Tag Archives: Seattle Seahawks

Green Bay Packers Draft Preview

28 Apr
NFL Draft

The 2015 NFL Draft begins Thursday night in Chicago.
Photo Credit: gannett-cdn.com

With the 30th pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers select…

Ah, it’s that time of year, football fans: draft week. Optimism reigns supreme throughout the league’s 32 front offices and fanbases alike. Every team has a chance to win Super Bowl 50. Except the Bears, which is ironic considering Chicago is the host location of this year’s draft.

All jokes aside, the dawn of a new season is upon us. And with that season comes an opportunity for the Packers and their fans to move on from arguably the biggest collapse in NFL postseason history. The Packers’ 28-22 overtime loss against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game will never be erased from memory. It stings. It will always sting. But it’s time to move on.

No Super Bowl festivities took place in Titletown at season’s end. Yet there were still celebrations in the form of going-away parties for A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. Packers fans even offered to help pack their suitcases for them as they departed for their new homes in Cincinnati and Philadelphia, respectively.

OK, maybe that didn’t happen. But I’m sure no one held the door for them on the way out of Green Bay.

The duo’s abysmal performance on gamedays surely had Packers fans raising their right hands and insisting they could play the inside linebacker position more effectively. And, to be fair, some of them probably could.

Funerals took place to mourn the careers of cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House, who left the fruitful pastures of Green Bay for train wrecks in Cleveland and Jacksonville. But both players will rest peacefully, knowing they’re being paid a pretty penny to never sniff a Super Bowl again.

Nevertheless, the offseason continued. Free agency came and went. Outside free agents remained unsigned. And as sure as the sunrise, Ted Thompson haters came out of hibernation, equipped with pitchforks and picket signs.

I don’t understand how so much unwarranted criticism can be directed toward a general manager who has led the Packers on one of the most successful stretches in franchise history. It’s not good enough, apparently. As human beings, and especially sports fans, we’re never satisfied.

This generation of Packers fans has become accustomed to winning, seemingly unaware of the preceding dark ages that took place during the ’70s and ’80s. Coaches and general managers from other teams would threaten to trade players to Green Bay if they underperformed. It was a wasteland.

The Packers are thriving in today’s NFL, and their fans should appreciate these times because success doesn’t last forever. Keep things in perspective.

Year in and year out, fans beg Thompson to forgo his obligation to the salary cap and throw massive sums of money at free agents who, in all honesty, are free agents for a reason.

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson.
Photo Credit: fansided.com

Money. Injuries. Age. Regardless of the red flags pinned to each free agent’s backside, more often than not, a cheaper asset is available in the draft.

And how, exactly, has Thompson managed to build a perennial contender?

Through the draft.

This is where Thompson earns his money. Sure, he has undoubtedly made some poor selections he’d like to have back, but it’s unrealistic to expect any general manager to hit home runs with every draft pick.

For the free agency fanatics, consider this: a bad draft pick is far less detrimental to a team’s salary cap than a free agent acquisition that doesn’t pan out. You don’t build a roster through free agency. You merely supplement it. Thompson has done that. Next time the Packers win a game, win the division, win the Super Bowl, don’t forget about the man in the booth who makes it all happen.

And I digress. Let’s get started.

With key contributors returning, such as Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga, the Packers remain equally as formidable as the squad that came within 3:52 of reaching the Super Bowl last season. A strong draft could potentially put the Packers over the top. And for a team that’s built on a draft-and-develop philosophy, that’s not such a bad proposition.

But there are holes to be filled.

Inside Linebacker

Hawk and Jones aren’t coming back, much to the relief of many fans. But someone has to step in alongside probable starter Sam Barrington and fill the void, make a difference – something Hawk and Jones didn’t do, at least not in a positive way. Clay Matthews moved inside temporarily last season to help shore up the run defense, but the Packers would ideally like to send him back outside as a permanent pass-rushing threat.

A number of quality inside linebackers could be available to the Packers in the first round. At 30th overall, the best options will likely include Eric Kendricks (UCLA), Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State), Stephone Anthony (Clemson), Denzel Perryman (Miami – Fla.) and Paul Dawson (TCU).

Inside linebacker is the Packers’ greatest need, but none of the aforementioned prospects received a first-round grade and there isn’t a standout player in this class.

Thompson believes in drafting the best available player, not necessarily based on need. He doesn’t reach for players, either. For that reason, the Packers could go a different route.

Cornerback

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was the Packers’ first-round selection at 21st overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Photo Credit: jrn.com

With the departures of Williams and House, the Packers need to address cornerback early in the draft. Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde were primarily slot corners last season. Hyde also played safety until rookie fan-favorite Ha Ha Clinton-Dix took over full time. Either Hayward or Hyde will be thrust into a starting job opposite Sam Shields. But depth at the position must be improved.

The following cornerback prospects have more talent than their inside linebacker counterparts and could potentially be available when the Packers are on the clock: Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), Byron Jones (Connecticut), Marcus Peters (Washington), Eric Rowe (Utah) and Jalen Collins (LSU).

Defensive Tackle

Defensive tackle isn’t as much of an immediate need as inside linebacker and cornerback, but it’s worth considering for the future. B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion are both returning on one-year deals, which is encouraging in the short term but concerning in the long term. Additionally, Raji missed all of last season with a torn biceps, and Guion was arrested during the offseason.

The best options at defensive tackle who might be available at 30th overall are Malcom Brown (Texas), Eddie Goldman (Florida State), Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma) and Carl Davis (Iowa).

The Packers could also address tight end, but unless they land Maxx Williams (Minnesota) or Clive Walford (Miami – Fla.) it’s not worth taking one until later in the draft.

Most experts agree this is a relatively weak draft class. Many believe the bottom of the first round will feature second-round talent. This puts the Packers in a difficult position – a position I wouldn’t be surprised if Thompson trades out of.

As a matter of fact, that’s my prediction, albeit an unsexy one.

Trading down would allow the Packers to acquire an extra pick and select an inside linebacker at the top of the second round, where the value matches the need.

Thompson loves to trade down. Historically he’s been successful in doing so. With the 30th overall pick in hand, the Packers are in prime position to move out of the first round and still draft a player near the top of their board.

Over the years, fans have come to expect the unexpected from Thompson. It wouldn’t surprise me if he selected an offensive lineman and sent Packers nation into an uproar.

Regardless of how Thompson handles the draft, the Packers are locked and loaded for another Super Bowl run this season.

Enjoy the ride.

Advertisements

Ball-Out Fallout: The Real Issue With the Dez Bryant Ruling

13 Jan
Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers acknowledges the home fans at Lambeau Field following a 26-21 victory over the Cowboys.
Credit: bleacherreport.com

A week removed from a conspiracy theory that turned Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones into Hugh Hefner – except instead of Playboy bunnies, he had NFL officials wrapped around his finger – the Cowboys were on the receiving end of a controversial call of their own in the Divisional Round of the NFL postseason.

Most of you have probably seen Dez Bryant’s “catch-that-wasn’t” by now. It’s nearly impossible to scroll through any social media feed without stumbling upon an image, video or opinion about the topic. Some opinions are stronger than others. Just ask any sympathy-seeking Cowboys fan or even Bryant himself, who insists it was a catch.

Bryant, normally a fiery competitor, was in disbelief after his catch was overturned late in the fourth quarter. He looked like a self-pitied adolescent whose old man took away his PlayStation.

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was shocked after his catch was overturned.
Credit: cbssports.com

Hold on, let me get my violin.

Amidst the chaos, “catch” has lost all meaning.

No, literally.

Once the officials overturned the ruling, the outcome of Sunday’s clash between the Cowboys and Green Bay Packers became irrelevant.

Packers win? Cowboys win?

It no longer mattered. Forget about the game.

Because this, this is what people would be talking about.

It’s a call that many believe single-handedly cost the Cowboys the game and sent the Packers to Seattle for the NFC Championship game against the Seahawks.

Wait, the stakes were that high? You wouldn’t know it based on how much media coverage has been centered around a non-catch which, at this point, has no significance. What’s done is done.

The Packers are essentially being discredited for their victory because of an accurate call based on a rule. I’m not sure what’s so difficult to understand. Bryant initially caught the ball, but as he went to the ground, the ball came loose, resulting in an incompletion. He did not complete the process of the catch. The rule was properly enforced. If you want to be upset about something, be upset about the existence of the rule, not the call itself.

It’s truly a shame that one play, one call, one rule is overshadowing what was otherwise a tremendous duel between two of the NFL’s most storied franchises. But I’m not surprised by the nation’s reaction.

We love controversy. This is the NFL edition of reality TV. It would have been too perfect, too easy for the game to be decided by the players – not sexy enough for national media coverage.

As the fallout continued, I read an opinion of a Cowboys fan who had the audacity to suggest the Packers should forfeit the game because of the call.

Come on. Let’s be real here.

Did the Cowboys forfeit after they benefited from questionable officiating in the Wild Card round against the Detroit Lions?

I didn’t think so.

Except this time, the officiating wasn’t questionable. The refs got it right.

I can understand the frustration of Cowboys fans everywhere. If Bryant would have come down with the ball and Dallas would have gone on to win the game, we all would have been blessed with witnessing another bro-mantic embrace between Jones and Governor Chris Christie in the booth. Yeah, because that’s good TV.

In all seriousness, I’m human. I sympathize with Cowboys fans that this happened the way it did at such a critical point in the game, but I simply can’t endorse not giving the Packers their due diligence.

Did the ruling of an incompletion change Dan Bailey’s missed field goal in the second quarter? What about DeMarco Murray’s fumble in the third quarter? One (right) call doesn’t decide the game, ladies and gentlemen. It didn’t cost the Cowboys anything.

It would be foolish to assume the Cowboys would have automatically won the game if the call on the field was not overturned, yet that seems to be the popular opinion. They would have had the ball at the one-yard line with a chance to retake the lead, but nothing is guaranteed in the NFL.

What if Tony Romo botched the snap on the next play? He’s done it in big moments before. (Seattle, anyone?) What if the Packers defense made a goal-line stand? These what-ifs are every bit as relevant as saying, “what if Bryant made the catch?”

But for the sake of conversation, I’ll entertain the thought of a Cowboys touchdown on that drive. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say the Cowboys scored and converted the two-point conversion to take a three-point lead (see, I’m even being generous with my assumptions). The Packers would have gotten the ball back with no less than three minutes remaining and a timeout, needing a field goal to tie or a touchdown to win. With the best quarterback in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers and a hot offense, I like those odds.

After all, in the real game, the Packers drove down the field and killed the clock after the Cowboys turned the ball over on downs.

Not only did the Packers kill the clock, they also killed the Cowboys’ Super Bowl hopes and advanced one game closer to another title. That should be the focus of the game.

Now, can we get back to football?

 

The Great Debate: Rodgers or Watt for MVP?

2 Jan
Aaron Rodgers and J.J. Watt

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt are the frontrunners for the NFL MVP award.
Credit: si.com

It was perhaps the most immediate silence following a Packers touchdown I had ever heard at Lambeau Field. Forget about the 4-yard score to Randall Cobb in the second quarter. Aaron Rodgers was hurt. And he wasn’t getting up. Nearly 80,000 Packers faithful held their breath as Rodgers collapsed to the ground clutching his left leg. They might as well have been lying on the field beside their quarterback.

It’s a special connection, this Lambeau thing. All who don green and yellow on Sundays are family – those on the field, those in the stands and those screaming frantically at the television.

Although this time there were no screams, no cheers, no rejoice.

Just silence.

I, for one, became misty-eyed as I watched the center of the Packers family get carried off the field and escorted to the locker room on a cart, as chants of “MVP” echoed throughout Green Bay.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for sentiment.

But it was the regular-season finale with a division title and first-round bye on the line. Would Rodgers be named the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player at season’s end if he was forced to leave a game of this magnitude due to injury?

I tensely watched as the NFC North showdown between the Packers and Detroit Lions continued. My mind was set on the bigger picture. I knew where the path led without Rodgers.

Halftime came and went. The Packers’ 14-point lead evaporated and hope vanished.

Until a camera shot revealed someone stretching in the tunnel during the third quarter.

It was Rodgers, clad in green and yellow armor with a cape fluttering behind him. OK, it wasn’t that extreme, but you wouldn’t know it the way the crowd reacted as he emerged onto the field.

This man is Green Bay’s hero and perhaps the best quarterback to ever play in the NFL.

Hope had returned. It was showtime.

On one leg, Rodgers completed 17-of-22 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 30-20 victory.

With a performance for the ages, he may have earned himself a second MVP award.

THE DEBATE

The battle for MVP will most likely come down to Rodgers and another one of Wisconsin’s finest, Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who is seeking the first MVP by a defensive player since Lawrence Taylor in 1986. This season, Watt became the first NFL player to record 20 or more sacks in two separate seasons.

His numbers speak for themselves: 78 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 10 batted passes, four forced fumbles, five total touchdowns and one intimidating bloody nose. But here’s why Watt won’t win the MVP this season:

While Watt recorded 20.5 sacks, 14 of them came against AFC South opponents, so he did a majority of his damage during six games within the division, including six sacks alone in two games against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Every game in which Watt recorded two or more sacks was against the AFC South as well. Talk about feasting on your division.

When talking about Rodgers in terms of why he won’t win the MVP, people point to three losses against opponents with top-tier defenses: the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills – all road games.

Go ahead and hold those three games against Rodgers, but don’t be naïve to the fact that a majority of Watt’s success took place against mediocre opponents. He didn’t do a whole lot against elite competition either.

Rodgers’ 2014 campaign goes beyond the numbers, which aren’t anything to sneeze at: 4,381 yards, 38 touchdowns, just five interceptions and a passer rating of 112.2. Of his five interceptions, four of them went off his intended receiver’s hands.

While the stats are impressive, there’s one word with far more substance in terms of Rodgers’ MVP-worthy season:

R-E-L-A-X.

Following the loss to the Lions in Week 3, Rodgers famously spelled out and repeated the word, placing additional pressure on himself and the Packers’ offense to perform, and perform quickly.

He owned it and delivered one of the best 10-game stretches in NFL history. He’s the primary reason why the Packers have won their fourth consecutive NFC North title and are one of the favorites in the playoffs.

Rodgers is the MVP this season because he plays the most important position in football and excels at it more than his counterparts. Not to mention there were a number of games this season in which Rodgers put the Packers so far ahead he didn’t have the opportunity to play in the fourth quarter and improve his stats.

Still unsure about the MVP? Consider this:

If the Texans offered Watt for Rodgers in a trade, would the Packers accept it?

Now, what if the Packers offered Rodgers for Watt? I’d be willing to bet the Texans would accept that trade faster than a New York second.

Additionally, the Packers would be in worse shape without Rodgers than the Texans would be without Watt.

Take Watt out of the Texans lineup. What happens? They go from a non-playoff team to… a non-playoff team.

Take Rodgers out of the Packers lineup. What happens? They go from the No. 2 seed to most likely missing the playoffs.

The MVP debate is so difficult this year because it’s between two players who play drastically different positions. At the end of the day, give me Rodgers.

Watt will have to settle for a consolation prize as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and a front row seat to watch the playoffs from home.

Packers can learn from Brewers’ collapse

27 Sep
Carlos Gomez

The Milwaukee Brewers will miss the playoffs after the best start in franchise history.
Credit: gettyimages.com

From April 5 to September 1, the Milwaukee Brewers stood atop the National League Central standings. During a sizable chuck of that span, they also boasted one of the best records in Major League Baseball.

Something special was brewing in Milwaukee. The Brewers weren’t considered a contender by many during Spring Training, but the sky appeared to be the limit for baseball’s smallest market team in the early stages of the season. The Brewers performed well in every facet of the game, and with each win, their fan base grew hungrier for the first World Series championship in franchise history.

Oh, how quickly things can change.

Prior to the All-Star break, the Brewers lost 11 of 12 games. They continued to unravel in the second half of the season, and their reign in the division disappeared, with the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates lurking in the rearview.

The Cardinals have always been a thorn in the Brewers’ side. Despite the Cardinals’ revolving door of players, or so it seems, they manage to compete every season. They’re the class of the NL Central, no question about it. But once the Brewers ultimately fell out of first place, they had no one to blame but themselves.

Their confidence from the beginning of the season was long gone. Instead, their disposition changed. They became complacent, seemingly aware of their eventual fate. They played not to lose, rather than to win.

There was still hope that the Brewers could salvage the season and sneak into the playoffs as one of two Wild Card teams, but even that was too tall a task for the struggling ball club.

The Brewers plummeted in the standings, losing 16 of 19 games in late August and early September. Although not yet mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, the Brewers were finished.

For 150 days – a franchise record – the Brewers led the division, but their poor play down the stretch proved costly. Now they’ll be watching the playoffs from home, wondering what could have been.

With Brewers season coming to a close, Wisconsin is transitioning to full-fledged Green Bay Packers mode. The Packers can learn something from the Brewers’ epic collapse, with the same aforementioned mantra: It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.

Unlike the Brewers, the Packers have gotten off to a lackluster start this season and haven’t resembled the Super Bowl favorite many expected them to be. They were embarrassed by the Seattle Seahawks in the season-opener, 36-16, and struggled mightily on offense last week against the Detroit Lions, scoring just a single touchdown in a 19-7 loss.

They’re a few Jets mistakes away from being winless through three games.

However, at 1-2, the Packers aren’t panicking. They’ve been in this position before – the past two seasons, as a matter of fact. Both times, they went on to win the NFC North.

History tends to repeat itself, but it’s never guaranteed.

The Packers must play better, plain and simple. They’re held to a much higher standard than the Brewers due to their exceptional run during the past 20 years in which they’ve been a perennial contender. In the past five years alone, the Packers have made the playoffs each season and won Super Bowl XLV in the 2010 season. That has resulted in lofty expectations.

When the Packers don’t fulfill their potential, it causes an understandable sense of urgency among the fans, who have perhaps become a bit spoiled by recent success.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers only needed one word to address the fans. He was even courteous enough to spell it out.

“R-E-L-A-X.”

That may be the best advice of all.

Packers fans must attempt to achieve perspective and realize just how good they have it. Not since Vince Lombardi’s glory days in the 1960s have the Packers sustained this much success.

Championships aren’t won during the first month of the season. The Brewers found that out firsthand, and now the Packers have an opportunity to do what the Brewers couldn’t: overcome adversity, improve and make a championship run.

It starts Sunday when the Packers travel to Chicago to face the Bears.

Aaron Rodgers

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ simple message for the fans after 1-2 start.
Credit: geeksandcleats.com

Colin Kaepernick’s big-money deal is good news for Packers

5 Jun
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick celebrates with his signature bicep kiss.
Credit: csmonitor.com

Most Packers fans recognize Colin Kaepernick as the guy who ended the Packers’ Super Bowl hopes the past two seasons. Kaepernick tore up a feeble Packers defense, running his way to berths in the Super Bowl and the NFC Championship game, and ultimately a lucrative contract extension. Now, he’s the sixth-highest paid quarterback in the NFL, and he’s just getting started.

On Wednesday, the San Francisco 49ers signed their impressive young quarterback to a six-year contract extension worth up to $126 million, with $61 million guaranteed. That is the most guaranteed money for a player in NFL history. The deal features a signing bonus of $12 million, and averages around $19 million per year but could reach $21 million with playoff and Super Bowl incentives.

While the $61 million in guarantees are on a year-to-year basis, the 49ers must be careful when spending money moving forward. Their situation is similar to the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, who signed cornerback Richard Sherman to a four-year extension worth $57.4 million, including $40 million guaranteed. This was shortly after they signed safety Earl Thomas to a four-year extension of his own, worth $40 million with $27.75 million guaranteed.

Two of the Packers’ primary contenders aren’t being shy about spending their money, and, until this point, the 49ers and Seahawks have benefited from several of their star players participating under their rookie contracts, resulting in continued success. But what happens when these players realize their value and their rookie contracts expire?

They want to get paid.

After next season, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson also will ink a new contract, which is expected to exceed $20 million per year, similar to Kaepernick’s extension.

There may not be any initial consequences following the 49ers’ and Seahawks’ big-money transactions, but these deals may eventually force the two teams to part ways with core players. This is necessary to clear enough cap space to accommodate the contracts of their top-tier talent in the coming years.

Let’s not forget, the NFL is a business.

Where do the Packers fit into all this contract talk? The Packers do indeed have an advantage over the 49ers and Seahawks, considering their star quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a majority of integral players on the roster are signed for the long term. Those who aren’t will most likely be retained.

Packers General Manager Ted Thompson stands by his players with his draft-and-develop philosophy, which is a primary reason why the Packers are a competitive franchise year-in and year-out.

The Packers’ two premier receivers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, are set to become free agents at the conclusion of the 2014 campaign. They are both due for a healthy paycheck. With an estimated $14 million in cap space, signing the star wide outs shouldn’t be a problem for Thompson and the Packers front office. The organization already has acknowledged Nelson’s contract is a “priority.”

With a core of veterans under contract, complemented by a deep group of cheap, young talent and a substantial amount of cap space, I expect the Packers to be a contender yet again in 2014 and beyond.

We’ll find out in Week One, when the Packers face off against the Seahawks to open the 2014 NFL season.