NFL Nation: Ryan Taylor

Examining the Green Bay Packers' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)
The Packers have not kept three quarterbacks on their opening-day roster since 2008, but they might be inclined to do so this season in order to avoid a situation like last year, when Rodgers broke his collarbone. Coach Mike McCarthy is high on Tolzien, who made two starts last season, but Flynn has proved he can win as a backup in Green Bay.

Running backs (4)

The return of Harris, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury, gives the Packers insurance behind Lacy and Starks. Kuhn is valuable both as a fullback and on special teams. It's possible they'll keep a fourth halfback, but the loss of Johnathan Franklin to a career-ending neck injury has left them without a strong in-house candidate for that spot.

Receivers (6)

The Packers often keep only five receivers, but given that they drafted three -- Adams (second round), Abbrederis (fifth round) and Janis (seventh round) -- there's a good chance they will keep six. Abbrederis and Janis will not only have to show they're better prospects than second-year pros Myles White and Chris Harper, but they also could help themselves if they can return kicks.

Tight ends (4)

McCarthy likes tight ends (he has kept five before), and the wild card is undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla.

Offensive linemen (8)

The Packers typically only activate seven offensive linemen on game day, so they can get away with keeping just eight on the roster. Barclay's ability to play all five positions also allows them some freedom. Lane Taylor could be the ninth lineman if they go that route.

Defensive line (7)

Worthy and Guion have work to do to make the roster, but there's room for them if you count Julius Peppers and Mike Neal among the outside linebackers, which is where they lined up more often in the offseason.

Linebackers (8)

There will be some tough cuts here. Second-year pros Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba both played last year as rookie outside linebackers. It also may be tough for highly touted undrafted rookie Adrian Hubbard to make it.

Cornerbacks (6)

Hayward's return from last season's hamstring injury means he likely will return as the slot cornerback in the nickel package, a role played last year by Micah Hyde (who may primarily play safety this year).

Safeties (4)

The major question here is whether Hyde or Clinton-Dix will be the starter alongside Burnett. Chris Banjo, who played primarily on special teams last season, might be the odd man out.

Specialists (3)

There's no competition at any of these spots.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Re-signing Andrew Quarless on Thursday gave the Green Bay Packers some security at the tight end position.

Entering his fifth season, Quarless might be on the cusp of a breakout, so it was a wise move to bring him back.

He showed signs late last season of being the player they liked as a fifth-round pick in 2010 coming out of Penn State. He took over as the starting tight end midway through last season after Jermichael Finley's season-ending neck injury on Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns.

Given his size (6-foot-4, 252 pounds), the Packers like Quarless as both a blocker and a receiver. He caught 32 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns last season and is a more natural blocker than Finley.

They also are high on Brandon Bostick, an athletic receiving tight end who resembles Finley in terms of body type and skill level more so than Quarless does. In a limited role last season, Bostick averaged 17.1 yards per catch before a foot injury ended his season on Dec. 15.

But the tight end position is hardly settled.

That won't begin to happen until a determination is made about Finley. It's unclear whether the Packers have had a chance recently to examine his surgically repaired neck. Finley underwent surgery last November to fuse his C-3 and C-4 vertebra.

Finley visited the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday and Wednesday and was scheduled to meet with their team doctors. However, no deal has been completed, meaning Finley remains on the market.

Even if the Packers already have decided not to bring back Finley, that doesn't mean they will stand pat with Quarless, Bostick and their other returning tight ends (Ryan Taylor, Jake Stoneburner and Raymond Webber). They had Owen Daniels, formerly of the Houston Texans, in for a visit on Wednesday. Daniels is scheduled to visit the Washington Redskins next.

This is a tight-end-rich draft class. In fact, ESPN's Todd McShay had the Packers taking North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron with the 21st overall pick in his latest mock draft. Insider
INDIANAPOLIS – The Green Bay Packers' contingent of coaches, doctors, executives and personnel evaluators is on the ground at the NFL combine – and so is ESPN's NFL Nation – and therefore we have come to the conclusion of our countdown.

The first three parts focused on the Packers many defensive needs, from safety to defensive line to linebacker.

The final part before we turn our attention to the events at Lucas Oil Stadium for the remainder of the week will focus on what could be the biggest need on the offensive side of the ball for the Packers: tight end, a position group that will meet with reporters here on Thursday.

Why the Packers need help: It all hinges on the Packers' plans for Jermichael Finley, who has said he expects to be cleared soon from his neck fusion surgery. But that doesn't mean the Packers -- or other NFL teams -- will clear him. With Finley headed toward free agency next month, the Packers could simply decide not to re-sign him, regardless of the medical report. But they would be walking away from their most athletic, big-bodied tight end, and therefore would need to find a replacement. Andrew Quarless, who also is scheduled to be a free agent, probably didn't show enough in the second half of the season after Finley's injury to convince anyone that he can be that guy. He's a serviceable player who could return for a modest contract, but he's not a potential difference-maker like Finley. Of the Packers' three other young tight ends, Brandon Bostick has the most potential because of his athleticism and receiving skills, but he remains raw. Ryan Taylor is a solid blocker and top special teams player, and Jake Stoneburner has a ways to go. They also signed street free agent Raymond Webber this offseason. The Packers struggled in the red zone last season, ranking 25th in the touchdown percentage (50.8 percent), and missing a big target like Finley was one of the reasons.

Tight ends the Packers should be watching:

Eric Ebron, North Carolina: In his first mock draft Insider back in December, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay had the Packers taking the 6-foot-4, 231-pound Ebron, who caught 62 passes for 973 yards last season. At that time, the Packers were projected to have the 18th pick in the draft. Now that they're locked into No. 21, it appears Ebron could be gone before the Packers pick.

Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: The 6-5, 260-pound Amaro caught 103 passes last season. He lined up in the slot position most of the time, much like Finley did for the Packers.

Troy Niklas, Notre Dame: More of a pure blocker than Ebron or Amaro, but the 6-7, 270-pounder has the potential to grow into a split-out role. He averaged 15.6 yards per catch on 32 receptions last season.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In 16 regular-season games plus the NFC wild-card playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers were on the field for 1,185 offensive snaps, according to playing time totals kept by the NFL.

Only one player took them all.

Sitton
Josh Sitton played every snap at his new position, left guard, on the way to the best season of his six-year pro career. Sitton made the switch from right guard and was a second-team All-Pro selection.

A total of 30 players took at least one snap on offense (including a pair of defensive linemen -- Mike Daniels and B.J. Raji). In 2012, the Packers used 29 players on offense.

Six players -- Sitton, right guard T.J. Lang, left tackle David Bakhtiari, center Evan Dietrich-Smith, receiver Jordy Nelson and tight end Andrew Quarless -- played on offense in every game.

Here are the total snap counts on offense with playing-time percentages in parenthesis (the defense and special teams breakdowns are coming):

Quarterbacks: Offensive line:
  • Josh Sitton 1,185 (100 percent)
  • David Bakthtiari 1,171 (98.8 percent)
  • T.J. Lang 1,156 (97.6 percent)
  • Evan Dietrich-Smith 1,118 (94.3 percent)
  • Don Barclay 1,027 (86.7 percent)
  • Marshall Newhouse 256 (21.6 percent)
  • Lane Taylor 14 (1.2 percent)
  • Derek Sherrod 6 (0.5 percent)
Receivers: Running backs: Tight ends:

Green Bay Packers season wrap-up

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
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Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 13
Preseason Power Ranking: 5

Biggest surprise: How many people would have believed the Packers could win the NFC North without the services of Aaron Rodgers for seven-plus games? Maybe it was an indictment on the rest of the division but the fact that the Packers used four different starting quarterbacks this season and went 2-5-1 after Rodgers broke his collarbone on Nov. 4, and they still won the division by beating the Chicago Bears in Week 17, when Rodgers returned, could not have been expected. The saga of when Rodgers would return from his injury dominated the second half of the season.

Biggest disappointment: When general manager Ted Thompson drafted Datone Jones with the 26th overall pick in April, he thought he was getting a defensive lineman who could play on all three downs and would be equally effective against the run and rushing the quarterback. In training camp, Jones looked the part. He stood out in practices, but when it came time to produce, he couldn't deliver. By the end of the season, Jones' playing time was reduced to almost nothing. Fifth-round pick Josh Boyd was playing more snaps than Jones late in the year. Jones finished with 3.5 sacks but two came in one game.

Biggest need: The Packers have many, and they're most on the defensive side of the ball. Their entire starting defensive line -- B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly -- will be unrestricted free agents. Other than A.J. Hawk, they are weak at inside linebacker. And their safety play was atrocious at times. They don't just need contributors; they need playmakers on that side of the ball. Other than outside linebacker Clay Matthews and perhaps cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, they didn't have many big-play players on defense. Their needs are so great that Thompson, the free-agent averse GM, might not be able to rely solely on the draft to fill them all.

Team MVP: Rodgers is clearly the Packers' most important player, but this honor should go to someone who played the majority of the season. In that case, it has to be running back Eddie Lacy. It has to be rare for a rookie to be a team's MVP, but then again the second-round draft pick from Alabama proved to be a rare talent. Despite missing nearly two full games because of a concussion and half of another game because a sprained ankle, Lacy finished eighth in the league in rushing with 1,178 yards (a Packers' rookie record) and had the second-most rushing touchdowns with 11.

 

Rodgers, Cobb give the Packers a chance

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
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Aaron RodgersJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Packers knew that as long as they had No. 12 on Sunday, their playoff hopes were in safe hands.

CHICAGO -- Time and again during the Green Bay Packers' final drive at Soldier Field on Sunday, linebacker Mike Neal had just one thought as he watched from the visitor's sideline.

On fourth-and-1 from their own 22, when coach Mike McCarthy made the bold decision to go for it even though 4 minutes, 41 seconds still remained.

On fourth-and-1 from their 44, when McCarthy had no choice but to go for it with two minutes left.

On fourth-and-8 from the Chicago Bears' 48-yard line, when there were potentially only 46 seconds left in their season.

Each time, Neal told himself the same thing.

"We've got 12," Neal said.

He was, of course, referring to his quarterback.

For seven weeks, that was something no one on the Packers' sideline could say. But with Aaron Rodgers making his first appearance since he fractured his left collarbone on Nov. 4, Neal's words rang true.

Except that he forgot to add No. 18.

With receiver Randall Cobb also back in action for the first time since he fractured the tibia in his right leg on Oct. 13, the Packers had the right combination of playmakers to pull off Sunday's 33-28 victory that gave them their third straight NFC North title and the home playoff game that goes with it.

With Rodgers and Cobb together again, the Packers look better than their 8-7-1 record that got them into the postseason for the fifth straight year. As the No. 4 seed in the NFC, they will host the fifth-seeded San Francisco 49ers in a wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field next Sunday at 4:40 p.m. ET.

It was an unlikely 48-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Cobb with 38 seconds left that kept the Packers' mercurial season alive, but that doesn't happen if not for the first two fourth-down plays on the final drive.

All three showed just how important it was to have Rodgers back.

On the first one, he saved the play when he reminded tight end Ryan Taylor to move closer to the line of scrimmage to avoid an illegal-formation penalty. After Rodgers barely got the snap off on time, fullback John Kuhn plunged forward and got just enough to keep the drive alive.

On the second one, Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson, who had a stellar game with 10 catches for 161 yards, for a 6-yard gain.

And then there was the play that linebacker A.J. Hawk called "one of the best plays ever ... in Packers history."

Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker called an all-out blitz, sending seven pass-rushers after Rodgers. The Packers cleanly blocked six of them, but defensive end Julius Peppers came free to Rodgers' left. That's when Kuhn slid across the formation, dove at Peppers and struck just enough of him with his right shoulder to slow him down.

"I just tried to get as much of Peppers as I could," Kuhn said.

That allowed Rodgers to step to his left, avoid Peppers' outstretched right arm and float a rainbow to Cobb, who ran down the seam waiving his left arm to let Rodgers know that he had slipped behind the coverage.

"Oh my gosh, it was in the air for so long," said Cobb, who caught both of Rodgers' touchdown passes on Sunday. "I had so many thoughts going through my head -- 'You better not drop it, if you drop it they're going to kill you, everybody. You better catch it, just catch the ball, body-catch it if you have to, do whatever you have to do' -- and I was able to make the catch."

Whatever rust Rodgers had in the early going, when he threw a pair of first-half interceptions and otherwise played it safe by throwing a variety of short passes and even sliding much earlier than usual on his scrambles, he played like his MVP self down the stretch.

Nearly two months of frustration, waiting for his collarbone to heal and hoping to get clearance to return, came out in his emphatic celebration after Cobb found himself safely in the end zone.

It was a moment that Rodgers said will rank "right near the top" in his career.

"This has been a wild season," said Rodgers, who completed 25 of 39 passes for 318 yards. "There's been a lot of stuff that's happened to get us to this point -- from our comeback to get a tie [against Minnesota], to comeback in Dallas to win, a 61-yard field goal in Baltimore that gave us a little edge there over Detroit, and then everything that was today: a sack-fumble that goes for a touchdown, fourth-and-8 to win the game."

The Packers have celebrated some meaningful wins in this stadium, including the NFC Championship Game in January 2011, but McCarthy called this one "clearly one of our finer moments in our time in Green Bay."

Said Hawk: "That last drive our offense put together, three fourth downs including that last one, we have faith in them. We know they do crazy things like that all the time, especially Aaron, especially that last play. I think that'll go down as one of the best plays ever, I'm sure, in Packers history. For sure."

That's what happens when you have No. 12.

"Need I say more?" Neal asked.

Injury report: Looks good for Lacy

December, 27, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The routine for Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy has been the same the last three weeks: Spend Monday through Thursday in a walking boot, practice lightly on Friday and gut it out on his sprained right ankle on Sunday.

That's the plan again this week.

Lacy
The Packers listed him as probable for Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears even though he couldn't finish last Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Lacy did not play in the fourth quarter.

"It's sore, but it's nothing it hasn't been in the past," Lacy said Friday.

Lacy was originally injured Dec. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons. The next week, he rushed for 141 yards on 21 carries against the Dallas Cowboys and followed that up with 84 yards on 15 carries in three quarters against the Steelers. He also has three rushing touchdowns in the last two games combined.

Lacy, who leads all NFL rookies with 1,112 rushing yards, said he has not had to receive any injections to combat the pain or swelling.

"Obviously the more I keep playing, the sorer it becomes," Lacy said. "But I've been doing a great job of staying in the training room and trying to get as much of it out as I can to be as good as I can be in the game this weekend."

In this season's first meeting with the Bears, Lacy rushed for a season-high 150 yards on 22 carries. The Bears don't just have the NFL's worst run defense, it's the worst by a significant margin. The Bears have allowed an average of 161.5 rushing yards per game, 25.6 more than the 31st-ranked Atlanta Falcons.

In other injury-related news, the Packers increased receiver Randall Cobb's workload in practice Friday in order to see if he's ready to come off the injured/reserve designated to return list. He has not played since he fractured his right tibia just below the knee Oct. 13.

"Like I told Randall before practice, 'Let's push it today and see how it feels tomorrow,'" Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

The Packers would need to add Cobb to the roster Saturday in order to play him Sunday. They have room to do so because they have only 52 players -- one short of the limit -- on the roster. There were at 51 until they promoted rookie cornerback Jumal Rolle from the practice squad Friday.

Here's the full injury report:

Out -- OLB Clay Matthews (thumb)

Probable -- LB Brad Jones (ankle, limited participation in practice), RB Eddie Lacy (ankle, limited participation), OLB Mike Neal (abdomen, did not practice), LB Nick Perry (foot, did not practice), DT Ryan Pickett (knee, limited participation), TE Andrew Quarless (ankle, limited participation), QB Aaron Rodgers (collarbone, full participation), TE Jake Stoneburner (illness, did not practice), TE Ryan Taylor (illness, full participation).

Practice report: No issues for Rodgers

December, 27, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For the first time in a month, this should be a low-stress Friday in terms of the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback situation.

Rodgers
Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers took all the first team reps during the portion of practice that was open to reporters, meaning there were no setbacks after it was announced on Thursday that he would return from his broken collarbone to start Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

Will running back Eddie Lacy (ankle) and receiver Randall Cobb (tibia) join him?

Both were on the practice field Friday, although Lacy appeared limited. Cobb’s reps appeared to increase for the second straight day, and there’s a chance he could be activated off the injured reserve/designated to return list.

Linebacker Brad Jones (ankle) and tight end Ryan Taylor (illness) returned to practice.

The Packers were thin on outside linebackers with Clay Matthews (thumb) already ruled out and Mike Neal (abdomen) and Nick Perry (foot) in street clothes. Neal and Perry practiced on Thursday, so it’s possible they were just being held out as a precaution. Tight end Jake Stoneburner, who was not listed on the injury report, also did not practice.

The full injury report with status designations for Sunday's game will be available after practice.

Injury report: Cobb takes another step

December, 26, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Believe it or not, there was significant injury news to come out of the Green Bay Packers on Thursday that wasn’t Aaron Rodgers-related.

While coach Mike McCarthy announced on Thursday that Rodgers was preparing to make his return on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, receiver Randall Cobb moved a step closer to doing the same. If all goes well during Cobb's medical checkup on Friday, that, too, could happen Sunday against the Bears.

Cobb remains on the injured reserve/designated to return list because of the broken right tibia he sustained on Oct. 13, but he practiced in pads Thursday for the first time since his injury. Cobb returned to practice on a limited basis last week.

“I think Tuesday and today was the first day that I actually did some cutting and didn’t think about it,” Cobb said after practice. “That’s definitely progress, and that’s definitely confidence to me, for me, in my knee. I think that’s very important for the next step.”

Cobb often has referred to his injury as his knee because his tibia fracture was just below the knee.

The Packers would have to add Cobb on the roster by Saturday in order for him to play Sunday, but they currently have two open roster spots that have gone unfilled since defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (neck) and tight end Brandon Bostick (foot) were placed on injured reserve last week.

“I feel a lot better now than probably I did this morning,” McCarthy said of Cobb after Thursday’s practice. “He definitely took a step in that direction.”

At the time of his injury, Cobb was the Packers’ leading receiver with 29 catches for 378 yards through five games.

Here’s the full injury report:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers took the first snaps during every drill in the portion of Thursday’s Green Bay Packers' practice that was open to reporters.

Rodgers
Rodgers
While there was no official word on whether Rodgers has been medically cleared to return from his broken collarbone, the first snap in drills typically goes to the starter.

It should be noted, however, that those snaps all came during individual drills. No team (11-on-11) drills were conducted during the portion open to reporters.

If Rodgers does play Sunday against the Chicago Bears, it will be his first game since he was injured on Nov. 4 in the first meeting against the Bears.

The Packers were expected to make a decision on Rodgers’ status after Thursday's practice.

Only four players were not practicing on Thursday, when the Packers were in full pads. They were: running back Eddie Lacy (ankle), linebacker Clay Matthews (thumb), linebacker Brad Jones (ankle) and tight end Ryan Taylor (ankle).

Receiver Randall Cobb also practiced but still has not been activated off the temporary injured reserve list. He has not played since he broke the tibia in his right leg on Oct. 13.

Packers' injuries to watch in Week 17

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers still have a chance to make the playoffs.

Win Sunday’s game at the Chicago Bears, and they win the NFC North and get the home playoff game that goes with it.

But do they really have a chance at Soldier Field if they have to play without some of their key playmakers?

Here are the key injuries to watch this week:

Lacy
RB Eddie Lacy: The Packers’ all-time rookie rushing leader -- he set that mark on Sunday with 84 yards to give him 1,112 for the season -- failed to finish Sunday's 38-31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He missed the entire fourth quarter after he hobbled off the field, favoring his sprained right ankle. He first injured it on Dec. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons. Although he has not missed a start, he has spent most of the past two weeks wearing a walking boot while practicing only the last two Fridays. “It’s the same thing, reaggravated it,” Lacy said. Backup James Starks was effective in place of Lacy, rushing for 47 yards on 10 carries and catching one pass for 23 yards against the Steelers. Fullback John Kuhn also scored a fourth-quarter touchdown. The only other back on the roster is Kahlil Bell, who was signed on Dec. 3.

Matthews
OLB Clay Matthews: It would seem unlikely the Packers would have Matthews this week and perhaps beyond if they make the playoffs. Matthews reinjured his broken right thumb on his second-quarter sack of Ben Roethlisberger. Matthews knew it was bad as soon as it happened. He ran off the field with his right arm hanging limp at his side. Just like when he broke it on Oct. 6, he couldn’t even use his right hand to unbuckle his chin strap. Matthews needed surgery to fix it the first time and missed four games. “I couldn’t give you a timeline but I think based off the history of what happened the first time, I’m told it’s similar to the [previous] injury," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Sunday after the game. Adding to the concern is the fact fellow outside linebackers Nick Perry (foot) and Mike Neal (abdomen) are banged up. Neal came out for a portion of Sunday’s game but managed to return.

QB Aaron Rodgers: Need we say anything more about Rodgers? As of last Friday, he had not been cleared to return from his Nov. 4 broken collarbone, which means it will be another week of speculation about his status unless McCarthy says something definitive during his news conference Monday afternoon.

Other injuries to watch: LB Brad Jones (ankle), CB/KR Micah Hyde (shoulder), TE Ryan Taylor (ankle).
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers were booed off Lambeau Field at halftime of Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

“That’s the first in five years for me,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “But you’ve got to expect it.”

But it did not rattle them.

[+] EnlargeMatt Flynn
AP Photo/Tom LynnPackers QB Matt Flynn will be aiming to get rid of the football quickly against Dallas on Sunday.
Neither did Matt Flynn's fluke interception that was deflected by defensive tackle Peria Jerry, bounced off of linebacker Paul Warrilow's right foot and into the hands of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who returned it 71 yards for a touchdown that gave the Falcons a 21-10 halftime lead.

“I told them it’s lonely being a warrior sometimes,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

“They make a huge play with the tipped interception for seven points, so it definitely has a chance to take some air out of your balloon,” McCarthy added. “But our guys didn’t blink and we played our best football in the second half. As a coach, that’s what you look for in your football team.”

The calming influence of Flynn helped, and after the 22-21 victory, they could laugh about it in the home locker room.

“Obviously, I need to work on my tackling,” said right guard T.J. Lang, who missed a chance to bring down Weatherspoon at the Packers’ 21-yard line. “It’s something that’s just one of those bad bounces that go against you. Acknowledged that at halftime and knew we were going to have to play mistake-free football in the second half, and that’s what we did.”

Flynn rebounded from a poor performance in the Thanksgiving blowout loss at Detroit to complete 24-of-32 passes for 258 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

McCarthy went back to the no-huddle offense, something he didn’t use at all against the Lions, and Flynn spread the ball around to eight different players. Although he was sacked five times -- some of which were the result of his indecisiveness -- and lost a fumble, Flynn played well enough to give the Packers their first win since Oct. 27, and their first since Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone on Nov. 4.

“The thing about Matt is he’s always very calm, and that’s great to have an in a guy that’s running your offense,” tight end Ryan Taylor said. “It’s great to have a guy in the huddle that’s even-keeled. Whether you’re down by 11 or you’re up by 1 and needing a first down to win the game, he’s always the same guy. It’s nice to have a guy like that in the huddle. It keeps everybody calm. It keeps everybody going.”

Packers get production from tight ends

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Before Jermichael Finley's season-ending neck injury, fellow Green Bay Packers tight end Andrew Quarless marveled at Finley's penchant for breaking tackles and dragging defenders.

"When he left, I really wanted to match his intensity," Quarless said Sunday. "That's one of the things I told him in the hospital that day. I said he was playing with such intensity."

Before Sunday, though, Quarless was all talk.

In the first six games that followed Finley's injury against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 20, the Packers new starting tight end combined for just 13 catches for 102 yards without a touchdown.

That changed on Sunday. Quarless set career bests with six catches and 66 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard back-shoulder catch with 12:01 left in a much-needed 22-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field.

Quarless' performance came only days after his position coach, Jerry Fontenot, said he needed more from the fourth-year tight end, who has finally recovered from the 2011 knee injury that kept him out of all last season. Quarless had just one catch for 7 yards in the Thanksgiving loss at the Detroit Lions and also needed to improve as a blocker.

"Coming out of the last game on Thanksgiving, one of my biggest things me and him talked about was finishing," Quarless said. "I'm usually a good guy off the line but it takes four, five seconds every play, so you've really got to play every play all out. That was my approach, just really finishing. That was my biggest thing this week was to finish, and we finished with a win, thankfully."

That quarterback Matt Flynn went to Quarless on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line in the fourth quarter spoke volumes about the tight ends' role in Sunday's game plan.

"Andrew played a great game," said Flynn, who had 10 of his 24 completions to the tight ends. "When you've got teams that are locking on [receiver] Jordy [Nelson] and things like that, you've got to really utilize your tight ends. So, we gave them a chance to make plays, and they did it."

It wasn't just Quarless. Brandon Bostick caught two passes for 28 yards, including a 19-yard catch and run down the sideline in the second quarter. Ryan Taylor caught two passes for 7 yards.

As a position group, the Packers tight ends combined for 10 catches, 101 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. In the previous six games, they had just 20 catches, 206 yards and one touchdown.

"Jermichael's a hell of an athlete, a hell of a player, and it's tough to replace a guy like that," Taylor said. "But we have the talent in our room that we can put together a full game, and we can make an impact as a group. I don't know how many balls we caught today as a room -- I know I had two, Andrew had five or six, Bostick had two. If one tight end was catching 10, 11 balls, that would be a heck of a day."

Matthews fined for unpenalized hit

December, 6, 2013
12/06/13
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Not only was Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams fined $26,250 for shoving an official in the Thanksgiving loss at the Detroit Lions, but outside linebacker Clay Matthews also was docked $15,750 for his hit on a defenseless player.

Matthews
Matthews’ hit came on a pass play to running back Joique Bell with 8:57 left in the third quarter. Matthews appeared to lower his helmet when he hit Bell and broke up the pass. He was not penalized on the play.

It was Matthews’ third fine of the season, but he had one of those cut in half and another wiped out all together.

Three Lions players were fined, according to an NFL spokesman. They were: receiver Kris Durham ($7,850 for grabbing Williams’ helmet by the earhole), safety Glover Quin ($7,850 for a late hit against receiver Jordy Nelson) and linebacker DeAndre Levy ($15,750 for unnecessary roughness, hitting tight end Ryan Taylor).
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When you're a draft-and-develop team like the Green Bay Packers, hitting on less than half of your draft choices probably isn't good enough.

Joyce
McMillian
But after cutting second-year safety Jerron McMillian on Tuesday, general manager Ted Thompson's percentage from the 2011 and 2012 drafts combined dipped below 50 percent.

"You never want to give up on a young guy," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said shortly after McMillian was released.

But that's exactly what the Packers did with McMillian, a fourth-round pick in 2011, and several others from the 2011 and 2012 drafts.

Of the 18 players Thompson picked in those two years combined, only eight remain with the Packers. And only six of those are on the active roster. Randall Cobb, a second-round pick in 2011, is on injured reserve/designated to return. Casey Hayward, a second-round pick in 2012, is on injured reserve.

Because Thompson believes in the theory that the more swings you have at the plate, the better your chances of finding good players, his percentage might be a little bit lower than a team that simply picks every time their turn comes up rather than trading back to acquire more picks.

But look at Thompson's 2010 draft, for example. He made only seven picks, and all are still with the Packers, although first-round pick Bryan Bulaga is on injured reserve.

Here's a player-by-player look at the 2011 and 2012 drafts:

2011 (Total players selected: 10. Players still with the Packers: 4)
  • T Derek Sherrod (first round, No. 32 overall): Returned to the roster last month after nearly two years on the physically unable to perform list because of a broken leg he sustained Dec. 18, 2011. Played his first snaps on offense since his injury Thursday against the Detroit Lions and likely will compete for a starting job next season.
  • Cobb
  • WR Randall Cobb (second round, No. 64 overall): Budding star who led the Packers in catches (80) and receiving yards (954) last season but sustained on leg injury Oct. 13 and was placed on temporary injured reserve. He is eligible to return Dec. 15 against the Dallas Cowboys but has not been cleared.
  • RB Alex Green (third round, No. 96 overall): Sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament as a rookie and despite coming back to lead the team in rushing with just 464 yards in 2012, he was released in the final cuts after training camp this season.
  • CB Davon House (fourth round, No. 131 overall): A part-time starter for the first time this season but has allowed five touchdown catches this season, according to ProFootballFocus.com
  • TE D.J. Williams (fifth round, No. 141 overall): Caught just nine passes in two seasons before he was released in the final cuts after training camp this season.
  • G Caleb Schlauderaff (sixth round, No. 179 overall): Traded to the New York Jets on Sept. 3, 2011 for a conditional draft choice that ended up being a seventh-round pick in 2012.
  • LB D.J. Smith (sixth round, No. 186 overall): Started the first six games of the 2012 season but tore his ACL and was released this past April.
  • LB Ricky Elmore (sixth round, No. 197 overall): Cut at the end of training camp in 2011.
  • TE Ryan Taylor (seventh round, No. 218 overall): Has become one of the team's core special teams players.
  • DE Lawrence Guy (seventh round, No. 233 overall): Spent all of his rookie season on injured reserve and then was on the practice squad in 2012 until the Indianapolis Colts signed him to their active roster.
2012 (Total players selected: 8. Players still with the Packers: 4)
  • LB Nick Perry (first round, No. 28 overall): Has battled injuries each of his first two seasons but has been a starter when healthy.
  • DE Jerel Worthy (second round, No. 51 overall): Played a part-time role as a rookie before he tore his ACL in the regular-season finale. Came off PUP last month and has played in one game this season.
  • CB Casey Hayward (second round, No. 62 overall): Led all rookies with six interceptions last season but a recurring hamstring injury limited him to just three games this season before going on injured reserve.
  • Daniels
  • DT Mike Daniels (fourth round, No. 132 overall): Perhaps the best player from this draft class. Daniels has become a force as a pass rusher with 5.5 sacks this season, which is second on the team to Clay Matthews.
  • S Jerron McMillian (fourth round, No. 133 overall): Began the season as the starting strong safety but was released Tuesday after being phased out of the defense for poor play.
  • LB Terrell Manning (fifth round, No. 163 overall): Released in the final cuts at the end of training camp this year. Played only sparingly, mostly on special teams, as a rookie.
  • T Andrew Datko (seventh round, No. 241 overall): Released in the final cuts at the end of training camp this year. Spent his rookie season on the practice squad and was never on the active roster.
  • QB B.J. Coleman (seventh round, No. 243 overall): Released in Week 1 after Seneca Wallace was signed to be the backup quarterback. Spent his rookie season on the practice squad.

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