Category: News

Patience: How to Approach the Milwaukee Bucks

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By: Jim Boyce

Last night the Bucks dropped a completely uninspiring game on the road in Orlando to extend their losing streak to four. Afterwards they held a team meeting, which is not really news any fan enjoys hearing about. The Bucks are now 20-22 and in the 9th spot in the Eastern Conference standings. For fans of the team, myself included, watching the Bucks this season has been both exhilarating and frustrating and often within the course of the same week. How do you beat the Spurs on the road without Giannis then drop a home game to Philadelphia six days later? The answer is likely pretty simple, youth.

Here’s a bold prediction for you, the Cleveland Cavaliers will win the East. Well that was not all that bold after all, but it offers some perspective to viewing the Bucks. While there is no doubt playoff experience would help the Bucks, one has to understand that the results of this season are fairly inconsequential. While it may feel like the Bucks have been “owning the future” forever, the fact is this team has not arrived yet by a long shot. For the rebuilding clubs in the NBA like the Bucks, Sixers, and Timberwolves, the only thing that really matters is your young core. The rest of the guys that fill out the roster can be replaced and likely will be by the time the team is truly a contender.

The Bucks have a bona fide super star in Giannis Antetokounmpo. An All-Star starter at age 22, he is putting up insane numbers and has the Bucks playing much better than I figured they would back when Khris Middleton went down with injury. For as good as he is now imagine what he may be at age 25, 26 etc. Every championship team needs an MVP candidate and the Bucks can check that off their list.

Jabari Parker has played his way to fringe All-Star status this season and has definitely made the leap as a scorer from last season. The hope is that he still is improving and can provide a one-two punch with Giannis that will be the envy of the NBA once the Warriors and Cavs dominant runs begin to fade. Other players I would include as young building blocks for this team are Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker. While these guys are fun to watch right now, the focus should be on what they are in a few seasons.

Obviously every contending team needs a solid bench, and that is something the Bucks will need to be smart with when they add pieces around the core. Right now the Bucks have 42 million dollars invested in the Center position and not enough minutes to get them all into the game, these kinds of things will need to be rectified going forward. The Bucks also will not be able to afford bad contracts on non-essential players. Paying someone like Miles Plumlee 13 million could be killer when it comes time to pay a guy like Brogdon.

So do not lose hope when the Bucks drop a game they have no business losing. While we all want to see the Bucks make some noise in the playoffs right now, keeping and growing the young core of players is all that really matters. Eventually these guys will reach their primes and the Bucks will not be so up and down throughout the course of the regular season. The rebuild may feel like it is taking forever, but I am more than willing to wait it out with the hope of championship level basketball in Milwaukee once again.

Week 17 Predictions: Green Bay at Detroit.

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Week 17 Predictions: Green Bay at Detroit 

By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott & Jim Boyce

The Packers have won five straight to set up an NFC North championship game in Detroit. This is what being a fan is all about.

JIM

Packers 34 Lions 30

At 4-6 I figured this team was done, they looked sloppy or worse in all three phases. Aaron Rodgers had other ideas though and is on one of the hottest five game stretches of his illustrious career. That shouldn’t change in Detroit even with Darius Slay playing for the Lions. I expect the Packers offense to move the ball pretty well, as long as there are no dumb turnovers they should hit 30 plus points for the 4th consecutive week.

They may need all of those points because the Packers secondary is still pretty shaky. Matt Stafford has not looked right since breaking a finger, but the Lions have receiving options that can do damage. As always the key here will be for the front seven to create havoc and prevent Stafford from having time to throw.

If the Redskins win on Sunday then this becomes do or die for both teams. Tensions will be running high but I expect the veteran Packers to be able to handle the environment. Experience with big games could come in handy in this one.

MARK

Packers 37 Lions 24

Five down and one to go. No motivational speech should be needed for this showdown at Ford Field on Sunday night. Regardless of the outcome of the Redskins game, this one is for all the marbles. The Lions are on a downward trend while the Packers could be the hottest team in the playoff tournament with a win on Sunday night. I find it difficult to believe that doubt hasn’t started creeping in the back of the heads of Lions players. They let the Packers back into the equation when they could have wrapped up the division long ago and now they will pay.

I expect a back and forth high scoring first half in this ballgame. However, I see the Packers, the more experienced big game team, coming out in the 2nd half and taking control. I think the Packers will want to run the ball more in this one than last week but I still see the best approach for the offense to let Aaron Rodgers do his thing and air it out to the suddenly wide variety of weapons at his disposal. I expect the Packers to test the hamstring of Darius Slay early and often. How about back to back go routes to open up the game regardless of whether you throw the ball to that receiver or not. However, even if he is healthy, I don’t see the Lions secondary sticking with the Packers’ receivers on a fast playing surface.

On defense, the Packers simply need to learn to bend but not break. If Clay Matthews continues to play like he did last week, Matt Stafford could be in for a long day. The Packers also limited the snaps of Julius Peppers all year long to save him for games likes this. The hand injury of Stafford has limited his accuracy and even despite the sometimes shaky play of the secondary I expect the Packers defense to get their hands on the ball especially in the second half.

Packers 41 Lions 20

The penultimate game leading up to a potential playoff berth is going to be massive for both of these teams. The crazy part is that both teams will know what they need to do in order to make the playoffs. If Washington is eliminated, both teams will make the playoffs regardless of who wins the division tonight.

Aaron Rodgers has put his money where his mouth is and has propelled this team back to the heights everyone thought they were capable of to start the season. The offense is clicking like 2010-2014 and Green Bay has a semblance of a run game again (even with a somewhat shaky outing against Minnesota). I think the tight end of Jared Cook is going to be crucial for opening up the field as the Lions defense has been gashed for 800 yards and 10 touchdowns to opposing tight ends.

I want to see Mike Daniels getting constant pressure and dominate Detroit’s offensive line. The Lions will most likely be be without center Travis Swanson which will give Daniels more opportunities through the middle which will hopefully result in some sacks or at the very least some solid QB pressures.

I have the Packers winning big in Detroit as their final statement game of the 2016 regular season and proving that they are a true contender in the NFC and should be taken seriously with the likes of Dallas, Atlanta and Seattle.

Talk of Aaron Rodgers not being clutch needs to stop

By: Bill Tewes

There is a ridiculous notion going around that Aaron Rodgers is not “clutch”. Yes I am referencing the article Bob McGinn wrote this morning referencing a statistic from Pro Football Reference that ranks Rodgers 94th all time in “game winning drives” and also suggesting that Rodgers did not deliver against the Falcons Sunday afternoon.

Where McGinn misses the mark (just like many others) about Rodgers is that he puts the team in positions to win games. Rodgers does deliver, but other variables such as the defense blowing a lead or poor play calling result in Rodgers’ poor fourth quarter comebacks ranking.

If this game is the reason for people to bring up the old (and tired) discussion of Rodgers “clutchness”, then I would have to seriously ask what Aaron Rodgers did to not be clutch yesterday? Was it the final drive where he was asked to drive 40+ yards in 30 seconds? What about the four touchdowns to zero interceptions he threw yesterday? Sounds to me like Rodgers did enough to win the game for the Green Bay Packers yesterday.

About the only thing Rodgers could have done yesterday to win the game was line up in the secondary and prevent an easy touchdown and perhaps maybe shave some more time off the clock for their final touchdown drive. The reality is, at least in this instance, Rodgers did more than enough to win the game. He was asked to come back with less than 35 seconds on the clock and put the team in position to win, no easy task. Green Bay’s defense got shredded and Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers is going to have to answer for why plodding linebacker Jake Ryan was covering speedy receiver Mohamed Sanu on the final touchdown drive that put Atlanta ahead.

It is difficult to place value on what being “clutch” brings to the table. What does clutch mean to a quarterback like Kurt Warner who only had nine fourth quarter comebacks throughout his career (according to Pro Football Reference) but is a two-time MVP and won a Super Bowl. Dan Marino on the other hand had 36 total fourth quarter comebacks according to Pro Football Reference and has never won a Super Bowl. Matt Ryan, the quarterback who completed a comeback Sunday against Green Bay has 25 fourth quarter comebacks to his credit but also blew a 17-0 lead in the 2012 NFC title game and Atlanta has been notorious for monumental collapses over the years. Being clutch is extremely subjective and I honestly believe Rodgers has the body of work to prove that his clutch-less performances can be explained away.

Rodgers has shown his clutch ability in many games in which Green Bay was either not expected to win, or faced a difficult comeback. Two specific examples are on the road against the Seahawks in the 2014 NFC Title game as well as on the road against the Arizona Cardinals in 2009 Divisional Round. The Seahawks game was one in which if Green Bay managed the game better down the stretch, we would be talking about what Rodgers did to win us that game in a hostile environment. The Arizona game Green Bay was down 21 points and Rodgers (along with JerMichael Finley) forced overtime.

Last year’s playoff game against the Cardinals witnessed Rodgers pull one out of nowhere with a hail mary toss to receiver Jeff Janis and even though they lost, is further proof of Rodgers’ comeback ability. While the sample sizes are small, I think they still suggest that the clutch “trait” is again subjective and open to a lot of interpretation as to what value it really has.

It Doesn't Matter What Position Ty Montgomery Plays

Is Ty Montgomery a running back or a receiver? It doesn’t matter!

By: Bill Tewes

When a player lands on the injured reserve list, it is generally a horrible predicament for many teams, especially when that player is a starter and a star. For the Green Bay Packers, losing Eddie Lacy to injury was a position many thought the team could not afford to be in. While the Packers are certainly hurting without Lacy, the door has been opened for yet another opportunity for Green Bay’s offense to be revitalized.

Enter Ty Montgomery, the second year wide receiver out of Stanford. Up until the Dallas game, Montgomery had seen limited action this season, mostly due to the fact that he was coming off nearly a year removed from playing in an NFL game after suffering a brutal ankle injury against the Chargers last season. Montgomery is also part of a crowded wide receiver corps, but now it appears as if his role is about to expand exponentially.

Montgomery has been thrust into a Swiss army knife type role, where he will be asked to shoulder many of the touches at running back and also function as an essential part of Green Bay’s wide receiver corps. The injury to Lacy has definitely opened up the door for the opportunity at running back, but dating back to last season, head coach Mike McCarthy has been hell-bent on getting both Montgomery and Randall Cobb touches in the backfield. These two receivers have been ready for this role even if it was not necessarily going to be a defined role for them.

Green Bay’s victory versus Chicago showcased what Montgomery is capable of when he is comfortable at running back and given the opportunity to get nearly double digit carries. Montgomery carried the ball a total of nine times for 60 yards (a whopping 6.66 yards per carry) and broke off an impressive run where he found a hole and galloped to a 30 yard-gain.

Montgomery was the feature back throughout the night with practice squad call up Don Jackson suffering a hand injury only six snaps into the game. He also accounted for 66 yards receiving on 10 receptions and should be an essential piece to the revitalization of Green Bay’s offense this season. Teams should expect to see a full dose of Montgomery throughout the rest of this season. If Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the head coach for the Green Bay Packers and was asked in a press conference if he thought Montgomery was a receiver or a running back, he would simply say “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT POSITION HE PLAYS!”

Many have compared Montgomery to teammate Cobb, but it’s pretty obvious that Montgomery has the better build to handle a full carry load at running back, whereas Cobb could act as a change of pace scat-back type for a little extra speed out of the backfield. Montgomery’s draft profile suggested that he had not lived up to his potential as a wide receiver in college and his measurables better fit the description of a running back. It is safe to say this is the reason why the Packers did not invest a lot of money in the backup running back position, as they already had a player on the roster who is capable of filling this role if need be and that player is Montgomery.

Week Six Predictions: Green Bay vs. Dallas

By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott, & Jim Boyce

After taking care of the Giants at home in a game that didn’t feel as close as the final score, the Packers have another NFC East opponent coming to town in the 4-1 Dallas Cowboys.

JIM

PACKERS 24 COWBOYS 20

Through five games it appears the Cowboys have what it takes to be a playoff team. Rookie QB Dak Prescott has shown poise beyond his years while generally not being asked to do too much. Without top WR Dez Bryant, Prescott has often looked to Jason Witten and Cole Beasley on the short to intermediate routes. Where Dallas really excels though is in the run game, where top pick Ezekiel Elliot is churning out a ton of yards behind Dallas’s excellent offensive line. It will be a great test for the Packers run defense, which has been historically great through four games. I believe the Cowboys will be able to run for around 100 yards in this game, but as long as Green Bay limits the huge gains and doesn’t allow Dallas to control the clock by running for 150 plus then they should be in decent shape to win.

The Packers offense gained over 400 yards against New York and held the ball for 36 minutes, yet settled for too many field goals and had turnovers which kept the game closer than it needed to be. Green Bay needs to eliminate the poor throws and drops, and hope Eddie Lacy is healthy and ready to roll on Sunday. If so I think Green Bay does enough to win, but I expect a tight game throughout.

MARK

PACKERS 27 COWBOYS 17

Don’t get me wrong the Cowboys deserve respect for their surprise start to the NFL season. I was especially impressed by their win last week easily defeating the Bengals.  Led by two rookies in Prescott and Elliot the Cowboys statistically are one of the top offenses in the game right now. However, as the old saying goes “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” The Packers defense should match up favorably against the Cowboys offense. As long as the strong run defense of the Packers can slow down Elliot, which I suspect they will, look for DC Dom Capers to throw multiple exotic looks to confuse the young QB Prescott in an already hostile environment

Packers 21 Cowboys 24

It has to happen Pack fans. The Packers typically lose anywhere from 3-6 games a year and I believe this game will be one of them. The Packers have yet to face a running back like Ezekiel Elliott. While their run defense is no doubt impressive and seemingly unstoppable, I strongly believe Elliott will get his yards and find the end-zone against Green Bay Sunday afternoon. In fact, I’ll say Elliott ends up with 115 yards and a score.

This game is going to be huge for both teams. If Dallas wins, it will signal that they are for real and nothing (not even the top ranked run defense) can stop Elliott and Prescott. If Green Bay wins, it is business and usual and they continue their dominance of usual home wins.

The problem I have with Green Bay is inconsistency on offense. I was ready to say they were back after their win versus Detroit, but the second half of that game, coupled with the second half of the Giants game says otherwise. Something is going on with Green Bay’s rhythm and they have yet to work out all of the kinks. An odd sight was Jordy Nelson dropping three passes and having one of his worst games in quite some time. Luckily Randall Cobb and Davante Adams picked up the slack and I expect them to contribute big if Green Bay plans to win this game.

Dak Prescott has certainly wowed in the five games he’s been the starter for Dallas. He has yet to make any real critical mistakes and has let Elliott do his work as the workhorse of Dallas’ offense. If they keep to the script and pound the rock, I cannot see Green Bay having enough consistency on offense to keep a lead late into the 4th quarter. If Dallas wears out Green Bay’s defense, this game is theirs for the taking. And that is why I believe Prescott and company will come away with a close victory.

Eddie Lacy ankle injury and who Green Bay turns to if he cannot go against Cowboys

By: Bill Tewes

After injuring his ankle in the third quarter of Green Bay’s win against the New York Giants, Packers running back Eddie Lacy’s status for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys is still up in the air. In this morning’s press conference, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said, “He’ll be in the rehab today and we’ll see how he moves around.” McCarthy has additionally stressed throughout the week that the injury is “not serious”.

Lacy’s murky injury status leaves a lot of question marks regarding Sunday’s matinee versus a team that is gaining a lot of momentum early in the season, the Dallas Cowboys. The only other active running back on Green Bay’s roster at the moment is James Starks, who has had a monumentally rough start to the 2016 season. The Packers cannot rely on Starks’ atrocious 1.8 yards per carry especially against a Dallas defense that is not stout against the run, but ranks 12th overall in the NFL. They certainly will not expect fullback Aaron Ripkowski to shoulder the load, but he will definitely be in the mix for carries and goal line work if Starks is the starter.

The Packers are in a real pinch at the moment because they have no running backs other than Lacy and Starks with NFL experience. John Crockett was third in line before he was put on IR just before the season started. Green Bay brought in former Saints running back CJ Spiller a few weeks ago for a workout, but Spiller signed with the Seattle Seahawks. Another option at their disposal was recently released Ravens half-back Justin Forsett, but he just signed with the Detroit Lions as of today.

All signs are pointing toward the team activating practice squad running back Don Jackson to the 53-man roster if Lacy cannot go. Jackson, an undrafted free agent out of Nevada, ran a 4.5 40 time at the combine and stands in at 5’ 10” and 205 pounds. Jackson brings a different run style to a Packers’ backfield that is seemingly exclusively bruiser backs. Jackson has an interesting story on his road to the NFL and could be a wild-card for the Packers this year. A scat back type could pay dividends for Rodgers and also give McCarthy more play-calling options.

Green Bay will most definitely need to lean on the run game, even against a banged up Dallas secondary. They had a favorable match-up last week against New York and even though the offense clicked in the first half, it was completely bogged down in the second half. Rodgers missed a lot of throws and multiple receivers were credited with drops. In order to beat a team like Dallas, who is on the rise and riding a lot of momentum coming into this game, McCarthy and company will have to bring an effective run game Sunday afternoon.

Next year’s draft will be essential for Thompson and McCarthy to take a good look at the running back class and get a complimentary back to Eddie Lacy. It is evident that James Starks has regressed and Starks will have to show that he is capable of being a quality #2 back in order for him to remain in the NFL, or even on a roster this season. The running back situation in Green Bay is an unnecessary problem that the Packers now have to potentially address (a perhaps even address throughout the rest of the season) with either Starks as the starter or going with an undrafted free agent in Jackson. More to come as Lacy progresses through rehab.

Week Five Predictions: Green Bay vs. New York

By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott, & Jim Boyce

JIM

PACKERS 31 GIANTS 23

The return of a few defensive starters should be a big boost to Green Bay’s defense, perhaps none more so than Morgan Burnett. With Burnett out against Detroit, Stafford and his receivers were able to find a lot of open space to throw the ball. Sam Shields will still be out, which is a concern against the Giants excellent WR corps, but Burnett should help alleviate the big plays we saw in Week 3. Offensively this is a chance for Rodgers and the Pack to prove they are back in business against a defense better than the Lions. The Giants have certainly improved over last seasons horrendous defense, but they are still able to be beaten.

There is certainly a possibility for a Giants upset if the secondary cannot stop the pass. However being at home, with two weeks rest, against a team that has looked fairly mediocre over the first month of the season, and it would be disappointing if the Packers do not take care of business Sunday night.

MARK

PACKERS 38 GIANTS 21

The timing of this game could not play more in favor for Green Bay in their Sunday night match-up against Big Blue. The Giants played a physical game at Minnesota last Monday night while the Packers have had 13 days in between their last game played to rest up and game-plan for the Giants. Surely it would be a disappointment if Mike McCarthy’s squad doesn’t get out to a fast start in this one, especially after the offense seemed to finally be regaining it’s mojo in the Lions game. The guess here is Aaron Rodgers should be able to exploit and take advantage of a banged up Giants secondary.

However, I see the real difference in this game being the Packers suddenly blooming pass rush getting after Eli Manning and the boys. The Packers now boast 4 legitimate pass rushers in Mike Daniels, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and Nick Perry, something they haven’t had in years. The Giants on the other hand are going to counter with Marshall Newhouse’s backup as one of their starting offensive tackles. Enough said.

Bill

PACKERS 35 GIANTS 17

When the schedule was released, this game was one I circled as a loss for Green Bay. The pieces New York added on defense (Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins) have done little to make in impact for the Giants through four weeks. It is crazy to think that the Giants have yet to force a turnover. I do not see that changing this week as Rodgers will take care of the ball and cut through the underwhelming Giants defense Sunday night.

One thing the Giants defense does have going for them is stopping the run. They aren’t as good as Green Bay (who are playing out of their minds when it comes to run defense) but are ranked top 10 in the NFL. I would not expect Eddie Lacy to get much traction tonight and may also take a back seat to the aerial assault. The Giants secondary is also pretty banged up with two starters questionable (Eli Apple, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and this should allows plenty of opportunity for Rodgers and company to air it out.

There is a lot of turmoil in New York right now and head coach Ben McAdoo is still getting his bearings as far a leading the team. I’m not sure Odell Beckham Jr. can control his temper and that could very well lead to some major issues for this team. The media is certainly talking about this story (and seemingly nothing else as far as the two teams are concerned) which will definitely help Green Bay. Eli Manning will give us a couple of opportunities for some interceptions and they have next to no run game. I cannot imagine the Giants putting up a lot of points tonight, even with cornerback Sam Shields out as well as starter Damarious Randall getting the questionable label.

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.

2016 NFL Preview

How the league will shape up this season through the eyes of the BCSR writers.

By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott, Jim Boyce

August has finally arrived and with it comes everyone’s favorite thing, football season. With the preseason officially underway, we take a look at how we think each division will look this season. Extra emphasis on the NFC North of course, as that is where our beloved Packers are.

Jim

NFC NORTH

  1. Green Bay Packers-My decision to pick Green Bay over Minnesota really comes down to one big thing. Aaron Rodgers over Teddy Bridgewater. With a hopefully healthy Nelson, Lacy playing for a new contract, and an offense focused on erasing memories of 2015, I expect the Packers offense to return to top 10 status. The defense could take a step into the top 10 as well if some young players develop.
  2. Minnesota Vikings- The Vikings have assembled a pretty talented roster, especially on defense. Mike Zimmer has done a really nice job since taking over in the Twin Cities. Adrian Peterson will do what he always does, but can Bridgewater take that next step and elevate the Vikings offense? Nonetheless I fully expect two teams from the North to make the playoffs this season.
  3. Chicago Bears-John Fox is a good coach, and with some additions to the defense the Bears should see an improvement over last seasons 6-10 record. There are enough questions about the Bears that they likely won’t make the playoffs this year though. Kevin White could be the X-factor this season as a former top 10 pick coming off an injury.
  4. Detroit Lions-Unless you just came out of a coma you know Calvin Johnson is gone. His replacements are Marvin Jones and whatever Anquan Boldin offers at this point of his career, along with incumbent Golden Tate. Detroit still doesn’t appear to have a running game, and the defense isn’t as good as it was when they went to the playoffs in 2014

Mark

NFC NORTH

  1. Green Bay- I have not been more confident in an upcoming Packers team since well maybe the 2011 season after the last Lombardi trophy came home. With the offense regaining health and many players on offense on a mission to prove naysayers wrong after sub-par seasons, namely Rodgers and Lacy, I think the offense will roar back with a vengeance and could approach record setting numbers in 2016. I see the defense rising from middle of the pack to a top 10 unit, lead by their ball hawking secondary and improved linebacker play. All in all could be one of the more balanced teams we have seen in the McCarthy tenure.
  2. Minnesota- I know they won the division last year but this just does not strike me as an elite football team. I think the Vikings take a slight step back this year and finish with 9 or 10 wins. The defense has talent to keep the Vikings competitive in most games and Adrian Peterson does not seem to age, but with a weak left tackle in Matt Kalil and average QB Teddy Bridgewater still under center, I don’t see the offense taking the step it needs to compete with the top teams in the NFC. The Viking should be in wild card contention
  3. Chicago- I see the Bears taking a jump this year and finishing around .500. Count me as impressed by the way John Fox leads a team and builds with defense first. However, Jay Cutler is still the quarterback and although he has seemed to improve slightly as he’s aged, he still can’t be trusted to lead this team into the playoffs. I also think the offense will take a step back without the services of Matt Forte.
  4. Detroit-I see the Lions in the basement of the North and likely headed for a top 5 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The loss of Megatron will not only hurt on the field but also overall team morale. He was the best player on a bad to mediocre 2015 team and Matt Stafford seems to be on the decline every year. His lack of leadership is a big reason why I have no faith in this squad making any noise.

Bill

NFC North

  1. Green Bay- Green Bay’s defense is going to be the catalyst for a deep playoff run. With an improved secondary and a consistently strong defensive line, Green Bay will look to dominant opponents on the defensive side of the ball. My major concern is how well the Packers’ receivers will play this year. A lot of players have to earn the trust of Aaron Rodgers and I am somewhat concerned with the re-injury potential of Jordy Nelson as well as the underwhelming seasons that Randall Cobb and Davante Adams had. Hopefully with the addition of a true wide receivers coach, our receiving core will fire on all cylinders and project us to the best record in the NFC.
  2. Minnesota- The Vikings added big body receiver Laquon Treadwell to add stability to a receiving core that has shown flashes of potential, but no real consistency. Treadwell is putting plenty of time in at practice in hopes of building rapport with QB Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings will hope that Treadwell makes an immediate impact (tough for a rookie) as they sorely need a deep threat to improve their passing game. Adrian Peterson will continue to show what an athletic freak he is and win more games for Minnesota than Bridgewater will. With the NFC South and East being mediocre at best, the Vikings will have a good opportunity to be in the playoff picture come December.
  3. Chicago- The Bears will take a step back this season with the loss of offensive coordinator Adam Gase. I truly believe that Gase was the reason that the Bears looked better on offense last year. While they have added some impressive defensive pieces (Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman) they lack the offensive fire power to put the team in the same discussion as Green Bay and Minnesota. I am somewhat excited to see what receiver Kevin White can do for this team, but he’s essentially in his rookie season and may not add immediate help. Chicago might improve their record (only because of how bad Detroit will be as well as strength of schedule), but where the big picture is concerned I think there are too many question marks to determine if this Bears team can take the big step into contending for the NFC North.
  4. Detroit- The Lions have no run game and that is a major concern for a team that just lost their Hall of Fame wide receiver in Calvin Johnson. I have no faith in Ameer Abdullah as a three down back. If the Lions are forced to play from behind, it will open the door for more playing time for Theo Riddick and Anquan Boldin, which is not what Lion fans want to see. They could desperately use a year away from winning football games to draft a potential star in Leonard Fournette to give them a potentially elite running back and bring balance to their offense.

NFC WEST

     Jim                               Mark                             Bill

  1. Seahawks              1. Cardinals             1.Cardinals
  2. Cardinals              2. Seahawks            2. Seahawks
  3.  Rams                     3. Rams                    3. Rams
  4. 49ers                      4. 49ers                    4. 49ers

NFC SOUTH

  1. Panthers                1. Panthers             1.Panthers
  2. Falcons                   2. Falcons              2. Saints
  3. Buccaneers            3. Buccaneers       3. Buccanears
  4. Saints                      4. Saints                4. Falcons

NFC EAST

  1. Cowboys                  1. Giants              1. Cowboys
  2. Giants                      2. Cowboys         2. Giants
  3. Redskins                 3. Redskins         3. Redskins
  4. Eagles                      4. Eagles              4. Eagles

AFC NORTH

  1. Bengals                  1. Steelers            1. Steelers
  2. Steelers                 2. Bengals            2. Bengals
  3. Ravens                   3. Ravens              3. Ravens
  4. Browns                  4. Browns             4. Browns

AFC WEST

  1. Chiefs                    1. Chiefs                1. Broncos
  2. Raiders                  2. Broncos            2. Chiefs
  3. Broncos                 3. Raiders             3. Raiders
  4. Chargers               4. Chargers          4. Chargers

AFC SOUTH

  1. Texans                  1. Texans                1. Texans
  2. Jaguars                 2. Jaguars               2. Colts
  3. Colts                     3. Colts                    3. Jaguars
  4. Titans                   4. Titans                 4. Titans

AFC EAST

  1. Patriots                 1. Patriots           1. Patriots
  2. Bills                       2. Jets                   2. Jets
  3. Jets                         3. Dolphins        3. Bills
  4. Dolphins              4. Bills                 4. Dolphins