Friday, October 3, 2014

The 53 - Packers are 3-2 & Looking Good

It has been a interesting start to the season for the Green Bay Packers.  The Packers were absolutely slaughtered 36-16 on the road to open the season against the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football.  Gaber, Sug, Uncle Patty, and I had tickets to the Packers/Jets game, which we thought would be a slam dunk win for the Packers in their home opener.  Unfortunately just a few minutes into the second quarter the Packers trailed 21-3.  Thankfully the Packers stormed back to win 31-24.  I thought their comeback against the Jets would catapult the Packers into a nice winning streak.  Unfortunately the Packers looked listless on offense in their first divisional game of the season when they lost 19-7 on the road to the Detroit Lions.  Thankfully the Packers redeemed themselves within the division winning consecutive games on the road 38-17 against the Chicago Bears and 42-10 at home against the Minnesota Vikings last night on Thursday Night Football.

The only upshot of Thursday night games are that the teams essentially get a mini-bye and that is truly the only upshot of Thursday night games given that they've all been blowouts so far this season since most of the games involve less than full strength rosters because players are still recovering from the game they played the previous SundayThe Packers/Vikings game is a great example. The Packers luckily got to face Ponder instead of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater because Bridgewater sprained his ankle against the Atlanta Falcons in a Sunday late afternoon game so he had less than four days to recover.  If the game was played on Sunday instead of Thursday, my guess is that Bridgewater's ankle would have been healthy enough for him to play.

Thanks to two consecutive divisional wins, the Packers are currently on an upswing but let's not get too excited given some of their uneven performances so far this season.  Here are my updated thoughts on The 53 with five regular season games in the books:

The 53 2.0 for 2014
1. Aaron Rodgers (QB, LR 1)
2. Jordy Nelson (WR, LR 6)
3. Clay Matthews (OLB, LR 2)
4. Josh Sitton (G, LR 5)
5. Sam Shields (CB, LR 4)
6. T.J. Lang (G, LR 8)
7. Micah Hyde (S, LR 9)
8. Mike Daniels (DE, LR 7)
9. Julius Peppers (DE/OLB, LR 10) 
10. Randall Cobb (WR, LR 11) 
11. David Bakhtiari (T, LR 12) 
12. Eddie Lacy (RB, LR 3)
13. Morgan Burnett (S, LR 15)
14. Bryan Bulaga (T, LR 17)
15. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, LR 14)
16. Tramon Williams (CB, LR 18)
17. Davante Adams (WR, LR 20)
18. A.J. Hawk (MLB, LR 25)
19. Datone Jones (DE, LR 19)
20. Corey Linsley (C, LR 26)
21. Jamari Lattimore (MLB, LR 37)
22. Josh Boyd (DT, LR 21)
23. Mike Neal (DE/OLB, LR 16)
24. Casey Hayward (CB, LR 13)
25. Tim Masthay (P, LR 23)
26. Davon House (CB, LR 30)
27. Mason Crosby (K, LR 35)
28. Letroy Guion (DT, LR 42)
29. Andrew Quarless (TE, LR 33)
30. Brett Goode (LS, LR 41)
31. Nick Perry (OLB, LR 27)
32. James Starks (RB, LR 28)
33. John Kuhn (FB, LR 29)
34. Sean Richardson (S, LR 45)
35. Richard Rodgers (TE, LR 22)
36. Jarett Boykin (WR, LR 24)

37. Jarrett Bush (CB, LR 32)
38. Matt Flynn (QB, LR 34)
39. Jeff Janis (WR, LR 38)
40. Brandon Bostick (TE, LR 31)
41. Scott Tolzien (QB, LR 39)
42. DuJuan Harris (RB, LR 40)
43. Brad Jones (MLB, LR 43)
44. Sam Barrington (OLB, LR 48)
45. Mike Pennel (DT, LR 47)
46. Luther Robinson (DL, LR N/A)
47. Ryan Taylor (TE, LR 44)
48. Jayrone Elliott (OLB, LR 49)
49. Carl Bradford (MLB, LR 36)
50. Derek Sherrod (T, LR 50)
51. Lane Taylor (G, LR 51)
52. Garth Gerhart (C, LR 52)
53. Demetri Goodson (CB, LR 53)
Injured Reserve -
Designated for Return:
J.C. Tretter 
Injured Reserve
1. Don Barclay (T/G/C, LR 1)
2. B.J. Raji (DT, LR 2)
3. Jared Abbrederis (WR, LR 3)
4. Andy Mulumba (OLB, LR N/A
5. Nate Plamer (LB, LR 4)
6. Khyri Thornton (DT, LR 5)
7. Aaron Adams (T, LR 6)
2) Jordy Nelson (WR, LR 6): Through fives games Nelson has 34 catches on 52 targets for 525 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns.  Wide receiver Randall Cobb is the only other player on The 53 with more than 100 yards receiving so far this season (24 catches on 34 targets for 273 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns).  Sure Nelson has been targeted on a ton more passes than any other pass catcher on The 53 but his rise in the rankings is based on what he is doing despite facing so many double-teams this season.  I ranked Nelson as having the 5th worst contract on The 53 before the season.  That was due more to the structure of Nelson's contract and all the depth that I thought the Packers had on The 53 at wide receiver.  Although Nelson's production so far this season makes me look somewhat foolish, I am not quire ready to do a 180 on that contract even though Nelson looks like he will post his most productive season yet.

9) Julius Peppers (DE/OLB, LR 10): There is no question that Pepper is the player that I wrote the most about in the off-season given how rare it is for Packers general manager Ted Thompson to sign free agents, let along free agents in their mid-30'sSo far, Peppers has lived up to the hype.  Peppers' mere presence on the field has loomed large because that has caused teams to have to focus on a pass rusher other than Clay Matthews, which freed up other defenders to make plays despite the fact that Peppers hasn't put up huge numbers: 15 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception that was returned for a touchdown, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovered.  Peppers showed athleticism on most of his pick-six against the Vikings.  I say most of the pick-six because Peppers had an underwhelming Lambeau Leap.  That might not be Peppers' last Lambeau Leap because the lack of big plays from the tight end position combined with the fact that Peppers is 6'6" makes me think we will see him at tight end in the red zone this season.

21) Jamari Lattimore (MLB, LR 37): Despite playing sparingly in the season opener, Lattimore played extensively in the next four games and is currently tied for 3rd on the defense with 28 tackles.  I wonder how excited we should get about that stat though because it seems like middle linebackers in 3-4 defenses essentially fall into 80 or 90 tackles a season.  Based on how Lattimore played the last few games, he looks like a better option at middle linebacker than Brad Jones but that isn't saying much.  Lattimore is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season but that does NOT mean that the Packers should break the bank for Lattimore given that the Packers have foolishly handed out extensions to middle linebackers in the past.  That's right, I'm looking at you A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones.

27) Mason Crosby (K, LR 35): So far Crosby is 5 of 6 on field goal attempts and a perfect 15 of 15 on extra points.  Thankfully Crosby got a miss out of the way in garbage time on the road against the Chicago Bears when it was clear that the Packers were going to win.  Avid readers of this blog know I think it is waste of cap space to spend anything over the league minimum on a place kicker.  The one thing that cuts against that thinking is how well Crosby performed this year from over 50 yards.  Sure it is a small sample size given that Crosby is only 2 for 2 from over 50 yards but it is nice to see him making lengthy kicks given that he was always supposed to have a big leg but he has been very erratic from long distance so far in his NFL career.  It will be interesting to see if Crosby can continue to kick well from distance as the season wears on because that would actually provide more than replacement value at the kicker position because not only does it put points on the board but it prevents the opposition from taking over near midfield on misses.

29) Andrew Quarless (TE, LR 33): Man do the Packers miss tight end Jermichael Finley.  So far this season Quarless has just 10 catches on 13 targets for 96 receiving yards and a touchdown.  Sadly that is the most in each major category of any tight end on The 53.  In fact the only other tight end with on The 53 with even a catch is rookie Richard Rodgers with two catches on four targets for 54 yards and no touchdowns.  The Packers traditionally get much more production out of the tight end position but they also usually have much more talent at the position too.  Sure some of their lack of production at the tight end position is due to the fact that Brandon Bostick has been less than 100% for the entire season but even if Bostick gets healthy soon the trio of Bostick, Quarless, and Rodgers combined brings less to the table this season for the Packers than a healthy Finely gave them last season. In fact, I could see a healthy Finley signed to a reasonable, long-term contract as high as #2 on my rankings of The 53.  Sadly that does not seem likely so the Packers need to get more from their current trio of tight ends.

41) Scott Tolzien (QB, LR 39): I don't get why Thompson keeps Tolzien on The 53 if he is going to be inactive each week.  I know those 46 gameday spots are precious but I would plan for nightmare scenarios with the active roster, which is why I think it is better to have three quarterbacks active on the remote chance the starer and backup gets hurt instead of keeping nine linebackers active.

Following their mini-bye, the Packers head out on the road next week to play the Miami Dolphins. If Thompson makes any moves between now and next Saturday, check back in this space for my detailed thoughts.  If not, do your best to enjoy your second non-Packer NFL weekend in the first five weeks of the 2014 NFL season.

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