Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Weekend...time to reflect

The Memorial Day holiday weekend is a time in the U.S. where most folks pause -- even if but for a moment -- to remember the sacrifices of prior and current generations to keep our country free. Usually, this focuses on military sacrifices. Certainly, this nation arose out of a revolution, was nearly torn apart by a civil war, and established itself as a world leader willing to fight for the cause of liberty anywhere in the world. I know, that fighting for peace thing often seems like an oxymoron. But even in certain religious/theological circles there is the notion of a "just war."

Anyway...this post isn't meant to digress into a treatise on national history or military actions. Rather, it's just intended to take a consider, particularly for those of us here in the U.S., the sacrifices of all who came before us to help make us the country we are today. We also need to remember and express our gratitude to our current service men and women for the sacrifices they and their families are making today, in a very different but equally threatening world. And we can also take a moment to give a nod to our ancestors for, most likely, taking the risk to come to this country at some point in time and make it their home. They survived and thrived one way or another. You and I are here because of their courage and hard work.

Peace will prevail. Let it begin with each of us.

NFL and Packers stuff
We'll get back to all-things Packers once there is actually something of note to talk about. The lockout still continues. The scuttlebutt seems to be that nothing much is going to happen until mid or late July. That's when panic will start to set in on owners and players alike. Waiting to the last minute to get something done is characteristically human. So, when faced with loss of real money through missed games, etc., that's when things will get done.

Football seems almost like a dim memory, doesn't it? Is it just me or did the Packers' Super Bowl win seem like it happened years ago instead of months ago? And will they be the most affected, least affected or won't this lockout really matter at all to the team as they gear up for a repeat as Super Bowl Champions? Time will tell. Certainly the rookies will likely be affected most negatively. Offenses will be out of synch for a while, with the upper hand going to the defenses initially.

In the meantime, the Packers will be receiving their Super Bowl rings at a private ceremony at Lambeau Field on June 16. The team had to receive special permission from the NFL to hold the ceremony as one of the conditions of the lockout is no contact between management and players except for charity events (such as the Packers' recently-completed trophy-tailgate tour throughout the state). The team still has yet to schedule the requisite visit to the White House for this same lockout condition.

So...enjoy your holiday weekend, Packers fans. We'll catch you again sometime soon.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rodgers raises big bucks

No, Green Bay Packers quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers hasn't gone into the business of raising deer as a way to subsidize his income during the NFL lockout. Rather, he was in Milwaukee last night as the guest of honor for a fundraiser for the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) Fund. Rodgers' buddy, former NFL QB and Super Bowl winner, and current ESPN analyst, Trent Dilfer was the host. And according to all reports, this was quite the event.

As an article in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the event notes, last year's event -- also with Rodgers -- had about 180 people in attendance. Not bad. Raised about $35,000. Also not bad.

But ya know, it's amazing what winning a Super Bowl can do.

Last night, nearly 700 people attended. According to late reports today on Milwaukee radio station 620WTMJ, the event raised approximately $225,000. Key to that effort, was apparently an auction of two dinner-related items with Aaron Rodgers as part of the package. According to radio reports, each of those went for about $45,000. That's definitely some "belt-worthy" action.

Yes. It's good to be king. And if you can't be king, be the leader of the Pack who also wins a Super Bowl.

If you want to read more of the details of this event, including some very insightful comments from Rodgers, you can do so here.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Packers draft wrap-up: Rounds 4-7 (part 2)

As we continue our tortoise-like review of the Green Bay Packers' 2011 draft selections, we are now able to start getting into those later-round picks which some speculate GM Ted Thompson (and, in this time of lockout, all general managers to at least some degree) may have used in lieu of the undrafted free agent signings which would have been occurring in abundance by this time. Since no free agents can be signed until the lockout is lifted, there's no telling when such signings might be happen.

Anyway, let's have a look at the later round 6 and 7 selections for the Packers.

D.J. Smith, OLB, Appalachian State: A small (5'11, 239 lbs) outside linebacker who has good speed (4.75 40-yd. time) and instincts. He led the Southern Conference with 144 tackles, which also ranked fifth nationally in 2010. He finished his career with 525 tackles, the most among all Division I players (FCS or FBS) active last season. He was also selected to The Butkus Award Preseason Watchlist for 2010. Not bad. Smith is obviously a player who likes to be in on the action and has the desire to excel judging by his performance and accolades throughout his college career. That's just the kind of player linebackers coach Kevin Greene loves. Smith could make an immediate impact on special teams.

Ricky Elmore, DE, Arizona: This player is a tough one to project. He's 6'5" and 255 lbs., a bit light for a defensive end. Odds are that the Packers move him to outside linebacker. In fact, Elmore kind of figured that out himself before the draft; more on that in a moment. Elmore started 34 games at Arizona in his last three years. Some draft-niks felt that he might actually have more long-term potential than the fellow he worked opposite of at Arizona, Brooks Reed, who was selected at #42 in the 2nd round by the Texans and who some thought the Pack might select at the end of the 1st round. At #197, the Packers don't have much to lose if he doesn't make it. What's intriguing about Elmore is that last season he was the Pac-10's leader with 11 sacks and Arizona's leader with 13 tackles for loss. He earned second-team All-Pac-10 Conference honors in 2010. He's one of those players that might wind up heading to the practice squad. But that might be underestimating him. Elmore wants to play in the NFL. And he was smart enough, as noted earlier, that his only chance would likely be as a linebacker. To that end, Elmore retained the training services of Clay Matthews, Jr. -- that would be father of the Packers' Clay Matthews III -- to help him train prior to the draft. He not only wound up training under a guy that really knows the linebacker position but who also just happened to be training another son, Casey Matthews, at the time. They became a training party of three. Actually, there's a great article about Elmore training with Matthews by Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It's worth your time reading, and you can do so here.

Ryan Taylor, TE, North Carolina: Pretty much typical size for a tight end, 6'4" and 255 lbs., Taylor runs the 40 in 4.74 seconds. Other than coming off a knee injury about the only other info of distinction about Taylor is that he set a school record in 2010 for most receptions by a tight end in a season with 36. So that shows good hands. If he can play special teams well he might just grab a final roster spot. A long shot. But...ya never know.

Lawrence Guy, DT, Arizona State: Last, but not least, among the Packers' draft selection at #233 in the 7th round, Guy might just be another guy (sorry, to easy to pass that one up). Guy left ASU after his junior year because, in interviews, he said (paraprhasing) he had accomplished and learned all he wanted to there and it was time to move on. Head case? Or just a bit of youthful bluster? Your guess. The one thing that you can't argue with, though, is his size (6'4" and 305 lbs.) He played defensive tackle at ASU but would likely be more ideally suited to the defensive end position for the Packers. Apparenltly scouts -- and the Packers -- see potential for Guy. There is no rush, as the Packers are OK at defensive end right now. If Guy could be developed on the practice squad -- and take coaching -- he might be another of those hidden gems that Thompson and his crew uncover year after year.

Well, Packer fans, that's it. We have finally completed our draft review of all 10 Packers' picks! Woo-hoo!!!

Go Pack Go!!!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Packers draft wrap-up: Rounds 4-7 (part 1)

If it seems like we're stretching out this post-draft review for the Green Bay Packers...well, frankly, yes, we are. But so is just about every other sportswriter (not that I'm a sportswriter, of course...those guys get paid for timely commentary). After all, there are no free agent signings going on courtesy of the lockout, nor are there any mini-camps, OTAs, etc. And -- NEWSFLASH -- news just broke as I'm writing this that the NFL got a stay of the injunction, meaning the lockout will remain in place until June at the least. Not good, folks, not good.

So, what else is there to talk about right now except this last weekend's draft? Might as well drag this puppy out as long as we can. (By the way, that reference is a metaphor and not intended to get the folks at PETA upset. Just wanna make that clear.)

We left off our review at round 4.

Davon House, CB, New Mexico State: House is a big (listed at 6'1", 200 lbs.) and fast (4.50 40-yd. time at Combine) D-back who should immediately compete with the likes of veterans Pat Lee and Jarret Bush for nickel and other packages, including special teams. (Although, as a long-time critic of Bush's play, I have to acknowledge that he stepped up his game big time last year.) House was a four-year starter for the Aggies (the New Mexico State version, not Texas A&M). He is a physical cornerback, can play at the line and is good in coverage. He also is durable, having missed no games due to injury. He was not on a very good team this past season, which might be one of the reasons he may have not been selected in earlier rounds. Also, because of his cover ability, opposing teams generally tried to avoid throwing his way, which again may have made some teams overlook him. While D-back was not a great need for the Packers, as we saw last year, you can never have enough good players at any position. This looks like a very good pick, especially for the 4th round.

D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas: This may just wind up being the steal of the draft for the Packers. Williams plays bigger than his size (6'2" 245 lbs.), but is primarily a receiving tight end more so than a blocking variety. He's got good speed (4.67 40-yd. time at Combine) and great hands. He won the Mackey Award as the nation's best college tight end this past season. He immediately upgrades the Packers' tight end corps. While not as good a blocker at this point as Andrew Quarless, he has much better hands. He can also be used coming out of the backfield as an H-back type player. Pairing Williams with Jermichael Finley in two-tight-end sets, along with the host of other offensive weapons coach Mike McCarthy can line up, should keep defensive coordinators up at night for a long time to come. Williams won the 2010 Disney Spirit Award, presented to college football's most inspirational individual, because of his personal story. He was selected All-SEC first team for the 2010 season. Expect great things for a long time to come from this player.

Caleb Schlauderauff, OG Utah: A name that scores 20 points in Scrabble: pronounced, by the way, as "chla-der-off." This was one of those picks, as many if not most are in the later rounds, that make you say, "Who?". But as we well know as Packer fans, these are often exactly the guys that GM Ted Thompson and his scouts find as real gems in the rough. Whether Schlauderauff turns out that way or not, who knows? There was no record of his performance at the Combine as he didn't participate due to pectoral and hamstring strains. He is a big body, 6'4" and 305 lbs, and started all 13 games at left guard for the Utes (as opposed to "da yutes" which is a not-so-obscure Joe Pesci film reference). In 2010 he was second-team Walter Camp and All-America offensive guard, third-team Associated Press All-American and first-team all-Mountain West Conference. He's said in scouting reports to be a physical blocker well suited to zone blocking schemes, which is just up the Packers' alley. Should Daryn Colledge depart, Schlauderauff -- can we just call him Caleb, for typo's sake, please?! -- could well compete with T.J. Lang for playing time.

We've only just begun to hit rounds 6 and 7, folks. Check back later for more. Yep, we're gonna milk this for all it's worth.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Packers draft wrap-up: Rounds 1-3

Now that the dust has settled from the 2011 NFL Draft, we can begin to get a better feel for exactly what the latest members of the Green Bay Packers' rookie class might bring to the team. That's once the lockout is lifted, of course, and things get back to normal.

It should also be mentioned at the outset, however, that we'd also normally be talking about all the undrafted free agent signings at this point. That's not a part of the picture at the moment because of the lockout. Pundits suggest that, depending upon how long the lockout lasts, these are the players that stand to lose the most. And just think of the undrafted free agents that helped the Pack win a Super Bowl last season: CB Sam Shields and LB Frank Zombo among them. There are good players out there that for whatever reasons didn't hear their names called. We also know that GM Ted Thompson and his scouts are probably the best in the business at finding these hidden gems, and that head coach Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff are probably the best in the business at "coaching them up" to be valuable contributors -- perhaps even starters -- for the Green Bay Packers.

But, let's talk about what we do know about the 10 young men chosen to see what they can bring to make the already great Packers even greater. We'll start in this post with the Packers' selections through the first three rounds and then follow up later with the rest of the picks.

Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State: Much this year like Bryan Bulaga was last year. Drafted to back up and learn behind LT Chad Clifton and be the heir apparent. Due to injuries last season, Bulaga filled in on occasion at left tackle but wound up solidifying the right side after veteran RT Mark Tauscher went down for the season. The good news is Sherrod doesn't have to start right away. But he will compete, and you can be sure that offensive line coach James Campen will have Sherrod ready to go if need be. Whether he or Bulaga ultimately fill the left or right tackle slot is a decision that will come down the road.

Randall Cobb, WR/Returner, Kentucky: As Thompson said in his comments about Cobb following his selection, Cobb basically was Kentucky's offense. In addition to being an excellent receiver, Cobb also spent time at Kentucky at quarterback, running back ala wildcat, returner and even as the holder for field goals. Think McCarthy and crew won't find a way to have this guy make plays? One area where he could make an immediate impact is on punt and kick returns where, as every fan knows, the Pack hasn't exactly been great since what seems like forever. As a receiver, word is that Cobb is perhaps better suited to the slot than as a wideout. This gives him the opportunity to learn behind one of the best at that position, Donald Driver. But we also know that McCarthy likes to have his receivers be able to play at any of the positions. You can be sure new receivers coach, Edgar Bennett, will maximize Cobb's potential. The selection of Cobb also gives the Packers a bit of flexibility and depth should WR James Jones depart in free agency, as some speculate.

Alexander Green, RB, Hawaii: This seemed to be a bit of a surprise pick. Not because we didn't expect Thompson to select a running back, but because this player's name didn't seem to be on anyone's pre-draft radar this high...except for Thompson's, of course. Given the uncertainty of Ryan Grant's return to form, and the half-season and playoff wonder that was James Starks, the Pack's running back situation is a bit uncertain. Brandon Jackson is expected to leave in free agency, which opens up a slot for a third-down back such a Green. He gained over 9 yards per carry in Hawaii's spread offense. He had about 1,500 all-purpose yards last season and 19 touchdowns. Green is 6'0" and 225 lbs. He's got a chance to make a real impact if he can pick up blocking sets, which is an area at which Jackson was generally very good. Green could be yet another dynamic weapon for Aaron Rodgers in what is, as commentator Ron Jaworski called it during draft coverage, an awesome offense.

That's the first three rounds. Rounds four through seven later. Keep checking back for updates.