Tag Archives: Mike McCarthy

Packers lose Jordy Nelson, but the season must go on

25 Aug
Jordy Nelson Injury

Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson suffered a season-ending right knee injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
Photo Credit: foxsports.com

An uncharacteristically cool day in August became a lot colder throughout Wisconsin when the Green Bay Packers officially announced they will be without star wide receiver Jordy Nelson for the entire 2015 season.

Nelson suffered a “significant right knee injury” during a non-contact play in the Packers’ preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

While it may feel like the season is over after such a devastating loss, in reality, the season is just getting started.

Hearts are understandably heavy among Packers fans in Wisconsin, but using Nelson’s injury as a rationale to reduce the number of preseason games would be unwise. Sure, it’s unfortunate that he suffered a season-ending injury during what quarterback Aaron Rodgers called a “meaningless game.” But it was the Packers’ first possession of just their second preseason game.

Nelson had every reason to be on the field. Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy made a point of giving his starters more playing time during the preseason to combat slow starts that have plagued the team early in recent seasons.

Injuries can happen at any time.

Just ask the Carolina Panthers, who lost their own star wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the season after suffering a torn ACL during a joint practice with the Miami Dolphins.

The NFL schedule doesn’t slow down for anyone.

You can be certain no one in the Packers locker room is feeling sorry for themselves, especially Nelson. Quite frankly, there’s no time to grieve. In less than three weeks, the Packers open the regular season against the Chicago Bears. Nelson won’t be in the lineup, and nothing can be done to change that.

Instead, the Packers must focus on the players who will be available to them, and the options are plenty. If there’s any position on the Packers’ roster where they could afford a significant injury, it’s wide receiver.

There’s a silver lining in every situation. Because Nelson got hurt now, rather than just before or during the early stages of the regular season, other receivers will be given ample opportunities for reps and can better prepare for what lies ahead.

Truth be told, you can never replace a Jordy Nelson – on or off the field. It will be a collective effort. In 2014, he put together one of the best seasons in franchise history, racking up 98 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns.

But even in Nelson’s absence, the Packers have a number of offensive weapons. They had their sights set on breaking records this season, and their offense still has the firepower to rank among the NFL’s best in 2015.

With Nelson sidelined, opposing teams are more likely to stack the box to defend against the run, meaning Eddie Lacy will have to work even harder to shoulder the load and allow the Packers’ still-talented group of receivers to find holes in the defense.

There’s a reason Packers General Manager Ted Thompson resigned Randall Cobb to a team-friendly contract during the offseason. There’s also a reason Thompson drafted Stanford product Ty Montgomery in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft.

Those reasons have come to fruition faster than anyone could have expected.

The Packers also have a few second-year players who are primed for bigger roles this season, including wide receivers Davante Adams and Jeff Janis, and tight end Richard Rodgers.

Adams showed flashes last season and is the most likely candidate to receive Nelson’s share of targets in the passing game. He has received high praise from McCarthy, who referred to him as the MVP of the offseason. Adams and Montgomery have drawn rave reviews during training camp as well.

Considered by many to be “Jordy Lite,” Janis possesses the best size (6’3″, 220) and speed (4.42 40) of any receiver on the roster. A seventh-round pick out of Division II Saginaw Valley State a year ago, Janis is raw and needs to work on his route running ability. If he puts it all together, he could fill the deep-threat role as Nelson did, which would open up the passing game.

Richard Rodgers has emerged as the Packers’ No. 1 tight end on the depth chart. While he doesn’t scare opposing defenses with his speed, he has great hands and could be a threat down the middle of the field if teams decide to key on Lacy and the versatile receivers on the outside.

Let’s not forget about the “Aaron Rodgers factor” either. As the best quarterback in the league, Rodgers undoubtedly makes everyone around him better and has more than enough talent to work with.

In limited time, there’s a sense of urgency for the Packers’ young receivers to grow up quickly and establish a rapport with their MVP quarterback. The Packers’ mantra of “Next Man Up” will continue to be their rallying cry.

This team is far too talented and too well coached to let Nelson’s injury ruin the season before it even begins.

As long as Rodgers is healthy and under center, the Packers’ Super Bowl aspirations in 2015 remain very real.

Win it for Jordy.

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Introducing the Green Bay Packers’ 2015 Draft Class

5 May

Damarious Randall – Safety, Arizona State (30th overall)

Demarious Randall

Damarious Randall
Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com

Technically listed as a safety, Randall was a virtual unknown in Packerland for obvious reasons. The Packers didn’t need a safety. They needed a cornerback. So when the Packers selected Randall with their first-round pick in the draft, eyebrows were understandably raised throughout Wisconsin. But fear not. Randall has experience playing man-to-man coverage as a slot corner, his most likely landing spot given Casey Hayward’s impending transition to the outside.

Randall was highly regarded by many as the best cover man in the entire draft. With the NFL’s pass-happy reputation and an increasing number of teams running the spread offense, players who can cover come at a premium. Randall should be able to step in and compete right away. The Packers’ pick was in almost immediately after they were on the clock, further proving Ted Thompson got his man.

Quinten Rollins – Cornerback, Miami (OH) (62nd overall)

Quinten Rollins

Quinten Rollins
Photo Credit: gannett-cdn.com

Thompson further addressed the need at cornerback by selecting Rollins in round two. With a basketball background, Rollins played just one year of college football, but that’s all it took to make an impression on the Packers. In his lone season, Rollins had seven interceptions and earned MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors. His ball-hawking tendencies appeal to the Packers, who often thrive when forcing turnovers.

Rollins’ ability is raw; his upside, tremendous. Competition is healthy for any position group, and the additions of Rollins and Randall will certainly add to it in the cornerbacks room. The Packers’ secondary appears to be in good shape after being a serious question mark following the losses of Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency.

Ty Montgomery – Wide Receiver, Stanford (94th overall)

Ty Montgomery

Ty Montgomery
Photo Credit: stanforddaily.com

It’s difficult not to be sold on a player who has been referred to as a bigger version of Randall Cobb. At 6’0″, 221 pounds, Montgomery is built for strength. But he also has quickness, making him yet another versatile option for the Packers. You can never have too many weapons for Aaron Rodgers.

Montgomery also could become a threat in the backfield – as we’ve seen sparingly from Cobb the past few seasons – and provide a much-needed spark to special teams as a dynamic return man. That would allow Cobb to avoid further injury risk and focus primarily on his duties as a slot receiver. The Packers likely invested a third-round pick in Montgomery to be more than a special teams contributor. In time, he could be a primary fixture in the Packers’ passing attack.

Jake Ryan – Linebacker, Michigan (129th overall)

Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan
Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com

Ryan will inevitably be one of the most popular selections among Packers fans for the sole reason he addresses an immediate need. He also provided solid value in the fourth round. After tearing his ACL during his junior season in 2013, Ryan recovered in just six month’s time and moved from outside to inside linebacker. Ryan’s instincts have been praised, and he tested well at the combine with a sneaky 4.61 40. He has a nose for the football and a nonstop engine, similar to Clay Matthews.

Ryan is decent in coverage but will have to improve that part of his game to become the complete three-down linebacker the Packers need. Expectations must be tempered and lofty comparisons held in check, but Ryan has the potential to become a day-one starter at inside linebacker for the Packers’ defense.

Brett Hundley – Quarterback, UCLA (147th overall)

Brett Hundley

Brett Hundley
Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy has often expressed his desire to get his hands on a developmental quarterback. Enter Hundley. Projected by many to be drafted in the second round, Hundley was scooped up in the fifth round after the Packers traded their original draft pick, plus a seventh-rounder to the New England Patriots – a small price to pay for a talented prospect with as much upside as Hundley possesses.

It’s unlikely that Hundley was brought in to become Rodgers’ future replacement, as Rodgers is just 31 years old and coming off his second MVP season. Nevertheless, the Packers’ have had issues at backup quarterback in recent years, and Rodgers hasn’t exactly been injury-free. Scott Tolzien is currently entrenched in the role as Rodgers’ backup, but given a season under McCarthy’s tutelage, Hundley could overtake Tolzien by season’s end.

Aaron Ripkowski – Fullback, Oklahoma (206th overall)

Aaron Ripkowski

Aaron Ripkowski
Photo Credit: crimsonandcreammachine.com

Ripkowski appears to be the second coming of fan-favorite John Kuhn, who is in the twilight of his career. Effective as a blocker, ball-carrier and receiver out of the backfield, Ripkowski has all the tools to contribute in the Packers’ explosive offense. He also offers an immediate impact on special teams, a primary point of emphasis during the offseason. Chants of “KUUUUUHN” won’t last forever, but Ripkowski can seamlessly fill the void when Kuhn decides to hang up the cleats.

Christian Ringo – Defensive End, Louisiana-Lafayette (210th overall)

Christian Ringo

Christian Ringo
Photo Credit: gannett-cdn.com

Labeled as a long snapper during ESPN’s draft coverage – much to my amusement – Ringo must have had more to offer to the Packers. As a matter of fact, he does. A disruptive pass-rusher in college, with 11.5 sacks last season, Ringo already has drawn comparisons to teammate Mike Daniels, one of the anchors along the Packers’ defensive line. Ringo is effective against the run as well, recording 20.5 tackles for loss in 2014. He’s a sleeper.

Kennard Backman – Tight End, Alabama-Birmingham (213th overall)

Kennard Backman

Kennard Backman
Photo Credit: provationsgroup.org

The UAB football program closed down at the end of last season, but Backman had the urge to continue his career in the NFL. The Packers took a chance on him with their final pick of the draft. With 39 receptions for 399 yards and three touchdowns in his final collegiate season, Backman didn’t have eye-popping numbers. But at 6’3″, 243 pounds, he does have the versatility and athleticism the Packers covet in their tight ends.

The Packers haven’t featured a tight end who can stretch the middle of the field since Jermichael Finley, and current options Richard Rodgers and Andrew Quarless don’t necessarily scare opposing defenses. Rodgers has shown flashes with his great hands, but he isn’t a threat after the catch. And Quarless’ contract is up at the end of next season, meaning if Backman impresses, he might have a shot at a starting job in 2016. Expect nothing more than special teams duty for now, if he makes the team.

Which of the Packers’ draft picks are you most excited about?

Packers are team to beat in NFC North

31 Jul
Packers defeat Bears

Aaron Rodgers’ 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, with 46 seconds left on 4th-and-8, gave the Packers their third straight NFC North title. They defeated the Bears, 33-28, at Soldier Field.
Credit: martynneil.files.wordpress.com

It was 4th-and-8 at Soldier Field. The Packers’ playoff hopes were dwindling. They trailed the Bears on the road, 28-27, in the 2013 regular season finale. The next 46 seconds would determine the winner of the NFC North.

We all remember the play.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took the snap. He faced an immediate rush from Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. Fullback John Kuhn arrived in a knick of time, blocking Peppers just enough to prevent him from reaching Rodgers. The former MVP rolled out to his left and heaved a dime to Randall Cobb, who bolted past a flatfooted Chris Conte to haul in a 48-yard game-winning touchdown, propelling the Packers into the playoffs.

The Bears were stunned – an all-too-familiar feeling against their archrival. The Packers went on to win the division for the third straight season, but their playoff campaign was short-lived, as they were bounced from the postseason by the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card round.

During the offseason, the gap continued to close in the NFC North.

The Bears improved their defensive line with free agent acquisitions Lamarr Houston (Raiders) and Jared Allen (Vikings). They also boast the best wide receiver duo in the league in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. There’s hardly a debate about that. The Bears’ offense could be one of the most explosive units in the NFL this season, but it may come down to the play of quarterback Jay Cutler, who Marshall recently declared will be the 2014 NFL MVP. If the league is looking to further investigate substance abuse among its players, Marshall could be their next target after such a ludicrous statement. Confidence clearly isn’t lacking in Chicago, but there’s quite a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Considering the hype in Chi-town, you’d think the Bears were the team with three straight division titles. That’s not the case. However, they remain the Packers’ most prominent threat in the division.

The Lions were perhaps in the best shape to seize their opportunity to win the division last season, but their discipline issues proved costly, as they were their own worst enemy down the stretch. New head coach Jim Caldwell – with his level-headed demeanor – will be a much-needed breath of fresh air for Detroit. Caldwell is more respected than former head coach Jim Schwartz. But let’s be honest, that’s not saying much. On the plus side, you most likely won’t see Caldwell trying to start a fight with an opposing coach after the postgame handshake, which can only be good news for Lions fans. The Lions added tight end Eric Ebron in the draft and former Seahawks receiver Golden Tate in free agency to complement Calvin Johnson in the passing game. Don’t be surprised if the Lions turn things around this season and make a run at the division title.

The Vikings can’t really be considered a serious contender in the division until they figure out their quarterback situation first. They have three quarterbacks competing for first-team reps in training camp, including their 32nd overall pick in this year’s draft, Teddy Bridgewater. The other potential suitors for the position include Matt Cassell and Christian Ponder, whose days as the Vikings’ starter appear to be all but over. If history is any indication, quarterback controversies don’t typically end well. It’s a shame, too. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is waiting for an opportunity to breakout. He’s one of the most explosive playmakers in the league, and he showed flashes of brilliance last season. The Vikings just need to find a way to get the ball in his hands. Of course, Adrian Peterson is always a threat in the Vikings’ backfield, but at 29 years old, he appears to be losing ground on his quest for a Super Bowl ring. Unless the Vikings turn it around, Peterson will be remembered as one of the best players to never win a championship.

Now, the good stuff.

The Packers are the class of the NFC North. That trend will continue until another team steps up and decides it’s had enough. Despite remaining in familiar territory atop the division the past three seasons, the Packers certainly can’t be satisfied with one-and-dones in the playoffs. They’re not far off from another Super Bowl, though.  Here are the four reasons why the Packers will win the NFC North in 2014.

Lack of experience within the division: Entering his ninth season, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is the longest-tenured head coach in the division by far. Bears head coach Marc Trestman is heading into his second season, and the aforementioned Caldwell – who has three years of previous experience as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts – and Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer are entering their first season with their respective teams. Don’t underestimate the importance of having the same coaching staff year-in and year-out. It typically takes time for players to adjust to a new coaching style and system.

Additionally, we saw the Lions and Bears unravel with an opportunity to take control of the division at the end of last season while the Packers were ailing. Let’s face it; neither team had much experience with a division lead during the past few seasons, and that won’t change until they start winning meaningful games in November and December. The Packers have proven to be the team with the most resilience in the NFC North, and McCarthy’s experience is primarily responsible for their stranglehold on the division.

Julius Peppers and an improved defense: The Packers don’t have the reputation of being an aggressive team in free agency. That altered a bit in March when they scooped up Peppers, who spent the last four seasons with the rival Bears. Those in Chicago hold a firm belief that Peppers has lost a step. They accuse him of taking plays off. Regardless of their beef with Peppers, they most likely aren’t happy about seeing him end up in Green Bay, especially opposite Clay Matthews. Peppers and Matthews have never had the benefit of being paired with another player of their caliber.

They do now.

The Bears misused Peppers as an every-down player, which may have resulted in his declining performance. He’s no spring chicken anymore. The Packers plan to use Peppers in a variety of positions, formations and situations, maximizing his effort when he is on the field. He also has been reunited with Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, who coached Peppers for several seasons in Carolina. The comfort and familiarity will allow Peppers to excel in the Packers’ defensive system. Even at 34 years old and in the twilight of his career, the aging Peppers is a physical specimen and has the ability to make a difference. He has almost everything – size, speed, versatility, athleticism, and now, added motivation from his doubters. If he can put it all together this season, he might end up with the one thing he doesn’t have: a Super Bowl ring. If nothing else, the Packers have acquired a seasoned veteran who will be a mentor to their young crop of defensive players.

The team selected safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 21st overall pick in the draft, and he may not even start due to Micah Hyde’s transition from cornerback to safety. Even so, the Packers have a lot of depth at the position. Paired with Morgan Burnett, either player will be an upgrade over Jerron McMillian or M.D. Jennings, who started for the Packers in 2013. Also in the secondary, cornerback Casey Hayward is fully healthy, after missing a majority of games with hamstring issues last season.

In recent years, the defense has been the Packers’ weakness. It finished 24th overall last season. With the addition of Peppers, as well as returning players, there’s no reason to believe the defense won’t be average, at the very least. It is poised to become a top-10 unit this season. Defensive end Mike Daniels already has expressed his desire for the defense to have a more physical mentality and match the offense’s production. If the offense and defense are clicking at the same time, the Packers will be even more of a threat, which is a scary thought for the rest of the league.

Eddie Lacy: Roll tide, right? The reigning offensive rookie of the year, Eddie Lacy, put the Packers on his back last season when Rodgers was out for seven games with a broken collarbone. He often faced stacked boxes due to the Packers’ lack of reliable quarterback play, but his punishing running style allowed him to grind out 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Packers plan to increase Lacy’s role in the offense and involve him more in the passing game. His 35 receptions last season are nothing to scoff at, but you can expect that total to increase this season. There are so few three-down running backs in the NFL, but Lacy is a true workhorse in the Packers’ backfield.

With Rodgers’ return, Lacy will undoubtedly face more favorable defensive looks in 2014. It’s no wonder Lacy is always smiling. He knows what lies ahead. Now that the Packers have a formidable rushing attack with Lacy, James Starks and DuJuan Harris, the possibilities are endless for the Packers offense.

Aaron Rodgers: It’s enviable that Brandon Marshall thinks Jay Cutler will be the MVP in 2014, but for that to happen, Cutler would need to be the best quarterback, and player, in the league. He’s not even the best quarterback in the NFC North. Injuries happen to every team during the course of the season, but the Packers had the worst injury bug in the NFL last season. They lost Rodgers for seven games, and that alone is enough to make the argument.

When Rodgers is playing, the Packers are as dangerous as any team in the NFL. He’s that good. Not only that, he has a mutually beneficial relationship with Lacy. In total, Rodgers and Lacy only played in six games together last season, but the pair will make each other better. If teams stack the box to defend against Lacy, Rodgers will beat them through the air. If teams play deep in the secondary to defend against Rodgers, Lacy will run wild. And the last thing opposing defenders want is to face Lacy head on. Ultimately, defenses will have no choice but to respect the running game, leading to a plethora of opportunities for Rodgers. On paper, it would seem the Packers offense will be unstoppable in 2014. The end result will be one of the best seasons of Rodgers’ career.

The pieces are in place for the Packers, but the Bears and Lions won’t back down, either. The NFC North will be one of the most interesting division battles to follow in 2014, but when all is said and done, the Packers will be on top.

Who do you think will win the NFC North?