Monday, August 24, 2015

Loss to Steelers in Preseason Game #2 is the Least of Packers' Problems

Yes, the Packers lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday in Game #2 of the 2015 NFL Preseason, 24-19.

Big whup.

The only loss that mattered yesterday, on the field, in the locker room, and across the Packersphere was the probable season-long loss of the Pack's number one receiver, Jordy Nelson, to a torn ACL. While the word is not final until the MRI results are reported, the mood in the locker room after the game pretty much said it all, as this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes.
Photo of Jordy Nelson before Sunday's game
Photo by Associated Press

What now?
With Nelson out for at least an extended period of time, if not the entire season, it falls to Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and, most probably, rookie Ty Montgomery to form the starting trio of the receiving corps. But who will get the fourth spot in the lineup? And the number five backup spot?

Jeff Janis shows so much promise at times and, as demonstrated yesterday, also presents so many questions...the whiffed punt catch being a primary example. The Packers may very well use TE Richard Rodgers in passing schemes more than just as a tight end. Myles White seems to be a likely candidate, his already-good training camp performances and chances now bolstered with Nelson's absence. There's Larry Pinkard and Ed Williams, whom we haven't seen much of and know even less about. The coaching staff and fans alike would love to see Jared Abbrederis get back on the field and make an impact but whether that will happen or not depends upon Abbrederis' ability to stay healthy enough to actually make it into even a preseason game.

Or will GM Ted Thompson go the free agent receiver route as Ron Wolf did when number one receiver Robert Brooks was lost in the 7th game of the 1996 Super Bowl-run season? With Brooks out and Antonio Freeman banged up, Wolf picked up veteran WR Andre Rison to help pick up the slack...and, boy, did he with that 54-yard touchdown reception on the Packers' second offensive play in Super Bowl XXXI. It remains one of the top moments in team Super Bowl history.

Still, the only thing we can be sure of is that as long as Aaron Rodgers is behind center the Packers will be a threat to every opponent and still is an odds-on favorite to make it to the Super Bowl.

So...we have that going for us...which is nice.

Let's hope that Nelson's condition is not as dire as suspected. But if it is, the Packers still have enough offensive weapons to be the envy of many if not most other teams in the league. If you don't believe me, check out this great article by Packers beat reporter, Bob McGinn.

Let's also take a moment to note that starting guard T.J. Lang left the game yesterday with a concussion. He'll be back for the season opener, if not before. Let's also hope LT David Bakhtiari's knee injury from the prior week heals soon; his replacement, Don Barclay -- who is himself coming back from injury last season -- struggled mightily in his first start at left tackle.

With all that said ... Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Insights from Preseason Game #1: Packers vs Patriots

Now that the dust has settled a bit from Thursday evening's first Packers preseason game against the New England Deflators, er, sorry...Patriots (a-hem)...what did we see?

A few observations of note...or not...you decide:
  • Undrafted DB LaDarius Gunter displayed the kind of performance we heard about early in training camp: he seems to make plays...of the interception kind, to be exact. Supposedly not a speedster, but rather with long arms, Gunter may be the next Sam Shields and go from an undrafted unknown to grabbing a spot on the final roster. There's a long way to go yet, but the young man shows promise.
  • Rookie CB LaDarius Gunter grabs an INT vs. the Pats.
    Photo by Associated Press

  • Another undrafted free agent rookie, RB Alonzo Harris, went from a "Who?" type player to a "Who the heck is that?!" type player, as he carried seven times for 41 yards, including a great 25-yard touchdown run. With Eddie Lacy and James Starks ensconced as the number one and two running backs respectively, Harris is likely in a battle with Rajion Neal and rookie UDFA John Crockett for the number three spot.
  • The number one offense moved the ball up and down the field seemingly at will...except for that troublesome redzone area...reminiscent of last season. They have to get that sorted out.
  • The linebacking corps still needs work. With Clay Matthews on the sidelines, there often seemed to be a bit too much "give" in that area of the line up.
  • In addition to LaDarius Gunter's performance, rookie CB Quinten Rollins makes us feel confident about the defensive backfield. There is a lot of young talent there...and the emphasis is on talent.
  • We see why head coach Mike McCarthy has been raving (in a good way) all spring and summer about back up QB, Scott Tolzein. The former Badgers standout (Go Badgers!) put improved presence and performance on display in relief of Aaron Rodgers. He had a great fade route TD pass to Jeff Janis that the uninformed might have sworn was a Rodgers' pass to Jordy Nelson if you didn't pay attention to the jersey numbers. Great to see.
So, Packer fans, those are just a few observations from the game. Will be interested to see the progress from last week to this in the upcoming game versus the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Who'll get playing time and who won't? Who will see more opportunities and who will see fewer? It's a fun time of the year for fans...probably not so much for players trying to make an already deep squad primed for another Super Bowl run.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Packers are back...and so are we!

Hello, again, Packer fans!

After an extended offseason, the Green Bay Packers are now into their second full week of training camp. At PackerFansUnited.com, we've also had an extended hiatus. Hey, when the Packers aren't playing, or drafting, or training, or trading...well, life is rather dull, isn't it? So we've been kicking back, getting ready for the preseason and the regular season. But just so you know, whether we're actively posting ourselves or not, you can always view our Amazing 2nd Page just by clicking its link at the top of our page. That page will always give you about as real-time coverage as you'll find anywhere. Yes, really. Give it a try.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers during Saturday's Family Night game at Lambeau Field
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Takeaways from the Family Night game
The first takeaway, of course, is that Saturday evening's Family Night game wasn't a game, it was a practice. And yet, the Packers turned out about 70,000 fans for that practice. It's always fun to see other teams get excited over pulling "record" crowds of about 21,000 for similar events (e.g, Arizona Cardinals). Puh-leze. You aren't even in the same league as the Packers.

And that may not be too far from the truth. As you no doubt know by now, many pundits -- as well as Vegas oddsmakers, if you are into such things -- are picking the Packers to play in Super Bowl 50 (what's that Roman numeral again...?). So many other teams really aren't even in the same figurative league with the Pack. Let us rejoice and be glad!

Sorry for the digression...back to the observations from Saturday evening...

The Packers, first of all, made it through that enhanced scrimmage without any major injuries. We saw some of the young players that are already getting attention in training camp display their talents under the lights and in front of perhaps the largest crowd they've ever played in front of (poor grammatical structure there, but you get the meaning).

We were curious to see rookie receiver Ty Montgomery. The Packer had him returning kickoffs as well as part of receiver sets. He looks big and fast, a great combination in a receiver and returner. The draft-time comparisons of him as being "a bigger Randall Cobb" seem on target. Lets hope he has the hands and smarts to go along with that size and speed.

Another veteran receiver has also been getting attention during camp: Myles White. He has apparently been making some nice catches during camp and he also had a few Saturday evening.

As for other takeaways...? Well, QB Aaron Rodgers looked sharp, although he did have an early interception and was off-target on a few throws, although that might have been more on the receivers than Rodgers. Backup QB Scott Tolzein buttressed head coach Mike McCarthy's comments from the OTAs and this camp that Tolzein has really stepped up his game. He looks to have a lot of arm strength and is sharper on his throws and decisions.

But an enhanced practice is one thing, a game something else. We'll get to see a bit more of what the Packers have in the cabinet, so to speak, come this Thursday evening when they play at the New England Patriots. (Hope they keep the balls inflated there.)

A Few Other Quick Notes About the Weekend
Congrats to former Packers Executive Vice President and General Manager, Ron Wolf, on his enshrinement in the NFL Hall of Fame this past weekend. Well deserved for helping to resurrect what was at the time a moribund franchise. Thanks, Ron, for bringing the glory back to Green Bay!

We also want to note the passing yesterday of NFL Hall-of-Famer and broadcasting great, Frank Gifford. Gifford was a great athlete in his day, one of the last players who played both offense and defense. He spent his entire 12-year NFL career with the New York Giants. He then went on to join Howard Cosell and "Dandy" Don Meredith as part of the Monday Night Football crew that did so much to advance the popularity of the game on television. Rest in peace, Frank.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Packers Set Dates for Practices

Following the completion this last weekend of the 2015 NFL Draft and the subsequent undrafted free agent (UFA) signings, the Green Bay Packers have announced the schedule for the upcoming off-season orientations, OTA workouts, and practices.
    Photo Copyright 2015 PackerFansUnited.com

  • May 8-9 - Rookie orientation for draftees and UFAs and rookie invitee tryouts
  • May 27-29 - Organized Team Activities (May 28 practice open to public)
  • June 2-4 - Organized Team Activities (June 2 practice open to public)
  • June 9-12 - Organized Team Activities (June 10 practice open to public)
  • June 16-18 - Mandatory mini-camp (all practices open to the public)
  • July 29 - All players report
  • July 30 - First day of training camp
  • Aug. 13 - First pre-season game: Packers at New England Patriots
  • Sept. 13 - First 2015 regular season game: Packers at Chicago Bears
Stay tuned to PackerFansUnited.com for ongoing updates and commentary regarding the Packers. For real-time coverage, be sure to check out our Amazing 2nd Page.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Packers 2015 NFL Draft Wrap-up

It's taken a few days for fans of the Green Bay Packers to take in the events of the 2015 NFL Draft, as well as the signings of the undrafted free agents (UFAs) that occurred following the completion of the draft. What do we make of it all? What, if any, surprises were there? How would you grade it? Take our poll in the upper righthand column (below our Welcome message).

To begin, let's review the Packers' picks.

Packers 2015 NFL Draft Selections
  • DB Damarious Randall, Arizona State
  • DB Quinten Rollins, Miami-Ohio
  • WR Ty Montgomery, Stanford
  • LB Jake Ryan, Michigan
  • QB Brett Hundley, UCLA
  • RB Aaron Ripkowski, Oklahoma
  • DL Christian Ringo, Louisiana-Lafayette
  • TE Kennard Backman, Ala.-Birmingham
Packers fifth-round draft pick, UCLA QB Brett Hundley
Photo via Packers.com


Pundits who grade such things seem to have given the Packers a B- to C grade on this draft. Certainly, there were no big names among the selections, other than QB Brett Hundley who some had pegged as second or third round talent. But he was the only player that the Packers moved up in the draft to take. So clearly they saw something there -- in addition to the value of getting a talented QB in the fifth round -- that they liked. Clearly, also, he can be groomed for trade bait in two or three years if that's the way things shake out behind Aaron Rodgers.

Stanford WR Ty Montgomery, with some reportedly questioning his hands as a receiver, apparently drew the Pack's attention as a returner. He could add a big dimension to that part of the Packers special teams game...a dimension which has been seriously lacking the last few years.

While Michigan LB Jake Ryan may not have been a household name in college, he could become one with the Packers. It would seem that if anyone was ever made to play linebacker, it's this guy. He could make an immediate impact in the linebacking corps. And that would be something that everyone would be glad to see...at least if you're a Packers fan, that is.

With the top two picks being defensive backs, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, obviously the Packers were taking care of the glaring needs in that area of the defense. Yay.

The selection of Oklahoma fullback Aaron Ripkowski raised eyebrows...not because it was a bad pick but because if he pans out he could be the successor -- or perhaps even replacement -- to current FB and fan fave, John Kuhn. While it's unlikely the Pack would keep two fullbacks on the roster, they have done it before. Whether this year is one of those years or not remains to be seen.

Let's not forget the UFAs
The Packers in recent years have done more with undrafted free agents than any other team in the league. There have been more UFA players on the roster and more snaps played by UFAs. Somehow, some way, GM Ted Thompson and his scouting staff find those proverbial diamonds in the rough. Here's what things look like in that regard so far:
  • John Crockett, RB, North Dakota State
  • Raymond Maples, RB, Army
  • Alonzo Harris, RB, Louisiana Lafayette
  • Malcolm Agnew, RB, Southern Illinois
  • Adrian Coxson, WR, Stony Brook
  • Larry Pinkard, WR, Old Dominion
  • Ricky Collins, WR, Texas A&M-Commerce

  • Jimmie Hunt, WR, Missouri

  • Javess Blue, WR, Kentucky

  • Mitchell Henry, TE, Western Kentucky

  • Fabbians Ebbele, OL, Arizona

  • Matt Rotheram, OL, Pittsburgh

  • Marcus Reed, OL, Fayetteville State

  • James Castleman, OL, Oklahoma State

  • Lavon Hooks, DT, Mississippi

  • James Vaughters, OLB, Stanford

  • Jermauria Rasco, OLB, LSU

  • Tavarus Dantzler, ILB, Bethune-Cookman

  • Bernard Blake, CB, Colorado State

  • Ladarius Gunter, DB, Miami (FL)

  • Anthony Wooding, S, Wake Forest
Minicamp Tryout Invites
  • Blake Sims, QB, Alabama
  • Chris Mallott, WR, Southeastern Louisiana
  • Jake Silas, OT, Buffalo
  • Josh Bredl, OT, Colorado State-Pueblo
  • Andy Phillips, OG, Central Michigan
  • Mitch King, TE, Penn
  • Uona Kaveinga, ILB, BYU
  • Skye Povey, DB, BYU
  • JD Rousell, DB, Sacred Heart
The names among the reported UFAs and tryout invitees that seem to garner a mention as strong candidates to potentially make the squad (regular season or practice) are RB John Crockett, WR Jimmie Hunt, OL Matt Rotheram, QB Bernard Blake, and QB Blake Sims. But given oppportunities, who really knows who will make the most of their opportunity to make the Packers? As both Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy have both said in their post-draft interviews, the expectations for the draftees are that they come in and play behind the veterans. The Packers are a deep team where it counts, but they definitely had needs. Whether those needs were met or not in a way which can help elevate the Packers, particularly on defense, we'll have to wait to see. Regarding how we'd grade this draft, we'd give it a "B+" taking all the players noted above into account. How would you grade it? Take our poll in the upper righthand column (right below our Welcome message).

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Packers Add Another Cornerback and Receiver in NFL 2015 Draft Rounds 2 and 3

A bit to the surprise of at least some Green Bay Packers fans (including this one), GM Ted Thompson didn't make a move up in the second round to take one of the better linebackers available in the top-half of the second round of Friday's edition of the 2015 NFL Draft. Instead, Thompson stayed put at number 62 and selected cornerback Quinten Rollins out of Miami of Ohio.

Perhaps more intriguing as regards this pick is that Rollins only has one year of college football experience. Make no mistake: Rollins appears to be an outstanding athlete, although he spent most of his college career playing basketball. In his lone year playing football, he was named 2014 MAC Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-MAC. Not bad. But given his lack of experience, Rollins' immediate impact for the Packers might best be on special teams while he learns the ropes. We have to figure Thompson isn't counting on Rollins much as a defender this year but is rather betting on the Packers' ability to "coach him up," as the saying goes for a more prominent role down the road. Here's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sports reporter Tyler Dunne's take on this pick, and the Packers' draft through Day 2.

In the third round, the Packers also made a bit of surprise pick. Again, instead of addressing what seems to many to be obvious needs at linebacker, Thompson selected WR Ty Montgomery from Stanford. With all the receiving talent already on the Packers roster, why would Thompson make this pick? According to reports, the Packers -- and others -- view Montgomery as a top-notch return threat...something the Packers have been lacking for a while. But even more so, they see him being another Randall Cobb, only bigger, someone they can line up anywhere on the field.
Ty Montgomery opened Packers' eyes as a returner.
(Photo copyright Associated Press)

What will Packers do on Day 3?
GM Ted Thompson insists that the Packers' need for inside linebacker help will be addressed. But he also was clear about how he felt about his current situation. According to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "When asked how he felt about a position he cleared of veterans A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore during the off-season, leaving Sam Barrington, Clay Matthews and Carl Bradford to hold the fort, Thompson said 'it's fine.'"

So, there you have it, Packer fans. R-E-L-A-X from the main man himself. "We're going to address that just like we address all other positions and try to make it as strong as we can," Thompson said in the same report noted above.

It should be an interesting final day of the draft. Thompson is a wizard at finding later-round gems. Also, let's not forget the undrafted free agents which will be signed following the completion of the draft. Seems as if Thompson always finds two or three keepers there each season, as well.

We will be live Tweeting during the rounds today, so be sure to follow us at @packfansunited for all those verbal gems. And we will of course be doing a wrap up of the draft following its completion, along with undrafted free agent signing updates. You can also follow Packers coverage from all over via our Amazing 2nd Page.

Go Pack Go!!!

Friday, May 01, 2015

Packers select DB Damarious Randall with 30th Overall Pick in 2015 NFL Draft

After several hours of waiting to see what would happen, fans of the Green Bay Packers finally learned last evening that they have a new defensive back to help fill the holes left by the departures of Tramon Williams and Davon House. With the 30th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Packers chose Arizona State safety Damarious Randall.


While he played safety at Arizona State, Packers GM Ted Thompson said last night that he'd probably play cornerback in the Packers scheme. Although, as Thompson added, because of defensive coordinator Dom Caper's variations, Packers defensive backs play all over the place. In this regard, Randall will probably be well suited to the Packers defense. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr., said he really "loved" this pick for the Packers. Another draft pundit said that Randall was "the best cover guy" in the draft.

Randall plays a bit bigger than his size according to draft reports. He tackles well and has very good closing speed: he ran a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Draft guru Mike Mayock said this before the draft: "Randall is what today's free safety is all about. He is by far the best cover safety in this draft. Randall can play man-to-man; he has cornerback-level cover skills. You give up some physicality, but his coverage ability is where the NFL is going. Remember Jimmie Ward was a first-rounder last year (to the 49ers) with a similar skill set."

In addition, Randall can play special teams and also has spent a little time as a returner. With that kind of speed, and the need to preserve WR Randall Cobb for receiving duties, we can only imagine that Randall will get plenty of opportunities to win a returning role as well as time in the defensive backfield. Imagine having WR/R Jared Abbrederis, who was lost to injury prior to the start of the regular season last year, and Randall back on returns. That could be a dynamic returning duo that would give opponents' special teams fits.

We like this pick although, frankly, it's not one we had on our radar, as our prior post will attest in terms of draft possibilities. Guess that's why we're here writing and Ted Thompson is up in Green Bay making the picks. For the latter, we should all be grateful.

What will days 2 and 3 of the draft bring the Packers way? We have to believe additional depth in the defensive backfield, as well as inside linebacker, tight tend, and perhaps offensive and defensive line depth. Also, it wouldn't shock us if Thompson drafts a quarterback along the way.

It's great to be a Packers fan, isn't it, folks?

Go Pack Go!!!