Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Week 4 of 2010 - Packers/Lions Review & NFL Notes

I thought this space was going to be devoted to an in-depth discussion of how a lackluster win over the lowly Detroit Lions was a win nonetheless. Unfortunately with all the injuries and trades that happened in the last 72 hours, the game review will be brief. Following the game review, I will take an in-depth look at Morgan Burnett's season ending injury, Nick Barnett's potentially season ending injury, Randy Moss getting traded to the Minnesota Vikings, and Marshawn Lynch getting traded to the Seattle Seahawks.

Packers/Lions Revisited:

There were a number of players and plays that stood out from the Packers/Lions game but two players, Jordy Nelson (KR/WR) and Charles Woodson (CB), are worth talking about the most for two very different reasons.

Until week 4 Nelson was the John Kuhn of kickoff returns...nothing to fast or flashy but reliable. Every time Kuhn or Nelson have a long run or return, it feels like anyone off the street could have done the exact same thing. Well reliable went out the window against the Lions when Nelson fumbled twice.

I know I have talked about this a number of times but it is becoming borderline criminal that Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson refuses to use the 53rd roster spot on a dedicated return man. Absent a run of catastrophic injuries to the offensive line, there is no way that Nick McDonald (53rd ranked guy in my pre-season rankings) will play a meaningful snap for the 2010 Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, every time the Packers field a kickoff or punt, they could have a dedicated specialist threatening to return it for a touchdown. Just to drive the point home, probably the biggest reason why the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI was Desmond Howard.

With the negative talk out of the way, Charles Woodson (and 5,000 Packer fans) made the regional sports illustrated cover this week. The aforementioned cover shows Woodson acrobatically capping his 48-yard interception return for a touchdown ("pick-six"). A number of interesting footnotes accompanied that play by Woodson, it was his: 3rd consecutive season with a pick-six against the Detroit Lions (NFL record), 8th pick-six as a Packer (broke Herb Adderly's club record of 7), 9th defensive touchdown as a Packer (team record), and 10th career pick-six (3rd all-time behind Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper). Woodson is challenging the late, great Reggie White for the best free agent acquisition in Packers' history. It would take two Super Bowl rings on Woodson's fingers to top White but since Woodson will be a Packer for the next 5 years he has a window.

Unfortunately the Packers/Lions game might be the like the Packers/49ers game from last year when the Packers lost two players to season ending injuries. It was Al Harris and Aaron Kampman against the 49ers...this year Burnett and Barnett might suffer the same fate.

Morgan Burnett:

Sometime during the Packers/Lions game rookie safety Morgan Burnett tore his ACL. Everyone is puzzled as to when the injury actually occurred but one thing is certain, Burnett is out for the rest of the 2010 NFL season. Burnett, a third-round draft out of Georgia Tech, showed flashes of flashed of brilliance (interception against the Bills) mixed with rookie growing pains (pass interference against the Bears that nullified a game changing interception). Paired with Nick Collins (one of the best young safeties in the NFL) Burnett was just starting to get comfortable when he suffered a season ending knee injury. So now the question is where the Packers go from here?

Former starting safety Atari Bigby is scheduled to come off the physically unable to perform list after week 6. It is questionable whether Bigby will be healthy enough to play right away since he has not faced live action in over 10 months. In the meantime, the Packers have two other reserve safeties on the roster (Charlie Peprah and Derrick Martin) and another reserve safety on the practice squad (Anthony Levine).

If Peprah can get fully healthy by Sunday then he will start opposite Nick Collins against the Redskins in Washington this weekend. If Peprah is unable to go, Martin is next in line. Finally, if Levine gets promoted to the active roster in place of Burnett, that is an indication that Bigby is not quite at full strength.

Nick Barnett:

Not to be confused with Morgan Burnett, starting middle linebacker Nick Barnett faces potentially season ending wrist surgery. Barnett (and his samurai sword) is the leader of the vocal leader of the Packers defense. With Brandon Chillar already injured, the Packers only have two healthy middle linebackers on their current roster: A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop. The Packers have former Arena Leaguer Maurice Simpkins on their practice squad but Simpkins is really only a short term solution. If Barnett is lost for the season, the Packers will be forced to make a trade or sign a free agent.

Barnett has been an integral part of the Packers defense since they drafted him in the first-round of the 2003 NFL Draft. Many Packer fans remember that Barnett suffered a season ending knee injury against the Vikings in 2008. After losing Barnett in 2008 the Packers imploded, losing 5 of their last 7 games.

If Barnett is able to continue, he only needs 8 tackles to break John Anderson's franchise record of 1,020 tackles. Unfortunately there is a small asterisk on that record though because tackles only became an official statistic starting in 1975.

Barnett is schedule to get a second opinion, hopefully he can gut it out and take care of the injury in the off-season. If losing Ryan Grant for the season seemed bad, as 2008 showed, losing Nick Barnett for the year would be a borderline season killer.

Randy Moss:

While still wearing the green and gold, Brett Favre lobbied on numerous occasions for the Packers to acquire Randy Moss. Favre finally got his wish to be paired with Randy Moss. Although Favre gets his chance to hook-up with Moss, albeit three years later than he hoped, this might not necessarily be a match made in heaven like it would have been in 2007. For the first time in a long time, Favre looks his age and Randy Moss is no fountain of youth.

Since Favre has held the Vikings hostage for the last year and a half, I am sure there was a clause in his contract that forced the Vikings to trade for Moss at Favre's direction. Would Vikings coach Brad Childress step in the way? No way, Childress and Company have become Favre's lap dog. By giving up a third-round pick for Moss the Vikings mortgaged their future to win now. That said, you have to give the Vikings credit for going all-in for 2010. With how old Favre looks, the Vikings knew this might be Favre's last season so they are going for it all, good for them.

Marshawn Lynch:

According to NFL sources the Seahawks, Packers, Eagles, and Patriots were vying for the services of running back Marshawn Lynch. As we all know by now, former Green Bay Packer front office employee and current Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider acquired Marshawn Lynch for a fourth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft and a conditional sixth-round pick (that could be a fifth-round pick) in the 2012 NFL Draft.

The good news is that Ted Thompson was actually involved in trying to acquire Lynch. The bad news is that the pupil (Schneider) outdid the teacher (Thompson). According to the aforementioned sources, Thompson offered a fourth-round pick and a borderline starter. This is pure speculation but based on the Buffalo Bills' offensive line issues, I am guessing the unnamed borderline starter was either Jason Spitz or T.J. Lang. Including Spitz is fine by me but if Lang was involved the Packers might have dodged a bullet by the trade failing to go through.

The Bills balked at the Packers offer because the Packers fourth-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft will likely be 20 spots later than the Seahawks fourth-round pick. As a result, the source speculated that Thompson would have had to offer the Packers' third-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Thompson was probably reluctant to part with a third-round pick because that has been fertile ground for him. Look at Thompson's third-round picks: Jason Spitz (2006), James Jones (2007), Jermichael Finley (2008), and Morgan Burnett (2010). Thompson used the Packers' 2009 third-round pick (along with two other picks) to move back into the first-round in 2009 to select Clay Matthews. Needless to say, Thompson has been successful drafting in the third-round.

Much like the failed acquisition of Randy Moss in 2007 and Tony Gonzalez in 2008, Thompson had a chance to "overpay" for Lynch according to his personal valuation but decided against overpaying. The failed Moss and Gonzalez acquisitions pale in comparison to the failure to acquire Lynch.

If rookie running back James Starks doesn't hit the ground running (no pun intended) after coming off the physically unable to perform list after week 6 then the groans are only going to get louder.

Will failing to acquire Lynch mean the Packers have no chance to win the Super Bowl this year, no. Does the failure to acquire Lynch make it much harder, yes. Bottom line, despite Lynch only being under contract through 2011, Thompson should have pulled the trigger and sent a 3rd round pick to the Buffalo Bills for Marshawn Lynch.

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