Saturday, September 21, 2013

Toeing the Line When it Comes to Luck

I didn't have the opportunity to watch the game against Washington last week. That's ok, a son's little league tournament always takes precedence. Of course they offense tore Washington apart and Aaron Rodgers tied the Packers single game passing record. This presents a bit of a quandary. Do I believe in luck? Can I watch the game tomorrow?  Is it ok for a guy to think it's not ok to wash the jersey until the Packers lose a game while wearing it and at the same time ok to watch the game a week after you couldn't and the team set records?

I hope you guys will understand if I toe the luck line and watch the game in my dirty jersey. I just can't live more than a week without the Packers during football season. Heck, I wrote a blog last year about never watching another game after the Fail Mary debacle and didn't make it a week without giving in and watching the next game. Thinking about this brought a question to mind though. What do you do for game day?

I know someone who has to eat the exact same thing and have the same exact drinks, ordered at the exact same time every week. I know a lady who walks away from the TV at my favorite Packers bar in Portland (Hi PackerMom!) when the Packers struggle. She plays video poker until she loses to sacrifice her luck so the Packers can have it instead. I myself have Packers socks that I wear on game days. Socks that I pull on when the defense needs a big play. I wear them whether I'm alone at home or at a bar with friends and I'm sure as heck wearing them to TBW3 next month!

So, tell me folks, what are your little game day peccadilloes? What strange thing do you do to make sure luck is on the Packers side? I need to know so I can add a couple things to offset the bad luck I'm creating by watching tomorrow.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Holy Crap, Football is Back!

Guess what guys? We get to watch the Packers play football tomorrow! I'm excited and yet very concerned about this season. I just don't see any easy wins on the schedule this year. The team starts with a very tough opponent in the San Francisco 49ers. The same team that knows our fearless Packers out of the playoffs last year and went on to lose the Super Bowl. And while I think the Packers are good enough to win, I just don't see it. There are still so many unknowns with this Packers team. Will the run game really step up this year? Will the D improve over last year? Will they be able to contain the read option so many teams are using so successfully? Will Mason Crosby return to form? Will freshly grilled brats and cheese curds magically appear on my doorstep tomorrow?

I've heard nothing but good things about Eddie Lacy and the Packers running game this year. It's here to stay, they say. Eddie Lacy is the real deal. Not being in Green Bay, I haven't had the chance to see him practice in person. That coupled with the fact that the first team offense didn't play much in preseason means I'm just not sold on the running game yet. We'll see if it comes to fruition like we've been led to believe it will.

The defense took a hit when Casey Heyward was ruled out. Reports are saying he'll miss at least the first month of the season. Micah Hyde has definitely shown flashes in the preseason but the one thing that was iffy was his man coverage. I guess we'll find out sooner than later how much of a learning curve he'll have.  I'm excited about a couple of things on the defensive side of the ball though. I can't wait to see what kind of effect Johnny Jolly will have in the rotation at DE. I just hope the comeback continues to build steam. I'm also very interested to see what happens with the guys rotating at OLB opposite Clay Matthews. Mike Neal looks svelte and ready to rush the QB. Nick Perry is also back and playing after missing most of last year. Will the presence of Matthews on the opposite side lead to more sacks for these two? Will they lead to less double teams on Matthews? I know this, pass rush is key to success in the NFL.

Sticking to the defense, how will they stop the read option? The coaches spent time with the coaches at Texas A&M to learn how they deal with it in the college game. They have tape of a certain game in the playoffs last year. I'm sure the players still have nightmares of Colin Kaepernicking all over them on the way to the NFC Championship game. But are those things enough? And if they are, will the D be able to cover the passing that will come once they stop the running out of the read option?

Mason Crosby has been much maligned. He admittedly had a horrible year last year. The team responded by bringing in two different kickers to compete with him during the offseason. From appearances it boiled down to 2 days of kicking competitions during practice. The result? Mason Crosby is your 2013 Packers placekicker, at least for now. He went 14 for 14 on the second day of that competition, including hitting from 64 and 65 yards out. Most people are assuming (hoping really) that the team will have a shorter leash on Crosby this year and not allow things to deteriorate like they did last year. I'm included in that group. Here's to hoping there are some kickers in Ted Thompson's speed dial.

Before we get to my final question, let me give you my game prediction. I think the Packers will keep it close but eventually the 49ers will win out 35-31 but I sure hope the Packers prove me wrong. Now, who's bringing me brats and cheese curds?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Finally the QB2 Question Has an Answer, and I Like It

A lot has happened behind Aaron Rodgers over the past few days. The Packers have chosen the guy they want behind QB1 (at least for now) and it's not anyone that had spent time on the roster this preseason. It's Seneca Wallace. Wallace had supposedly retired from the 49ers Thursday morning according to Jim Harbaugh. Wallace refuted that report, saying that he left because the 49ers were just using him as leverage to get Colt McCoy to take a pay cut.

Let's take a look at how the Packers got to this point. It started with last year's backup Graham Harrell getting cut before the final preseason game. Harrell had not done anything this preseason to earn the job backing up at quarterback in Green Bay. Then, the assumed winner of the job Vince Young stunk up the joint in the final preseason game. B J Coleman didn't look much better. When the time came for Ted Thompson and the Packers to cut to the final 53, it looked like the decision had been made. B J Coleman was the last man standing, the Packers' 2013 QB2.

A lot of us fans were in shock. Don't lie, even if you are the most ardent TT believer, you had to chant "In Ted We Trust" about 1000 times before you were at peace with the fact that Coleman was the man that would take the reins of the vaunted Packers offense. And still, you weren't really at peace with it, you just shut up about it and learned to live with it. I'm the same way. Believe me. In fact, my first Twitter post after hearing the news?
Fast forward to this morning. The news dropped that Coleman had been let go and we had yet another QB2. This time though, I was happy to hear that it was Seneca Wallace standing behind Aaron Rodgers. I know there's still a lot of skepticism out there so I'll explain why I feel that way. First, Wallace has a proven track record in the NFL. Wallace has a career 59.2% completion percentage. His TD/INT ratio is 31/18.  He's also a very mobile guy, having run for several big gains in his career. Of course everyone will remember "The Run" from Wallace's time at Iowa State.

Not as many will remember the numerous times that Wallace was used as a WR on more than one occasion in Seattle with some success. I'm not saying that the Packers took him so he could be a 6th WR or anything. Just backing up the fact that he's mobile. His TD/INT ratio is also much better than that of Vince Young (46/51). So, while I still think the Packers would be in shambles were Aaron Rodgers to miss significant time, I think Seneca Wallace is a viable backup to get the team through a 2nd half if Rodgers gets hurt.

Once again, THE SKY IS NOT FALLING!!!1!!!

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Waiting Game is in Full Swing

I know that teams have until 5PM on August 31st but I just can't stand the wait to find out who makes the week one 53. Especially when depth seems to be such a concern this year after watching the 2nd and 3rd units struggle so much in the preseason. I'm starting to think that the Packers are looking over the early cuts for guys that they want to lay a claim on.

We already know that they brought in "Kickalicious" for a try out. My opinion on that is that it was a look see in case Mason Crosby struggles an any point in the season. With Crosby taking a pay cut I just can't see him not being the opening day kicker.

The Packers are also reportedly bringing Joe McKnight in for a try out. It's definitely a sign that the team is not sold on who they have to return kicks. McKnight is also a very versatile player which is something the team seems to be lacking right now in their depth.

One thing I'd like to see the team look for is another safety. With all the injuries they are really thin at the position. The DBs in general have struggled this preseason, but with Tramon back I'm not sure things won't start to clear up on the corners.

As far as the guys I'm rooting for to see on the final 53? I'd love to see Alex Green stay on the team. I think he's looked much more decisive when he's had his chances to run the ball. I'd also love to see Johnny Jolly complete his comeback and land in the D Line rotation. He's just so disruptive and his hands are always active, looking to swat passes (or pick them off) when he doesn't get penetration.

How do you think the cookie will crumble this year?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Takeaways from Preseason Game Three

Well the Packers lost another preseason game. Their record is now 0-0. See it's funny because wins and losses in preseason don't matter! What matters are the positives and negatives you can take away from the game.  And I honestly think there were positives in all three phases of the game. Of course there were negatives too.

On special teams the main positive is Tim Masthay. He can boom punts and he showed it to us last night. He had several punts that were of 50 yards with great hang time. It was pretty to watch. He also boomed the opening kickoff out of the endzone. The negative is the other side of the kicking game. Masthay kicking off to open the game tells me the Packers still don't know who their kicker will be to start the season. Tavecchio doesn't have the leg that Crosby does. So if they keep him to kick FGs, Masthay could end up being the guy to kick off. Personally I'm still not sold that either of them should be the guy. I just don't know who out there would be better.

Offensively the Packers flashed early. Aaron Rodgers led them right down the field for a FG on the first series of the game. He came out after that series (earlier than you'd expect in the 3rd preseason game) and things went downhill from there. The rookie backs struggled but it's hard to equate that to the regular season because the Seahawks were really stacking the line against the run with Harrell in the game. When Vince Young came in there were more lanes as evidenced by Alex Green's 30 yard run. Jarrett Boykin had a great play to get a 1st down, but that was negated by his fumble a few plays earlier. Jermichael Finley only caught 2 of the 6 passes targeting him and was credited with a drop. Basically what I learned from the game was that as long as Rodgers is healthy the Packers will be in every game. The instant he goes down they are in real trouble. Word has just come down that Harrell has been released so Young has won the backup job at least for now. I'm still not sold on him long term but even with him not being in town for training camp, he really outplayed Harrell.

Defensively we say a lot of good things. The pass rush was able to get a lot of pressure last night. Johnny Jolly was disruptive in the middle, Micah Hyde got good pressure rushing from outside and the Clay Matthews Band netted a sack of Russell Wilson. The run defense is still concerting though. The bruising backs of Seattle had a lot of success running inside against the Packers. The wide receivers also had success outside a few times as well. Hyde is always around the ball, but he got burned on a long pass to Doug Baldwin in the first quarter that got the Hawks into field goal position. I'm not all that concerned about this though. As long as Tramon Williams is ready to go wot the opener I think the DBs be ok.

 Having been laid off in my life, I just want to tell Graham Harrell thank you for your time and good luck in your future. It's not easy to hear the words "Thank you for your time, but your services won't be required any longer" and get led out of the building. I hope you come back from it quickly and find something new and fulfilling.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

See, I Told You the Sky Wasn't Falling!

After last week a lot of people were concerned about the Packers and how poor they looked. Tonight things look a little different. Both the offense and defense looked much improved against the Rams. So, is Jekyll or Hyde the true Packers team this year? I also want to talk about a bubble guy who really made an impression on me in tonight's game.

The first team offense didn't score a touchdown but they were able to move the ball up and down the field on the Rams. Aaron Rodgers looked great other than the missed pass to Jermichael Finley. Finley himself looked very good both catching and with a lot of YAC. Jarrett Boykin made a nice play filling in with the first team offense. I can't remember who tweeted it, but someone said that Rodgers just looked very comfortable throwing to Boykin and I agree. He's not a burner but he just seems to make things happen. David Bakhtiari also continued his solid play at LT, even with the one whiff on Quinn.

The best part about watching the first team play tonight was Eddie Lacy. It's nice to watch a guy run through tackles and make the defense pay a price to bring him down. It always makes me wonder why he fell. After watching him play at Alabama and now with Green Bay, how can people think he doesn't have the desire to win? People say he doesn't love the game enough. It sure doesn't look like that when he's mowing linebackers down. The Lacy #27 will definitely be the next Jersey in the Packerken collection.

The defense definitely looked better today too. St. Louis should have scored with their first string in the game, but they chose to practice their forth down offense instead. Still, the Rams runners were unable to get anything done against the first string Packers D. And when you remember that the defensive backfield was minus Tramon Williams and Casey Heyward you might look at the passing numbers for the Rams a little different. Micah Hyde kept flashing tonight as well. He had a nice punt return and looked great blitzing as a corner.

The real pleasure tonight was getting to watch Johnny Jolly be Johnny Jolly tonight. He was so disruptive in the middle. He just knows when to make plays, deflecting a ball that was intercepted. He also made a play on a tipped ball to keep the Rams out of the end zone and made a Madden-esque spin move to get the ball away from the goal line. Jolly was one of my favorites before and I have to admit that I still have a soft spot for him. It's great to see him back on the field and making plays. He's one of those guys that you can see is "just a football player." I'm happier still to see that he really seems to have his life together. I would bet that he made an NFL roster tonight. I'm just hoping that it happens to be the Packers roster.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

So, Is the Sky Really Falling?

Hi guys, it's been a while since I wrote anything so I want to apologize for that. It feels good to have the itch and I'm hopeful that I'll have to scratch it often. Now that's out of the way, let's talk about that horrid game from Friday. Was it really that horrible? I don't think so, here's why.

First off, the first offense moved the ball right down the field. Even though he didn't get credit for it, Starks was in on the 4th down and the Packers should have been up 7-0. That was without Nelson and I'll be even more excited to see the offense with Lacy out there. This tells me as long as Aaron Rodgers is healthy this offense will score points. Of course I'm concerned about how the offensive line will keep Rodgers on his feet, but we saw a positive sign on that too. David Bhaktiari was solid at LT. It's been a few years since the Packers had solid at LT. And as much as I like Marshall Newhouse as a person, I'm happy to hear that Don Barclay is getting reps only at RT now and not C and G. I think over time he will prove to be a better T than Newhouse.

Second, I'm not as concerned about the defense (yet) as the rest of the world. I think it's way too early to be that concerned. With the vanilla defense that was saw Friday it's hard to make an accurate assessment. I think the games Saturday against the Rams and in two weeks against the Seahawks will give us a much better idea of where the team sits. These games are designed to look at individual players performances. That means a lot of guys get put on islands that usually wouldn't, especially the cornerbacks. I think training camp is a better barometer this early.

Finally, it's the first preseason game! Need I remind you about the first game of the 2010 preseason? The Packers lost that one too and Jake Delhomme tore the D up. How did that turn out? I'm not trying to claim that the Pack is headed to the Superbowl again, but just the same, you can't predict the season based on one preseason game. Let's all come back off the cliff, there's no need to jump. Now if we haven't seen improvement by the time the last preseason game comes around,then it might be time to get up on a ledge.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Toughness is the Packers Main Offseason Need

Well, another season has ended in bitter heartbroken sadness. I'd love to blame it all on the Fail Mary but that would be a mistake. As good as the Packers are, they still have several issues. And while I think we saw a lot of good come out of this year (Casey Hayward and DuJuan Harris, come on down!), if the team can't figure out how to get back the toughness they showed in their 2010 run to the Super Bowl they will be doomed to repeat the failures of the past two seasons. To be honest, I don't believe that keeping Dom Capers is the answer to a stronger defense in 2013. But I don't see a change coming in the coaching staff, so lets take a look at the three main places the team needs to add toughness most.

1) Offensive Line - This is a line that has been decimated by injuries. I think if the starters can stay healthy they can regain their from of 3 years ago. Brian Bulaga and Derek Sherrod are the future at tackle for the Packers if they can stay healthy and the guards are both very capable players. Center is the main position of need on the line. Jeff Saturday has already announced his retirement and while Evan Deitrich-Smith is a great swing player I don't think he is the answer in the starting lineup. This is a position that must be filled either in free agency or early in the draft.

2) Defensive Line - It was nice to see B J Raji finally start to show the explosiveness that he had as a rookie. It had been missing for a long time. But Ryan Pickett is aging and I think the D Line has missed that tough presence ever since Cullen Jenkins left following the Super Bowl. Jerel Worthy flashed a bit as a specialist in passing situations but the team still needs more of a rock at defensive end Well, that or a more prototypical 3-4 Nose tackle that would allow for Raji to move outside and be his aggressive pass rushing self.

3) Safety - It's been plain to see that the defensive backfield just has not been close to the same since Nick Collins was injured and forced to retire. Charles Woodson did a fair job of trying to replace him but I just don't think he has the size to be a true aggressive run stuffing, hard hitting safety and I don't think Morgan Burnett fits the bill either. And you just can't have a tough D that scares opponents without a guy in the back that's not afraid to announce his presence with authority.

I also think that OLB is a key need for the team. With Nick Perry coming back and entering his second year with the playbook though I don't think this is as urgent. I think this team is still well inside its championship window. I just hope the coaches are open enough to changing their mindsets on how to go about winning it.