Visit to McCarthy's Hometown...........Kenny Mayne

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

It's Been Awhile.............

It's been sometime since I've written on this blog. What an amazing time for WI sports and what a bad time to take a break from blogging.

What's happened in WI Sports while on hiatus:

* GREEN BAY PACKERS WIN SUPER BOWL XLV!!!!! The Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 in Arlington, TX at the new $1.2 billion dollar Cowboys stadium, known as "Jerry World". Aaron Rodgers was named Super Bowl MVP, throwing for over 300 yards and 3 TD's. The game was as exciting as it gets for Packer fans, who watched their beloved Green & Gold jump out to a 21-3 lead early in the 2nd quarter. The Packers dominated early, but injuries mounted and before halftime the Packers were without WR Donald Driver, CB Charles Woodson, S Nick Collins, & CB Sam Shields. Both Driver and Woodson would not return to the game. Those injuries allowed the Steelers to battle back, but the Packers prevailed and brought the Lombardi trophy back to where it belongs......the true Titletown, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

* UW Football has a solid season, winning the Big Ten Championship and earning a berth in the "Grand Daddy of 'em All", The Rose Bowl. Unfortunately the #5 Badgers lost a nail biter to the #3 TCU Horned Frogs, 21-19. UW will be losing several players to graduation and one that has opted out early for the NFL draft. DE JJ Watt and OL Gabe Carimi (Outland Trophy winner for best Lineman in NCAA) are both projected to be selected in the 1st round of next month's NFL Draft. Badgers will also be losing QB Scott Tolzien, who won the Johnny Unitas Gold Arm Award, which is given to the top Senior QB in the nation. Other notable losses for the Badgers are TE Lance Kendricks and OG John Moffit, both are projected anywhere from round 2-4.

* Milwaukee Brewers go "ALL IN" once again trading 4 players during the MLB "Winter Meetings" for Pitcher and former CY Young, Zack Greinke. However just a few days ago, Greinke broke several ribs in a pickup basketball game and will begin the season on the DL (missing approximately 2-3 starts). We'll have to remember those 2-3 starts in the final weeks of the season many, many, many months from now. The Brewers gave up SS Alcides Escobar and CF Lorenzo Cain who both were on the Brewers roster last year. Escobar was their starting SS and was nearly untouchable as a prospect for the past several years. Cain replaced CF Carlos Gomez after injuries and poor performance. The other two players involved were minor league P Jake Odorizzi and P Jeremy Jeffress. Brewers also made a trade from Shaun Marcum from Toronto for minor leaguer Brett Lawrie.

What we have to look forward too:

* 2011 NFL Draft
* MLB Season and the new look Milwaukee Brewers with a pitching rotation of Zack Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, insert #5 starter here ???
* NFL Labor dispute and possible Lockout
(Wouldn't say I'm "Looking Forward" to this, but it is something to keep an eye on. No trades or signings, other than internal team moves can be made currently)
* MARCH MADNESS!!! UW Badgers are a lock; Marquette is on the bubble but should get in
* NBA Playoffs and seeing if the Milwaukee Bucks can squeak in. They're currently 3 games out of the #8 and final spot in the Eastern division.

So lots happened and with time permitting in my life, I'll go into greater depth on the Super Bowl game and moves that have been made for the Green Bay Packers. I may also review the UW Badgers Football season and how they look going into 2011. And I'll also take a look back at the Milwaukee Brewers offseason moves and what to expect in 2011!!!

More to come and lots to recap. Instead of daily, this might turn into Wisconsin Sports Weekly.......again time permitting.

Matty Z

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Super Bowl Champion Saints have Lombardi Ties

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton excused himself, walked to a table and brought the Vince Lombardi Trophy back with him to the podium where he was conducting a post-Super Bowl news conference Monday morning.

Payton wanted to share the special meaning the trophy has to New Orleans, the Saints organization and especially a particular member of his coaching staff. To him, it was almost ordained that the Lombardi Trophy, the symbol of Super Bowl victory, was in the Saints' hands.

"Last night at about midnight, we grabbed this trophy and one of our coaches, his name is Joe Lombardi - he's Vince Lombardi's grandson - and Joe Lombardi, his father Vince Jr., his two brothers sat and posed with this trophy - the four of them while pictures were taken," Payton said. "I just thought to myself you've got to be kidding me.

"If you believe in heaven, and you believe Vince Lombardi's there looking down on his grandson, it doesn't get any better. This is a guy that coaches our quarterbacks, coaches Drew Brees, and here's a trophy that's named after his grandfather. You can't get enough of this."

The mystical greatness of the trophy did not preclude Payton from sleeping with it by his side Sunday night - "I probably drooled on it," he joked - but it was in its rightful place in the morning and before long was in New Orleans on display for the team's faithful fans.

The postgame party at the Saints' hotel lasted late into the night, and for at least one special member of the team, the following morning had dreamlike qualities.

"I had to wake up this morning and turn to my wife and say, 'Did yesterday really happen?' " Brees said. "And she said, 'Yes, it did.' What a special moment, something that you dream about as a kid.

"Our victory last night was the culmination of four years of hard work, fighting through a lot of adversity, ups and downs, and more importantly than that, representing a city that has been through so much - been through so many struggles and hardships."

The Saints weren't favorites to win the Super Bowl at the start of the season, but their victory Sunday at Sun Life Stadium stamped them as the best team in the National Football League. They haven't convinced everybody of that fact, evidenced by Las Vegas oddsmakers ranking them behind the Indianapolis Colts (13-2) and San Diego Chargers (8-1) as favorites for Super Bowl XLV.

It's not bad enough they were ranked below the Colts, but they were tied with New England - a team they crushed in November - at 10-1, according to betting site The Green Bay Packers were tied with the Dallas Cowboys at 12-1.

The odds might speak to Las Vegas' belief that the Saints were more of a team of destiny than dominance, but it also reflects the potentially difficult off-season they face. They are expected to extend Brees' contract - and make him one of the highest-paid players - and they have roughly 25 players whose contracts expire in March.

Among those who will definitely be unrestricted free agents are safety Darren Sharper, linebacker Scott Fujita and center Nick Leckey. In addition, eight other prominent players would be unrestricted if there is a salary cap and will be restricted if there isn't, as expected.

Among those players are left tackle Jammal Brown, running back Mike Bell, guard Jahri Evans, receiver Lance Moore, end Anthony Hargrove and receiver Courtney Roby. The Saints also must decide whether they want to carry running back Reggie Bush at a salary cap number of more than $13 million.

"Somewhere last night we talked about Dallas, Texas (site of Super Bowl XLV), and one of the greatest stadiums now that our league knows, and there's probably never enough in regards to the challenge," Payton said of the upcoming season. "That's the neat thing about it. When you get a quarterback like Drew Brees, who's in the prime of his career, it's not enough.

"Last night was great, and yet there's still something that burns in you to separate yourself more. So we'll spend a little bit of time here refueling, recharging the batteries and getting ourselves prepared for the challenges ahead. We know that it'll be difficult and yet, no more difficult than getting this team going after Katrina . . . "

For now, the Saints can revel in their remarkable season - beating five Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, winning 13 in a row and helping revive a hurricane-ravaged city. They deserve at least some time to celebrate.

Next season? They'll get to that after the party dies.

"Our players will be ready for the challenge," Payton said. "We're young. We're hungry. One thing about this game, this Super Bowl, and when you have an opportunity to participate the week of and in the event itself, it just pulls you that much closer to wanting to be in it again."

Article Courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Monday, February 8, 2010

Madison Star, Steve Stricker, Wins by Two Strokes

In a tournament everyone expected him to win, Madison's Steve Stricker was trying not to lose.

Instead of firing at flags and trying to make birdies, which allowed him to build a six-shot lead at Riviera, he suddenly found himself playing it safe and trying not to make bogeys. Instead of having a chance to break the 25-year-old tournament scoring record, he feared matching a PGA Tour record for blowing the biggest lead.

The Northern Trust Open ultimately ended Sunday the way everyone thought it would - Stricker in tears after another victory.

"I just knew it was going to be hard," Stricker said after closing with a 1-under 70 for a two-shot victory over Luke Donald. "You're playing a different game than what you normally play. You played scared - at least I did there for a while."

Back-to-back birdies at the turn settled him down. Another clutch putt for par on the 15th hole essentially clinched it for him.

Stricker won for the fourth time in his last 15 starts, moving up to No. 2 in the world for the second time in his career. It was his eighth career victory, and the eighth time he couldn't make it through his TV interview without wiping tears from his eyes.

This time, all it took was a reminder of where he was four years ago, when he lost his PGA Tour card.

The final round felt as though it lasted just as long.

His lead was cut in half after four holes after Stricker missed a short par putt. It was down to two shots when Donald made a 10-foot birdie on the fifth hole. It might have vanished entirely had Donald not missed birdie putts about the same length on the next two holes.

"If I got really hot with the putter, I could have maybe caught Steve," said Donald, who closed with a 66. "He played nicely coming down the stretch, and I think he was a deserved winner. But at least I gave him a little run for his money."

Stricker finished at 16-under 268 and earned $1.152 million to go over $25 million for his career.

This is the second time Stricker has gone to No. 2 in the world - he also got there in September after winning in Boston - although he likely still would have to win at least three more times to catch Tiger Woods, who is out indefinitely as he tries to save his marriage.

Dustin Johnson, who shot a 74 on Saturday to fall out of the lead, made one last run and got within three shots. He shot a 66 and tied for third with J.B. Holmes (67).

Stricker built his lead back to four shots on the back nine when he started playing cautiously and saw it start slipping away.

Then came the 15th, when he missed his 4-iron to the left and chipped poorly to 10 feet, only to make his biggest putt of the round.

"My father-in-law always says there's a defining moment when you're going to win a golf tournament," Stricker said. "And I think that was it right there. It allowed me to keep a three-shot lead going into the last three holes."

Phil Mickelson, trying to become the first player to win three straight years at Riviera, had a 73 and finished 14 shots behind.

Mark Wilson of Menomonee Falls finished at 1-over 285.

Article courtesy of Milwauke Journal Sentinel

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pack Lose a Heartbreaker in OT, Falling 51-45 to the Cards

WOW what a game. Neither Defense showed up and the Packers at one point found themselves down 31-10. The Packers turned over the ball 2 times in their first three possessions on Offense.

Then the dust settled and the Pack came roaring back scoring at will. Probably the best call of McCarthy's career came early in the 3rd quarter when after scoring, the Packers fooled the Cards with an onside kick, recovering it with ease. The surprised Cards didn't even know what hit them. A few minutes later Aaron Rodgers and the Packers scored again, putting up 14 points in less than 5 minutes.

But the Packers Defense, ranked #2 in the league after the regular season, just could not stop the Cards highpower attack. Both teams traded scores in what turned out to be the highest scoring playoff game in the history of the NFL.

The Packers eventually would tie the game, but the Cards had just under 2:00 minutes to score and win the game. Neil Rackers, the Cards kicker, who had only missed two field goals all year, blew a 34 yard FG to win it at the end of regulation.

The Packers then won the coin toss in OT, and on the first play in OT, Aaron Rodgers just missed a wide open Greg Jennings that would have been 6 points and a Pack win for sure. That's a pass that Rodgers will play over and over as he watches the playoffs from home!! The play brought back memories of Favre to Jennings against Denver in OT, and the Packers game against the Bears in week 1, when Greg Jennings scored on a bomb with little time on the clock.

A few plays later, Rodgers was nailed by the Cards Mike Adams who grabbed his facemask and Rodgers fumbled, then kicked the ball in the air, allowing Karlos Dansby to pick it up in the air, and run in for the game winning play in OT.

NO CALL BY THE OFFICALS, and a lot of unhappy Packers fans!!! The play has been the subject of debate over the past few days, with most people in favor of the Pack. Too bad for the Pack that this controversial play ended the Packers season. Now TT and the Pack get to focus on what some consider the Packers brass does the best at and that's the draft!!! Plenty more to come as the offseason never ends for the Green & Gold.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


The Regular Season is over and the Packers have made the Playoffs as a Wildcard. They've been playing great football of late and have been playing as a TEAM. As the Packers prepare for their Playoff game on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, we take a look back on a few games and also talk a little bit about where the Pack is today on both sides of the ball.........enjoy!

So looking back, Pack should be the #2 seat. Think about (3) specific games that the Packers SHOULD have won period.

Game# 1: Bengals……….Bengals ended up being a hell of a team. If we had the mind set that they weren’t the Bengals of old, we might have stepped up our game enough that we wouldn’t have lost.

Game#2 Bucs………..Although this game ended up being a wake up call to the Pack, no way should they have lost it especially after being up and letting a rookie QB come back and kick our butts. Should have won, but good for the team to lose that one.

Game#3 Steelers………Sure GB gave up 500+ yards passing to Rothisbur……….whatever, Nice Pick Cower!!!! The Pack were winning that game as ugly as it was for our Defense. We then go into classic late 4th quarter prevent and give up an amazingly perfect pass on seriously GREAT coverage by Bell (he’s a bum anyway). I mean C Wood couldn’t have protected it better, it was just a GREAT pass and an amazing catch by the WR to win it. Should have won game 3 out of the 3 games on my list.

So with that said, the Packers could have won the division and had a 1st round bye. Not complaining, just stated facts. The facts are as successful as an 11-5 season is, we seriously could be 12-4 or 13-3 easily if it wasn’t for a few freak plays. Just goes to show you that on any given Sunday.

I think going into the playoffs right now, on the AFC side, the Colts and Chargers are the scariest teams who are playing well. Colts have a lot of injuries but are getting it done. Just a solid team all around. Packers brass should pay close attention. The Chargers are by far, hands down, the hottest and scariest team in the NFL right now. Their D is clicking at the right time and playmakers are stepping up. On Offense, Rivers is having an MVP year and is doing it quietly!!!! Lots of weapons, scary team.

On the NFC side, again two teams are scary and are playing amazing football. One is Philly. They have very dangerous weapons on Offense in Brent Celek, TE, Desean Jackson, WR (probably one of the most explosive players in the league right now), and don’t forget about Vick, McNabb (playing solid ball), & Christ………Brian Westbrook (concussions or not, it’s freakin Brian Westbrook).

The other team is our very own Green Bay Packers. Now I’m not just saying the Packers because I live and breathe Green & Gold, they seriously are on scary team clicking at the right time. Their Offense looks like it did in preseason when we all thought nobody could stop us. Finley is lights out period……..enough said!!! Jennings is clicking now after a slow start, Grant is rushing the ball extremely well (as he always does late in the year when you need it the most), Driver is our go-to-guy on any down and still playing at a VERY high level. The O-Line is finally clicking and playing well. I attribute that to the arrival of Mark Tauscher. Before he was signed and then got a game or two under his belt, we were on the way to A-Rog becoming the next David Carr. A solid QB with a ton of talent who got his lights knocked out more than any QB in history. Thank god we got it together. Now that’s just on the offensive side of the ball. That doesn’t include Brandon Jackson’s pass blocking or 3rd down success, Hall/Khun/Quinn Johnson’s exceptional blocking play, Lee’s ability to block, and Nelson finally coming alive on ST.

That was just O. The Packers Defense is tops in the league!!!!! #1 against the Rush!!!! A +23 (or something like that) turnover ratio (SICK!!!!!!!), the play of our LB’s, specifically the rookies Matthews & Brad Jones who seriously both could/should be in the Pro Bowl (well Matthews for sure, Jones needs some playing time but has made all of Packer Nation forget Kampman). Hell even Hawk has been more successful than previous year’s. Barnett has come back from injury to have another GREAT year worthy of Pro Bowl. Jolly, Jenkins, and late in the season Raji have been HOUSES!!!!!!!!! Great underrated players!!!! And our Secondary needs no explanation!!! C Wood, Defensive Player of Year (HANDS DOWN!!!) and Collins another Pro Bowl year with 6 INT’s………

Need Crosby to step up his game!!! Need ST, return game to wake up………… it did a bit on Sunday. ST, can be the difference in the game. Especially with field position. Packers only glaring weakness is SPECIAL TEAMS!!!! STEP IT UP BOYZ

Packers are hot!!! Playing well as a TEAM. We’re a dangerous team who needs to play smart, get TO’s, and play penalty free (or as close to it as possible).

BRING ON THE PLAYOFFS BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GO PACK GO!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

5 In a Row, PACKERS WIN against Bears Improve to 9-4

WOW it has been a long time since my last post. Had PC problems, internet connection problems, you name it. But I'm back to post again and what better way to start is after another Packer win over the Bears 21-14, improving to 9-4 and staying strong as one of the leaders for NFC Wildcard.

Here's a quick recap of the game and some thoughts on the Packers so far this season. I promise, more to come!!!

Now Packers need to do a better job of putting teams away. After watching the 1st quarter I thought we were going to run away with this one……literally. The O-Line did another good job of keep ARog protected. I personally credit that to having Tauscher back on the line and in football shape. We SORELY missed his presence. The revolving door at RT has been filled and hopefully they’re a lot smarter this offseason but I’m sure TT will send him packing AGAIN.

Nice to see Grant get his. He ran like a man who WANTED 1000 yards, and he did it very quietly. Never been a big Grant fan and I still think the Pack lack to real “game-breaker” at RB. This year’s draft is extremely deep at RB. Most likely TT will address RB in middle rounds 3-5 where you can still find excellent talent, especially this year.

I actually liked the 1st play calling by M3. Nice combination off Runs and Passes. We all know how pass happy M3 is so great to see him stick with the run. However 3rd and over 4 yards does not mean hand the ball off to Green or Jackson. Gotta still work on that. Having Finley back has been a real treat. He is going to be an absolute threat for years to come. He’s finally proving he had all the talent to back the hype. Always had a rap of being a young cocky superb athlete who needed to grow up. The Packers Offense really needs a TE and one who can run the middle of the field. It’s great to see how Defenses get totally screwed with Finley in there. M3 spilt him out wide and ran him up the middle of the field. I’ll take ANY LB in the NFL on Finley and take Finley every time. Split him out and what 5-11 or 6ft DB can cover an athletic 6-5 TE like Finley. Who do you cover DD, Jennings, Finley. LOVE HIM!!!!!

Capers called another hell of a game. C-Wood got his and for sure is the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He’s an amazing talent and love him. That’s why I bought his jersey!!!!. Capers got created this week while 4 of his D-Lineman were injured. I heard Evan Dietrich Smith even had to play DL due to injuries. Capers unveiled a new formation called “psycho” with 1 down lineman and 5 LBs…………..5!!!!!!!!!! That’s using your depth to your advantage!!!! LOVE CAPERS, would hate to see him leave after 1 year. Only thing we got going for us to keep him, is his track record as a head coach, and the fact that the NFL trend is to hire young up-in-coming coaches. That and having Cower, Dungy, Shannahan, hell even Gruden (highly unlikely) ahead of him.

Steelers still scare me. Don’t let the record fool you either. This is a GREAT team with an unbelievably hard schedule. That’s what you get for winning the SB. They’re pissed and they are the TRUE 3-4 team. All others are trying to be them. Going to be a close defensive game. Like 13-7 or something like that.

Special teams continue to be a weakness and needs to be addressed ASAP or in offseason. Having Jordy Nelson as a warm body catch kickoffs and punts is not my idea of “Special”. Did you see Desean Jackson last night!!!!! Fantasy!!!! Now that’s special. That’s what the Packers need. Not Green or Nelson. Not C-Wood (I love him but gotta keep it real). Need to improve our returns ASAP. Field position is huge in close games. Need to improve ASAP!!! Punting game is marginal. Not much we can do there. Crosby, make a damn field goal. If I were him I’d rent and not buy a house in Green Bay. NFL stands for Not For Long the way he’s kicking. @#$%!!!!!!!!! Cannot miss field goals that NFL kickers SHOULD MAKE. 50+ I get it, I understand inconsistency….I get that. Missing 38 and 42 yarders is flat out unacceptable. My god if I hear Crosby one more time say he’s kicking the ball well, I’m gonna drive up to Green Bay and break my foot off in his a$$ and show him how to kick…….kick his a$$. @#$%!!!!!!!!!!

All and all I’m a happy man for a Monday morning. Always am after a Packer win and especially after a Packer – Bear win!!! GO PACK GO. Still have plenty of areas to improve but a W is a W and I’m good with that. 5 in a row is nothing to complain about. But this game should have been 48-7. Haven’t seen a game by the Pack like that since Packers – Redskins on MNF 8+ years ago.

Steeler week………stay sharp and keep focused!!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halfway Through 2009 Season.......A Tale of Two Teams

It's been quite some time since my last post and it only seems fitting that before this my last post had to do with the Packers going to MN to face Brett Favre. We've now completed that circus, falling to the Vikings for the second time this season in a 38-26 loss at Lambeau where Favre made his return to the Frozen Tundra. The game certainly lived up to the hype but in the end Favre got the last laugh.

Tom Silverstein has a great article in this morning's edition on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel taking a look at both the Packers and Vikings and how each team got to where they are now through free agency, trades, and Ted Thompson's favorite....the draft.

Eight weeks into the National Football League season there is one thing you can say with certainty:

The Minnesota Vikings are a better football team than the Green Bay Packers.

The 38-26 loss the Packers suffered at the hands of the Vikings Sunday at Lambeau Field closed the argument. It also may force the Packers to accept that the Vikings have more talent and have done a better job building their team for a Super Bowl run.

Most people who witnessed the game would find that hard to dispute.

"I'm not going to compare us to the Vikings other than to say that they beat us yesterday and a few weeks ago," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said Monday. "We have to do some things to improve a little bit. The whole point of the NFL season is your growth and your improvement during the course of the season and we hope to do that and get better."

Thompson conceded that the Vikings (7-1) are a better team than the Packers (4-3) right now, but he was not willing to hand them the NFC North title yet. Reminded that only two of the Packers' 10 victories since 2008 have been against teams that had a winning record at the time (Indianapolis and Chicago in '08), Thompson said the process of getting to be a great team isn't easy.

"A season is like a game and a game is broken down into plays," Thompson said. "Sometimes you get knocked down and you have to get back up. The whole point in the NFL is that you have to get back up. We lost a game, and now we have to get back up and get ready for the next one.

"I have faith in these players and faith in these coaches and faith in this organization. I think we have a good group of guys and I think we're going to do better."

But will they be better than the Vikings? No one would be willing to bet his house on that today.

The team that beat up the Packers both home and away arguably has also been outperforming the Packers during the past couple of off-seasons. The Vikings have added at least one big-time player each of the last four years and are to the point now where they may have as many as 11 players selected to the Pro Bowl this year.

Here's a year-by-year comparison:

2006: The Vikings added perennial Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson and reliable kicker Ryan Longwell in free agency. The Packers added Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett in free agency and drafted wide receiver Greg Jennings.

2007: The Vikings drafted all-pro running back Adrian Peterson and budding star receiver Sidney Rice and signed starting tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in free agency. The Packers didn't draft a single player who has made an impact as great as Rice (Justin Harrell was the first pick) and acquired running back Ryan Grant in a trade.

2008: The Vikings traded for Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen and signed receiver Bernard Berrian in free agency. The Packers signed backup linebacker Brandon Chillar in free agency and drafted one player with special talent, tight end Jermichael Finley, who is a backup.

2009: The Vikings signed future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre and drafted Percy Harvin, who has proved to be a dynamic returner and receiver, and right tackle Phil Loadholt, who has started seven of eight games. The Packers signed free agent offensive lineman Duke Preston (cut in training camp) and drafted nose tackle B.J. Raji, who has had no impact, and linebacker Clay Matthews, who has star potential.

It doesn't take a football genius to figure out who has been doing the better job acquiring talent. When asked Monday if he thought the Vikings were more talented, Packers coach Mike McCarthy admitted he was impressed with their lineup.

"Everybody has got talent," McCarthy said. "I think they've got a lot of really good players. I respect the ability of their players over there. I think it's very obvious. Their quarterback has made a big impact. That's something, that quarterback productivity, they haven't had in the last three years that we have played them.

"I think Percy Harvin, from a field-position standpoint, has made an impact, and their defense has been a staple over there for the last couple of years. They are a different team than they have been the last couple of years, there is no denying that."

The Packers, it seems, are a different team with the same old problems.

The transition to the 3-4 defense has been relatively smooth, but it has not produced the results promised. Yes, the Packers rank tied for fourth in total defense (283.4 yards per game allowed), but if you took away performances against the horrible Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns, the Packers would rank 21st (338 per game).

The offense, meanwhile, ranks ninth in total yards, but is on pace for 71 sacks, which would shatter the club record for a single season (62) and would put quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the top three all-time among individuals.

The loss to the Vikings Sunday exposed problems that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunday) or Detroit Lions (Nov. 26) might not be able to exploit, but the Dallas Cowboys (Nov. 15), San Francisco 49ers (Nov. 22), Baltimore Ravens (Dec. 7) and Pittsburgh Steelers (Dec. 20) definitely will.

"We're 4-3 for good reason," McCarthy said. "I think we have not handled two prime-time games very well. I'm confident that we'll learn from these experiences. I thought we would have learned more from the first game up there to this one. We had some repeated mistakes; that's frustrating and something that we take with full accountability as coaches.

"We have to look at our preparation because it did not get from the practice field to the game field for whatever reason. But I think these are definitely experiences, these two games against the Vikings, I think these are experiences that we can draw from."

One of those experiences is playing a game against a better team.

Article courtesy of Tom Silverstein from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Monday, October 5, 2009

Let the Duel Begin....................

Green Bay — Mike McCarthy has coached both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

If he were to put both quarterback's physical statistics on one of the magnetic boards the Green Bay Packers use to evaluate college players, he'd barely be able to tell the difference.

"If you look at their magnets when they're on the board, they're almost identical," McCarthy said. "Both have 10-inch hands. Both have 30-something-(inch) arm length. They're big-shoulder guys. They had very similar body types coming out. They both torque the hell out of the football."

The comparison stops there, however, when it comes to accomplishments. There are more than a few major differences between them.

Favre turns 40 on Saturday, holds almost every significant NFL passing record, already has a place waiting for him in the Hall of Fame and has won a Super Bowl. Rodgers is 25, has a losing record as a starting quarterback and has yet to prove he can carry a team emotionally and physically.

When the Packers meet the Minnesota Vikings Monday night at the Metrodome, it won't be Brett Favre vs. Aaron Rodgers. But this, Rodgers' 20th start, stands to be the most important moment in his career, and plenty of people will be watching to see whether he can do what Favre has done so many times: win when it matters.

That is the true measurement of a quarterback, many believe.

"I see so many people putting a lot of different meaning into so many different things these days," former Packers general manger Ron Wolf said. "It makes statistics more (important). But the bottom line is the wins and the losses. That tells you whether a guy is good enough."

Rodgers has a long way to go before his career can be measured.

But to date, the closest he has come to picking up the team and carrying it on his shoulders was a 48-25 victory at Detroit last season when he completed 24 of 38 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns. He engineered two scoring drives late in the fourth quarter to give the team breathing room and then let the defense finish the job with two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

He has had terrific moments, like his 50-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings that beat the Chicago Bears in the season opener this year. He also drove the team into Bears territory last December for what should have been the game-winning field goal. He did the same at Minnesota last year, albeit only to the 35, resulting in a 52-yard attempt.

But taking over a game? Not yet.

As good as his numbers have been - he has a 95.2 career passer rating (62.3% completion percentage, 5,081 yards, 33 touchdowns and 14 interceptions) - his record as a starter is 8-11. The losing record isn't all his fault, but some of it is. When the Packers needed touchdowns in close games last year, he was only able to deliver field goals.

On Monday night, he'll get the ultimate chance to prove himself.

"He has a year under his belt," McCarthy said. "He has two experiences against the Vikings under his belt. He had the opportunity to play up there in the Metrodome, which always is a tough thing for a quarterback the first time, going up there noise-wise and so forth. I think the biggest thing is he clearly has more experience."

There's no question that Rodgers has been a productive quarterback, but part of being a great one is having the confidence to take shots downfield when you need to. Rodgers played behind one of the most aggressive quarterbacks ever, but he has not shown that kind of daring and by most accounts would rather swim in a shark tank than throw an interception.

The ability to make a clutch throw in the critical moment of a hotly contested game is exactly why the Vikings decided they wanted Favre. They weren't looking for him to throw for 4,000 yards, they just wanted him to make two or three clutch plays that help dictate the final outcome and make a game-winning play or two as he did last Sunday against San Francisco.

"(Before last week) he was a caretaker," Vikings coach Brad Childress said with sarcasm. "I'm not hearing that much this week. You don't want a guy that's a conservative guy. You want a guy that plays within the parameters of your system. Is there some inherent risk in some of the things that you do? Absolutely.

"But I'd rather have somebody that has ice water in his veins and competes like crazy than somebody that's like, 'Yeah, I've got that throw but let me go ahead and check it and duck it down here.' I can assure you that that mentality, his mentality, hasn't changed."

When to take a riskMcCarthy isn't sure anyone will ever take the chances Favre does and his expectation isn't that his new quarterback does the same. But he thinks it's a process for Rodgers to understand when he can take chances and when he can't.

"I think Aaron has been raised in a much more systematic (fashion), and he has bought into that," McCarthy said. "But I see him, he gets more confident as they all do with every game that goes by. He's not scared to throw the tight ball."

For Rodgers to achieve greatness he may need more of that wild abandon Favre has carried with him since the day he stepped on the football field. It's possible he'll never have it and will be just a solid quarterback with great statistics and nothing much else to show.

But it could be he's still breaking out of a shell that has surrounded him most of his football life. He has always been a student of the game, using his brain as much as his outstanding athletic ability, and has been schooled in fundamental football from a very young age. In the two years he was at the University of California, he always played within coach Jeff Tedford's scheme and was thought by some scouts to be too much of a system quarterback.

Rodgers came out of Cal with a tight, rigid throwing motion that underscored his devotion to Tedford and his style of coaching quarterbacks. In four years with the Packers, Rodgers has developed a more fluid style both in the way he holds the ball and the way he throws it.

Physically, he has worked his body to a point where he has become a first-rate scrambler, deep-ball thrower and iron man.

The next phase for Rodgers is to become more than just a stats machine. He also might have ice water in his veins, as McCarthy has said, but he played safe during his first season as a starter and didn't always "throw his receivers open" as McCarthy terms it. In other words, don't wait until the receiver is open, anticipate his break and throw it to a spot where the receiver can beat his defenders for the ball.

It is not a coincidence that the Packers' receivers suffered a big drop in run-after-the-catch yards when they went from Favre to Rodgers. Part of getting those yards is having a quarterback who leads his receivers and throws it before defenders can react to it.

Rodgers shows no hesitancy in hanging in the pocket and throwing deep and isn't afraid to take a hit. But as accurate of a passer as he is, there are still some throws down the middle of the field on which he needs to pull the trigger.

"He's a lot more aggressive in throwing in the second hole and throwing the guy open instead of making sure he's open," McCarthy said. "I see it all the time. He threw four of them (in practice Thursday). He's moving this guy (faking one way) and throwing into the second hole instead of waiting. He's playing faster."

Experience may play a part in making those throws more often and as Rodgers plays more, McCarthy is confident he'll complete more of them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Week 1 Recap Packers vs. Bears and a look at Week 2

In what was to be a premier matchup against two star QB's last Sunday night turned out to be a duel of two Defenses. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers looked flawless in the preseason and had a QB Rating in the upper 150's (158.3 is perfect). Jay Cutler, Chicago's huge offseason acquisition, was supposed to bring something to the Bears they hadn't had in decades, an elite QB and an up-in-coming offense.

Well that kind of backfired as the real duel came between the two Defenses. The Packers implemented a new 3-4 defensive scheme and what once was a weak spot over the years now looks like a major strength after week 1. The Pack picked off Cutler 4 times, brought heavy pressure, and rattled the Bears offense from the opening snap. The Defense looked great, lets just hope they can keep that type of aggression and success for the rest of the season.

The Bears have traditionally had an elite Defense, but they certainly aren't get any younger on that side of the ball. The Bears D is not what it use to be, but they still gave Green Bay a run for their money. Rodgers was hit nine times and sacked 4 times. "We did a good job of picking things up, making the proper calls, but we just flat out lost some on-on-one situations that occurred and resulted in quarterback hits and sacks", coach Mike McCarthy said of his O-Line's performance against the Bears. First year starter Alan Barbe was exposed all game at RT, giving up 3 sacks to Bears DE Adewale Ogunleye. After a miserable performance like that, expect Barbe to be tested all season long. Packers will have to keep an eye on their O-Line and might even consider juggling the line around with Center and former 3 year starter Scott Wells on the bench waiting for another opportunity.

The Packers did win 21-15 in some late game heroics by QB Aaron Rodgers who connected with WR Greg Jennings on a crucial 3rd and 1 on the 50 yard line for what would end up to be the game winning TD with 1:11 to play.

The Packers did not look impressive on Offense like they did all preseason, but then again it was only 1 game against a bitter rival. Both TE's were noticeably absent from the Offense. That had a lot to do with the poor O-Line play. On many downs the Packers kept a TE on Barbe's side to help with protection. Jermichael Finely is supposed to have a "breakout season". Not if he's helping our line block all game!! Packers square off against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Game Notes:
Guard Daryn Colledge sprained his foot at practice on Thursday. His status is still uncertain for Sunday's game. That makes for an interest debate on weather rookie TJ Lang would fill in, or if Spitz moves over and Wells comes in at Center. Lets hope Colledge can go, he was one of the few bright spots on the line last Sunday.

Safety Atari Bigby will be out for an extended period of time with a knee injury. Word is he tore his MCL and will be out for 4-6 weeks. Aaron Rouse will be replacing him on Sunday at Safety. Rouse saw some action last Sunday and he too is recovering from an injury as well. He looked timid and played things pretty safe with big cushions. He'll need to step up his game and bring it to an elite level like the rest of the starters or he'll be exposed all day by Pro Bowl QB Carson Palmer.

Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco (formerly known as Chad Johnson)has proclaimed he wants to do a Lambeau Leap on Sunday. Well he has to get in the end zone first. I'm not sure fans will be that welcoming, but we'll be watching Sunday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lies, Tales, & Exaggerations.........The World According to Brett Favre

Found this interesting article on about a timeline of lies from former Jets QB, Brett Favre. This is just too good not to pass on:

March 2, 2001, after signing a contract that made him the NFL's first $100 million player: "I do want to be a Packer for life ... I couldn't envision myself playing with another team ... If that was to ever come up, I would probably just retire."

November 7, 2003: "I don't know if it's going to be this year, next year. I mean, I still think there's a lot left out there for us and a lot left out there for me."

March 31, 2006, Biloxi Sun-Herald: "If I do play this year, it will be my last. There's no doubt about that."

May 6, 2006: "I know I said that. But I hope you guys will respect me. I'm going to play this year, give it my best and not talk about it."

September 6, 2006, in response to a question by Bob Costas, he says he's "99.9 percent" sure he'll retire as a Green Bay Packer.

December 31, 2006, interviewed by NBC's Andrea Kremer after Green Bay's 26-7 win over the Bears at Soldier Field: "If today is my last game, I want to remember it. It's tough ... tough. I'll miss these guys, and I'll miss the game ..."

February 3, 2007, quoted by Packers GM Ted Thompson in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "I think I'll go one more time."

May 14, 2007: "... I don't want to be traded. I want to finish my career as a Packer."

January 10, 2008, in the Biloxi Sun-Herald, three days before a playoff game against Seattle: "For the first time in three years, I haven't thought this could be my last game. I would like to continue longer."

January 21, 2008: "I'm not going to rush to make a big decision, but it will probably be quicker than it's been in the past."

March 6, 2008: "It's been a great career for me, but it's over ... I don't think I've got anything left to give."

April 3, 2008, asked about Favre coming back, his agent, Bus Cook, tells the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmer: "That's news to me. I don't think that has anything to do with anything. He's retired, period, point blank."

April 10, 2008, Biloxi Sun-Herald: "I very well could be enticed."

April 25, 2008, before a luncheon honoring his image on the cover of Madden '09: "First of all, I'm not going to keep myself in shape ... There were always second thoughts ... It wasn't ever a clear-cut decision."

July 14, 2008, interviewed by Fox's Greta Van Susteren, Favre says he was "never fully committed" to retiring: "If I play, it's going to be 100 percent commitment."

August 8, 2008: "I'm here for one reason ... I'm here to help the Jets win."

February 12, 2009: "It's been a wonderful career, I couldn't ask for anything more. It was worth a shot for me to go to New York. I wish I could've played better down the stretch. I didn't.

"It's time to leave."

June 15, 2009, asked by Joe Buck about the Vikings (after his wife had made a deposit on a condo in Minnesota): "It makes a lot of sense because the pieces are in place."

July 29, 2009: "I didn't feel like physically I could play at a level that was acceptable. I would like to thank everyone, including the Packers, Jets and Vikings, but, most importantly, the fans."

August 18, 2009, asked about wearing a Vikings helmet: "It was different. I'm not going to lie to you."

And we end on that one. The man quoted as saying, "I'm not going to lie to you.".


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Favre will sign with Vikings - One Yr Deal, Pending Physical

Thought it was over....well this just in, former Jets QB, Brett Favre will sign a One Yr deal with the hated Vikings, pending a physical. All of you that are familar with the Favre-gate in 2008, he's currently on a plane headed for MN.

The former Jets QB had retired for a 2nd time, and now also unretired for a second time to now "stick it to the Packers", a team I think he has some ties to somehow. We'll look into that further!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Brewers "Black Wednesday"....Slumping Crew Makes Big Moves Throughout the Organization

This is the team's darkest day of the season. Brewers outright release Bill Hall ended his career with the Brewers. They send J.J. Hardy down to AAA Nashville, who has been in a season long slump statistically in the bottom of almost every category for SS in the NL. And the Brewers fired Pitching Coach Billy Castro, who's pitching staff has been miserable in the last few months.

Some fans have been calling for this move for months, but the Crew also called up SS, Alcides Escobar from AAA Nashville and promoted Chris Bosio to Brewers Pitching Coach.

Now that heads have rolled, what should fans make of all this?

Well, there’s one of two ways that I see.

The first is that the Brewers are making these moves to shake up the roster and staff in one last-ditch effort to make a run at the division title. That is plausible since it would obviously seem Alcides Escobar is an upgrade at shortstop at this point and the Brewers cut dead weight in Bill Hall. Maybe seeing that some jobs aren't safe will spark this club into a final push. It worked with the Colorado Rockies, although that happened way earlier in the season when they fired manager Clint Hurdle.

The other way to view optioning J.J. Hardy, DFA-ing Hall and firing pitching coach Bill Castro is that the Brewers are throwing up the white flag and finally making moves in mid-August that probably should have been made a month ago. Making them now might appear to be too late to make a legitimate run at the playoffs, so the result is the Brewers finally cutting Hall and Castro and seeing what they have in Escobar while they decide what to do with Hardy long-term.

Realistically, it seems the second option is more likely, although the Brewers are still going to say they believe they can make a push toward the postseason. That may be true; the Brewers as a team and organization might still believe the playoffs are a reasonable goal considering their strength of schedule right now and in the near future. But the standings have already started to say otherwise.

Castro is a fall guy for the staff. There is no way it can be said he was given a full toolbox when he was given this construction job. Everyone who follows the team knew when spring training started that the starting rotation was paper-thin and one injury or poor stretch by one pitcher could leave the pitching staff in shambles. Remember, Seth McClung was the fifth starter before the team went and signed Braden Looper.

The Brewers had the injury to Dave Bush and the poor stretches by Jeff Suppan and Manny Parra, a guy the Brewers hoped could slot in behind ace Yovani Gallardo and give them a solid and young 1-2 punch.

The Brewers were fortunate, and manager Ken Macha has even called it “lucky,” that the rotation held steady for so long into the season. The Brewers were one of the last teams in the majors to use the five starters they entered the season with, but once Parra was sent down things snowballed.

The rotation became one of the worst in the National League and the pitching staff as a whole ranks near the bottom of the league in way too many categories, including being second-worst in team ERA and the starters have the worst ERA (5.13), are 10th in victories (37), third-worst in innings pitched (633), have issued the second-most walks (271), have the third-worst batting average against (.277) and have allowed the most home runs (107).

Obviously, some blame has to land on Castro as the pitching coach, but let’s not kid ourselves into believing he had the ingredients to deliver a dominant rotation.

This season seemed to be one of some accountability for the players, but only when it came to Parra in the rotation and Hall starting at third base, and even then his leash was still lengthy and he was given several chances to prove he could be the everyday starter.

The Brewers didn’t want to make this move with him until they were totally convinced he was a lost cause for their team, we should assume. The main reason is his contract, which the Brewers now have to eat. But the bottom line is Hall wasn’t cutting it and had ended up being a non-contributor for his final months.

Hardy, it seemed, was where some accountability stopped. He has struggled offensively all season. Among NL shortstops with at least 250 plate appearances, he is second to last in average (.230) and third-worst in on-base percentage (.301).

Despite that and Escobar coming on strong at Class AAA Nashville, Hardy was still the everyday shortstop, even when the team acquired Felipe Lopez to play second and freed Craig Counsell to play more shortstop.

Now, with the team 6.5 games out of first place in the division with two teams ahead of it and 6.5 out of the wild card with five teams ahead of it, it looks like the Brewers are out of the races, especially since they show no real signs of breaking out of this slump that has seen them go into a tailspin since July 1.

Do you guys think these moves have come too late and are signs the Brewers have decided to look into the future by discarding some of the past, or is these moves to really make a run?

To summarize the moves made this morning by the Brewers:

1. Pitcing coach Bill Castro was fired and replaced by Class AAA Nashville pitching coach Chris Bosio. Castro, in his first year as pitching coach after 17 years as bullpen coach, paid the price for a staff that ranks 15th in the NL with a 4.84 ERA and has taken several beatings in recent weeks. The starting rotation's 5.16 ERA is last in the NL.

2. Shortstop J.J. Hardy was optioned to Class AAA Nashville and will be replaced by top prospect Alcides Escobar, called up from that club. Hardy has struggled at the plate all year and is batting .229 with 11 homers and 45 RBI. Hardy is seven weeks shy of having five years in the majors, which allows players to turn down minor-league assignments.

3. INF/OF Bill Hall was designated for assignment and replaced on the roster by OF Jason Bourgeois, called up from Nashville. The Brewers have 10 days to trade Hall, release him or have him accept a minor league assignment, which he already did a couple of weeks ago. The club probably will be stuck with the $10 million or so remaining on the contract of Hall, who has been in a two-year slump at the plate and was batting .201 with six homers and 24 RBI.

You can file these moves under the "What Have We Got to Lose?" category. The team has lost 23 of 35 games since July 1, won only one of 10 series and fallen two games below .500 and 6 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central.

In other words, the team was already going down for the count. Why not shake things up and see if there's any life left? Owner Mark Attanasio and GM Doug Melvin obviously thought they had to try something to salvage the season.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Badger Receivers Want to Play a Bigger Role This Season

It has been four years since a wide receiver has led the University of Wisconsin football team in receptions or receiving yards.

That’s too long, in the opinion of sophomore wide receiver Nick Toon.

“Hopefully, we can change that around this year,” Toon said in the spring.

The last receiver to lead UW in catches and receiving yards was Brandon Williams, who caught 59 passes for 1,095 yards as a senior in 2005.

Since then, it has been all tight ends, all the time.

Travis Beckum led in both categories in 2006 and ’07. Last season, when Beckum was limited to six games by injuries, Garrett Graham caught 40 passes for 540 yards.

“I don’t think it’s any secret Travis was the go-to guy,” Toon said of the past three seasons, when Beckum was healthy. “He’s gone now. It’s someone else’s turn to step up.”

Graham, a first-team All-Big Ten Conference selection a year ago, is back for his senior season and is the leading candidate. So, there’s no reason to expect the tight end trend to vanish this season.

Still, given the improvement of the wide receivers in the past year, they should at least re-establish themselves as more than blockers and decoys.

Receiver was one of the youngest positions on the team last season. Now, with everybody back, it’s one of the most improved — and deepest.

The receivers bonded through the adversity of the first half of 2008, when drops and inconsistent play were issues. The group started to emerge in the second half of the season.

David Gilreath, now a junior, helped snap a four-game losing streak with two touchdown grabs in a 27-17 victory over Illinois in the eighth game. He finished second on the team with 31 receptions for 520 yards and three TDs, and earned second-team All-Big Ten Conference recognition.

Toon caught 14 passes for 196 yards and a touchdown in the last five games, while Isaac Anderson, now a junior, had a breakout performance against Minnesota in the penultimate regular-season game with six receptions for 114 yards.

“We did come together,” Toon said. “Coming together also comes with maturity. We’re maturing as a group, getting older. That helps. We have a lot of threats at the receiver position. I think we can take over that role (go-to receiver) this year.”

Worthy wideouts

Wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander is certainly aware of the diminished role for his players but said they have to prove themselves worthy of getting balls thrown to them.

“We don’t talk about it,” Alexander said of tight ends leading the team in receptions. “I might be aware of it. They’ve led the team and they deserve to do that, with Travis and the type of player he was. Our goal is to lead and help in any way we can.”

Toon and Anderson led the way in the spring. After coaches toyed with the idea of moving the 6-foot-3 Toon to H-back, he lost weight and now looks poised for a big season. He was close to 230 pounds in spring 2008, but was down to 207 last spring.

In the spring game, Toon caught four passes for 62 yards, including a touchdown on a 4-yard fade route from Curt Phillips.

“You saw Nick, they just can’t stop him,” Phillips said afterward.

Anderson battled injuries — mostly muscle pulls — during his first two years, including a redshirt season in 2007. He managed to stay healthy in the spring until suffering a minor foot injury in the spring game.

The way Anderson responded to his opportunity in the Minnesota game is what Alexander is looking for from the group.

“All of those guys know the opportunities are there, they just have to seize the moment, as coach (Paul) Chryst would say,” Alexander said. “I’m hoping they recognize that and take ownership in doing that.”

Gilreath did the best job of that last season, emerging as a big-play threat as both a runner and receiver. He had 125 receiving yards against Cal Poly and 168 rushing yards against Indiana.

Kyle Jefferson leads all receivers with 40 career receptions for 601 yards and two touchdowns. He looked ready in the spring to shake off the effects of two vicious hits that resulted in severe concussions in each of his first two seasons.

New sensation?

Toss in highly regarded incoming freshman Kraig Appleton and the competition should be keen for the top four spots. Appleton, 6-4, 200 pounds, likely will be ready physically. So, his playing time will depend on how quickly he picks up the offense.

“Coming in the door, when you know nothing, it’s tough,” Alexander said when asked how much Appleton could contribute. “All these guys have come in and played as freshmen. They’ve taken spots (from other players) and had their spots taken, so they understand that.

“If (Appleton) comes in and does some of the little things, he’ll have opportunities. If he can’t, then they’re safe. (The older players) are going to hang onto what they can.”

Bishop Has Been Impressive Early On

Third-year linebacker looks like good fit for 3-4

If linebacker Desmond Bishop keeps playing the way he has in the early days of training camp, he's going to force the Green Bay Packers to play him - somewhere, somehow.

Nobody on defense has proved to be more physical or more improved since camp opened than the 6-2, 238-pound Bishop. Whether it's decking running back DeShawn Wynn and causing a fumble on Monday or executing a shock-and-rip move on fullback Korey Hall during a blitz drill, the third-year pro is making a case for himself early.

"That's what I'm out there doing for the most part," Bishop said. "I'm sure things go into it. I'm trying to find a spot for me. I don't have to be the starter or an every-down (guy), I just want an opportunity to get out there and play a little bit and contribute."

Bishop is listed on the depth chart behind A.J. Hawk at the "Mack" inside position, which in the 3-4 defense equates somewhat to the weakside position in a 4-3. He is also learning the other inside position, the "Buck," which is being manned by Brandon Chillar while starter Nick Barnett rehabilitates his knee.

Last year, the Packers got a taste of what Bishop could do when he replaced the injured Barnett in a game against the Minnesota Vikings Nov. 9. Early on, Bishop performed like a guy who hadn't played in awhile, allowing running back Chester Taylor to catch a pass in the flat and run by him for a 47-yard touchdown and abandoning his gap on running back Adrian Peterson's game-winning 29-yard touchdown run.

However, he was also personally responsible for stopping running back Adrian Peterson on a key fourth-and-1 play, knocking the ball out of Peterson's hands while trying to bring him down, and totaled nine tackles. The blown plays overshadowed the good ones and the Packers moved Hawk to the middle because they didn't think Bishop could handle the starting assignment.

Built compactly, the knock on Bishop coming out of college was his lack of speed and that hurt him in the previous system. But in the 3-4, Bishop looks to be a good match because most of the pass coverage at his position is zone, so he won't get exposed as often by guys like Taylor.

And the key ingredient to making the thing work is blitzing, something Bishop definitely can do.

"I think I have a knack for blitzing. I think I always have," Bishop said. "Really from a timing aspect, I have a knack for how to disguise it good and knowing when the quarterback is in his cadence when he's going to snap the ball."

He also has the ability to run through or around guys. In the first practice, he knocked guard Josh Sitton back to the quarterback during a blitz period and on the very next play threw a head-and-body fake that froze Sitton and allowed him to run right to the quarterback.

"People call it the crossover," Bishop said of the latter move. "I play basketball a lot, so I think that's kind of helped me. I've been playing basketball since I've been younger. In basketball, you have to go around people with a basketball. So here you don't have a basketball and it's that much easier."

Wynn, who is arguably the team's best pass blocking running back, keeps having to take on Bishop, and he admits he's getting tired of it. Bishop came so hard one time, that when he collided with Wynn his helmet went flying like it was shot out of a cannon. Bishop isn't the only guy who can blitz, but when you line him up with the team's best, he's not very far from the front.

"When you're a running back, you're basically standing flat-footed and you have a guy who can run into your chest and catch you off balance or if you lean looking for the bull rush, he can run by you," Wynn said. "Desmond Bishop, he has a variety of different things. He does the bull rush good, but he's also quick to get a running back to set his feet and beat him either way."

Bishop spent his summer in Arizona working with a personal trainer on his quickness and agility and feels he's better prepared than he was a year ago. There's a long way to go until the season starts, but given the importance defensive coordinator Dom Capers puts on blitzing, Bishop could find himself replacing Hawk or Barnett in certain passing situations.

For now, he just wants to make sure the coaches notice him. So far, so good.

Packers Season Preview - Linebackers

In 2008 the major weakness for the Packers was on Defense. The team struggled with a long list of injuries to some key players on Defense like Cullen Jenkins, Nick Barnett, Al Harris, and Atari Bigby to name a few and finished 6-10. They lost seven games by less than five points, four of those coming down to a field goal or less. This was due in large part to the defense failing to come up with stops at crucial points in the fourth quarter.

The transition to the 3-4 defense represents the greatest challenge for the Green Bay Packers heading into the 2009 season. T

he one position that has been under a microscope the most are the Linebackers. In a 3-4 scheme,the Linebackers are the heart and sole of the defense. And the Packers have several players who fit the 3-4 very well. But with that said, they also have a lot of question marks.

Most notable question mark is Aaron Kampman. Kampman has been to two Pro Bowls and has 37 sacks over the past three years. He's making the switch to LB and playing a position he hasn't played since High School.

Early reports from Training Camp say Kampman has struggled in the early goings and looks lost, especially when dropping back in coverage. So do the Pack try to trade him, while his value is still high or hope new Linebackers Coach, Kevin Greene can turn him into a real threat in this Defense.

If anyone can do it, it's Dom Capers and Kevin Greene. Campers helped turn former DE, Tracy Brackens in Jacksonville and Jason Taylor in Miami into solid LB's in the 3-4. In 1999, Brackens, who was 6-4 and 267, had 12 sacks, which topped his previous high of seven; in 2006, Taylor, who was an elite defensive end but also had a prototype 3-4 build at 6-6 and 255, had 13 ½ sacks and was named NFL defensive player of the year at age 32.

For another former defensive end, the change to 3-4 outside linebacker already appears to have been a boon. Jeremy Thompson (6-4, 260), a fourth-round draft pick from 2008, goes into training camp with an edge over first-round draft pick Clay Matthews for the starting job at right outside linebacker. Thompson (6-4, 260) opened the offseason at that position and played well enough to stay ahead of Matthews through the final minicamp.

Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk will be the starting inside linebackers in a scheme that’s designed to free them to make most of the tackles in the inside run game. The move to a 3-4 Defense should help A.J. Hawk show his elite talent that made him the #5 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Other players in the mix at LB include Desmond Bishop, Brandon Chillar, Brady Poppinga, and 7th round pick Brad Jones. Jones could be a nice surprise if given the opportunity. He's a perfect fit for the 3-4. Brady Poppinga and Brandon Chillar are two players that also could flourish in the 3-4, as they were meant to play in this style Defense.

All in all the LB corps of the 2009 Green Bay Packers should be a position of strength and will be fun to watch these guys from week to week. It sure beats the Bob Sanders way.

Charles Woodson put in his two cents about the Defense from last year and the new scheme: "You guys have watched us in this defense for the last three years and when you watched our games, I'm sure you could call out what we were running a lot of times," Woodson said. "It's one thing for things to look the same every play but you can't just run the same thing every play. So this defense gives us a great chance to give the offense different looks, move around a little bit, just showing them different things, throw them off-balance. So it's a defense you can have a lot of fun in. Of course, there is a lot to it so you definitely have to be on your Ps and Qs as far as making your calls and making sure everybody's on the same page. But when everything's clicking, it's a very, very fun defense."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Packers Season Preview - OL (New Faces For This Year)

When the Green Bay Packers last made major changes in the offensive line, they nosedived to 4-12 and the head coach was fired.

That was in 2005, after Ted Thompson allowed guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera to depart. Then he had the chutzpah to tell Mike Sherman and line coach Larry Beightol to go ahead and try replacing them with Adrian Klemm, Will Whitticker, Matt O'Dwyer, Junius Coston and Atlas Herrion.

That situation is analogous to 2009, when the fifth-year general manager made up his mind to go forward without right tackle Mark Tauscher and set up a competition among three players with a combined one snap of NFL experience at the position.

Not only that but center Scott Wells, the well-compensated replacement for Mike Flanagan since 2006, is in danger of losing his job. If, in fact, Wells is displaced by Jason Spitz, the berth at right guard previously held by Spitz most likely would go to Josh Sitton, another untested young player.

Left tackle Chad Clifton, the fifth member of the Packers' elite line from 2001-'04, is entering the final year of his contract and could well find himself on the chopping block next spring.

"There's some growing left to be done and some positions to be earned yet," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "I'm sure we will prepare these guys well and, when the dust settles in camp, I'll feel fine about them."

The situation doesn't seem to be as dire as it was four year ago, when the coaches had almost no chance. Thompson signed the competent Duke Preston, a guard-center from Buffalo; drafted a pair of tackle-guards in the mid-rounds; and brought back Tony Moll, a snap-eater everywhere except center.

Besides, the Packers aren't exactly breaking up a powerhouse; the unit yielded 22 sacks last season, its most since 1996. Neither Tauscher nor Clifton played to previously high standards, Spitz was no more than a workmanlike starter at guard and Wells came in either third or fourth from 2006-'08 on the Journal Sentinel's all-NFC North team .

Thus, when targeted tackle Andre Smith of Alabama went three slots before Green Bay's selection in the first round, Thompson essentially put right tackle in the lap of line coaches James Campen and Jerry Fontenot.

Pending further developments, the plan is to let converted guard Allen Barbre, rookie T.J. Lang and unknown Breno Giacomini try to become the next Tauscher.

"The fact we're unproven, I guess it would be a concern," Campen said. "But it's not. Allen has done a very good job, T.J. Lang has shown he can play and Giacomini hasn't practiced yet."

The transition from an injured Earl Dotson to Tauscher in 2000 was remarkably seamless. The switch from an injured Tootie Robbins to Joe Sims early in the Ron Wolf era led to 1½ years of sloppy play before Dotson came of age in 1995.

Prospects such as Barbre, a fourth-round choice from a small college, often never get even one opportunity to start. This will be No. 2 for Barbre, who 12 months ago was aligned ahead of Daryn Colledge at left guard before playing himself back to the bench.

Barbre's challenge is to gain the trust of the staff. Last year, he was a bit like a bull in a china shop, going for the throat on run blocks (good) but missing in protection (bad) and constantly getting in altercations (unprofessional).

There's much to like about his speed, hip thrust and enthusiasm. One reason that Barbre didn't succeed at guard, however, was his inability to make rapid adjustments. The Packers hope the more one-on-one nature of tackle better suits him mentally.

"Sometimes at tackle he's on his own and he can focus on one thing and not worry about the linebacker cheating up or working with this guy or that guy," Philbin said. "He's acting more mature. It is his third year, and I think he feels better about his performance, which he should."

Lang is on the short side as well for tackle and was drafted more as a guard. But with Giacomini out the entire off-season after ankle surgery Feb. 11, Lang spent most of his time at tackle and convinced Campen that he's athletic enough to play there.

"He's really done a nice job where he's come from," Philbin said. "I'm impressed."

Giacomini supposedly practiced a lot better in November and December than he did in July and August, then went down Dec. 26 and hasn't been on the field since. He is tall and does play with attitude, but his one snap in the regular season (kneel-down) doesn't offer much to go by.

Another player behind the eight-ball is Wells, who underwent shoulder surgery in mid-January and sat out all offseason. It's unclear whether the Packers would have put Spitz ahead of Wells, anyway, but if their intention all along has been to make a change, his operation came at a convenient time.

“Spitz is playing center right now,” Campen said. “I like him at center. Scott will be in competition. His weight’s up, too.”

Spitz is neither as quick nor as smart as Wells, but he's adequate in both areas and is the bigger man. A year or two ago Campen said he wouldn't trade Wells for any center in the league to fit the Packers' system, but now that could happen.

Campen broached the possibility of Wells playing guard, which he did the last half of '05 for an injured Klemm. But at his height that would be a move of desperation.

After Tauscher blew out his knee in Week 13, and the Packers made the decision that he wouldn't be re-signed, their safest bet at right tackle probably would have been Colledge. But coach Mike McCarthy turned thumbs down, hoping that by staying put Colledge can become a top guard.

"Just a very fundamentally sound football player," Campen said. "He made another jump in the weight room like he did last year. He was (a solid NFL starter) last year."

In fact, Philbin said the Packers received slightly better performance in 2008 from their inside players than they did the tackles.

Clifton gave up career-highs in sacks (6½) and "pressures" (25). He admitted that injuries dogged him more than in any of his nine seasons. With Moll not starting-caliber and rookie Jamon Meredith more of a project, the Packers are praying for one more acceptable year from Clifton.

"Chad will be the first to say he had a disappointing season for him," Campen said. "But he will come back stronger and his weight's down."

Just as Thompson might be asking too much of Barbre, he almost might be asking too much of Sitton. Despite Sitton's inexperience, McCarthy probably would like him to start because he has always wanted a truly physical right side of the line.

Sitton seems mature beyond his years, has added some definition to his big body and is a tough guy. But if his feet just aren't good enough for pass-blocking, the Packers might end up returning Spitz to right guard and going back to Wells.

With 1,463 snaps spaced over four seasons in Buffalo, Preston knows how to play. He's heavy-legged and lacks quickness, but has held up well against bulk.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Prince is King - Photos of Prince

Prince is King

St. Louis — Asked earlier in the day what his strategy would be in the All-Star Home Run Derby, Prince Fielder smiled.

"Just hit the ball hard," the Milwaukee Brewers slugger said. "And if I get under it a little bit, I might have a chance."

A very good chance, as a matter of fact.

Doing what he does best - hit the long ball - Fielder became the first Brewer to win the Home Run Derby when he bested former minor-league teammate Nelson Cruz in the championship round Monday night at Busch Stadium.

Fielder still had three "outs" to go when he socked his sixth home run of the final round, topping the total of five by Cruz, who went first. Almost before the ball cleared the fence in right-center, teammate and fellow all-star Ryan Braun greeted Fielder at home plate, engaging him in the "boxing" routine they often simulate after home runs.

Fielder's two young sons, Jadyn and Haven, also rushed out to give their dad a celebratory hug. Fielder then followed tradition of a Brewers victory by untucking his red all-star jersey, a habit that has drawn criticism from the hometown team here at times.

"It's something you see growing up as a kid and I'm just happy my kids were here and I got to win," said Fielder, who hit a total of 23 home runs during the three rounds for an average of 439 feet.

"I'm just happy. You never think you're going to win one."

Fielder started the competition using a bat of injured teammate Rickie Weeks but said he switched to one of Braun's models because it was longer.

"Once I grabbed his bat, it felt good," Fielder said. "He looks good with it."

Fielder and Cruz played together in the Brewers' system at Class AAA Nashville in 2005 but Cruz was sent to Texas in July 2006 with Carlos Lee in the six-player trade that brought closer Francisco Cordero and outfielder Laynce Nix to Milwaukee. The Brewers have nothing left from that trade but Cruz enjoyed a breakthrough first half to earn his first all-star nod with the Rangers.

"We know each other really good," Fielder said. "So, it was a lot of fun. It's kind of weird. You never figure you're going to have a Home Run Derby against a former teammate. It was pretty cool."

Fielder didn't come up with a Derby pitcher until Sunday, when he invited Nashville hitting coach Sandy Guerrero. When he competed in the 2007 Derby in San Francisco, Fielder used Mike Guerrero, Sandy's brother, now the manager at Class A Brevard County.

"I asked for (Sandy) in '07 and he wasn't able to, so I asked Mike," said Fielder, who bowed out in the first round with three homers that year. "He helped me through the minors. And he throws good batting practice, too."

It was no easy task for Guerrero to get to the ballpark on time. He and wife, Jessica, drove from Nashville to their home in Huntsville on Sunday evening, then took a 6 a.m. flight Monday.

Guerrero arrived here at 2:30 p.m., just 4½ hours before the Derby began, and rushed to the ballpark while Jessica checked them into a hotel. He did take time to sit down with Fielder and devise a game plan.

"I told him to take some pitches, make sure his timing is right," Guerrero said. "He was pretty locked in. He kept his cool. 'Nellie' was going ahead of him so Prince knew what he had to do. He was very competitive."

Fielder hit the four longest home runs of the competition and eight of the top 10, including a 497-foot blast in the first round and a 503-foot moon shot in the second round that electrified the crowd of 45,981.

"I've never hit a ball 500 feet before so that was pretty cool," said Fielder, who had a wait of nearly 1½ hours before hitting in the second round.

Cruz and Fielder were the first players to hit in the opening round and set the bar with 11 homers each. Philadelphia's Ryan Howard advanced with seven homers and St. Louis' Albert Pujols joined the final four with five after a "swing off" with Minnesota's Joe Mauer and Tampa Bay's Carlos Peña.

The two players with the highest cumulative totals through two rounds advanced to the final. Fielder hit six in the second round to total 17 and Cruz added five more to reach 16. Howard hit eight that round but bowed out with 15 and hometown hero Pujols was eliminated with a total of 11.

In the championship round, previous totals were erased and Fielder and Cruz started from scratch. Fielder matched Cruz's total of five with only four "outs" on the board but made three more "outs" before crushing his no-doubter for No. 6.

"I guess I was trying to hit the ball too far," Fielder said of that added suspense. "I got a little tight. Sandy told me to relax and I was able to hit one more."

The competition raised $665,000 for the Boys & Girls Club of America. Fielder was "partnered" with 14-year-old Kylie Kochel of the Boys & Girls Club in Bethalto, Ill., resulting in that chapter getting another $50,000.

The closest any Brewer had come to winning the Derby in the past was Jeromy Burnitz, the runner-up to Ken Griffey Jr. in 1999 in Boston.