2012 September : Packers Insider

Offensive Line leaks doom Rodgers, Packers

September 9, 2012 by  
Filed under News

Smith finally gets the best of Rodgers: San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith (11) shakes hands with Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers (12). The 49ers won 30-22. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

By Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor

~The Green Bay Packers didn’t lose a game last season until December 18th in Kansas City.

The new & improved defense of the 2012 Packers didn’t force a turnover today against Alex Smith’s 49ers, they still couldn’t tackle, and the Packers lost their first game of the season this year on September 9th, to drop to 0-1 and fall a game behind all three other NFC North teams.

The scientists at Cold Hard Football Facts may not be surprised, but Packer Nation is very surprised to see Aaron Rodgers have not one, but two opportunities to tie the game in the 4th quarter.

The first time, with the Packers having the momentum after a Randall Cobb punt return TD, and then a stop by the defense, Rodgers responded by throwing a Rich Campbell-like interception on the first play, throwing the ball right to Niner linebacker Navarro Bowman.

San Francisco 49ers' Ahmad Brooks (55) leaps up to sack Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the Packers final drive. Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton let Brooks run right in, untouched. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

One play later, the Pakcers resorted to their 2011 form of tackling and let Frank Gore rumble 23 yards to put the Niners back up 30-15.

After Rodgers and James Jones hooked up for a touchdown to cut it to an 8-point game with just over 8 minutes to go, the defense got the ball back to Rodgers with about 3 minutes to go and a chance to march to tie the game.

Rodgers got the Packers to the San Francisco 45-yard line pretty easily, with 2 minutes to go. But right Bryan Bulaga totally whiffed on his blocking assignment and let Ahmad Brooks go right in off the edge to sack Rodgers for a quick 7-yard loss and make it 2nd and 17.

The next play, left guard TJ Lang went invisible mode and let Brooks run right in from the left side, forcing Rodgers into throwing it early.

On 4th and 10, Rodgers had no time to allow anyone to run their route, and he threw the deep pass right to a well-covered Jordy Nelson. Either hoping for Nelson to win the jump ball, or get an official to throw a flag, nothing good came from the attempt and Rodgers again had failed to come up with a 4th quarter comeback to silence the Cold Hard Football Study that showed  this  entering the season.

It showed that for all Rodgers’ greatness (and they pointed to much of his historic greatness), he has not come through in the few 4th quarter opportunities he has had to rally the Packers. Entering this season, he was 3-18 (.143).

Green Bay is 7-26 (.212) in fourth quarter comeback opportunities since McCarthy became the coach in 2006. That is seven fourth-quarter comebacks in six seasons. The New York Giants produced seven fourth-quarter comebacks in 2011 alone – albeit a number that tied the league single-season record.
There is no denying Rodgers does not produce the comeback wins that seemingly come so routine for the other top quarterbacks in the league. That’s not to say it demands a top quarterback. Even John Skelton already has more fourth-quarter comeback wins (5) than Rodgers (3), and he has played in only 13 games.

In games where Green Bay does not lead at halftime, the Packers are 6-18 (.250) since 2008 (just 2-8 at home).

When trailing by at least 7 points at any point in the game, Rodgers is 8-18 (.308) as a starter. Only three of the wins came when trailing in the second half. Just how long did Green Bay trail in the second half of those games? The Falcons kept them down for 11:18, but the lead only held for 157 seconds at Carolina, and 51 seconds at Minnesota.

Somehow, that 8-18 record includes an 0-8 record at home when trailing by 7 points at any point in the game. Consider Rodgers’ rival in Detroit, Matthew Stafford, has managed a record of 4-9 (.308) when trailing by 17+ points in his brief career.

Rodgers’ record is 2-14 (.125) when trailing by more than 7 points at any point in the game. The two wins came early last year at Carolina and Atlanta, with Green Bay already within a score by halftime, and never trailing in the fourth quarter of course. 

More terrible angles and tackling: San Francisco 49ers' Frank Gore (21) runs past Green Bay Packers' M.D. Jennings (43) during the second half in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Even backup Matt Flynn has the largest fourth-quarter comeback win in Green Bay the last four years, and that was a three-point comeback against Detroit last year.

Again, this loss is not on Rodgers.

The Packers offensive line is just that, offensive. Watching the Packers running plays, you would be hard-pressed to find any of their offensive linemen making a block more than at the line of scrimmage. Watching the other team, the Niners, run the ball, you would frequently see their linemen up field mauling the Packers inside linebackers DJ Smith and AJ Hawk. Clearly, the Packers missed Desmond Bishop, a lot.

Late in the 3rd quarter, on a play wide left where Frank Gore had a 16-yard run, DJ Smith ran too wide, and into another Packer defender who was getting blocked by a Niner about 7 yard upfield. He took himself out of the play.

The Niners two inside linebackers, Bowman and Patrick Willis, would always be in the designed holes and meet Packers running back Cedric Benson at or near the line of scrimmage.

Today showed how big of a difference there is in the trenches between these two teams. It also showed how truly great Rodgers and the skill players were last year to go 15-1 despite this soft offensive line.

Another thing to consider: many Packer fans will blame the refs for much of this. But these refs clearly gifted the Packers their touchdown that Randall Cobb had on the punt return. There was one questionable block in the back on the play that drew the flag. But there was a much more obvious one on Dezman Moses that went unnoticed.

It is true, however, that the refs had a very bad game in this one.

Despite that, the Packers had no business winning this game and had Rodgers come through at the end and tied it up and then won it, it would have felt like a steal.

Now the Packers sit at 0-1 and look up at each of the other three teams in the division, with the 1-0 Bears coming to Lambeau Field this Thursday night. 

The Bears, you might recall, have done as good a job as any defense in containing Rodgers.

San Francisco 49ers' Randy Moss (84) is congratulated by quarterback Alex Smith (11) after Moss caught a touchdown pass during the first half.

Coach McCarthy, the OL, and defensive coordinator Dom Capers have their hands full in this one. If they don’t straighten things out, they could fall to 0-2, and already be in a big hole in the division standings.

There is some good news from the loss Sunday: It appears all 5 of the starting offensive linemen came out of the game uninjured, so the team won’t have to insert any of those backup offensive linemen Packer fans saw playing Ole in front of Graham Harrell during the preseason games.

No one carries a franchise like Aaron Rodgers

September 8, 2012 by  
Filed under News

By David Fleming, ESPN

~IT’S JUST A few feet of brick-and-mortar walkway, but it might be the toughest obstacle any franchise quarterback has ever faced. As part of a 2003 renovation of Lambeau Field, three slabs of concrete from the old players’ entrance were relocated to a new tunnel on the south side of the stadium. Framed by antique bricks and marked by a shiny black marble plaque on the wall, they are the last steps the Packers take before entering the field. The engraving reads: Proud generations of Green Bay Packers Players, World Champions a record 13 times, have run over this very concrete to Greatness.

Back in 2008, the first time Aaron Rodgers crossed this threshold as Green Bay’s starting quarterback, he was met on the other side with a loud, resounding chorus of boos. The rude reception came on Packers Family Night, of all things. Hours earlier, during one of the most chaotic weeks in Green Bay’s 92-year history, hundreds of fans had lined a chain-link fence in a lightning storm to greet Brett Favre at the airport after the Packers’ franchise quarterback decided to unretire at the eleventh hour.

Looking back now, Favre’s legacy has been muddled by a three-year circus of sexting scandals, inconsistent play and retirement flip-flopping. But at the time, he was still very much an institution in Green Bay, a three-time league MVP and the only franchise quarterback most fans in Wisconsin had ever seen. The Packers’ decision to move ahead with Rodgers had become nonstop national news. That night, rain-soaked fans demonstrated their choice with chants of “We want Brett!” while Favre, in a luxury suite high above Lambeau Field, watched the Packers stumble through their annual team scrimmage without him.

Rodgers brought Green Bay another title with an MVP performance in Super Bowl XLV. He followed that with the 2011 NFL MVP, setting the single-season record for passer rating (122.5) with a 15-week virtuoso performance that elevated quarterback play to an entirely new plateau.

In his first chance to take his place in a line of greats that began with Curly Lambeau and Bart Starr — and with Favre looking down from above — Rodgers struggled mightily. He missed nine straight passes at one point, finishing 7-of-20 for 84 yards with two interceptions and inciting downpours of boos and catcalls. “It was an emotional time for everyone that really drove a wedge between Packers fans,” says team president Mark Murphy. “Looking back over the history of the league, I can’t think of a single player who has stepped into a more difficult situation. But we found out quickly what we had in Aaron: a great leader, a great player and a great person who understood that in Green Bay, we’re all stewards of something bigger than ourselves.”That’s as good a definition as any of a franchise quarterback, the most elite, elusive position in sports. Just three years after first crossing that sacred threshold under Lambeau as a starter, Rodgers brought Green Bay another title with an MVP performance in Super Bowl XLV. He followed that with the 2011 NFL MVP, setting the single-season record for passer rating (122.5) with a 15-week virtuoso performance that elevated quarterback play to an entirely new plateau. Yet Rodgers’ most remarkable achievement just might be how quickly he has put the Favre saga behind him to join Tom Brady, Drew Brees and the Mannings in sports’ most exclusive club.

Franchise quarterback is the closest thing to NFL royalty. It’s a rare status in a team-first sport, a result of the game’s grandest parameterschampionships, MVPs, stats, longevity, bank account and Q Score — mysteriously combining to morph a single player’s persona into the identity of an entire organization. Think Joe Namath, John Elway or Troy Aikman.

Now multiply that by 10 and you’ll understand just how treasured franchise quarterbacks are in the pass-heavy modern era of the NFL. This offseason alone, the Saints shelled out $100 million to keep Brees around for five more years, and the Redskins — having gone 26 years without a signature star under center — were more than happy to give up three first-round picks and a second-rounder just for the chance to try out Robert Griffin III in the role.

That’s a lot of pressure, for sure. But if RG3 thinks he has a difficult task ahead, he should spend a week in Green Bay, or even just a day. Starting with his falling to the 24th pick in the 2005 draft and continuing through his tumultuous ascension in 2008, Rodgers has followed a unique path to become the face of the Packers. Namely, the path down a street called Brett Favre Pass, to a massive bronze statue of Lambeau (one of the innovators of the forward pass) and under a huge banner of Hall of Fame QB Bart Starr, a five-time NFL champ. “The greats are revered here,” says Rodgers. “But as much as you remember the Vince Lombardi quotes about how ‘winning isn’t everything,’ it’s the character of those greats that sticks with fans just as much as the championships they won.”

What tells you everything you need to know about Rodgers, and how perfectly he fits in Green Bay, is that when asked about his own journey to join that pantheon of Packers greats, he never mentions the Super Bowl triumph or the MVP award. Instead, during a lengthy conversation inside the team’s practice facility, Rodgers nestles in a deep, square dark-leather chair in an alcove around the corner from the Packers locker room and talks about his disastrous beginning in Green Bay. “That was an important year for me,” he says. “A healing process was completed by the end of 2008. And there needed to be one.”

Despite Rodgers’ performance on Packers Family Night, Favre was traded to the Jets three days later. The Packers began the 2008 season 2-1, with the town still grumbling that Favre was gone. “Some fans were just either inappropriate, disrespectful, mean or insensitive,” says Rodgers.

Rodgers holds the NFL single-season, career regular-season and career postseason records for passer rating. Entering his fifth season as a starter, Rodgers also holds the NFL career record by throwing interceptions on only 1.8 percent of his attempts.

Then, during the third quarter of the Packers’ Week 4 game in Tampa Bay, Rodgers sprained his throwing shoulder on a scramble. In 2006, he had broken his left foot during a brief appearance against the Patriots. With each injury, Rodgers stayed in the game to send a larger message that he was willing to put his body on the line for the team. And he’s convinced that even in a place called Titletown USA, it was those two losses that solidified him as the next franchise quarterback in Green Bay. “These were decisions I made based on the type of person, teammate and player I wanted to be thought of,” says Rodgers. “My biggest fear against the Patriots was taking myself out of the game and finding out I had a sprained foot. Think about a ripple in still water that continues on and doesn’t really ever have an end. That’s the metaphor here: Something like that would have had a long-lasting ripple effect on how I was viewed in the locker room.”

Outside that locker room, Rodgers’ grip on the team was still in question for most of 2008. With the Packers at .500 and falling, the whispers began that Rodgers was injury-prone. It didn’t help that the guy he replaced still holds the NFL ironman record, starting 297 consecutive games over 19 seasons. “I don’t think Aaron will ever escape the Favre thingthey will always be a part of each other’s stories,” says Packers wideout Jordy Nelson. “When you talk about Favre and how it ended, it will always be Aaron who took his spot. The controversy part of it is over. And with the way Aaron has played, the comparisons are over too. But they will always be connected.”

Yet the comparisons to Favre are not over, and that’s a mistake people continue to make. Rodgers simply never had much in common with Favre, the countrified gunslinger extraordinaire. And you can hardly blame Favre for not following the odd QB code that says you’re required to groom and mentor your eventual replacement. Truth is, Rodgers is much more closely linked to Starr and has been far more influenced by him.

Rodgers is something of a football history buff, and shortly after being drafted out of Cal, he met and immediately connected with Starr, the first quarterback ever to win back-to-back Super Bowls. Rodgers knew that Starr played at Alabama, but he learned that Starr was a backup for much of his final two seasons after a coaching change and a back injury. In 1956, the Packers took a flier on him in the 17th round. Eventually, after also sitting for a good part of his first five seasons in Green Bay, Starr became a key — but largely unheralded — piece of the Lombardi dynasty that won five NFL titles from 1961 to 1967, including Super Bowls I and II.

Rodgers closely identified with the underdog beginnings of Starr’s career. Rodgers had been an unrecruited 165-pound high school quarterback from Chico, Calif., who once received a letter from the Purdue coaching staff that read, “Good luck with your attempt at a college football career.” Undeterred, he spent a year at tiny Butte College near his hometown, with a ragtag roster that included a former bouncer from Canada at center and a safety who had just been released from prison. Rodgers led the team to a 10-1 record but was discovered only by accident when Cal coach Jeff Tedford came to campus looking for a tight end. “Most important year of my career,” says Rodgers. “Got my confidence back. Bumped up all my goals. I learned that being yourself, being comfortable in your own skin, is the best option, the best way to lead. And I had a ton of fun.”

As he matured, Rodgers began to approach the position much the way Starr had in his heyday, as a mild-mannered scientist, calibrating and recalibrating his eyes, feet, elbow and release on every throw until the complicated mechanics became effortless. Talent and ego inversely related. Rodgers followed Starr’s lead, subscribing to a philosophy that springs directly from Lombardi himself. “Leadership is in sacrifice, in self-denial, in humility and in the perfectly disciplined will,” the legendary coach is quoted as saying on a plaque inside Lambeau Field. “This is the distinction between great and little men.”

Says Rodgers: “Bart achieved the ultimate victory in this sport, and it’s something I strive for as well. He’s the most decorated QB in the history of this league, and yet people think of him as a man of high character first and a football player second.”

But Packers fans ultimately booed Starr just the same. In 1975, Starr returned to the team as coach, suffering through 76 regular-season losses over eight seasons before being fired. All those struggles and indignities came rushing back to Starr in 2008 as he watched Rodgers during his first season as a starter.

"Aaron's one of those rare, genuine, quality, friendly people you immediately like and are impressed by and want to do anything you can to help," says Starr, 78. "I could appreciate what he was going through and felt compelled to reach out and offer my support." Starr concentrates more on perspective, legacy and especially attitude, a word he says "is second in importance only to God."

From his home in Alabama, Starr began sending regular emails of encouragement to Rodgers, a letter chain that continues to this day. “Aaron’s one of those rare, genuine, quality, friendly people you immediately like and are impressed by and want to do anything you can to help,” says Starr, 78. “I could appreciate what he was going through and felt compelled to reach out and offer my support.”

Rodgers keeps the emails and counts them among his most cherished and important mementos. What struck him both then and now is that Starr rarely ever mentions football in his correspondence. Starr concentrates more on perspective, legacy and especially attitude, a word he says “is second in importance only to God.”

It was through Starr’s words and friendship that Rodgers finally began to grasp the history, scope and special responsibility of being the franchise quarterback in Green Bay. “He never said it, but the message in Bart’s words was clear,” says Rodgers. “There’s an expectation that as the leader of the team, you will leave the franchise better than you found it.”

Rodgers actually took his first step toward that goal in 2008, when he threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-21 season-ending victory at home against the Lions. That afternoon, almost four months to the day since the Family Night fiasco with Favre, Rodgers left Lambeau Field to a very different sound. Just as they had when Starr took over in 1961, the fans began to recognize the rare gem they had in Rodgers, who has become not only the face of their franchise but of the entire NFL.

“We were a 6-10 team that got a standing ovation,” says Rodgers. “That healed everything. That was the end of that chapter and probably that whole book. Closing it like that is what allowed us to start writing a new one.”

Now as he enters his eighth season, Rodgers finds himself at an enviable apex, even for a franchise quarterback. He’s still young enough to get away with photobombing team captains (if you’re scratching your head, go to RodgersPhotobomb.com), scolding rookies when they address him as “sir” and giggling about how his offensive line’s chronic flatulence nearly shut down a recent magazine photo shoot. But with Lombardi and MVP trophies already under his belt, Starr’s strong endorsement and talk of a long-term deal that would make him a Packer for life, Rodgers is also far enough along to think in terms of legacy. At the start of the 2012 season, he remains in line behind his two franchise forefathers: closing in on Favre and still well behind Starr.

That will all change, of course, if he is able to sustain his level of play from the first 15 weeks of last season. After last year’s remarkable run, Rodgers has emerged as the most efficient passer in league history. He holds the NFL single-season, career regular-season and career postseason records for passer rating. Entering his fifth season as a starter, Rodgers also holds the NFL career record by throwing interceptions on only 1.8 percent of his attempts.

“He’s unreal; I wish I had a tenth of his talent,” says Starr. “When you are defining what a leader is, I don’t think you could find a better or higher example in the game than Aaron Rodgers. By the time he’s done, he will be right at the top.”

If this year’s Family Night is any indication, Packers fans now understand what they have in Rodgers. Below a massive addition of an upper deck on the south side of the stadium that will bring Lambeau fully into the 21st century with a 108-foot-wide HD TV screen, Rodgers delighted fans with an effortless …… Full story here

Green Bay’s D will take huge leap

September 6, 2012 by  
Filed under News

By KC Joyner, ESPN.com

~After last season’s debacle that saw the Green Bay Packers’ defense tie for last in the league in yards per play allowed on its way to giving up the second-most yards in a season in NFL history (and the most passing yards ever), it’s easy to forget just how dominant this defense was in 2010 (With DL Cullen Jenkins along the front lines and S Nick Collins back in the hole).

Nelson Chenault/US PresswireThe - Packers' defense must improve against the pass this season

That season, Green Bay tied for sixth in yards per play allowed (5.1), fifth in overall yards allowed (4,945) and second in points allowed (240). That platoon gave up 17 points or less in nine of Green Bay’s last 13 games and was therefore just as, or maybe even more, responsible as the offense for the team’s eventual Super Bowl title run.

If the Packers could find a way to combine the overwhelming strength of their offense with a return to the shutdown defense the team displayed two seasons ago, they could truly be on the verge of establishing the next NFL dynasty.

That is bad news for the rest of the league, because there are at least five reasons to think the Green Bay defense is going to see a return to something close to its 2010 form this season.

An elite ability to force opposing quarterbacks to make mistakes

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers builds game plans predicated on getting opposing quarterbacks to commit errors, and his defense was better than any other in the NFL at doing that last season.

The Packers tallied a 4.5 percent mark in the forced bad decision rate (BDR) category last season. That metric gauges how often a quarterback commits a mental error that leads to a turnover opportunity for the defense, and no team had a higher BDR than Green Bay (only one other team had a rate of 4.0 percent or higher).

To get a better idea of just how good this defense is at forcing errors, consider that the Packers were able to post a 3.3 percent BDR on short passes last season (short passes being aerials thrown 10 or fewer yards downfield). Those are the safest throws an offense can make and Green Bay was still able to force errors on one of every 30 of those passes. No other team in the league was even able to reach the 3.0 percent mark here.

Superb ballhawking talent

It’s one thing to force opponents into mistakes. It’s quite another to capitalize on those mistakes.

Green Bay’s high forced BDR shows they excelled at the former and their league-leading 16 interceptions off bad decisions shows they excelled at the latter as well.

Those picks were a huge contributing factor to the Pack notching 31 interceptions last season, by far the highest mark in the NFL.

These first two factors bode well for the Packers’ ability to once again be one of the most dynamic, turnover-inducing defenses in the league.

The emergence of Casey Hayward
Hayward may not have been the highest-rated cornerback in last year’s draft, but in some ways he may have been the most impactful.

AP Photo/Kevin TerrellCornerback Casey Hayward will be an important part of Green Bay's defense in 2012.

 

Evidence for this can be found in the two games against the toughest passing offenses Hayward’s Vanderbilt Commodores squad faced last year (the Georgia Bulldogs and Arkansas Razorbacks).

Hayward was targeted 14 times in those contests and had one interception and six passes defensed. He also nearly picked off three of the passes that he defensed, so in reality Hayward had an interception chance on four of those 14 throws, an incredibly high rate.

Hayward also made an impression on ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards with his understanding of offensive patterns, intelligence and ballhawking instincts and he has shown solid open-field interception return abilities (check out this 50-yard touchdown return against Connecticut last year).

All of those skills have been on display during the preseason to an extent that at one point early on it was thought possible that he could become just the eighth rookie cornerback to start for Green Bay in more than 50 years. Hayward didn’t end up winning a starting job but it does go to show just how much he could improve this secondary.

An underrated run defense

The Packers didn’t fare well in a number of rushing statistical categories last season (their 4.7 yards per carry allowed ranked 26th), but this group actually performed better than some its stats indicate.

One reason is the Packers posted a 7.1-yard mark in the good blocking yards per attempt (GBYPA) allowed category. GBYPA measures how productive a ballcarrier is when given good blocking (which is very loosely defined as when the offense does not allow the defense to do anything to disrupt the rush attempt) and that mark tied for eighth in the league.

To be fair, teams did get good blocking against the Pack 47.3 percent of the time, a total that tied for eighth-worst. On the plus side, that just goes to show that even when opponents are able to get creases in the Green Bay run defense, the Packers are apt at keeping the long gains to a minimum, something evidenced by the fact they gave up only nine rushes of 20-plus yards last season, a total that tied them with Pittsburgh for eighth in the league in that metric.

The pass rush will be improved

It’s hard to get worse than the 4.4 percent sack rate that ranked Green Bay dead last in that category, but it should be noted that the Packers will face teams that gave up a combined 659 sacks last season. That is the ninth-highest total this season and thus bodes well for an improvement from a matchup perspective.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn (9) is hit by Green Bay Packers' Dezman Moses (54) as he throws during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Green Bay should also benefit in this area from a personnel perspective with the additions of pass-rusher Nick Perry and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, both of whom were all-conference players in college last year. They won’t be able to solve this issue by themselves but should give Capers even more weapons with which to attack the opposing pass pocket.

While it’s possible that any one of these elements might not be as impactful as expected, the volume of positives is overwhelming and should give Green Bay a top 10-caliber defense this season. Put that together with an Aaron Rodgers-led offense and an improved running game with the addition of Cedric Benson, and it shows why the Packers are considered the No. 1 team in the ESPN Power Rankings and the favored pick by many ESPN experts to win Super Bowl XLVII.

Full story found here

Pack back with bolstered defense, but MVP Rodgers the key

September 4, 2012 by  
Filed under News

By Jarrett Bell, USA Today

~The beauty of Aaron Rodgers‘ game can be found in its tempo. He plays fast: a quick slant off a three-step drop, a bootleg connected to a crossing route, a tight back-shoulder fade.

Tempo. Rhythm. Precision.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) meets with Cincinnati Bengals tight end Donald Lee after an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, in Cincinnati. Green Bay won 27-13. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

Sometimes, the plays break down and the Green Bay Packers quarterback makes it happen anyway — scrambling, throwing darts on the run.

Rodgers was in such a zone last season — a career-high 4,643 passing yards with 45 touchdowns against only six interceptions, and an NFL single-season record 122.5 passer rating — that the Pack remained undefeated into mid-December, despite a suspect defense. He won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award in a landslide, capturing 48 of the 50 votes. Rodgers always had the MVP award on his to-do list.

“But I would trade that for a Super Bowl championship,” he says. “Obviously.”

Another shot at a championship is possible: The Packers open the season on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers as a heavy Super Bowl favorite. They’ll try to erase a painful 15-1 season.

Because after all of the success in 2011, Rodgers, 28, carries a vivid impression of what can happen when the tempo, rhythm and precision are off at the most inopportune moment. Green Bay‘s bid to repeat as Super Bowl champions ended with the thud of a playoff-opening loss to the New York Giants, making for an offseason of change.

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 8: Aaron Rogers #12 of the Green Bay Packers runs with the football during the game against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on September 8, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Saints defeated the Packers 42-34. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

The defense was shredded in the playoff debacle, victimized repeatedly by quarterback Eli Manning and receiver Victor Cruz. The running game provided so little help that Rodgers was the team’s leading rusher.

“It was tough to lose that way, and at home,” he said. “We didn’t play the kind of football that we had played in the first 16 games, making mistakes that we hadn’t made all year.”

After the devastating loss, Rodgers was eager to escape the NFL’s smallest market for his offseason retreat in California. Rodgers, who grew up in Chico, Calif., has a home in Del Mar.

“I had to get away from Green Bay,” he says, “just get away from the atmosphere. We have such incredible fans. They live and die with our wins and losses. It gets pretty depressing around town when you lose a game like that, and the season is over and it’s going to be seven or eight months before you get on the field again.

“Once I got back to California, I got a chance to refocus and build a strong resolve for this season.”

In the playoff loss, Rodgers was sacked four times and the Giants prevented big plays, clamping down on his receivers and allowing Rodgers one completion of 20 yards or more.

“As silly as it is, there’s a blueprint out there by the experts on how to beat us — which is really how to beat any team: Have a good pass rush, cover guys and force teams into third-and-long situations,” Rodgers says. “People think man coverage is the way to stop us now, and getting pretty good pressure with the front four.”

Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler exchange pleasantries last September after the Packers defeated the Bears 27-17 in Chicago, week three.

Opponents will continue to believe that until the Packers prove them wrong. Here’s how they’ll try: Rodgers tied an NFL record last season by throwing at least two TD passes in 13 consecutive games, and the hands that helped him achieve that mark are back. The mix includes receivers Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb and James Jones, with tight end Jermichael Finley.

“If we put four of those guys in the pass route against man-to-man coverage, one of those guys will win,” Rodgers said. “And the great thing we have here is the attitude. They know one game Greg might have a big game, and the next week he might only have a couple of catches, and Jordy or Jermichael might have a big game.”

Long winter

Packers coach Mike McCarthy has checked his resolve, too. McCarthy, in his seventh year in Green Bay, said he needed to look himself in the mirror after the playoff loss. He said he can’t wait to use some of the plays he hoped to use during a Super Bowl run last season.

“Winter in Green Bay allows you a lot of time to be indoors, working on things,” Rodgers says. “But we’re always looking to tweak things, knowing that the plays we have on film from last year is how we’re going to be judged for the upcoming season. So being able to adapt is important, not only within a game but from season to season.”

“There are plays that helped us win a lot of games in ’08 and ’09 that we’ve barely run the past couple of years, because they were staple plays that teams adjusted to.”

The Packers need more than a playbook tuneup to get back into the Super Bowl hunt. The rushing game ranked 27th of 32 teams last season — no Green Bay back cracked 100 yards in a game last season.

The Packers signed free agent Cedric Benson, a power back coming off three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Fittingly, McCarthy says that beyond learning a new terminology, Benson’s biggest adjustment will be to get into rhythm with Rodgers’ fast tempo.

Changes on defense are even more critical. The Packers ranked fifth in the NFL for overall defense in 2010, when they caught fire down the stretch and won the Super Bowl as a sixth-seeded wild card. Last season, the defense ranked last in the league for total yards and had the dubious distinction of allowing more passing yards in a single season than any unit in NFL history.

Green Bay used its first six draft picks to upgrade the defense, starting with first-rounder Nick Perry and second-round Michigan State defensive lineman Jerel Worthy. Perry is converting from defensive end at Southern Cal to an outside linebacker post in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme, opposite Clay Matthews.

“They’re going to have to feel their way because they’re going to play,” says veteran defensive back Charles Woodson, who is switching from cornerback to safety in the base defense. “Ain’t no time to be bringing them along slowly.”

Woodson refuses to sign off on the notion that there’s too much pressure on the quarterback to carry the team.

“A guy like Aaron can handle it,” he says. “I think he thoroughly enjoys it. I don’t think there’s enough pressure for Aaron.”

Two great young quarterbacks in the NFC North: Aaron Rodgers is about four years older than Stafford, but a nice rivalry could be in the future.

Pressure, of course, comes with the MVP territory. If the Packers are to rule the NFC North again, where the emerging Detroit Lions and re-tooled Chicago Bears lurk, they will do so with Rodgers leading the way.

“Green Bay is the defending champ, so they are the team to beat right now,” Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen says. “But to be honest, the team that scares me the most is Chicago.”

Allen had three of his NFL-high 22 sacks last season against Rodgers, who is always one snap away from a big play. Rodgers has the NFL’s all-time best career passer rating at 104.1 (minimum 1,500 attempts) and doesn’t live merely by a dink-and-dunk approach. Since 2008, he has produced an NFL-best 150 completions of at least 25 yards.

“You’ve got to limit the explosive plays, make them drive down the field,” Allen says. “Because he’s that good, he’s going to give you some opportunities to make a play on the ball. He’ll try to put the ball in places that most quarterbacks wouldn’t think about putting it. That’s why he’s so good. You have to realize he’s going to hurt you with some passes. You’ve just got to try to limit the damage.”

‘A good, natural leader’

Rodgers knows he’s always a target, given the nature of his position. He was taken aback when his name surfaced in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal. Rodgers began his MVP season in 2011 against the Saints (312 yards, 3 TDs), but never noticed anything that suggested foul play.

In its case against the Saints, the NFL produced an e-mail that included marketing agent Mike Ornstein declaring to former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams that Ornstein pledged $5,000 toward a bounty on Rodgers.

“Every time you step on the field, you know the defense is trying to disrupt your game and get after you and hit you a little bit, take you out of your game and get you thinking about the rush and the blitz,” Rodgers said.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (L) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (R) shake hands after their NFL football game in Green Bay, Wisconsin, September 8, 2011. The Packers won the game 42-34. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

“Anything to take your focus off what it should be, that’s their goal. Disruption and disguise. We understand that. That’s part of the game. But what isn’t part of the game is intentionally trying to hurt somebody for a payoff.”

Then there is the matter of being targeted from within — playfully. As Rodgers met with the media at his locker last week, fullback John Kuhn slipped through the pack and smashed the quarterback in the face with a shaving cream pie. Rodgers took it stride — “I respect the prank,” he says — but promised revenge.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson said the episode — and how Rodgers handled it — spoke volumes about the quarterback’s leadership. He wants to be one of the guys. Younger teammates talk of how Rodgers consoled them as they dealt with injuries, and he has built the type of solid relationship with his backup, Graham Harrell, that he did not have while serving as Brett Favre‘s understudy.

When Benson arrived during training camp, Rodgers implored the veterans to make the new running back feel welcome — and has spent one-on-one time with Benson to help him grasp the playbook.

“In some cases, leadership is a burden,” Thompson says. “In his case, he understands and welcomes it. He’s a good, natural leader.”

In fact, Rodgers says that’s at the heart of the legacy he hopes to leave. Championships and awards notwithstanding, he says that one of the truest measures of his success will be tied to the relationships he has with his teammates.

 “When I’m done playing, I want them to say I was a good teammate,” he says.

Spoken like a true MVP.

 Full story here

Classic collision course: 49ers vs. Packers

September 4, 2012 by  
Filed under News

By Dan Arkush, Pro Football Weekly

~I did not choose to quibble over the decision by the Pro Football Weekly powers-that-be to make the Cowboys-Giants matchup the Week One “Game of the Week” in the annual PFW Kickoff Issue that hit the streets earlier this week.

The official 2012 NFL regular-season opener, after all, certainly has a lot going for it, with Tony Romo probably wanting nothing more than to outduel Super Bowl MVP and arch-rival Eli Manning on a national stage.

But in my football-watching world, the 49ers-Packers clash at Lambeau Field three days later might be the best game on the Week One slate. With the league’s best offense (the Packers) squaring off against the league’s best defense (the 49ers) on that day, a strong case can be made for this game perhaps being the best game of the year — right off the bat.

Before getting really down and dirty on this game, a key point worth making is that both the Packers’ offense and the Niners’ defense could be even better this season.

In Green Bay, the arrival of RB Cedric Benson has generated a most positive buzz. With Benson added to the RB mix, second-year WR-RS Randall Cobb expected to be more of a receiving factor out of the slot and second-year pro D.J. Williams making more of his presence felt at tight end on specially designed occasions, it’s not a stretch to suggest that the Packers could break the franchise records they set last year in both points (560) and total net yards (6,482).

Could there be any better litmus test for Aaron Rodgers & Co. than the Niners’ stellar defense?

I think not. 

TE Vernon Davis has been a strong and fast thorn in the Packers side since the Packers drafted AJ Hawk one pick ahead of Davis in the 2006 NFL Draft. Davis is an ultra talent and could expose the Packers biggest weakness.

It would appear that San Francisco’s front seven is more ferocious than ever. And while most of Niners Nation has been obsessed with the team’s offensive additions (Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and rookies A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James), the under-the-radar addition of ex-Bronco CB Perrish Cox, who has had an excellent offseason, could provide a nice boost for a Niners secondary that will be stretched to its limits this coming season.

What follows are what I consider to be the five key matchups between the Packers’ offense and the Niners’ defense:

5. Packers interior offensive line (OLG T.J. Lang, C Jeff Saturday and ORG Josh Sitton) vs. Niners NT Isaac Sopoaga

It would not be wise to underestimate the Green Bay spread offense’s production up the gut behind as sturdy a trio of interior linemen as there might be in the league in Lang, Saturday and Sitton. Lang, who was recently locked up long term with a new deal, won the starting OLG job over first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod last August and never looked back. Powerful enough to move defenders at the line and quick enough to block at the second level, Lang might be the Packers’ best drive blocker in goal-line and short-yardage situations. Both Lang and Sitton are nasty maulers with great strength. Sitton, who has the best reactions on the line according to head coach Mike McCarthy, is apparently over the knee issues that limited him last season. Saturday, who worked so seamlessly with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, has fit like a glove replacing Scott Wells at center and wasted no time developing a strong rapport with Aaron Rodgers. On the other side of the line, Sopoaga does not get nearly as much credit as he deserves. Forget the fact that he did not pile up great stats last season, remember instead just how good the Niners’ defense was last season on stopping runs up the middle, which is a direct reflection on Sopoaga’s ability to hold the point. What the surprisingly athletic Sopoaga did best was clog the middle and keep opposing O-linemen from getting to the second level to block stud ILBs Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.

4. Packers RBs (Cedric Benson, Alex Green, Brandon Saine, James Starks and FB John Kuhn) vs. Niners ILBs Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman and SS Donte Whitner

The Packers found out quickly that there was a good reason Benson was once a first-round draft pick. After gaining 1,000 yards each of the past three seasons for the Bengals, he adds a potential inside explosiveness that was lacking in Green Bay’s ground game. With more no-huddle expected from the offense, one-back sets featuring mostly Benson but also Green could be in the offing. On third down, though, there could be more dependence on Kuhn and Saine, who offer better blitz-pickup skills, which, after all is said and done, might be the most important contribution in this offense from the running backs. Starks, who has been limited lately by a turf-toe injury, must be considered a long shot for this game. Primarily entrusted with shutting down Green Bay’s ground game will be Willis and Bowman, who had a combined 233 tackles last season. Willis, who has made the Pro Bowl each of his five seasons, is considered a five-tool LB who plays better downhill than probably any player at his position. Bowman, who has speed to burn, comes close to Willis after a breakout season in 2011. As for Whitner, he single-handedly changed the tone of the classic playoff game against New Orleans last season with his legal helmet-to-helmet hit on Saints RB Pierre Thomas on the opening drive that caused a fumble and knocked Thomas out of the game.

3. Packers OLT Marshall Newhouse vs. 49ers DRT Justin Smith and ROLB Aldon Smith

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14: Justin Smith #94 of the San Francisco 49ers hovers over Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints after Brees was sacked in the third quarter of the NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

If the Packers’ have a shaky link on the offensive line, it would have to be Newhouse, who had his share of struggles replacing veteran Chad Clifton at left tackle last season but was certainly serviceable. Newhouse has great footwork and seldom makes the same mistake twice. But he needs to be more physical on a consistent basis, improve his hand usage and ideally eliminate his disturbing tendency to get overpowered by dominant pass rushers. He had all kinds of problems with the likes of Von Miller, Jason Pierre-Paul and Tamba Hali last season, and the Niners’ “Smith Boys” pose a huge challenge. Justin Smith could be the strongest player in the league pound for pound and has a knack for playing his best when it counts most. Aldon Smith was a rookie revelation with 14 sacks and a rare blend of quickness, strength and closing speed. He’s taking on an every-down role this season, which could make him even more dangerous.

2. Packers TE Jermichael Finley vs. 49ers’ pass defense

Because the Packers use Finley all over the field (he will line up in as many as five different positions), San Francisco’s entire back seven must collectively try to stop him, with safeties Dashon Goldson and Whitner plus Willis, who frequently was asked to shadow top threats at tight end last season, at the top of the list. With his exceptional size (6-5, 247 pounds) and blazing speed, Finley creates consistent matchup headaches for opposing defenses, also taking into account his ability to play both outside and inside. Finley’s body control and ability to come up with jump balls make him unstoppable at times. But he had way too many dropped passes last season and has been saying this offseason that not over-thinking will help him to do a better job hanging on to the ball in 2012.

Linked forever: The #1 overall pick in the 2005 Draft Alex Smith is greeted by the QB that slid from 1 to the 20's, Aaron Rodgers, after a Packer win over San Francisco in 2009.

1. Packers WRs Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver and Randall Cobb vs. 49ers CBs Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox

Memo to the Niners’ cornerbacks: Nine different receivers caught TD passes last season from Rodgers, who has no peers in terms of ball distribution, in no small part because of all the standout wideout weapons he has at his disposal. Jennings, who had a concussion earlier this offseason, is ready to rock after missing the final three games last season with a knee injury. He is the best receiver in the league at making the double move and is as smooth a route runner as there is in the game. Nelson might have actually surpassed Jennings as the Packers’ top WR weapon. Coming off a breakout season, Nelson seems to make all his routes look the same before making crisp cuts and exploding out of his breaks. Viewers of the Niners-Broncos preseason game might remember how badly Rogers was burned operating against Denver WR Eric Decker, who caught two TD passes. Decker is 6-3, 218 pounds. Nelson has almost the exact same size (6-3, 217). Jones went to great pains this offseason to get into the best shape of his life. The amazing Driver, who is revered in Green Bay, remains a viable third-down slot receiver. Cobb has a second gear in space that could make life miserable for the Niners’ corners. Rogers really fit in well with the Niners last season and quickly became like a coach on the field with his quick grasp of the system. But a growing number of daily team observers believe Brown, who just kept getting better and better last season, has more upside than Rogers. Culliver, who replaced Shawntae Spencer as the team’s third corner last season, plays with a real attitude and has very quick feet. Culliver is really good at changing direction and just loves to tackle. As I’ve already indicated, Cox has been terrific all summer.

Full story here

How the Packers hope to improve in 2012

September 4, 2012 by  
Filed under News

By Kevin Seifert, ESPN.com

~If you’re not moving forward, you’re going backwards. I’ve never understood that aphorism. What about the times when you’re so far ahead there seems nowhere to go? What if you’re at 99.99999999? Are you going backwards if you don’t get to 100?

That’s why I like the Confucian version of this thought. It doesn’t matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop. (Yes, I’m going deeeep here on a Tuesday afternoon.) 

How can the Packers offense get any better from last season?

That, I think, is an appropriate way to look at the delicate but important balance the Green Bay Packers sought this summer after a 13-month run that included a Super Bowl championship and victories in 22 of 24 games. One of those losses was a playoff defeat to the New York Giants, the eventual Super Bowl XLVI champions. How do you encourage improvement and progress while still recognizing the reality of a precedent-setting run — at least on offense?

I asked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers that question during a training camp interview last month. Rodgers had already suggested the Packers would be a better team in 2012, even if it wasn’t reflected in their record. (It’s difficult, of course, to get to 16 victories when you’re already at 15.) Rodgers noted the Packers’ efforts to increase their energy level, but he also noted that coaches threw down an early-camp gauntlet of statistics to demonstrate the Packers’ room for growth.

According to Rodgers, players have seen where the 2011 team ranked both offensively and defensively against the past four Super Bowl champions in a number of subtle but important categories. As best as I could tell, they include:

  • Third-down percentage
  • Red zone touchdown percentage
  • Red zone touchdowns
  • Goal-to-go touchdown percentage

I haven’t seen the charts that Rodgers referred to, but I’ve tried to re-create them the best I could in this post. Many thanks to Matt Willis of ESPN Stats & Information for the research and to blog editor Dan Jung, who formatted the charts as you see them. I have a number of thoughts, as I’m sure you will as well. But generally speaking, you can see there has been at least one team that exceeded or nearly matched the Packers’ 2011 offensive production in each category. Meanwhile, the charts provide a more nuanced analysis of where the Packers fell short defensively last season than simply the passing yards they allowed.

2011 Packers Versus Previous Super Bowl Teams: Offense

Team 3rd down pct. Red Zone TD pct. Red Zone TD Goal-to-Go TD pct.
2011 Packers 48.4 63.6 42 80
2011 Giants 37.4 55.2 32 71.9
2011 Patriots 45.9 63 46 75.6
2010 Packers 41.5 58.2 32 73.5
2010 Steelers 43.1 46.2 24 68
2009 Saints 44.7 56.3 40 66.7
2009 Colts 49.2 62.3 33 79.3
2008 Steelers 41.3 55.1 27 58.6
2008 Cardinals 42.1 58.5 38 66.7
Source: ESPN Stats & Information

“They’ve had a lot of times on their hands,” Rodgers said, laughing. “If you just look at the stats by themselves, there is room for improvement … and they’re challenging us to get maybe one more third down [conversion] per game to get us to this level, or one more conversion on the season in goal-to-go to get us to that ranking. If you look at it as a whole, it’s going to be tough to put up the kind of numbers we did last year. But if you look at it like this, we can definitely improve.”

Marshall Newhouse at left tackle may be the 2nd most important player on the Packers offense.

For the most part, I think the message from Packers coaches strikes an appropriate balance between reality and progress. As proficient as the Packers were on offense last season, it’s interesting to note that the 2009 Indianapolis Colts did a slightly better job of converting third downs. The 2011 New England Patriots scored more touchdowns in the red zone, and as crazy as the Packers’ 80 percent conversation rate was when they were in goal-to-go situations, those 2009 Colts weren’t far behind.

The story on defense tells us a different but no less interesting story. As bad as our perception might be of the Packers’ 2011 defense, it did not rank last in any of the four categories compared to the past four Super Bowl teams. We could view the Packers’ defense through the same prism as the offense: A few more third-down stops and a few more opponents limited to field goals in the red zone would put the Packers in the wheelhouse of defenses that advanced to the Super Bowl.

2011 Packers Versus Previous Super Bowl Teams: Defense

Team 3rd down pct. Red Zone TD pct. Red Zone TD Goal-to-Go TD pct.
2011 Packers 42.6 53.4 31 76.5
2011 Giants 38.5 54.1 33 75
2011 Patriots 43.1 55.7 34 61.5
2010 Packers 36.2 45.2 14 61.1
2010 Steelers 33.5 37.5 15 50
2009 Saints 38.3 39.3 22 60
2009 Colts 45 49 25 54.5
2008 Steelers 31.7 33.3 14 55
2008 Cardinals 44.7 62.5 35 78.6
Source: ESPN Stats & Information

Why did the Packers pick these particular statistical categories? One theory: In a passing league, defenses are going to give up yards. But they can limit point totals by executing on a handful of key plays that largely fall into one of these categories.

I realize this is all inside football bordering on minutiae, but it addresses an important big-picture question: How do you improve from a run nearly unprecedented in NFL history? The Packers don’t necessarily have the answers, but they’re looking for them. It doesn’t matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.

Full story here

Greg Jennings, and fans, worry this might be his final season as a Packer

September 4, 2012 by  
Filed under News

By Darin Gantt, NBC Sports

~As with many players entering the final year of their contract, Greg Jennings would love the security of a long-term extension.

But unless there’s a surprise in the next few days, the Packers wideout is resigned to the fact this could be his final year in Green Bay, and he wants to make the most of it.

“Whether the contract comes with Green Bay in the near future or one of the other 31 teams, that’s the reality of it,” Jennings said, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That’s the way I have to approach it. My mind-set is 20 weeks of football with the Packers and then this is it.

“This is my last year with the Packers under contract. That’s my mind-set. I’m not thinking about contract. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, I have to make sure I go out there and do what I’ve been doing for six solid years here to get myself a chance to play somewhere.” 

Star wide receiver Greg Jennings is in the final year of his contact. He scored two touchdowns in the Packers Super Bowl win over the Steelers, twice getting the best of All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu.

Finding a home won’t be a problem for a big-play receiver such as Jennings, who has 6,171 receiving yards and 49 touchdowns in six seasons.

During the season, it becomes harder, and Jennings said he told agent Eugene Parker not to bother him once the season starts unless he was close to finishing something.

“My agent knows, we know our march to what we’re trying to reach,” Jennings said of the price range. “That’s it. Unless we come to those numbers, then I don’t want to hear anything about it.

“Like I said, I have one thing on my mind, that’s football this year with this team that I’ve been loyal to for six years. I’m a realist. I don’t put it past anyone. This organization has to do what it has to do for itself and I have to do what I have to do for Greg.”

The Packers have hard-balled pending free agents before, but never with a legitimate star such as Jennings, who will command as much money. There’s no reason to think he’s worth less than the $11.1 million per year with $26 million guaranteed Tampa Bay gave Vincent Jackson.  

And with players such as Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji also in line for bumps, it’s hard to know if the Packers can, or will be able to do the deal, or franchise him, or watch him walk away.

Full story found here

Daniel Muir surprisingly waived

September 1, 2012 by  
Filed under News

By Brian Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor

~Once in awhile, some things happen in preseason games that shake things up on a roster for the regular season.

But more times than not, the coaches have their minds made up well before preseason games three and four. Such was the case when RB Tyrell Sutton produced like Darren Sproles for the Packers a few years ago in the preseason. His few critics dismissed his production as laughable because he was doing it against team’s non-starters.

Daniel Muir has been the Packers most effective defensive linemen in all of camp. He’s also been durable, and a good guy in the locker room.

Based on production and availability, it seemd Muir was a lock to make the 53-man roster.

Yet somehow his name was on the list of cuts yesterday.

Just like it was in 2007 when the Packers let him go after signing him as an undrafted free agent. Of course, after that he went on to have a nice year career in Indianapolis, including starting in a Super Bowl for the Colts.

Just a week ago, Coach McCarthy said this about Muir: “One of the things you always appreciate about Daniel is his energy level, what he brings to the table every single day.”

Muir had been focusing on having fun out there, and it was evident by all those who focused in on the big #77.

“That’s one thing I think I took away from myself and allowed other people to take away from me for years, was just having fun,” said Muir. “I used to really come out and put so much strain on myself, be so nervous, make sure I’m doing stuff right. I said, ‘not this time.'”

BJ Raji had been impressed.  “He’s done a great job adapting to a new scheme, coming from Indianapolis, where they do different things up front, I think he’s been able to grasp the defense quick and use his ability to make plays out there,” said Raji

The Packers appear to have given that final DL job to former second round pick Philip Merling. He’s considered more talented, which is why he was a high draft pick.
But we’ve seen little of him compared to Muir in terms of production.

I’m very surprised at this decision, but as always, hope and expect the team’s decision to have been correct.

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