Month: August 2016

The Return of Ryan Braun

And what it means for the future

By: Jim Boyce

The career of Ryan Braun is a tale of two halves. The dividing line being the embarrassing PED saga that Braun put the Brewers organization and fans through. Prior to the positive test, Braun was revered among those in the game as a bright young star. He also backed it up on the field, putting up MVP caliber numbers which culminated in winning the 2011 NL MVP after a 96 win season for the Brewers. He was, along with Aaron Rodgers, the face of Wisconsin sports.

Everyone knows what happened next, Braun’s public fall from grace. After his suspension in 2013 he played but battled injuries in 2014 and 2015. His numbers falling in part due to a rather unusual thumb injury, though to his credit he did make the NL All-Star roster in 2015.

Braun had an experimental thumb procedure and it appears to be paying dividends here in 2016. Much to the surprise of fans, Braun has resembled the player he was from 2007-2012. Through 131 games (110 played by Braun) he is batting .313 with 24 home runs and 74 RBI. While he still gets rest days occasionally, Braun is playing at a level that is worth his contract and then some. It has in many ways been a bright spot for fans in an otherwise forgettable season.

Braun is 32 years old now and has four years remaining on his deal. This season has sparked hope that he can continue to stay healthy and productive through the remainder of that deal. That is a rather big if though, and the Brewers minor league system is stocked with outfielders. Lewis Brinson, recently acquired in the Lucroy trade, is batting over .400 since joining the Brewers triple A club. He has a clear path to the Centerfield job when the Brewers brass deems him ready. However the Brewers did not draft Corey Ray and Trent Clark, nor trade for Brett Phillips, just to keep them in the minors. Within the next 2-3 seasons these young guys will be ready for the show as long as their development does not take an unforeseen hit.

Assuming Brinson, Ray, Phillips and Clark all arrive in the majors within the next four seasons there will be a logjam in the outfield. 24 year old Domingo Santana also currently mans right field, and the club is likely hoping he can be a long term piece. With no DH in the National League the team will face a conundrum with Ryan Braun. While Stearns and company could wait and hope on continued production from Braun to facilitate a trade down the line, it might be a good idea for them to consider a trade now. No substantial rumors have surfaced before the August 31st deadline, though speculation does exist. The offseason may also be a time that Stearns explores moving Braun, as the OF free agent class is rather weak outside of a couple big names. A team that does not land Yoenis Cespedes for example may be willing to take on most of Braun’s big contract in a deal.

While I don’t vilify Braun like most of the world does, I certainly don’t see him in the same light as before his PED scandal. Nonetheless it would be hard to see Braun go. He is a decade long piece of my favorite team, and has delivered some of the best moments in franchise history. Much like the Lucroy trade I understand the need to acquire prospects, as the Brewers aren’t winning any pennants as currently constructed with Braun. Whatever happens we as fans should enjoy Ryan Braun’s performance on the field, and keep our fingers crossed for continued good health, so he can give Bob Uecker a chance at some more “get up, get outta here, gone’s” for as long as he’s in a Brewers uniform.

 

Packers deal LB Lerentee McCray to Bills

Green Bay Packers will receive an undisclosed 2018 NFL draft pack in exchange

By Mark Prott

In a move to get closer to the 75 man roster reduction due at 3 P.M. Central Aug. 30, Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson has dealt Lerentee McCray, the 6-2 246 lb outside linebacker to the Buffalo Bills for a 2018 undisclosed draft pick.

It’s an interesting move as Lerentee McCray was thought to be in contention for one of the final outside linebacker positions on the 2016 Packers squad. McCray was also a known contributor on special teams with his former team, the Denver Broncos, and figured to play a similar role with the Packers if he made the 53.

In addition, at least in the 2016 exhibition games McCray seemed to be outplaying outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott, thought to be his main competition for earning a roster spot. However, Elliott has shown flashes of play making ability in the past and also is a valued special teams player.

Perhaps Ted Thompson does not view the competition the same way and was going to cut McCray anyhow. If so, it would be another shrewd move for the Packers General Manager, who has long been known to covet NFL draft picks.

 

National Fantasy Football Draft Week : 3 Green Bay Packers you should draft

By: Bill Tewes

On the heels of National Draft week for Fantasy football, millions of fans worldwide are scrambling to find a player who most of their league will overlook. We all tend to read articles on sleepers and “can’t miss guys” and still end up missing players we should have drafted all along. With that being said, here are three Green Bay Packers I think will be pleasant surprises this year and all three of these players can be had at the back end of your draft.

Davante Adams

Most people are looking at this name and already laughing at me for suggesting it. Adams had an abysmal season last year while fighting through injuries and dropping balls in big impact situations. The good news is that Adams has more poise this preseason and has shown that he is still capable of making difficult catches as well as running crisp routes. The coaching staff still believes in Adams and so does Aaron Rodgers. It now rests on his shoulders to prove them right. With Jordy Nelson back in the fold and Randall Cobb healthy, I can see Adams taking advantage of the attention those two will get and having a much better season than last year. For drafting him after the 11th round, it is conceivable to get WR3 value out of him and if he really exceeds expectations (which are definitely lower this year), he has the talent to break into the WR2 discussion.

Average Draft Selection (Yahoo): 123.5 (11th Round)

Their Projection: 514 yards, 4 touchdowns

My Projection: 745 yards, 6 touchdowns, 62 receptions

Jared Cook

 All it takes for one to believe in Jared Cook is to see him in action this preseason. Cook is an imposing force to be reckoned with and now has a future Hall of Fame quarterback throwing him the ball. Cook has been consistently impressive in both training camp and all three of Green Bay’s preseason games so far. Cook hauled in four of his five targets for 54 yards and so far has put to sleep any questions about his habit of dropping balls. While Richard Rodgers may steal away a few touchdowns, Cook should be Rodgers’ primary target at the tight end position going forward.

Average Draft Selection (Yahoo): 133 (12th Round)

Their Projection: 527 yards, 4.7 touchdowns

My projection: 620 yards, 5 touchdowns, 46 receptions

Green Bay Def/ST

There are various outlooks when it comes to drafting defenses. Some users prefer drafting one defense and sticking with them, others go week to week and I’ve even seen some users not even draft or start a defense (don’t laugh, its true!). It is not out of the question for the Green Bay Packers’ defense to ascend to the upper echelon of defenses. While some fantasy owners are going to draft the expected top defenses earlier (Seattle, Denver, Arizona etc) as early as the 5th-6th round, you can get a potential top five defense as late as the last round of your draft. Many people are overlooking Green Bay’s defense and not recognizing the strides it’s secondary has made as well as it’s consistent defensive line play. That, coupled with the fact that Green Bay has the “easiest” schedule in all of the league and does not travel out west this year, I can see them turning in a great season as far as fantasy goes.

Average Draft Selection (Yahoo): 132.9 (12th Round)

Their projection: Points allowed: 352, Sack: 40.3, Int: 17.9, Fumb: 8.6, TD: 3.5

My Projection: Points allowed: 295, Sack: 46, Int: 20, Fumb: 8.2, TD: 5

Eddie Lacy Primed For Career Year

Packers running back has multiple factors working in his favor to bounce back in a big way in 2016

By Mark Prott

Enough has already been made about the weight loss during the offseason for Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy. The pictures were evident that the offseason work with fitness guru and P90x founder Tony Horton had paid dividends.  But more importantly Lacy seems to finally be enjoying the fruits of his labor on the gridiron where it all matters. After the Green Bay Packers third preseason game and likely his last action before the regular season, Lacy’s stats stand at 20 carries for 114 yards, good for a 5.7 average per carry.

Any concerns about the power still being there have been put to rest. In fact, I’ll admit Lacy still at times looks more like a linebacker carrying the ball but it’s time to realize that is who he is, a big back with explosive power. Let’s embrace it. The eye test also says he now possesses an extra gear of speed compared to last year in his arsenal. This was evident on his 21 yard scamper against the 49ers, which ended for the first time in his NFL career with a tackle secured by his dreadlocks.

However, maybe the most important weapon gained by Lacy through his offseason workouts and new found healthy eating habits may be his conditioning. Lacy’s run in the 2016 playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals was as embarrassing as a 61 yard run can be. I’m not gonna suggest that he’s now a speed back because that’s never been his calling card. The bigger issue on that play was he seemed to simply run out of gas, which isn’t acceptable for a NFL running back. In a wise move, head coach Mike McCarthy put Lacy on notice at the beginning of the offseason for this reason and from all early returns he has responded. Even his new running backs coach Ben Sirmans has noticed the new found conditioning, as recently as the week 2 preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.

“He said he was pretty surprised that he didn’t feel like he had to come out. I think that bodes well for his fitness level and what we’re asking him to do,” said Sirmans in an interview with ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. So why does this bode well for the Packers in 2016? Well when the Packers offense is at their best the result is a no-huddle attack mode going full throttle. This means plenty of opportunities for Lacy to touch the ball in the run game and the pass game, where he might be even more dangerous when smaller players in the back end of defenses, such as cornerbacks are asked to bring the bruising back down. Without having to tap out to backup running back James Starks for a breather, Lacy will likely easily increase his touch total from 2015. I also think the move of J.C. Tretter to the starting center position could make the screen game even more effective, as his athleticism is second to none on the line. His ability to get down the field and block is a weapon that should allow for big plays in both the screen game and run game alike.

Another factor that might not be quite as popular to fans but no doubt has a real factor in performance is the contract status of Lacy. At 26, Lacy is entering the final year of his original deal and no doubt will be looking to cash in on what may be his only chance for a lucrative deal. It’s only natural for it to be on his mind. Running backs have notoriously shorter shelf lives than pretty much any other position and Lacy doesn’t exactly avoid contact.

One final and possibly more important factor than any is the way defenses will be playing the potentially potent Packers offense. With Jordy Nelson on the shelf in 2015, defenses simply didn’t respect the Packers pass game and aimed to stop the run by bringing extra defenders down and playing a lot of 8 men in the box. In the 2016 season, things are likely to change. With Jordy back in the fold and the addition of Jared Cook, who has been electrifying in the preseason and practice, defenses might be forced to pick their poison on what to attempt to stop. The guess here is the majority of defenses will concede to the best player on the Packers’ offense, Aaron Rodgers and try to contain him by playing coverage. Behind a motivated offensive line, containing four starters in the last year of their contracts respectively, you can bet there will be more running lanes created and a motivated running back aiming for new heights in 2016.

 

Road America Deserves a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series date

By: Bill Tewes

The NASCAR XFINITY Series makes its third and final road course stop today for their late August trip to the famed Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI for the Road America 180 Fired up by Johnsonville. NASCAR has been coming to Road America since 2010 and while the course has been notoriously known for its open-wheel racing, the quality of competition among the XFINITY Series drivers has been can’t miss racing.

Over the past five races at Road America, there have been five different winners. Also many of the races have been extended to overtime and have feature some dramatic finishes. The 2014 race saw road course regular Alex Tagliani drive from 23rd to 2nd in all of eight miles (two laps) and come up just short of victory.

If racing has been extremely competitive and fans seemingly love everything about Road America, then why has NASCAR been reluctant to include Road America as part of its Sprint Cup Series schedule? Attendance has been dwindling at many of the “traditional” tracks that NASCAR has kept on its schedule. I think it would behoove NASCAR to consider reworking the schedule and entertain new options as fans are beginning to lose interest. The minor tweaks NASCAR has made in its scheduling process over the years have not been enough to reengage a fan base that has been fed up with the wrong type of change.

The IndyCar Series made an adjustment to their schedule and returned to Road America after an over seven-year absence, largely due to the fact that the Milwaukee Mile is now non-existent as far as an operating venue for both NASCAR and IndyCar. IndyCar’s return is important to NASCAR because the estimated attendance figures for the June 28th race were quite impressive for a series that is not nearly as popular as NASCAR. Elaborating further on that race, IndyCar.com writer Mark Robinson suggested: “Track officials didn’t release attendance figures, but estimates ranged at 50,000 or more on race day.”

I cannot begin to imagine how wildly popular this course would be with NASCAR fans, who are craving something new in the Sprint Cup Series. While there is somewhat of a stigma against road courses as far as NASCAR goes, I think the unique combination of speed as well as Road America’s reputation for being a track that tests even the best of road course drivers would be enough to engage even the casual fan. The mammoth 14 turn, four-mile tricky configuration would offer a different challenge that the Sprint Cup Series has not seen since the days of Riverside International Raceway, which ran Cup races from the mid 70’s to late 80’s at its famous nine turn course.

Another potential advantage Road America would have as far as the Sprint Cup Series is that it would be a chance for fans to see Wisconsin native Matt Kenseth in action. The 2003 Sprint Cup Series Champion has not been on a Wisconsin based NASCAR sanctioned track since he raced the XFINITY Series race at the Milwaukee Mile back in 2001. While Kenseth is not exactly the best road course racer around, it would give some extra incentive for Kenseth fans state-wide to make the trip up to Elkhart Lake.

In a 2015 interview with USA Today, Sprint Cup driver Carl Edwards gushed about the possibility of the Sprint Cup boys racing at Road America. Edwards won the first ever XFINITY Series race at Road America back in 2010 and said: “If you said the Cup series was going to Road America next year, there would be 200,000 people there,” Edwards said. “If you had a Cup race at Raceway Park (now Lucas Oil Raceway) in Indianapolis, it would be the biggest thing that ever happened. I went to the XFINITY Series race at Milwaukee, and it was like going to the state fair.”

While I love Edwards’ enthusiasm, his attendance figures are a little bit of an exaggeration. But after the aforementioned IndyCar race I think it is realistic to think that NASCAR could pull 80,000-90,000 fans. The 2017 Sprint Cup Series schedule was recently released and there are still no plans for an expansion to Road America. But with attendance continuing the fall at tracks all across the schedule, NASCAR may not be able to avoid adding Road America to their Sprint Cup Series schedule for much longer.

Green Bay Packers Final 53 Prediction

With the annual NFL roster cut-down to 53 players quickly approaching on September 3rd, Brew City Sports Report gives you our prediction of who makes the cut to become part of the 2016 version of the Green Bay Packers

By: Mark Prott

Wide Receivers (7)      Quarterbacks (2)

Nelson            Adams             Rodgers

Cobb                Janis                Hundley

Abbrederis      Davis

Montgomery

Offensive Line (9)             Tight Ends (3)          

(G)  Sitton    (T) Spriggs            Cook

(G) Lang       (T) Murphy         Rodgers

(C) Tretter    (C) Barclay           Perillo

(T) Bulaga     (G) Taylor

(T) Bakhtiari

Defensive Line (5)     Running Backs (4) 

Daniels                           (RB) Lacy

Guion                              (RB) Starks

Clark                               (RB) Crockett

Lowry                             (FB) Ripkowski

Ringo

Linebackers (10)                                                          

(OLB) Matthews      (ILB) Martinez

(OLB) Peppers         (ILB) Barrington

(OLB) Perry               (ILB) Ryan

(OLB) Jones               (ILB) Thomas

(OLB) Elliott             (OLB) Fackrell

Secondary (10)                                                                

(CB) Shields                 (S) Clinton-Dix

(CB) Randall                 (S) Burnett

(CB) Rollins                  (S/CB) Hyde

(CB) Gunter                  (S) Banjo

(CB) Hawkins               (S) Brice

Specialists (3)

(K) Crosby  (P) Masthay  (LS) Lovato

NFL Suspensions                PUP List

(DL) Pennel (4 games)      (C) Linsley

(CB) Goodson (4 games)

Notes: Special teams value likely to decide final spots

  • I know earlier in training camp Mike McCarthy hinted the team may keep only 5 or 6 wide receivers but to me, the best 53 players on this team contains 7 wide receivers. Jeff Janis could be a candidate for IR but if the original timetable of 4-6 weeks for his fractured hand to heal stands true, he could be ready by week 3 or 4 as week 1 will mark roughly 4 weeks since the surgery. Janis became one of the top gunners last year down the stretch in the NFL and a top kickoff returner averaging 29.0 yards on 14 returns. While he may not have a huge impact as a wide receiver, this team could definitely benefit from his services on special teams. In addition, the Packers will most likely be scrambling to try to sign training camp phenom UDFA WR Geronimo Allison to the practice squad.
  • The linebackers total of 10 may seem high to some but remember that multiple members of the unit (Julius Peppers, Datone Jones) can also play in the defensive line at times in sub-packages.
  • The secondary competition is shaping up to me as the most intriguing battle in camp for the final spots because there is a lot of talent. I think the Packers keep 2 extra safeties in addition to the top three (Ha Ha, Burnett, Hyde). Chris Banjo is a special teams ace and Kentrell Brice is a very exciting safety prospect to develop given his impressive start on the field and his off the charts pro-day numbers. How the heck did he go undrafted? The last cornerback spot comes down to UDFAs Josh Hawkins, Makinton Dorleant, and 2nd year prospect Robertson Daniel. All three players bring speed to the table and have made their share of plays in practice. How they show up in the final preseason games will determine their fates.
  • Carl Bradford has been a great surprise during the preseason and looks to finally have found his niche in the NFL at inside linebacker. I think the battle between him and Joe Thomas is extremely tight but I give the nod to Thomas based on his ability to be a bigger contributor on special teams. Also Thomas’ experience on the field last year serving as the dime linebacker is a bonus working in his favor.
  • It will be interesting to see the early season moves the Packers make once the suspensions of Mike Pennel and Demetri Goodson are served. Goodson’s activation or release might come down to how well the special teams are playing. It’s a no-brainer to open up a spot for Pennel who seems destined for a prominent role on the defensive line, especially when he makes plays like this.

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Milwaukee Brewers: The Tanker’s Paradise

By Sam Marks

While this summer has not been particularly kind to Milwaukee’s local nine, Brewers GM David Stearns seems to be pressing all the right buttons in this long rebuilding process. From the deadline deals of franchise cornerstone Jonathan Lucroy and talented relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith, not much top end talent seems to remain on the major league club. Now wait, before you decide that this article is another one of those depressing “Give ‘em time, with our #1 ranked farm system, we could be really good in 4-5 years” pieces, let me give you a guide as to why this big league club still has some salvageable, enjoyable parts to bridge the gap till then. Unlike in basketball, where the concept of tanking seems to have taken a negative connotation, baseball doesn’t seem to be facing the same kind of blowback.

Jonathan Villar: In the near future the Houston Astros should really steer clear of doing business with former employee David Stearns, because the Harvard man has seemingly gotten the better hand on several deals involving that franchise. While the Carlos Gomez Blockbuster of 2015 has seemingly turned into one of the most lopsided swaps of this decade, the Villar deal is my sneaky-good steal of the year. Some in the state of Wisconsin will miss Cy Sneed’s handlebar mustache in reminiscence of former ace Pete Vuckovich, but they won’t miss Sneed’s decent at best numbers. Villar has provided the Brewers this season with one of the most feared threats at the top of the order and it only cost them a prospect not currently ranked in their top 30!

Through 120 games played, the Dominican Dynamo has batted an excellent .298 with .381 OBP while being 2nd in the majors with 50 bases swiped. Not every player is perfect though, besides getting caught a ML-leading 16 times, Villar’s committed an NL-leading 17 errors at SS before moving to 3B to make way for top prospect Orlando Arcia. Although he will not project to hit for much power, the switch hitter has been able to parlay his speed into stretching those infield singles into terrorizing experiences on the basepaths for opposing catchers and spectators alike! Combined with his relative youth (25), team control (won’t be granted free agency until 2021), and connection to Stearns, Villar will hopefully continue to provide excitement in a Brewer uniform.

Orlando Arcia: Now I’m definitely not old enough to have been around at the time, but legend has it that the Brewers once called up a young phenom shortstop in 1974 who became the undisputed face of the franchise for two decades. No way should we put that kind of pressure on Brewers top prospect Orlando Arcia, but it’s the maturation process of a youngster that we should look at for comparisons to the great Robin Yount. Yount was called up at the incredibly young age of 18, while Arcia has recently made his debut before his 22nd birthday. With similar wiry frames and defensive abilities, let’s hope younger fans that didn’t get to witness The Kid play are able to see something similar in Arcia. The growing pains will be rough, but with no real expectations for the next couple years, enjoy the growing process. Like watching your kid in little league, you just root for him to develop and make memories. It will be all the more fun to see Arcia grow into the special player that many baseball eggheads think he can be. Hopefully he plays more like Yount and less like some lesser revered shortstop prospects…

Watch for Major League references: The 1989 film is a classic in the sports genre. Although it’s based on the Cleveland Indians franchise, that film shares a special connection with Milwaukee residents. What does the fictional movie have to do with the current iteration of Brewers? Nothing really, but trying to find archetypes for the movie characters can be pretty darn fun. You’ve got an overpaid, prima donna vet in Ryan Braun who can still rake (Roger Dorn), a fastball-mashing, curveball-missing OF-1B in Chris Carter (Pedro Cerrano), and a top of the order base-stealing showboat in Villar (Willie “Mays” Hayes). (Full disclosure, Carlos Gomez was the closest example we had to Hayes, but since he signed a minor league deal with Texas, that dream is gone). In the movie, at the beginning of the season, there is a montage of fan reactions after reading the opening day roster, unless you follow the team closely, you probably had the same reaction with this team. The next time you tune into hearing legend Bob Uecker talking about the latest Brewers mishap on the field, just imagine what Harry Doyle would do. It should put a smile on your face and get you through the rest of the season.

September call ups: While the expansion of rosters usually bears more emphasis for teams in contention, once September 1st hits, Milwaukee fans could be treated to a glimpse of the future if they call up some of their top prospects to dip their feet into the majors. Teams remain pretty protective about the service times of their prospects, but with the recent call up of Arcia, fans might get a couple more surprises. If anything more than ownership to sell some more tickets and put butts in the seats of Miller Park during the last month, the beginning of September can serve as a consolation for those who Brewers fandom don’t follow bandwagon lengths. We might not see top hitters like Lewis Brinson (injured) or Maverick Phillips, but with the Colorado environment having turned almost all of our AAA pitchers into 2014 Marco Estrada at a Home Run Derby, a call up to major leagues might not be the worst idea for some of the staff. Zach Davies got to make 6 encouraging starts in 2015, maybe the success he showed will convince Brewer brass to let hurler Josh Hader get a couple starts? With a current record of 53-70 and in the middle of a dogfight with a glut of teams for the 3rd worst record in the ML, don’t expect a lot of wins for the Brew Crew this final month and change. Nevertheless, there are still some positives that can be taken from this team.

Bucks Land The Jet

Why veteran leadership is important for this young squad.

By: Jim Boyce

The Milwaukee Bucks officially signed Jason Terry Monday afternoon, adding another backup at the shooting guard position. Now whenever a veteran such as Terry is brought in there seems to be several reactions. One being dismissal, “what is 38 year old Jason Terry going to do for the Bucks?” Another is misplaced optimism from casual fans who remember him from his prime and expect that he will put up numbers like it is 2006. Lastly there are people who realize Terry might not offer a ton on the court at his age, but that his locker room presence can help the team.

The reality is that Jason Terry is limited at this stage of his career, but what he can still do is play 15 or so minutes a game and hit three pointers when the opportunity arises. More importantly what Terry and Steve Novak, who is likely to be resigned by Milwaukee, can bring is veteran leadership. While it may cause some to roll their eyes, veterans in the locker room can make a significant difference on a young team and recent Bucks history gives us a solid example.

The 2014-15 Bucks were a feel good story for most of us who follow the team. Following a 15-67 campaign the season before even the most optimistic Bucks fans were not predicting more than 30 wins on the season. The Bucks, who lost first round pick Jabari Parker early that season, hit the 30 win mark by the all star break. While they cooled off in the second half, they still finished 41-41 and played a six game series against a highly rated Chicago Bulls team.

While the young nucleus of Giannis Antetokuonmpo, Khris Middleton, and Brandon Knight/Michael Carter-Williams were the players fans focused on, the glue behind that team was the veterans. Jared Dudley, Zaza Pachulia, Jerryd Bayless, and O.J. Mayo all played key roles off the bench, and led the way as far as defensive communication. In 2015-16 Dudley and Pachulia were gone. O.J. Mayo struggled with injuries, poor performance, and quite possibly some personal issues. That left Jerryd Bayless as the elder statesman on the team, and he missed time with his own injuries. The Bucks struggled as their bench offered next to nothing behind Giannis, Parker, and Middleton. Defensive communication suffered as the Bucks plummeted in the rankings. The team struggled out of the gate and never made serious strides towards the playoffs, finishing 33-49.

Jason Terry and Steve Novak are not going to push the Bucks to the next level. Milwaukee is not likely to be taking down Cleveland or Golden State in a seven game series this year. However Giannis and Parker, as well as other youngsters like Rashad Vaughn, Malcolm Brogdon, and Thon Maker can learn a few things about the grind of an 82 game season from two guys who have been through it for the last decade plus. Both Terry and Novak played with Coach Jason Kidd during the latter part of Kidd’s career and can work as extensions of him on the floor as well as on the bench. If the young players can learn how to handle adversity, losing streaks, and the general rigors of a long season, it could go a long way in future seasons when the Bucks are contending for something. In fact Terry himself talked about helping Giannis reach new heights in his first interview upon signing. The vets may not get the Bucks back into the Eastern Conference playoffs this season, that lies more on the development of the young players, but if they help those players improve in any way they will have been worth signing.

 

Can the Green Bay Packers' Secondary be the next Legion of Boom?

By: Bill Tewes

Has Ted Thompson built a secondary that is worthy of being the #1 rated secondary in the league?

It is no secret that the Green Bay Packers’ secondary was not the same after the untimely and unfortunate retirement of safety Nick Collins. GM Ted Thompson has done some excellent work in the subsequent years after Collins’ departure to address the average to below average secondary play. All of the draft picks, coupled with consistently strong defensive line play, as well as Clay Matthews moving back to outside linebacker are the perfect storm for Green Bay’s secondary becoming a mirror image of Seattle’s vaunted Legion of Boom.

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix is the most recognizable name of Thompson’s secondary draft selections (21st overall in the 2014 draft). Clinton-Dix has been solid for Green Bay in pass coverage in the two years he has been a Packer and has excelled on run defense. If we are sticking with the Legion of Boom theme, it is not out of the question to hope that Clinton-Dix has a similar career to Kam Chancellor. Clinton-Dix is a rising star in this league and in his first two years, has shown durability in not missing a game.

The real excitement begins when we look at the team’s cornerbacks and realize the potential that the 2015 first and second round draft picks bring to the table. Thompson selected Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins back-to-back and most Packer fans were scratching their heads, wondering what Thompson knew this time. Well after a year of NFL experience for both and consistently solid play, it is safe to say Thompson has hit on both of these picks.

Randall had an impressive interception in the second preseason game against Oakland and showed signs of all out ball hawking skills last season as a rookie. Randall came up in the clutch three times, first against San Diego in what was a game sealing batted pass, secondly, against Carolina in what should have been an eventual game tying play after the turnover and lastly against Arizona in that dreaded playoff game where he picked off Carson Palmer in the end-zone. Randall will continue to build on this experience opposite Sam Shields.

Shields is no doubt currently the best piece Green Bay has in it’s secondary. The only real drawback to Shields is that he has been perpetually injured over the course of the past couple of seasons. Shields body of work is undeniable and his speed is an essential piece to putting Green Bay in the top five secondary discussion. The team has Shields signed through the end of the 2017 season.

The player I am the most excited about is Quentin Rollins. According to Pro Football Focus, Rollins held opposing quarterbacks to a 58.1 rating into coverage. Which was tied for third-lowest among cornerbacks last season. That is impressive to say the least, even with a small sample size. Rollins has the skill to be the shutdown cornerback in this league. Also according to PFF, Rollins graded out as the 22nd best cornerback in the entire NFL in his rookie campaign. There is a lot to like about Rollins’ game and we will see a lot more of him this year with the departure of Casey Hayward.

MB

The rest of the secondary features consistently solid players. Morgan Burnett, while not flashy, has contributed a ton in recent years and had his best year as a Packer this past season, despite missing three games. Burnett graded out as a top five safety last year and will continue to provide quiet, yet efficient play as not only one of the team’s best run stoppers, but also in coverage.

Micah Hyde might be the worst piece of the secondary, but has some upside as a physical player as well as a good special-teams guy. I would definitely be worried if he was thrust into a starting role again, as he was not very good last season. But Hyde adds hybrid depth as he can play both safety and cornerback and has proven capable of grabbing an occasional interception the past couple of years. The same can essentially be said about Chris Banjo. Banjo has been with the team for the past three seasons and has provided depth and versatility, but still has yet to show any real potential that he can better his game.

I expect cornerback Ladarius Gunter and safety Kentrell Brice to make the team and finish out the secondary depth. Gunter has been a solid preseason player last year and in the first two games of this preseason. Brice has the measurables and speed to be yet another UDFA that Thompson has hit on. It is also not out of the question for cornerback Josh Hawkins to push Gunter for a final roster spot, as he has made some strides in camp and also had an interception against Oakland.

Jared Cook: Aaron's New Number 3?

By: Mark Prott

Packers’ Tight End Provides Aaron Rodgers with Unique Receiving Target

It would have been difficult to find a Green Bay Packers fan without a smile on their face while tuning into the 2nd NFL Preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. Maybe not for the game itself, but more importantly for the pregame on-field presence of wide receiver Jordy Nelson working out in pads for the first time in almost a year. Despite a minor hiccup in his recovery, all reports indicate that Nelson has made a thorough recovery and at age 31 there should be no reason he won’t reclaim his role as Aaron Rodgers’ go to guy. Randall Cobb, coming off a down year partially due to injury, has received glowing reports in training camp from his star quarterback. He should be able to reclaim his rightful role as the number two option in the offense and one of the top slot wide receivers in the NFL.

Which brings us to the important question of who will be third option in the 2016 edition of the Packers’ offense?

Ever since the career ending injury suffered by tight end Jermichael Finley in 2013 that question was answered with an easy reply. Whoever lined up as the number three wide receiver was destined to be the 3rd receiving option in the Packers offense. In 2014 that guy was Davante Adams, who showed plenty of upside as a rookie. While Adams had a good night against the Raiders, reports indicate that overall he has had an up and down training camp. Jared Abbrederis and Ty Montgomery also could figure in the equation as well. But with no wide receiver jumping out and taking the reigns thus far, I believe there could be a changing of the guard of the new number three this year in the form of a strapping 6-5 254 pound tight end with the speed of a wide receiver. His name is Jared Cook.

Evidence is beginning to mount that Ted Thompson’s latest free agent signing could be heavily involved in the offense due to his immense skill set at the position and so far seamless transition into the offense. The results so far should have every Packers fan excited. Long time Packers beat writer Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel categorized Jared Cook’s debut in practice August 9th as “eye-popping,” making multiple dazzling plays down the field with Rodgers at quarterback. Cook is also getting praise from the man who’s opinion ultimately matters the most, his quarterback.

“You tell him something once, and he gets it. That’s a great trait to have. You don’t see repeat mistakes from him. You see him processing things at a high rate of speed on the field,” Rodgers said in an article by Packers.com writer Mike Spofford. There’s also on field evidence, albeit in limited preseason action and without Rodgers under center. While maybe not a huge play on the surface, I had to do a double take when Brett Hundley connected with a split out wide Jared Cook in the first quarter on a 10 yard slant route. In and out of his break, Cook has the movements of a wide receiver.

At his size and speed, Cook provides an inviting target over the middle of the field. In fact, I expect two tight end sets with both Jared Cook and a slimmed down Richard Rodgers to be a staple in the offense this year. Mike McCarthy has made it no secret he will game plan this year with big targets in mind.

“Let’s be honest, the middle of the field is open now. League rules. Big people running down the middle of the field, I’ll make no secret about it. I think that’s a key to offensive success, whether that’s a big receiver or big tight end or a big man running down the middle of the field, making those safeties cover you. It’s an important part of playing in today’s NFL,” McCarthy said in an interview with ESPN’s Rob Demovsky.

We still have a long way to go and should learn more with Aaron Rodgers expected to finally see preseason action against the San Francisco 49ers this coming week. Every interview with Jared Cook suggests he is genuinely excited to be a Packer and for the chance to play with a NFL MVP quarterback, after the carousel of mostly unproven signal callers he endured during his first 7 NFL seasons. The early guess here is Jared Cook will take full advantage of this opportunity and in the process become Aaron’s new number three. Oh yeah, and for all you fantasy football players out there, I’d take the over on this fantasy projection all day.