Saturday, June 20, 2009

How Aaron Rodgers can be THE MAN in Green Bay...

Five suggestions for Aaron Rodgers…

1) Drop the Jesus look and please stop wearing those ridiculous hats to the post-game press conferences. Dude, we know you’re from California, but you’re not a skateboarder—you’re an NFL quarterback, dammit. Please try looking like one. (Writer’s note: Looks like Aaron may have already gotten this advice from somewhere else. See the above photo of him at the Kentucky Derby clean-shaven and looking very professional)

2) Listen Aaron, even if it’s true, do you really want to go around admitting Princess Bride is your favorite movie? Something like “Die Hard” would probably sound a lot better. Or maybe that’s just how you show your sensitive side to the hot chicks you’re hitting on in Vegas. Yeah, I guess that might help. Never mind…

3) Scrap the nickname A-Rod. It’s taken already, and it has negative vibes. See definition in dictionary: “A-Rod—Nickname for pretty-boy, narcissistic, robotic and incredible over-rated professional athlete that would sell out his mother for more money or fame.”

4) Stop being so damn polite. Show frustration when McCarthy calls three straight hand-offs for no gain on first and goal at the three. Give your defense a hard time when they give up 50-yard passes late in games right after you drove the team for a score. Give Mason Crosby a good swift kick in the ass when he gets a 38-yard field goal blocked to lose a game. And while you’re at it, try to get McCarthy riled up, too. (But that’s a different article.)

5) In all seriousness, continue the pattern you set in college and as a pro. In two years as California’s starting quarterback, you threw for 43 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions in 665 attempts. You hold the school career record for lowest percentage of passes intercepted at 1.95 percent, This season with the Packers, you threw for 28 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 536 attempts. OK, you did try to force a few throws late in games when behind, but if you learn from those mistakes, Green Bay will be lucky enough to have a damn good quarterback for years to come.

Be you’re own man, Aaron, but be THE man.


You can find more of Jersey Al Bracco's articles on several sports websites: NFL Touchdown, Packers Lounge, Packer Chatters , Jersey Al's Blog and, of course, Bleacher Report.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Green Bay Packers' Biggest OTA Surprise: OLB Jeremy Thompson

By Al Bracco

As the Packers OTAs have progressed, one of the most surprising stories has been the rapid ascension up the depth chart of Jeremy Thompson. A fourth-round draft pick out of Wake Forest (102nd overall) in 2008, Thompson saw limited action in his rookie season.

Thompson was inactive for the Packers first four games, but when Cullen Jenkins' season came to an early end, Thompson stepped into defensive end rotation. He eventually started three games, but was hampered for much of the last seven games with an assortment of injuries.

Thompson didn't get a chance to show very much in 2008, but the Packers coaches thought he could be a contributor at DE in 2009 if he bulked up and added another 15 pounds to his 270lbs frame.

Then of course, the defensive coaching purge hit Green Bay on Jan 5, 2009. Soon after, new coaches and a new 3-4 defensive system were introduced.

In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened for Jeremy Thompson. He is now being asked to play a position the new Packer coaches feel he is a natural for.

Thompson changed his training regimen over the offseason, emphasizing speed and hip-flexibility drills. He also abandoned the need to put on more weight, instead focusing on becoming leaner and stronger at the same time. The end result was he actually dropped 10 pounds, while gaining speed, flexibility and strength.

Thompson has also been working extensively since January with linebackers coach Kevin Greene on techniques and tactics. He says every day Coach Greene will pick one aspect of his game that needs improving and work on it extensively. Greene has commented that he is "excited" by Thompson's athletic ability.

Evidently, all these factors have sent Thompson rocketing up the depth chart. He was installed as the first team right OLB at OTAs even before 2009 No. 1 pick Clay Matthews III injured his hamstring.

There have been a multitude of positive quotes about Jeremy Thompson coming out of Green Bay. Mike McCarthy called him "a natural fit for this defense." Dom Capers said, "He's made progress and, through just a short period of time we've been around him, has been encouraging. I think he has the ability to play the position."

Capers also warned, however, not to read too much into who's on the No. 1 unit during OTAs, because there will be significant competition for the job in training camp.

So as this relative unknown makes his bid for a starting spot over the much more high-profile Clay Matthews III and veteran Brady Poppinga, it left me wanting to know more about Jeremy Thompson.

Here's what I found...

Thompson did play some linebacker in High School, as well as tight end, running back and wide receiver. He also earned four letters in basketball, three in track and one in tennis. Natural athlete.

At Wake Forest, he was a two-time Academic All-ACC selection. Intelligent

As a senior at Wake forest, was a finalist for the NCAA National Sportsmanship Award. Good Person

Played in 46 games with 32 starts for Wake Forest and finished his career with 111 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and eight-and-one-half sacks. He also blocked two field goals and had two interceptions, one of which he returned for 86 yards and a touchdown. Productive.

Although Wake Forest plays a 4-3 defense, they do often drop their defensive ends into pass coverage, like an outside linebacker. At times, he even lined up on the slot receiver. Versatile.

So putting all these facts together, our quickie profile of Jeremy Thompson reads: Natural athlete, intelligent, good person, productive, and versatile. Sounds like “Packer People.”

Will all of this translate to a significant role for Jeremy Thompson in 2009? We’ll have a better idea after they put the pads on at the first mandatory mini camp June 22. Stay tuned...

For even more nuggets of information about Jeremy Thompson, check the end of my article here.


You can find more of Jersey Al Bracco's articles on several sports websites: NFL Touchdown, Packers Lounge, Packer Chatters , Jersey Al's Blog and, of course, Bleacher Report.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

In Dom We Trust

by Al Bracco

In Dom We Trust — do we have any other choice?

Dom Capers was hired by Mike McCarthy to restore the Green Bay Packer defense to prominence. He wasn’t McCarthy’s first choice, but after Mike Nolan and Gregg Williams spurned the Packers, and Jim Haslett was left hanging, McCarthy moved fast to lock up Capers before the NY Giants could.

Capers, 58, has 38 years of coaching experience, including 23 years in the National Football League. He has been a defensive coordinator seven of those years (Pittsburgh, ‘92-’94; Jacksonville 1999-2000; and Miami ‘06-’07) and head coach nine of them (Carolina 1995-’98 and Houston 2001-’05).

Fortunately for the Packers, his record as a coordinator is much better than his record as a head coach. Not that he took on easy tasks. As Capers has jokingly said, “I’m the only guy stupid enough to take two head coaching jobs with expansion teams.”

Capers has experience with the 3-4 in Pittsburgh, Carolina, Jacksonville, Houston, Miami and New England. This is the third time he will be converting a 4-3 team.

Based on his history, the 20th-ranked Packers defense can count on a quick turnaround.

When Capers took over the 25th-ranked Jaguars defense in 1999, the Jaguars moved up to fourth in the rankings and led the league in scoring defense. And when he converted the Dolphins to a 3-4 in 2006, they improved from 18th to fourth in the defensive rankings.

“The most foolish thing you can do is put in a scheme and plug your players into that,” Capers has said. “You have to have enough flexibility to put your best 11 football players out there and feature what they do best. We know where we would kind of like to go. How fast we’ll get there is another thing.”

That having been said, Capers strongly favors the 3-4, which is gaining popularity in the league. There are now 12 teams playing the 3-4, but the Packers will be one of only three using it in the NFC.

Capers considers the scarcity of 3-4 teams in the NFC as a benefit to the Packers. “If you are one of the few, it becomes a little bit of an advantage,” Capers said. “There are only three days each week to prepare, and if your opponents go five or six weeks in a row preparing for 4-3 teams, it helps.”

“The two top defenses in the league played the 3-4 last year in Pittsburgh and Baltimore,” Capers said. “That means something to coaches.”

Kevin Greene, Green Bay’s new outside linebackers coach, was a training-camp volunteer in Pittsburgh last summer. He worked closely with outside backer LaMarr Woodley, who had a breakout season in 2008. If nothing else, Greene’s experience as a pass-rushing linebacker means he knows what it takes to get to the quarterback from the OLB spot.

Aaron Kampman has been working closely with Greene, and according to Mike McCarthy, Kampman has firmly grasped the mental aspect of playing that position.

Capers is excited about the Packers two first-round draft picks, B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews, especially since they are well suited for the 3-4. “Both of them have the kind of physical tools to do a lot of the things we like to ask them to do,” Capers said.

“Raji has really good size and really good athletic ability for his size. He can play nose, he can play defensive end if we ask him to bump out and do that. Matthews has the ability not only to rush but to drop into coverage. We’re excited about having them.”

Dom Capers took the Packers job, he says, because his gut told him it’s a great match. Said Capers, “I had conversations with numerous teams and when it came down to it I felt this was the best match and best marriage and felt excellent.”

So now that the honeymoon is over, I ask the question: Will it be a marriage made in heaven?


You can find more of Jersey Al Bracco’s articles on several sports websites: NFL Touchdown, Packers Lounge, Packer Chatters , Jersey Al’s Blog and Bleacher Report.