Thursday, August 28, 2014

Packers meet Chiefs in 2014 preseason finale

In the final game of the 2014 preseason, the Green Bay Packers take on the Kansas City Chiefs this evening at Lambeau Field. This is essentially the "make-it-or-break-it" game for those players looking to grab a coveted spot on the final 53-man roster come this Saturday. We won't see much if anything of the starters. Although rookie and newly-slotted starting center, Corey Linsley, will likely get lots of work since being thrust into the starting spot following the revelation of J.C. Tretter's injury in last week's game against the Raiders.

Other than that, it will be the bubble game: players on the bubble of making the squad or not will have perhaps just a few plays in which to make an impression. It's a nervous time for those players, as well as the coaches and general manager who will have to make the difficult decisions over the next couple days as to who stays and who goes. To this last point, be sure to check out Tyler Dunne's synopsis of Ted Thompson's new conference from yesterday in which he talks a bit about some of these issues.

As for the game tonight, it doesn't matter whether the Packers win or lose, really, does it? What matters is that all players escape without injury and that Thompson, McCarthy et al get the information they need to put the Packers on the road to the Super Bowl.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Packers beat Raiders in preseason home opener, lose Raji for the season

So the good news coming out of Friday night's win was that the Green Bay Packers offensive and defensive units were better, much better, than that of their Oakland counterparts. The Raiders picked up a couple of late touchdowns in garbage time to make the final score of 31-21 seem much more competitive than it really was. The Packers dominated on both sides of the ball all night long. Yours truly was in attendance and saw that firsthand.

QB Aaron Rodgers and the offense clicked on their first series in the no-huddle offense. And while the line seemed to sputter in the next few series, and some of the timing was off between Rodgers and his receivers, the first half showed what the offense will be able to do. Even a little of RB Eddie Lacy is a lot for defenses; he played only on the first series, and rushed six times for 36 yards and a touchdown.

Back up RB DuJuan Harris also got lots of touches and performed exceptionally well, finishing with 56 yards on 12 carries. He also had two receptions for 42 yards, with a long reception/run of 31 yards. He showed quickness and power. The Packers will need to find a way beyond just kickoff returns to get Harris on the field.

Rookie TE Richard Rodgers also had a good game. Back up QB Matt Flynn didn't have a particularly good or bad jwas ust kind of...meh. It appeared to this writer that he focused on each receiver he was going to throw to right from the start. QB Scott Tolzein came in just before the end of the third quarter and played very well. He was making quick reads and had zip on the ball. It's always been the opinion of this writer that Tolzein has the better arm between he and Flynn and if he could just get some more playing time he would be the primary back up to Rodgers. I've said it before here and will do so again: the Packers will keep three QBs on their roster. There is a much bigger upside to Tolzein than Flynn and the Packers need to hang on to that.

As for the defense, they acquitted themselves quite well, too, holding the Raiders -- who played many of their starters into the second half -- to just 7 points until garbage time. A couple players stood out, including Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews. No surprises there. The secondary seemed to do well, particularly Davon House. When back ups entered the game, it seemed as if Oakland was targeting rookie CB Demetri Goodson. He struggled. Given the competition in the secondary, I'd be surprised if he isn't released in the first round of roster cuts.
B.J. Raji leaves the field -- and the season -- after Friday night's game against the Raiders.
Photo copyright Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The major negative to come out of the game, we learned yesterday, was the loss for the season of NT B.J. Raji who tore his right biceps apparently during the first quarter. The implications for the Packers and Raji are big, as this story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel indicates. The Packers younger players will have to fill the void. They certainly have good options there. As the article indicates, it would be surprising if the Pack were to re-sign either Ryan Pickett or Johnny Jolly at this point, relying instead on second-year players Josh Boyd, free-agent acquisition Letroy Guion (who has yet to even practice because of hamstring injury) and undrafted rookie Mike Pennel.

While not a nose tackle, another young player of note over the last several weeks has been rookie LB Jayrone Elliott, who had three sacks in four plays against St. Louis and followed that performance up with another game in which he made his presence known. I expect Elliott to be on the final roster given these performances.

What goes on at a Packers preseason game?
The Packers answered that question themselves, putting together this video.

I can also share that while fans were out in full force (more than 73,000 were in attendance!), along with all the tailgating, etc. that goes along with it, the crowd still felt a bit subdued. Attribute that to the fact that it was a game that didn't count, in which the starters didn't play very long, and the weather was a sultry 83 degrees around kickoff time with humidity in the vicinity of 80 percent or so, as well.

However, for the first time, yours truly was able to grab tickets inside the (relatively) new indoor club level. I have to tell you, it spoils you. For face value of $222 per ticket, it should. (Fortunately, what I paid through one of the online ticket exchanges was far less than that.) But for a night, my wife and I were able to share in a bit of the bounty of these seats. You enter through the Bellin Health gate on the north side of the stadium and take elevators up. Once there, there is an abundance of upscale food and drink choices, with prices to match, of course. You sit inside an air-conditioned seating area, in very comfortable and cushy seats, with order-takers and servers to make the food and beverage runs for you if you wish. There were a few glitches on that end, it seemed. After all, this was the working staff's first home game, as well, and there were some bugs in the system here and there. (One of the servers even told us this would be his first and last game doing this gig.) But the intentions are good, that's for sure.

One of the other pleasures of the indoor seating was flat-panel TVs which showed the live play as well as the replays, of course. Given that we were in the north endzone, it was nice to have that TV view. But instead of having to listen to the usual folks on TV coverage, we instead heard -- thankfully -- the play-by-play of 620WTMJ radio announcers Wayne Larrivee and Larry McCarren. That's as good as it gets.

One of the downsides of this seating level, however, is to get access to the Packers Pro Shop, you have to basically go half way back around the stadium, down and below the Atrium level. Not convenient. At all. For the money the team spent re-designing the Pro Shop and this stadium, this is terrible traffic flow and customer access. When I mentioned this to several red-vested Lambeau Field staff members, they each agreed. It was almost as if the architects were designing only with outside entry in mind; to heck with those trying to enter from within the stadium. Really poor planning in this regard.

I've posted a photo below of our view during the game. It really doesn't do it justice. If you haven't been to Lambeau Field since all the additions, you owe it to yourself to go. If you've never been there, definitely go. If the best you can do is to take a tour of the stadium, spring for the $20 version; a young couple we met from Toronto had done that a few days earlier and raved about it.

It's getting close, Packer fans. That first game against Seattle will be here in about 10 days or so. It looks as if the Pack is in good form going into that opener. But we know the Seahawks will be, too. They are the champs...for now.

Go Pack Go!!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Packers vs. Raiders in Preseason Home Opener

The Green Bay Packers play the Oakland Raiders tonight at Lambeau Field, the Pack's first game at home in this preseason schedule. It is the annual Shrine game.

What can we expect? Most of the usual things you expect from the third of four preseason games: more play from the starters, while still seeing plenty of action from those players still trying to make the roster. The first roster cuts need to be made by Monday, taking the roster down to 75 players.

The "more play" from the starters piece will translate differently for each player, of course. While head coach, Mike McCarthy, wouldn't say definitively that QB Aaron Rodgers would play a full half, he did indicate that his playing time had more to do with the number of plays the offense was able to reel off while Rodgers was under center. If the starting offense operates as efficiently as it did in its game last week at St. Louis, Rodgers could very well have an early night.

Packers RB Eddie Lacy in action
(Photo copyright Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Expect also to see more of RB Eddie Lacey who hasn't been on the field that much during either of the two prior games; in fact, he -- like Rodgers and WR Jordy Nelson -- didn't even dress for the first game against the Titans. He's anxious to get some touches and, according to his own comments, make sure his game speed is where it needs to be. No matter how many reps he may get in practice -- including an abundance of sideline work catching passes from running backs coach, Sam Gash -- it's not the same.

Expect to see a lot of Scott Tolzein and Matt Flynn at quarterback tonight, too. According to some sources, it seems likely that the Packers will keep both backup QBs on the final roster. We know all too well what happened last year, and with two able backups behind Rodgers that's a security blanket the Packers need.

The tight end competition is also an area to keep your eyes on. With Brandon Bostick down perhaps through Week 1 of the regular season with a lower leg injury, others will get their chance to show their stuff. Rookie Richard Rodgers is an intriguing prospect there, and second-year player Jake Stoneburner may see more action, too.

At wide receiver, coaches and fans alike got to see last week what rookie Jeff Janis might bring to the table: size and speed. Would really like to see him get some work with Rodgers to see what that pass-catch combination could offer.

The return game, especially on punts, is still a bit of an unknown so we may see a number of players still auditioning for that role. If all else fails, don't be surprised if Micah Hyde becomes the regular punt returner.

What about defense? The defensive line rotation will get a workout to see how that best sets up for the season. The linebacker set is pretty well defined except for the primary back up spots where there is still good competition. As for the secondary, there is some of the best competition for playing time that we've seen in years, which should make that unit as solid as any when the regular season kicks off.

The weather forecast for this evening is hot and steamy. At kickoff, the temperature is supposed to be around 76 degrees, with humidity around 80 percent. This will be more like the sweltering rainforest, not the frozen tundra. Thunderstorms are pegged at 20 percent chance through a good portion of the game.

Yours truly will be at the game this evening, so the usual in-game Tweets will not be made in case you were counting on our pithy insights. Will do a follow-up post here this weekend on the fun and frivolity that took place. Oh, and the game, too, of course.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

It's Packers 2014 preseason football time: Pack vs. Titans!

Oh, long, long last...Green Bay Packers football is about to get underway. The road to the Super Bowl, fellow Packer fans, begins this evening in Tennessee. Our Pack take on the Titans in the first of four preseason games. Expect not to see much of any of the projected starters. Particularly those named Aaron Rodgers.

Tonight, we'll get our first glimpse of the 2014 edition of the Packers. On display will be the work of the two fellows competing to be the primary backup to Rodgers: Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzein. The Packers know what Flynn can do: provide a knowledge of the system and even win games now and then. But we suspect they are more interested in seeing what Tolzein can do now with a bit more experience. They know he has a stronger arm than Flynn. The question is can he be a consistent leader on the field and win. Flynn's steady, Tolzein has a better chance to make a big play. What will shake out by the time the final roster decisions need to be made? This game starts to make that picture come into focus.

The same, of course, can be said for many other players and positions. Safety has been one getting a lot of attention in training camp. Given the lack of production from that unit last season, expectations are much higher this season. Morgan Burnett missed most of this week's camp with a strained oblique and will be held out tonight. As a result, second-year player Micah Hyde and first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are expected to start, and much focus will of course be placed upon how Clinton-Dix adapts to the pro game.

But don't be surprised if you see third-year player Sean Richardson in the mix with the starters. During his Thursday press conference, head coach Mike McCarthy had this to say about Richardson: "I'll tell you what, Sean Richardson is having a hell of a training camp." Any number of pundits and reporters have noted that Richardson has been very impressive in camp. The coaching staff has taken notice. Richardson was an undrafted free agent who made the team in 2012, but that rookie season was cut short with injuries and he played in only five games. In 2013, he played in just six games. The Packers are anxious to see what a healthy Richardson can do. At 6'2" and 216 lbs., he is an imposing presence in the defensive backfield. I'm one of those rooting for him to stay on the field and make many contributions this season. He's an intriguing player.

Other young players will also be getting a close look tonight. Second-year player J.C. Tretter is slated to be the starting center if all goes according to script. McCarthy says he likes what he has seen from Tretter in practice, so we'll see what happens in live game action. Rookie Corey Linsley will also get a good look at center.

On offense, tight end is a position of interest with the apparent final departure of Jermichael Finley. Jake Stoneburner looks to take a step up in his play, while rookie Richard Rodgers has also received a lot of positive reviews in camp. In the wide receiver corps, expectations are high for rookie Davante Adams who has apparently been nothing but spectacular in camp.

But don't count out rookie Jeff Janis. Janis missed the first week of camp with an illness and practiced for the first time on Wednesday. During that first practice, Janis made a one-handed touchdown catch in the back-left corner of the end zone of a pass from Tolzein. Not to be outdone, Adams followed Janis’ catch with a one-handed touchdown grab of a Matt Flynn pass.

These are just a few of the players to keep an eye on, of course.

A big part of these preseason games for fans is just getting used to new players and new numbers. "Who is that?" will be a common statement tonight, whether on a good or poor play.

For coaches, they want to see what the new young guys may be able to contribute to make this team better. It's a fun and exciting time of the year. Hopes from fans and coaches alike are that no one gets seriously injured. The Pack has already lost wide receiver and returner Jared Abbrederis and offensive lineman Don Barclay to torn ACL's. The Packers have seemed a bit snake-bitten in recent seasons with injuries. Let's hope this early trend doesn't continue.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Soooo...Packers training camp is underway! And Pack signs Jordy Nelson for 4 more years!

Well, Packer fans, it's that time of year again. And my oh my, aren't we so glad?

I have arisen from post-draft slumber and blog-writing summer vacation and finally have emerged from my man cave to shake off the writer's rust and at least get something down on the cyber-paper while I have a moment. (See: that was one of the worst sentences I have ever written! Good thing there's training camp to get me back into regular season writing shape.)

Let's start with the big news out of camp today: the Green Bay Packers reportedly signed WR Jordy Nelson to a four-year contract extension valued in the neighborhood of $39 million plus incentives. That's a mighty fine neighborhood, Mr. Nelson. Congratulations. Well-deserved.

Now, how 'bout the camp schedule?

We'll be back with more on the Pack's activities as things move along.

For now, I'm glad the players and coaches are back. And I'm glad to be back here at, too. Thanks for reading. Appreciate it.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Packers add undrafted free agents to talent pool

As with every other team in the NFL, when the draft is over it's still not really over. Oh sure, the draft part is with the big hoopla. But minutes after the selection of the last pick -- Mr. Irrelevant -- teams can begin signing those players who, for whatever reasons, weren't among the chosen draft elite.

For the Green Bay Packers, they have reportedly picked up the following players as undrafted free agents:

* Chase Rettig, QB, Boston College
* Justin Perillo, TE, Maine
* John Fullington, G, Washington State
* Justin McCray, G, Central Florida
* Rajion Neal, RB, Tennessee
* James Sims, RB, Kansas
* Mike Pennel, NT, Colorado State-Pueblo:
* Carlos Gray, NT, North Carolina State
* Joe Thomas, ILB, South Carolina State
* Jake Doughty, LB, Utah State
* Jayrone Elliott, OLB, Toledo
* Ryan White, CB, Auburn
* Tanner Miller, S, Iowa
* Jordan Stanton, OLB-DE, James Madison

Among these may be players invited for try outs. There may also be players not listed here who are also invited in for tryouts. This is a fun week, Packer fans. Ted Thompson provided a great draft class, and there are a few interesting players among the above list, as well, even given the long-shot nature of their current status.

I'd keep my eye on Joe Thomas as perhaps the most likely candidate in this group to have a shot at making the final roster. The skinny on him is that he was the MEAC defensive player of the year in 2013, with 116 tackles (20 for loss) and 7½ sacks. His team, South Carolina State, was the FCS' No. 1 defense. He's a player, although perhaps a bit undersized at a little more than 6 feet tall and 227 pounds. But with the Packers' draft needs going unmet for an inside linebacker, Thomas may be a guy to keep your eye on.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Packers 2014 Draft Review: Rounds 4-7

The 2014 NFL Draft for the Green Bay Packers (and the rest of the league, of course) wound down this afternoon. The Packers had nine picks going into the draft; they made four yesterday (see prior post) and five today. Contrary to form, GM Ted Thompson stayed pat with the selections the team started wheeling and dealing, no moving up or down, no Trader Ted. How unusual. But, all in all, it looks as if Thompson and the Packers' brain trust had very good reasons for sticking with their allotted selections. All the players selected -- even the later round picks -- could potentially make the team. They were the best available athletes available, and they met needs. The only real need going into the draft that was not addressed was inside linebacker. When asked about that in his post-draft press conference, Thompson reportedly replied that "It just didn't work out." So it goes.

So who are the latest additions to the team?
Top row L-R: Carl Bradford, Corey Linsley.
Bottom row L-R: Jared Abbrederis, Demetri Goodson, Jeff Janis.

Carl Bradford
Arizona St.
Corey Linsley
Ohio State
176 (compensatory)
Jared Abbrederis
Demetri Goodson
Jeff Janis
Saginaw Valley State

Analysis on each player can be found here; kudos to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for providing a great overview of the newest Packers.

Our take?
In general, we like the Packers' picks very much. Given where the Pack was picking and the depth available, these picks makes sense. And, as noted earlier, it would seem at least on paper that each of these players from top to bottom has a chance to make the final roster. A lot of things will obviously play out between now and the start of the season. But we grade this an A- draft, given that inside linebacker was not addressed. But other than that...?

We especially like the fact that, for the first time in his tenure as Packers GM, Thompson finally drafted a player from the University of Wisconsin. Finally! Jared Abbrederis, some felt, dropped a bit in the draft because of his conussion history. But sitting there at number 176 -- a compensatory pick, that cannot be traded, by the way -- Abbrederis was just too good to pass up. Personally, we're very happy he got the call from 1265 Lombardi Avenue. Another former Badger we would have liked to have seen the Packers get was ILB Chris Borland. Unfortunately, he wound up going about eight selections ahead of the Packers in the third the (ew!) 49ers. Dang!

Next up for all teams is signing undrafted free agents. These players are much more of a long-shot to make a team, but they can and do. Let's see if Thompson gets an inside linebacker and quarterback in that group. Here's betting he does.! Nothing better. And especially nothing better than being a Packer fan!

Go Pack Go!!!

If you have anything to say about this draft, here's your chance. We don't open up for comments very often, so make it good.

Packers 2014 Draft Review: Rounds 1-3

While the actual NFL football season is still several months away, the NFL Draft marks the unofficial start of the season for many fans. It sure gets the juices of Packers fans going.

To the surprise of some, GM Ted Thompson -- Trader Ted -- didn't make a move through the first three rounds, choosing instead to stay pat with the team's assigned picks. So, what do we make of the Pack's picks through the first two days? From this vantage point, we're pleased. Let's take a look at the selections, shall we...

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Davante Adams
Fresno State
Khyri Thornton
Southern Miss
98 (compensatory)
Richard Rodgers

Analysis on each player can be found here; kudos to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for providing a great overview of the newest Packers.

What's our take?
As noted earlier, we think the Packers have generally had a good start to the draft. Getting Clinton-Dix, one of the top safeties available, means there is finally a good complement to Morgan Burnett. Perhaps the Pack's safeties will actually record an interception this season. Plus, Clinton-Dix is physical. Being given Charles Woodson's old number -- 21 -- is hopefully a precursor of things to come.

With Adams at wide receiver, the Packers added the nation's reception leader from 2013. He knows how to find the endzone, too. Over the last two seasons, he scored 38 touchdowns with Fresno State. As one pundit stated after the pick, the Packers replaced James Jones with a better version of James Jones. If you were happy with Jones (at least, most of the time), we think you'll be happy with Adams. Our guess is Aaron Rodgers will be, too.

Thornton may have been an unknown commodity to most Packer fans, unless you happen to reside in the South, of course. He was a fifth-year senior and team captain at Southern Miss. The story on him is that he is an athlete. At 6'3" and 304 pounds, he is the type of defensive tackle that could spell relief for B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett, and perhaps be the replacement for one or the other down the road...with Pickett the more likely given his age.

To say we'll have fun with the Rodgers to Rodgers pass-catch duo is an understatement. Plus, both of the Rodgers' attended California...synchronicity! Rodgers (that will be Richard, not Aaron) has played at both blocking tight end and inside receiver. He has versatility, something the Packers value highly in all their players and particularly their receivers. He's not exactly a burner speed-wise (not too many tight ends are), but at 6'4" and about 260, and apparently with very good hands, he should add some needed competition and depth at the tight end spot for the Pack, who will likely be without Jermichael Finley going forward.

So, bottom line: good job, Ted. Can't wait to see what you do today.

At least for now, the remaining selections for the Packers look like this:
Round 4 (121st overall)
Round 5 (161st overall)
Round 5 (176th overall) -- Compensatory
Round 6 (197th overall)
Round 7 (236th overall)

Go Pack Go!!!