Tuesday, August 31, 2010

McCarthy: Harris to go on PUP list

As posted here yesterday, the Green Bay Packers were facing a tough decision regarding what to do with veteran CB Al Harris: save him one of the valuable 53-man roster spots even if he wasn't ready to go for the first few weeks of the regular season, or put him on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and lose his services for at least the first 6 weeks.

According to a report in this afternoon's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, head coach Mike McCarthy has apparently made his decision: the PUP list. McCarthy reportedly told USA Today that, "Al Harris is definitely getting better, he's getting close. But he's going to have to start the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform list).''

Perhaps not coincidentally as part of a live interview on an early morning segment on 620WTMJ-AM radio out of Milwaukee, McCarthy indicated that the area of the team that is most unsettled is cornerback. Ya think? McCarthy did not mention Harris' status during that interview, however.

Harris is now out for the first 6 weeks and that leaves backups Brandon Underwood (currently out with a shoulder injury), undrafted free agent Sam Shields or oft-injured Pat Lee as the possibilities for nickel back. Jarrett Bush's stock seems to be dropping for that position, at least as long as the coach's want to see what Shields can do.

In addition to Harris, S Atari Bigby and rookie RB James Starks were also placed on the PUP list, while RB Quinn Porter was assigned to injured reserve.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Pack faces tough decision on Harris

Packers CB Al Harris is still hoping. And so are the Packers. Hoping he'll be on the active roster for the start of the season and not the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. There still is a little time to go before the required final roster cut to the 53-man squad, but it sure seems likely the Packers will face a tough decision with regards to Harris. If he's not 100 percent for the first game or two, do you allocate a roster spot for him anyway in the hope he's ready to go in game 3 or 4? Or, do you give that valuable roster spot to someone else for at least the first 6 games of the season, the required number of games Harris would have to sit out if he is placed on the PUP list? Guess this is why management gets the big bucks, eh?

For how Harris views his situation, check out ESPNMilwaukee.com's Jason Wilde's article. Harris says it like it is: "“I won’t step out there too early and I won’t step out there too late." But what exactly that means...well, read the article here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Taking the Lambeau Leap into Twitter

I have put it off as long as possible, Packer fans. But the inevitable march of technology has finally sucked me in to yet another way to waste time. Yep, I've finally signed on with Twitter.

So, for those of you who just can't get enough of the scintillating commentary here at PackerFansUnited.com, now you can follow me at: http://twitter.com/packfansunited

I'll throw some widgets and buttony thingies on here sooner or later once I get everything figured out to hopefully make it easier for you. So they say.

Anyway, Twitter will perhaps make it easier for yours truly to vent more often and in 140-character outbursts during games. That should keep me out of therapy for at least another season.

As always, thanks for reading.

Go Pack Go!!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Packers blow out Colts in preseason game #3

Wowie kazowie, Batman! Did anyone see that coming? A 59-24 whupping of the Colts? Yowza! Sure, it's just preseason...but still...ya gotta like it, Packer fans!

There were no doubts coming into this game about the explosiveness of the Packers' offense. And no doubts emerged after the game. If anything, we should feel very good -- at least going into the regular season -- that the ol' veteran tackles, Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, held up very well indeed against the Colts' two Pro Bowl defensive ends. And with rookie Bryan Bulaga held out because of a hip injury, Daryn Colledge got extended time at left guard and no doubt secured the starter's role going into the season. He may not have been spectacular but he did what he needed to do which was help keep QB Aaron Rodgers upright.

And speaking of Rodgers, he not only stayed upright during his half of play but also played superbly. He connected on 3 TD passes during his time on the field. He missed on a couple of long throws, but even the ESPN booth crew was commenting on how Rodgers is now one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. They were particularly impressed with his ability to get the ball out quickly and without even having his feet set. His arm strength, delivery and decision making were tremendous.

Backup QB Matt Flynn also demonstrated his command of the offense during his time in the game, also looking very sharp. You could see last night why several personnel guys around the league have said that Flynn is a player they'd like to have on their teams as the best backup in the league.

As to the defense, coordinator Dom Capers dialed up the pressure a little bit more than what we've seen so far in the preseason. Despite missing a handful of starters due to injury or precaution, the defense did a good job holding its own against Peyton Manning and the Colts. Well, OK, there was that two-play, 22-second touchdown "drive" to start the game. That looked as if the defense was asleep. And they did give up 17 points while Manning was at the helm. Some of the d-backs looked out of position at times. But there was some pressure on Manning and that obviously made him uncomfortable. He was probably most uncomfortable when rookie free agent LB Frank Zombo -- who played virtually the entire game for all intents and purposes -- stripped him of the ball after which LB Robert Francois scooped it up and took it down to about the five yard line. Zombo has played himself through an ankle injury and onto the roster; there is no way he will not make the team after his performance, especially over the last two games.

Another undrafted free agent, CB Sam Shields might have also secured himself a spot on the roster. He had a great interception in the waning minutes of the game where he showed great anticipation and even greater athleticism in going up for the ball. He is also a speed demon on special teams...just don't use him as a returner!

Yet another rookie, S Morgan Burnett, has also demonstrated the ability to start. He nearly had an interception early in the game and later on, while Manning was still at quarterback, read the play perfectly and jumped in front of the receiver to make the pick. Great instincts.

WR Jason Cherry might have gotten a spot on the roster not in the crowded wide receiver corps but perhaps as a punt returner. He scored late in the 4th quarter on a tremendous 75-yard punt return to close out the Packers scoring.

In the punting competition, Tim Masthay probably has the edge on Chris Bryan thanks to one punt in the second quarter. He booted a 53-yard punt with 5.06 second hang time. It was at least in part that hang time that perhaps flustered returner Brandon James who muffed the ball inside the Colts' 10-yard line. The ball rolled into the end zone, where special teams standout Korey Hall recovered it for a touchdown. Been a while since there's been that kind of excitement -- at least going the Packers way -- on special teams. But at least on this night, even the special teams play was an asset and not a liability.

Tuesday teams have to cut down to 75 players, while Sept. 4 is the final cut down to the 53-man roster. It won't be hard to get down to 75. But as even the ESPN guys noted last night, the Packers are going to face some difficult decisions getting down to 53. There is a lot of talent on this team at many positions. It's one reason many pundits are picking the Pack to play in the Super Bowl at the end of this season. With some of the players, moving them to the practice squad won't accomplish much in the way of protecting them as other teams can claim them. Dang. Whether or not GM Ted Thompson receives any trade offers for any of these players remains to be seen.

One player who observers just have to think will finally be on the cutting block is Justin Harrell. He played again last evening in a very undistinguished performance. He was either on the ground being blocked or was not near the play at all. Looked very slow and unaggressive. For someone who is literally playing for his NFL career you would think there would be a sense of urgency. Maybe there was. But it sure didn't come out in terms of his play. Harrell by all reports is a nice young man. But he was damaged goods coming out of Tennessee, should never have been drafted at #16 in the first round, and has had nothing but health problems since joining the Pack, including in the week prior to this game. It's time for Thompson to make that roster spot available for someone else. Sorry, Justin.

There's more to chew on and discuss about this game and the upcoming season. But for now...enough.

Go Pack Go!!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Packers - Colts preseason game preview

Game time for tonight's Bishop's Charities Game at Lambeau Field is just a little more than 2 hours away. Being game #3 of the preseason, this is the dress rehearsal for the starters prior to the first game of the regular season Sept. 12 at Philadelphia. The Packers' starting units are expected to play at least through the first half of the game this evening. This will also be a warm up in the sense that the game will be nationally televised, so for the rookies on the team it will be a whole new experience, even if it is just a preseason game. They will get the feel for what the national spotlight is like.

As was the case last week, the Packers are thin tonight at running back, linebacker and in the defensive backfield. S Atari Bigby, LBs Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, RBs Kregg Lumpkin, James Starks and Quinn Porter, DE Cullen Jenkins, and CB Al Harris are not expected to play; LBs A.J. Hawk and Alex Joseph, and Ol Allen Barbre are questionable.

The plus side of the lack of running backs right now is that Ryan Grant should get a fair number of carries this evening. Of course, the offense will be pass-dominant as we've come to expect. But Grant needs the work, as does Brandon Jackson. Hopefully, Coach McCarthy will give them at least a few reps tonight.

Reports have also been circulating that CB Al Harris likely won't be ready for the start of the regular season, in which case the nickel position will go to one of the 4 backups: Brandon Underwood, Jarrett Bush, Pat Lee, or rookie Sam Shields. Underwood got torched last weekend at Seattle; he needs to step up his play considerably tonight. Bush has been a regular underperformer and Lee can't seem to stay on the field. The Packers are intrigued by Shields, or at least by his speed. The experiment as a punt/kick returner appears to be over as he has mishandled the ball on nearly every occasion. His performance as a gunner on punt coverage teams, however, might be the way Shields garners a roster spot. Whether he is used much tonight in the nickel or not is anyone's guess, although that would certainly be an expectation in next week's game where roster spots are on the line.

Tonight will also be a good indicator of how well our aging tackles, Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, stand up to a strong pass rush. If QB Aaron Rodgers gets pressure consistently tonight it might raise more concerns about the offensive line than initially thought.

On defense, it will be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Dom Capers dials things up a bit. So far through the preseason the defensive schemes have been plain vanilla. He still doesn't have his full complement of personnel available, but it would still be a good test of the backups to see what they can do when called upon.

The third preseason game is always an interesting one to watch as we get our first real chance to see the starters in extended play. But it also might give us some early insights into who might make the squad and who might not come cut down day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Packers - Seahawks preseason post-game review

The quick take: Packers 27, Seahawks 24. The Packers pulled out the win in the 4th quarter. Junk time, really.

The good
Let's start with the offense. The first unit has had four possessions in the two preseason games and have scored four touchdowns. Both of the first unit's touchdown drives last evening were for more than 70 yards. QB Aaron Rodgers has been outstanding, being decisive and on target with his throws, including the bombs. TE Jermichael Finley is clearly going to be one of the main weapons on offense this season. The Packers lined him up in several spots last night. The receiving corps will give defenses nightmares. The running game was adequate. Ryan Grant seemed to recover nicely from the concussion he sustained early in last weekend's game and had a few nice runs. Brandon Jackson also ran with authority and scored the game-winning TD late in the game. The offensive line, at least the first unit, never let anyone get near Rodgers. Backup QB Matt Flynn also acquitted himself nicely with the second unit, looking very sharp on his throws. When third and fourth stringers came in in the second half, well, any quarterback would have had problems. The starting defense, despite being short seven starters from last season, also held up...sort of. They did give up two scores to Seattle's starters (who also played much longer than did the Packers' number ones). But some of that can be attributed to shorter playing fields resulting from poor kick coverage.

Which brings us to...

The bad
It is clear that if the Packers have to rely upon some of their backup defensive backs much this season the offense will need to score a bunch each time out. Brandon Underwood, in particular, looked overmatched at every turn. There is also still not much of a pass rush, but remember that there has also been a decidedly vanilla approach to the defense so far.

Other bad news continues to be on the special teams. Punt and kick coverage was generally miserable. And finding reliable returners still seems to be a work in progress. It is clear that undrafted rookie Sam Shields is not ready for prime time. He may be the fastest man on the roster. And he may have picked off a pass while on defense. But his attempt at handling a kickoff was horrendous; he allowed the kick to bounce, didn't get on it fast enough, and the result was a kick recovery by Seattle. Terrible. He looks scared and confused for two weeks in a row.

One of the other bad aspects of the game last evening was the ongoing reminder what a bonehead move it was to cut punter Jon Ryan just prior to the start of the 2008 season. He was booming punts and stopping the ball inside the 5-yard line with almost pitching wedge-style spin. The best that can be said is that at least this year's punter -- whoever it may wind up being -- will not be as bad as last year's. But he also won't be as good as Jon Ryan.

Final Thoughts
The Packers at least were able to chalk up a win, even though it doesn't mean much. The parts of the team we thought would be working well are, so far, and the parts we felt might be problematic are, as well.

Thursday the Colts come to Lambeau for the unofficial warm up to the regular season for most of the starters. Will be curious to see what happens and what adjustments the coaching staff puts in place, particularly for the linebackers and defensive backs if injuries continue to play a part as they have so far in camp. It will also be especially interesting to see how the special teams get their acts together before things count. A lot of work needed there.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Packers - Seahawks preseason game preview

It's less than two hours to kickoff for the second game of the preseason, Packers vs. Seahawks. And, to be honest, this isn't really a preview as much as an overview. Hope that works for you.

What to look for tonight? Well, Coach McCarthy says that most all players are available for tonight's game, although in fact neither RB Kregg Lumpkin or RB James Starks made the trip. And even though Ryan Grant came back from his concussion of last weekend to practice this week, and will play tonight, expect most carries to go to backups Brandon Jackson and free-agent rookie Quinn Porter. That will be good to see. Porter is raw, but shows flashes. Need to see what he can really do in extended play. This may be the best opportunity he gets, as next Thursday's game at Lambeau versus the Colts is technically the dress rehearsal game for the starters. Game #4 is a grab bag. If Porter is going to legitimately challenge for a roster spot he needs to make an impression tonight.

As for the rest of the offense, no worries at this point. OK, there are the offensive line questions but it already is in better shape than last season. And there is a distinct possibility that rookie Bryan Bulaga will beat out Daryn Colledge to start at left guard.

So let's move on to defense, where there are indeed questions.

Now, let's not expect to see much in the way of scheming and blitzing tonight. The Packers are definitely holding their cards close in the preseason. So if it doesn't seem very exciting, it's not. Might see some flashes of things in the next game when the starters get more extended play, but don't look for anything too exciting this evening...still pretty vanilla.

The pass rush is something that was non-existent last weekend. Need to see who is able to get pressure tonight. Without Clay Matthews last week (and without him again tonight), the Pack had nothing in that department. And will Justin Harrell (who is listed as questionable for tonight because of his ongoing back problems) actually make an appearance? And how will second-year player B.J. Raji hold the point at nose tackle this evening?

In the defensive backfield, Al Harris will not play nor is it likely that Charles Woodson will see action. So Will Blackmon, Pat Lee, rookie Morgan Burnett and others in the backfield will gets lots of exposure...good or bad.

As for special teams that haven't been special in a long, long time...well, the coverage and return units are still works in progress. Need to see if one of the punters begins to separate himself from the other this evening; so far, they seem about even. Also still need to see who will emerge as reliable and productive punt and kick returners.

Well, Packer fans, that's the overview. Will do a recap tomorrow.

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rodgers makes you ask, "Brett who???"

With the circus in the land of the funky purple people at the return of Ol' #4 -- because he "owed it" to that organization (see my earlier post) -- Packer fans can instead be very thankful that we have a young man named Aaron Rodgers at the QB slot. Just check out this video to see Rodgers get nothing but net on what's said to be a 60-yard toss at the end of practice yesterday designed to work on long-throw accuracy.


What the Favre? Part 23

Ol' #4 made official today what was reported here and elsewhere yesterday: he's back for another year with the ViQueens. (Yawn.)

The only point of interest in his meeting with reporters -- we can't really call it a "news" conference, can we? -- was that he said, "I owe it to this organization to give it one more shot." Wha-a-a-a-a-a-a??? You "owe it" to the 'Queens? Brett, Grampa, what the heck are you talking about? You played there one year! Hell-o-o-o-o-o-o!

Too bad you apparently never thought that you "owed" it to the Packers' organization -- you know, that one you played for for about 16 years?! -- to say whether or not you were going to play from about the year 2004 onward.

Very interesting perspective you have on what you "owe" and who you "owe" it to. If you had had the same type of integrity a couple years ago that you have apparently found now it's quite likely you'd still be in the green-n-gold and retire proudly instead of being dressed out in that funky purple and retire as a punchline for comics everywhere.

I just thought I owed it to you readers to put things in perspective since Ol' #4, with all due respect, certainly seems to be a bit short in that department recently.

Oh, by the way, Favre says this, his 20th year in the NFL, will definitely be his last. Sure. Whatever.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What the Favre? Part 22

In merely the 22nd installment (22nd?!!!) of our ongoing drama, What the Favre?, breaking news out of Minnesota is that Ol' #4 has returned to Minnesota for his 20th season in the NFL. Literally. His plane landed not long ago.

Former fellow Green Bay Packer, Ryan Longwell, and two other ViQueen shmoes flew to Mississippi yesterday to beg Brett to return...er...ask what his status was.

This is actually a good thing for Packer fans. Really. The Packers' defense now gets a do-over for letting Brett and the 'Queens sweep them last year. One great way to make sure this is in fact Favre's last season will be to send him away with two losses to the Pack. That will stick in his craw as long as he rides his lawn tractor in Hattiesburg...two losses to the Packers in the final season of his career.

I can almost see the tears now.

Go Pack Go!!!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Packers preseason game #1 post-post-analysis

Hello, again, Packer fans! Great to be back from a little break to get refreshed and recharged for the upcoming season.

Of course, as any truly green-n-gold-blooded Packer fan knows by now, the Pack dropped their first preseason game 27-24 on a last-second field goal by the Browns. The Packers started off poorly and finished poorly. But in between, so-so.

I have to confess to not actually having seen the game. I was attending one of those ill-planned activities that, when the date was chosen, somehow failed to consider the fact that hey, it's football season! Weddings..harrumph! (I didn't get a "harrumph" out of that guy!...sorry, slight homage to a line from Blazing Saddles.) But I did hear the closing minutes of the game on radio and of course saw and heard many of the post-game reports and comments.

You can check out all the specifics of the game elsewhere, if you haven't already done so. The quick-take: Rodgers did great, defense didn't even qualify as "vanilla," special teams are still mediocre.

So, based on one preseason game, looks as if the season is...whoa, there, Packer fans! Let's not get ahead of ourselves. And this is the thing I find most amazing reading "fan" comments elsewhere. Holy shanked field goal, Batman! It's the first preseason game, for cryin' out loud! The Browns wanted to jack it up to impress new GM Mike Holmgren (remember him?); the Pack clearly just wanted to get through the game, run some of the offense, see some players, not get anyone hurt. Yet, to read some of the comments, some folks are ready to consign the Packers to a pathetic season based upon what they saw Saturday night. (I'm tempted to go into that Saturday Night Live bit about, "Really? Really?", but I will refrain.) People: get a grip. First of all, it's only a game. Secondly, it's only a preseason game! The Packers did exactly what they needed to do. Granted, a little more energy and fewer mistakes to start the game might have made for a more entertaining night. But given how hard Cleveland had to play -- blitzing (sending 5 or more players) more than 80 percent of the time when Rodgers was in the game...and how did that work out, by the way? -- just to pull it out on the leg of their robo-kicker as the clock hit zero, well, the Packers are just fine.

Now sure, adjustments still need to be made and players still need to be coached up (in coach-speak). But it's OK at this point. Yes, special teams is still a concern both in terms of coverage as well as returns. But that's really not much different than it's been since the year of Desmond Howard, let's be honest. Quite a contrast with Cleveland's approach, where they keep five players on the roster just for special teams play...and that does not include the punter and kicker. This is the one area in particular that we should keep an eye on for major progress from game #1 to game #3, which is generally considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season opener. If we don't see some improvement by then, settle in for yet another ho-hum special teams season under Coach Mike McCarthy.

But, again, back to the main point of this post: take a deep breath, Packer fans. Chill. No, not the kind you get at Lambeau in December and January. The kind you need now. The kind of chillin' that will keep you realistic. It was only preseason game #1.

Thanks for reading and checking back. We'll keep you posted on anything of interest as the Pack prepares for their next game at Seattle.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The pause that refreshes

Yes, that's an old Coca Cola ad slogan...which then got appropriated by some 1960's-70s types with a whole different meaning....but I digress...

You may wonder how, with Packers summer training camp now underway, that this slogan even comes into play. After all, the players and coaches have had their pause come to an end. Now it's a long haul through the season, the playoffs and, the Super Bowl. Yes, let's get on board that bandwagon!

Well, the players may have had their vacations come to an end for a while, but here at PackerFansUnited.com, we're going to take a little pause so that we can come back rarin' to go for the preseason games and beyond. We'll have to leave you in the capable hands of other bloggers and news outlets for Packers news for a bit. But you can always get the latest headlines here in the meantime in the creatively named "Latest Headlines" area in the righthand column; that's a continuously updated area that operates automatically (yeah!), so you can still feed your need for info while the regular blog is a bit irregular, so to speak.

Thanks for reading and helping make PackerFansUnited.com one of the more popular Packers blogs available. Keep checking in. We'll be kickin' it up a notch soon.

In the meantime...Go Pack Go!!!