Tag Archives: Mike Daniels

Packers – 2012 Year in Review

Happy New Years Packernation! It’s been a fun year, full of ups-and-downs for our favorite squad. Here’s a breakdown of the good, bad, and ugly that we endured this calendar year.

The Good – The emergence of young and promising stars on both sides of the ball: Randall Cobb and Casey Hayward. Cobb is the definition of a multi-threat talent. He’s a top-end slot receiver, shown to be a threat out of the backfield, can take any punt or kickoff to the house, and smart – see his heads-up play of making a kickoff out-of-bounds in the Tennessee blowout. He led the league in total yards this year, breaking the all-time Packers yardage record in the process. His emergence has basically made Greg Jennings dispensable this offseason, much to the rejoice of his sister. And the best part of his emergence is his humility. Cobb is simply a team player that says “we” instead of “I.”

Trading up to get Hayward is one of TT's best draft-day decisions.

Trading up to get Hayward is one of TT’s best draft-day decisions.

Similarly, Casey “All I Do Is Intercept” Hayward has already established himself as one of the top cover-corners in the league; and he’s only a rookie. He’s shown an awareness on the field that would make even the savviest of veterans blush. He’s yet to get beaten for a TD, not been flagged, and isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the pile – unlike Tramon Williams. Because he didn’t start playing full-time until week 6, he’s unlikely to win the ROY – but he should. His emergence has solidified the Packers’ secondary not only for this year, but for the immediate future.

Honorable Mention: TT’s draft. TT has built this team through above-average draft classes nearly every year. This year’s class is shaping up to be one of his best. Devoting the first six selections to a defense that hemorrhaged yards and points last season paid off. Nick Perry didn’t flash, but showed he belonged and should develop into a solid player opposite Claymaker. The same can be said for Worthy. Hayward is the best selection. And McMillian and Daniels  have provided much needed depth to the line and secondary. McMillian could be in a battle with M.D. Jennings for the starting safety spot for the next couple of years.

The Bad – The Packers have suffered a rash of injuries. The following players have been injured at various points this season (and I’m bound to miss a few): Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, JerMichael Finley, Bryan Bulaga, T.J. Lang, Cedric Benson, James Starks, Alex Green, Jerel Worthy, B.J. Raji, Mike Neal, C.J. Wilson, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Frank Zombo, Desmond Bishop, D.J. Smith, Sam Shields, Charles Woodson, Sean Richardson, and Davon House.

To put this into different perspective, the Packers have been without their top 3 RB’s, a combination of their top-3 WR’s, the top TE, the starting RT and LG, multiple starting defensive linemen, their starting outside linebackers, their top-2 inside linebackers, a combination of two of the top-4 CB’s, and Woodson. Heck, Jennings and Jordy just played their third game together in week 17.

It’s been a season that’s tested the mettle of this team. But, in a glass half-full approach, it bodes well for the overall depth and talent of the roster going forward.

Ole!

Ole!

Honorable Mention: Tramon Williams’ run “support.” AP ran roughshod over this team to the tune of 409 yards on 55 carries, good enough for a ridiculous 7.4 ypc. Minnesota ran directly at Williams repeatedly in both games, obviously knowing that he’s unwilling to take on a block or attempt to tackle AP. Williams isn’t the sole reason for AP’s dominance. But his decision to play ole with AP makes him a primary culprit.

The Ugly – January 15, 2012. Giants 37, Packers 20. I don’t want to relive this date anymore by rehashing the specifics. But needless to say, it was the definition of ugly.

Our potential playoffs dagger.

Our potential playoffs dagger.

Honorable Mention: Mason Shanksby. As Bob Uecker would say, juuuuuust a bit outside. Shanksby is 21 of 33 on the year. That’s 63.6%, 13% below his now lower career average. And if you had any doubts, he’s dead-last in kicking percentage. Though he’s hit four in a row (nothing says a K is in a slump like celebrating four consecutive makes), Packers fans are queasy anytime Shanksby takes the field.

How Good Does the Packers Defense Need to Be?

The 2011 Packers season was one of the more enjoyable regular seasons for fans. The offense was spectacular, taking most of the drama out of the games. And Rodgers turned in a season for the ages. But the dominant offense masked the glaring weakness – check that, the glaring liability – that was the Packers defense. Posting historical numbers for ineptness, the defense yielded big play after big play, rarely got off the field on 3rd downs, and would’ve been hard-pressed to make even Blaine Gabbert uncomfortable in the pocket. Any chance the Packers win a 5th Lombardi Trophy in 2012 is tied directly to the Packers defense improving, markedly so, from last season.

But exactly how much improvement is necessary in order for the Packers to truly contend for the Super Bowl? After all, 38 out of the 46 Super Bowl winners fielded top-10 defenses, with 22 of those winners having top-3 defenses. Still, last year’s two Super Bowl teams boasted the 27th and 31st “best” overall defenses. My belief is the Packers defense needs to be somewhere in the middle in order to get back to the Super Bowl.

Since 2000, 14 of the 24 teams that played in the Super Bowl fielded top-10 defenses. Only six teams fielded defenses ranked 16 or worse, two of which played last season, as noted above. This tends to support the “defense wins championship” mantra. But, consider that in that same time frame, 15 of 24 Super Bowl teams boasted top-10 offenses, with a whopping 5 teams sporting the best offense in the league. Similarly, only 3 teams were ranked 16 or worse. So, “defense wins championships” is not entirely true.

What these statistics show is that fielding a top defense is not essential to be a Super Bowl contender. But, it does lend credence to the fact that the Packers defense needs to improve in order to put them in contending position. Because the Packers will field one of the top-3 offenses, a defense merely respectable or average should be all that’s necessary. To put it another way, the 2012 Packers defense needs to find the happy-middle between the 2010 defense and the 2011 defense.

In order to make the necessary improvements, the Packers will need immediate contribution from a few rookies and second-year players – not to mention a return-to-form season out of Tramon Williams. Thankfully, the early signs from camp are pointing towards such an improvement.

Most noteworthy has been the competitive battle for the starting CB spot opposite Williams. Davon House is the early leader in the clubhouse, having played with a much sharper sense of urgency and making plays on the ball. Second-round pick Casey Hayward has likewise impressed with his ball-hawking skills and quick assimilation in the system. And after a slow start, Sam Shields seems to have turned the corner and making a push not to lose his starting spot. Finally, it’s impossible to count out Jarrett Bush, who simply refuses to be content as just a special teams star. This battle will go on throughout pre-season and the play during the games will determine who starts. Here’s what each player needs to show during pre-season action to earn that spot:

  • House – play aggressive and show he can man-up in coverage;
  • Hayward – demonstrate his ball-hawking skills and demonstrate he’s not just a zone guy;
  • Shields – must show he’s a willing and able tackler, and cannot continue getting caught looking in the backfield; and
  • Bush – show he is not the liability in coverage he has been in past years.

Most important to the defenses success, though, is the Packers’ ability to get after the quarterback. Enter Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels, et al. Perry has been relatively quiet in the first few weeks of camp. By all accounts, he is going through the growing pains of learning a new position and dropping into coverage. Unfortunately, little has also been said about his pass-rushing, which is likely due in large part to the fact he continually goes against Bryan Bulaga – who is fast becoming one of the best, young RTs in the game. But, just recently, Perry broke through with a dominant victory against Bulaga in one-on-one pass rushing  drills, leading some observers to question whether this could be the start of something greater.

Not so quietly has been the emergence of Worthy, the star on defense at the Family Night scrimmage. Ever the yapper on the field, Worthy has breathed life into the dormant DL. He has shown tremendous burst and quickness for a man his size, and should see plenty of playing time with Raji in the nickel. Meanwhile, Daniels was playing very well during the first week of camp before going down with a non-serious leg injury. Assuming he returns healthy, he, too, can provide a spark to the pass rush. Finally, we cannot count out contributions from Hargrove and Neal (after serving their suspensions), and maybe even the undrafted free-agent Dezman Moses.

As shown, defenses do not necessarily win championships. But, what is necessary is a defense that is respectable. In order to regain respectability, the Packers 2012 defense must improve across the board. So far, the reports from camp have been positive. But, it is imperative that this progress carries over into the pre-season games. As Kevin Greene said to Clay, “It’s time!” Starting in San Diego, it’s time to see these young guys step up.

2012 NFL Draft: Act Three

The 2012 NFL Draft concluded in its traditional, ho-hum fashion. Because it is THE National Football League, the level of seriousness did not deviate and we as fans are led to believe that Round 7 is just as important as Round 1. The talking machine that is Mel McMortenson, Jr. tries to make the 6th round pick of cornerback Issiah Frey interesting, but, there is only so many ways to say, well, IF, everything works out, and I mean EVERYTHING (including the alignment of Mars with Saturn), this guy might be a serviceable NFL starter. All you need to do is look at our evaluation of the drafts for 2005 through 2011 to see that the “hit” rate in the later rounds is not very high. Even for a GM like TT who has his black belt in the NFL Draft.

Surprisingly both the Vikings and the Packers made some moves in Rounds 4 through 7. All the moves seemed to be based on sound logic, which is a nice departure for half of the BR rivalry. The following is BR’s review of each squad’s final push in the marathon that was the 2012 NFL Draft.

Minnesota Vikings

After taking the draft off on Friday, Schemin’ Spielman was back at it on Saturday. Who knows, maybe all the excitement of Round 1 wore him out for Rounds 2 and 3. And, maybe Josh Robinson, with a little coaching, will be the Vikes’ next great DB/PR. Though, missing out on Casey Hayward and Rueben Randle really could end up being Spielman’s only misstep in this year’s draft.

Going into Rounds 4 through 7, Schemin’ had a mittful of draft picks, including 3 in Round 4, 2 in Round 5, 1 in Round 6, and 3 in Round 7. 9 picks total. Schemin’ turned those 9 picks into the following: Arkansas’ WR corps (Jarius Wright and Greg Childs), Jim Kleinsasser 2.0 (Rhett Ellison), 2013 4th round pick, the rest of Notre Dame’s secondary (Robert Blanton), 2013 6th round pick, Audie Cole, Trevor Guyton, and Blair Walsh. Overall, a pretty good haul.

Wright and Childs are decent little receivers. There were two player available, defensive lineman Jared Crick and linebacker Ronnell Lewis, who might have been better talents. Plus, with Cheech Harvin firmly established as our team’s slot receiver, it is a little curious what role the Vikes envision for Wright. But, his talent is undeniable and both he and Childs could challenge for starting minutes this year.

Lewis is a Jimmy Kleinsasser-type FB/TE. He will do a little bit of everything and he will do it at 160%. Good teams need players like this. So, for a 4th round pick, this is solid value.

In the 5th round, Schemin’ got Detroit’s 2013 4th round pick because he found out they really wanted Tahir Whitehead. A solid trade. With one of the picks he stole from Cleveland, the Vikes drafted Robert Blanton. A versatile DB who will hopefully excel in nickel and dime packages and contribute on special teams. AGAIN, surprisingly sound logic in the 5th round.

In the 6th and 7th rounds, Schemin’ got an heir apparent for Ryan Longwell, Mr. Blair Walsh (kid has an absolute rocket leg – but – the mind of a hockey goalie on Prozac); another special teams All-Star, Audie Cole; and potential platoon mate for Brian Robison (essentially, he is really good at stopping the run), Trevor Guyton. While it is unlikely any of the players drafted in Rounds 4 through 7 will be Pro Bowlers, Schemin’ did a nice job of balancing the need for solid starters/reserves while filling the coffers for next year’s draft. We will do a complete recap later in the week, but, with Schemin’ at the helm, things are definitely looking up at Winter Park.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers continued to be operated by TT’s evil step-brother on day 3. How else do you explain him trading UP in the draft on three separate occasions?! Whatever got in to TT is a welcome change and appears to have landed some quality players to add to the roster that had few holes to fill.

With his two compensatory picks in round 4, the Packers selected DE/DT Mike Daniels from Iowa and Maine left-winger, I mean safety (thought Maine only played hockey up there) Jeron McMillian. Both players were unknown, but offer something the Packers need.

Starting with Daniels, he is undersized at only 6’0″ and 290 lbs. But, he is a quick, penetrating type DT/DE that should rotate in on passing situations. He is a hard worker and overachieving type player, the type of guy TT loves to draft. In his last two years at Iowa, he amassed 10 sacks from the DT position and was named to the second-team All Big-Ten, just behind the Packers 2nd round selection – Jerel Worthy. Although many casual draft fans may not know Daniels, it appears to be a solid selection, aimed at providing speed on the DL to get after the quarterback.

Jeron McMillian is a curious pick to say the least. Safety became a huge need when the Pack announced Nick Collins would not be returning. With only Peprah, Burnett, and Jennings on the depth chart, the Packers needed to provide additional competition. But, with numerous big-school players on the board, TT went back to the small-school route (remember, Collins was from Bethune-Cookman) to find a safety. There are few fans of this pick. McMillian is athletic enough, testing out as one of the fastest safeties at the combine. But, his stats are underwhelming against inferior competition. He evidently is a willing tackler in run support and has the range with his speed. Naysayers point to his propensity to jump on play-actions. From the get-go, he should be an immediate contributor on special teams and, with good coaching, should battle for the starting safety position opposite Burnett.

After these two picks, TT’s next scheduled selection was round 6. But, following his new M.O., TT traded up again with The Hoodie and reclaimed his original 5th round selection to select ILB Terrell Manning from N.C. State. Manning came out early, proclaiming he was ready. He’s 6’2″ and 237 lbs. and a solid rush defender. Manning is a physical presence that will fill out his frame more as he matures. He was graded out as a fourth-round projection, but fell to the fifth where TT jumped on him. Immediately, he will contribute on special teams and compete for added depth behind Mr. T-Rex, A.J. Hawk, and Bishop. If he had stayed in college for another season, he likely would have been drafted higher, making this selection a nice developmental pick that could pan out in the long-run.

With his remaining two supplemental selections in the 7th round, TT finally drafted two offensive players – OT Andrew Datko (Fla. St.) and QB B.J. Coleman (Tenn.-Chattanooga). As 7th round selections, I don’t have much hope for these two. But they present interesting projects. Datko was supposedly rated much higher heading in to his senior season. Injury issues led to his late selection. He’s a little soft, but at 6’6″ and 315 lbs., it’s definitely worth a 7th-round investment to find a backup tackle. Coleman initially started at the U. of Tennessee, but transferred when he was demoted. He is 6’3″ and 233 lbs. and has some prototypical QB skills that he should develop in MM’s QB school. Interestingly enough, he is represented by Bus Cook (you know, the agent for Mr. Brent Favre) and had been training with Brent leading up to the camp – meaning this is the first Packers backup QB he has mentored. (I have to admit I stole this line from twitter, but definitely worth it.)

Overall, TT had a great draft, adding starters, depth, and better overall team-speed on defense. Packers fans should be thrilled with this haul. One final note from this draft, according to the NFL Draft Trade Chart, TT trade-raped The Hoodie in the two deals with him. In the first deal with The Hoodie, where TT traded his 3rd and 5th round selections for the 62nd overall selection, the difference in value was plus-116.8. And in the second deal, TT received back his 5th round selection for a 6th and two 7th round picks, the difference in value was plus-11.7. Add in the plus-31 differential in the first trade up, and you can see why TT was preaching value with all three deals.

The fun of the draft is over. But, with great-to-solid selections by both BR squads, both fan bases have a newfound excitement heading into the offseason camps. Check back later in the week for a full NFC North breakdown to see how the local squads drafts stack up against the hated Bears and Motor City Kitties.