Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mucho Gusto, 2009!

Greetings, G-Force.

Oh, what a beautiful buzz. The 2009 NFL Season has begun. 2009 will mark the year in which UNO-DOS! makes his first Pro Bowl. Greg Jennings also makes his first Pro Bowl. Chuckie Woodson takes another step closer to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame - I imagine he's approximately 20 interceptions short of a potential trip to Canton. And 2009, could potentially determine the long term fate of both Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson. While I believe that they are guaranteed at least the 2010 season, I also feel that without a minimum of 9 wins this year, you can expect intense media pressure. Either way - the honeymoon period is over for me.

When we see something succeed in life, often times, we try to mimic them. Such is the case with the Packers move to a 3-4 defense. In recent history, the Steelers and Patriots have been Super, in large part, due to a fierce, complicated 3-4 defense. Whenever you switch defensive schemes, ti takes time to get the appropriate players to fit that scheme. This should not take any longer than 2 years to accomplish. But, you've got to be committed to this initiative. Thus far, the Packers have not been aggressive. This is disappointing - to say the least.

In order to find evidence of this philosophy, one needs to look no further than when the Packers franchise last reached the pinnacle. I was reminded of it as I turned on "Favre's First Comeback" on the NFL Network. Each time I watch the replay, I grow more enchanted with the notion of seeing the Green & Gold in a 3-4 defense. Remember the days of Tony Bennett, Bryce Paup, Brian Noble and Johnny Holland at LB? All were solid 3-4 defenders, however none of them were 4-3 defenders. In fact, remember that the Packers let go of Paup when we transferred to a 4-3 and he eventually went on to win a Defensive Player of the Year Award. Nonetheless, Ron Wolf was committed to the 4-3 scheme. Thus, he brought in the likes of Reggie, Dotson, Jones, and the Grave Digger. For as good as Wolf was on draft day, it should be noted that all 4 of them were signed as FA's! Ted Thompson, are you listening?

Prior to this year, I have given TT a pass. I let the Favre thing go with relative ease. I did not harp on the Randy Moss nor the Tony Gonzales deals. I'm not even sure that I discussed the non-deal with the Browns which we could have traded down when Cleveland wanted to trade up for Brady Quinn. In each case, I thought we handled the situation poorly. This year, TT must earn his paycheck. McCarthy showed his desires by putting together a solid proven defensive staff. Now they need talent.

Same players. New scheme. Chancers are that we fail. Does AK-74 become Matt Roth with a move to the 3-4? I would not be surprised if this were the case. I have major concerns. I feel like I'm being played for a fool. If 6 out of the front 7 are AK-74, Jenkins, Jolly, Pickett, Hawk and Barnett, how much different will the results be? Conceptually, the scheme might appear differently, but I have a hard time imaging a drastic improvement in production. Plus, for the most part, these guys have never played the 3-4 before. We need to bring people in to mentor them in the 3-4. We need to bring in "system guys."

The OLB position is a top priority in the 3-4 defense. Normally, these are the fiercest, most intimidating players on your defense. Athletically gifted. Able to both rush the passer and drop into a zone coverage to make a play on a back, TE, or slot WR. Think James Harrison running back an interception 100 yards for a TD AND adding numerous pressures on the QB. Do we have anyone on our roster that could have accomplished such a feat? I think not. But, Terrell Suggs, D-Ware, Joey Porter, Merriman, and S. Phillips are names of guys that instantly come to mind as others who could have done the same exact thing. My fear is this: As a DE, AK-74 is among the best in the business. As an OLB, AK-74 might become average. We'll see. I hope I'm wrong. Either way - for the record - if I were TT, I'd call the Panthers and offer a #3 and AK-74 for Peppers. It'd be a starting point. Peppers wants the 3-4. We know AK-74 dominates in the 4-3.

Naturally, it's wise to bring in veterans who can teach the youth the ropes and aid in development. Again, think back to '96. LeRoy Butler grew as a player when partnered with the likes of Eugene Robinson and Mike Prior. Ron Cox helped Brian Williams with football maturity. Edgar Bennett learned the professional ropes from Harry Sydney and then passed those lessons to Dorsey Levens.

Think about our young players who have advanced. Do you think UNO-DOS! grew by watching and learning from #4? Do you think Greg Jennings has benefited from having Donald Driver leading the WR's? Has anyone else noticed Nick Collins growth since he befriended Chuckie Woodson this past offseason? This is no coincidence. Our 3 youthful pillars have had veterans perform and hold there hand to show them the ropes. I'd suggest that the Packers bring in a veteran LB to help AJ, but I think Kevin Greene will be able to play that role much in the same way that Ryan Grant has Edgar Bennett.

But, I do want some help on the DL. I'd bring in 2 guys. Veterans. Near the end of their career. I'd consider Kevin Carter and Vonnie Holliday as solutions. Both would be great examples for Johnny Jolly who needs a role model. Both would be able to show Jolly the ropes of the DE position in the 3-4. Sure, at this stage of their careers, both would be limited as far as snap availability, but both have played a number of years in the 3-4, they've experienced successes in it, and they've played under Capers before as well.

A quick look at our DL depth chart shows the following names: Kampman, J. Thompson, Jenkins, Jolly, Pickett, Malone, Kenny Pettway, Montgomery, Harrell, Anthony Toribio and Hunter. In a 3-4 system, J. Thompson and Kampman become OLB's. Pettway, Malone, Montgomery, Hunter, and Toribio should not be back on the roster. This leaves us with Jenkins, Jolly, Pickett, and the unreliable Harrell. Even in a 3-4, you still keep 7-8 DL. We need depth! And while, I want to add depth in the draft, a couple of veterans with positive attitudes, work ethic, and leadership skills would be absolutely valuable.

Cautiously, I'm somewhat excited about the Anthony Smith. I liked Smith coming out of Syracuse. I liked him a lot. I thought he was brash, confident, cocky, a baller. I thought he could flat out find the football. Both against the run and through the air. I thought the Steelers had another defensive playmaker in Smith. He never panned out. I just hope that the Steelers trash does not become our problem. Either way - I doubt that we gave him any significant $$$. The last I saw was that the terms were not yet disclosed.

No matter how you look at it - this is the year Thompson has to shine. He needs to get Jennings & Collins signed to long term deals. He's drafted them. Now, he has to sign them. He has $30 million to make some waves and build a winner in '09. Anything less than a winning season is a waste of a year. The pieces need to fall into place before the MM/TT project starts being viewed as a failure.

The next mock draft is close to completion, but not yet finalized. I hope to post by Monday.

Better Late Than Never,

Talkin' S-Mac.


Stack said...

The Buzz is Back!

Frustrating part of the year for fans. Not much real news. I was not very impressed with the free agents market. Perhaps rightly, the few big names got all the press. Thompson...statuesque through it all. We've been over the frustrations of a rabid fan in the off-season with no weekly litmus test with which to enjoy a bloody mary. But here's what irked me lately: the Smith signing, I like it. I like Anthony Smith; I thought he got done by the Belicheat media machine. The guy qualified his guarantee by saying that the Steelers had to play to their full capabilities. Anyway, that's not what eating me...it's the info that comes out about the Smith signing. One guy says he's a great athlete, the other guys says he's a stiff straight line guy, another guy says he can't digest the plays. That's fine, I get that two guys can look at the same object and not see the same thing, but the fact that you can't flip on the tv and see the guy for yourself...particularly irksome.

Jonesin' for some football.

McKenna, you've got a bromance with Matt Roth, I swear. Even when you're cutting him down, you love him. The BuzzBoy at his desk, anxiously twirling a pen in his fingers, leans back, looks upward, "How can I work Matt Roth into this take...?"

There's a couple of things staring us in the face. First of all, Barnett's ACL. Mental side, physical side, you know the deal. The real problem is, we don't have anyone better. Or bigger. Which would be nice. Secondly, from what I'm seeing (and believing) Tramon Williams is a likely candidate for a hold out. This makes sense to me as Williams was, I believe, the lowest paid player on the roster. He should hold out. He's our nickel, he's a playmaker, and he's a master angler. He loves fishing, look it up. And Louisiana is the sportsman's paradise. I've also read that Williams feels a sense of loyalty to Green Bay since he got his chance here.

Of the thirty mill, we need to extend Jennings and Collins absolutely, but we should be doing the same with T-Mon. Brings back the question...is TT working the phone on Al Harris? I have to believe this is happening.

The second draft take is coming...? I smell a trade down by the BuzzBoy.

"We need people, Stack, we need to add bodies."

Secondary and DL. No doubt. Where's the Gilbert Brown in the 3rd? Not that we drafted him, but...

One problem that plagued the Pack last year was the pass rush. Kampman can be an adequate OLB through determination and hard work. Jeremy Thompson is very much a work-in-progress. Showed some flash on the edge I think, but needs Kevin Carter. I need to lose a few pounds, but that's neither here nor there.

I don't want to go too Stack on you but Sly Sylvester needs to be ours in April of 2010. Guy scares me through the tv. Beast.

My point is that there are better guys playing OLB in college who aren't coming out for the draft than we have on our roster right now. Sorry. It's true. Sidbury...looks to be hanging around the third round. Bruton exploded through his jumps. Surprising. Probably not a candidate after the Smith signing.

This may have reached in many directions, I'm not sure it went anywhere, but the buzz...the buzz is definitely back!

Stack said...

I'm Stack baby!

Talkin' S-Mac said...

From Brennan:

Thanks for the post. i was having withdrawal...

as much as i hate to see AK go, i think that sounds like a good deal for the new D-scheme. i was disappointed not see a few more acquisitions in FA. I also agree that a couple of veterans would help our transition into the new scheme. i do think that some FA are very tentative about playing for the Packers. small market, tight pockets and our man does not have a good record in the personal handlings of our players.

Talkin' S-Mac said...

Stack - I hear Sidbury as a 1st rounder. Yes, I will mention the trade down and provide justification. But, in the upcoming mock, I will keep all draft picks as is. As for Al Harris, I've given it much thought. I want it to happen. Al for a #2. But, with Gamble, Bly, McAlister and Corey Ivy on the free market, there's still some talent available which might limit his market value.

Love the dreads of Ras-A-tari, but Roy Williams anyone? Can you imagine keeping Al and having 4 Pro Bowlers at DB?

Stack said...

ESPN mentioned on the air that New England may be working a deal to send their 2nd round pick from Kansas City to Carolina for Julius Peppers.

ESPN also mentioned that the Packer brass is comfortably seated on their rear ends.

You know, because we already have a pass rush and an OL.

Stack said...

An early morning St. Patrick's greeting to all. Thanks to my maternal grandfather, I'm a legitimate participant in today's activities, not that we'd shun anyone who is looking to celebrate...

We've all got problems in our lives. Maybe some among us are carrying a few extra pounds, or have an inability to say no to a drink or a smoke, or are living off of our brother while working thirty hours a week at Subway. Some among us might have all of those problems, slight as they may ultimately be. One of my myriad problems is that when my head hits the pillow, my mind starts running. It's the most maddening thing. But thus, you have my company for now.

The news is Bush.

The name itself startles up old uneasiness, but this isn't the forum. Jarret Bush was given a three year deal today after receiving an offer as a RFA. Apparently, more than one team was interested. Shocking.

As much as I never wanted to conjure a take solely about Jarret Bush, I'm laying in bed trying to get a handle on the sinking feeling in my stomach.

Three years, $4.5 million.

I don't even know where to start.

At the start of '07, Bush was battling for the nickel corner. Lost out. At the start of '08, Bush was battling for the nickel corner. Again, lost out. I'm sure I'm going to be reading the same thing in the next five or six months. Fact is, the guy can't get on the field unless 3 guys in front of him are hurt.

I'm not much for empirical research, which is why I dropped out of grad school, so let's just ball park this:

Average football game has what, maybe twelve punts between the two teams? Two kickoffs guaranteed; if the score reaches the mid-twenties, we're looking at maybe eight or nine post-score kickoffs? So approximately 22 plays, injury scenarios and the occasional dime package not withstanding. A couple of field goals makes it 26. A million a year and a roster spot for twenty six plays.

Now answer me this:
Between the lines on Sunday, has Jarret Bush made more impact plays or impact mistakes?

In your mind, what was Jarret Bush's single most impactful
snap as a Green Bay Packer?

What is it about Jarret Bush's game that give you hope for the future?

The guy is decent at some things, sure. He can get off the jam at the line and get underneath a punt, the guy can stay in his lane and get down the field. He's also good at getting knucklehead penalties at inopportune times. That's about where it ends.

We all know the answer to the second question.

And lastly, I'd have to say that the hopeful positives are that he's young, he tries hard, and we're moving to a new scheme. And only one of those things really has anything to do with him.

One thing that I read and found insightful was "what do you do with Will Blackmon when he wants a couple mill to return punts?"

I also read that Cleveland picked up the phone on Bush. Couple that with the reports of Shaun Rogers' unhappiness and I would have explored a sign and trade. Bush and a four...would that pry Rogers from the Browns? Not sure, but worth an inquiry. We're probably trading down anyway, so we'll make up the pick.

The New York Jets, Tennessee, Baltimore, Cleveland, Tampa Bay and New Orleans all showed interest. Am I smarter than the collective wisdom of seven NFL GMs? Am I a better evaluator of talent? I know which way the odds are leaning on that question despite my deep reservoir of confidence, but all I know is what I see on Sunday, and that hasn't impressed me yet.

But perhaps, on the luckiest of days, the team wearing Green may get a little value for their gold. But without development and improvement, we'll surely see plenty of yellow this season.

Wherever you find yourself today, raise a glass to the people in your life. Stack will surely do the same.

Stack said...

Also noticed: Tennessee's new D Coordinator...Chuck Cecil.

How great is that?