Sunday, August 31, 2014

Packers set practice squad with 2014 personnel

That headline has a dual meaning: (1) the Packers have set their 2014 practice squad and (2) all 10 practice squad signees were with the Packers during the just completed 2014 preseason.

Key among those signees was S Chris Banjo, who many -- including this writer -- felt was a surprise cut when the final 53-man roster was made.

(Photo by Associated Press)

Signed to the practice squad, along with Banjo, are WR Kevin Dorsey, C Garth Gerhart, WR Alex Gillett, RB Michael Hill, LB Adrian Hubbard, TE Justin Perillo, DE Luther Robinson, T Jeremy Vujnovich and WR Myles White.

The transactions were announced Sunday by Packers Executive Vice President, General Manager and Director of Football Operations, Ted Thompson.

Packers roster set...almost

With the NFL requisite to cut down to the 53-man roster by 3 p.m. CT yesterday, the Green Bay Packers chose the players they think will get them to the promised land: the Super Bowl.

One of the lessons learned from last season, when QB Aaron Rodgers was injured, was that you better have at least one reliable quarterback on the roster to tide you over. Well, the Packers now have two: Scott Tolzein and Matt Flynn.

Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Many fans were hoping the Pack would keep both. Flynn obviously brings experience and has proven he can win a game or two off the bench. Tolzein has a much stronger arm and bigger upside in terms of potential. Trading Flynn was not an option, apparently, as his flame out in several locations prior to and during last season devalued his worth to all but the Packers considerably. Tolzein could have been placed on the practice squad as he did have eligibility left, but the feeling was that he likely wouldn't have cleared the cut list and another team would have snapped him up; the Pack couldn't take that chance. It's not yet clear, however, which of the two will be the primary backup to Rodgers. Based upon NFL experience, the guess is Flynn; based upon arm strength and upside, the guess is Tolzein (yours truly is rooting for Tolzein).

Keeping three quarterbacks, however, meant a cut somewhere else. It's a numbers game, after all. One of the players that many thought would make the team based upon his excellent special teams play was safety Chris Banjo. He was among those getting cut, unfortunately. Others getting the ax were: WR Kevin Dorsey, LB Jake Doughty, OL John Fullington, OL Garth Gerhart, WR Alex Gillett, DT Carlos Gray, RB Michael Hill, LB Adrian Hubbard, OL Jordan McCray, S Tanner Miller, TE Justin Perillo, RB LaDarius Perkins, DE Luther Robinson, CB Jumal Rolle, OL Jeremy Vujnovich, WR Myles White, and CB Ryan White.

The Roster (as of the moment)
According to the Packer's website, the roster looks like this at present (note that teams have until noon today to pick up players cut by other teams; practice squad designations can then be made):
  • QB: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien
  • RB: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris
  • FB: John Kuhn
  • WR: Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Jeff Janis, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams
  • TE: Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, Richard Rodgers
  • LT: David Bakhtiari, Derek Sherrod
  • RT: Bryan Bulaga
  • LG: Josh Sitton
  • RG: T.J. Lang, Lane Taylor
  • C: JC Tretter, Corey Linsley
  • DE: Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, Josh Boyd
  • NT: Letroy Guion, Mike Pennel
  • OLB: Clay Matthews, Mike Neal, Jayrone Elliott, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Andy Mulumba, Carl Bradford
  • ILB: A.J. Hawk, Sam Barrington, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore
  • CB: Tramon Williams, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Demetri Goodson
  • FS: Morgan Burnett, Sean Richardson
  • SS: Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
  • P: Tim Masthay
  • K: Mason Crosby
  • LS: Brett Goode
The Packers injured reserve list looks like this: WR Jared Abbrederis, T Aaron Adams, T/G Don Barclay, LB Nate Palmer, DT B.J. Raji, TE Jake Stoneburner, DT Khyri Thornton.

As noted, practice squad additions will be forthcoming, along with some possible moves related to other teams' cuts. So this roster is subject to change, but likely nothing major.

As for how we feel about the roster...the loss of OL Don Barclay for the season was a big blow to the depth of the offensive line; he could play any of the positions. Losing NT B.J. Raji for the season also struck at the depth of the defensive line. Still, going into the upcoming season kickoff at Seattle on Thursday evening, I think we should feel very optimistic, Packer fans. As long as the injury bug to key players stays away. Let us pray...

We'll provide any needed updates to the roster and practice squad as they become known. We'll also make our season prediction in the upcoming days prior to the game against the Seahawks. You don't want to miss that! So please keep checking back. And, as always for all the latest from across the web, keep checking our Amazing 2nd Page which updates frequently.

Oh, yeah...GO PACK GO!!!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Packers on cut-down day

The Green Bay Packers wrapped up their 2014 preseason campaign with a win at Lambeau Field versus the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night. Score? Does it matter?

No starters played, with the exception of rookie and new starting center, Corey Linsley, who needs the work after the loss of J.C. Tretter in the prior game against the Raiders. Several backup players got hurt who might have contributed this season; now, not so much...or at all. There was a distinct quarterback competition for the number 2 spot behind Aaron Rodgers. While both Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzein performed well, the edge (in this writer's opinion) went to Tolzein who just has a stronger arm and bigger upside than Flynn. We'd like to see the Pack keep all 3 QBs, but whether the roster numbers will allows for that is another matter altogether.

But we won't have to wait long for the answer to this and the other question of the day: who's making the final 53-man roster and who's getting cut? Each team must submit their cuts to the league office by 3 p.m. CT.

If you're looking to get the early inside information, you can do no better than Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Tom Silverstein's Packers Blog which has the running updates of cuts. Check it out and then check back here over the weekend for our take on all the moves today and tomorrow.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Packers meet Chiefs in 2014 preseason finale

In the final game of the 2014 preseason, the Green Bay Packers take on the Kansas City Chiefs this evening at Lambeau Field. This is essentially the "make-it-or-break-it" game for those players looking to grab a coveted spot on the final 53-man roster come this Saturday. We won't see much if anything of the starters. Although rookie and newly-slotted starting center, Corey Linsley, will likely get lots of work since being thrust into the starting spot following the revelation of J.C. Tretter's injury in last week's game against the Raiders.

Other than that, it will be the bubble game: players on the bubble of making the squad or not will have perhaps just a few plays in which to make an impression. It's a nervous time for those players, as well as the coaches and general manager who will have to make the difficult decisions over the next couple days as to who stays and who goes. To this last point, be sure to check out Tyler Dunne's synopsis of Ted Thompson's new conference from yesterday in which he talks a bit about some of these issues.

As for the game tonight, it doesn't matter whether the Packers win or lose, really, does it? What matters is that all players escape without injury and that Thompson, McCarthy et al get the information they need to put the Packers on the road to the Super Bowl.

Go Pack Go!!!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Packers beat Raiders in preseason home opener, lose Raji for the season

So the good news coming out of Friday night's win was that the Green Bay Packers offensive and defensive units were better, much better, than that of their Oakland counterparts. The Raiders picked up a couple of late touchdowns in garbage time to make the final score of 31-21 seem much more competitive than it really was. The Packers dominated on both sides of the ball all night long. Yours truly was in attendance and saw that firsthand.

QB Aaron Rodgers and the offense clicked on their first series in the no-huddle offense. And while the line seemed to sputter in the next few series, and some of the timing was off between Rodgers and his receivers, the first half showed what the offense will be able to do. Even a little of RB Eddie Lacy is a lot for defenses; he played only on the first series, and rushed six times for 36 yards and a touchdown.

Back up RB DuJuan Harris also got lots of touches and performed exceptionally well, finishing with 56 yards on 12 carries. He also had two receptions for 42 yards, with a long reception/run of 31 yards. He showed quickness and power. The Packers will need to find a way beyond just kickoff returns to get Harris on the field.

Rookie TE Richard Rodgers also had a good game. Back up QB Matt Flynn didn't have a particularly good or bad jwas ust kind of...meh. It appeared to this writer that he focused on each receiver he was going to throw to right from the start. QB Scott Tolzein came in just before the end of the third quarter and played very well. He was making quick reads and had zip on the ball. It's always been the opinion of this writer that Tolzein has the better arm between he and Flynn and if he could just get some more playing time he would be the primary back up to Rodgers. I've said it before here and will do so again: the Packers will keep three QBs on their roster. There is a much bigger upside to Tolzein than Flynn and the Packers need to hang on to that.

As for the defense, they acquitted themselves quite well, too, holding the Raiders -- who played many of their starters into the second half -- to just 7 points until garbage time. A couple players stood out, including Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews. No surprises there. The secondary seemed to do well, particularly Davon House. When back ups entered the game, it seemed as if Oakland was targeting rookie CB Demetri Goodson. He struggled. Given the competition in the secondary, I'd be surprised if he isn't released in the first round of roster cuts.
B.J. Raji leaves the field -- and the season -- after Friday night's game against the Raiders.
Photo copyright Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The major negative to come out of the game, we learned yesterday, was the loss for the season of NT B.J. Raji who tore his right biceps apparently during the first quarter. The implications for the Packers and Raji are big, as this story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel indicates. The Packers younger players will have to fill the void. They certainly have good options there. As the article indicates, it would be surprising if the Pack were to re-sign either Ryan Pickett or Johnny Jolly at this point, relying instead on second-year players Josh Boyd, free-agent acquisition Letroy Guion (who has yet to even practice because of hamstring injury) and undrafted rookie Mike Pennel.

While not a nose tackle, another young player of note over the last several weeks has been rookie LB Jayrone Elliott, who had three sacks in four plays against St. Louis and followed that performance up with another game in which he made his presence known. I expect Elliott to be on the final roster given these performances.

What goes on at a Packers preseason game?
The Packers answered that question themselves, putting together this video.

I can also share that while fans were out in full force (more than 73,000 were in attendance!), along with all the tailgating, etc. that goes along with it, the crowd still felt a bit subdued. Attribute that to the fact that it was a game that didn't count, in which the starters didn't play very long, and the weather was a sultry 83 degrees around kickoff time with humidity in the vicinity of 80 percent or so, as well.

However, for the first time, yours truly was able to grab tickets inside the (relatively) new indoor club level. I have to tell you, it spoils you. For face value of $222 per ticket, it should. (Fortunately, what I paid through one of the online ticket exchanges was far less than that.) But for a night, my wife and I were able to share in a bit of the bounty of these seats. You enter through the Bellin Health gate on the north side of the stadium and take elevators up. Once there, there is an abundance of upscale food and drink choices, with prices to match, of course. You sit inside an air-conditioned seating area, in very comfortable and cushy seats, with order-takers and servers to make the food and beverage runs for you if you wish. There were a few glitches on that end, it seemed. After all, this was the working staff's first home game, as well, and there were some bugs in the system here and there. (One of the servers even told us this would be his first and last game doing this gig.) But the intentions are good, that's for sure.

One of the other pleasures of the indoor seating was flat-panel TVs which showed the live play as well as the replays, of course. Given that we were in the north endzone, it was nice to have that TV view. But instead of having to listen to the usual folks on TV coverage, we instead heard -- thankfully -- the play-by-play of 620WTMJ radio announcers Wayne Larrivee and Larry McCarren. That's as good as it gets.

One of the downsides of this seating level, however, is to get access to the Packers Pro Shop, you have to basically go half way back around the stadium, down and below the Atrium level. Not convenient. At all. For the money the team spent re-designing the Pro Shop and this stadium, this is terrible traffic flow and customer access. When I mentioned this to several red-vested Lambeau Field staff members, they each agreed. It was almost as if the architects were designing only with outside entry in mind; to heck with those trying to enter from within the stadium. Really poor planning in this regard.

I've posted a photo below of our view during the game. It really doesn't do it justice. If you haven't been to Lambeau Field since all the additions, you owe it to yourself to go. If you've never been there, definitely go. If the best you can do is to take a tour of the stadium, spring for the $20 version; a young couple we met from Toronto had done that a few days earlier and raved about it.

It's getting close, Packer fans. That first game against Seattle will be here in about 10 days or so. It looks as if the Pack is in good form going into that opener. But we know the Seahawks will be, too. They are the champs...for now.

Go Pack Go!!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Packers vs. Raiders in Preseason Home Opener

The Green Bay Packers play the Oakland Raiders tonight at Lambeau Field, the Pack's first game at home in this preseason schedule. It is the annual Shrine game.

What can we expect? Most of the usual things you expect from the third of four preseason games: more play from the starters, while still seeing plenty of action from those players still trying to make the roster. The first roster cuts need to be made by Monday, taking the roster down to 75 players.

The "more play" from the starters piece will translate differently for each player, of course. While head coach, Mike McCarthy, wouldn't say definitively that QB Aaron Rodgers would play a full half, he did indicate that his playing time had more to do with the number of plays the offense was able to reel off while Rodgers was under center. If the starting offense operates as efficiently as it did in its game last week at St. Louis, Rodgers could very well have an early night.

Packers RB Eddie Lacy in action
(Photo copyright Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Expect also to see more of RB Eddie Lacey who hasn't been on the field that much during either of the two prior games; in fact, he -- like Rodgers and WR Jordy Nelson -- didn't even dress for the first game against the Titans. He's anxious to get some touches and, according to his own comments, make sure his game speed is where it needs to be. No matter how many reps he may get in practice -- including an abundance of sideline work catching passes from running backs coach, Sam Gash -- it's not the same.

Expect to see a lot of Scott Tolzein and Matt Flynn at quarterback tonight, too. According to some sources, it seems likely that the Packers will keep both backup QBs on the final roster. We know all too well what happened last year, and with two able backups behind Rodgers that's a security blanket the Packers need.

The tight end competition is also an area to keep your eyes on. With Brandon Bostick down perhaps through Week 1 of the regular season with a lower leg injury, others will get their chance to show their stuff. Rookie Richard Rodgers is an intriguing prospect there, and second-year player Jake Stoneburner may see more action, too.

At wide receiver, coaches and fans alike got to see last week what rookie Jeff Janis might bring to the table: size and speed. Would really like to see him get some work with Rodgers to see what that pass-catch combination could offer.

The return game, especially on punts, is still a bit of an unknown so we may see a number of players still auditioning for that role. If all else fails, don't be surprised if Micah Hyde becomes the regular punt returner.

What about defense? The defensive line rotation will get a workout to see how that best sets up for the season. The linebacker set is pretty well defined except for the primary back up spots where there is still good competition. As for the secondary, there is some of the best competition for playing time that we've seen in years, which should make that unit as solid as any when the regular season kicks off.

The weather forecast for this evening is hot and steamy. At kickoff, the temperature is supposed to be around 76 degrees, with humidity around 80 percent. This will be more like the sweltering rainforest, not the frozen tundra. Thunderstorms are pegged at 20 percent chance through a good portion of the game.

Yours truly will be at the game this evening, so the usual in-game Tweets will not be made in case you were counting on our pithy insights. Will do a follow-up post here this weekend on the fun and frivolity that took place. Oh, and the game, too, of course.

Go Pack Go!!!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

It's Packers 2014 preseason football time: Pack vs. Titans!

Oh, long, long last...Green Bay Packers football is about to get underway. The road to the Super Bowl, fellow Packer fans, begins this evening in Tennessee. Our Pack take on the Titans in the first of four preseason games. Expect not to see much of any of the projected starters. Particularly those named Aaron Rodgers.

Tonight, we'll get our first glimpse of the 2014 edition of the Packers. On display will be the work of the two fellows competing to be the primary backup to Rodgers: Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzein. The Packers know what Flynn can do: provide a knowledge of the system and even win games now and then. But we suspect they are more interested in seeing what Tolzein can do now with a bit more experience. They know he has a stronger arm than Flynn. The question is can he be a consistent leader on the field and win. Flynn's steady, Tolzein has a better chance to make a big play. What will shake out by the time the final roster decisions need to be made? This game starts to make that picture come into focus.

The same, of course, can be said for many other players and positions. Safety has been one getting a lot of attention in training camp. Given the lack of production from that unit last season, expectations are much higher this season. Morgan Burnett missed most of this week's camp with a strained oblique and will be held out tonight. As a result, second-year player Micah Hyde and first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix are expected to start, and much focus will of course be placed upon how Clinton-Dix adapts to the pro game.

But don't be surprised if you see third-year player Sean Richardson in the mix with the starters. During his Thursday press conference, head coach Mike McCarthy had this to say about Richardson: "I'll tell you what, Sean Richardson is having a hell of a training camp." Any number of pundits and reporters have noted that Richardson has been very impressive in camp. The coaching staff has taken notice. Richardson was an undrafted free agent who made the team in 2012, but that rookie season was cut short with injuries and he played in only five games. In 2013, he played in just six games. The Packers are anxious to see what a healthy Richardson can do. At 6'2" and 216 lbs., he is an imposing presence in the defensive backfield. I'm one of those rooting for him to stay on the field and make many contributions this season. He's an intriguing player.

Other young players will also be getting a close look tonight. Second-year player J.C. Tretter is slated to be the starting center if all goes according to script. McCarthy says he likes what he has seen from Tretter in practice, so we'll see what happens in live game action. Rookie Corey Linsley will also get a good look at center.

On offense, tight end is a position of interest with the apparent final departure of Jermichael Finley. Jake Stoneburner looks to take a step up in his play, while rookie Richard Rodgers has also received a lot of positive reviews in camp. In the wide receiver corps, expectations are high for rookie Davante Adams who has apparently been nothing but spectacular in camp.

But don't count out rookie Jeff Janis. Janis missed the first week of camp with an illness and practiced for the first time on Wednesday. During that first practice, Janis made a one-handed touchdown catch in the back-left corner of the end zone of a pass from Tolzein. Not to be outdone, Adams followed Janis’ catch with a one-handed touchdown grab of a Matt Flynn pass.

These are just a few of the players to keep an eye on, of course.

A big part of these preseason games for fans is just getting used to new players and new numbers. "Who is that?" will be a common statement tonight, whether on a good or poor play.

For coaches, they want to see what the new young guys may be able to contribute to make this team better. It's a fun and exciting time of the year. Hopes from fans and coaches alike are that no one gets seriously injured. The Pack has already lost wide receiver and returner Jared Abbrederis and offensive lineman Don Barclay to torn ACL's. The Packers have seemed a bit snake-bitten in recent seasons with injuries. Let's hope this early trend doesn't continue.