Packers’ Training Camp Day Two: Hundley’s hard-count & Clinton-Dix’s ball skills

Day two of Packers’ training camp is upon us, and thus far the practices have been promising. QB Brett Hundley fooling the opposition with ease and Ha ha Clinton-Dix’s phenomenal ball skills were the highlight of the practice.

Hundley had plenty of free-plays in camp today, fooling defensive players like Christian Ringo, Lerentee McCray and even Clay Matthews. Hundley, who is most likely learning the skill from Aaron Rodgers, one of the premier hard-counting QBs in the entire league. On top of Hundley’s impressive hard count, Hundley also performed very well. He consistently made impressive throws and looked veteran-like when under pressure.

Ha ha Clinton-Dix was the most impressive performer on the flip-side of the ball. On defense Clinton-Dix was all over the field, picking off the offense on multiple occasion. Overall the Packers’ secondary looked very impressive on Day two of Packer’s training camp.

Packers Possess a Plethora of Puerile, Promising Pass-rushers; a tongue twister that Packer fans can enjoy

-Brady VanDeurzen

Transitioning from one season to the other can often be a challenging process for teams to bare.

The 2015-2016 transition has already shown to be a very atypical one for the Packers, especially on the defensive front seven.

Two key players on the Packers’ front seven are no longer on the roster, (Mike Neal and B.J. Raji), and Mike Pennel is serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

With the apparent holes on the Packers D-line, many fans may be skeptical to the amount of output the defense will be able to generate in 2016.

However, the Packers have a variety of talented pass-rushers, primarily falling to the Outside Linebackers. The Packers run a 3-4 style defense under Defensive Coordinator, Dom Capers, he based the defense off of the Steelers‘ defense in the 90’s, and has continued to run this defense since is debut in Green Bay in 2009.

The 3-4 is the counterpart to the 4-3 defense, which is implemented by teams like the Lions, Seahawks, and the Rams to list a few. The 3-4 defense relies on the three interior defensive lineman to clog up the inside of the line, while quicker Outside Linebackers rush the edges. The Packers addressed their interior lineman issue in the draft by selecting UCLA’s Kenny Clark, and Northwestern’s Dean Lowry, now the focus turns to the edge rushers, and naturally, the Packers have an abundance of them.

Clay Matthews highlights the list; as an ex-Outside Linebacker who was forced to make the transition to Inside Linebacker due to a lack of depth, he will be setting the edge once more in 2016. Matthews did not record a 10+ sack year in 2015 and fans are expecting that with his transition back to the outside, his sack totals should closer resemble his 2010 statistics. Matthews, 30, is an eight-year veteran whose output is yet to decline, and he is expected to land the starting LOLB position with ease.

Julius Peppers was the other starting Outside Linebacker for the Packers last year. Regardless of Peppers’ age, he has consistently wreaked havoc in the opponent’s backfield. Standing at 6-foot-7, the lengthy Peppers is setting the trend for what a prototypical Outside Linebacker should look like throughout the league. Other Packer pass-rushers may substitute in for the 36-year-old in order to give him downtime, but Peppers will still be a contributing factor in the pass-rush throughout the 2016 season.

Pass-rushing up-and-comers have shown a lot of poise thus far as well. Players like Jayrone Elliott, Nick Perry and Datone Jones have contributed to several of the Packers’ wins; including Elliott’s game-saving interception, as well as a forced fumble, finished off the Seahawks in week 1 last year.

Elliott, out of the University of Toledo came onto the Packers’ practice field in 2014 after being undrafted. His explosiveness, as well as his determination kept him on-board. Elliott was labeled as one of the best players in the preseason league-wide. Posting a total of five sacks in the 2015 preseason, Elliott looked like he could receive a lot of first round repetitions when the regular season began. In the regular season, Elliott recorded three sacks as well as 35 total tackles, despite sporadically playing in only 14 games.

Nick Perry, is another talented pass-rusher that the Packers have in their arsenal. Perry has yet to show Packer fans his true potential, as he has been injury-plagued over the past several seasons. Despite the lingering injuries that Perry has faced, he has still been able to average over three sacks every season since his rookie season. Now in 2016, Clay Matthews’ move back to LOLB may prevent Perry from receiving an excelled amount of playing time; however, the USC alum who was signed to a one-year deal this year, will be fighting to prove his worth in the 2016 season.

Another dynamic pass-rusher that the Packers possess, is Datone Jones, a third-year player of out UCLA. Jones was drafted in 2013 as a project, he originally played as a lineman at UCLA, however the Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson noticed that Jones was undersized, and would struggle on the defensive line. Now, in 2016, Jones is still adjusting to the position and with three sacks in the 2015 season, fans are hoping that Jones continues to gain a grasp on the new position.

The Packers’ newest addition to the edge is Kyler Fackrell, a rookie out of Brigham Young University. Fackrell is an intriguing prospect, with a good mixture of size and speed Fackrell was able to record five sacks and 82 total tackles in his senior year of college. He also intercepted four passes throughout his college career, which shows that Fackrell is not a one-trick pass-rushing pony, but that he can drop into coverage as well.

The Packers have a high magnitude of pass-rushing ability, and in 2016, it will be interesting to see how McCarthy and Capers include all of their pass-rushing talents.

Extra preseason game offers unique opportunity for up-and-coming Packers

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-Brady VanDeurzen

Many Packers fans muttered that 2015 would be a ‘long season’ after star wideout Jordy Nelson went down in week 2 of the preseason. However, the 2016 season actually will be a longer season for the Green and Gold, for in 2016 the Packer will partake in an extra preseason game, or the “Hall of Fame game.”

The NFL’s decision to include the Packers in the Hall of Fame game came after Brett Favre‘s recent induction into the Hall of Fame, and although many fans and players alike are opposed to the idea of having more preseason games, it is always the best place to watch up-and-coming Packers boast their skills.

The Packers will face the Indianapolis Colts on Aug. 7 at 7 p.m. in the 54th annual Hall of Fame game, and watchers should not expect to see star players on the field for anything more than a few snaps.

The game has become more of a tribute than an actual game, and oftentimes stars will not even suit up. Although teams almost always sit their starting team after the first series of the Hall of Fame game, that does not mean that the game will be any less leisurely.

The game allows for one more week for position battles to be won, and backups to prove their value. For the Packers, many fans will most likely focus on backup QB Brett Hundley, as well as the group of 2016 draftees.

Young talent like Hundley, will be able to play an extra game, rather than a simple practice. Actual game time is irreplaceable for young players, practice can oftentimes become laid-back, and not lifelike. Hundley had a breakout preseason in 2015 and many hope that he continues to play with the mentality that he had in 2015.

Kenny Clark, the Packers first-round draft pick, will be another player that Packer fans will most likely place their focus on. The 20-year-old replacement for B.J Raji, will most likely be elevated to the starting lineup depending on the caliber of his preseason output. Clark, although very young and talented, will have a lot to prove in the preseason.

The extra preseason game may help the Packers solve their ongoing Wide Receiver battle as well. The Packers currently have seven, first-team caliber, receivers. With Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb indubitably being shoo-ins for the starting lineup, the number three receiving position is still up in the air.

This battle should be very heated throughout the preseason, players like Devante Adams, Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery, Jared Abbrederis and 4th-round draft pick, Trevor Davis will all have to perform admirably throughout the preseason in order to land the coveted number three receiving position.

It is unlikely that starters will receive excessive amounts of playing time in the preseason. However, young starters, like Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix may receive extended amounts of playing time in the preseason in order to hone their skills.

In the end, the extra preseason game will be an intriguing addition to the 2016 season. It will allow for many up-and-comers to display their talents, in hope that they land a spot on the Packers 53-man roster.

Revitalizing a stagnant offense

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-Brady VanDeurzen

Uncapping the Packers’ offense was the primary concern in 2015 after Jordy Nelson went down with an ACL tear in the second week of the preseason.

The Packers’ offensive woes began when the 49ers began to approach the Packers’ offense differently in week 4.

Rather than running the traditional Cover 2 defense against the Packers, the 49ers switched their defense to a 4-6 defense; bringing in the strong safety to help with run support.

The 4-6 defense, typically is a pass-happy defense. With a snooping safety in the box, the deep ball is more manageable for the offense.

Under regular circumstance, Rodgers routinely audibles to a deep passing play when confronted with a 4-6 type of defense. However, with an aging James Jones, a regressing Davante Adams and an underachieving Randall Cobb all being below-average deep threats, Rodgers’ options were heavily decreased.

After the 49ers slowed down the Packer’s offense to only 17 points, every team began to implement the same styled defenses; ultimately slowing the Packers defense down to a crawl.

With the substandard play that the players like Devante Adams and Randall Cobb were exhibiting, other players received the chance to take their places. Players like the speedy Jeff Janis and the hometown hero Jared Abbrederis received many first team reps because of it; both were able to show off their individual talents, and show that they deserved playing time.

Both Janis and Abbrederis proved that they can be helpful adjustments when the Packers offense hits a snag.

Now, in 2016, the Packers’ offense looks brand new. With Nelson and Ty Montgomery returning, the Packers should have no issues with their aerial assault.

The signings of Jared Cook, and rookie speedster Trevor Davis make out to be fairly intriguing additions as well.

Cook, the Packers biggest TE since Jermichael Finley, reportedly ran a 4.37 40-yard dash in 2007, and with a 6 foot 5, 250 lb. frame, Cook provides a HUGE target for Rodgers over the middle. Davis is also a very fast wide receiver, with a 4.4 40-yard dash time at the combine, he is poised to be one of the fastest wide-outs at camp.

To accommodate for the depth of talented players that the Packers have, it is likely to see the Pack try different packages over the course of the season. By implementing all of their offensive talent, defenses will presumably be caught off guard, and lose a step. And with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, all a player needs is one step.

 

Youthful defense expected to play like veterans

-Brady VanDeurzen

Youthful starters were very prominent for the Packers’ defense in 2015, and in 2016, the Packers’ defense will once again be a juvenile defense.

Rookies like Jake Ryan, 24, and Damarious Randall, 23, gained starting positions on the Packers’ roster in 2015; many second and third year players also added depth to the blossoming defense.

Ha-Ha Clinton Dix, 23, was a second-year player in 2015, yet his veteran-like play allowed him to accumulate 100 total tackles and 2 interceptions in the regular season.

Another young Packer defender who made a large impact was CB Quinten Rollins.

Rollins, who will turn 24 on Friday, made key plays throughout the season, including one pick six on Rams’ QB Nick Foles.

Young studs have been what seems to be Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers’ focus for the past few years, placing many younger guys in key positions rather than veterans.

Thus far it has seemed to pay off and young players like Clinton Dix, Ryan, Randall and Rollins, are gaining more opportunities to develop because of it.

Now in 2016, the Packers defense will turn to 2016 drafted defenders like Kenny Clark, Kyler Fackrell, Blake Martinez and Dean Lowry to keep the strong, youthful defense going.

Both Fackrell and Martinez received first team reps, and they both look like intriguing prospects thus far.

Fackrell, 24, is a quick-twitched pass rusher. With a 6’5 frame, he draws many similarities to Julius Peppers and is a likely replacement for the aging veteran upon his retirement.

Martinez was a very solid inside linebacker for Stanford; with 138 total tackles in 2015, Martinez has great on-field awareness. Although fairly undersized for an inside linebacker, his frame is almost a match to that of Luke Kuechly’s.

Youth talent has been the Packers’ mindset for many years, through it they have remained to be a playoff contender year after year. With the youth talent that they have currently, It is easy to see that the Packers will remain to be dangerous for many years to come.

 

 

Aaron Rodgers looking like the shoo-in for MVP

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-Brady VanDeurzen

NFL Network’s Top 100 players list just wrapped up last week, and Aaron Rodgers was ranked at No. 6.

Although the rank is a slight decrease from last year’s No. 2 rank, Rodgers still falls in the Top 10, despite his “down season” in 2016.

Rodgers stats were comparatively down from previous seasons, however his stats were very similar to the 2015 MVP Cam Newton.

With only 16 less passing yards than Newton, Rodgers “down year” doesn’t seem so “down.”

In fact, Rodgers threw for 2 less interceptions in 2015, despite not having star wide-out Jordy Nelson.

With Nelson expected to be 100% by the start of the season, it is likely that Rodgers will return to the yardage numbers that we expect out of the two-time MVP; the addition of versatile TE Jared Cook will also be a potential yardage booster for Rodgers as well.

Jared Cook is an intriguing TE that many Packer fans are hoping Will have a burst out 2016 season with the Packers. Standing at a towering 6-foot-5, and weighing 254 pounds, many people would be surprised by his 4.5 second, 40-yard dash time. Cook provides a BIG body, that also will provide a burst of speed on seam routes.

Cook adds to an, already, explosive offense, players like Randall Cobb, Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery, and a revitalized Eddie Lacy will look to excel from last year’s substandard performances.

Blending this offense together will be Rodgers’ job, and from previous years, it is clear that Rodgers knows how to command and regroup an offense.

The Packers offense has a lot of hype surrounding it for the 2016 season, with analysts and critics alike boasting that the Packers are set for a record-breaking year in 2016 Rodgers himself may break some of his personal bests.

With all of the weapons that the Packers’ revitalized offense will have in 2016, it is difficult to see how the man at the helm won’t thrive. And although some people believe that Aaron Rodgers is ‘declining,’ I believe that Rodgers will be atop the MVP list for a majority of the 2016 season.

Picking each NFL division, ranking them 1-4 Part 2

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-Brady VanDeurzen

With all of the NFC divisions being ranked 1-4, it is time to resume my rankings in the AFC. The Championship belt fell to the AFC West last year, is it possible that we will see the AFC West reclaiming it in 2016?

SORRY FOR THE WAIT!!!

AFC South

Houston Texans, 9-7 record, 33% chance to win the AFC South.

The Houston Texans narrowly won the division in 2015, and to ensure that they continue to win the division, the Texans’ front office signed a large amount of big name free agents in the 2016 free agency. Brock Osweiler, Lamar Miller, and Jeff Allen are just a few of the transactions that the Texans made. These signings may be exactly what the Texans need in order to oust the competition in the AFC South. The Texans’ defense is still very solid, and with J.J. Watt rushing the edge, the Texans will be a very hard team to move the ball against in 2016.

Indianapolis Colts, 9-7 record, 31% chance to win the AFC South.

The Colts 2015 was hard to take comparisons from due to the massive amounts of injuries that the Colts received. It is clear, however, to see that the Colts do have talent on both sides of the ball; from this I believe that they will be just fine. Utilizing this talent will be the Colt’s biggest conundrum, in that some of their talented players aren’t great fits for the system that they are in. Frank Gore, and Andre Johnson were just a few of the players that the Colts brought in that had a hard time adapting to the system. If some of these players can grasp a better understanding of the system, the Colts are an easy favorite in the South.

Jacksonville Jaguars, 7-9 record, 22% chance to win the AFC South.

The Jaguars have been the proverbial laughing-stock of the NFL for the past several years, however, the Jags’ front office and coaching staff alike is putting a lot of effort into adding more talent to their roster. Adding solid free agents and draft picks is the best way that a team can improve, and the Jaguars  have done just that. The Jaguars hit the free agency hard, and their 2016 draft class was very impressive; they are one of the most threatening teams… three years from now, but as of right now, they are still a project.

Tennessee Titans, 4-12 record, 14% chance to win the AFC South.

The Titans, a lot like the Jaguars, are a project. However, the primary difference between the two, is that the Jaguars actually have talented players. Although the Titans added a few players in the free agency, they still weren’t the greatest quality of players. DeMarco Murray, one of the newly added Titans, had a below average 2015 season and many people believe that Murray was more of a product of the stellar Cowboys line than a quality running back. All-in-all the Titans will struggle once again in 2016, and will most likely flounder with their demanding schedule.

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals, 11-5 record, 44% chance to win the AFC North.

The Bengals have consistently made the playoffs over the past several seasons, falling short of the Super Bowl a few times. Andy Dalton’s play seems to be improving which was their common shortcoming in their previous playoff lapses. The Bengals’ defense is multi-talented, and with the addition of veteran, Karlos Dansby, the Bengals defense will be tough to mess with. The only weakness to the Bengals’ game will be their offense, which was depleted in the 2016 free agency. If the Bengals can get over their offensive obstacles, then they will fare very well in the AFC North.

Pittsburgh Steelers, 11-5 record, 43% chance to win the AFC North.

The Steelers are a very interesting team, they are always a solid team that makes the playoffs regardless of their season’s woes. In 2015, the Steelers were commonly without Superstars. Le’veon Bell, Martavis Bryant and even Big Ben were just a few of the Steeler stars who were injury plagued throughout the year. If the Steelers can escape the injury bug, then their chances to win the AFC North will heavily improve.

Baltimore Ravens, 8-8 record, 12% chance to win the AFC North.

Super Bowl 47 was the pinnacle of the Raven’s talent over the past several and now the Ravens, who are on a steady decline, are struggling to regain what once was. After a disappointing 2015 season, the Ravens are not looking like a threatening team in 2016. Although I believe that they will ultimately increase their record, they still will struggle to reach .500.

Cleveland Browns, 3-13 record, 1% chance to win the AFC North.

The Browns are not going to have the similar fate that the Cleveland Cavaliers had, not by a long shot. The Browns were, arguably, one of the worst teams of all time in 2015, and 2016 isn’t looking much brighter for the Browns. The starting Quarterback for the Browns remains to be a toss-up, with, underwhelming, RGIII being the favorite. Disregarding CB Joe Haden, the Browns have absolutely zero defensive talent; and in a conference that is pronounced for their strong offenses, the Browns will not stand a chance.

AFC East

New England Patriots, 11-5 record, 58% chance to win the AFC East.

Picking the Patriots as the AFC East favorite, is almost always a no-brainer. The Patriot are a consistent playoff team, and in the 2016 season that doesn’t seem like it will change. Although the Patriots will be without Tom Brady for the first four games of the 2016 season, Brady’s loss won’t result in much of a dent. The Patriots were also forced to forfeit a draft pick in the 2016 draft as well, however, this lack of draft pick will harm the Patriots further down the road, not as much in 2016. The four games without Brady may result in one or two losses for the Pats, but after his return, the Pats will be as good as they always are.

New York Jets, 9-7 record, 19% chance to win the AFC East.

Although a 9-7 record seems underwhelming for the Jets who have been on the rise over the past few seasons, the uncertainty behind Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t. Fitzpatrick isn’t willing to sign any of the offers at this point, and rumors are surfacing that the Jets may just move on from Fitzpatrick all together. If Fitzpatrick does swallow his overvalued pride, and re-sign with the Jets, then their winning total may pierce the double digits. However until the Jets get a grasp on the situation, it is tough to determine how the Jets will perform in 2016.

Buffalo Bills, 9-7 record, 18% chance to win the AFC East.

Buffalo’s signing of Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator was, to put it lightly, a bold move that was fueled completely on personal draws by brother Rex Ryan. To hire a defensive coordinator whose defense was among the worst in football in 2015, just doesn’t make any sense. Also with the Bills primarily drafting defensive threats again in 2016, it is clear that the Bills are not worried about their substandard offense. It is hard for me to see a result that is any different from 2015 in 2016.

Miami Dolphins, 5-11 record, 5% chance to win the AFC East.

Miami’s situation was always an interesting one, and the loss of star RB Lamar Miller definitely adds to the interest. The Dolphins offense was relatively stagnant in 2015, yet the Dolphins are still to address their holes on offense. The Dolphins RB situation is almost laughable, yet they continue to stack their defense with vets. Despite a majority of their players already being vets. The Dolphins have a lackluster offense that they refuse to address, and an aging defense that they continue to ignore. It is easy to spell out disaster for the Phins in 2016.

AFC West

Kansas Chiefs, 12-4 record, 42% chance to win the AFC West.

Stellar defensive play, and crafty offensive work are two things that can describe the Kansas City Chiefs to a T. Their play in 2015 started off fairly rough, with a few tough losses to a few tough teams. Yet what most people believed would be a season destroyer, in the injury to Jamaal Charles, ended up being the ultimate motivator. The Chiefs recorded an incredible end to the 2015 regular season, seeming to be unstoppable. If not for a few unfortunate plays in the Playoffs, the Chiefs could have done plenty of further damage. With the return of Jamaal Charles in 2016, I expect the Chiefs to be a scary team.

Oakland Raiders, 10-6 record, 25% chance to win the AFC West.

If any team in the entire NFL deserves and A+ in the Free Agency category, it is the Raiders. The Raiders made HUGE moves this past off-season, both solidifying their offense and boosting their defense. The Raiders in 2016 continued their routine of swiping Seattles linebackers when they acquired Bruce Irvin. Irvin’s performance at the NFL Combine was freakish and if Irvin can find his niche alongside Khalil Mack, the Raiders pass rush would be unstoppable. Other Key acquistions include FS Reggie Nelson, CB Sean Smith and OG Kelechi Osemele.

Denver Broncos, 9-7 record, 23% chance to win the AFC West.

No other team in the NFL has been effected more by the off-season than the Denver Broncos. The Broncos’ lineup was absolutely dimished during the free agency period, and it is hard to see the Broncos bouncing back from such a large hit. As of right now, the Broncos are not quarterback-less, however, they might as well be. Mark Sanchez or Trevor Siemian are dueling to be the Day 1 starter, and with Bronco fans being used to the pristine play of legendary QB Peyton Manning, they are not going to like the QB-play for next year. The defense for the Broncos also took huge hits, and although they will be the reigning Super Bowl Champions in 2016, I do not see them returning.

San Diego Chargers, 6-10 record, 10% chance to win the AFC West.

Back when the Charger’s wins were as simple as handing the ball off to LaDainian Tomlinson, was the last time the Chargers were actually a threatening team. The same cannot be said for their current RB Melvin Gordon, who only averaged 3.5 yards a carry, fumbled six times and never scored a touchdown. The Chargers offensive threats are getting old, Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers are both wily veterans, but with no help around them besides Keenan Allen… the Chargers are going to be in trouble in 2016.