NFC North: Greg Jennings

MINNEAPOLIS -- An examination of what the Minnesota Vikings must do after their win over the St. Louis Rams:

If there was one major issue emerging from the Vikings' 34-6 victory on Sunday, it was the team's share of penalties on a day when referee Ed Hochuli's crew tossed plenty of flags. The Vikings were penalized seven times for 60 yards, but the Rams gave away more than twice as many yards, committing 13 penalties for 121 yards in the loss.

Griffen
The Rams' carelessness ultimately helped Minnesota win the game, but Vikings players and coach Mike Zimmer cited their own penalties as one of the major issues in need of fixing this week.

"In the first half, I felt we kind of self-destructed a little bit," Zimmer said. "We had too many penalties."

The Vikings had a 13-0 lead at halftime, after Josh Robinson's second-quarter interception helped set up a Matt Cassel touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, but in general, Zimmer thought his players were a little too amped up in the first two quarters of the season. He told them at halftime to calm down, and though it's worth noting the Rams declined three penalties in the second half, a holding call on Phil Loadholt was the only Vikings penalty the Rams accepted.

Zimmer has said several times he coaches Vikings defenders to avoid penalties, in light of the league's increased focus on contact with receivers. The Vikings had two illegal contact calls (on Jasper Brinkley and Jabari Price) declined, as well as a pass interference penalty on Robert Blanton, but in different circumstances, those penalties could have had costlier consequences. The penalties alone on Sunday were enough to keep defensive end Everson Griffen from calling the Vikings' defensive effort a dominating performance.

“It wasn’t dominating. We can play a lot better -- penalties, penalties can kill a team," Griffen said. "But we allowed ourselves to stay in the moment and execute our assignments, [and] still win the game.”
Observed and heard in the locker room after the Minnesota Vikings' 34-6 victory over St. Louis:
  • Zimmer
    Though they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in London last September -- in what was technically a home game -- the Vikings hadn't won an official road game since Week 16 of the 2012 season. Coach Mike Zimmer put up a sign before the Vikings' first preseason game about what the team needed to do to win on the road this season and mentioned some of the points from that sign in a team meeting Saturday night. "I actually heard a couple of the players talking about it today before we went on," Zimmer said. "I've said it all along: If you play smart football, if you play good techniques and good fundamentals, you can go out in the parking lot and do good. It's more about how you play than where you play."
  • As soon as Adrian Peterson saw fellow running back Matt Asiata lay out a block for Cordarrelle Patterson on his third-quarter run, "I threw my hands up because I knew he had the ability to take it the distance." Patterson's 67-yard run gave him 102 rushing yards for the day and put Peterson in the rare role of the Vikings' second-leading rusher. "It doesn't happen often," Peterson said, "but he's a tremendous talent."
  • Zimmer said players had been waiting to douse him with Gatorade since the Vikings' undefeated preseason, and with a few seconds left in the win Sunday, receivers Greg Jennings and Patterson got him. "[His] first win in Vikings history," Patterson said, "we had to give him a little bath."

Vikings Tuesday practice report

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
6:35
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Some observations from the Minnesota Vikings' practice on Tuesday afternoon:
  • A day after coach Mike Zimmer hinted Josh Robinson needed to make a prompt return to the field in order to stay in competition for a roster spot, the cornerback did just that. Robinson, who hasn't played in the preseason because of a strained hamstring, did some individual work on Tuesday, and appeared closer to returning to full-team work. The Vikings seem set on moving forward with Captain Munnerlyn as a starting corner in their base defense -- not that that should have ever come as a huge surprise -- but Robinson can keep himself in the running for the third cornerback spot if he gets back in time to show something in the preseason.
  • It was a bit of a sloppy day for the Vikings' quarterbacks on Tuesday; Matt Cassel hit 12 of 20 passes, but had one intercepted by Harrison Smith after it went high off Cordarrelle Patterson's hands, and had another pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. Teddy Bridgewater, who got some work with the first team on Tuesday, hit 15 of 18 throws, and had one dropped by Allen Reisner, but also had to be bailed out by his receivers on a couple completions, like one that Jerome Simpson snared after it was behind him. Christian Ponder got just three plays, carrying the ball himself on one after Jerick McKinnon missed a handoff. He threw one pass, overshooting Kain Colter.
  • Chris Crocker continued to work with the first-team defense on Tuesday, lining up at safety next to Harrison Smith. Andrew Sendejo and Kurt Coleman got some work on the second team, and the Vikings again unveiled their three-safety look in a nickel package.
  • Blair Walsh hit 7 of 8 kicks in a field goal period, connecting from 54 yards on his final attempt of the day. Considering Walsh has missed both of his kicks over 50 yards in the preseason, it was an encouraging sign for the Vikings to see him hit from long range on Tuesday.
  • Greg Jennings probably had the best day of all the receivers, outrunning Captain Munnerlyn on a perfectly-thrown deep shot from Cassel and making a nice catch in front of Xavier Rhodes on a sideline throw from Bridgewater. Rodney Smith, who caught the game-winner from Bridgewater on Saturday, was a frequent target for the rookie; Bridgewater hit a long touchdown throw to Smith, beyond Sendejo and Derek Cox.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Wide receiver Jerome Simpson was back at the Minnesota Vikings' practice facility on Tuesday morning, confident he'd made his case that the NFL should lift his three-game suspension as best he could. But until the league makes a final decision on whether it will suspend Simpson for a drunken driving arrest last November, the Vikings have to hedge their bets about whether they'll have their No. 3 receiver at the start of the season.

"You have to have a varied plan," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "Unfortunately in this game, guys miss [time]. If it's a case where someone misses because of an off-the-field thing, that's one thing, but we could be in the opening game, and someone we're counting on to play a big role sprains his ankle on the third play. We have to have a plan to go play and do the things we want to do. There's certain plays that 'Simp' is really good on, and there's other guys that have to fill in if he's not in for that play."

[+] EnlargeJerome Simpson
AP Photo/Ric TapiaJerome Simpson has made his appeal regarding a three-game suspension and now awaits word.
Simpson's attorney, David Valentini, said on Monday night that he was one of two attorneys representing the wide receiver at his appeal at NFL headquarters in New York, where the attorneys argued Simpson's suspension should be lifted after he pleaded guilty to lesser charges of careless driving and refusing to submit to a chemical test. The receiver, who was arrested Nov. 9, registered a blood-alcohol level of .095 on a breath test, which was above Minnesota's legal limit of .08, when an officer stopped him on Interstate 394 in Minneapolis, but Valentini has contended that if Simpson had taken a blood test the morning of his arrest, he would have passed it.

The receiver has completed his community service requirement after pleading guilty in January, and if the NFL decides not to officially hand down the three-game suspension, Simpson would be available at the start of the season.

For his part, Simpson said on Tuesday that his meeting with the league "went great" and he's now ready to move on. But if the league decides to suspend Simpson, it could put the Vikings in a bind at the beginning of the year, especially after wide receiver Jarius Wright left practice with an ankle injury on Monday.

Adam Thielen and Rodney Smith have been battling for a fifth receiver spot -- and Turner said the Vikings could keep both of them if they're playing well enough -- but neither has caught a pass in a regular season game. The Vikings would also miss Simpson's downfield presence; the receiver might be the most natural deep threat on the Vikings' roster.

"I think we have a lot of guys who can stretch the field and get deep. Some of them do it in different ways," Turner said. "Greg Jennings has caught some deep balls out there against our top corners [in practice]. A lot of it depends on coverage, a lot of it depends on the play we have designed, but I think we have a number of guys that can make big plays down the field."

Vikings Camp Report: Day 14

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
7:40
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MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • After throwing three interceptions during Monday's practice, Teddy Bridgewater was picked off twice more on Wednesday afternoon, by Mistral Raymond and Gerald Hodges. Bridgewater finished the day 12-for-17 in full-team drills, including a pass he threw away and a deep ball Adam Thielen dropped with a step on the defensive back covering him. Matt Cassel, who was again listed at the top of the Vikings' depth chart on Wednesday and appears to be solidly at the front of the Vikings' quarterback race, hit 12 of his 14 throws, with his only incompletions coming on drops from Kyle Rudolph and Matt Asiata. Christian Ponder went 6-for-8, with Shaun Prater breaking up one pass.
  • Linebacker Dom DeCicco will have surgery on his hip on Thursday. He was one of three players not to practice on Wednesday, joining Robert Blanton (hamstring) and Chase Ford (broken foot). Blanton started doing some drills on the side, as he tries to get back in time to compete for the Vikings' starting safety spot alongside Harrison Smith. Ford was also doing some running on Wednesday. Josh Robinson, who has been battling a hamstring injury, also visited the trainer's tent early in practice.
  • Cassel connected with Greg Jennings on the play of the day, hitting a long throw down the sideline to the receiver, who was covered well by Marcus Sherels. The quarterback and the receiver connected on both of the passes Cassel targeted for Jennings.
  • Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, who has won praise from coach Mike Zimmer, defensive coordinator George Edwards and defensive line coach Andre Patterson, got some first-team snaps at nose tackle on Wednesday. He'll get a chance to make his case with Linval Joseph still out because of a gunshot wound, and it seems like Stephen has a good shot at a roster spot; Patterson said on Wednesday the former Connecticut tackle is much better than his seventh-round draft status would indicate.
  • Running back Chuck Foreman, who played on three Vikings Super Bowl teams in the 1970s and still has the third-most rushing yards in franchise history, was spotted on the sidelines watching Vikings practice on Wednesday.
MANKATO, Minn. -- The biggest question surrounding the Minnesota Vikings when Mike Zimmer took over as head coach in January was the team's future at quarterback. The tallest task facing Zimmer when he accepted the job on Jan. 15 might have been remaking the Vikings' defense.

Zimmer's résumé as a defensive coordinator earned him the chance to work with a group that allowed more points than any in the NFL last season, and more than all but one defense in the Vikings' 53-season history. The coach began a detailed remodeling process almost as soon as he got the job, walking scouts and front-office members through what he'd need to succeed, and the trademark of his on-field work with players over the past two months has been an exacting adherence to details. The first concrete signs of progress came in the Vikings' preseason opener last Friday night, when the first-team defense forced a pair of three-and-outs against the Oakland Raiders. When he watched the film the next day, Zimmer saw some semblance of what he'd outlined for Vikings decision-makers months ago.

"It was a little bit like I envisioned this football team to look like. We didn’t make many mistakes on defense until later on in the ball game. We competed very well; we got up in people’s face on defense," Zimmer said. "I think that we are starting to develop a physical mindset with this football team. I like how we practice and the way we practice is showing up when the lights come on and we get ready to go play. We need to continue to practice at the same tempo, we need to continue to improve on the mistakes and we've still got a long way to go."

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

1. If Matt Cassel (or Teddy Bridgewater) can help the Vikings move beyond the quarterback turmoil of 2013, the team has enough weapons to catch up to the prolific offenses in the NFC North. Cordarrelle Patterson could be in for a breakout season in Year 2, Greg Jennings worked well with Cassel last season and Kyle Rudolph dropped 15 pounds in an effort to adjust his game to offensive coordinator Norv Turner's downfield passing game. The Vikings, of course, still have Adrian Peterson, and they're excited about the potential of third-round pick Jerick McKinnon, who could be the change-of-pace back Turner has typically had in his offenses.

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's Anthony Barr
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsAnthony Barr should start at strongside linebacker, though the Vikings night unveil some creative packages for the rookie.
2. First-round pick Anthony Barr should start at strongside linebacker, where he'll be featured as part of a defense that should be more aggressive than recent Vikings teams. While he was the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati, Zimmer sent five or more pass-rushers just 172 times last season (the seventh-fewest in the league), according to ESPN Stats & Information, but he'll bring pressure from more places than the Vikings did under Leslie Frazier. The Bengals, for example, blitzed a defensive back on 30 more snaps than the Vikings did last season.

3. General manager Rick Spielman has picked seven players in the first round of the past three drafts, assembling a core of young talent that could help the Vikings improve as quickly as it can develop. Third-year safety Harrison Smith is back from a turf toe injury that cost him half the season, second-year cornerback Xavier Rhodes is a good fit with Zimmer's press coverage scheme and Sharrif Floyd could become the Vikings' answer to Geno Atkins, the outstanding three-technique tackle Zimmer had in Cincinnati.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The Vikings will be counting on better depth in the secondary than they had last season, which means a number of unproven players will have to fill large roles. After the Vikings' experiment with Josh Robinson at slot cornerback backfired last season, he should be more comfortable on the outside, where he could start or play in the Vikings' nickel package once Captain Munnerlyn moves inside. But Robinson hasn't been asked to play much man coverage in his career, and the Vikings will need Rhodes to be their top cover corner in Year 2. They'll also need a starting safety to emerge alongside Smith, though the signing of 34-year-old Chris Crocker could help there.

2. There's little set at the linebacker position, where Chad Greenway is trying to rebound from the worst season of his career, Barr is developing as a rookie and Jasper Brinkley, in his second tour with the Vikings, is trying to hold off third-year man Audie Cole for the middle-linebacker job. In a scheme that leans on active linebackers, the position is one of the most unsettled on the roster.

3. Of course, there's the quarterback position. Cassel performed respectably at the end of last season, and seems comfortable in Turner's offense, but probably hasn't been among the top half of the league's quarterbacks since 2010. If he isn't faring well at the beginning of the season -- and the Vikings get off to a rough start against a schedule that includes dates with Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers by Oct. 2 -- how soon do the Vikings turn things over to Bridgewater? Whether they're counting on a veteran whom they signed last season as a backup or a rookie, the Vikings again begin the season as the only NFC North team with uncertainty about its starting quarterback.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallIf Matt Cassel struggles, how quickly will the Vikings turn to Teddy Bridgewater?
OBSERVATION DECK

  • The Vikings have used Barr as a defensive end in pass-rushing situations and could unveil more creative packages for the rookie this week. Zimmer has plenty of flexibility with his defensive fronts, considering Everson Griffen has played defensive tackle in the nickel package and Corey Wootton and rookie Scott Crichton have rushed from the inside. The Vikings have also toyed with dropping defensive end Brian Robison -- who began his college career as a linebacker -- into coverage in their nickel package.

  • Zimmer wants safeties who can hold up in coverage, and he has unveiled a few nickel packages that feature three safeties and two corners. Considering how much time teams spend in nickel packages, safeties who can cover slot receivers and hold up against the run provide some additional flexibility. That's why Crocker -- who has played the past seven seasons for Zimmer in Atlanta or Cincinnati -- is back with him again.

  • Depth at tight end could be a concern, especially early in the season; Chase Ford looked like he could be a solid receiving option behind Rudolph until he broke his foot before the start of training camp, and the Vikings cut promising undrafted free agent AC Leonard last week. Rhett Ellison has mostly worked as a run blocker so far in his career. Especially if Ford starts on the physically unable to perform list, the Vikings will have to hope Rudolph stays healthy a year after missing half the season with a broken foot.

  • Running back Matt Asiata could carve out a role for himself in the Vikings' offense, especially now that Toby Gerhart is gone to Jacksonville and the Vikings need another running back who can hold up in pass protection. Asiata ran for 115 yards in the Vikings' final game of the 2013 season and has shown some ability as a downhill runner between the tackles.

  • With punt returner Marcus Sherels nursing a hamstring injury, second-year receiver Adam Thielen has shown he can be a solid No. 2 option, returning three punts for 53 yards in the Vikings' preseason opener. As a receiver, Thielen has been one of the big stories in Vikings camp, displaying sure hands over the middle of the field and working well with Bridgewater in front of the same fans who cheered him at Division II Minnesota State, which hosts Vikings training camp.
MANKATO, Minn. -- When the Minnesota Vikings are back on the field for their second preseason game on Saturday night, against the Arizona Cardinals at TCF Bank Stadium, offensive coordinator Norv Turner will probably be less concerned than most of us charting the horse-race aspect of the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback competition. Matt Cassel will need to play more than the 10 snaps he got last Friday, and that could affect how much time Teddy Bridgewater gets with the first-team offense.

Bridgewater
Who plays where, and how much, isn't factoring all that much into Turner's thinking about the quarterbacks.

"That's so overrated," Turner said of the need to see a certain quarterback with the first-team offense. "You get an evaluation of a guy when he plays. The things that happen to him with the second (team), the same exact things are going to happen to him with the (No.) 1s. (Bridgewater) got a 10-play drive with the 1s. He got as many snaps as Matt did with the 1s. I'm not interested in evaluating Teddy. I'm interested in coaching him and continuing to help him get better. We evaluated Teddy before the draft. We know what he's capable of doing."

On Friday night against the Oakland Raiders, Bridgewater "showed all the things that you need to be a quarterback in this league," Turner said. "He was quick with the ball. He made good decisions. For the most part, he got the ball out quick. He's very elusive. I think that's hard for guys to rush you when that's the case. He got pretty good pressure a couple times, and he probably could have gotten the ball out (sooner). He will be able to get the ball out as we continue doing it."

Bridgewater started the game with a 21-yard strike to Greg Jennings after rolling to his right, a play that was called back because the Vikings only had six men on the line of scrimmage. The throw, Turner said, was "as good a throw as you can make." The Vikings will take advantage of Bridgewater's mobility, and they could also use the tactic to make the game easier for the rookie by only requiring him to read half the field after he rolls to one side or the other.

"It can simplify things, but it simplifies things for the defense, too," Turner said. "You can't live on those things. Those things are change-ups you mix in. He's going to be able to do that."

Bridgewater looked rattled by pressure on Friday night, but he handled it well throughout his college career, and will likely adapt to it in the NFL. It might be interesting to see him get some snaps against a first-team Cardinals defense that posted 47 sacks a year ago and plays one of the league's better 3-4 schemes, but the personnel on the field doesn't have as significant an effect on the Vikings' evaluations of Bridgewater as it does in the rest of our minds. That is worth remembering on Saturday, when the Vikings will be looking for progress from Bridgewater no matter what point in the game he gets on the field.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When general manager Ted Thompson drafted Fresno State receiver Davante Adams in the second round this year, there were instant comparisons to former Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones -- another California kid with similar size and physical attributes.

Adams and Jones even worked out together before the draft this spring.

Davante Adams
Mike McGinnis/Getty ImagesSecond-round pick Davante Adams is making strides at wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers.
A little more than a week into training camp, however, the 6-foot-1 and 215-pound Adams has looked more like another, more productive former Packers' receiver.

The way Adams cuts in and out of his breaks with ease has reminded the Packers of a young Greg Jennings, who was perhaps the best route runner this team has had in the last decade or more. Because of that, Adams is making a strong push for the No. 3 receiver spot behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

"We noticed that the first day he got here," Cobb said after Tuesday's practice. "He's really smooth."

That was on display in Saturday's Family Night practice at Lambeau Field. With 67,336 people looking on, Adams made the best catch of the night on an out route from backup quarterback Matt Flynn. Adams had to extend to haul in the pass toward the left sideline against tight coverage.

Adams got off to a slow start in the offseason practices, making Jarrett Boykin look like a lock for the No. 3 spot. But with every training camp practice, it looks more like Adams will push and perhaps overtake Boykin, who has had an ordinary camp.

"I feel like I've made a pretty big jump," Adams said. "I was having some trouble at first just getting here for OTAs and getting adjusted. I was playing well, but it was a matter of just making sure I got all the concepts down. It's starting to be more fluid, and I feel better."

There may have been a good reason it took Adams' abilities a little longer to show up, and it is not solely because he missed the first week of OTAs while attending the NFL Players Association Rookie Premier event in Los Angeles. He said Tuesday that he was bothered by a hamstring injury this offseason. It did not keep him out of any practices, but he believes it impacted his ability to catch the ball.

"I'm a lot healthier now," he said. "Now, I'm rolling on two wheels so it's easier to catch up to the ball."

Receivers coach Edgar Bennett used the terms "explosive" and "quick" to describe Adams despite his 4.56 second 40-yard dash time at the combine. If Adams doesn't have blow-by-you speed, he uses his athleticism (his vertical jump of 39.5 inches was tied for third among the receivers at the combine) and precise route running to make up for it. He led the nation in receptions with 131 last season for a reason.

"He's not going to wow you with speed," Packers cornerback Davon House said. "But he's very quick off the line. Him and Boykin probably give me the most trouble off the line, and he's a big target who can catch."

The Packers are not necessarily down on Boykin, who caught 49 passes for 681 yards last season, but a bad drop like he had in Monday night's practice has further opened the door for Adams.

No Packers rookie receiver has caught more than 40 passes since Jennings had 45 and Jones 47 in consecutive seasons (2006 and 2007, respectively). Jones played seven solid years in Green Bay but caught more than 50 passes only twice and never had a 1,000-yard season, while Jennings went to a pair of Pro Bowls and had three straight 1,000-yard season before signing with the Minnesota Vikings in 2013.

"He adds another dimension to our team," Cobb said of Adams. "You can see that he has that playmaking ability, so I'm excited for him."

Vikings Camp Report: Day 9

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
8:05
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MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • The Vikings quickly put safety Chris Crocker to work after signing him on Monday afternoon; the 34-year-old was in team drills right away, mostly working with the second team. Crocker said he's been working out, but will need a little time to re-acclimate himself to running with the extra weight of pads. Still, his familiarity with coach Mike Zimmer's defense meant the Vikings had no qualms about throwing him into their full-team work on Monday.
  • Linebacker Michael Mauti got some first-team work at strongside linebacker on Monday, and has been largely playing outside after working out at middle linebacker last season. Mauti said he's around 240 pounds, playing at a little lighter weight than last year because of all the running linebackers have to do in Zimmer's scheme (and have had to do in practice). He's now nearly two years removed from his last knee surgery, and said he feels great. Anthony Barr looks like the probable starter at strongside linebacker, but Mauti is trying to make a roster bid based on his versatility. "The more you can do, absolutely (it helps)," he said.
  • The Vikings' quarterbacks weren't asked to throw as much in full-team drills as they have been in recent days. Matt Cassel hit 6 of 9 passes in 11-on-11 work, while Teddy Bridgewater went 8-for-10, rebounding from a tough night on Saturday and finishing his day with some first-team snaps. He targeted his final three throws for Greg Jennings, hitting two of them. Christian Ponder worked with the third team, connecting on 4 of 7 passes, including a drop and two spikes in a two-minute drill.
  • In a practice-it-in-case-of-emergency moment, all three quarterbacks also got some work on pooch punts. Bridgewater was the best of the three there, hitting a couple punts with decent hang time.
  • Tight end Chase Ford, who is on the physically unable to perform list with a broken foot, seems to be recovering quickly; he was out of a walking boot and moving around without a noticeable limp on Monday, as he watched practice in athletic shoes. Safety Andrew Sendejo was back from the PUP list and went through his first practice, as well, as Zimmer tried to get a handle on his crowded safety situation. Tackle Antonio Richardson, however, left with a leg injury late in practice after his leg got rolled on a running play.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Maybe Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb was just speaking in hyperbole. Or perhaps he did not want to come across like the stereotypical diva NFL receiver.

Cobb
Whatever the reason, Cobb said Sunday that he doesn't believe he has done enough to warrant a contract extension.

The Packers almost certainly will see things differently.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers already does. He said Saturday that he would “love for Randall to be next” when it comes to contract extensions.

Maybe the Packers will want to wait to make sure last year's fluke injury was, well, a fluke. But there's little or no reason to think they will let a young, budding star receiver get away even after they signed their top receiver, Jordy Nelson, to a four-year, $39 million contract extension on Saturday. Cobb, who won't turn 24 until next month, is in the final year of the rookie contract he signed after the Packers drafted him in the second round in 2011.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who has an excellent track record with second-round receivers (see also Nelson and Greg Jennings) already knows what kind of dynamic player Cobb can be from the slot position. This year, after the departure of James Jones in free agency, Cobb also will be able to expand his role into a complete receiver who plays both inside and out on the perimeter.

The Packers watched Cobb catch 80 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012 and likely would have seen equal, if not better, numbers last season if not for the broken tibia he sustained on a low hit from Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam that knocked him out for 10 games.

Had it not been for the Elam hit, it might have been Cobb's name on that contract the Packers worked up on Saturday.

"Woulda, coulda, shoulda," Cobb said. "At the end of the day, I didn't. I wasn't out there 10 weeks. Regardless of what it may be, what my injury was, there was nothing I could do about it.

"For me, I feel that was part of God's plan. I've done everything I can in the offseason. I've come back and I'm ready for training camp as we get going over the next few days, throwing the pads on, so I'm excited about this season."
Bart StarrJohn Biever/Icon SMI
We have a winner. The voters picked Bart Starr's quarterback sneak for a touchdown to win the Ice Bowl as the Packers' most memorable play, and I applaud their selection.

Score: Packers 21, Cowboys 17
Date: Dec. 31, 1967 Site: Lambeau Field

From the moment we began soliciting nominations for the Green Bay Packers' three most memorable plays, Bart Starr's quarterback sneak for a touchdown to win the Ice Bowl was mentioned more often than any other play.

So it should come as no surprise that it was the runaway winner in the voting.

Few NFL franchises have one defining play like that, but Starr's sneak ranks up there with the Immaculate Reception and The Catch.

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When the voting closed on Thursday, Starr's play finished as a landslide winner over Brett Favre's 54-yard touchdown pass to Andre Rison in Super Bowl XXXI and Aaron Rodgers' third-and-10 completion to Greg Jennings to help clinch Super Bowl XLV.

What was most interesting in researching this project was that there was no consensus on the most memorable plays from Super Bowls XXXI and XLV. There was just as much support for Desmond Howard's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that helped him win the Super Bowl XXXI MVP. Likewise in Super Bowl XLV, strong cases could be made for Nick Collins' interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter and Clay Matthews' forced fumble that thwarted a potential go-ahead drive by the Steelers in the fourth quarter.

Unlike Starr's sneak, no one play won Super Bowls XXXI or XVL.

And that is why Starr's play was so special.

As we wrap up this project, it's also worth noting some of the other plays that were considered, thanks in part to input from readers and other longtime observers of the team.

Among the others:

  • Don Hutson's first touchdown, an 83-yarder in 1935.
  • Dave Robinson drilling Don Meredith, leading to Tom Brown's interception to beat the Cowboys in the 1966 NFL Championship.
  • Herb Adderley's interception against the Lions in a 1962 regular-season game to set up the game-winning field goal in a 9-7 victory.
  • Chester Marcol's blocked field goal that he ran in for a touchdown to beat the Bears in 1980.
  • Don Majkowski to Sterling Sharpe for a 14-yard touchdown pass in 1989 against the Bears in what is known as the Instant Replay Game.
  • Favre to Sharpe in Detroit for a 40-yard touchdown with 55 seconds remaining in a 1994 playoff game.
  • Antonio Freeman's "Monday Night Miracle" catch to beat the Vikings in 2000.
  • B.J. Raji's interception return for a touchdown against the Bears in the NFC Championship Game in 2011.
  • The "Fail Mary" play against the Seahawks in 2012.

The problem with some of those plays is they were either flukes or meaningless plays in meaningless games. Oh, and there was one other play that a longtime Packers observer was convinced would be the most important play in team history if there more details about it were available. It was a punt, said to be nearly 90 yards by Verne Lewellen in a 1929 game against the New York Giants. That punt pinned the Giants deep in their own territory and helped secure a victory that was the difference between the teams in the standings (there were no playoffs at that time). The Packers, with a 12-0-1 record, won the championship over the Giants, whose only loss was to the Packers. It gave the Packers their first championship and, because it happened in New York, helped the Packers capture the attention of the powerful New York media. However, reports from that game do not clearly describe Lewellen's punt.

In the end, Starr's sneak is the play that has been, and likely will continue to be, the most memorable.
Greg Jennings, Aaron RodgersJason O. Watson/USA TODAY Sports
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Green Bay Packers history. The others are: Bart Starr's quarterback sneak for a touchdown to win the Ice Bowl and Brett Favre's 54-yard touchdown pass to Andre Rison on their second offensive play of Super Bowl XXXI. Please vote for your choice as the Packers' most memorable play.

Score: Packers 31, Steelers 25
Date: Feb. 6, 2011 Site: Cowboys Stadium

Just like in Super Bowl XXXI, there were several defining plays the Packers' Super Bowl XLV victory. There was Nick Collins' 37-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter, and Clay Matthews' forced fumble of running back Rashard Mendenhall in the fourth quarter.

But Super Bowls often are about quarterbacks, and there's a reason Aaron Rodgers was the MVP of this game.

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One of those reasons was his throw to receiver Greg Jennings on a third-and-10 play in the fourth quarter. Leading 28-25 with 7:29 left, the Packers took over and needed to bleed the clock and keep the ball out of the Steelers' hands. They faced a third-and-10 play on their own 25-yard line.

"I remember that as I was lined up in the shotgun, I knew how important this play was," Rodgers said in a recent interview. "And I also knew that if I kept the play on, I had really only one place to go with the football that would get us the first down."

And that was to Jennings.

With the Steelers rushing only three and dropping eight into coverage, Rodgers knew he had to be precise with his throw.

"They were playing two-man with inside leverage and we had in-breaking routes, so I really knew Greg had to win against Ike Taylor and I'd have to make a really good throw," Rodgers said. "But I've made that throw a number of times and felt good about it. I was able to take a nice healthy hitch into it and put the ball where I wanted to."

Taylor appeared to get a fingertip on the ball, but Jennings caught it and went 31 yards to help set up a field goal that would force the Steelers to have to score a touchdown on their final possession.

"I didn't know until after the game that the ball had been slightly tipped," Rodgers said. "But that was one of the better throws of my career."

Andre RisonMatthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports 
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Green Bay Packers history. The others are: Bart Starr's quarterback sneak for a touchdown to win the Ice Bowl and Aaron Rodgers' third-and-10 completion to Greg Jennings in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLV that helped clinch the game. Please vote for your choice as the Packers' most memorable play.

Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21
Date: Jan. 26, 1997 Site: Louisiana Superdome

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Which is the most memorable play in Packers history?

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You can argue that the most memorable play from Super Bowl XXXI was Desmond Howard's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter -- and many of you on Twitter did. After all, Howard was the game's MVP.

Or you can make a case for Antonio Freeman's 81-yard touchdown -- which at the time was the longest touchdown catch in Super Bowl history -- although none of you did.

But the ever-lasting memory from the Packers' third Super Bowl title was quarterback Brett Favre running like a wild-man, sans helmet, after his 54-yard touchdown pass to Andre Rison on the Packers’ second play from scrimmage.

Favre, sensing a blitz from the Patriots, changed the play at the line of scrimmage. Rison, who joined the Packers midseason, ran a post route and found himself wide open down the seam.

Favre later revealed the play was rooted in something he had seen from the San Francisco 49ers when he was watching Super Bowl highlights during the week leading up to the game. He saw Joe Montana hit Jerry Rice in Super Bowl XXIV on a play the 49ers called "59 Razor." The Packers adopted it and called it "29 Razor." It was an audible to be used against a blitz that called for maximum blocking protection and only two receivers out in patters.

"Lo and behold, second play of the game, I checked to 29 Razor and hit Andre Rison for a touchdown," Favre said years after the game. "So when you see me running with my helmet off, I'm thinking, 'Can you believe I checked to this play?' It was amazing. And it worked, which was even more amazing."
 
Bart StarrJohn Biever/Icon SMI
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in the Green Bay Packers' history. In the next two days we'll feature: Brett Favre's 54-yard touchdown pass to Andre Rison on their second offensive play of Super Bowl XXXI and Aaron Rodgers' third-and-10 completion to Greg Jennings in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLV that helped clinch the game. Please vote for your choice as the Packers' most memorable play.

Score: Packers 21, Cowboys 17
Date: Dec. 31, 1967 Site: Lambeau Field

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Which is the most memorable play in Packers history?

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Discuss (Total votes: 43,163)

In what is called "The Ice Bowl" because the temperature at kickoff was 13 degrees below zero (with a wind chill of minus-46), Packers quarterback Bart Starr executed a quarterback sneak behind offensive linemen Ken Bowman and Jerry Kramer with 13 seconds remaining for the game-winning score in the NFL Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys.

The play, called "31 Wedge," actually was supposed to be a handoff to fullback Chuck Mercein, who played a major role in the 12-play, 68-yard game-winning drive that began with 4:50 left in the game. Not even Mercein knew Starr would keep the ball at the 1-yard line and follow his offensive line in to the end zone. But when Starr went to the sideline to talk about the play with coach Vince Lombardi, he told his coach that he feared the frozen field would make it nearly impossible for Mercein to get any traction.

So Lombardi told Starr, "Then run it and let's get the hell out of here," Starr has recalled time and again.

Starr stepped to the line of scrimmage on third-and-inches with 16 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. Three seconds later, he was in the end zone.

Interestingly, a case could be made that the play should not have been necessary because on the previous play, Donny Anderson appeared to break the plane of the goal line, but Lee Roy Jordan knocked the ball out of his hands, and Anderson recovered it short of the end zone.  
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Just about every time Aaron Rodgers stepped on the field in 2011, the Green Bay Packers were a threat to score.

On the way to winning his first -- and to date only -- MVP award, Rodgers set the NFL record for passer rating (122.5) and set franchise records for touchdown passes (45), passing yards (4,643), completion percentage (68.3) and yards per attempt (9.25), among others.

Rodgers
Rodgers
And he did it in 15 games, resting in the season finale against the Detroit Lions to prepare for the playoffs.

As a team, the Packers set club records for points in a season (560), yards (6,482) and passing yards (5,161 gross and 4,924 net).

But you knew all that already.

What you want to know is whether Rodgers and the Packers' offense can ever be that explosive again?

To answer that question, first it is necessary to understand why the 2011 offense was so unstoppable.

"I think our personnel was so good and our confidence was so high, and teams hadn't quite adjusted to what we were doing," Rodgers said in an interview last week. "They were still giving us a lot of one-high [safety] rotation defense because they were worried about [running back] Ryan Grant, and they were worried about us controlling the football the way we liked to.

"And because of that, we had so many one-on-one matchups for [receivers] Jordy [Nelson] and for Greg [Jennings] and for James Jones and [tight end] Jermichael [Finley], and that just allowed us to really be dynamic on defense. At the same time, our defense was giving up some points as well, so we had a lot of opportunities so we put up a lot of yards and a lot of points."

Another productive running back, reigning offensive rookie of the year Eddie Lacy, could force defenses to play the Packers like they did in 2011, when they had to respect both the run and the pass.

"I think there's a chance, but I think that you're still going to see, other than the first game because Seattle is going to play a lot of one-high like they always do, Eddie is going to get a lot of respect this year," Rodgers said. "But I think he's still going to get an opportunity to prove that he can do it again."

Coming tomorrow: Rodgers on relationships with his coaches.

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