Sunday, January 27, 2013

Packers Draft Talk

The experts all say the biggest jump for young players is between year 1 and 2 and the second biggest jump (considered late bloomers) is between year 2 and 3.  Let's take a look at the Packers last two drafts and see where the team stands before this April's draft. 

1st round Derek Sherrod LT
His overall grade is still incomplete.  He flashed a few things just prior to breaking his leg but then showed that he couldn't even run without limping in practice before shutting it down for good.  Clearly he wanted to show the coaches he could go because they gave him a chance for choosing not to activate him from the Physically unable to Play (PuP) list.  What the Packers think of Sherrod's health will show here in April's draft.  If they draft a tackle early, don't expect Sherrod to ever suit up for the Packers (or any team) again.  Even if he does heal up, if the Packers move Bulaga over to LT this off-season (as many expect), Sherrod basically becomes depth for the team there).

2nd round Randall Cobb WR
A fantastic find who can do just about everything on offense.  He'll be the slot guy in the Packers 3-1-1 base offensive attack.  People fail to realize the benefit that Finley plays for him by clearing out the linebackers and making it less likely for Cobb to get killed over the middle.  Because of Cobb, don't expect the Packers to draft a WR on the first day, but stranger things have happened.

3rd round Alex Green RB
He was a healthy scratch in the playoffs and late in the season.  Rumors abounded that his knee was still bothering him and he had never regained his explosiveness seen prior to the injury in 2011.  The Packers under Ted Thompson have been great at getting running backs off the trash heap (Grant and now Harris) and making them servicable, but they have been terrible at drafting them (Brandon Jackson, Alex Green).  Green averaged just 3.4 yards a carry last year and looked lost in the zone running scheme.  With his injury though, he may make a bigger impact in year 3.

4th round Davon House CB
Another injury issue for House (one in each of the last two years) and the jury will be out on whether he can stay healthy or not for another year.  He had shoulder surgery just last week and will hopefully be good to go for training camp.  However, that means he'll lose this next season of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mini-camps.  That's too bad because he flashed really nice ability and is a great size matchup on the outside.  He does a nice job of using the sideline as a defender and guarding the outside routes but he broke down in coverage in the slot area and had a hard time in press (his strength) with his shoulder injury.  Prior to the injury (injured on special teams) he was a willing tackler.

5th round DJ Williams TE
He's been OK at most things.  He's been an above average special team player and and average blocker.  He rounds too many routes and has a hard time separating as a result.  He's a natural pass catcher and can play H-back when Rodgers is in the shotgun effectively.  When I see him, I see a speedier version of Donald Lee (but not as effective as an in-line blocker).  He can give you some production, but nothing special.

6th round Caleb Schlauderaff OG
No longer on the team.  Traded to Jets for a conditional draft choice after training camp his rookie year.

6th round DJ Smith ILB
He was a productive tackling machine filling in for Desmond Bishop until he also tore his knee up and ended up on IR.  He should be ready for training camp but will likely miss all of the OTAs and mini-camps.  He was a liability in coverage, so even if he comes back at full strength, the Packers may still need an inside linebacker with coverage skills to play in the nickel (or ideally all three downs).

6th round Ricky Elmore DE
No longer on the team.  He's under contract with the Washington Redskins

7th round Ryan Taylor TE
He's been a nice special teams player that has no problem mucking it up with the big boys.  He will never back down and if there's a frackas, expect to see Taylor in the middle of it.  He's more old school hockey enforcer than TE though.  He does not separate, is barely average blocking, and doesn't run good routes.  The team will continue to need special teams guys like him though, so expect to see him remain on the team.

7th round Lawrence Guy DT
He is no longer on the team and is playing for the Colts now.

Undrafted Free Agents
Bradon Saine RB - IR Knee - don't expect any contribution from him
Jamari Lattimore LB - Speicial Teamer nothing special

1st round Nick Perry OLB
Ended up on IR with a wrist injury that required surgery.  He should be back in time for OTAs and minicamps and he needs every rep he can get.  He's a physical monster, but he's also a project, and that may not be good for the Packers.  Hopefully he can bounce back and put together some consistency with the flashes he showed this past year.  If the Packers bring back Walden, expect them to compete for the starting position.  If they don't bring Walden back, they will likely bring in someone young to compete either through the draft or free agency.

2nd round Jerel Worth DT/DE
He was showing some flashes of quickness, especially as a nickel pass rusher inside and opposite Mike Neal.  Then he blew out his knee and had to wait nearly a month before they could operate on it.  He will be challenged to play at all in 2013 and will definitely be on the PuP list to start the season.

2nd round Casey Hayward CB
He was the bright spot of the 2012 draft class for the Packers.  He helped create a lot of turnovers.  Most people I talk to would like him to be the heir-apparent for Charles Woodson in the slot.  His best plays, however, came when he was playing on the outside, matched up in man coverage.  With an offseason of OTAs and mini-camps though, he could really develop into a strong force in the slot.  He even showed some pass rush ability from the outside as well.

4th round Mike Daniels DT/DE
He's short but fiesty and productive.  He doesn't really fit the mold of a 3-4 DE and definitely not a nose.  The Packers used him in a rotation and against the right personnel, he was productive. Still, he's not a long-armed large man that the 3-4 defense needs on the weakside of the blitz (typically opposite Mathews) to hold the point or eat up blocks.  Expect the Packers to draft someone if they can.

4th round Jerron McMillian S
He has decent range but took some bad angles and seemed way too tentative in 2012.  However, with a season of minicamps and OTAs, he could make some decent strides.  The Packers desperately need something in the saftey position and still miss Nick Collins back there.  If the Packers draft a safety early in the draft, expect a fierce competition to open camp.

5th round Terrell Manning ILB
He was pretty much never an option at ILB and basically took up roster space as an inactive for most of the year.  He was a slow-footed runner who is more of a run-stopping plugger.  He only played 4-3 in college.  With a year of OTAs and minicamp, he might be available to contribute but he's hardly the answer the Packers need at ILB.

5th round Andrew Datko RT
He is still an intriguing prospect.  With a year on the practice squad strengthening his oft-injured shoulders, can he develop and contribute?  The Packers promoted Don Barclay over him when Bulaga went down, so clearly he wasn't ready this year.  Perhaps with a solid off-season he can be ready to contribute into the depth at tackle.

7th round BJ Coleman QB
Strong armed with barely an ounce of intellect, this guy mostly rubbed me the wrong way.  He strikes me as the QB version of all the bad things about Finley, but mostly he's a guy that'll hold a clipboard.  He needs to press for the 2nd string spot this year, but if he doesn't, he may still find a spot on the practice squad because McCarthy always needs a QB project.

Undrafted Free Agents (including mid-season acquisitions that qualify as well)
Greg Van Roten OG - Came in as the 6th lineman after Evan Dietrich-Smith became the starter at center.  Definitely a guard.  He's pretty much an unknown and considering I wasn't able to watch any practices  this year, I can't really comment on his ability.

Donald Barclay RT - Definitely a RT and not a LT, he did a pretty good job as an undrafted guy when Bulaga got hurt.  Has a tendency to hold when beaten by a speed move.  At the minimum, he can provide some depth at tackle.  If Bulaga moves to LT this offseason, then Newhouse and Barclay compete for the starting position at RT.

Sean Richardson S - Played a little bit of special teams and was beaten badly in his only action of the season.  He ended the season on IR for his back.

Dezmon Moses OLB - Played well at times and was decisive (even if he chose wrong) most of the time.  He can really benefit from an off-season of OTAs and minicamp.  He needs to find the ball carrier better and I'm not entirely sure if that can be taught.  Still, he can really fly around and can be disruptive if not accounted for - and that's saying a lot for an undrafted guy.

Jarrett Boykin WR - He's not a burner (but probably plays faster than his 4.7 40 time he ran at the combine), but he's a natural pass catcher and already a solid route runner.  He will compete for the Packers 5th WR spot.

Jeremy Ross WR - He's got return talent and seems to play taller than 5'11" too.  He will compete for the Packers 4th or 5th WR spot.  He's not a starter though, so the Packers may want to draft a guy to fill that 4th spot that can develop into a starter once Jones/Nelson/Cobb leave.

DuJuan Harris RB - He's projected as the starter at this point.  He a decisive, downhill runner that gets lost when the big bodies get moving.  The jury is out whether or not he can hold up for an entire year with his size though.  Still, a great find that can definitely contribute next year and will greatly improve from minicamps and OTAs as he actually will have time to learn the offense.

2013 Packers Draft Needs
Because the Packers had such a dearth of injuries in their last two draft classes, it will be a challenge for Thompson to find the right pieces and not waste a pick.  Say, for instance, that they go tackle early and then Bulaga and Sherrod are 100%, they will have a log-jam at the tackle position with 5 guys (including the new draft choice) that could be solid starters.  The Packers won 12 games with the line they had (including its 51 sacks), so I'm more apt to believe that they will roll with what they have at that position and make some tweaks inside the team to best align and squeeze talent out of that group.  To do that, I'd expect Bulaga to move to the left and let Barclay and Newhouse battle for the RT position.  Then if Sherrod is healthy, he can battle with them at RT as well with the losers backing up the two tackle positions. 

Draft Needs (# of players needed):
WR (1)
C/G (1-2)
RB (1)
DL (1)
ILB (1)
OLB (1)
S (1)
QB (1)

They need a #4 guy.  This guy can be developmental and the draft seems a bit light on WR talent so they may ignore this position all together for the year.  They could use a big body guy if possible.

Packers usually get a guy to play both positions here to allow them to only suit up 8 linemen. They need 2 here if they aren't going to roll with Evan Dietrich-Smith at center and draft a starting center. They would still need depth here.

What they could really use here is a pounder that can get the short yards.  To get the right back though it would require a 1st or 2nd round draft choice.  The Packers are 28-7 the last two seasons with a bunch of retreads and no-names at running back; I still think they have bigger fish to fry and will try to roll with Harris and company for the year.  They could try to draft someone in the later rounds but that only seems to work well for Shanahan in the zone blocking scheme.

With Worthy out for the year (likely) and Pickett, Raji, Neal, and CJ Wilson all free agents after the season, this is the position of absolute need for the Packers.  They will likely draft 2 guys here and if there's a big and tall guy available early, they'll jump on him and draft him right away.

They have a need here due to injuries and lackluster play.  They need an everydown inside linebacker that can go sideline to sideline.  They won't find one outside of round 2 however, so they would have to draft early to find that guy.  Considering AJ Hawk's contract means he'll be here for another 2 years for sure, they are not likely to draft here (even if they should).

They may not draft here if they resign Walden and run with Walden, Mathews, Perry, and Moses this next year, but they can never have too many athletic linebackers, so expect them to draft one in the later rounds for Greene to groom.

They need either depth here (if they are sold that McMillian and Burnett are the answer) or they need a bonafide starter that can make plays.  That guy might be available in the first or second round, but after that, it's all just for depth.

This is for depth only (obviously).  The Packers may find something and may not, but they'll probably have at least 4 QBs on the roster for training camp, and if the guy can actually throw it, it'll certainly help the defense prep for offenses in scout team practice.

If I were GM and things fell exactly the way I wanted
The draft is obviously a lottery and you never quite know what's going to be available when you pick.  The Packers will be afforded the opportunity to draft the best player available in most cases and there should be some options available.  Here's what I'd do each round (note they'll get 1-2 compensatory picks as well and those are just guesses as to what they'll get rewarded).

1 - DT/DE
2 - ILB
3 - RB
4 - C/G
5 - WR
Compensatory - DL
6 - QB
7 - OLB
Compensatory - S

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Packers Salary Cap Situation

So the burning question is who will be in and who will be out in Green Bay for the 2013-2014 season. While most pundits are focusing on possible coaching changing, a few are focusing on the forgone conclusion that the Packers will be without the services of numerous veteran players who will part via free agency or through contract termination. Before jumping to those conclusions, let's educate everyone on the current salary cap situation. Special thanks to for their salary statistics.

The salary cap for 2013 is going to remain flat. That means the Packers can expect to field another season of a 120.6 million dollar cap.

Here are the figures for their roster: *Denotes Projected Starter

Name                           Salary                          Year of Free Agency

                                                                        UFA = Unrestricted Free Agent

                                                                        RFA = Restricted Free Agent

Aaron Rodgers*            10.250 million             (2015 - UFA)
Graham Harrell           630k                            (2014 - RFA)

John Kuhn                   2.6 million                   (2014 - UFA)
Alex Green                  700k                            (2015 - UFA)
James Starks                600k                            (2014 - UFA)
Brandon Saine            555k                            (2014 - RFA)
DuJuan Harris*             465k                            (2015 - UFA)

Jordy Nelson*               4.025 million               (2015 - UFA)
James Jones*                 3.75 million                 (2014 - UFA)
Randall Cobb*              875k                            (2015 - UFA)

Jermichael Finley*        8.75 million                 (2014 - UFA)
Andrew Quarless        676k                            (2014 - UFA)
DJ Williams                 604k                            (2015 - UFA)
Ryan Taylor                570k                            (2015 - UFA)

Josh Sitton*                  5.25 million                 (2017 - UFA)
Jeff Saturday             3.750 million                (2014 - UFA) No Penalty if released
TJ Lang*                       3.1 million                   (2017 - UFA)
Bryan Bulaga*              2.125 million               (2015 - UFA)
Derek Sherrod             1.8 million                   (2015 - UFA)
Marshall Newhouse*    577k                            (2014 - UFA)
Greg Van Roten          480k                            (2015 - RFA)
Don Barclay                480k                            (2015 - RFA)

Ryan Pickett*               6.7 million                   (2014 - UFA)
BJ Raji*                        6.195 million               (2014 - UFA)
Mike Neal                   1.042 million               (2014 - UFA)
Jerel Worthy                901k                            (2016 - UFA)
CJ Wilson*                    588k                            (2014 - UFA)
Mike Daniels               555k                            (2016 - UFA)
Jordan Miller               480k                            (2015 - RFA)

AJ Hawk*                     7.05 million                 (2016 - UFA)
Desmond Bishop*        4.964 million               (2015 - UFA)
Clay Mathews*             2.6725 million             (2014 - UFA)
Nick Perry*                   1.704 million               (2016 - RFA)
Brad Jones                  630k                            (2013 - UFA)
DJ Smith                     580k                            (2015 - UFA)
Jamari Lattimore         557k                            (2014 - RFA)
Terrell Manning           523k                            (2016 - UFA)
Dezman Moses            481k                            (2015 - RFA)

Charles Woodson*        10 million                    (2015 - UFA)
Tramon Williams*         7.4 million                   (2015 - UFA)
Jarrett Bush                 1.8 million                   (2015 - UFA)
Morgan Burnett*          850k                            (2014 - UFA)
Casey Hayward          752k                            (2016 - UFA)
Davon House              630k                            (2015 - UFA)
MD Jennings               555k                            (2014 - RFA)
Jerron McMillian        555k                            (2016 - UFA)

Mason Crosby*             3.15 million                 (2016 - UFA)
Tim Masthay*               1.005 million               (2017 - UFA)
Brett Goode*                821k                            (2016 - UFA)


Total Salary $115.7525 currently under contract

4.8475 million under the cap

8.5975 under the cap after Saturday is released

Restricted Free Agency Tenders (2012 but with a flat cap, these numbers should be about the same)
First Round 2.742 million
Second Round 1.927 million
Right of First Refusal/Original Round 1.26 million

2013 Unrestricted Free Agents:
Cedric Benson
Ryan Grant
Greg Jennings
Donald Driver
Evan Dietrich-Smith*
Eric Walden

2013 Restricted Free Agents:
Tom Crabtree
Robert Francois
Frank Zombo
Sam Shields*

2013 Exclusive Rights Free Agents: (will sign for the minimum)
Jeremy Ross (480k)
Jarrett Boykin (480k)

So what does this mean for the 2013-14 Green Bay Packers?  First off, changes are going to have to be made to the roster.  Assuming a draft salary pool of approximately 6 million dollars (estimating a hair high here), they've got about 3.5 million to work with on their roster (after Jeff Saturday is released). 

Resigning their own:

Cedric Benson - Unless he's willing to take a veteran's minimum contract and the Packers are interested, don't expect him back.  They were basically 12-4 without him.  I can't see them going back to him.

Ryan Grant - See Cedric Benson.  The fact is that he actually performed better than Benson did overall, but by the time Grant was on the team, the offensive line was also performing better

Greg Jennings - I'd love to see him back, but he's looking for $11 million a year.  Not going to happen in Green Bay, and if it does, the Packers would have to really cut someone important (see Charles Woodson).  They still are three deep at WR on the team without Jennings

Donald Driver - Green Bay hopes he retires, and even though they didn't give him the swan song he was hoping for, don't be surprised if they try to bring him back as a low-ranking coach.  Donald has indicated that he wants to play though, it just won't be for the Packers as they are committed to developing some younger talent.

Evan Dietrich-Smith - The Packers need to target him as their number one unrestricted free agent priority.  As the Jeff Saturday experiment failed, expect them to make a move as soon as possible to wrap Dietrich-Smith up for 2-3 years.  Money will be tight to do this though.

Eric Walden - Unless he's willing to play for the minimum, he won't be back.  He was putting together some pretty good tape over the last month of the season (minus the 2nd Vikings game), but the tape he put out there against San Francisco was embarrassing. 

Tom Crabtree  - Will probably receive a right of first refusal contract, especially with Quarless still not recovered.  That will cost the packers 1.26 million for him to get a chance to make the roster again.  Otherwise, they may let him walk in restricted and try to resign him for cheaper later.

Robert Francois - Unless he's an exclusive rights free agent (and I'm not entirely sure he isn't), I wouldn't expect him back.  He's a special teamer who can be replaced.  If he's back, it's for the minimum.

Frank Zombo - Due to injuries and an inability to even got on the field when healthy, he won't be back unless the team has exclusive rights for him still (I don't think they do on this one though).  He could be brought back as a minimum salary guy.

Sam Shields - He is priority number one in restricted free agency  He is going to cost them at least 1.9 million dollars for a second round tender and it could go higher at 2.742 million if they go with a first.  I would not be surprised if a team jumped on him at a second round tender and the Packers cannot hope to match.  He's young, a starter on a winning team, and had a very solid season.  In a predominantly passing league, the Packers need 4 corners to match up, and shields is clearly one of those guys.

Additional Notes:
Note as well that in 2014-15 season, the Packers have 12 unrestricted free agents (including Raji, Mathews, Jones, Finley, and Burnett) and 4 restricted free agents.  All decisions in 2013 need to keep 2014 in mind.  Paying Shields a long-term contract could jeopardize the Packers ability to sign Mathews, Raji, Jones, Finley, and/or Burnett).  Of course, giving Shields a restricted tender now makes it all the less likely he'll be back in 2014 as he'll be added to the unrestricted pile then.  Further, quarterbacks are the only position where contracts are often extended two years before they are due, meaning Rodgers would be added to that pile as well. 

Luckily for the Packers, however, the salary cap is projected to increase significantly in the 2014 season.  It would seem that the Packers may have planned for this all along, but it still doesn't mean they won't tighten their belt this year.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Vikings-Packers game analysis

The Positives:

My keys to the game focused on stopping Ponder (or the passing game as it were) first and foremost. The Packers did just that. It was hard to tell if Webb simply did himself in or if the coverage was that good (and I'm guessing Webb was entirely awful), but the Packers got the Vikings one-dimensional and were able to focus on the run.

Aaron Rodgers took what was in front of him while the game was on the line. He did take more chances as the game got out of control. The little dump off passes to the running backs (Harris and Kuhn in particular) were extremely effective. They took what the cover-2 gave them and made the Vikings pay whenever they went to man coverage.

The Packers controlled the turnover battle, dominating Webb and then taking advantage of a special teams mistake later. It almost seemed like every time Webb had the ball in his hands the ball was going to be up for grabs.

McCarthy managed the game quite well. They probably scored too early at the end of the first half, and McCarthy wisely challenged the no TD call on Harris's eventually ruled TD run. Rodgers was impeccable at setting up the offense despite rolling in numerous packages. McCarthy kept it a little more simple this week basically keeping packages in for multiple plays or sometimes an entire drive.

It was also nice to see that most players wore at least somewhat appropriate winter gear. Still too many sleeveless warriors out there.

They held Adrian Peterson to 99 total yards. Once they were behind, they had to abandon the run.

The Negatives:

Starting the game in the no-huddle after the Vikings chewed the clock to start the game with 9 runs and 1 pass for a field goal, the Packers could not get on track and quickly went three-and-out. I have long said that the no huddle is a great weapon, but it needs to be used after the offense gets a first down on a drive so that at least the defense gets a couple minute breather as a bare minimum.

Masthay was only so-so on the punts. He's had a below-average last few weeks. Punting in the bad weather is difficult, but his specialty is the aussie-style pooch punt and it has been poorly placed of late. Kickoff coverage has been bad the last couple of weeks. It really misses Davon House. Hopefully his return will shore up some of that team's weaknesses.

The Packers had an inability to put the Vikings away with a long drive in the fourth quarter is disappointing considering how effective the run game was at times. Incomplete passes don't take time off the clock.

The Packers were pretty poor on 3rd down as well. 0-4 in the first half before finally getting a couple in a row to open the 3rd quarter. Still drives stalled on third down all night. The team either does not execute or goes for the homerun on 3rd down just too often.

Rating the Packers: (1 is bad, 5 is excellent); extra analysis given if appropriate

Quarterbacks - 4

Rodgers was fantastic for the first 2.5 quarters but as the game progressed, he tended to go for the big play too much and hold onto the ball too often taking sacks.

Running Backs - 2.5

Harris carried the rock effectively at times, as a single cut runner who runs as hard as anyone. When he sits down in his cut, he is extremely low to the ground, making him hard to spot and also makes him able to cut very abruptly. He was phenomenal on the TD carry refusing to go down. He really sniffs out the end zone. Grant was the odd man out much of the game. He got a short yardage carry that got stuffed and was given a toss play designed more for Harris that went for negative yardage as well. Grant is not good on the toss play, taking his eyes off the defense to catch the ball. Kuhn got stuffed on two goal line carries before finally reaching pay dirt on the third. He was effective on the check down, scoring again on a Rodgers dump-off. His pass protection was spot on and he took all of the snaps in the 2 minute drill.

Wide Receivers - 4

The unit was clearly better than the counterparts on the other side of the field. They did a good job of getting open in man, beating press and finding holes in the zone. Finley had a drop in the end zone (just his 2nd drop in the last 11 games believe it or not). I also thought their blocking on the edge during the first half was very good. Driver was inactive for the game, entirely because he doesn't play special teams. Cobb was pretty silent in his return to game action, but I'm guessing they didn't put too much in the game plan with his uncertain status. Crabtree did good in the check down role, but in a route with him and Taylor both out there running routes, Rodgers could not find anyone open and took a sack.

Offensive Line - 3

At times they were dominant. Newhouse had some fantastic blocks on Jared Allen that were just film-worthy textbook blocks. The interior line managed to get to the second level on running plays far more consistently than they did when Saturday was the center, and Dietrich-Smith has been effective at that position for the most part. Both he and Barclay are largely effective against the run. The line getting a hat on the linebacker is the difference between a two-yard run and a 5 yard run; it also opens the cut back lane. They still can't force the run when they need to though. In pass protection, they were decent. It's hard to tell sometimes without seeing the all-22 film if Rodgers is at fault or if the line is at fault. Still, keeping the QBs jersey clean is their job and they can improve there still.

Defensive Line - 4.5

The defensive line probably put in its best performance of the year. They penetrated regularly and forced Peterson away from his most preferred path. Raji is just too much for the Vikings to handle and if they double him it opens up for Mike Neal, CJ Wilson, or Ryan Pickett to go one on one. Raji, though without a sack on the year, has been rushing better than ever. He is a force out there and could be the MVP of the defense.

Linebackers - 3.5

A big bounce back game for this group. Walden lost contain a couple of times early but the Packers adjusted by moving Woodson down to the line and then Walden seemed to gain a lot of confidence and was a force from then on out. The group as a whole stayed home defensively much better and waited for Peterson to come to them. In coverage, Jones was beat a few times but was let off the hook with drops by Carlson. Moses over pursued too often and saw less time as the relevant portion of the game progressed. Hawk was largely absent. Mathews was excellent by forcing numerous bad runs and a fumble.

Defensive backfield - 3.5

Another bounce back game for this group as well. They tackled Peterson much better, thanks to Woodson being where Tramon was last week and Shields being a more willing defender. Burnett through his body around all night. Shields had a very good game. Still the team broke coverage late on Jenkin's touchdown and still gave up too many plays against a very sub-par group of receivers. MD Jennings seemed to play a lot more than McMillian. The group overall though, was active and had high energy.

Special Teams - 3

Crosby's kickoffs were decent. He hit is only chip shot field goal. The kick coverage was poor, but the team did get a fortunate fumble on punt coverage. Masthay's kicks were too short and with too little hang time. The group as a whole has missed Davon House. Hopefully that will help.

Next up:

@ San Francisco

Ponder inactive tonight Joe Webb Scouting report

He was questionable, but I didn't think the Vikings would inactivate him.  Surprising considering he finished the game last week and did not miss a play. 

We haven't seen Joe Webb since the preseason as Ponder is one of a handful of QBs to have taken every snap this season.  That's not necessarily good for Webb because Ponder has had some horrible games.

Here's my scouting report on Joe Webb (6-4 220).
Webb doesn't play as big as he is.  In the past he has gotten nicked up pretty easily.  Once hit a few times, his efficiency really drops.  He's a better runner than a thrower and is capable of running the veer option (think RGIII in Washington) but unlike RGIII, he does not have the accuracy or decision-making skills.  He doesn't see the field well and locks in on a specific target pre-snap too often.  As a result, he does a poor job of looking off the safeties.  When he misses with accuracy it's high, so if the Packers can play two deep safety coverage, there might be a few balls up for grabs.  Webb prefers to scramble to his throwing side (right) so the Packers will be challenged to contain from the center to the right sideline. 

Now, that could all change because, as I've said we haven't seen him all year and he's still a youngish project of a QB.  That said, if he had improved to the point where he would have challenged Ponder for a start, one would think the coaches would have at least inserted him in late in a few of those games where Ponder was just abysmal. 

Backing him up is McLeod Bethel-Thompson who is even more of an unknown.  He wasn't able to hit a broad-side of a barn in preseason and his footwork was terrible, but the guy can sling it legitimately 60 yards down the field without a lot of effort.  He's got a massive arm but everything else about him is a project.

Vikings-Packers Keys to the Game

Keys to the game against the Minnesota Vikings
1)  Stop Christian Ponder.  You'd think the first key is to stop Adrian Peterson.  As I tweeted earlier, this is not actually the case.  In Peterson's 4 games outdoors this season, he has rushed for 579 yards and averaged 7.9 yards per carry.  Yes, that's almost eight yards a carry.  The most interesting fact about all of this is that the Vikings are 0-4 in these games, giving a lot of evidence that stopping Adrian is not the way to go. 

So that leaves the passing game.  Ponder, when outdoors is 80/142 (56%) for 693 yds with 4 TD and 6 INT for a 61.8 Rating. These numbers are Trent Dilfer-esque.  And really this all makes sense.  In the NFL, teams must have some level of balance to be effective and win.  It's far easier to take away a team's weakness than it is to take away their strength. 

2)  Control the ball.  The game will likely come down to whoever has the ball last.  The Packers were able to pull away in their first meeting after a grueling 10 minute 56 second drive to start the 4th quarter.  That drive made the ground game of the Vikings irrelevant because they could not stop the clock.

3)  Win the turnover battle.  Teams that win the turnover battle win at a greater than 70% margin.  The Packers typically force a large number of turnovers while doing a good job of doing giving many back.  Charles Woodson may help a lot in this area.  Chances are good he would have intercepted the pass M.D. Jennings let go through his hands for a TD last week.  That would have been the difference right there.

4)  Manage the game.  For whatever reason, when a game is on the line, Mike McCarthy struggles to manage the game effectively.  In the first half against the Vikings, McCarthy blew all three of his timeouts early, not allowing the Packers to challenge a clear incompletion, which then ensued in a TD for the Vikings.  McCarthy needs to get the plays in efficiently and personel on the field quickly.  Simplifying the offense is important for this.  Rotating WRs, TEs, and RBs constantly may keep the team fresh and defenses off balance, but it also leads to confusion at times.  Luckily the Packers are at home and won't have to battle the pumped in distortion that the Vikings use in the Metrodome.  The timeout in most question last week, however, was the first one taken on 4th and 11 after looking like they were going to go for it.  Taking a time out and then pooch punting is a waste.  Take the delay of game, and still pooch punt it.  Lastly, know the rules.  Throwing the challenge flag was clearly a terrible choice on the TD review and McCarthy got lucky that the review was already initiated.  Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers both knew the rule and Rodgers was about as angry as I've ever seen him for the call. 

5)  Take what's there.  Playing the Vikings can be frustrating because the windows are tight for anything deep and it's hard to sustain a drive for 80 yards with 4-5 yard dumpoffs all the way down the field.  The Packers need to stay focused and take what's there.  Doing that enough will open up the seem and allow the Packers to take advantage of their one-step-too-slow linebackers.

Keep warm.  I tweeted about this earlier, but the NFL has a LONG way to go in understanding how core temperature plays in muscle performance.  Going sleaveless may make you seem tough, but it just shows how uneducated you are about the cold.  Muscles are not nearly effective when cold, injury is far more common, and recovery time much higher. 

For anyone who wants to brave cold temperatures here are my recommendations after years of skiing in temperatures as low as -20 and with even more severe windchills: 

First off, polypropylene is your friend.  Cotton is your enemy. Wool is good too but it's thick and expensive.  If you're just going to stand there, wool is just fine, but for athletic wear, polypro is the cat's meow.  It's thin, stretches well, breathes, and when layered properly is extremely warm while wicking away the sweat that causes the chill to come in. 

My recommendations: 

Layer 1:  Running tights - the synthetic fabric is comfortable, form-fitting and designed to keep sweat away from the skin. 

Layer 2:  Polypropylene - this is good.  In temperatures as low as 10 degrees, one layer of this is enough.  Below 10 degrees, add another layer (that'll get you to -20 no problem). 

Layer 3:  Outer shell.  For the NFL player, this is the uniform.  The shell should be wind resistant (but not wind proof so it breathes) but it doesn't have to actually be warm as long as it isn't cotton. 

For socks, I wear smart wool or polypropylene.  Smart wool is fairly thin.  My dad, believe it or not, wore nylons for a while because they were thin and the synthetic fabric wicked sweat away from the foot.  I'm guessing it wouldn't pass in an NFL lockeroom though.

Hat:  Stocking cap is mandatory.  You lose a tone of heat from your head.  Also a baclava is nice or at least a turtle neck (not cotton again) to protect the top of your chest from leaking heat.  The goal is to keep heat in and moisture out.  Cotton doesn't wick the moisture and then your body must not only heat the air around the body but also the water in the clothing, which it just isn't capable of doing.

Using the above techniques, I've been sweating in -20 degrees and have had to open or vent my shell.