Sunday, February 23, 2014

Packers Scuttlebutt

Where to begin, Packer fans? It's been a while since we've made a post. Heck, it's the offseason. But, things are starting to pick up a bit from the football front once again after the post-Super Bowl hiatus.

In no particular order of importance, here's a few of the rumors and realities (perhaps) of what's going on in the world of the Green Bay Packers right now.
  • The Packers are supposedly working on a contract extension for WR Jordy Nelson, who will be going into the last year of his existing contract. On the "Is this a good thing or a bad thing?" line of measurement, this is a good thing.
  • Speculation is rampant, especially following some of head coach Mike McCarthy's comments and the free agent status of both B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett, that neither defensive lineman will be re-signed. Pickett is getting a bit long in the tooth at age 34. Raji has been a big body but over the last season especially (some might argue, two) didn't seem to have much of an impact one way or another. McCarthy has said he still wants big bodies on the defensive line. But it just might not be these two big bodies any longer.
  • The agent for WR James Jones is telling folks at the NFL Combine that he doesn't think GM Ted Thompson wants Jones back. The Packers do have some good young receivers in the fold right now. Jones has been a solid and clutch performer for the Packers. But they may not want to pay what he probably wants to get. Plus with the abundance of really good and really fast receivers coming out in the upcoming draft, the Packers may just wish to add to their depth that way.

  • There's more, of course. But at least want to catch up a bit on the goings on.

    Keep Calm and Carry On!

    Monday, February 03, 2014

    Does Seahawks' Super Bowl Win Mean a Paradigm Change in the NFL?

    Defense wins championships.

    That adage certainly was on full display in yesterday's 43-8 Super Bowl victory by the Seattle Seahawks over the Denver Broncos. The Seahawks dominated the trenches on both sides of the ball. The late great Vince Lombardi, and virtually every other coach on the planet, preach the simplicity of the game: block and tackle. Oh sure, there's a few other bits and pieces in there, too, but generally the team that blocks and tackles their opponent the best will be the victor. The NFL's number one defense -- Seattle -- beat the league's number one offense -- Denver -- like a rented mule in those key phases of the game.

    Of course, another key phase is turnovers. The Broncos turned the ball over four times, six if you include the two fumbles they recovered for themselves; Seattle had no turnovers. At least 14 Seattle points (more?) came directly off of those Denver turnovers. Let's not forget the safety, as well, that opened the game. Special teams often seem to have a role in games such as this, as well. Percy Harvin's 87-yard kickoff return was basically the dagger 12 seconds into the third quarter, putting Seattle up 29-0.

    Photo by Associated Press
    Second-year QB (and former University of Wisconsin Badger) Russell Wilson was 18 of 25 passing, for 206 yards and two touchdowns. He outperformed veteran Peyton Manning by light years. (Congrats also to former Badgers S Chris Maragos and LB O'Brien Schofield, as well as offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell; sympathies to Denver RB Montee Ball.)

    What does it mean?
    It seems with every Super Bowl, or at least ones where there is such blowout, the question arises: does this mean some kind of paradigm shift in the NFL? Has the type of offensive play shifted to young and versatile quarterbacks who can move out of the pocket and even scamper for 15 or 50 yards at a crack if needed? Has the defense shifted style to larger cornerbacks and faster and more mobile defenses in general?

    Time will tell. Certainly in the NFC, we'd have to consider Seattle and San Francisco at the head of the game based upon the above criteria. When comparing the Packers, especially the defense, to what both the Niners and Seahawks bring to the field, the Pack comes up lacking, which we saw throughout the season. Injuries weren't the full story. Personnel was. As Troy Aikman (?) said during the telecast last night about Seattle GM John Schneider, when he was with the Packers he saw that the team tended to go with smaller cornerbacks and when he became head of the Seahawks operation he made a concerted decision to bring in larger corners. Seems to have paid off. Perhaps Packers GM Ted Thompson can take a few lessons from his former protege.

    If the Packers are to compete with the likes of San Francisco and Seattle next season and beyond, a re-thinking about the defense has to take place. In last night's game, for example, how often did you see missed tackles by Seattle defenders? Rarely. How often did you see missed tackles by Packer defenders this past season? Often.

    The quickness and toughness of the Seattle defense was at a level the Packers haven't displayed in recent years. Yes, I'd put up the Packers offense against any other team, no problem. But the defense? That's the Achilles Heel for the team right now. The Packers brain trust better do some major re-working of that defense in the off-season to be able to make it past the first round of the playoffs next season. It will not be easy. But it must -- and can -- be done.

    Go Pack Go!!!

    Sunday, February 02, 2014

    Super Bowl Sunday and Catching Up with the Packers

    It's both Super Bowl Sunday AND Groundhog Day. What could this alignment of fantastic football and furry forecasters possibly mean? Apparently, to the horror of many (especially in the Midwest), Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and thus, this incredibly long winter will be even longer by six more weeks (OK, it's still a calendar thing, I realize, but you get the point...I hope). The good news is that Phil has, according to some sources, only been correct approximately 39% of the time. So, we have that going for us...the rodent could be wrong.

    But what does Phil have to say about the Super Bowl later today? Not much. Seeing or not seeing his shadow doesn't correlate with the Broncos or Seahawks winning or losing so we're still on our own in terms of picking that one. Duh.

    Depending upon who you're looking at, the oddsmakers have Denver slotted as 2.5-point favorites over Seattle. It's the NFL's number one offense against the number one defense. In most cases, so they say, defense wins championships. Oddsmakers seem to think otherwise in this case, given the presence of record five-time league MVP, Peyton Manning, at QB. (He received that fifth MVP award last evening, by the way.)

    What's our take? Do you really need any more analysis than has already been out there for the last two weeks? No. So, using the Punxsutawney Phil method of prognostication, I emerged from my burrow, went outside into the 11-degree temperature, and saw my shadow. I was scared and ran back inside. But I digress. What I think the shadow thing meant was that (wait for it!) the Seattle Seahawks will emerge the winner today. I like the defense, I like Russell Wilson's ability at quarterback. Plus the fact that there are four or five former University of Wisconsin Badgers (Go Badgers!) on the Seattle squad, while RB Monte Ball is the lone Badger on the Broncos. So, keeping within the same general theme of rodent-based predictions, more Badgers equals a win for the Seahawks. Let's say 34-31.

    Packers News Bits
    Photo by Associated Press
    The first news worth sharing is, of course, that rookie RB sensation, Eddie Lacy, won the coveted Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year award Saturday evening at the NFL Honors ceremony at Radio City Music Hall. Lacy led all rookie running backs with 1,178 rushing yards. Lacy received 35 of the possible 50 votes.

    According to an article by Tom Silverstein in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lacy becomes only the second player in Packers history to win rookie of the year honors, joining running back John Brockington, who won the award in 1971. Lacy broke Brockington's franchise rookie records for carries (284) and rushing yards and tied him for most 100-yard rushing games (four).

    "Lacy, who also broke Samkon Gado's franchise rookie record (six) for rushing touchdowns with 11, said he never really thought about winning the rookie award because it just isn't the way he operates."

    Lacy brought a dimension to the Packers' offense that had been sorely lacking in recent years. His pounding running style and ability to break tackles enabled the offense to be multi-dimensional and keep defenses guessing. If Lacy stays healthy, he can be a significant factor in the Packers' offense for years to come. (Let us pray...)

    The honors for Packers members didn't stop there. QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Randall Cobb won the GMC Never say Never Moment of the Year. As if you didn't know, that moment was the moment that the two connected on a last-minute scramble TD pass that beat Da Bearz for the NFC North Division Championship. Ah, yes...another moment of triumph over our opponents to the south. Never gets old, does it, Packer fans?

    Here's the presentation of that award for you.

    For some of us Packer fans, however, one of the biggest slights of the night was the award to San Diego QB Philip Rivers as "Comeback Player of the Year." Really? Really? What did Rivers get over...himself???

    Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly was certainly the Comeback Player of the Year. After being out of football for about three years, he resurrected himself and his career to not only make the squad but to be an integral part of the Packers' defense once again. You get our award, Johnny. You deserve it far more than Rivers.

    That's about all we have time for at the moment, Packer fans. Even though we aren't in today's game, in a way, we are. There's that thing called The Lombardi Trophy after all. And it wouldn't be called that had not one Vince Lombardi been the coach of the greatest dynasty at the time in the smallest town in major sports, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

    Go Pack Go!!!