Saturday, August 31, 2013

Packers announce 53-man least, for now...

As of the designated NFL cutdown time of 5 p.m. today, the Green Bay Packers parted ways with 22 players. Among some of the more notable cuts: QB Vince Young and RB Alex Green.

Of more interest to Packer fans is who the team kept on the roster. Here is the roster as of now (subject to ongoing change, of course):
  • QUARTERBACK (2): Aaron Rodgers and B.J. Coleman
  • RUNNING BACK (3): Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, James Starks
  • FULLBACK (1): John Kuhn
  • WIDE RECEIVER (5): Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Jeremy Ross
  • TIGHT END (4): Jermichael Finley, Brandon Bostick, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor
  • OFFENSIVE LINEMAN (8): David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Don Barclay, Marshall Newhouse, Lane Taylor, Greg Van Roten
  • DEFENSIVE LINEMAN (8): B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson, Josh Boyd, Mike Daniels, Johnny Jolly, Datone Jones, Mike Neal
  • OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (4): Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer
  • INSIDE LINEBACKER (5): A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Sam Barrington, Robert Francois, Jamari Lattimore
  • CORNERBACK (6): Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Davon House
  • SAFETY (4): Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings, Chris Banjo
  • KICKER (1): Mason Crosby
  • PUNTER (1): Tim Masthay
  • LONG SNAPPER (1): Brett Goode
For those like yours truly who were rooting for Johnny Jolly to make the roster, he did. He Tweeted out not long ago: "like thank Packers brass, coaches, packers nation 4 the support and opportunity. I won't let you down!! #itsaGthang"

For those of you who voted in one of our recent polls as to who you'd prefer to be QB Aaron Rodgers back up, sorry, Vince Young didn't make the cut. He also Tweeted out a thanks to Packer fans.

One of the surprises, perhaps, was the release of Alex Green in favor of James Starks. The season-ending injury to DuJuan Harris -- whom head coach Mike McCarthy had big plans for in this offense -- changed the dynamics of the backfield decisions. But the tweaking might still not be done. The Packers brought in RB/KR Joe McKnight at the end of the week for a workout.

We don't have the practice squad players. And no doubt, GM Ted Thompson isn't done yet.

Stay tuned.

Packers lose third preseason game, get ready for cuts

As I Tweeted out (@packfansunited) prior to game time on Thursday, I was unable to post a preview for the Packers vs. Chiefs game. Good thing I didn't waste the energy or bandwith. It was a snoozefest, at least on the Packers' side of the ledger. I'm only now coming out of the coma induced by watching a very uninspired effort by players on both sides of the ball. I did indicate I'd post a review of the game. However, that was before the game was actually played. There really isn't much that can be said about it. I'll defer to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Packer guru Bob McGinn's analysis instead.

Losing 30-8 in the final preseason game isn't the end of the world. But what it says about a team that only scored two touchdowns -- not one by a starter -- during 16 quarters of football may be a bigger issue. Granted, the trigger behind the Packers offense, QB Aaron Rodger, saw very limited action, as did most of the offensive unit. So we really don't know what this reconfigured offensive line can do, nor what the new running game and new-look receiving corps can do. It's going to be a surprise what happens in the first game against San Francisco, to say the least.

Now, we wait on today's cuts. The team has to go from 75 to 53 by 5 p.m. today. Still, the Packers reportedly brought a few players in for work outs yesterday, a kicker and running back/kick returner among them. So the final roster is still certainly a bit up in the air, although that will likely come down to probably the final eight or nine spots. Ted Thompson is always looking for ways to make the team better and if he sees a way to do that from other teams' castoffs, don't be surprised.

The preseason didn't show us much, at least for those on the outside looking in. A few players secured their roster spots while some others may have missed their opportunities. We'll know later on today what things look like going into the first week of the season.

Sometime in the coming week we'll post our season prediction for the Pack. So that's another reason to keep checking back here. As is our Amazing 2nd Page! (Just click the menu item at the top of this column.)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Packers get to 75-man roster through injury listings

With the exception of the release of couple-day signee kicker, Zach Ramirez, the Green Bay Packers got down to the required 75-man roster limit yesterday primarily through placing players on various injury-related lists.

Ramirez was brought in to provide some late camp competition for Mason Crosby, who reportedly responded with his best showing of camp, locking up the kicking position. (Let us pray...)

Other than that move, OT Derek Sherrod, S Sean Richardson, T J.C. Tretter and DE Jerel Worthy were all placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. The Packers placed OT Bryan Bulaga, RB DuJuan Harris, WR Kevin Dorsey, and LB Jarvis Reed on injured reserve, meaning they are done for the season. Both Bulaga and Harris have knee injuries that require surgery. The others will either be waived when healthy or, more likely, will sign injury settlements and move on as free agents.

Next up for Packers General Manager Ted Thompson? Cutting 22 players by 5 p.m. Saturday to get down to the 53-man regular season roster. If you want to see an insightful analysis of how that might shake out, check out this article from a few days ago.

Sherrod? Who?? How long???
Derek SherrodDerek Sherrod
(Photo by Gabriel Cervantes. This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

The Packers first round draft pick in 2011, Derek Sherrod is still...a work in progress?

That might even be stretching it. Since breaking both the tibia and fibula in his right leg in a game in Kansas City late during his first season in what some have said was one of the worst leg injuries they'd ever seen, Sherrod has been a missing man. Even though he had surgery shortly after his injury, his recovery has been slow. Very slow. Complications -- in his ankle -- arose out of the initial surgery which required additional surgery. Some who have seen him at the practice field have said the muscle mass of his injured leg appears about 20 percent smaller than his healthy leg.

By virtue of being on the reserve/PUP list -- basically the same route the Packers took with him last season -- Sherrod will not be allowed to practice for the first six weeks of the season. After that, he is eligible for a 21-day period in which to practice with the team without him counting against the roster. The team has a five-week window after Week six of the season in which to initiate this designated practice period. However, by Week 11, the Packers will have to make a decision: activate him to roster, put him on season-ending injured reserve, or cut him outright.

There are many, including this pundit, who have a sense that Sherrod will never see the playing field again or, if he does, will not be able to perform at the level needed. A freak injury. We wish nothing but the best for the young man, but it might be best for both parties if the Packers just cut him and moved on. The team has done all it can do to allow him a recovery. If the injury had not occurred there is little doubt that Sherrod would be a key piece in the Pack's offensive line, protecting QB Aaron Rodgers' blind side for many years to come. But if "ifs, ands and buts were candy and nuts we'd all have a really good time." (I dunno either...was just the first time it seemed even close to making sense in a post...sorry!) It's time for the Packers to move on. But we'll be waiting at least another couple months for that move to take place.

You can read more about Sherrod's family's take on the injury and his recovery here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Packers release QB Graham Harrell, three others

Following what can only be described as an uninspired and disappointing training camp, including lackluster preseason game performances, Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Graham Harrell was released on Saturday, according to reports. Here's a video report from ESPN's Adam Schefter about the situation:

While there was apparently no doubts about the nature of Harrell as a great teammate and person, there were just too many ongoing doubts about him as the primary backup to Aaron Rodgers.

With veteran Vince Young brought into camp a month ago for competition, the pressure to perform was definitely turned up a notch. Harrell couldn't respond. It appears now that Young, by virtue of his work over the pass month and flashes of what he could do -- including leading an 80-yard touchdown drive Friday evening against the Seahawks -- was enough for the Packers to part ways with Harrell. B.J. Coleman likely will be the third quarterback, either stashed on the practice squad or on the regular roster but inactive on game days. It's also possible that the Packers will look for other veteran quarterbacks who will be released in upcoming days by other teams.

By the way, the fans voting in our backup quarterback poll more than a week ago (see righthand column) did a great job predicting how this would all shake out.

In addition to Harrell, reports indicate the Packers also released WR Justin Wilson, WR Omarius Hines, and college quarterback turned wide receiver, Alex Gillett (personally, this pundit felt that Gillett showed some ability and toughness...was hoping the Pack would try to place him on the practice squad).

Tuesday is the league-mandated deadline for teams trimming their rosters down to 75 players. We'll keep you posted as the Packers make their other cuts.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Packers lose to both Seahawks and injury bug

Friday evening's preseason game versus the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field was not a great one from the Green Bay Packers perspective. There was the final score, a 17-10 loss. Which is not a biggie in the preseason. Of more concern was the level of play and the rash of injuries that hit the Packers.

Let's start with the latter first.

Injury report
Morgan Burnett -- the Pack's starting safety and signal caller in the defensive backfield -- was lost to a hamstring injury. Inside linebacker Brad Jones, who registered a sack on the elusive Russell Wilson, also left with a hamstring injury. Cornerback Casey Hayward re-aggravated the hamstring injury that has kept him sidelined for most of training camp. RB DuJuan Harris, who got his first action of the preseason after being sidelined throughout camp, left during the first series after re-injuring his knee. All week, head coach Mike McCarthy was saying how excited he was to see Harris back in action. So much for that. OLB Jarvis Reed also sustained a knee injury.

While all of these injuries are a concern, of course, there is more depth at linebacker and running back than there is at safety. If Burnett is lost for any amount of time, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, or perhaps free agent Chris Banjo (who was in on several plays last night) will be called upon to fill the gap. A veteran free agent could also be added. The Packers could get by, but Burnett's return is key to the defensive backfield's performance.

These new injuries, of course, are on top of the current injury list: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Matthew Mulligan, Andy Mulumba, Tramon Williams, James Nixon and Jarrett Bush all sat out last night's game with injuries.

The season opener against the 49ers is just two weeks away. The Packers need to get all these guys healthy, and soon. With them, the Pack is a force to be reckoned with every week. Without them, the team becomes average.

Backup quarterback still up for grabs
Coach McCarthy was trying to get some clarity on the backup quarterback situation last night. He gave Graham Harrell every chance to solidify a hold on the number two spot behind Aaron Rodgers. Harrell worked for a good period behind the first team offense. His performance was less than stellar, although to be fair the penalties and entire lack of rhythm exhibited by the offense at that time were not totally Harrell's fault. His lack of passing precision downfield, however, was. He did not inspire confidence, despite his supposed knowledge of the offensive scheme.

Veteran QB Vince Young, though, did inspire confidence despite his lack of knowledge of the Packers' system at this point. He led two series in the second half, including an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. In addition, Young displayed the ability to break the pocket when needed; he scrambled three times for 39 yards. He's got the legs and he's got the instincts that Harrell doesn't have.

B.J. Coleman did mop up duty at the quarterback position and didn't generate much with the backups.

The early guess from this pundit is that Coleman gets cut or put on the practice squad, while Young and Harrell make the regular roster. And while the game plan for Young would of necessity be sparse early in the season compared to Harrell, the best option to win -- if, God forbid, something happens to Rodgers -- is for Young to be the first man in.

Level of overall play was not good
While the Packers were not as flat as for the first game, they didn't show the same level of performance as they did in beating the Rams last weekend. Of course, the Seahawks are much better than the Rams and it showed. They gave the Packers problems on both sides of the ball last night, despite the defense registering several sacks on 'hawks quarterbacks.

While it shouldn't be a concern given the weapons available, the fact that the Packers number one offensive unit has yet to score a touchdown is at least starting to be a discussion point. The unit moves the ball but stalls out without crossing the goal line. That leaves things on the leg of kicker Mason Crosby, who has been less than steady. You know this will get worked out. But it would be nice to see some TD production clicking with the first unit. So far, we haven't seen it.

RB Eddie Lacy wasn't able to get any running room last night. Even the best back needs blocking, and that wasn't readily present particularly with the backup line operating. On defense, there were some good individual moments, but there were often huge gaps up the middle on both running and receiving plays.

Bottom line: the Packers still have a lot to get straightened out before the start of the season. They also need to get their key players healthy again. That would go a long way to making things click.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Packers Preseason Game 3: Seahawks come to Lambeau Field

In their first meeting since the infamous "Fail Mary"game last September, the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks will meet Friday night in Lambeau Field. That "loss" in the regular season -- with replacement referees (one in particular) making mind-numbingly dumb calls -- had implications for both teams in the playoffs. Replays clearly showed that Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings had intercepted and had possession of the ball. Somehow, someway, a replacement official failed to see what the rest of the universe did. But, as head coach Mike McCarthy was quick to point out, to his credit, after the game, the final result should never have come down to that one play. There were other opportunities for the Packers to leave Seattle with a win. Never should have gotten to a judgement call by a ref incapable of making a competent decision about a close play.

OK, there...venting is good. Let's move on...

Going into this third game of the preseason, several things are clear:
  • The Packers are nowhere near ready for the start of the regular season...but are getting closer.
  • Special teams is very much in flux, particularly at the critical positions of kicker and returner. The rest of the unit will be filled out, as usual, with those who will primarily make the roster through their special teams play and as backups to the starters on both offense and defense.
  • Speaking of kicker, Mason Crosby continues to have his ups and downs in camp. Despite a fairly good performance in last week's game, his sessions this week in camp reportedly have been spotty. Giorgio Tavecchio, Crosby's camp competition, seems to match Crosby's inconsistency. Several veteran kickers became available through cuts this week but the Packers -- if they had any interest -- didn't move quickly enough and each was signed by another team. Be worried, Packer very worried.
  • The backup quarterback position is still in flux. Coach McCarthy is still waiting for one of the three candidates -- Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman or Vince Young -- to claim the number two spot. Harrell is going into his fourth year with the Packers and still doesn't inspire confidence. Young, signed after the start of camp, may or may not have anything left in the tank after being out of football for a year. He certainly hasn't had a chance to fully learn the Packers' offensive scheme. Coleman perhaps has the best arm among the three, certainly better than Harrell, but is still raw. If things can start to click for him sooner rather than later, he'd likely be the best long-term backup option in case something happened to Aaron Rodgers. In the meantime...pray for Rodgers' well-being.
  • D-lineman Johnny Jolly -- a long shot at the start of camp to make the team -- now has a very good chance to do so and resume playing a key role on the defense. I hope you're rooting for him...I am.
  • Rookie CB Micah Hyde, while not a speed burner, just seems to make plays and be around the ball more often than not. Yes, he'll still make rookie mistakes, but it looks as if he's a keeper.
  • We haven't had a chance to see much of what rookie DE Datone Jones can do thanks to an ankle injury, which was re-aggravated earlier this week. Whether he sees action Friday night or not is uncertain.
  • We also haven't had a chance to see much of rookie RB Johnathan Franklin. There are a number of talented backs in Green Bay this year; this is a situation the Packers haven't had to deal with much in recent years. Coach McCarthy has said he's anxious to see what penciled-in starter DuJuan Harris shows Friday evening. He knows what rookie RB Eddie Lacy can very dangerous. Alex Green looks to regain his explosiveness and be part of the mix. James Starks may wind up being the odd man out, assuming the Packers actually retain four running backs on the roster rather than three. If it's three, which is the likely scenario, Alex Green may also be looking for work elsewhere. In fact, reports a week ago were that the Packers were shopping Green around for a possible trade.
  • OT David Bakhtiari appears to have won the battle for starter at left tackle with his solid play. Right tackle, however, still seems to be a bit in question, although reports are that Don Barclay has the edge on Marshall Newhouse.
Oh, Seattle...well, yes, they'll play and give the Packers a very good effort. Coach McCarthy has said repeatedly this week that this is the time for players to step up. Those who do, will likely make the team; those who don't...well, cuts will be coming soon. Very soon.

There are many other observations to be made, but time runs short. So this will have to do as the pre-game post. Check back this weekend for post-game observations.

Go Pack Go!!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Packers get first preseason win

In a game that seemed a bit of a mirror image to last week's shutout loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the Green Bay Packers tonight dominated the St. Louis Rams and scored a 19-7 win.

There were some very good individual performances of note: Eddie Lacy (whom we didn't think was likely to play at all), Johnny Jolly, Jermichael Finley, Davon House, Micah Hyde, B.J. Coleman. And, Aaron Rodgers, of course.

It seems as if the Packers also escaped without any major injuries. That might be perhaps the best news of the night.

The hour is getting late and the words are drawing scarce at this moment. So you'll have to check back in the next day or two for a more complete review of the game. Also, don't forget to check out our Amazing 2nd Page at any time for all the latest news and comment about your favorite team: the Green Bay Packers.

We are...Packer Fans United!

Packers 2013 Preseason Game 2: Green Bay butts heads with the Rams

As you may note if you are a regular reader of, it's been a week since our last post. That article was very long post-mortem of the Packers shut out loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Frankly, it took yours truly a week to recover. Man, that was a clunker no matter how you looked it. And I know...because I looked at it every which way, as you'll see if you look again at that post.

Anyway, in the interim between that post and this one, I hope you've been checking in on all the goings on related to the Packers via our Amazing 2nd Page. That's your one-stop channel for more than you'd probably ever need -- or want -- to know about the Packers, from both the pro sport writers and sports networks as well as the great fans who help make up Packer blogger-land.

So what's the prognosis about tonight's game, which kicks off in less than one hour? Well, with a nod to Jerry Seinfeld, it is not Prognosis Negative. Rather, I think you'll see a much more inspired team this evening. Last week, other than the first series from the starting offense, the game was a flat and uninspired performance on both sides of the ball. CB Davon House, who got burned a couple times on the night, manned up during the week and even said it was his worst performance ever. That's the kind of shock therapy realization that can serve someone well all season long. Good to get that after the first preseason game and not later on in the regular season.

Who needs to show something extra tonight?
Quite a few players, at least judging by last week's performance.

Backup QB Graham Harrell has to show a lot more than an ability to throw underneath to his check-down receivers every time he passes. He is going to have to open it up and look downfield more. A lot more. Expect to see the majority of snaps go to him and Vince Young tonight. With an extra week of practice under his belt, it will really be interesting to see how Young does. He had a few good moments -- and deep throws -- in practice this week, so it will be most interesting to see his progress in the Packers system. While B.J. Coleman may get a few snaps, it seems more and more evident that he's likely to be the odd man out in the backup race for quarterback. Our fan poll (see the righthand column) clearly showed a preference for Young being Aaron Rodgers primary backup...for what that's worth.

It's likely that rookie RB Eddie Lacy will be held out again this week with his hamstring issue. Penciled-in depth chart starter DuJuan Harris is also likely not to see much if any action, just coming off the PUP list. That leaves a lot of potential carry action for Alex Green and Johnathan Franklin, in particular. Green will be given a lot of opportunities to show that he still has his pre-ACL tear burst. It was rumored at times throughout the week that Green's name was being floated as possible trade bait; to whom and for whom were not clear.

WR Randall Cobb is nursing a bicep injury and likely will not play this evening. That opens up more room for backup receivers Jeremy Ross and rookie surprise Tyrone Walker, who made a positive impression against the Cardinals. The knock on Ross is his inconsistency. Talent is no question. Hanging on to the ball consistently...question. As a kick and punt returner, it's his job to lose; head coach Mike McCarthy does not want to be in a position to have to put Randall Cobb back as the primary returner. Let's see if Ross seizes the opportunity given to him tonight.

Johnny Jolly should again see a fair amount of playing time. The defensive line is a crowded place right now. He played well last week in his first game action in three years. But he's competing against some younger guys. He's got the know-how and, his teammates say, he's got the desire. Can he put that desire and physicality back on the field in a way even close to what he was a few years back? We'll see.

There are lots of places to look for insights tonight. Let's hope the good surprises outweigh the bad, whether or not the Packers come out with a "W". Oh, and also let's hope the Pack escapes without any injuries. That would be good too, wouldn't it?


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Packers lose preseason opener to Cardinals, 17-0

Well, it wasn't pretty, that's for sure. The preseason home opener for the Green Bay Packers versus the Arizona Cardinals was about as flat as you'll ever see. Final score: Cardinals 17 - Packers 0.

Other than a fast-paced no-huddle opening series led by Aaron Rodgers and the number one offense which eventually stalled out at the Cardinals goal line, the Packers as a team did nothing of note offensively or defensively. To put the game in historical perspective, the recap by Bob McGinn in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes that "It marked the first time that the Packers had been shut out in a 60-minute exhibition game since a 33-0 loss in August 1987 to the Washington Redskins in Madison." Yowza.

OK, OK, it's just a preseason game and the first one at that.

In our preview, we offered a few things to watch for during the game. Let's see how that shook out, shall we?

Running Game
We knew a couple things going into this game. First, that the Packers wanted to make a commitment to run the ball this season in a way they haven't done in years. That's why the team drafted two top running backs early in the NFL draft. We also knew that rookie RB Eddie Lacy would be held out of the game because of a hamstring issue. So we anticipated a big dose of rookie Johnathan Franklin, plus James Starks, Alex Green, and rookie Angelo Pease. Starks got the start and rushed 12 times for 38 yards with a long run of 8 yards, and totaled 18 yards in seven first-down carries. Starks looked good. When he's healthy, as we saw late in the 2011 season, Starks can be a formidable runner. Staying on the field has been his problem. Franklin also showed potential, but the Packers really need to scheme to get him to the outside where he can use his speed. He carried just six times for 14 yards. Alex Green got some carries and finished with seven attempts for 16 yards. Angelo Pease had one carry for two yards. So on the whole, how do they say it...oh yes...meh. Eddie Lacy was very much needed on the Packers' first drive when they tried to rush it into the endzone a few times from the goal line without success. Starks just couldn't blast through. From that standpoint, it seemed like same ol', same ol', as the saying goes. Getting Lacy back will be a boost to the offense, for sure.

Conclusion: incomplete.

The Packers have four quarterbacks vying for what will likely be three spots on the roster. One spot is a lock. We know who that is. (Hint: his initials start with "Aaron Rodgers.") Beyond that, Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman and Vince Young will battle it out for the remaining two spots. Last night didn't go very far in determining who had a leg up (or arm, as the case may be) on the rest. Harrell got the most time to show how he's progressed as the main backup to Rodgers from last season. It was an unimpressive performance. He finished 12 of 19 for 76 yards, including one interception and one fumble when he was stripped on a sack. As some might point out, whether those turnovers were all on Harrell or not is questionable. He and his receiver on the interception were clearly not on the same page, and the sack/strip was a result of RT Marshall Newhouse getting smoked by the rusher. Vince Young came in to relieve Harrell. For someone who was signed Tuesday, playing on Friday was a pretty quick turnaround. In a complex system such as the Packers, Young's head had to be swimming. Reports were that head coach Mike McCarthy probably had five or six plays in the hopper for Young. He finished 1 for 3 (7 yards), while running twice for 12 yards. B.J. Coleman had mop up duty on the night. He went 2 for 7 for 15 yards passing.

Conclusion: Rodgers great, everyone else...meh.

Kicking Game
Given Mason Crosby's struggles last year, and his 3 for 7 performance in the Family Night scrimmage a week ago, everyone was very interested to see how he fared this week, as well as how his competitor, Giorgio Tavecchio, stacked up. Well, funny story...neither one of them saw the field last night. After the first offensive series, where the Packers opted to go for it on 4th and 2 at the Cardinals' goal line, not once during the rest of the game were the Packers even in field goal range. Both the kickers got the night off.

Conclusion: Incomplete

Randall Cobb was held out last evening, and Jordy Nelson is done for the preseason with minor knee surgery. That left James Jones as the main man, which he certainly was on a huge 50-yard pass reception from Rodgers on that first drive of the game. Beyond that, eight other receivers had receptions on the evening. Tyrone Walker had perhaps the best night after Jones, with five receptions for 41 yards, with a long of 22 yards. Alex Gillett also had some nice catches, including the only completion for Vince Young.

Conclusion: Incomplete

Offensive Line
Given the loss of LT Bryan Bulaga for the season, all eyes were on rookie David Bakhtiari. He has impressed in camp and the expectations for him are high; the Packers will be in real trouble if he isn't able to fill the void. The good news was that Bakhtiari acquitted himself quite well last evening. He got lots of reps, which he needs. Concerns arise, still, from tackle Marshall Newhouse who was moved from left tackle to the right side in the new flip-flop scheme. As noted earlier, he got beat badly on a sack of Graham Harrell which led to a strip fumble. Seems as if his struggles continue, at least for now. As to the rest of the linemen, nothing distinguishing one way or another.

Conclusion: Mixed

We wanted to keep an eye on rookie DE Datone Jones to see what he could bring to the party. Unfortunately, he left the party early with an ankle sprain. We'll have to keep watching news today to see the severity of that sprain. Obviously, it would be a blow to the defense if he was out for any length of time, particularly if it turns out to be a high ankle sprain. We also wanted to see how DT Johnny Jolly did in his return to the field after three years away. He got a good push on several plays and seemed to hold up fairly well. Some pundits think it's a long shot that he'll make the final roster. Maybe. But I'm still rooting for him, because if he can even come close to what he was several years ago he's worth keeping.

One of the areas we didn't mention in our preview was the defensive backs. I guess we should have. Because what we saw on display last night was an area of concern. Coverage was lax, tackling was poor. Davon House got burned several times on poor coverage. Rookie Micah Hyde displayed some toughness but also had moments where being a rookie showed. This will be a part of the defense that will need to step up.

And speaking of stepping up, the Packers' linebacking corp -- aside from Clay Matthews who didn't play long last night -- needs to do just that. Not much to write home about...or write here about. Robert Francois had what could have been the defensive highlight of the night when he flashed speed on a blitz and had the Cardinals quarterback wrapped up for a sack...except, he didn't; the quarterback broke free and wound up scrambling for a first down.

The entire defense looked very flat and inept. But much the same can be said for the rest of the team as well, first unit offense excepted.

Overall Conclusion: Flat

Not much more to say about last night's game. The best part is that it doesn't count. The worst part is that it seems as if the team has a long way to go before it comes together. Coach McCarthy has his work cut out for him.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Packers 2013 Preseason Game 1: Cardinals visit Green Bay

In what will undoubtedly be a bit of a pleasant change of temperature from Arizona, members of the Cardinals football team will be luxuriating in the comfortable late summer temperatures of Green Bay this evening as they meet the Packers in the first preseason game of the 2103 NFL season.

At this writing, kickoff is about two hours away. Seventy-five hundred additional fans will be viewing the game from within the hallowed confines of Lambeau Field, courtesy of the expansion on the stadium's south side. Conversely, tens of thousands of Packer fans throughout southeastern Wisconsin will have to scramble to view the game on television courtesy of the ongoing dispute between WTMJ-4, the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee carrying the game, and Time Warner Cable, who for the past three weeks has had the channel off the air. Fans have been buying antennas, calling bars, restaurants and even long-lost family and friends to find someone who has the game on DirecTV, Dish, or otherwise is able to pick up the channel. For the rest of us, including yours truly, I'll be watching the telecast on Telemundo, which is picking up the WTMJ television feed for the second year in a row. (It's at this moment I wish I had kept up with my Spanish lessons.) the game.

What shall we look for?

For one thing, probably not rookie RB Eddie Lacy. The big back who is expected to carry a large portion of the load at running back this season will likely sit out tonight's game with a hamstring issue. Supposedly not serious but no reason to aggravate it and cause long-term problems. DuJuan Harris, who is also listed as the starter as of now on the team's depth chart despite having not played all training camp, will also not play. Expect, then, to see a big dose of rookie Jonathan Franklin, plus James Starks, Alex Green, and rookie Angelo Pease.

Four -- count 'em, four -- quarterbacks are expected to see playing time tonight. Head coach Mike McCarthy has indicated he wants to get all four QBs action this evening: Aaron Rodgers, Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman and newly-signed Vince Young. The latter has obviously not had much time to assimilate the playbook, so expect things to be quite simple when and if he gets in the game. It's likely that the Pack will keep three quarterbacks on the final roster, although one will no doubt be inactive on game day. That said, the backup job and the number 3 spot are in play for Harrell, Coleman and Young. Someone will have to go. Tonight's game will be the start of that process -- at least on public display -- as to who will get those two spots. By the way, if you still haven't voted in our backup quarterback poll, please take a moment to do so. You'll find it in the righthand column next to this story.

The kicking game. Ah, the kicking game. With veteran Mason Crosby continuing his lackluster performance from last season into these early days of training camp, the Packers are hoping he gets his head -- and his field goal attempts -- straightened out. Fast. He and Giorgio Tavecchio will split the kicking duties tonight. At the Family Night scrimmage last Saturday evening, Crosby went just 3 for 8 on field goal attempts while Tavecchio connected on 6 of 7. Crosby has the stronger leg, but if he doesn't do better at putting the ball through the uprights, leg strength isn't much of a factor. If the Pack decides it has to go with Tavecchio, it's possible they might then also use punter Tim Masthay on kickoffs. Masthay has reportedly been booming his kickoff during training camp. On the other hand, will the Packers want to expose the best punter they've had in years to possible injury on the kickoff team? This area of the game will certainly be under the microscope tonight.

With WR Randall Cobb likely held out of the game tonight because of his bicep injury, the competition at receiver will be a bit more on display tonight than it might have been otherwise, particularly for the #5 spot. The Packers have a lot of talented receivers in camp -- QB Aaron Rodgers even said it was the most talented group since he's been in Green Bay -- although some have been battling injuries. Look for one or two of those youngsters to make a case for themselves tonight.

The offensive line...Now that Bryan Bulaga has elected surgery on his torn ACL, eyes will be on rookie LT David Bakhtiari to protect the quarterback's blind side. Everyone from coaches to fellow linemen are very high on Bakhtiari's abilities. But he's a rookie, protecting the franchise in Aaron Rodgers. Watch closely. Also, check out the backups at the various line positions and how rotations are handled. The Packers have only nine offensive linemen on the roster at this point. Who they use, and how they use them, is a study unto itself.

Defensively, let's see how rookie DE Datone Jones does during game conditions. Everyone has been very complimentary about Jones during camp, and rightly so; looks like he is the real deal. Let's see what a difference he can make on the D-line. Also, let's watch Johnny Jolly as he tries to come back after three years out of football. Seems as if many if not most fans are rooting for him (this writer included), and his teammates are saying how focused he is. But he has to show signs that he can get back to near his old playing performance. If it's any consolation, his position coach has been reminding folks that Jolly may now be 30 years old, but he's only had four years total of NFL wear-and-tear...fresh legs, fresh legs. But what else is in the tank? These preseason games are critical for Jolly's return to the roster. He can't get injured or his chances diminish greatly. Keep an eye on Jolly...and root for his success.

That should be enough for you to keep an eye on, don't you think? Bottom line, hope you are able to see the game one way or another. You can also stream the audio coverage of the game, as the flagship radio station for the Packers, 620WTMJ is now carrying the games online. Click here to listen live (5:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. CT) to the station's Packers Gameday broadcast, including the game call by Voice of the Packers, Wayne Larrivee, and former Packer center, Larry McCarren (in-game only on desktop computers). It's the next best thing to being there!

Go Pack Go!!!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Bulaga out, Vince Young in for Packers

Yesterday had more downs than ups for fans of the Green Bay Packers. Primarily, receiving the news that starting LT Bryan Bulaga is done for the season with a torn ACL sustained in the Family Night scrimmage on Saturday.

What was going to be a challenging experiment -- essentially flipping the offensive lineman from one side to the other -- became even more so with the loss of Bulaga, who was considered the lynchpin of the scheme. While coming off his late-season hip injury from last year, Bulaga would be the man charged with protecting QB Aaron Rodger's blind side. Now...who? The Packers could go back to last season's starter, Marshall Newhouse, who had been switched to the right side in the new alignment. Derek Sherrod, who was supposed to be the long-term answer when selected by the Pack in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, hasn't played since 2011 after sustaining a terrible leg injury; sounds as if he's nowhere close to even being in the conversation and is still on the PUP list.

Reports are, though, that the Packers may give rookie fourth-round draft pick, David Bakhtiari, a chance to win that spot. He has apparently impressed so far in training camp but game action against an opposing team is something altogether different...especially for a rookie. But let's remember that Bulaga himself became a starter his rookie year and performed admirably. It's not out of the realm of possibility. We'll have to see how it shakes out during the preseason. Just remember that no NFL quarterback has been sacked more since 2008 than Rodgers. It's about time the Pack did something about that. The planned-for scheme to do so blew up before it even got started. Now, the team must search for another answer. If you want to read more about Bulaga and Bakhtiari, check out this article from

Vince Young as backup QB?
The counterpoint to the bad news about Bulaga was the rather surprising news that the Packers had signed veteran QB Vince Young to a one-year contract. For all practical purposes, it's a one-month tryout. If the Packers cut him before the start of the season they won't owe him a dime.

But much of the conversation around this signing has to do with why...why would the Packers sign a player who hasn't played since 2011? Young is 30 years old, basically when many quarterbacks are in their prime. His career record as a starter is 30-17. He had a few really good seasons in Tennessee and then the wheels kind of fell off. It was never a question of physical talent with Young, but rather what was going on between the ears. To say that he probably did not have the best relationship with coaches along the way, especially in Tennessee, is probably an understatement. But if there's anyone who can work with quarterbacks, it's Packers head coach, Mike McCarthy. He may be just what the doctor ordered to help turn Young's career around.

There were any number of pundits yesterday after the news broke about the signing who felt that this might actually be a good fit for both the Packers and Young. The Pack's two current backup QBs, Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman are apparently underwhelming so far in camp. While the Packers' offensive scheme is not simple and would be a challenge to pick up in a mere month's time, some reporters are speculating that the Packers might keep Young as a number three QB as a security blanket, and to give him time to learn the offense. In the event that Rodgers were to go down for any extended period of time, which quarterback would you rather have running the show: Harrell or Young? Many Packer fans are having that conversation right now.

What do you have to say? Take our poll now in the right sidebar and let us know if you'd rather have Vince Young, B.J. Coleman or Graham Harrell as the number two quarterback if something happens to Aaron Rodgers. We sure hope it doesn't come to that. But with Bryan Bulaga out of the picture, that possibility becomes a bit more real. Hence, the need for someone who has demonstrated the ability to succeed and win at the pro level...if that person still has anything left to give, that is.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Packers face challenges coming out of Family Night scrimmage

The annual Family Night scrimmage, held by the Green Bay Packers last Saturday night, comes roughly two weeks into summer training camp. It is an event that Packers fans near and far have come to look forward to and enjoy. Tickets are sold -- benefitting a local charity -- and it's usually a sell-out. This year, more than 67,000 fans attended what for all intents and purposes is just a glorified practice. Oh, and it's an event which also is typically covered live on television, as well, within the state of Wisconsin. Yes, we Packer fans are a different breed.

While there were highlights from the scrimmage, especially rookie RB Eddie Lacy rushing for roughly 65 yards on 8 carries and rookie DE Datone Jones showing the speed and power for which he was drafted, of more interest at the moment are the following issues:
  • Kicker Mason Crosby continuing his struggles from last season, missing 5 of 8 field goals during the kicking portion of the scrimmage.
  • LT Bryan Bulaga reportedly suffering a torn ligament in his knee during Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage.
Which is worse: having a kicker that has become, apparently, a bit of a head case when it comes to making field goal attempts of more than 30 yards...OR...arguably your best offensive lineman, who was the lynchpin in a revamped offensive line scheme, possibly lost for the season? You be the judge.

Crosby had his worst season as a professional last year, not even hitting 70 percent of his field goal attempts. He's being pushed in camp by Giorgio Tavecchio, who made 6 of his 7 attempts Saturday evening. You can read more about the kicking situation here.

Given the problems the Packers had last season in pass protection -- with QB Aaron Rodgers being sacked a league-high 51 times -- the loss of Bulaga for any amount of time, let alone the entire season, would be huge. And from the early reports, this seems as if it is the most likely scenario.

What then? Well, the Packers would have to move last season's starting left tackle, Marshall Newhouse, back to that position, move last season's surprise lineman, Don Barclay, to that spot, or perhaps even entrust rookie lineman David Bakhtiari with protecting Rodgers' blind side. Recall that the Packers determined the best way to protect Rodgers this season was to flip-flop the O-line and get the best lineman -- Bulaga -- on the left side. So much for that idea. And while Packers coaches have been very impressed early in camp with Bakhtiari, would they really entrust the franchise's MVP QB to a rookie? Time will tell.

In the meantime, you can read more about Bulaga's injury and the Packers' options here.