Monday, August 16, 2010

Kick-off Returns: Think Big.

Here is a list of the top kick off returners (by average return) for the Packers since 1997:

Year Player Average Weight
2009 Jordy Nelson 25.4 217
2008 Will Blackmon 21 202
2007 Koren Robinson 23.8 205
2006 Robert Ferguson 22 219
2005 ReShard Lee 21.3 220
2004 Robert Ferguson 25 219
2003 Najeh Davenport 31.6 247
2002 Javon Walker 22 215
2001 Dorsey Levens 25.9 230
2000 Allen Rossum 25.8 178
1999 Basil Mitchell 22.1 207
1998 Roell Preston 26.3 187
1997 Roell Preston 30.1 187

Of the bunch, Roell Preston is easily the best return man. Nevertheless, Najeh Davenport posted the best seasonal average (in full disclosure, on fewer attempts). Dorsey Levens wasn't too shabby either.

Neither of these guys (Davenport or Levens) are your stereotypical kick-off returner. They are big dudes (Davenport was 6'1", 247lbs). But they were big dudes that were surprisingly fast for their size (Davenport ran a 4.57 40). This doesn't prove anything other than there is more than one way to skin a cat. A battering ram with a head of steam can be an effective kick off return man. He may not be a touchdown threat, but if he can consistently get the ball near and beyond the 30 yard line, I'd be happy.

Having return man like Roell Preston is a great luxury. If you don't have one, you may need to improvise. In recent years, the Packers have fallen in the trap of trying out every back-up wideout and defensive back for the kick-off returner gig with so-so results. I understand the thinking of seeking out players with "quickness" but, that is also a liability when these same players do things like come to a complete stop, or run backwards, and generally dance rather na move the ball forward. There is something to be said about a no-nonsense return man who has no pretenses that he is the next Deion Sanders, but rather dodges oncoming tacklers as best he can but runs forward at all times and uses his significant momentum to plunge forward several yards after first contact.

Here are a couple of guys I'd like to see get a chance to return kick-offs. What the hell, its preseason. Why not?
  • Brad Jones: 6'3", 242lbs, 4.54/40.
  • Andrew Quarless,6'4", 252lbs, 4.57/40.
  • Alex Joseph: 6'2", 240lbs, 4.64/40.
  • Spencer Havner, 6'3", 250lbs, 4.64/40.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Athletic Has Three Syllables.

  • Passing offense aside, pretty dismal start: terrible special teams, weak defense, non-existent running game.
  • I don't understand the decision to move Pickett out to end. I understand wanting to get Raji on the field, but let Raji earnhis way unto the field. Why play key players out of position? Last year it was Kampman, but that was excusable as it was out of necessity. Rather then worrying about getting the best combination of players on the field, the Packers should focus on getting the best man at each individual position and the rest of the stuff will work itself out. The Packers have floundered for years trying to find the "best combination" along the offensive line and the results have varied from underwhelming to disaster. Rather than getting the "best five men on the field," maybe they should get the best "one player" at "every position." On the other side of the line, there is no question in my mind that Pickett is the best NT the Packers have. If Raji can play his way into one of the end positions, he should back up Pickett. (Pickett will definitely need a few "breathers.")
  • Sam Shields cut himself tonight.
  • The running back situation is troubling. I'm actually higher than most on Ryan Grant but after him its a whole lot of practice squad quality. I don't know what the deal is with Jackson, but McCarthy does not seem to like to call his number.
  • Flynn looks a lot more like Ty Detmer than Mark Brunell or Matt Hasslebeck. If he were really one of the best back-ups in the league he should have been picking apart the 3rd and 4th string Browns. He should have been able to put on a clinic. There were a couple times when he had all day to throw he had to settle for a 6 yard pass to his check down. I still think Flynn is a capable back-up, but I'm beginning to think that maybe what you see is really what you get with him. He doesn't seem to have improved that much between years 1 and 3.
  • Rodgers is awesome. He's Mr. Third Down.
  • The Packers have got to find a way to get Hawk off the field. The standard line has been that he is a "solid player" but not worthy of a top 5 pick. I'm not so sure the first part is true anymore.
  • Special teams was terrible. Just terrible.
  • Goofy antics on the side line tonight. Matthews doing his Jersey Shore fist-pump, Driver with the cup on his head, and Rodgers busting out the "air bass."
  • I still love Kuhn because he is still awesome.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Christl Thinks the Packers Should Retire #5

Cliff Christl argues that the Packers should retire #5 in honor of Paul Hornung (sub req'd).

I completely disagree. As a preliminary matter, if any running back should have his number retired, it should be Jim Taylor.

The fact is the Packers have too rich a history to retire every great player. If the Packers retired the numbers of all their great players, the Packers would run out of numbers.

The Packers have 20 players in the Hall of Fame, but only the five have their numbers retired. A player should not have his number retired unless his name is in the conversation of all time NFL greats at their position. Don Hutson, Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Reggie White: these guys make the cut. (Tony Canadeao is something of a special case, because he played in the earlier years of the NFL.)

Favre is a tweener who I would keep out for his poor play in in big games, but will probably see his number retired eventually.

Paul Hornung does not make the cut.


Blitzing is Not the Answer

Nagler says that the Packers need to blitz more:

"The coach abandoned the run!"

"The play calling was too conservative!"

"The defense needs to blitz more!"

This is the type of crap you can hear every Sunday during football season coming from the mouths of slobbering drunks with Buffalo wing sauce on their shirts. And its usually wrong.

Now, that said, sometimes---sometimes---the slobbering drunk is right. Even a blind monkey will find a banana every now and then. The point being: if you are reciting one of those hoary cliches (which are usually wrong), you should support your argument with some compelling evidence.

What is Nagler's evidence? Al Harris got torched by Ochocinco or something:

Its popular to say, for instance, that the team was “forced” to play Jarrett Bush because of the domino effect of having Harris out. But there he is in Week Two getting torched by Chad Johnson for a big play. How could that be? I thought the company line was that he was only playing because Harris got hurt?

Really? As if Al Harris getting torched by a premier receiver is a rare event like Haley's Freaking Comet or something?

Its well-established that elite quarterbacks are going are going to punish you when you blitz.

Nagler makes an excellent point that Clay Mathews should rush the quarterback more and drop in pass coverage less. Capers should be playing to the strength of his team. That part is obvious. But I am unconvinced that "blitzing more" is the answer.

As an aside, Nagler cherry picks a clip where the Packers rush only three. As a point of fact, the Packers rushed only three men only around 9% of defensive snaps last season (per Football Outsiders).

ADDENDUM: Carriveau writes "I think it was primarily a personnel issue last year, a team that was forced to play backups that just weren’t up to par." Totally agree, but I'm not sure I would confine the problem solely to the back-ups.

SECOND ADDENDUM: It turns out I misread Naglers' point, his point was that Bush was torched by Johnson in week two. Is his point that in order to put the best personnel on the field Capers should have had an additional rusher as opposed to a liability in coverage? Maybe I could buy that. But the fact remains that Capers didn't really have the luxury of keeping coverage liabilities on the bench for most of the season.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"The Bears Were Not a Weaker Team Than the Packers a Year Ago."

Says some dude named Jeff Hughes at Chicago Now Dot Com.

Apparently the news is "just in" that the "Chicago Bears are Good."

Is it that time of year again?

Yes it is.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Packers a Global Role-Model for Small-Market Teams

Here's an interesting story from New Zealand. The CEO of small-market rugby team the Southland Stags is vacationing in Green Bay:

Meanwhile, Clark spent yesterday looking at the infrastructure of NFL team the Green Bay Packers, ahead of a holiday in the United States

"It's a dream come true. I'd planned a holiday around doing the Green Bay thing because it's so close to Southland and the Highlanders, but mainly Southland."

The Packers have been one of the most successful teams in professional sport despite drawing on relatively small commercial and population bases.

While in the United States Clark, who is also chief executive of Warbirds over Wanaka, will visit the Oskkosh Airshow, thought to be the biggest of its kind in the world.

Something, something, segue... New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo a cappella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo.


Harry Galbreath Passes Away

Sad (and somewhat strange) news: Harry Galbreath passed away at the age of 45.

Galbreath signed with the Packers shortly after before Reggie White. Both of the Packers first two big free agents have passed away a very young ages. Like, Reggie, Galbreath attended the University of Tennessee.