Ah, football season. Fast approaching. For me, June typically begins the anticipation for the upcoming Green Bay Packers season. As I've documented in the past, I expect big things out of the Packers in 2010. Yes, competition within the Division will be stiffer. The 'queens are the defending NFC North Champs. The Bears have added Mike Martz & Julius Peppers. Historically, on occasion, Martz has given the Packers fits. In 7 games as either Head Coach or Offensive Coordinator, Martz's team has averaged 24 points against us. Granted, one of them was during the Favre meltdown at St. Louis in the playoffs, but nonetheless, at times, Martz has been a tough match-up. And when he wants to be, Peppers is among the elite defenders in the NFL. For what it's worth, in 5 games against the Packers, Peppers has 3 sacks. Regardless, the Bears still suck. Additionally, one could make the case that - on paper - no team has improved more than the Lions this off-season. Lastly, the out-of-division schedule appears challenging. At this stage, the NFC East & the AFC East are arguably the two best divisions in football. Throw in the Falcons & the 49ers and there doesn't appear to be an easy game on the schedule. Nonetheless, this season just feels good.
The demons of good ol' #4 are no longer in our locker room. We are under the Rodgers-era. The team has moved on. The locker room has moved on. Regardless of whether the Drama Viqueen has moved on or not. This is Aaron Rodgers team. This is the Clawledge's team. This is Nick Barnett's team. They are the vocal leaders. Sir Charles will be the on-field orchestrator. J-Mike is looking to chime in. Double-D is a staple. For the first time in the Ted Thompson era, we have a good mix of veteran & fresh blood. With that, chemistry seems to be peaking.
Each year, it's fun to follow either a 7th round pick or an undrafted FA. Watch his journey. Jump on his bandwagon. See how fluid he performs from Family Night until the last pre-season game. Often, they don't make it to the Final roster. For most, this will be Sam Shields this year. Not for me. For me, it comes down to 3 guys - all whom I projected as Packers picks before the NFL Draft, except one carries an asterisk. None were drafted. All were street FA's. Hell, I have a vested interest!
Before the draft, I wanted the Packers to select both Tim Knicky, OLB, Steven F. Austin & Anthony Levine, S, Tennessee State. Before last years draft, I thought Robert Francois, OLB, Boston College would be a good late round pick & a potential fit for the 3-4 defense. He landed on our practice squad midway through the season last year. As fans we'll get our first look in training camp. For those of us that live outside Brown County, we'll depend on local knowledge to provide us guidance during training camp. All 3 have the potential to make an immediate splash on special teams. Plus, as I've mentioned for 3 years, I don't want J-Bush on our roster.
As a refresher, Levine intrigues me as he ran a 4.43 in his pre-draft workout, which would have placed him 2nd among safeties at the combine. He's 5-11, 193 lbs. His 19 reps at 225 lbs would have ranked 8th at the combine among safeties. Further, he ran the three-cone drill in 6.64 seconds, a 20-yard shuttle in 4.05 seconds and a 60-yard shuttle in 10.97 seconds. All three of those times would have finished first among safeties at the 2010 NFL Combine. Levine has the speed, strength & athleticism to play at this level. I hope he makes it. Plus, he's wearing #34 & since Edgar Bennett, the Packers have had some recent success with that number. Mike McKenzie was a fine Rasta for us prior to his ugly departure. And, remember that Ahman set the all-time rushing record as a Green Bay Packer in #34.
Knicky intrigued me in the pre-draft as I followed the Texas vs the Nation game and noticed that at 6-4, 252 he had the size to play OLB in a 3-4. Also, he displayed the capacity to either put his hand down and rush the QB or stand up and drop in coverage. As a senior, he had 15 tackles for loss & 12.5 sacks. Sure, it was against small school competition. Nonetheless, the guy pursued & lived in the offensive backfield.
I'm not buying the Sam Shields hype yet. Yes, he's fast. Really fast. A burner. By many accounts, he was the 2nd fastest player on the "U" last year. But, take this as local knowledge, he was LOST on the field. It's funny that he'll be competing against Willie B. for a roster spot. They nearly tell the same collegiate story. Super athletic. Want him on the field. Good vision. Bad hands. A guy that amazes you athletically, but it's tough to find a position for him.
Speaking of Willie B., hopefully his switch to safety is a movement to remove J-Bush from the roster as he'll have the flexibility to rotate between safety & CB.
Initially, I was opposed to the notion of moving Pickett to DE. However after seeing the latest on Johnny Jolly, I understand why. Last year, Jolly was our 4th best defender. The other 3 were Pro Bowlers. This year, it looks like he should be suspended by the Commish. I'm hoping for 1 of 2 things:
1.) Jolly's trial continues to get pushed back.
2.) Either Jarius Wynn, Mike Neal, or CJ Wilson elevate their game enough to warrant playing time.
Back to Jolly. More props to Ted Thompson for getting Jolly & T-Mon locked up for the '10 season. Can we please sign T-Mon to a long term deal so this does not get ugly? Please? Thanks.
As for Ras-A-tari. Man, I've wanted to be a fan. And, I'd like him re-signed. But, bro, get into camp. The offer is on the table. Take it or leave it. And frankly, the longer he holds out the better for the Packers. Two words Ras-A-tari: Morgan Burnett. Kid can play. As a Packer fan, how can you not be stoked to see him in Green & Gold? How can you not be thrilled with the extra reps he's getting in OTA's? It appears Nintendo Nick is establishing rapport with him. In the end, this could be epic for the Packers. And awful for Bigby. For the record, the Packers are doing him right. If I'm Bigby, I'd sign. Immediately.
The back-up RB position will be fun to watch. I imagine it'll be James Starks vs. B-Jack. It might be one of the more interesting battles in camp. Does Starks provide an elusive ability to find the open field? And can Starks pass protect well enough to be a 3rd down back? Also, will Lumpkin's health & fumbling prevent him from consideration?
In case you forgot: J-Bush, Giacomini & Barbre can't play in this league. We've seen enough of them already. Give someone else an opportunity.
Could Andrew Quarless be a wild card? I'm still surprised that the Packers drafted him. Yes, he has upside. Lots of it. But, he's also been a problem child with the occasional rock hands. I couldn't imagine the Packers drafting a TE this year. I thought we were stacked at TE. Now, there's strong competition at TE. And I'm curious to see how Quarless fits into the plans throughout the 2010 season.
Graham Harrell is a good "name" camp QB. Statistically, he was terrific in college. Granted, his system was tailored towards throwing the football. Regardless, he performed against top-flight competition. I'll be watching to see if he can force the Packers hands with respect to keeping a 3rd QB.
In the NFL, you can only retire so many jerseys. But, what you can do is preserve certain numbers. As of now, you can bet that #'s 1 (Curly Lambeau), 3 (Tony Canadeo), 4 (Brett Favre), 5 (Paul Hornung), 14 (Don Hutson), 15 (Bart Starr), 66 (Ray Nitschke), and 92 (Reggie White) will never be worn again. So, as I look into the future, I foresee #'s 36 & 80 being protected. After LeRoy Butler, it appears that #36 is following in the USC #55 & the Syracuse #44 category. Only potential stars can wear this #. Nintendo Nick has carried on the legacy of #36. Forever, you must be a playmaking Safety to rock #36 as a Packer. When Double-D retires, I'm hoping #80 is also somewhat protected as well. James Lofton & Donald Driver have done enough to warrant this. Sadly, I can't add Derrick Mayes to that list as well.
2010 = Rodgers to Jennings. Rodgers to Driver. Rodgers to J-Mike. Get used to it. We have a nasty offense!
Don't let another moment slip away. It's Pack in '10.