(Updated Tuesday, May 25th)
*****I decided to begin another blog that will focus entirely on sports outside of Milwaukee and Green Bay, www.ohyeahbytheway.wordpress.com. Strotty’s Blog will now focus on the Packers, Marquette Golden Eagles, Bucks, and Brewers. Check out the other Web site for articles and opinions on other sports.*****
I’ve got some big updates for all of you fans out there regarding my work. I surpassed the 200,000 read total this month and currently have 143,779 reads on Bleacher Report and 67,638 reads on Strotty’s Blog. Those numbers are pretty crazy and it’s been such an honor to have so many people look at my work.
Examiner.com has chosen me to be their official fantasy basketball expert, so keep on the lookout for all my work there and post comments or questions you have regarding fantasy basketball!
I have been working with Marquette.Scout.com, an affiliate of FoxSports.com, during Marquette’s roller coaster of a season and that has been unbelievable stuff. To be able to sit courtside and write about my favorite college basketball team is something I could have only dreamed of a year ago. Marquette made the NCAA Tournament and I was able to cover them in New York at the Big East Tournament and in San Jose for their loss to the Washington Huskies.
Also, you can find my work as well as other cool features and outstanding articles on BleacherReport.com. Just search my name once you are there or click on the link to the right of my blog entitled “Strotty on Bleacher Report”. Recently I was approached by the staff on [B/R], and they made me a Featured Columnist on the site for the Packers. It is a fantastic honor and I look forward to continuing my success there.
You can still find all of my Packers articles by going to Examiner.com and helping my cause out there.
Brewerchatters.com and Packerchatters.com have seen my work on Bleacher Report and Strotty’s Blog and have asked me to come on their staff as a writer. You can check out the websites by clicking on the links above or on the right side of the screen. ESPNMilwaukee.com has linked my blog on their “Packers Updates” a few times and that has been an unbelievable honor. Strotty’s Blog is now on Facebook! Become a fan today and keep up to date with all the happenings from the blog as well as discussion with other fans. Strotty’s Blog has recently teamed up with Twitter so feel free to follow me and see my updates on the sports world.
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The Green Bay Packers picked up their second road win of the season in a 27-17 win over the Chicago Bears. The win moved Mike McCarthy’s squad to a perfect 3-0, tied atop the NFC North with the Detroit Lions. It was the first time this season the Packers have looked dominant on both sides of the ball, putting together a complete game on both sides of the ball and taking down a division opponent and hated rival in the process. Here’s a breakdown of the studs and duds from Week 3 in Chicago:
Right tackle Marshall Newhouse: When starter Bryan Bulaga suffered a knee bruise in the first half, Newhouse was inserted into the starting lineup and played well. He lined up over Israel Idonije most of the afternoon but also saw action against Julius Peppers, holding his ground and not allowing much pressure, if any. If Bulaga misses an extended period of time, Newhouse, who was great in training camp, will do just fine in his place.
Tight end Jermichael Finley: After two weeks of coming so close to big afternoons, Finley had the biggest of his career yesterday. He caught seven passes for 85 yards and found the end zone three times, taking advantage of Chicago’s injury-depleted secondary. It’s apparent Finley is fully healthy and will continue to be Aaron Rodger’s favorite target in the red zone.
Running back Ryan Grant: Well hello there, Ryan. After two silent weeks, Grant was a workhorse in the backfield Sunday, rushing for 92 yards on 17 carries (5.4 ypc). James Starks threw up a clunker, rushing 11 times for 5 yards and a fumble as the Packers were preparing to put the game away up 27-17. It was a reminder that A) Grant still has something left in the tank and B) the Packers are going to use the hot hand each week.
Safety Morgan Burnett:
The 2011 NFL season kicks off tonight as the Green Bay Packers play host to the New Orleans Saints. The past two Super Bowl winners will get things going around 7:40 CT after Lady Antebellum, Kid Rock and Maroon 5 perform as part of the NFL Kickoff celebration, or something like that. But I digress, back to football. Here are five keys to the game that will decide which one of these two NFC contenders will start the year 1-0, and which will be looking for the first win in Week 2.
Battle of the blitz
No one was better in 2010 at passing against a blitz than Aaron Rodgers, and he will need to be just as good Thursday night. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has no problem blitzing from all directions and, with the way the Packers offensive line played in the preseason, this could be a major problem for the Packers. Rodgers will have to be on his toes and looking for his underneath routes, tight ends will need to block well in the backfield, and, simply put, the offensive line will need to step up.
On the other end, Dom Capers is sure to bring an assortment of blitz packages against the Saints’ high-powered passing attack. Drew Brees is just as good as Rodgers at getting the ball out of his hand, and a pair of pass-catching, check down running backs in rookie Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas means the Packers will need to get to Brees quickly.
Whoever gets more pressure on their opponent could walk away with a win.
The health of Mike Neal
For the second time in as many years, the Green Bay Packers will begin the season with three undrafted free agents on their 53-man roster. A year after undrafted rookies cornerback Sam Shields, outside linebacker Frank Zombo, and offensive lineman Nick McDonald found spots on the roster, safety M.D. Jennings and outside linebackers Vic So’oto and Jamari Lattimore made the 53-man roster after not being selected in April’s NFL draft.
So who exactly are these guys? Here’s a look.
M.D. Jennings, safety
What’s his story: The former Arkansas State safety chose the Red Wolves over the likes of Ole Miss and Mississippi State in order to see immediate playing time. After redshirting in 2006, he saw action in 12 games his freshman year, all as a reserve. He started his sophomore season and recorded a team-high three interceptions, five pass break-ups and 67 tackles. In 2009, he recorded 64 tackles, a team-high six pass break-ups and an interception. He was named to the All-Sun Belt Conference first team in 2010 when he recorded 84 tackles (second on the team), three interceptions, and a sack.
Why wasn’t he drafted: As it is for most undrafted rookies, especially the three who made the Packers’ 2011 roster, Jennings is undersized. Some scouts projected that Jennings would be a nickel corner at the next level due to his 187-pound frame, but for now the Packers project him as a safety. His ball skills were a plus but, despite 225 tackles over his last three years, his run support lacked. His 4.60 40-yard dash was just average.
What he does for the Packers: Other than Charlie Peprah, the Packers had little depth at the safety position entering 2011. Cornerbacks Jarrett Bush and Brandon Underwood (cut) had the ability to play safety if needed, but Bush is much better as a cornerback and Underwood was let go. That left an opening for a reserve behind Collins, and Jennings was that man.
He will primarily act as a special teams ace but he showed promise during the preseason as a safety, totaling 11 tackles and an interception. He beat out Anthony Levine and Anthony Bratton for the final spot.
Vic So’oto, outside linebacker
What’s his story:
After finalizing the initial 53-man roster yesterday evening, the Green Bay Packers signed eight players to their practice squad Sunday morning. RB Brandon Saine, T/G Ray Dominguez, WR Diondre Borel, C Sampson Genus, QB Graham Harrell, WR Tori Gurley, CB Brandian Ross and WR Chastin West, all of whom were with the Packers in training camp, were all brought back to the practice squad. Also of note, Ted Thompson did not make a waiver claim on any players, so the initial 53-man roster stays intact.
Running Back Brandon Saine: The Packers decided to go with three running backs and John Kuhn in the backfield, which made Saine’s services disposable. The Packers, however, are surely glad to bring him back as he showed solid, North-South running ability in the preseason.
Tackle/Guard Ray Dominguez: Thompson loves his versatile offensive linemen, and Dominguez is no exception. The massive, 6-foot, 4-inch Dominguez will provide depth for a thin Packers’ offensive line and, at just 23 years old, still has room to grow. The Packers could still sign an unrestricted free agent lineman as depth before Week 1.
Wide Receiver Diondre Borel:
Quarterback (2): Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn
Cut: Graham Harrell
Breakdown: So Aaron Rodgers survives another year of Saturday cuts. But seriously, Rodgers and Flynn were locked into their positions and the only real question was whether the Packers A) believed Harrell warranted a spot on the roster or B) would pass through waivers and be added to the practice squad. General Manager Ted Thompson went with the latter, cutting Harrell and hoping no team takes a flyer on him. There’s a small chance a team will grab Harrell and put him on their 53-man roster, but he didn’t show much in the preseason and is more of a system quarterback (the Packers’ system) than anything at this point. With Flynn set to test the free agent market in 2012, Harrell could be the top candidate to backup Rodgers next year.
Running back (3): Ryan Grant, James Starks, Alex Green
Cut: Dimitri Nance, Brandon Saine
Breakdown: Nance and Saine were two of the last cuts to be publicly announced, so there was optimism that one of the two would stick. However, the Packers instead decided to keep 10 linebackers. The decision to cut Saine and Nance should also dispel any rumors that the Packers will try to trade Ryan Grant, who is in the final year of his contract. Starks and Green provide excellent depth and Kuhn is able to run the ball as well, so there was really no need to keep either of the two cut.
Fullback (1): John Kuhn
Cut: Quinn Johnson (trade), Jon Hoese
Breakdown: The question of whether or not there was a roster spot for Johnson was answered when it was revealed the Packers were keeping five tight ends. However, it was announced that the Packers received an undisclosed draft pick for Johnson in a trade with Tennessee. The move coincides with Titans’ fullback Ahmad Hall being suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s drug policy. Since there really was no room for Johnson, it’s good to see him stick with another team and the Packers to get something back for him. Kuhn will enter 2011 as the Packers’ only fullback.
Wide Receiver (5): Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb
Cut: Diondre Borel, Chastin West, Tori Gurley, Kerry Taylor, Shaky Smithson (I.R.)
Breakdown: No cuts were easy on the ultra-talented and deep Packers’ roster, but letting Gurley and West go rank as two of the toughest. It was known going into camp that the five who were ultimately kept were locks and, with the depth at tight end, it was going to be difficult for a sixth wide receiver to hang on to a roster spot. West’s production and Gurley’s size were obvious throughout training camp and the preseason, but the fact was that they were disposable with the depth already at the position. The Packers would love for West and Gurley to sneak through waivers, but it seems unlikely that both will and it’s more unlikely that both do.
Tight End (5): Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor
The Green Bay Packers picked up their first win of the preseason Friday night, defeating the Arizona Cardinals 28-20 at Lambeau Field. There were plenty of individual winners and losers from the game, but here are five storylines to take from the Packers’ home preseason opener.
Chastin West: Worthy of a roster spot?
Entering the season, it was almost a guarantee that the Packers would keep five wide receivers. Chastin West is making the Packers’ brass think twice.
West hauled in five catches for 134 yards Friday night, including a 97-yard touchdown grab from Matt Flynn in the fourth quarter. It was just another chapter in what has been an impressive preseason showing from the first year receiver out of Fresno State, who now stands a chance at making the 53-man roster.
There is realistically no way West would stick on the Packers’ practice squad, as another team would give him a look on their roster, so the team will have a decision to make.
Should West stick, a player such as Quinn Johnson or one of Tom Crabtree/Ryan Taylor would have a much tougher time making the roster. While the Packers will be fine at wide receiver without West, he is turning into quite a talent the Packers could use down the road as emergency insurance (Donald Driver’s age, Jordy Nelson 2012 FA).
Defensive Line Wearing Thin; Raji moves outside
Winner: Randall Cobb, WR: The second round draft pick from Kentucky was electric in his first game as a professional, hauling in three passes for 60 yards and returning two kickoffs for 29 yards apiece. Cobb is built in the mold of a young Donald Driver/Percy Harvin and adds a new dimension to the Packers’ offense.
Loser: Pat Lee, CB: The biggest loser of the night was Lee, who was burnt early and often. He looked slow covering both Josh Cribbs and rookie Greg Little, and the outstanding play of fellow cornerback Josh Gordy may have cost Lee a roster spot. He is most likely on the outside looking in after tonight’s performance.
Winner: Morgan Burnett, SS: After missing all but four games in 2010, Burnett returned in a big way. On back-to-back plays in the first quarter, Burnett blew up an inside run on second down and made an open-field tackle on tight end Evan Moore to force a fourth down. His time was limited, but he sure made the most of it.
Loser: Second string offensive line: For the most part the starters on the offensive line were stellar, giving Aaron Rodgers plenty of time to stand in the pocket. But for as good as they were, their backups were just as bad. Marshall Newhouse (see below) looked lost at right tackle and T.J. Lang was just as bad at left tackle. The second group will need work.
Winner: Derek Sherrod, OL:
The new kickoff rules certainly did not matter to rookie Randall Cobb, who returned two kicks in the opening quarter for 29 yards a piece. He showed no hesitation, hit the hole, and spun off a few tacklers to pick up extra yards. Fellow rookie Alex Green, who sat out tonight, is listed as the starting kick returner, but Cobb will give him a run for his money.
It was Frank Zombo, not Erik Walden, who started at right outside linebacker to begin the night.
Mike Neal showed great push and got down the line to make a shoestring tackle on running back Peyton Hillis on the Browns’ first offensive series. He looks small compared to Cullen Jenkins, but he makes his presence known.
Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush were both burnt badly on the Browns’ first possession. Lee failed to get his head around on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Colt McCoy to Josh Cribbs, while Bush bit on a playaction pass that allowed McCoy to pass for a first down.
Ryan Grant is listed as the starting running back in Green Bay, but James Starks looked excellent in his first quarter carries. He runs with North-South power but also has quick feet that allow him to make great cuts. He ran two times for 14 yards in the first quarter. Grant did not rush but caught one pass for five yards.
Training camp has come and gone for the Green Bay Packers, who will begin their preseason schedule tomorrow night in Cleveland against the Browns. Some players have shown up in a big way, others have floundered and others have suffered injuries that will hurt their chances of making the team.
On the eve of the the 2011 Packers season officially getting under way, here is one person’s take on who will make the 53-man roster when the team takes the field against the Saints on Sept. 8 in Lambeau Field.
QB (2): Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn
Why: Graham Harrell has performed well in training camp but there is no reason to keep three quarterbacks on the Packers roster.
RB (3): Ryan Grant, James Starks, Alex Green
Why: Dimitri Nance is ahead of Green on the unofficial depth chart right now, but Green should move to the No. 3 spot by the end of training camp. Green is expected to field kick returns, as well.
FB: John Kuhn, Quinn Johnson
Why: Quinn Johnson isn’t flashy but is an important aspect to the Packers’ offense as the only true “bruiser” in the backfield. The tight end situation could change things, however (see below).
WR: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb
Why: Tori Gurley, Brett Swain and Chastin West certainly are good enough to make the roster, but with so much talent at both wide receiver AND tight end mean the Packers are most likely to keep just five wide receivers.
TE: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, D.J. Williams, Tom Crabtree, Ryan Taylor
After the NFL lockout delayed the meeting between President Barack Obama and the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers for months, the two parties met Thursday afternoon at the White House.
Obama, a known Chicago Bears fan, jokingly admitted that seeing the Packers enter his house to celebrate the championship was difficult.
Back in January, the Packers defeated the Chicago Bears, 21-14, in the NFC Championship Game. Two weeks later, the Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25, to win Super Bowl XLV.
In his speech, Obama also
“I guess I especially have to welcome Charles Woodson,” the President said. “Where’s Woodson? I admit Woodson’s a good ball player. And for those who don’t know, I gave Woodson a little bulletin board material apparently, last year.”
After the Packers defeated the Bears, Woodson addressed the team and declared, “If the President don’t wanna come watch us play, we’ll go see him!”
The All-Pro cornerback was referring to the invitation to the White House all major sports teams receive for winning their respective championships.
Later that week, Obama flew to Green Bay to visit a local company and was greeted by Governor Scott Walker and Green Bay Mayor James Schmidt, where he was given a jersey signed by Woodson that said, “See you at the White House.”
“And I have now learned something that every NFL quarterback knows all too well: Don’t mess with Charles Woodson,” the President joked.
Woodson then presented President Obama with a stock certificate making him an official owner of the publicly owned team. Obama then created some mild controversy when he exclaimed, “If I’m part owner, I think we should initiate a trade to send [Rodgers] down to the Bears,” potentially taking a shot at Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
NOW it’s officially football season.
The Green Bay Packers will play their first game since winning Super Bowl XLV when they take on the Browns in Cleveland on Saturday night.
While the preseason contest has no official meaning, there will be plenty to watch for tomorrow. These five headlines will be broken down in a post tomorrow following the game.
Which cornerbacks will step up with top three battling injuries?
Starters Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams both worked with the scout team rather than the first team Thursday night, which could indicate that they will sit out Saturday night. Sam Shields was injured on the second to last play of practice last night and reserves Davon House and Brandian Ross have missed the entire practice week battling hamstring injuries. That leaves just Jarrett Bush, Josh Gordy and Pat Lee as the only three healthy cornerbacks for Saturday night.
While head coach Mike McCarthy said there is a chance a few of the injured cornerbacks will be ready for Saturday night, this is a huge opportunity for Gordy and Ross (if he can play). Brandon Underwood’s tenure in Green Bay is likely over as he is expected to miss two weeks with a knee injury, and that could open up an extra spot at the position. Both Gordy and Ross have played well but, if Gordy can play well with the first team defense, it could give him the upper hand in making the roster.
Healthy? 2010 injured can prove it tomorrow night
The Green Bay Packers released their first unofficial depth chart of 2011 Tuesday, four days before their preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns.
With four preseason games and just under a month before Week 1, take this depth chart with a large grain of salt. Plenty will happen between now and Sept. 4, meaning plenty of names will be moved around.
Here is a look at the depth chart, via Packers.com:
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Graham Harrell
RB: Ryan Grant, James Starks, Dimitri Nance, Alex Green/Brandon Saine
FB: John Kuhn, Quinn Johnson, Jon Hoese
WR1: Greg Jennings, James Jones, Randall Cobb, Brett Swain/Diondre Borel, Kerry Taylor
WR2: Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, Chastin West, Tori Gurley/Antonio Robinson, Shaky Smithson
TE: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams/Ryan Taylor/Spencer Havner
LT: Chad Clifton, Marshall Newhouse, Theo Sherman
LG: Derek Sherrod, T.J. Lang, Adrian Battles
C: Scott Wells, Nick McDonald, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Sampson Genus
RG: Josh Sitton, Nick McDonald, Caleb Schlauderaff
RT: Bryan Bulaga, Chris Campbell, Ray Dominguez
In case you haven’t heard, the quarterback spot in Green Bay is locked up for the foreseeable future.
While that is great news for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers receiving corps and the coaching staff, it has created a roadblock for backup Matt Flynn.
As the three-year veteran enters the 2011 season, the final year of his rookie contract, his audition for a potential move at the end of the year will come over the next four weeks as the Packers go through their preseason schedule.
A seventh round draft choice out of LSU, where he won the National Championship in 2008, Flynn entered the league without a rocket arm, without the measurables of a franchise quarterback, and without the pinpoint accuracy of a player like Matt Ryan, who was selected third overall by the Falcons in that same draft.
However, Flynn excelled early in preseason games and was awarded the backup job to Rodgers over second round draft choice Brian Brohm, currently with the Buffalo Bills. In his rookie season, Flynn finished the preseason 27-of-42 (64.3 percent) for 209 yards and three touchdowns.
A year later he threw just eight passes in preseason, completing six for 63 yards. In 2010, Flynn turned heads again by completing 50-of-85 passes for 583 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, including a 304-yard performance in the finale against Kansas City.
His most impressive performance came last year in his first and only start to date, when he filled in for an injured Aaron Rodgers in New England and passed for 251 yards and three touchdowns in an eventual 31-27 loss.
The secret is now out on Flynn as a potential starting quarterback, and one executive in personnel for an NFL team even touted him as “the best backup in the NFL.”
Unfortunately for Flynn, he will not get a chance to start, barring injury to Rodgers, until at least the 2012 season.
The Green Bay Packers coaching staff will need to cut the team roster from 80 to 75 on Aug. 31, and then again to 53 players by Sept. 4, four days before the Packers open the 2011 NFL season with a home game against the Saints.
While the Packers have approximately 40 locks (by my estimation), there are plenty of players fighting for both active roster spots as well as practice squad spots. Here are five players who could surprise by being suited up on Sept. 8.
Brandian Ross, CB: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was intercepted just 11 times during the 2010 season, so when it happens people take notice. Ross, an undrafted rookie free agent, picked off Rodgers on Family Night last Saturday and returned it for an interception.
With Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Davon House all assumed locks to make the team, Ross will have his work cut out for him. He will most likely be competing with Brandon Underwood, Pat Lee, Josh Gordy and Jarrett Bush for two roster spots. Helping his cause is the fact that Ross played safety for two years at Youngstown State, before shifting to cornerback.
He has the size (6-feet, 191 pounds) and now has the attention of coaches and fans alike. Should he continue his impressive streak of play in the coming weeks, he just might find himself a roster spot. After all, a year ago Sam Shields was an undrafted free agent cornerback, and that turned out fine.
Brandon Saine, RB: Not much has been said out of training camp regarding Saine, another undrafted rookie. The Ohio State Buckeye finished his career with 1,408 yards and 17 touchdowns and ran a 4.43 forty-yard dash at his pro day, but a lack of top end speed and durability concerns left him undrafted.
No position was more injury-riddled for the Green Bay Packers in 2010 (and there were a lot of them) than at linebacker. Of the 15 Packers who eventually were placed on injured reserve, four of those players, linebackers Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar, Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga, were all contributors to a 2009 defense that ranked second in yards allowed and seventh in points allowed.
The depth concerns were amplified at outside linebacker, where Jones had been the clear-cut starter in 2009 after taking over for an injured Aaron Kampman. Inside, Barnett and Chillar were only reserves behind A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop and, while Chillar was used in situational packages, he was easier to replace than finding a new starting outside linebacker.
Jones had not shown any signs of a sophomore slump in his five starts in 2010, which included the first two of the season and weeks five through seven. While he did not produce a sack in those five starts after recording four sacks in seven 2009 starts, Jones recorded 27 tackles, including 16 solo. In a Week 7 contest against the Vikings, however, Jones aggravated a shoulder injury suffered in training camp and was shelved for the rest of the season.
Filling in for Jones was little-known Frank Zombo, an undrafted rookie from Central Michigan. After 32 teams, including the Packers, passed over him in seven different rounds, Zombo tore up the 2010 preseason (18 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble) and found himself on the 53-man roster. He then wasted no time getting into the action, recording a sack in Week 1 against the Eagles and again in Week 3 against the Bears. It seemed the Packers had found their answer in Zombo, but a Week 14 knee injury against the Lions sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season, putting the Packers up against the wall to once again strike gold on a seemingly no-name outside linebacker.
This time around it was Erik Walden’s turn to make general manager Ted Thompson look good. A sixth round draft choice by the Cowboys in 2008, Walden saw time on special teams for Dallas and the Dolphins before latching on with the Packers in October, shortly after Jones was lost for the season.
He only started two regular season games, Week 15 in New England and Week 17 against Chicago, but he certainly made them count. In the season’s final week, with the Packers facing a must-win situation to make the playoffs, Walden ran circles around the Bears offensive line, finishing with 12 tackles (11 solo) and three sacks, earning him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors as the Packers defeated the Bears 10-3 to claim the NFC’s final playoff spot.