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Did you know? Packers’ 2016 Tough Trivia

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Green Bay’s defense wasn’t entirely awful, plus other fun-to-know facts about 2016

By Chris Havel

Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – One of America’s first great sportswriters, while using the nom de plume Mark Twain, once wrote, “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics.”

I tend to agree, although there are exceptions.

Here are five Packers-related stats from 2016 that are dead on:

** 1 – What player tied for second in the NFL for the most games with at least one-half sack?

Answer: Nick Perry.

While some are skeptical Perry will post another double-digit sack season – he had 11 in 2016 – this statistic suggests he will.
First of all, he’s in good company.

Minnesota’s unheralded Danielle Hunter led the NFL with 11 games of at least one-half sack. Perry was tied with Denver’s Von Miller, Miami’s Cameron Wake, Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan and Buffalo’s Lorenzo Alexander for second.

Any time you’re on the same list with Miller and Wake – and you’re talking pass rush – that’s a really good thing.

Second, Perry’s 10 games with at least one-half sack is an indication of consistency. Perry didn’t merely abuse a couple of overmatched left tackles for a few multi-sack games.

He got to the quarterback on a regular basis all season long.
Third, the Packers played from behind way too often. What that means for pass rushers such as Perry is this: Opponents could stick to the running game a lot more frequently against the Pack.

There weren’t many times when Perry could pin his ears back and cut loose knowing the opposing quarterback was forced to throw the football.
It’s time to give Perry some credit for a terrific season and an equally sunny outlook going forward (to the QB).

 

** 2 – What player is fourth in the NFL in sacks at his position since 2011?

Answer: Morgan Burnett.

That’s right. Burnett. Remember him?

He’s the player that often is overlooked and underrated until he’s out with an injury. Clearly, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s talent and iron man resume coupled with Micah Hyde’s growth helped mitigate the damage when Burnett was out.

Still, Burnett’s 7 ½ sacks – not to mention a ton of tackles – ranks him fourth among NFL safeties since 2011. He is tied with Minnesota’s Harrison Smith with 7 ½ sacks, behind only Roman Harper (NO/Car), T.J. Ward (Cle/Den) and Reshad Jones (Mia).

While fans are falling in love with rookie Josh Jones, which is understandable, it’s helpful to remind them of Burnett’s prowess.

 

** 3 – Five receivers had three multi-touchdown games last season. Who are they?

Answer: Odell Beckham, Jr. (NYG), Antonio Brown (Pitt) and Mike Evans (TB), along with the Packers’ Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams.

Nelson had 14 touchdown catches to lead the league, followed by Adams, Brown and Evans with 12 each. Nelson and Adams were the only teammates to notch at least 10 touchdown catches.

 

** 4 – How many fumbles did the Packers’ special teams coverage units force in 19 games (regular and postseason)?

Answer: Zero.

That’s right. The coverage units did next to nothing to tilt the playing field in the Packers’ favor. The tackling was so-so and they gave up a handful of big plays.
The hunch was the special teams weren’t as good as kicker Mason Crosby made them look by making darn near every kick.

 

** 5 – Who tied Jeff Janis for the postseason team lead in special teams tackles with four?

Answer: Jordan Tripp.

Who? Jordan Tripp, No. 58, a fourth-year linebacker from Montana who is on the Packers’ current 90-man roster.

Tripp had four special teams’ tackles after coming to Green Bay from Seattle in December. It should remind fans that the Packers are constantly looking to improve the roster.

Hey, if nothing else, it’s a good bar room bet.

 

** Bonus stat I – Why do fans believe there is a great market out there for backup quarterback Brett Hundley?

Answer: Like them, at least in this case, I haven’t a clue.

Hundley completed 2 of 10 passes for 17 yards with an interception in his only action last year. Granted, he is a terrific athlete with a strong arm and all the intangibles.
I like him a lot, in fact, and believe he’ll only get better. But to suggest he could command a second- or third-round pick is silly at this stage of his career.

 

** Bonus stat II – How soon will fans realize that Davante Adams is a budding star?

Answer: They should know by now.

Adams has 163 catches in his first three NFL seasons. That is good for fourth place on the Packers’ all-time list in that time frame.
Who are the others? Sterling Sharpe leads with 212 followed by Greg Jennings with 178 and James Lofton at 171.
Now that’s some great company to keep, which is something Adams is used to given the quality of the Packers’ current receiving corps.

Packers’ OTAs feature passing, keen competition

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By CHRIS HAVEL

Green Bay’s abundance of WRs, DBs begin feeling-out process while battling with, against each other

The Green Bay Packers’ OTA’s (organized team activities) can be instructive despite the fact that players practice in helmets and shorts.

Several key takeaways early on from this week’s OTAs:

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is a realist if nothing.

His uncommon common sense is one of the reasons the Packers have been to eight straight NFL postseasons.

This is reflected in the way the Packers have practiced in the OTA’s. McCarthy realizes any time spent on the running game is going to bring minimal returns.

Without pads on, the offensive linemen have a much more difficult time giving running backs a true sense of where the play is going to break. That’s true in part because defensive players, in particular inexperienced defenders, tend to practice a bit out of control. That can be dangerous without pads on.

Running backs trying to press the hole – and thereby impress the coaches – tend to run into their offensive linemen. At the same time, feisty defenders occasionally will either overrun a play, which leads to overcorrection, or fly in late and out of control.

It’s an unnecessary invitation to injuries for what’s gained. However, the passing game is an altogether different animal. McCarthy has increased the offense’s time spent on passing, which actually has some tangible benefits despite the lack of contact.

First, the Packers are loaded with young receivers, running backs and defensive backs. The more in tune they get with the passing game before training camp, the more time McCarthy can spend on running the football in pads.

It’s early, but the passing emphasis seems to have accelerated the whole notion of competition within and against position groups. It’s receiver versus receiver. It’s cornerback versus cornerback. It’s receiver versus cornerback.

It’s “game on” with jobs hanging in the balance.

The Packers’ young defensive backs look the part.

It’s early, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers already has more weapons to deploy than at most points last season. This was on display when Green Bay deployed its “nitro” package.

Essentially, it’s a fancy name for the “dime” package.

It features big corners on the perimeter. Kevin King, Davon House and Ladarius Gunter all are likely to play there.

It also has a hybrid position – rookie Josh Jones lined up there – that plays a dual role as part linebacker, part defensive back. Veteran safety Morgan Burnett and the departed Micah Hyde occasionally played a similar role last season.

Damarious Randall, with Quentin Rollins behind him, lined up as the slot cover cornerback. Behind them, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Burnett manned safety.

Given that means Rollins, Gunter, Demetri Goodson and Kentrell Brice all would be available in backup roles. That’s a significant upgrade from a year ago.

Ty Montgomery is finding his way at running back.

Make no mistake, No. 88 is a running back, and he aims to build upon what he did last season.

Montgomery is smart and confident. He also needs to be a bit selfish, too. By that, I mean he needs to work in concert with running backs coach Ben Sirmans to make sure he’s ready to be the lead dog in the backfield from start to finish.

Montgomery spent last season learning the ins and outs at a new position. This year, he needs to find ways to ensure his health so that he can be ready and available in December and beyond.

The Packers’ offense has hitched itself to Montgomery.

Precisely how many touches (carries and receptions) McCarthy is envisioning for Montgomery remains to be seen. But there is no question he is being counted on to fill Eddie Lacy’s void.

The Packers drafted three running backs, but that was more about securing quality depth and making a pre-emptive strike against (pardon the pun) running out of running backs.

Montgomery is up to the challenge. In fact, he’s predicting that the Packers’ offense is going to be “great.”

“I don’t want to write checks the rest of the offense has to cash,” Montgomery said this week, “But I’m excited about our possibilities.”

Montgomery isn’t alone in that sentiment.

Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com).  Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.

Packers’ Thompson basically swapped Lang for a 3rd-rounder

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By CHRIS HAVEL

ESPN report: NFL’s 2018 compensatory picks will be kind to Packers after strategic moves; Also, NFL spring meetings set for this week

The NFL’s spring meetings this week in Chicago should bring interesting news on topics ranging from shorter overtimes to relaxed rules on end zone celebrations.

Frankly, I could do without O.T. and end zone displays. But I am a realist so I offer solutions.

End Zone celebrations

Choosing to – in the words of Aaron Rodgers – r-e-l-a-x the penalties for end zone dances and such is wise. The league should go a step further and request that its TV partners refrain from showing the celebrations altogether.

Fans that attend games get to see something TV viewers won’t, which is another great reason to buy a ticket. Also, ignoring the TD celebrations is a great way to promote sportsmanship.

The idea of penalizing and fining players for excess celebrations is ridiculous. Officials have far more important matters to adjudicate.

Overtime cut?

As for overtimes, and the league’s likely decision to go from 15 minutes to 10 minutes is stopping way too short of the goal line.

A regular-season game that ends in a tie should stay that way. The NFL prides itself on parity. In fact, it pats itself on the shoulder pads any chance it gets to brag about parity EXCEPT the most obvious reflection of it: Overtime games.

Why is an overtime game a pariah? I mean,  aside from its impact on legal gambling?

The NFL is slowly but not so surely moving to shorten O.T. In fact, owners are likely to trim it by five minutes – from 15 to 10 in the regular season – by this week’s end.

Why stop at 10 minutes? There are times when NFL teams are incredibly close and they play like it.

Furthermore, the league uses statistics such as “point differential” in determining playoff seeds. Surely a tie after going helmet-to-helmet for four quarters is a much fairer way to break ties (no pun intended) for post-season seeding purposes.

In-season IR

The NFL reportedly also is going to expand its archaic rule regarding players returning from in-season IR. Teams will be able to bring back two players that fit the requirements. Again, it’s a move in the right direction that stops short.

Why does a league that espouses player safety still maintain outdated game-day roster limits? I mean aside from saving comparative peanuts on player salaries?

What price can be put on an NFL playoff team losing its quarterback to injury because it ran out of offensive linemen who were game-day active? What good does it do to have 10 practice squad players that practiced all week standing around in sweats and T-shirts on the sideline during games?

The NFL needs to open its eyes and expand game-day rosters.

Packers compensatory picks

Perhaps the best news this week was provided by an ESPN report that suggests the Packers might receive four compensatory picks in next year’s draft.

In fact, the Packers should receive a third-round pick in return for losing right guard T.J. Lang in free agency. By allowing Lang to leave without re-signing him, the Packers essentially traded him to whatever team (the Detroit Lions) he signed with in exchange for a 2018 third-round selection.

Who wouldn’t trade Lang for a third-round pick?

Packers GM Ted Thompson did. He avoided guaranteeing $10 million to an aging player and reportedly will receive a third-round pick in return.

Now that’s a sweet deal.

ESPN, which cited OverTheCap.com, believes the Packers will receive a third-round pick for Lang, a fifth-rounder for center J.C. Tretter (signed by Cleveland), a sixth-rounder for Jared Cook (signed by Oakland) and another sixth-rounder for Eddie Lacy (signed by Seattle).

The loss of defensive back Micah Hyde (signed by Buffalo) offsets the Packers’ signing of free agent tight end Martellus Bennett. The Packers’ other free agent signings – cornerback Davon House, tight end Lance Kendricks and defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois – were “street” free agents.

Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com).  Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.

Packers’ King arrives with high expectations

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By CHRIS HAVEL

But the Packers’ 33rd overall pick isn’t paid like a shutdown CB – YET

The Packers are counting on Kevin King to battle the NFL’s elite receivers at a bargain-basement cost.

His four-year, $7 million rookie contract includes slightly more than $3 million in guaranteed money.

For that, he will be expected to line up against the league’s top wide receivers, such as Atlanta’s Julio Jones, Tampa Bay’s DeSean Jackson and Dallas’ Dez Bryant. It’s a lot to ask of a rookie cornerback.

Comparatively, top shutdown corners are paid handsomely. Ex-Buffalo cornerback Stephon Gilmore signed a $65 million deal – with $18 million guaranteed – to wear a Patriots jersey.

Current Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman appears to be a disgruntled Seahawk despite his $56 million deal, which includes guarantees in excess of $10 million.

To that I ask, “Why the long face, Richard?”

Meantime, the Packers’ fans are going to be rooting like crazy for King to succeed. That’s great. What may be even greater are the expectations for him at one of the NFL’s toughest positions.

Talk about a King’s ransom. Surely, he will be paid just like the NFL’s other top cornerbacks once he becomes a proven commodity. What I hope is that fans remember to try and stay patient.

Here’s a news flash: King is going to get beat this season. In fact, he’s going to be beaten repeatedly. 

It happens, especially at that position. Fans don’t have to like it, but they need to be realistic. 

Frankly, I think King is going to be a hell of an NFL player.

He’s got everything a defensive backs coach could want. He’s got length (6-3), strength (15 reps at 225) and a great attitude. He’s also plenty fast (4.43 40-yard dash) and familiar with what it’s like to face the opponent’s top receiver.

Packers’ history is littered with reasonably high draft picks that flamed out at defensive back.

Terrell Buckley routinely received burnt toast in his fan mail. Before him, Vinnie Clark looked the part, but he couldn’t play.

Remember Ahmad “the octopus” Carroll? He was the late-first round choice of Mike Sherman. The Packers head coach/GM doubled down by selecting Joey Thomas in the third round.

Carroll was a powerfully built 5-10, 190-pound corner who could really run. The trouble was he couldn’t overcome his limitations: tight hips, sub-par ball skills and hands that all too often latched onto opposing receivers instead of the football.

I swear he led the league in “illegal use of hands” penalties, often in a crucial third down situation.

Thomas, the third-rounder, was a rangy, 6-foot-1, 190-pounder who had good ball skills and nice flexibility. The reason he was a third-round pick became obvious early on: He was slow as molasses in the winter time.

While the Packers’ fans were getting sick of their new cornerback tandem, Carroll and Thomas were feeling equally frustrated with each other.

They apparently blew their cool in a meeting, took to the hallway, scuffled and soon after became a fleeting memory.

It turned out neither Carroll nor Thomas were very good corners and Sherman wasn’t much of a GM, either.

Now it is King’s turn to line up at Cornerback Island.

Serious expectations also await the Packers’ Josh Jones, Montravius Adams and Vince Biegel.

The difference is that none of them are going to be asked to step in and start right away. Each will have important roles, to be sure, but they’ll also have the benefit of time to grow.

King’s growth curve began the instant he was drafted.

His great attitude may be his salvation. He seems to be exceedingly mature and accepting of his situation. In fact, he appears to welcome the challenge.

In turn, Carroll struck me as a player with a chip on his shoulder pad who didn’t have the game to back it up. It didn’t take long for Packers’ fans to pick up on it and begin hammering him over the helmet for it.

King is too talented and mature to flame out. Barring injury, he should be as close to a draft-and-play NFL corner as you’ll find.

Now comes the easy part for us and the difficult part for King. We get to sit in judgment while King is expected to stand tall and deliver.

My best guess is King will be terrific.

My best advice to everyone else: Give the kid some time to get there.

Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com).  Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.