NFC North: Terrell Manning

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- General manager Ted Thompson was probably fortunate to find anyone willing take defensive end Jerel Worthy off the Green Bay Packers' hands.

That the New England Patriots on Tuesday were only willing to give up a late-round pick, likely a seventh-rounder, that is conditional on Worthy making their opening-day roster, should serve as condemnation of Thompson's 2012 draft class.

Most believe it takes three years to evaluate a draft class but less than two-and-a-half years later, that class is almost all gone.

In his 10 years as GM, Thompson has relied on the draft to build a perennial NFC contender but his 2012 class has not helped much. He picked eight players that year and only three of them remain on his roster. Just one of them, defensive end Mike Daniels, is penciled in as a starter.

To pick Worthy at No. 51 overall, Thompson traded up, giving a fourth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles to move up eight spots.

Thompson will speak to the media on Wednesday during his regularly-scheduled training camp press conference, and the decision to trade Worthy and what it says about that draft class will be discussed.

But before that, here's a player-by-player look at how that class turned out:

OLB Nick Perry (first round, No. 28 overall): Tired of waiting for him to be healthy, Thompson brought in veteran pass-rusher Julius Peppers this offseason to play in the spot where Perry started at times in his first two seasons. Multiple injuries limited Perry to just 17 of a possible 32 games in his first two seasons. He has worked as a backup in training camp.

DE Jerel Worthy (second round, No. 51 overall): Played 467 snaps in a part-time role as a rookie before he tore his ACL in the regular-season finale. Then played just 13 snaps last season after coming off the physically unable to perform list in November. He sustained a back injury lifting weights this offseason, which required surgery in April, and never made it back to practice before Tuesday's trade.

CB Casey Hayward (second round, No. 62 overall): Led all rookies with six interceptions in 2012, but played in only three games last season because of a recurring hamstring injury. Likely will return to his role as the slot cornerback in the nickel package this season.

DE Mike Daniels (fourth round, No. 132 overall): An emerging star and leader on the defense, Daniels posted 6.5 sacks last season (second on the team to Clay Matthews) as a backup and figures to have a greater impact as a starter this season. So far, he's been the star of this draft class.

S Jerron McMillian (fourth round, No. 133 overall): Began the 2013 season as the starting strong safety but was released on Dec. 3 after being phased out of the defense because of poor play. He is in camp with the Kansas City Chiefs.

LB Terrell Manning (fifth round, No. 163 overall): Played only sparingly, mostly on special teams, as a rookie and then was released in the final cuts at the end of training camp last year. Since then, he has been with three different teams and is currently in camp with the New York Giants.

T Andrew Datko (seventh round, No. 241 overall): Released in the final cuts at the end of training camp last year. Spent his rookie season on the practice squad and was never on the active roster. He's currently out of the NFL.

QB B.J. Coleman (seventh round, No. 243 overall): Spent his rookie season on the practice squad and then was released before the start of last season. He's currently out of the NFL.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings made a pair of roster additions Tuesday, bringing back tight end Allen Reisner and claiming former San Diego Chargers linebacker Terrell Manning off waivers.

Reisner spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons with the Vikings, shuttling between the practice squad and the active roster after signing with the team as a rookie free agent. He signed with Jacksonville before the 2013 season and played five games for the Jaguars, starting three and catching five passes for 40 yards.

Manning played one game with the Chargers last season after being drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 2012. He played mostly special teams in five games with the Packers in 2012 and was let go by the team in the final round of cuts last August, after returning from a parasitic infection that caused him to lose 20 pounds during training camp. He was an outside linebacker at North Carolina State, and Packers general manager Ted Thompson thought enough of him to trade three picks in order to move up and draft Manning in the fifth round in 2012.

With competition likely coming at linebacker, Manning might have a chance to push for playing time.

Taking the blame for Vince Young

September, 1, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After the Green Bay Packers released veteran quarterback Vince Young on Saturday, it was worth discussing -- as we did here -- whether more time in the system would have made a significant difference in his bid to be the team’s backup.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson, the man who waited until Aug. 5 to sign the 30-year-old quarterback, thinks that perhaps it might have done just that.

[+] EnlargeTed Thompson
AP Photo/Morry Gash"I probably should have had him in here earlier," Packers GM Ted Thompson said about Vince Young.
In discussing his roster moves on Sunday, Thompson placed the blame on himself for not acting sooner to bring in the former first-round draft pick.

“Quite frankly, it probably wasn’t fair to Vince,” Thompson said. “We threw a lot on his plate, and the fault is probably mine. I probably should have had him in here earlier.”

Thompson praised Young for being a good teammate and a humble guy.

“If there was fault, it was probably mine,” Thompson said.

The decision to release Young left B.J. Coleman, who spent all of last season on the practice squad, as the only quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers. Coleman’s shaky play early in training camp was one of the reasons Thompson turned to Young in the first place.

The Packers no doubt are exploring all of their options at quarterback, but the list of those available was far from impressive. They were expected to add a quarterback to the practice squad -- Scott Tolzien, the former University of Wisconsin starter who was released by San Francisco last week.

“We’re actively pursuing everything there is in the National Football League at every position,” Thompson said. “I’m not just making this up. At every position, we’re looking to see if we can get better.”

If the Packers stick with Coleman, it wouldn’t be the first time in recent years that they went into the season with an inexperienced backup. They did so last season with Graham Harrell, who like Coleman had previously been on the practice squad. And they did so in 2008 with rookie Matt Flynn.

When asked if Coleman, who completed just 41.2 percent of his passes this preseason, would be an adequate fill-in if something happened to Rodgers, Thompson said: “Well, we think he has a good chance to do that. Again, there’s a lot of things that he hasn’t seen yet. He’s played in preseason games but never played in a regular-season game. We’re getting ready to tee it off, so we’re getting ready to play.”

Note: The Packers have not announced their practice-squad signings yet. But in addition to Tolzien, they are expected to add receivers Charles Johnson and Myles White, tight end Jake Stoneburner and cornerback James Nixon, according to multiple media reports. Those four all were released by the Packers on Saturday. The Packers had hoped to bring back center Patrick Lewis to the practice squad, but he was claimed off waivers by Cleveland. Four others released by the Packers on Saturday were claimed off waivers: running back Alex Green (by the New York Jets), tight end D.J. Williams (Jacksonville), linebacker Dezman Moses (Kansas City) and linebacker Terrell Manning (San Diego).

Reviewing the roster projections

September, 1, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Playing NFL general manager isn’t easy.

I tried to do it twice this preseason by predicting the Green Bay Packers’ 53-man roster, first on Aug. 22 and then again on Friday, the eve of the final cuts.

In the first go-around, I actually had outside linebacker Andy Mulumba and guard Lane Taylor on the 53, only to remove them on Friday. Of course, both made the team.

In the end, my final roster prediction had 49 of the 53 players that general manager Ted Thompson kept. Here’s a look at my predictions compared with the actual roster:


Prediction (2): Aaron Rodgers, Vince Young

Actual (2): Aaron Rodgers, B.J. Coleman

Running backs

Prediction (5): Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, Alex Green, James Starks, John Kuhn

Actual (4): Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, James Starks, John Kuhn


Prediction (5): Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Jeremy Ross

Actual (5): Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Jeremy Ross

Tight ends

Prediction (4): Jermichael Finley, Matthew Mulligan, Ryan Taylor, Brandon Bostick

Actual (4): Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor, Brandon Bostick

Offensive line

Prediction (7): David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Don Barclay, Marshall Newhouse, Greg Van Roten

Actual (8): David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Don Barclay, Marshall Newhouse, Greg Van Roten, Lane Taylor

Defensive line

Prediction (7): Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson, Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, Johnny Jolly, Josh Boyd

Actual (7): Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson, Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, Johnny Jolly, Josh Boyd


Prediction (10): A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Robert Francois, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Terrell Manning, Mike Neal, Nate Palmer

Actual (10): A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Robert Francois, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Andy Mulumba, Mike Neal, Nate Palmer

Defensive backs

Prediction (10): Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Chris Banjo

Actual (10): Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Chris Banjo


Prediction (3): Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode

Actual (3): Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode

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.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – In the past 24 hours, the Green Bay Packers worked out “Kickalicious” (a.k.a Havard Rugland, the Norwegian-born placekicker made famous by a YouTube video) and made plans to bring in running back/kick returner Joe McKnight for a look-see.

If nothing else, it tells you the Packers’ 53-man roster might not be set even though final cuts are due by 6 p.m. ET.

There’s bound to be a player or three who winds up on the Packers’ roster who wasn’t with them in training camp. It could be a free-agent signing, a trade or a waiver claim.

But for the sake of this exercise, which was first attempted nine days ago, let’s assume general manager Ted Thompson keeps 53 of his own players. Here’s the final projection for how the roster will look after the final cuts are made (note the changes from the Aug. 22 version of this projection):

Quarterbacks (2): Aaron Rodgers, Vince Young

Moved in: None

Moved out: None

Analysis: No change from the Aug. 22 version, other than in the interim the Packers cut Graham Harrell. B.J. Coleman needs another year on the practice squad and likely will get it if he clears waivers.

Running backs (5): Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, Alex Green, James Starks, John Kuhn

Moved in: Starks

Moved out: DuJuan Harris

Analysis: The loss of Harris to a season-ending knee injury will force coach Mike McCarthy to alter his plans for the running game. He was hoping Lacy and Harris would provide a one-two punch.

Receivers (5): Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Jeremy Ross

Moved in: Ross

Moved out: Tyrone Walker

Analysis: With Cobb and Nelson finally healthy, there’s probably no need for a sixth receiver. Ross showed enough in the final week that he could be serviceable as the fifth receiver, if necessary, and he’s too valuable as a return specialist to let him go. Walker’s best shot is if they keep six at this position.

Tight ends (4): Jermichael Finley, Ryan Taylor, Matthew Mulligan, Brandon Bostick

Moved in: Mulligan

Moved out: Jake Stoneburner

Analysis: Mulligan has returned from his elbow injury and is the kind of blocker the Packers need to help their running game. Stoneburner’s fumble near the goal line against Seattle on Aug. 23 hurt his chances. He’s a strong practice-squad candidate. Veterans Andrew Quarless and D.J. Williams appear to be in trouble.

Offensive line (7): David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Don Barclay, Marshall Newhouse, Greg Van Roten

Moved in: None

Moved out: Lane Taylor

Analysis: The Packers got by with seven offensive linemen to start last season, and Taylor now looks like someone they can sneak through to the practice squad.

Defensive line (7): Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson, Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, Johnny Jolly, Josh Boyd

Moved in: Boyd

Moved out: None

Analysis: Thompson doesn’t easily part with draft picks, and Boyd (a fifth-rounder) has shown steady improvement in the preseason.

[+] EnlargeNate Palmer
AP Photo/Reed HoffmannSolid showings in the final two preseason games might have secured Nate Palmer a spot on the Packers' roster.
Linebackers (10): A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Robert Francois, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Terrell Manning, Mike Neal, Nate Palmer

Moved in: Palmer

Moved out: Andy Mulumba

Analysis: Palmer has had a sack in each of the last two preseason games and, like Boyd, he’s a draft pick. Again, I’m counting Neal as an outside linebacker rather than a defensive end.

Defensive backs (10): Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Chris Banjo

Moved in: None

Moved out: None

Analysis: Banjo solidified the final safety spot with another strong performance in the preseason finale.

Specialists (3): Mason Crosby (kicker), Tim Masthay (punter), Brett Goode (long snapper)

Moved in: None

Moved out: None

Analysis: Crosby’s restructured contract gives the Packers flexibility if they need to make a mid-season change, but if Crosby continues to kick like he has of late, that won’t be necessary.

Packers' 53-man roster projection

August, 22, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers have two preseason games and three training camp practices left to evaluate their roster before final cuts are due on Aug. 31.

Here’s a position-by-position projection of how the 53-man roster would look if the final cuts were made today. It is based on camp-long conversations with coaches and NFL scouts and could easily change in the next nine days.

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesVince Young could be tabbed to be Aaron Rodgers' backup.
Quarterbacks (2): Aaron Rodgers, Vince Young

Analysis: Keeping three quarterbacks is unlikely, so the Packers have to decide between Young and Graham Harrell. There’s a growing sense within the organization that they need a better backup than Harrell. Young might not have a firm grasp of the offense for several more weeks or even months, but it’s a risk they may be willing to take.

Running backs (5): DuJuan Harris, Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, Alex Green, John Kuhn

Analysis: James Starks looks like the odd man out. He plummeted down the depth chart after his fumble on Saturday at St. Louis. The Packers could see if there’s any possibility of trading Starks or Green, but they haven’t received any offers yet. Kuhn still has value as the lone fullback because of his blocking, leadership and special teams contributions.

Receivers (5): Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Tyrone Walker

Analysis: Given the injuries to Cobb (biceps) and Nelson (knee), they may have to consider keeping a sixth receiver. That could bring Jeremy Ross, Kevin Dorsey or Charles Johnson back into play. But for now, the undrafted rookie Walker has the edge for the final spot. The Packers had hoped Ross would show more as a receiver so that they could also make him their kick returner. Rookies Dorsey and Johnson, both seventh-round picks, missed so much time because of injuries that there’s not enough information to go on. At this point, they look like practice-squad candidates if they clear waivers.

Tight ends (4): Jermichael Finley, Ryan Taylor, Brandon Bostick, Jake Stoneburner

Analysis: This is perhaps the most muddled position after the starter, Finley. There’s no clear-cut No. 2. Taylor is on most of the top special teams units but so is D.J. Williams. The problem with Williams is his inconsistency. He practices well but doesn’t carry it over to the games. Bostick may have the most upside because at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, he’s built like Finley. Stoneburner, an undrafted rookie, has made a strong impression of late. Veteran Andrew Quarless can’t stay healthy and hasn’t played in nearly two years. Meanwhile, veteran free agent Matthew Mulligan, another blocking tight end with special teams ability, has an elbow injury that may have derailed his chances.

Offensive line (8): David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Don Barclay, Marshall Newhouse, Greg Van Roten, Lane Taylor

Analysis: Last year, the Packers kept only seven but would prefer to keep eight. If Barclay holds on to the starting right tackle job, Newhouse would be the swing tackle. Van Roten can back up all three interior positions and has even played a little tackle. Taylor, an undrafted rookie, has impressed at guard. Derek Sherrod (leg) and JC Tretter (ankle) will likely start the season on PUP, while Bryan Bulaga (knee) will go on IR.

Defensive line (6): Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson, Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, Johnny Jolly

Analysis: Despite coach Mike McCarthy’s insistence that Mike Neal is a defensive end, he’s going to count as an outside linebacker, where he has seen more practice time. Jolly has been impressive in short stints and has overcome long odds after missing the last three seasons because of a suspension. If the Packers keep a seventh defensive lineman, it will be rookie fifth-rounder Josh Boyd, who is big and athletic but might not be ready to play right away. Jerel Worthy (knee) will likely start the season on PUP.

Linebackers (10): A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Robert Francois, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Terrell Manning, Mike Neal, Andy Mulumba

Analysis: The inside spots are fairly clear cut behind the starters, Hawk and Jones. Francois, Lattimore, Barrington and Manning will play on special teams. Behind Matthews and Perry on the outside, Neal might be the next-best option. Mulumba, an undrafted rookie, has shown more than sixth-round pick Nate Palmer or second-year pro Dezman Moses. However, Mulumba’s knee injury this week could slow him down.

Defensive backs (10): Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Chris Banjo

Analysis: There’s concern that Williams’ knee injury may prevent him from being ready for the opener, so that could force the Packers to keep another cornerback, likely Loyce Means or James Nixon. Banjo, who was signed off the street on July 29, has a hold on the No. 4 safety position but that could be a spot that’s addressed via the waiver wire. Hyde also could be the punt returner.

Specialists (3): Brett Goode (long snapper), Tim Masthay (punter), Mason Crosby (kicker).

Analysis: Crosby's spot is most tenuous. He could ease some of the concerns about him if he makes a few long field goals on Friday against Seattle. Those concerns were heightened on Wednesday, when he missed three straight kicks from 42, 42 and 44 yards in practice. His competitor, Giorgio Tavecchio, didn’t do himself any favors by missing a 49-yarder at St. Louis on Saturday. Whereas Crosby is a power kicker, Tavecchio is a form kicker. If the Packers went with Tavecchio, they would be sacrificing distance. The Packers reached out to former Miami Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter, who decided he had a better chance to win the job in Arizona, so it’s possible their opening-day kicker isn’t currently on the roster.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers got a glimpse of what life would be like without Aaron Rodgers.

And it wasn’t pretty.

With their starting quarterback at home nursing a head cold, coach Mike McCarthy on Tuesday put the offense in the hands of backups Graham Harrell and Vince Young while B.J. Coleman once again ran the scout team.

Harrell and Young each made a handful of plays that made them look capable of running the offense, but more often they were inconsistent.

In a non-pads practice, Harrell got the bulk of the snaps with the starters, including a lengthy no-huddle period. As usual, he looked fine on the short-to-intermediate throws, but the difference between him and Rodgers was evident on the deep balls.

[+] EnlargeGraham Harrell
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceWith starting QB Aaron Rodgers out of action, Graham Harrell got most of the snaps with the Packers' first-team offense Tuesday.
During that no-huddle period, Harrell had receiver Jarrett Boykin open down the right sideline but sailed the ball over his head. Six plays later, Harrell overthrew receiver Tyrone Walker, who had a step or two on the nearest defender.

Harrell also threw an interception in the red zone when linebacker Terrell Manning stepped in front of a dump-off pass to running back Johnathan Franklin.

“It’s always good to get in there with (the starters),” Harrell said. “I missed some balls, but you’ve just got to go in there and no matter when it is or who you’re in there with, you’ve just got to make the most of your reps.”

Young, who is in his third week since signing with the Packers, took a few snaps with the starters but worked mostly with the No. 2 offense.

“There were some rough plays there,” McCarthy said, “but that’s why we watch the tape. … I’m curious to watch it.”

In other developments from Tuesday’s practice:

  • It’s starting to look more and more like DuJuan Harris and Eddie Lacy will be a one-two punch in the running game. For the second consecutive day, they took the first two reps of each team period with the starters, followed by rookie Franklin and then veterans Alex Green and James Starks.
  • Rookie linebacker Sam Barrington, a seventh-round pick, has shown up on more of the top special-teams units of late. On Tuesday, he was on the No. 1 kickoff-return and No. 1 punt-return teams.
  • Without pads on Monday and Tuesday, there have not been any one-on-one pass-rushing/pass-blocking drills since last Wednesday.
  • With temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80s, it was one of the hottest practices of camp so far. Said McCarthy: “The only game I’m concerned about weather-wise is probably (at) Cincinnati (in Week 3). Now that I’ve said that, it’s probably going to be hot as hell against San Francisco and Washington, but you can’t really plan for that. But it’s good to get in the heat.”
Medical report: Other than Rodgers, the only other new injury was to cornerback Loyce Means (ankle).

Cornerback James Nixon tried to return from the ankle and knee injuries he sustained Saturday at St. Louis but couldn’t make it through practice.

Others who missed practice were WR Charles Johnson (knee), WR Randall Cobb (biceps), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Tramon Williams (knee), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), T Bryan Bulaga (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg), TE Matthew Mulligan (elbow), WR Jordy Nelson (knee) and DE Jerel Worthy (knee).

What’s next: The only full-pads practice of the week is scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m.

BBAO: The preseason beckons

August, 9, 2013
We're Black and Blue All Over:

We've made it! (Sort of.)

The entire NFC North will open its 2013 preseason schedule Friday evening, affairs that will be most notable for their impact on second-level job competitions and evaluations of previously untested players. We'll have a few preview details to post later in the day, and by Saturday morning we'll corral our vast network of resources to provide observations of all four games.

For now, let's take our morning tour -- one that by your request will continue through our current transition:
  • Friday night will give Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman his first chance to re-adjust to NFL game rules after spending five years in Canada, notes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Trestman: "It is not going to be easier [than Canada]. It is different. You don't have as many situations that come out. It's very, very difficult to manage the clock in any league."
  • Bears reserve quarterback Matt Blanchard will get a big opportunity Friday night. More from Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Jon Greenberg of writes on the Bears' transition at linebacker.
  • Rob Demovsky of reads between the lines on what appeared to be a response from Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy to former receiver Greg Jennings.
  • All eyes are on Packers place-kicker Mason Crosby as the preseason opens, writes Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • McCarthy's thoughts about using quarterback Vince Young in Friday night's game, via Jason Wilde of "My goal with Vince is to play him in the game. He's definitely playing uphill right now. That's just from the mental transition that he's going through and frankly it's the responsibility of the coaching staff, particularly myself calling the game, to get him comfortable where he can just play. That's really what we’re working on here in the next 30-plus hours."
  • The Packers' Terrell Manning still believes he is the best linebacker drafted in 2012. More from Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Jennings is one-upping Brett Favre, writes Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune, "not in terms of existential angst and passive aggressiveness, but with new-age, self-aware, YouTube-able, Twitter-ready, Facebook-enflaming, border-crossing Scud missiles designed to invoke an emotional response even if they miss the target."
  • There won't be much star power in the Vikings' preseason opener, according to Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • Joe Webb will make his debut Friday night as the Vikings' jack-of-all-trades offensive weapon, writes Andrew Krammer of
  • We'll get our first look Friday night at whether Detroit Lions rookie Ziggy Ansah can make an immediate impact. That and more from Justin Rogers of
  • We'll also see if rookie Steven Miller will have a legitimate chance of winning the Lions' kick returner job, notes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • The Lions have taken a leap of faith in rebuilding their offensive line, writes Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has referred a number of times to advanced statistical analysis services that he consulted with over the past season. This week, the Bears joined a growing group of NFL teams that have dedicated a full-time position for that growing industry by hiring Mitch Tanney as director of analytics.

Tanney played quarterback at Division III Monmouth and has spent the past two years at STATS LLC. Said Emery, via Larry Mayer of "We needed somebody with an expertise in filtering through subsets of data to make sense of them in terms of which pieces are important and which pieces can be put together to give a clearer picture of projecting performance, whether it's on the field in situational football or in scouting projecting players moving forward."

Here on the blog, we try to use the vast troves of data available from ESPN Stats & Information to flesh out our discussions and either support or dissuade certain conclusions. According to the Bears' website, Tanney's role will go much deeper. He will develop "techniques to identify, extract and analyze data to support decisions made by the personnel department and coaches. He will primarily research player evaluation and game situations in an effort to project future outcomes."

Continuing around the NFC North:
In April, we discussed the folly of a so-called "hometown discount" with respect to the Green Bay Packers' negotiations with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. My point was that the Packers wouldn't change their operating policies whether Rodgers signed a below- or above-market deal, and I think the events of this week have borne out that theory.

The release of linebacker Desmond Bishop separated the Packers from a luxury that, quite frankly, they could easily have afforded. Even with Bishop on the roster, the Packers had $13.1 million in available cap space for 2013. After releasing him, they have $16.3 million and only one draft choice -- first-rounder Datone Jones -- left to sign.

I don't necessarily think that Rodgers' contract extension was a hometown discount, not after it added $110 million to his compensation. But the unique situation -- Rodgers had two years remaining on his current deal -- allowed the Packers to spread that money over a seven-year period and keep his annual cap figures quite manageable. (We discussed those terms in detail in this post.)

The Packers could have capitalized on the certainty provided by both Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews to shift philosophical gears. They could have kept Bishop on the roster despite the presence of two other players with starting-level salaries (Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk), a move that would have provided expensive but impressive depth at a position that for various reasons has been fluid for years.

That is not how the Packers operate, however, and nothing about the value of Rodgers' deal would have changed that. No one who has watched them in the Ted Thompson era would expect them to employ a highly-paid veteran backup. If they have an injury or poor performance at inside linebacker this season, the Packers will turn to a young player or moderately-paid veteran -- possibly Terrell Manning -- for help. After all, that's how Bishop, Jones, D.J. Smith and others found their way to the field in recent years.

Some of you are asking what the Packers will do with the $16.3 million in cap space they have remaining in 2013. Some of that total will be used to sign Datone Jones, but the NFL also allows cap surplus to be pushed into the following year as long as proper notification is given to the league and NFL Players Association. That space could be targeted for nose tackle B.J. Raji, cornerback Sam Shields, tight end Jermichael Finley or perhaps another player who emerges this season.

It won't, however, fund a luxury item -- whether or not the Packers can afford it.
We've noted that Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop hasn't been cleared to participate in organized team activities (OTAs) as he continues to recover from a torn hamstring muscle. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette takes the issue one step further: Does Bishop have a realistic chance at regaining his starting job whenever he does return?

The reality is the Packers have three veteran inside linebackers set to earn a starter's salary this season, two of whom had their contracts written after Bishop's injury. Brad Jones, re-signed in March, will make at least $4.2 million this season. A.J. Hawk agreed to a restructured contract that will pay him $3.6 million. Bishop, meanwhile, is set to earn $3.96 million. Together, the trio counts $12.164 million against the 2013 salary cap.

Those cash and cap figures are pretty high for the inside linebacker position on this defense, one that is known for multiple formations that often include only one inside linebacker. Would it makes sense for the Packers to have a multi-million dollar backup at the position? The loser of the competition, at the very least, would seem in line for a pay cut. That isn't going to happen for Jones and Hawk, considering how recently their deals were signed. Which leaves Bishop and his nearly $4 million salary twisting in the wind.

Inside linebackers coach Winston Moss provided a telling quote on the topic: "I think there’s a mindset that when you get on that field, you’ve got to stay on the field. Because if you come off that field, having a job waiting for you when you get back is not a sure thing. You better make well sure that you don’t give somebody else an opportunity because everybody who's gotten that opportunity has been able to take advantage of it, and that’s a credit to those guys."

You could make an argument for retaining Bishop based purely on the run of injuries the Packers have had at the position in recent years. Ailments of Nick Barnett, D.J. Smith and Bishop have brought the Packers to where they are now. But in each instance, a young -- and lower-paid -- backup stepped up to fill the void. Perhaps this season's version of Bishop, Smith and Jones will be Terrell Manning, a fifth-round draft choice in 2012.

A year ago at this time, Bishop was unquestionably the best inside linebacker on the Packers' roster. His absence was felt last season. And now, there might not be room for him on the 2013 team. Even for the NFL, that qualifies as a breathtaking development.

BBAO: Marc Trestman and Bears?

January, 11, 2013
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Longtime head coach and current Fox broadcaster Jimmy Johnson caused a stir early Friday morning with this tweet:

"Looks like 2 of my guys getting NFL jobs..Chud Cleveland and my QB coach at U Trestman to Chicago"

The Chicago Bears portion of that tweet refers to Marc Trestman, who was with Johnson at the University of Miami in the early 1980's and then spent nearly 20 years as an NFL assistant -- including two stints with the Minnesota Vikings and another with the Detroit Lions. He has spent the past the past five years as the head coach of the CFL's Montreal Alouettes and is known as a creative offensive mind.

The Cleveland Browns hired the other coach in that tweet, Rob Chudzinski, late Thursday night. Does that mean the Bears are going to hire Trestman? He was scheduled to interview earlier this week, but I honestly have no confirmation that the Bears have developed a list of finalists, much less zeroed in on a likely hire. At last check, they still had multiple first interviews with other candidates scheduled through the weekend.

At the same time, Johnson remains plugged into the league rumor mill and his thoughts aren't to be dismissed. So we will have to stay tuned on that one.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon backs Trestman's candidacy, reports Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, via ESPN 1000: "The part that hurts the most is the change that happens ... we don't know what the future holds. We don't know what the new coach is going to come in here and how he is going to run things and how he is going to change things. We've known for the last nine seasons how our approach to football is going to be."
  • Green Bay Packers place-kicker Mason Crosby believes his late-season problems have been fixed, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is among the players in his team's locker room who were sick this week, notes Jason Wilde of
  • The Packers got some help from rookie linebacker Terrell Manning last weekend, notes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • The Detroit Lions could get some help from offensive lineman Bill Nagy next season after he spent the year on injured reserve. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press explains.
  • Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News: "This is it. This is the offseason we learn if Martin Mayhew is truly clever, or simply an Accidental GM. This is the most important juncture of Mayhew's career, which also makes it the most important of Jim Schwartz's career."
  • Lions coach Jim Schwartz plans to evaluate his own performance this offseason, writes Anwar S. Richardson of
  • Tom Pelissero of projects the Minnesota Vikings' adjusted salary cap totals for 2013.
  • Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was vague about the team's offseason plans during a meeting with reporters Thursday. Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune has more.
  • Spielman on receiver Percy Harvin, via Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Percy was, as any player is, so competitive that they want to play. Mentally you may want to play, but physically you may not be able to play."

NFC North Friday injury report

November, 30, 2012
Let's get inside the Friday injury report in the NFC North:

Chicago Bears: We already knew that the Bears wouldn't have guard Chris Spencer (knee) or receivers Devin Hester and Alshon Jeffery (knee) for Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. The rest of the Bears' roster, however, should be available. That includes tailback Matt Forte (ankle), linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle) and cornerback Charles Tillman (foot).

Detroit Lions: Left tackle Jeff Backus was a limited participant in practice Friday and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. Rookie Riley Reiff would start in Backus' place if necessary. Cornerback Jacob Lacey (foot/knee) and defensive tackle Corey Williams (knee) did not practice and are listed as questionable.

Green Bay Packers: Linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) is one of six players who have been declared out of Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. He didn't practice all week and his designation is not a surprise. The "out" list also includes cornerback Charles Woodson (collarbone), defensive end C.J. Wilson (knee), running back Johnny White (concussion), cornerback Sam Shields (shin) and tight end Andrew Quarless (knee). Linebacker Terrell Manning (shoulder) is doubtful. Meanwhile, receiver Donald Driver did not practice all week because of a thumb injury. He is listed as questionable. Since he became a full-time player in 2000, Driver has missed only six games.

Minnesota Vikings: Receiver Percy Harvin (ankle) is doubtful for Sunday's game. He didn't practice Friday and almost certainly will miss his third consecutive game. All other players will be available. Coach Leslie Frazier said Harvin is having difficulty cutting and changing direction, which makes you wonder whether he'll be available for the Dec. 9 game against the Bears.

Maybe next week for Greg Jennings

November, 25, 2012
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings is among the seven inactive players for Sunday's game against the New York Giants. Jennings practiced extensively last week and was listed as questionable on the team's injury report, but his target date for return has always been the Packers' Dec. 2 game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Jennings joins a list of expected deactivations that also includes defensive backs Charles Woodson and Sam Shields, tight end Andrew Quarless, and linebackers Clay Matthews, Terrell Manning and Vic So'oto. Meanwhile, the Giants will have safety Kenny Phillips on the field and in the starting lineup for the first time since Week 4.

I'll spend most of the game in our NFL Countdown Live chat, which you can access here. Let's have some fun!