Grading TT and Looking Ahead, Pt 2

Yesterday, I took a shot at evaluating Dear Leader Ted Thompson's off-season roster moves, focusing on transactions involving quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers, and how they're playing out on the field.

Based on the comments and poll results, I've come to a few conclusions:

Most of you are scared stiff...

...over the prospect of enduring a season with Flynn or Brohm at the helm. Brining in a veteran signal caller would have made sense.

Brandon made a good point, though, pointing out how brining in another quarterback would take away from the developmental opportunities for our rookies.

I think I have an interesting contingency plan: This guy. Craig Nall has been with the Packers for a combined 4 years through two separate stints, after being drafted by Green Bay back in 2002. He's familiar with the system and has performed decently when he's had chances. As you may recall, he was the fella the Packers signed last year after Rodgers was injured for the season. To me, this speaks to the Packers' confidence in the guy and his ability to step into the system and be ready to go. Mark my words, if Aaron Rodgers goes down for an extended period of time, we'll bring in Nall.

 No one really gives a damn...

...about cutting Vernard Morency, except packerbacker and myself. However, I'm not a whimsical back-seat GM, and I'm sticking to my guns: Morency shouldn't have been cut. He was the best back on our team this preseason, and played with an aggressive, explosive style. He looked like Willis McGahee in training camp. He earned his spot. Considering that Grant had just pulled his hammy and wouldn't be 100% by week one, it would've made sense to keep Morency, and maybe stick Kregg Lumpkin on the practice squad.

Everybody loves...

...Jordy. JasonM made a great comparison, drawing a parallel between Mr. Nelson and the ultimate blue collar wide-receiver, jaw-breaker Hines Ward. While I don't foresee Nelson shattering anyones mandible anytime soon, his presence as a down field and perimeter blocker cannot be denied. This less-than-glamorous duty, which many veteran wide-outs struggle with, will get young Jordy on the field, and will continue to give him opportunities to perform in the receiving game, where he's been moderately successful. James Jones, who was worried about Nelson unseating him back in April, may see his fears become reality if he continues to miss extensive time. Jones may have better receiving ability, but Nelson's steady production is setting up for an interesting positional confrontation, if not this year, then next. (UPDATE: We have a Jordy Nelson-hater! Someone voted that TT's biggest mistake of the '08 off-season was "taking Jordy Nelson in the early 2nd.")

Alright, that's that. Now, I critique TT's 2008 personnel moves and how they're playing out on Sunday, focusing on the O-line, D-line, linebackers, secondary, and special teams.

O-line: A-

TT's has had some success drafting big uglies, and he found another solid lineman in the '08 iteration. Josh Sitton, the 4th round UCF product, was poised to start before an injury set him back. All preseason long, Packers coaches were singing his praises, raving about his seamless transition into the NFL. His versatility (G/T/C) is a coveted trait and will allow him to get the most playing time possible in the upcoming seasons.

Breno Giacomini in an interesting prospect, given his size, athleticism, and tenacity, but can you really imagine this guy starting in the NFL? He's as rough as they come, and is definitely a work-in-progress. Time will tell if he merited a 5th round draft pick.

In terms of personnel moves, Thompson made all the necessary moves, releasing Orrin Thompson and Injured Reserving underachiever Junius Coston (who is the default starting LG on Madden 09...what a joke...wake me up when franchise mode doesn't BLOW) and kept all the right guys. The Packers have two solid bookends (but for how much longer?) and the numbers and flexibility on the interior to put together a decent line-up week in and week out.

D-line: C

TT's wheeling and dealing of DT Corey Williams drew a lot of hesitation back in the Spring and now that the Pack are relatively weak in the middle, it's easy to say that was the wrong move. However, given the circumstances (namely that Williams didn't give a damn about Green Bay), getting a 2nd round pick out of it was probably the best option we had. Williams wanted out and having a disgruntled, franchise-tagged distraction in the locker room is not a good thing.

What TT did biff on was providing some quality depth at DT after Williams's departure. Even with Johnny Jolly facing federal charges, TT never made a serious effort to bring in some proven players at that position, unless of course you're counting AFL superstars. Cutting the promising Daniel Muir seemed like a bad move once Cullen Jenkins went down and health became an issue for Ryan Pickett. As it stands today, we still only have 3 experienced defensive tackles on our active roster. Justin Harrell continues to be a disappointment, and with each game he sits out, he gets closer and closer to acquiring the "bust" label, despite his best intentions.

Rookie Jeremy Thompson is developing into a decent pass rusher after a shaky start, and, given Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila's decline in production, it looks like TT nabbed an athletic RE at just the right time. Thompson has seen the field increasingly as of late, and if he continues to improve, we could see him begin to phase out the veteran KGB.

Linebackers: B

I was initially shocked that TT cut Abdul Hodge, but it made a little more sense in the following days. Hodge wasn't going to see much of the field with 4 quality LB's in front of him, had failed to overcome a chronic knee condition, and wasn't a solid contributor on special teams. Thus, Tracy White and Desmond Bishop were retained, and Hodge was shown to the door. I think maybe Thompson could've shopper Hodge around a bit before he axed him, because the kid could play and had some upside.

Brandon Chillar has been a nice addition, and is emerging into a solid situational cover LB. He gave up one big play to Dallas Clark last week, but other than that, he stuck to him like his shadow. In fact, in games that feature a marquee tight end, Chillar has more or less assumed the role of starter, and has been largely responsible for shutting down the opposing TE. Chillar has also been a valuable asset on special teams. While I wouldn't say he's been as big a free-agent success as Woodson or Pickett has been, he's yet another solid addition by TT.

So why the off-season extension to Brady Poppinga, especially after signing the likes of Chillar? That move made little sense at the time, and given the fact that Poppinga has played a more limited role this year, it seems like a foolish decision. Last I checked, contract extensions are given to players who win position battles, not those just about to enter one. Thompson probably would've been better off seeing how things played out this year before he ponied up the bucks for Poppinga.

Secondary: A

There really wasn't a whole lot of room for improvement, as the Packers returned basically everyone from last year's dominating secondary. The guys we've kept have all contributed, right down to you, Charlie Peprah. Although I have to admit, the less Jarret Bush I see, the easier I sleep at night.

Patrick Lee probably won't be much of a factor this year, but we knew that when we drafted. He's got the size and the speed to develop into a great man-coverage press corner, but it will be a journey getting there.

Special Teams: D

TT overcomplicated things here. Yes, John Ryan was occasionally erratic. Yes, John Ryan had trouble fielding punts in a Chicago tornado (Brett Favre couldn't even throw 10 feet that day, so give the guy a break). And yes, he's Canadian. But despite those three strikes, the Packers should've kept this guy. He had an absolute boot, and could positively pulverize the football. Getting more hang time and proper form are all things you can improve. A leg like his is a rarity, and no amount of training can make someone into a powerful punter. I didn't like this decision back then, and I feel vindicated by the fact that Derrick Frost absolutely sucks. Serious, he is horrible. A rash move by TT, which I hope he regrets.

Well, those are my musings on the matter. I'll be back tomorrow to give you an encapsulated version of my thoughts on the upcoming off-season.

In the meantime, here's another poll. Have at it.


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