Saturday, August 31, 2013

The 53 - 2013 Green Bay Packers Initial Roster

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson recently trimmed the active roster from 90 players to 75 players.  Following the initial round of cuts, head coach Mike McCarthy gave the backups plenty of playing time against the Chiefs in their preseason finale.

None of the backups played very well against the Chiefs, which was evident when Thompson trimmed the active roster from 75 to 53 earlier today cutting the following 22 players: Jonathan Amosa (FB), Andrew Datko (T), David Fulton (S), Garth Gerhart (C), Alex Green (RB)Kevin Hughes (T), Charles Johnson (WR), Patrick Lewis (C), Terrell Manning (LB), Loyce Means (CB), Jordan Miller (DT), Dezman Moses (LB), Matthew Mulligan (TE), James Nixon (CB) Chaz Powell (S), Donte Savage (LB), Brandon Smith (CB), Jake Stoneburner (TE), Tyrone Walker (WR), Myles White (WR), D.J. Williams (TE), and Vince Young (QB).

Much like I did the last three years (2010, 2011, and 2012), here is my first look at The 53 for the 2013 Green Bay Packers:

QBs (2): B.J. Coleman and Aaron Rodgers

RBs (4): Jonathan Franklin, John Kuhn, Eddy Lacy, and James Starks

WRs (5): Jarrett Boykin, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Jeremy Ross

TEs (4): Brandon Bostick, Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, and Ryan Taylor

OLs (8): David Bakhtiari, Don Barclay, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Marshall Newhouse, Josh Sitton, Lane Taylor, and Greg Van Roten

DLs (8): Josh Boyd, Mike Daniels, Johnny Jolly, Datone Jones, Mike Neal, B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, and C.J. Wilson

LBs (9): Sam Barrington, Robert Francois, Brad Jones, A.J. Hawk, Jamari Lattimore, Clay Matthews, Andy Mulamba, Nate Palmer, and Nick Perry

DBs (10): Chris Banjo, Morgan Burnett, Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Micah Hyde, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Sam Shields, and Tramon Williams

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

Besides the initial 53-man roster, the Packers have a number of other players still affiliated with the organization even before they sign eight players to their practice squad.  Here is a breakdown of those players:

Injured Reserve (5): Bryan Bulaga (T), Sederrik Cunningham (WR), Kevin Dorsey (WR), DuJuan Harris (RB), and Jarvis Reed (LB).  Look for Bulaga and Harris to stay with the team for the rest of the season but don't be surprised if the Packers attempt sign the rest of the players to injury settlements so they can continue their NFL careers elsewhere.

PUP (4): Sean Richardson (S), Derek Sherrod (T), JC Tretter (G/C), and Jerel Worthy (DL). After the Packers finish their 6th game of the season, if they do not reach an injury settlement, they have three weeks to let the players left on the list start practicing.  From the first day one of those guys start practicing, the Packers have three weeks to add them to the active roster (in place of someone on The 53), cut them, or place them on injured reserve.

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

- For the first time in a number of years I was mildly surprised at some of the guys cut.  On the offensive side of the ball I was mildly surprised the Packers cut: Green, Mulligan, Walker, Williams, and Young.  On the defensive side of the ball I was mildly surprised the Packers cut: Manning, Miller, and Moses.

- The last three guys cut were probably: Terrell Manning, Tyrone Walker, and D.J. Williams.

- The last three guys kept were probably: Chris Banjo, Brandon Bostick, and Lane Taylor.

- The last two years the Packers kept 24 offensive players, 26 defensive players, and 3 special teams players.  This year the Packers mixed it up by keeping 23 offensive players, 27 defensive players, and 3 special teams players.

- Of the 53 players kept on the initial roster in 2010, only 23 of them are on the current 53-man roster: 9 offensive players, 11 defensive players, and 3 special teams players.  Of the 53 players kept on the initial roster in 2011, only 31 of them are on the current 53-man roster: 13 offensive players, 15 defensive players, and 3 special teams players.  Of the 53 players kept on the initial roster in 2012, only 35 of them are on the current 53-man roster: 14 offensive players, 18 defensive players, and 3 special teams players.  That means more than half of the roster has been overhauled in just the last three years.

If I had to pick an 8 player practice squad based solely on the players cut by the Packers today I would pick the following guys: Johnson, Lewis, Manning, Savage, Stonerburner, Smith, Walker, and White.

Make sure to check over the next week because there will be a ton of Packers content leading up to the season opener on the road against the San Francisco 49ers.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Building The 53 - 2013 Preseason Week 4 - Packers/Chiefs Review

The Green Bay Packers were shutout by the Arizona Cardinals to open the preseason.  The Packers followed that shutout up by playing well against the Rams.  Just as things were starting to look better, the Packers regressed against the Seahawks.  Last night the backups for the Packers struggled on the road against the backups for the Kansas City Chiefs to finish out the preseason.

Thankfully the 2013 preseason is finally in the rear-view mirror for the Packers because it was a very ugly four weeks that resulted in the Packers going 1-3.  I am not as worried that the Packers went 1-3 because let's not forget that the 2008 Detroit Lions went 4-0 in the preseason and 0-16 in the regular season.  I know quarterback Aaron Rodgers played sparingly in the preseason but I am still worried about the fact that the Packers didn't get into a rhythm on offense this preseason.

Here are my roster related thoughts on the Packers/Chiefs game:

Player that hurt his stock most - Brandon Smith (CB): Early in camp Smith showed promise but there were at least six players (Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House, and Jarrett Bush) ahead of him on the cornerback depth chart so Smith was a long-shot to make the roster no matter how well he played in the preseason.  Part of the allure of Smith is that he is a big, physical cornerback but his performance against the Chiefs shows why he is such a confound player.  Although Smith had an interception, he also gave up three touchdowns so he looks like a practice squad player at best right now despite the fact that he fits the "big cornerback" mold.

Player that helped his stock most - Mason Crosby (K): Before the game news broke that Crosby restructured his contract to reduce his base salary from $2.4 million to $800,000.  Crosby can still earn $2.4 million this season, he just needs to be on the roster Week 10 ($400,000 bonus if on the roster Week 5 and $400,000 bonus if on the roster for Week 10) and make at least 85% of his kicks ($200,000 if he makes 75%, $200,000 more if he makes 80%, and $400,000 more if he makes 85%) for this season.  Anyone that reads this blog knows that I am no fan of Crosby but I like the structure of this contract because it rewards Crosby for kicking well and allows the Packers to cut him with less salary cap ramifications if Crosby kicks in 2013 like he did in 2012.

Position to watch - WR/TE: Thanks to the emergence of athletic tight ends, the lines between tight end and wide receiver in the NFL are continuing to blur so let's look at the primary pass catchers as a group.  The Packers have some really interesting decisions to make because there are four locks (Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson) followed by a bunch of question marks.  The Packers could keep as little as nine and as many as 11 pass catchers.  I personally see very little separation between the rest of the backup tight ends and wide receivers.  Besides the dour locks the conservative move would be to keep Jarrett Boykin, Matthew Mulligan, Andrew Quarless, Jeremy Ross, Ryan Taylor, and D.J. Williams but Brandon Bostick has Finley-esque athleticism and Tyrone Walker played great this preseason so it is hard to cut either of those guys either.  It will be interesting to see what Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson decides to do with the pass catchers.

Final Note: Thompson already trimmed the roster from 90 to 75 earlier this week.  Thompson needs to trim another 22 players by 5 pm CDT on Saturday, August 31st.  There were 21 guys that I said were long-shots to make The 53 heading into the preseason.  Given how well some of these guys played,  I actually think two deserve to make The 53: Chris Banjo (S) and Tyrone Walker (WR).

Last week I supported cutting the following 10 guys: Johnathan Amosa (FB), Myles White (WR), Lane Taylor (G), Garth Gerhard (C), Patrick Lewis (C), Donte Savage (OLB), James Nixon (CB), Loyce Means (CB), David Fulton (S), and Chaz Powell (S) but they survived the cut from 90 to 75.  None of those guys did anything to separate themselves against the Chiefs so I still support cutting those guys, which trims the roster from 75 to 65.

That means 13 more players need to be cut to get to The 53.  Here are the 13 other guys that I would cut if I was in charge: Charles Johnson (WR), Jarrett Boykin (WR), Jake Stoneburner (TE), Brandon Bostick (TE), Kevin Hughes (T), Andrew Datko (T), B.J. Coleman (QB), Nate Palmer (LB), Andy Mulumba (LB), Jamari Lattimore (LB), Sam Barrington (LB), Jordan Miller (DT), and Brandon Smith (CB).

Check back Saturday evening after Thompson picks The 53 for my thoughts.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Building The 53 - Roster Moves From 90 to 75

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson made a series of moves over the last three days to trim the roster from 90 to 75 players by 3 pm CDT on Tuesday, August 27, 2013 in order to comply with NFL rules.  Here is a breakdown of the moves made by Thompson:
- Placed on PUP list (4): Sean Richardson (S), Derek Sherrod (T), JC Tretter (OC/G), and Jerel Worhty (DL) so once the regular season starts those players cannot practice with the team for at least the first six games of season.
- Placed on injured reserve (4): Bryan Bulaga (T), Kevin Dorsey (WR), DuJuan Harris (RB), and Jarvis Reed (OLB) thus ending their 2013 season.
- Released (8): Alex Gillett (WR), Graham Harrell (QB), Omarius Hines (WR), Angelo Pease (RB), Gilbert Peña (DT), Zach Ramirez (K), Giorgio Tavecchio (K), and Justin Wilson (WR).

If you add up the players above it equals 16 but the roster moved from 90 to 75, which is only 15 so let me explain how one player was "double counted".  The oddest move made by Thompson in a long time was signing Ramirez on Sunday and cutting him on Tuesday, which must mean he kicked horribly in practice on Monday and is how we have 16 people listed above.

None of the players placed on the PUP list or injured reserved were a surprise other than Harris.  After missing most of the preseason, Harris got a couple carries against the Seattle Seahwawks where he re-injured his knee.  Head coach Mike McCarthy maintained throughout the preseason that when healthy, Harris was the starting running back.  I thought that was lip-service by McCarthy to light a fire under the other running backs on the roster because let's not forget that the Packers signed Harris last year while he was trying to sell cars after getting cut from the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars so take the loss of Harris with a grain of salty.

The injury to Harris means rookie Eddy Lacy, if healthy, will open the season as the starting running back.  If Lacy looks like he did in week 2 of the preseason as opposed to week 3 of the preseason, the Packers should have an every down back for the first time since Ryan Grant in 2009.

None of the players cut were a surprise other than possibly Harrell.  Given the fact that Harrell had to play the preseason game of his life last year just to make The 53, no one should be that surprised that Harrell was cut.  Cutting Harrell opens the door open for Vince Young to claim the backup quarterback spot behind Aaron Rodgers unless B.J. Coleman has the game of his life in the preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs.  No matter how Young and Coleman play against the Chiefs, the Packers should keep former Wisconsin Badger quarterback Scott Tolzien in mind since he was recently cut from the 49ers.

Besides Young and Coleman, there are a number of other players that need to play well against the Chiefs to make The 53 because the Packers need to trim 22 more players from their roster by August 31st at 5 pm CDT.

Check back on Friday for my thoughts on the Packers/Chiefs preseason game where I also will give my thoughts on how I would choose The 53.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Building The 53 - 2013 Preseason Week 3 - Packers/Seahawks Review

Every preseason fans look forward to the third preseason game because that is when all the healthy starters usually play into the third quarter.  Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy bucked that trend at the quarterback playing franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers for only one series against the Seattle Seahawks at home. Injuries are inevitable in football and the Packers suffered some injuries to important players against the Seahawks that have fuzzy timelines for recovery.  Three important defensive players suffered or re-aggravated hamstring injuries: Morgan Burnett (S), Casey Hayward (CB), and Brad Jones (MLB).  Despite drafting two running backs, the Packers still view DuJuan Harris as their starter but Harris re-injured his right knee that has limited his participation so far this preseason.  Here are my roster related thoughts on the Packers/Seahawks game:

Player that hurt his stock most - James Starks (RB): There were certain players that struggled like cornerback Loyce Means (gave up a number of big receptions) or tight end Jake Stoneburner (fumbled) but those guys are long-shots to make the team.  After looking good last week on the ground, the Packers struggled to run the ball with their running backs against the Seahawks: Eddie Lacy (8 carries for minus-5 yards), Jonathan Franklin (4 carries for 1 yard), DuJuan Harris (3 carries for 2 yards), Alex Green (2 carries for 31 yards and one of two rushes was for 31 yards), and John Kuhn (1 carry for 3 yards).  Juxtapose that with Seahawks rookie running back Christine Michael's 122 yards of offense from scrimmage (11 rushes for 97 yards and 1 catch for 25 yards) and the Packers looked inept at running back compared to the Seahawks.  Don't forget the fact that the Packers could have had Michael instead of Lacy since Michael was drafted one spot after Lacy in the 2013 NFL Draft.  Leaving the Lacy/Michael comparison aside because I still think Lacy is a better fit for the Packers than Michael despite their performances last night; it looks like Green, Kuhn, and Starks are vying for two roster spots.  Both Green and Kuhn saw action against the Seahawks while Starks did not register a single carry despite being healthy so yesterday might be the beginning of the end for the supremely talented but often injured Starks.

Player that helped his stock most - Vince Young: As discussed earlier, teams often use week 4 as opposed to week 3 to give their backups a long look.  This year the Packers gave their backup quarterbacks a long look a week early against the Seahawks.  Going into the game it was backup quarterback Graham Harrell's job to lose but Harrell did little to impress the coaches.  Alternatively, newly signed quarterback Vince Young, not a graduate of McCarthy's "vaunted" off-season quarterback school like Harrell and B.J. Coleman, was efficient through the air (6 of 7 throwing for 47 yards and 1 touchdown) and on the ground (3 carries for 39 yards) to pull ahead of Harrell and Coleman for the backup quarterback job behind Rodgers.

Position to watch - Defensive Line: The Packers typically keep six defensive lineman but this year they have eight or nine players worth keeping for the first time in a long time.  My current depth chart is: B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson, Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, Johnny Jolly, Josh Boyd, Jordan Miller, Mike Neal, and Jerel Worthy.  I know the Packers are trying to covert Neal to outside linebacker but I don't see him being much more than a situational pass rusher in sub-packages.  I put Worthy last because he is recovering from a torn ACL so he will start the season on the physically unable to perform list, otherwise Worthy would be pushing Wilson and Jones for playing time.  It will be interesting to see whether the Packers keep a seventh lineman.  If I were in charge I would keep Raji, Pickett, Wilson, Jones, Daniels, Boyd, and Jolly but I would be shocked if Miller made it through waiver so it really comes down to whether Jolly's past baggage will keep him from making The 53.

Final Note: The Packers need to make 15 roster cuts by 3 pm CDT on Tuesday, August 27th.  There are a ton of guys that might end up on injured reserve, which would mean they could not play for the Packers in 2013 but at the very least will most likely start the season on the PUP list.  Being placed on the PUP list precludes a player from joining the roster until week 8 for the Packers this year since NFL rules mandate that any player on the PUP list must miss the team's first six games and Packers have a ridiculously early bye this year (week 4).  Here are the likely PUP list candidates: Jerel Worthy (DT), Sean Richardson (S), Bryan Bulaga (OT), Derek Sherrod (OT), and JC Tretter (OG/C).  If I were in charge, I would cut the following 15 non-PUP list worthy guys: Angelo Pease (RB), Johnathan Amosa (FB), Omarius Hines (WR), Myles White (WR), Justin Wilson (WR), Lane Taylor (G), Garth Gerhard (C), Patrick Lewis (C), Gilbert Pena (DT), Jarvis Reed (OLB), Donte Savage (OLB), James Nixon (CB), Loyce Means (CB), David Fulton (S), and Chaz Powell (S).

Check back after the actual initial roster cuts this Tuesday for my updated thoughts on Building The 53.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Braun's Horrible Two-Step & "Coming Clean" Statement on Use of PED's

I wanted to post something over the weekend but work has been kicking my butt lately so that forced me to postpone my post on suspended Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun's two-step from over the weekend.  In the mean time, Braun released his "come clean" statement on his used of PED's.  I will cover my thoughts on Braun's statement but let's recap the other reports first before dissecting the statement.

First, CBS's "60 Minutes" reported that someone associated with Alex Rodriguez leaked documents that connected Braun to Biogenesis, the clinic at the center of one of MLB's largest PED scandals. Second, ESPN reported that Braun is being sued for defamation by "longtime" friend Ralph Sasson.  Early indications are that part of the lawsuit will show that Braun used PED's in college, committed academic fraud, and took money.

There is a ton to unpack.  Whether A-Rod leaked documents about Braun's PED use will grab the most headlines but is the least interesting story of the three to me because A-Rod has overtaken Barry Bonds to become the center of the PED universe in baseball (don't worry Lance, you are still center of the PED universe in sports). Braun could sue A-Rod for tortious interference with contractual relationship, which is the same way this whole saga started with MLB using that theory against Tony Bosch, the owner of Biogenesis.

The second story is interesting to me because it means Braun's friend either needs money or wants to clear his conscious.  I don't get why high profile people hire friends to "dig up dirt" since that creates an on-going cost of doing business.  I guess high-profile people can trust very few people so they figure long-time childhood friends will stay loyal but even those confidants have their breaking point.

Immediately after Braun's suspension was announced, I was worried about how that was going to impact Green bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers since Rodgers vehemently defended Braun.  That doesn't even account for the fact that Braun and Rodgers own a restaurant together that is comically named 8-Twelve MVP Bar and Grill.

I am part of the strong majority that was less than impressed with Braun's statement.  When Braun temporarily got his positive PED test overturned via the Reverse Al Capone, he delivered his statement in-person at spring training in a very strong manner.  Even if Braun wasn't going to take questions, he should have read his statement to reporters instead issuing it via a press release.

Here would have been my simple five-point plan for Braun:
1. Sincerely apologize to the fans, Dino Laurenzi, and ownership
2. Give back your 2011 NL MVP
3. Explain in grave detail your exact PED use
4. Stay out of the public eye till spring training next season
5. Offer to take a weekly test for the rest of his career

I know #2 and #5 are long-shots but that would go a long way towards leaving misdeeds in the past while trying to forge a trusting relationship going forward.  It is too early to tell on #4 but so far Braun has only half satisfied #1 and #3.  I am less than impressed with how Braun has handled this so far, which give me very little confidence that Braun will thrive on and off the field for the next decade in Milwaukee.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Man City Report - Start of Manuel Pellegrini Era

There has been a fair amount of turnover for Manchester City this off-season following their second place finish in the 2012-13 English Premier League and 2013 FA Cup final loss 1-0 to Wigan.  Despite manager Roberto Mancini leading City to their first trophy in 35 years when City won the 2011 FA Cup and their first EPL title in 44 years when City won the EPL in 2011-12, even if City won the 2013 FA Cup, the writing was on the wall that Mancini was on the way out.  City brought the Mancini era officially to a close with two matches left in EPL season.

Besides Mancini, a number of players left City during the off-season: Wayne Bridge (free transfer, D, Reading), Kolo Toure (free transfer, D, Liverpool), Jeremy Helan ($500,000, D, Sheffield Wednesday), Maicon (free transfer, D, AS Roma), Karim Rekik (loan, D, PSV), Carlos Tevez (F, Juventus), Roque Santa Cruz (free transfer, F, Malaga), and Reece Wabara (loan, D, Doncaster Rovers).  The only real loss was Tevez.  It is symbolic that Mancini and Tevez left the club at the same time because despite clashing on a number of occasions, both were important figures in shepherding City from being a second tier EPL side to a world class side.

Even while Mancini was still in charge of City, rumors were swirling that he would be replaced by Manuel Pellegrini.  Once the former Villarreal, Real Madrid, and Malaga manager (among other stops) officially signed on as manager of City, the club's pocketbooks opened up.  The transfer window is open until the end of August but as of the start of their 2013-14 season, City already added four quality players: Fernandinho ($50 million, F, Shakhtar Donetsk), Jesus Navas ($30 million, M, Sevilla), Stevan Jovetic ($35 million, F, Fiorentina), and Alvaro Negredo ($27.5 million, F, Sevilla).

Given the quality City already had on their roster before signing the four players just mentioned, they start their run towards an EPL title with their strongest roster ever.  Taking into account the transfers above, the current City depth chart heading into the 2013-14 campaign looks like this:

Joe Hart
Costel Pantilimon
Richard Wright

Right Back:
Pablo Zabaleta
Micah Richards

Center Back:
Vincent Kompany
Matija Nastasic
Joleon Lescott

Left Back:
Gael Clichy
Aleksandar Kolarov

Central Midfield:
Yaya Toure
Javi Garcia
Jack Rodwell
Gareth Barry
Abdul Razak

David Silva
Samir Nasri
Jesus Navas
James Milner
Scott Sinclair

Sergio Aguero
Edin Dzeko
Stevan Jovetic
Alvaro Negredo
John Guidetti

After spending in excess of $125 million on four players, I would be surprised if City purchased any more players before the transfer window closes.  In fact, it is much more likely that Man City will sell or loan out some of the younger players (Scott Sinclair, Abdul Razak, or John Guidetti) since playing time will be scarce given the quality of their current roster.

I hope you enjoy the start of City's run towards the quadruple (Capital One Cup, EPL, FA Cup, and UEFA Champions League) as they host Newcastle in their first match of the 2013-14 EPL season. 
Make sure to check back after the transfer window closes on Monday, September 2nd for a full review of all the moves made by City this off-season.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Building The 53 - 2013 Preseason Week 2 - Packers/Rams Review

After a lackluster performance last week getting shutout at home by the Arizona Cardinals in their preseason opener, the Green Bay Packers righted the ship with a strong performance on the road to beat the St. Louis Rams.  The Packers were pitching a shutout for 59 minutes but Brandon Smith got beat on a predictable "go" route to help the Rams avoid their first shutout since 1978 losing to the Packers 19-7.

Player that hurt his stock most - Giorgio Tavecchio
: There has been an "intense" two-way kicking battle between veteran Mason Crosby and Tavecchio.  Going into the Packers/Rams game, Tavecchio held the upper hand but went 1 for 2, missing a 49-yarder while Crosby went 3 for 3 (one was a 48-yarder).  One miss should not mean the Packers cut Tavecchio but since it has been such a tight competition between Crosby and Tavecchio, neither player can afford any misses.  I view kickers much like closers in baseball, ride the hot performance and when they start to struggle, move onto the next option.  It is popular to bash Crosby but I am not sure Tavecchio is the answer either so I support the Packers cutting both in favor of s strong-legged, young kicker.

Player that helped his stock most - Johnny Jolly: There is no question that rookies Lacy, cornerback Micah Hyde, and defensive tackle Josh Boyd looked good against the Rams but given where they were drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft all three are virtual locks to make The 53.  Strong performances by undrafted rookie free agents like tight end Jake Stoneburner and outside linebacker Andy Mulamba make them virtual locks for the practice squad with an outside chance to make The 53 at some point this season.  The inspired play of defensive lineman Johnny Jolly against the Rams made me think we were watching the 2009 version of Jolly, which was a disruptive defensive force for the Packers.  If Jolly stays healthy and continues to play this way, he is a lock to make the roster.

Position to Watch - Backup Quarterback: Heading into the second preseason game the depth chart behind starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers went like this: Graham Harrell, Vince Young, and B.J. Coleman.  Fortunately all three played fairly well against the Rams with Coleman playing the best so there is no real separation between the three after two preseason games.  If I were in charge, I would flip the playing order script to give Coleman then Young and finally Harrell snaps because I actually think Coleman has the highest upside of the three backup quarterbacks.

Final Note: I don't want to overreact to one preseason performance but the spin moves put on defenders by rookie running back Eddy Lacy were some of the most nimble runs I've seen from a big Packer running back in the last decade.  With all due respect to Ahman Green and Najeh Devenport, if Lacy can stay healthy I actually think he has a chance to be better than both.  If Lacy can keep that up, it is going to be fun watching him as the lead back for the Packers for the next few seasons.  At the very least it looks like Lacy falls forward to finish runs, which will give the Packers the options to actually run for a first down on 3rd and 1 or at least provide the illusion that they can pickup that yard on the ground to make a pass in that situation more effective.  I supported the Packers drafting Lacy in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft so when they got Lacy at the end of the second round I thought that was the steal of the draft.  One night does not make a career but if Lacy's power and spin move continues, we might be looking Ahman Green 2.0 sans the ridiculous Batman obsession.

For the second week in a row only one player was injured in the game with tight end Mike Mulligan suffering an arm injury.  Unless the Packers make any significant roster moves before their next preseason game at home this Friday against the Seattle Seahawks, check back next Saturday for my review of how the Packers/Seahawks preseason game impacts Building The 53.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Building The 53 - 2013 Preseason Week 1 - Packers/Cardinals Review

For the second year in a row, the Green Bay Packers stumbled in their first preseason game.  At least the Packers scored last year in their preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers because this year the Packers were shutout for first time in the preseason by the Arizona Cardinals since August 22, 1987 when they lost 33-0 to the Washington Redskins in Madison.  Although I think preseason scores are meaningless, getting shutout is never a good thing.

Going into the preseason cornerback looked like the deepest position on the roster.  With two of the three best cornerbacks on the roster (Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward) out due to injury, the healthy cornerbacks were carved up en route to a 17-0 loss to the Cardinals.  Here are a few thoughts on how the Packers/Cardinals preseason game impacted The 53:

Player that hurt his stock most - Graham Harrell: It is really hard to single out just one guy based on how sloppy the Packers played.  Certain guys that struggled, absent injury, are going to make the roster (House and Newhouse) so let's skip those guys.  Instead let's focus on the backup quarterbacks.  The Packers gave backup quarterback Graham Harrell a ton of snaps but he struggled (12 of 19 for 76 yards, 1 interception, and 1 fumble).  The third quarterback to see live action after Aaron Rodgers and Harrell was the newly signed Vince Young as opposed to B.J. Coleman.  Although Young did not put up huge numbers through the air (1 of 3 for 7 yards), he showed some versatility picking up a first down with his feet (2 rushes for 12 years).  Coleman looked the worst of the three backups (2 of 7 for 15 yards) in limited action but none of the three backups had a passer rating of more than 50, which shows how much each struggled.  Depending on how Harrell and Young play the rest of the preseason, I would keep the best of those two guys and stash Coleman on the practice squad.

Player that helped his stock most - Tyrone Walker: Usually the Packers keep five wide receivers on The 53.  Last year the Packers bucked that trend and kept six.  Heading into camp it looked like that position was settled despite losing mainstays Donald Driver (retired) and Greg Jennings (signed with the Minnesota Vikings and won't stop complaining to the media about the Packers).  When healthy, the top three wide receivers in some order are James Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb.  At the start of the preseason it looked like Jeremy Ross and Jarrett Boykin would claim the last two wide receiver roster spots.  Tyrone Walker's performance against the Cardinals and Alex Gillett's strong camp so far means that unless the Packers keep six wide receivers, there are at least four guys competing for two roster spots.  Despite my affinity for Virginia Tech, at this point I would keep Ross and Walker ahead of Boykin (the former Hokie) and Gillett.

Position to watch - Offensive Tackle: When the Packers lost starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga for the season due to a torn ACL earlier this week that put both offensive tackle spots in flux.  As of right now, it looks like left tackle is rookie 4th round pick David Bakhtiari's spot to lose and right tackle is Marshall Newhouse's spot to lose.  Newhouse was the starting left tackle last year but struggled, which is why the Packers moved Bulaga to left tackle.  Last night Newhouse got reps at both right and left tackle.  Much like last year, Newhouse struggled for stretches giving up a sack to John Abraham.  I am fine giving Bakhtiari every chance to be the first rookie starting left tackle for the Packers since Ken Reutegers in 1985.  I just wish the Packers would give Don Barclay the first shot to win the right tackle spot instead of Newhouse.

Final Note: For me, the preseason sideline interviews are the most uninteresting portions of the game.  The interviewees for the Packers/Cardinals game were outside linebacker Clay Matthews, wide receiver Jones, tight end Jermichael Finley, and cornerback Sam Shields.  With the prevalence of social media, instead of asking football questions that are going to get canned answers from the players, the production staffs should solicit interesting non-football questions from viewers via Facebook and Twitter.  Not only would it increase fan interaction but it would actually make the interviews interesting instead of just being throwaway airtime for stars.

I am sure reviewing the game film is going to be painful for the Packers, luckily the only injury was a sprained ankle to rookie defensive lineman Datone Jones.  Unless the Packers make any significant roster moves before their next preseason game on the road next Saturday against the St. Louis Rams, check back next Sunday for my review of how the Packers/Rams preseason game impacts Building The 53.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Building The 53 - Bulaga Out, Young In

Heading into training camp I posted that 27 guys were locks* and 18 guys will most likely* make The 53, which means there are 45 guys fighting for 8 roster spots.

During the off-season the Packers shifted Bryan Bulaga from right tackle to left tackle because Marshall Newhouse struggled last season at left tackle.  Unfortunately Bulaga, one of the 27 locks*, suffered a season ending injury before he could even play a meaningful snap in 2013 for the Packers.  Sadly this is the second consecutive season cut short by injury for Bulaga.

Now the Packers have to decide whether to give Newhouse another chance at left tackle or go in another direction.  If the Packers go in another direction they will have to either rely on a rookie in David Bakhtiari or a pair of former draft picks that have been perpetually injured for their entire tenure in Green Bay in Derek Sherrod (1st Rounder in 2011) or Andrew Datko (7th Rounder in 2012).

The only other viable tackle on the roster is Don Barclay but his body type makes him better suited to play right tackle.  If I were in charge I would have Bakhtiari, Sherrod, and Datko take reps at left tackle while having Barclay and Newhouse take reps at right tackle.  My guess is that the Packers keep Bakhtiari, Barclay, and Newhouse along with the healthier of Sherrod and Datko.

Bulaga is currently getting a second opinion on his knee but I would be shocked if Bulaga was able to play in 2013 so although Bulaga has not been placed on injured reserve yet, the delay looks merely procedural.  The Packers made a few other roster moves though.  The Packers placed wide receiver Sederrik Cunningham on injured reserve and signed wide receiver Justin Wilson.  The bigger roster move was the Packers signing dual-threat quarterback Vince Young.

Going into training camp it looked like B.J. Coleman and Graham Harrell were going to battle for the backup quarterback job much like they did last year.  Harrell won last year but I thought Coleman would win this year.  With Young in the fold, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

The terms of Young's contract are undisclosed right now.  If there is any guaranteed money in the deal then Coleman and Harrell better start looking for new employment.  If Young's contract does not have any guaranteed money then it will be a true competition.  Worst case scenario, having a dual-threat quarterback in camp will help the Packers prepare for their first two regular seasons opponents since both teams employ dual-threat quarterbacks: Colin Kapernick for the San Francisco 49ers and Robert Griffin III for the Washington Redskins.

I am sure all of Packer Nation wishes Bulaga a speedy recover and will watch the backup quarterback competition very closely because as Bulaga's injury shows, we are one injury to starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers away from putting the franchise in the hands of Coleman, Harrell, or Young.