2010 August : Packers Insider

Packers feel Charles Woodson’s absence in preseason

August 23, 2010 by  
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Aug 23, 2010 ~ by Pete Dougherty

~There really wasn’t much doubt about Charles Woodson’s irreplaceable role with the Green Bay Packers, but in case they needed reminding, the Packers on Saturday night got an unsavory look at life without the NFL’s reigning defensive player of the year.

With Woodson and Harris sitting out, “We had some guys that got a lot of snaps,” Capers said. “We didn’t play the pass as well early in the game as I would like to have. So we’re going to have to take a look at it."

Woodson didn’t travel to play the Seattle Seahawks because coach Mike McCarthy wanted to save the 33-year-old cornerback from playing on Qwest Field’s artificial surface, especially with a quick turnaround for a Thursday preseason game at Lambeau Field.

Any evaluation of the Packers’ defense playing without Woodson on Saturday night also must acknowledge two important points. 
Rest of story here

Some leftovers from the practice game in Seattle

August 23, 2010 by  
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Aug 23, 2010 ~ by Tom Silverstein

~Here are a couple of follow up items and observations from the Packers’ 27-24 exhibition victory over the Seattle Seahawks Saturday night at Qwest Field:

  • It’s unclear exactly what it means, but P Chris Bryan has been getting the majority of holds with K Mason Crosby lately. He held on Crosby’s field goals of 54 and 46 yards. Special teams coach Shawn Slocum may be testing Bryan, the former Australian Rules Football player, to see whether he can hold consistently. Competitor Tim Masthay more experience with the NFL ball. Said Slocum: “He (Bryan) is growing and growing and growing. He did a good job tonight. It was indicative of what happened tonight, making the field goals. Outstanding execution (on the 54-yarder). The margin of error is greatly reduced. The placement, the ball had to be just right, the lean of the ball, everything involved.”
  • The 54-yard kickoff return the Packers allowed in the second quarter was not pretty. TE Donald Lee and LB Brady Poppinga allowed themselves to be blocked inside too far

    "He (Lee) needs to turn the ball inside. He avoided the double team. When you have a double team you have to at least hold your field position. They’re taking two guys against one, it’s a trade off. Someone’s going to be free somewhere. When he avoided inside, it opened a field lane."

     and were unable to force returner Josh Wilson to the coverage as they are supposed to do. Cornerback Jarrett Bush held his position, while FB Korey Hall got held and S Charlie Peprah got blocked, leaving a gaping hole.

    Full story here

Packers’ running game tough to judge

August 23, 2010 by  
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Aug 23, 2010 ~ by Tom Silverstein

~If Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy was making a list of things he has accomplished during training camp, it might look something like this:

• Get Aaron Rodgers clicking. ♦
• Elevate Jermichael Finley’s impact. ♦
• Establish a static offensive line. ♦
• Involve James Jones and Jordy Nelson more. ♦
• Put Bryan Bulaga on a fast track. ♦
• Establish the running game. (Will get to later)

Roughly three weeks before the Packers open the regular season, McCarthy and his offensive staff probably know about as much about their running attack as they did the day training camp opened.

"I'm not overly concerned about the running game right now, but I'm not sure I have a ton of information yet either," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said.

In two exhibition games, starting running back Ryan Grant has carried the ball eight times, two fewer than the team’s three quarterbacks.

Full story here

OL Spitz could be auditioning for other teams

August 23, 2010 by  
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Aug 23, 2010 ~ by Tom Silverstein

~Offensive lineman Jason Spitz may be playing this exhibition season to impress someone else as much as the Green Bay Packers.

The odd man out in the fight for the final starting spot on the offensive line, Spitz has stopped playing three positions and is being used solely at center.

It’s his natural position, and after he was given almost no opportunity to compete at guard, it very well could be that the Packers are showcasing him for other teams.

"If I get back to playing the way I was last year, everything will take care of itself. I'm just here to play, and wherever they tell me to go, I'll go."

Spitz, who had back surgery last year and suffered a calf injury that sidelined him from Aug. 9-16, looked like he was at full strength in the Packers’ 27-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday night.

He played three series with the No. 2 unit, logging 22 plays (including penalty snaps) and acquitting himself well in the middle. He did not allow a pressure in the passing game, executed double teams properly and handled a number of line calls with what appeared to be full command of the offense.

His only mistake came at the end of the first half when he prematurely snapped the ball, resulting in a penalty and 10-second runoff that washed out the Packers’ chances for a last-second field goal.

Spitz said he had no control over the coaches’ decision not to let him compete directly with Daryn Colledge and rookie Bryan Bulaga for the left guard spot.  Rest of story here

Packers’ RT Breno Giacomini healthy & ready to show skills

August 13, 2010 by  
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Aug 13, 2010 ~ by Kareem the dream Copeland

~Breno Giacomini knows the rule when it comes to blocking and being blocked — the low man wins. The problem is it just doesn’t match the natural movement of the 6-foot-7, 319-pound tackle.

Giacomini has entered a critical training camp with the Green Bay Packers. The team’s fifth-round pick in 2008 has played just one game as a professional, and he missed all of last year’s offseason workouts because of ankle surgery.

“It’s been eight months, so there’s the transition,” Giacomini said. “It’s time we hit somebody else. … I can’t wait. It’s going to be exciting. I’m going to be nervous, I can already tell.

 

Giacomini has been working with the No. 2 unit at right tackle during training camp — a promising sign for someone standing on the edge of the making the 53-man roster. So much of the offensive line discussion has centered on starters Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, first-round draft pick Bryan Bulaga, T.J. Lang, Daryn Colledge, Jason Spitz and fifth-round pick Marshall Newhouse, that Giacomini has been somewhat of an afterthought.

But he understands what’s at stake.

“I think it is (the most important year of my career),” Giacomini said. “I’ve just got to go out there and show them what I got, though. You’ve just got to put that in the back of your mind and perform.”

Giacomini didn’t move to tackle until his senior year at Louisville and still is learning the position. The No. 1 priority for the offseason was to get stronger and more flexible, which helps the body get down in position. That equates to a lot of hip exercises in the weight room in order to make those movements second nature.

Offensive linemen need leverage to run block.

“Being 6-7, it’s hard to get low,” Giacomini said. “You’ve got to bend. You’ve got to get to that aiming point and just drive those guys outta there.

“The main key is staying lower, or at least, trying to. Using size after that to overpower them. Low man wins every time and that’s what I focused on. I feel like I’m been doing better than last year.”

Coach Mike McCarthy has seen a vast improvement also and didn’t hesitate to praise Giacomini.

“Number one, Breno is healthy,” McCarthy said. “Breno has been able to string together a full year of injury-free work, and this is his time. … Really, the last hurdle for Breno is to go do it in games. He’s a tough guy. He plays the way we want our offensive linemen to play. He has a complete understanding of what’s asked of him at that right tackle position.

Full story here

Packers skating on thin ice at linebacker

August 12, 2010 by  
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Aug 12, 2010 ~ by Mike Vandermause

~Real or imagined, there was a perception the Packers were thin at outside linebacker coming into training camp. That was before the linebackers started dropping like flies this past week, with Clay Matthews pulling his hamstring, Brady Poppinga suffering a concussion, Brad Jones hurting his back, and Frank Zombo and Cyril Obiozor going down with ailments of one sort or another.

It has gotten so bad that the Packers were forced to walk across the street and pull a Green Bay Blizzard player off the street, sign him to a contract and suit him up (Maurice Simpkins). Right now, any warm body will do just to make it through training camp.

But even if all the walking wounded heal – Poppinga has returned to practice, while Matthews is expected to miss at least two weeks – the question remains whether the Packers are stocked enough at that position. They didn’t draft an outside linebacker and they didn’t sign one from the ranks of the unrestricted free agents.

Thompson claimed he had depth at OLB following the draft when he added no LBers, but now Brandon Chillar has been moved from inside to outside linebacker and currently is playing with the No. 1 defense as Clay Matthews is out with a bad hamstring.

I asked GM Ted Thompson about depth at that position during a recent interview, prior to the glut of injuries.

“I think we have some depth there,” Thompson said. “This training camp will determine the quality and extent of that depth. We’re not walking around wringing our hands over it. But during the draft, offseason, free agency, it’s based on quality of talent available. You make decisions, and if you want a left tackle, you take a left tackle.”

The implication being that sure, the Packers could have drafted an outside linebacker high in the draft, but with Bryan Bulaga sitting there in the first round, the team went in another direction. It’s impossible to fill every need.

But the Packers need to increase their pass-rushing capabilities, and one place to do that is at outside linebacker. Again, Thompson feels good about where the defense is at.

“Defense is more complicated than one particular (position),” he said. “But certainly you like to              Rest of story here

Packers fullbacks, tight ends compete for precious roster spots

August 12, 2010 by  
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Aug 12, 2010 ~ by Pistol Pete Dougherty

~Don’t bet on the Green Bay Packers’ keeping three fullbacks on their 53-man roster again.

Quinn Johnson still is behind both Kuhn and Hall in practice, and at least as importantly has yet to move up the depth charts as a special teams player. Heading into this week’s preseason opener against Cleveland, Johnson isn’t on any of the Packers’ No. 1 special teams units, whereas Kuhn and Hall are established special teams starters.

They did it last year at a position where some teams keep only one man because they had two competent veterans in John Kuhn and Korey Hall, plus a fifth-round draft pick they especially liked in Quinn Johnson.

But coach Mike McCarthy’s liberal use of two tight-end places a higher value on that position than fullback, and with an unusually good group of five tight ends in training camp this year, the Packers are more likely to go heavier than normal at that position and keep four players.

Full story from the pistol here

Some have stepped forward in camp

August 12, 2010 by  
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Aug 11, 2010 ~ by Wayne Larrivee

~For rookies, free agents and first and second year players, the preseason began with Saturday’s Family Night scrimmage. This week it’s the next step in the process as exhibition games begin. Here is a look at those who must shine on the preseason stage this month.

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers needs to stay healthy. Matt Flynn is looking to become what Matt Hasselbeck was years ago – “Mr. August.”

If all goes according to plan, the bulk of Flynn’s playing time will come during the preseason. He needs to show the coaching staff, as well as himself, that he’s making strides. His performance in camp thus far can best be described as uneven.

Matt Flynn: He needs to show the coaching staff, as well as himself, that he's making strides. His performance in camp thus far can best be described as uneven.

  
Running backs

With Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson, the Packers know exactly what they have. Unheralded rookie free agent Quinn Porter out of Stillman College has impressed in practice.

If he can do it under the lights in a game, then he makes this team.

One scout already told me he looks like the team’s second best running back. He has very good quickness and the ability to see the hole and hit it hard.

Fullbacks

The question here is how many will they keep? The Packers carried three fullbacks last season, and they know what they have with John Kuhn and Korey Hall.

Kuhn runs the ball well in short yardage and inside runs, and Hall is a good receiver. Both of these veterans are good special teams players.

They would like to keep 263-pound hammer Quinn Johnson, the second-year player out of LSU.

Johnson has not shown the kind of improvement one would hope for in a second-year prospect, but his size and potential are tremendous. He needs to show he can catch (a dropped pass in the scrimmage doesn’t help), run and most of all blow people up at the line of scrimmage as a blocker.

Receivers

I can’t see anyone breaking into the top four at wide receiver. James Jones and Jordy Nelson, the third and fourth men on this totem poll, have been most impressive in camp.

Brett Swain must stay healthy to earn the No. 5 slot. He is coming off a knee injury and tweaked it during the scrimmage.

Tight ends

The Packers feel they have five tight ends who can play. Deciding how many to keep is the question.

Jermichael Finley is a star in the making. Donald Lee is the most complete player of the group. Andrew Quarless is a fifth-round draft choice out of Penn State with great ability. Spencer Havner caught five touchdown passes last season, and Tom Crabtree is an excellent free agent who has impressed the coaches with his all-around play in camp.

Rest of story, including defense, and offensive line, here

Packers hustle to re-sign starters

August 12, 2010 by  
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Aug 11, 2010 ~ by Bob McGinn

~Once the Green Bay Packers identify a player as part of their nucleus, they have the courage and the cash to make long-term commitments.

Unlike some of their less financially fortunate brethren, the Packers have been re-signing veterans almost as if the uncertainty concerning the fate of the 2011 season didn’t exist.

A.J. Hawk might need to sign a new contract because his base salary in the final year of his contract (2011) swells to $10 million.

“Our philosophy has always been to invest in our players,” said Packers President Mark Murphy, taking a business-as-usual stance amid the labor unrest. “The challenge is identifying the right players and extending them. Ted (Thompson) has done a good job identifying the core players.”

Since June 2009, the Packers have re-signed seven starters – Greg Jennings, Brandon Chillar, Chad Clifton, Nick Collins, Ryan Pickett, Mark Tauscher and Donald Driver – to contract extensions.

Excluding incentives, the seven deals total $132.728 million, $67.081 million of which is guaranteed.

When the Packers locked the players up for the long haul, Jennings was entering the final year of his contract, Chillar and Driver were in the final years of their contracts, Clifton and Tauscher were early in the unrestricted free-agent signing period, Collins had just signed his restricted free-agent tender to begin his final season, and Pickett had been designated a franchise free agent after his contract expired.

“The plan is to draft, to develop and hopefully sign our guys back,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s what we’re going to continue to try to do.”

Despite the flurry of extensions, Thompson has many more decisions to make in the not too distant future.

Full story here

My guess for the Packers Opening Day 53-man roster

August 10, 2010 by  
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Aug 10, 2010 ~ by Brian E Murphy

~There are some very interesting and exciting positional battles yet to be figured out for the Packers over the next four weeks.

While QB seems set, you can make a case that every other position (aside from kicker and long snapper) has three people fighting for one spot.

In addition to the battles, we have guys who might not be healthy enough to start the season on the 53-man roster. Atari Bigby, Al Harris, Will Blackmon, and rookie running back James Starks are all possibilities to open the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list.

Rookie Tight End Andrew Quarless appears headed for the practice squad, but can he make enough plays to make the final 53?

And we all have seen enough of Justin Harrell to know that he’s never a certainty to make it through August.

But as of now, here is my guess as to what our 53-man roster will look like.

Offense: 24
QB (2) Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn
FB (2) John Kuhn, Korey Hall 
RB (3) Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, Quinn Porter
WR (4) Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones
TE (3) Jermichael Finley, Donald Lee, Spencer Havner
OT (4) Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, Bryan Bulaga, TJ Lang,
OG (4) Josh Sitton, Daryn Colledge,  Jason Spitz, Marshall Newhouse
C (2) Scott Wells, Evan Dietrich-Smith 

Defense: 26
DE (5) Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, Justin Harrell, CJ Wilson
NT (2) BJ Raji, Anthony Toribio 
OLB (5) Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Brandon Chillar, Brady Poppinga, Cyril Obiozor 
ILB (3) Nick Barnett, AJ Hawk, Desmond Bishop 
CB (6) Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Brandon Underwood, Pat Lee, Sam Shields, Jarrett Bush
S (5) Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Derrick Martin, Charlie Peprah, Anthony Levine

Special Teams: 3
K: Mason Crosby
P: Chris Bryan
LS: Brett Goode

PUP: 
Al Harris
Atari Bigby
Will Blackmon

IR:
James Starks

*Trades
Ted Thompson may not be active in free agency, but he’s made his share of trades late in camps. Last year, he dealt Tony the Moll to Baltimore for Derrick Martin. He’s also stolen a sixth-round pick for a long snapper, and he’s acquired Ryan Grant in a last-minute pre-season trade.

There are a few candidates to be traded again this year. Daryn Colledge could conceivably be dealt, especially if Bryan Bulaga earns the starting LG spot. He certainly has more value than Moll did.

There might be one-too-many TE’s and/or FB’s  this year so a guy like FB Quinn Johnson or TE Donald Lee could be moved if there’s a willing partner.

Tough Cuts:
WR Brett Swain
FB Quinn Johnson
OT Breno Giacomini
TE Andrew Quarless
DE Jarius Wynn
TE Tom Crabtree
CB Josh Bell
DE Ronald Talley
RB Kregg Lumpkin

Don’t laugh at Josh Bell being a “tough cut”. I like his potential, and he’s gained a few pounds of muscle since last year. Not enough, but he’s headed in the right direction. I actually believe he’s a better corner than Pat Lee is, but because Lee was a 2nd round pick, he’ll be unfairly shafted in favor of Lee.
Bell was thrown in the line of fire late last year and everyone remembers his blown coverage on the final play to the Steelers, but he has some ability. He’s not the only Packer DB in recent history to allow a last-second huge pass. Eagles and Niners fans remember what I’m talking about.

I also really love the speed of young WR Chastin West. I feel he could be a gamebreaking kick returner, and if he gets a chance there in preseason, he might be able to make the team as a 5th WR, where Brett Swainmade the team last year. Swain, you’ll remember, made the team mostly due to being a fine special teams player and he paid immediate dividends in week one versus the Bears when Lovie Smith called the surprise fake-punt, and Swain was the only Packer who was there to make the tackle. That game came down to the wire and one big play like that was crucial in the final outcome.

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