Sunday, September 12, 2010

Initial Rankings of the 2010 Green Bay Packers

The NFL football season is finally upon us. In light of this joyous day, I decided to rank the 2010 Green Bay Packers opening day 53-man roster. People have different ways of ranking the rosters, my rule is that I would trade anyone ranked lower for the person ranked above them for this season alone not counting salary, if I could only keep one of the two players. Just to make sure everyone understands the rankings, if I could only keep one player and I had to choose between the 53rd ranked player (Nick McDonald) or the 52nd ranked player (C.J. Wilson), I would keep Wilson.

The reason I decided to hold salaries neutral is that some players are paid very little money for how much they produce on the field (Clay Mattews) while other players are in the first year of a front loaded contract extension because of the uncapped season (Brandon Chillar). As a result, in the spirit of possibly the only uncapped NFL season we will see going forward, I didn't factor salaries into the rankings.

Finally, keep in mind that Atari Bigby (CB), Al Harris (S), and James Starks (RB) are not included in the rankings because they are on the physically unable to perform list ("PUP"). Look for Bigby, Harris, and Starks in the mid-season rankings if they are on the active roster at that point.

Here are Cheesehead Sports Nut's rankings of the opening day roster of 2010 Green Bay Packers:

#53 - Nick McDonald (G)
A strong candidate for the practice squad, not sure how McDonald made the final roster over the likes of Evan Deitrich-Smith or Breno Giocamini. Apparently some teams were interested in signing McDonald to their active roster, otherwise it makes no sense to give him a roster spot ahead of Deitrich-Smith or Giocamini.

#52 - C.J. Wilson (DE)
Claimed a roster spot ahead of a couple more experience guys (Anthony Toribio and Jarius Wynn). A nice rookie project with a big upside, much like McDonald, makes Wilson look more like a candidate for the practice squad than the 53-man roster.

#51 - Brett Swain (WR)
Looks close to full strength coming off a serious knee injury in 2009. Swain is a solid contributor on special teams, which is why he is the 5th wide receiver on the Packers instead of Ruvell Martin. I know Martin was cut in 2009, but if Swain didn't show flashes of special teams ability in 2009 then Martin would still be on the Packers roster in 2010. If the Packers suffer a significant injury at wide receiver, Jermichael Finley as opposed to Swain, would fill in as the 5th wide receiver so you see why Swain couldn't crack the top 50.

#50 - Quinn Johnson (FB)
Last year with all the hype surrounding Johnson you would think he was the next William Henderson. Johnson has the tools to become a stud blocking back in the NFL but his questionable hands and lackluster performance when he did play in 2009 makes me question why the Packers didn't try to sneak Johnson through waivers.

#49 - Andrew Quarless (TE)
Some scouts compare Quarless to Finley. Besides having similar body types and being slightly immature, there is really no other similarities between Quarless and Finley at this point in their respective careers. The Packers already had four good tight ends (Crabtree, Finley, Lee, and Havner) going into the 2010 NFL Draft so the Quarless pick is a bit of a head scratcher, especially considering his off the field issues at Penn State. The Packers could have used another cornerback or outside linebacker instead of a 5th tight end in 2010.

#48 - Pat Lee (CB)
When you take into account production relative to draft position, it is a three horse race between Justin Harrell, Pat Lee, and Brian Brohm for Ted Thompson's worst draft pick as Green Bay Packers general manager. Who am I kidding, Harrell is the worst pick, but don't sleep on Brohm. Thompson traded defensive tackle Corey Williams to the Cleveland Browns for their 2nd round draft pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Despite just anointing Aaron Rodgers the starting quarterback on the heels of Brett Favre's retirement, Thompson used the 2nd round pick acquired from the Browns to select perennial underachieving quarterback Brian Brohm. Not only did Brohm get beaten out by Matt Flynn (a 7th round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft) for the back-up quarterback job in 2008, but Thompson passed on selecting quarterback Chad Henne (who went one pick after Brohm). Henne looks like a superstar quarterback in the making for the Miami Dolphins, so you can see why it is a tough call between Brohm and Harrell for Thompson's worst pick. Back to another horrible draft pick, Lee had all the tools coming out of Auburn to be a successful corner back in the NFL. Unfortunately injuries have prevented Lee from playing any meaningful snaps since he was draft in 2008. This year should be make or break for Lee.

#47 - Tom Crabtree (TE)
Everyone is raving about how great of a blocker Crabtree is even with a cast on his hand. Although blocking is important, is it so important that the Packers have twice as many tight ends as running backs on their roster?

#46 - Justin Harrell (DE)
If Harrell wasn't a first round draft pick, his tenure in Green Bay would have ended a few years ago. Instead Harrell is a perennial member of the injured reserve list. If Harrell stays healthy the entire season I will be absolute shocked.

#45 - Jarrett Bush (S)
Scouts rave about his special teams skills, which is great, but Bush has been horrible on defense. There are only so many roster spots that the Packers can allocate to special teams players. 2010 is Bush's 5th year in the NFL, so the chances that he will figure things out on defense are remote. If I were in charge, when Bigby comes off PUP, Bush would be put on the waiver wire.

#44 - Marshall Newhouse (T)
I know this seems a little high for an unproven 6th round draft pick rookie but after one training camp he looks like a serviceable left tackle in the making. At the very least, Newhouse could move over to right tackle once Tauscher retires. For the first time in a long time, the Packers have quality depth on the offensive line. If Clifton or Tauscher were to go down for an extended period of time, the Packers have things covered with Newhouse and Bulaga.

#43 - Derrick Martin (S)
See Jarrett Bush for the discussion of special teams only players...Martin falls in that same category. Martin has struggled so much on defense that the Packers put Charlie Peprah ahead of Martin on the safety depth chart. If Bigby plays this year, the Packers will have to think long and hard about whether to drop Bush or Martin for Bigby.

#42 - Brett Goode (LS)
I don't want to jinx things here, Goode has been great the last two years as the Packers' long snapper. By the way, long snapper has to be the best name for a position in professional sports right?

#41 - Charlie Peprah (S)
The Atlanta Falcons thought so little of Peprah that even with safety issues they did not resign him. Peprah is currently listed as the top backup at safety on the depth chart. If Peprah has to play for any extended period of time the Packers are in trouble so let's just move on.

#40 - Donald Lee (TE)
Lee had a horrible season last year thanks to an incurable case of the drops. After Ted Thompson drafted Quarless, Lee's days looked number in Green Bay. Instead of pouting, Lee took care of his business during training camp much like Scott Wells did last year. Although Lee is not a very flashy player, he earned his spot on the team this year by contributing on special teams and leaving the drops in 2009.

#39 - Frank Zombo (OLB)
Similar to Newhouse, Zombo's ranking feels a little high since Zombo was not even on track to make the team until a few weeks ago, but that is what makes Zombo so attractive. From a far, Zombo feels like a guy with a chip on his shoulder that is going to thrive in the 3-4 if he gets a chance. Since the Packers have no depth at outside linebacker, Zombo better be ready to play early and often because he will get that chance starting today in Philadelphia.

#38 - Korey Hall (FB)
Injuries have derailed what looked like a promising career for the converted linebacker. By the way, with the aforementioned lack of depth at linebacker, why haven't the Packers tried Hall at linebacker similar to what they did with Havner? If Hall can stay healthy, Quinn Johnson's day in Green Bay could be numbered once the Packers have to start filling injury holes throughout the season.

#37 - Brandon Underwood (CB)
Sometimes off the field issues spill on to the field. Underwood looked like the favorite to lock down the nickel corner spot until his legal troubles started in early June. Underwood is still under police investigation and until those charges are resolved, Underwood will struggle.

#36 - Desmond Bishop (MLB)
Not too many people confuse Mr. September (Steve Stricker) with Mr. August (Desmond Bishop). Bishop is the 3-4 equivalent of a backup quarterback. When the starter struggles (A.J. Hawk), fans clamor for the backup to take over. Bishop has been given ample opportunities, but never really capitalized on those opportunities. May be a change of scenery will help Bishop excel. With three guys ahead of Bishop for two spots at middle linebacker, an injury is the only way that Bishop will get on the field in 2010.

#35 - Jason Spitz (G/C)
The Swiss Army Knife of the interior offensive line is slowly getting back to full health. Much like Donald Lee (don't confuse him with Pat Lee because the only reason that Pat Lee is still on the roster is because he was a 2nd round pick), Spitz earned his roster spot this year with a solid training camp. If Scott Wells were to go down with an injury, the Packers have to feel confident about Spitz's ability to step in and thrive at center.

#34 - Tim Masthay (P)
All preseason I thought Aussie Chris Bryan was going to out perform Masthay to earn the starting punting job but I was wrong. Masthay outperformed Bryan when it counted and that is why he made the team instead of Bryan. Before we go any further, it can't be said enough how dumb it was for Ted Thompson to waive Jon Ryan before the 2008 NFL season. Ryan performed well enough to keep his job in 2008 and was arguably the best punter the Packers have had since Craig Hentrich. May be something was going on behind the scenes but when Ryan's father was struggling with cancer the Packers rolled out the red carpet for the Ryan family. For the human element alone, how does Ryan end up getting cut only a few months later?

#33 - Brady Poppinga (OLB)
Every year Poppinga keeps his roster spot despite being closer in age to Favre than Rodgers. Thompson might keep Poppinga just because it is fun to say his name. Try it: Popppppiiiiinnnggga...good times right? All kidding aside, Poppinga has struggled to get a consistent pass rush from outside linebacker but does just enough to keep his roster spot. If Thompson identifies a younger version of Poppinga in the uncapped year, 2010 might be Poppinga's last year in Green Bay.

#32 - A.J. Hawk (MLB)
If Hawk was a 5th round pick as opposed to the 5th pick overall in the 2006 NFL Draft, expectations would be much different. I know you are saying no-duh idiot. I never wanted to be a Hawk apologist but his draft status has clouded how Hawk is evaluated. Hawk makes the regular plays, he just never seems to make the big plays. With a $10 million salary in 2011, Hawk will have to restructure his contract or move his hyperbolic chamber somewhere else in 2011.

#31 - T.J. Lang (G)
One of the pleasant surprises of 2009, Lang was hampered in the off-season by wrist surgery. As a result, Lang is playing his way back into game shape right now. Once fully healthy, Lang would step in on the right side of the line if Sitton or Tauscher suffered a serious injury.

#30 - Sam Shields (CB)
Two years ago Sam Shields was a fast wide receiver with bad hands at the University of Miami, today he is the starting nickel back for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. The Packers use their sub-packages a bunch, so Shields went from being a non-drafted free agent to essentially a starter in less than six months. It is hard to tell whether Shields earned the starting nickel job or whether Underwood and Lee were that bad in training camp. Suffice to say, the Packers are hoping that Al Harris can return healthy Week 7, once their schedule starts to heat up. Shields has a ton to learn in the next few months. If Shields could have slowly worked into the defensive rotation, his electric speed would have been great on punt returns. Unfortunately, as we saw in the preseason, Shields struggles fielding punts so until the Packers have more depth at cornerback Shields needs to focus on defense.

#29 - John Kuhn (FB)
In the preseason Kuhn showed that he can carry the ball which he might have to do since the Packers have only two healthy running backs on their roster. As I said last Sunday, the Packers have to be the only team in the NFL with 4 tight ends, 3 fullbacks, 2 running backs, and 1 nose tackle on their opening day 53-man roster. I know that Pickett can play nose tackle but you get my point. Kuhn looked like trade bait the last few years but with how well he blocks and runs the ball, he deserves to be the starting fullback for the 2010 Green Bay Packers.

#28 - Brandon Jackson (RB)
Blocking on third downs must be one of the hardest things to do in football because every time Jackson steps on the field on 3rd down the announcers rave about how great Jackson blocks. Unfortunately Jackson is going to have to show something more than being a good blocker on third down if he wants to justify being a 2nd round draft pick.

#27 - Mason Crosby (K)
Leg strength has never been an issue for Crosby, it is accuracy from the right hash mark that will determine whether Crosby kicks for the Packers in 2011.

#26 - Matt Flynn (QB)
With Rodgers entrenched as a starter, everyone is clamoring for the Packers to trade Flynn "Hasselbeck-style" for a draft pick. The Packers only got a 3rd round pick for Brett Favre, so what is Flynn's value? I know Favre was towards the end of his career, but what will the Packer get for Flynn, a 5th or 6th round pick...not worth it. Hopefully Rodgers stays healthy all season but that is a big if. In the uncapped year, the Packers should lock Flynn up long term with a relatively modest front end loaded deal. The 30% rule comes into play here because Flynn essentially plays for the league minimum, but Thompson should sign Flynn to a 3 or 4 year contract extension with some up front money. One final note, I stand by my assertion that Flynn should be the holder instead of Masthay. One of my favorite journalists Bob McGinn completely disagreed with me in his chat but I stand by the assertion. If the Packers want to run a fake, Flynn is a quarterback while Mastay is a punter. I understand that special teams guys spend more time together working but something tells me Flynn can get in 15 minutes of work everyday practicing holding without a problem.

#25 - Bryan Bulaga (T)
The Packers were shocked that Bulaga was still there when they picked 23rd in the 2010 NFL Draft. There were a couple guys I liked more than Bulaga at 23 but still think Bulaga is the left guard or left tackle of the future in Green Bay. Of course the guys I wanted the Packers to take at 23 were much sexier than Bulaga but Ted Thompson probably did the right thing taking Bulaga since both of the Packers starting offensive tackles (Clifton and Tauscher) are in their mid-30's. Bulaga's presence really pushed perpetually underachieving left guard Daryn Colledge in the preseason. A hip injury kept Bulaga from beating out Colledge but had a net positive effect on the 2010 Green Bay Packers offensive line.

#24 - Mike Neal (DE)
Neal has the chance to make the biggest jump of anyone on the list by the end of the season. Unfortunately I am not an NFL GM yet (that's right...I said yet...a man can dream) but the day after the 2010 NFL Draft I went over players I would have drafted instead of Neal. Only time will tell whether Neal was worth a second round pick. According to those close to the team, Neal is an absolute beast in weight room, possibly the strongest guy on the team already. Taking Neal in the 2nd round shows the Packers must have known that Jolly was going to be suspended. I don't want to jump to conclusions but if Neal can stay healthy the Packers might have a new Johnny Jolly without the legal issues.

#23 - Morgan Burnett (S)
Aggressive by the Packers to give rookie safety Morgan Burnett jersey #42. Apparently Nick Collins was not happy with the way the Bigby situation was handled in off-season but based on Burnett's play throughout the preseason, even if Atari Bigby was healthy, Burnett would be the starting safety opposite Collins. If Burnett plays in the regular season like he played in the preseason, Collins will get over Bigby's absence quickly and give the Packers the 2010 version of Butler (Collins) and Sharper (Burnett).

#22 - Daryn Colledge (G)
To reiterate what I said under Bulaga's blurb, Colledge had his best training camp this year but that doesn't mean anything till we see whether Colledge can do it in games that matter. Although Bulaga presents formidable competition for Colledge at left guard, in a weird way Bulaga's presence might allow Colledge to flourish. Bulaga being the left tackle of the future in Green Bay allows Colledge to finally stay in one position for the entire season. Last year Colledge was forced to move to left tackle when Chad Clifton was injured and struggled mightily. If Colledge was able to just stay at left guard all season, he would have had a mediocre season last year as opposed to a horrible season. With Bulaga and Newhouse in the fold this year, if Clifton goes down, one of them will step in as opposed to having to move Colledge to left tackle. Colledge is in a contract year and he no longer has any excuses, Colledge has to produce if he wants a big payday.

#21 - James Jones (WR)
Despite not being the fastest wide receiver or the healthiest wide receiver, Jones is a valuable part of the Packers aerial assault. With Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Jermicahel Finley garnering extra attention, Jones is poised for a breakout year. Much like the aforementioned Colledge, Jones is in the final year of his rookie contract so a big year in 2010 could lead to a big payday for Jones.

#20 - Brandon Chillar (MLB)
Midway through the preseason the Packers finally tried Chillar at outside linebackers, something I have been talking about since mid-2009. Unfortunately Chillar did not preform well at outside linebacker so they moved him back to middle linebacker. Last year Chillar played all over the field, even playing a little safety in the "psycho" package. Although Hawk is considered a "starting middle linebacker" along with Nick Barnett in the base 3-4 defense, Chillar has been a jack-of-all-trades for the Packers and gets more snaps than Hawk when the Packers go to their sub packages on defense. Look for Chillar's snaps to increase as the season progresses if he can show any kind of rushing ability.

#19 - Jordy Nelson (WR)
As a result of losing at home in overtime to the New York Giants in the NFC Championship, a game I attended with my good buddy Fernando, the Packers held the 30th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Brett Favre "retired" and the Packers just turned the keys to franchise over to Aaron Rodgers. Instead of taking Dustin Keller (an athletic tight end out of Purdue) with the 30th pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Thompson traded out of the first round. At the time, the decision seemed to make no sense. The Packers had a chance to get a dynamic tight end that could serve as a safety blanket for Aaron Rodgers in his first season after taking over for the legendary Brett Favre. The Packers got an early 2nd round pick and a 4th round pick for their late 1st round pick. With the early 2nd round pick Ted Thompson took Jordy Nelson. As usual, Thompson packaged the 4th round pick from the Jets in another trade to move up to get Jeremy Thompson (no relation to Ted) who showed promise at outside linebacker in the 3-4 before he was forced to retire with a neck injury. At the time it looked silly to draft Nelson because the Packers had Jennings, Driver, and Jones. Now that decision is looking wise because Nelson and Jones are probably the best 3rd and 4th wide receivers in the NFL. Furthermore, Ted Thompson grabbed Jermichael Finley in the 3rd round...a much better option than Keller at a much cheaper price.

#18 - Brad Jones (OLB)
Funny that the Packers would rather have Jones on the cheap then accommodate Aaron Kampman. Yes, Aaron Kampman looked like a fish out of water in the 3-4 but the Packers only play a true 3-4 about a third to a half of their snaps on defense. Kampman was too good for too long for the Packers to get nothing in return for him. If the Packers wanted to part ways with Kampman, Ted Thompson should have traded Kampman at the trade deadline last year, but as we know that didn't happen. Instead the Packers held on to Kampman, he blew out his knee and left via free agency for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Instead of getting something for Kampman, the Packers got nothing. Jones has a chance to be more successful than Kampman in the 3-4 but the question is whether Jones will be healthy enough to show anything. Jones missed most of the preseason and his production (or lack there of) will go a long way to determining how well the Packers look this year on defense.

#17 - Mark Tauscher (T)
It is no mistake that while Tauscher was rehabbing his knee for the first half of 2009, the Packers offensive line struggled. Ted Thompson thought Allen Barbre could take over the right tackle position with Tauscher unsigned rehabbing his knee but Thompson was sorely mistaken. Barbre struggled and if T.J. Lang was not able to serve as a rookie stopgap, there is no way that Aaron Rodgers would have made it through 2009 healthy. Even with how well the Packers offensive line played the second half of 2009, the Packers still tied for the league lead in sacks allowed. Although Tauscher is getting a little long in the tooth (much like his glorious neck beard), he provides much needed stability along the offensive line.

#16 - Tramon Williams (CB)
After finally coming to his senses and signing his first round tender, Williams was up and down in the preseason. Against the Colts in the preseason, Williams was victimized repeatedly which made the decision to put Al Harris on the PUP list somewhat questionable. Yes, Harris is only about 10 months into working his way back from a complete knee reconstruction but Williams still does not look like a starting NFL cornerback. Williams thrived as a nickel back but when given the starting reigns struggled. Teams are going to try to pick on Shields and Williams early and often, the question is how they will handle those challenges?

#15 - Scott Wells (C)
Wells is the definition of a good teammate. Instead of pouting in 2009 when the Packers took away his starting job for no good reason, Wells continued to be very professional. There was even some talk that with how good Evan Dietrich-Smith looked at center that Wells was on the trading block because the Packers were all set with Spitz and Dietrich-Smith. Luckily a trade never came to fruition because Spitz got hurt again and Wells was one of the best offensive lineman for the Packers in 2009. Nothing really changed heading into 2010, Wells continues to play well on a consistent basis.

#14 - Chad Clifton (T)
Although the Packers signed Clifton to a three-year contract in March, the writing is on the wall that Bulaga (or Newhouse) is the left tackle of the future in Green Bay. As expected, Clifton has been a classy guy throughout the entire off-season helping Bulaga get acclimated. As long as Clifton can stay healthy, he owns the left tackle spot in Green Bay. Unfortunately Clifton has had injury troubles the last few years. Is this the year that he finally breaks down for good? Hopefully not, but if Clifton does, the Packers finally have a left tackle of the future waiting in the wings.

#13 - B.J. Raji (NT)
Health is going to be the determining factor of whether Raji is a decent nose tackle or a once every decade nose tackle. Coming out of Boston College, Raji looked to be the perfect nose tackle to build the 3-4 defense around. Unfortunately injuries hampered Raji through the first half of 2009 and he never really recovered. Going into 2010 the Packers fully committed to Raji as their nose tackle of the future by moving Ryan Pickett to defensive end. Despite his injury history, the Packers do not have a dedicated nose tackle on the roster besides Raji (although Pickett could easily move back into that spot). As a quick side note, the Packers selected defensive end Michael Neal one spot before the Baltimore Ravens took massive nose tackle Terrance Cody in the 2nd round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The Ravens play the perfect 3-4 defense and much like the Packers are known to have a great scouting department. There is a chance that Cody eats his way out of the league but Cody looks like the perfect nose tackle for the 3-4 defense. The Packers have more versatility with Raji and Neal then Raji and Cody this year but let's check back in 5 years to see how things shake out with Raji, Neal, and Cody.

#12 - Donald Driver (WR)
It feels sacrilegious to have Driver outside of the Top 10 but that also shows how much talent the Packers have on their roster in 2010. Driver's tough childhood and rags to riches story is heartwarming to even the cruelest person on earth. The Packers rewarded Driver with a contract extension that will hopefully see him finish his career as the Packers all-time leader in every receiving category.

#11 - Cullen Jenkins (DE)
Jenkins was lost for the season due to injury early in 2008 and the Packers struggled to a 6-10 record. It seems simplistic, but with Jolly suspended for the season, Jenkins is the only starter along the defensive line that will be able to get a consistent pass rush. Plus, the Packers have no NFL proven depth after Jenkins, Pickett, and Raji. In a contract year Jenkins will want to put up good sack and tackles for loss numbers but the 3-4 is set-up to get linebackers sacks as opposed to defensive lineman. In the uncapped year the Packers should consider giving Jenkins a similar front end loaded contract extension that they gave Pickett so that Jenkins will fully buy into the defensive scheme without trying to freelance to get stats in a contract year.

#10 - Josh Sitton (G)
The Packers have not had a guard with this much talent since the departure of Rivera and Whale. The sky is the limit for the football version of Herbert Kohler...check out Josh Sitton and check out Herbert Kohler...pretty similar likeness huh? Sitton was the Packers best offensive lineman in 2009 and looks poised for a big contract extension if he can continue that play in 2010.

#9 - Nick Barnett (MLB)
Knee injuries are starting to limit Barnett's ability to practice and stay on the field during games. That said, Barnett is still the best available middle linebacker on the roster by a mile. As a quick side note, it is amazing that Barnett is able to perform so well on the field with a samurai sword underneath his shoulder pads right? Okay that was a poor attempt at a joke about Barnett's odd celebration but thankfully Barnett has scaled back the length of how much he celebrates with his sword. Hopefully Barnett does not scale back his play on the field. Chillar and Hawk are serviceable at middle linebacker but Barnett is the superstar of the group.

#8 - Ryan Pickett (DE)
Despite being the prototypical nose tackle for a 3-4 defense, the Packers decided to move Pickett to defensive end in order to see whether Raji can play nose tackle. Instead of complaining about the position change, Pickett moved to defensive end. Pickett does have $25 million reasons to change positions but he still could have pulled an Albert Haynesworth. Instead, Pickett started learning the new position and didn't complain. Furthermore, with Raji's spotty injury history, there is a chance that Pickett will move back to nose tackle at some point this year anyhow. No matter where Pickett plays on the defensive line, he will be a person that opposing teams will have to account for.

#7 - Ryan Grant (RB)
In my inaugural Wednesday What Happened post, I recounted how Ted Thompson uncharacteristically relented and gave Ryan Grant a contract extension. May be I was a little hard on Ryan Grant, it is not his fault that management gave into his contract demands. Grant had 2,456 combined rushing yards in 2008 and 2009, which is 7th most in NFL over that time period so he is producing on the field a a high level and justifying the contact. My disdain is more with management, they usually do not give in to contract demands...think Mike McKenzie, Javon Walker, Darren Sharper, and Ryan Longwell. Also Grant is due a big payment in 2011 because of accrued stats, a move the Packers don't normally do. Grant has proven to be a quality running back in the zone blocking system. Grant makes one cut, hits the hole and doesn't fumble the ball often. The biggest knock against Grant is that he doesn't produce big plays but with the dynamic passing attack the Packers have, Grant just needs to stay healthy and hold on to the ball.

#6 - Nick Collins (S)
When Collins was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2005 NFL Draft he took #36. Initially it made me think "That's a bold move Cotton" (movie quote from Dodgeball). #36 is LeRoy Butler's number, which is sacred in Green Bay. Five years late, Collins has done right by the #36. Even Butler would have to admit he is proud of the way Collins has carried on the #36 tradition at safety. By the way, in Ted Thompson's first draft as Packers general manager he got Rodgers in the 1st round and Collins in the 2nd round. I am sure the Rodgers pick pissed Favre off and started some of the friction between Favre and management, but five years later those picks are paying off in a big way.

#5 - Jermichael Finley (TE)
The sky is the limit for Finley, in fact Finley is his biggest enemy at this point. I don't know if a non-quarterback has gotten this much pre-season hype in a long time. If you read what the national media are writing about Finley you would think he is a cross between Tony Gonzalez and Jerry Rice. Pundits expect Finley to put up wide receiver number from the tight end position. Don't get me wrong, Finley has all the tools to be a great tight end, he just needs to keep his ego in check. Having guys like Rodgers, Jennings, and Driver should help keep Finley grounded but it is going to be an uphill battle. Finley (and his wife) are prodigious tweeters, if you want to get a laugh, check them out.

#4 - Clay Matthews (OLB)
Matthews is one of the few players Thompson has traded up in the draft to select during his tenure in Green Bay (Thompson also traded up to select Burnett earlier in the 3rd round of the 2010 NFL Draft). After one season, it looks like a great decision by Thompson to trade up to select Matthews. Some pundits think Matthews' 10 sack rookie season was a flash in the pan, a one year aberration. Those people claim that once defenses figure him out, they will be able to scheme away from him. I vehemently disagree. There is a chance that if Jones struggles on the other side that Matthews will be double teamed often. No matter what, Matthews is too talented to be neutralized, even with the prospects of facing more double teams.

#3 - Greg Jennings (WR)
The 51st person taken in the 2006 NFL Draft (one pick after the Minnesota Vikings took perennial underachieving offensive lineman Ryan Cook) has been a stud wide receiver the last few seasons. Despite Devin Hester and Maurice Jones-Drew going just a few picks after Jennings, the Packers have their go to receiver for the next decade in Jennings. Although Jennings' stats dipped a little bit in 2009, with the emergence of Jermichael Finley, Jennings is poised for a huge season in 2010.

#2 - Charles Woodson (CB)
Its hard to be the NFL defensive player of the year and still not get ranked #1 on your own team, but Aaron Rodgers is just that good right now. Back to Woodson, last year he had a banner year and the Packers rewarded him with an extension that should keep him in a Packers uniform until he retires. The aforementioned contract binds Woodson and the Packers for five more years. Woodson will be in his late 30's by the end of the deal so he will most likely have moved to safety for the final few years of the contract. That is what is so impressive about Woodson since joining the Packers, he finally lived up to the promise that he showed in college at Michigan. Woodson is so talented that he is one of only a few defensive players that can play without a specific position. Although Woodson is technically a cornerback, the Packers will use him as a hybrid cornerback/safety depending on the specific play that is called for the rest of his career in Green Bay.

#1 - Aaron Rodgers (QB)
The 2010 Green Bay Packers are getting a ton of positive publicity heading into 2010 based in large part on the talent of Aaron Rodgers. The 2010 Packers are almost getting a little too much hype for my liking, but luckily Rodgers recently said he thinks this year is different than last year. Rodgers claims that last year's confidence was a false confidence. I am not too sure how you distinguish between a real and a fake confidence, but hopefully this year is not another year of false confidence as well. If Rodgers can stay healthy the entire season, which is a huge if, the Packers are the team to beat in the NFC North. Ted Thompson took a ton of heat for drafting Aaron Rodgers with his first pick as general manager of the Green Bay Packers. With how Rodgers played the last two years, the pick is more than justified and the chief reason why the 2010 Green Bay Packers are one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL. Just to put in perspective how well the Packers have been at the quarterback position for almost two decades, here are the number of starting QBs in the NFC North since 1993: 2 for the Packers, 14 for the Vikings, 19 for the Lions, and 21 for the Bears (most in the NFL). Let me end the rankings with the understatement/cliche of the year, the 2010 Green Bay Packers are in good hands with the Aaron Rodgers as their quarterback.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Treveor Hoffman's 600th Save

Very few professional athletes are older than Brett Favre, count 42-year-old Trevor Hoffman as one of the chosen few. After an outstanding 2009 season, Hoffman signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract with a mutual $7 million option for 2011*.

In Hoffman's first season with the Brewers in 2009 he appeared in 55 games, converted 37 saves, and had a 1.83 ERA. Going into 2010 it looked like Hoffman would be the Brewers closer through 2011. Unfortunately Hoffman had a horrible start to 2010. Hoffman blew 5 of his first 10 save opportunities, racking up a 13.15 ERA over 14 appearances. As a result, Hoffman was stuck on 596 career saves with a huge sign in left field at Miller Park to remind him daily of how much he was struggling in 2010. With Hoffman struggling, rookie John Axford assumed the closer role and flourished by converting 20 of 22 save opportunities.

Mercifully, Hoffman finally settled in and notched his 600th career save on Tuesday, September 7, 2010. Most people think Hoffman only pitched for the San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers but Hoffman actually recorded the first 2 saves of his career with the Florida Marlins, the first coming on April 29, 1993 at the Atlanta Braves. After that, Hoffman recorded the next 552 saves with the San Diego Padres and got the final 46 saves with the Milwaukee Brewers.

It is fitting that the way Hoffman's 600th save went down was a little curious. Milwaukee Brewers manager Ken Macha was ejected in the 2nd inning of Hoffman's 600th career save for arguing a call. Before summoning Hoffman in the 9th inning, Brewers pitching coach Rick Peterson walked back to the club house to consult Ken Macha. That reminds me of my grade school basketball days. Our head coach, Jim Holton, got tossed from games fairly regularly. Every timeout after Holton got tossed our assistant coach Rich Bub would look towards the exit doors to see what play Holton wanted to run. Doesn't that undermine throwing the head coach out if he can still have an impact on the game?

Anyhow, Macha gave Peterson the go ahead and Hoffman nailed down his 600th save with Macha watching on television from his office. The Brewers were so proud of Hoffman that Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Todd Coffey carried Hoffman off the field on their shoulders. Hoffman is still so revered in San Diego that the Padres replayed the final out of Hoffman's 600th save during a Padres game on the jumbotron and the stadium gave Hoffman a standing ovation. Hoffman is such a classy guy that he apologizes to the team for letting them down this year in the locker room before celebrating his 600th save.

For two years of service, Hoffman is going to earn roughly $15 million from Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio. Although that seems like a ton of money, it was only a few years ago that the Brewers paid Eric Gagne $10 million for one year of service a few days before he was prominently named in the Mitchell Report so two years for $15 million doesn't seem that bad. Statistics and records aside, the Hoffman signing was worth it solely for the wisdom Hoffman imparted on young relievers John Axford, Zach Braddock, Kameron Loe, and Mike McClendon. Hoffman is a model teammate and his work ethic will have an impact on the Brewers young pitching staff for the next decade.

In all likelihood, 2010 will be Hoffman's last season pitching in the major leagues, but wouldn't he make a great bench coach in 2011? With how crazy the players went for Hoffman's 600th save, it seems like they love Hoffman. I assume that if Hoffman doesn't pitch in 2011 he will want to be with his family in California, but he strikes me (no pun intended) as a perfect bench coach. Hoffman would have the trust of the players and the manger based on his impeccable clubhouse track record.

What Hoffman has done off the field in Milwaukee will be his greatest gift to the Milwaukee Brewers organization. I don't say this often but money well spent by Doug Melvin and Mark made the right gamble on Hoffman not for 2009 and 2010 but for 2011 and beyond.

* = Since it is a mutual option, both the Brewers and Hoffman would have to exercise it for Hoffman to pitch for the Brewers in 2011. Based on Hoffman's lackluster performance in 2010 there is virtually no chance that the Brewers will exercise the option so they will ultimately have to pay the $1 million buyout.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

2010 Green Bay Packers Initial 53-Man Roster

As of Saturday morning the Green Bay Packers had 75 guys on their active roster*. By league mandate, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson had to cut that number to 53 by Saturday night. In order to get down to the final 53-man roster, Thompson had to do something with 22 guys. Thompson cut 20 guys** and placed 2 guys on injured reserve***. Sorry to the 22 guys that did not make the 53-man roster, I know it is not a Sunday Funday in your households.

Sorry for that quick downer, congrats to the 53 guys that made the opening day roster for the 2010 Green Bay Packers, here is a quick breakdown by position:

Offense (26):

QB (2): Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn

RB (2): Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson

FB (3): Korey Hall, John Kuhn, and Quinn Johnson

WR (5): Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Brett Swain

TE (4): Jermichael Finley, Donald Lee, Tom Crabtree, and Andrew Quarless

OT (4): Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, Bryan Bulaga, and Marshall Newhouse

OG (4): Josh Sitton, Daryn Colledge, T.J. Lang, and Nick McDonald

C (2): Scott Wells and Jason Spitz

Defense (24):

DE (5): Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, Justin Harrell, and C.J. Wilson

NT (1): B.J. Raji

OLB (4): Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Brady Poppinga, and Frank Zombo

ILB (4): Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk, Brandon Chillar, and Desmond Bishop

CB (6): Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Brandon Underwood, Jarrett Bush, and Pat Lee

S (4): Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, and Derrick Martin

Specialists (3):

K: Mason Crosby

P: Tim Masthay

LS: Brett Goode

Quick Thoughts:
As usual, not too many big surprises. With how much information we have at our finger tips, none of the roster decisions were shocking. The only mild surprise was Thompson cutting Kregg Lumpkin, leaving the Packers with only have two true running backs on their opening day roster. Besides that, Thompson keeping Crabtree instead of Havner shows that Thompson values blocking over versatility at the tight end position.

Not to belabor the point, but I am still not too sure why the Packers want to carry so many tight ends and fullbacks while carrying so few running backs and nose tackles. The Packers have to be the only team in the NFL with 4 tight ends, 3 fullbacks, 2 running backs, and 1 nose tackle. Running back and defensive line are normally positions of strength for teams. If Ryan Grant or B.J. Raji get seriously injured, the Packers' Super Bowl aspirations will take a big hit.

The Green Bay Packers lead the NFL with 5 of the 20 players they cut (as of Sunday, September 5, 2010) getting claimed by other NFL teams. The players that were claimed by other teams were: Evan Dietrich-Smith (C) by the Seattle Seahawks, Spencer Havner (TE/LB) by the Detroit Lions, Kregg Lumpkin (RB) by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cyril Obiozor (LB) by the Arizona Cardinals, and Anthony Toribio (NT) by the Kansas City Chiefs. Other NFL teams knew that Thompson had more than 53 players he wanted to keep so rather than making a trade, they forced Thompson's hand and tried to get one of the cut players through the waiver wire instead of trading with Thompson.

Of the 5 guys claimed, Thompson is going to regret cutting Lumpkin and Toribio the most. Lumpkin has experience in the Green Bay Packers zone blocking scheme having played for the Packers in 2008. Not only did Toribio want to stay with the Packers so bad that he gladly would have joined the practice squad, but with the Packers thin at nose tackle and the inevitable breakdown of Justin Harrell looming, Thompson is going to wish he kept the talented Toribio.

Once the dust settled, the Packers finalized their 8 person practice squad: Chastin West (WR), Chad Campbell (T), Breno Giacomini (T), Graham Harrell (QB), James Johnson (RB), Rob Francois (LB), Maurice Simpkins (LB), and Anthony Levine (S).

Thompson kept 18 players that have one season or less of NFL experience: 11 players have never played in an NFL game**** and 7 have played only one season in the NFL*****. That means 33% of the 2010 Green Bay Packers roster is comprised of "rookies". A ton continues to be written about how the Packers are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. This year, the Packers are not only a young team, but they are a very inexperienced team at certain crucial defensive positions: outside linebacker, defensive back, and safety.

The Packers kept three undrafted free agents (McDonald, Shields, and Zombo) for the first time since 2002. The Packers would be better off with a few veterans in place of some of the aforementioned undrafted rookies, but as we know, that is not the Ted Thompson way.

Despite having no clue (when has that ever stopped me) before, I thought I would close the post by speculating on the last 5 players kept on offense, the last 5 players kept on defense, and the last 5 players cut by Thompson:

- Last 5 players kept on offense: Brett Swain (WR), Tom Crabtree (TE), Marshall Newhouse (T), Nick McDonald (G), and Quinn Johnson (FB).

- Last 5 players kept on defense: Justin Harrell (DL), C.J. Wilson (DL), Frank Zombo (OLB), Jarrett Bush (DB), and Pat Lee (DB).

- Last 5 players cut: Anthony Toribio (NT), Breno Giacomini (T), Kregg Lumpkin (RB), Spencer Havner (TE/LB), and Jarius Wynn (DE).

Hope everyone has a Sunday Funday! Check back next Sunday before the Green Bay Packers' season opener in Philadelphia against the upstart Eagles to see my rankings of the entire opening day roster for the 2010 Green Bay Packers ranked 53 to 1.

* = In order to conform with league mandates, the Packers trimmed their roster for 80 to 75 earlier in the week by cutting Shawn Gore (WR), putting Quinn Porter (RB) on injured reserve, and placing Atari Bigby (RB), Al Harris (CB), & James Starks (RB) on the physically unable to perform ("PUP") list. Being placed on the PUP list means that Bigby, Harris, and Starks are not allowed to participate in team activities till Week 7 of the 2010 NFL season. Starting Week 7, Thompson has three weeks to: activate them, trade them, waive them, or place them on injured reserve. Finally, Johnny Jolly is on the reserve/suspended list until at the least the Super Bowl because of his Purple Drank fiasco in Houston, TX.

** = Chris Bryan (P), Chris Campbell (T), Jason Chery (WR), D.J. Clark (CB), Evan Dietrich-Smith (C/G), Charles Dillon (WR), Robert Francois (LB), Breno Giacomini (T), Graham Harrell (QB), Spencer Havner (TE), Alex Joseph (LB), Anthony Levine (S), Kregg Lumpkin (RB), Cyril Obiozor (LB), Maurice Simpkins (LB), Ronald Talley (DE), Anthony Toribio (NT), Chastin West (WR), Patrick Williams (WR), and Jarius Wynn (DE).

*** = Allen Barbre (G/T) and Will Blackmon (S).

**** = Bryan Bulaga (T), Morgan Burnett (S), Tom Crabtree (TE), Tim Masthay (P), Nick McDonald (G), Mike Neal (DE), Marshall Newhouse (G/T), Andrew Quarless (TE), Sam Shields (CB), C.J. Wilson (DE), and Frank Zombo (LB).

***** = Quinn Johnson (FB), Brad Jones (OLB), T.J. Lang (T/G), Pat Lee (CB), Clay Matthews (OLB), B.J. Raji (NT), and Brandon Underwood (CB).