Ol' Bag of Donuts

A look at where the Packers stand, position-by-position, as the offseason begins

Now that we’ve all had a minute to digest the loss to San Francisco, it’s time to delve in to some offseason talk.

Oh, you thought we already did with our post after the Niners game? No, no, that was just us testing the waters – wading in up to our ankles, if you will. We’re heading to the deep end now.

The following is a look at where the Packers stand, positionally, as they begin the offseason. The positions will be rattled off in terms of how strong (or weak) they appear to be right now. And of course, we’ll be giving some suggestions for how Green Bay could handle each position, because what’s the fun in having a blog if you can’t tell the G.M. who won’t ever read your blog how he should do his job?

Also, this was initially meant to be one post, but it’s far too long for that, so it’s been broken up into multiple parts (either two or three depending on how much I ramble). We’ll be rolling them out over the next few days, so enjoy.

Quarterback

Any time you have a player like Aaron Rodgers at this position, obviously you don’t need to do much. When he wasn’t missing time due to his broken collarbone (McClellin!!), Rodgers was turning in another outstanding season (2,536 yards passing, 66.6 completion percentage, 17 touchdowns, six interceptions in essentially eight games). He doesn’t turn 31 until December and should have at least another two years of his prime in front of him. In short, he’s the best in the business.

Things become a little more interesting with regards to the backup position. Matt Flynn (1,146 yards, 61.4, seven touchdowns, four picks in five games) was signed in early November and, once he hit the field later that month, steadied the ship and essentially kept Green Bay’s season alive. He led the Packers to a 2-2-1 mark (I’m crediting him for the tie against Minnesota), including a comeback for the ages in Dallas and we all owe him a thanks for that. But Flynn will now be a free agent and while it’s highly doubtful anyone would give him the type of deal he got two years ago from Seattle, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of backup offers he gets. Would he rather be the backup in a place where he may have at least a shot to start? We shall see. The guess here is that he’ll remain a Packer on a one-or-two year deal. It’s the best place for Flynn to be and he’ll likely realize that.

To look at Scott Tolzien’s numbers (717 yards, 61.1, one touchdown, five interceptions in three games) is, well, to not be impressed. But Tolzien has a really strong arm and good mobility (much better than Flynn in both areas) in addition to his poise and toughness. He’s just really raw. Still, he deserves an offseason/training camp in Mike McCarthy’s system and should absolutely return next year as the No. 3 guy. He can grow into a player and if we’ve learned anything this year it’s that you can never have enough stability at quarterback.

Seneca Wallace (139 yards, 66.7, no touchdowns, one pick) will not be back and that is not sad.

Running back

Last April, it seemed like the Packers were doing everything they could, including trading back, to avoid having to take Eddie Lacy in the second round. Ted Thompson finally admitted defeat and selected the kid from Alabama and man, what a selection it was. Lacy turned out 1,178 yards on 284 attempts (4.1 average), eighth-best in the league this year, despite playing the final month-plus of the season on a bum ankle. He hit paydirt 11 times and only fumbled once. But it’s more than the numbers with Lacy. Far more. His rare blend of power, patience and athleticism gives the Packers an offensive dimension they have not had since the days of Ahman Green. He makes the offense – and the team as a whole – tougher. And he’s only going to turn 24 in June. With a backfield of Rodgers and Lacy, the Packers could be nearly impossible to shut down next season.

James Starks (493 yards, 5.5 average, three touchdowns) got the benefit of good health (mostly) for the first time in his pro career this year and really provided a nice change of pace from Lacy. Starks is shifty, surprisingly quick in the open field and really a pain to deal with for a defense tired from being pounded on by Lacy. The problem? Starks is also set for free agency. He’ll be 28 in February and this is likely his one shot to cash in. While he likely won’t break the bank, he showed this year he could stay healthy and hold his own in a timeshare backfield and the guess here is that someone will pay him accordingly. It’d be nice to have him back, but it’s doubtful that happens.

Rookie Johnathan Franklin was supposed to be the lightening to Lacy’s thunder, but that never really materialized as Franklin spent most of his rookie season on the bench. He finished with just 107 yards, 103 of those coming in one game, at Cincinnati in week three. He showed his potential, but a costly fumble in that game sent him to McCarthy’s doghouse and he never recovered, eventually going on injured reserve in late November (concussion). Still, it’s far too soon to give up on him. In that Bengals game, he showed why Green Bay took him in the first place. He’s got good speed and quickness, changes direction well and can be a threat catching the ball. A player to watch next season is the prediction here.

DuJuan Harris spent the entire season on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in camp. He’ll be back next year, though, and if he’s fully recovered, expect him to battle Franklin for the “change of pace” role behind Lacy. Also expect the Packers to add a back or two, either late in the draft or with an undrafted free agent.

At fullback – or “fullback” – John Kuhn entered training camp with questions of whether or not he’d even make the team. He did and showed throughout 2013 why he’s so valuable. His pass protection, for starters, is outstanding. Week 17. Chicago, Julius Peppers. You remember. He also provides a valuable safety valve in the passing game and can still get you a yard or two on the ground if you need it. He’s set for free agency in March, but he’ll likely be back on a short-term deal. McCarthy clearly loves him and he still has a little left in the tank.

Offensive line

A position that was a major issue for years in Green Bay was the offensive line. Particularly early in Rodgers’ time as a starter, but really, the group was never more than adequate since the Wahle-Flanagan-Rivera days of the early 2000s.

Until now.

The Packers offensive line turned in a solid 2013 campaign, but the real reason for excitement stems from what lies ahead. Thrown into the fire after Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL on Family Night, rookie David Bakhtiari proved to be more than solid at left tackle. He had some rocky moments, as you would expect from a fourth-round pick, but held his own more than he didn’t. Much more. And with an offseason to get stronger and learn the game more, he’ll only get better. He should remain the left tackle going forward.

The interior of the o-line was strong, as well, despite guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang swapping positions during the offseason. Even though he admitted he wasn’t comfortable at his new left guard spot for much of the year, all Sitton did was turn in the best season of his career. He’s an absolute rock, one of the best guards in the league and will be just 28 in June. Lang battled some injuries but was still able to turn in a rather good season on the right side and will be just 26 at the start of next season. He’s the perfect right guard, as nasty as they come.

After spending years as a backup at various spots, Evan Dietrich-Smith finally got his chance to start at center this season and quieted the doubters with a good showing. It’s not all due to his performance, but it’s also not an accident that the Packers became a top 10 rushing team once he was inserted in the middle. Consider him the final link of the chain, so to speak, that solidified everything. He’s set for free agency in March and re-signing him should be a top priority for Green Bay. He’ll be just 27 in July, too, so someone will pay him good money if the Packers don’t.

The one spot up for grabs on the line, as of now, appears to be right tackle. Don Barclay can be decent at times, but he’s also wildly inconsistent. He’s done well for an undrafted free agent, but appears to be nothing more than a career backup/spot starter. The good news for Green Bay is that Bulaga will return from his injury and former first-rounder Derek Sherrod finally got past his leg injury this season, so there are two qualified candidates for the gig. Best to let them battle it out and whoever loses can be the backup on both the left and right sides. Either way, expect the Packers to be much better at right tackle next season.

And the depth will be much-improved next year too, with highly-regarded rookie J.C. Tretter backing up Dietrich-Smith (should he be re-signed) at center and the Bulaga/Sherrod loser and Barclay at the backup guard/tackle spots. Players like Greg Van Roten and Lane Taylor could also figure in the mix and the Packers are a lock to draft at least one or two more o-linemen in May, likely later in the draft.

And maybe the best news of all? Marshall Newhouse is a free agent. So that’s over with.

Okay, that wraps up part one. Check back soon for part two.

-Chris Lempesis

San Fran ends Green Bay's season - again. So where do we go from here?

(Before we begin: Apologies for not writing more. Hopefully you’ve been following us on Twitter or listening to our podcasts over at the Packers Talk Radio Network.)

So, here we are – again.

Another season of Green Bay Packers football was brought to a disappointing end at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers, this time a 23-20 wild card round defeat at Lambeau Field. The Packers close the 2013 season with an 8-8-1 record.

Whereas last season’s playoff defeat in San Fran was a story of domination and humiliation, this loss was a tale of what might have been. If one or two plays from a fairly large group of opportunities goes Green Bay’s way, the Packers are gearing up for Carolina next weekend. To whit:

  • James Jones with a pair of big drops that, while they would’ve been tough catches to make, were not uncatchable and are absolutely plays you have to make if you want to pull off an upset.
  • Morgan Burnett being just a split-second away from a pass breakup (or more) on the touchdown pass to Vernon Davis. Story of Burnett’s season, really.
  • Micah Hyde just barely missing an interception early in San Fran’s final drive.

Those are just a few examples. There are more. And then, of course, there are these gems:

  • Essentially punting away the first quarter, offensively.
  • Questionable playcalling/horrendous clock management from Mike McCarthy.
  • Key injuries to Sam Shields/Mike Neal/David Bakhtiari (surprise some Packers got hurt!).
  • San Francisco converting on 6-of-12 third down attempts. In two games with Green Bay this year, the Niners were 15-of-30 on third downs (a cool 50 percent). Throw in last season’s playoff game and that number jumps to 23-of-43 (53.4 percent).

Look at all those bullet points. Look at the story they tell. Yes, they are specific to Sunday, but really they aren’t. Many of these same issues dogged Green Bay throughout the 2013 season. And who you are in the season tends to be who you are come January. Then, when you factor in an opponent that has owned you on a mid-1990s Dallas Cowboys-type level, it’s really not that shocking the Packers came out on the short end. That’s not to say the loss doesn’t hurt, because playoff losses always hurt. Badly. But this team, particularly its severely-depleted defense, fought hard and gave all it had Sunday.

The Packers, however, just didn’t have enough. And that’s the biggest issue facing this team as it heads into the long, cold, seemingly endless offseason: How do the Packers take those final few steps to where they will have enough? Because, let’s be honest – even if Green Bay had won Sunday, this team was living on borrowed time and had little to no chance of reaching New Jersey next month.

The 2013 Packers were good enough to provide us with some all-time classic moments and win a rotten NFC North, sure, and those accomplishments should never be glossed over. But Green Bay is called Titletown, not Reach Round One or Two of the playoffs Town, right?

So where do we go from here?

Well, first comes the staff decisions. Namely, will defensive coordinator Dom Capers return? Capers seems to have the support of McCarthy and his players definitely have his back, at least publicly, both of which bode well for his return.

But the defense, despite an inspired effort Sunday, was just not very good again this season. Some fans may have even worse adjectives for the group’s collective performance. Capers’ gameplans seem far too predictable and far too often he was outcoached. For example, Chip Kelly and Marc Trestman are incredibly bright offensive minds, but there is no excuse for the way those relative newbies outsmarted Capers repeatedly, either. Overall, it just seems like a fresh approach is needed. It’s not all Capers’ fault, to be sure, but you can’t get rid of all the players, so a new coordinator seems necessary. Will McCarthy agree, though?

Then there are the contract decisions. And boy, Ted Thompson has a lot of decisions to make. The following is a list of key players set for unrestricted free agency in March. Get ready, it’s long:

  • Johnny Jolly, Matt Flynn, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Jamari Lattimore, C.J. Wilson, Shields, James Starks, Andrew Quarless, Neal, John Kuhn, James Jones, Jermichael Finley, Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji. That’s 14 names in all.
  • Note that I’m leaving Marshall Newhouse and M.D. Jennings off this list. Both are free agents, yes, but there is less than zero chance either is back in Green Bay next season. Unless the Packers are interested in causing a fan riot, that is.

The Packers, as of now, are roughly $10 million under the cap. That number will jump significantly once all of these contracts come off the books, but Green Bay obviously won’t be bringing all these players back. Who will come back?

Finley seems like a longshot to be cleared by the conservative medical staff, so his return seems unlikely. Jones and Starks are both valuable, but both could be gone based on the depth at their respective spots. It would be nice to see Neal and Quarless return, as both showed real flashes of promise this season, but you have to wonder if someone won’t overpay for them based on those flashes, too. Raji has reportedly turned down an $8 million per year deal multiple times and based on his showing down the stretch, should not come back. He makes zero plays and doesn’t do enough for anyone else to make plays, either.

The rest of those names, barring a gross overpay from another team, should be back next year. Yes, even Flynn, who hopefully has figured out Green Bay is where he needs to be.

Also consider the players with contracts set to expire after 2014, namely Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Tramon Williams. Nelson ($3.875 mil cap hit next year) and Cobb ($1.021 mil hit) are both due tremendous raises and it’s likely both will get them before next season. Easy decisions, yes, but expensive ones, too.

Williams, with a gaudy cap hit of $9.5 mil for 2014 as of now, is an interesting case. After a terrible first half of the season, Williams came on strong to close the year and will turn just 31 in March. He played well enough down the stretch to keep his job, but not at that cap number. Might the Packers, say, extend his contract a couple years in order to bring that 2014 hit down? Seems like the best idea. He likely won’t take a pay cut and if they cut him, he’d be snapped up quick. He’s not what he was, but he’s still solid enough and solid corners are hard to come by.

There are also, you know, FREE AGENTS FROM OTHER TEAMS that could be signed by the Packers. But this is the part where you all laugh because we know Ted will never do that, even though it wouldn’t kill him to add a couple of cheap veterans for depth. That stuff can help you avoid having to rely on, say, a player like Jennings to get it done at a safety spot because you have nothing else behind him.

Lastly, we come to Ted’s bread-and-butter, the NFL Draft. As of now it’s pretty clear they need to find a safety first and foremost. Will a player like Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix be available when Green Bay picks at 21 in May, though? Even if he’s not, that position needs to be a priority within the first two rounds. Inside linebacker is also a huge need. If you’re going to stick with A.J. Hawk at one ILB spot – and clearly the team is never cutting him so just get used to it – then you need a stud at the other spot and a stud Brad Jones is not. After that, it all depends on who stays and goes in free agency. Right now, though, tight end and defensive line look like they could use some bolstering. Can Ted fill all those needs in one draft?

When you add it all up, you find the Packers at a critical juncture this offseason. Their window is not at all closed, due to the emergence of Eddie Lacy and the fact that Aaron Rodgers will be just 30 at the start of next season. Throw in players like Cobb and Nelson and an offensive line that should only get better and the Packers will score points next season in bunches. And with players like Clay Matthews, Shields, Mike Daniels and a presumably healthy Casey Hayward, the defense isn’t a million miles away (more on all this in the coming days).

But unless the Packers add at least a couple defensive playmakers – and maybe a new defensive shotcaller – and can somehow, someway get the injury pendulum to swing their way for once, it’s hard to see the team getting that much better. And that would put Green Bay right back where it is now.

Good, but not great. And seasons that will continue to end like 2013 did.

-Chris Lempesis

Raising hands so the world may hear: Gridiron stars and poker pros push the chips for Africa

65553283

Poker has been an effective fundraising vehicle for numerous charity foundations and advocacies throughout the years.

In these charity poker events, it’s not uncommon to see tables packed with athletes from basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing, mixed martial arts and football (among other sports) playing for a good cause and having a good time. One of the landmark charity poker tournaments in recent years is the Raise Your Hand for Africa Texas Hold’em Tournament.

On February 19, 2011 at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, more than 350 participants helped raise awareness for two outstanding organizations: the Starkey Hearing Foundation, dedicated to providing hearing devices to those in Africa, in addition to promoting a deeper understanding of hearing health awareness and how to prevent hearing loss; and PROS FOR AFRICA, a volunteer-led, nonprofit organization that encourages professionals of all fields to share what they know, do and create with the citizens of Africa.

Presented by World Poker Entertainment, the event was hosted by 13-time World Series of Poker (WSOP) Champion Phil Hellmuth, Jr., along with eager co-hosts Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. and Adrian Peterson. Some of the most famous names in the gridiron and poker worlds, as well as stalwarts from Hollywood and the music industry walked the red carpet before the event. Fittingly, 2011 Super Bowl MVP and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the NFL contingent of around 30 players, which also included fellow quarterback Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals safety Roy Williams. Other NFL players who attended the event were Visanthe Shiancoe, Vernon Davis, Vontae Davis, Gerald McCoy, Curtis Lofton, and Mark Clayton.

In fact, a number of poker pros spiced up the competition, including Michelle Lau, Suzie Lederer, “The Flying Dutchman” Marcel Luske, and of course Betfair Poker Asian Tour veteran Liz Lieu. A few notable actors were also on hand to enjoy the festivities and riffle a few chips, including Lou Ferrigno, Steve Martin, Don Cheadle, Verne Troyer and Kevin Sorbo.

In the end, amateur poker player Debbie Gostowski – a dedicated supporter of the Starkey Heating Foundation herself – of Effingham, Illinois took the event’s top prize, a 2011 CSM #2 Shelby Mustang. A few lucky contestants also won all-expense paid trips to Africa, South America and Mexico as part of the charitable foundation’s missions.

It’s not too surprising to know that the Raise Your Hand for Africa poker tournament has turned into a yearly affair. The national prominence of Aaron Rodgers and his NFL brethren, along with a diverse array of poker-loving celebrities from different realms of entertainment, certainly provide the star power and publicity that the good cause deserves.

Packers close ‘13 draft going heavy at receiver, linebacker

With their final five picks of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers opted for a fairly simple approach.

Reinforce the front seven and add depth at wide receiver. No, literally, that was it.

A defensive tackle, two linebackers and two wideouts comprised the rest of Green Bay’s draft Saturday.

We’ll discuss these picks in the order they occurred.

With their second fifth round pick (167th overall, 34th of the round), the Packers tabbed Mississippi State defensive tackle Josh Boyd. At 6-feet, 3-inches, 312 pounds, Boyd likely projects as a 3-4 end in Green Bay. He had a big 2011 season (eight tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks) before falling off quite a bit in 2012 (just 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks). Still, he’s a hard-nosed defender with good burst off the line who should be an asset against the run. That’s important as ends Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson are free agents after this season.

The Packers targeted outside linebacker with their next pick, the 25th pick of round six (193rd overall), by selecting Illinois State’s Nate Palmer. Palmer, 6-feet, 3-inches and 240 pounds, recorded 17 sacks over his final two seasons in college. He was drafted as a linebacker but played defensive end in college. Hard to find a ton of information of Palmer, but it sounds like he’ll be in the mix for a backup spot at OLB. That’s a good thing because, as of now, Dezman Moses is really the only backup OLB on Green Bay’s roster.

After fans spent most of day two and day three clamoring for a wide receiver of some sort, Ted Thompson finally obliged.

He used Green Bay’s first two seventh-round picks (it had three total) on the position. The first of those two picks was Grand Valley State’s Charles Johnson (10th pick of the round, 216th overall). Johnson is 6-feet, 2-inches and 215 pounds. He turned in a monster pro day in early March, highlighted by his 4.38 and 4.39 40 times and 39 1/2 inch vertical. In two years at GVSU (GLIAC represent!), he totaled 128 catches for 2,229 yards and 31 touchdowns.

One drawback: GVSU was the third college Johnson had attended. He left his first school, Eastern Kentucky, after being suspended (reasons unknown). He then spent a year, 2008, at Antelope Valley Community College in California (no, you read that right – that’s a real place). After taking 2009 off completely, he spent his final three college years at Grand Valley (redshirting in 2010). So yeah, that’s a tad troubling. But his skill set and collegiate production could make him a real find for the Packers.

The second of Green Bay’s two wideout selections – 18th pick of round seven, 224 overall – was Maryland’s Kevin Dorsey. Dorsey, 6-feet, 2-inches and 207 pounds, had only 18 catches for 311 yards and four scores in 2012. But it sounds like Maryland’s quarterback play was atrocious last year, so maybe you can’t blame him too much for the lack of production. He’s got good size, good hands and decent quickness. He’s not a great route-runner, though, and has trouble gaining separation from corners. A project, for sure.

The Packers capped off the draft by selecting another outside linebacker, South Florida’s Sam Barrington, with the 26th pick of the seventh round (232nd overall). Barrington had 80 tackles (6.5 for loss), three sacks and two forced fumbles in 2012. Barrington was drafted at outside linebacker, but at 6-feet, 1-inch and 246 pounds, you wonder if he wouldn’t be a better fit inside (Desmond Bishop, for example, is 6-feet, 2-inches and 238 pounds).

Okay, that wraps up our coverage of Green Bay’s selections. We’ll be back in a couple days to put a nice bow on the draft. And there’ll absolutely be a draft recap podcast over at the Packers Talk Radio Network, as well. Thanks for hanging out with us this weekend, gang.

-Chris Lempesis

Trade up for Franklin highlight for Green Bay early Saturday

As I type this, the draft is still going on. We’re well into round six, in fact.

But with the Green Bay Packers having so many picks – 10 in all at the start – on the final day of the draft, it seemed like a good time to check in with an early report on the first part of their day.

With their first four selections on day three, the Packers have continued their image overhaul, aiming for improvements on the ground, in the trenches and in terms of measurables.

The highlight of these first four picks, obviously, came when Green Bay packaged fifth-and-sixth round selections to gain a fourth rounder (pick 28 of the round, 125th overall), which it used to select UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin. I had a feeling last night – and wrote as much – that Green Bay would use some of its considerable late-round ammo to gain a third fourth round pick. I had no idea that pick would be used on a running back.

Franklin, 5-feet, 10-inches and 205 pounds, racked up 1,734 yards on 282 carries (6.1 YPC) and scored 13 touchdowns in 2012. He also caught 33 balls for 323 yards and two scores. He loves to get outside and, with his top-end speed, can leave defenders in his wake when he turns on the jets. He’s a durable back who is also quite good in pass protection, something you need if you just gave your quarterback an $110 million extension. If you’re thinking he’ll play lightening to second-round pick Eddie Lacy’s thunder, you aren’t alone.

Franklin, a player some had listed as the second-best back in the draft, provides great value at that spot. He also leaves the backfield situation, seemingly cleared up last night, murkier as of now. If you figure, as I do, that Franklin, Lacy, DuJuan Harris and Alex Green comprise the backs who could be on the roster, well, that’s probably one back too many right? And at this point, Harris is a better bet than Green is if you only keep three. But would they really give up on Green so soon? Remember, he was a third round pick just two years ago. Cutting him so soon goes against the entire organizational philosophy.

The smarter approach would be to cut fan-favorite John Kuhn. Kuhn is a short-yardage back who does well in pass-protection. Don’t Lacy and Franklin, combining their skill sets, make him obsolete? Could you turn, say Ryan Taylor, into an H-back type (OBOD’s Adam Somers made the Jim Kleinsasser comparison here, which really works)? That way you’d keep all four backs and have some real firepower there. Just something to consider.

Green Bay’s other two fourth round picks were spent on the offensive line. With the first of those, the Packers snagged Colorado tackle David Bakhtiari (109th pick overall, 12th pick of the round). Standing 6-feet, 4-inches and 295 pounds, he began his career on the right side before moving over to the left tackle spot for his final two years, where he played well. He’s got a nasty disposition and strong hands but can struggle with edge rushers, causing some to think he’ll move inside to guard. Either way, he’ll be a versatile player who should be expected to man a top backup spot somewhere right away.

The other offensive lineman taken in round four comes from the Ivy League as Green Bay tabbed Cornell tackle J.C. Tretter with the 25th pick of the round (122nd overall). At 6-feet, 4-inches, 302 pounds, Tretter has good feet, a good jump off the snap and a high-level of intelligence (obviously). His size and lack of arm length likely mean a move inside in the pros, possibly to guard but more likely to center. With Evan Dietrich-Smith on just a one-year deal, the best guess here is that Tretter will be groomed to be the center of the future for the Packers. If that’s the case, there’s a lot to like about this pick. You want a guy like this as your center

The last of the picks, for this wrap-up anyways, came in the fifth round when Green Bay selected Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde (159th overall, 26th pick of the round). Hyde provides great size for the corner position, standing 6-feet and 196 pounds. Hyde had 44 tackles (four for loss), 15 passes defended and one interception in his senior year last season. For his career, he picked off seven passes and defended 36.

Hyde possesses many of the traits Green Bay looks for in its defensive backs, namely he has very good ball skills. He also has great football smarts and awareness and is a really good tackler (something the Packers current DBs don’t always do well). He doesn’t have top-end speed, though, leading some to think he’ll be moved back to safety. That could happen eventually, but with his size, it’d be good to at least give him an early look at corner.

Okay, that wraps up those four picks. Unless Ted makes some more moves, there are five more picks to break down and we’ll do so shortly after the draft wraps up.

-Chris Lempesis

Lacy selection the highlight in a day of trading back

“No running backs this weekend, folks.”

Who wrote that just a couple of days ago? Who would say such a thing?

Well, that would be me.

In a move that a lot of Green Bay Packers fans wanted, but one yours truly did not expect at all, the Packers selected Alabama running back Eddie Lacy with the 29th pick in the second round (61st overall) of the draft Friday. Lacy’s selection came after Green Bay traded back six spots with the San Francisco 49ers (more on that in a bit).

Lacy, 5-feet, 11-inches and 231 pounds, was a one-year starter for the Crimson Tide. In that one year, last season, he racked up 1,322 yards on 204 attempts (6.5 YPC), hitting paydirt 17 times. He also caught 22 passes for 189 yards and two scores.

In a conference call with reporters after being selected, Lacy said “everything” when asked what his best attributes are. In reality, he might not be far off. He’s a tough, hard-nosed, physical runner who also brings a very nice, semi-sneaky dose of athletic ability (and boy, oh boy, can this guy spin).

It’s a safe bet that Lacy is already the No. 1 back on Green Bay’s depth chart at this point. He’ll play the role of every-down hammer for the offense. And when it’s 2nd-and-goal on the two-yard line, well, John Kuhn probably won’t be taking the handoffs anymore. DuJuan Harris becomes a change-of-pace back (and a nice one at that) and Alex Green likely serves as a pass-catching, screen-game back (where he probably should’ve been all along). This gives the Packers three backs in three clearly-defined roles, something they haven’t had in awhile. That’s important.

It also likely means the end of the line for James Starks and Cedric Benson in Titletown. But make no mistake, the offense just got quite a bit better with Lacy’s selection, one that I was never against, but rather just didn’t expect. That’s mostly due to how Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have treated the position in recent years. Outside of drafting Green in the third round two years ago, they’ve mostly tried to scrape by at running back.

But the selection of Lacy, along with first-round pick Datone Jones, shows the Packers are indeed going about building their team a different way. They are emphasizing attributes they’ve previously ignored as the focus now seems to be about getting tougher, more physical, fielding a team that is more capable of winning street fight games against the likes of the 49ers and New York Giants. These two picks don’t put Green Bay ahead of those teams, necessarily, but the Packers are much closer to catching them than they were Thursday afternoon.

As for Green Bay’s other selection Friday, there wasn’t one. In the third round, the Packers moved back five spots, from 88 to 93, in their second trade back of the day with San Francisco. At 93, Green Bay pulled off a deal with the Miami Dolphins, moving out of the third round completely, to pick 109 (12th pick of round four). Those two deals netted the Packers an extra seventh-rounder (from San Fran) and fifth-and-seventh-round picks (from Miami).

Toss in the first trade back deal with the Niners (which gave Green Bay a sixth-rounder) and the Packers now have a whopping 10 picks on the final day of the draft. I’m not at all pleased about allowing arguably your top competition in the NFC to move ahead of you twice, but Thompson definitely has a ton of ammunition for the final day now. With two 4s, three 5s, two 6s and 3 7s, it’s a safe bet Thompson will be looking to move back up on more than one occasion. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Green Bay used some of those later picks to move up early Saturday or even gain entirely new picks early on.

And with the depth that is still left on the board, that may end up being the smart play. Alabama’s duo of center Barrett Jones and nose tackle Jesse Williams are still available, as is Louisiana Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton, all players who would look great in green and gold. Either way, it’s sure to be a frantic final day Saturday and we’ll be recapping all the madness here. As always, stay tuned.

-Chris Lempesis

Packers bolster defensive front with selection of Jones

Everyone knew the Green Bay Packers needed to use the 2013 NFL Draft to get better along the defensive line.

The Packers definitely have some talent at that spot, some of it high-end (B.J. Raji). But there was still something missing. There wasn’t that consistently fearsome presence off the edge.

There just might be now.

With the 26th pick in the first round Thursday night, the Packers snagged UCLA defensive end Datone Jones. In several ways, Jones fits the mold of what Green Bay needed to come out of this draft with on the line.

First, his size. At 6-feet, 4-inches, Jones (17.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks last season) is instantly Green Bay’s tallest d-lineman. Should Johnny Jolly end up making the roster, Green Bay will be quite a bit taller up front, which is very important. Some will worry about Jones’ weight – at 283 pounds, you could consider him a tad light for a 3-4 NFL end. But there’s plenty of time for him to tack on an extra five-10 pounds, so I wouldn’t worry too much there.

He’s strong, smart, athletic and explosive and should help the Packers tremendously in defending read-option attacks, as well. In my draft primer from Thursday, I said the Packers needed to avoid project-type players and find guys who could make immediate impact at the positions they played in college. Check and check with this pick. If Jones isn’t starting in week one, that’s an upset in my mind.

Last season, Green Bay’s pass rush consisted far too often of Clay Matthews, Clay Matthews and Clay Matthews. This season, though, things could be much different (and much better). If the Packers can get Nick Perry, Matthews, Mike Neal (who really came on as the season progressed) and Jones on the field at the same time, that’s a foursome that WILL get after the quarterback. There’s simply too much there for teams to block all of them consistently.

Add in Raji’s occasional pass rush, Mike Daniels’ year two improvement and the return of Desmond Bishop and all of a sudden, pass rush could be a major strength not just for the defense, but the team as a whole.

You’ve got to love April, folks.

Now we enter into day two of the draft. The Packers have two picks, their own second and their own third and there’s still a lot of talent in this very deep draft left. As for what to look for today, I’m sticking with my primer predictions that had Green Bay going wide receiver and center, though I will adjust it a bit. Instead of strictly going for a wideout, I’d be good with the Packers taking a pass catcher of any kind, so a tight end would work, too.

Some names to consider at wide receiver include Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton, Texas A&M’s Ryan Swope, Marshall’s Aaron Dobson and, if Ted feels like taking a gamble, Tennessee Tech’s Da’Rick Rogers. Yes, Rogers has had a ton of issues, mostly related to failed drug tests. But he may also be the most talented wideout in the entire draft. Is he worth the risk?

At tight end, I still love San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar, but Cincinnati’s Travis Kelce and Rice’s Vance McDonald are a pair of other names to consider.

At center, I’m still all about Alabama’s Barrett Jones. Cal’s Brian Schwenke could be a good fit, as well.

What do you think about Jones? Where do you think Green Bay should look today? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter (@Olbagofdonuts).

-Chris Lempesis

Your 2013 Green Bay Packers draft primer

It’s here. It’s finally here!

Well, almost.

We sit just 18 hours away from the Super Bowl of the NFL offseason. That’s right – it’s just about time for the NFL Draft.

AWWWWWYEAHHHHH!!

(Sorry, I just can’t help myself.)

For fans of our beloved Green Bay Packers, what happens tonight through Saturday is of particular importance. As we know, Ted Thompson treats free agency like DARE pamphlets at a Snoop Dogg concert, so the draft is basically the entirety of Green Bay’s offseason in terms of adding new talent.

Not to mention, the Packers were one of the last eight teams playing this past season, so in order to get further in the postseason next time, Green Bay needs to add some key pieces at some important spots. Here’s where that will (or won’t) happen.

That being the case, I’ve decided to put together a primer for Packers fans for the draft. The following contains things I’d like to see happen and things I’d rather avoid for these massively important three days. Hopefully I can help guide you, my fellow Cheesehead, a little bit here, as well.
Continue reading Your 2013 Green Bay Packers draft primer

Favre and Rodgers re-unite to present at awards show – where do we go from here?

If you were wondering when – or, maybe, if – we would ever see Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre standing side-by-side again, you got your answer Saturday night.

In a rather surprising turn of events, the pair came together as presenters at the NFL Honors awards show in New Orleans. Outside of four post-game meetings, by all accounts the pair hasn’t really spoken since Favre’s time in Green Bay came to an end after the 2007 season.

Wait a second, wait a second – who am I kidding? “Surprising turn of events”? This was mind-blowing. It was utterly shocking. So shocking, in fact, that yours truly had absolutely no idea how to handle the news of them presenting together when I first heard it. Those two guys? Together in the same space? Were their respective families being held hostage and them going up on stage together was the only way to spare their lives? It didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

But there they were.
Continue reading Favre and Rodgers re-unite to present at awards show – where do we go from here?

So, should we continue talking about the 2013 season? Sure, why not!

I promised you a second part of our early offseason primer for the Green Bay Packers and dammit, that’s what you’re going to get.

Right. Now.

Part one, for those who missed it (shame on you if you are one such person), can be found here. In part two, we’re talking contracts, the draft and free agency, not necessarily in that order. Enjoy!

  • Question: We’re still a few months away from the draft. But let’s be honest, it’s never too early to talk about the draft, right? What are some areas the Packers could look to bolster in April?

Answer: No, it’s never too early. Never. In fact, I pretty much began my internal countdown to the draft within a day or two of the loss to the Niners (only 95 days away from round one!). Yeah, I’m deranged, I know. I haven’t really started my in-depth research – though I’m going to – so as of now, we’ll look more at positions rather than specific players.
Continue reading So, should we continue talking about the 2013 season? Sure, why not!