Packers NT B.J. Raji has started strong in training camp.
Early reports out of Packers training camp indicate that the old B.J. Raji is peeking out of whatever hole he’s been hibernating in since early last season.
It sounds like Raji is giving J.C. Tretter — the Packers newly minted starting center — a rude awakening to the NFL. That’s concerning for the offense, but good news for the defense as Raji tries to regain his 2010 form and anchor the middle of a Packers defensive line that gets pushed around far too often.
To be fair, Raji wasn’t that bad at the start of last season. If he could’ve maintained his early-season level of play all the way to the end of 2013, it wouldn’t have been a pro bowl campaign, but it would have been much better than the complete disappearing act he pulled.
I wondered if conditioning played a role in Raji’s decline in 2013. Supposedly, he showed up to minicamp last season out of shape.
We have no way of knowing for sure what role, if any, Raji’s fitness level played as he faded away, but if he’s in better shape this year and off to a fast start, it at least shows he serious about improving. It also probably shows he’s super ticked off about having to settle for a one-year “prove-it” deal after his bad season, costing himself a lot of money.
I don’t care what motivates Raji. If it takes money, basic pride, or a desire to move his name back onto the list of good NFL defensive linemen, the Packers need him to bounce back.
Hopefully Tretter braces up and gives Raji more of a challenge during camp. And hopefully Raji treats opposing centers the same way he’s currently treating Tretter once the season begins.
If Packers first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix isn’t a day one starter, don’t panic.
Packers general manger Ted Thompson’s batting average on recent first-round draft picks is below the Mendoza Line. For you non-baseball fans, that means Thompson is hitting under .200 with a lot of tappers back to the pitcher or lazy popups instead of line drives to the gap or tape-measure home runs.
Bryan Bulaga: Talented, some good stretches of play, but can’t stay healthy.
Derek Sherrod: Wasn’t overly impressive before breaking his leg and missing most of two seasons.
Nick Perry: Switched to a 3-4 OLB and can’t stay healthy.
Datone Jones: Hyped during training camp, slowed by an ankle injury, passed on the depth chart by fifth-rounder Josh Boyd.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: Currently behind converted slot cornerback Micah Hyde on the Packers safety depth chart.
Should we be worried that Clinton-Dix is behind Hyde to start camp? Did the Packers take another lackluster player in the first round, one who isn’t even talented enough to start the season ahead of a converted corner on a team desperately in need of a competent safety?
Or should we celebrate that the safety position finally has some depth? If Hyde turns out to be good, wonderful! Play him ahead of Clinton-Dix while the rookie improves and learns the defense, waiting to seize his opportunity after an injury to a starter or because Morgan Burnett has another ineffective season.
I can see both sides, but the correct side is probably this: It’s way too early to tell. Yes, Hyde might look good at safety now, but let’s see where he stands after an exhibition game or two. Give Hyde some time to learn the defense, figure out his role and see what he can do when the ball is in the air during an actual game.
While the focus remains on Hyde vs. Ha Ha, don’t be surprised if it turns into a three-way dance with Burnett getting added to the match. The perception seems to be that Burnett is a lock as a starter, but if he resembles the stumbling and too-slow-to-react player we saw last season, his starting shot should be put up for grabs.
This is probably how the battle will play out: Hyde and Burnett are the starters with Hyde moving to the slot and Burnett coming in at safety in dime packages. Everybody wins — Hyde takes a major step forward, Clinton-Dix isn’t rushed into duty and Burnett has a chance to redeem itself.
Most importantly, the Packers defense gets better…hopefully.
This picture of Packers RB DuJuan Harris carrying a little girls’ pink bike to practice on Monday is making the rounds online. I thought it would be funny to pair this sweet picture with my post about how violent and nasty of a runner Harris could be on kickoffs.
After three days of Packers training camp practices, it appears DuJuan Harris will be given an opportunity to win the kick returner job.
It’s way too early for anybody to get a sense of who has the advantage in contested position battles, but the thought of Harris returning kicks intrigues me in an old-school football sort of way.
Harris packs 200-plus pounds onto his 5-foot-8 frame and runs like a burning man sprinting for a nearby lake. A “rolling ball of butcher knives” was the phrase an NFL scout used to describe Harris in a Bob McGinn game review story a few years back.
I want to see Harris take a kick five yards deep in the end zone, build up a head of steam, and plow straight into the first guy who tries to tackle him. If Harris hits a pile of tacklers forming a wall to bring him down, my money is on the wall moving backward before Harris hits the turf.
The NFL has tried to make kick returns safer in recent years. To me, trying to tackle Harris after he’s been charging ahead for 15 yards seems anything but safe.
Harris is the type of player who will bring some violence to the Packers kick return unit and make people who remember what kickoffs were like 10, 15 or 20 years ago smile and nod their heads.
Of course, Harris is coming back after missing last season with a knee injury and various other ailments. Perhaps the promise he showed at the end of 2012 will be long gone.
The former used car salesman deserves a chance, though. With Eddie Lacy and James Starks slotted as the top two running backs, kick returns might be Harris’s best shot at carving out a significant role on this team.
Packers rookie free agent TE Colt Lyerla has struggled the first two days of camp.
When the Packers signed rookie free agent Colt Lyerla, there were a lot of people claiming the troubled tight end from Oregon was a first-round talent who went undrafted because of character concerns and legal issues.
Some people even used Lyerla in the same sentence as Jimmy Graham when talking about his talent and potential production.
Through two days of Packers training camp, reports indicate that Lyerla looks nothing like a first-round talent and shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same book as Graham, let alone sentence.
I thought the hype over Lyerla was way overblown. If he truly was a first-round talent that reminded scouts and GMs of Jimmy Graham, someone would have drafted him, regardless of his attitude and legal issues.
However, we’re only two days into camp. It’s way too early to write players off (or anoint them superstars). Hopefully Lyerla gets his feet under him and starts showing the tremendous talent many people assumed he had.
But for now, let’s give the Jimmy Graham comparisons and first-round talent proclamations a rest.
Surviving Sundays with no Packers football
Packers training camp opened Friday and we now have plenty of Packers storylines to analyze and break down. That means today’s “Surviving Sunday” will be the last until the Packers 2014 season comes to an end, hopefully after Feb. 1 and a victory in Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona.
Now that training camp has started, what Packers storyline would you like to see go the way of “Surviving Sunday ” and disappear for the rest of the season?
I’m sick of talking about the defense. I mean really sick of it.
I’m sick of hearing about how bad Packers’ safeties were last season. I’m sick of being worried about having to watch A.J. Hawk for another season. I’m sick of speculation about B.J. Raji ever being a useful player again. I’m sick of wondering if Nick Perry will ever stay healthy. I’m sick of Clay Matthews’ thumb (and his damn hamstring) and I’m sick of trying to figure out if Dom Capers is a good defensive coordinator or not.
The sooner the Packers defense improves, the happier my life will be. I’m not asking for the Packers D to morph into the second coming of the Purple People Eaters or the Steel Curtain, but show enough promise that fans can have reasonable hope that the defense could catch fire late in the season and ignite a Super Bowl run.
That seems to be the formula for success in today’s NFL: Have a good to great quarterback who goes on a run late in the season and back that up with a good defense that heats up as the weather turns cold.
If I have to put up with #FireCapers hashtags and another season of bumbling play from the middle of the defense, it’s going to be a trying season.
Packers News, Notes and Links
- Now that I’m done ranting, we can get to some happier news, like the Packers signing Jordy Nelson to a 4-year, $39 million contract extension. I see Nelson as a Cris Carter type of receiver. He has very good physical ability, but stretches those physical tools even further by catching anything he can reach and always thinking a step or two ahead of the defense.
- The next Packers player due for an extension is Randall Cobb. I’m thinking the Packers might wait a bit before upping their offer to Cobb for two reasons: 1) He’s a smallish guy and the Packers might not be convinced he’s durable enough to warrant a contract like Nelson’s. He missed most of last season and also was hobbled at the end of 2012 with a knee injury. 2) Perhaps the Packers want to see what Jared Abbrederis can do before sinking a bunch of money into Cobb. Can Abbrederis — also a smallish slot WR — do a lot of the same things Cobb can do? The Packers might view Cobb as not worth his asking price if Abbrederis can do many of the same things at a similar level of production.
- The Ol’ Bag of Donuts boys get you ready for Packers training camp with a new podcast. If you’re not ready for Packers training camp yet, you will be after listening to this.
- Mike Neal and Nick Perry started camp on the physically unable to perform list. It wouldn’t be Packers training camp without one of these two players injured. This year, they’re both injured, so it’s a double bonus.
- If you’re looking to join a live discussion during Packers practices, check out the live threads hosted by Acme Packing Co.
- If you’re a Debbie Downer, be sure to read Zach Kruse’s 10 reasons for concern as the Packers open camp. All are legit concerns, but all can be overcome if Rodgers’ collar bone stays in one piece.
Non Packers links and other nonsense
- Ravens RB Ray Rice was suspended two games for knocking out his wife in an elevator. In other words, he got less of a suspension than he would have received if he took a performance enhancing drug. Everyone is outraged about this slap on the wrist for a serious offense, but until people stop watching football, stop filling stadiums, quit buying merchandise and disconnect themselves from the NFL, don’t expect anything to change.
- Cliff Lee ended a recent postgame media session by ripping a loud fart. That’s exactly how Mike McCarthy should start and end his media session if the Packers get manhandled in the opener against the Seahawks.
- Some people might find Lee’s fart gross and offensive. It was nowhere near as gross and offensive as ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith opining about Ray Rice and domestic violence.
- While I might agree with a lot of the points made in this Jezebel piece about how the NFL views women, the name-calling and hyperbole used by the author will do nothing to actually address the issue. In fact, overly emotional and sophomoric pieces like this make the issue worse, not better. And it just screams of an egotistical author saying, “Hey, look at me! I’m using big naughty words to show off how angry and clever I can be at the same time! Check me out, Internet! I’m just as mad as you are! Grrrrr!” Annoying.
- The drummer for Primus — one of the coolest bands of all time — had a heart attack last week. But there’s good news, he had successful open-heart surgery this week and is on the path to recovery.
About 15,000 people attended Thursday’s Packers shareholders meeting and another 10,000 watched online.
The Packers held their annual shareholders meeting on Thursday at Lambeau Field. Here’s everything you need to know in 200 words or less.
- Packers president Mark Murphy reported that 350,000 stockholders hold more than 5 million shares of Packers stock.
- The Packers were ninth in total revenues last season at $324.1 million.
- Ted Thompson put everyone to sleep with his remarks and ended with “Go Pack Go.”
- The Packers have 112,000 people on their season ticket waiting list.
- Lambeau Field now holds 80,750 people, second most in the NFL.
- The playoff ticket policy is changing. Playoff tickets will only be paid for if the game is played. No more holding money to deposit toward next year’s season tickets.
- Murphy said they’re working on improving in-stadium wi-fi.
- The Packers are buying up all kinds of property around Lambeau Field and hoping to attract businesses and other development to a “Titletown District.”
- The average ticket price for a Packers game ranks 17th in the league. Team may move to variable pricing for preseason games next year.
- It doesn’t sound like the NFL will bring the draft to Green Bay any time soon.
- The Packers have $272 million in corporate reserves (this team is loaded on the field and at the bank).
- Murphy said the Cowboys call themselves “America’s team.” The Packers are the “World’s team.”
That about sums it up as succinctly as possible. Players report to training camp on Friday. Who’s ready for some football?
Surviving Sundays with no Packers football
As training camp approaches, I feel really good about the Packers cornerbacks this season.
It’s a deep group, and the depth includes a nice mix of players. There are proven players (Tramon Williams), good players still on the upswing (Sam Shields) and talented players who have yet to establish themselves, but have still achieved some type of success in their short careers (Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde).
There’s also players like Davon House and Demetri Goodson who could come out of nowhere and exceed expectations.
I wish I could say the same about the rest of the defense. No, I’m not predicting another season of doom and gloom when the other team has the ball, but the depth mix isn’t there with the other defensive position groups like it is at cornerback.
I realize that every position group can’t be stacked, especially with the salary cap. And I get that there will be questions in many spots when you’re a team like the Packers who rely so heavily on young talent. I just wish the depth mix was different at linebacker, safety and defensive line.
If you look at the offensive side of the ball, every position group (except maybe for tight end) has a good depth mix of proven veterans, players who are already good but could be great, and youngsters with potential.
If A.J. Hawk gets hurt or Brad Jones flounders again, there’s not much to be excited about beyond Jamari Lattimore. If Ha Ha Clinton-Dix doesn’t pan out, we’re looking at another season of crossing our fingers that Morgan Burnett turns into a player. If Julius Peppers is past his prime, we have to hope that Nick Perry stays healthy or some other player we’ve never heard of breaks out. If B.J. Raji is useless again, who’s going to anchor the middle in the base package?
Hopefully players like Datone Jones, Sam Barrington, Sean Richardson, Josh Boyd and Carl Bradford shine in the preseason and put some of these concerns rest. Back in 2010, I thought the cornerback group would struggle with depth. Then a guy named Sam Shields emerged and helped the Packers win the Super Bowl.
Here’s hoping something like that happens again.
Packers News, Notes and Links
- The Packers report to training camp in less than a week. That high-pitched noise you just hear coming from outside your house? That’s me screaming “WOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOO!” Here is the full Packers training camp schedule in case you planned to check out a practice or 12.
- If you’re coming in early for training camp, be sure to check out this awesome tailgate party organized by Mayfield Sports Marketing on July 23 about 30 minutes south of Milwaukee. Get autographs and pictures with current and former players and take part in all kinds of other Packers-related activities. The best part? All of the proceeds go to charity.
- Dan at Lombardi Ave. breaks down the Packers cornerbacks. It’s a deep group, that’s for sure.
- With K Mason Crosby no longer on an incentive-based contract, will he revert to his old, inconsistent and unreliable ways? I don’t think so, but I have no idea how kickers operate, so who knows. Brian Carriveau wonders if the guaranteed contract might impact Crosby’s motivation. I don’t see how a kicker could lack motivation. Does he go out there and not swing his leg as hard as he should because he’s feeling lazy on a particular day? Does he not put in the reps he should during practice and the offseason? It’s easy for position players to dog it and not do what they need to do in order to stay motivated. With a kicker, it seems tougher to slack because it would be painfully obvious.
- The ‘Ol Bag of Donuts crew is back from summer vacation with another podcast over at PackersTalk.com.
- Here’s an interesting look from Acme Packing Co. about Packers undrafted free agents who will fight for a roster spot at inside linebacker. Joe Thomas seems intriguing. But I’ve said it before and I’ll remind you all again: Don’t forget about Sam Barrington. I think he’s a player.
- A.J. Hawk tackling fans at the golf course > A.J. Hawk tacking ballcarriers on the football field.
Non Packers links and other nonsense
- Malaysia Airlines flight 17 gets shot down and the fighting continues in the Gaza strip. All of this fighting and killing accomplishes nothing. Enough already.
- Amazon has rolled out a Netflix-style monthly subscription service for books. Why would people pay for this when they can get something similar, plus a lot more, for free at a local library?
- DirecTV will be offering is Sunday Ticket package to non-DirecTV subscribers this season. In my opinion, if DirecTV really wanted to make a fortune, they create a special channel on Sunday Ticket that just showed this play over and over again.
Tyler Dunne and Justin Felder asked an interesting question on the last Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Packers podcast: If Packers fans had to choose, would they pick pass rusher Julius Peppers or trainer Pepper Burruss to have a great season in 2014?
The duo never really answered the question, so let’s answer it here. First, some context:
If Julius Peppers has a great season, it probably means he had 10-plus sacks and finally provided the Packers defense with a legitimate edge pass-rushing threat to complement, and enhance, everything Clay Matthews already does.
The Packers have tried first-round draft picks, undrafted rookie free agents, random dudes off the street and converted defensive tackles at the outside linebacker slot opposite Matthews. Nothing has worked out.
The situation was so desperate, general manager Ted Thompson took the rare step of signing Peppers, a free agent, to try and get Matthews some help.
Peppers’ snaps will probably be limited, but if he reaches double digits in sacks and forces teams to divert attention from Matthews over to him, it will provide a tremendous boost to the Packers beleaguered defense.
If Pepper Burruss has a great season, it means the Packers injury luck has finally turned around. I know one trainer isn’t responsible for the health of the team, but work with me on this one.
Since 2010, every single position group on the Packers has been hit by a major injury to an important player.
Two players — a pro-bowl safety and a running back picked in the fourth round — have suffered career-ending neck injuries. One of the best tight ends in team history likely won’t play again after a neck injury. Ditto for Johnny Jolly, one of the best comeback stories from last season.
Mike McCarthy says he’s had two healthy teams in his eight years in Green Bay: 2007 and 2011. In 2007, the Packers went to the NFC title game. In 2011, they went 15-1.
Whether you think McCarthy’s exaggerating or not doesn’t matter. It’s a fact that the Packers have been one of the most beat up teams in the NFL since 2010.
So let’s say Burruss comes up with a magical solution to the Packers injury woes and devises a way for the Packers to not be injury free, but at least finish in the top 5 for fewest games lost due to injury in 2014.
Would you rather have a healthy Packers team? Or a dominant Julius Peppers contributing to another Packers squad struck down by a massive amount of injuries?
The easy answer seems to be a healthy team. But keep in mind the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010 despite injuries and have made the playoffs the last two seasons despite an injury epidemic.
Maybe crossing your fingers that Aaron Rodgers doesn’t get knocked out with another injury and choosing a productive Julius Peppers isn’t that bad of an option. A full season from Rodgers mixed in with 11 sacks from Peppers would go a long way in overcoming injuries to other areas of the team.
That said, gun to my head, I’d take a healthy team over a productive Julius Peppers. Yes, a legit complement to Matthews would be great, but the Packers can overcome a disappointing season from a player likely past his prime if the team stays in one piece.
What say you?
Surviving Sundays with no Packers football.
It’s Fourth of July week, which means it’s extremely quiet around the NFL and even quieter if you’re looking for news about the Packers.
I also blew off three of my fingers setting off firecrackers. So instead of a trying to squeeze a long post out of some Packers-related topic that isn’t really news, how about I take a way-too-early crack at predicting the Packers 53-man roster?
(Adam locks himself into a room and begins hours and hours of intense study. He emerges days later, weary and beaten down, but relieved that he finally chiseled the Packers roster down to 53 players.)
(Actually, none of that is true. Adam just drank a couple of beers and tried to figure out who is going to end up on the final 53. Sure, he thought about it, but he also thought about getting a double fudge cookie dough Blizzard at Dairy Queen the other day before finally settling on the Peanut Buster Parfait.)
Ok, I just finished making my first prediction and I counted up all the players. I ended up with exactly 53 players on the first try! I thought for sure I’d have to make a few tough cuts, but I nailed 53 right off the bat!
I bet this happens to Ted Thompson all the time.
Does this mean my way-too-early Packers 53-man roster prediction will turn out to be the actual 53-man roster come September? Absolutely not. But let’s talk about it anyway.
Who did I leave off the roster that you think will make it? Who did I put on the team that you don’t think will be there?
And as long as your actually reading it, did I count correctly? Do I actually have 53 players there? (And don’t count Aaron Rodgers twice. Yeah, he’s good, but he only counts for one player.)
I say they keeps three QBs, and Tolzien wins the backup gig.
Just cross your fingers that at least two of the top three RBs make it through the season healthy.
I’m slipping Harper in there and hoping Jeff Janis makes it through to the practice squad.
They’ll need a special teams contribution from the tight end group, so I think Taylor sticks around.
C J.C. Tretter
C Corey Linsley
G Josh Sitton
G T.J. Lang
T Bryan Bulaga
T David Bakhtiari
T Derek Sherrod
T/G/C Don Barclay
Having a guy with as many starts under his belt as Barclay as your sixth O-lineman is a good “problem” to have.
A lot of unproven ability in this group.
You heard it here first: Watch out for Sam Barrington this season. He can play.
CB Tramon Williams
CB Sam Shields
CB Casey Hayward
CB Jarretty Bush
CB Demetri Goodson
CB/S Micah Hyde
S Morgan Burnett
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
S Sean Richardson
This will be a great group if they can squeeze one more good season out of Williams and get some pass rush help from the D-line.
K Mason Crosby
P Tim Masthay
LS Brett Goode
The Packers should probably cut Masthay since they’ll never be punting this season.
Packers News, Notes and Links
- Aaron Rodgers came in at No. 11 in the NFL Network’s list of the best players in 2014. Naturally, everybody got all wound up about it (another sign you’re stuck in the most boring depths of the NFL offseason). Apparently, players were polled to compile the list, which shows that NFL players really don’t know what they’re doing when evaluating fellow players.
- Potts Ave. in Green Bay could soon be re-named Mike McCarthy Way. Get it done. Packers Super Bowl winning coaches get a street named after them. End of discussion.
- Ray Rivard at Lombardi Ave. wonders if Ryan Pickett deserves another shot. I most definitely think he does. Pickett is still tough to move off the line, rarely gets knocked down and was nimble enough to move laterally down the line to pursue plays. He’s no longer an every-down player, but if I needed a run-stuffer to play a limited number of snaps, Pickett would be near the top of my list to call.
- The crew at Acme Packing Co. put together a list of the top 10 Packers plays from the 2013 season. Of course, Rodgers-to-Cobb in week 17 tops the list.
- Hopefully this is the season that the Packers break their unfortunate run of having players go down with serious neck injuries. ALLGBP.com’s Thomas Hobbes wrote a good (but scary) piece about neck injuries this week.
- Ian at Packerstalk.com wonders if Packers fans should buy the post-mini camp hype surrounding TE Richard Rodgers. I’d look for the Packers to use Rodgers in red zone situations this season and Brandon Bostick to get looks as the down-the-seam tight end.
Non Packers links and other Nonsense