2017 June : Packers Insider

Packers emphasizing athleticism in secondary

June 17, 2017 by  
Filed under News

From Tom Silverstein, JSonline

~GREEN BAY – It took Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy 12 swings in the draft to build the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line into a stable product capable of protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers from start to finish during the season.

The two devoted two first-round picks, four fourths, four fifths, one sixth and one seventh before they accumulated enough talent and depth to form a five-man unit capable of handling the frequency of throws in McCarthy’s offense and holding blocks a second or two longer than if they were playing with a less-mobile quarterback.

(Photo: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

(Photo: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Recognizing the pressure high-octane passing games are putting on defenses around the league, Thompson and McCarthy are approaching the secondary the same way they did the offensive line, attempting to build the same kind of cohesiveness that comes from playing the same guys year after year.

The two went all-in on the secondary position in an attempt to build a stable unit capable of protecting the defensive backfield from the start of a season to the finish. Stability is now as important there as it is on the offensive line.

lenzy pipkins

“Totally,” McCarthy said this week as the Packers wrapped up their offseason program with a three-day minicamp.

Over the past three years, Thompson and McCarthy have drafted six defensive backs and signed a veteran free agent in an attempt to solidify a soft spot on defense. Of the six picks, two were first-rounders (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Damarious Randall), three were seconds (Quinten Rollins, Kevin King and Josh Jones) and one was a sixth (Demetri Goodson).

The free agent, Davon House, was a fourth-round pick in 2011 who detoured through Jacksonville on his way back to Green Bay.

“Our biggest challenge was that we had so many guys going through the cornerback position,” McCarthy said of last season. “Teams that are playing the best are the teams that are playing together. Ultimately, one of the best statistics out there is if you look at the success of a football team that plays with the same offensive line the whole year. It’s a great stat. It tells you so much.

“If you have the same group playing together down the stretch, if you have a very healthy team just in the month of December, you’re in it. Going into the playoffs, it’s a huge advantage. But when you’re still rotating guys — it was every week — you can’t really set your plan until Thursday or Friday, it’s a bigger challenge. I’m not trying to make excuses.”

Rather than gamble that his two high picks from the 2015 draft (Randall and Rollins) finally would play to their draft status and avoid injury this coming season, he added King with the 33rd pick and Jones with the 61st pick in April’s draft.

It was an extremely good draft for cornerbacks, so Thompson might have been just following his draft board, but the Packers zeroed in on Jones in December with the intention of applying his outstanding physical talents to multiple positions in defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ system. They felt King could fill a key spot on the outside and allow Randall and Rollins to compete for time in the slot positions.

king

Just like on the offensive line, all of the cornerbacks start out learning multiple positions so that they can play anywhere in a pinch. King wasn’t at most of the offseason workouts because of college semester restrictions, but Jones has been and he played just about everywhere but nose tackle.

At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Jones runs the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds. At 6-foot-3, 200, King runs it at 4.43. At the combine, King had the fastest times of anyone in two of the agility drills (three-cone and short shuttle).

Speed was appealing but what McCarthy really wanted was general athleticism, the ability to perform in numerous roles. The more defensive backs he has capable of playing multiple positions, the less often he’ll have to put a center at left tackle, to use an offensive line analogy.

“There’s been times over the past two years, Ted and I felt their team was moving faster than we were,” McCarthy said. “Did Atlanta have good team speed? Yeah. Especially at home. But we didn’t plan on playing out there.

Davon House

“I always focus on athletic ability. Do you want to have a fast team? If you ask me based on playing at Lambeau Field eight times a year, I want the athletic ability. I think you see that in our linemen. Speed is a bonus.

“But we’re not a dome team, we’re not a turf team. If you ask me, I want to be a big-boned, long-levered athletic team, playing all your cleats in the ground at Lambeau Field, the snow and the turf.”

It would be negligent not to mention that there were times the offensive line was a mess during the seven years it was under construction. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed the better part of two seasons with knee injuries, tackle Derek Sherrod was a bust at left tackle, center JC Tretter missed 24 of his first 32 games with leg injuries, Don Barclay was a liability when he had to start anywhere but right tackle and guard Josh Sitton had to play left tackle in a regular-season finale loss to Minnesota that cost the Packers the 2015 division title.

Though Clinton-Dix has been a smashing success, Randall, Rollins and Goodson have been disappointments, rookie free agent LaDarius Gunter can’t run with fast receivers, safety Kentrell Brice was undrafted for a reason and there’s no guarantee House will be starter-worthy.

And the rookies?

“It’s hard to play, period,” McCarthy said of covering receivers. “It’s a primary position. That’s why I’ve always talked about the second-year player. If you’re putting stress on your team’s success based on rookie production in early-season games, that’s not a good plan.

“Let’s be practical. We all watch the draft and it’s exciting, but when you get down to it, if you’re stressing the success of your team on your rookie class early in the year, that’s a big challenge. I’ve done that with certain segments of our team and it hasn’t worked out.”

The one thing Thompson and McCarthy have done with the heavy emphasis on acquiring defensive backs is give themselves a chance. They’ve got more athletic talent in the secondary than at any time since the Super Bowl XLV season.

They just need some consistency.

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Under-the-radar names to remember from OTAs: Trevor Davis

June 17, 2017 by  
Filed under News

By Rob Demovsky, ESPN.com

Green Bay Packers

Trevor Davis, wide receiver

Davis, a fifth-round pick from Cal, didn’t have much of an impact last season as a rookie. In fact, he was surpassed on the depth chart by undrafted free agent Geronimo Allison midway through the season and was inactive or did not play five times in a six-game stretch late in the season.

Davis has a burst to get behind the cornerbacks. Here, Cal QB Jared Goff throws a perfect pass that Davis hauls in for a Golden Bear touchdown.

Davis has a burst to get behind the cornerbacks. Here, Cal QB Jared Goff throws a perfect pass that Davis hauls in for a Golden Bear touchdown.

But Davis might be the fastest player on the roster — he ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the combine — and receivers coach Luke Getsy said he has made significant improvements this offseason. “His confidence level is much higher,” Getsy said. “I’m excited for Trevor. I think he’s going to have a really big August for us, and he’ll be one of those guys that are going to show up.” — Rob Demovsky

Davis didn't catch this one, but it drew a flag for pass interference.

Davis didn’t catch this one, but it drew a flag for pass interference.

 

Don’t call it a bounce-back year for Packers receiver Randall Cobb

June 8, 2017 by  
Filed under News

From Robby Demovsky, ESPN.com

~GREEN BAY, Wis. – It’s been two seasons since Randall Cobb’s breakout year. In NFL years, that’s a lifetime ago.

The Green Bay Packers receiver might be the ultimate what-have-you-done-for-me-lately case.

A well-respected player around Lambeau Field and the league, Cobb hasn’t come close to his 2014 production – 91 catches, 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns – that led to the four-year, $40 million contract he signed in March 2015. Halfway through that contract, the Packers have to be wondering whether this will be a bounce-back year for the 26-year-old.

4th and goal, end of game, Packers needing a touchdown on this play to tie the game. Great playcall, design by Coach McCarthy.

4th and goal, end of game, Packers needing a touchdown on this play to tie the game.
Great playcall, design by Coach McCarthy.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a bounce-back year,” Packers receivers coach Luke Getsy said. “He played really well for us when he was full-go.”

Getsy is right in that regard; injuries have slowed Cobb in the last two seasons. A preseason shoulder injury hampered him in 2015. Even though he never missed a game, the shoulder bothered him all season. His production dropped: 71 catches, 829 yards and six touchdowns.

Last year, an early season hamstring injury cost him one game and an ankle injury that kept him out of the final two regular-season games. In 13 games, he caught just 60 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns – his lowest totals since 2013, when he missed 10 games with a broken bone in his leg.

Still, he showed a glimpse of what he once was in the wild-card playoff win over the New York Giants with five catches for 116 yards and three touchdowns.

“Shoot, that first playoff game, he wasn’t even healthy for that one,” Getsy said. “And he played his butt off.”

18 Cobb Hail Mary wide view

The Packers have been talking this offseason about finding more ways to get Cobb the ball. That’s no easy task given how many options Aaron Rodgers has – from Jordy Nelson to Davante Adams to Ty Montgomery to new tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks.

“It’s important to make sure you create opportunities for all these guys,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this offseason. “And how can you get Randall the ball a couple more times a game? Those are the things I think about at night – just making sure that our system has something for everybody, because you need everybody. You need to make sure the right guys are touching the ball as much as possible.”

Clearly, McCarthy and his staff think the Packers’ offense is better when Cobb has the ball in his hands.

They value Cobb’s versatility – he even lines up in the backfield and gets a few carries (10 last season, 50 for his career) – but they still have to remember he’s a 5-foot-10 slot receiver with limitations when he lines up outside. Most of Cobb’s production has come from the slot, where he has lined up on 80.1 percent of his career receptions and all but two of his career touchdown catches, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“When you have a guy like him that’s so dynamic with the football in his hands, I think that’s where coach was going with it is you’ve got to get him the football,” Getsy said. “And it’s different when you have a 6-7 tight end or a 6-4 receiver outside, there’s probably a little bit easier direct line to get the guy the ball. But I don’t think anybody on this football team is as dynamic as that guy is with the football. So yeah, he’s an important part to our process and us having success for sure. So yeah, we’ve got to do that. We’ve got to get him the ball.”

Packers sign undrafted cornerback Daquan Holmes

June 8, 2017 by  
Filed under News

FOX Sports Wisconsin
-Jun 7, 2017 at 5:24p ET

~The Green Bay Packers added another defensive back Wednesday, signing undrafted cornerback Daquan Holmes and releasing cornerback David Rivers.

Holmes had previously attended rookie tryouts in May.

A 5-foot-11 defender out of American International College, Holmes had 69 tackles, 10 passes defended and five interceptions as a senior.

He also returned 11 kickoffs for 132 total yards and a touchdown.

Rivers also went undrafted and signed earlier this year following a two-year career at Youngstown State.