Category Archives: Authors

Packers DL Jerel Worthy Needs to Get Healthy ASAP

jerel worthy

Think back to the 2011 season for the Green Bay Packers.

They went 15-1, putting up points and yards at a ridiculous rate on their way to a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Unfortunately, we all remember how that season ended: a crushing, frankly embarrassing loss to the Giants at Lambeau Field in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Everyone knew what the problem was during the season. The defense, which had been the second ranked squad in the league just two years earlier, was a sieve. Unable to stop anybody during the season, it was painfully obvious to anyone watching the playoff loss to the Giants that something needed to happen on defense if the Packers were going to challenge for NFC supremacy again.

General Manager Ted Thompson knew this as well, and he went out and essentially restocked his team with a defense heavy draft in 2012 in an effort to stop the bleeding.

One of his selections was DL Jerel Worthy out of Michigan State in the second round. Sadly, in many ways, this has been the high point of Worthy’s career.

His rookie season was so so. Fourteen tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble. Not bad, but not great. Certainly not what most would expect from a second round draft choice who was expected to make a difference from day one on a defense looking for anything, but still something.

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5 Guys That Have to be Good: Brad Jones

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Who is Brad Jones?  Most Packers fans will tell you that he’s awful.  Jones was a much maligned player last season.  He and AJ Hawk provided very little from the inside linebacker position.  Jones graded out on Pro Football Focus at a -4.0 score.  He ranked 28th of 55 qualified ILBs.  While this is not great, it certainly isn’t the abomination that it’s made out to be.  My theory is that maybe Jones doesn’t get any benefit of the doubt from media members because by all accounts he isn’t a very nice person.

But can Jones be more than 28th of 55? Can he be more than average?  He certainly was better than average in 2012.  Jones was a pleasant surprise that season.  Jones’ +11.4 grade that season was good enough for 10th place of the 53 qualified players.  That’s not only well above average but most would consider Jones a Pro Bowl alternate or close to it that season, checking in to the top 10 at his position.  Coaches and Jones himself blamed last season’s struggles on an injury and at age 28 during just his 3rd season at ILB it’s possible for Jones to continue to grow as a player.

So what if Jones becomes part of solution instead of part of the problem? I’m not saying that it’s going to happen or even that it’s likely but for 700 snaps in 2012 it did happen.  Jones was a positive presence on a defense that needed one.  Brad Jones and AJ Hawk have NEVER had 5 more talented players playing in front of them.  Matthews, Daniels, Raji, Jones and Peppers are a hell of a front.  4 1st round picks and a lunatic.  Jones and Hawk are out of excuses.

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Green Bay’s New Look Front Seven

Mike Daniels Packers' Defensive Line

There was talk during the offseason about the Green Bay Packers going for a new body type along their defensive line, and that seems accurate right now.

Gone are players like 340-pound Ryan Pickett and 325-pound Johnny Jolly. They have been replaced in the base defense so far in camp by Datone Jones and Mike Daniels, who weigh 285 pounds and 300 pounds respectively. B.J. Raji will move from defensive end back to nose tackle where he played during the 2010 championship season. Raji felt that his talents were being wasted taking up blockers to give the linebackers space to roam, so now he should get more pass rushing opportunities.

There seems to be more of an emphasis on getting the defensive lineman to move more actively to the quarterback rather than just taking up space. These are called “Jet” plays in Green Bay’s scheme. Jones and Daniels fit that mold as guys who are very quick off the line and have a solid array of pass rushing moves to get to the quarterback.

The Packers thought that Jolly and Pickett would be able to stop the run for them on running downs, and then they could have their nickel package rush the quarterback. However, the Packers could not stop the run or the pass. They were 29th in the NFL giving up 4.6 yards per carry and 27th in the NFL allowing 7.8 yards per attempt in the air. So, if the Packers were not going to stop the run with Pickett and Jolly in the lineup it did not make sense to keep them.

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Hayward Key to Improving Packers Defense

heyward

One underrated aspect to improving the Green Bay Packers defense is the return of cornerback Casey Hayward.

Hayward only played in three games last season due to a reoccurring hamstring injury, but he recorded six interceptions in his rookie year and finished third in the 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year voting. Hayward coming back at full strength would be huge for a defense in desperate need of playmakers.

From all the accounts that I read from day one of training camp Hayward was one of the stars of Saturday’s practice. Even though the pads were not on it was important to see that he got his speed and agility back. It certainly looked like he did on Saturday, as he had three deflections in team drills.

Hayward worked from the slot with the No. 1 defense and as an outside cornerback with the No. 2 defense, just as he had during his rookie year. He could easily be an outside starting corner for most teams, but the Packers have two really solid outside cornerbacks in Sam Shields and Tramon Williams. Plus, Hayward has looked most comfortable in the slot where his great instincts an ball skills can shine.

“Yeah, I thought Casey had a good day,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “He’s back. He’s so instinctive, his ball skills. You saw him jump off the spot a few times and make a play.”

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Green Bay Packers Ink Jordy Nelson to Extension

jordy

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Green Bay Packers have signed wide receiver Jordy Nelson to a four-year, $39 million extension with $14.2 million guaranteed.

The Packers got Nelson on a bargain for his last contract and it seems they have again in terms of guaranteed money. According to Michael Ginnitti of USA Today, Nelson’s $14.2 million guaranteed would rank 18th among NFL wide receivers, and his $9.76 million per season would rank 7th.

This takes away the distraction of Green Bay’s number one wide receiver not having a contract for next season. It was expected that a contract would be done sooner rather than later, but now Nelson can put his full focus on the 2014 season. Nelson is a favorite of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, so it is huge that they will be together long term even though Rodgers can make any wide receiver look good. Green Bay’s depth at wide receiver may not be as good as in recent season, so re-signing Nelson was a must

Thompson’s work at the wide receiver position is not done yet, as Randall Cobb is also in the final year of his deal. The Packers might want to see Cobb play a fully healthy year before signing after he missed 10 games with a broken leg last year. However, that could backfire on them if he goes out and has a huge year and his value skyrockets.

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PACKERS FOOTBALL FRIDAY: 5 Guys that Have to be Good: BJ Raji

B.J. Raji

Last year when I was brought on to the team here at PackersTalk.com my very first series was titled “5 guys that Have to be Good”.  Those 5 guys were Terrell Manning, Greg Van Roten, Bryan Bulaga, Jeremy Ross and Datone Jones.  Hot.  Damn.  These players were released, released, IR’d, released and injured/ineffective respectively.  You can look at this two ways, one way to look at it is that I was right.  The team went 8-7-1 and had holes at all of the positions that these players played especially return man and inside linebacker.  The other way to look at it is that I should probably never write a “5 Guys that Have to be Good” column again.

The point of the series is not to list the 5 most important Green Bay Packers.  You can find those any where and they usually consist of some variation of Rodgers, Matthews, Lacy, Nelson, Burnett and/or Peppers.  These are the guys that we’re not 100% sure about.  Guys that need to step up and develop if this team is going to reach its ultimate goal of bringing Lombardi’s trophy back home.

This year’s series starts with BJ Raji.  It’s actually unbelievable how important it is to this team that Raji regain some of his 2010/2012 form.  If Raji can regain his dominant form of 2010 the defensive line could be truly formidable.  Mike Daniels is developing into a Pro Bowl caliber player and the chances are that someone from the Datone Jones/Jerel Worthy/Khyri Thornton scrum will be an effective player too.  The Packers are more than talented enough in the secondary now that if the front 7 can create pressure (especially with 5 or fewer rushers) the pass defense will be above average.

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The Packer’s 2014 Offensive Line Could be the Best of the Aaron Rodgers Era

Packers Offensive Line

 

The Packer’s offensive line has had their issues protecting Aaron Rodgers over the years. In 2009 they gave up 51 sacks, the most in the NFL that season. In 2012, they gave up another 51 sacks, just 7 fewer than the Cardinals who led the league with 58.

Since 2008,  Rodgers first year as a starter, the Packers have been in the bottom half of the league in sacks allowed every season.

Despite past performance, there is reason to be optimistic about the Packer’s line in 2014. The Packers have experienced guards, young tackles with loads of potential, and at center…well, we will see what happens at center.

In Josh Sitton and TJ Lang the Packers have one of the best guard tandems in the NFL.  Sitton has been a starter since 2009, and was elected to a Pro Bowl in 2012 and was selected 2nd team All-Pro in 2013. His 2013 Pro Football Focus ranking of 34.7 was tops among all Packer players, and was the 2nd highest rating of any guard in the league, behind only Philadelphia’s Evan Mathis.

At right guard, TJ Lang hasn’t received the accolades that Sitton has, but he has been solid and reliable, missing only 1 game in the past 3 years. Lang has had a positive grade from PFF every year since becoming a starter in 2011.

The Packers starting tackles aren’t as proven and reliable as the guards, but both have shown promise.

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