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.