A Scout’s Take on the Wisconsin vs. Michigan B1G Matchup


As the 4-0 and eighth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers prepare to take on the 4-0 and fifth-ranked Michigan Wolverines on Saturday afternoon at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, the team from Madison has been hit with some tough injury news.

First,  it was announced this week that kicker Rafael Gaglianone, 7 of 8 on field-goal attempts through three games (including the game-winner vs. LSU), would miss the rest of the season after undergoing back surgery.

Then late on Thursday, it was announced that outside linebacker Vince Biegel is expected to be sidelined several weeks after suffering a broken foot.

Both of those injuries will be difficult to overcome, especially the one to Biegel.

Biegel, who is a senior, was named third-team All-Big Ten in 2015. This year, No. 47 has nine tackles, including two for loss, and two hurries. His pressure against LSU quarterback Brandon Harris resulted in the victory-clinching interception in the opener.

Both Biegel and fellow outside linebacker T.J. Watt have played the run extremely well through four games, plus have put constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Watt leads the Badgers in sacks with 4½ and in tackles for loss with 5½.

Time will tell who defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox will call upon to take Biegel’s place at outside linebacker. Wilcox has a couple of options.

One would be to put redshirt freshman Zack Baun, Biegel’s backup, into the starting lineup opposite T.J. Watt.

Another would be to move redshirt junior Jack Cichy from inside linebacker into Biegel’s spot and move redshirt sophomore Ryan Connelly into Cichy’s spot. Cichy leads the Badgers with 23 tackles.

Luckily for the Badgers, their linebacker corp is the deepest and most talented position group on the team. That being said, it will be very tough to replace Biegel.


Linebacker T.J. Watt

Both the Badgers and the Wolverines are also 1-0 in the Big Ten. This has to be the biggest game that the two teams have played against each other in over a decade.

Michigan last won a Big Ten title in 2003, while Wisconsin won three straight Big Ten titles in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The last time these two teams met was when the Badgers rolled to a 48-28 victory at Ann Arbor in 2010. Current head coach Paul Chryst was the offense coordinator for Wisconsin in that contest.

The Badgers will be making their second straight weekend trip to the state of Michigan, as Wisconsin is coming off of a very convincing 30-6 victory over the Michigan State Spartans last Saturday in East Lansing.

That win was the second one in which the Badgers had defeated a top-10 opponent this season, with the first one being the victory against LSU at Lambeau Field.

The Badger defense will have a big test on Saturday against Michigan.

The Wolverine offense has been fantastic so far, cranking up 45 points or more in each of the first four games versus Hawaii, UCF, Colorado and Penn State.

The Wisconsin defense figures to put up a much bigger fight however.

The Badgers allow just 80.5 yards per game on the ground, which has them ranked 10th nationally.

Michigan rolled up 326 rushing yards in last Saturday’s 49-10 trouncing of Penn State. The Wolverines are averaging 229.8 yards per game toting the rock. For Wisconsin to get a win on Saturday, they definitely have to stop the run.

Senior running back De’Veon Smith leads the Wolverines with 259 rushing yards and averages an impressive 6.6 yards per carry.

As a group, the Badgers rank seventh nationally in scoring defense (11.8 points per game) and 12th in total defense (277.0 yards per game).

In passing defense, the Badgers are tied for 10th nationally with six interceptions.

The Badgers will be facing quarterback Wilton Speight, who has performed well as a first-year starter for the Wolverines. Speight has thrown nine touchdown passes against one interception while completing 63.2 percent of his passes for 875 yards.


Jabrill Peppers

The player to watch on Michigan is definitely sophomore Jabrill Peppers. Peppers can do it all. He is force on defense, plus is an exceptional kick returner. And like former Heisman Trophy-winning Wolverine Charles Woodson, Peppers likes to play on offense at times as well.

“He’s made it clear he wants to do as much as possible,” head coach Jim Harbaugh said. “That isn’t in question. There’s no question that all of our coaches, special teams, offense and defense, they’re like a bull with their paw in the ground, they want Jabrill involved.”

Chryst is definitely is aware of Peppers as well.

“He does a lot of the little things that are kind of reserved for when you specialize in it,” Chryst said. “That’s what’s impressive: his knowledge and awareness of the game. Clearly as an athlete, he’s special, but I think the football part of him — the understanding — that’s what to me really makes him. He’s got to be the best player in college football right now.”

Peppers has rotated playing both at safety and linebacker for the Wolverines and has been outstanding. Peppers already has 9.5 tackles for a loss and ranks second on the Wolverines with 33 tackles. He also leads the Big Ten with a 22.7-yard punt return average and has already had three returns of 50 or more yards (two punts, one kickoff).

The Wisconsin offense will certainly have to be aware of Peppers and the 11th-ranked Michigan defense.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook of the Badgers will be getting his second career start on Saturday, and he will be aiming to follow up on a strong effort last week versus the Spartans.

Hornibrook was unflappable, as he passed for 195 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Spartans.

The Badgers will need to exploit the biggest weakness of the Wolverines on defense, which is stopping the run. Michigan is ranked just 40th in stopping the run and have given up 122.5 yards per game.

Wisconsin has not been bad in running the football so far in 2016 (184.3 yards per game), but to win on Saturday, they will need an impressive effort by Corey Clement and company.

Clement leads the Badgers in rushing with 251 yards  and five touchdowns. Dare Ogunbowale has also chipped in 182 yards and another touchdown.

In the the passing game,  Jazz Peavy (16-274-2), Robert Wheelwright (15-228-0) and Troy Fumagalli (14-169-0) are the Big Three to watch as receivers.


Head coach Paul Chryst talks with quarterback Alex Hornibrook

Overall on offense, the Badgers are second in the nation in time of possession, as they have held the ball an average of 37 minutes per game. If that comes close to happening again on Saturday versus the Wolverines, Wisconsin will have a solid shot of winning.

Special teams will be key in a game like this, and the Badgers obviously have to be aware of the return skills of Peppers.

Plus, now the Badgers know that Gaglianone won’t be returning as their kicker. That means that Andrew Endicott will again handle field goal and extra-point attempts. Last week against Michigan State, Endicott made a 41-yard field goal and 3 of 4 extra-point attempts.

With a game like this looming, it’s always a pleasure to get the perspective of NFL scout Chris Landry. I occasionally write for Landry on his website and his takes about college and pro football are always insightful.

Landry talked about the Wisconsin versus Michigan matchup on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show on Wednesday.

“Hey listen, I’m going to tell you something,” Landry said. “Wisconsin has looked better and better. They were not that impressive against LSU when they beat LSU. But they have gotten better. [Alex] Hornibrook has allowed them to attack a little bit in the passing game.

“Michigan, who I think has been overrated, and I still do to some degree, they are getting a little bit more impressive on film. Their Front 7 is pretty good defensively. They are tough and physical on offense.

“I can’t wait to watch this game. I think this is going to say a lot. I like Michigan a little bit at home, but don’t be surprised here. This would not be that big of an upset [if Wisconsin wins]. Only in terms that it’s on the road.

“Wisconsin is playing well. Certainly they are playing the best in the West. Iowa is struggling on the offensive line and at quarterback. Nebraska is good, but not quite there yet. This Wisconsin team is interesting and we’ll see how much better.

“Let me caution that Wisconsin is getting into the meat of their schedule. And they were very impressive last week [against Michigan State]. If they win this week, we can really start talking about the Badgers a little bit more.”

I agree with Landry. I would not be shocked at all if Wisconsin comes out of this game with a victory.

Add to that, the Badgers have to be coming into this game with a chip on their shoulder. I mean, they have beaten two top-10 teams for the first time since the 1962 season, yet are still 10 ½-point underdogs versus the Wolverines.

This just a week after Wisconsin upset eighth-ranked Michigan State 30-6 at East Lansing. After that game, Biegel tweeted, “Keep sleeping on Wisconsin.”

But Biegel will not be on the field this Saturday like he was just a week ago.

Still, the Badgers have been playing with a next man up attitude all season long, whether it’s been at quarterback, running back, linebacker, tight end or on the offensive line.

That mantra has put the Badgers at the precipice of perhaps beating their third top-10 opponent of the 2016 season. And it only gets tougher down the road with No. 2 Ohio State coming to Camp Randall in a couple of weeks to play the Badgers.

Bottom line, time will tell if the Badgers can continue on this historical run they are on in terms of beating top-10 opponents.

I know this much, I won’t be surprised if Bucky Badger comes away with another top-10 win on Saturday at “The Big House” in Ann Arbor.

Green Bay Packers: What is the Problem With the Offense?

during the game on September 18, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mike McCarthy took over the reins as head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 2006. Up until last season, the offense of the Packers was in the top 10 in the entire NFL in eight out of nine years.

The only year the Packers were not in the top 10 was in 2012, when the Packers finished 13th, which is still in the upper half of the league.

But in 2015, the Packers fell to 23rd in the NFL in total offense. Guess where they are after two games in the 2016 season? That would be 29th. Yes, you read that correctly. 29th.

The passing offense of the Packers was always in the top 10 under McCarthy until last season. But in 2015, the passing offensive also went south, all the way to 25th.

This season the trend continues, as the passing offense is ranked 30th.

Not only that, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers is on an alarming trend downward. Rodgers has gone 14 consecutive games without achieving a passer rating of 100. This from a guy who had a career passer rating of 104.1 heading into the season, which was the best in NFL history.

In 2016, through two games, Rodgers currently has a passer rating of just 82.6.

In terms of running the ball, historically under McCarthy, the Packers were quite pedestrian toting the rock up until 2013, which marked the arrival of Eddie Lacy. Up until that point, the Packers averaged ranking 21st in rushing offense each year.

But in 2013, the Packers jumped up to the No.7 spot in running the football. In 2014, Green Bay was ranked 11th. And even in 2015, when there were questions about Lacy’s weight, the Packers were still ranked 12th in the league in rushing offense.

But that stat has dropped as well in 2016. The Packers are currently ranked 19th in rushing offense.

So, what is the problem with offense of the Packers? Well, that is a difficult question to answer.

It’s sort of like a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma.

Let’s take a look at two different perspectives. Last week I talked with NFL scout Chris Landry about how the Packers offense looked in the opening game versus the Jacksonville Jaguars in hot and humid Jacksonville.

Landry first talked about the performance of the offensive line in that game and also the performance of Rodgers.

“I thought they did a pretty good job,” Landry said, speaking of the offensive line. “The interior of the line did a good job. [David] Bakhtiari played well for them. It was a really good performance. Jacksonville is a good team. I thought that Jacksonville had a good chance to beat them [the Packers] at home. If it wasn’t for Aaron Rodgers, they would have.

“Aaron, I didn’t mean to omit him, because he was one of the highest-graded players. Of spectacular plays, there is no doubt that Aaron Rodgers had the most spectacular plays of any quarterback in last week’s games.

“He kind of bailed them out. Jacksonville was really good and [Blake] Bortles played well enough to win, but that’s the beauty of Aaron Rodgers. What I’ve mentioned to Bob and other Packer fans is that last year they had no protections and had no vertical passing game, everything was horizontal.

“The ability to protect better allows Aaron Rodgers, it puts that paint brush in his hands, and it allows him to make plays. Yeah, they aren’t healthy, Jordy Nelson is not quite back, and there are issues, but he [Rodgers] cures a lot of ills.”


All of that is true, but No. 12 came back and had one the worst games he has played in recent memory versus the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night in Minneapolis. Greg Cosell, who has evaluated tape for 36 years for NFL Films, doesn’t like what he’s been seeing regarding the play of Rodgers.

Cosell said this on his recent appearance on The Herd:

“The film says Rodgers’ poor play at the end of 2015 has continued into 2016. He’s regressed to become a “scattershot thrower” who is missing throws he used to routinely make, and he refuses to execute the Packers offense. If the Packers are going to have success, Rodgers needs to get back to executing the offense within the designed framework. Right now, it looks bad.”

So, what does Rodgers think of the opinions of those in the media.

“I don’t care about that,” Rodgers said at his weekly press conference on Wednesday.

Rodgers also accepted the blame about his performance against the Vikings.

“I have to,” Rodgers said. “I have to lead by example. As a leader, you have to take the blame when it’s necessary, and even sometimes when it’s not your fault. I think it’s important to let those guys know that you’re going to stick your body on the line, but also you’re going to stand up for them when you need to in the locker room, the meeting room and the media, and take your responsibility for the way you played.

“I didn’t play as well as I wanted to last week, and I turned the ball over twice, and I can’t do that if we’re going to win the game. So I’ve got to play better, and I’ve got to play more efficiently on offense.”

McCarthy talked about the play of Rodgers when he met with the media on Wednesday.

“I have great confidence in Aaron,” McCarthy said. “I’ve never trusted a quarterback or an individual as a player more than I trust Aaron Rodgers. His work ethic is at the top of his career, the time he spends in the facility with the coaches and his teammates.

“So from that, it’s a process. We’ll all stick to the process, and from that we’ll have success.”

McCarthy expects Rodgers to bounce back this week versus the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field in the home opener for the Packers.

“First of all,” McCarthy said, “we’ve had two games. It’s a process, and he’s no different than any other player. Fundamentals is something you’re always chasing as a football team, and it’s no different at the quarterback position. We’ll focus on the process. The work ethic is outstanding for Aaron and our guys, and we’ll improve off of last week off of that.”

Speaking of the process, earlier in the week, McCarthy inferred that the Packers need to start utilizing the running game more.


“The analysis of our offense after two games, the running backs have not been given enough opportunities, so that’s something that I need to focus on,” McCarthy said. “Our perimeter players, we need to get them more opportunities too. We’re not getting the ball (for enough plays), and it really goes back to the efficiency, execution and flow of our offense.

“We’ve got to convert first downs. Frankly, our problem in the first half was we didn’t generate enough first downs. And the production reflected it. So I thought the second half we played more like we want to play.”

At this point, just as it was in 2015, the running game is the best aspect of the Green Bay offense. That’s hard to fathom, based on the great success Rodgers has had in the passing game in his career, but the facts and the stats don’t lie.

If the Packers do place an increased emphasis on the running game, it should help in a number of ways. The offensive line can be the aggressor in that perspective of the game, as opposed to being a reactor while trying to pass block.

Success in the running game also creates more play-action opportunities in the passing game.

Lacy and James Starks can dominate at times when they get their share of touches. Case in point, Lacy rushed for 124 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries last season versus the Dallas Cowboys. Starks rushed for 71 yards  and another touchdown on 11 carries in that same game.

Rodgers also threw two touchdown passes in that game without a pick.

McCarthy talked about fundamentals with the media this week. The Packers need to focus on that, even with all the veterans that the team has on offense.

There is no doubt that with Rodgers, Lacy, Starks, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Jared Cook, that the offense should be ranked near the top 10 and not near the bottom of the league.

On Sunday afternoon, Rodgers and the offense of the Packers will be facing a Detroit team which is ranked 26th in total defense.

The Lions have been giving up over 400 yards per game. In the first two games, teams have averaged over 110 yards on the ground against Detroit. In the passing game, the Lions have given up almost 300 yards a game.

Defensive end Ziggy Ansah (ankle) has been declared out for the game on Sunday. Ansah is certainly the best defensive linemen for the Lions and also may the team’s best defensive player period.

The Lions are also banged up with injuries at linebacker. DeAndre Levy didn’t play this past Sunday against Tennessee because of a thigh injury. Levy is listed as doubtful for the game versus the Pack. Fellow outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy also left the game against the Titans with a calf injury.

The Packers need to exploit the issues that the Lions are having on defense. But they need to approach that game plan by being fundamentally sound in both running and passing the football.

Vince Lombardi always went back to the basics when he met each of his Green Bay teams at the opening of training camp. It didn’t matter if the team was the defending NFL champions or not.

Lombardi would address the team by holding up the ball. “Gentlemen,” Lombardi would say. “This is a football.”

And the teaching would start from there. “It was like learning the ABCs all over again,” Zeke Bratkowski told me in a recent story about the coaching methods of Lombardi.


Quarterback Zeke Bratkowski with Head Coach Vince Lombardi

The 2016 Packers need to follow that simple lesson from Lombardi.

Bratkowski mentioned a great quote that should be the credo for the offense of the Packers now.

“Billy Casper said it best, ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’ That’s basically what the Packers were,” Bratkowki said. “It was a simplified, complex offense. There was a lot of repetition. That was the approach.”

That’s what the offense of the Packers needs to do now.

As in, practice a play. Then repeat the play. Over and over again until it’s second nature. Repetition needs to be a key factor now at all the practices of the Packers.

As does going back to the basics about teaching the players about how each play is supposed to succeed.

It’s not just the players on offense who aren’t playing up to their capabilities, but also the coaches who have designed the game plan.

Bottom line, the offense needs to go back to square one and let things develop from there.

That approach certainly can’t do any worse than what has transpired over the past year or so for the offense.

Jerry Kramer Talks About Lee Roy Caffey


When the 1-1 Detroit Lions play the 1-1 Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday, the game will be the 2016 home opener for the Pack. Green Bay opened this season with two games on the road. The last time that the Packers had opened the year like that was way back in 1924.

The game on Sunday will also be the annual alumni game for the Packers, when former Green Bay greats will be on hand to watch the Packers.

One of the greats who will be attending is Jerry Kramer. Kramer played on five NFL championship teams with the Packers, which included the first two Super Bowls.

The Packers also won three straight NFL titles from 1965 through 1967. No team has ever duplicated that feat.

Unfortunately, a number of players from those three championship teams have passed on. The list includes Henry Jordan, Ron Kostelnik, Lionel Aldridge, Ray Nitschke, Tommy Joe Crutcher, Bob Jeter, Max McGee, Fuzzy Thurston, Elijah Pitts, Travis Williams, Gale Gillingham and Don Chandler.

The list also includes Lee Roy Caffey, who tragically passed on at the age of 52 in 1994 due to colon cancer. That same affliction cost Vince Lombardi his life at the age of 57 in 1970.

Caffey came to the Packers in 1964 in a famous trade. This was the trade when Lombardi traded center Jim Ringo and backup fullback Earl Gros to the Philadelphia Eagles for Caffey and a future No. 1 draft pick, which turned out to be Donny Anderson.

Caffey was a rookie in 1963 with the Eagles and had a fine rookie season. He had the longest interception return for a touchdown that season in the NFL, as Caffey ran one back to the house on an 87-yard jaunt. Caffey also recovered five fumbles that season.

Caffey then became a big part of the Ringo trade the next season.

The mythical story was that Lombardi traded Ringo because he was being represented by an agent. Actually, there was no agent involved, but Ringo did want a hefty pay increase, as he was coming off seven straight appearances in the Pro Bowl, as well as being named first-team All-Pro for five consecutive seasons.

But Lombardi wouldn’t meet Ringo’s demands and he made the trade. The move caused all sorts of issues on the offensive line for the Packers. Rookie center Ken Bowman wasn’t ready to play yet, so the Packers had to move left tackle Bob Skoronski to center for awhile.

In addition to that, Kramer was undergoing some intestinal issues which caused him to miss almost the entire 1964 season, as well as having to undergo nine medical procedures. It’s no wonder that the Packers started out 3-4 that season, before finally finishing 8-5-1 and missing the postseason for the second consecutive year.

Caffey immediately became a starter at right outside linebacker in ’64, opposite Dan Currie, who played left outside linebacker. Ray Nitschke manned the middle as usual.

The Packers had the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL that season, as Caffey picked off another pass and was a great fit for the Packers at linebacker.

Before the 1965 season, Lombardi made another trade, this time sending Currie to the Los Angeles Rams for wide receiver Carroll Dale.

Replacing Currie at left outside linebacker was third-year linebacker Dave Robinson.

Over the course of the next five seasons, the trio of Caffey, Nitschke and Robinson was considered the best set of linebackers in the NFL.

From 1965 through 1969, the Packers were ranked third, third, first, third and fourth in total defense in the NFL.

Over that time period, Nitschke was named to four All-Pro teams, including first-team All-Pro by AP in 1966. Robinson was named to three All-Pro teams, including being named first-team All-Pro by AP in both 1967 and 1969. No. 89 also was named to three Pro Bowl squads

Caffey was named first-team All-Pro by AP in 1966, plus also went to the Pro Bowl in 1965.

In his career in Green Bay, Caffey had nine interceptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

I was there to witness one of them. It was the home opener for the Packers in 1966 and Green Bay would be facing the Baltimore Colts at County Stadium in Milwaukee on a Saturday night.

The Packers were losing 3-0 that night when Caffey made a huge play for the Pack. No. 60 picked off a Johnny Unitas pass and ran it back for a 52-yard touchdown. Not long after throwing that pick, Johnny U threw another one, this time to Bob Jeter, who also ran it back for a 46-yard touchdown. The Packers ended up winning the game 24-3.

Just three days before that game, Caffey’s daughter Jennifer was born. The pick-six by Caffey turned out to be a wonderful birthday present. Years later, Lee Roy told Jennifer that he dedicated that touchdown to her.


Caffey was also an outstanding tackler and blitzer when he played with the Packers. No. 60 was one of the heroes in the 1967 NFL title game between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. The game is better known as the “Ice Bowl”, as it was played in truly frozen tundra conditions at Lambeau Field. The game-time temperature was 13 degrees below zero.

Caffey had a great performance in that game. The Cowboys dominated the third period, but thanks to Caffey, Dallas never scored in that quarter. Caffey stopped one drive by forcing a Don Meredith fumble and another drive by sacking Meredith.

In the end, and in the final seconds of the game, the Packers won 21-17, thanks to the classic block by Kramer on Jethro Pugh. The block by No. 64 allowed quarterback Bart Starr to score the winning touchdown on the most famous quarterback sneak in NFL history.

Speaking of Kramer, I talked with him recently and he shared his thoughts about playing with Caffey.

“When Lee Roy joined the team, there was an immediate connection with him,” Kramer said. “He was about my size. He was friendly and always had a big ole smile. Plus he was a hell of a ballplayer.

“He was a funny guy and I really enjoyed him. Lee Roy and Tommy Joe Crutcher played at high schools in Texas which were about 40 to 50 miles apart. Tommy Joe used to bust Lee Roy’s ass all the time.

“Lee Roy went to Thorndale High school. The school mascot was the Little Red Rooster. Tommy Joe would get Lee Roy going in the locker room or on the bus when he would sing, ‘Little Red Rooster sitting on a fence. Root for Thorndale, he’s got sense.’

“Lee Roy  would then shout out to Tommy Joe, ‘Damn you Crutcher!’ And then the two of them would get into it with each other a little bit. But it was all fun.

“Lee Roy was also part of our poker-playing group. I spent a lot of time with him over the years. Lee Roy also looked like me. We were mistaken for one another quite a bit.

“But Lee Roy was just a good all-around football player. He had great reflexes too. I remember walking down the sidewalk in Cleveland with him one day and a pigeon flew up while we were walking. Lee Roy instinctively jumped at it like it was a pass play, and he hit the pigeon with his hand. He didn’t catch it, but that was an amazing display of athleticism.”

In 1970, Caffey was traded once again, along with Elijah Pitts and Bob Hyland to the Chicago Bears for the second overall pick in the 1970 NFL draft. That pick turned out to be defensive tackle Mike McCoy of Notre Dame.

Caffey spent one year with the Bears and then played with the Super Bowl champion Cowboys in 1971, before finishing his NFL career with the San Diego Chargers in 1972.

But it was Green Bay where Caffey made a name for himself in the NFL. In six seasons in Titletown, Caffey showed off his athleticism time and time again at right outside linebacker for one of the NFL’s  most dominant defenses.

Caffey was rewarded for that play with three championship rings, plus was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1986.

A Scout’s Take on the Offensive Line Play of the Green Bay Packers in Week 1


Before training camp began for the Green Bay Packers, I asked NFL scout Chris Landry how he thought quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the offense of the Packers would do in 2016, after a disappointing performance in 2015.

Rodgers had a decent year individually, as he threw 31 touchdown passes versus just eight interceptions, but as a team the Packers were ranked just 25th in the NFL in passing offense last season.

Green Bay was also ranked 23rd in total offense.

“I’m not worried about Aaron,” Landry said in July. “I’m more concerned about the offensive line. That will dictate how effective they will be running the football and that’s going to determine the protection level and what he [Rodgers] can do in the passing game.

“Listen, you never know, but you hope for good health, better health. They [the Packers] have got weapons. I think they have better weapons than they have had in the past. But to me, the success of the offense is going to come down to the offensive line play and how well they are able to hold up there.

“If they do, this offense can flip around and be one of the eight or ten best offenses in the league and be a big, big factor for them going deep into the playoffs. If they don’t, they won’t even win their division, because I think this Minnesota team is pretty good and pretty consistent.

“I think it’s pretty clear where the issues are. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I like at least some of the things I’ve seen. The offensive line to me is one you have to see and grow and develop. They won’t be as good in Week 1 as they will be in Week 7 or 8, but I want to see the progress there. That will determine ultimately how good this team will be.”

In the 2016 NFL draft, the Packers added some depth to the offensive tackle position by selecting Jason Spriggs of Indiana and Kyle Murphy of Stanford.

Both showed flashes of being very solid additions to the team at tackle this preseason, but they also had a few down moments, which is the norm for a rookie.

The big news on the offensive line in training camp was that starting center Corey Linsley was unable to play due to a hamstring issue, which ended up putting the former Ohio State Buckeye star on the PUP list.

JC Tretter stepped in at center and played so well that head coach Mike McCarthy named him as the starter, even before the injury status of Linsley had been determined.

At that point, it looked like the Packers would have a very solid offensive line from left to right. The Packers would line up with left tackle David Bakhtiari, left guard Josh Sitton, Tretter at center., right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Bryan Bulaga.

But the football world was shocked when the Packers released Sitton on the team’s final cut.

Sitton had been considered one of the best guards in the NFL. Over the past four seasons, Sitton had been named to three Pro Bowls and was named second-team All-Pro twice.

There were a number of reasons why the Packers may have released Sitton. One may have been the back issues which have been bothering him the past couple of years. Not to mention the ligament tear below his left big toe, which has also hampered him for a couple of seasons.

But the main reason Sitton was released most likely had to do with his contract status and also the contract status of others on the offensive line.

Sitton, Lang, Bakhtiari and Tretter were all going to be unrestricted free agents in 2017.

Something had to give.

Last week, Lang confirmed a report that both he and Sitton were told their contract negotiations would be put on hold while the Packers worked on younger players’ contracts during the season.

That may not have sat well with Sitton. Pete Dougherty of USA Today Network-Wisconsin also put out a very interesting article shortly after Sitton was released which included a comment from an NFL source.

The source said that in the eyes of the Green Bay organization, Sitton had become haughty and uncommunicative.

When asked about why he decided to release Sitton, general manager Ted Thompson didn’t really add any insight.

“I’m not going to go there,” Thompson said. “Not right now, no.”

Thompson did however have a comment about the former No. 71 of the Packers.

“I will say this,” Thompson added. “Josh Sitton is a heck of a football player and a good teammate. He’s one of the better picks I’ve ever made.”


Josh Sitton

But when it was all said and done, the Packers released Sitton. And one the eve of the opening game of the 2016 NFL season against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Packers came to an agreement with Bakhtiari on four-year extension worth almost 52 million dollars.

The release of Sitton meant that Lane Taylor would be taking his place and he had a big first test, as he would be going up against Malik Jackson, who came to the Jaguars via a big free agent deal, after playing four years with the current Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.

I had another chance to speak with Landry on Thursday on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig show. I asked Landry how he thought Taylor and the Packers offense did as a whole against a very talented Jaguar defense in very hot Jacksonville last Sunday.

“I thought Lane played very well,” Landry said. “I thought JC Tretter and [T.J.] Lang did too. I thought the interior of the offensive line was very solid.”

Landry then gave his take on the situation regarding Sitton.

“One of the reason why they wanted to move on from him [Sitton] was because look, they understand Josh’s value, but they like the players they have,” Landry said. “In terms of the overall structure of what to pay, they weren’t willing to go there at this point. And if it’s going to be a problem and going to be an issue, then they just move on.

“Just another note. This move certainly helped out the Bears interior offensive line. Because even though Kyle Long is dealing with a shoulder issue, he and Sitton graded out very well this past week.”

Landry then continued to talk about the line play of the Packers versus the Jaguars.

“I thought they did a pretty good job,” Landry said. “The interior of the line did a good job. [David] Bakhtiari played well for them. It was a really good performance. Jacksonville is a good team. I thought that Jacksonville had a good chance to beat them [the Packers] at home. If it wasn’t for Aaron Rodgers, they would have.

“Aaron, I didn’t mean to omit him, because he was one of the highest-graded players. Of spectacular plays, there is no doubt that Aaron Rodgers had the most spectacular plays of any quarterback in last week’s games.

“He kind of bailed them out. Jacksonville was really good and [Blake] Bortles played well enough to win, but that’s the beauty of Aaron Rodgers. What I’ve mentioned to Bob and other Packer fans is that last year they had no protections and had no vertical passing game, everything was horizontal.

“The ability to protect better allows Aaron Rodgers, it puts that paint brush in his hands, and it allows him to make plays. Yeah, they aren’t healthy, Jordy Nelson is not quite back, and there are issues, but he [Rodgers] cures a lot of ills.”


The 1-0 Packers face another big road test this Sunday night when they travel to Minneapolis to take on the 1-0 Minnesota Vikings at their new U.S. Bank Stadium. The defense of the Vikings has one of the better front sevens in the NFL.

That front seven was responsible for two defensive touchdowns last week when the Vikings defeated the Tennessee Titans 25-16 on the road.

Bottom line, the Vikings will be another difficult challenge for Rodgers and the offensive line of the Packers to overcome.

We shall soon find out how that situation unfolds in this big NFC North matchup.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Has a Credibility Problem


In 1969, the Pro Football Hall of Fame named their NFL 50th anniversary team. The first team consisted of Jim Thorpe, Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, Cal Hubbard, Don Hutson, John Mackey, Jerry Kramer, Chuck Bednarik, Gino Marchetti, Leo Nomellini, Ray Nitschke, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Emlen Tunnell and Lou Groza.

Every one of the members on that legendary team are enshrined as players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. All except one. That would be Jerry Kramer.

Why Kramer is still not in Canton has created a credibility problem for the Hall of Fame. One of the voters for admission into that hallowed place has told me that a number of times while we conversed. That would be Rick Gosselin.

Gosselin writes for the Dallas Morning News and sits on two committees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They are the seniors committee, as well as the contributors committee.

Gosselin said this about the Kramer omission issue in one of his chats with his readers:

“I think Jerry Kramer is the biggest oversight in Canton — if only for the fact that the Hall of Fame selection committee voted him the best guard in the first 50 years of the NFL. Yet he’s gone before that committee something like 10 times and can’t get the votes for induction. It becomes a credibility issue. If you’re going to tell us a player is the best at his position in the first 50 years of the game then not stand behind that selection when it comes time to hand out busts…why even pick an all-half century team?”

Indeed, Rick. Indeed. The fact that Kramer is still not in Canton is not only a slap in the face to No. 64, but also to the panel who named that 50th anniversary team. A panel that named that prestigious team just six years after the Pro Football Hall of Fame was created in 1963.

Jerry's block on Jethro

A little less than a month ago, a subcommittee of the seniors committee named defensive back Kenny Easley as the lone senior nominee for possible induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.

Easley was a great player back in his era, although his career was somewhat short. Still, Easley was also named on the 1980s First-Team All-Decade team. Usually when a player is named First-Team All-Decade, it’s almost a sure thing that the player will also be inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Guess who else was a First-Team All-Decade player? Yes, Kramer was also named to the NFL All-Decade team for the 1960s.

Looking back on the players who were named First-Team All-Decade through the year 2000, there were 145 players who were given that designation.

And up until now, 133 of those players have been inducted into the hallowed halls in Canton.

The eight modern-era players who have not yet received their rightful place among the all-time greats are Kramer (60s), Easley (80s), Johnny Robinson (60s), Drew Pearson (70s), Cliff Harris (70s), Jim Covert (80s), Tony Boselli (90s) and Steve Atwater (90s).

Former Green Bay end Lavvie Dilweg was a First-Team All-Decade player in the 1920s, while guard Ox Emerson was First-Team All-Decade in 1930s. Guard Bruno Banducci and tackle Al Wistert were also First-Team All-Decade in the 1940s.

So the fact that Kramer was not only a First-Team All-Decade player, plus was the lone guard on the NFL 50th anniversary team, make his omission from the Pro Football Hall of Fame truly appalling.

There is absolutely no doubt that Kramer has the credentials to be in Canton. It’s incomprehensible that Kramer still is waiting for his proper enshrinement.

There is also no doubt that the members of the seniors committee have a very difficult job. A lot of very good players have fallen through the cracks through the years.

Besides the First-Team All-decade players who have still not been enshrined, there are several more deserving players who have been kept out of Canton. Players like Chuck Howley, Robert Brazile, Ken Anderson, Randy Gradishar, Bob Kuechenberg, Pat Fischer, Alex Karras and Joe Jacoby.

And besides Kramer, there are a number of other deserving players who played for the Packers, like the before-mentioned Dilweg, as well as Cecil Isbell, Bobby Dillon and Gale Gillingham.

It would help if the Hall of Fame would make the process a little easier for seniors committee.

Like allowing the committee to nominate more than two seniors. Gosselin has proposed to nominate up to 10 seniors for the Class of 2019, which will be the 100th anniversary of the NFL.

That would be a great gesture by the Pro Football Hall of Fame to follow through on Gosselin’s proposal.

Plus there is the issue of who votes for the senior nominees. There are nine members of the seniors committee. Yet only five of the nine meet in August to determine the senior nominee or nominees. All committee members should be present for the discussion.

Also, not only should the committee allow current Hall of Fame members to be part of the discussion for the senior nominees (which is being done now), but more of them need to be part of the discussion.

Each decade (if possible) should be represented by at least one current Hall of Fame player at the seniors meeting.

There are a number of current Hall of Fame members who are still living and who played in the 1960s. They could speak on behalf of Kramer, whether they played with him or against him.

There would definitely be a lot to say.

Because in the 60s, Kramer was a five-time (First-Team) All-Pro and was also named to three Pro Bowls for the Packers. No. 64 would have had even more honors if not for injuries and illness. Kramer missed half of the 1961 season due to a broken ankle and almost all of the 1964 season due to an intestinal ailment which took nine operations to resolve.

Kramer also played a large role in the success that the Packers had under head coach Vince Lombardi in the postseason. The Packers were 9-1 under Lombardi in the postseason, which included five NFL championships in seven years. That included victories in the first two Super Bowls.

In addition to that, the Packers became the only team in the modern NFL to win three straight NFL titles, when Green Bay won it all in 1965, 1966 and 1967.

No NFL team has ever duplicated that feat.

No. 64 played a big role in a number of those championship game victories.

In the 1962 NFL Championship Game versus the New York Giants at very cold and windy Yankee Stadium, Kramer doubled as a right guard and as placekicker. Kramer booted three field goals on a very difficult day to kick, as  some wind gusts were over 40 mph during the contest.

Kramer scored 10 points in the 16-7 victory for the Packers, plus helped lead the way for fullback Jimmy Taylor to gain 85 yards rushing and also score the lone Green Bay touchdown. As a team, the Packers gained 148 yards rushing that day.

Kramer earned a game-ball for his efforts that day in the Bronx.

Jerry after the game-winning kick in the '62 championship game

In the 1965 NFL Championship Game versus the Cleveland Browns at snowy and muddy Lambeau Field, Kramer and his teammates on the offensive line had a sensational day.

Taylor and halfback Paul Hornung led a rushing attack that gained 204 yards, as the Pack won 23-12. The power sweep was especially effective, as Kramer and fellow guard Fuzzy Thurston kept opening big holes for the backs as the Packers gained big chunks of yardage past the line of scrimmage.

Hornung scored the last touchdown of the game on one of those power sweeps. Kramer pulled left and first blocked the middle linebacker and then a cornerback, as the “Golden Boy” made his way into the end zone.

In the 1966 NFL Championship Game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the Packers outlasted the Cowboys 34-27. Once again, Kramer and the rest of the offensive line had a large impact in that victory, as quarterback Bart Starr threw for 304 yards and had four touchdown passes, plus the running game picked up an additional 102 yards.

Then came the 1967 NFL Championship Game (better known as the “Ice Bowl”) versus the Cowboys at frigid Lambeau Field. In that legendary contest, Kramer made the most famous block in the history of the NFL.

The playing surface that day was truly a frozen tundra, as the game-time temperature was 13 below zero.

In the closing moments of the game, down by a score of 17-14,  the Packers had to drive 68 yards down the frozen field to either tie or win the game.

It all came down to 13 seconds to go with no timeouts at the 1-yard line of the Cowboys. The Packers could have kicked a field goal at that point to tie the game at 17-17.

But coach Lombardi decided to go for the win. If the Packers run the ball and are stopped short of the end zone, the game is over.

Starr called a 31-wedge play in the huddle, which calls for the fullback to get the ball. However, Starr decided to keep the ball after conferring with Lombardi on the sideline about the play.

Starr thought it would be better to try to get into the end zone himself due to the slippery and icy conditions near the goal line. He followed Kramer’s classic block on Jethro Pugh and found a hole behind No. 64 to score the winning touchdown.

When one looks back on the consistent success of those great Green Bay teams under Lombardi, there are two points which certainly have to be made.

The power sweep was obviously the signature play for the Packers under Lombardi. Plus, Starr’s quarterback sneak with just seconds remaining in the “Ice Bowl”, had to be the signature moment of the Lombardi legacy.

Kramer played a prominent role in both of those instances.

Even with all that, Kramer has still not yet been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Between 1974 and 1987, Kramer was a finalist for induction into Canton nine times. Nine times! That in itself tells you that Kramer was a tremendous player.

But as all this was going on, a lot of Kramer’s teammates with the Packers were getting inducted. This included players like Taylor, Starr, Hornung, Forrest Gregg, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis and Jim Ringo.

But Kramer’s name was never called for induction. In 1989, another former teammate was inducted. Safety Willie Wood finally heard his name called, after also being a finalist nine times, just like Kramer.

In all, Kramer has seen 11 of his former teammates get inducted, as well as his legendary head coach.

In 1997, Kramer was a senior finalist, but for some ridiculous reason he did not get the votes necessary for induction.

That was almost 20 years ago. Yet Kramer still waits.

Opponents who played against Kramer in his era certainly endorse his enshrinement into Canton.No endorsement is bigger than the one from the late Merlin Olsen. To many, Olsen is considered the best defensive tackle in NFL history.

Olsen went to 14 Pro Bowls, which is the all-time NFL record shared by Bruce Matthews, the uncle of Clay Matthews of the Packers.

Olsen was named AP All-Pro nine times in his career as well.

In his endorsement of Kramer to the Hall, Olsen says:

“There is no question in my mind that Jerry Kramer has Hall of Fame credentials. Respect is given grudgingly in the trenches of the NFL and Jerry has earned my respect as we battled eye to eye in the pits on so many long afternoons.

“Jerry Kramer belongs in the Hall of Fame and I hope you will put this process in motion by including his name on the ballot for this coming year.”

Besides Olsen, there are also quite a number of Kramer’s contemporaries who are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who likewise believe Kramer belongs in Canton. Randy Simon has put together a great book that shows all the endorsements.

They come from teammates like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung and Willie Davis, along with players like Bob Lilly, Frank Gifford, Chuck Bednarik, Doug Atkins, Alan Page, Joe Schmidt, John Mackey, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Mike Ditka, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Tommy McDonald and Lem Barney.

That is why it is so important to hear from Hall of Fame players when the senior committee meets to determine which senior or seniors will be nominated.

The bottom line is that Kramer should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame decades ago along with the rest of his teammates. No. 64’s importance and contributions to those great Packer teams under Lombardi have been noted.

The NFL’s 50th anniversary team was named 47 years ago. Kramer became eligible for induction five years later. That means Kramer has patiently waited 42 years for the Pro Football Hall of Fame to open it’s doors for him.

Until the Senior Selection Committee and the rest of the voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame right this wrong about Kramer and his place in NFL history, there will always be a dark cloud which will hover over that prestigious building in Canton. A credibility cloud to be sure.

The Super Bowl trophy is named after Vince Lombardi. For good reason. This is what Lombardi said about Kramer in a 1969 article in the Chicago Tribune:

“Jerry Kramer is the best guard in the league,” Lombardi said. “Some say the best in the history of the game.”

Vincen And Jerry III

I only wish the seniors committee would heed the words of Lombardi and many, many others. Besides all the great salutations Kramer has received from his peers, the bottom line is that he was the best player at his position when he played in the NFL.

Not just in the regular season, but in the bright lights of the postseason as well, when he played a big part in the team’s success.

It goes without saying that Kramer should absolutely receive the honor which he so richly deserves. That is, being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a place where the best of the best get recognized.

Kramer was most certainly the best of the best.

Which is why he was named to the 1960s All-Decade team, as well as the NFL’s 50th anniversary team in 1969.

Yet the Pro Football Hall of Fame still hasn’t recognized that. Which tells me and many others like Rick Gosselin, that there is definitely a credibility issue at the Hall.

That credibility problem will never change until Kramer gets his rightful enshrinement in Canton.

Green Bay Packers: Looking at the 53-Man Roster Heading Into Week 1


The Green Bay Packers have certainly put together a very interesting 53-man roster heading into the opening game of the season versus the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field.

The Packers are just three days away from that game, which will take place under very hot and humid conditions in northeastern Florida.

One of the most surprising aspects of the roster is that four undrafted rookies made the team. It’s not surprising that an undrafted rookie made the team, as it seems to happen every year for one or two players, but four is almost unheard of.

Three of the four undrafted rookies are defensive backs. They are Kentrell Brice, Marwin Evans and Josh Hawkins. All three of those players had fabulous camps, plus also shined in preseason games. With the addition of those three players, the Packers now have 11 defensive backs on the roster.

The other undrafted rookie who made the club was quarterback Joe Callahan. In a recent story, I wrote that Callahan was the offensive MVP for the Packers this preseason. Even with that, I still didn’t believe that the Packers would keep No. 6 on their roster. But indeed, Callahan made the club.

“This is just clearly Joe Callahan earning the job,” head coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. “I mean, how the hell does he not make the team? It was clear. Just watch the games, watch the video. I’m very, very happy for him personally because you always like to see a guy grab hold of an opportunity. I thought it was very obvious what he accomplished during the preseason.”

Another surprise on the roster was seeing the Packers keeping seven wide receivers. In the McCarthy era, the team has kept five receivers for the most part and sometimes even six. But seven? Time will tell how all of the receivers will be utilized.

The seven receivers are Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis, Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis.

To even get to seven, the Packers had to cut Geronimo Allison, who had a great training camp. The Packers were able to add Allison to the practice squad.

The kicking game of the Packers also went through some alterations before the current 53-man roster was set.

First, the Packers cut veteran punter Tim Masthay last week, after it appeared that he had won a training camp punting dual versus undrafted rookie Peter Mortell. But even after Mortell was released, the Packers thought they could still do better, so they cut Masthay and brought in Jacob Schrum, who punted for the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2015.

Schrum punted very well in the last preseason game in Kansas City and locked up a roster spot.

Then the Packers released longsnapper Ricky Lovato in the final cut, which meant that the team needed a new longsnapper. The Packers actually brought back their old longsnapper, Brett Goode, who handled those duties from 2008 until late last season when he tore an ACL.

The Packers also made one waiver claim, when the team picked up rookie running back Jhurell Pressley from the Minnesota Vikings. Pressley was timed at 4.38 in the 40 at his pro day at New Mexico. Pressley gained 2,725 yards (a 6.9 average) and scored 35 touchdowns in his career as a Lobo.

The most shocking development in the final roster cuts was when the Packers released left guard Josh Sitton. That release stuck out like a sore thumb, or in Sitton’s case, a sore toe.

Sitton is considered one of the best guards in the NFL. Over the past four seasons, Sitton had been named to three Pro Bowls and was named second-team All-Pro twice.

As good as Sitton has played throughout his career in Green Bay, many observers saw a drop off in his performance last season. A lot of that could be blamed on injury issues.

Sitton has had back issues for a couple of years now. Plus, in 2014, Sitton tore a ligament below his left big toe midway through the season and that injury hampered him all year long.

And in training camp in 2015, Sitton disclosed that the toe injury had not yet fully healed. Last season, the Packers allowed Sitton to miss a number of the practice sessions to rest and rehab his toe and back issues, but it was pretty apparent that Sitton’s performance on the field was affected by his injury issues.

That situation may have played a part into why Sitton was released. Another reason was the fact that four offensive linemen, including Sitton, would be unrestricted free agents after the 2016 season. The other three linemen are David Bakhtiari, T.J. Lang and JC Tretter.

According to an USA Today Network-Wisconsin report, the Packers reportedly told both Sitton and Lang that their contract situation would not be discussed until after the 2016 season.

On Monday, Lang confirmed that report that he and Sitton were told their contract negotiations would be put on hold while the Packers worked on younger players’ contracts during the season.

That means that Bakhtiari and Tretter were bigger priorities in terms of extending their contracts, as opposed to Sitton and Lang.


Pete Dougherty of USA Today Network-Wisconsin also put out a very interesting article  the other day which talked about how Vince Lombardi often looked to move on from older players on his roster. Dougherty gave many examples from the that era, which saw players like Jim Ringo, Bill Quinlan, Dan Currie, Bobby Dillon, Jesse Whittenton and Hank Gremminger move on from the Packers.

Dougherty compared that history with the release of Sitton, who turned 30 back in June.

Included in that same piece was some insight from an NFL source. The source said that in the eyes of the Green Bay organization, Sitton had become haughty and uncommunicative.

When asked about why he decided to release Sitton, general manager Ted Thompson didn’t really add any insight.

“I’m not going to go there,” Thompson said. “Not right now, no.”

Thompson did however have a comment about the former No. 71 of the Packers.

“I will say this,” Thompson added. “Josh Sitton is a heck of a football player and a good teammate. He’s one of the better picks I’ve ever made.”

After his release, Sitton didn’t burn any bridges with the Packers via any comments and instead quickly signed a three-year deal with the divisional rival Chicago Bears.

The bottom line is that an issue or a variable of issues precipitated this shocking release.

Before training camp started for the Packers, I asked NFL scout Chris Landry about how Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the offense of Packers will perform in 2016, compared to 2015.

“I’m not worried about Aaron,” Landry said. “I’m more concerned about the offensive line. That will dictate how effective they will be running the football and that’s going to determine the protection level and what he [Rodgers] can do in the passing game.

“Listen, you never know, but you hope for good health, better health. They [the Packers] have got weapons. I think they have better weapons than they have had in the past. But to me, the success of the offense is going to come down to the offensive line play and how well they are able to hold up there.

“If they do, this offense can flip around and be one of the eight or ten best offenses in the league and be a big, big factor for them going deep into the playoffs. If they don’t, they won’t even win their division, because I think this Minnesota team is pretty good and pretty consistent.

“I think it’s pretty clear where the issues are. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I like at least some of the things I’ve seen. The offensive line to me is one you have to see and grow and develop. They won’t be as good in Week 1 as they will be in Week 7 or 8, but I want to see the progress there. That will determine ultimately how good this team will be.”

Landry said this when he assumed Sitton would be the starting left guard. It appears now that it will be Lane Taylor starting at left guard with the release of Sitton.

In addition to that, center Corey Linsley has missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury and will start the season on the PUP list. In the absence of Linsley, Tretter has manned the center position and has had a great camp.

Still, questions still linger on the offensive line. Can Taylor do the job at left guard? No. 65 is an effective run-blocker, but can struggle at times with his pass protection.

Also, what is the next course of action if Taylor doesn’t play effectively? Don Barclay would most likely get the next shot at left guard, as he has also had a great camp since he moved inside from offensive tackle and has manned the center and guard positions this summer.

We shall see how things develop on the offensive line. If the line does hold up, the offense should be much improved with all the weapons Rodgers will have at his disposal.

Nelson is back after missing the entire 2015 season because of a torn ACL, while the Packers also added tight end Jared Cook in free agency.

In the running game, Eddie Lacy had an excellent camp/preseason and looks much like the back who performed so well in 2013 and 2014.

The defense has also made some improvements. The secondary looks to be the biggest strength of the defense. There is talent everywhere, plus the depth is outstanding.

The inside linebacker position looks to be solidified with the addition of rookie Blake Martinez, who appears like he will be given the duties of a three-down linebacker.

Blake Martinez II

Blake Martinez

Martinez will be paired with Jake Ryan at inside linebacker, with only Joe Thomas in reserve. That is because the Packers waived Sam Barrington. If injuries occurred at the position, Clay Matthews can move back inside or the Packers could simply call up Carl Bradford, who had an excellent camp and preseason.

The Packers are also very deep at outside linebacker, with Matthews, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Datone Jones, Jayrone Elliott and Kyle Fackrell manning the position.

The defensive line is a bit short-handed with only five linemen on the roster. They are Mike Daniels, Dean Lowry, Christian Ringo, Letroy Guion and Kenny Clark. The reason the group is lacking in numbers is because Mike Pennel is serving a four-game suspension.

The Packers also have the option of using both Peppers and Jones on the line in passing situations.

Special teams improved quite a bit last year under the leadership of Ron Zook, who took over as coordinator in 2015. After finishing a NFL-worst 32nd in 2014, Zook had his units climb up 15 spots to be ranked 17th last season.

Although there are still question marks about the punting situation, kicker Mason Crosby is one of the best in the business at his position. Plus, before his ACL injury, Goode was as automatic as they came as a longsnapper.

The speed of the special teams should be excellent, especially with the additions on the roster at defensive back and wide receiver.

Finally, in looking at the current 53-man roster, it’s definitely still a fluid situation. Moves will have to be made after both Pennel and cornerback Demetri Goodson serve their four-game suspensions.

In addition, the Packers may add a free agent who is considered a vested veteran. The defensive line is one place where a player like that might be added. Players who might be able to help the Packers there include Terrance Knighton, Red Bryant or former Packer Cullen Jenkins.

By signing a player like that after Week 1 of the season means that the player’s salary would not be guaranteed for the entire season, which it would be if they opened the season on the 53-man roster.

Adding a defensive lineman during the season has helped out the Packers on a couple of occasions in recent history. Examples are Howard Green and Grady Jackson.

Time will tell how the 2016 Packers will fare this season. The opening act starts on Sunday afternoon in hot and humid Jacksonville, Florida.

Ironically, Jacksonville is the place where Sitton was born.

Wisconsin Badgers: A Great Way to Start the Season at Legendary Lambeau


Going into the 2016 season, the schedule for the Wisconsin Badgers certainly looked be a difficult obstacle to overcome. Especially if the Badgers were hoping for lofty postseason aspirations.

For one thing, the Badgers were unranked for the first time since the 2009 season.

Add to that, Wisconsin was slated to open the season against No. 5 LSU, based on the preseason AP Top 25 rankings. If that wouldn’t be bad enough, the Badgers would open up their Big Ten season against very difficult opponents (No. 12 Michigan State, No. 7 Michigan, No.6 Ohio State and No. 17 Iowa), who were all ranked in the Top 20.

Plus, going into the opening game, LSU was riding a 52-game winning streak against non-conference opponents, which is a FBS record. That dates all the way back to 2002.

Most experts, including NFL scout Chris Landry, thought that LSU would come out the victor in he opening tilt against Wisconsin at legendary Lambeau Field.

Landry, in his preview of the LSU-Wisconsin game on LandryFootball.com, wrote this:

Despite the desire for the LSU fan base to see an “air it out passing attack”, LSU will still focus on the running game again this season, with hopefully a more efficient and effective timing passing attack to the short and middle zones of the field.

LSU passing attack centers around the play action deep vertical throw when they can move the safety from the middle of the field. LSU QB Brandon Harris has been a decent deep ball thrower and I expect some deep shots in this game.

I see LSU getting more explosive plays and pulling away in the 4th quarter. But don’t expect a lot of points unless it follows an inordinate amount of turnovers. LSU should win by 10-13 points in a low scoring affair.

Landry was certainly right about the game being a low scoring affair. There is no question that both LSU and Wisconsin have excellent defenses.

Dave Aranda is the new defensive coordinator at LSU, after spending three years at Wisconsin building one of the better defenses in the country for the Badgers. He is implementing his 3-4 scheme with the Tigers and he has plenty of talent to work with.

Speaking of working with talent, Justin Wilcox, the new defensive coordinator of the Badgers, also has some real playmakers on defense. Especially at linebacker.

at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Vince Biegel tackling Leonard Fournette

Coaching played a big part in the outcome of the game on Saturday at Lambeau. Head coach Paul Chryst definitely outcoached his counterpart at LSU, Les Miles. But it was the players who did the dominating for the Badgers, even if the final score didn’t reflect that.

The Badgers had 21 first downs to 14 for the Tigers. Wisconsin also had 339 total yards, compared to 257 for LSU. The Badgers also controlled the ball for almost 37 minutes.

Landry wrote this in his review of the game:

LSU got outcoached, outplayed, and surprisingly lost to a team with more heart.

Landry also added this about the Badgers:

The team had to hear about how Dave Aranda was going to stuff the Wisconsin O, now that he’s handling the LSU D. It had to hear about how talented LSU was, about how there wasn’t a chance of winning, and it had to see that it was a double-digit dog in a home game.

LSU had the juice in the third quarter on its 14-point scoring run, but that was it. The Badgers had more energy, they played far smarter, and they figured out how to beat a far more talented team.

Going into the game, the Badgers had to be concerned about stopping running back Leonard Fournette. The talented LSU back is considered the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy in 2016.

The Badgers held Fournette in check in the first half, although No. 7 ended up rushing for 138 yards, but never found the end zone. That being said, Fournette set up the second LSU touchdown after a long reception on a wheel route out of the backfield.

Meanwhile, Corey Clement of the Badgers ran for 86 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

A large component in this game was the play of the quarterbacks. Brandon Harris was going into his fourth year at quarterback at LSU, while Bart Houston was starting his first game ever for the Badgers against a quality defense.

Harris was 12-of-21 for 131 yards with one touchdown pass and two picks. The second interception was very costly, as safety D’Cota Dixon sealed the win with an interception with 57 seconds left.

Houston showed a strong arm and some surprising mobility in his first ever start. No. 13 was 19-of-31 for 205 yards and two very bad interceptions. The first came when the Badgers were driving for a score in the red zone of the Tigers, while the other was a pick-six as cornerback Tre’Davious White returned an interception 21 yards for a score, as the Tiger cut a 13-0 Wisconsin lead to 13-7.

In the very next Wisconsin drive, White recovered a fumble which set up another LSU touchdown, as the the Tigers were up 14-13 just like that in a matter of a couple of minutes.

But Houston and the Badgers never let the disappointment of giving up the lead so quickly get into their heads. Houston led Wisconsin on a game-winning field drive in the fourth quarter.

Houston’s favorite target in that drive and in the game, was tight end Troy Fumagalli, who ended up with seven receptions for 100 yards.

The drive ended with kicker Rafael Gaglianone booting a clutch 47-yard field goal. Gaglianone had earlier hit field goals from 30 and 48 yards.


Gaglianone was wearing No. 27 to honor former Nebraska punter Sam Foltz, who died in a car accident in Wisconsin in July.

The Badgers then held on to the 16-14 lead, culminated by the game-winning pick by Dixon. The Wisconsin defense was outstanding the entire game. The great performance was led by the linebacking corp. T.J. Watt (seven total tackles) and Vince Biegel were constantly chasing Harris while he was going back to pass.

Biegel had a sack, while Watt came close a number of times. Jack Cichy led the Badger with eight total tackles, plus forced a fumble. Ryan Connelly played very well at inside linebacker, coming in for Chris Orr, who was injured very early in the game. Connelly had seven total tackles, including a key one on Fournette in the fourth quarter on a third down screen pass.

Bottom line, the defense of the Badgers proved to be as good as they were in 2015, if not better.

The offense of the Badgers looks to be a work in progress, but there were a lot of favorable signs looking ahead at future games.

Speaking of future games, the Badgers are no longer unranked. In the polls released on Tuesday afternoon, Wisconsin is ranked 16th in the Coaches Poll, while Bucky also moved all the way up to No. 10 in the AP Top 25 poll.

Time will tell how the Badgers will do with their daunting Big Ten schedule to begin their conference season, especially with road games at Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa.

Add in a Saturday night game at Camp Randall Stadium against Ohio State, the Badgers will be facing some very challenging opponents.

But based on how well the defense played against LSU and how Houston and the Wisconsin offense kept their composure and delivered when it counted, the Badgers have to be optimistic about their chances in key games down the road.