Friday, November 27, 2009

2009 Thanksgiving Day Packers v. Lions Analyzed

The Green Bay Packers extended their winning streak to three games by beating the lowly Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. The NFL clings to certain traditions that seem woefully outdated. One of them is giving the Detroit Lions a home game every Thanksgiving. The Lions have sputtered as a franchise over the last decade under the direction of Matt Millen. Detroit's last win on Thanksgiving came in 2003 and they have lost 8 of their last 9 games on Thanksgiving Day. The only plausible justification besides "tradition" that the NFL can use to rationalize giving Detroit a home game every Thanksgiving is the easy ratings ANY Thanksgiving NFL games generates.

Most American families get together on Thanksgiving Day for a big meal and watch sports in a food induced comma. The higher ups in the NFL know that Detroit has not been competitive in the last decade as explained above but they still schedule them on Thanksgiving. This is genius on the NFL's part. They bank rating because of the day NOT the teams. As a result they have a crappy team (Detroit) host a home game that they actually sell out (few and far between for a number of reasons as of late) and almost all of America tunes in (gives random family members something to talk about).

Enough of my rambling, I am going to mix up the "Top 5 Plays Analyzed" column for the Thanksgiving clash between Green Bay and Detroit. There were "5 microcosms" in this game, both good and bad, that will have a large bearing on the rest of the season for Green Bay. Here are this season's microcosms illuminated through important plays in the Packers/Lions game:

#5) The Ageless Donald Driver:
Green Bay leads 13-7, Green Bay ball on the Detroit 7 yard line, 3rd and 5 with 6:43 left in the 3rd quarter: Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) threw short right to Donald Driver (Green Bay) for 7 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

Coming into the 2009 NFL season, Greg Jennings looked to be the go to wide receiver on the Green Bay Packers. Through 11 games, Driver has emerged as the #1 wide receiver on Green Bay not Greg Jennings. Here is a comparison of Driver's and Jennings's stats for 2009:
- Donald Driver: 53 catches, 845 yards and 5 touchdowns.
- Greg Jennings: 47 catches, 722 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Driver's assent from a 7th round draft pick in the 1999 NFL Draft to a go to wide receiver in the NFL is nothing short of amazing. Check out this video here, if your eyes didn't well then you need to re-evaluate whether you are in fact a caring person. Driver is hands down the most likable person on the Green Bay Packers.

#4) Mike McCarthy's Game Management:
Green Bay Leads 27-7, Green Bay ball on their own 1 yard line, 2nd and 10 with 9:22 left in the fourth quarter: Ryan Grant (Green Bay) ran right to GB -1 for -2 yards, FUMBLES and the ball is RECOVERED by Jordan Dizon (Detroit) at the Green Bay -1 yard line, TOUCHDOWN. Green Bay challenged the fumble ruling, and the play was REVERSED. Ryan Grant (Green Bay) tackled in the End Zone for -1 yards, SAFETY.

This play illustrates the good and the bad for Mike McCarthy. It was a horrible play call by Mike McCarthy from the 1 yard line. Ryan Grant is not fast enough to bump a run outside from the 1 yard line. If that play stood as called on the field the score would have been 27-14 with 9 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. The game would have probably still been out of reach but McCarthy astutely challenged the play and it was reversed. McCarthy later challenged a play that was overturned making him 2 for 2 on Thanksgiving and and 4 of 8 on the season. Although I vehemently disagree with the play call (the bad), McCarthy kept a cool head and challenged the ruling on the field (the good). Something clicked against Dallas a few weeks ago and McCarthy started making in game adjustments that he has not made in the past. Hopefully that means McCarthy is more in tune with the game instead of impersonating Andy Reid (the most clueless coaches in the NFL when it comes to game management).

#3) Aaron Rodgers on 3rd Down:
Detroit leads 7-0, Green Bay ball on their own 25 yard line, 3rd and 11 with 13 second left in the 1st quarter: Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) threw deep right to Donald Driver (Green Bay) to the Detroit 7 yard line for 68 yards.

Aaron Rodgers had ample time to scan the defense before unleashing an absolute bomb (he claimed after the game he threw it as far as he possibly could, roughly 70 yards). Rodgers is the highest rated passer in the NFL on 3rd down and that trend continued on Thanksgiving Day, Green Bay converted 9 of 16 plays. Earlier in the seasons a number of pundits complained that Rodgers was holding onto the ball too long, which lead to a number of unnecessary sacks. Over the last few weeks Rodgers has extended plays with his pocket presence and ability to scramble. What were sacks earlier in the season are turning into completed passes or scrambles for positive yards. If this trend continues, Green Bay might be playing deep into January thanks to Aaron Rodgers.

#2) Issues on Special Teams:
Game tied 0-0, start of the game: Jason Hanson (Detroit) kicks 71 yards from the Detroit 30 yard line to the Green Bay -1 yard line. Jordy Nelson (Green Bay) returned the ball to the Green Bay 21 yard line for 22 yards but FUMBLES, ball RECOVERED by Detroit at the Green Bay 20 yard line.

Here is a quick snap shot of the negative special teams plays against Detroit: 4 penalties, 2 kick off returns of over 30 yards given up, 1 fumble and 1 missed field goal. Those are all unacceptable for a team fighting for a wild card spot. Luckily Green Bay played Detroit this week. The only touchdown Green Bay surrendered was set-up by the short field Detroit (got the ball at the Green Bay 20 yard line) had as a result of Jordy Nelson's fumble to start the game.

Atari Bigby was penalized for one of the most blatant and useless blocks in the back I have ever seen on special teams. Mason Crosby has missed a field goal in 7 of 11 games this season. In fairness, 4 of those came from over 50 yards but the missed field goals, penalties and poor decisions continue on special teams. Green Bay has to stick with their special teams coach Shawn Slocum (assistant under Mike Stock last year...not exactly a strong branch of the Bill Walsh coaching tree) for the rest of the season at this point. Hopefully they get better as a unit but through 11 games this season there is no reason to believe that will happen.

#1) Charles Woodson:
Green Bay leads 27-12, Detroit ball on their own 33 yard line, 1st and 10 with 3:55 left in the 4th quarter: Matthew Stafford (Detroit) threw short right intended for Calvin Johnson (Detroit) INTERCEPTED by Charles Woodson (Green Bay) at the Detroit 38 yard line and returned 38 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.

Charles Woodson has been the best player on the Green Bay Packers in 2009 and is making a strong bid for NFL defensive player of the year. Woodson continued his stellar play on Thanksgiving: 7 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and 1 defensive touchdown.

Despite his impressive play on the field on Thanksgiving, Woodson did something even more impressive off the field on Thanksgiving. Woodson started off Thanksgiving by donating $2 million to the his alma mater, the University of Michigan, to help build a pediatric hospital.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Week #12 of 2009 - Packers v. Lions

The Green Bay Packers look to continue their two game winning streak against Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. Green Bay lost two defensive stalwarts (Aaron Kampman and Al Harris) last week against San Francisco and will have to rebound quickly before their Thanksgiving game in Detroit.

Detroit has their own injury trouble, starting quarterback Matthew Stafford separated his left (non-throwing) shoulder last week against Cleveland and starting wide receiver Calvin Johnson continues to nurse a knee injury. Both Stafford and Johnson are questionable for Thanksgiving Day. Here is a look at the top 10 players that will most likely line up against the Packers this week:

#10 - Gosder Cherilus (RT): is the ideal right tackle because of his size, consistency and strength. Cherilus is one of the only players on Detroit that grades out ahead of his counter part on the Packers (Mark Tauscher, T.J. Lang or Allen Barbre depending on who is the healthiest). Cherilus, a first round pick from the 2008 NFL Draft, looks to be Detroit's long term solution at right tackle.

#9 - Julian Peterson (OLB): leads the team in sacks but is definitely NOT the player he was earlier in his career in Seattle. What Peterson has lost in speed he makes up for with experience. Despite that fact, Peterson has taken on a leadership role that the young Lions (Pettigrew, Levy, Smith, Stafford and Johnson) sorely need.

#8 - Brandon Pettigrew (TE): was selected with one of the draft picks Detroit acquired from Dallas for underachieving wide receiver Roy Williams. Pettigrew is the second leading receiver for the Lions (334 yards and 2 touchdowns) and gives the Lions a dynamic tight end that they were sorely missing over the last decade.

#7 - DeAndre Levy (OLB): a former Wisconsin Badger, Levy was selected in the 3rd round in the 2009 NFL Draft by Detroit. Levy has made an instant impact for Detroit, he is tied for the team lead in tackles for a loss (6) and third on the team in total tackles (47).

#6 - Larry Foote (MLB): the former Pittsburgh Steeler along with Peterson provide quality leadership and production at linebacker. Foote leads Detroit in tackles (71) and is tied with Levy for the team lead in tackles for a loss (6).

#5 - Dominic Raiola (C): a consistent starter for Detroit, Raiola continues to captain the offensive line and has helped rookie Matthew Stafford transition nicely to the NFL. Raiola has gotten into verbal spats with various Green Bay players in the past, look for that trend to continue on Thanksgiving Day.

#4 - Jeff Backus (LT): another consistent starter along the offensive line for Detroit, Backus is not the flashiest left tackle in the NFL but his consistency (started every game at left tackle for Detroit since being drafted in 2001) makes him an indispensable player for Detroit.

#3 - Kevin Smith (RB): the leading rusher and the third leading receiver on Detroit, Smith gives Detroit a quality running back. Smith would have even higher numbers if he played for a team with a better record but instead of complaining Smith continues to go about his job like a consummate professional.

#2 - Matthew Stafford (QB): one of the highest paid quarterbacks in NFL history before ever taking a regular season snap, Stafford won over his teammates last week when he completed a game winning touchdown pass on the last play from scrimmage to beat Cleveland despite having a separated left shoulder. Stafford is routinely singled out as "The Problem" with the compensation given to high draft picks but if Stafford continues to play this way he might be the savior of the Detroit Lions and you can't put a price on that.

#1 - Calvin Johnson (WR): next to Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson is one of the most impressive physical specimens at wide receiver in the NFL (6'5", 236). Despite miss action this season with a knee injury, Johnson leads Detroit in receiving yards, catches and yards per catch.

NOTE: I included Stafford and Johnson despite the fact that they might not even play against Green Bay for two reasons:
#1) Even playing at 50% health, Stafford and Johnson are much better then their back-ups (Culpepper at quarterback and the poo poo platter that is Detroit's back-up wide receivers).
#2) Detroit does NOT have that much talent on the roster. It was a stretch to fill out a top 10 list so if I did not include Stafford and Johnson the list would have been "The Top 8".

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2009 - Top 5 Plays Analyzed - Packers v. 49ers

The Green Bay Packers won an important conference game at Lambeau Field over the San Francisco 49ers but the victory came at a steep price. Green bay lost defensive standouts cornerback Al Harris and outside linebacker Aaron Kampman to season ending knee injuries (source: here). The injuries to Harris and Kampman have both short and long-term implications. With the short week (Green Bay plays Detroit on Thursday) it will be hard to get anyone from outside the organization acclimated in time to contribute against Detroit. For the rest of the season it will be hard for Green Bay to replace their production. Without further ado, here are the five most important plays from the game:

#5) Green Bay leads 23-10, San Francisco ball on their own 2 yard line, 1st and 10 with 13:31 left in the 4th quarter:
Alex Smith (San Francisco) threw deep left intended for Vernon Davis (San Francisco) INTERCEPTED by Nick Collins (Green Bay) at the San Francisco 21 yard line. Nick Collins (Green bay) returned the ball to the San Francisco 11 yard line.

At the time, Collins' interception looked to put game out of reach. The game looked all but over a few plays later when Ryan Grant scored from the 1 inch line to put Green Bay up 30-10. The game looked out of reach at that point until play #4...

#4) Green Bay leads 30-10, Green Bay kicked off to San Francisco with 11:05 left in the 4th quarter:
Mason Crosby's (Green Bay) kick traveled 70 yards from the Green Bay 30 yard line to the San Francisco goal line. Josh Morgan (San Francisco) returns the ball 76 yards to the Green Bay 24 yard line.

After going up 30-10, Green Bay could have put the game out of reach by holding San Francisco to a short return. Instead, the Green Bay Special Teams gave up another big play to put San Francisco in scoring position. San Francisco scored a touchdown a few plays later to keep the game interesting.

#3) Green Bay leads 6-3, Green Bay ball on their own 36 yard line, 1st and 10 with 8:59 left in the 2nd quarter:
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) threw short middle to Greg Jennings (Green Bay) for 64 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

As Green Bay went with an empty backfield (five receivers) I started to yell NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Then Rodgers hit Jennings on a short slant and my displeasure with the formation turned in into jubilation! Rodgers hit Jennings on a short pass and Jennings did the rest. Although the offensive line played better this week against San Francisco's stout front seven, leaving Rodgers without any blockers in the backfield is always a risky proposition. Remember the first play of the 4th quarter, Rodgers got sacked for a 12 yard loss when Mike McCarthy called another play with an empty backfield.

#2) Green Bay leads 23-3, San Francisco ball on the Green Bay 38 yard line, 2nd and 20 with 7:42 left the 3rd quarter:
Alex Smith (San Francisco) threw incomplete deep right to Issac Bruce (San Francisco). Aaron Kampman (Green Bay) injured on the play.

Kampman was inactive against Dallas last week because of the concussion he sustained against Tampa Bay in week 8. Kampman returned to the lineup this week and made an instant impact with 4 tackles and a sack (the sack came in a 3-point stance NOT a 2-point stance) before getting injured. Yes, Kampman looked out of sorts as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 but Green Bay is clearly a better team with him in the lineup. With Kampman most likely lost for the season, it leaves two open questions:

#1) Who will play in place of Kampman?
Luckily Green Bay has quality depth at the linebacker positions. Although hampered by a broken hand, Brandon Chillar has played a number of different positions for Green Bay. From back up middle linebacker to starting safety in the "Big Okie" formation, Chillar has played everywhere on defense for Green Bay. Now Chillar might be asked to move to outside linebacker. If not, Green Bay has a number of back-up outside linebackers: Brady Poppinga (former starter), Jeremy Thompson (making transition from defensive end to outside linebacker) and Brad Jones (rookie that played outsider linebacker 3-4 in college). Another crazy theory would be to give A.J. Hawk a look at outside linebacker. Moving Hawk outside would allow Brandon Chillar and Desmond Bishop to split snaps opposite Nick Barnett at middle linebacker. As you can see, Green Bay has options at linebacker.

#2) How will this injury impact Kampman's future?
Kampman is scheduled to become a free agent in the off-season. Unfortunately for Kampman, he is in a similar situation to Mark Tauscher last season. Tauscher tore his ACL on December 7th, 2009 against Houston. Tauscher was only able to return to football action on October 1st, 2009, a little less than 10 months after he tore his ACL (the normal recovery time for a torn ACL is 8 to 12 months). As a result, Kampman will most likely not be healthy in time for training camp in August of 2010. Another layer of complexity is that the NFL will most likely be uncapped for the 2010 season. Green Bay has three options: place the franchise or transition tag on Kampman, allow Kampman to leave via free agency or apply the "wait and see" approach to gauge Kampman's health before offering him a contract.

#1) Green Bay leads 30-10, San Francisco ball on the Green bay 24 yard line, 1st and 10 with 10:52 left in the 4th quarter:
Alex Smith (San Francisco) threw incomplete short left to Frank Gore (San Francisco). Al Harris (Green Bay) was injured during the play.

If Harris is in fact lost for the season, Green Bay will have 4 cornerbacks on the active roster: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush and Brandon Underwood. Green Bay also has Trevor Ford on the practice squad. The most logical move with a short week would be to promote Ford from the practice squad to the active roster. Ford has a similar back story to Brandon Underwood. Ford started his collegiate career at a national powerhouse (Florida State while Underwood went to Ohio State) but transferred to smaller school (Troy while Underwood went to Cincinnati) where he finished his college career on a positive note. Ford joined the Packers as a non-drafted free agent on May 4th, 2009. After Green Bay plays Detroit, they have 10 days before their Monday Night clash with Baltimore which gives management a chance to assess the free agent cornerback market.

Final Thought:
The Green bay Packers are returning the mystic to Lambeau Field. Back to back wins against Dallas and San Francisco gives Green Bay momentum and a share of the wild card lead as they head into their clash with Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. Check back Wednesday for a preview of the Green Bay/Detroit Thanksgiving Day Game.

Week #11 of 2009 - Packers v. 49ers

The Packers are coming off a HUGE conference win at home over the Cowboys. This week the Packers host the hot and cold San Francisco 49ers who haven't beat the Packers since the T.O. crying catch in the playoffs in 1999. Here is a look at the top 10 players that will line up against the Packers this week (note that Nate Clements would definitely be in the list if he were healthy):

#10 - Barry Sims (LT): he stepped in for Joe Staley and has been the only consistent contributor on the offensive line for the 49ers the last few weeks. A dinosaur for NFL lineman (34 years old), Sims is turning back the clock in a big way for the 49ers.

#9 - Manny Lawson (OLB): a physical freak, Lawson provides speed at the outside linebacker position. The biggest knock on Lawson is his inability to cover in space but with his speed allows him to make-up for his coverage deficiencies.

#8 - Michael Lewis (SS): a big thumper at safety, Lewis provides a physical presence in the secondary. If Finley (assuming he is healthy) gets into one on one situations it should be interesting to see them battle against each other.

#7 - Alex Smith (QB): after stating the season as the back-up quarterback to Shaun Hill, Smith came in a few weeks ago to ignite the 49ers and win back the starting QB job. In the 2005 NFL Draft, Smith was taken 1st overall over Aaron Rodgers while Mike McCarthy was the 49ers offensive coordinator. Smith was expected to start right away while Rodgers had a the luxury of sitting behind a hall of fame quarterback. 4 1/2 years later the Packers are in a much better position with Rodgers then the 49ers with Smith. As a point of reference here are the rest of the quarterbacks taken in the 2005 NFL Draft: Jason Campbell (1st round), Charlie Frye (3rd round), Andrew Walter (3rd round), David Greene (3rd round), Kyle Orton (4th round), Stefan LeFors (4th round), Dan Orlovsky (5th round), Adrian McPherson (5th round), Cleveland’s Derek Anderson (6th round), James Kilian (7th round), Matt Cassel (7th round) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (7th round). The 49ers would much rather have at least four guys from the aforementioned list (Rodgers, Campbell, Orton and Cassell) and settle for a number of the other quarterbacks that were taken later in the draft (Walter, Orlovsky, Anderson and Fitzpatrick) instead of drafting Smith 1st overall. The 49ers missed on a bunch of studs that went in the top 15 picks of the 2005 NFL Draft because they took Smith. I recommend you skip this list if you are a 49ers fan, here are the studs from the top 15 picks in the 2005 NFL Draft: Ronnie Brown, Braylon Edwards, DeMarcus Ware, Shawn Merriman and Jamal Brown.

#6 - Michael Crabtree (WR): almost a Green Bay Packer, Crabtree was taken one pick after the Packers selected defensive tackle B.J. Raji out of Boston College #9 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft. Ted Thompson has always taken the "best player available" in his mind. In moving to the 3-4, it was prudent of Thompson to pass on Crabtree with the depth the Packers have at wide receiver (Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones) and nab a potential building block on the defensive side of the ball. After holding out for more money, Crabtree finally signed with the 49ers in early October. Since joining the team, Crabtree has assumed the #1 receiver position.

#5 - Justin Smith (RE): the former Cincinnati Bengal provides the ideal defensive end in Mike Singletary's 3-4 scheme. Smith is not the flashiest player in the NFL but he eats up offensive lineman which allows linebackers opportunities to capitalize.

#4 - Vernon Davis (TE): taken one pick after A.J. Hawk in the 2007 NFL Draft, Davis is becoming an elite tight end under Mike Singletary after underachieving his first few seasons in San Francisco. Singletary sent Davis to the locker room during a game last season because of attitude issues. Since then, Davis has answered the bell becoming a team captain and leader for the 49ers.

#3 - Aubrayo Franklin (NT): very similar to Jay Ratliff (Cowboys), Franklin is a perfect nose tackle for the 3-4 defense. Similar to Justin Smith, Franklin does not put up gaudy statistics (24 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 4 tackles for a loss and 1 interception) but gives linebackers opportunities to make plays.

#2 - Frank Gore (RB): although he has been dinged up a little this season, when healthy Gore has top 5 running back in the NFL potential. Packers' fans will remember Gore breaking off a 72 yards in 2006. If the Packers can bottle up Gore, the 49ers become very one dimensional. That will allow Dom Capers to send some exotic blitzes and keep Smith off balance all day.

#1 - Patrick Willis (MLB): possibly the best middle linebacker in the NFL. Willis is following in the footsteps of his head coach leading the team in almost every defensive statistic (88 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions and 1 defensive touchdown.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Adios Brian Brohm...

Brian Brohm went back to Louisville for his senior season instead of entering the 2007 NFL Draft. Most draft experts disagreed with the decision at the time and their displeasure was validated by how Brohm's senior season at Louisville played out.

In fairness to Brohm, Lousiville lost their head coach and noted offensive genius Bobby Petrino to the Atlanta Falcons (all the more reason to enter the draft though Brohm). Instead of ending up as a potential top 10 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Brohm slipped all the way to the end of the 2nd round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

In Brohm's first training camp with the Green Bay Packers he lost the back-up quarterback job to Matt Flynn, a 7th round draft pick from the same draft. Brohm was so bad in his second training camp with the Packers (when he wore a glove as if that would improve things) that they waived Brohm at the end of the preseason, essentially giving up on a second round draft pick after little less than a year.

Even worse for Brohm, no team claimed him so he signed with the Packers' practice squad. Brohm's Packer career came to an end this week when he signed a two year contract with the rebuilding Buffalo Bills. The Packers offered a similar two year contract but Brohm elected to join the Bills given their unrest at quarterback.

This all begs the question: is Justin Harrell or Brian Brohm the biggest draft bust of the Ted Thompson era?

Justin Harrell Draft:
#16 - Green Bay Packers - Justin Harrell (DT): only appeared in 3 games during his senior season at Tennessee because of torn bicep...seems like a red flag when drafting a player #16 overall right? Harrell appeared in 13 games for the Packers over two seasons, starting only 2 contests. The Packers placed Harrell on injured reserve at the end of the 2009 training camp.

#17 - Denver Broncos - Jarvis Moss (DE): appeared in 21 games, starting only 1 contest. Unfortunately for the Broncos, Moss has been almost as disappointing as Harrell.

#18 - Cincinnati Bengals - Leon Hall (CB): started 35 of 41 games. Looks like the cornerback of the future for Bengals.

#19 - Tennessee Titans - Michael Griffin (S): started 34 of 41 and made the Pro Bowl in 2008. Similar to Hall, looks like a franchise defensive back.

#20 - New York Giants - Aaron Ross (CB): has a career arc similar to Harrell/Moss as oppose to Hall/Girffin...shoot.

#21 - Jacksonville Jaguars - Reggie Nelson (S): started 37 of 38 games. Similar to Hall and Girffin, looks like a franchise defensive back.

Analysis: with all of the inconsistent and injury riddled play of Atari Bigby the past two seasons, the Packers would be ecstatic to have Griffin or Nelson. With how great Harris and Woodson have been at cornerback, they are both in their early 30s and the only other viable cornerback on the Packers' roster is Tramon Williams so the Packers would also welcome Hall with open arms. Even Moss and Ross have given their teams more production than Harrell...see how horrible of a pick that is turning out to be?

Brian Brohm Draft:
#55 - Baltimore - Ray Rice (RB): not only their starting running back but Rice looks to be the Ravens' franchise running back. Along with Michael Oher getting picked a few spots ahead of Clay Matthew in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft, the Ravens drafted two franchise players just ahead of the Packers in the last two drafts.

#56 - Green Bay Packers - Brian Brohm (QB): do I have to bash him anymore?

#57 - Miami Dolphins - Chad Henne (QB): starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins...Oh Dang.

#58 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Dexter Jackson (WR): cut by the Buccaneers heading into the 2009 seasons...misery love company Brohm.

#59 - Indianapolis Colts - Mike Pollak (C): started at right guard for 20 of 25 games for the Colts.

#60 - Green Bay Packers - Patrick Lee (CB): played 5 games as a rookie but finished the 2008 season on injured reserved. Picked up where he left off in 2009 by starting the season on injured reserve with Mr. Justin Harrell.

#61 - Dallas Cowboys - Martellus Bennett (TE): a physical specimen for a tight end. The Packers snapped up a similar physical specimen at tight end in Jermichael Finley in the 3rd round so it makes missing Bennett not that big of a deal.

#62 - New England Patriots - Terrence Wheatley (CB): about as productive as Patrick Lee...obviously not a compliment.

#63 - New York Giants - Terrell Thomas (CB): started all 9 games this season for the New York Giants. Definitely an upgrade over Lee and Wheatley.

Analysis: it is fairly obvious the Packers would rather have drafted Brohm than Henne. That said, when the Packers drafted Brohm they had just given the keys to the franchise to Aaron Rodgers so why take another young QB in the second round? Why not bring in a veteran back-up quarterback? With all of the Packers' trouble on the offensive line the real miss by taking Brohm is Pollak.

Verdict: I know it is easy to look back and question draft picks. The only problem with the Harrell/Brohm picks are that they were questionable at the time. As the last few seasons played out, the picks look downright idiotic. Since Harrell has an outside chance of playing for the Packers again it makes the Brohm pick worse, but not by much. For a general manager that wants to build through the draft as opposed to free agency, missing on both Harrell and Brohm is going to plague the Packers for a number of years.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Top 5 Plays from Week #10 of 2009 - Packers/Cowboys

The Green Bay Packers got a much needed win over the Dallas Cowboys. Here are the five plays that made the difference:

#5) Packers lead 3-0, Dallas ball on their own 27 yard line, 4th and 19 with 13:29 left in the 3rd quarter:
Mat McBriar (Dallas) punted 47 yards to the Green Bay 26 yard line. Tramon Williams (Green Bay) returned the punt 28 yards to the Dallas 46 yard line. Mat McBriar (Cowboy punter) forced a fumble that was recovered by L.P. LaDouceur (Dallas) at the Dallas 44 yard line. Green Bay challenged the fumble ruling and the play was reversed.

#4) Game tied 0-0, Dallas ball on their own 28 yard line, 1st and 10 with 4:03 left in the 2nd quarter:
Tony Romo (Dallas) passed deep middle to Roy Williams (Dallas) to the Green Bay 30 yard line for 42 yards. Charles Woodson (Green Bay) forced a fumble that was recovered by Clay Matthews (Green Bay) at the Green Bay 31 yard line.

#3) Packers lead 10-0, Packers ball on Dallas 2 yard line, 3rd and 2 with 10:53 left in the 4th quarter:
Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) passes short left to Spencer Havner (Green Bay) for 2 yards for a touchdown.

#2) Packers lead 17-0, Dallas ball on Green Bay 1 yard line, 1st and goal with 6:03 left in the 4th quarter:
Tony Romo (Dallas) passed short right intended for Jason Witten (Dallas) intercepted by Charles Woodson (Green Bay) at the Green Bay 1 yard line. Charles Woodson (Green Bay) returned the ball to the Green Bay 4 yard line.

#1) Packers lead 10-0, Dallas ball on their own 32 yard line, 2nd and 6 with 11:52 left in the 4th quarter:
Tony Romo (Dallas) sacked and stripped at the Dallas 25 yard line for -7 yards by Charles Woodson (Green Bay). Ball is touched at the Dallas 20 yard line. Ball recovered by Clay Matthews (Green Bay) at the Dallas 7 yard line. Clay Matthews pushed out of bounds at the Dallas 3 yard line.

Journal Sentinel beat writer Greg A. Bedard answered questions following the Packers' game against the Cowboys Sunday, he was nice enough to take a question from me about my #1 rated play, here is the exchange:

Q: Cheesehead Sports Nut, Chicago, IL - Did the Cowboys get hosed on Romo's fumble that Jones looked to recover before being stripped (by Jolly I think) and recovered by Matthews? I understand that some plays are unchallengeable but doesn't making that unchallengeable seem silly with everything else that can be challenged?

A: Greg A. Bedard - They did get hosed, but the rule was used (or not used) correctly. I explained it in the post-game blog. Reminds me of the tuck rule: dumb rules that don't make much practical sense. Woodson was involved with both, and came out ahead on this one. Gotta run. Thanks for the chat. Cya around the blog.

If you are a Packer Insider, click here to view Greg's entire chat following the Packers/Cowboys game.

Brandon Jennings Drops 55

The NBA has not seen a scoring barrage like this from a rookie since the late 1960's. Here is a breakdown of the most points scored in a game by a rookie in NBA history:
58: Wilt Chamberlain (January 1960 and February 1960).
57: Rick Barry (December 1965).
56: Earl Monroe (February 1968).
55: Brandon Jennings (Saturday, November 14, 2009), Wilt Chamberlain (November 1959) and Elgin Baylor (February 1959).

Jennings became the third player in Milwaukee Bucks history to score more than 50 points in a game, joining Michael Redd and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Jennings' 55 points is the second highest single game point total in franchise history, Michael Redd holds the record with 57. You have to see it to believe it, check out Jennings' shot chart: here.

The Bucks are only seven games into the season but Brandon Jennings is forcing the national media to cover a team that most writers picked to be the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks lucked out starting with a relatively light schedule to start the season; the Bucks are tied with Indiana for the least games played. The Bucks are also one of only four teams to be undefeated at home so far this season (others are Atlanta, Phoenix and Denver). There is a long NBA season ahead but if Brandon Jennings is involved in 75 more games then people are going to tune in just in case.

2009 Green Bay Packers Middseason Report

The NFL Trade Deadline passed a few weeks ago so the Packers have to play with their current roster the rest of the season unless they cut/place someone on the injured reserve and sign a new player. As a result, I thought I would rank the players on the Packers' current 53-man roster from #53 to #1 based solely on their performance this season and what upside they might have for the rest of the season:

To quote Herm Edwards, the most unintentionally funny head coach of all-time, "you play to win the game!" Unfortunately for these guys, they have not played very much...

#53 - Breno Giacomini (T): he only suited up week eight and fortunately did not play. The Italian Stallion is buried deep on the Packers' depth chart for good reason.

#52 - Evan Dietrich-Smith (C/G): edged out the Italian Stallion by one spot because he suited up for five games, although has yet to see any game action.

#51 - Biren Ealy (WR): he did not join the Packers organization until week eight when he was signed to the practice squad. Last week Ealy was active because of all the injuries the Packers have at wide receiver. Coming into the season who would have thought guys like this would be on the active roster when the Packers cut Ruvell Martin at the end of the preseason?

#50 - Jake Allen (WR): spent the first seven weeks on the practice squad, was active week eight and inactive week nine with an injury. Please come back soon Jordy...we need you!

#49 - Jarius Wynn (DE): after being active for the first four games of the season, Wynn has been inactive the last four games. Let's just move on.

At this point the sample size is too small to make a very informed judgment on these guys...

#48 - Matt Giordano (S): signed week three after the Packers finally gave up on Aaron Rouse, the most over-hyped underachiever of the Ted Thompson Era not named Justin Harrell. Another question TT, would you rather have Anthony Smith (a guy versed in the 3-4 that you tried to pick up on the waiver wire a few weeks back) or Giordano?

#47 - Brandon Underwood (CB): a promising project at cornerback (wish that could be said for injury reserve main stay and former second round pick Patrick Lee). Underwood was a highly recruited prospect out of high school. He went to Ohio State but had some academic trouble. Underwood resurfaced at Cincinnati and was All-Big-Easy at safety in 2008. Only time will tell if he turns out to be a 6th round steal.

#46 - Jeremy Thompson (OLB): a converted defensive end but similar to Aaron Kampman, he looks out of place at outside linebacker. This is a good example of where the Packers would be better off with having a veteran (why didn't the Packers pursue Jason Taylor?) instead of the inexperienced Thompson.

#45 - Brad Jones (OLB): looks to possibly start this weekend with all of the injury trouble at outside linebacker (Kampman-concussion and Poppinga-leg injury). Part of the reason Mike McCarthy said that Jones is ready to start is "his good play on special teams." Well that is encouraging since special teams have been horrible all season. What qualifies as good on special teams? Only a few penalties? Only a few missed tackles?

#44 - Michael Montgomery (DE): has had minimal impact thus far. Montgomery's body type does not seem ideal for the 3-4, only time will tell if Montgomery is in the 2010 plans (why didn't the Packers pursue Vonnie Holiday?).

#43 - Korey Hall (FB): after starting week one, Hall has had trouble staying on the field. He has been inactive the last four weeks and with the emergence of Quinn Johnson it is surprising the Packers have not opted to put him on the injured reserve list since the Packers have to be one of the only teams in the NFL to carry three running backs and three full backs.

#42 - Quinn Johnson (FB): Hall's injury has given Johnson a chance to play the last four weeks. Johnson has been compared to a sledgehammer more than once since the Packers drafted him in the fifth round of the 2009 NFL Draft. If the Sledgehammer wants to play more he will have to make better plays then the wild juggling catch against the Queens.

These guys take the special out of special teams...

#41 - Jeremy Kapinos (P): Ron Wolf admitted that one of the biggest errors he made as a general manager was letting Craig Hentrich leave in free agency in 1997. Hentrich is obviously not Ray Guy but since the Packers let Hentrich leave the list of starting punters is ugly: Sean Landeta, Louie Aguiar, Josh Bidwell, Bryan Barker, B.J. Sander, Jon Ryan, Derrick Frost and Jeremy Kapinos...yikes.

#40 - Mason Crosby (K): for some reason general mangers always opt for cheaper place kickers. Quick question TT, with $15 million in cap space would you rather have Ryan Longwell or Mason Crosby? How about the two big kicks Crosby missed on the road last season against the Queens and Bears. Instead of finishing 6-10, the Packers finish 8-8. That does not get the Packers in the playoffs but it would have been a nice building block going into the offseason.

#39 - Brett Goode (LS): I put Goode ahead of Crosby and Kapinos not because Goode has played better but more as a slap in the face to the aforementioned underachieving Corsby and Kapinos.

Just not that good...

#38 - Jarrett Bush (CB): he was a restricted free agent in the off-season. The Tennessee Titans offered Bush a three-year, $4.5 million contract. Unfortunately the Packers matched that offer sheet. Since then, the only thing Bush has lead the Packers in this season is penalties on special teams (three).

#37 - Derrick Martin (S): instead of keeping Anthony Smith, the Packers decided to address their issues at safety by trading back-up tackle Tony Moll for Martin. So far Martin has been just as horrible as Bush. Anthony Smith sure looks to be an upgrade over Bush and Martin doesn't it? So instead of having Moll and Smith, the Packers have Martin and Giordano...good Teddy, good (yes that is a Caddyshack reference).

#36 - Brandon Jackson (RB): he has been hurt most of the season (inactive the first four weeks of the season) and when he got his chance made very little impact (12 rushes, 37 yards and one fumble). With Good Ole Rockyman in the fold, Jackson is looking like a second round bust.

#35 - Daryn Colledge (G/T): speaking of second round busts, Mr. Alaska has had a rough tenure in Green Bay. When Ted Thompson drafted Mr. Alaska in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft, Packers fans thought they were looking at the guard of the future. TT was hoping Colledge would help Packer fans forget that he ran Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera out of town. Three and a half years into his Green Bay career, Mr. Alaska has been marginal at best and is playing the rest of the season for a contract offer since he is a restricted free agent this off-season.

#34 - Donald Lee (TE): one play sums up Lee's season. On fourth down, with the Packers still in the game against the Queens in Minnesota, Rodgers found Lee at the last second...Lee flat out dropped it. Lee is over worked, playing almost every down but that does not excuse his drops this season. Jermichael Finley's injury gave Lee a chance to step up, instead another TE that is ranked much better than Lee made the most of the opportunity.

I wish it were 2004 not 2009...

#33 - Mark Tauscher (T): he is only 11 months removed from ACL surgery. Tausher finally played against the Buccaneers but was unable to finish the game because he re-injured his surgically repaired knee. Tauscher provides a nice veteran presence on the offensive line if he can stay healthy.

#32 - Ahman Green (RB): what a way to become the Packers' all-time leading rusher, a short run in a game that the Packers lost to the 0-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers...I am sure that is the way Jim Taylor always thought he would lose his record.

How does the practice squad feel Brian Brohm?

#31 - Matt Flynn (QB): sort of speculative at this point. Flynn won a national championship at LSU the year after Jamarcus Russell left for the NFL. At this point most NFL teams would rather have Flynn (7th round pick) instead of Russell (First Pick of the 2007 NFL Draft) or Brohm (2nd round pick in the same draft the Packers took Flynn and one pick ahead of Chad Henne...ouch). Let's hope the only time we see Flynn playing this season is when the Packers are up a bunch.

Who will end the season as the Packers' starting right tackle you ask...

#30 - Allen Barbre (T): marginal at best this season, Barbre does not look like the Packers' right tackle of the future. If Tauscher, Barbre and Lang are healthy I would have Barbre #3 on the depth chart, which is how confident I am in Barbre's ability.

#29 - T.J. Lang (T): since taking over as General Manager of the Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson has drafted 10 offensive lineman in five years: Junius Coston (5th round '05), William Whitticker (7th round '05), Daryn Colledge (2nd round '06), Jason Spitz (3rd round '06), Tony Moll (5th round '06), Allen Barbre (4th round '07), Josh Sitton (4th round '08), Breno Giacomini (5th round '08), T.J. Lang (4th round '09) and Jamon Meredith (5th round '09) source: here. Five are on the 53-man roster, one is one injured reserve and four no longer collect a paycheck from the Green Bay Packers. When all the dust settles Lang might be the best of the group (that isn't really saying much though) although he looks to project better as a guard. Hopefully he is the starting left guard of the 2010 Green Bay Packers in place of Mr. Alaska.

The injury bug is an ugly thing...

#28 - B.J. Raji (DE/NT): after being inactive for the first two games of the season, Raji has started to settle into the defensive rotation. His stats are not that overwhelming (11 tackles with 1 tackle for a loss) but part of that has to do with his tender ankle. The Packers drafted Raji 9th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft because of how much space he takes up. The last few weeks Raji has started to do that on the field, which is nice (yes that is another Caddyshack reference).

#27 - Jordy Nelson (WR): after having a nice start to the season, Jordy was hurt against the Detroit Lions and has missed the last three games. Nelson was competing with James Jones for the third receiver spot as well as serving as the Packers' main return man after the Packers lost Will Blackmon to a season ending knee injury in week #4 against the Minnesota Vikings. Once Nelson returns to the lineup it will help the Packers open up their playbook with 4 and 5 wide receiver sets. That return hopefully comes this weekend against the Cowboys...come on Jordy we need you!

#26 - Atari Bigby (S): after a promising season in 2007, Bigby only appeared in 7 games in 2008. Bigby started week 1 but was sidelined with an injury for the next 3 weeks. Since returning from injury, Bigby is having trouble getting acclimated to the new 3-4 defense. Bigby needs to show he can stay healthy before the Packers make a long term commitment.

Are we looking at Keith Jackson and Mark Chumura circa 1996 minus the prom party?

#25 - Spencer Havner (TE): announcers love to say "player x is just a football player." No kidding, we are watching football players play football. The only guy I will give a pass to announcers using that cliche on is Havner. Originally an outside linebacker, Havner made the Packers' roster through his versatility. The Packers converted Havner to TE and asked him to serve as their special teams ace. Against the Cleveland Browns earlier this season Havner showed why the Packers covet his versatility. Havner caught a short pass and turned it into a long touchdown. On the next kickoff, Havner made the special teams tackle. So yes Troy Aikman, Spencer Havner is a football player.

#24 - Jermichael Finley (TE): a freak of nature and avid tweet. Finley had a breakout game against the Minnesota Vikings but an injury against the Cleveland kept Finley inactive the last two weeks. If healthy, Finley has a chance to have a huge second half of the 2009 season.

You start but does that mean you are good?

#23 - John Kuhn (FB): he is trying to harness his inner William "Floyd" Henderson with decent results so far. Besides his special teams error last week that lead to a blocked punt against the Buccaneers, Kuhn has been consistent all season in place of the injured Hall.

#22 - A.J. Hawk (ILB): for the rest of the season the paper needs to kill Hawk for how bad he is playing. If they do, by the end of the season he might be a pro bowler. Players love to say they never read what the press write about them but the week after Wisconsin papers speculated about Hawk possibly having to take a pay cut to return to the Packers in 2010 he had his best game of the season. Hawk hasn't come anywhere close to living up to being the 5th player selected in the 2006 NFL Draft but he has been playing better each week. In fact he got totally hosed on a holding call last week against the Buccaneers to negate a great athletic play by him on a potentially game changing interception.

They are solid but will they every be better than that?

#21 - James Jones (WR): with Nelson out, Jones has been a very consistent 3rd wide receiver (11 receptions for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns). He joins a long list of quality non-first round wide receivers that TT has drafted (Terrence Murphy, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson).

#20 - Desmond Bishop (ILB): how is he not on the field more often? Bishop had arguably the best preseason of any defensive player on the Packers not named Charles Woodson. That has translated into situation playing time now that Nick Barnett is fully recovered from his knee injury.

#19 - Brady Poppinga (OLB): probably a little too high on the list but who doesn't like to say his name...Poppppppppinga! With the emergence of Clay Matthews, Poppppppppinga's minutes will be limited the rest of the way but he provides a solid veteran presence on the defense. Speaking of solid veteran presence...

#18 - Brandon Chillar (ILB): unfortunately Chillar broke his hand against the Queens. That means Chillar will have to play the rest of the season with a club on his hand. Chillar has given the Packers versatility on defense by playing safety in the Big Okie set. With his hand injury the Big Okie might get scrapped for the rest of the season though.

#17 - Tramon Williams (CB): a very talented nickel back with a bright future in Green Bay. Williams been lucky to learn under one of the most talented corner back tandems in the NFL for three plus seasons.

Holdovers from the previous management regime that have played a huge role...

#16 - Scott Wells (C): after getting left out of the starting line-up in week one, Wells just went about his business and did not make any waves. After taking over as a starter in week three he seized the opportunity and performed fairly well consider how atrocious the Packers' offensive line has been as a whole this season. Without Wells the Packers would be starting the #52 man on the list (Evan Dietrich-Smith) so yes, Wells has played an important role this season.

#15 - Cullen Jenkins (DE): after publicly criticizing his role in the new defense a few weeks ago, Jenkins backed off those claims and kept a lower profile. Jenkins body type makes him a more ideal fit for the 4-3 defense but he has shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season (remember his pick against the Lions) marred with long bouts of inconsistency (only two games with more than two tackles). Jenkins needs a big second half of the season for the Packers to win games.

#14 - Chad Clifton (T): after getting over shoulder, knee and thumb injuries from last season Clifton looked to regain his form as one of the best left tackles in the NFC. Instead Clifton got hurt against the Bengals and has been shuffled in and out of the line-up. Clifton's play has been inconsistent since re-joining the starting line-up. In a game earlier this season he lined up up too far off the line twice, which some scouts attributed to him trying to compensate for his injury and diminished play. The Packers will only go as far as their offensive line takes them. Clifton, the anchor of the offensive line at left tackle, needs to regain his 2007 form for the Packers to win in 2009.

#13 - Aaron Kampman (OLB): he seems like a fish out of water in the 3-4 defense. After registering the second most sacks in the NFL from 2006-2008, Kampman looks like a shell of himself. Besides that, Kampman suffered a concussion last week in Tampa Bay. There is no reason to rush Kampman back, as research shows it is the second concussion within a few weeks of the first concussion that does much more lasting damage. When Kampman does return, give him a few snaps at defensive end. Yes he is a little undersized but Kampman has made a successful career as an under sized, under appreciated player.

Just give him the damn ball...

#12 - Greg Jennings (WR): Jennings has not been his old self for over a year. He is not the tallest or fastest wide receiver in the NFL but he is one of the most explosive wide receivers when he catches the ball on a short slant. Jennings currently ranks 24th in receiving yards with 498. For the Packers to be successful in the second half of the season Jennings must get more balls thrown to him.

This famous movie exchange sums it all up:
- Game Show Host: "Would you like the Snapper or the box?"
- Johnny Jolly: "The box, I'll take the box!"
- Game Show Host: "What's in the box...nothing...absolutely so stupid!!!!"

#11 - Johnny Jolly (DE/DT): on talent alone Jolly should be higher on the list. He perfectly read a screen earlier in the season and intercepted the pass to save a sure touchdown. For every play like that though, he head butts a player for a personal foul that turns a field goal into a touchdown (remember the Queens game).

Finally the Top Ten...

#10 - Josh Sitton (G): it feels weird to put an offensive lineman in the top ten, which is an indictment on the Packers in general, but Sitton deserves it. He has been the only guy on the Packers' offensive line that has played consistently well all season. At least the future looks bright for one of the five positions on the Packers' offensive line.

#9 - Nick Collins (S): talent has never been the issue, why else would the Packers let Collins take Leroy Butler's jersey number? Most of that talent has translated into production. Collins is a restricted free agent this offseason so he is playing for a huge contract in the next eight games.

#8 - Al Harris (CB): joined the Packers in 2003 via trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. Harris has been on the end of playoff highs and lows for the Packers. For playoff lows, Plaxico "Shooter McGavin" Burress absolutely torched Harris on the frozen tundra in the 2008 NFC Championship Game. For playoff highs, Harris famously picked off Matt "We'll take the ball and we're gonna score" Hasslebeck for a pick-six to beat the Seahawks in overtime. Harris is getting up there in age (34) but keeps himself in impeccable shape to help form one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL.

#7 - Ryan Grant (RB): check back next week for a breakdown of how Ryan Grant and his agent fleeced the Packers for what might turn out to be a worse contract then Joe Johnson. In the mean time keep in mind that Grant has 188 yards against the Bears, Bengals and Vikings (twice) while he has 433 against the Rams, Lions, Browns and Buccaneers. May be he shouldn't be ranked #7...since he racked up all of his yards against the pansies of the NFL.

#6 - Clay Matthews (OLB): since taking over at starting ROLB in week four Matthews has been a on a tear. Matthews is one of the only players to provide consistent pressure on the Packers' defense. So far this season Matthews has registered 22 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss and 3.0 sacks. Matthews is helping people forget that Michael Oher (Peter King's mid-season All Pro pick at right tackle) could possibly be wearing a Green Bay Packers uniform.

#5 - Ryan Pickett (DT): he has not put up huge stats but he has anchored the defensive line in their transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4. Nose Tackle is a thankless job in the 3-4 but Big Daddy Pickett has just gone about his business without complaining. Big Daddy is a big reason why the Packers' defense has allowed just 3.47 yards per rush (2nd best in the NFL). Finally, Big Daddy leads the Packers' defensive line with a tackle every 7.2 snaps.

#4 - Nick Barnett (ILB): coming off season ending knee surgery the Packers training staff was cautious with Barnett. That plan seems to be paying off this season. Although Barnett is probably better suited to play in the 4-3 defense (sense a theme here) he has made the transition to the 3-4. Barnett is leading the team with 51 and 6 tackles for a loss.

#3 - Aaron Rodgers (QB): he was Ted Thompson's first draft pick as General Manager of the Green bay Packers. Rodgers also has the unlucky distinction of being the quarterback to take over for Brett Favre. Throughout the entire situation Rodgers has handled himself with class. Even this season as the Packers' offensive line has failed him on a number of occasions Rodgers has not publicly criticized his teammates. Rodgers ranks fifth in the NFL in passer rating (103.3). Despite the impressive offensive numbers, Rodgers will ultimately be judged by his record. If he goes 6-2 in the second half of the season all is well in Green Bay. If he goes out.

#2 - Donald Driver (WR): one of the most likable guys in the NFL. Driver leads the team with 37 receptions, 613 yards and 4 touchdowns. This season Driver also broke the record for most receptions in Packers' history. Driver is on record as saying he wants to play for another four/five years. If Driver keeps producing like he has so far this season, the Packers will oblige and keep Driver around as long as he wants.

#1 - Charles Woodson (CB): the second best free agent signing in Packers' history (obviously behind Reggie White) has produced on the field for the Packers from day one since arriving from Oakland. TT offered Woodson more money then any other team in the NFL (seven year, worth potentially $52.7 million) and it has been money well spent. Woodson is fifth on the team in tackles with 35, second on the team in tackles for a loss with 6 and first on the team in interceptions with 4 (1 was returned for a touchdown).

Please feel free to comment or email me ( your thoughts on the rankings.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Preview of Week #10 of the 2009 NFL Season - Packers v. Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys come into Green Bay as a three point favorite but have much more momentum then the Packers. Dallas started off their season beating the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, something the Packers could not muster last week even though the Bucs were 0-7. The Cowboys dropped their home opener in the new Jerry Dome to the Giants. Then the Cowboys rebounded with a win at home over the Carolina Panthers. Instead of building on their momentum they dropped a game on the road to the surprisingly feisty Denver Broncos. Since then the Cowboys have been on a tear wining four in a row (at the Chiefs in OT, home against the Falcons, home against the Seahawks and at the Eagles). What does that all mean? The Cowboys at 6-2 look like a better team then the 4-4 Packers. I will let the other pundits do the traditional game previews, instead I will give you my top ten players for the Dallas Cowboys and some accompanying comments:

#53 - Duke Preston (C): one of GM Ted Thompson's two off-season signings. Such a shrewd move that Thompson cut him before the end of the preseason. Preston is currently the 3rd center on the Cowboys' depth chart. If Preston plays against the Packers on Sunday it is either because of catastrophic injuries or a colossal blowout. Either way, not a good sign if Preston plays.


#10 - Felix Jones/Tashard Choice (RB): the Cowboys hit the running back jackpot in the 2008 NFL draft nabbing Jones (1st round) and Choice (4th round). Although their production has been down in 2009 because of injury, over the long haul the Packers would take either Jones or Choice ahead of Grant.

#9 - Mat McBriar (P): special teams are very important, look at the Packers' last two games. The Packers lost the field position battle against the Vikings and Buccaneers so it is no surprise that both games ended with a Packer loss. Part of the field position battle is decided by punters (I know I am stating the obvious here) but take a quick look at Mat McBriar v. Jeremy Kapinos:
- McBriar: 46.1 yard average (6th) and 41.8 yard net (2nd).
- Kapinos: 44.3 yard average (16th) and 33.5 yard net (30th...very telling).

#8 - Terence Newman (CB): he is getting up there in age (31) but still is a shut down corner. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys put Newman on Driver or Jennings. Based on production you would think Driver but in 3 WR sets Driver works mostly in the slot which might mean Newman will shadow Jennings. If that is the case, it might be a tough time to get Jennings on track. Packers fans can only hope the challenge of facing Newman will light a fire under Jennings and help him regain his form from the first half of the 2008 season.

#7 - Marion Barber (RB): the main head in the three-headed-running-back-monster for the Dallas Cowboys. Barber runs defenders over (like AP running over William Gay). As a result, Barber might have a shorter NFL career based on his running style but for the time being he providers a powerful hammer to throw at the Packers.

#6 - Jason Witten (TE): he has been Romo's favorite target since taking over the starting quarterback job in 2006. More importantly, Romo's affection for Witten reportedly lead to T.O. becoming disgruntled last season and ultimately the Cowboys cutting T.O. in the offseason. For that reason alone, Witten should be #6 on the Cowboys list, may be even higher. Besides those US Weekly reasons, Witten has produced on the field. Currently Witten is leading the Cowboys in receptions by a wide margin.

#5 - Leonard Davis (RG): at 6'6" and 353 pounds, Davis is one of the biggest and most physical offensive linemen in the NFL. Davis entered the NFL as a guard for the Arizona Cardinals then moved to tackle for a few seasons with little success. When his contract ran out in Arizona, the Cowboys made Davis a huge contract offer to play guard for the Cowboys (seven-year $49.6 million contract, $18.75 million guaranteed). At the time some pundits questioned the contract but after his performance on the field for the Cowboys very few still question the move. An odd fact about Davis, he is an only child but has 21, that's right 21, half-brothers and half-sisters.

#4 - Miles Austin (WR): Roy who? Jerry Jones traded a first, third and sixth round pick to the Detroit Lions for Roy Williams and a seventh-round pick in 2010. Jones then signed Williams to a five-year extension worth $45 million, including more than $20 million guaranteed. After all of that, even 3rd receiver Patrick "I run my mouth too much for being a mediocre WR at best" Crayton has better stats then Williams this season. Sorry for digressing, back to Austin. Austin leads the Cowboys in receiving yards, yards per catch and receiving touchdowns. Austin's coming out party came last season in Green Bay (remember his 115 yards receiving, including a 52-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, last year in Green Bay). Chuck and Al better have their eyes on Austin. Take last week as an example: Austin did not catch a ball all game till the fourth quarter when he blew the game wide open for the Cowboys with a 49-yard touchdown grab.

#3 - Tony Romo (QB): Socni boy coming home (again). Romo is one of the most likable guys in the NFL, which makes it odd to see him wearing the Cowboys uniform. You can take a guy out of Sconi but you can't take the Sconi out of a guy. Who was the last likable guy on the Cowboys...Roger Staubach?

#2 - Jay Ratliff (NT): by far one of the most underrated players in the NFL. The Cowboys drafted Ratliff in the 7th Round (224 overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft. Ratliff is a beast, he went to his first Pro Bowl last season and followed that up this season with 23 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss, 4.0 sacks, and 1 forced fumble so far this season. The Packers had trouble with Odom and Allen, watch out for Ratliff.

#1 - DeMarcus Ware (ROLB): he is what the Packers hoped Aaron Kampman would be when they moved Kampman to outside linebacker this season. So far...not so much. Ware's stats this season: 30 tackles, 5.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 tackle for a loss. With Ratliff and Ware rushing Rodgers, the "Come to Jesus" meeting the Packers offense had earlier this week better work or Rodgers will be under fire all day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What to do about Braden Looper?

The Milwaukee Brewers have until Saturday to exercise their $6.5 million "mutual" option on starting pitcher Braden Looper. At first blush it seems like an easy decision for Doug Melvin and the Milwaukee Brewers to pick-up the option. Looper lead the Brewers with 14 wins (though he was the lucky recipient of strong run support) and 194.2 innings pitched (source: here). Furthermore, the Brewers are very thin at starting pitching so why not bring him back? Unfortunately Looper gave up a major league leading 133 earned runs and 39 home runs (source: here). Plus Looper had an ERA of 5.22, 100 strikeouts and 66 walks.

If the Brewers decline their option on Looper they will be even thinner in the starting pitching department with Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan (getting paid $12.5 million...yikes) and Dave Bush (if he re-signs with the Brewers). If the Brewers decline Looper's option they owe him $1 million. There is a school of thought that the market is soft for middle of the rotation starting pitching so the Brewers could decline Looper's option and still attempt to resign him for less than $6.5 million but why take the chance? At this point the Brewers are backed into a corner and might as well pick up Looper's option as a VERY expensive hedge. If they do that it would mean that the Brewers are paying two former St. Louis Cardinal pitchers, who are not that very good by the way, $19 million next season. Paying CC Sabathia $20 to $25 million doesn't look that bad when compared to $19 million for Looper and Suppan.

Packers' Offensive Line Meets the Brewers' Starting Rotation

At the mid-point of the Packers' 2009 season their biggest weakness is the offensive line. That group is on pace to allow 74 sacks which would shatter the previous club record of 62 sacks from 1990. What do the 1990 and 2009 Packers' offensive line have in common? James Campen. In 1990 Campen was the starting center for the Packers. Now Campen is the under achieving offensive line coach for the 2009 Green Bay Packers. Speaking of underachieving, another group of five guys that comes to mind is the starting rotation for the 2009 Milwaukee Brewers. Since there are some parallels between both groups, I thought I would pair someone from each group:

Chad Clifton (aka Jeff Suppan):
Clifton has been injured most of the season and has had one of his worst seasons as a Packer. There is a reason why the Packers are giving a projected NFL guard (T.J. Lang) a look at tackle. Clifton and Suppan are getting paid much more than they earned in 2009.

Daryn Colledge (aka Dave Bush):
Colledge has been either boom or bust throughout his Packer career. Unfortunately, lately it has been bust for Colledge. Instead of keeping Marco Rivera or Mike Wahle, the Packers used a second-round draft pick on Colledge four years ago. So far this season Colledge has failed at left guard and left tackle. He is a restricted free agent in the off-season and has given the Packers very few reasons to resign him long-term. Sadly for "Mr. Alaska", I really thought about pairing him with Jeff Suppan. Colledge has earned the comparison with his play but fortunately Colledge does not have the same bloated contract as Suppan so I settled for Dave Bush.

Scott Wells (aka Braden Looper):
Wells and Looper are decent players. Nothing flashy, simple and steady performers. Neither will be the best of the group or the worst of the group.

Josh Sitton (aka Yovani Gallardo):
Sitton and Gallardo are the only real bright spots in either group. Both look young and hungry, only time will tell if they turn out to be pro bowl/all-start caliber performers.

Allen Barbre (aka Manny Parra):
Barbre shows flashes of promise but is not reliable, just like his counterpart Manny Parra (who had an extended stint in the minor this season because of his inconsistent pitching). There is a reason why the Packer brought in "The Neck Beard" (Mark Tauscher) even though he is only 11 months removed from ACL surgery.

Packers' coach Mike McCarthy alluded to the fact that rookie T.J. Lang might be given a chance to start on the offensive line at a position besides left tackle this week against the Dallas Cowboys. Lang has only played as an injury fill-in thus far for the Packers but he can't be worse then some of the guys (I am talking to you Mr. Alaska and Barbre) starting at this point. If "The Neck Beard" is out with a knee injury then give Lang a chance at right tackle ahead of Barbre. If "The Neck Beard" can play then give Lang a chance at left guard in place of "Mr. Alaska". Similar to Barbre, Colledge has been horrible this season so why not see what Lang has to offer.

The Packers will only go as far as their offensive line takes them. Yes Aaron Rodgers had held onto the ball too long. Yes the Packers have too many drops. The bottom line is that it all starts with protection up front. If the Packers' offensive line plays the last 8 weeks like they did the first 8 weeks then it is going to be a painful second half of the 2009 season for the Packers.