Sunday, September 30, 2012

2012 Week 4 - Packers beat Saints

The Green Bay Packers capped what ended up personally being one of the best weekends in a long time, despite the Brewers being officially eliminated from the playoffs and the Meltdown at Medinah, with an important win over the New Orleans Saints to improve to 2-2 while the Saints shockingly dropped to 0-4.

As I've said in the past, I am only going to have lengthy posts about regular season Packers games that I attend. Even last week I just posted my tweets and re-tweets instead of writing a full post despite the Packers' "loss" to the Seahawks being possibly the most notorious loss in franchise history. Instead of dwelling on that unfortunate result anymore, let's recap this weekend.

I spent most of the weekend in Door County with Cheesehead Chick, Mama Cheese, Papa Cheese, and In-Law-Cheese. On the way up to Door County we stopped at Lambeau Field to shop at the Packers Pro Shop, visit to the Green Bay Packers Hall-of-Fame, and capped it off with a Lambeau Field Stadium Tour.

It is pretty amazing how nice of a field the Packers have to go along with an amazing stadium. Add in that Lambeau Field will only get better once they add another 6,700 seats in the south end zone and despite being a biased Packers fans, Lambeau Field is truly the best sports venue in North America and possibly the world.

Despite being a lifelong Packer fan, I've never done a stadium tour. Trust me, even non-sports fans would enjoy the tour. Towards the end of the tour you get to walk down the same tunnel that the Packers do before the game with the entry music playing. Needless to say, the hair on the back of my neck was standing on end.

In fact, in the picture to the immediate right I am standing on one of Mike Sherman's only positive legacies on the franchise.  For those that don't know, Sherman was head coach and somehow foolishly became dual coach and general manager when Ron Wolf retired in 2001.  When the Packers renovated Lambeau Field, Sherman decided to take the bricks that almost every Packer in franchise history walked over and had them relocated to the new tunnel where the players enter Lambeau Field.  Trust me, I am not a fan of Mike Sherman since I think he presided over a number of horrible drafts and failed to turn some of Favre's best seasons into Super Bowl victories, but I do appreciate that one bit of genius he instilled on the franchise.

After finishing the Lambeau Field Stadium Tour, we spent Friday night through Sunday morning in Door County (thumb of Wisconsin) enjoying all things Door County. For those that have never been, Door County is great in the fall because the leaves are changing colors and the crowds are a little smaller. Add in that we had perfect fall weather in the mid-60's and it was truly a magical family weekend in Cheesehead country.

We got back to Lambeau Field in time to see per-game warm ups, which was nice because usually we are rushing to our seats since we are trying to spend as much time as humanly possible tailgating. If you've never been to Lambeau Field or Miller Park before, make sure to arrive at least three hours before the game is supposed to start because tailgating in Cheesehead country is serious business.  Thanks to Brother Pat and Pat Gilroy we were able to trade some seats so that the six of us could sit together along with 70,565 other lucky fans on a beautiful fall Cheesehead day in the mid-60's.

Going into the game, I made three predictions:
#1) Wide receiver Randall Cobb would throw a pass
#2) Tight End Jermichael Finley would have over 100 yards receiving
#3) Defensive back Charles Woodson would have a pick-six

The Packers went 0-for-3 on my predictions but Cheesehead Chick went 1-for-1 on predictions. The Packers were facing a 4th and 1 at our own (I am a part owner) 17 yard-line in the second quarter.  Right before the snap, Cheesehead Chick said to Papa Cheese and me: how about a fake?  We laughed that off saying that was a crazy idea. Low and behold, head coach Mike McCarthy called a fake punt and Kuhn picked up five yards for a first down. Give Cheesehead Chick credit, that is a call a head coach makes once or twice in a career.

A few more non-ref-centric thoughts before I remind fans that the "real" refs are just as fallible as the replacement refs:
#1) The Packers held the Saints to a field goal despite facing 1st and goal at the 1 yard-line.  I don't expect that to happen again this season but was impressive to see in-person.
#2) Rodgers got poked in the eye (thankfully not a concussion) and backup quarterback Graham Harrell tripped over center Jeff Saturday, which lead to a Cedric Benson fumble on the goal line. Instead of the Packers going up 28-17, the Saints capitalized on the turnover to go up 24-21.
#3) If you are wondering why, I love the Green Bay Packers so much, check out the picture of Papa Cheese and me with four of our closest friends.

After last weeks debacle by the replacement officials on Monday Night Football, the "real" officials had their own set of calamities:
#1) Replays on the impressive new replay screens at Lambeau Field show that Marques Colson clearly committed offensive pass interference on the Saints' first touchdown.
#2) The officials didn't overturn the Packers' 2nd challenge, giving the Saints an unwarranted first down.
#3) Last and certainly worst, Saints' return man Darren Sproles fumbled the kickoff return with 7 minutes remaining and the Packers up 28-27.  For some reason the officials called it "down by contact" but if they wold have called it a fumble, the play would have been reviewed automatically by rule.  McCarthy deserves some blame here because he already exhausted both of his challenges but the officials should have called it a fumble and then reviewed the play to make sure they got it correct since they were not sure even after conferencing for at least a minute.

As they did most of the game, the Saints marched down the field to get into field goal range trailing by just a point.  The Saints even momentarily had 30 points on the board thanks to kicker Garrett Hartley making a 43 yard field goal.  The points came off board thanks to a hold on the field goal attempt by Saints tight end David Thomas. That pushed the Saints back to the 35 yard-line. A neutral zone infraction by Packers defensive lineman Mike Daniels moved the ball back to the 30 yard-line.  Hartley was unable to make the 48 yard kick that mattered, so the Packers lead 28 to 27 with a little less than 3 minutes remaining in the game.

After a couple Cedric Benson runs the Packers faced a 3rd and 3 at their own 45 yard-line.  The Packers had to pick-up the first down to seal a victory otherwise they would have been forced to give the ball back to Drew Brees and the high powered Saints offense.  As a guy who had to sweat out that exact scenario last year in the home opener, I was not looking for a repeat.

Normally a conservative play caller, McCarthy called a risky pass. The Saints defender Jabari Greer did not play the ball so despite being interfered with, wide receiver James Jones still came up with the 8 yard catch. If that pass were broken up, or worse intercepted, McCarthy would be second guessed much like the fake punt call discussed earlier.  Fortunately the Packers completed the pass to win 28-27.

Before we get too excited, let's not look past the fact that the Saints out gained the Packers (474 to 421) because the defense could not keep Drew Brees in check (35 for 54, 446 passing yards, and 3 touchdowns) or get off the field on 3rd down (Saints converted 9 of 17 attempts).

Credit McCarthy though, despite going 0-for-2 on challenges (should have been 1-for-2), he went 2-for-2 ballsy calls to help propel the Packers to a much needed win.

If I had to hand out the players of the game:
#3) The not always sure handed James Jones made a number of big catches finishing with 5 catches for 56 yards and 2 touchdowns catches.
#2) Offensive line.  After giving up 8 sacks in the first half against the Seahawks, they played 6 consecutive quality quarters of football.
#1) Aaron Rodgers was 31 for 41, throwing for 319 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 1 interception for a QB rating of 119.

"Sunday Funday" is a cheesy (no pun intended) but a perfect way to describe the Packers' win over the Saints.  It was the first game at Lambeau Field for In-Law-Cheese.  Hopefully we can turn this into an annual or bi-annual tradition for the six of us because I had blast all weekend.  There is really nothing better than spending a glorious fall weekend in Door County that is topped off with a Packers' victory.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Packers "Lose" to Seahawks on MNF

As I said in my initial player rankings, I am going to tweet and re-tweet during Packer games but only blog about games that I attend.

Since the Green Bay Packers suffered one of the most notorious "losses" in franchise history on the road against the Seattle Seahawks, I had to post something. Here are my tweets and re-tweets from the night without comment:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Steve Stricker named 2012 Payne Stewart Award Winner

For those that don't know, Payne Stewart was one of the most liked players on the PGA Tour that tragically died when a Learjet he was flying on lost cabin pressure.  As a result an award was created in Stewart's honor.

According to our good friend Wikipedia, the Payne Stewart Award is given annually to a golfer that "shows respect for the traditions of the game, commitment to uphold the game's heritage of charitable support and professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct." (Source)

The initial award winners were Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer in 2000.  Since then there has been one winner each year with a ton of quality golfers winning.  Steve Stricker is the next in a long line of quality individuals that have won the award.

As I've said many times in the past, I absolutely love the Midwestern Cougar of the PGA Tour aka Steve Stricker.  I've chronicled Stricker's good play on the golf course many times in this space.  Honestly my only complaint with Stricker is that he was born in Wisconsin but roots for the Chicago Bears instead of the Green Bay Packers.  Just to show how much I like Stricker, despite being a Bears fans, Stricker is still hands down my favorite golfer of all-time.

Stricker wears his emotions on his sleeve so I presume that he teared up when he actually received the award or attempted to give a speech.

Stricker gets $100,000 for winning the award, which he is going to use to start a foundation in his name.  I can't wait to hear more plans for the foundation because I will be writing a check, probably a very small one, but a check nonetheless to Stricker's foundation.

Congratulations to Steve Stricker on being named the 2012 Payne Stewart Award winner.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

2012 Green Bay Packers Initial Player Rankings

Welcome to my 3rd annual player rankings of the initial Green Bay Packers 53-man roster (2010 and 2011).  My favorite Packers beat writer Bob McGinn does his own rankings that are relative to just the current Packers roster.  As McGinn explained on his podcast, he doesn't think Bryan Bulaga is the 4th best player on the roster, instead McGinn believes that if the Packers lost Bulaga, he would be the 4th hardest player to replace considering the position he plays and depth on the current roster.
Although that is a valid way to approach ranking a roster, my favorite sports writer Bill Simmons factors in: contract, age, position, and runs in reverse order. Simmons' approach puts all the aforementioned factors together to place a relative trade value on each player.

As I've said, I respect both writers and their approaches but I think Simmons' way is better than McGinn's way.   Keep in mind this list does not include Erik Walden (one game suspension from domestic dispute) or Mike Neal (four game suspension for failed drug test) because they are not on the 53-man active roster thanks to their respective suspensions.  Here are my rankings for the initial 53-man roster for the 2012 Green Bay Packers:

#53) Jarrett Boykin (WR) - Happy to see a Virginia Tech Hokie on the roster but don't have any grand illusions that Boykins will be the next Antonio Freeman.

#52) Brandian Ross (CB) - One of the biggest surprises on the 53-man roster might have to do with the fact that Woodson is moving to safety in the base defense so the Packers are giving anyone and everyone a chance to play cornerback in 2012.

#51) Sean Richardson (S) -
I see Richardson as a better version of Aaron Rouse but take that with a grain of salt because I've only seen Richardson play a handful of preseason snaps.

#50) Don Barclay (T) - It is no longer a surprise that undrafted free agents make the roster but in this instance it is a surprise that Barclay is one of those guys because he was merely a campy body at the start of training camp but slowly worked his way up the depth chart with solid play to make him one of only seven offensive lineman that the Packers kept on the initial 53-man roster.

#49) Phillip Merling (DL) -
It was a mild surprise that Merling made the roster instead of Daniel Muir as the nominal 6th defensive lineman.  Merling possesses the prototypical body type to play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme but has never been a dominate force along the defensive line.  When currently suspended Mike Neal is eligible for the 53-man roster after Week 4, look for the Packers to decide between keeping Merling or Neal.

#48) Brad Jones (OLB) -
Players that are in danger of getting cut need to excel in at least one phase of the game.  Jones is a very good special teams player, which makes up for his lack of big plays on the defensive side of the ball.  Walden is set to return to the roster after Week 1 and despite being a quality special teams player, even that might not be enough to keep Jones on the 53-man roster.

#47) Brandon Saine (RB) -
Sharing carries in college is usually a red flag that a running back doesn't have what it takes to play in the NFL but with how injured Saine has been, it is a good thing that he was not exposed to big hits on a full-time basis at Ohio State.  Speed and special teams play is why Saine is in the high 40's not the low 50's.

#46) Rob Francois (MLB) -
No matter how much roster turnover there is from year-to-year, some guys just find a way to stick around.  Francois is that guy but that run is in jeopardy of ending this year with the emergence of younger players.

#45) Brett Goode (LS) - Apparently Goode is great friends with Rodgers, which makes him infinitely more valuable to the Packers than any other team.  Long-snapper is the most thankless job in the NFL so at least Goode gets to hang with the best player in the NFL off the field.

#44) James Starks (RB) - Injuries have always been the issue with Starks, so much so that Starks looked like he might not even make the final roster.  That is a pretty far fall from grace from the presumptive starting running back going into training camp.

#43) Ryan Taylor (TE) - The tight end/linebacker combo that excels on special teams reminds me of Spencer Havner but with more upside.

#42)Terrell Manning (MLB) -
The Packers dealt three late picks in the 2011 NFL Draft to take Manning but with such an underwhelming preseason, Manning probably would have made it through waiver to sign with the practice squad but that would have been too embarrassing for Thompson to cut a player that he gave up extra picks to draft.

#41) Graham Harrell (QB) - Let me be the next in a long line of people that cover the Packers to reiterate how important it was for Harrell to perform well in the last preseason game.  That said, Harrell looks more like Craig Nall than Matt Flynn.

#40) M.D. Jennings (S) -
Despite regressing slightly in training camp, Jennings is set to play a fair amount of defensive snaps because of the lack of veteran presence at safety after Charles Woodson.

#39) D.J. Williams (TE) - Not a physical freak like Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham but with a season under his belt, Williams is looking like an all-around polished tight end in the NFL just like he did in college in route to being named the best collegiate tight end for the 2010 season.

#38) Mike Daniels (DL)
- Every team needs an under-sized, high-energy defensive lineman.  The Packers had two on the roster in Muir and Daniels, since Daniels is a rookie he got the roster spot instead of Muir.

#37) Tom Crabtree (TE) - Besides being a funny follow on twitter, Crabtree is shaping up to be the best blocking tight end on the roster, which is great for job security when tight end Andrew Quarless is eligible to return to the 53-man roster following Week 6.

#36) Dezman Moses (OLB) - Looks like a potentially violent situational pass rusher for the Packers in 2012 but let's not forget that Vic So'oto looked poised to fill a similar role in 2011 but flopped.

#35) Jamari Lattimore (MLB) - The Packers are not only good at drafting but also identifying undrafted rookie free agents.  Lattimore is just another one in a long line of those players that will be a force on special teams with a chance to even play on defense in 2012.

#34) Evan Dietrich-Smith (C) - If any of the starting five offensive lineman are hurt, EDS is the first off the bench that could have a chain reaction of moving a few players around on the offensive line since EDS could really only fill in at guard or center.

#33) John Kuhn (FB) - Hard to see Kuhn not taking a pay cut next year when his cap number will be $2.6 million since that is more than the Packers are paying to the four other running backs on the current roster.

#32) Jerron McMillian (S) -
Although some pundits thought the Packers reached when they took McMillian in the fourth round, after the preseason, McMillian looks like a violent tackler in the mold of Atari Bigby that might be the biggest impact rookie defender for the Packers.

#31) Cedric Benson (RB) -
Seems a little low for Benson right?  Although Benson reportedly turned down offers from a few teams so he could be in the right situation, I am always skeptical of that characterization because of how self-serving it is for the person saying it.  That said, if Benson can hold onto the ball, he is just the right tonic that the Packers have been looking for at running back since Ahman Green left town the first time.

#30) C.J. Wilson (DL) -
Being a consistent defensive end in the 3-4 defense that sets the edge gives all the other pass rushers a chance to put up big sack numbers.  Basically that means Wilson will never put up huge tackle or sack numbers but is a very integral part of the defense.

#29) Alex Green (RB) -
Usually torn knee ligaments take two years to heal but Green is bucking that trend since he has been much more effective in preseason than I would have expected, especially since Green is less than a year removed from knee reconstructive surgery.  The Packers want to go no-huddle in 2012 so if Green's knee can hold up and he can continue to pickup blitzes, Green might be the perfect combo back for the Packers.

#28) A.J. Hawk (MLB) -
As the most overpaid 2012 Green Bay Packer, I can't see a team even offering a 7th round draft pick for Hawk at this point, which is a mighty fall from grace for the 5th pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.  Hopefully that will motivate Hawk to have a turnaround in 2012 because when Bishop is healthy in 2013, Hawk looks like a strong candidate for a pink slip.

#27) Mason Crosby (K) -
As advanced NFL stats show, placekicker performance is inherently volatile so the Packers could get about as much for Crosby as they could for Hawk.

#26) Davon House (CB) - A shoulder injury is going to limit House in 2012 much like it did Tramon Williams in 2011, which is too bad because after Week 1 of the preseason it looked like House made the jump to be a starting cornerback for the Packers in 2012.  Instead it looks like House will not be strong enough thanks to the aforementioned shoulder injury to play the requisite bump-and-run coverage for most, if not all, of 2012.

#25) Tim Masthay (P) -
The Ginger Wolverine recently signed a four-year contract extension with the Packers.  While Masthay does not have an enormous leg, he hopefully stopped the mediocre punter carousel that dates back to when Craig Hentrich left Green Bay.

#24) Sam Shields (CB) -
After a breakout season in 2010 that attracted some national attention, Shields regressed in 2011 so much that his roster spot looked in jeopardy at the start of training camp.  Thanks to a strong performance in the final preseason game this year, Shields vaulted back into the discussion for starting cornerback.  Shields will undoubtedly get a fair amount of playing time in 2012 so hopefully we see the 2010 version not the 2011 version.

#23) Donald Driver (WR) - Not to belabor this point too much but I honestly think DD danced his way onto the roster.

#22) Jarrett Bush (CB) -
The leader of special teams each year claims that he is going to take his play at cornerback to the next level.  That happens occasionally (i.e. his INT in Super Bowl XLV) but Bush still has not done it regularly on the defensive side of the ball. Bush is worth having on the roster for his special teams play alone so I look at anything he does on defense as a bonus.

#21) Jeff Saturday (C) -
Being Peyton Manning's personal snapper for most of his career is a nice resume builder but since this season might be Saturday's last in the NFL, the Packers are putting tons of faith in a dinosaur.

#20) D.J. Smith (MLB) -
Despite racking up 525 tackles at Appalachian State, the Packers were still able to add Smith in the 6th round of the 2011 NFL Draft.  At the time I thought Smith would not amount to anything in the NFL but that was based mostly on seeing only a small highlight tape of Smith's following the draft.  Smith has the potential to be the breakout star of the 2012 Green Bay Packers and I would have ranked him higher but for the fact that middle linebacker has the lowest positional value on the defensive side of the ball.

#19) James Jones (WR) - Certain players fit certain schemes and based on the lukewarm interest in Jones last off-season in free agency it looks like the Packers are just the right system for him.

#18) Casey Hayward (CB) -
Cornerback is one of the hardest positions to play in the NFL so Hawyward's up-and-down preseason is understandable.  The said, if Hayward can stay healthy and active this year, look for him to be one of the breakout stars of the defense.

#17) Ryan Pickett (DL) -
The second most impressive free agent signing not counting undrafted rookie free agents of the Ted Thompson Era has aged like a fine wine, which is surprising considering the wear-and-tear Pickett's suffered occupying offensive lineman.

#16) Jerel Worthy (DL) -
Let's not anoint Worthy as Cullen Jenkins 2.0 quite yet but if Worthy can continue to add moves to his pass rushing repertoire, look for Worthy to at least be Cullen Jenkins 1.5 in 2012.

#15) Nick Perry (OLB) -
As I've discussed in the past, the Football Outsiders have a SackSEER 2.0 stat that "projects" Perry as the best pass rusher from the 2012 NFL Draft.  Again that is only a projection and does not factor in that Perry is shifting from defensive end in a 4-3 scheme in college to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL.  Dropping into coverage is going to be the biggest issue for Perry in 2012 but if Perry can take even a little pressure or attention off Claymaker, he will justify being a 1st round pick.

#14) Marshall Newhouse (T) -
After allowing 10.5 sacks and 41.5 pressures in 2011 when he wasn't even the full-time starter, Newhouse will need to play much better in 2012 or Chad Clifton's agent might be getting a phone call.

#13) Randall Cobb (WR) -
I see the Packers using Cobb similar to how the New Orleans Saints use Darren Sproles as a running back, slot receiver, and special teams return man.  The Wildcat looks like a fad that will work on occasion but having a versatile skilled position player like Cobb or Sporles looks like a requirement for high-octane offenses as long as the NFL continues to keep the rules in the offenses' favor.

#12) Morgan Burnett (S) - Became the starting free safety after losing Nick Collins to a career ending neck injury, unfortunately Burnett is no Collins at least his aestheticism to be a ball-hawk if he can stay healthy.

#11) T.J. Lang (G) -
Jumping from being the 67th highest paid guard (averaging $750,000 per year) to the 12th highest paid guard (averages $5.2 million a year through 2016) moved Lang down the list a few spots but that was mitigated by the fact that Lang will be asked to play every position along the offensive line if another starting offensive lineman gets hurt.  Lang will only be 29 when the four-year contract extension he just signed expires, which gives Lang a chance to break the bank at least one more time if he continues to perform at a high level.

#10) Bryan Bulaga (T) -
Scouts thought Bulaga's arms were too short coming out of college to be a successful tackle in the NFL but so far Bulaga has been a rock at right tackle taking over for fan favorite Mark Tauscher.

#9) Greg Jennings (WR) -
Since Jennings is set to be a free agent following the 2012 season, that moved him down the list a few spots.  Absent Jennings suffering a career ending injury in 2012, his agent Eugene Parker did Jennings a great service in getting Jennings a four-year contract extension so Jennings can potentially break the bank this off-season.

#8) Josh Sitton (G) -
Knee injuries hampered Sitton in 2011 but he looks fully healthy to start 2012, which is huge for the Packers because Sitton was the weakest link along the offensive line besides the Clifton/Newhouse combo at left tackle in 2011.

#7) Charles Woodson (CB) -
With 14 forced fumbles and 37 interceptions in just six season, Woodson is already considered one of the best defenders in franchise history and continues to push Reggie White for the best free agent signing in franchise history.

#6) Jordy Nelson (WR) -
The NFL advance stat community is predicting a regression for Nelson in 2012 because of how many big plays Nelson put up in 2011 but if you listen to what Aaron Rodgers said about Nelson lately, Nelson might actually have a better year in 2012 than he did in 2011.

#5) Tramon Williams (CB) -
A shoulder injury made Williams a shell of himself in 2011.  Since the injury involved nerve damage, there is a chance that Williams will never be 100% again but he needs to be at least 90% in order to play the bump-and-run coverage that is a huge part of Dom Capers' defensive scheme.

#4) Jermichael Finley (TE) -
Following 2011 when Finley caught 55 passes (dropped 13) for 767 yards and eight touchdowns, a down year by Finley's standards thanks to drops and lingering injuries.  I like that Finley and the Packers signed a two-year contract instead of a long-term deal.  A short-term deal gives the Packers a chance to see if Finley can stay healthy for a few years before offering him a huge extension to keep him in Green Bay.

#3) B.J. Raji (DL) -
The Packers dramatically overused Raji in 2011, hopefully the rookie reinforcements of Worthy and Daniels will allow the Packers to keep Raji fresh in 2012 so that he can return to the space eating and pass rushing force that he was in 2010.

#2) Clay Matthews (OLB) -
29.5 career sacks in three seasons is impressive but that number could be much higher if the Packers actually have a regular edge rusher opposite Claymaker.  Only time will tell if Perry is that guy, if he is, Claymaker will be the lucky recipient on (more sacks) and off (more money) the field.

#1) Aaron Rodgers (QB) -
Expectations have never been higher as Rodgers enters his 5th season as the starting quarterback and 8th season overall with the Packers.  Hard to believe that Rodgers is the second longest tenured Packer behind DD.  While replicating his performance in 2011 is nearly impossible, with how well Rodgers has played since taking over for Favre, winning the NFC Championship game at Lambeau Field seems like a realistic expectation if Rodgers stays healthy this season.

As always, thanks for reading.  Instead of recapping every Packers game this year, I will give my thoughts during games on Twitter: @CheeseheadSN.  I will reserve blogging about Packer games just to games that I attend in-person this season.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2012 Green Bay Packers - Most Overpaid and Most Underpaid

MLB and NBA franchises can turnaround in the blink of an eye with one big free agent acquisition, but that rarely works in the NFL.  Thus Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson rarely signs free agents unless they are undrafted rookie free agents so the Packers thankfully do not have too many horrible contracts on the books.

As of today, the Packers are $11.6 million below the $128.5 million salary cap for the 2012 season but that only accounts for the 51 most expensive players on the current roster.  That cap number will go down a fair amount when you add in everyone on the 53-man roster, injured reserve, the practice squad, injury settlements, and other dead cap charges.

Let's deal with the worst contracts before we move onto the best contracts:

#5) Charles Woodson (CB, $11.56 million) - Since Woodson carries the highest cap number of any Packer in 2012, he made the list.  Don't get me wrong, Woodson is a very versatile defensive player but he accounts for 9% of the salary cap so since Woodson doesn't play quarterback there is almost no way that accounting for such a big percentage of the team salary cap is ever going to be good business.  Trust me, it was hard to put Woodson on this list, especially since I wear a kid's XL Woodson jersey for every Packer game.

#4) James Jones (WR, $3.1 million) - If Jones had slightly better hands he would be making twice as much from another NFL franchise but since he has shaky hands, Jones signed what looked like a club friendly three-year, $9.4 million contract that is not looking so club friendly right now.  In 2013 the Packers are going to have to decide between Jones and Driver if they want to have enough left in the bank to resign impending free agent wide receiver Greg Jennings.

#3) Mason Crosby (K, $2.4 million) - This has more to do with being a place kicker in general than Crosby's actual performance.  There have been a number of studies that show field goal kicking performance is not consistent on a year-to-year basis, so paying a guy a couple million dollars for an inherently volatile rate of return doesn't feel right (sorry Sug and Sug's neighbor).

#2) John Kuhn (FB, $2.4 million) - Speaking of not feeling right, Kuhn is overpaid mostly because of positional value.  Although Kuhn occasionally lines up as a running back, he is really a fullback.  For a team that is pass happy, paying a running back a couple million dollars a year seems foolish so paying that much money to a fullback seems asinine.

#1) A.J. Hawk (MLB, $6.55 million) - Truth be told, Business HJ is the only truly ridiculous contract on the roster.  I am sure that the Business HJ is a nice guy but that doesn't mean he deserves to get paid almost $7 million to play the easiest position to fill in a 3-4 defense.  If the Packers did not lose middle linebacker Desmond Bishop for the season earlier in training camp, Business HJ would have either taken a drastic pay-cut to stay in Green Bay or would be looking for a new employer right now.

The hardest part of this post was winnowing down the list to just five for the best contracts.  There are almost a dozen contracts that I could characterize as honorable mention so let's just get to the five best contracts:

#5) Jordy Nelson (WR, $3.8 million) - When the Packers signed Nelson to a four-year, $14 million contract it looked like a fair deal.  Just a year later this contract looks like such a steal so the Packers might want to re-up Nelson before he prices himself out of Green Bay.

#4) Randall Cobb (WR, $729,414) - Usually including rookie contract is a cop-out but drafting a guy like Cobb at the end of the second round in the 2011 NFL Draft is another luxury pick in a long line of luxury picks (think Aaron Rodgers in 2005) made by Thompson that will pay huge dividends long-term for the Packers.  Although Cobb had some fumbling issues as a rookie, he still returned two kicks for touchdowns and gives the Packers a diverse weapon on offense that could soften the blow of losing Greg Jennings next year.

#3) D.J. Smith (MLB, $490,788) - Again I only include this rookie contract to illustrate a point.  In this instance it is to show that the Packers should not overpay for certain positions.  The Packers are paying Hawk more than 10 times what they are paying Smith.  There is a chance that Smith will be a flop in 2012 but that is softened by the fact that they are only paying him $500,000 while they are forced paying Hawk $6.55 million in 2012 because he is now a vested veteran on the roster.

#2) Clay Matthews (OLB, $1.98 million) - What a difference being the 9th pick (Raji) v. the 26th pick (Claymaker) in the 2009 NFL Draft.  This year Raji is scheduled to make $5.5 million while Matthews will earn a little less than $2 million that comparison is purely academic now though because those contracts are a thing of the past because they were signed under the old CBA.  Matthews will sign a much bigger second contract with the Packers than Raji so the Packers might as well enjoy underpaying Claymaker now since they are going to sign him to one of the largest contracts in NFL history in the next 18 months.

#1) Aaron Rodgers (QB, $9 million) - Before Rodgers completed a full season as a starter the Packers signed him to a six-year, $65 million contract with $20 million guaranteed.  Despite being one of the richest contracts ever signed in franchise history, it is also going to go down as one of the most cost effective of all-time because his next contract will probably be for the same length but twice the dollar amounts.

A special thanks to Spotrac, which helped me put together my most accurate "overpaid/underpaid" post yet.

Check back Sunday for my initial rankings of the entire 53-man roster for the 2012 Green Bay Packers.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Stricker Captain's Pick for 2012 Ryder Cup

The 2012 Ryder Cup is going to be staged right in my backyard at Medinah Country Club in Chicago, IL from September 28th to September 30th.  That weekend I will be in Door County, WI for a family vacation with Cheesehead Chick, Mama Cheese, Papa Cheese, and In-Law-Cheese with the six of us going to the Packers/Saints game at Lambeau Field.  I am looking forward to that weekend for sure, the only bummer is that I will be unable to root on the United States in-person at my favorite bi-annual golf event that pits the United States v. Europe.

The automatic qualifiers (in alphabetical order) for the United States for the 2012 Ryder Cup are Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, and Tiger Woods.  That left Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III with four more slots to fill.  Love smartly choose Steve Stricker as one of his four captain's picks along with Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk, and Brandt Snedeker.

I am obviously biased based on my admiration for the Midwestern Cougar of the PGA Tour aka Steve Stricker.  The 2012 Ryder Cup will be Stricker's 3rd Ryder Cup appearance, he is 3-3-1 (1-1-0 in Foursomes, 1-1-1 in Four-ball, and 1-1-0 in singles).  Most pundits point to Stricker's impressive putting prowess as his reason for being a captain's pick but despite winning the 2012 Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Stricker has been an average putter at best this year.

All kidding aside, Stricker's Midwestern values guaranteed him being a captain's pick this year.  While almost every golfer not so secretly hates Tiger Woods, Stricker is just too nice of a guy to be mean to Woods so Stricker and Woods have been paired together in both the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup.  Stricker and Woods are 6 and 2 as partners at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, thanks in large part to going 4 and 0 at the 2009 Presidents Cup.  Combining all those factors, despite being merely average in strokes gained putting this year, since Stricker is healthy he was a lock to be one of the four captain's picks.

The only captain's pick I question is Furyk because even by Furyk's own admission, 2012 was one of his most disappointing seasons on the PGA Tour.  Although Furyk has been a part of every Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team since 1997, his streak should have ended this year.  Furyk is 8-15-4 and an absolutely horrendous 1-8-1 in four-ball (best ball) for his Ryder Cup career.  Add in that Furyk collapsed down the stretch at the 2012 US Open to gift Webb Simpson his first Major and I don't think Furyk's "experience" makes him a good guy to have on the team this year.

Although there are a number of impressive American golfers, the only players omitted from the team worth noting are Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Nick Watney, and Bo Van Pelt.  Since I agree with Love choosing Johnson, Snedeker, and Stricker I would have to choose to between Fowler, Mahan, Watney, and Van Pelt in place of Furyk if I was Love.  Despite being close to winning a number of times in 2012, Van Pelt never actually won so that eliminates him.  Watney preformed well as of late but I am not sure if that will carry through to the end of September so that eliminates him too.

That leaves Fowler and Mahan, who have struggled as of late, but are both very impressive match play golfers.  Mahan won twice on the PGA Tour this year, with one of those wins coming over Rory McIlroy at the WGC-Match Play Championship.  Last time I checked, the Ryder Cup is a match play event so I would have taken Mahan over Furyk.

Good luck to the Midwestern Cougar and the rest of his teammates, I will be cheering you on from Lambeau Field with an eye towards attending the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Cheeseahead country.

Monday, September 3, 2012

2012 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.  Much like I did last year, here are my rankings of the initial 2012 Green Bay Packers eight player practice squad

#8) Marc Tyler (RB) - Looked like a bruising, physically imposing running back cut from the same cloth as Michael Bush early in training camp but that performance has to be taken with a grain of salt since it was against a bunch of 3rd stringers.

#7) Brandon Bostick (TE) -
The Packers and Patriots are roster trend setter for the NFL.  Keeping a guy like Bostick allows Thompson to keep continue to chase his roster dream of having more tight ends than wide receivers on the active roster.

#6) Lawrence Guy (DE) - Landed on IR last year and the practice squad this year so hopefully Guy can get some practice reps under his belt to challenge for a roster spot next year since he looks to have the right body-type to play any position along the defensive line in a 3-4 defense.

#5) Chris Scott (G/T) - Not often do the Packers add players to their practice squad that spent time on other practice squads since usually they usually have to get so many quality players cut.  Scott sure looks the part of an imposing NFL offensive lineman at 6'5" and 332-pounds but whether the former Tennessee Volunteer and Pittsburgh Steelers draft pick (151st pick in the 2010 NFL Draft) is a roster filler or something more is hard to say until Scott actually practices with the team.

#4) Greg Van Roten (G) -
Had a great camp and if Don Barclay didn't make the final 53-man roster, there is a good chance that Van Roten would have been the last offensive lineman kept on the active roster.  Look for Van Roten to get promoted to the active roster between Week 2 and Week 6 if the Packers suffer any serious injuries along the offensive line.  I say Week 2 through Week 6 because Derek Sherrod is scheduled to come off the PUP last after Week 6, if his leg continues to heal properly.

#3) B.J. Coleman (QB) -
The whole coaching staff loves Coleman's attitude but it is way too early to tell if Coleman will be another successful backup quarterback that progresses through the system to earn big dollars from another NFL franchise along the lines of Matt Hasselback or Matt Flynn.

#2) Andrew Datko (T) -
Injuries are always going to be the issue for Datko so spending some time on the practice squad might allow him the chance to recover but he needs to show that he can string together a number of healthy weeks otherwise the Packers might as well add a different offensive lineman to the practice squad because I would be shocked if at least one offensive lineman wasn't promoted from the practice squad to the active roster this season.

#1) Diondre Borel (WR) -
It turns out that the three-horse race between Borel, Jarrett Boykin, and Tori Gurley for the illusive 6th wide receiver spot saw Boykin winning and Gurley signing with the Minnesota Vikings so that left Borel to sign with the Packers.  Borel had the least impressive training camp of the three but I still suspect another team will try to poach Borel off the practice squad to their active roster before the end of the season.

Check back Wednesday for my thoughts on the Most Overpaid and Most Underpaid 2012 Green Bay Packers and next Sunday for my ranking of the initial 53-man roster for the 2012 Green Bay Packers.