Monday, September 16, 2013

The 53 - Packers pound Redskins in 2013 home opener

The Green Bay Packers put on a very impressive performance against the Washington Redskins with Aaron Rodgers throwing for a career high 480 yards (tied his buddy Matt Flynn's team record) and running back James Starks running for 132 yards.  According to various reports that is the first time in NFL history that two teammates have thrown for 450 yards and run for 125 yards in the same game.  Here are my thoughts along with updated rankings to The 53 following the Packers/Redskins game:

 The 53
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB, LW 1)
2. Clay Matthews (OLB, LW 2)
3. Randall Cobb (WR, LW 3)
4. Morgan Burnett (S, LW 4)
5. Jordy Nelson (WR, LW 6)
6. B.J. Raji (DL, LW 5)
7. James Jones (WR, LW 10)
8. T.J. Lang (G, LW 7)
9. Jermichael Finley (TE, LW 8)
10. Josh Sitton (G, LW 9)
11. Sam Shields (CB, LW 11)
12. David Bakhtiari (T, LW 14)
13. Evan Dietrich-Smith (C, LW 13)
14. Tramon Williams (CB, LW 12)
15. Nick Perry (OLB, LW 15)
16. Casey Hayward (CB, LW 16)
17. Datone Jones (DL, LW 17)
18. Tim Masthay (P, LW 18)
19. Eddie Lacy (RB, LW 19)
20. Ryan Pickett (DL, LW 20)
21. Don Barclay (T, LW 21)
22. Micah Hyde (CB, LW 29)
23. Johnny Jolly (DL, LW 22)
24. A.J. Hawk (MLB, LW 23)
25. Mike Daniels (DL, LW 26)
26. James Starks (RB, LW 30)
27. Brad Jones (MLB, LW 25)
28. C.J. Wilson (DL, LW 24)
29. M.D. Jennings (S, LW 27)
30. Jerron McMillian (S, LW 28)
31. Mason Crosby (K, LW 31)
32. Mike Neal (DL/OLB, LW 47)
33. Brett Goode (LS, LW 32)
34. Jarrett Bush (CB, LW 33)
35. Ryan Taylor (TE, LW 34)
36. Jarrett Boykin (WR, LW 35)
37. Davon House (CB, LW 41)
38. Robert Francois (MLB, LW 36)
39. Chris Banjo (S, LW 42)
40. Jeremy Ross (WR, LW LW 37)
41. Andrew Quarless (TE, LW 44)
42. John Kuhn (FB, LW 38)
43. Marshall Newhouse (T, LW 39)
44. Greg Van Roten (G, LW 40)
45. Jonathan Franklin (RB, LW 43)
46. Seneca Wallace (QB, LW 45)
47. Jamari Lattimore (LB, LW 46)
48. Andy Mulamba (LB, LW 48)
49. Sam Barrington (LB, LW 49)
50. Brandon Bostick (TE, LW 52)
51. Nate Palmer (LB, LW 50)
52. Lane Taylor (G, LW 51)
53. Josh Boyd (DL, LW 53)
7. James Jones (WR): After going without a catch against the 49ers in the season opener, Jones caught 11 passes for 178 yards.  When you factor in that Jones is older and currently set to be a free agent this off-season, while wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are under contract through at least next season, Cobb and Nelson are slightly more valuable to the Packers than Jones.  This is obviously splitting hairs because any team in the NFL would love to have any of the wide receiver trio just discussed.  I favor allocating certain dollars to certain positions.  If you treat pass catchers as tight ends and wide receivers, it will be interesting to see what the Packers do this off-season because I am not sure the Packers have enough salary cap room to keep both Jones and tight end Jermichael Finley.

26. James Starks (RB): Not only did Starks gain 132 yards on the ground but he also had 36 receiving yards to gain 168 total yards from scrimmage.  The last time the Packers had a 100-yard rusher was Starks in the first round of the playoffs on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles on their run to wining Super Bowl XLV.  The Packers lost rookie running back Eddy Lacy to a concussion early in the game from a vicious hit by head-hunting safety Brandon Meriweather.  I am not sure whether Lacy could have been as effective on the ground as Starks.  Karma hit Meriweather upside the head later in the game when he lowered his head on Starks similar to how he knocked Lacy out of the game.  That play resulted in Meriweather suffering a concussion and hopefully a suspension because Meriweather's tackling form of leading with the head to create helmet-to-helmet contact is exactly what the NFL is trying to eradicate from the game.  Back to Starks, there is no denying that he put together one of the best rushing performance in a long time in Green Bay but let's also not forget that Rodgers almost threw for 500 yards so the pass helped set-up the run for Starks so I am not willing to make Starks the starter if Lacy is healthy.  Since the Packers have an early bye week this season following their game against the Cincinnati Bengals next week, I would rather the Packers proceed very carefully with Lacy while giving Starks a chance to prove that his performance against the Redskins was not a one game aberration.

32. Mike Neal (DL/OLB): Anyone that regularly reads this blog knows that I am not a huge fan of Mike Neal because I thought the Packers were too wowed by his weight room strength despite the lack of on-field performance. We should all know by now that weight room strength does not always translate to performance on the field, think middle linebacker A.J. Hawk aka Business H.J.  Since Neal is in a contract year, he is doing everything in his power to earn a contract extension.  The Packers asked Neal to slim down this off-season to ease his transition to outside linebacker and Neal dutifully complied despite being a workout freak that prides himself on being the biggest guy in the weight room.  Last season I advocated that the Packers should occasionally lineup in the 4-3.  That was even before the Packers had as much depth as they currently have along the defensive line.  I thought playing some 4-3 would help Nick Perry transition from playing defensive end in college to outside linebacker in the pros.  It looks like that same logic could apply to Neal as well because he has shown some flashes of being able to rush the passer so far this season.  Add in that Neal has been able to drop into coverage occasionally and I am starting to soften my disdain for Neal.  The second quarter interception by Neal off a tipped pass is the first big play I can remember Neal making in a long time, may be ever for the Packers.  If Neal keeps playing this well, I think it makes even more sense to mix in some 4-3 and possibly even limit some of Perry's snaps in favor of Neal.

37. Davon House (CB): A sack off a corner blitz for House from the slot was nice to see given how much he struggled with injuries the last few seasons.  I highlight House's sack because Hayward excelled in that spot last season but has not played yet this season due to one of the 10,000 pulled hamstrings that have plagued the 2013 Green Bay Packers.  Before today, rookie cornerback Micah Hyde picked up where Hayward left off last season.  Now with House doing well in the slot, it looks like the Packers have five legitimate NFL cornerbacks (Williams, Shields, Hayward, Hyde, and House) on the roster once Hayward is healthy.

41. Andrew Quarless (TE): Usually one catch for seven yards is not going to garner an extended discussion in my posts but its how the Packers used Quarless against the Redskins that deserves a mention.  The Packers used Quarless as a fullback, tight end, and even split out as a wide receiver occasionally.  If Quarless can show some blocking prowess as a fullback he might limit fullback John Kuhn's snaps and go a long way towards determining whether this is Kuhn's last season as a cult hero in Green Bay.

Make sure to check back for my full breakdown if Thompson makes any significant roster moves this week, otherwise check back next Monday for my thoughts on the Packers/Bengals game.

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