Will the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns Do Business Again During the 2018 NFL Draft?

2018 NFL Scouting Combine

General manager Brian Gutekunst of the Green Bay Packers and general manager John Dorsey of the Cleveland Browns worked together in the scouting department of the Packers for 13 years.

Plus, Eliot Wolf, who is now assistant general manager of the Browns, and Alonzo Highsmith, who is now vice president of the Browns, also spent many years together with Gutekunst in the Green Bay scouting department.

Those associations led to a trade the two teams made in early March, when the Packers dealt cornerback Damarious Randall for quarterback DeShone Kizer of the Browns, plus the teams swapped of picks in both the fourth and fifth rounds of the 2018 NFL draft.

That meant that the Packers will have the first pick in both the fourth and fifth rounds of the upcoming draft.

Could there be another deal made between the two teams during the draft?

I’m thinking that there could be.

The Packers have 12 selections in the draft this year, which includes their own picks in each of the seven rounds of the draft, plus have four compensatory picks (one in the fourth round, two in the fifth round and one in the sixth round), plus have another pick in the seventh round due to a trade.

The Browns only have nine picks in the draft, plus the team doesn’t have a selection in either the third or seventh round. But don’t go feeling sorry for the Browns, as they have the first and fourth selection of the draft in the first round, plus have the first and third selections of the second round of the draft.

It is at the beginning of the second round where I could see the Packers doing a maneuver with the Browns.

To get the third pick of the second round (selection No. 35), the Packers would need to give the Browns their own pick in the second round (selection No. 45), as well as the first pick of the fourth round (selection No. 101) and their second pick of the seventh round (selection No. 239) to make the deal.

Getting up to pick No. 33 of the Browns would cost a bit more, but not much. The Packers would again have to give up their own second round pick (No. 45), plus their first fourth round pick (No. 101), plus would have to also trade their two compensatory picks in the fifth round (No.’s 172 & 174).

The first scenario would still leave the Packers with ten selections overall, while the second would mean that the Packers still have nine picks. The key is that Green Bay would have two selections among the top 33 or 35 players in the draft, plus would still have their third round pick (No. 76) as well.

In both scenarios, Green Bay would also have selections in all rounds of the draft.

The Packers would only want to move up to the top of the second round (No. 33 or No. 35) if a player that they truly want is still on the board. Plus, the Packers would have figured that the player who they desire would most likely be selected before the Packers get a chance to pick at No. 45.

Who that player might be depends on how the draft plays out.

Round 1 takes place on a Thursday night (April 26). Round’s 2 and 3 take place on Friday night (April 27).

I always utilize NFL scout Chris Landry when I do any type of draft story. Landry has put together his own horizontal draft board for the 2018 NFL draft, which encompasses the best players overall, regardless of position.

In my most recent story about who the Packers might select with pick No. 14, I listed the 18 players who Landry gave 1st round value to:

7.4 – 7.0 = Superstar Ability
7.4 = 1st Pick Value

7.0 = Definite Top 5 Pick

RB Saquon Barkley–Penn State
OG Quenton Nelson–Notre Dame

6.9 – 6.5 = Immediate Starter
6.9 = Early 1st Round

DE Bradley Chubb–North Carolina State
S/CB/SLOT Minkah Fitzpatrick–Alabama

6.5 = Mid to Late 1st Round Value

QB Sam Darnold–USC
QB Josh Rosen–UCLA (Character)
DE Marcus Davenport–Texas San Antonio
OLB/DE Tremaine Edmunds–Virginia Tech
WLB/MLB Roquan Smith–Georgia
MLB/ILB Rashaan Evans–Alabama
SS/FS/SLOT Derwin James–Florida State
CB Denzel Ward–Ohio State
CB Mike Hughes–Central Florida
RB Derrius Guice–LSU
RB Ronald Jones III–USC
DT Viota Vea–Washington
DT Daron Payne–Alabama
DT Maurice Hurst–Michigan (Medical)

Okay, let’s say the Packers are fortunate enough to select DE/OLB Marcus Davenport in the first round with pick No. 14. Davenport is who I had Green Bay taking in my second mock draft.

Marcus Davenport III

Marcus Davenport

Now, let’s look at the 24 players who Landry gives an early 2nd round value (6.4) to:

QB Baker Mayfield–Oklahoma (Character)
QB Josh Allen–Wyoming
QB Lamar Jackson–Louisville
DE/OLB Harold Landry–Boston College
DE/OLB Arden Key–LSU (Character)
DE Sam Hubbard–Ohio State
WR Calvin Ridley–Alabama
WR Christian Kirk–Texas A&M
ILB Leighton Vander Esch–Boise State
OLB Lorenzo Carter–Georgia
CB Josh Jackson–Iowa
OT/LT Conner Williams-Texas
OT/RT Mike McGlinchey–Notre Dame
OT/LT Kolton Miller–UCLA
DT Taven Bryan–Florida
DT Harrison Phillips–Stanford
SS Ronnie Harrison–Alabama
CB Jaire Alexander–Louisville
OC James Daniels–Iowa
OC Billy Price–Ohio State (Medical)
RB Sony Michel–Georgia
TE Hayden Hurst–South Carolina
OG Isaiah Wynn–Georgia
OG Will Hernandez–UTEP

From that list, I believe there is a very good possibility that the first three names in that group would have been selected in the first round. Plus, I’m sure there are others in this list who will certainly selected as well. That still leaves a number of prospects who could possibly still be on the board at the start of the second round.

Just imagine if any of these players were still on the board at the start of the second round:

  • Landry
  • Key
  • Ridley
  • Kirk
  • Vander Esch
  • Carter
  • Jackson
  • Williams
  • McGlinchey
  • Harrison
  • Alexander
  • Wynn
  • Hernandez

While the Packers would certainly be intrigued by the offensive players in the group above, it is the defense of the team which needs to become dominant again. Similar to the 2009 NFL draft when then general manager Ted Thompson drafted defensive lineman B.J. Raji with pick No. 9 in the draft and then traded-up to select linebacker Clay Matthews with pick No. 26 in the first round.

The year before that draft, the Packers were ranked 20th in the NFL in total defense. But by selecting Raji and Matthews, along with changing defensive coordinators (from Bob Sanders to Dom Capers), the Packers improved to second in the NFL in total defense in 2009.

And in 2010, when the Packers ended up winning Super Bowl XLV, the Packers were ranked fifth in total defense.

The Packers have an opportunity to create that same type of dynamic change to their defense, which was ranked 22nd in total defense in 2017. Plus, just like in 2009, the team has changed defensive coordinators, as Capers was fired and replaced by Mike Pettine.

By adding the likes of a Landry, Key, Vander Esch, Carter, Jackson, Harrison or Alexander to pair along with a talent like Davenport, that would give a dynamic change to the defense of the Packers in 2018. Similar to what occurred in 2009.

Every player listed above would enhance the Green Bay defense.

If Landry, Key or Carter were still available at the top of the second round, they could be paired with Davenport as bookends at outside linebacker.

Matthews can still bring it at OLB, as can Nick Perry, but Matthews might be better suited to play inside linebacker now, while Perry continues to have his share of injuries. The backups at OLB (Kyler Fackrell and Vince Biegel) have yet to show that they can be a force in rushing the passer in the NFL.

Both Fackrell and Biegel showed that they had pass-rush ability in college, but have yet to show that same effectiveness in the NFL. That being said, Fackrell definitely showed some improvement in 2017 with his play, while Biegel missed half of his rookie 2017 season with a broken foot.

Leighton Vander Esch

No. 38 Leighton Vander Esch

Vander Esch would also be an outstanding add-on for the Packers. He could be paired with Blake Martinez at inside linebacker. Like Martinez, Vander Esch would be a tackling machine. In 2017, Vander Esch had 141 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, five passed defended, had two interceptions and forced four fumbles for Boise State.

Jackson, Harrison and Alexander would all be a big addition to the beleaguered secondary of the Packers. The team desperately needs to add talent and depth to the cornerback position. Jackson and Alexander certainly belong in that category. Harrison would be able to replace Morgan Burnett (left via free agency) at safety and join fellow former Alabama star Ha Ha Clinton-Dix there.

Bottom line, since Gutekunst became general manager, the team has been more aggressive in free agency by adding the likes of tight end Jimmy Graham, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and cornerback Tramon Williams.

Gutekunst also made a very difficult decision when he released one of the more popular players on the Packers, wide receiver Jordy Nelson.

Plus, Gutekunst made the trade with Cleveland and Dorsey before free agency began. The trade was made because of the comfort level that Gutekunst and Dorsey have with each other.

That comfort level could lead to another trade in the 2018 NFL draft. The Packers need to stay aggressive in their approach to improve a team (especially the defense) who was in the NFC title game just two years ago, while the Browns need to add as many assets as possible to a team which went 0-16 in 2017.

The trade I envision could do just that. The Packers would be able to get two great players among the top 33 or 35 prospects in the 2018 NFL draft, while the Browns would be able to add two to three more prospects in the draft.

To me, it’s a win-win for both teams.

A Scout’s Take on How the Packers Did in the Legal Tampering Period of Free Agency in the NFL

Brian Gutekunst NFL SC 2018

Brian Gutekunst

Well, Brian Gutekunst did not waste a lot of time beginning his tenure as the new general manager of the Green Bay Packers.

First, before the legal tampering period began on Monday, which is now allowed before free agency officially began today at 4:00 pm (EST), Gutekunst made a trade last Friday before the negotiating period with free-agent players became legal.

On Friday, Gutekunst made a deal with a former associate of his with the Packers, general manager John Dorsey of the Browns, as the Packers traded cornerback Damarious Randall for quarterback DeShone Kizer, plus a swap of picks in both the fourth and fifth rounds.

Then on Tuesday, Gutekunst really got to work with three big maneuvers.

NFL Scout Chris Landry wrote about the three moves the Packers made on Tuesday on his fine website LandryFootball.com.

Landry wrote this about the release of wide receiver Jordy Nelson:

The Packers released WR Jordy Nelson. The move clears $10.2 million in cap space and leaves behind a modest $2.3 million in dead money. The 33-year-old receiver is coming off a concerning campaign. Looking visibly slower, Nelson saw his yards per catch crash to 9.1 in 2017. He struggled with both Aaron Rodgers and Brett Hundley under center. Despite his age, the drop off was surprising after Nelson bounced back so well from his torn ACL in 2016. Healthy now, Nelson won’t hurt for teams wanting to take a flier.

It definitely was a gut-wrenching move by Gutekunst to release Nelson, who is one of the most beloved players in recent memory in the eyes of Packer Nation.

Nelson will leave behind some remarkable stats in the Green Bay record book. No. 87 currently is third all-time in franchise history in receptions with 550. Nelson is also second all-time in touchdown receptions with 69. The former Kansas State star is third all-time in 100-yard games with 25.

Nelson is also the only player in franchise history to have three seasons with 13 or more touchdown receptions (2011, 2014 & 2016).

Jordy and Aaron in Super Bowl XLV

Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers celebrate a touchdown in Super Bowl XLV.

The former second-round draft pick in 2008 is the only player in franchise history to be named the league’s Comeback Player of the Year after catching 97 passes for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2016 following a yearlong recovery from a torn ACL.

The 2014 year was a special one for Nelson, as he had 98 receptions for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns. Nelson was named to the Pro Bowl squad that year, plus was named second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press and first-team All-Pro by The Sporting News.

Nelson also came up big time in the postseason, as he is the leading receiver in team history with 54 receptions. He also is tied with Edgar Bennett and Antonio Freeman with the most postseason catches in a game with nine. Nelson did that in Super Bowl XLV, when he had nine receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown.

It was definitely a tough decision for Gutekunst to make when he released No. 87.

“These are tough days when you have to release a player that means so much to your organization, to your team,” Gutekunst said in a press confernce Tuesday evening. “Jordy Nelson is one of the great Packers to have played here. He was such an excellent player on the field, an excellent player in your locker room, and obviously in the community as well. He’s everything that you want a pro to be and he’ll be missed.”

Probably the player who was affected the most by the release of Nelson was quarterback Aaron Rodgers, not just because of the great duo that they formed on the football field, but also because of their friendship.

Rodgers posted a heart-felt message to Nelson on Instagram late Tuesday night:

“Hard to find the right words today to express what 87 means to me,” Rodgers wrote. “No teammate exemplified what it means to be a packer quite like him. From living in GB full time, his incredible contributions to the city, state, and region, to his consistent, reliable play on the field. Definitely a sad day and the toughest part of this business. There will never be another quite like white lightning. #leader #brother #friend #baller #loyal #champion #legacy #intact #stillcanplayball #backshoulder #1stSBTD”

The move to release Nelson allowed the Packers to bring in tight end Jimmy Graham, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints.

This is what Landry wrote about that acquisition:

The Packers signed TE Jimmy Graham, formerly of the Seahawks, to a three-year contract. Graham appeared headed for a reunion with the Saints, but the sides couldn’t figure out the financials. Graham is coming off his first double-digit touchdown campaign since 2014 but saw his yards per catch crater from 14.2 to 9.1 last season. The drop off came even as Graham was another year removed from his devastating knee injury. Now 31, he required frequent maintenance days in Seattle. Despite his advancing age and seeming loss of a step, Graham is an intriguing pairing with a quarterback who at one point coaxed an eight-score season out of Richard Rodgers. 

According to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, Graham’s deal with the Packers is for three years and $30 million, with $22 million paid out during the first two years of the deal.

Graham will be a big red zone weapon for Rodgers to utilize, as well as someone who can stretch the seam down the middle of the field. Rodgers has taken advantage of that situation before in Green Bay with other tight ends like Jermichael Finley and Jared Cook.

In his eight-year career in the NFL, Graham has 556 receptions for 6,800 yards and 69 touchdowns.

at Lambeau Field on September 30, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Jimmy Graham

Graham has also been named to five Pro Bowl squads and was also named first-team All-Pro in 2013 by AP.

In the postseason, the former University of Miami (FL) star has 22 receptions for 269 yards and four touchdowns. Graham did that in 2011 and 2013 for the Saints and in 2016 for the Seahawks.

Graham was almost unstoppable in the 2011 postseason, as he had 12 receptions for 158 yards and three scores for the Saints.

Before Tuesday was over, Gutekunst also added defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. I had speculated that the team might add Wilkerson back on March 1 due to his past association with the new defensive coordinator of the Packers, Mike Pettine.

This is what Landry wrote about the Packers bringing in Wilkerson:

The Packers agreed to terms with DE Muhammad Wilkerson, formerly of the Jets. Wilkerson shopped his wares on visits with the Redskins and Chiefs, but a reunion with old Jets DC Mike Pettine was always in his best interests. Wilkerson had a very-public falling out with Jets management the past two years, but he remained an effective player on the field, and was dominant during his time with Pettine. Wilkerson is only 28 years old. He’ll add disruptive interior ability against both the run and pass to a defensive front that needed help. 

Wilkerson signed a one-year deal worth $5 million, plus $3 million in incentives, according to Tom Pellissero of NFL Network.

In his entire seven-year career with the Jets, Wilkerson had 405 tackles, 44.5 sacks, 28 passes defensed, two interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery (for a touchdown).

Wilkerson will make the defensive line of the Packers a very formidable force, along with Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark.

Muhammad Wilkerson of the Jets rushes Aaron Rodgers

Muhammad Wilkerson (No. 96) of the New York Jets attempts to bat down a pass attempt by Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers in a 2014 game at Lambeau Field.

In terms of what the Packers might possibly do soon again in free agency now that it’s official, my guess is that they will try and bring in a veteran cornerback who knows how to play in the Pettine system and who also knows all about being a Packer.

That cornerback is Tramon Williams. Yes, I know Williams is 35 now, but he is still playing good football in the NFL and would be a solid addition as a stop-gap at cornerback.

I also see the Packers drafting as many as three secondary players in the 2018 NFL draft, one of whom (an early draft pick) will most likely be able to start on Day 1 in the NFL.

Williams played for Pettine (when he was head coach) with the Cleveland Browns in 2015 when he started 15 games at right cornerback.

Before Williams signed with the Browns as a free agent in 2014, No. 38 had a great career with the Packers. In eight years in Green Bay, Williams had 28 interceptions for 428 yards and one touchdown.

Williams had his best year with the Packers in 2010, which is the same season the team won Super Bowl XLV. Williams was named to the Pro Bowl in 2010 and also had a fabulous postseason for the Packers.

In four games in the 2010 postseason, Williams had three picks for 79 yards and a touchdown, plus recovered two fumbles.

After eight years with the Packers and two years with the Browns, Williams started nine games for the talented secondary of the Arizona Cardinals in 2017.

Yesterday, Williams talked to Josh Weinfuss of ESPN and he commented about being a free agent this year.

“At this point in my career, one of the things I said last year is that I wanted to control the way I finish my career,” Williams said. “I wanted go to a team where I know that has a chance and I want to play my game. That was one of the two things I really wanted to do. I wanted to go to a team that has a legitimate chance and I wanted to play my game because a lot of teams you go to, you get there and then they change up and tell you, ‘Oh, this is how we want you to play, this is what we want you to do.’

“I want to play my own game.”

Williams certainly played his own game in 2010, as he was one of the main reasons the Packers eventually won Super Bowl XLV.

We shall see if Williams does indeed come back to the Pack, but if he still has some tread left on his tires, I believe that he would be a good fit for the team for a couple of obvious reasons.

He knows how to play the defense that Pettine utilizes and he could also add the veteran leadership for players like second-year pro Kevin King and the other young cornerbacks on the team, as well the future CBs selected in the 2018 NFL draft.

It’s also being reported by Adam Schefter that the Packers are also interested in cornerback Rashaan Melvin, who played with the Indianapolis Colts in 2017. Melvin, who is 28, played in 10 games for the Colts last season and had 36 tackles, three interceptions and 13 passes defended.

The 6’2″, 193-pound Melvin has started 31 games in his NFL career, which has seen stops with the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and the Colts. Melvin was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Northern Illinois by the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2013.

Bottom line, we shall see how this all plays out in both free agency and the 2018 NFL draft for the Packers, but Gutekunst has already left a mark that was rarely seen when his predecessor, Ted Thompson, was GM.

Which is utilizing NFL free agency at an early stage.

Initial 2018 NFL Mock Draft for the Green Bay Packers

Brian Gutekunst at 2018 NFL Scouting Combine

The 2018 NFL draft will take place starting on April 26 and will last through April 28. This year the location is AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The draft process is now situated in Indianapolis, where the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is taking place at Lucas Oil Stadium and is on it’s final day.

Up until now, we have seen the bowl games, plus the all-star games (the East-West Shrine Game, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and the Senior Bowl).

After the combine is over, the final step in the draft process for prospects will be the workouts that they will have at their various school’s pro days.

The Green Bay Packers go into this draft knowing that they will have 12 picks, which is tied with the Cleveland Browns in terms of having the most selections in the draft.

Unlike the last 13 NFL drafts for the Packers, Ted Thompson will not have the final say as to whom the Packers will select this year. Thompson has moved on from his role as general manager of the Pack to one in an advisory role and he was replaced as GM by Brian Gutekunst, who is going into his 20th year in the Green Bay organization.

Gutekunst, who is 44, has served in a number of capacities with the Packers, which includes being a scouting intern, East Coast scout, director of college scouting and as director of player personnel.

Gutekunst sees this upcoming draft class as being very solid.

“I think it’s a good class, it’s intriguing. I think it’s a strong secondary group, you know?,” Gutekunst said while speaking to the media at the combine last Wednesday. “I think the interior of the offensive line group is pretty strong. I think there’s depth at quarterback. There’s a lot of pieces that haven’t been answered yet, questions that haven’t been answered yet. We have 12 picks, and I think it’s a good class to get after those guys with 12 picks.”

In terms of the mock draft I’m doing, this will be the first of four. I have been doing mock drafts for the Packers since my days at Packer Report, which goes back 16 years.

I have had a decent track record over the years with my projections, which is a combination of getting excellent insight and information from NFL scout Chris Landry, as well as sometimes being like a blind squirrel who still finds an acorn.

In this mock draft, you will note that I have utilized a couple of things I am very familiar with. One is the East-West Shrine Game, which is played locally here in St. Petersburg and where I am often a spectator.

The other is the University of Wisconsin, a football program I have grown close to, ever since Kevin Cosgrove (a college buddy) became an assistant coach there under Barry Alvarez in 1990 and later became his defensive coordinator from 1995 through 2003.

That period saw the Badgers win three Big Ten titles, as well as three Rose Bowl wins.

In this past East-West Shrine Game, the Badgers had four of their players in the game and one of those players, safety Natrell Jamerson, was Defensive MVP of the game.

Adding to that, the hiring of Mike Pettine as the defensive coordinator of the Packers sets up a connection between someone he is very familiar with. I’m talking about Jim Leonhard, the defensive coordinator of the Badgers.

I see that association as being an inroad for the Packers possibly adding a couple of Badgers on their roster via the 2018 NFL draft, as well as possibly signing a couple as undrafted rookie free agents.

In this mock draft, I will not utilize any trades, although I believe Gutekunst will most likely go down that road in this draft. I also see Gutekunst using free agency more often than Thompson did, which also will play a part on the position players I select in this draft.

Speaking of free agency, Pro Football Talk says that Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported today that defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson will be visiting the Packers soon, once he is officially released by the New York Jets. I wrote about the possibility of Wilkerson joining the Packers on March 1.

The bottom line in this mock draft is that I will be picking five players who played in the recent East-West Shrine Game, plus I will be selecting two Badgers, one of whom played in that game.

So, without further adieu, here is my initial 2018 NFL mock draft for the Pack.

Round 1: Outside Linebacker Harold Landry (Boston College)

Harold Landry

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 250 pounds

I talked to NFL scout Chris Landry last week to get his take on both Harold Landry of Boston College and Marcus Davenport of UTSA (Texas-San Antonio) in terms of their pass rushing ability. I also wanted to get his read on who he would select if both were on the board and if he happened to be the GM of a team like the Packers.

Landry told me that he likes both players a lot, but based on recent play, like at the Senior Bowl, not to mention what happened at the combine on Sunday, Davenport (ran 4.58 in the 40) would be the player he would pick.

That being said, Chris Landry also likes Harold Landry quite a bit. Going into the 2017 season, the NFL scout had the BC star ranked sixth overall on his 2018 NFL draft board. There is a good reason for that. In 2016, Landry had 50 total tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, 16.5 sacks, one interception, four passes defensed and seven forced fumbles. The number of sacks and forced fumbles led the country in those categories.

That led to Landry getting multiple All-American honors, as well as being named first-team All-ACC. But things were different in 2017, as Landry played through an ankle injury. Still, he still earned third-team All-ACC honors with 38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, and two pass breakups.

Landry didn’t play in the Senior Bowl because of the ankle injury, but he looked very athletic and healthy at the combine on Sunday. He ran a 4.64 in the 40, had 24 reps in the bench press, jumped 36 inches in the vertical jump, leaped 119 inches (9.9 feet) in the broad jump, ran 6.88 seconds in the 3 cone drill, ran 4.19 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle and ran 11.35 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle.

At this point of the draft for the Packers (pick No. 14), I see the two top pass rushers (Bradley Chubb and Davenport) off the board. Still, selecting Landry here would be quite the consolation prize, as he definitely lives in the same neighborhood with both Chubbs and Davenport.

Round 2: Cornerback Mike Hughes (Central Florida)

Mike Hughes

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 191 pounds

The situation at cornerback for the Packers is definitely in a state of flux. The secondary for the team was just horrible last season. For one thing, the Packers were ranked second-worst in the NFL in opponent’s passer rating, as the season average was 102.0.

Not only that, Green Bay also allowed opposing QBs to complete 67.8 percent of their passes. The Pack also allowed 30 touchdown passes and only had 11 picks. The defense also allowed 55 completions of 20 yards or better.

Plus, their top pick from last year’s draft, cornerback Kevin King, played hurt all season with a shoulder injury, although he flashed very good ability when he played. The  Packers are confident King will recover fully from a medical procedure this offseason to repair the labrum in his left shoulder.

The good news for the Packers in terms of the cornerback play last season was the way Damarious Randall performed for the most part in 2017. Randall was the No. 1 pick for the Packers in 2015. Still, Randall has been on and off with his play in his tenure in Green Bay, so nothing is a given.

In that same 2015 draft, the Packers selected cornerback Quinten Rollins in the second round. Rollins, who will never be known for his speed, showed some good awareness for the football at times, but he unfortunately had an Achilles rupture last year which ended his season. That injury also clouds his future in the NFL.

The bottom line is that the Packers need to add at least one cornerback to their roster in this draft and most likely two. The first one they draft should have the ability to start immediately. That takes me to a player I saw quite a bit in 2017 here in FLA. That player is cornerback Mike Hughes of UCF.

Hughes is not only a great cornerback, as he had 49 total tackles, four interceptions (one for a score), 11 passes defended and one forced fumble for the 13-0 Knights, but he was also a very dangerous kick returner as well.

Hughes had two kickoff returns for touchdowns for UCF in 2017, plus also had a punt return for a score.

At the combine, Hughes ran a 4.53 in the 40, plus had 20 reps on the bench press.

In scouting Hughes, Landry compared his ability to Marcus Peters, now of the Los Angeles Rams. In a deep cornerback class, Landry said Hughes will be one to watch,  because he is an excellent press corner with versatility.

Round 3: Wide Receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame)

Equanimeous St. Brown

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 214 pounds

At this point, all is quiet on the wide receiver front for the Packers. That will probably change at some point. Why? That’s because both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb will most likely be looking at getting their contracts renegotiated to a lower price, especially with the re-signing of Davante Adams to a four-year $58 million contract extension.

Nelson is set to have a cap number of $12.5 million this year, while Cobb will have a cap hit of $12.7 million according to Over The Cap. I expect at least one of them to re-do their current contract, even with the NFL salary cap going up to at least $178 million in 2018. We shall see.

But either way, I see the Packers adding to the receiver corp in this draft, probably twice, as Nelson will be 33 in May and while Cobb will only be 28 in August, No. 18 has had his fair share of injury woes.

One receiver who has great size and speed who should interest the Packers is Equanimeous St. Brown of Notre Dame.

Not only is St. Brown 6’5″, 214 pounds, but he also ran the 40 in 4.48 seconds and had 20 reps in the bench press at the combine. St. Brown’s numbers at Notre Dame are a bit uneven, but that is mostly due to the mediocre QB play this past season.

In 2016, when DeShone Kizer was his QB, St. Brown had 58 receptions for 961 yards (16.6 average) and nine touchdowns. This past season, those numbers fell to 33 catches for 515 yards and four TDs.

But his size speed and athleticism have always been off the charts. Landry said this about St. Brown heading into the 2017 college season:

BREAKOUT STAR: WR Equanimeous St. Brown — He has a terrific opportunity to produce as the No. 1 wideout in Notre Dame’s revamped offense. New offensive coordinator Chip Long is known as an innovator despite being only 34 years old, and he could find ways to open up St. Brown in the passing game. Many experts considered the 6-foot-5, 203-pound receiver as a top-100 recruit when he committed to the Fighting Irish as a high school standout in Anaheim, Calif.

Round 4: Offensive Lineman Mason Cole (Michigan)

Mason Cole

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 305 pounds

Offensive lineman Mason Cole is from nearby Tarpon Springs, Florida and was a star at East Lake High School before heading to Ann Arbor to play at Michigan.

Cole’s versatility is something that the Packers love to see in an offensive lineman. Cole started 25 games at left tackle in 2014 and 2015, before moving to center for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Cole was named second-team All-Big Ten in both 2016 and 2017 and was honorable mention in 2015.

Cole also told the media at the combine that he would love to play for the Packers and a quarterback who wears No. 12.

“I think that’s one of the crazier things about playing in the NFL, especially as a rookie,” Cole said. “I’ve grown up my whole life watching guys like Aaron Rodgers play football. And to have a chance to be his center, be an offensive lineman for him next year, I mean that’s just incredible to think about: How fast time flies and how great of a journey this has been.”

At the combine, Cole had 23 reps in the bench press and ran a 5.23 in the 40.

Cole was also named to the Senior Bowl, where Landry had this to say about Cole’s practice performances in Mobile:

Tuesday: Terrific day for Cole, who lined up at center. Fundamentally sound and blocked with proper knee bend and leverage. Quick, explosive and strong at the point. Handled opponents in one-on-ones and looked good during scrimmage.

Wednesday: Another really good day for Cole. Smart, tough and blocks with great fundamentals. Agile and also strong but must learn to finish run blocks.

Round 4 (compensatory): Tight End Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin)

Troy Fumagalli

Height: 6’6″

Weight: 248 pounds

In four years at Wisconsin, Troy Fumagalli had 135 receptions for 1,627 yards and seven touchdowns. After the 2017 season, in which he had 38 receptions for 478 yards and four touchdowns, No. 81 was named first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and second-team All-Big Ten by the media. In addition to that, Fumagalli won the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award in the Big Ten.

In 2016, Fumagalli was named second-team All-Big Ten, plus was named Cotton Bowl Offensive MVP, as he caught six throws for 83 yards and a touchdown in the 24-16 victory over Western Michigan.

Like Cole, Fumagalli would love to play for the Packers after he met with both Gutekunst and tights ends coach Brian Angelichio.

“I want to show I love the game and that I’m a complete tight end,” said Fumagalli via Packers.com. “I’ve been asked over the years to run block, to pass block, to catch.

“Just being reliable, being there whenever (the QB) needed me, that’s something I always took pride in. Clutch situations I want to be that guy. I want the ball in my hands. I want to make a play for them.”

It’s important to note that Fumagalli has only nine fingers, as he lost the index finger on his left hand at birth. Still, Fumagalli estimated that he dropped only one pass per season as a Badger.

On his first practice day at the Senior Bowl, Fumagalli showed some nervousness  at times catching the ball, but overall Landry was impressed with his catching ability and blocking:

Tuesday: Struggled in a number of areas catching the ball but looked really good blocking.

Wednesday: Plays like a big-bodied tight end. Tough. Not spectacular in any area rather very efficient as a blocker and pass catcher.

Fumagalli did not run at the combine, but did 14 reps in the bench press. Expect to see Fumagalli run at the Wisconsin pro day.

Round 5: Cornerback Tony Brown (Alabama)

Tony Brown

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 198 pounds

When you look at the statistics, Tony Brown of Alabama doesn’t stick out to you. One reason was because he was part of a very talented defensive backfield. Plus, he was a part-time starter and who also filled the role of the nickelback.

In his career with the Crimson Tide, Brown had 86 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, 0.5 sacks, three interceptions (including one in the 2018 CFP National Championship Game), five passes defended and one forced fumble.

But there is a lot more to like about Brown. For one, he is very fast. Brown ran a 4.35 at the combine, plus he earned first team All-America honors in track and field in the spring of 2015 in the 4×400 meter relay .

Brown is also a stalwart on special teams and is a very good tackler in run support.

Bad tackling and a lack of speed have become issues in the Green Bay secondary, plus it’s always a plus to improve special teams, which is why Brown would be a great value here.

Round 5 (compensatory): Linebacker Micah Kiser (Virginia)

Micah Kiser

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 238 pounds

Micah Kiser led the ACC in tackles each of the past three years and in 2017 won the Campbell Trophy, the academic Heisman of college football.

In his career at Virginia, Kiser had 408 total tackles, 33.5 tackles for a loss, 19 sacks, one interception, 12 passes defended, six fumble recoveries and eight forced fumbles.

As one can see by that stat line, Kiser was a magnet to the football.

At the Senior Bowl, Kiser left after one practice due to a lingering knee injury, but this is what Landry said about him in a Senior Bowl preview:

Micah Kiser was underrated entering the season, but the Virginia linebacker built off solid sophomore and junior seasons in 2017 to make himself into a legitimate second-day prospect. He’ll have an opportunity to put his sideline-to-sideline speed, motor and instincts on display in Mobile, and he could jolt his stock if he shows well in coverage — an ability he’s flashed at times in his career.

Kiser did work out at the combine and fared pretty well, as he ran a 4.66 in the 40, jumped 35.5 inches in the vertical jump, leaped 121 inches in the broad jump, ran 7.05 seconds in the 3 cone drill and ran 4.24 in the 20-yard shuttle.

The Packers need to add quality depth at the inside linebacker position and bringing on a player like Kiser certainly does that.

Round 5 (compensatory): Wide Receiver Daurice Fountain (Northern Iowa)

Daurice Fountain

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 210 pounds

Daurice Fountain’s hometown is Madison, Wisconsin, where he went to James Madison Memorial High School, where he was named first-team All-State at wide receiver.

In four seasons at Northern Iowa, Fountain caught 150 passes for 2,077 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Landry said this about Fountain after he was named Offensive MVP in the East-West Shrine Game, as he had three receptions for 61 yards (20.3 average).

Speed was not an issue for Fountain, and neither was catching the ball. Fountain caught the ball very well, except he was doing it at full speed, down the field and running past defenders. I was also impressed by his feistiness and willingness to compete. He leaves Shrine week with a draft grade a full round higher than the one he arrived with in St. Petersburg.

Landry also said this about how Fountain practiced that week.

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.

For some unfathomable reason, even after his performance in the East-West Shrine Game, Fountain was not invited to the combine.

Fountain will have to make due working out for NFL teams at his pro day.

Round 6: Running Back Justin Jackson (Northwestern)

Justin Jackson

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 193 pounds

In four seasons at Northwestern, Jackson rushed for 5,440 yards and 41 touchdowns, plus caught 122 passes for 858 yards and another score.

Jackson was named honorable mention All-Big Ten his freshman year as a Wildcat, plus was named second-team All-Big Ten in his three remaining years at Northwestern.

Jackson also played in the 2018 East-West Shrine Game, where he rushed for 39 yards in just seven carries. Jackson also caught five passes for 17 yards.

Landry said this about Jackson prior to the 2018 Big Ten season:

Northwestern senior RB Justin Jackson looks like one of the best running backs in the Big Ten. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is the best but Jackson slotted in right behind, followed by Iowa’s Akrum Wadley and Ohio State’s Mike Weber. This past season, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Jackson rushed for a healthy 1,524 yards and 15 touchdowns across 13 games played. If he were to rush for 2,277 yards during the coming season, he would exit his Northwestern career as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher. As productive as he has been, that mark is probably beyond the pale for the Northwestern standout.

Jackson ran a 4.52 in the 40 at the combine, plus did 13 reps on the bench press, jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical jump, leaped 122 inches in the broad jump, ran 6.81 seconds in the 3 cone drill, ran 4.07 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle and ran 11.06 in the 60-yard shuttle.

The Packers invigorated their running attack last season, as two rookies (Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones) stood out. The other rookie who was drafted last season, Devante Mays, did not fare well when given limited opportunities (two fumbles).

Ty Montgomery has been too injury prone, both at running back and wide receiver.

Adding a back like Jackson make sense, because he not only adds to the depth at RB, but also because he is made for the type of offense that the Packers run.

Round 6 (compensatory): Outside Linebacker Joe Ostman (Central Michigan)

Joe Ostman

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 255 pounds

In his last two seasons at Central Michigan, Joe Ostman had 129 total tackles, 33 tackles for a loss, 21 sacks, two fumble recoveries and five forced fumbles.

In the East-West Shrine Game, Ostman had six tackles, which included one sack.

One can never have enough players who can rush the passer in the NFL, so Ostman is an excellent value in Round 6.

Landry had Ostman rated among the top overall graded players in the MAC.

Like Fountain, Ostman was not invited to the combine, so he will work out for NFL teams at his pro day.

Round 7: Safety Natrell Jamerson (Wisconsin)

Natrell Jamerson II

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 198 pounds

Natrell Jamerson really helped himself with a solid senior season at Wisconsin, as the safety had 51 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions (one for a touchdown) and 10 passes defended.

Jamerson also has experience at cornerback as well, as he played there as a sophomore and as a junior.

As I mentioned earlier, the secondary of the Packers was a mess in 2017. The safeties did not exactly stand out either. Morgan Burnett will be an unrestricted free agent, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix took a definite step back with his play last season and rookie Josh Jones missed way too many assignments.

Picking a player who can play both safety and cornerback, plus was well-coached at Wisconsin is a no-brainer here in Round 7.

Landry said this about Jamerson after the opening day of practice at the East-West Shrine Game:

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 was named Defensive MVP of the East-West Shrine Game, as he scooped up a fumble and ran it back 68 yards for a touchdown.

At the combine, Jamerson ran a 4.40 in the 40 and had 25 reps in the bench press.

Round 7 (via trade): Quarterback Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech)

Nic Shimonek

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 225 pounds

There is no doubt that the Packers are going to do at least two things this offseason regarding the quarterback position. One will be to re-do the contract of Aaron Rodgers and make him the highest paid QB in the NFL (at least at the time). Secondly, the Packers are definitely going to add some competition to the depth chart at the QB position, seeing as to how badly Brett Hundley struggled at times last season in relief of an injured Rodgers.

I see the Packers adding a veteran free-agent NFL QB, perhaps someone like Matt Moore of the Miami Dolphins, who has worked under Joe Philbin there. With Philbin back now as offensive coordinator, Moore would appear to be a good fit.

I also see the Packers drafting a QB. If one of the top QBs fall into their lap at No. 14, I would expect the Packers to possibly select that QB (depending on who he is), similar to what Thompson did in the 2005 NFL draft when he selected Rodgers at pick No. 24, or to trade the pick to someone like the quarterback-needy Arizona Cardinals, who have the next pick at No. 15. Just by trading spots with the Cards, the Packers would be able to get an additional fourth round pick. Or, perhaps someone like the Los Angeles Chargers (pick No. 17) would want to trade up, due to the age of Philip Rivers. That would net the Packers an additional third round pick.

But more likely than that is to select a QB between the fifth and seventh rounds of the draft. One quarterback who falls into that scenario is Nic Shimonek of Texas Tech.

Shimonek has put up some pretty good numbers in 2017 and also in a brief glimpse of him in 2016. In that period, Shimonek threw 39 touchdown passes versus 11 interceptions for 4,427 yards.

In 2017, Shimonek led the Big 12 in pass completions and was named honorable mention All-Big 12.

Shimonek ran a 4.88 in the 40 at the combine and has shown some good ability to throw on the run.

Landry said this about Shimonek after the first practice at the East-West Shrine Game:

Texas Tech quarterback Nic Shimonek had a decent first practice of the week. Some team sources were remarking that Shimonek has a live arm and Texas Tech runs more pro concepts than many people realize. Shimonek could be the top quarterback to watch on the West squad this week.

Shimonek threw the game-winning 34-yard touchdown pass for the West with just a little over a minute remaining in the Shrine game, as the West beat the East 14-10. Overall, Shimonek was 12-of-18 for 105 yards with one touchdown pass and no picks in the game. That added up to a passer rating of 100.5.

Green Bay Packers: Could Muhammad Wilkerson Reunite with Mike Pettine?

Muhammad Wilkerson

Back on March 11, 2014, when I was with Bleacher Report, I wrote that there was a good possibility that Julius Peppers could become a member of the Green Bay Packers if he was released by the Chicago Bears.

Well, a day later, Peppers was released by da Bears. And four days after that, the Packers and then general manager Ted Thompson signed Peppers to a three-year $26 million dollar deal.

The deal tuned out to be a really good one for the Pack. In those three years, No. 56 had 25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions, which were both returned for touchdowns. The Packers were also in the NFC championship game in two of the three years Peppers was a Packer.

One of the reasons that I thought Peppers might come to Green Bay was because he would be able to reunite with Mike Trgovac, who was Peppers’ defensive line coach in 2002 as a rookie and also his defensive coordinator from 2003-08 when Peppers was with the Carolina Panthers.

We could see the same thing happen again in 2018. In this case, we might see defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson reunite with his first defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, who is now the defensive coordinator of the Packers.

Wilkerson will be a free agent after his official release by the New York Jets, who announced today that Wilkerson will be cut. In 2011, which was Wilkerson’s rookie year with the Jets, and in 2012, the defense of that team was coordinated by Pettine.

The Jets selected Wilkerson, who played his college ball at Temple, with the 30th pick of Round 1 in the 2011 NFL draft.

Pettine did one hell of a job as the defensive coordinator of the J-E-T-S, as the team was ranked first, third, fifth and eighth in total defense in the four years (2009 through 2012) he ran the defense.

Wilkerson was there for two of those years. In those two years, Wilkerson had 118 total tackles, eight sacks, one safety, six passes defensed and four forced fumbles.

Mike Pettine

Mike Pettine

In his entire seven-year career with the Jets, Wilkerson had 405 tackles, 44.5 sacks, 28 passes defensed, two interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and one fumble recovery (for a touchdown).

Wilkerson was named to the Pro Bowl squad in 2015 and was voted second-team All-Pro twice (2013 & 2015).

To me, that is pretty nice production out of a defensive end who primarily played in a 3-4 defensive scheme.

Yes, I know the concerns about Wilkerson. That his motor isn’t always running to full capacity when he plays and that he has been late to meetings at times.

Still, look at his production. Plus, getting together with Pettine could possibly invigorate his focus back on football.

Not to mention having a teammate like Mike Daniels making sure Wilkerson toes the line correctly.

Speaking of Daniels, he is part of a defensive line that certainly could use some help in 2018. The depth chart for the line currently is Daniels, Kenny Clark, Quinton Dial, Dean Lowry and Montravius Adams (two total tackles as a rookie 2017).

The 6’4″, 315-pound Wilkerson would certainly help that group, especially based on his production. Plus, Wilkerson won’t be 29 until October.

Daniels, along with Clark, are considered the two best defensive linemen on the Packers. In six years with Green Bay, Daniels has 207 tackles, 27 sacks, one pass defensed, one interception, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown), plus went to the Pro Bowl in 2017.

The solid production from Daniels doesn’t even approach the production of Wilkerson. This is not to say Daniels is not a good defensive lineman, because he is, but Wilkerson has even better ability and his production has proven it.

To me, adding Wilkerson to the defensive line group of the Packers would help in a number of ways.

One, the defensive line would be fresher as Pettine would be able to rotate the group as needed. Secondly, the linebackers would be able to make more plays, both in stopping the run and in rushing the passer, because Wilkerson is double-teamed so often. Finally, all of those things will help the secondary, because that should mean a much better pass rush to force the opposing quarterback off his spot and create havoc.

Time will tell if Wilkerson and Pettine will reunite or not, but if nothing else, I sure believe that new general manager Brian Gutekunst is considering it.

At least, based on his comments at the NFL Scouting Combine yesterday in Indianapolis.

“Obviously there’s limits in what you can do, but we’d like to be really aggressive and see (if) we can be in every conversation,” Gutekunst said. “Now whether that leads to us ending up signing a bunch or not, we’ll see. Like I said, there’s limitations there. But we’d like to be as aggressive as we can to try to improve our football team. At the same time, it’s a smaller market and it’s a little bit riskier market. So I think as my mentor and predecessor would say, you have to be very cautious as you enter that. But I think we’d like to look at every option we can.”

Wilkerson is certainly an option. Plus, because he was released, the Packers can sign him at any time. Even before the official ability to sign free agents begins on March 14.

Signing Wilkerson would be an aggressive move by Gutekunst and the Packers. Just like it was when Thompson and the Packers signed Peppers to a three-year deal back in 2012.

That signing helped the Packers to go on to have two appearances in the NFC title game in three years.

I know the Packers would be thrilled to have the same thing happen this time around if they inked Wilkerson.

We shall see.

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 OverTheCap.com. 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.

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.

A Scout’s Take on the State of the Green Bay Packers

Dom Capers III

For the first time since the 2008 NFL season, the Green Bay Packers will not be playing in the postseason. There are a number of reasons why the Packers are 7-7 and already eliminated from playoff contention in 2017.

Injuries are certainly one big reason why, especially the broken right collarbone suffered by quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 6, which kept him out of action for several weeks, a time in which Green Bay went 3-5, to put their record at 7-6 going into last Sunday’s game versus the Carolina Panthers.

Even with a gutty performance by Rodgers, who was hit a number of times during the game, it wasn’t enough, as the Packers lost 31-24, which more or less eliminated the playoff hopes of the Packers.

That became official, when the Tampa Bay Bucs lost to the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night in Tampa.

Rodgers was not 100 percent in the game against the Panthers, as one could tell with three deep passes that were under-thrown and picked off. Still, Rodgers did throw three touchdown passes as well for 290 yards and had the Packers in position to score the game-tying touchdown. But after Rodgers completed a pass to Geronimo Allison, the second-year wide receiver fumbled and the game was all but over.

After the Packers were officially eliminated, the Packers placed Rodgers back on injured reserve and ended his 2017 season.

But it wasn’t just the injury to Rodgers and to other players which torpedoed the 2017 season for the Packers.

There was also the uneven and inconsistent play on both the offensive and defensive lines. Being good in the trenches is a vital ingredient in terms of winning in the NFL or in any type of football.

The area that stuck out the most this year for the Packers, was the very disappointing play by the defense of the Packers.

This came after the 2017 NFL draft conducted by Ted Thompson and his scouting staff, which gave defensive coordinator Dom Capers the first four picks (CB Kevin King, S Josh Jones, DL Montravius Adams and OLB Vince Biegel) that the team utilized in the draft.

Add to that, Thompson also signed a couple of free agents to help the Packers on defense, which included former All-Pro and Pro Bowl OLB Ahmad Brooks.

But you wouldn’t know that based on the performance of the defense this season.

Going into Saturday night’s games versus the 11-3 Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field, the Packers are ranked 26th in total defense in the NFL. The Packers give up on average 356.4 yards per game, as well as 21.3 first downs per game. The “D” also gives up 5.6 yards per play. That just won’t cut it in today’s NFL.

It gets worse.

The Packers are ranked 24th in passing defense, as they give up 240 passing yards per game. What’s even more troubling, is that they allow opposing quarterbacks to have a 100.5 passer rating, which is third-worst in the league.

Opposing quarterbacks have thrown 26 touchdown passes versus just 11 interceptions, plus have been able make big plays, as they have completed 48 passes of 20-plus yards. In addition to that, the Packers have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete a whopping 68.4 percent of their passes, which is the second-worst mark in the NFL.

The Packers are also dead-last in the league in giving up first down completions. It seems like the defense just can get off the field, at least until after a score. Part of the reason that the Packers are susceptible in the passing game is the lack of a pass rush. The Packers have just 32 sacks, which ties them for 16th in the NFL. Compare that with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have a league-leading 51 sacks.

In terms of stopping the run, the Packers were fairly solid in that area early in the season, but have fallen off as of late. Currently, the Packers are ranked 20th in the NFL in rushing defense, as they allow on average 116.4 yards per game and a 4.0 average per rush.

The bottom line is that the Packers allow 23.8 points per game. That puts a lot of pressure on the offense to score, especially when you have a backup quarterback starting a game, like the Packers have done seven times with Brett Hundley. The third-year quarterback from UCLA now gets to start two more games to end the 2017 season for the Packers.

With all of this in mind, I wanted to get a read on the Packers by talking with one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry. I was able to do that on Wednesday, as I spoke to Landry 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show.

Before I talked with Landry, he and Duemig were talking about defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and outside linebacker Lavonte David of the Bucs. Landry had told Duemig that he had given both McCoy and David blue grades for their performance defensively in 2017 thus far.

Here is how the color ratings work according to Landry’s grading scale:

BLUE (B) = The best. The top line players in the league. Blue players make the plays that are the difference in close games. Superior talent, big plays and consistent.

RED (R)= Red players win for you. They have starter type production in the league. Top line Reds are usually Blues in either the running or passing game but fall short in the other. Red players are impact players and start on contending teams.

PURPLE (P)= Purple are players you can win with. They are usually Red in some areas and can match up with some Reds but overall fall a little short of Reds. A very good player. Solid starter who will usually get the job done at least in some areas. NFL scouting axiom is to not play anyone who is below purple.

Thompson, Murphy and McCarthy

Knowing all that now, I wanted to find out who on the defense of the Packers had a blue grade and also what the status of Capers might be.

“The Packers didn’t get any blue grades at all this year,” Landry said. “Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels were red-grade guys, who had pretty good year’s. To a lesser degree, you had Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, who were what we call high-purples and partly in the red at times.

“If you go on the offensive side, [David] Bakhtiari graded in the red. Aaron Rodgers is the only guy when he’s been healthy is in that upper tier, and he’s certainly a perennial blue-grade player. This year hasn’t been quite so much. Davante Adams is a high-purple and Aaron Jones has done some good things.

“But the biggest problem that they have is that I don’t think they are talented enough on defense. I don’t think they have enough bodies there. I think Dom is a good coach, but he could pay for this with his job. That’s just the way it works in this league. They’ve not been good enough on defense with him. Why haven’t they been able to consistently improve that defensive personnel, where it needs to be, particularly with edge-rushers, is beyond me.

“They have just missed. It’s pure and simple. They just haven’t been good enough in doing that. I don’t think their defense is very good. It’s quite frankly, a team which is built, or totally reliant on the quarterback. And I think playing him [Rodgers] last week is a perfect example. And I’m all for that. It’s the only chance that they got.

“And going into next year, if they don’t play any better, they are kind of in the same boat. And it’s unfortunate, because they have got an elite quarterback, as good as anybody in the league and one of the best of all-time in terms of physical skill-sets, to not have a defense, to not have a better running game, to not be a better team at the line of scrimmage, is almost criminal when you think about it from a football standpoint.

“They have just completely missed the boat. I don’t just dismiss the one Super Bowl, I don’t want to make it sound like that, but this is a team with this quarterback, that there is no reason why they couldn’t be what New England is, in the NFC. They are good enough with their quarterback. They go in every year with a chance. But the rest of the team pulls them back.

“I think that is a byproduct of them missing an awful lot in a lot of the personnel moves that they have made over the years. So, that’s my take on it.”

After that emphatic declaration, I responded that Ted Thompson also bares some responsibility with all the personnel issues which were brought by Landry.

“That whole staff did,” Landry said. “The whole personnel department. They have missed on some personnel moves.”

So what does this all mean? It means that the Packers won’t be playing in the postseason for the first time in almost a decade and there were definitely some reasons for that. Landry brought up a number of them.

Lack of talent on defense was his No. 1 issue. Is that because of the complicated schemes that Capers utilizes? Or it because Ted Thompson and his scouting staff just aren’t drafting or acquiring the right players? Or is it both?

No matter the cause, there is a sense that changes will definitely be made within the organization of the Packers this offseason.

It’s not that the Packers have not been successful under Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy since they joined forces in 2006. Since that partnership took place, the Packers have had 122-68-1 regular season record, with six NFC North titles, nine playoff appearances, four NFC title game appearances and one Super Bowl win.

But as Landry noted, there should have been even more success over that time.

So now the onus is on team president Mark Murphy to see if he’ll dictate any changes in the front office this offseason. Plus, there will be pressure on McCarthy to make changes on his coaching staff, especially regarding the status of Capers.

Time will tell what will happen, but based on the comments from Landry, one of the best of his kind in the scouting business, something has to give.

Green Bay Packers: D is for Disappointing

Dom Capers II

This was going to be the year that the defense of the Green Bay Packers was going to approach the success it had had in the first two years that Dom Capers was the coordinator of the unit.

In 2009, which was the first year Capers became defensive coordinator, the defense was ranked No. 2 in the NFL. In 2010, the year the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, the defense was ranked No. 5 in total defense.

Since then, the Packers have not come close to that success. From 2011 through 2016, the defense of the Packers has been ranked 32nd, 11th, 25th, 15th, 15th and 22nd.

Through nine games in 2017 the Packers are ranked 25th in total defense in the league, as the D is allowing an average of 357.4 yards per game. And based on the performance the defense had on Monday night versus the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field, don’t expect the rankings to get any better throughout the rest of the 2017 season.

Just to illustrate how bad and inept the defense was on Monday night, the Lions did not have to punt once all evening. That is the first time that has happened for Detroit since the 1971 season.

Quarterback Matt Stafford just carved up the defense of the Packers, as there was little to no pass pressure from the Green Bay Front 7. The Packers did get one sack, but that was only when the Lions attempted a flea flicker pass.

In the game, Stafford completed 26-of-33 passes for 361 yards and two touchdowns. That adds up to a passer rating of 132.4.

That can’t happen against a Capers’ defense. Not if it wants to be successful. The key to any defense Capers runs, is putting pressure on the quarterback and disrupting his rhythm.

That isn’t happening in 2017 and that hasn’t happened consistently since 2010 either.

Currently, the the Packers are ranked 20th in passing defense, but that stat does not tell the total story.  The Packers are ranked 25th in the NFL in allowing opposing quarterbacks to have a very solid passer rating of 95.7.

And this is with a new and improved secondary, as the team drafted cornerback Kevin King in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft and safety Josh Jones in the second round. Plus, the team added cornerback Davon House in free agency, which is his second stint with the team.

But even when there is more talent and athleticism in the secondary, that won’t lead to success if there isn’t pass pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, which is supposed to lead to sacks, incompletions and interceptions.

It also doesn’t help when the two starting safeties of the Packers have largely been non-factors this season. Morgan Burnett has been hampered by hamstring and groin injuries, while Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has been largely invisible after going to the Pro Bowl and having second-team All-Pro status in 2016.

But again, the the number one reason why a Capers defense is successful is by bringing pass pressure and getting sacks. And that’s not happening this season.

The Packers are tied for 28th in the NFL with 13 sacks. That’s barely over one sack a game on average.

Clay Matthews can still play, but he is not the pass-rushing force he once was, as he has just 2.5 sacks so far this season. Nick Perry has been hampered by a broken hand, but does lead the team in sacks with four.

Meanwhile, Julius Peppers, who had 25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions (both for touchdowns) in three years with the Packers, left the team this past offseason via free agency and now has 7.5 sacks for the Carolina Panthers.

It is not known how much or even if the Packers made an offer to Peppers to stay in Green Bay, or if Peppers just wanted to go back to the place he started his NFL career and where he calls home.

No matter, Peppers would have definitely helped the pass rush for the Packers this season. Much better than the players who back up Matthews and Perry at outside linebacker currently, that’s for sure.

Kyler Fackrell has been almost non-existent when he’s on the field, as he has just nine total tackles, zero sacks and multiple missed assignments. Ahmad Brooks can help when he’s healthy, but he’s missed the last three games due to concussion/back issues.

Vince Biegel IV

Fourth-round pick Vince Biegel saw his first action of the season Monday night at OLB, after starting the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. It’s too early to see how Biegel might be able to help the pass rush.

Speaking of draft picks, general manager Ted Thompson traded back four spots when the Packers had the 29th pick in the first round.  The Packers then selected King in the second round with the 33rd pick of the draft, plus got another fourth-round pick which they used to select Biegel.

King looks like he has some excellent upside with his size, speed and athleticism. But Thompson could have stayed where he was at No. 29 in the draft and selected OLB T.J. Watt, who is having a great rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As a matter of fact, I had the Packers taking Watt in both my first mock draft and my last.

Watt has 28 total tackles, four sacks and one pick for a Pittsburgh defense that has gotten back it’s old swagger. The Steelers are fifth in the NFL in total defense and are tied for fourth in sacks with 26. Opposing QBs only have a 74.4 passer rating against Pittsburgh as well.

That is how the a Capers defense is supposed to function.

Since Mike McCarthy hired Capers in 2009, it’s not like the Packers haven’t been successful. In fact, they have been very prosperous. The team has been to the postseason for eight straight years going into this season. That includes one Super Bowl win, three appearances in the NFC title game and five NFC North titles.

But it is also in the postseason where we have seen some of the cracks and deficiencies of a Capers-run defense. Granted, in some case there have been injury issues, like in the NFC title game versus Atlanta last season, but for the most part, the defense has been exposed in many of those games.

Since the 2011 postseason, the Packers have played in 11 games, winning five of them. In the six losses, the Packers have given up an average of 33.8 points per game. That won’t get it done.

Plus, in those same six losses, the Packers offense averaged 22.3 points per game. Three touchdowns per game usually gets a NFL team a win in the postseason.

So, what to do? I’ve heard a lot of talk from Packer Nation about firing Capers immediately. That will not happen. I do believe the writing is on the wall for a change this coming offseason though.

But right now, the Packers have some other big issues. The team is on a downward spiral due to the broken collarbone suffered by quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the Week 6 game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers lost that game and the two games since then, to see their record fall to 4-4 and two games behind the Vikings in the NFC North.

To make matters even worse, right offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga suffered a torn ACL against the Lions on Monday night and is out for the season.

Brett Hundley has struggled since taking over for Rodgers, but in the game versus the Lions, No. 7 showed some definite improvement.

Rodgers can come back from IR (injured reserve) in Week 15, but that will only happen if he his collarbone is fully healed and also if the Packers are still in postseason contention.

Aaron Rodgers after game with the Lions

This is what Rodgers said about his coming back last week when he spoke to the media.

“I want to be healthy. That’s the most important thing,” Rodgers said last Friday. “But if we’re healthy in eight weeks and it would make sense to come back, then I’m going to come back.

“The only reason to come back would be that I’m healed completely. If that doesn’t happen in eight weeks, there’s not even a conversation.”

There also won’t be a conversation if the Packers are out of contention for a spot in the postseason. There would be no reason to risk further injury to Rodgers for just the two remaining games of the season.

And based on the way that all three phases of the football team are struggling right now, the postseason does not look likely.

I do see the offense getting better behind Hundley at QB, but will that improvement be enough to overcome the issues that both the defense and special teams have right now?

To me, the answer is no.

Now, things could change. Maybe Biegel and fellow rookie Montravius Adams will add some spark to the pass rush. Adams would most certainly help, as the defensive line of the Packers has just two sacks this season, with Mike Daniels leading the way with 1.5.

But somehow things have to change on the defensive side of the ball. The good news is that I’m still seeing effort from the defensive players. Blake Martinez is playing exceptional and is fourth in the NFL with 74 tackles.

But the scheme is not working. Maybe that’s because Capers doesn’t have the players he needs to make it more successful. If that’s the case, then part of the blame need to go to Thompson.

Still, Capers has been defensive coordinator for the Packers now for nine years. Based on what has happened this season and looking at the totality of the work done by Capers in his tenure in Green Bay, I don’t see Capers returning for a 10th season.

 

Green Bay Packers: Ted Thompson Has Changed His Modus Operandi in 2017

Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy

Going into the 2017 NFL season, general manager Ted Thompson of the Green Bay Packers had built up a very solid track record in terms of doing his job. Especially since he hired head coach Mike McCarthy in 2006, a year after Thompson took over control of the front office.

Since that partnership took place, the Packers have had 115-61-1 regular season record, with six NFC North titles, nine playoff appearances (including eight straight currently), four NFC title game appearances and one Super Bowl win.

For the most part during his tenure as GM, Thompson has utilized a a draft-and-develop program under the guidance of McCarthy and his coaching staff.

The Packers also were a team that retained a lot of their own core free agents and the team almost never cut a draft pick in the season they were selected.

In that time, it’s been rare that Thompson would dip 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.

When Thompson does sign a veteran free agent, he usually goes the route of signing a player who was released by his former team. Examples are defensive back Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders) in 2006, defensive lineman/linebacker Julius Peppers (Chicago Bears) in 2014 and tight end Jared Cook (St. Louis Rams) last year.

Every one of those three examples turned out great for Thompson and the Packers, especially Woodson and Peppers.

In his seven-year career with the Packers, Woodson put together a brilliant resume. Woodson picked off 38 passes, including nine for touchdowns. Woodson also forced 15 fumbles, recovering six more. Woodson had 11.5 sacks to boot.

In addition to that, Woodson was also named the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Plus, Woodson was named to four Pro Bowls and finally won a Super Bowl ring.

Peppers had a great three-year run with the Packers as well. Peppers had 25 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and two interceptions, which were both returned for touchdowns. The Packers were in the NFC championship game in two of the three years Peppers was a Packer.

Cook was also a good signing, even though his stay in Green Bay was only one year. Cook suffered an ankle injury early in the 2016 season, but once he returned to action in late November, the offense of the Packers became a force with his addition.

Also, in three games in the postseason, Cook had 18 catches for 229 yards and two touchdowns, as the Packers advanced to the NFC title game.

Thompson likes signing players who were released by their former teams because they won’t have an impact on the compensatory picks a team will receive in the NFL draft the following season.

Signing a free agent who wasn’t released by his team does factor into the compensatory picks equation. An example of signing a player like that was in 2006, when the Packers signed defensive lineman Ryan Pickett (St. Louis Rams), who had a nice eight-year run in Green Bay.

But things changed a bit for Thompson and the Packers in 2017. For one thing, the Packers lost a number of their own free agents. The list included Peppers, Cook, guard T.J. Lang, running back Eddie Lacy, offensive lineman JC Tretter, defensive back Micah Hyde and defensive lineman/linebacker Datone Jones.

The Packers also released Sam Shields, their top cornerback, due to concussion issues.

Thompson used both the draft and free agency to offset those losses. In free agency, Thompson shocked the football world by signing free-agent tight end Martellus Bennett after negotiations with Cook broke down.

The Packers signed Bennett to a three-year deal that will figure into the compensatory formula because he was hadn’t been released by the New England Patriots at the time of his signing.

But that signing will definitely be offset with all the losses the Packers had in free agency.

After signing Bennett, Thompson kept adding veteran players who were released by their former teams. This list included tight end Lance Kendricks (Los Angeles Rams), cornerback Davon House (Jacksonville Jaguars), Ricky Jean Francois (Washington Redskins and recently released by Green Bay), guard Jahri Evans (New Orleans Saints), linebacker Ahmad Brooks (San Francisco 49ers) and defensive lineman Quinton Dial (San Francisco 49ers).

That free agent group is by far the largest assortment of players that Thompson has ever signed in his tenure as GM with the Packers.

Bennett, House and Evans will all be starters, while Kendricks, Brooks and Dial figure to get more than ample playing time during the season.

In addition to the free agent news, the Packers also released three of their ten draft picks from 2017, which is almost unheard of under Thompson’s watch. Two of the three released players (wide receiver DeAngelo Yancey and offensive lineman Kofi Amichia) were signed to the practice squad however.

What does this all mean? It appears that Thompson realizes that the Packers have been knocking on the door of getting to the Super Bowl in two out of the last three years with teams which have been among the youngest in the NFL.

In 2017, he has added more of a veteran presence to the squad, which will hopefully help out at crunch time.

Aaron Rodgers and Martellus Bennett

Add to that, quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be 34 in December, and although No. 12 is still playing at an elite level, the Packers need to surround Rodgers with as many still-effective veterans on both offense and defense.

Thompson has tried to help that cause going into the 2017 season.

It’s still very early in the 2017 season, but the 17-9 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in the season opener at Lambeau Field was a very positive start to the season.

In fact, Bennett made the game-clinching catch for 26 yards late in the game which allowed Rodgers to use the kneel down to run out the clock. No. 80 was also a very effective blocker during the game.

The Packers will need that type of performance by Bennett and the other veteran newcomers to the team throughout the course of the season and postseason. If so, the Packers will have a chance to do what Bennett did after Super Bowl LI when he was with the Patriots.

That is, hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Minneapolis after Super Bowl LII.