A Scout’s Take on the Running Back Class in the 2017 NFL Draft

Marlon Mack

Running back Marlon Mack of South Florida.

With the exodus of Eddie Lacy to the Seattle Seahawks earlier this week via free agency, the Green Bay Packers find themselves in a bit of quandary regarding their running back situation.

Right now, the Packers only have Ty Montgomery as a sure thing at running back. And that is just a year after taking on that position full-time after being a wide receiver his first year with the Packers.

The Packers can also re-sign unrestricted free agent Christine Michael, who the Packers brought on last season after he was released by the Seahawks. Other than that, the Packers also tendered an offer to exclusive rights free agent Don Jackson, who received a handful of plays last season with the Packers when injuries hit the running back position hard.

Plus, there are still a number of veteran running backs available via free agency. The list includes Adrian Peterson, LeGarrette Blount and Jamaal Charles.

Fortunately for the Packers and any team in need of help at running back this year, the 2017 NFL draft is extremely deep and talented this year at that position.

With that in mind, I wanted to get the opinion of NFL scout Chris Landry on this group of prospects. I once again was able to speak to Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show earlier this week, which was guest-hosted by Pat Donovan and Aaron Jacobson.

I first asked Landry to talk about what I believed to be great depth in the running back class in this year’s draft and I mentioned Marlon Mack of South Florida.

“I have Marlon as a high third-round pick,” Landry said. “In the upper-tier third round. I think he, Kareem Hunt of Toledo and the kid from North Carolina State, Matthew Dayes, are all high third-round values.

“You could get what I think would be fourth-round value with guys like Samaje Perine of Oklahoma, Jamaal Williams of BYU, Wayne Gallman of Clemson, all juniors. You’re right, there are guys like Brian Hill of Wyoming, who is an outstanding player. If you want a little back who is shifty, which is not what some people want, you have Donnel Pumphrey [San Diego State] is really good. Elijah McGuire of Louisiana Lafayette is a fifth or sixth-round value.

“There are good players in this draft. I absolutely like Marlon Mack. I think he would be great value at the top of the third round if you can get him there. Maybe even the late second round. We’ll see. I don’t think there is a half dozen players at the running back position who are better than Marlon in this draft. One of them is Joe Mixon, and we know that’s going to be an ownership decision.

“So I think that there is absolutely an opportunity to get healthy at the running back position [in this draft]. And most people prefer the younger guys who don’t have as much wear and tear on them.”

The Packers have a number of needs going into this draft. Mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Positions like cornerback, outside linebacker and inside linebacker. But what if one of the top three running backs were still on the board when they Packers had their selection at pick No. 29 in the first round.

I’m talking about Leonard Fournette of LSU, Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford.

Would general manager Ted Thompson select one of them if that were the case? The answer is yes, if they were the highest-rated player on the Green Bay draft board.

I asked Landry to talk about the Big 3.

“They all have the same grade, but all are different type of guys,” Landry said. “Fournette is the Adrian Peterson power guy. An impact carry back. Needs to have 25 touches or carries a game. Not as good catching the football.

“Like Dalvin Cook, the more complete back. He can run, has more explosiveness and has more make-you-miss  skills than Leonard. Much more effective catching the football out of the backfield.

at California Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Berkeley, California.

Running back Christian McCaffrey of Stanford.

“Christian McCaffrey is the smaller satellite back. You can line him up in the backfield, the wing position or the slot position. If you put him in the receiving group, he might be as good as a receiver as there is in the draft. A great route-runner. Superb hands. Nice returner.

“So listen, it’s really like going to a car lot. Do you want a sports car, a minivan, a SUV or a pickup truck? I mean, they are all good, but what do you want? All these guys to me are first-round talent. I think behind them is Alvin Kamara of Tennessee, who has really good explosiveness with size.

“But I’m going to tell you, that on the football field, I’m not so sure that Joe Mixon is not the best running back in this draft overall. But…fill in the blank on Joe Mixon. That is going to be a very tough decision. And I’m not advocating for him off the field. I’m just saying, football-wise, he’s special.”

I had the Packers taking Mack in my second mock draft, but based on Landry’s current grade on the former Bull, the Packers would most likely have to pull the trigger in the late-second round to bring in Mack, as opposed to waiting until the late-third round.

When I talked with Landry this week, I also brought up Joe Williams of Utah, who I had the Packers selecting in my first mock draft. Williams was a dynamo in the second half of the 2016 season for the Utes when he rushed for 1,110 yards and nine touchdowns (in six games).

In the the Foster Farms Bowl against Indiana, Williams rushed for 222 yards and another score, plus caught a pass for 56 more yards.

Then at the East-West Shrine Game practices he impressed Landry, who said this about Williams:

“Utah RB Joe Williams has an outstanding burst and he was a little bit thicker than I anticipated. He is going to be a mismatch in the passing game as he gains more experience. He looks like an ideal change-of-pace back at the next level.”

Just to show you how deep and talented this running back class is in this draft, Landry currently has a seventh-round grade on Williams.

Bottom line, no matter what the Packers decide to do about bringing in a veteran free agent running back, the upcoming draft can certainly upgrade the depth and talent at the running back position for the team.

Post-Combine 7-Round 2017 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Ted Thompson 2016 Combine

The 2017 NFL draft is about a month and a half away, as it will take place in Philadelphia and will start on April 27 and last through April 29.

In terms of the pre-draft evaluation of prospects, we have now seen the bowl games, the all-star games (the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl).

We also recently had the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis which lasted from February 28 though March 6.

The only thing left for the prospects to help improve their draft value is the various pro days for the players, which will be viewed by the the scouts, coaches and front office-types who will be in attendance.

Sometimes, a player’s draft value will be severely compromised during a workout, which is what happened last week for cornerback Sidney Jones at the pro day at Washington. Jones suffered a torn Achilles tendon Saturday during the workout.

Jones was projected to be a first round selection as well.

Anyway, it’s been a little over a month since I did my initial 7-round mock draft for the Green Bay Packers.

A number of things have changed since then for the Packers, as free agency has really affected the look of the roster up until this point.

The Packers have seen a number of their players move on from the team in free agency. The list includes center/guard JC Tretter, who signed with the Cleveland Browns, defensive back Micah Hyde, who signed with the Buffalo Bills, outside linebacker Julius Peppers, who signed with the Carolina Panthers (the team which originally drafted Peppers), right guard T.J. Lang, who signed with the Detroit Lions on Sunday and finally running back Eddie Lacy, who signed with the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday.

In addition, tight end Jared Cook will not be returning to the team either, as the Packers bolstered that position by signing Martellus Bennett (New England Patriots) and Lance Kendricks (Los Angeles Rams) via free agency.

The Packers also re-signed outside linebacker Nick Perry, as well as reserve offensive lineman Don Barclay. The team also brought back restricted free agent Jayrone Elliott, who signed a one-year, $1.6 million contract on Monday night according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.

In addition to that, the Packers also brought back cornerback Davon House on Tuesday in another free agent acquisition. House played the past two years with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Packers originally drafted House in 2011 and he stayed with the team through 2014 before leaving for Jacksonville via free agency in 2015.

The free agency frenzy is not over, as I expect the Packers to re-sign more of their own players, as well a couple of other players from other teams.

In terms of other unrestricted free agents on the Packers, you still have defensive end/outside linebacker Datone Jones (visiting the Vikings on Monday), running back Christine Michael and longsnapper Brett Goode, who are all unsigned at this time. I expect both Jones and Goode to re-up with the Packers.

Then you also have restricted free agent linebacker Jordan Tripp, who was not tendered an offer.

Plus there are the exclusive rights free agents. The list includes punter Jacob Schum (signed his exclusive rights contract), inside linebacker Joe Thomas (received tender offer), defensive lineman Christian Ringo (received tender offer), wide receiver Geronimo Allison (received tender offer), running back Don Jackson (received tender offer), running back John Crockett (did not receive tender offer) and fullback Joe Kerridge (received tender offer).

Getting back to the draft. In my first mock draft, I had the Packers selecting outside linebacker T.J. Watt in the first round. I still feel like that the drafting of Watt definitely has a real chance to happen (Watt met with the Packers at the combine), but for this mock draft, I will be selecting different players in each round.

But just like I did in my first mock draft, I selected players who I believe would fit in well with the Packers. Not just because of the schemes the team runs on offense and defense, but also how the player can help the special teams units, which were ranked 29th in the NFL in 2016. My buddy Rick Gosselin does a fantastic job of evaluating and ranking the special teams units for all 32 teams in the NFL each and every year.

One of the reasons I’ve had a decent track record over the years in my mock drafts for the Packers is because I utilize the expertise and insight from NFL scout Chris Landry.

Landry will comment on each and every player I select in each mock draft I do.

Okay, enough of that, let’s take a look at my post-combine mock draft for the Packers in 2017.

Round 1: Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)

Marlon Humphrey

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 197 pounds

Marlon Humphrey was a two-year starter at Alabama, where he had 81 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, five interceptions (one for a score) and three forced fumbles.

Humphrey was a Freshman All-SEC in 2015, as the Alabama won the national championship.

Humphrey played in a number of different coverage schemes with the Crimson Tide and he used his track-star speed and athleticism to his advantage. Humphrey is also a very aggressive tackler both in the secondary and in playing the run.

Humphrey recorded a 40-yard dash time of 4.41 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine. His three-cone drill time of 6.75 seconds was among the best of his position group.

Speaking of the combine, just like they did with Watt, the Packers also met with Humphrey.

The cornerback position for the Packers definitely needs to fortified in the draft and also in free agency. Humphrey would also add much needed speed in the secondary of the Packers.

Landry said this about Humphrey before the national championship game between Clemson and Alabama: “Humphrey steps into the role as Alabama’s lockdown cornerback this season. He’s physical against the run, and he has legitimate track speed.”

Round 2: Center/Guard Ethan Pocic (LSU)

Ethan Pocic

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 310 pounds

Ethan Pocic  started 37 games on the offensive line at LSU, 27 at center, nine at right guard and one at left tackle. That bodes well for Pocic about possibly playing for the Packers, as versatility is one of the attributes that Green Bay looks for with offensive linemen.

Pocic was second-team All-SEC in 2015 and first-team All-SEC in 2016, when he also received multiple second and third-team All-American honors.

Pocic knows how to keep his hands inside while pass-blocking and also has nice lateral movement to pick up blitzers or stunts. Even with his size, Pocic has the ability to get to the second-level with ease.

The former Tiger is also athletic enough to be very effective on sweeps and screens.

With the Packers losing both JC Tretter and T.J. Lang in free agency, selecting a player like Pocic who can help out at both center and guard makes a lot of sense.

Landry said this about Pocic after a Senior Bowl practice: “LSU C Ethan Pocic was up and down today. On one particular snap he was beaten by UCLA DT Eddie Vanderdoes with a swim move. On the next, snap he was able to thwart Alabama DT Dalvin Tomlinson on a speed move inside. Pocic showed the type of adjusting that you like to see after a mistake and looks to take coaching very receptively.”

Round 3: Running Back Marlon Mack (South Florida)

Marlon Mack

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 213 pounds

Marlon Mack was a three-year starter at South Florida, where he rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of those years. In his career as a Bull, Mack rushed for 3,609 yards (6.2 average) and 32 touchdowns.

Mack was also a threat in the passing game as well, as he hauled in 65 passes for 498 yards and another score during his time at USF.

Mack led the All-American Athletic Conference in rushing as a freshman and a sophomore and was named first-team All-AAC in each of his three seasons at USF.

Mack has an explosive burst when running the ball and is very shifty. Has the ability to run away from tacklers, as six of his 15 touchdowns in 2016 went for 43-plus yards.

At the combine, Mack ran a 4.50 40 and excelled in the broad jump with a mark of 125 inches.

Right now, the Packers only have Ty Montgomery as a sure thing at running back. And that is just a year after taking on that position full-time after being a wide receiver his first year with the Packers. With the loss of Lacy in free agency, don’t be surprised if the Packers don’t sign a veteran free agent running back themselves.

Drafting a running back will be a focus of the Packers in the draft and Mack would be an excellent addition. I saw him play many times and Mack is the real deal.

Landry said this about Mack prior to the Birmingham Bowl when USF played South Carolina: “Mack will go down a year or two from now as the steadiest offensive player in Bull history. He’s been a reliable workhorse from the moment he stepped foot on campus, working between the tackles and powering through defenders for additional. The consistency of Mack, who rushed for at least 100 yards in all but three of the games he played in 2015, allowed young QB Quinton Flowers to develop incrementally, without having to overextend himself in the early stages of his career.”

Round 4: Linebacker Vince Biegel (Wisconsin)

Vince Biegel II

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 246 pounds

Vince Biegel  was the Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior in high school (172 tackles, 21 sacks). That took Biegel to Madison where he was a four-year starter at Wisconsin and was named team captain his senior year. In his career as a Badger, Biegel had 131 total tackles, 28.5 tackles for a loss, 15 sacks, three passes defended and two forced fumbles.

Biegel was named third-team All-Big Ten in 2015 and also second-team All-Big Ten in 2016.

Biegel has excellent quickness around the edge and can diagnose blocks when he dips inside to find the football. Biegel also has nice run-pass recognition and is solid in the running game.  Has also shown decent cover skills. The former Badger plays with a tenacious edge and his motor never stops running.

Biegel was solid in all the drills at the combine and ran a 4.67 in the 40.

At the outside linebacker position, the Packers lost Peppers in free agency and have seen Clay Matthews and Perry miss playing time due to injuries. The team did re-sign Perry and Elliott to bolster the depth. Re-signing Jones is still a possibility, plus the Packers also like the upside of Kyler Fackrell. Still, more quality depth is need at the position, as the Dom Capers 3-4 scheme is based on putting pressure on the quarterback.

Landry said this about Biegel after a Senior Bowl practice: “Wisconsin’s Vince Biegel was hyper aggressive. He is an impressive athlete who needs his athleticism to be honed a bit. Biegel was working tight ends in 1-on-1s and he made a couple of solid plays in coverage. Pass rushing versus tackles was rough today for Biegel, but he’s aggressive and athletic nonetheless. He might be suited to move to an off ball spot.”

Round 5: Cornerback Shaquill Griffin (Central Florida)

Shaquill Griffin

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 194 pounds

Griffin played four years at UCF and started the last two years. In his career with the Knights, Griffin had 113 total tackles, three tackles for a loss, six interceptions (two for touchdowns), 27 passes defended and one fumble recovery.

Griffin played at UCF with his twin brother Shaquem, who only has one hand. Both brothers had big years in 2016, with Shaquem winning the AAC’s Defensive Player of the Year award as a hybrid defensive back/linebacker, while Shaquill was named second-team All-AAC at cornerback.

Shaquill has excellent size, speed and strength for a cornerback. He has the physical ability to succeed in press coverage, plus match receivers stride for stride after their release. Is also an aggressive run defender.

Griffin had a very good combine, as he excelled in a number of drills, which included running a 4.38 in the 40 and having a vertical leap of 38.5 inches.

The Packers need to add speed and physicality to the cornerback position and Griffin can deliver in both areas.

Landry said this about Griffin before the Auto Nation Cure Bowl game between UCF and Arkansas State: “UCF boasts a growing history for developing next-level defensive backs. Griffin has a chance to be the next Knight to play on Sundays. He laid the ground floor in 2015 by starting 11 games, two at safety and nine at corner, and posting 50 tackles, two interceptions and a Knight-high 13 pass breakups.”

Round 5 (compensatory): Defensive Lineman Eddie Vanderdoes (UCLA)

Eddie Vanderdoes

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 305 pounds

Eddie Vanderdoes was a five-star recruit coming into UCLA, but injuries have hampered his time in Westwood. Out of the gate though, Vanderdoes showed the ability he showed in high school, as he was named honorable mention All-Pac-12 and also received Freshman All-American honors.

Vanderdoes followed that season by being named honorable mention again his sophomore year, as he had 50 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

But the former Bruin star tore his ACL his junior year after playing exceptionally well versus Virginia in the season opener. Vanderdoes came back his senior year and was given honorable mention status for the third time in his career at UCLA.

In his career, Vanderdoes had 122 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.

Vanderdoes showed off his athletic ability at the combine, as the big man ran a 4.99 in the 40.

Ted Thompson likes selecting defensive linemen out of UCLA, as he drafted Datone Jones in 2013 and Kenny Clark last year. Vanderdoes would add some quality depth to the defensive line, plus would offset the loss of Letron Guion, who will miss the first four games of the 2017 season due to a PED violation.

Landry said this about Vanderdoes after a Senior Bowl practice: “Vanderdoes played exceptionally well today in all areas. He beat opponents with quickness, power and intensity. From the snap he’s tough to stop as he showed a great first step, power in his lower body and he worked his hands incredibly well. Even when it looked like Vanderdoes was outmatched, he won the down.”

Round 6: Linebacker Ben Boulware (Clemson)

Ben Boulware

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 238 pounds

Ben Boulware started his career at Clemson as a special teams demon, before becoming a starter at linebacker the past two seasons. Besides being team captain of the eventual national champion Tigers in 2016, Boulware led by example with his fiery play, as he was named first-team All-ACC both in 2015 and this past season.

In his career at Clemson, Boulware had 261 total tackles, 26.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, five interceptions, four fumble recoveries and seven forced fumbles.

Like Biegel, Boulware is a natural leader and never stops playing hard until he hears the whistle. Boulware is compact, but is fast to the football. He seems to have the knack for making a big play. Boulware has also shown some nice ability in pass coverage. No matter what, you are going to get a terror on special teams.

The biggest area in which Boulware can help the Packers immediately is on special teams, which really need help. Boulware will also push Blake Martinez, Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas for playing time at inside linebacker.

Landry said this about Boulware after a Senior Bowl practice: “Boulware is not a great athlete but he is a terrific football player. Best in the box, he’s instinctive, shows great anticipation and fires up the field. He’s also nasty and wraps up tackling. He struggles moving outside the numbers and in reverse.”

Round 7: Offensive Tackle Jonathan McLaughlin (Virginia Tech)

Jonathan McLaughlin

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 293 pounds

Jonathan McLaughlin started all four years at Virginia Tech and started 49 games overall. In his freshman year, McLaughlin started all 13 games and was named second-team freshman All-American by College Football News.

In his career as a Hokie, McLaughlin started 26 games as a left tackle and 23 games at right tackle. In 2016, McLaughlin was named third-team All-ACC at right tackle.

McLaughlin has a good wingspan and has quick feet, but needs to become more consistent. He shows good power in blocking for the run game.

McLaughlin is better suited for zone-blocking scheme, and has the physical attributes which could see him move inside to guard in the NFL.

With the Packers losing both Tretter and Lang to free agency, there is a good chance that one of their draft picks from last season, either Jason Spriggs or Kyle Murphy, would move inside from the offensive tackle position to play right guard. Because of that, it would be wise to draft a player who has experience at both tackle positions, plus one never knows when the injury bug will bite Bryan Bulaga at right tackle.

Prior to the East-West Shrine Game, McLaughlin met with the Packers. As did two other players who I had the Packers selecting in my first mock draft, cornerback Fabian Moreau and running back Joe Williams.

Landry said this about McLaughlin after an East-West Shrine Game practice: “McLaughlin displayed strength in his legs when getting into his pass set, as he was hard to move in one-on-one drills and had a great base. He has a lot of length in his arms and legs and uses it well. McLaughlin could stand to improve his quickness in his feet. McLaughlin had a very good day of practice. He was quicker today and was strong in the 11-on-11 period. He is able to stay low through his blocks and has a strong drive in his run blocks.”

Green Bay Packers: Free Agency is Like a Poker Game to Ted Thompson

ted-thompson-at-the-combine

I don’t know how many of you play poker, but if you ever did or do, you probably wouldn’t like sitting across the table from someone like Ted Thompson. Why? Well, not because he wins all the time, but because you could never get a good read on his hand based on his facial expressions.

Thompson of course is the head honcho in the front office of the Green Bay Packers and he runs his team similar to how he views a poker table. Sometimes he won’t even sit down at the table. Other times, he wins a big pot and then just walks away. But his look will never change.

When it comes to free agency, at least since Thompson became general manager of the Packers in 2005, the former Houston Oiler linebacker rarely dips his toes into the abyss known as unrestricted free agency.

Thompson’s approach to running the Green Bay organization, along with head coach Mike McCarthy, is to utilize a draft-and-develop program.

In 11 seasons since that partnership of Thompson and McCarthy took place in 2006, the Packers have had 114-61-1 regular season record, with six NFC North titles, nine playoff appearances, four NFC title game appearances and one Super Bowl win.

It’s rare that Thompson dips his toes into “pure” free agency, when he picks up a veteran NFL player who has had decent success with another team or teams in the NFL. Instead, Thompson depends much more on the draft and signing “street” free agents or undrafted rookie free agents.

But when Thompson has signed a free agent player like Ryan Pickett, or signed players who were recently released by the previous teams like Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders), Julius Peppers (Chicago Bears) and Jared Cook (St. Louis Rams), the results have been pretty good.

When it comes to re-signing their own players in free agency, Thompson and the Packers often wait close until to the midnight hour in bringing back that player. Thompson has done that over the years with players like corner back Sam Shields, right tackle Bryan Bulaga, wide receiver Randall Cobb and most recently with outside linebacker Nick Perry.

Going into the start of free agency in 2017, the Packers had several players who were eligible to become unrestricted free agents. One was Perry, who the Packers re-signed Thursday morning before the actual start of free agency later that afternoon.

Perry signed a five-year, $59 million contract on Thursday, while the Packers also re-upped reserve offensive lineman Don Barclay to a one-year deal worth $1.3 million.

Nick Perry

With the signings of Perry and Barclay, the Packers were approximately $30 million under the cap figure of $167 million set for this year.

The Packers have lost three players to free agency already, as center JC Tretter signed with the Cleveland Browns, while defensive back Micah Hyde signed with the Buffalo Bills and outside linebacker Julius Peppers signed with the Carolina Panthers, who were the team who first drafted Peppers back in 2002.

Jason Wilde, citing a league source, reports that the Packers never made offers to either Hyde or Peppers.

That left players like right guard T.J. Lang, running back Eddie Lacy, tight end Jared Cook, outside linebacker Datone Jones, running back Christine Michael and longsnapper Brett Goode as unsigned unrestricted free agents.

Thompson is playing the ultimate poker game of bluffing with both Lang and Lacy, as the Packers are allowing them to visit other teams to see what the market says that they may be worth. It’s important to know, that Thompson has an ace up his sleeve, as reportedly both Lang and Lacy will allow the Packers to match or at least counter the offers made by other teams.

Speaking of poker, both Cook and his agent now know that they overplayed their hand against Thompson and Russ Ball, who is the team’s contract negotiator, on Friday.

The Packers made the re-signing Cook a priority this offseason, as he played a big role in the team’s six-game winning streak to the end the regular season and then also the success the Packers had in the postseason.

In fact, quarterback Aaron Rodgers often praised the addition of Cook as being the main reason the offense was clicking late in the season and in the postseason. Rodgers also said that re-signing Cook should be a priority for the Packers.

With that as ammunition, Cook and his agent bluffed Thompson and the Packers one too many times, as the team broke off talks with Cook and then signed Martellus Bennett instead.

The Packers signed Bennett to a three-year deal worth anywhere from $18.5 to $21 million.

This was a rare signing for Thompson, which made this move somewhat shocking. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not that Thompson won’t bring in other players from other teams, as he did that with Woodson, Peppers and Cook, but Thompson shies away from signing “true” unrestricted free agents.

Why? Because they can have an impact on the compensatory picks a team will receive in the NFL draft the following season. Woodson, Peppers and Cook were all released by their former teams before the Packers signed them. That meant that the Packers would not be affected at all in the compensatory pick process.

Martellus Bennett

But the signing of Bennett will, but Thompson still thought it was a risk well-worth taking. Thompson knew all about Bennett, who had played with the Chicago Bears for three seasons before being traded to the  New England Patriots last season.

Bennett, who stands 6’6″ and is 248 pounds, is a tight end who can stretch the seam down the middle with his speed and athleticism, plus is solid run-blocker, which is something the Packers have been looking for at that position for years now.

Bennett caught 55 passes for 701 yards (12.7 avg.) and seven touchdowns for the Patriots in 2016. In his career with the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Bears and Pats, Bennett has 403 receptions for 4,287 and 30 touchdowns.

Bennett was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2014 when he was with da Bears.

Time will tell how things will develop with both Lang and Lacy, along with all the other free agents like Jones, Michael and Goode, but one thing is for sure, with the signing of Bennett, Thompson is looking to win at the poker table in free agency.

Even if you can’t tell by looking at him.

Green Bay Packers: Picking Up Christine Michael on Waivers is No Surprise

christine-michael

Christine Michael

At one of the practices for the 2013 East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Florida, I noticed that Ted Thompson was studying one player quite intently as he went through drills. That player was running back Christine Michael of Texas A&M.

Michael was a physical specimen who flashed all sorts of athletic ability. In the actual East-West Shrine Game, Michael ran for 42 yards and a touchdown in the West’s 28-13 victory over the East. He also had a reception for seven yards.

At the NFL Scouting Combine about a month later, Michael ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash, posted a 43-inch vertical jump, benched 225 pounds 27 times and had a broad jump of 10-feet, 5-inches.

Michael led all running backs with his performance in the vertical leap and broad jump drills.

In college at Texas A&M, rushed for only 417 yards rushing his senior year, but did manage to score 12 touchdowns. Injuries kept Michael from playing full seasons the two previous years (broken tibia in 2010 and a knee injury in 2011). Combined in those two years, Michael had 1,530 yards and 12 touchdowns.

As a freshman, Michael ran for 844 yards, and also scored 10 touchdowns.

In 2013, I was writing for Bleacher Report. I put out a number of mock drafts for the Packers that spring and in one of them I had the Packers selecting Michael.

In another mock draft, I had the Packers selecting Eddie Lacy of Alabama, which is exactly what the Packers did with the 61st pick of the draft in the second round. The next pick coincidentally went to the Seattle Seahawks, who then picked Michael.

In my final mock draft that year, I correctly predicted that the Packers would select defensive lineman Datone Jones of UCLA in the first round. I had the Packers selecting running back Montee Ball of the Wisconsin Badgers in the second round.

Thompson had also gone to the Wisconsin pro day and not only did he study Ball closely, but he also chatted with him for a few minutes.

So going into the 2013 NFL draft, I believed that the Packers were intent on drafting one of three running backs in the second round. Either Ball, Lacy or Michael.

The Packers originally had the 55th selection in the second round of the draft, but traded back to the 61st spot in the draft in a deal with the San Francisco 49ers. With the 58th selection of the draft, the Denver Broncos selected Ball.

When it came time to make their pick at No. 61, the Packers selected Lacy, while Michael went a pick later to the Seahawks.

Lacy had a great first couple of years in Green Bay, as he rushed for 2,317 yards and 20 touchdowns, plus caught 77 passes for 684 yards and four more scores.

No. 27 of the Packers was also named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2013, plus made the Pro Bowl.

Even with that, the Packers were still kicking the tires with Ball after he was released by the Broncos in their last cut just before the start of the 2015 season.

The Packers did work out Ball after he was released, but never signed him. The Packers were content with the tandem of Lacy and James Starks at running back last season.

eddie-lacy-vs-the-boys

Eddie Lacy

But Lacy regressed a bit due to weight issues and injuries in 2015, as he only rushed for 758 yards and three touchdowns, while catching 20 passes and two more scores.

Starks helped to fill that void, as he rushed for a career-best 601 yards and two touchdowns. No. 44 also caught 43 passes for 392 yards and three scores.

Michael meanwhile, had a very interesting start to his career. Michael backed up Marshawn Lynch in Seattle and didn’t get a lot of lot of opportunities in his first two seasons in the league.

In 2013 and 2014, Michael rushed for 254 yards and did not score a touchdown. Michael didn’t help himself by missing assignments, plus was difficult to coach at times due to maturity issues.

The Seahawks traded Michael to the Dallas Cowboys in 2015, where he played in five games and rushed for 51 yards. But Dallas saw the same issues that plagued Michael in Seattle and released him.

The Seahawks then took another chance on Michael by re-signing him, as he rushed for 192 yards in three games for the Hawks last season.

The 2016 season was a huge opportunity for Michael to shine for the Seahawks. For one, Lynch retired. Secondly, Michael would be competing primarily with Thomas Rawls, who was coming off a season-ending broken ankle in 2015, when he rushed for 830 yards and four touchdowns.

Michael took full advantage of his chance to shine this past preseason, as he ran like a runaway freight train and was very impressive.

No. 32 carried that over to the regular season, as he was having a solid campaign with 469 yards rushing and six touchdowns through nine games. Rawls suffered a leg injury early in the season, which gave Michael the bulk of the carries for the Seahawks, as Rawls has been sidelined since that time.

But over the past couple of games, the Seahawks were giving rookie running back C.J. Prosise more snaps than Michael. It didn’t help matters that Michael also was dealing with a hamstring issue.

And with Rawls getting ready to get back on the playing field and with Prosise performing well in both the running and passing game, the Hawks decided to jettison Michael earlier this week.

The main cause of his release may have been due to assignment errors again and his penchant for immaturity.

No matter, based on the depth chart at running back right now for the Packers, it was easy to see why Thompson would kick the tires on Michael and sign him off waivers.

Lacy was having a promising start this season, when he rushed for 360 yards (5.1 yards per carry average) in five games before going on injured reserve due to an ankle injury which required surgery.

Right around that same time, Starks had undergone a minor procedure on his knee which would keep him out of action for a month or so.

That meant the options at running back were undrafted rookie Don Jackson and wide receiver Ty Montgomery, who had played some running back at times at Stanford.

It’s no wonder why Thompson made a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs to bring in Knile Davis for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.

Davis (Arkansas) was also part of that running back class in the 2013 NFL draft. Davis, like Michael, had shown excellent athletic ability at the combine, where he ran a 4.37 in the 40, plus had a whopping 31 reps in the bench press.

But after a short stay with Green Bay, where Davis had only five yards rushing in five attempts and had two catches for four yards, the Packers released him.

Meanwhile, Jackson injured his hand in his first game with the Packers, while Montgomery shined in running the ball and especially catching the ball out of the backfield. In games versus the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts, No. 88 rushed for 113 yards on just 16 carries, plus caught 13 passes for 104 yards.

But unfortunately for Montgomery, he also missed a Week 8 game due to a sickle-cell illness.

In Week 10, Starks returned to action at running back and received most of the snaps there, as he rushed for 33 yards in seven carries, plus caught three passes for 11 yards and a touchdown.

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James Starks

Although Lacy is eligible to come off injured reserve and return to the team in Week 15, some recent reports say Lacy may not be able to return until January, which is after the regular season is over.

That is a big reason why Thompson jumped at the chance to bring in a back he really liked out of college. But there are a couple more reasons as well. For one, Michael is only due $280,000 for the rest of the 2016 season. Secondly, the Packers will be facing the Seahawks in a key NFC matchup in Week 14 at Lambeau Field.

You can be sure that the Packers will have Michael discuss the offensive tendencies of the Seahawks with the coaching staff.

Right now I see Starks as the bell cow at running back for the rest of the season if he can remain healthy. Montgomery will also get some opportunities there as well, plus Michael will get his share of reps too. Jackson was put on IR due to a knee injury suffered just before the waiver pickup of Michael.

But whether Michael stays on the team for the rest of the 2016 season or is given a quick release like Davis, depends solely on him.

Michael has all the physical skills that one would want in a running back. It’s the mental acuity of the game which has caused him issues in his short time in the NFL.

If Michael finally figures out how to match his excellent athletic ability with the thinking part of the game, then Thompson and the Packers would have gotten themselves a valuable asset for the football team.

Zeke Bratkowski Talks About Aaron Rodgers and the Offense of the Packers

rodgers-vs-the-colts

This Sunday the 4-3 Green Bay Packers will be hosting the 3-5 Indianapolis Colts at Lambeau Field. This game will be only the ninth time the two teams have met in the regular season since the Colts moved to Indianapolis from Baltimore.

Overall, the Colts lead the all-time series 21-20-1 with the Packers. Since the Colts moved to Indianapolis, the Colts have won five of the eight games that they have played against the Packers. That includes the only time Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and Andrew Luck have faced each other playing quarterback.

Luck and the Colts beat Rodgers and the Packers 30-27 in 2012 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Rodgers had a nice game, as he threw three touchdown passes versus one interception for 235 yards. No. 12 also ran for 57 more yards in that contest.

Luck attempted 55 passes, completing 31, as he threw two touchdown passes versus one pick for 362 yards. Luck also ran for 24 yards on the ground, including a three-yard touchdown run.

Looking back at the history of the Packers and the Colts, the  most famous game between the two teams was the 1965 Western Conference Championship game at Lambeau Field.

I wrote about that game earlier this summer after talking with former Green Bay quarterback Zeke Bratkowski. The former Georgia Bulldog star, who also wore No. 12 just like Rodgers is currently, had to come into that classic game in relief of Bart Starr, as No. 15 was injured on the first play of the game.

Bratkowski threw for 248 yards in that game, as the Packers won 13-10 in overtime. The game was controversial because a number of observers felt that kicker Don Chandler had missed the game-tying field goal late in regulation.

Bratkowski was sure that the refs were correct in saying that the kick was good.

“The field goal was good,” Bratkowski said. “The reason I say that is Bart and I were both holders. If he was hurt and couldn’t hold on kicks, I would hold. In practice, the quarterback who wasn’t holding would be under the goal posts catching the kicks, just like in that game.

“But with those short goal posts, unless you were under them, you couldn’t tell if a kick was good or not. And that’s were the officials were when they said the kick was good.”

I had another opportunity to talk with Bratkowski this week and I wanted to get his take on the play of Rodgers and the offense of the Packers in general as of late.

“The running back injuries to [Eddie] Lacy and [James] Starks can really effect how productive the offense will be,” Bratkowski said. “Without them, you really can’t utilize the play-action pass.

“I have to congratulate Coach McCarthy for spreading out the offense because of the injuries at running back. The offense has really been effective since he has done that.”

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There is no doubt about that. In the past two games, Rodgers has put together two of his best efforts in the past year or so. Versus the Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons, Rodgers has thrown seven touchdown passes without tossing an interception for 572 yards. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 113.7, as he has two straight games of having a passer rating of over 100.

Having a passer rating of over 100 used to be the norm for Rodgers until the 2015 season. In fact, Rodgers had six straight seasons of having a passer rating of over 100 up until last season. In addition to that, Rodgers is the No. 1 quarterback in NFL history with a career mark of 103.6 based on 1,500 pass attempts.

Russell Wilson (100.5) of the Seattle Seahawks is the only other QB with a career mark of over 100 in NFL history.

But starting last season, the passing game of Rodgers and the Packers started to struggle somewhat.

At first glance, looking at the 2015 season Rodgers put together for the Packers, it looked fairly normal.

Why? Because Rodgers threw 31 touchdown passes compared to just eight picks last season. That was very comparable to what No. 12 did over the previous six seasons.

But when you peel back the onion, one can see a number of declining stats.

The yards passing for the season was one red flag. Rodgers threw for just 3,821 yards last season, which was the lowest of his career, based on a full season.

In addition to that, Rodgers also only threw for an average of 239 yards per game in 2015. That is a steep decline based on the previous six seasons which averaged 279 yards per game.

The passer rating also went way down. In 2015, the passer rating of Rodgers was just 92.8, which was the lowest of his career since he became a starter in 2008.

One of the big reasons for the decline of the overall statistics of Rodgers was the season-ending ACL injury suffered by wide receiver Jordy Nelson in the preseason. That, plus the fact that the Rodgers wasn’t given a lot of help by his younger receivers. Namely Davante Adams.

No. 17 struggled with lingering ankle issues for a number of games last season. But that doesn’t excuse the number of dropped passes, running the wrong routes at times and the overall lack of production.

Adams ended up with just 50 catches for 483 yards and one touchdown.

Zeke in Super Bowl II

Zeke Bratkowski in Super Bowl II.

Bratkowski talked about that situation.

“It takes awhile for quarterbacks to get into a rhythm with young receivers,” Bratkowski said. “The ability to run a concise pattern is really a work of art. If the receiver is not where he is supposed to be really creates issues for the quarterback.

“Plus the loss of Jordy really hurt last year. And you can see that it has taken him awhile this season to get back to where he was before the injury. But he’s coming along just fine.”

The lack of production from last year ran into the early part of this season as well for the passing game. Going into the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field in Week 3, Rodgers had gone 14 straight games without achieving a passer rating of over 100.

But in the game against the Lions, which was also the alumni game in which Bratkowski and so many former Packers greats attended, Rodgers threw four touchdown passes without tossing a pick for 205 yards. No. 12’s passer rating in the game was 129.3.

And with the two straight games of having a passer rating over 100 in Week’s 7 and 8, Rodgers looks to be back on track.

Nelson is looking like his old self again in the deep passing game, at least based on what he did against the Falcons last week. For the season, Nelson has 31 receptions for 415 yards and six touchdowns.

Adams is also having a great bounce-back season and is becoming a huge threat in the passing game. No. 17 has 40 receptions for 424 yards and five touchdowns. In the last two games alone, Adams has 25 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns.

With his recent success, Rodgers is putting together another very solid season. No. 12 has thrown 17 touchdowns versus just four picks for 1,742 yards. His passer rating (96.4) is not over 100 yet, but is heading that way.

Bratkowski shared his thoughts on Rodgers.

“Aaron has a very nice arm and also has great mobility,” Bratkowski said. “He’s trusting his young receivers more and they are earning his trust. The concept of the offense over the past couple of weeks has been really good.

“But the key to the passing game is pass protection. And the Packers have done a great job protecting Rodgers so he can look over his various reads. Aaron has taken advantage of that situation the past couple of weeks.”

NFL: Super Bowl II

Zeke Bratkowski (No. 12), Bart Starr (No. 15), Don Horn (No. 13) and head coach Vince Lombardi on the sideline near the end of  Super Bowl II.

Bratkowski will be watching the game between the Colts and Packers at his home in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Bratkowski will have a very special guest at his house to watch the game with him. That would be Bart Starr.

Bratkowski and Starr have talked about Rodgers with each other.

“We have a great feeling about what Aaron has done as a Packer,” Bratkowski said. “He has certainly added to the great lineage of the position in Green Bay. Bart and I both admire what he has done.”

I asked Bratkowski if he has ever met Rodgers.

“Except for shaking hands and saying hello at alumni games, I really haven’t had a conversation with him,” Bratkowski said. “I have pointed to my jersey No. 12 and sort of grin, which gets a smile from Aaron.”

Based on my conversations with Bratkowski, I think it would be well worth the time of Rodgers to have a discussion with another No. 12 who played with the Pack. Bratkowski had 15-year career in the NFL as a quarterback with the Bears, Rams and Packers, plus was an assistant coach in the NFL for 26 years.

Bratkowski is an encyclopedia of knowledge about playing the quarterback position. He gained a lot of that knowledge by learning under Vince Lombardi during his time in Green Bay.

Bratkowski talked about being in the quarterback’s meeting room with Coach Lombardi in a story I wrote earlier this summer.

Bratkowski and Starr were together in those quarterback meetings with Lombardi for five consecutive seasons. I’m sure that they will reflect on those meetings as they watch Rodgers lead the Green Bay offense this Sunday afternoon.

Green Bay Packers: Jerry Kramer Talks About Playing da Bears

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George Halas and Vince Lombardi

Playing the Chicago Bears was always special for Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi. Not just because the storied rivalry started way back in 1921, but because Lombardi was personally endorsed by George Halas for the head coaching job in Green Bay.

So it was very apropos that Lombardi’s first game as head coach was against the Bears at new City Stadium (now Lambeau Field) on September 27, 1959.

The Packers rallied from a 6-0 fourth-quarter deficit in that game and won the contest 9-6. Lombardi was carried off the field by his players after the victory. That was a habit which was duplicated at least four more times in Lombardi’s tenure.

The last time that occurred was after the 33-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II, when Forrest Gregg and Jerry Kramer hoisted up Lombardi in his final game as head coach of the Pack.

I talked with Kramer on Wednesday and he related a couple of instances about how Lombardi was focused on Halas when a game against the Bears was approaching.

For example, Lombardi was always worried that Halas would use spies to check out the practices of the Packers.

“We would be practicing and Coach would see a lineman on a power pole a couple of blocks away doing electrical work,” Kramer said. “And Coach would go, ‘There’s one of Halas’ spies! Somebody go down there and check out that guy!’

Lombardi also had other ways to help hinder any spy tactics of Halas.

“At practice, Bart would wear No. 75 at times,” Kramer said chuckling. “We would change our numbers and everyone would wear a different number to confuse the spies of the Bears. Like Halas was going to think an offensive tackle is playing quarterback for us.”

Lombardi was always primed to play the Bears and he let his team know about as well.

“We were practicing on day before playing the Bears and Coach Lombardi brought us together,” Kramer said. “Coach said, ‘You guys go out and kick the Bears’ ass. And I’ll go out and kick old man Halas’ ass too.’

Kramer also remembered a quote from Halas talking about when the Bears played the Packers.

“Coach Halas said, ‘We knew what they [the Packers] were going to do. We knew where they were going to do it and we knew when they were going to do it. We just couldn’t do anything about it.”

Even with all the various techniques Lombardi would use to stop the flow of information to Bears about the Packers, Halas still had a way to get vital data regarding his rival to the north.

“When I played in the Pro Bowl after the 1967 season, Coach Halas was coaching the team and we we late coming in from Florida after our Super Bowl win,” Kramer said. “There were nine of us and Coach Halas had a bus saved for us to go to practice.

“So I get on the bus and Coach Halas is sitting right behind the driver and he hands me a playbook. I go back about four seats on the opposite side of the bus near the aisle. So I start looking at the playbook and I see the first play is red right 49, which is our play, our code, our number system and our blocking.

“So I flip the page and I see red right 48, 46, 44, 42, 40 and so on. I look up at Coach Halas looking stunned with my mouth hanging open and he’s checking out at my reaction. “Halas said, ‘Jerry, we didn’t want you Green Bay boys to get behind so we just put in your offense.’

“The old fart had it exactly right. The numbers, the colors, the blocking assignments and the variations of the blocking assignments. He knew exactly what our playbook was.”

But even with all that, Lombardi and his Packers had a 13-5 record in the nine years he coached in Green Bay over Halas and his Bears.

The Packers also won five NFL titles in seven years in the 1960s, plus won the first two Super Bowls, while Halas and the Bears won the 1963 NFL title.

The quarterback of those five championship teams of the Packers and the MVP of both Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II, was Bart Starr.

In an earlier conversation that I had with Kramer, he talked about a game which let the team know that Starr was truly their leader.

bart-vs-da-bears

“We were playing the Chicago Bears,” Kramer said. “Bill George was their middle linebacker at the time. On a deep pass attempt, George thought he would try to intimidate Bart.

“Bill took about a five-yard run and he gave Bart a forearm right in the mouth. George timed it perfectly and put Bart right on his behind. He also cut Bart badly, from his lip all the way to his nose. After that, George said, ‘That ought to take care of you Starr, you pu**y.’ Bart snapped right back at George and said, ‘F— you, Bill George, we’re coming after you.’

“My jaw dropped after that exchange, as I was shocked. Meanwhile Bart was bleeding profusely. I told Bart that he better go to the sideline and get sewn up. Bart replied, ‘Shut up and get in the huddle.’

“Bart took us down the field in seven or eight plays and we scored. That series of plays really solidified Bart as our leader and we never looked back.”

It’s that type toughness and resiliency that the current 3-2 Green Bay team needs to have as they get set to play the 1-5 Bears on Thursday night at Lambeau Field on national television.

The Packers did not play well at all this past Sunday, when they lost to the Dallas Cowboys 30-16 at Lambeau Field.

Kramer was at the game, as he sat in a box with Brett Favre, Frank Winters, Antonio Freeman and LeRoy Butler.

“The Packers were chaotic and inconsistent,” Kramer said. “It was not a good showing at all.”

Going into the game against the Bears, the Packers have a number of issues. For one, the the team is dealing with a number of injuries. Which includes their top two running backs, as Eddie Lacy (ankle) and James Starks (knee) won’t be available to play and will be out for several weeks.

In fact, Lacy will be out until at least Week 15, after he was placed on injured reserve after it was determined he needs surgery on his ankle.

The Packers traded a 2018 conditional seventh-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for running back Knile Davis on Tuesday. Also, rookie running back Don Jackson was promoted from the practice squad to replace the roster spot of Lacy.

Kramer knows all about not being able to play with your best running backs. In 1967, the Packers went into the season for the first time in a decade without Paul Hornung and Jim Taylor in the backfield, as Hornung retired and Taylor moved on as a free agent.

In addition to that, both starting running backs, Elijah Pitts and Jim Grabowski, suffered season-ending injuries in Week 8 versus the Baltimore Colts.

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Running back Travis Williams tries to elude linebacker Dick Butkus

The Packers didn’t flinch, as backs like Donny Anderson, Travis Williams, Ben Wilson and Chuck Mercein filled in and helped the Packers finish second in the NFL in rushing that season.

Another problem that the current Packers are having is that the passing offense of the team is not in sync. Aaron Rodgers has been in a year-long slump, at least based on the superlative passing numbers he put up from 2009 through 2014.

The receivers are having trouble getting open, even with the return of Jordy Nelson, and when they are open, Rodgers is missing them at times.

Again, Kramer has dealt with this before, as the offense of the Lombardi Packers had to transform itself over the years.

From 1960 through 1964, the Packers relied on the running game to be the focal point of their offense. In those five years, the Packers were either first or second in the league in rushing.

But in 1965, the running game started having some issues. The Packers were just 10th in the NFL in rushing that season. Ironically, the running game came alive when the team needed it the most that season.

The Packers would be playing for the 1965 NFL title versus the defending NFL champion Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field.

And although the running game of the Packers had struggled almost the entire year, the Packers could not be stopped on this snowy and muddy day on the frozen tundra.

Green Bay rushed for 204 yards behind Taylor and  Hornung, as the Pack won 23-12. The power sweep was especially effective, as Kramer and left guard Fuzzy Thurston kept opening big holes for the backs, mowing down defenders so the Packers gained big chunks of yardage on the ground.

The Packers won three straight NFL titles starting that season. In 1965 and 1966, the Packers became more of a passing offense. Starr was magnificent, as he threw 30 touchdown passes versus 12 interceptions in those two years.

Starr was also named the NFL MVP in 1966.

In 1967, Starr had a number of injuries which affected his play. Because of that, Lombardi leaned more on the running game again and another NFL title was the result.

The current Packers need to change their offensive tendencies like Lombardi did back in the day. Instead of running simply isolation pass patterns, perhaps they can try a few bunch-formation pass patterns, which usually allows receivers to get open a bit more easily.

Plus, go back to the basics of the west coast offense. Use quick-hitting pass patterns like slants and short curls.

The bottom line, the Packers have to find a way to get through all their issues and injuries and beat their most hated rival. With a win, the Packers be within a game of tying the all-time series between the two teams.

Right now the Packers are 91-93-6 in the regular season and 1-1 in the postseason versus the Bears. By winning on Thursday night and again in Week 15 in Chicago at Soldier Field, the Packers will even up the series for the first time since 1933, when the two teams were knotted at 11-11-4.

The Packers have been the dominant team in the past quarter century when the two teams played. A lot of that has been due to great quarterback play. In the 24 years that Favre and Rodgers have been under center for the team, the Packers have a 34-14 record versus da Bears.

Rodgers has been phenomenal for the most part in his career against Chicago. Not only did he beat them in the 2010 NFC title game at Soldier Field, but he’s 12-4 in the regular season as well.

In those 16 games, Rodgers has thrown 35 touchdown passes versus just nine picks for 3,839 yards. That adds up to a very robust passer rating of 107.3.

The Packers need more of the same from Rodgers on Thursday night. Head coach Mike McCarthy can help by changing his offensive scheme a bit, as his offensive inclinations are being diagnosed by the opponents.

The struggles of Rodgers and the offense over the past year or so validate that point.

Kramer knows what the Packers need to do versus da Bears.

“Just do what Coach Lombardi always instructed us to do to meet our challenges,” Kramer said. “Coach told us that we had to be tenacious, we had to be committed and that we had to be disciplined.

“We listened and followed his directions and we focused on the job at hand. That led us to all those championships, including the three straight NFL titles.”

The job at hand for the current Packers is beating the Bears on Thursday night. Not just winning, but also improving all facets of the football team with their play.

Green Bay Packers: The Play in the Trenches Has Been Stellar

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Going into the 2016 NFL season, looking at the units on both the offensive and defensive lines of the Green Bay Packers, there were a number of questions that needed to be answered.

On the offensive line, the biggest question was how would the Packers be able to replace two-time Pro Bowler and two-time (second-team) All-Pro Josh Sitton, who was a surprise cut for the team just before the season began?

Plus, how would JC Tretter do as the starting center, with Corey Linsley on the PUP list?

In addition, the offensive line as a whole did not have a great campaign in 2015, but a lot of that was due to injuries. Everyone of the starters on the line was affected. So, would the group be able to bounce back and play well as a unit if healthy?

The defensive line had a number of questions too. For one thing, nose tackle B.J. Raji surprisingly retired. How would he be replaced?

In addition, Mike Pennel was facing a four-game suspension to start the regular season. How would the Packers overcome losing Pennel over those four games?

Also, first-round draft pick Kenny Clark hurt his back late in the preseason, plus wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire either with his play. Would he be able to play? And if he did, would he play effectively?

The units on both the offensive and defensive lines have answered these questions quite well over four games.

First, let’s look at the offensive line. Lane Taylor has done a very nice job replacing Sitton at left guard. Not only is his run-blocking been good, but his pass-blocking has been effective as well.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari, who was given a contract extension shortly after Sitton was released, is playing the best football of his career. The most notable improvement for Bakhtiari is his run-blocking. No. 69 always had the quick feet to be an excellent pass-blocker against edge-rushers, but now that Bakhtiari is stronger, he can wade off the bull-rushers too.

david-bakhtiari-vs-the-boys

Tretter isn’t as strong as Linsley, but is quicker, especially getting to the next level. All in all, Tretter will probably remain the starter when Linsley comes off the PUP list. It’s a great problem for the Packers to have though, as both are effective starters.

Right guard T.J. Lang played through some shoulder woes in 2015 that affected his play, but is healthy in 2016 and his excellent play shows that. The play of Sitton over the past few years has over-shadowed the play of Lang, but like Sitton, Lang deserves Pro Bowl consideration, as well as All-Pro mention.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga has always been considered one of the top players at his position since he came into the NFL in 2010. The problem with Bulaga has been staying healthy. Right now, No. 75 is indeed healthy and playing very well.

Pro Football Focus just put out their rankings for the top offensive lines in the NFL so far in 2016, and the offensive line of the Packers is ranked No. 2.

Here is what Pro Football Focus said about the offensive line of the Pack:

Another team with no real weak link along the line, the Packers have had all five starters playing well, especially when it comes to pass protection. The Packers’ line has allowed just 17 total pressures on the season, the best mark in the league (albeit across only three games). They have the second-best pass-blocking efficiency score, trailing only New Orleans, despite Aaron Rodgers ranking among the bottom half of QBs when it comes to the average time it takes to get rid of the football.

In terms of the defensive line, the production has just been outstanding. And also somewhat shocking. In fact, if one was going to rank the various units on the defense of the Packers before the 2016 season, the defensive line would have come in third, behind the defensive backs and linebackers.

Now, four games through the 2016 season, the exact opposite is true.

The Packers are ranked No. 1 in rushing defense in the NFL currently. No other team comes close to how good the Packers have been playing the run. After four games, Green Bay has only allowed an average of 42.8 yards per game.

The next closest team to the Packers in that category, is the New York Jets, who have allowed an average of 68.4 yards per game.

The line has been very stout in stopping the run, especially Mike Daniels, who is having a Pro Bowl and All-Pro season. Daniels has been unblockable at times.

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Daniels isn’t the only one performing well. The rookie Clark has played much better than he did in the preseason and has shown steady improvement. Veteran Letroy Guion has also played solidly.

Christian Ringo and rookie Dean Lowry have also chipped in at times in stopping the run.

The play of the line has made it much easier for the inside linebackers to get to the hole and the running back. Jake Ryan leads the Packers with 29 tackles, while rookie Blake Martinez is second on the team with 21 tackles.

The ability to stop the run should get even better now that Pennel will be back after serving his four-game suspension.

That will come in handy this upcoming Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field, as the 3-1 Packers take on the 4-1 Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas leads the NFL in rushing, as the Boys average 155.2 yards per game on the ground.

Plus, the Cowboys are not just a running team, as the offense as a whole is second in the NFL in total offense (397 yards per game), as the team is led by rookie quarterback Dak Prescott.

The Cowboys aren’t bad on defense either, as the team is ranked 11th in the NFL in run defense.

It doesn’t help that the Packers have listed both Eddie Lacy (ankle) and James Starks (knee) as questionable for the game on Sunday. It may get to the point where the Packers may need to call up rookie running back Don Jackson from the practice squad for the game on Sunday.

The Packers can also use Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb at running back if need be.

But the good news for the Packers is that both the offensive and defensive lines are playing exceptional right now. That should bode well for the rest of their units to follow suit.

In the total offense category, the team is ranked just 25th in the league. That should improve, especially in the passing game, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been given more than ample time to scan the field for open receivers.

Rodgers has a solid stat line, as he has thrown nine touchdown passes versus three interceptions, but his passing yardage (876 yards) has not been up to snuff, nor has his passer rating (87.7).

If Rodgers continues to get the protection he has received thus far this season, the improvement in the passing game is sure to follow. Against the New York Giants last Sunday night, Rodgers sometimes had seven or eight seconds to look for open receivers.

As it is, Rodgers has been sacked eight times in four games, which is the eighth-best mark in the league.

The Packers are ranked 12th in the NFL in running the football. Lacy has had a good bounce-back season thus far, after having a disappointing 2015 season. Currently, Lacy has run for 295 yards and has averaged 5.5 yards per carry.

Lacy always seems to run the ball well against the Cowboys, so it would be nice if he could play on Sunday. In two games against the Cowboys in his career, including last season, No. 27 has averaged 132.5 yards per game on the ground and has two touchdowns.

eddie-lacy-vs-the-boys

By the way, Rodgers also plays very well against Dallas. In five games against the Cowboys, Rodgers has thrown seven touchdown passes without a pick and has a passer rating of 100.8.

The defense of the Packers should also continue to improve. Overall, the Packers are ranked ninth in total defense. The line play has been outstanding to be sure, but so has the play of the linebackers, especially outside linebacker Nick Perry.

Perry is off to the best start of his career. No. 53 has 17 tackles, 4.5 sacks and has been very good in stopping the run around the edge.

As a team, the Packers are tied for fifth in the NFL with 14 sacks.

The Packers have had some issues in their secondary so far this season, but a big reason has been the absence of their best cornerback…Sam Shields. Shields suffered a concussion during the opener versus the Jacksonville Jaguars and has not played since. No. 37 will be out again on Sunday against the Cowboys, but is showing steady improvement and should be playing soon.

Demarious Randall has also been hampered by a groin injury and his availability for the Dallas game is still in question. No. 23 missed the game against the Giants last week due to the injury.

But the bottom line is that NFL games are won or lost in the trenches more times than not. And that is why the Packers should feel very good about their football team, as both lines are playing very well up to this point.

The Packers Have Fared Well After the Bye Week Under Mike McCarthy

mike-mccarthy-aaron-rodgers

Since Mike McCarthy became head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 2006, the team has had an 8-2 record following the bye week.

The Packers didn’t have much good fortune last year following the bye week, as they went into Denver to face the Broncos with a perfect 6-0 record. The Broncos totally dominated the Packers 29-10 in a game which was played on a Sunday night on national television.

The Packers only had 140 total yards, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked three times and hit a lot more often than that. No. 12 only had 77 yards passing in the game as he seemed to be running for his life on every passing play.

This year, the 2-1 Packers will also be playing on a Sunday night following their bye week. This time the opponent will be the 2-2 New York Giants, plus the game will be at Lambeau Field. The G-Men have been hampered by injuries on both sides of the ball and lost on the road Monday night to the 4-0 Minnesota Vikings, who lead the NFC North.

Under McCarthy, the Packers have never lost a home game following the bye week. That being said, the Giants behind quarterback Eli Manning, have won three straight games versus the Packers, which includes winning the 2011 NFC Divisional Playoff Game 37-20 at Lambeau.

The Packers came into that game with a 15-1 record, but Manning threw three touchdown passes to lead New York to victory. The G-Men went on to win Super Bowl XLVI later that postseason against the New England Patriots.

That was the second time Manning and the Giants upset the Packers in the postseason at Lambeau Field. The first time was the 2007 NFC Championship Game, when New York won in overtime 23-20. Like they did in 2011, Manning and the Giants also won the Super Bowl later that postseason, also against the Pats, who were undefeated at the time.

This is the history that the Packers will be up against when they face the Giants next Sunday night at Lambeau.

Even though the Packers are 2-1 and are coming off a 34-27 win against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau in Week 3, the Packers seemed to sleep-walk through the second half of that game and almost let the Lions back in the game after holding a 31-10 lead at the half.

The good news in that game was that Rodgers had his first over-100 passer rating (129.3) in 15 games, as he threw four touchdown passes without a pick.

Still, there are issues for the Packers on both sides of the ball, especially in pass coverage on defense. That is never a good thing when one is facing Manning and his talented receiving corp, even with Odell Beckham Jr. struggling somewhat.

On offense, the Packers are still only ranked 29th (293.7 yards per game) in the NFL, even after their output against Detroit. That includes being ranked 29th (193.3 yards per game) in passing offense and 16th (100.3 yards per game) in rushing offense.

The Giants meanwhile are ranked sixth (382.2 yards per game) in total offense. That includes being ranked fourth (288.5 yards per game) in passing offense and 19th (93.8 yards per game) in rushing offense.

On defense, the Packers lead the NFL in stopping the run, as they have only allowed 42.7 yards per game. But Green Bay’s total defense ranking is only 13th (350 yards per game) because of the issues the team is having in stopping the pass.

Currently, the Packers are ranked 29th in passing defense, as they have allowed over 300 yards per game, plus have allowed six touchdown passes. Overall, the opposing quarterbacks have had a passer rating of 105.3.

When one looks back over the first three games of this season defensively, compared to expectations going into the 2016 campaign, it’s almost as if Rod Serling has written this script.

The Packers were expected to struggle somewhat on the defensive line and excel in the secondary this season. But the opposite has happened, at least through three games.

Part of the reason the secondary has struggled has been the absence of cornerback Sam Shields for two games due to a concussion. Shields is still in concussion protocol and his status for the game against the Giants is uncertain.

The Packers will be facing a tough New York defense that has also had to overcome injuries in their secondary, as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t play against the Vikings due to a groin injury.

The G-Men are ranked 11th (346.2 yards per game) in total defense, which includes being ranked ninth (84 yards per game) in rushing defense and 18th 262.2 yards per game) in passing defense.

For the Packers to have success against that defense, the Packers have to continue to protect Rodgers in the passing game and also be productive in the running game.

The Giants have just four sacks in four games, but are tough to run against. Running back Eddie Lacy is off to a great start in 2016, as he has rushed for 214 yards in three games (71.3 average), plus has a 5.0 rushing average per carry.

Rodgers is having another fabulous season in terms of his touchdown passes vs. interceptions ratio. No. 12 has thrown seven touchdown passes compared to just one pick.

But even with those great stats, the passing yardage has been somewhat minimal, as Rodgers has thrown for just 617 yards. The passer rating for Rodgers this season now stands at 98.6.

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Manning on the other hand, has been struggling. No. 10 has thrown four touchdown passes, but has also thrown four interceptions for 1,186 yards overall. The passer rating for Manning currently sits at 87.8.

But before Packer Nation gets too comfortable about expectations regarding the game on Sunday night versus the Giants, know that Manning has sort of been kryptonite to the Packers when he plays them.

Yes, the Packers have beaten Manning three times when they have faced him in his career, but he has also beaten Green Bay four times, including two postseason games at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers and the Packers did beat Manning and the Giants 45-17 at Lambeau late in the 2010 season, which was a game the Packers needed to have to keep their playoff hopes alive for that season.

The Packers went on to win five straight games after that victory against the Giants, which included a 31-26 win in Super Bowl XLV over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ironically, the Giants now essentially use the same offensive system the Packers use under head coach Ben McAdoo. McAdoo coached tight ends and quarterbacks under McCarthy from 2006 through 2013.

Bottom line, even with their success at home after a bye week under McCarthy, the Packers still have a lot of details to improve upon, both offensively and defensively.

In addition to that, the Packers will be facing an opponent in Manning who has been victorious at Lambeau Field when it was truly win or go home.

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.”

aaron-rodgers-vs-the-vikings

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.

eddie-lacy-vs-the-vikes

“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.

zeke-with-coach-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.

A Scout’s Take on the Offensive Weapons of the Green Bay Packers

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It looks like the Green Bay Packers will be adding a couple more weapons this week to their offensive repertoire. At least according to what quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Packers told Charles Woodson and the rest of the ESPN Countdown crew after the Hall of Fame game between the Packers and Indianapolis Colts was cancelled due to poor field conditions.

Rodgers told Woodson and company that he expected both wide receiver Jordy Nelson and tight end Jared Cook back this week. Both players began training camp on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list.

Nelson suffered an ACL tear in the 2015 preseason and missed all of last season. Plus, he suffered what he called a hiccup to his other knee recently which put him on the PUP list. Cook was recovering from minor foot surgery which was done in early June.

I was in Green Bay on Thursday and I saw Nelson riding a bike to practice, which to me was a positive sign. The comments by Rodgers on Sunday night proved my beliefs to be correct.

On Wednesday of last week, I was able to talk with NFL scout Chris Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show about a few topics regarding the Packers.

Speaking of Landry, I am pleased to say that I’m a contributing writer to his fine site.

When I talked with Landry, I mentioned the situation with Nelson’s other knee, as well as the great training camp third-year wide receiver Jared Abbrederis was having and that he may have some fantasy football value.

“They are just being cautious with Jordy,” Landry said. “Talking with the coaches there, they don’t feel like it’s an issue, but like you said, you never know.

“I always think their receivers there are good with their fantasy value. Look, with Aaron Rodgers, they are going to catch a lot of balls. It’s just who is healthy.

“With Nelson and [Randall] Cobb. [Davante] Adams to me has to pick it up and be more consistent. But they have some weapons, there is no question about it. It’s going to be interesting to watch the tight ends too, with Richard Rodgers and see what Jared Cook can do for them.

“Plus there’s the weight of Eddie Lacy. So all those things will be intriguing to watch.”

Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis

Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis

Although Landry didn’t mention Abbrederis by name, No. 84 has been outstanding so far this summer.

Plus there is the always dangerous Jeff Janis, who needs to be more consistent in practice, but his size and speed make him a threat any time he runs downfield.

Just ask the Arizona Cardinals. Janis caught seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns versus the Cards in the 2015 NFC Divisional playoff game. There is one aspect of Janis’ game which is very consistent. It’s his ability on special teams to be an outstanding gunner.

Rookie wide receiver/kick returner Trevor Davis from Cal has also opened some eyes in camp.

Second-year receiver Ty Montgomery remains on the PUP list with an ankle injury and there is not a timetable for his return.

But it does look like Nelson and Cook will be returning and that will only add more firepower to the weaponry that Rodgers will have at his disposal as he drops back to pass.

If Lacy can return to the form of how he played in 2013 and 2014 in the running game, with some help from James Starks, the offense of the Packers can be special in 2016.

That being said, as Landry told me in an earlier story from a few weeks ago, the success of the offense will really be contingent on how well the offensive line plays.

Time will tell how that scenario will play out.

But with both Nelson and Cook possibly being back this week, the receiving part of the equation will get much better for the Packers.