Miracle in Motown – Packers Fans: R-E-L-A-X

Yep, I just pulled out the most overused quote in the last 10 years of Packer fandom. Packers fans in Wisconsin and abroad are still overjoyed by the very improbable comeback victory over the Lions last night in Detroit. A game that saw the Packers down 20-0 at one point in the 3rd quarter and looking just as lost on offense as they’ve been for virtually every game this year 1. Traditional rankings have them 28th in total offense (great at running, really really really bad passing) and 9th in total defense (mediocre vs the run, really good vs the pass). Of course, the traditional stats leave out a ton. Their pass defense is likely fairly good, but not great and certainly not top 5 or top 3 as some stats have them. Opponents don’t have to score a lot, because the Vikings offense doesn’t score a lot (21 points/gm, 26th in the league). There’s no garbage time passing in blowouts vs the Vikings either, their average scoring margin is +3.4. And since they run a lot, the Vikings have are top 10 in time of possession, so opponents aren’t getting a ton of changes to move the ball. They have a good third down defense, but that’s hidden by the fact that they don’t get in a ton of third down situations (the Vikings are middle of the league, allowing 0.314 first downs per play – all of these rankings are per teamrankings.com, btw). So all that said, the Vikings have definitely been inflated in stature by who they’ve played and how they play. They’re a good team, but I’d guess they have the ability and performance level of a team with a couple more losses than they actually have.

But all that said, it’s still hard for a rational observer to get excited about the Packers. Their offense still rates poorly in every category but points (they are getting a decent rate of points/game and points/play despite being bad in every other category, so essentially they have fair success at big plays). Yes, the defenses they’ve played have been tough,. Denver and Carolina, both who made the Packers offense look pathetic, are two of the best defenses in the league (if not one and two respectively). But the Broncos do not have one of the best defenses in NFL history, and they made the Packers offense look like one of the worst ever. Beyond that, they struggled to put up points in a loss to the Bears, a win against the 49ers and essentially 6.5 out of 8 quarters agains the Lions. Those are not defenses that strike fear into your heart.

The Packers’ defense is in a similar spot to the Vikings. They’re pretty good, not great. They’ve been put in a lot of bad spots by failed drives on the offensive side. They’ve been matched up against some of the better offenses in terms of either scoring, yards or both and done better than expected in many cases (the only real exception being the Broncos game). They aren’t an elite defense, but there are enough stats that put them in the top 10 (and just barely) to simply agree they are definitely above average.

So why have I spent the last 1400 or so words rambling and throwing out numbers about the Packers and their opponents, seemingly drawing no conclusion? It’s about perspective. Last night, the Packers beat a really bad team. In doing so, they’ve done what they’ve largely done all year and beat a team they were favored to beat (the Packers are 8-4 overall and 7-5 vs the spread). They’re still a fairly inconsistant team having lost 3 games they were favored (the 4th loss being that pick’em at MIN, which means GB would have been the favorite on a neutral field). Two of those losses had the Packers favored by eight or more points (at home vs DET and CHI). Prior to last night, they had only two wins where they were favored by less than five points (vs SEA and @ MIN). Their offense shows no trending signs it will be okay, and with what was supposed to be a top running back in Lacy being repeatedly benched for performance and offensive linemen going down for at least periods of multiple games lately, it may get worse. The defense is clearly not good enough to win games on their own.

So sure, the Packers may win the NFC North. Winning in the playoffs against the superior Panthers and Cardinals will not be in their favor, but the division and a single home playoff game is realistic. They have an easier remaining schedule compared to MIN and currently have the tie-breaker (which would obviously be decided in week 17 if a tie were in play). But if they win the division, it will be because they continue to be the same team they’ve been all year. They’ll win because they’re a team that can do enough against inferior teams to win (most of the time). And they’ll win because maybe Minnesota is a little more worse-than-the-record-indicates than the Packers and have a slightly tougher road ahead. The Packers are basically in a favorable spot to win the division without any change in quality of play.

So essentially, last night was not a turning point. It was simply a game where it took incredibly extreme and unlikely circumstances for the Packers to beat a mediocre team that they were favored to beat from the start. Relax, Packers fans. Relax.

  1. side note, Football Outsiders had the Packers ranked 9th in their adjusted offensive DVOA coming into this game. I respect those guys a lot and cherry pick their stats plenty, but I’m missing something here. Their non-adjusted rank is 20. DVOA adjusts for playing from behind in the 4th quarter, where GB has done garbage time damage lately, but it appears mostly that their schedule is far tougher than I’m giving credit.). But then, boom, 14 unanswered points. Hold the Lions to a field goal. Score again on a 3rd down Rodgers run where it looked like we’d have to settle for a 35+ yard field goal.

    And then, the real miracle. After stopping the Lion’s attempt to run out the clock, Rodgers takes over on his own 21 with only 23 seconds left.

    Two incompletions later, they’re still at the same spot but facing 3rd down and 79 yards to go in 6 seconds. Game over, time for Packers fans to start looking forward to baseball season. Here comes the predictable chaos of cross-field laterals in a desperate attempt to make magic happen. According to some random win probability calculator I found, the Packers had a 3% chance of winning in this scenario. Pro-Football-Reference.com says there’s a 10.46% chance of a win here, but has zero plays in its archive where this scenario resulted in a win. Let’s just say the odds are against Green Bay here.

    So like most fans, I’m half watching this little back and forth. The ball goes back to Rodgers (Aaron) and at this point I’m only interested in seeing if the franchise quarterback is going to get hurt on this pointless play.

    And, I guess because it’s the Lions. Because they are one of the most poorly run franchises in league history that has only won one single playoff game over a 75+ year span and forced one of the greatest players in NFL history to retire early out of disdain. Because their coach may have died in 2011. Because their coach is from Wisconsin and may secretly be a Packers fan. Because Detroit keeps getting crapped on or crapping on themselves as a city.

    Or much more likely, because the Lions are a bad team that makes more mistakes than most and the NFL always favors calls that “protect” quarterbacks, there was a flag on the field after the play and time had run out. And of course, it was against the Lions.

    Let’s be clear on this one, it shouldn’t have been a facemask call [2. In previous iterations of the rule, this may have been the often annoying 5 yard incidental facemask penalty, which would’ve allowed a hail mary attempt, but from 10 yards further out (71 yards) and essentially zero chance of the throw even reaching the end zone). You can clearly see in replays that Taylor’s thumb grazed the facemask, maybe latching onto it for a fraction of a second. And the bulk of the grab/pull motion was on Rodgers’ shoulder pads. But Rodgers did some acting when a hand came near his face and the ref saw the head turn. When it’s heat of the moment and the game is potentially going to be decided whether on what the ref does, it makes sense that they go with the seemingly obvious visual and the idea they are protecting player safety. Sure, with zoomed-in slow motion HD replay, we see it’s not a facemask. But from 20 yards away in real time? It sure looked like one. Sorry Lions fans, your player made a really dumb move, his hands should have been nowhere near the helmet.

    Anyway, 15 yard penalty and essentially a free play with no time left from 61 yards away, we all know what happened. Packers win, miracle victory, amazing comeback.

    And suddenly the narrative is that the Packers are back or at least have hope. Why not? They’re 8-4, lead the wildcard in a conference full of mediocre teams, have one more game against the division-leading Vikings which could at least put them in a tiebreaker situation for the North lead. And they have Aaron Rodgers! There’s plenty of reason to think will make the playoffs. There’s a reasonable amount of hope they can win the division, with winnable games against Dallas and Oakland coming up (before playing Arizona and Minnesota). The Vikings might have a slightly harder remaining schedule, also playing the Cardinals but with games against more competitive teams verse Chicago and the NY Giants.

    Minnesota has a bit more at stake too, despite being in the division lead by a game (half game at this point, but 1 game going into Thursday night). Let’s say the Packers go 2-1 in their next 3 games. If Minnesota also goes 2-1, they would have a single game lead over the Packers going into their week 17 matchup at Lambeau Field. Because the Packers beat Minnesota a couple weeks ago, the winner of that game would win the division. Obviously that’s a lot of pressure on both sides, but the Packers would be almost certainly be favored in that game (in their last meeting, the line was a PK w/ Minnesota being at home).

    You could make a good case that Minnesota is also one of the more fraudulent good teams. They have the weakest schedule in the division and one of the weakest ones in the conference. They’ve only beaten two teams that currently have above .500 records (the Raiders & Falcons, who are both 6-5) and have lost to the only other above .500 teams they’ve played (Packers & Broncos). Their offense and defense both near rank middle of the pack per Football Outsiders [3. See, cherry picking

Is Time Up for Mike McCarthy & Aaron Rodgers?

photo courtesy of packers.com
photo courtesy of packers.com

For the third straight year, the Packers lost in the playoffs.  For most teams, this wouldn’t be so terrible, but the Packers feature one of the two or three best quarterbacks of the past decade.  Someone who is believed to be a sure fire Hall of Famer.  A quarterback who has nine seasons behind him and might be seeing his window of opportunity closing.

The early responses point to a few common themes in the Ted Thompson era.  Many critics are saying there’s a lack of overall toughness, citing repeated losses to very physical Giants and 49ers teams.  Others say the defense is terrible.  And there’s a healthy mix of complaints about a lack of veteren leadership / free agents.

Let’s look at the criticism and see if we can sort out what is going wrong with this team.

Toughness

This is a rather difficult thing to measure.  But let’s see if we can quantify it a bit.  Looking just at the most recent playoff loss, there are a few possible “toughness” numbers (per NFL.com).

49ers avg yards/carry: 5.6

Packers avg yards/carry: 4.0

49ers sacks allowed: 3

Packers sacks allowed: 4

49ers QB Hits: 6

Packers QB Hits: 2

You might look at some of those numbers and think they indicate San Fran is the tougher team.  They run more, they have a better pass rush, they allow fewer yards against the run.  But there is a lot more to it than that.

Running the ball, San Fran barely did anything in the traditional sense.  Gore carried 20 times for a 3.3 yard average.  His longest run was 10 yards.  The yards/carry average was grossly inflated by Kaepernick’s 98 rushing yards and 14 yard/carry average.  And his long runs did not come as a result of the option, but pass plays where he felt pressure and his first read wasn’t open.  Basically, he scrambled and Green Bay couldn’t catch him.

On the Packers’ side, they were facing the 3rd rated rush defense in the league and performed admirably.  Their running game is the best it’s been in years.  I’m not sure how you can rationally argue this.

The pass rushing stats are a bit more subjective, but Green Bay has been very limited in that department all year.  With the strength of San Fran’s offensive line and all the injuries on the Green Bay defense, it’s not much of a surprise.  The 49ers have allowed 2.4 sacks per game this year, so Green Bay was pretty much right on pace.

The Packers’ pass protection remains a mystery.  They without their projected starting left tackle the entire season.  The fill in was lost during the playoff game.  They also have a first round tackle who has yet to get on the field for any meaningful amount of time (although it’s beginning to look like this is less about injury and more about ability).

There are certainly bigger and faster teams compared to the Packers, but I don’t think you can really prove it’s an issue.

Defense

I covered the run defense already.  On the pass defense side, Kaepernick had 227 yards and a 53% completion rate.  Coupled with one touchdown and one interception, this wasn’t a terribly impressive game on paper.  But visually he dominated once again.  Kaepernick still is not an accomplished passer.  You can watch him follow a single receiver on every play, and either force the pass or run if that player isn’t open.  He’s occassionally hitting a second read these days, but it still looks to be rare.

Even with those limitations, he still kept making plays when it counted.  Especially at the end of the game, where the 49ers were 4/4 on 3rd down and 3/3 on the final drive of the game.

Giving the league’s 8th rated offense (according to FootballOutsiders.com) the ball with 5 minutes left, only needing a field goal to win, is not a good situation for any defense.  The Packers made some critical mistakes (Bush allowing Kaepernick to run past him on 3rd and 8) and had some big missed opportunities (Hyde’s dropped interception), but ultimately just looked outmatched on the final drive.

The rest of the game, they looked really solid.  When the offense was absolutely pathetic in the first quarter, the defense stopped two drives inside their own 10 yard line.  The only touchdown they allowed in the first half was a result of a terrible bit of defense that led to Kaepernick’s 42 yard run.  That play included a lot of people out of position.

But basically the two big Kaepernick runs and the Davis touchdown were the only plays where the defense did not look good.  A good defense wouldn’t allow those plays, but this performance was still much better than what we’ve seen in the past.

Veteren Leadership

There are all sorts of variations of this theme thrown out every year under Thompson.  Let’s look at a few numbers for defensive & offensive starters… Below is name followed by years of experience.

Offense

– Aaron Rodgers: 9 years
– TJ Lang: 5 years
– Josh Sitton: 6 years
– James Jones: 7 years
– Jordy Nelson: 6 years

Defense

– Tramon Williams: 7 years
– Ryan Pickett: 13 years
– BJ Raji: 5 years
– AJ Hawk: 8 years
– Brad Jones: 5 years
– Clay Matthews: 5 years

11 of 22 starters are 5+ year veterens.  Every one of those 11 players were on the Super Bowl roster, all but Brad Jones as a starter.

So what we’re really talking about here is free agency.

In the last offseason, probably the most prominent free agent to change teams was Elvis Dumervil.  While his 9.5 sacks for the Ravens looks good, he was just a situational pass rusher.  He totaled 31 tackles and 3 passes defended.  While the 3rd down presence would help, it’s hard to imagine $5.2 million per season being worth it for such a limited player.

While plenty of people wanted Greg Jennings to stick around, it’s hard to argue against the results without him.  The biggest struggle the Packers’ offense faced was the loss of Aaron Rodgers.  No receiver group could make Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn look good.

Where the Packers missed in free agency is at the less attractive end.  Glenn Dorsey was a big contributor at the end of the season for the 49ers.  Chris Cante is an ideal 3-4 defensive end that eats blockers all day.  Shaun Phillips was a steal compared to Dumervil, but offered virtually identical production.  And these were all positions of great uncertainty entering the season.

Injuries

I don’t know if enough data will ever be available to figure this one out.  The Packers players get injured more frequently than the rest of the league.  This has happened historically under Thompson.

I’ve tried to pull data about player growth from high school to the pros, and it looked like a lot of Ted Thompson draft picks showed big increases in BMI (35-30% increase from high school to pros).  The rest of the league, appears to have gains more like 10-15% over the same timeframe.  The theory is that players are bulking up fast, to a size larger than their frame is designed to hold.  so you have someone with the skeleton of a linebacker by the mass of a lineman.  Potentially, if your body isn’t meant to hold that kind of weight, it could break down more often.  There’s no science I know of to support this, it’s just a guess.  Trying to turn correlation into causation.  But data from high schools is not reliable enough.  Too often, it seems players measure bigger than they really are (maybe to appear bigger and get noticed by scouts?).  I’d love to look further into it, but without access to scouting data, I think it’s a dead end for now.

Beyond that, there are plenty of questions out there about the conditioning staff and McCarthy’s training/practice program.  Changes have been made in both departments over the year, with no changes.

Regardless, something desperately needs to change.  The Packers had 15 people on injured reserve this year, and had a lot of missed games by other starters.  You cannot operate a team that way and expect them to be successful through the postseason.

Playcalling

I’m not throwing this entirely on McCarthy, since Rodgers runs the show in the no huddle to a great degree.  But things just don’t seem to make sense year after year.  In 2007, Favre’s last year with the team, McCarthy had a young team and a very shaky offensive line.  He dealt with that by using a fantastic variation of the west coast offense.  The Packers were a late game Favre meltdown away from the Super Bowl that year.

Ever since, we haven’t seen that willingness to adapt to adverse situations.  In Sunday’s game, despite struggles with the 49ers’ pass rush, the Packers kept sending their receivers deep play after play.  In most instances, one receiver would go short on a slant with everyone else 15+ yards deep.  If that short pass wasn’t open, it left Rodgers waiting in the pocket far too long for routes to develop.

And then there’s the Cobb run inside the red zone.  And the wasted timeout at the end of the first half.  Nearly every game includes questionable moves like this.  The team nearly missed the playoffs because McCarthy didn’t go for two later in the Bears game.

The Packers have obviously built their offense around big plays, but they can’t expect them every snap.  There needs to be some adjustment to the playcalling philosophy to allow for adapatation against tough defenses.  Just like the first touchdown drive on Sunday when they went exclusively with runs and short passes

Closing Windows

Next year will be difficult for Ted Thompson to orchestrate.  Two thirds of their starting defensive line will be unrestricted free agents.  Sam Shields, James Jones, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Jermichael Finley, Mike Neal and CJ Wilson will all join them.  The following year will see the same time come for Jordy Nelson, Bryan Bulaga and Randall Cobb.  Tramon Williams is a likely cap casualty in 2014 with $9.5 million in salary and bonuses due.  The team has $107.8 million in spending against the cap (according to OverTheCap.com) for next year, before drafting anyone or even getting a full roster.

The point is, things are going to get a lot harder.  All of this doesn’t take into account teams like the 49ers and Seahawks contuing to develop, along with other powerhouses around the league.  If the Packers hope to not let another hall of fame quarterback career go by with only one title, they are going to have to figure out a lot of issues that don’t have obvious answers.

Unless you believe there is a coach out there that can make an immediate impact given the existing talent, you can’t make a change in that department.  The aging roster and heavy contracts of Matthews & Rodgers won’t allow big splashes in free agency, and history shows there really aren’t big splashes worth making most years.  Thompson will likely need to replace veterens on the team currently with lower priced options (via draft and lower tier free agecy).

But he’ll need to go on a talent evaluation run that ranks up there with the best GM’s of all time, as the window of opportunity for this team appears to be closing.

 

 

Ted Thompson 1st and 2nd Round Draft Picks

Just throwing some data out there.

Link to larger view

McCarthy’s poor coaching dooms the Packers

I forget if I’ve written about it here to any length, but two of my top signs you have a bad head coach are 1. Lots of penalties. 2. Bad special teams play. It seems with coaches who are destined to be good coordinators, they can’t handle the extra detail involved in fixing those issues. So they try to make up for it in other areas and publicly pretend it isn’t that big of an issue.

I forget if I’ve written about it here to any length, but two of my top signs you have a bad head coach are 1. Lots of penalties. 2. Bad special teams play.  It seems with coaches who are destined to be good coordinators, they can’t handle the extra detail involved in fixing those issues.  So they try to make up for it in other areas and publicly pretend it isn’t that big of an issue.

For the last three years as the Packers have been at or near the top of the league in penalties and special teams ranking, McCarthy has said things like “we’ve got to shore that up” week after week, while the problem doesn’t change.  It would be very convenient to blame those mistakes on youth (as the Packers have also had one of the youngest teams in the league over that stretch), but last night you wouldn’t dare make that case.

For example, the end of the third quarter when Green Bay was pinned at their own 1 yard line, long-time right tackle Mark Tauscher flinched on consecutive plays, killing any chance of momentum and getting the fans into a bigger frenzy.  After Rodgers forgot to look at the play clock, the Packers were forced to punt.  In an astonishingly bad judgement call, special teams coach Shawn Slocum said “let’s punt it to Hester” (who was waiting at mid-field).  One Devin Hester punt return for a touchdown later, the Packers were cooked.

The mistakes continued to pile up as James Jones caught a pass down the sideline for what should’ve been a huge first down late in the fourth.  Instead of getting out of bounds or simply going to the ground quickly to conserve time, he tried to fight through two linebackers and lost the ball.

When the Packers were trying to stop the Bears from making a game-winning drive, the defensive penalties started mounting.  The team was probably tired and frustrated at this point, but they really showed their true character by being over aggressive and killing any hope of stopping the Bears with sloppy play.

Just like every year under Mike McCarthy, this team is going to underachieve.  We may make the playoffs, we may even win a playoff game, but as long as the same problems that have plagued McCarthy his entire head coaching career are still there, he will defeat us.

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.

Thompson alters approach, drafts on need

Cynical Packers fans likely went into Thursday night expecting to not see anyone added to the team. Many probably thought GM Ted Thompson would simply trade out of the first round and draft the best player available a few picks later. Maybe we’d end up with another try-hard wide receiver or linebacker. Instead, Thompson showed signs that he feels the team might be done simply turning over the roster and ready to build for something.

Cynical Packers fans likely went into Thursday night expecting to not see anyone added to the team.  Many probably thought GM Ted Thompson would simply trade out of the first round and draft the best player available a few picks later.  Maybe we’d end up with another try-hard wide receiver or linebacker.  Instead, Thompson showed signs that he feels the team might be done simply turning over the roster and ready to build for something.  While there are little arguments that Bryan Bulaga was the best player at pick 23, he also fit a glaring need for the team.  It doesn’t matter if he isn’t ready to be an NFL left tackle this season.  He can play on the right side or at left guard, and the Packers need help in both spots.  We now have a legitimate offensive line prospect to develop for the future, but who can also help the team immediately.  In the 2nd round, Thompson addressed a position of concern with the defensive line.  Jolly and Jenkins are potentially gone after this season (and Jolly’s legal situation is an ongoing concern), so getting another big body who can play the 5-technique is a very smart move.  Neal can find his way into the rotation immediately but is under no pressure to start this season.  Finally, Thompson surprised people a bit by trading up in the 3rd round for Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett.  Burnett is a prototypical Thompson player, with more athleticism than football acumen, but he definitely addresses a need.  Hopefully he can start alongside Nick Collins and offer a bit more security in the deep secondary and against the run than the team got from Atari Bigby over the past few seasons.

While there aren’t a lot of quality corners left, I would expect that to be one of the next positions Thompson targets.  Dominique Franks could be a good pickup for that position.  Another concern might be running back, where there is no quality depth behind Ryan Grant.  Joe McKnight and Jonathan Dwyer are still on the board and either one would make a quality back.  McKnight would likely be the better fit as he’s a speedy guy who can catch passes.

Packers draft picks – Ted Thompson Edition

Green Bay Packers Draft History

2009
Rnd Name College Note
1 B.J. Raji Boston College
1 Clay Matthews Southern Cal
4 T.J. Lang Eastern Michigan
5 Quinn Johnson LSU
5 Jamon Meredith South Carolina
6 Jarius Wynn Georgia
6 Brandon Underwood Cincinnati
7 Brad Jones Colorado
2008
Rnd Name College Note
2 Jordy Nelson Kansas State
2 Brian Brohm Louisville
2 Patrick Lee Auburn
3 Jermichael Finley Texas
4 Jeremy Thompson Wake Forest
4 Josh Sitton Central Florida
5 Breno Giacomini Louisville
7 Matt Flynn Louisiana State
7 Brett Swain
2007
Rnd Name College Note
1 Justin Harrell Tennessee
2 Brandon Jackson Nebraska
3 James Jones San Jose State
3 Aaron Rouse Virginia Tech
4 Allen Barbre Missouri Southern State
5 David Clowney Virginia Tech
6 Korey Hall Boise State
6 Desmond Bishop California
6 Mason Crosby Colorado
7 DeShawn Wynn Florida
7 Clark Harris Rutgers
2006
Rnd Name College Note
1 A.J. Hawk Ohio State
2 Daryn Colledge Boise State
2 Greg Jennings Western Michigan
3 Abdul Hodge Iowa
3 Jason Spitz Louisville
4 Cory Rodgers Texas Christian
4 Will Blackmon Boston College
5 Ingle Martin Furman
5 Tony Moll Nevada
6 Johnny Jolly Texas A&M
6 Tyrone Culver Fresno State
7 Dave Tollefson Northwest Missouri State
2005
Rnd Name College Note
1 Aaron Rodgers California
2 Nick Collins Bethune-Cookman
2 Terrence Murphy Texas A&M
4 Marviel Underwood San Diego State
4 Brady Poppinga Brigham Young
5 Junius Coston North Carolina A&T
5 Michael Hawkins Oklahoma
6 Mike Montgomery Texas A&M
6 Craig Bragg UCLA
7 Kurt Campbell Albany (NY)
7 William Whitticker Michigan State

 

We had 34 draft picks in the first 3 years of Thompson as a GM.  The current starters from that pool are:

– Aaron Rodgers, QB
– Nick Collins, FS
– AJ Hawk, ILB (who might not be starting right now if not for injuries)
– Greg Jennings, WR
– Daryn Colledge, OG

Jason Spitz was our starting center this year, so he should count at #6, but unfortunately he went on IR this week.  Allen Babre was starting at RT, but he was so bad we had to re-sign Tauscher.

For a team that believes in building through the draft, we’ve done a miserable job of it.  Here’s a look at our Week 9 starters and where they come from:

Offense
QB: Aaron Rodgers – TT Draft Pick
HB: Ryan Gran – Trade
FB: John Kuhn – Waivers
WR: Greg Jennings – TT Draft Pick
WR: Donald Driver – Pre-TT
LT: Chad Clifton – Pre-TT
LG: Daryn Colledge – TT Draft Pick
C: Scott Wells – Pre-TT
RG: Josh Sitton – TT Draft Pick
RT: Mark Tauscher – Pre-TT

Defense
LE: Johnny Jolly – TT Draft Pick
DT: Ryan Pickett – Free Agent
RE: Cullen Jenkins – Pre-TT
LOLB: Aaron Kampman – Pre-TT
ILB: Nick Barnett – Pre-TT
ILB: AJ Hawk – TT Draft Pick
ROLB: Clay Matthews – TT Draft Pick
CB: Charles Woodson – Free Agent
CB: Al Harris – Pre-TT
FS: Nick Collins – TT Draft Pick
SS: Atari Bigby – Free Agent

By my count, that’s 8/22 starters that Thompson has drafted.  He’s drafted 51 total players in that time frame.  That makes his success rate for drafting starters just over 15%.  That doesn’t mean the other players that are starting are all bad.  We have a lot of talented players that were either here when Thompson arrived or that were acquired outside the draft.  The problem is, with so many poor draft picks (23 draft picks – 45% – are not on the team), we’re really lacking in depth and have clearly over-valued at numerous positions.  It’s bad.  Top it off with McCarthy stinking the joint up and we’re heading the wrong direction.

Somewhat negative view of Ted Thompson’s draft history

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2008 – Green Bay Packers

Rd Sel # Player              Position School

2 36 Jordy Nelson WR Kansas State – Playing well for a rookie

2 56 Brian Brohm QB Louisville – Horrible performance in pre-season, 3rd string QB.

2 60 Patrick Lee CB Auburn – On IR

3 91 Jermichael Finley TE Texas – Has been the #3 tight end and cannot get on the field.

4 102 Jeremy Thompson DE Wake Forest – Shown some energy but has been hurt

4 135 Josh Sitton T Central Florida – Gotten some playing time as fill-in, project

5 150 Breno Giacomini T Louisville – Project player

7 209 Matt Flynn QB Louisiana State – Played decently in pre-season

7 217 Brett Swain WR San Diego State – Practice squad

2007 – Green Bay Packers

Rd Sel # Player              Position School

1 16 Justin Harrell DT Tennessee – No surprise, has been injured a lot

2 63 Brandon Jackson RB Nebraska – Has played well in spurts, fumble liability

3 78 James Jones WR San Jose State – Played well early as a rookie, has slumped this year

3 89 Aaron Rouse SAF Virginia Tech – Has filled in for injuries, often out of position

4 119 Allen Barbre G Missouri Southern State – Still a project

5 157 David Clowney WR Virginia Tech – Gone

6 191 Korey Hall FB Boise State – Has played well enough

6 192 Desmond Bishop LB California – Made some big plays vs Houston, doesn’t look like a starter

6 193 Mason Crosby K Colorado – Has been very solid

7 228 DeShawn Wynn RB Florida – Was cut, but re-signed because of injuries

7 243 Clark Harris TE Rutgers – Gone

2006 – Green Bay Packers

Rd Sel # Player Position School

1 5 A.J. Hawk OLB Ohio State – Hasn’t been the impact player expected, but a solid linebacker

2 47 Daryn Colledge G Boise State – Cannot sustain blocks, gets beat by power and speed

2 52 Greg Jennings WR Western Michigan – Looks like a star, gets lost in some games

3 67 Abdul Hodge LB Iowa – Gone

3 75 Jason Spitz G Louisville – Plays okay in fill-in roles, not a starter

4 104 Cory Rodgers WR Texas Christian – Gone

4 115 Will Blackmon CB Boston College – Pick play ability on special teams, goes sideways too often

5 148 Ingle Martin QB Furman – Gone

5 165 Tony Moll G Nevada-Reno – Backup player

6 183 Johnny Jolly DT Texas A&M – Good enough, especially considering where he was picked

6 185 Tyrone Culver DB Fresno State – Gone

7 253 Dave Tollefson DE Northwest Missouri State – Gone

2005 – Green Bay Packers

Rd Sel # Player                           Position School

1 24 Aaron Rodgers QB California – Looks like a solid QB

2 51 Nick Collins FS Bethune-Cookman – Out of position way too often

2 58 Terrence Murphy WR Texas A&M – Out of NFL: Injury

4 115 Marviel Underwood DB San Diego State – Gone

4 125 Brady Poppinga LB Brigham Young – Decent vs run, can’t cover

5 143 Junius Coston C North Carolina A&T – Gone

5 167 Mike Hawkins DB Oklahoma – Gone

6 180 Mike Montgomery DT Texas A&M – Playing okay as a fill-in

6 195 Craig Bragg WR UCLA – Gone

7 245 Kurt Campbell CB Albany State (NY) – Gone

7 246 Will Whitticker G Michigan State – Gone

No time to write, but…

…the Packers should have won today.  They had too many turnovers and the defense ran out of steam late, but the Packers were right there.  I guess the Titans are a little better than we thought (but definitely can be beaten) and the Packers still aren’t there.

Harrell off PUP – ‘KGB’ on the street

As many expected, the Packers decided to activate defensive tackle Justin Harrell.  The 2nd year player has been on the PUP list with a back injury but the need for depth and big bodies on the line has pushed the team to take a chance on the 2nd year player.  To make space for him on the active roster, the Packers released DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.  ‘KGB’ has been less and less effective in recent years as age, injuries and one-dimensional play has slowed him down.  The 31 year old Gbaja-Biamila has seen limited playing time, despite the loss of starting end Cullen Jenkins for the season.  So far he has 9 tackles and 1/2 sack.  Harrell on the other hand, has been a disapointment since being drafted in the first round before last season.  The young man has tons of physical talent, but was hurt through most of his college career and has carried that tradition into the NFL.  Harrell missed a great part of his rookie season and was ineffective late with minimal playing time.  He is looking at his first serious shot to make an impact on the team going into week 9.  He will likely not see the field much tomorrow, but could help a struggling defensive line rotation stay fresh and attempt to stop the rushing attack of the Titans.