Is there a trend developing?
The Green Bay Packers are off to a 1-1 start in the new season(Quarterback Peyton Manning Jersey).
Last year, they finished 8-8-1.
Counting their last 22 games, they’re one under the .500 mark at 10-11-1.
An experienced executive in personnel for a National Football League team thinks there is.
In an extended interview last week, the personnel man assigned a grade to each of the Packers’ 60 players for the Journal Sentinel and broke down the roster position-by-position. Selected because of his level of expertise and success in the NFL, he has studied the Packers this summer, this September and for years before that.
After presenting his findings, the scout was asked to add it up and assess where the Packers would be at the end of the season.
He sees them finishing .500 once again with a record of 8-8.
Our personnel man declined to make overall comments about the Packers, preferring to let his grades and positional remarks do that for him.
He did say the Packers, with several key players among the eight on injured reserve, were a team with “bad” depth.
Getting Bryan Bulaga back at right tackle and then keeping him there was critically important to the Packers’ drive for a fourth straight NFC North Division championship, according to the scout.
“(Derek) Sherrod is just a guy,” he said. “They have no depth in the offensive line.”
When the Packers won the North last year at 8-7-1, it was the first time in 30 years the division known as the NFC Central before 2002 was captured by a team without a double-digit victory total.
Our scout said 10-6 should be good enough to take it this year. All four teams are off to 1-1 starts.
For someone like me, who pegged the Packers for a 12-4 finish before the 36-16 defeat in Seattle, it was surprising not only to see the Lions open as a 1-point favorite Sunday over the Packers but then to have the line climb to 2.
Excluding games missed by Aaron Rodgers at the end of 2011 and Thanksgiving Day 2013, the Lions haven’t been favored over the Packers since Mike McCarthy was coaching his third game in September 2006.
With Brett Favre and Rodgers at quarterback, Green Bay had been favored over Detroit for 13 games in a row.
Clearly, the linemakers in Nevada and elsewhere see almost no difference between the Packers and Lions, who haven’t won the division in 21 years.
“This weekend’s game will be the matrix of the whole year for Green Bay,” the scout said. “That will tell it all. It will give you a great barometer where they are within the division.”
His preseason pick to win the NFC North was Minnesota. Despite posting a last-place record of 5-10-1, the Vikings finished with the most total points late last December in the all-North team selected by divisional scouts for the Journal Sentinel.
“I think they’re better than people think,” the scout said. “Their Achilles is the quarterback (Matt Cassel). But now that changes everything.”
He was referring to the child abuse scandal 10 days ago that led to the banishment of running back Adrian Peterson.
Before that, the scout viewed Minnesota as much improved in terms of personnel, defensive coaching (Mike Zimmer) and offensive coaching (Norv Turner).
Everyone can make their own judgment of Rodgers’ absence last season for just short of eight games.
What’s fact is the Packers were 16-6 in 22 games immediately preceding their current stretch of 10-11-1 in 22 games. From mid-2010 to late 2012, they won at an .804 clip (37-9).
When asked to evaluate Green Bay’s new-look defense, our scout said he questioned its ability to stop the run. He concluded by saying the Packers had better score a lot of points this season.
Here is a position-by-position look at the Packers through the eyes of our personnel man:
“They’re solid football players who know their roles but have enough skill within their defined position to excel. They have uncertainty after Davante Adams, who is No. 3. The speed is good, not great. They’re smart football players. The smarts could make them exceptional.”
“Richard Rodgers is sure-handed with the ability to make the tough catch. (Brandon) Bostick gives you a chance to stretch the field. Ryan Taylor is just a special-teams guy. (Andrew) Quarless can block and he can catch. There’s not a real threat. Overall, I’d give the group a Green with the arrow up only because of Rodgers’ ability to catch the ball. I like him more than Bostick because you know what you’ve got.”
“The group is very solid because of the two guards and the left tackle is proven and will develop even more than he did last year. They’re in concert with each other. They understand the process of playing as five. That’s a credit to the line coach (James Campen). The centers are try-hard, smart, tough guys that have above-average abilities to be really good. I think they’re both better than (Evan) Dietrich-Smith. Sherrod scares the (expletive) out of me. He whiffs. He’s not the same guy that he was. (Garth) Gerhart has developed there. He’s solid. I think Lane Taylor stinks.”
“I think the first guy (Rodgers) is a rock star. He can do everything you want. He’s the guy. He is awesome. I’m not going to say he’s the best. The others are just guys. They’re interchangeable parts depending on what the coaching staff wants to do in terms of developing and what their comfort level is. I’d play (Matt) Flynn second on the basis of his game-day ability to play. (Scott) Tolzien is an athlete. He is smart. At the end of the day Ted (Thompson) should have used that position to develop a young (quarterback). He hasn’t done that. I don’t think Tolzien would have been claimed. Maybe now he’d be somewhere but he’s just a guy….As the backup you have to have dynamic. You have to have a relationship with the starter. You also have to be smart enough and savvy enough to get a team out of a game for two or three weeks. Flynn can do that.”
“The No.1 (Eddie Lacy) is a determined, large guy with power and strength. He fits the Mike McCarthy offense to perfection when he decides to run the football and mix it in with play-action. The quarterback and the running back work hand-in-hand. James Starks, at the end of the day, when (expletive) gets tough, can you trust him? Is he going to play with a nick? DuJuan Harris is a little guy with a chip on his shoulder. I like him. (John) Kuhn’s time has passed. That (position) is a strength for them.”
“Weak. Who mans up? The only guys in that bunch that may man up are (Josh) Boyd and (Mike) Daniels. The rest of them are shoulda, coulda, wouldas. Meaning they may or they may not. With Boyd and Daniels you know what you get every day. Their deficiency is their lack of length and size. At best, Daniels would be a Red. He’ll never be a Blue. I love his temperament. But at the end of the day reality sets in. Datone Jones has length. He doesn’t have size. He’s just a guy. He’s got to earn it. I thought (Letroy) Guion was good in Minnesota but I never thought he was great. (B.J.) Raji has soft temperament. I think his loss was big in the run game. (Mike) Pennel has a lot of up side. I can’t make an assessment of (Khyri) Thornton.”
“They’ve got a whole bunch of guys that are talented but they’ve got to prove it. Inside, I think they’re soft. The starters are just guys. I mean, they’re taking space. They’ve got backups that would probably make as many plays as the starters. Brad Jones is soft and he can’t run. A.J. (Hawk), that’s all he is is steady. If I wanted to go down the seam I’d go after A.J. I like (Sam) Barrington. There’s a little bit of future there. I like his temperament. They need to get faster at inside linebacker. Right now they’re slow. (Jamari) Lattimore is just a guy. (Carl) Bradford has eyes and instincts. He has to be inside. They’ll be good outside but they can’t be great. There’s nothing better than having a great athlete with a chip on his shoulder. (Clay) Matthews has got it. (Julius) Peppers is an athlete. People got to take notice of him and that frees up (Matthews). I don’t see big (impact) out of Peppers but I still think it was a good signing. (Nick) Perry is power. He’s just a guy. It won’t happen. (Mike) Neal is developing. Neal is all right. He’s multi-functional. (Jayrone) Elliott is better than (Andy) Mulumba. Elliott is a developmental prospect. If you got a good coach you can develop him.
“The secondary is a Green-plus. The corners are good, the safeties are growing. They have to feel each other out. Depending on the nickel corner they could be good or bad. The money for (Sam) Shields was fair. They had to pay the market. He’ll always be a Purple-plus. (Tramon) Williams is descending. He gets by. I like (Casey) Hayward and (Davon) House. House is long, learning and he’s starting to make plays. Green Bay has a big decision to make on House. When Hayward plays he’s good. I think the field is too big for him (Demetri Goodson). Basketball guys that make the transition to football, even though he played football, it’s too big for him. This will be Morgan Burnett’s redemption year. Ha Ha (Clinton-Dix) is the real deal. So far, so good. He’s just got to grow through his pains. Micah Hyde is an efficient safety. His tackling is OK at safety. Burnett is consistent. The money they gave him was fair. (Sean) Richardson has improved.
“Each one is really consistent at what they do. All you can ask for is consistency. (Tim) Masthay is good inside the 20.”
Last week, an experienced executive in personnel for a National Football League team provided this color-coded rating of the 52 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster and the eight players on injured reserve. He has watched tape of the Packers throughout the exhibition season and the first two regular-season games. Players were evaluated primarily on positional value rather than special-teams value.
Each player was assigned a color code, which is standard in NFL pro personnel departments. Teams, however, use different colors to mean different things. Blue and red are used by most teams for the top two categories.
The beauty of scouting is no two scouts ever see a player in completely the same light. Sometimes their evaluations of the same player can be significantly different. While encouraging independent thinking, most organizations then try to work toward a consensus on players.
This is how the scout defined his color categories:
BLUE: Pro Bowl player.
RED: Above-average starter with a chance to be exceptional.
PURPLE: Starter you can win with.
GREEN: Lower-tier starter, or a backup with a chance to improve.
YELLOW: Below-average backup; needs to be replaced.
WHITE: Incomplete; insufficient information to grade.
The scout used a plus sign (+) to indicate that a player was ascending within that category and a minus sign (-) to indicate that a player was descending within that category.
Here are his grades:
BLUE (1): QB Aaron Rodgers.
RED (2): LB Clay Matthews, WR Jordy Nelson.
PURPLE (15): TE Brandon Bostick, T Bryan Bulaga, WR Randall Cobb, K Mason Crosby, DE Mike Daniels, LS Brett Goode, CB Casey Hayward, RB Eddie Lacy (+), G T.J. Lang, P Tim Masthay, LB Julius Peppers, TE Richard Rodgers (+), CB Sam Shields (+), G Josh Sitton (+), CB Tramon Williams.
GREEN (27): WR Davante Adams (+), T David Bakhtiari (+), T Don Barclay (-), LB Sam Barrington, DE Josh Boyd, WR Jarrett Boykin, S Morgan Burnett (+), CB Jarrett Bush (Yellow for cornerback, Purple for special teams), S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, LB Jayrone Elliott, C Garth Gerhart (+), NT Letroy Guion (+), RB DuJuan Harris (+), LB A.J. Hawk (-), CB Davon House (+), S Micah Hyde (+), WR Jeff Janis (+), DE Datone Jones, C Corey Linsley (+), LB Mike Neal, NT Mike Pennel, LB Nick Perry, TE Andrew Quarless, NT B.J. Raji (+), S Sean Richardson, RB James Starks (+), C JC Tretter (+).
YELLOW (9): LB Carl Bradford, QB Matt Flynn, LB Brad Jones (-), FB John Kuhn (-), LB Jamari Lattimore, LB Andy Mulumba, LB Nate Palmer, TE Ryan Taylor (-), QB Scott Tolzien (-).
WHITE (3): WR Jared Abbrederis (+), T Aaron Adams, DE Khyri Thornton.
BROWN (3): CB Demetri Goodson, T Derek Sherrod, G Lane Taylor.