Some Edge-Rushers Who the Green Bay Packers Might Consider in Round 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft

NFL Draft Logo 2018

Based on the changes that the Green Bay Packers made in not only their front office, but also on the coaching staff, one could say that the 2018 NFL draft will be very important for the team’s success in 2018 and in the near future.

Just to give you an illustration about how much work that the Packers have to do to get better and also to have playoff aspirations in 2018, take a look at the overall grade NFL scout Chris Landry gave the team in 2017 when he graded each player on his fine site:

OVERALL GRADE (D-minus): Green Bay had the look of a contender early in the season. The Rodgers injury showed that was a mirage, though. The roster needs an infusion of talent – either through the draft or free agency – meaning the new general manager has a lot of work to do.

The new general manager who Landry speaks of is Brian Gutekunst. Landry talked to me in early January and said that Gutekunst would be the best choice to replace Ted Thompson as GM if the team went in-house.

Landry also talked to me about the hiring of Gutekunst and the other changes the Packers made in this piece.

Back to the draft now. As Landry notes, the roster needs an infusion of talent. It appears that Gutekunst will use free agency more liberally than Thompson did in his tenure in Green Bay, but the draft is always the key building block for teams in the NFL to be successful.

That’s why the 2018 draft is so important to the Packers, who will have as many as 12 picks in the draft, at least according to The Packers will have their own pick in each round of the draft, plus have an additional seventh round draft pick because of a trade with the Buffalo Bills.

Plus, Over The Cap estimates that the Packers will also have four compensatory picks, which will include one in Round 3 and three in Round 5.

That’s 12 picks overall, which will give Gutekunst and the Packers plenty of ammunition to add some nice talent to the squad in the draft.

The Packers have a number of needs. It’s almost like almost every position could use an upgrade of some sort, at least in terms of quality depth, like at the quarterback position behind Aaron Rodgers.

But some position areas have glaring needs. The outside linebacker or edge-rushing position is one of those areas.

Landry always tells me that the tape doesn’t lie. Speaking of that, this is the grade he gave the linebacker position of the Packers after watching that position on tape:

LINEBACKERS (D-plus): Starters – OLB Clay Matthews, OLB *Nick Perry, ILB Blake Martinez, ILB Jake Ryan. Backups – OLB Ahmad Brooks (UFA), ILB Joe Thomas, OLB Kyler Fackrell, OLB Vince Biegel, OLB Chris Odom, OLB Reggie Gilbert, *David Talley.

This unit is expected to produce the big plays in the 3-4 defense Green Bay has employed since 2009. In 2017, the group failed miserably. Matthews (8.5) and Perry (7.0), the two highest paid players on the defense, both missed time with injuries and combined for 15.5 sacks. With little depth at the position, Green Bay needed double-digit sacks from both players. Martinez tied for the NFL lead in tackles (144), but struggled in pass coverage. Others like Fackrell, Ryan and Biegel look like backups, at best. Green Bay needs an infusion of talent for this group in April’s draft.

Nick Perry and Clay Matthews

Another thing that doesn’t lie is statistics. The key for the 3-4 defense to succeed is putting pressure on the opposing quarterback. As Landry noted, the Packers really struggled in that area.

In fact, beside being the the 22nd-ranked defense in the NFL in 2017, the Packers were only tied for 17th in sacks with 37. That lack of pass-pressure led to Green Bay being ranked 23rd in pass defense in the NFL and 31st in the opposing QB’s passer rating.

The Packers allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw 30 touchdown passes versus just 11 picks for 3,789 yards. That adds up to allowing an embarrassing passer rating of 102.0. The Packers were one of only three NFL teams (Cleveland and Oakland were the other two) which allowed opposing QBs to have a passer rating of over 100.

That’s a big reason why Dom Capers was fired as the defensive coordinator by head coach Mike McCarthy.

The man that McCarthy hired to be the new defensive coordinator has a great track record of success in the NFL. That man is Mike Pettine, who coordinated the defense for the New York Jets under Rex Ryan for four years and then the defense of the Buffalo Bills under Doug Marrone.

From 2009 through 2012, the Jets ranked 1st, 3rd, 5th and 8th in overall defense. In 2013, when he ran the Bills defense, Buffalo finished 10th in total defense.

The Pettine defensive system is pressure-based. Both the 3-4 and the 4-3 defense will be used, which means players must understand each concept.

That is why the Packers must get some help in getting some edge-rushers who will put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. Not only in getting sacks and possibly causing fumbles, but also in getting the quarterback off his spot while he is throwing the football which causes incompletions and also interceptions.

With the Senior Bowl set to be played this Saturday, I thought it would be a good week to talk to Landry again about three edge-rushers who might be available when the Packers select in round one at pick No. 14.

I had a chance to talk with Landry this past Wednesday on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show, which was guest-hosted by Pat Donovan and Aaron Jacobson.

I wanted to get Landry’s take on Marcus Davenport of UTSA, who is also playing in the Senior Bowl, Clelin Ferrell of Clemson and Arden Key of LSU.

Davenport has definitely created a buzz at the Senior Bowl practices this week and has definitely helped his stock in the draft.

In his career at UTSA, Davenport had 185 total tackles, 37.5 tackles for a loss, 21.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries (one for a TD) and six forced fumbles.

Marcus Davenport

DE Marcus Davenport of UTSA chases QB Jake Hubenak of Texas A&M.

Ferrell also had a nice career at Clemson, where he was part of the team which won the national title in 2016. In his career as a Tiger, Ferrell had 111 total tackles, 30.5 tackles for a loss, 15.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Key has both helped and hurt himself during his time at LSU. In his career as a Tiger, Key had 129 total tackles, 24 tackles for a loss, 20 sacks, two fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.

Landry first talked about Ferrell and Key.

“Ferrell is a little bit stronger at the point of attack,” Landry said. “Arden Key has been a guy who has had some off the field issues. He’s really kind of hurt himself in that regard. He played out of shape and overweight [in 2017]. If he gets his head right, he could be a good value. I think if he is completely in shape, he’s probably one of the top 15 players in this draft. But he really did not do a very good job this year overall and has hurt himself.”

Landry than turned his attention to Davenport.

“He’s got really good edge-rushing speed out of Texas-San Antonio,” Landry said. “He’s a really good player and I think he’ll be a very high pick.”

Landry also wrote this about Davenport on his site about his performance at Tuesday’s Senior Bowl practice:

Primarily lined up at defensive end. Looked super quick and very athletic. Quick with his hands and explosive and flashed impressive lower-body power. Struggles once engaged in a block and was manhandled by Alex Cappa on one down.

This was Landry’s report on Davenport after watching Wednesday’s practice:

Another solid practice for Davenport. He is an imposing figure and can be tough to handle. Davenport plays with great balance and body control and is never off his feet. He held his ground against double-team blocks and besides the power, showed excellent speed.

Landry also wrote about another edge-rusher who could definitely be a possibility for the Packers in Round 1, depending on how the board looks at the time of their selection.

That would be Ogbonnia Okoronkwo of Oklahoma.

This is what Landry wrote about the former Sooner regarding his performance at the Senior Bowl practices:

He’s not the biggest guy (6013, 243 pounds, 34.5″ arms) but the man simply knows how to win on the edge. A twitched up pass rusher, Okoronkwo spent the week running circles around the offensive tackles. While that wasn’t unexpected, his ability to play the run truly popped. Despite less-than-ideal height and weight measurements, Okoronkwo held his own setting the edge and squeezing gaps.

Okoronkwo proved that he has every down ability in Mobile which will go a long way in helping his draft stock.

Looking at Landry’s analysis, if I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, both Davenport and Okoronkwo could be definite possibilities for the Packers at pick No. 14 based on their performances this week at the Senior Bowl practices.

Picking Ferrell at No. 14 would appear to be a reach for the Packers at that point of the draft, while Key certainly has the talent to be selected there, his baggage off the field says that he’ll picked later in Round 1 or even early in Round 2.

Plus there is still time for edge-rushing prospects to improve their draft stock, both at the NFL Scouting Combine and at their respective pro days.

You know that Gutekunst and his scouting staff will be on hand to analyze each player and to see if they would be a good fit for the defense that Pettine will deploy for the Packers.

2018 NFL Draft: Four Wisconsin Badgers in the 2018 East-West Shrine Game

Natrell Jamerson

Natrell Jamerson of the Wisconsin Badgers in the Orange Bowl.

In terms of NFL teams getting ready for the 2018 NFL draft, two of the college all-star games, the East-West Shrine Game and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, get played this weekend. Both games will primarily feature players who will be drafted in the later rounds of the draft or will just be undrafted rookie free agents.

I focus more on the East-West Shrine Game, as the game is played in the area (St. Petersburg, Florida) in which I live.

The Green Bay Packers have drafted some players recently who have played in this game and one of those players has turned out to be a pretty good performer in the NFL, even though he is no longer a member of the Packers.

I’m talking about defensive back Micah Hyde, now of the Buffalo Bills. Then general manager Ted Thompson met with Hyde (Iowa) during the week of the East-West game in 2013 and ended up drafting him in the fifth round.

In four years in Green Bay, Hyde started 33 games at both cornerback and safety and had 234 total tackles, four sacks, two fumble recoveries, eight interceptions and 25 passes defended.

Hyde was not played at his best position enough, which is safety, and his lack of great speed hurt him at times when he played cornerback. All in all though, Hyde was solid in the secondary in Green Bay more times than not.

Hyde was also exceptional at times with his ability to return punts, as he returned three of them for touchdowns in his fours years as a Packer.

But when Hyde became a unrestricted free agent in 2017, the Packers did not make him a priority and saw him sign a new deal with Buffalo, where he excelled last season. As a Bill, where he played strictly safety, Hyde had five picks and made the Pro Bowl.

Last year, the Packers and Thompson drafted one player (wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey of Purdue) who played in the East-West Shrine Game and signed another (offensive lineman Adam Pankey of West Virginia) as an undrafted free agent. Both Yancey and Pankey are on the current roster of the Packers.

This year things will be a bit different for the Packers, as Brian Gutekunst is now the general manager, although Thompson is still in the front office as a senior advisor in scouting.

In this year’s East-West game, there will be four members of the Wisconsin Badgers on the defense of the West team. They are safety Natrell Jamerson, linebacker Leon Jacobs, defensive lineman Conor Sheehy and defensive lineman Alec James.

NFL scout Chris Landry has said that all four of these players are draft eligible in 2018. So is fullback Austin Ramesh, who is playing NFLPA game this Saturday.

Green Bay should be taking a close look at all of these players, because all of them could help the depth for the Packers at the positions in which they play. Not to mention, the Badgers also play the 3-4 defense, just as the Packers do, although Green Bay will be more flexible in their defensive schemes under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

The Badgers didn’t just play the 3-4 defense well in 2017, they played it exceptionally well. Wisconsin finished second in the country in total defense, only behind national champion Alabama.

The Badgers were also ranked third in scoring defense, third in rushing defense and fifth in passing defense.

Everyone of the Wisconsin defensive players in the Shrine game played a key role in that success.

Landry has been especially impressed with the way Jamerson has looked so far this week in East-West practices. This is what Landry noted about the former Badger safety earlier this week.

“Wisconsin safety Natrell Jamerson had an impressive opening day. In the team scrimmage, he flew across the field to track down an interception in front of a receiver and cornerback. It was a very nice play as Jamerson showed speed and an ability to track the ball. Jamerson (6-0, 198) is a versatile athlete who could end up really helping himself this week.”

Jamerson really flourished as a senior with the Badgers at safety, as he had 51 total tackles, 3.5 for a loss, 1.5 sacks, had 10 passes defended and had two interception, including one for a touchdown.

Jamerson also returned a kickoff for a touchdown as a sophomore.

Jacobs has also helped himself according to Landry.

“Leon Jacobs of Wisconsin, who primarily played on the line of scrimmage for the Badgers, has been used in a more traditional linebacker role here at Shrine practices and has looked solid. His footwork scraping laterally and dropping into coverage needs work, but Jacobs has held his ground against tight ends and running backs who come across the field.”

Leon Jacobs

Leon Jacobs

Jacobs had a very solid career at Wisconsin. The 6’2″, 245-pound Jacobs had 142 total tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, three interceptions, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown).

Sheehy and James did excellent work in the trenches for the Badgers in their careers, as evidenced by the way the Wisconsin defense has been able to stop the run over the past four years.

In his career with the Badgers, the 6’3″, 272-pound James had 100 total tackles, 15.5 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.

Sheehy also had an excellent career while playing at Wisconsin, as he had 94 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks and one forced fumble.

The four Badgers will be going up against three very dynamic quarterbacks on the East squad, including one that they are very familiar with. That would be J.T. Barrett of Ohio State.

The 6’2″, 220-pound Barrett once again put up great numbers in 2017, as he threw 35 touchdown passes versus just nine picks for 3,042 yards. Barrett also rushed for 809 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Another quarterback on the East squad is one I am very familiar with, as Quinton Flowers played here locally with the USF Bulls. The 6’0″, 210-pound Flowers is similar to Barrett in a number of ways. In 2017, Flowers threw 25 touchdown passes versus six picks for 2,911 yards. Flowers also rushed for 1,078 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The third quarterback for the East squad is Riley Ferguson of Memphis, who has the best chance of the three to advance to the NFL level at quarterback, as both Barrett and Flowers will probably change positions at some point.

The 6’4″, 210-pound Ferguson threw 38 touchdowns versus nine picks for 4,257 yards.

The East squad also has a player who has definitely made a name for himself in front of the scouts this week. I’m talking about wide receiver Daurice Fountain of Northern Iowa. The 6’1″, 210-pound Fountain has impressed scouts like Landry, as he explains.

“Fountain showed flashes of ability during the initial two Shrine practices then really pulled it together on Wednesday morning and was the top receiver on the field. He catches the ball well, showing good hand-eye coordination as well as the ability to win out for contested passes. Fountain was probably the fastest receiver on the field during East practice, showing a terrific burst and the ability to outrun defenders down the sidelines. He looks primed to be a fourth or fifth man on the depth chart at the next level, and displaying return skills during Saturday’s game will only enhance his draft stock.”

The Packers would be wise to keep their eye on Fountain knowing the issues the team now has at the wide receiver position.  That’s because both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb will most likely be looking at getting their contracts renegotiated at a lower price, especially with the re-signing of Davante Adams to a four-year $58 million contract extension.

Nelson is set to make $10.2 million this year, while Cobb will make $9.5 million.

Bottom line, the Packers can help themselves by keeping a close eye on the talent in the East-West Shrine Game, especially the home grown defensive talent who played with the Badgers.

The Bart Starr Endorsement Letter for Jerry Kramer

Bart's QB sneak behind Jerry

Back in October, I wrote an article in which Bart Starr, Jr. responded to a perception that his father did not endorse Jerry Kramer’s enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That viewpoint was out there because of some comments made by Peter King of Sports Illustrated. In fact, this is what King wrote in his MMQB mailbag chat with one of his readers, just a couple of weeks before Kramer was nominated as a senior candidate by the Seniors Selection Committee of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 23:

Finally, a few years ago, I asked Bart Starr if there was anyone else he thought had been forgotten unjustly in the Hall process, and he said left tackle Bob Skoronski. He was effusive in his praise of Skoronski. I asked him if he wanted to mention anyone else, and he said no. Did he forget Kramer? I suppose it’s possible. But I gave him his chance, and he didn’t mention Kramer.

This was not the first time King has brought up the conversation he had with Starr either.

When I mentioned that to Bart Jr., he thought that his dad’s comment to King was misinterpreted.

Starr may have mentioned Bob Skoronski, because he felt that No. 76 was one of the unsung teammates of his who he felt deserved a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In terms of Kramer, Starr had always felt that No. 64 deserved a place in Canton and should have been inducted decades ago, when Starr and many of his teammates were inducted.

Bart Jr. also mentioned that his father had been suffering from some memory loss and dementia issues around the time of this interview with King, which also may explain his response.

Starr was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977, along with teammate Forrest Gregg. Many of his Green Bay teammates followed over the next decade. Players like Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo and Paul Hornung.

That was the period in which Starr felt Kramer should have been inducted.

Starr was enshrined because of his great career in Green Bay, as he led the team to five NFL titles in seven years, which included the first two Super Bowls. Starr was the MVP in both Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II.

As a matter of fact, Starr is the highest-rated quarterback in NFL postseason history with a 104.8 mark. Starr led the Packers to a 9-1 record in ten games. Starr threw 15 touchdown passes versus just three picks for 1,753 yards in those 10 games.

Starr’s most famous play in the postseason involved Kramer. It was his legendary quarterback sneak in the closing seconds of the 1967 NFL Championship Game (better known as the “Ice Bowl”) versus the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field.

That game was played under arctic conditions that day, as the game-time temperature was 13 degrees below zero. If you added in the wind, it was bone-chillingly cold, as there was a minus-48-degree windchill for the game. But when it counted most, with 16 seconds to go and no timeouts, Starr followed a classic block by Kramer on Jethro Pugh of the Cowboys, as he shuffled happily into the end zone, scoring the winning touchdown in the 21-17 epic win.

Back to my discussion with Bart Jr. now. A day after our conversation in October, he sent me a text which spoke to King’s comments about his father.

Hi Bob- Peter may be pleased to know that today we mailed a letter to the Hall of Fame on behalf of Jerry. Dad’s endorsement could not have been stronger or more sincere. Our entire family has been among Jerry’s greatest admirers for more than 50 years, and we look forward to celebrating with the Kramer family in Canton.

Thank you and very best wishes,

Bart Starr, Jr.

Since that letter was sent, I have received a copy of the note. Here is that heart-felt letter from Cherry Starr writing on behalf of her husband Bart.

Bart Starr letter to PFHOF

With this letter, Starr joins peers who currently have a bust in Canton like Paul Hornung, Willie Davis, Merlin Olsen, Frank Gifford, Bob Lilly, Doug Atkins, Alan Page, Bob St. Claire, Joe Schmidt, Gino Marchetti, John Mackey, Raymond Berry, Mel Renfro, Mike Ditka, Chris Hanburger, Jim Otto, Tom Mack, Dave Wilcox, Lem Barney, Chuck Bednarik and Tommy McDonald, as those who have all written notes on behalf of Kramer for his rightful induction into the hallowed halls of the best of the best in Canton.

On February 3 (the day before Super Bowl LII), the 48-person selection committee will vote on the Class of 2018 for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Later that day after the voting has been finalized, this is what I envision will happen:

Kramer will get a knock on his Minneapolis hotel door by David Baker, the President and Executive Director for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

After Kramer opens the door, this is what he will hear from Baker, “Jerry, it is my great pleasure to tell you that you will be going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as one of the greatest players, coaches and contributors to ever play this game.”

A Scout’s Take on the Hiring of GM Brian Gutekunst by the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst as GM

Brian Gutekunst

Last week I had the opportunity to talk with NFL scout Chris Landry to get his take about who the Green Bay Packers were possibly going to hire to become their new general manager and new defensive coordinator.

Landry told me that the Packers were most likely going to hire from within to replace Ted Thompson (now senior advisor to football operations), and if they did, Brian Gutekunst would be the best choice.  Well, that’s exactly what the Packers did, as they hired Gutekunst.

Besides saying Gutekunst would be the best candidate for GM, Landry also though that the Packers would look to someone like Vic Fangio to be their next defensive coordinator after head coach Mike McCarthy fired Dom Capers from that role.

The Packers definitely were interested in Fangio, but he decided to remain with the Chicago Bears as their defensive coordinator, after agreeing to a new three -year deal on Friday. The Packers instead went with Mike Pettine as their new defensive coordinator earlier this week.

More on Pettine and other coaching changes later in the story.

Back to Gutekunst now. I had another conversation with Landy this past Wednesday on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show to get his take on the hiring of Gutekunst and the other changes made in the front office.

“I think they are significant,” Landry said, speaking of the changes made. “Brian Gutekunst is the new GM. Definitely the right move if they were going to promote from within. But they have lost some key guys. Obviously Eliot Wolf is going to Cleveland now to be with John Dorsey.

“I think Eliot is a good guy, and I think he’ll do a nice job for them. I think that was expected, once you make a decision to promote from within. When you have two or three guys [competing]. Guys like [Alonzo] Highsmith, who I think is a bigger loss than Wolf, because he’s a better evaluator of talent. Wolf is a little bit more organized and he’s probably going to be a bigger asset to John Dorsey in Cleveland.

“Listen, there are changes. There always is. I will say something which is unique and different and I’m not sure how it’s going to work out, but now you are going to have the head coach and GM both reporting to the President [Mark Murphy]. I’m just not sure about that. He [Murphy] thinks it was necessary. Mark Murphy thought there were some communication issues.

“I think you correct that by having a GM who does a better job of communicating. I’m very curious to see how that’s going to work out. I think that’s a little bit of a cop-out. I think it’s another way of saying Mike McCarthy won’t look with the same view of Brian Gutekunst, who is a younger guy, he won’t look at him with the same type of respect that he had for Ted Thompson.

“So, here’s what we are going to do. Mike, you can report to me. Brian can report to me. And I’ll just be the guy the kind of President who won’t have to worry about egos. I think that move had more to do with Mike McCarthy and potentially massaging his ego.”

In 12 years as head coach of the Packers, McCarthy has a 121-70-1 regular season record and has a 10-8 postseason record. The Packers have won six NFC North titles and have gone to the postseason nine times under McCarthy, which includes four NFC title game appearances and a win in Super Bowl XLV.

Speaking of McCarthy, he has made a number of changes on his coaching staff. Let’s get back to Pettine to start with.

This looks to be an excellent hire, just like it would have been had he brought on Fangio. Pettine’s track record as a defensive coordinator with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills was certainly outstanding.

From 2009 through 2012, the Jets ranked 1st, 3rd, 5th and 8th in overall defense. In 2013, when he ran the Bills defense, Buffalo finished 10th in total defense.

Pettine worked under Rex Ryan, who himself was a defensive coordinator before he became a head coach with the Jets and Bills.

The Ryan-Pettine  defensive system is pressure-based. Both the 3-4 and the 4-3 defense will be used, which means players must understand each concept.

Ryan thinks the Packers hit a home run when they hired Pettine, according to this article by Rob Demovsky of ESPN.

“He’ll be the best coordinator in the league; that’s how good he is,” Ryan said. “I think the big thing is, the fan base ought to be super excited about him because this is a good get. There’s other names out there or whatever, but this is the best coach out there that they could’ve got.”

Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine II

Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine

After being very successful under Ryan as a defensive coordinator, Pettine was hired to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Pettine had a 10-22 record with the Browns in 2014 and 2015, but was then fired along with GM Ray Farmer after the 2015 season.

That seems to a be a broken record with the Browns under owner Jimmy Haslam, as the team has made multiple head coaching and front office changes since Haslam became the owner in 2012.

That 10-22 record of Pettine doesn’t look so bad today, as the 2017 version of the Browns went 0-16.

Besides interviewing Pettine, McCarthy also interviewed three in-house candidates, associate head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss, secondary/safeties coach Darren Perry and secondary/cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. for the defensive coordinator job.

McCarthy decided to go with Pettine, but has been able to keep Whitt, who now will serve as the passing game coordinator. There is no word yet on whether Moss or Perry will or won’t return to the Packers.

The Packers also hired Patrick Graham to the defensive coaching staff on Thursday. Graham, who is 38, has worked under Ben McAdoo with the New York Giants and Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots . Graham has coached both the defensive line and linebackers.

These additions were made after McCarthy had fired defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley and defensive quality control coach Tim McGarigle.

Also, defensive front assistant coach Jerry Montgomery left to become the defensive line coach at Texas A&M.

On the offensive side of the ball, there has also been changes. Edgar Bennett was removed from his post as offensive coordinator. There is still no word whether Bennett will remain on the coaching staff.

Replacing Bennett will be be former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who spent three-plus seasons (24-28) as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins and the last two seasons as the offensive line coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

While Philbin was the offensive coordinator of the Packers from 2007 through 2011, Green Bay never finished outside the top 10 in terms of total offense in the NFL.

Quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt (contract not renewed) has been replaced by Frank Cignetti, who has spent the past two years as QB coach of the Giants under McAdoo.

Wide receivers coach Luke Getsy left the Packers to become the offensive coordinator at Mississippi State and he was replaced by Jim Hostler, who had that same role with the Colts. Hostler also worked under McCarthy in 2005, when both were with the San Francisco 49ers, as McCarthy was offensive coordinator and Hostler was QB coach.

Bottom line, there are still a lot of moving parts going on within the front office and the coaching staff of the Packers.

In terms of replacing both Wolf and Highsmith, Gutekunst will likely promote director of college scouting Jon-Eric Sullivan and director of pro personnel John Wojciechowski to be his top assistants.

The Packers were able to keep Russ Ball in the organization after he also interviewed for the GM job along with Wolf, as the Packers promoted him to executive vice president/director of football operations.

I would expect that all the coaching staff and front office changes will completed by next week heading into the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Florida.

A Scout’s Take on Who the Packers Might Name as Their New GM and New DC

Mark Murphy and Mike McCarthy

It’s been a crazy week for the Green Bay Packers after they finished their 2017 NFL season by losing 35-11 to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field. The loss put the record of the Packers at 7-9.

It wasn’t the only loss suffered by the team.

We learned on Monday that head coach Mike McCarthy fired defensive coordinator Dom Capers Sunday night. We also learned that two of the defensive assistants to Capers were also given the pink slip. They would be defensive line coach Mike Trgovac and assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley.

If that news wasn’t enough for Packer Nation to absorb, it was also learned that Executive Vice President, General Manager & Director of Football Operations Ted Thompson would transition to a new role as senior advisor to football operations.

That of course means that Mark Murphy, President & CEO of the Packers, will be hiring a new general manager.

Murphy talked to the media on Tuesday and talked about how the process will work.

“This is an attractive job and we’re going to have a lot of strong candidates across the league,” Murphy said. “I’m confident that we’ll be able to put the right person in place to help us win championships.”

The front office of the Packers has three candidates who might end up with the job. That would be V.P. of football administration/player finance Russ Ball, Director of Football Operations Eliot Wolf and Director of Player Personnel Brian Gutekunst.

In fact, the Packers have already scheduled interviews with Ball, Wolf and Gutekunst.

Brian Gutekunst

Brian Gutekunst

The Packers would have most likely interviewed another member of their front office for the GM job, but Senior Personnel Executive Alonzo Highsmith left the organization to join former Packers executive John Dorsey in Cleveland and he’s now the Browns Vice President of Football Operations.

It is also believed that the Packers will also look outside the organization as they look for a new GM. It has been reported that the Packers will also interview former Bills GM Doug Whaley.

Murphy told the media that Jed Hughes, a consultant from Korn Ferry, will assist him in the search for a new GM, although the ultimate decision will be his.

One of the other things that Murphy told the media was that the head coaching job of McCarthy’s was safe.

“You know Mike is our man,” Murphy said. “He is our coach and we have all the confidence in the world in Mike that we’re going to have great success moving forward.”

It was later learned that McCarthy was given a contract extension last season which will run through 2019.

On Wednesday, McCarthy made some more moves regarding his coaching staff, this time on offense. McCarthy removed Edgar Bennett from his role as offensive coordinator, while quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt did not have his contract renewed.

There is a slight chance Bennett might remain on the staff, after receivers coach Luke Getsy left to become offensive coordinator at Mississippi State. Bennett had been the receivers coach for the Packers from 2011 though 2014. In all, Bennett has been on the Green Bay coaching staff since 2005, when Mike Sherman was the head coach.

Two former assistant coaches for the Packers under McCarthy may be returning when it’s all said and done. One possibility might be Joe Philbin, who was Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line coach last season,  and who also worked under McCarthy from 2006 through 2011 and was offensive coordinator in five of those years.

Plus, another name to keep an eye on is former New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, who was on McCarthy’s staff in Green Bay from 2006-13, including coaching quarterbacks for two of those years.

There is definitely a lot of moving parts going on within the Green Bay organization, as well as key additions to both the coaching staff and perhaps at general manager from the outside as well.

It’s been awhile since the Green Bay Packers had this much attention in terms of prominent hiring opportunities within their organization.

The Packers haven’t hired a new general manager since 2005, when former Packers’ President  Bob Harlan hired Thompson. Plus, McCarthy hasn’t hired a new defensive coordinator since 2009, when he hired Capers to replace Bob Sanders, who McCarthy had fired.

With all this news going on, I wanted to get the opinion of one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry. I had an opportunity to talk with Landry on Wednesday on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show about the vacancies that the Packers have both at general manager and at defensive coordinator.

Landry has an unique perspective in all of this, as he has known Thompson since both were members of the Houston Oilers’ organization back in the 1980s, when Landry was a scout with the Oilers and Thompson was backup linebacker with Houston.

Landry first talked about the job opening at general manager.

“I think they probably promote from within at GM,” Landry said. “I think there would be a consideration of looking at a guy like [Reggie] McKenzie. I don’t think [John] Schneider would come. But they probably would consider that.

“They tend to want to go in-line with their philosophy closely tied to Ron Wolf. Ted was part of that. So, I think that’s probably where they go. Probably promote from within. But we’ll see there.  [Brian] Gutekunst is probably the best guy. I’m not as big a fan as other people are on Eliot Wolf. It’s his last name.

Eliot and Ron Wolf

“I think there are some good candidates. It’s a really good job. I would look outside maybe a little bit more than they will.”

One name that Landry did not mention who is within the organization of the Packers is Ball. Yesterday, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote a piece which says that the next GM of the Packers will probably be Ball.

I talked about Ball earlier in the summer of 2017 with Landry, when we were chatting about who may be the possible successor to Thompson and this is was his response about Ball:

“He’s [Ball] an administrator, just like Andrew [Brandt],” Landry said. “Andrew was not a football guy. Russ is not a football guy. He’s an administrator.”

That sort of tells you that Landry does not believe the Packers should hire Ball as their next general manager.

After Landry talked about the GM possibilities, he turned his attention to who the next defensive coordinator might be.

“I think Vic Vangio is the type of guy that there are looking for at the defensive coordinator spot,” Landry said. “I know I talked to the Packers yesterday morning at length about Dave Aranda, who is a bright, young defensive coordinator at LSU. I think he would be a good fit.

“But I think somebody like Vic Fangio would make some sense. It’s certainly more in line with what I think Mike McCarthy will go with.”

Wisconsin fans will note that Aranda was the defensive coordinator for the Badgers from 2013 through 2015 and he helped put together one of the top defenses in college football. Aranda also interviewed with the Packers in 2015 for a coaching job under Capers.

But things come and go quickly when it comes to pursuing coaches and it was announced that Aranda has received a boost in salary ($2.5 million in each of the next four seasons) at LSU. Aranda was making $1.8 million in 2017. Besides some interest from the Packers perhaps, Texas A&M was also trying to pry Aranda away from LSU.

In terms of Fangio, he interviewed for the head coaching job of the Chicago Bears, where he has been the defensive coordinator under John Fox the past three seasons.

It is believed that the Bears will be looking for an offensive-minded head coach, but one never knows.

Vic Fangio

Vic Fangio

The 59-year old Fangio has a solid reputation as a defensive coordinator, as he did a great job in that position with the San Francisco 49ers under head coach Jim Harbaugh from 2011 through 2014. The 49ers were always in the top five in defense under Fangio.

In 2011, the Niners were fourth in total defense, in 2012, they were third, in 2013, they were fifth and in 2014, they were fifth again.

With da Bears, Fangio took the defense to the top ten this year, as Chicago finished tenth in total defense, after finishing 14th in 2015 and 15th in 2016.

Fangio runs the 3-4 defense that the Packers employ, plus has been a defensive coordinator under Capers twice, once in Carolina with the Panthers and once in Houston with the Texans.

Time will tell what the Packers will do at filling their openings at GM and defensive coordinator, but Fangio certainly appears to be a great fit for the defense and Gutekunst is probably the best choice for being the next GM, at least according to Landry.