Backup quarterback Vince Young showed improvement against the Seahawks
1) The O-line will open more holes when Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are in the game, but the Hogs they’ll never be. The starters are among the smallest and least physically talented units in the league. And while effort and grit are admirable traits, they’ll only get you so far at this level. There’s nothing general manager Ted Thompson could’ve done about the season-ending injury to Bryan Bulaga, but he should’ve upgraded at center. Evan Dietrich-Smith is a good backup, but a mediocre at best starter. He lacks the size and the athleticism to be effective on a consistent basis – especially in the run game.
2) If Jeremy Ross isn’t returning kickoffs and punts against the 49ers, Thompson will have some explaining to do. The former Cal star is far and away the team’s best returner not named Randall Cobb. And to be honest, he has the potential to be even better than Cobb. Is he a quality wide receiver? No, but so what? Jarrett Bush has been around for seven seasons and he hasn’t covered anyone since his days at Utah State. Besides, who else is going to be the No. 5 receiver? Media darling Tyrone Walker, as I’ve been saying for weeks, is this summer’s version of Chastin West. Assuming Ross handles the ball cleanly next week against Kansas City, he should be returning kicks and punts two weeks from now.
3) Thompson is a terrific GM, but he handled the backup quarterback situation poorly. Coach Mike McCarthy probably deserves some of the blame for continually talking up Graham Harrell, but even a dope like me could see that the former Texas Tech star didn’t have the skills to be a No. 2. Thompson should’ve signed a veteran backup in the spring. Waiting until August meant having to settle for Vince Young, who had been on the street for almost an entire year. And despite not knowing what the heck he’s doing and showing the accuracy of Dick Cheney on a shooting range, it didn’t take the 30-year-old long to outplay his competition. Unfortunately, that says more about the competition than it says about Young.
4) The defense will be better against the run this season because C.J. Wilson has taken his game to another level and Nick Perry is a huge improvement over Erik Walden and Dezman Moses. But what will keep the run defense from being really good are the starting inside linebackers. It’s really tough to consistently shut down top backs with A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones on the field at the same time. Both players are undersized and not very physical. Thompson apparently made the correct move when he released Desmond Bishop, but that’s exactly the type of inside linebacker this defense needs. It won’t happen, but I’d be curious to get another look at Robert Francois as a starter. He’s having a very good summer.
5) After watching three practices and three games, I’m still concerned about the defense’s ability to keep opposing offenses from exploiting the middle of the field. I’m not as worried about the personnel as I am about the man in charge of the personnel. Veteran coordinator and mad scientist Dom Capers loves to come up with all kinds of exotic schemes, but too often these experiments wind up playing out better in theory than they do in reality. In my opinion, the defense would be better off being a little more vanilla. With six former No. 1 picks among the front seven and a quartet of accomplished veterans in the secondary, the Packers should be able to play consistently solid defense without having to be so gimmicky.
6) The defensive line isn’t blessed with a lot of great players – or any for that matter – but no position group is any deeper. Unlike a year ago when the release of veteran journeyman Daniel Muir surprised a lot of people, Thompson is going to have to actually get rid of some pretty good players this summer. B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Datone Jones are locks. C.J. Wilson and Mike Daniels are almost certain to be around after the cut to 53. That leaves Johnny Jolly and youngsters Jordan Miller and Josh Boyd to battle it out for one or two spots (and I’m counting Mike Neal as a linebacker even though he can obviously play with his hand on the ground). So who’s the odd man or men out? That’s a question I still can’t answer.
7) What did we learn about the kickers last night? We learned that Mason Crosby can make a 38-yard field goal and boom kickoffs. We learned that Giorgio Tavecchio doesn’t have a particularly strong leg. And we learned that Tim Masthay is one heck of a player. So in short, we learned nothing. It’s hard to imagine the Packers going into the season with Crosby as the kicker, but then again, this is the same team that started Jarrett Bush in last year’s opener, so who knows what to expect? Logic tells me that Thompson and McCarthy didn’t stick with Crosby for this long only to dump him at the end of training camp. But doesn’t logic have to go out the window when a kicker misses three consecutive field goals in practice?
8) Green Bay is deep in the secondary, but not deep enough to withstand the loss of Casey Hayward. That’s because the second-year player from Vanderbilt might be the best slot corner in the entire NFL. Rookie Micah Hyde is having a nice camp, but he’d be a pretty significant drop off in the nickel. An even bigger drop off would occur in the dime, where safety Jerron McMillian would be forced to line up next to Hyde. What about Davon House? Unfortunately, the team’s No. 4 cornerback isn’t really suited to play inside. And for that matter, neither are Tramon Williams or Sam Shields. That’s why watching Hayward re-tweak his hammy was more disturbing that watching any of the other injured players limp off the field.
9) I’ve been very critical of tight end D.J. Williams since his rookie season. That’s because the former Arkansas star has never been able to produce in Octobers the way he was able to produce in Augusts. That said, I would still keep him around for at least another season. While Williams will never be a big-time receiver, he’s worked hard to make himself into a pretty good blocker and a useful member of the special teams. More importantly, he’s always available. While Matthew Mulligan, Andrew Quarless and Ryan Taylor have spent as much time in the tub as they have on the field, Williams has practiced day in and day out. And as A.J. Hawk has proven for the past few years, accountability means a lot to this organization.
10) Unless Datone Jones steps up in a hurry or Nick Perry finally discovers a second move, the pass rush figures to be an issue once again. Thats why I think Terrell Manning needs to be kept around. The second-year player isn’t ready to play inside linebacker in the base, but his knack for getting home on the blitz could be invaluable this season. Much like Desmond Bishop, Manning simply has a knack for finding his way through traffic and pressuring the QB. Even his (questionable) roughing penalty got me excited. How many times did you see an inside linebacker take down any player with such veracity a year ago?
11) Not that anybody but me cares, but this is Packer Update’s 800th post since June 21, 2006. And while some of the posts make me cringe, the vast majority have stood the test of time pretty well. I want to thank the thousands of people who have read this site over the years, and I want to especially thank those who have made donations. As my summer vacation comes to an end and my real life gets ready to return, I’ll be shutting things down at the end of next week. If I can figure out a way to reach a bigger audience and not lose money, I’ll be back at some point down the road. If not, you can still find my opinions on Twitter. Thanks for making the past 7 years so much fun. You guys are the best. GO PACKERS!