The Holidays are more fun when the Packers are relevant. It was an absolute treat to enjoy a Sunday at Lambeau Field. This time of year, it's common to hear "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas." Last Sunday was certainly Jolly. But, if the Celtic meaning of Holly is to be the ruler of winter, the weather didn't do it's part. Thankfully, the Green Bay Packers did hold their end of the winter bargain. A dominating 4th Quarter that had the Packers Faithful rejoicing in one another's arms.
A trip to Lambeau is always a day to cherish. I see old friends and a bunch of family members. It was great to have the Grill Master himself, Vargas, rocking out on his tailgating job. It was a true delight to have PatRad pouring heady beers. It was epic to share a beer with Jon Longley and his bro. I was blessed to hang with my Uncle Pat, my Uncle Jeff, my Aunt Mary, my brother-in-law Brian, my cousins Ryan, Emily, and Mary, and Mary's boyfriend Anthony in the parking lot. My Mom and my sister, Marni, sat in the box. I sat in the stands with my Uncle Jeff, my brother-in-law Brian, and my cousins Ryan, Cindy, Kim, and Brian. With my Dad jamming the tunes, needless to say, there were plenty of FAMILY HUGS at Lambeau. Family. Holidays. Lambeau. Energetically, the spirit should offer victories in that scenario. The good times were rolling. And, while it's Thursday night, I'm still struggling with my voice. I've been hoarse since Sunday. I'm also probably still intoxicated. Lambeau was dope. My family is dope. And, in the words of the Hard Working Americans, "Dope is Dope." Oh, and if you haven't buzzed into the Hard Working Americans, what are you waiting for? It's a collaboration of musical superstars. And, one of those stallions, Chad Staehly, reigns from Green Bay. He's also a die hard Packers fan. Vibe into the Hard Working Americans. Your musical mind will emancipate brilliance. I promise. Dope is Dope, man.
I have two albums and two beers by my side. I'll be spinning the Emmylou Harris "Light of the Stable" vinyl and the Curtis Mayfield "Superfly" record. If you haven't heard Emmylou sing "Silent Night" - make sure you do so this Holiday season. And, watching Eddie Lacy run last Sunday, "Superfly" seems like an appropriate word to bounce to. I'm sipping a Boulevard Love Child 6. Frankly, it's my least favorite of the Love Child's. No fruit sensation. Only a light sour feel. Can't feel the barrel age. A decent funk. Not sure I'll purchase again. I've just popped a Founder's Breakfast Stout. When in the Midwest, it's a staple of my December diet. I had to fly home a 4-pack. So, if I fall off track during this blog, bare with me. Please. And thanks.
Here are my quick vibes from the last week:
* MIKE MCCARTHY CALLING PLAYS! And, suddenly, the ball is consistently in the hands of Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb. There was creativity. There was design. The Packers were calling plays that set up future plays. The defense was confused. There were backs and WR's running in the open field. I'll never understand why it took so long for this to occur, but nonetheless, I'm happen the Head Coach is back in charge. Oh, and it seemed like people were having fun once again. Smiles bring success. In sports and in life.
* The Packers were close to making me a full-on believer. Up 14-0. With the ball. Less than 2 minutes on the clock. I wanted 3 points. A 3-score lead. Felt it could've been a first-half dagger. They had a 2nd chance in the 3rd Quarter. They failed again. While the victory tasted great, the Packers were unable to deliver a CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVE early in the game. The Cowboys were allowed to hang around. Against a better team, the Packers may not be so fortunate to come away with victory if they don't close the game when given the opportunity in the first 3 Quarters.
* 'Tis the Season. Santa resides in your local mall. A wreath hangs from your front door. Christmas lights line the streets. And, Eddie Lacy is darting into the secondary!
* Aaron Rodgers. We're spoiled. We expect him to be robotic. In 2015, he's human. He's still excellent. He's just not the supernatural player that we're accustomed to watching. Still, he's making throws that we just don't see in by other QB's. 0-0. Clock nearing 11:00 to play in the 2nd Quarter. The Packers were facing a 3rd & 10. The 13-yard strike to James Jones was an absolute beauty.
* The screen pass to Starks for a TD. Magnificent play design. Also, how about the athleticism by Lang and Tretter on the play? Both hustling into the open field. Fantastic.
* Speaking of Tretter. I'm not a masterful evaluator of Centers by any means, but for my amateur eye, it appears as though the Packers are benefitting from Tretter's athleticism. He moves better than Linsley. He isn't as strong as Linsley, but regardless, he's been smart in moving defenders. He's getting to the 2nd level. It'll be interesting to see how the Packers decide to play their cards when Linsley is healthy.
* Richard Rodgers continues to show that he's a lethal Red Zone target. His 7th TD of the year. On pace for 9. That was extremely predictable before the season.
* Truly exciting to watch Randall Cobb block. I've felt like the blocking by our WR's has been less than we've seen in past years since the injury to Ty Montgomery. But, Cobb really elevated his game in the blocking arena this past weekend. Great to see.
* Aaron be nimble. Aaron be quick. Aaron jump over that first down stick. The MVP was lethal with his legs.
* Jeff Janis showed Pro Bowl skills as a special teams gunner. Truly dominant performance by Janis.
* Is there a better mudder in the NFL than Eddie Lacy?
* Riveting to see Clay go untouched for a forceful sack. We're spoiled to have him in Green & Gold.
* Congrats to Mike Daniels. Stoked to have him in Titletown, U.S.A. for the foreseeable future.
* Mike Pennel can play in this league. Multiple dominating plays by Pennel. Including a huge tackle for loss near the goal line. He's really impressed throughout the 2015 campaign.
* Big play of the game. 3rd & 1. From the Dallas 10. After the Packers had been stopped on 4th & Goal. The Cowboys run Turbin left. Appeared to have an easy first down. But, Letroy Guion releases from the block. Sheds to his left with a sudden split. He aggressively tosses Turbin to the turf just shy of the first down. Guion's best play of the year. Gave the Packers good field position. Set up the Packers first scoring drive.
* YELLOW JAKE. Again showing that he can play in this league. He intimidates WR's that are coming over the middle. He strikes fear. He plays smart. He's a sure tackler. It also appears as though Clay respects YELLOW JAKE. To my eye, the body language says so anyways. They interact well. Sound communication. He might have a big play in his future. Possibly picking off a crossing route. He's close.
* Great tackling, Casey Hayward.
* With HaHa, Damarious Randall, Sammy Swagga, and Q-Rollins; the Packers secondary looks to have a youthfully bright future. Randall and Rollins can play.
* Still waiting for Burnett to make an impact on the 2015 season.
* EDDIE! With the burst! Showing quickness. Displaying desire. Flashing a smile. He's ready to put us on his back.
* Loved seeing Jayrone Elliott making plays. 3 of them, in fact.
* The Packers need to bring back BJ Raji.
* Mike Neal and Nick Perry won't play for Green Bay in 2016.
* Sublime to hear the EDDIE! EDDIE! EDDIE! chants at Lambeau last Sunday. Magical evening.
* Enjoyed seeing Chris Banjo make an impactful play on special teams.
* 21-7. 3:11 to play. Packers take over at the Dallas 38. 4 carries for Lacy. 38 yards. TD. If the Packers want the 2015 season to finish in a Super fashion, we need that type of commanding performance from the dreaded RB. We need him joyful. We need him animated. We need him forcing defenders to make business decision when approaching contact.
* Think about this: the Packers beat Oakland on Sunday. Then Sunday night becomes an Eagles party as Philly will be hosting the Cardinals. Should the Eagles win, the following week, the Packers will be playing the Cardinals for the #2 seed in the NFC. Makes me stoked to even think about it.
This week - it's the Raiders in Oakland. Which instantly brings back memories of the Irv Favre game. Boy, was Brett magical on that epic Monday Night.
The Raiders can ball. They have weapons. They can put up points. They force turnovers. They get after the QB. They're a dangerous opponent. Especially when they're playing at home. They have a clear cut home field advantage.
Offensively, the Packers better be prepared. Michael Crabtree is playing his best football. Amari Cooper is an impressive rookie WR who is lethal after the catch. Latavius Murray is a physical RB who finds his way to the 2nd level. Derek Carr can whip the football. When Carr isn't making mistakes, he's making big plays. But, he's still learning to master the position in the NFL. Still, he's capable of throwing for 300 yards and 2 TD's on any given Sunday. I've liked Mychal Rivera as a receiving TE since he was in college. Same with Clive Walford. Both will give the Packers problems. The Raiders OL can be beat. The Packers have to win the line of scrimmage and get into Carr's face. If they do, Carr will make mistakes.
The Raiders defense attacks the QB. If you've followed my blog long enough, you know what I think about Khalil Mack. I was writing about him before his Senior year at Buffalo. Kid can play. I wanted him in Green Bay. Saw him as a 1st round pick long before most "experts" on the net. Dan Williams is a plug in the middle of the defense. Mario Edwards is having a solid year along the DL. Curtis Lofton can still man the middle of the field. Malcolm Smith is a play making LB with great instincts. The Raiders secondary can be exposed, but the Packers will have to win the 1 v 1 battles on the outside. If Jordy were playing, he'd top 175 this week. But, we struggle to win on the perimeter. David Amerson and DJ Hayden can be beaten. Frequently. But, the Packers will have to be more assertive on the perimeter than we've been most of the year. I'm scared that we won't be able to take advantage of the Raiders biggest weakness.
The Raiders also have Sir Charles Woodson. Arguably my favorite football player to ever wear a uniform. I loved him at Michigan. I loved him in Oakland. I danced on the streets of South Beach in Miami when he signed in Green Bay. I bought his jersey. Still, I tape EVERY ONE of his games each week. Just so I can watch him play. He's the greatest defensive back that I've ever seen play football. And, for my eye, there is little debate. The only guy who compares is Rod Woodson. He's a Heisman Trophy winner. He's a National Champion. He's a Defensive ROY. He's a Defensive MVP. He's a Super Bowl winner. He's the only player in the history of the NFL with 60 interceptions and 20 sacks. Each week, he seems to make a play. Still. What a Superstar. That's why I've knighted him. Sir Charles. Forever a Super Bowl Champion. The "ONE" speech will live in Packer lore for eternity.
The Raiders will move the football. They'll put themselves into position to put up big points. But, the Packers defense will bend, but not break. At some point, Peppers will make a play this Sunday. A game changer. A play that could net points for the Packers defense. When Carr makes mistakes, they come in a big way. Look for Daniels to also get pressure up the gut. Datone Jones as well.
The Packers establish Lacy early. They slow down the pass rush by pounding away at the interior of the Raiders defense. Then, they attack Mack in the run game. They want him to hesitate his step by a second. As soon, it's the play action roll-out. Moving Rodgers away from Mack. And, the MVP is looking deep. To Abby. Who comes down with the first big play of his NFL career.
It's a nerve wracking back-and-forth contest. But, the Packers prevail after a late Raiders turnover.
Lacy grabs 90 yards. Rodgers tosses for 275. Cobb finds the end zone. Peppers and Matthews notch sacks.
Here's my pre-Bowl season 2016 Mock Draft. And, for the record, I'm rarely someone that is for the all-in trade up. This year is the exception. I'd mortgage much of my draft to trade up and get Jaylon Smith, LB, ND. Smith is fast. He's strong. He's instinctive. He's EXACTLY what this Packers defense needs. Smith and Clay together would be a wrecking crew for the future. I'd trade multiple picks to get Smith.
For the sake of the Mock Draft, I play it safe. I wish I had time to be more thorough, but here are some short notes and names to take a look at. My short notes throughout the college season are more vast this year than they have been in past years, so I'll be able to give a better take in the future, but for now this will do. Here goes:
Round 1 - Alex McCalister, OLB, Florida. He's undersized from a weight perspective. But, his height distracts throws. His speed off the edge is unmatched. He'd be an ideal pass rusher who'd immediately disrupt offenses rhythm. He's been oft injured. But, I love his game. He's an underclassman, but my guess is that he comes out. He's a pure pass rusher. He'd fit a monster need for the Packers. Others: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State; Kenny Clark, DL, UCLA; Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU; Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech; Shaq Lawson, DL, Clemson; Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia; Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama; and Josh Doctson, WR, TCU; Emmanuel Ogbah, DL, OK State; Jonathan Allen, DL, AL.
Round 2 - Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama. Great in coverage. Fast. Instinctive. Great tackler. Good football knowledge. Plays sideline to sideline. Others: KeiVarae Russell, CB, ND; Kendell Beckwith, ILB, LSU; Will Redmond, CB, Mississippi State; Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia; Jayron Kearse, SS, Clemson; and Carl Nassib, DL, Penn State; Will Fuller, WR, ND; Jonathan Bullard, DL, Florida; Su'a Cravens, LB, USC; Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky.
Round 3 - C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame. He's battling injury. But, when healthy, he's lethal. Great vision. Excellent quickness. Hits the hole with intent. Would be a great change of pace back for the Pack. Others: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas; Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson; Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee; Sheldon Day, DL, ND; Anthony Zettel, DL, Penn State; Kentrell Brothers, ILB, Mizzou.
Round 4 - Desmond King, CB, Iowa. King is so underrated. Could move into Round 2-3 if he comes out. Nose to nose at the line of scrimmage, he attacks the WR. He's consistent. Plays the ball with excellence. Not overly fleet of football, but fast enough. I'd take him on the perimeter to push for playing time on Day 1 in 2016. Others: William Jackson III, CB, Houston; Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple; Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State; Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida.
Round 4 - Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado. Every year, we hear TT say that one of his selections is a "Football player." Well, this year, Spruce fits the bill. He gets deep. He runs crisp routes. He's the consummate teammate. He plays with a fierce presence week-in and week-out. Others: Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma; Deon Bush, S, _; Joe Schobert, LB, WI; Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas.
Round 5 - Jake McGee, TE, Florida. Book it. I want McGee. He can spread wide. He's a willing blocker. He has great hands. A Red Zone target. Clutch performer. Love his game. Other: Devonte Fields, LB, Louisville.
Round 5 - Bronson Kaufusi, OLB, BYU. Work hard pass rusher. Might not be a true 3-4 OLB, but he can play the edge. He holds the point. He's relentless. Plays with effort. Decent burst. Others: Chris Brown, WR, ND.
Round 6 - Silverberry Mouhon, OLB, Cincy. He's a splash player that pursues off the edge. Maybe a pick more out of need than out of love for the player, but when he gives maximum effort, Mouhon can get home. Potential to be a boom player. Worth a late round pick. Others: Jimmy Bean, OLB, OK State; Nate Meier, OLB, Iowa.
Round 7 - KJ Dillon, S, West Virginia. Tough for me to not select a Mountaineer. He's versatile. He can cover the slot. He can play FS. He returns punts. He's a leader. He's dependable. Deion Jones, LB, LSU; Antonio Longino, ILB, Arizona State; Geno Matias-Smith, S, Alabama; Pete Robertson, LB, Texas Tech; Raphael Kirby, ILB, _; Jake Duzey, TE, Iowa; Henry Krieger, TE, Iowa; Duke Thomas, CB, Texas.
I hope to post much more about Draft prospects between Xmas & New Years. Have a Merry Christmas. Thanks for your readership.
Go Pack Go!