NFC North: Brandon Smith

Green Bay Packers cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
Most significant move: After the Packers released Graham Harrell on Aug. 24, the backup quarterback job was Vince Young’s to lose. The former first-round draft pick on the Tennessee Titans lost it. After an unimpressive performance in the preseason finale at Kansas City on Thursday, when Young led only two field goal drives in 11 possessions, the Packers released him on Saturday.

Perhaps he was fighting a losing battle from the start, considering he wasn’t signed until Aug. 5. That was 11 days after the Packers opened training camp. He missed the first seven practices and a scrimmage.

It leaves an unsettled situation behind starter Aaron Rodgers. For now, the only other quarterback on the roster is B.J. Coleman, who spent all of last season on the practice squad. Coleman opened training camp as the No. 3 quarterback but slipped to fourth string after Young was signed and before Harrell was released. In the preseason, Coleman completed just 14 of 34 passes (41.2 percent) for 128 yards with one touchdown and one interception. It’s hard to imagine the Packers won’t explore other options over the weekend.

2011 revisited: With running back Alex Green and tight end D.J. Williams among the most surprising cuts on Saturday, it made a strong statement about the 2011 draft class. Packers general manager Ted Thompson drafted 10 players in April of that year. Only three of them – receiver Randall Cobb (second round), cornerback Davon House (fourth round) and tight end Ryan Taylor (seventh round) – remain on the roster. Tackle Derek Sherrod (first round) will start the season on the physically unable to perform list. He still has not returned from the broken leg he sustained on Dec. 18, 2011. Green was a third-round pick, while Williams was taken in the fifth round.

What’s next: Like all teams, the Packers will scour the waiver wire and free-agent lists. Their focus likely will be on the quarterbacks. Even if they find one they like, they might have to use Coleman as the No. 2 early in the season while the newcomer gets acclimated to the offense. The Packers haven’t carried three quarterbacks on their active roster since late in the 2011 season. They also can begin signing players to their eight-man practice squad on Sunday afternoon. Thompson is scheduled to meet with reporters on Sunday afternoon.

Players cut: QB: Vince Young. RB: Alex Green. FB: Jonathan Amosa. TE: Matthew Mulligan, Jake Stoneburner, D.J. Williams. WR: Charles Johnson, Tyrone Walker, Myles White. OL: Andrew Datko, Garth Gerhart, Kevin Hughes, Patrick Lewis. DL: Jordan Miller. LB: Terrell Manning, Dezman Moses, Donte Savage. CB: Loyce Means, Brandon Smith, James Nixon. S: David Fulton, Chaz Powell.

Observation deck: Packers-Chiefs

August, 29, 2013

Green Bay Packers starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not play in Thursday’s preseason finale at Kansas City, meaning his entire preseason consisted of five series and 45 plays. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews and tight end Jermichael Finley also were given the night off.

The Chiefs also rested many of their key players, including starting quarterback Alex Smith.

The Packers lost 30-8 to finish the preseason 1-3.

Here’s a rundown of the rest of the night:
  • Backup quarterbacks Vince Young and B.J. Coleman split playing time. Young started and played the first two series, and then Coleman came in and played the next two series. They alternated that way the rest of the first half. Young played the entire second half and struggled. He lost a fumble on the first possession of the third quarter and then had five straight drives that ended with punts. Young actually fumbled twice in the third quarter, losing one of them when outside linebacker Josh Martin beat tackle Andrew Datko for a strip sack. On the second one, Ridge Wilson beat Datko and knocked the ball away from Young, but the Packers recovered. Young threw behind receivers several times and completed just 14 of 30 passes for 144 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Coleman finished 2-of-7 for 19 yards and an interception. He was picked off by former Packers linebacker Frank Zombo.
  • On his first – and only – play this preseason, cornerback Tramon Williams came up with an interception, picking off Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel on the first play from scrimmage. Williams missed the first three preseason games because of a knee injury he sustained early in training camp but looks like he will be good to go in Week 1 at San Francisco.
  • Rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari also played only one play. He was slow to get up after the Packers’ first play from scrimmage and did not return, but he did not appear to be seriously injured.
  • Receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson made their preseason debuts but played only the first two snaps, both of which were running plays.
  • Kicker Mason Crosby, who earlier on Thursday agreed to take a pay cut, made both of his field goals, from 48 and 45 yards, and likely solidified his hold on the job.
  • Defensive tackle Johnny Jolly played extensively and likely solidified his spot on the team after missing the past three seasons because of a suspension. However, his personal-foul penalty helped the Chiefs to their only touchdown in the first half. Jolly delivered a late hit after linebacker Nate Palmer had a strip sack of quarterback Tyler Bray. Jolly’s penalty wiped out what would have been a 13-yard loss.
  • Cornerback Brandon Smith, a receiver in college at Arizona State, gave up all the Chiefs’ three touchdowns – an 8-yard pass from Bray to Junior Hemingway in the second quarter, a 43-yard pass from Bray to Josh Bellamy in the third quarter and a 9-yarder from Bray to Frankie Hammond in the fourth quarter. Smith did also have an interception of Bray early in the third quarter.
  • Rookie running back Johnathan Franklin got his most extensive playing time of the preseason and had a couple of good gains – a long run of 7 yards and a long reception of 14 yards – but struggled mightily in pass protection. He whiffed on several blocks, including one that may have caused Coleman to rush a throw on his interception.
  • Receiver Jeremy Ross may have helped his chances. He caught three passes for 50 yards.
  • Rookie linebacker Sam Barrington, who likely will make the team as a special-teams player, sacked Bray in the third quarter for a safety.
  • Chris Banjo, trying to make the team as the fourth safety, sacked Bray in the fourth quarter.
  • Rookie Micah Hyde took four punt returns. He had three fair catches and a 12-yard return.
  • Coach Mike McCarthy turned the play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Tom Clements.
  • Tim Masthay punted 28 times during the preseason, including nine against the Chiefs.
  • Receivers Tyrone Walker and Myles White both fumbled in the fourth quarter, hurting their chances to make it as the fifth or sixth receiver.
  • The Packers may make a few cuts on Friday but likely will make the bulk of their roster moves on Saturday, when they have to be down to 53 players.

A look at who hurt themselves

August, 18, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Earlier, I identified some Green Bay Packers’ players who helped themselves in Saturday’s 19-7 preseason victory over the St. Louis Rams.

Here’s a look at some players who hurt their chances:
  • Graham Harrell and Vince Young: If the Packers were hoping one of the backup quarterbacks would separate himself from the other, it didn’t happen. While Harrell (5-of-10, 44 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 62.1 rating) protected the ball better than he did when he turned it over twice in the preseason opener against Arizona and Young showed a better command of the offense, neither made any eye-catching plays. Harrell, who lost a fumble and threw an interception against the Cardinals, played three series in the second quarter against the Rams and managed three points. His best drive came when he took possession with 35 seconds left in the half and hit tight end D.J. Williams for completions of 10 and 7 yards and then receiver Myles White for 6 to get into position for a field goal. His best throw of the night was a seam route that Williams dropped on his first series. “Tonight I did a better job of not making big mistakes that cost us, and the second group, we moved the ball pretty well,” Harrell said after the game. “We didn’t have any three-and-outs.” Young (5-of-9, 26 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 60.9 rating) relieved Harrell in the third quarter, also played three series and managed three points. While Young looked more comfortable than he did in his Packers’ debut against the Cardinals, he continued to have accuracy problems. On his first series, he badly overthrew receiver Myles White, who was wide open deep down the middle, and then was late on a fade in the corner of the end zone to White, who caught the ball out of bounds. Young looked good on the run, scrambling once for 7 yards.
  • James Starks: The oft-injured running back is as healthy as he has ever been for training camp; he has missed only one practice, because of an illness. But his fourth-quarter fumble won’t help his chances. He played only nine snaps but did not get another one after he coughed up the ball, which the Packers retained because Rams linebacker Daren Bates was out of bounds when he recovered the fumble. If there’s a veteran in danger of getting cut, it might be Starks, who has missed 26 of a possible 48 regular-season games the last three years.
  • Giorgio Tavecchio: If the first-year kicker had an advantage over Mason Crosby based on his better record in practice, he probably lost it with one kick. Tavecchio missed wide left on a 49-yard field goal in the first quarter. Although the Rams brought pressure off the left side of the offensive line, Tavecchio had enough time to get the kick away cleanly. The lefty just pushed it. He came back to make a 38-yarder in the second quarter.
  • Brandon Smith: The Packers knew when they signed the former wide receiver to play cornerback that there would be growing pains, but Smith made the classic defensive back mistake of getting caught looking at the quarterback. In man coverage against Nick Johnson late in the fourth quarter, Smith was in good position until he took his eyes off the receiver. In a split second, Johnson used a double move to turn his route up field and beat Smith for a 26-yard touchdown pass. The Packers knew it would be a long transition for Smith, who played receiver at Arizona State and also during brief training camp stints with Carolina and Seattle in 2011, and it doesn’t appear he’s ready to challenge for playing time yet.