn, Ripkowski, Neal.

WR: Cobb, Adams, Janis, White, Montgomery.

TE: Rodgers, AQ81!, Backman.

OL: Bakhtiari, Lang, Sitton, Linsley, Bulaga, Tretter, Barclay, Walker.

DL: Raji, Guion, Pennel, Ringo, Daniels, Jones, Boyd.

LB: CM3, Peppers, Barrington, Ryan, Elliott, Neal, Perry, Mulumba, Bradford.

DB: Sammy Swagga, Hayward, HaHa, Burnett, Richardson, Hyde, Gunter, Randall, Rollins, Goodson.

SPECIALISTS: Crosby, Masthay, Goode.

Practice Squad: Blanchard, Crockett, Mitchell Henry, Matt Rotheram, Larry Pinkard, Ed Williams, Gaston, Rasco, Vaughters, Thomas. Admittedly, I'm not sure if Justin Perrilo still qualifies for the Practice Squad, but if so, I'd select him over Henry. Also, I wish the Packers would take a look at Danny Mason who was just cut from the Broncos. Dude is a relentless pass rusher.

IR: Alonzo Harris.

This week - it's the Saints. STAY HEALTHY! REST THE STARTERS! Give the ball to Tolzien. Let him earn a big contract next year. Hand it to Neal. Let's see what he can do with 20 carries. Tolzien tosses to Backman down the seam. He hits Janis on a deep ball. He uses the screen to Neal. Defensively, Elliott has a monster game. Mulumba gets to the QB. The Packers win handily.

Packers 27. Saints 13.

Bare with me. The college season starts this weekend. So, I've put together my notes on players from last year. I've taken a look at some videos on draft breakdown's epic website. And, I've compiled my initial 2016 NFL Mock Draft. Before you laugh too hard, please note that last year when I did this I had Jake Ryan, Ty Montgomery and Bernard Blake listed. Blake - you may recall - was signed as an UDFA. Any ways, here is my first crack at the 2016 Packers NFL Mock Draft.

Round 1.) Darron Lee, ILB, Ohio State. He's a redshirt sophomore. If he comes out, he'll be a great target for someone as he has elite NFL speed. He'd make for a dynamic duo teamed with CM3 at ILB. While his speed is his greatest asset, his recognition and instincts are innate. He's absolutely fierce when attacking the ball. Others: Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State and Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA.

Round 2.) Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama. James Starks will be a FA next year. I don't believe that he'll be brought back. Derrick Henry is a bruiser with deceptive speed. He runs with a purpose and, in some ways, he reminds me of Eddie Lacy. Henry would be the classic TT - I'm just stockpiling the depth on offense - addition. Others: D'haquille Williams, WR, Auburn and Andrew Billings, DL, Baylor.

Round 3.) Deon Bush, S, []_[]. Yes, I know that every year I draft a Cane. Can you blame me? I will forever root for Da []_[] and I cherish my time in the 305. Bush plays with speed. He's a contact seeking hunter. He attack the ball with a mission to jar the ball loose. He has limitations in coverage, but he has the athleticism and agility to improve with added experience. Other: Jalen Mills, S, LSU.

Round 4.) Taveze Calhoun, CB, Mississippi State. He has ideal length to play on the perimeter. Fearless in run support. Plays with great quickness. Has excellent short-line speed. He brings true swagger. A confident player who plays with impressive passion. Though he's light, he offers sincere heart on every down.

Round 4.) Eddie Vanderdoes, DL, UCLA. Exceptional athlete. Quick on the inside. Muscular. Slips off blocks and finds his way into he backfield. Has the potential to be great in the run game. Has nose for finding the football. Consistent week-in and week-out performer.

Round 5.) Jake Duzey, TE, Iowa. Great route running TE who finds open field underneath the coverage. Ideal NFL size. Can improve as a blocker, but he's more than willing. Catches with his hands. Did have some issues with drops, but overall, he's a more than capable receiver who is a tough cover as he gets in and out of his breaks with precision. Not overly fast, but finds ways to get open. Gave WI all kinds of trouble last year. Vintage Midwestern TE.

Round 5.) Kris Frost, ILB, Auburn. He's a passionate player who has a nose for the football. An intimidator in the run game in the middle of the field. Plays with heart. Wears his emotions on his sleeve. Not overly fleet of foot, but he makes game changing plays.

Round 6.) Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan. He gets deep. Great NFL size. And he has the frame to add more muscle. Catches with his hands. Gets in and out of his breaks. Can be dangerous after the catch.

Round 7.) Christian French, OLB, Oregon. French has the length required to play OLB in the 3-4. He has experience dropping into coverage and plays well in space. He slides along the line of scrimmage to string out plays and when he uses his arm length, he's able to avoid getting overpowered in the run game.

Go Pack Go!

Talkin' S-Mac.