Sunday, December 25, 2011

2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks Initial Player Rankings

The Milwaukee Bucks couldn't be any less relevant right now in Cheesehead country because the Green Bay Packers are the prohibitive Super Bowl XLVI favorites. Unfortunately since the NBA lockout was finally lifted, I have to give the Bucks some coverage because this is a Cheesehead sports blog not just a Packers blog.

Just for a quick re-cap of the NBA lockout. After 149 days the NBA Players Association and the NBA Owners agreed to a new ten-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with an opt-out clause for both sides after six years. The Basketball Related Revenue that the players get went from 57% to somewhere between 49% and 51% depending on revenue.

A 66-game (48 conference games and 18 non-conference games) season will happen this year instead of the customary 82-game season. The 66 games will be played from December 25th to April 26th, which means each team will play 66 games in a mere 123 days. As a result the Bucks have 20 back-to-back sets and one back-to-back-to-back set this season. The Bucks longest road trips for the season are a three-game road trip and a five-game west coast swing.

Finally the Bucks will get a $10 million increase in revenue sharing from $5 million to $15 million. For a much more in-depth discussion of the new CBA, check out Vishnu Parasuraman's excellent breakdown on

Thanks to the lockout, it feels like a million years ago that I gave my annual advice to John Hammond for how to approach the 2011-12 NBA season. Although very presumptuous, I like to think that Hammond followed some of my blueprint in constructing the 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks.

Is the current roster more like the pleasant surprise 46-win Milwaukee Bucks from the 2009-10 NBA season or the utterly disappointing 36-win Milwaukee Bucks that was the most injury plagued team in the NBA losing 275 "player games" from the 2010-11 NBA season?

Only time will tell but with the cast of characters ranked below I am going to wuss out and say the 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks are somewhere in between, especially since the schedule gods did them no favors. The Bucks play 12 of their first 18 games on the road with five of those 12 road games coming on a huge five-game west coast swing.

Not much has changed since I looked at the roster in June, which I dubbed 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks 1.0 but here are my actual initial player rankings of the 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks:

#15) Darington Hobson (#11, SG/SF, 6'7", 210 lbs, New Mexico, 2nd NBA Season):
Suffice to say the Bucks would have been much smarter to hold onto shooting guard Jodie Meeks instead of trading him for the pick they used to draft Hobson in the 2010 NBA Draft. So far Hobson's best contribution since being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks is tweeting updates about his surgery. In fact, the Bucks thought so little of Hobson that he was already cut yet somehow resigned since the 2010 NBA Draft.

#14) Jon Brockman (#40, PF/C, 6'7", 255 lbs, Washington, 3rd NBA Season):
Reminds me a lot of A.J. Hawk which is obviously a huge compliment to Brockman and a huge dig at Hawk. Brockman does all the dirty work and despite the head coach being a defense first guy, he still can't get meaningful minutes so let's just move on since I have a feeling this post is going to run long.

#13) Tobias Harris (#15, SF/PF, 6'8", 226 lbs, Tennessee, Rookie):
I had Tobias Harris right around where the Milwaukee Bucks drafted him in my 2011 First Round NBA Mock Draft. I obviously could not foresee that the Bucks were going to make a "blockbuster" trade right before the 2011 NBA Draft that would have them picking 19th instead of 10th. Most of the guys that I targeted for the Bucks to draft with the 10th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft went between picks 10 and 19. With the 19th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft I wish Hammond would have drafted Kenneth Faried, the only guy left on my target list. Although Harris has a higher "potential" ceiling, I would bet a decent sum of money that Faried is a much more successful NBA player than Harris just based on Faried's rebounding ability alone. Harris is one of the youngest players in the NBA so he has a huge upside. Hopefully the workouts Harris did with George Gervin and Dale Ellis help but unfortunately I have a much easier time seeing Harris as the next Joe Alexander as opposed to the next Vin Baker.

#12) Larry Sanders (#8, PF/C, 6'11", 235 lbs, Virginia Commonwealth, 2nd NBA Season):
It might be wishful thinking but Sanders has a chance to "make the jump" this year. Last year as a rookie Sanders looked overwhelmed by everything. This year Sanders at least knows what to expect off the court so hopefully that comfort will lead to more consistent play on the court.

#11) Mike Dunleavy Jr. (#17, SG/SF, 6'9", 230 lbs, Duke, 10th NBA Season):
This lower ranking is due in part to the fact that I played, actually probably road the pine, against Dunleavy in grade school. True story, Dunleavy fouled out of a game and started crying on the bench so badly that Mike Dunleavy Sr. (head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks at the time) had to console him on the bench. I guess it only makes sense that Dunleavy went to Duke right? By NBA standards a two-year, $7.5 million contract is not that bad for a guy with Dunleavy's skill set. That said, I will never shake the images of Dunleavy crying as an 8th grader so I have a hard time letting him crack the Top 10 in the initial rankings.

#10) Drew Gooden (#0, PF/C, 6'10", 236 lbs, Kansas, 10th NBA Season):
Candidate 1A (or 1B if Stephen Jackson acts like Stephen Jackson) for the Bucks to use their amnesty clause on (read the Grantland article refereced above if you don't know understand). All reports are that Gooden is a great guy but he missed 41 games last season with a foot injury. With the glut of talented power forwards that are much younger than Gooden on the roster, Gooden better stay healthy and play well or the Bucks will amnesty him this off-season.

#9) Shaun Livingston (#9, PG/SG, 6'7", 175 lbs, Peoria Central High School, 7th NBA Season):
Seeing potential career re-births for guys like Livingston are one of the big reasons that people love following sports. Sure L.A. Clippers fans are disappointed at how many injuries Livingston suffered but deep down they are pulling for Livingston to finally succeed in the NBA. After playing a career high 73 games last year for the Charlotte Bobcats, smart money says that Livingston gets injured this year. Hopefully I am wrong because coming out of high school, Livingston looked like a franchise player in the making. It's highly unlikely but with Bogut and Livingston in the same locker room may be two injury prone guys cancel each other out so both actually stay healthy for the whole season.

#8) Ersan Ilyasova (#7, SF/PF, 6'10", 235 lbs, Turkey, 4th NBA Season):
I am sticking with my "Poor Man's Dirk" comparisons. There is no denying that Ilyasova has the physical tools to succeed in the NBA but his slight build and timid personality on the court has held him back so far. Ilyasova strikes me as the type of guy that would push to be a league MVP in Europe but is just a little too overwhelmed by the NBA. One thing Ilyasova should keep in mind is that he is in a contract year. If Ilyasova wants to get a nice extension in the United States then he better back-up my "Poor Man's Dirk" comparison by the end of the season or he will be playing somewhere in Europe next season.

#7) Beno Udrih (#19, PG/SG, 6'3", 203 lbs, Slovenia, 7th NBA Season):
The left-handed Luke Ridnour comparisons are obvious. As I said following the 2010-11 season, the Bucks need a quality back-up combo guard to help Brandon Jennings improve. For all the moves that Hammond made since taking over as GM of the Milwaukee Bucks, if he re-signed Luke Ridnour then trading for a guy like Udrih would not be necessary. At least Hammond learned from his mistakes and made the move. Udrih will have a reduced role with the Bucks this year compared to last year with the Kings so it will be hard to match his 13.7 points and 4.9 assists averages from last season. Stats aside, Udrih is a great addition to the roster and I expect him to be one of the first players off the bench this season.

#6) Jon Leuer (#30, PF/C, 6'10", 228 lbs, Wisconsin, Rookie):
I know many people will say this is way too high but my man crush on Jon Leuer is even higher now than it was last year when he played for the Badgers. Thanks to Leuer playing valuable minutes in Germany during the lockout it looks like he will play meaningful minutes sooner rather than later this season. I targeted Jon Leuer as one of the guys that John Hammond should draft in the second round before the 2011 NBA Draft. Luckily Hammond did in fact draft Jon Leuer because as I said immediately following the 2011 NBA Draft, Leuer will have a better NBA career than the already discussed Tobias Harris.

#5) Stephen Jackson (#5, SG/SF, 6'8", 220 lbs, Oak Hill Academy, 12th NBA Season):
This pains me to put Jackson so high but he should get significant minutes for the Bucks unless he is suspended. I put the under/over at 20 games before Jackson is suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team". There is no denying that Jackson is the most talented of the three players that the Bucks acquired in their draft day trade but his me first attitude is the last thing the Bucks need to help Brandon Jennings mature as a player on and off the court. Hopefully Bogut will continue to be a leader and keep Jackson in-check. This is no shot at Bogut but I take the under on 20 games before Jackson is suspended.

#4) Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (#12, SF/PF, 6'8", 230 lbs, UCLA, 4th NBA Season):
The Prince (Google it if you don't understand by now) was a restricted free agent heading into the season when he signed a four-year, $18.7 million offer sheet with the Denver Nuggets. The offer could have been much higher and it would still be money well spent for one of the better lock-down defenders in the NBA. If The Prince can develop a more consistent mid-range jumper, Scottie Williams might have some competition for my Mount Rushmore of favorite all-time Milwaukee Bucks. In case you were wondering, my Milwaukee Bucks Mount Rushmore is: Big Dog, Ray Allen, Scottie Williams, and Oscar Robertson.

#3) Carlos Delfino (#10, SG/SF, 6'6", 230 lbs, Argentina, 7th NBA Season):
The Syndey Crosby of the Milwaukee Bucks in terms of concussions as opposed to natural talent that is, could be a very meaningful contributor in a contract year. If Delfino can stay healthy he deserves an extension for much less than the Bucks gave to John Salmons, but a long-term deal nonetheless.

#2) Brandon Jennings (#3, PG, 6'1", 169 lbs, Oak Hill Academy, 3rd NBA Season):
How sad is it that I weigh five pounds less than Brandon Jennings? I would like to blame it on the holidays, but I can't. Let's see what happens before the end of the NBA season, do I get my weight under 160 lbs or does Brandon Jennings finally develop into a top-tier NBA point guard? I hope both happen but I feel better about my chances of getting below 160 lbs than Jennings maturing. As it stands right now, Jennings can either turn into a potential franchise player or a shoot first point guard that helps get Scott Skiles fired before the end of the 2012-13 NBA season. Although I sound pessimistic so far in describing Jennings, I am going to take the former and hope that Jennings blossoms into a franchise player.

#1) Andrew Bogut (#6, C, 7'0", 260 lbs, Utah, 7th NBA season):
Injury experts claim that Bogut's injury takes two years to fully recover. Hopefully that's the case because Bogut looked like a shell of himself last year. The one positive that came out of the injury is that it forced Bogut to improve his ability to score with his left hand, which should make him "amphibious" according to Shawn Kemp.

Let me give you the understatement of the year.  Barring a huge surprise, the 2011-12 Milwaukee Bucks will only go as far as Bogut and Jennings take them. If either player suffers a serious injury the Bucks will have to rely on their quality depth because stars win playoff series but quality depth is what will get you to the playoffs in this wacky lock-out shortened regular season.

Monday, October 24, 2011

City thumps United 6-1

Manchester City beat their cross-town rivals Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford. That's right, on the road at Old Trafford, not at home.

United defender Jonny Evans was rightly sent off when City were only leading 1-0. It was the ever mercurial City striker Mario Balotelli that broke through to cause the Evans dismissal.

As always you take the good with the bad with Balotelli. After scoring, Balotelli lifted his jersey to reveal the saying: Why Always Me? Balotelli earned a yellow card for that silly display. In Balotelli's 35 appearances for City he as been a scoring machine (16 goals) that always has a chance to get sent off (12 yellow cards and two red cards).

Darren Fletcher scored the only United goal with 10 minutes left in the match to make it 3-1. At that point every City fan started to get nervous since United has been the bully of Manchester for the last few decades.

Unfortunately for United it is a new era in Manchester. Little did we know at the time that City would score three more goals to notch their most lopsided road win in the Manchester Derby since City won 5-0 at Old Trafford on February 12, 1955.

The six goals scored is the most City have scored at Old Trafford since before World War II (on January 23, 1926 City beat United 6-1) and it also marks the most goals United have allowed in a league match since September 13, 1930 (lost 7-4 to Newcastle).

In order to tally six, almost everyone on the pitch had to notch at least one goal. The goal scorers for City were Mario Balotelli (2 goals), Edin Dzeko (2 goals), Sergio Aguero (1 goal), and David Silva (1 goal).

United has not been playing great as of late but they still had a 19-game unbeaten streak at home in the league (two short of Liverpool's record of 21 from 1972-73) to go along with a 37-game unbeaten streak at home.

City have only won twice at Old Trafford since 1974, which gives you some perspective on how rare of a feat City just completed.

The calls for City to win the league are going to get even louder now but there are still a ton of games left to play. City should enjoy the victory and relish the one quote that summed up the entire match, United manager Alex Ferguson said "It's the worst result in my history, ever."

Related Posts:
- Sunday Funday - 2011-12 Manchester City Initial Player Rankings

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Milwaukee Brewers Win the 2011 N.L. Central

I was going to post something earlier but my buddy Sug and I got together for our annual Madden franchise draft so I had to delay posting my thoughts till today.

Mama Cheese and Papa Cheese got to see the Milwaukee Brewers clinch their first division title in 29 years at Thriller while I watched the Brewers clinch the N.L. Central on MLB Network.

Former Brewers relief pitcher and current MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac gave his extended thoughts on how Ryan Braun could go down as one of the best Brewers of all-time along with the likes of Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, and Company. That is definitely possible, I just hope Braun continues to produce offensively because he is an average defender at best.

I hate to be negative right out of the gate but with the impeding departure of Prince Fielder after the season, fans should relish this division title for a long time. The current roster does not look like a World Series contender and next year it will be much weaker with Prince playing somewhere else.

Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin did a nice job of assembling some quality regular season starting pitchers picking up the like of Randy Wolf and Shaun Marcum but the only prime time starter the Brewers have are Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke. The Arizona Diamondbacks won a World Series with two stud starters but the duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Shilling is much better than Gallardo and Greinke.

Papa Cheese is a huge baseball fan so I'm glad that he got to see the Brewers clinch N.L. Central in-person because it might be the first and last division title for the Brewers for a very long time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Milwaukee Brewers Speak Out

Sorry that there has been a lack of Milwaukee Brewers posts despite the fact that the team is making one of only a handful of playoff runs in my lifetime. In even worse news, this post is going to quickly look at the comments two current Brewers made at the worst possible time since the team has been sputtering lately.

Former closer turned set-up man K-Rod voiced his displeasure with being the primary set-up guy as a opposed to being the closer. When the Brewers acquired K-Rod from the New York Mets a few months ago, I thought there would be issues. Fortunately there have not been any public issues until K-Rod recently voiced his displeasure with not being given a chance to close games.

Current closer John Axford has converted a club record 39 consecutive saves so I am not sure why K-Rod thinks he should be the closer. Fortunately for K-Rod his comments are merely a footnote to Prince Fielder's recent comments.

In an interview set to air on Sunday with Brewers announcer Brian Anderson, Fielder talks about how this is probably his last season playing for the Milwaukee Brewers. Why did Fielder have to state the obvious about 2012 while fans are just trying to enjoy 2011? For what has felt like 15 years now, we've known that there is a 1% chance that Fielder plays for the Brewers in 2012 since he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2011 season.

Normally I applaud athletes for being candid but not at the expense of the team, especially when their team is in the middle of a playoff run. The comments by K-Rod and Fielder hopefully will not have a lasting impact on their playoff run but it sure didn't help.

One final note, K-Rod and Fielder are both represented by "super" agent Scott Boras. That doesn't necessarily mean that the comments were timed to drop at the same time but I would not put it past Boras. We know there is no way Fielder will be allowed to take a hometown discount thanks to Boras. Re-read that sentence, Boras not Fielder holds the cards to his future.

K-Rod and Fielder should focus on making headlines with positive play on the field not negative comments during interviews if they want to see the Brewers make a legitimate playoff run this season.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

2011-12 Manchester City Initial Player Rankings

There is no real Cheesehead sports connection here other than the fact that I am Manchester City fan so if you don't care to get to know the current Man City squad thanks for stopping by, please check back for more regular Cheesehead sports coverage soon. Also this post is going to be far from quick so buckle up if you want a full preview of the initial 2011-12 Man City squad.

For those that decided to stick around, thank you. I explained why I pull for Man City in my running diary of Man City's FA Cup victory over Stoke City a few months back. With the 2010-11 EPL season in the books and the August transfer window closed, Man City now has their squad settled until the January transfer window opens.

As usual, Man City signed a number of high profile players* when the transfer window opened. That left Man City with a glut of talent so a bunch of quality players were loaned out** or sold*** to other clubs. In fact if you put a few mediocre Premier League players with Man City's loaned out players, that squad would probably be a mid-table Premier League side. After all those transactions, thanks to EPL rules****, Man City named their initial 25-man (actually comprised of 24 players) roster***** for the 2011-12 season. Thanks to a quirk in the rules, Man City doesn't have to name certain players****** to their 25-man roster so they actually have more than 25 players available to play for Man City between today and when the transfer window opens again on January 1, 2012.

I know that was a ton of information and we are only getting started. With all of that as window dressing, here are my initial rankings of Man City's 2011-12 squad:

#29) Abdul Razak (M, CIV) - Not much to say here so let's just keep the rankings moving.

#28) Greg Cunningham (D, IRE) - Apparently he is the left-back of the future but there are a ton of other stud left-backs on the roster so Cunningham is only going to improve through training with the first team at this point.

#27) Gunnar Nielsen (GK, FAR) - The first player from the Faroe Islands to ever appear in a English Premier League game will struggle to see the pitch this season.

#26) Alex Tchuimeni-Nimely (M, ENG) - Became the 31st Academy player to play first-team football for Man City. With all the striking options you will see below, the only way he sees the pitch for the 2011/12 season in anything other than garbage time is if Man City suffers a baker's dozen of injuries.

#25) Costel Pantilimon (GK, ROM) - The Romanian Goalkeeper of the Year in 2010 was targeted by a number of teams before the seasons (Arsenal, Inter Milan and Manchester United) but Pantilimon elected to sign with Man City.

#24) Owen Hargreaves (M, ENG) - After more years in the medical room than actual appearances for Man United, Hargreaves moved to the blue half of Manchester in hopes of resurrecting his career. With how deep Man City is across the midfield, which essentially forced Patrick Vieira to take a front office job with Man City, expect Hargreaves to make very few appearances even if he is healthy.

#23) Wayne Bridge (D, ENG) - Man City tried to sell Bridge but other clubs knew Man City was desperate to move him so talks never materialized. As a result, Bridge is still on the team despite the fact that Man City purchased two better left back options: Kolarov and Clichy.

#22) Stuart Taylor (GK, ENG) - The definition of quality back-up, especially with Shay Given sold to Aston Villa, Taylor will be called on if Joe Hart suffers an injury this season.

#21) Nedum Onuoha (D, ENG) - A young, talented defender that is going to struggle to make first team appearances thanks to the quality depth Man City has along the defensive line.

#20) Stefan Savic (D, MON) - A lower profile transfer for Man City with how much money they flash around will ultimately be a good signing for the club because Savic is a quality, young central defender that will get an occasional start depending on the health of Kompany and Lescott.

#19) James Milner (M, ENG) - Mancini has not given Milner consistent playing time, which makes it hard to evaluate whether it was a bad signing. When Milner does see the field he is sort of tweener playing as a holding midfielder sometimes and playing as a winger other times. At some point Man City needs to sell some of their players but if City tried to sell Milner in the now closed transfer window they would be selling low on Milner. I say give Milner some starts to see what he can do the pitch.

#18) Kolo Toure (D, CIV) - After being suspended for six months for taking a banned substance, reportedly his wife's weight control pills, Toure looks to rejoin the squad and fight for first team action since Kompany and Lescott have played well together in central defense in Toure's absence.

#17) Gareth Barry (M, ENG) - Some people like Barry more than I do. If Barry was predominately a right footed player he might not ever see the pitch. Fortunately Barry is left-footed so he get consistent playing time as a holding midfielder.

#16) Aleksandar Kolarov (D, SERB) - Move over Wayne Bridge, there are a few new left backs in town.

#15) Adam Johnson (M, ENG) - If Johnson got more regular playing time he would challenge Kompany for the most cost effective transfer under the new ownership regime. Unfortunately with all the other impressive attacking options currently on the roster, Johnson will be more of a super-sub than a start unless a rash of injuries strike the midfield.

#14) Pablo Zabaleta (D, ARG) - The John Kuhn of Man City does whatever Manager Roberto Mancini asks, which makes Zabaleta a quality utility player.

#13) Samir Nasri (M, FRA) - I was dead against this transfer but after watching Nasri on the road against Tottenham, may be Nasri was the final attacking piece Man City needs. One game obviously does not make a career but Nasri seamlessly combined with his fellow attacking compatriots (Dzeko, Aguero, and Silva) to absolutely torch the Tottenham defense. Hopefully that assault continues throughout the rest of the 2011-12 campaign for Man City.

#12) Gael Clichy (D, FRA) - The first of two players purchased from Arsenal before the start of the current campaign is going to battle with Kolarov for the starting left back spot.

#11) Joleon Lescott (D, ENG) - After a less than impressive start to his Man City career, Lescott started to partner well with Kompany in the center of the defense toward the end of last season.

#10) Mario Balotelli (S, IT) - The mercurial nature of Balotelli is Terrell Owens in the making. With a ton of attacking options, Balotelli is going to have to work to even make the bench let along make appearances for City.

#9) Nigel de Jong (M, NED) - The new-school Roy Keane in Manchester is a guy you love if he plays for your team but absolutely hate if he plays for teh other side.

#8) Carlos Tevez (S, ARG) - If these ranking took last season into account then Tevez would be #1 but all the drama surrounding Tevez moving to another club has limited his first team appearances so far this season. As crazy as it sounds, Tevez is going to have to work hard just to make the starting line-up for Man City this season.

#7) Micah Richards (D, ENG) - With all the impressive players on the team, Richards might actually be the most physically gifted player on the entire team. Richards routinely tests defenses pushing forward down the right flank but still somehow can track back when teams counter attack.

#6) Yaya Toure (M, CIV) - Last year's hero notched goals in the FA Cup semifinal and final to help Man City win their first trophy in 35 years. Toure might be ranked higher but after buying Nasri it looks like Toure is going to play more defensively this year than he did last year.

#5) Sergio Aguero (S, ARG) - If you would have told me a month ago the highest ranked Argentine striker would not be Tevez, I would have laughed in your face but Aguero looks worth every penny (billions of pennies actually) that Man City spent on Aguero especially following his hat-trick against Wigan.

#4) Edin Dzeko (S, BIH) - Luckily this list was not put together till after Dzeko set the Premier League on fire notching his first EPL hat-trick with four goals against Tottenham.

#3) David Silva (M, ESP) - The slightly poor man's Lionel Messi, yes you read that correctly, I am comparing David Silva to Lionel Messi. Don't get me wrong, Messi is still much better than Silva but they are similar players.

#2) Joe Hart (GK, ENG) - There is little question whether Hart should be England's #1 goalkeeper. The real question is whether he will continue to improve enough that he will be mentioned as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

#1) Vincent Kompany (D, BEL) - Man City purchased Kompany from Hamburg for a reported £6 million, which actually makes Kompany the most cost effective transfer in Man City history given that Kompany has been Man City's most valuable player on the roster the last two seasons.

I hope you enjoyed my preview of the 2011-12 Man City squad. Check back soon for more actual Cheesehead sports coverage.

* = Sergio Aguero (S, ARG) from Atlético Madrid; Gael Clichy (D, FRA) from Arsenal; Samir Nasri (M, FRA) from Arsenal Costel Pantilimon (GK, ROM) from FC Timisoara; and Stefan Savic (D, MON) from Partizan Belgrade.

** = Emmanuel Adebayor (S, TGO) loaned to Tottenham Hotspur for the 2011/12; Ahmed Benali loaned to Rochdale for an undisclosed period of time; Dedryck Boyata (D, BEL) loaned to Bolton Wanderers for the 2011/12 season; David Gonzalez (GK, COL) loaned to Aberdeen for six month; John Guidetti (S, SW) loaned to Feyenoord Rotterdam for the 2011/12 season; Abdisalam Ibrahim (M, NOR) loaned to NEC Nijmegan for the 2011/12 season; Michael Johnson (M, ENG) loaned to Leicester City for the 2011/12 season; Ryan McGivern (D, NI) loaned to Bristol City for the 2011/12 season; Benjamin Mee (D, ENG) loaned to Burnley for the 2011/12 season; Roque Santa Cruz (S, PRY) loaned to Real Betis for the 2011/12 season; Kieran Trippier (D, ENG) loead to Burnley for an undisclosed period of time; and Vladimir Weiss (M, SVK) loaned to Espanyol for the 2011/12 season.

*** = Craig Bellamy (M, Wales) sold to Liverpool for an undisclosed fee; Jerome Boateng (D, GER) sold to Bayern Munich for an undisclosed fee; Shay Given (GK, IRE) sold to Aston Villa for an undisclosed fee; (S, BRZ) sold to Sport Club Internacional for an undisclosed fee; Scott Kay (M, ENG) free transfer to Macclesfield Town; Shaleum Logan (D, ENG) free transfer to Brentford; Donald McDermott (S, IRE) free transfer to Huddersfield Town; James Poole (S, ENG) sold to Hartlepool United for an undisclosed fee; Andrew Tutte (M, ENG) free transfer to Rochdale; and Shaun Wright-Phillips (M, ENG) was Queens Park Rangers for an undisclosed fee.

**** = "Each club's 25-man squad should have eight homegrown players who - regardless of age or nationality - spent three years (or a total of 36 months) in the youth system of a club in England or Wales before they reached the age of 21. Contrary to reports elsewhere, players aged under 21 can, if required, be named in the 25-man squad as a homegrown player. An Under-21 player is defined as being born on or after January 1, 1989. Clubs can use an unlimited number of Under-21 players in addition to their 25-man squad. Any player who is left out of the 25-man squad will only be eligible to play in the Carling Cup until January 1. From January 1 to January 31, clubs can make unlimited changes to their 25-man squad. On February 1 a new 25-man squad must be named to run until the end of the current campaign. If a club chooses fewer than 25 players for their squad it is almost certainly due to them having a large number of under-21 players. Clubs with fewer than 25 players in their squad are still permitted to sign free agents." (Source).

***** = Sergio Aguero (S, ARG); Gareth Barry (M, ENG); Wayne Bridge (D, ENG); Gael Clichy (D, FRA); Nigel de Jong (M, NED); Edin Dzeko (S, BIH); Owen Hargreaves (M, ENG); Joe Hart (GK, ENG); Adam Johnson (M, ENG); Aleksandar Kolarov (D, SERB); Vincent Kompany (D, BEL); Joleon Lescott (D, ENG); James Milner (M, ENG); Samir Nasri (M, FRA); Gunnar Nielsen (GK, FAR); Nedum Onuoha (D, ENG); Costel Pantilimon (GK, ROM); Micah Richards (D, ENG); David Silva (M, ESP); Stuart Taylor (GK, ENG); Carlos Tevez (S, ARG); Kolo Toure (D, CIV); Yaya Toure (M, CIV); and Pablo Zabaleta (D, ARG)

****** = Mario Balotelli (S, IT); Greg Cunningham (D, IRE); Abdul Razak (M, CIV); Stefan Savic (D, MON); and Alex Tchuimeni-Nimely (M, ENG) with others from the youth academy possibly joining the squad later in the year.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

2011 Green Bay Packers Initial Player Rankings

Since this post is going to get lengthy, I will make the introduction short. These rankings are based on a combination of ability, age, contract Status, and strength at the position. With that in mind, here are my initial rankings of the 2011 Green Bay Packers roster:

#53) M.D. Jennings (S) - The biggest surprise to make the 53-man roster might only be on the actual roster for a short time because the Packers need to add at least one more interior offensive lineman.

#52) Evan Dietrich-Smith (G/C) - Another surprise member of the 53-man roster ahead of Nick McDonald (cut) and Caleb Schlauderaff (traded). Dietrich-Smith can play guard and center so versatility is probably the main reason why he made the 53-man roster.

#51) Jamari Lattimore (OLB) - With Frank Zombo hurt, Lattimore gives the Packers depth at outside linebacker. Once Zombo is healthy, look for Lattimore to get cut and hopefully added to the practice squad.

#50) Pat Lee (CB) - Did not start at Auburn till his senior year yet the Packer used a second round draft pick on him in the 2008 NFL Draft. This will be Lee's fourth year in the league but unfortunately he has more years in the NFL than memorable plays.

#49) Brad Jones (OLB) - Has struggled to regain his form in 2011 after a promising start to the 2010 season (started five games and appeared in seven games) was cut short by injury. Some Packers coaches compared Jones to Chad Brown (former Steeler and Seahawk) but he is a homeless man's Chad Brown at best. It is put up or shut up time for Jones because the Packers have a ton of young outside linebackers vying for playing time.

#48) D.J. Williams (TE) - An undersized, athletic tight end that needs to prove the Packers made the right decision keeping him as their 5th tight end.

#47) Robert Francois (MLB) - After Nick Barnett and Brandon Chillar were cut the Packers suddenly went from having the deepest group of middle linebackers in the NFL to being rather thin at the position after their two starters. Francois showed promise in the preseason but still looks like a mediocre backup at best.

#46) Davon House (CB) - A fast (4.41 second 40-yard dash) rookie cornerback with raw athletic talent that is an unknown commodity because injuries limited his repetitions throughout the preseason.

#45) C.J. Wilson (DE) - Registered 21 tackles, six QB hits, and one sack in 2010. Those are not terrible numbers since the 3-4 defense is not set-up for defensive lineman to put up big numbers. It is more important that Wilson eats up blockers in running and passing situations to open up big play opportunities for linebackers and defensive backs.

#44) D.J. Smith (MLB) - A bit undersized (5'11" and 240 lbs) for a prototypical 3-4 middle linebacker that makes up for being undersized by being an absolute tackling machine.

#43) Tom Crabtree (TE) - Not the most polished tight end on the roster but does a little bit of everything well. Crabtree's strongest asset is his blocking ability, which makes him a candidate to play both tight end and fullback since the Packers traded Quinn Johnson.

#42) Alex Green (RB) - The departure of Brandon Jackson left the Packers searching for a new 3rd down back. Green is trying to prove that he is not a one-hit wonder that benefited from playing in a pass first offense at Hawaii. If Green can improve his blocking ability he looks like the ideal candidate to be the new 3rd down back.

#41) Ryan Taylor (TE) - A few weeks ago it looked like Taylor was fighting for a practice squad spot and now he is fighting for the backup tight end spot behind starter Jermichael Finley. Much like Crabtree, Taylor blocks well so he has a chance to play tight end and fullback.

#40) Jarius Wynn (DE) - Defensive lineman in the 3-4 defense are asked to do all the dirty work (eat up blockers) without having free reign for any of the glory (sacks and tackles for a loss) most of the time. That doesn't diminish how important defensive lineman are in the 3-4 defense though. Look for Wynn to continue to do the dirty work along the defensive line for the Packers in 2011.

#39) Derek Sherrod (OT) - At 6'5" and 320 pounds, Sherrod is the left tackle of the future in Green Bay after struggling at left guard throughout the preseason. The coaching staff should not be surprised that Sherrod struggled as a left guard because he started 47 games (appearing in 49 games total) at left tackle at Mississippi State. Hopefully Sherrod will settle in at left tackle because the Packers are one Chad Clifton injury away from needing a new blindside protector for Aaron Rodgers.

#38) Frank Zombo (OLB) - Transitioned to playing outside linebacker in his rookie season in the NFL in 2010 after playing defensive end in college. Zombo had four sacks (including the only sack in Super Bowl XLV), six tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, and seven quarterback hits. Unfortunately Zombo broke his shoulder blade in the preseason and his availability for 2011 is up in the air otherwise he would be ranked 10 spots higher.

#37) Marshall Newhouse (OT) - The 3rd tackle on the depth chart despite the fact that the Packer drafted Derek Sherrod in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Look for Newhouse to fill in at either tackle position as opposed to Sherrod if either Clifton or Bulaga get hurt in 2011.

#36) Randall Cobb (WR) - Although he might not be healthy enough to play in the season opener, when healthy, Cobb will help the Packers improve in the return game because they were horrible in 2010: 26th in kickoff return average and 22nd in punt return average. In fact the Packers have not had a kickoff return for a touchdown since Allen Rossum's 92-yard return against the Colts in November of 2000.

#35) Vic So'oto (OLB) - The pleasant surprise of the 2011 preseason for the Green Bay Packers played well against the Colts and the Chiefs to not only secure a roster spot but also serves as the primary backup spot at outside linebacker. I know it seems crazy but So’oto looks like the second coming of James Harrison.

#34) Andrew Quarless (TE) - A homeless man's Jermichael Finley has a ton of young competition (Williams, Crabtree, and Taylor) for playing time in 2011. Look for Quarless to improve his blocking or find his playing time severely limited.

#33) John Kuhn (FB/RB) - The only fullback on the 53-man roster is really more of a tweener fullback/running back then a true blocking fullback. Look for Kuhn to fill multiple roles (fullback, running back, and special teams) in 2011 to justify his three-year, $7.5 million contract extension.

#32) Jarrett Bush (CB/S) - Is the hardest non-starter on the roster to figure out. Bush plays great on special teams most of the time. Unfortunately on defense Bush is like temperamental14-year-old girl, sometimes he plays great on defense and sometimes he looks absolutely lost. Bush's special teams makes him worthy of a roster spot, the wild card is how he will do on defense in 2011.

#31) Brett Goode (LS) - Clean as the long snapper for the last three years (89 punts and 94 place kicks), hopefully Goode can continue that form in 2011 because you never want to hear the long snapper talked about because if his name comes up it means he made a horrible gaffe.

#30) Charlie Peprah (S) - Signed a two-year, $2 million contract ($150,000 guaranteed) in the off-season to give the Packers a quality back-up safety to Collins and Burnett.

#29) Matt Flynn (QB) - At some point Flynn will be an NFL starter but for all the praise he got after his performance against the Patriots with Rodgers sidelined with a concussion at the end of last season, Flynn is still a bit of an unknown commodity. Hopefully Flynn will not get any extended looks in 2011 besides moping up in garbage time because that would mean Rodgers was seriously injured again.

#28) Howard Green (DE/DT) - Big Sexy of the defensive line will be called upon often to play in 2011 because he is the primary back-up at both defensive end and defensive tackle.

#27) Mason Crosby (K) - Moving the kickoff to the 35-yard line will help Crosby but that doesn't mean he is worth the five-year, $14.75 million deal ($3 million guaranteed) he signed after the lockout was lifted. Compare that deal to the four-year, $12 million deal ($3.5 million guaranteed) that Ryan Longwell got from the Minnesota Vikings. I guess that is the going rate for a kicker but Crosby has only converted 78.1% of his FG attempts and 219 of 220 PATs. Crosby’s below average numbers are due in part to kicking in Green Bay but he is still an average kicker at best that is being paid like a borderline Pro Bowl kicker. Let’s compare recent Packer kickers. Crosby is better than Chris Jackie who converted 76.4% of his kicks in Green Bay from 1989 to 1996 but not better than Ryan Longwell who converted 80.9% of his kicks in Green Bay from 1997 to 2005. Crosby makes the kicks he should make (67 of 75 (89.3%) inside 40-yards and makes some of the longer kicks 26 of 37 (70.4%) from between 40 and 49-yards. Unfortunately Crosby is only 1 for 4 in game winning kicks as well (made a 42-yarder in his NFL debut but missed from 52, 38, and 53). There are only 32 starting place kickers in the NFL and Crosby has been below average since the Packers drafted him: 2007 - 26th (79.5%), 2008 - 28th (79.4%), 2009 - Tied for 25th (75.0%), and 2010 - 26th (78.6%).

#26) Mike Neal (DE) - Missed three games with an abdominal strain to start his NFL career in 2010. When Neal returned he registered three tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble. Unfortunately Neal suffered a season ending shoulder injury Week 5. Keep all of that in mind as you try to process that the Packers are expecting Neal to start at defensive end in place of the now departed Cullen Jenkins. Unfortunately Neal is not even a lock to be healthy enough to play in the opener so you can see why Big Sexy (Howard Green) is so important to the 2011 Green Bay Packers.

#25) T.J. Lang (OG) - After an early camp battle with rookie Derek Sherrod for the starting left guard spot, Lang beat out Sherrod with a good performance against the Arizona Cardinals earlier in the preseason. Hopefully we get the impressive 2009 version of T.J. Lang as opposed to the lackluster 2010 version.

#24) Ryan Grant (RB) - The Packers paid Grant a big roster bonus ($1.75 million) at the start of training camp and then re-negotiated Grant's contract so that he makes $1 million less in 2011 but the entire contract is guaranteed. Grant turns 29 during the 2011 season but Grant's body is not really that old because he has only played a few full NFL season. How well Grant and Starks play in 2011 will go a long way towards determining where Grant plays in 2012.

#23) James Jones (WR) - After catching 50 passes for 679 yards and five touchdowns as a borderline starting wide receiver for the Packers in 2010, it looked like Jones was going to break the bank to become a primary receiver for another team. Thanks to one of the deepest groups of free agent wide receivers in NFL history, Jones didn’t break the bank and ended up signing a three-year, $9.6 million deal ($1.5 million guaranteed) with the Packers. Jones needs to limit his drops in big situations because he dropped 10 balls in 2010, five that could have gone for TDs (against Dolphins, Jets, Giants, Eagles in the playoffs, and Steelers in Super Bowl XLV). If Jones limits his drops, he signed one of the most club friendly contracts ever.

#22) James Starks (RB) - Adopted a gluten free diet during the lockout and gained eight pounds to tip the scales at 225 pounds. After a number of impressive performances at the end of the 2010 season, look for Starks to pick up where he left off with an improved body physically to become the primary ball carrier by the end of the season.

#21) Tim Masthay (P) - Preformed very well in 2010: 13th in gross punt average (43.9 yards), 18th in net punt average (37.6 yards), and 16th in placing punts inside the 20 yard line (25 times). If Masthay kicks as well in 2011 as he did in 2010, look for the Packers to sign Masthay long-term.

#20) Donald Driver (WR) - The "starter" at wide receiver opposite Greg Jennings is just 41 yards shy of breaking James Lofton's teams record for most receiving yards in franchise history (9,656 yards). Kudos to Driver in advance of breaking Lofton's record, he is one of the classiest guys in franchise history. For everyone that is anointing Nelson and Jones as bigger threats than Driver, slow down because Driver has been defying the odds his entire career. I expect Driver to have a great bounce back season in 2011.

#19) Morgan Burnett (S) - After an lost rookie season to a knee injury, Burnett opens 2011 as the starter at safety opposite Nick Collins. As long as Burnett can stay healthy, he looks like the next great safety in the making in Green Bay.

#18) Erik Walden (OLB) - It is nice to have some consistency opposite Matthews with Walden because last season the Packers started four different guys (including playoffs) opposite Matthews: Robert Francois (1 game), Erik Walden (5 games), Brad Jones (5 games), and Frank Zombo (9 games).

#17) Jordy Nelson (WR) - For all the praise Nelson is receiving throughout the preseason let's not forget that he did not put up huge numbers in 2010 with 45 catches for 582 yards and two touchdowns. I know Nelson had a nice statistical performance in Super Bowl XLV with nine catches and 140 receiving yards but he dropped a sure touchdown in that game. Let's hope Nelson can have a breakout season in a contract year in 2011 to earn the big extension the Packers presumably already have in the works.

#16) Sam Shields (CB) - Allowed four TDs and 10 plays of 20-yards or more in 2010. Those stats don't seem great but Shields played much better then just the raw statistics. In fact, Peter King ranked Shields as the 100th best player in the NFL in 2010. Not too shabby for a guy that wasn't even drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft. The Packers lured Shields to Green Bay with a $7,500 signing bonus that might go down as the most cost effective signing bonus in franchise history.

#15) Ryan Pickett (DT) - Registered a tackle every seven snaps in 2010. Although Pickett will be a big part of the defensive line in 2011 if he stays healthy, look for him to regress statistically in 2011 because he is moving from defensive end to defensive tackle.

#14) Chad Clifton (OT) - In what might be Clifton's last season in Green Bay let's hope he can stay healthy for the whole season because an injury to Clifton might force the Packers to shuffle the entire offensive line (move Bulaga to left tackle, move Lang to right tackle, and insert a new player at left guard) because Newhouse and Sherrod don't look like starting left tackles in the NFL yet.

#13) A.J. Hawk (MLB) - The Business HJ of middle linebackers signed a five-year, $33.75 million contract ($10.95 million guaranteed) right before the start of the lockout. Hawk plays almost every down contributing 666 tackles, 33 passes defended, 15 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, 8 INTs, 4 fumble recoveries, and 2 forced fumbles for his career. That seems great but Hawk was the 5th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. When you are picked that high, you expect more explosive plays.

#12) Bryan Bulaga (OT) - The new school Mark Tauscher in Green Bay sans the glorious neck beard had an all-around impressive rookie season in 2010. In fact a very compelling argument could be made that without Bulaga in the fold, the Green Bay Packers would not have won Super Bowl XLV.

#11) Desmond Bishop (MLB) - Following former starting middle linebacker Nick Barnett's season ending injury, Bishop shed the "Mr. August" title making 150 tackles, 3 sacks, and a pick-six in the final 16 games of the season (including playoffs). The Packers rewarded Bishop with a four-year, $18 million extension. Having Bishop and Hawk in the fold made Nick Barnett expendable but it was still sad to see Barnett go after all he contributed in his Packer career (started 107 of 128 regular season games, registered 575 tackles, 15.5 sacks, and 9 interceptions. Barnett was healthy at the start of his career, he only missed two games in his first five years in the league but a torn ACL in 2008 (missed 8 games) and wrist injury in 2010 (missed 12 games) made him expendable. Barnett signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Buffalo Bills ($6 guaranteed) after getting cut by the Packers. It will be interesting to track Bishop and Barnett the next few years to see if the Packers made the right decision going with the younger guy.

#10) Scott Wells (C) - Despite trying to replace Wells every year with a bigger guy, Wells (6'2" and 300 lbs) continues to anchor the offensive line. With Evan Dietrich-Smith as the only real back-up at guard or center, if Wells is lost for an extended period of time the Packers season could go south in no time.

#9) Jermichael Finley (TE) - Reminds me of Rickie Weeks. There is no denying his talent but Finley missed 15 games in three years and only finished one season healthy. Finley needs to prove he can stay healthy before the Packers invest a large amount of money in Finley since he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2011 season.

#8) Nick Collins (S) - Has a knack for getting his hands on the ball, whether he catches it is another story. Although Collins had four interceptions in 2010 (remember the pick-six in Super Bowl XLV), that total could be even bigger because Collins dropped five interceptions in 2010.

#7) Charles Woodson (CB) - Has been an absolute turnover machine since joining the Packers. Woodson has 48 takeaways in five seasons in Green Bay (including playoffs). For all those that think Woodson is getting a little long in the tooth, let’s not forget that Woodson set season career highs in 2010 with 115 tackles and five forced fumbles. Woodson will play in the slot in 2011 to allow him to continue to play as a hybrid cornerback/safety.

#6) B.J. Raji (DE) - Lead all defensive lineman with 1,070 snaps in 2010 where he registered 6.5 sacks, 12 QB hits, and 12 QB pressures. The Packers moved Raji to defensive end to let him get after the quarterback more in 2011 so look for Raji to increase his sacks, QB hits, and QB pressures.

#5) Josh Sitton (OG) - With the influx of big, fast defensive tackles there has been a waterfall effect that impacted offensive guards. Six or seven years ago guard was not that highly paid of a position but the only way to counteract the influx of stud defensive tackles is an influx of big offensive guards. As a result the undisputed stud of the offensive line just signed a five-year extension with the team keeping Sitton in Green Bay through the 2016 season. The numbers of Sitton's extension have not been revealed but look for Sitton to justifiably be one of the highest guards in the NFL.

#4) Tramon Williams (CB) - In 2010 Williams only gave up one touchdown and six plays of 20-yards or more. The Packers rewarded Williams with a nice contract extension last year before a myriad of cornerbacks signed even more lucrative deals. As crazy as it sounds, Williams is the undisputed best cornerback on the roster (sorry Chuck) so if Williams continues to play as well has he did in 2010 the Packers might have to renegotiate the extension that Williams signed in 2010 sooner rather than later.

#3) Greg Jennings (WR) - The offense struggled to utilize Jennings and Finley while Finley was healthy for the first part of the 2010 season. The only positive thing about losing Finley last year was that Jennings thrived in Finley’s absence. The Packers will need to get Jennings and Finley to co-exist in 2011. If they can, the Packers will have the most explosive offense in the NFL.

#2) Clay Matthews (OLB) - In only two years in the NFL Matthews already registered 23.5 sacks. Very accomplished former outside linebacker and current outside linebacker coach Kevin Greene called Matthews the most complete OLB he's ever seen. I could say more but Clay's numbers and Greene's quote says it all.

#1) Aaron Rodgers (QB) - I mean this in all sincerity, if Rodgers plays anything like he did against the Falcons in the playoffs last year he is going to start collecting Lombardi and MVP trophies yearly for the next decade.

Check back Wednesday for more Packer coverage ahead of their season opener Thursday in Green Bay against the Saints that pits the last two Super Bowl champs.

2011 Green Bay Packers Initial Practice Squad

Just like every other team in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers signed eight players to their practice squad the day after finalizing their initial 53-man roster. Here are my rankings of the initial 2011 Green Bay Packers eight player practice squad:

#8) Sampson Genus (C) - Although I have him ranked lowest on the eight-man practice squad, Genus has a good chance to appear on the 53-man roster because the Packers don't have much depth along the interior of their offensive line.

#7) Brandon Saine (RB) - At 5'11" and 220 lbs, Saine has some speed (4.39 second 40-yard dash) and smarts (scored a 27 on the Wonderlic). Saine is a nice project to keep on the practice squad to see how he improves throughout the year because Ryan Grant might not be with the Packers for the 2012 season.

#6) Diondre Borel (WR) - One of three wide receivers signed to the practice squad shows you how deep the Packers are at wide receiver with five on the active roster and three on the practice squad.

#5) Brandian Ross (CB) - I would rather see Ross on the 53-man roster than Pat Lee because Ross has decent measurables (4.54 second 40-yard dash, 37" vertical, 10'0" broad jump, and 16 on Wonderlic) to go along with a pick-six of Aaron Rodgers during the family night scrimmage. I hope I am wrong but Lee is very injury prone so if he gets injured again this year, look for Ross to get a shot at the 53-man roster.

#4) Tori Gurley (WR) - I am surprised that Gurley made it through waivers. Once injuries hit teams in the early part of the regular season look for the Packers to make the tough choice of cutting a player from their 53-man roster to keep Gurley.

#3) Ray Dominguez (G/T) - The Packers decided to keep Evan Dietrich-Smith instead of Dominguez on the active roster. Look for Dominguez to work at every offensive line position because the more versatile he becomes, the more likely he is to make the active 53-man roster by the end of the season.

#2) Chastin West (WR) - After an impressive preseason, the Packers thought long and hard about keeping six wide receivers and four tight ends but ultimately decided to keep five tight ends and five wide receivers because a number of their tight ends are essentially wide receivers (Finley, Quarless, and Williams). Fortunately West made it through waivers so the Packers can stash him on the practice squad for the time being.

#1) Graham Harrell (QB) - Speaking of making it through waivers, the biggest surprise of roster cut-downs was the Packers cutting Harrell after his impressive late game heroics against the Colts earlier in the preseason. Luckily Harrell was not claimed by another team so the Packers happily signed him to the practice squad. With Matt Flynn most likely playing somewhere else in 2012, the Packers need to see if Harrell can be a viable back-up quarterback in 2012.

Finally three of the 10 draft picks Ted Thompson made in the 2011 NFL Draft: Caleb Schlauderaff (traded to Jets), Rick Elmore (cut), and Lawrence Guy (placed on injured reserve) are not on the 53-man active roster or the eight player practice squad.

Check back later tonight for my full rankings 53 to 1 of the initial 53-man roster for the 2011 Green Bay Packers.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

2011 Green Bay Packers Initial 53-Man Roster

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson cut 23 players*, placed two players on injured reserve**, and traded two players*** to trim the roster from 80 players to 53 players. Although there is a good chance that the 53-man roster will change in the next 24 hours, here is your first look at the 2011 Green Bay Packers:

QBs (2): Matt Flynn and Aaron Rodgers

RBs (4): Ryan Grant, Alex Green, John Kuhn, and James Starks

TEs (5): Tom Crabtree, Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor, and D.J. Williams

WRs (5): Randall Cobb, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson

OLs (8): Bryan Bulaga, Chad Clifton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Marshall Newhouse, Derek Sherrod, Josh Sitton, and Scott Wells

DLs (6): Howard Green, Mike Neal, Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson, and Jarius Wynn

LBs (10): Desmond Bishop, Robert Francois, A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Clay Matthews, D.J. Smith, Vic So'oto, Erik Walden, and Frank Zombo

DBs (10): Morgan Burnett, Jarrett Bush, Nick Collins, Davon House, M.D. Jennings, Pat Lee, Charlie Peprah, Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, and Charles Woodson

STs (3): Mason Crosby, Brett Goode, and Tim Masthay

Here are a few things that stood out to me about the roster moves:

- The last three guys cut were probably: Ray Dominguez (T/G), Graham Harrell (QB), and Nick McDonald (C/G).

- The last three guys kept were probably: Evan Dietrich-Smith (G/C), M.D. Jennings (S), and Jamari Lattimore (OLB).

- I hope Graham Harrell (QB) makes it through waivers to the practice squad because the Packers are one Aaron Rodgers concussion away from only having one healthy quarterback on the roster.

- Aaron Rodgers will have 10 weapons (5 WRs and 5 TEs) to throw the ball to but only 8 guys to potentially block for him. Look for the Packers to add another offensive lineman to the roster at the expense of a linebacker.

- If Vic So'oto (OLB) and Charlie Peprah (S) look good week one as the primary backups at their respective positions, look for a few OLBs (Jones and Lattimore) and DBs (Jennings and Lee) to be among the first guys cut when injuries inevitable happen.

Check back tomorrow, I will have a ton more to say in my Sunday Funday post where I rank the initial 53-man roster for the 2011 Green Bay Packers.

* = Diondre Borel (WR), Anthony Bratton (S), Chris Campbell (T), Ray Dominguez (T/G), Chris Donaldson (NT), Ricky Elmore (LB), Sampson Genus (C), Josh Gordy (CB), Tori Gurley (WR), Graham Harrell (QB), Jon Hoese (FB), Cardia Jackson (LB), Eli Joseph (DE), Elijah Joseph (LB), Anthony Levine (S), Nick McDonald (C/G), Dimitri Nance (RB), Brandian Ross (CB), Jay Ross (NT), Brandon Saine (RB), Kerry Taylor (WR), Brandon Underwood (S/CB), and Chastin West (WR)

** = Lawrence Guy (DE) and Shaky Smithson (WR)

*** = Quinn Johnson (FB) to the Tennessee Titans and Caleb Schlauderaff (G) to the New York Jets for conditional draft picks

Thursday, September 1, 2011

2011 Preseason Week 4 - Packers/Chiefs Review

With the fourth and final preseason game in the books, here are the big picture takeaways from the Packers/Chiefs game:

#1) Player that hurt his stock most: With wide receivers Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, and Randall Cobb guaranteed roster spots there is a slim chance that the Packers keep a 6th wide receiver. When Shaky Smithson fumbled a punt against the Chiefs, he guaranteed that he would not be the 6th wide receiver. The only other wide receivers with a slight chance to make the 53-man roster are Tori Gurley and Chastin West. Both Gurley and West showed great potential throughout the preseason so look for the Packers to try to sign both players to their 8-man practice squad if they are not claimed by another team.

#2) Player that helped his stock most: As I said last week in my quick thoughts about the Packers/Colts game, the backup outside linebacker spots are completely up for grabs. After 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and a pick-six against the Chiefs it is no longer a question of whether Vic So'oto makes the team. The real question is how many outside linebackers the Packers keep. Matthews, Walden, and Zombo (assuming he is not placed on IR) are guaranteed roster spots. After how well So'oto played the last few weeks he deserves to be the 4th outside linebacker. If the Packers decide to keep five outside linebackers, it will be a battle between Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore for the final outside linebacker spot. That means with Matthews, Walden, Zombo, So'oto, Jones, and Lattimore all ahead of Ricky Elmore on the depth chart he would be lucky to make the practice squad at this point.

#3) Position to watch: The Packers have a plethora of talented players at a number of positions (running back, fullback, wide receiver, tight end, outside linebacker, cornerback, and safety). Unfortunately that is not the case for the interior part of their line. Starters T.J. Lang (LG), Scott Wells (C), and Josh Sitton (RG) did pretty well throughout the preseason. Unfortunately if any of the interior lineman are lost for an extended period of time, things look bleak. The Packers have to decide between keeping two of the following four guys: Evan Dietrich-Smith, Nick McDonald, Caleb Schlauderaff, and Ray Dominguez. All of those guys have proven that they are replaceable so if the right guys are waived, the Packers could fill their interior line spots with players currently not with the organization while the younger guys (McDonald, Schlauderaff, and Dominguez) have a chance to make the practice squad if they are cut.

#4) Injury: Luckily rookie 4th round draft pick Devon House was the only player injured against the Chiefs, the extent of the injury is unknown.

Final Note: The Packers sat most of their veterans while the Chiefs played their veterans for most of the game. I am glad the Packers got through the preseason without suffering any major injuries but since the lockout took away precious practice time, I can't blame the Chiefs for playing their starters deeper into the game. That is really a win-win for the Packers too because it allowed the Packers backups to play against the Chiefs starters.

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has some very tough decisions to make by Saturday night when he needs to cut the roster to 53 players. Check back Sunday morning for my initial player rankings counting from 53 down to 1 for the opening day 53-man roster for the 2011 Green Bay Packers.

For my previous "Quick Thoughts" on the 2011 preseason for the Packers, check out:
- Preseason Week 1 Packers/Browns Review
- Preseason Week 2 Packers/Cardinals Review
- Lambeau Field Expansion
- Preseason Week 3 Packers/Colts Review

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

2011 Green Bay Packers Roster 4.0

Welcome to the 4th and final installment of What Ted Thompson Should Do. Thompson had to trim the roster down to 80 players by Tuesday, August 30, 2011. Thompson accomplished that by cutting six guys*, which were the easy decisions. The harder decisions will play out in the next few days because Thompson has to cut 27 more guys to trim the roster down to 53 by 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 3, 2011.

With three preseason games in the books (Week 1 @ Cleveland, Week 2 hosted Arizona, and Week 3 @ Indianapolis), the opening day 53-man roster is starting to take shape. If you want a brief refresher, take a look back at all my previous thoughts about the 53-man roster at various points throughout the last few months: Version 1.0, Version 2.0, and Version 3.0. Here are my updated thoughts on what the 53-man roster and 8-man practice squad should look like for the 2011 Green Bay Packers:

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, and Graham Harrell
Analysis: After playing mediocre at best for his first few series against the Colts last week, Graham Harrell's heroics leading the Packers over the Colts erased any doubts of whether Harrell will make the roster.

Running Back: Ryan Grant, James Starks, and Alex Green
Analysis: Often times the 4th preseason game is essentially a useless game for determining starters because the starters usually sit out the game but the Packers need to consider giving all their running backs a look because we are no closer to knowing who will actually start at running back (Grant or Starks) or who will be the 3rd down back (Starks, Green, or Kuhn).

Fullback: John Kuhn and Quinn Johnson
Analysis: The Packers have high expectations for Johnson that so far have gone mostly unfulfilled. Johnson has the body to be a sledgehammer as a fullback but so far Johnson has been unable to put it all together. Hopefully Johnson can sort it out sooner rather than later or he will join Justin Harrell on the free agent scrap heap.

Wide Receiver: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb
Analysis: Some of the undrafted free agent wide receivers (Diondre Borel, Tori Gurley, Shaky Smithson, Kerry Taylor, and Chastin West) showed flashes of brilliance, the best example is Chastin West's 97-yard touchdown reception against the Cardinals. All the undrafted free agent wide receivers showed promise throughout the preseason but the Packers have a ton of talented wide receivers already essentially guaranteed roster spots. Although there has been a ton of talk about keeping a 6th wide receiver, since the Packers have a ton of money invested in their top five wide receiver, only the household names look like they are going to make the roster at wide receiver.

Tight End: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, D.J. Williams, and Ryan Taylor
Analysis: With Spencer Havner getting cut the Packers have five tight ends on the roster but it only looks like there are four roster spots at this point. Since Tom Crabtree is an undrafted player while the rest of the tight ends were drafted, Crabtree is the odd man out. Sleep easy though Tom Crabtree, when the dust settles Ted Thompson will probably keep all five tight ends by making cuts somewhere else.

Tackle: Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod, and Marshall Newhouse
Analysis: The Packers shuffled Derek Sherrod, their first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft between left guard and left tackle all preseason. Instead of picking up a little bit at both positions, Sherrod struggled mightily. The Packers need to keep Sherrod at left tackle, the position they drafted him to play. With how much Sherrod has struggled, if the Packers lose one of their starting tackles (Clifton or Bulaga) for an extended period of time they might actually turn to Marshall Newhouse instead of Sherrod meaning the Packers are in a unique position to essentially red-shirt Sherrod.

Guard: Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, and Caleb Schlauderaff
Analysis: Nick McDonald and Evan Dietrich-Smith are listed as C/G on the roster. Their versatility over Caleb Schlauderaff who only plays guard almost made me keep both of them ahead of Schlauderaff but the Packers always choose the younger guy (Schlauderaff) ahead of the older guy (Dietrich-Smith).

Center: Scott Wells and Nick McDonald
Analysis: Although Evan Dietrich-Smith pushed Nick McDonald for the backup center spot, it looks like McDonald did just enough to beat out Dietrich-Smith.

Defensive End: B.J. Raji, Mike Neal, Howard Green, C.J. Wilson, and Jarius Wynn
Analysis: The Packers had their defensive ends set heading into camp when they decided to let former starting defensive end Cullen Jenkins leave via free agency so apparently they feel comfortable with the group. I do not share that same comfort level because besides Raji, every other player has at least one question mark. I can only hope that the Packers look at defensive lineman following NFL roster cut downs.

Defensive Tackle: Ryan Pickett
Analysis: Each week I continue to list Howard Green as a defensive end but technically Green is a defensive tackle so the Packers have some depth at the position. As I said under the defensive end analysis, look for the Packers to scour the waiver wire if another legitimate 3-4 defensive lineman becomes available.

Outside Linebacker: Clay Matthews, Erik Walden, Brad Jones, Vic So'oto, and Jamari Lattimore
Analysis: I had a hard time picking between So'oto and Lattimore in version 3.0. With how well So'oto and Lattimore played against the Colts last week, I gave them both a roster spot this week. This is all assuming that the Packers do in fact decide to put Frank Zombo on the physically unable to perform list. If Zombo makes the 53-man roster the Packers will only be able to keep two of the following three: Jones, So'oto, and Lattimore.

Middle Linebacker: Desmond Bishop, A.J. Hawk, D.J. Smith, and Rob Francois
Analysis: Another week with the same four guys making the team as middle linebackers. The Packers like both Smith and Francois but if wither Bishop or Hawk were hurt for an extended period of time look for them to pick up another linebacker or try Brad Jones at middle linebacker.

Cornerback: Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Devon House, and Josh Gordy
Analysis: It was a real tough call between Josh Gordy and Brandian Ross for the 5th cornerback spot because both have shown flashes of being the 2011 version of Sam Shields. Gordy was on the practice squad in 2010 so he got the nod over Ross.

Safety: Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, and Jarrett Bush
Analysis: Collins and Burnett deserve to be the opening day starters. Look for Peprah to serve as the primary backup at both free safety and strong safety because for how well Bush plays on special teams and how well he played in Super Bowl XLV, Bush has still been a liability in coverage throughout the preseason. The Packers claim Bush is playing cornerback this year but I expect Bush to get more snaps at safety than cornerback in 2011.

Specialists: Mason Crosby (K), Tim Masthay (P), and Brett Goode (LS)
Analysis: With Crosby signed through 2015, look for Masthay to get a contract extension if he plays well through the first half of the season.

Practice Squad: Ray Dominguez (G/T), Ricky Elmore (LB), Lawrence Guy (DE), Anthony Levine (S), Brandian Ross (CB), Jay Ross (DT), Brandon Saine (RB), and Chastin West (WR)
Analysis: some of those guys will probably get signed to another NFL team's 53-man roster so other options for the practice squad are: Diondre Borel (WR), Chris Campbell (OT), Chris Donaldson (DT), Tori Gurley (WR), Jon Hoese (FB), Shaky Smithson (WR), and Kerry Taylor (WR).

The Packers host the Chiefs on Thursday in a game that will be make or break for a few guys that are right on the bubble of making the 53-man roster or the 8-man practice squad. Check back on Sunday for my initial rankings of the 53 players that made the opening day roster for the 2011 Green Bay Packers.

* = K.C. Asiodu (LB), Adrian Battles (G), Spencer Havner (TE), Antonio Robinson (WR), Theo Sherman (T), and Brett Swain (WR)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Initial Rankings of the 2011 Wisconsin Badgers Football Team

The 2011 Wisconsin Badgers are a member of the foolishly named Leaders Division along with Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, and Purdue. The equally foolishly named Legends Division is comprised of Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Northwestern. I get that the Big 10 wants to be politically correct but how is Nebraska a "Legend" in their first year in the Big Ten? Furthermore, how does the conference keep Big Ten as their conference name when there are 12 teams in the conference. I guess I shouldn't be surprised because they kept the name Big Ten despite having 11 teams in the conference since 1993.

Besides being horribly named, the new divisions in the Big Ten change certain rivalries since each teams will only have eight conference football games till 2017 when they increase that number to nine conference games. That means until 2017 the Badgers will play the five teams in their division as well as one protected rival (Minnesota) every year. The two other conference games will be cross-over games that rotate every two years. The silly part of that scheduling decision is that since Minnesota is Wisconsin's protected rival instead of Iowa, Wisconsin will not play Iowa again until 2013.

With my complaints out of the way, in honor of college ranking the Top 25 teams in the country I thought I would give my rankings of the Top 25 current Wisconsin Badger football players along with some short comments.

Before we get to the Top 25 players, much like the Top 25 rankings, there are also teams "receiving votes" that are ranked just outside the Top 25. Since we have not seen the 2011 Wisconsin Badgers play any real live snaps yet there are a ton of players that just missed out on the Top 25*. Here are my rankings of the Top 25 current 2011 Wisconsin Badgers football players:

#25) Shelton Johnson (SS, JR) - At this point Johnson is the starter over sophomore Dezmen Southward but keep an eye on this competition because if Johnson struggles, Southward will be plugged in right away.

#24) Kevin Claxton (OLB, SR) - The converted strong safety is trying to get settled at his new position, outside linebacker.

#23) Jake Byrne (TE, SR) - Wisconsin has turned into an offensive line and tight end factory for the NFL. Byrne might turn out to be the next one and he is not even the best current Badger tight end.

#22) David Gilbert (DE, JR) - With the loss of all-world defensive lineman J.J. Watt to the NFL, Gilbert will have to improve on his 21 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss performance from 2010.

#21) Ethan Hemer (DT, SOPH) - Started the second half of the 2010 season at defensive tackle after sophomore Jordan Kohout hurt his ankle in Wisconsin's win over then #1 ranked Ohio State. Hemer is currently ahead of Kohout but that could change in short order.

#20) Devin Smith (CB, SR) - Started at cornerback in 2009 but was relegated to nickel cornerback in 2010. Smith is motivated to put his horrible performance against TCU in the Rose Bowl behind him because if Smith struggles, junior Marcus Cromartie could force Smith back to being the nickel cornerback.

#19) Bradie Ewing (FB, SR) - The NFL moved away from using fullbacks a while but it looks like the NFL is gravitating back to using fullbacks. Ewing needs to show that he can not only serve as a blocking back but contribute on special teams if he wants a chance to play in the NFL.

#18) Antonio Fenelus (CB, SR) - The Badgers are talking about playing more press coverage in 2011. If they do play more press coverage, there is a chance that Fenelus moves into the Top 10 in the midseason rankings.

#17) Josh Oglesby (RT, SR) - Despite struggling with injuries throughout the preseason, Oglesby still beat out freshman Rob Havenstein for the starting spot at right tackle. If Oglesby can't stay healthy though, the Badgers should feel comfortable turning to Havenstein because he as absolute physical freak of nature (6'8" and 345 lbs).

#16) Patrick Butrym (DT, SR) - In his 5th year on campus Butrym looks to go out with a bang after registering 28 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2010.

#15) Jacob Pedersen (TE, SOPH) - As mentioned above, the Badgers are an NFL tight end producing machine. Pedersen is a young, impressive tight end that hopes to join Travis Beckum, Owen Daniels, Garrett Graham, and Lance Kendricks in the NFL in the near future.

#14) Travis Frederick (LG, SOPH) - After losing left guard John Moffit and his 42 career starts to the NFL, the Badgers are going with a youth movement along the offensive line starting Frederick at left guard. There is a slim chance that Frederick will be as impressive in 2011 as Moffit was in 2010 but hopefully Frederick will blossom into a quality starting left guard by 2012 at the latest.

#13) Louis Nzegwu (DE, SR) - Put together a pretty impressive 2010 campaign with 46 tackles (8th on the team) and 7.5 tackles for a loss (3rd on the team). With J.J. Watt in the NFL, the Badgers hope that Nzegwu can improve on those numbers in 2011 to emerge as the leader of the defensive line.

#12) Kevin Zeitler (RG, SR) - Normally people talk about bookend offensive tackles. I am not sure what the offensive guard corollary is but that is exactly what Frederick and Zeitler give the 2011 Wisconsin Badgers.

#11) Nick Toon (WR, SR) - The good news, Toon is still playing for the Badgers. The bad news, if Toon played better throughout his college career he would have left school early for the NFL. Toon needs to have a big 2011 season if he wants to transition from playing on Saturdays to playing on Sundays like his father.

#10) Peter Konz (C, JR) - Made 19 starts over the last two years, which should serve Konz well as he looks to become the quarterback of the offensive line for the next two seasons.

#9) Brad Nortman (P, SR) - You might remember that Nortman picked up a critical first down on a fake punt last year to help Wisconsin beat Iowa on the road. Nortman is an outside contender for the Ray Guy Award (best punter in the nation), which would give the Badgers their first Ray Guy Award winner since Kevin Stemke won in 2000.

#8) Mike Taylor (OLB, JR) - Put up good numbers in 2010 (58 tackles and 4 tackles for a loss, both 4th on the team) despite rehabbing a knee injury (ACL) and spraining his knee against Ohio State. Taylor hopes to be fully healthy by the time the Badgers open their conference portion of their schedule at home against Nebraska in one of the most anticipated games of the season.

#7) Philip Welch (K, SR) - Despite struggling with injuries throughout the preseason, some NFL Draft prognosticators have Welch getting drafted in the 2012 NFL Draft.

#6) Ricky Wagner (LT, JR) - Losing a starter at left tackle to the NFL like Gabe Carimi always hurts but it makes it even harder when that left tackle was voted the Outland Trophy winner (best offensive lineman in the country). Carimi joined Joe Thomas (winner in 2006) as the only Wisconsin lineman to win the Outland Trophy. Those are pretty big shoes for Wagner to fill. Stay tuned because Wagner's performance could go a long way towards determining whether the Badgers are a national championship contender in 2011.

#5) Chris Borland (MLB, SOPH) - Despite being a productive outside linebacker the Badgers moved Borland to middle linebacker. Ranking Borland 5th might feel a little high when you account for the position change but with how well Borland played outside, he should be even more successful moving inside.

#4) James White (RB, SOPH) - Played so well last year that White almost forced John Clay to enter the NFL Draft even though Clay's draft stock was low. Keep your eye on White because he looks like a rich man's Michael Bennett.

#3) Aaron Henry (FS, SR) - Seems to have a nose for making big plays, both of his INTs were returned for TDs last year. The Badgers hope Henry can do more of the same in 2011.

#2) Montee Ball (RB, JR) - Dropped 20 lbs between the 2010 and 2011 season to guarantee that he is the starting running back for the 2011 Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers have a ton a quality back-up running backs (White, Lewis, and Gordon) so there is a good chance that the Badgers have the best four-headed running back monster in the country.

#1) QB - Russell Wilson (QB, SR) - After putting together a successful career through the air (threw for 8,545 yards and 75 touchdowns) and on the ground (ran for 1,083 yards and 17 touchdowns) at North Carolina State, Wilson utilized a rule that allowed him to transfer without sitting out a season because he graduated from North Carolina State. Wilson narrowed his schools to Auburn and Wisconsin. In what was a huge recruiting victory for Wisconsin, Wilson choose to play for the Badgers instead of the Tigers despite the fact that Auburn won the national championship last year. Wilson is an impressive dual-threat quarterback that gives the Badgers a legitimate chance to play in the first ever Big Ten Football Championship Game and possibly even the BCS National Championship Game.

Check back throughout the season for more coverage of the 2011 Wisconsin Badgers and don't forget to tune in on Thursday, September 1, 2011 as the Wisconsin Badgers open their 2011 campaign at home against UNLV.

* Jon Budmayr (QB, SOPH), Jeff Lewis (RB, FR), Melvin Gordon (RB, FR), Sherard Cadogan (FB, FR), Brian Wozniak (TE, SOPH), Jared Abbrederis (WR, SOPH), Jeff Duckworth (WR, SOPH), Kenzel Doe (WR, FR), Casey Dehn (LT, SOPH), Zac Matthias (LG, SOPH), Ryan Groy (C, SOPH), Robert Burge (RG, JR), Rob Havenstein (RT, FR), Brendan Kelly (DE, JR), Pat Muldoon (DE, SOPH), Beau Allen (DT, SOPH), Jordan Kohout (DT, SOPH), Ethan Armstrong (OLB, SOPH), Conor O’Neill (OLB, SOPH), Derek Landisch (OLB, FR), Marcus Trotter (MLB, FR), Marcus Cromartie (CB, JR), Peniel Jean (CB, FR), Darius Hillary (CB, FR), Dezmen Southward (SS, SOPH), Michael Trotter (FS, FR), Kyle French (K/P, FR), Kyle Wojta (LS, SR), James McGuire (LS, SOPH), and Alec Lerner (KO, SOPH)

Friday, August 26, 2011

2011 Preseason Week 3 - Packers/Colts Review

Hopefully you didn't turn off the Packers/Colts game with only a few minutes left. If you did, the 3rd stringers for the Packers lead by quarterback Graham Harrell erased an eight point deficit with less than four minutes remaining, thanks in large part to personal fouls by Colts defensive back Chip Vaughn on consecutive plays. Speaking of consecutive play, Graham Harrell and tight end Ryan Taylor hooked up on 4th and goal as well as the ensuing two-point conversion to tie the game with 35 seconds remaining.

Instead of kicking it deep, Packers head coach Mike McCarty dialed up an onside kick that the Packers recovered. Harrell quickly moved the Packers into field goal range and Mason Crosby made a 50-yard kick as time expired to give the Packers a 24-21 win over the Colts. It is only a preseason game so the Packers winning doesn't really matter, but it was nice to see the resolve shown by the 3rd stringers. What matters more are some of the big picture takeaways from the Packers/Colts game:

#1) Players that hurt his stock most: Some veterans really struggled (i.e. left tackle Chad Clifton and right guard Josh Sitton) but their starting spots are virtually guaranteed as long as they are healthy. At this point most of the roster spots are already set but guys on the bubble like Pat Lee (CB), Ricky Elmore (OLB), and Brandon Underwood (S) didn't do enough to secure a spot on the opening day 53-man roster.

#2) Players that helped his stock most: The backup outside linebacker spots are completely up for grabs. Undrafted rookie free agents Jamari Lattimore and Vic So'oto continued to out perform Ricky Elmore a 6th round draft pick from the 2011 NFL Draft. All three players are college defensive ends that the Packers converted to rush outside linebackers in their base 3-4 defensive set. Despite Elmore being an absolute sack machine in college, it was Lattimore and So'oto who both came up with sacks against the Colts.

#3) Position to watch: Coming into the game the starters at left guard (T.J. Lang over Derek Sherrod) and right outside linebacker (Erik Walden over Frank Zombo and Brad Jones) were already decided so there were not really any starting position battles to watch besides running back. When the Packers opened their 2011 campaign it looked like Ryan Grant was going to be the starting running back with James Starks getting a ton of touches as well. Starks continued to play well throughout the preseason and all of a sudden there is a fierce competition for the starting running back spot. Grant renegotiated the last year of his contract (took $1 million less but it is fully guaranteed if he is on the opening day roster) so he is virtually guaranteed a roster spot but will have to perform well throughout the rest of the preseason to open the season as the starting running back. Usually starters do not play very much in Week 4 of the preseason but look for the Packers to give Grant and Starks some touches to help determine the opening day starter.

#4) Injuries: Jermichael Finley sprained his ankle and Jordy Nelson bruised his knee, the severity of the injuries is unknown. Despite the quality depth the Packers have at wide receiver and tight end, they cannot afford to lose either for an extended period of time.

Final Note: The success of the no-huddle offense for the Packers continues to be a hot topic. Coaches calling offensive plays from the sideline is a relatively new thing in the NFL. Some people point to the fact that offenses are becoming "sophisticated" but it really means that there are more plays in the playbook now than even a decade ago. When you break down NFL offenses they are really not that complicated. On running plays there is a blocking scheme that usually gives a running back a few options of where to run. On passing plays there are nine basic routes a receiver can run. Obviously when you mix and match personnel you get a ton of permutations in the offensive playbook but sometimes sticking to the 10 plays that work best, like they do in a no-huddle offense, allows the offense to move the ball really well.

For my previous "Quick Thoughts" on the 2011 preseason for the Packers, check out:
- Preseason Week 1 Packers/Browns Review
- Preseason Week 2 Packers/Cardinals Review
- Lambeau Field Expansion

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lambeau Field Expansion

Lambeau Field, the oldest NFL stadium and third-oldest professional stadium behind Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston, is getting another make-over.

In 2003 the Green Bay Packers finished a much needed makeover and expansion to Lambeau Field. In 1995 Lambeau Field accommodated 60,890 patrons, following the 2003 expansion, Lambeau Field accommodated 73,128 patrons. As you can see from the rendering to the left, the 2003 expansion gave Lambeau Field a nice new brick facade that gave Lambeau Field an updated look that did not compromise the rich history of the stadium*. If you have any question that Lambeau Field is more attractive following the 2003 expansion, check out the before and after pictures:

Lambeau Field Pre-2003

Lambeau Field Post-2003

For being one of the most historic stadiums in the world, Lambeau Field is always evolving. The Green Bay Packers added a new audio system for this season. Next year Lambeau Field will get new Mitsubishi Diamond Vision video boards as well. Although a new audio system to go along with new video boards is impressive, those are both appetizers to the tasty main course.

Following the expansion that will be completed in time for the 2013 season, the Green Bay Packers will add 6,600 seats to Lambeau Field. The expansion will raise Lambeau Field's capacity from 73,128 to 79,728. The entire $130 million project will be funded by the team, potentially through another stock sale (fingers crossed).

While some NFL franchises have a hard time selling tickets, the Green Bay Packers have roughly 80,000 fans on the season ticket waiting list so they have plenty of takers for the additional 6,600 seats that will have seat backs (quite underrated since most of Lambeau Field's seats are bleacher seats).

As you can see in the beautiful rendering to the left, the Packers will add seats to the south end zone that is currently the only opening in the bowl of luxury suites around the top of the stadium. The seats will be dispersed over four sections and will reportedly cost between $87 and $313. The project will have a rooftop viewing area that club-seat holders can use on game days and will hosts parties on non-game days. The expansion project will see 10 more elevators installed in the north and south ends zones and entry ways for people with disabilities. Finally and possibly most importantly to Lambeau Field patrons in general, the Packers will add new gates in both the north and south end zone that should help alleviate some of the congestion associated with entering the game.

The new 6,600 seats will be allocated through a seniority system. Current season ticket holders will get the right of first refusal where they could trade their current seats for some of the new seats. After that, some of the 80,000 people currently on the season ticket waiting list will move from potential season ticket holders to actual season ticket holders.

The Green Bay Packers are using some Cheesehead companies for the expansion with Miron Construction (based in Neenah, WI) serving as the general contractor after serving as one of the major subcontractors on previous Lambeau Field projects. Besides Miron Construction, Hammes Company Sports Development Inc. (based in Madison, WI) was named the project manager and Elkus Manfredi is the design architect.

The expansion will create roughly 1,600 construction jobs through 2013, which should produce $70 million in wages. According to an economic impact study, the 6,600 additional seats are supposed to produce $11 million annually by non-Brown County residents.

* = That was a direct shot at Soldier Field. Thanks to my uncles having season tickets for the Chicago Bears I get to see the Packers whenever they come to Chicago. As a Packer fan in Chicago, I honestly appreciate the sight lines that the new Soldier Field has compared to the old Solider Field but that still does not justify the Bears landing a space ship inside the historic columns of Soldier Field. I get that Chicago wanted to tie in Millennium Park (north east part of Grant Park) with the new Soldier Field but the design missed the mark.