9 guys the Packers need to step up

Every blogger writes stupid top 10 lists, I don’t think I ever have. So I’m attempting one on my favorite subject, the Pack. The team was better than expected last year and this year is a potential NFC champ. However, if that’s going to happen, I’ve got some guys who will need to step it up.

Every blogger writes stupid top 10 lists, I don’t think I ever have.  So I’m attempting one on my favorite subject, the Pack.  The team was better than expected last year and this year is a potential NFC champ.  However, if that’s going to happen, I’ve got some guys who will need to step it up.

9. BJ Raji
The Johnny Jolly legal situation is looming and it looks like Pickett will at least toy around at LDE.  That puts Raji at the nose and setting the table for the run defense.  A lot of people didn’t project him to be a prototypical 3-4 nose, but the Packers need him to eat up 2-3 blockers every snap so the fairly undersized linebackers can be effective.

8. Tramon Williams
Williams had to fill in for injuries to Al Harris the past two seasons.  Each year when his playing time increased, he was beaten up early before settling in.  Last year, however, he was part of a secondary that got torched by Pittsburgh late and Arizona in the playoff loss.  Harris probably won’t be 100% at the start of the season, and may not be all year.  Williams will need to be ready to start from day 1 and work toward being a full-time starter soon.

7. Mason Crosby
I hate to mention kickers as impact players, but when they perform as poorly as Crosby has during his career with the Packers, you have to take note.  Seeing our offense stall out on the opponent’s end of the field is disappointing, seeing Crosby consistently shanking 35 yard field goals is worse.  If he can kick somewhere close to 85% this year, he won’t be a liability, which would be huge.

5/6. James Jones, Jordy Nelson
With neither guy being really promising, they’ll probably alternate as the #3 option this year.  One of them has to elevate their game to be a potential 3rd down threat.  The Packers will give up sacks, like every year, and face 3rd and long situations regularly.  Finley often has to at least chip pass rushers and Driver/Jennings can’t make every play.  Someone has to help move the chains once in a while.

4. Morgan Burnett
A theme here, the pass defense was shaky last year.  Atari Bigby is terrible in coverage and gets hurt consistently.  Burnett has the potential to replace him and be a playmaker in center field next to Collins.  If he can help add stability on the back end, the team could compete against good QBs.

3. Brad Jones
Asking a lot from a guy who almost wasn’t drafted last year.  Clay Matthews has the potential for double-digit sacks.  However, the pressure can’t come from just one side.  Jones has talent in coverage and even in run support.  However, he can get pushed around easily in the passing game and will need to develop some consistent rush skills.

2. Bryan Bulaga
Maybe too much pressure for the rookie, but with both of the projected starters at OT being in their 30’s and with a big injury history, Bulaga will likely have to step in at some point.  The team cannot suffer the shakeup they went through last year when the line played musical chairs to cover for injuries and poor play.

1. Dom Capers
Most people expected the Packers defense to struggle in their first year in the 3-4.  Over-committing to the run and playing some extremely weak teams helped them boost their stats to a top ranking.  However, it was clear they were outclassed against good quarterbacks.  In fact, the defense was a joke against Favre (twice), Roethlisberger and Warner.  Capers seemed to be either lacking the personnel or the guts to call a good game against a tough passing offense.  They often played soft, offering no pass rush and putting anywhere from seven to nine guys in coverage (and still getting beat).  Stopping the run is important, but the Packers are expected to put up 24+ points a game and will see a lot of teams throwing on them.  They also have potentially more quality QBs on the schedule compared to last year (Favre 2x [assumed], a more aggressive/comfortable Stafford and Cutler, Eli, Brady, McNabb, Romo, Kolb [maybe]).  Miami, the Jets and Atlanta even have very capable signal callers.  The only dud QBs on the schedule are likely to come from the San Fran and Buffalo games.

Bengals holding ground on Johnson holdout

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3358557

According to reports, the Washington Redskins offered Cincinnati a 1st round pick this year and a conditional 3rd round pick next year (which could potentially be a 1st rounder) for angry receiver Chad Johnson.  What did the Bengals say about this generous offer?  NO!

Quoted in the above-linked ESPN.com story, Bengals coach Marv Lewis said the following about the situation:

“I’ve stated our case with Chad,” Lewis said. “He has a contract through 2011. He’s stated without an opportunity to go to a different team and a new contract, he wasn’t going to play. I think he’s a man of his word and says he’s not going to play, so don’t play.”

It’s also reported that Philly and Dallas have had trade offers rejected by the Bengals.

So it seems one of two things are at play here.  A) Cincinnati really doesn’t want to trade Johnson and would rather have him sit out the season and collect fines from the receiver.  or B) They really don’t care for the NFC East and a team from a different division needs to make an offer.

Very interesting stuff.  I honestly think the Bengals are stupid for not taking an offer.  I understand the problems involved with giving in to player demands, but you are risking the future of your team in order to prove a point.  Two extra first round picks could be the difference in turning the franchise around.  A grumpy receiver, playing or not, isn’t going to do it.  Cincinnati could easily get a top defensive tackle with their current top pick and use the additional pick from Washington to grab a corner or linebacker.  That’s two potential impact players that could start or at least contribute from day one.  Instead, they are going to throw that out the window so they can let Johnson sit and pout all year. 

If I were a Bengals fan, I’d be mad no matter what happens here.  Same thing went down with the Packers when Javon Walker decided he was done with the team.  If you’re a fan, you hate that the star receiver isn’t playing.  At the same time, the Packers were able to turn a player who wasn’t going to play, into a bunch of draft picks.  Granted, the Packers weren’t able to get a ton of value out of Walker as he was coming off injury and really only had one good year anyway.  Johnson, on the other hand, is at a premium value right now.  It’s not likely that he’ll be worth any more after sitting at home for a year.

Raiders Trade for Hall – Give him $70m

So now the Raiders are going to have Asomugha, Hall, Routt, Washington in the corner spot.  That’s like $35 million a year in defensive backs!  Are they going to make a trade or start playing a Dime base defense?

Okay, this is way too much

The Patriots are being sued for winning the 2001 Super Bowl.

Insane.

Alright, let’s run with this very briefly.  First, you need to prove that the Patriots actually videotaped the walkthrough.  Reports are that there is no evidence.  Next, you have to prove that this altered the outcome of the game (if the walkthrough revealed some unstoppable play to block a game-winning field goal, I might believe it).  I just don’t see that happening.

Seriously, let’s just throw Belichick in jail, take the Patriots away from the Krafts and move them to L.A.  Impose a 30 year ban on pro football in Boston.  Re-write Manny’s contract so he can only play every other home game and give him a co-GM role.  Force the Celtics to Trade KG/Allen/Pierce for sub-six foot white guys who are US born.  Sell the Bruins to NY and force every local 6PM news broadcast in the Boston area to replay the game-winning catch by Plax for the next year.  Oh yeah, while we’re at it, re-release Bird jerseys in Laker purple.  I mean, we’re already throwing the Patriots under the bus, let’s just make it a little more obvious and destroy the entire city at the same time. 

Packers Running Into 2008 Season

Run-down feeling

McCarthy wants to beef up Packers’ ground game

So McCarthy thinks the Packers need to improve their ground game.  I’d agree.  If you want to look at just one big reason the rushing attack didn’t really get going in 2007, look at the performances in 2007:

  • Week 1 vs Philly: 17 carries - 46 yards
  • Week 3 vs San Diego: 13 carries – 42 yards
  • Week 4 at Minny: 20 carries – 46 yards
  • Week 5 vs Chicago: 21 carries – 77 yards (if you subtract a 44 yarder by Wynn)
  • Week 6 vs Washington: 20 carries – 56 yards
  • Week 12 at Detroit: 16 carries – 69 yards (if you subtract a 31 yarder by Grant)
  • Week 13 at Dallas: 18 carries – 62 yards (if you subtract a 62 yarder by Grant)
  • Week 15 at St Louis: 22 carries – 31 yards (if you subtract a 24 yarder by Grant)
  • Week 16 at Chicago: 20 carries – 59 yards (if you subtract a 66 yarder by Grant)
  • NFC Championship vs NY Giants: 14 carries – 28 yards (13 yards of that came on 1 run by Grant)

During those 10 games, if you subtract the biggest runs (some games have multiple big runs, but I only counted the longest for simplicity) the Packers averaged 18.1 carries for 51.6 yards.  That’s a terrible performance.  Their rushing success wasn’t much better in other games, but I’m simply pointing out the ones where they gave up on the running game (with less than 25 carries per game).  It’s obvious that their rather pathetic numbers are heavily inflated by a few long rushes in each game.  I don’t count big runs as carries because it’s more a result of that particular play going great for the offense and terrible for the defense, it’s not a good judge of offensive line performance overall.

If this hopes to improve, it might not be easy – check out a few of the Packers ’08 opponents:

  •  Chicago Bears – played the Packers tough against the run in both games
  • Minnesota Vikings – #1 run defense in NFL
  • Dallas Cowboys – #6 run defense in NFL
  • Indianapolis Colts – #3 total defense in NFL
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers – #2 total defense in NFL
  • Seattle Seahawks – #12 run defense in NFL
  • Jacksonville Jaguars – #11 run defense in NFL
  • Tennessee Titans – #5 run defense in NFL

Really, the only “bad” defensive units they play all season are in 5 games: Detroit (twice), New Orleans, Atlanta, Houston.  Chicago would be in there, but they always take it to the Packers.

Aside from a major offseason move to improve the o-line, and a change in philosophy by McCarthy; there’s no way the running game is improving.  In fact, I think it’s highly likely the Packers will drop off next year. 

During the regular season, the Packers were 28th in the league with a pathetic 24.2 rushing attempts per game.  Even so, this stat is somewhat inflated by 3 “big” games against New York, Minnesota and Oakland where they had 29, 29 and 36 attempts respectively.  Take these games out of the mix and the average drops down to 22.6 attempts/game.  With such a half-hearted dedication to the run, how can the team ever expect to improve?