Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pack getting ready for the Lions

After a day off Tuesday to soothe the emotional and physical pains from the loss to Da Bearz Monday evening in ChiTown, the Green Bay Packers watched film yesterday (that must have also been painful) and then had a no-pads practice walk-through. Today, a bit more of the game planning took place.

If you want to get the inside scoop, probably more than you care to know about the Packers vs. Lions rivalry -- although it certainly hasn't had that feel in recent years at all -- check out the Packers "Dope Sheet" here. Yeah, that is really what it's called. Here's why: "Two years after he co-founded the Packers with Curly Lambeau, George Calhoun began writing a piece called The Dope Sheet, which served as the official press release and game program from 1921-24. Honoring Calhoun, the first publicity director, the Packers are running this weekly feature as their release, which is being made available to fans exclusively on" There you have it.

Matthews and Zombo
A few things popped up over the last few days. LB Clay Matthews was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month. He led the NFL in sacks (6) and the team in solo tackles (15) with one forced fumble. Yep, it was a good month for Mr. Matthews. May it continue. No reason to think it won't. He is, after all, the Claymaker. You can read more about Matthews' award here.

And news about another Packers' linebacker also emerged in the last few days: undrafted rookie Frank Zombo will get the start against Detroit as outside linebacker. This follows what coaches deemed a successful debut as a starter in Chicago. You can read a great article about Zombo's progress in the online Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Check it out here.

The other thing you can do is check back Sunday morning for my preview of the game, and my pick. (Hint: yes, it's the check for my score prediction...which I have been doing pretty well with so far this season.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Packers give it away to Da Bearz

Pain and misery fill the air
Penalty flags flying everywhere.
At Soldier Field on Monday night
It was better to be a Bear

Pardon my little poetic intro, Packer fans, but what can you say after a game like last night in ChiTown? Well, lots. And it does help to vent.

For purposes of clarity, we can borrow a lyric from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to describe and summarize the game: "Give it away, give it away, give it away, now."

With a franchise record 18 (at last count) penalties, the Packers did to themselves what Da Bearz on their own couldn't do: make them lose the game.

I was in the stands at Soldier Field last night and the game was fugly, as the expression goes. I'm sure it was just as ugly watching on TV. Except the advantage of the latter is you are not surrounded by Bearz fans. Although I must say it was an interesting experience. Other than my two Bearz' fan companions (who generously provided me with the know who you are...and thank you again!), the range of conversation by those around us generally focused throughout the game on how lousy a QB Jay Cutler is, how Da Bearz have no offensive line or running game, how the secondary was letting Aaron Rodgers slice and dice them down the field, how much they hate head coach Lovie Smith, and...when the final seconds ticked off the clock, oh, but what a great team Da Bearz are. Yeah, right.

There was one of those in-stadium text polls during the game asking Bearz' fans to vote for which player was the team's best offensive weapon: QB Jay Cutler, WR Johnny Knox and two others I don't recall. Toward the end of the game, the results were posted. Knox got about 43 percent of the vote. Cutler? He got 5 percent. Five percent! Where's the love for your QB, Bearz fans? A bit of an insight there into Bearz fans...yes, I know, it's a scary thing to contemplate. But believe me, it's even scarier to see in person. Yikes!

Anyway...on this night, yes, Da Bearz got a "W" courtesy of great special teams' performance -- where I had given Da Bearz the edge in my preview -- and Packers' penalties. The best offense Da Bearz had going for them was the Packers' penalties. Missed opportunities abounded. A touchdown pass was taken off the scoreboard because of a penalty. At least two interceptions were overturned because of penalties. A blocked field goal, and two big punt returns -- including the one for a TD -- were unexcusible breakdowns.

The old saying about shooting oneself in the foot applies very well to this game. But the Packers didn't rely on just one six-shooter to do themselves in. They had three of 'em to do the job: 18 penalties. Mind blowing. Game losing.

"Give it away, give it away, give it away, now."

I had predicted a close game with a final score of 24-20 Packers. For the third straight week I got the score of the winning team correct. Unfortunately, last night it was Da Bearz 20-17 over the Pack. If James Jones had protected the ball on the sideline and not fumbled it's quite possible the Pack could have driven down and gotten that 24-20 victory I predicted. Even Bearz fans around me were bemoaning the fact that Da Bearz' defense couldn't stop the Packers. The only thing that could stop the Pack last night was themselves. And they did. Over and over and over.

"Give it away, give it away, give it away, now."

In my preseason preview I indicated that the Pack would lose a game they should have won within the first six games. This was that one.

Da Bearz sit atop not only the NFC North but the NFC as a whole. For the moment. They are not, at this point, a good team despite the record. But on this night, they did what they needed to do to come out with a win. The Packers just couldn't get out of their own way.

"Give it away, give it away, give it away, now."

The good news is that the Detroit Lions visit Lambeau Field on Sunday. Just what the doctor ordered for the Packers to help put this miserable showing behind them.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Packers vs. Da Bearz Monday Night Preview

Yesterday, we offered an overview of the well-known rivalry between our beloved Green Bay Packers and that team from south of the border, Da Bearz. Today, with less than 10 hours to kickoff, we offer our take on what we might expect to go down tonight in ChiTown.

Yesterday's pre-preview concluded with the statement that this will be one of those old fashioned smash-mouth games. Players on both sides will be hitting the whirlpool and ice tub heavy tomorrow. There is a lot on the line tonight: not only leadership atop the NFC North but also the NFC...whichever team wins tonight will be the only 3-0 team in the conference. Now really, should that be Da Bearz? Of course not. And it won't be.

So let's break this down a bit.

Packers offense vs. Bearz defense -- edge to the Pack. Da Bearz defense, especially the front 7, isn't bad. They are good at stopping the run. But since the running game is not what the Packers rely on anyway, that advantage for Chicago basically goes by the board. Julius Peppers can create problems, although he also is known to take plays off. Expect him to rotate to both sides of the line. But Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher are veteran tackles who have played against him before and know what to expect. In general, especially during those games when Peppers was with Carolina, both Cliffie and Tausch have held up well. One of the question marks tonight, however, is how well Clifton's ailing knee will hold up. According to the injury report, he's listed as probable for tonight which means he will likely get the start. But if Peppers starts to get to QB Aaron Rodgers through Clifton, look for head coach Mike McCarthy to pull the plug quickly and insert rookie Bryan Bulaga. Da Bearz linebacking corps, especially with Urlacher back in the middle, can also create problems of course. It's Da Bearz secondary that is really questionable, which bodes well for the Pack's air attack which we all know can cause opponents fits. The Packers receivers and tight ends, as well as running backs, can all open up opportunities. The key will be to protect Rodgers so he and the receivers can shred Da Bearz secondary.

Bearz offense against Packers defense -- edge to the Pack. Da Bearz offensive line, so far, has protected QB Jay Cutler better than expected. Note that the operative phrase there was "so far." They haven't come up against a defense like the Pack yet this season. So while Cutler is off to a better start than anyone expected, he'll come back to earth tonight. Those 5- and 7-step drops that offensive coordinator Mike Martz has him making might work well against some teams. But against the Pack, it just means that his O-line is somehow going to have to hold their blocks longer against the Pack's pressure defense. By the way, this is the very first time that Bearz offensive coordinator Mike Martz has come up against Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Imagine that! In all the years and various positions, including head coaching gigs, this is the first time the two have met up. Sets the stage for a great chess match. But Capers has more artillery to bring to the game. Look for LB Clay Matthews to continue his sack-a-thon. As the Pack defense pressures Cutler he'll start to force things, which means turnover opportunities. Matt Forte is a good running back, who is also Da Bearz leading receiver coming into this game. TE Greg Olsen is a very good tight end. But the Packers "D" will hold Da Bearz in check.

Special teams -- edge Bearz. This is close to a draw. The Pack upgraded its punter this season, K Mason Crosby regained his confidence, and the return game got an unexpected boost from Jordy Nelson. The Pack's coverage units, to date, have also generally performed well. But Da Bearz also have a good punter and kicker, and the slight edge has to go to Da Bearz returners.

So, two out of three segments of the game favor the Pack, with nearly a draw in terms of special teams.

The Packers are favored by 3 points and the over/under for the game is listed at 46. Most pundits are picking the Pack to win, and I've seen predictions of anywhere from a 1- to 13-point winning margin.

The score which has been rolling around in my head consistently for a couple days has been Packers over Da Bearz 24-20. So I'll go with that. But if the Packers play up to what they are capable of, that margin could be wider by at least another touchdown.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Packers vs. Da Bearz pre-preview: the rivalry

Yes, folks, this is the pre-preview of the showdown in ChiTiown between our beloved Green Bay Packers and Da Bearz. So, it's a bit general yet, sorry.

What we do know right now is that whichever team wins this game (and, really, is there any doubt as to which that will be...c'mon!) will be sitting atop the NFC North. That will be a great place to be. It will open up some space between the top dog and, espcially, the ViQueens. We have to anticipate that at some point Ol' #4's in-season training camp will click in and the 'Queens will start to win a few...beginning, most likely, today in the Humpty Dump versus the Lions.

But back to the game of most importance...

This will be the 180th meeting between the Pack and Da Bearz, the oldest rivalry in the NFL. Somehow, Da Bearz lead the overall series 90-82 with 6 ties. The battles through the years have been furious. There have been cheap shots delivered by players on both teams. The story is told by some Glory Years' Packers that the rivalry between Vince Lombardi and Papa Bear George Hallas was so intense that one game, 5 minutes before kickoff, Hallas marched into the Packers' locker room, went up to Lombardi, and reportedly said, "You better have your team ready to play," or something along those lines. Can you imagine that happening today between two coaches? These days, they're just more likely not to shake hands after a game. It's all gotten way too civil, hasn't it?

Most of the players on both sides today just don't have a sense for the nature and intensity of the rivalry. Players who are asked about the rivalrly by the media generally say it's more a rivalry for the fans than the players who see it as another game. Even Bears TE Greg Olsen was saying nice things about the Packers' defense this week. As St. Vince might say about stuff like that, "What the hell's goin' on out there!". Indeed.

That's why, at least in Green Bay, head coach Mike McCarthy makes it a point to talk to the players, especially the new arrivals, about the history between these two teams, what the rivalry has meant down through the years, the players who have played on both sides of the ball, and especially what it means to the fans. As fans -- and apparently at least some players -- are well aware, the mantra is always this: no matter whether or not you win any other games during the season, beat Da Bearz.

Yes, perhaps over the past decade or two the intensity of rivalry has picked up between the Pack and the 'Queens. For some fans, this has even surpassed the Packers-Bearz rivalry. And that's especially true now with Ol' #4 betraying all things Green 'n' Gold by wearing that funky purple. (It still boggles the mind, doesn't it???)

But given that tomorrow evening, both the Packers and Da Bearz meet at 2-0 with the division lead at stake you just know this will be one of those old fashioned smash-mouth football games.

The Pack is currently favored by 3 points. We'll make our prediction tomorrow by mid-day. You already know we're going to call this game in favor of the Pack. Just need to figure out the score prediction yet.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Not related to football at all

How's that for truth in advertising?

But, yes, with the smackdown in ChiTown coming up Monday night between our beloved Green Bay Packers and Da Bearz -- yours truly will be in attendance, by the way -- I am taking a moment to talk about something else: Farm Aid.

This is the 25th anniversary year for this venerable organization, known to most as that outfit comprised of Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and, lately, Dave Matthews, that puts on a concert every year. But, oh, dear reader, it has done and is doing so much more for the family farmer and for the quality of food we each shove down our pieholes every day.

Next weekend, Saturday, Oct. 2 to be exact, the big concert takes place at Miller Park in Milwaukee, WI. It's the first time the fundraising concert extravaganza has found its way to America's Dairyland. Why it took so long, who knows? But it's arrived...better late than never.

Anyway, I've added a banner link for the Farm Aid website in the righthand column of this blog...which, if you haven't perused things over there lately or at all, I encourage you to do so. Lots of good things there: you can subscribe to the RSS feed of this blog, send the URL to a friend, follow things here on Twitter, go to the store to find cool stuff for yourself or others, and get info about organizations worthy of your consideration.

But back to Farm Aid. Having grown up on a farm myself, you might well expect that I'd have a fondness for the family farm. And you'd be right. Like many whose career path led them away from the farm, I still am concerned about the sad state of things for the small farmer these days. But what to do? Well, you can find resources on the Farm Aid website for starters. You can look for opportunities to buy locally: your fruits and veggies, as well as meat, poultry, eggs, and so on. Check out the farmers' markets which might pop up once or twice a week in your neighborhood, depending upon the time of year.

In fact, there is a term which is starting to be used for those folks who prefer to eat locally grown/produced food: locavore. Who knew? While this blog is read by folks all across the globe (true!), for those who might be around the small southeastern Wisconsin city of Delavan on Saturday, Oct. 16, you can even attend a LocaFest from 1-3 p.m. where you can taste local wines, cheeses (this is Wisconsin, after all), breads and more, as well as see a movie about the locavore movement. It's all happening at 104 E. Walworth St. in Delavan. If you leave hungry, it's your own fault.

So, in closing, thanks for allowing me to go off-topic a bit. We'll get back to the business of the Pack vs. Da Bearz shortly. For now, please consider supporting Farm Aid and your local farmers any way you can. We need them around.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Catching up with Packers, former and current

Just a bit of a break from the usual chit chat about the Green Bay Packers as their showdown with the Chicago Bears approaches on Monday evening.

There's been a variety of news about former and current Packers floating recently, so thought we'd just take this opportunity to catch up on it a bit.

Starr contributes items to Packers Hall of Fame
While in Green Bay last weekend for the annual Packers Alumni Day, Packers legendary QB and former head coach, Bart Starr, and his wife, Cherry, donated three of Starr's World Championship rings, Cherry's necklace and other items to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. You can see a cool photo gallery here. And if you want to see an extensive gallery of Packers' alumni who attended Sunday's game, then you have to check this out.

Taylor's new book
Another Glory Years' Packer, RB Jim Taylor, appeared on WTMJ4 TV early this morning discussing his new book, "The Fire Within." He was also at a book signing in the Milwaukee area this evening. On the show, Taylor mentioned that he still works on his physical conditioning. And he looks like it. Taylor also said that when he was a player his approach was to initiate contact rather than the other way around. For those old enough to remember seeing Taylor during his playing days with the Pack, or who have seen clips of him, there was no tougher running back around. Taylor would look for guys to run over. In his book, he apparently has a line about playing a game where you know there is going to be pain...and looking forward to it. Great to see Mr. Taylor, and the book sounds like it would make a fine addition to any Packer fan's library.

Ryan Grant says surgery went well
Ryan Grant Tweeted the following yesterday: "Hey guys letting everyone know that surgery went great (that’s what I was told) lol but feeling good and wanted to truly thank everyone … Everyones prayers n support has made this an easy process so far and I’m looking forward to coming back even more of a time".

Nick Barnett gets tat from Kat
On last night's episode of LA Ink on the A&E Network, which is already airing reruns of the episode called "Black Widow," Packers LB Nick Barnett gets inked by Kat Von D herself. For those curious and who haven't see the episode (hope I don't spoil it for you), Barnett had an image of his father tattooed on his left inside bicep. He told the story to Kat and the camera that his father was really the one who encouraged him as a young man to participate in football and go to practice. Barnett said he really wasn't into football that much as a youngster and his father pretty much had to make him go to play. His father passed away in 2004, he said, on the day of a game no less, and this is the way he can always keep his memory present.

Ron Wolf sighting at Lambeau
Former Packers' GM and architect of the 1990s franchise turnaround, Ron Wolf, was in Lambeau Field this week. And, he was watching game film! Now, for all the Ted Thompson haters out there that might raise hopes that Wolf might come back. But nothing could be further from the truth. Wolf is quite happily retired, is traveling, and hasn't watched any games this season until he sat in an office in Lambeau Field this week to watch the Packers last two games. Oh, he was getting up to speed courtesy of his son, Eliot, assistant director of pro personnel for the Packers. In an interview with Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Wolf (that would be Ron not Eliot) also brought us up to date with what he's doing these days, as well as offered his opinion on the job Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy are doing, as well as opined on a few of the current Packers well as the fellow he says he's almost attached at the hip with, Brett Favre. Nickel's article is a great read. Check it out here.

Packers-Da Bearz upcoming
We'll start pounding the drum over the next several days about the upcoming clash. But...the above is enough for now.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Packers vs. Bills day after look-see

Getting this post-post-game review up a bit late today. And still don't have enough time to do it justice. So hope you bear with me. This will just be a bit of random access memory going on here. You know, stuff in no particular order of importance. Just looking at the Green Bay Packers following game #2.

The venerable veteran LT Chad Clifton may be on the outside looking in, at least until his ailing knee allows him to perform at a better level than he did yesterday. Or until rookie Bryan Bulaga falls on his face replacing him. Given that Bulaga held up well yesterday, I would speculate that Bulaga will get the starting nod against Da Bearz on Monday night. Yes, it will be an entirely different level than versus the Bills. But given the problems Cliffie was having against the same defense, Bulaga's time might have already come. The Packers still need Clifton. But an ailing knee might just be Bulaga's opening, with Clifton then serving in the backup role. Clifton's got a lot of pride, so whether that's a role he would willingly take or not, remains to be seen. There are a couple interesting articles about Clifton's status on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's online site. Check them out here and here.

For as much as some folks want to package and trade LB A.J. Hawk for a running back (and, yes, it has even been mentioned within the confines of this very blog), Hawk performed very well in yesterday's game. He seemed to always be around the ball one way or another. According to final stats, Hawk tied LB Nick Barnett with a game-high nine tackles. Hawk also had two quarterback hits and was very close to a sack or two, as well. Hawk was very solid in this scheme, a scheme other than which was played in Philadelphia a week earlier in which he saw no snaps at all. For those fans who think the Pack would part with Hawk for a running back, especially after yesterday, don't hold your breath.

Speaking of running backs, the total yardage gained by Packers running backs yesterday was thoroughly underwhelming. When John Kuhn get more yards than the back who supposedly is now the featured back following Ryan Grant's season-ending injury...and with all due respect to Kuhn...that's not good. Yes, the Packers are and will be a primarily pass-oriented team. But even with that same mentality the last few years, Grant was still able to chalk up two 1,200+ yard seasons back to back. Brandon Jackson is going to have to kick it up a notch to help keep defenses honest and to keep them from all-out blitzes on Aaron Rodgers every single play. With another week under his belt, newcomer Dimitri Nance might get more playing time. He was in for a couple plays yesterday. No mistakes, that was about the best that could be said. Head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters after the game that running back by committee is not ideal. But at the same time, he very much sounded as if that would be the way it goes at least for a while. Check out this article for more.

Oh, and isn't it interesting that things are so quiet in terms of chatter about the Packers' special teams? Guess that means folks are generally happy with what they see. Certainly Jordy Nelson is doing a very good job so far of setting the Pack up in good field position following a kick off.

And last but not least...Clay Matthews. The guy is a beast. Three more sacks yesterday to go to six on the season. In 15 regular season games, Matthews has 15 sacks. At this

This is about all we time for at the moment, folks. But keep checking back for more. In the meantime, why not cast your vote in the poll in the righthand column about the best nickname being floated for LB Clay Matthews? Yes, these are seemingly the two most popular names being tossed about: "Manimal" and "Claymaker". Let us know what you think.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Final: Packers 34 - Bills 7

For what looked like a so-so first half, the Green Bay Packers kicked it up a notch in the second half to beat back the Buffalo Bills 34-7 in the Lambeau Field regular season home opener. The offense started to click and the defense really shut down what little offense the Bills might muster.

LB Clay Matthews, again, put huge pressure on the opposing quarterback. The Packers secondary totally took WR Lee Evans out of the game. They also didn't allow the Bills' running game to do any significant damage.

Whatever the butt-kicking was that Packers' head coach Mike McCarthy might have done at halftime certainly did the trick.

Very glad to have this first home win of the 2010 season, with more to follow!

Will provide more review and comment later today or tomorrow. But my fingers are blistered from the furious Tweeting I was doing throughout the game. Get on board. Click the "Follow Me on Twitter" button in the righthand column.

Oh, my pre-game'd I do? Well, as loyal readers are aware (because I keep reminding them), I had the score of last week's game right on the money, calling it 27-20 for the Packers (of course!). Today, I had called this 34-13 in favor of the Packers. For the second week in a row, I called the Packers score exactly. I'm even starting to scare myself! OK, I can be kept humble because I gave the Bills more credit than they were due in the form of 6 extra points.

Sorry about that. I'll try to do better next week. When, of course, the Pack takes on Da Bearz who, courtesy of the officials' gift they received last week vs. Detroit and their upset win today in Dallas over the 'boys, are tied with the Packers at 2-0. That Monday night game will be a biggie. We'll talk more about that game as it gets closer.

For now, kick back and enjoy your favorite beverage of whatever variety. It's great to be 2-0! Go Pack Go11!

End of 3rd quarter: Packers 27 - Bills 7

The offense and defensive units of the Green Bay Packers re-established the dominance they showed during the 1st quarter by scoring twice in the 3rd quarter, to take a 27-7 lead.

Fifteen more minutes of similar play will get that second "W" for the Packers!

Go Pack Go!!!

Halftime: Packers 13 - Bills 7

This game has been a tale of two quarters. The Green Bay Packers dominated the first quarter while the Buffalo Bills dominated the second.

A very weird feeling to this game. If the Packers do not recover the zip they had in the first quarter this might just become this year's game equivalent of the debacle at Tampa Bay last season.

No doubt Coach McCarthy will be kicking some major you-know-what at halftime.

End of 1st quarter: Packers 13 - Bills 0

After two stalled drives where they had to settle for field goals, the Green Bay Packers finally put the ball in the endzone to go up 13-0 over the Buffalo Bills.

Pack offense looks sharp for the most part. And defense looks quite aggressive so far.

For more, check out my Tweets here or by clicking the "Follow Me on Twitter" link in the righthand column.

Packers - Bills preview

With just a couple hours left to kickoff, I'm finally getting around to writing this preview of the Green Bay Packers vs. Buffalo Bills. But as regular readers of know, I typically wait until the day and morning of the game to lay out my thoughts on what we might expect. So that's my excuse, er, story, and I'm stickin' to it.

But let's start with the facts: the Pack is favored by 13 points despite the Bills leading the series 7-3 (how the heck did that happen, by the way?); the weather is supposed to be great Fall football weather, about 63 degrees and mostly cloudy with little or no wind issues anticipated. And, of course, it is the regular season home opener for the Packers. That should get the Packers' players a bit more jacked up for the game.

Not that they should need it. The Bills are not, at this point, a very good team. On the other hand, as both players and fans learned again last year, even bad teams can take advantage of a flat team on any given day (recall the debacle against the Buccaneers?). But that won't be the case today. Back to the Bills...receiver (and former University of Wisconsin Badger ... go Badgers!) Lee Evans called out QB Trent Edwards this last week for not going downfield more. Now, whether that would be on Edwards or the offensive coordinator, who knows. But don't be surprised if Buffalo does try to stretch the field at the outset to test our young (in spots) secondary, particularly if the pass rush is lacking. But, I don't expect that to happen. I think defensive coordinator Dom Capers can certainly set the players and schemes in motion today to put a lot of pressure on Edwards.

As to the Bills' running game, rookie C.J. Spiller will test the Packers' defense. He will also test the Packers' special teams on kick returns. The running game and the special teams are arguably the two best aspects of the Bills. The secondary isn't bad either, but can they really match up with all the Packers' weapons? Not for the entire day they can't.

So, what about the Pack? Well, we already know that RB Ryan Grant is done for the year and Brandon Jackson is going to get his chance, once again, to be the featured back. Should we expect that the Packers will operate the running portion of their game plan differently than with Grant? Unlikely. The Pack is still a pass-first team. I'd still look for a 60-40 pass to rush ratio. If the Pack gets up big early, it's possible we may see more of Jackson as the day goes on. FB/RB John Kuhn may also get a few carries as he did last week. It's also possible we may even get glimpse or two of recently signed RB Dimitri Nance who was supposedly able to learn a package or two this week, although radio reports this morning indicate that he might not even be active today. As for the air game, look for QB Aaron Rodgers to bounce back from a very subpar performance last week in Philadelphia. He will spread the ball around. TE Jermichael Finley should have a big day. But if the Bills' defense tries to take Finley out of the offense, it's not as if Rodgers doesn't have other options. He's got options up the ying-yang, baby!

The Packers will also be able to run more of a typical defense today. After all, nothing is typical when you're trying to chase Michael Vick all over the field as the Pack had to do last weekend. But we can figure that we will see LB A.J. Hawk actually play from scrimmage today rather than just on special teams. And, given reports of his comments this past week, Hawk was not happy having to stand on the sidelines the entire game last week. Well he shouldn't have been. But while a steady competitor, Hawk has not performed up to expectations of a #5 overall draft pick. Perhaps his pride is hurt a bit. That can often be a good motivator to up one's game. Let's hope so. I like Hawk. But the Packers' linebacking corps is a good one, and some of the other players competing with Hawk for playing time are bringing more to the field right now than is Hawk. It will be interesting to see what he might do today. Keep an eye on Hawk.

The young Packers' secondary held up well last week. Rookies Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields actually performed well for their first NFL game. A few rookie mistakes showed up here and there, but nothing that wound up costing them the game.

As to player status for today's game, early reports were that RG Daryn Colledge was doubtful for today's game; he has been battling an undisclosed illness for the past few days. If Colledge is out, one would expect to see rookie Bryan Bulaga get the start; second-year player T.J. Lang might have also been expected to be in the mix but was just listed as being inactive, which may be a sign that Colledge is good to go after all. Rookie DE Mike Neal is also expected to miss today's game, as he did last week's game, with an abodiminal injury. CB Brandon Underwood is also inactive for today's game after missing last week's contest with a shoulder injury suffered in the last preseason game. FB Korey Hall is also inactive, which means Quinn Johnson will get his first start. LB Desmond Bishop is inactive. DE Cullen Jenkins also probable for today's game; look for him to play with a club on the hand in which he sustained multiple fractures in last Sunday's game.

OK, bottom line prediction: Packers 34 - Bills 13.

Go Pack Go!!!

By the way, for those interested, I will be Tweeting scintillating 140-character commentary during the game. If you are that hardcore -- and if you are reading this, we both know you are -- just click on the "Follow Me on Twitter" button near the top of the righthand column. Or, click here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Packers' running game takes a hit

The first game of the NFL season took its toll on a number of teams. But the one we care about is the Green Bay Packers. DE Cullen Jenkins had multiple fractures in his hand and could play the entire season with a cast. Back up DE Justin Harrell tore an ACL and is done for the season after being placed on injured reserve yesterday.

Today, however, it was learned that the ankle injury to RB Ryan Grant was more serious than first thought. He sustained ligament damage and, because of the uncertainty of his return time, it was determined to also place Grant on injured reserve, effectively ending his season.

This leaves Brandon Jackson as the primary running back, with FB/RB John Kuhn as the main back up. Rather than working a trade as many thought might happen to bring in an experienced tailback, GM Ted Thompson has opted instead to sign RB Dimitri Nance, a 5-foot-10, 219-pound rookie, from Atlanta’s practice squad. Nance was undrafted out of Arizona State where he received honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors as a senior. He lead the team in rushing for two straight seasons, rushing for 795 yards and six touchdowns in his senior year. He ran the 40- yard dash in 4.63 seconds, had a 33-inch vertical jump, hit 9' 6" on the broad jump, and bench pressed 19 times at his pro day in March. Obviously, he's a developmental player at this stage and a body just in case something else happens to affect running back depth.

All during training camp head coach Mike McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson were touting Jackson's progress as a running back. He certainly seemed to show a bit more of that power in relief of Grant versus the Eagles. Now he'll have to show that a lot more. Some area sports reporters have said that it seemed as if Jackson finally "got it" this year, as he seemed to be a bit more professional in the approach he took during the offseason and during camp. Maybe maturity will translate into success on the field. The coaching staff and management of the Packers seem to be counting on that. The fans have to, as well.

One of the other personnel moves that happened as result of the injuries Sunday was that the Pack re-signed DE Jarius Wynn to fill Harrell's spot. Wynn was a casualty of the last roster cuts. He was with the team last year and, in comments aired by defensive coordinator Dom Capers, that seemed to be one of the primary factors in re-signing Wynn: he was familiar with the system and could be plugged right in to the scheme without any learning curve. Makes sense.

But back to Grant...he posted the following on his Twitter page: "Guess everyone has heard the news..frustrating, disappointing, all the normal emotions..there was a chance with surgery that I come back... This season but I would miss too many weeks and put the team in a bind roster wise.. It was more severe than initially thought during game.. but I just have to move forward and get it right. Anyone who knows me, understands that my spirits WILL stay high..and I will return even better, stronger.. That's how I operate.. " (Oh, by the way, you can follow this blog on Twitter, as well, by clicking on the link in the upper righthand column or by just going here.)

Come back better and stronger, Ryan. I think many fans will finally realize through your absence what you have brought to the offense over the last three years in particular: the fourth best rushing yardage in the entire NFL.

You can read a truly great concise analysis (by Green Bay Press-Gazette sports writer Mike Vandermause) of the situation with Grant and Jackson, and the Packers' probable decision process, here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Packers' win from the day after

In the light of day, the day after the Green Bay Packers victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, a few observations. Nothing original. Just one person's take on what went down in Philly.
  • Special teams played far better than anyone expected. Jordy Nelson had some great returns and the coverage units kept Eagles returner DeSean Jackson in check for the most part. Punter Tim Masthay performed well in his debut. And K Mason Crosby set a team-record with a 56-yard field goal. He was long and accurate. Good to see. May all continue to perform at this level throughout the season.
  • Aaron Rodgers had a not-so-great game. He was 19-31 for 188 yards. Yes, he threw a couple TD passes and when he was on he was on. But he started poorly and had two picks, one on a deflection and another on a ball that appeared to sail on him and missed his receiver badly. Chalk it up to an abberation.
  • The offensive line...well, Rodgers was under pressure especially early in the game. For a while, the O-line was looking like what we saw early last season. There were instances where our two old tackles indeed looked old. I recall one instance where both Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher got beat on the same play. It seemed as if they picked up their protection in the second half. We can only hope they play at that level the rest of the season.
  • The defensive Mike McCarthy had decided to have only four down lineman active for the game because of the scheme they thought they'd be running against Eagles QB Kevin Kolb; rookies Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson were not available. And that made things especially challenging when a couple things happened: Kolb left the game with a concussion sustained on a tackle by LB Clay Matthews (more on Mr. Matthews in a bit) and Michael Vick and his legs entered the game; and Cullen Jenkins sustained a broken hand on the first defensive series and had to play the balance of the game one-handed after being fitted with a club, and the oft-injured back up DE Justin Harrell sustained a left knee injury blocking on Crosby's first field goal of 49 yards. So, for a while that meant the entire defensive line consisted of B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett. The two heavyweights, to their credit, did a fantastic job all things considered. Harrell, by the way, has been placed on the injured reserve list (yes, again) and is done for the year (yes, again). As the TV crew noted during the game, Harrell had only played in 14 games during his prior three years with the team. At what point, a reasonable fan must ask -- and has asked before -- do you just reach an injury settlement with the young man and move on? Clearly, he's going to have to be replaced by either a practice squad player, a free agent or trade. (We will leave aside the running discussion as to whether Harrell should have been a #16 draft pick to begin with...and, by the way, the answer is "No!")
  • Linebackers and secondary...Could Clay Matthews possibly do any more than he did yesterday? Man! He appeared to be operating at an entirely different level of speed and power. Fantastic. On the flip side, because of the scheme the Packers planned on running and then had to run with Vick in the game, it turns out that LB A.J. Hawk never played a down from scrimmage. They typically always remove him on passing downs and because the Pack played a nickel/dime defense most of the day, Brandon Chillar, Brad Jones and even undrafted rookie LB Frank Zombo (who had a sack, by the way!) got the reps. Hawk has seemingly disappeared from the defense. Perhaps he could be packaged and traded for either a defensive lineman or a running back (where depth was a concern going into the season and is even more so now...more on that in a minute). The secondary generally held up well. Charles Woodson was, as usual, constantly around the ball. Tramon Williams held up well as did, for the most part, rookies Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields. Shields got turned around and burned on one TD pass and looked very much like a rookie on that play. But all in all, seemed to hold his own for the most part.
  • The running game...just when it looked as if that might come around, Ryan Grant left the game with an ankle sprain. Brandon Jackson had some nice runs taking the bulk of the carries after Grant's departure. And FB/RB John Kuhn had a couple powerful runs, including a TD. Coach McCarthy said in his press conference today that Grant will not play in the upcoming game against the Bills. Jackson will be the featured back with Kuhn as the back up. But for all those fans who wanted the Packers to have more depth at running back, yep, we were right. That doesn't get us anywhere, but we were right. Will Ted Thompson do anything to address the situation? It would be a surprise if he did. But that's what makes surprises surprises, right? Let us pray...
Bottom line is that this was a statement game, if there can be such a thing in only the first game of the season. We knew the offense would put up points; not really an area of concern. Yet, this was a game where the offense, particularly Aaron Rodgers, wasn't especially sharp. They still put up 27 points. The areas that were of concern had to do with the defense and special teams, both of which really helped carry the day yesterday. It's a good sign.

For now, let's hope that the injuries to Grant and Jenkins don't present problems throughout the season. Let's wish Justin Harrell well, as it's obvious the young man worked hard to get back on the field despite his injury history. But let's also hope Ted Thompson makes a few moves to add to the D-line and running back depth before they truly become positions of desperation.

Oh...did I mention that I predicted the actual final score of 27-20? (Yeah, I know...enough already!)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Packers beat Eagles 27-20

"We're calling this one...Packers 27 - Eagles 20."

That's the way I concluded my post of earlier today with the prediction for today's game between the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles. Wow. Surprised even myself. Nailed it! Not just the victory call but the actual score. (Anyone know when the last flight to Vegas leaves tonight???)

What a hard-fought first game it was. Some very good plays and some that left a lot to be desired. But the Packers showed the heart of a champion by coming up big when they needed to, even while not playing their best football.  A few concerning injuries to Ryan Grant (ankle sprain), Justin Harrell (likely a torn ACL...stick a fork in him, he's done), Cullen Jenkins (multiple hand fractures but played with a cast) and Nick Collins (bruised ribs). But despite these injuries and game gltiches, it's great to finally come out of Philadelphia with the first win in 10 tries going all the way back to 1962. Holy Vince Lombardi, Batman! Yes, it really has been that long.

More on this victory via a post-game review here at on Monday. Check back then. For the moment, just enjoy being 1-0 on the road know where we're headed...Go Pack Go!!!

Lions get hosed on lousy call in Chicago
For those who watched the Lions and Da Bearz in the early game today, you just had to shake your head at the winning touchdown for Detroit that was taken away. A clear touchdown catch by Calvin Johnson -- two feet down, knee down, ball placed on the ground and released as in the origin of "touch down" -- was ruled an incomplete pass because they said he didn't control the ball completely in the "process" of the catch. A-wha??? One of the worst calls I've seen in ages. Or at least since the same call made on a catch/non-catch by Greg Jennings last a game against...Da Bearz! we see a theme emerging? Well, hey, it's Chicago and all sorts of funny things just seem to happen in Chicago every once in a while, ya know?

But it's just not my opinion. Check out some of the football fan reaction over at about this call. It about sums it up: Da Bearz got a gift handed to them. And that's about the only way they can get a win.

Time to get Packer'd up: Packers vs. Eagles preview

For all the fans of the Green Bay Packers throughout the universe, this is the day we have looked forward to since that gut-wrenching overtime playoff loss in Arizona: the start of the 2010 regular season! Oh happy day!!!

And what better way to kick it off than by starting the season in a place where the Packers haven't won since Vince Lombardi was the head coach. No kidding. The last time the Pack won in Philly was Nov. 11, 1962 when the Packers routed the Eagles 49-0. May it be so today. Otherwise, it will be nine straight regular season defeats (10 counting playoffs) in the City of Brotherly Love. But let's not go there.

This is a game the Packers should win. In fact, the current line at the time of the writing of this post has the Pack favored by 3 points. But given that it is the first game and about the only known is that the Packers offense will put up points, there are questions. As followers of this blog and other reports are well aware, for the Packers those questions concern the pass rush, the secondary, and the special teams. That's essentially two-thirds of the team. We just don't know how the switch of B.J. Raji to the nose tackle position and Ryan Pickett to defensive end will work out. We don't know what the departure of Aaron Kampman means long-term. We haven't yet seen how moving LB Clay Matthews to the opposite side will impact his game. And the questions in the secondary? Get outta here! They abound, especially with some key players out and untested rookies being called upon to start and play prominent roles. And special teams? Other than having a definite upgrade at punter there is still no legitimate return threat on either punts or kick offs; using starting receivers and/or defensive backs in those returner roles opens up a whole can of worms should they get injured fulfilling those roles. But as head coach McCarthy pointed out clearly this week when asked about this situation, injuries are part of the game in football and you have to go with the players you have. In other words, it is what it is.

On the Philly side of things, there are also many questions but especially surrounding their new starting QB, Kevin Kolb. The team felt comfortable enough with him to send long-time starter Donovan McNabb to Washington. Kolb's best target as a receiver is DeSean Jackson, who can also do damage as a returner. If the Packers can generate a pass rush, they should have a good day at the office.

Both teams, it should be noted, were great at generating turnovers last year and, generally, taking care of the ball: the Packers created 40 turnovers (1st in the NFL) and the Eagles created 38 (3rd in the league). The Packers also led the league in net turnover margin with 24, while the Eagles had 15 (if memory serves). One of the things coach McCarthy was not happy with this training camp was the number of times the ball apparently was on the ground...that would be a reflection on the offense, of course.

So, the keys today for a Packers win: create a pass rush, contain DeSean Jackson, get a turnover or two, take care of the ball, don't give up any big punt or kick returns (see "contain DeSean Jackson" above), and let Aaron Rodgers work his magic with his talented receiving corps. That will add up to a Packers win.

We're calling this one...Packers 27 - Eagles 20.

Go Pack Go!!!

Ron Kramer, RIP 
Packers' Glory Years tight end Ron Kramer (not to be confused with RG Jerry Kramer) passed away at his home yesterday at age 75. According to the Packers' website, Kramer caught 170 passes for 2,594 yards and 15 touchdowns in 89 games. Kramer's yardage as a tight end ranks second in team history behind only Paul Coffman and 16th in team annals overall. Kramer ranks sixth on the all-time tight ends list in receptions and fifth in touchdowns. He was one of the heroes of the Packers' 1961 championship victory over the NY Giants with two touchdown catches (if memory serves).

Kramer was a three-sport, nine-time letterman at the University of Michigan. He was the Packers' number one draft pick in 1957. It's said on the Packers Hall of Fame site that "Kramer's 6'3", 240-pound size, combined with his speed and athleticism, revolutionized the tight end position." Kramer was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975.

For more on the late great Ron Kramer, click here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Packers Season Preview

Now that the roster is set, I feel a bit more comfortable prognosticating on the Green Bay Packers upcoming season. A lot of folks have already had their says, of course. And a lot of the same things tend to get said over and over. In that sense, you'll probably find no news per se here. So, in an effort to save both this writer and you, my dedicated reader, time, I'll just give a quick take on each aspect of the Pack as I see it going into the opener at Philadephia...and beyond.

The ultimate key to the season lies here. No surprise. And that begins with QB Aaron Rodgers and his receivers. The fact that veteran tackles, Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, are back to start the season bodes well. It will be even better if they can stay on the field for most of the season. Having five receivers, four tight ends, three fullbacks and two running backs offers head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin plenty of scheme scenarios to drive opposing team defenses nuts.

Figure that the ratio of passes to runs will probably be close to 60-40 and the ability to have these key players stay healthy throughout the season will determine to a large degree just how far the Pack can go. This is a dominating offense, at least in the passing game. To the extent that the running game can keep defenses honest by not blitzing every play, to that extent will there be an opportunity to win the tough games. Not that they all aren't tough. Just, as the saying goes, some are tougher than others. And, looking at the schedule, many of those games come later in the season when weather conditions -- particularly at Lambeau and other northerly outdoor venues -- will dictate running the ball a bit more often. It will be interesting to see what happens when rookie RB James Starks becomes available off the PUP (physically unable to perform) list after week 6. That's when the schedule starts to change, the weather starts to change, and running backs Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson will have already taken a pounding. He might just offer the kind of change of pace that provides the additional surprises needed to let Rodgers and company do what they do so well.

Other than special teams (more on that in a moment), for most Packers fans the biggest question mark lies on this side of the ball. Yesterday was actually the first time during all preseason that the 11 starters were on the practice field at the same time (Al Harris and Atari Bigby aside, of course). In addition, LB Clay Matthews has been moved to the left side, flip flopping with Brad Jones. Both, by the way, have also battled injuries in the preseason and have not seen any action for quite a while. This week will be dedicated to working on the communication between the players as a unit.

The big problem in the big games last year -- i.e., against top-notch quarterbacks -- was generating a pass rush. Didn't happen much and as a result those great quarterbacks sliced and diced the Packers' defense and handed the Pack losses despite the offense putting up lots of points. Like last year, the Pack's offense will put up points; the question will be whether the defense can hold up their end of the bargain. Yes, stats showed the Packers' defense did well last year. But some of those great stats which figured into the overall rankings were generated via some of the weaker teams on the schedule. Yes, it works that way for all teams, true. But...well...last year was last year and this year is...hmmm...we don't know yet. Lots of talented players, but also some real question marks. And until we see how defensive coordinator Dom Capers is going to deploy his players and schemes, and how they perform when the games count, it is anyone's guess. Do they have the potential to be a very good defense? Yes, definitely. But the proof will come once game day hits.

We know that Clay Matthews will have to once again have a stellar season. We know that A.J. Hawk needs to step up his play as he has yet to live up to the expectations of being a #5 overall draft pick in the minds of many. B.J. Raji will have to be as stout at the point of attack as was Ryan Pickett last year and Pickett will have to perform as highly at his new defensive end position as he did in the middle. Back up players will see lots of action, particularly on the line. Will Justin Harrell's spot on the roster actually be of value to the team or a wasted spot which could have been used on someone else? Time will tell. The Packers -- and even a few reporters -- seem to be optimistic. After three years, that's about all there is. Keep your fingers crossed he can at least be available -- which was Harrell's answer, by the way, as to how he made the final roster -- most of the season. Anything the team gets out of him will be gravy.

The biggest concern on the defensive side of things, not surprisingly, is the defensive backfield. With both Al Harris and Atari Bigby out for at least the first six games, and Harris' return at all questioned in some quarters, Tramon Williams and rookie Morgan Burnett get the starts at cornerback and safety, respectively. With Charles Woodson and Nick Collins holding down the other corner and safety spots, one would think all would be well. But you can bet that opposing QBs will test both Williams and Burnett heavily during at least the initial part of the season. Where things get a bit dicey, however, is when dime and nickel packages are required. Because of the injury to CB Brandon Underwood, the nickel slot looks to be held down by undrafted rookie Sam Shields. You can be sure he will be tested early and often. The dime spot, at least until Underwood resumes his nickel duties, will be manned by Jarrett Bush who has typically been a lightening rod for fan frustration over the years. Bush performed well in the last preseason game. But when the game has been on the line in regular season play, it just seems that Bush has often been out of position and/or unable to make the play necessary. If you read fan comments about Bush being kept on the roster you can get a feel for the fact that until shown otherwise, Packer fans just don't trust Bush to be able to play at the level needed. Obviously, GM Ted Thompson thinks otherwise and that's the vote that matters.

Special Teams
This is the area of the Packers that has been the biggest problem under Mike McCarthy's head coaching tenure. Despite changing special teams coaches, and supposedly devoting more attention to it, the level of performance has not seemed to change year to year. Until the regular season begins on Sunday against the Eagles, we can't really have a clear picture of what to expect. A lot of the players playing on special teams are no longer even on the squad. So what it performs like when it actually is a consistent unit remains to be seen in terms of coverage and returns.

Punter Tim Masthay won the job over Chris Bryan, who was signed as a free agent by the Buccaneers after his release by the Packers. Masthay will also likely be handling kickoff duties, demonstrating a stronger leg in that department than kicker Mason Crosby. Masthay looks to be a definite improvement over...whomever it was we had last season (shock therapy helped block that particular name from resurfacing).

As to the return game, Packer fans again seem to be generally frustrated. GM Thompson did nothing in the draft or via trade or waiver claims to bolster that area of the team. As a result, coach McCarthy said during his news conference yesterday that CB Tramon Williams and WR Greg Jennings will be the current options at punt returner, and WR Jordy Nelson and RB Brandon Jackson will be returning kicks. Again, from both fan and reporter comments, the thought of exposing one of your top receivers -- Jennings -- to possible injury returning punts is something that leaves many aghast. If something were to happen to Williams, the depth issue in the secondary then starts to come into play, as it does if something were to happen to Jackson despite the fact that he is not a starter. It leaves many fans wondering -- for another year -- why it is that the Packers cannot somehow find or acquire a returner. Granted, they thought they had it in Will Blackmon, but ongoing injuries just made that impossible. There is a possibility that Blackmon could return to the team somewhere down the line following his release with an injury settlement. But still, it is an area which just does not seem to figure that largely into Packer plans. And yet, it is an area which could help determine how far the Packers go into the post-season.

A football team is like a three-legged stool: if all of them are there it works; if one of them isn't there or is wobbly...well, you get the idea.

Applying this analogy to the Packers, the offense is strong, the defense is -- we don't know -- and the special teams seem wobbly at best. How will that translate into the season?

Season Prediction
Without going into predictions for individual games -- we'll do that on a week-by-week basis prior to game time -- we finally need to give our prediction on wins and losses for the upcoming season.

From reviewing what others have to say, it seems as if most projections for the Pack have the team going anywhere from 10-6 to 13-3.

It should be apparent that, with the schedule stiffening in the latter part of the season, the team must make real headway in the first part. And the schedule sets up for them to do just that. Typically though, as with any team, they lose a game they should win and win a game they should lose. I'm not sure which will be which in the first 6 games, but I see that stretch resulting in a 5-1 win-loss record. In the next 10 games, I can see 4 possible losses, although again an expected win and an expected loss might flip flop that scenario but the net result is the same.

So, bottom line projection: 11-5. The Packers will win the North Division outright and, obviously, make the playoffs. More than a few pundits have the Packers reaching the Super Bowl. If key players stay healthy and some of the youngsters that Thompson is relying on yet again to step up to NFL-level play come through, that is certainly within reach.

Check back at this coming weekend for a projection on the Packers vs. Eagles game.

Until then...Go Pack Go!!!

(P.S. Sorry this wasn't as "quick" an overview as I initially intended. Mea culpa.)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Packers sign running back to practice squad

The Green Bay Packers made a running back the eighth and final signing to its practice squad. According to the news release from the Packers: "A 5-foot-11, 207-pound first-year player out of Kansas State, Johnson entered the NFL as a non-drafted free agent in 2008 with the Cincinnati Bengals. He played in four games in ’08 for Cincinnati, spent time on the Bengals’ practice squad in 2008 and 2009, and was with Cincinnati during the preseason this year. Johnson also was with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason. He will wear No. 39."

The signing of Johnson completes the practice squad announcements. The other seven members of the squad were noted in my prior post and were all with the Packers during this year's training camp.

Johnson at least provides a third running back for the team should something happen to either Ryan Grant or Brandon Jackson. Depth at that position has been a concern.

Packers practice squad almost set

According to reports floating on various media sites, the Green Bay Packers have their practice squad set, almost. The seven names that have been reported as having been signed are: QB Graham Harrell, T Breno Giacomini (yes, that one), WR Chastin West, LB Robert Francois, T Chris Campbell, LB Maurice Simpkins and S Anthony Levine. There is one slot remaining and we're waiting for the official release of the entire list by the Packers, which GM Ted Thompson said would come "first thing" this morning.

Graham Harrell had been quoted over the weekend as saying he really wanted to stay in Green Bay to learn under coach Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers. Some folks speculate that the Packers will trade current back up QB and third-year player Matt Flynn -- who apparently several NFL personnel guys are hot on already -- next season and then move Harrell into the back up slot. Both of those moves are a long way season. We haven't even gotten this one underway yet. Relax.

One of the surprising signings for some was the retention of Giacomini who by all accounts has been an underperformer during his time with the Pack. After he was cut on Saturday, however, the ViQueens reportedly tried to sign him. Then again, what ex-Packer haven't the 'Queens signed? Instead of allowing that to happen, though, Thompson somehow was able to work a deal to keep Gaicomini with the Packers despite the 'Queens reportedly offering more money. Go figure.

For fans looking for depth via the practice squad for the defensive line, running back and defensive back positions, not really much has been done. Nor was there much done in the way of waiver claims to give a boost to the return game; Thompson said during his press conference yesterday that no claims were made on any players. Just for the record, five players released by the Packers were claimed by other teams. The only one going to a team within our division, however, was TE/LB Spencer Havner who regrettably found a home in Detroit.

We'll get back to you later once the official list is announced by the Packers and we find out who that eighth player is.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Packers GM Ted Thompson says...

Ted Thompson, GM of the Green Bay Packers, just concluded a 20-minute press conference at which he answered questions from the media regarding the roster cuts, waivers, etc. Here in no particular order is a summary of some of the things Thompson had to say.
  • Several questions were asked at the start about defensive back and returner, Will Blackon, why he was put on injured reserve, the pending injury settlement, etc. From what Thompson said, it sounded as if the Packers are still interested in what Blackmon could offer but when push came to shove regarding getting down to 53 players, they had no choice given Blackmon's health status but to do what they did. Apparently, there are scenarios under which Blackmon could still be available to the Packers this season because of the use of the injury settlement. Depending on the date that is finalized -- and Thompson made it clear he would not discuss such details -- Blackmon could be activated as early as 6 weeks after the date of injury settlement. Thompson basically said they will see where things are at at that time.
  • Thompson stated that the Packers did not put in waiver claims on any players.
  • When asked about carrying 3 fullback and 4 tight ends, Thompson said that he just felt those players had earned spots on the team. He also said several times that he feels very good about the 53 men they have on the current roster.
  • When asked about FB Quinn Johnson, Thompson said he thought Johnson was "very valuable," and will be especially so in November and December when you need to get tough yards. He felt Johnson was a powerful lead blocker and his value would really be demonstrated in those situations where tough yards are needed.
  • When asked about TE/LB Spencer Havner, Thompson said that cut was not an easy call because of all that Havner has done. He said the decision was more a factor of what the other players had done rather than what Havner had not done. (Havner, by the way, has been claimed on waivers by Detroit.)
  • Thompson was asked about retaining rookie TE Andrew Quarless on the basis of "potential." Thompson grinned and replied, "Potential is overrated." He then added, "We want to win and win now." Amen, Ted, amen.
  • In reply to a question about what he liked about undrafted rookie LB Frank Zombo, Thompson said, "I was very impressed with Frank." He then discussed in some detail how Zombo had sustained and then practiced and played through a pretty severe ankle injury. He noted that Zombo "made the team because he showed he could play at a high level."
  • Thompson also mentioned that the announcement of the practice squad players would be made "first thing tomorrow." It has already been reported through his agent that the Packers signed QB Graham Harrell to the squad.
  • Thompson stated that they view FB John Kuhn as a viable option at running back "in certain schemes."
  • As for his linebacking corps, Thompson used such words as "athletic," "play hard," "quality" and "a pretty good group" when describing them.
Check back tomorrow for info on the practice squad signings and any other ramblings yours truly happens to kick out.

Packers' roster set, waiver pick ups to come?

The Green Bay Packers initial 53-man roster for the start of the 2010 regular season was set yesterday afternoon with 20 cuts and a pair of players assigned to the injured reserve list. A few of those cuts were surprises to yours truly and others. The release of TE/LB and fan fave Spencer Havner was one of those. But it seemed from reports that the coaching staff was enamored with TE Tom Crabtree, who supposedly is one heckuva blocker. Hated to lose Havner's versatility. But apparently, the powers that be felt that the combination of free agent LB Frank Zombo and Crabtree offered a better return than the dual-role Havner.

I'll get back with a fuller commentary on the roster and a preview of the upcoming season later on. That's because there might yet be changes to the roster as players throughout the NFL who were cut yesterday are now eligible to be claimed on waivers (claims had to be turned in to the league by 11 a.m. today). Will the Pack pick up a returner? Perhaps a defensive back? Have to wait to see who might actually be added to the active roster yet, as well as those 8 players who will get signed to the practice squad. A lot of talent was on the chopping block yesterday. So until all the dust has settled, I'm waiting.

For now, though, check out the Packers roster here. And if you want to see a very helpful overview layout of yesterday's roster keepers and cuts by offense, defense and position, be sure to see this spreadsheet prepared by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Greg Bedard. (Nice work, Greg! Sounds like I know the guy personally but, you know, just a note of appreciation regardless.)

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Final Packers cut list

The Green Bay Packers released 20 players and placed 2 on injured reserve to get to the required 53-man roster today. Here's the official list as released by the Packers:
  • P Chris Bryan
  • T Chris Campbell
  • WR/RET Jason Chery
  • CB D.J. Clark
  • C/G Evan Dietrich-Smith
  • WR Charles Dillon
  • LB Robert Francois
  • T Breno Giacomini
  • QB Graham Harrell
  • TE/LB Spencer Havner
  • LB Alex Joseph
  • S Anthony Levine
  • RB Kregg Lumpkin
  • LB Cyril Obiozor
  • LB Maurice Simpkins
  • DE Ronald Talley
  • NT Anthony Toribio
  • WR Chastin West
  • WR Patrick Williams
  • DE Jarius Wynn
Tackle/guard Allen Barbre and safety Will Blackmon will be placed on injured reserve. Barbre was previously said to have been cut and received an injury settlement. This, however, is the official list from the Packers.

The Packers can begin signing players to the practice squad tomorrow. Stay tuned to for additional developments.

Packers cuts and keeps

With a bit more than an hour to go before the 3 p.m. 53-man roster deadline, some of the moves by the Green Bay Packers are starting to be reported.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Greg Bedard has a running post of the Packers moves. The Green Bay Press-Gazette is also closely following moves. Shocking, I know.

Here's the latest rolling report gathered from available sources...

  • DT Anthony Toribio
  • DE Ron Talley
  • RB Kregg Lumpkin
  • S/RET Will Blackmon (injury settlement likely, which keeps open the possibility he could return down the line)
  • WR/RET Jason Chery
  • WR Charles Dillon
  • OLB Cyril Obiozor
  • TE/LB Spencer Havner - Note: Bedard states: "...will be cut at 5 p.m. if the Packers can't find someone interested in trading for him, sources said. That means Tom Crabtree has made the team, and Donald Lee, too. The only way someone would trade for Havner is if they thought someone would claim him in front of them."
  • G/C Evan Dietrich-Smith (if no trade possible)
  • LB Alex Joseph
  • DE Jarius Wynn - Bedard states that the Packers' defensive line will thus consist of "Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Neal, Justin Harrell and C.J. Wilson."
  • OT Chris Campbell
  • OT Breno Giacomini (GB Press-Gazette says, "His agent said the Packers will cut him if they can’t trade him.")
  • LB Maurice Simpkins
  • OLB Frank Zombo
  • OL Nick McDonald
  • G/C Jason Spitz (Packers reportedly turned down trade offers)
  • TE Tom Crabtree (see above re: Havner cut)
  • TE Donald Lee (ditto re: Havner cut reference above)
  • DE Justin Harrell (see above re: Wynn cut)

Packers release Barbre with injury settlement

As speculated in a post here yesterday, the Green Bay Packers did indeed reach an injury settlement with offensive lineman Allen Barbre and today released him from the team. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Greg Bedard confirms this news.

Stay tuned for further developments on the roster front. Lots of action with the Pack and throughout the league to come in the next few hours. There are quality players getting the axe across the NFL, some of whom might very well be waiver pick ups for the Pack. Maybe.

Friday, September 03, 2010

What will Ted Thompson do?

According to reports, Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson, the coaches and scouting staff began their roster pow-wow at about 3 p.m. Central time today. By the time they are done, whether late tonight or continuing until the 3 p.m. deadline Saturday, the Packers will have their 53-man regular season roster set.

But between now and then, everyone speculates. If you want to read one person's notion of what Thompson will do, check out Green Bay Press-Gazette sports reporter Rob Demovsky's article here. It's an interesting take on things. Where do agree? Disagree? You can gather for yourself where I might agree and disagree with him by checking out my post from earlier today.

In the meantime, you have to feel a bit like you do as a fan going into the NFL Draft weekend. Lots of anticipation, which will soon be coupled with moments of surprise and disappointment as the final roster is announced, which may include trades, as well.

Exciting times. Especially for a team with the potential to go all the way this season. The roster that Thompson et al put together in the next 21 hours will go a long way to determining just how likely that is over the course of the upcoming 16 games.

Go Pack Go!!!

Packers drop final preseason game, 17-13

In a typically uneventful fourth and final preseason game, the Green Bay Packers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 17-13 last evening in KC. No biggie. Many starters were on a short leash in terms of playing time, and a few -- Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, Charles Woodson and Chad Clifton among them -- never even hit the field. Keeping essential players safe is a main goal of the final game and not playing them is keeping them as safe as you can get. Good call, Coach McCarthy.

While I was providing real-time Tweets during the game (you can follow me, by the way, on Twitter by clicking the icon link in the right hand column cleverly labeled as "Follow Me on Twitter"), thought I would offer a few summary comments here.

So what can a Packers fan make out of the hodgepodge that is a game like this? It is an interesting game to watch, not for the quality of play overall, but for what individual players do. In that regard, a few observations:
  • Backup QB Matt Flynn is a keeper, and has really made a jump in level of play from last season to this. He started off a bit rough in the first quarter, but especially in the second half was very much on target. Showed pocket toughness and arm strenth. Clearly, he and WR Brett Swain have developed a great rapport working together as part of the 2nd offense. Fans should feel comfortable if Flynn has to come in to replace Rodgers for a game or two.
  • WR Brett Swain should clearly grab the #5 wide receiver slot. He was catching nearly everything thrown his way, had great route-running ability, and flashed least until he got a bruised knee at the end of the first half. After that, he appeared a bit gimpy on a 77-yard wide open pass play which, if he had been at full speed, probably should have resulted in a touchdown. Hopefully, it's just a bump and not something more serious.
  • WR and returner Jason Chery did not seize his opportunity. He put the ball on the ground three times, twice on the initial kickoff! As head coach Mike McCarthy said when asked about it, there's no way you stay in Green Bay if you don't hold on to the ball. Good luck, Jason. A lot of folks were rooting for you. Look instead to a likely return combo of Will Blackmon (assuming he can get back on the field) and Jordy Nelson. Not great, but steady. (Sigh)
  • DE Justin Harrell played. He didn't do much of anything other than be a body. He showed little push on any rush and appeared to be on the ground a lot. Still, most of the local sports guys that follow the Packers believe he will make the final roster, primarily because of his 1st round draft status and what coaches hope he could do if he stays healthy, not necessarily because of what he's done so far. As we all know, though, staying healthy and on the field has been his primary problem since college. What more can you say?
  • Punter Tim Masthay looks like the likely survivor of this summer's kicking competition. Not only has he punted well but he is also handling kickoff duties, showing a stronger leg in that department than Mason Crosby. If you can do more than one thing it certainly helps your chances of making the team. Welcome aboard, Tim!
  • Back up slots on both the offensive and defensive lines have some very good battles. There will be tough choices for the coaching staff here. Rumors are that T/G Allen Barbre will be cut and given an injury settlement and that Jason Spitz and Breno Giacomini may be trade bait.
  • Coaches apparently like first-year free agent TE Tom Crabtree but doubt that the team would keep five tight ends. The scuttlebutt -- for what that's worth -- is that he will be among the cuts, with the Packers hoping he makes it through waivers so they can grab him for the practice squad. One would think the same would also be true with 3rd string QB Graham Harrell, who has also shown some flashes during his play.
  • All LB Frank Zombo has done has been make plays. Lots of 'em. It would be sad if he got caught in the numbers crunch. I have to believe that he has certainly demonstrated enough to make the team. While the positions are different and area needs are different, you can never have too many good players on a team; given a choice, I'd keep Zombo over Justin Harrell. He's shown more in one summer than Harrell has in three seasons. Sorry, Justin.
  • Rookie offensive guard Nick McDonald has played well and got plenty of action last evening. He should be a keeper.
  • If the Packers wind up trading Spitz, they should feel comfortable with G/C Evan Dietrich-Smith who has performed well and who also showed the ability to long snap last night after usual long snapper Brett Goode was sidelined after sustaining a blow to the head. Again, the ability to assume multiple roles is a plus. The ability to play guard, center and long's all a plus.
Without looking at film -- which is somewhat difficult to do since I don't have access to film -- it's hard to say who else distinguished themselves last evening. Nothing was too obvious, that's for sure, other than what has been previously mentioned.

Keep checking back here for more as the weekend unfolds with the various roster moves. Or follow me on Twitter. Just look for "packfansunited" and you're there!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Pack vs Chiefs Preview - Preseason Game #4

The finale of the 2010 NFL preseason takes place for the Green Bay Packers tonight in Kansas City. The 2-1 Packers take on the 0-3 Chiefs and, as always with the preseason, records mean very little. The key thing is for teams to make it through this last game without any significant injuries. Which means we can probably expect starters, especially on the offense, to play about one series before they retire to the sidelines for the rest of the game.

The only ones to whom this game means a lot are those players who are on the bubble...those players who are playing for one of the rare roster spots available on this possible Super Bowl-bound team. And of course, we're talking the Packers here, not the Chiefs.

The final roster cuts have to be made by 3 p.m. Saturday. All teams need to go from the current 75 to the 53-man roster required for the season. Holy chopping block, Batman! Even head coach Mike McCarthy said this is one of the toughest week's of the season not only for players but for the coaching staff, as well. They will have to cut players that they've worked closely with through the off-season, OTAs, mini-camp and summer training camp. They may even have to cut players who have contributed to the Packers during prior seasons. Can't be easy for anyone involved.

But that's what makes this game tonight interesting. Some players are literally playing for their careers, not just roster spots. Among that group one would have to think is the perennially injured DE Justin Harrell. When he hasn't been injured, he has shown little production on the field. Given some of the other prospects pushing for roster spots, Harrell has to play like an All-Pro tonight to have a chance of saving his spot with the Packers if not in the NFL altogether.

Another player who will be given all the chance in the world tonight to make the squad is first-year free agent WR Jason Chery. While he may get some repetitions at split end to see if he can grab the #5 receiver slot, the plan is for Chery to be showcased tonight as both punt and kick returner. Following his 75-yard punt return last week which got the coaches' attention, McCarthy wants to see what Chery can do as the designated returner. If he breaks another return for a TD or otherwise acquits himself well, Chery could be another one of the few unheralded players who secures a spot on the team. The Pack has been searching for a reliable return threat since the days of Desmond Howard who, by the way, Chery was unfamiliar with when that name was brought up by media this week as a point of comparison. OK. The kid doesn't have to know about the former Heisman Trophy winner and Super Bowl MVP. He just has to hold onto the ball and run for positive yardage. Hopefully, lots of positive yardage ending in the opposite end zone.

Aside from players to watch -- which also includes rookies S Sam Shields and LB Frank Zombo (who has to make the team based upon last name alone!) -- the coaches will also want to continue to see solid play out of backup QB Matt Flynn, who had a solid performance last week against the Colts. One might also expect to see a lot of play by the backup tight ends tonight. Other than Jermichael Finley and the versatile do-it-all Spencer Havner, will the Pack stick with veteran Donald Lee or opt for youth in the form of either rookie Andrew Quarless or first-year player Tom Crabtree, both of whom have demonstrated potential?

One lingering question for Packer fans, which will carry over to the first game at Philadelphia, is exactly what kind of defense will the Packers have? Due to injury, the Packers have yet to field a complete defensive unit with all starters on board. Coach McCarthy has addressed this situation with the media by saying that extra time and attention will be devoted to getting the #1 defensive unit geared up for the game against the Eagles. They won't have had the advantage of real-time game reps, but they should be able to get up to speed fairly quickly. At least, that's the hope.

As for a prediction about tonight's game...naaaaaah. None necessary. Other than to say watch and see which players are doing their best to grab the golden ring. And which will be catching a ride out of Green Bay come Saturday afternoon via cut or, less likely, trade.

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Packer Fans United now part of Yardbarker Network

Green Bay Packers fans: just in time for the start of the 2010 regular season, has affiliated with the Yardbarker sports network which in turn is affiliated with (yeah, a lot of affiliatin' goin' on, isn't there?). You can see some of the effects of this development in our right hand column, which -- along with all the regular links, etc. you've come to know and love -- now features recent headlines served up by Yardbarker, which as its tagline says, has "Realtime Rumors, Gossip, Opinions and Humor from the Best Sports Blogs."

Basically, it just means more ways for more readers to find and read, and for readers here to have access to more content.

But wait! There's More!
The affiliating hasn't stopped with Yardbarker, Packer fans. Yours truly is now the designated Packers blogger for the Football Fan Spot site. If you want to check out the Packers page just click here. Currently, it has verbiage from the site owner and a link to a bio of sorts for this writer. It will be featuring at least one post a week from me during the season. You'll also find a link to the site in the Links section in the right hand column.

Why am I doing all this? Hmmm...well, I guess it boils down to love for the Packers. That explains a lot of aberrant behavior, doesn't it?

Anyway...thanks again for your continued support. Please keep coming back. And if you feel so inclined, click through on the various headlines, ads, links and logos which appear all down the right hand side of this blog. Maybe even take a look at the store and stock up on some great stuff: clothes stuff, gift stuff, that kinda stuff. 'Tis the season. Or at least it will be starting September 12 in Philly.

Go Pack Go!!!