It’s been an eternity since I’ve published a post here, so I figured now is a perfect time to pick the pen back up. Below you’ll find my mock draft for the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Barring trades, which there will certainly be a flurry of, here’s how I see tonight going down.
MINNEAPOLIS – Green Bay’s final trip to the Metrodome was for all the nation to witness, and Aaron Rodgers made sure that everyone knew just how dangerous the Packers can be, with or without three of their primary offensive playmakers. When the smoke cleared and the horns stopped blasting, the Packers were victorious, 44-31.
The night began in a sour fashion, as Minnesota rookie Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff an NFL-record 109 yards for a touchdown to put the Vikings up 7-0 in just 13 seconds. The Packers, however, were unfazed by the quick strike and executed their game plan to near perfection. Green Bay scored ten points on their first two possessions, running 31 plays for 160 yards while burning 15 minutes and 48 seconds off the clock. The Packers dictated time of possession throughout, holding the ball for nearly 41 minutes, including the first 8 minutes and 10 seconds of the second half. Minnesota had the ball barely over 2 minutes in the third quarter, running just three plays. The Packers never punted. In fact, the only time Green Bay had the ball and didn’t score was on the “victory formation” kneel-down which sealed the win. At 438.9 yards per game, the Green Bay offense ranks 2nd in the NFL and 1st in the NFC.
One of the biggest plays of the game came from perhaps the unlikeliest of sources. Given an opportunity to return punts full-time while Randall Cobb heals, Micah Hyde firmly put his stamp on the team, giving Green Bay a huge lift with a 93-yard punt return for a TD. The rookie defensive back from Iowa seems as though he’s got a stranglehold on the position.
The Packers dominated third downs, converting their first seven attempts en route to a 72.2 percent conversion rate (13-for-18), the highest percentage for any team this season. Green Bay was successful on both of their fourth-down tries as well. Rodgers was particularly sharp on third down, recording 182 yards and two touchdowns on 10-for-10 passing for a perfect QB rating of 158.3. Overall, Rodgers threw only five incompletions in 29 attempts. Two of the five were intentional throwaways while rookie Myles White dropped another. Rodgers threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns, finishing with a passer rating of 130.6 and a career-high total QBR of 98.6.
In their first nationally televised game of the year, the Packers matched their season high with 182 yards on the ground. The run game was bolstered by the return of James Starks, who ran for 57 yards and a score on seven carries. Matched with Eddie Lacy, who carried the ball a career-high 29 times for 94 yards and a TD, the Packers mauled the Vikings defensive line. “I think we’re powerful,” said Starks, “we compliment each other well.” His quarterback agreed: “[Starks is] a great slasher in every sense of the word. He made some great cuts [and had] a big touchdown run for us. Eddie was just pounding it. He’s tough to bring down. He’s like a bowling ball in there. I’m really proud of the job those guys did, but the offensive line again deserves a lot of credit.” Indeed, the offensive line does deserve a pat on the back. Rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari more than held his own versus All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen. With zero tackles, zero sacks, and zero quarterback hits, Allen was a complete non-factor. “When the heck is the last time the Green Bay Packers rushed for 200 yards on somebody?” Allen questioned after the game. “If that’s not a punch in the gut and a wake-up to people, something needs to be.”
In the absence of Randall Cobb, Mike McCarthy decided to use Jordy Nelson in the slot after he recorded just 42 yards on five catches in Week 7. Nelson took full advantage, catching seven passes on eight targets for 123 yards and two touchdowns – both scores coming from the slot. His blazing speed was on display as well when he hauled in a 76-yard TD in the second quarter to put Green Bay ahead 17-10. Both McCarthy and Rodgers praised Nelson after the game. “He’s just a smart player,” said Rodgers, “he can play anywhere. He can play inside, outside. He understands all the route concepts… He’s such a valuable resource to our team.” McCarthy continued the praise, stating, “I like Jordy everywhere. Jordy just does it right all of the time. He can play any position; he can run any route. His body language is something that young receivers should take note of. He’s an excellent target for the quarterback to throw to.”
Green Bay improved to 5-2 and remained alone in first place in the NFC North. “I wasn’t going to let this team beat us,” said Aaron Rodgers after the victory. The Packers take on the Bears next week in their only Monday Night Football appearance of the season. Chicago will be without stars QB Jay Cutler and LB Lance Briggs. Clay Matthews, set to have the pins removed from his right thumb on the day of the Bears game (Nov. 4), is eyeing a November 10 return against the Eagles.
Jordy Nelson has four TD catches of 75+ yards since 2010, tied for the most in the NFL (Julio Jones).
The Packers rank 5th in passing (297.4) and 3rd in rushing (141.4) in the NFL. The last time they were top 10 in both categories was 2004.
Green Bay is 15-1 in their last 16 divisional games.
The two longest plays in NFL history have both occurred at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome: Patterson’s 109-yard kickoff return and Antonio Cromartie’s 109-yard return of a missed field goal in 2007.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Donning 1929 throwback uniforms from their first world championship season, the Acme Green Bay Packers looked like the most complete team in all of professional football on Sunday, dismantling the Cleveland Browns 31-13 at Lambeau Field.
Missing offensive juggernauts Randall Cobb and James Jones due to injuries, the burden fell on Green Bay’s young receivers to pick up the slack. The Packers, however, didn’t skip a beat. Aaron Rodgers began the game with seven straight passes and immersed WR Jarrett Boykin, making his first career NFL start, in the offense immediately. A week after dropping two passes and looking out of place on several others, Boykin proved to be a living embodiment of head coach Mike McCarthy’s favorite idiom: next man up. The second-year pro hauled in eight catches for 103 yards and an impressive, diving touchdown, bowling over a Cleveland defender and stretching his 6-2 frame into the end zone. The all-time leader at Virginia Tech in receptions (184) and receiving yards (2,884) played in 69 of Green Bay’s 71 offensive snaps. Rookie WR Myles White took over for Cobb as the primary third wide out, running 31 of his 32 routes out of the slot. Blanketed by Joe Haden all afternoon, Jordy Nelson was held to five catches, 42 yards, and a 1-yard TD catch.
For the second time this season tight end Jermichael Finley was unable to finish a game due to a significant injury. This time he was carted off the field with what was later diagnosed as a bruised spinal cord in his neck. Finley, who suffered a concussion in Week 3, was off to a hot start prior to the shoulder-blow to the head delivered by Cleveland safety Tashaun Gipson. Finley looked like a major mismatch for the Browns secondary, as he caught five passes on five targets for 72 yards and a bruising TD, bouncing out numerous would-be tacklers before collecting his third score of the season.
Once again the running game was both productive and efficient. Rookie tailback Eddie Lacy carried the ball 22 times for 82 yards and a TD while also recording 5 catches for 26 yards. Lacy has seen the field on 83.5 percent of the offensive plays in the past three games, racking up an NFL-best 301 yards over that span.
The defense smothered Cleveland, holding them to a very pedestrian 216 total yards and just 3.2 yards per play. Davon House’s first quarter interception of Brandon Weeden helped set the tone. Green Bay recorded three sacks despite playing without starting outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. The Packers now rank 12th in the NFL in total defense and 3rd in stopping the run, limiting opponents to a paltry 79 yards per game (trailing only the Broncos and Jets). The offense is top notch, as usual, ranking 4th in the NFL (4th in passing – 300.0 y/g; 6th in rushing – 134.7 y/g).
The Packers now travel to Minnesota for a Sunday night showdown with the 1-5 Vikings. Minnesota will be coming off a short week following their Monday Night loss to the 1-6 Giants.
BALTIMORE — The headline on ESPN.com read, “They don’t travel well.” The headline on ESPN.com was wrong. The Green Bay Packers capped off an impressive road win against the defending Super Bowl champions on Sunday, defeating the Baltimore Ravens 19-17 at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Packers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead but saw momentum change early in the second quarter when Ryan Taylor blocked a punt only to have John Kuhn touch the bouncing ball beyond the line of scrimmage, allowing the Ravens to recover and giving them a fresh set of downs. Baltimore promptly drove into the red zone and was primed to take the lead with first-and-goal on the 4. After three straight runs by Ray Rice resulted in three yards, the Ravens elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard line. Mike Daniels and Micah Hyde combined to stuff Bernard Pierce for no gain, turning the ball over on downs. “Our defense stood up for me and had my back,” said Kuhn after the game. “Nobody was more appreciative of that goal-line stand than myself… That’s a detrimental mistake that I can’t make.” The defense also picked up Mason Crosby after he whiffed for the first time in 2013. With 12 seconds left in the first half, Nick Perry got around the edge and knocked the ball loose from Joe Flacoo. Rookie first-rounder Datone Jones scooped up the football and returned it 20 yards to the Baltimore 13. Offered the chance to quickly redeem himself, Crosby did just that, nailing a 31-yard field goal to put Green Bay up 6-0 at the break.
Two injuries provided a gut-wrenching subplot: Wide receiver James Jones left the game early in the first quarter with a sprained PCL and later returned to the sidelines in street clothes. There is a chance that Jones could suit up next week. Fellow wide out and Mr. Versatility, Randall Cobb, suffered an agonizing blow to the knee on a Matt Elam hit. Cobb also appeared later on the sidelines but was hobbling on crutches. Mike McCarthy confirmed that Cobb would miss “multiple weeks” with the knee injury. Down to just Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin, the Packers handed the Ravens a heavy dose of their run game in the second half. Unable to utilize their preferred three-receiver set, Green Bay dialed up designed runs on 59 percent of their second half play calls, the second-highest such percentage for a half in the past three seasons. The Ravens held Rodgers to just seven completions after halftime. The Green Bay quarterback made the most of his opportunities however, throwing for 199 yards on those completions. The biggest offensive play of the day was a 64-yard missile to Jordy Nelson which put Green Bay ahead 16-3 with 2:12 remaining in the third quarter. Baltimore corner Lardarius Webb bit on the play-action to Lacy, freeing up Nelson for an absolutely perfect Aaron Rodgers throw.
Joe Flacco immediately responded, leading the Ravens down the field and scoring on an 11-yard TD pass to Jacoby Jones, narrowing the gap to 16-10 with 11:52 remaining in the fourth quarter. Rodgers and the Packers offense answered with a 12-play, 72-yard drive which took over 7½ minutes. Mason Crosby converted a 31-yard field goal attempt to put Green Bay up by two possessions, 19-10. With the game hanging in the balance, Joe Flacco delivered a 63-yard strike to Tandon Doss on fourth-and-21 with 2:40 left on the clock. On the ensuing play Dallas Clark hauled in an 18-yard TD to bring the Ravens within two points. Green Bay safety Jerron McMillian, who slipped and fell in coverage on fourth down, failed to hear the defensive play call and was caught out of position on the Clark touchdown.
With three timeouts remaining the Ravens decided to kick it deep and attempt to stop the Green Bay offense. The Packers, however, salted the game away. On a pivotal third-and-3 from their own 27, Aaron Rodgers hit Jermichael Finley on a crossing pattern. Finley rumbled down the left sideline for 52 yards and stepped out of bounds with 1:42 on the clock. “I was about 99 percent going to Jermichael on that one,” Rodgers stated in his post-game interview. The Packers went to their rookie stud three straight times to end the game. Lacy applied the dagger to the Ravens on a 4-yard scamper on third-and-2, causing Packers GM Ted Thompson to slam his fist in excitement on the counter in the press box. “Days like today remind you of why you love this game so much,” said Rodgers. “Offensively, we’re struggling a little bit, but we found a way to make enough plays to win.”
The ground game was stellar once again, grinding out 140 yards against a stingy Baltimore front. Eddie Lacy jump-started the Green Bay offense, opening the game with back-to-back runs of 10 and 37 yards on the way to his first career 100-yard rushing performance. “I had to stay hydrated,” said Lacy, who was spotted with three empty Gatorade bottles and one empty bottle of water in his locker. After finishing one yard short of the century mark last week, Lacy ran for 120 yards against the Ravens on 23 carries. The Packers have averaged 160.3 yards rushing over their past four games.
The Packers simply dominated the line of scrimmage on defense, limiting the Ravens to a mere 47 yards on the ground while recording five sacks. A.J. Hawk, the steady heartbeat of the Packers defense, filled in as the defensive signal caller for the injured Brad Jones, registering 10 tackles, five tackles-for-loss, and three sacks (Hawk recorded just three sacks all of last season). Green Bay’s third ranked run defense (78.2 yards per game) proved too much for the Ravens to handle. Despite the absence of Clay Matthews, Baltimore ball carriers were hit in the backfield on nine of 21 designed run plays, the most since Week 1 of 2010. The Ravens finished 2-for-14 (14%) on third down against Green Bay, needing double-digit yards to convert on nine of their attempts. Their average distance to gain on third down was a staggering 11.2 yards.
Green Bay will need to address their depth at receiver this week. Jarrett Boykin dropped two passes and looked out-of-sync on several other routes, although he did record a key 43-yard catch to set up a field goal. The Packers could sign undrafted rookie WR Myles White off the practice squad. Charles Johnson, one of Green Bay’s seventh round selections this past draft, was signed by Cleveland on Saturday. The Browns travel to Lambeau Field next Sunday to take on the Packers at 3:25 CDT.
Prior to Sunday’s loss, the Ravens had won 13 consecutive home games against NFC opponents.
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore’s all-time sacks leader and the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year, failed to record a sack, snapping his personal five game streak.
Sam Shields blanketed Ravens WR Torrey Smith, limiting him to 1 catch for 12 yards. Smith had recorded at least 4 catches and 92 yards each week entering Sunday’s contest.
Eddie Lacy is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, a full yard more than last year’s leading rusher (Alex Green, 3.4).
Mike McCarthy may have found his return man in rookie Micah Hyde. The former Iowa standout averaged 13.6 yards on five punt returns Sunday, including bursts of 20 and 23 yards. Green Bay was averaging a pedestrian 7.1 yards per punt return going into Baltimore.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Another game versus the Lions in Wisconsin, another tally in the win column for the Packers. Green Bay extended their NFL-record home winning streak to 23 games by completely dominating the Calvin Johnson-less Lions on Sunday, beating down Detroit 22-9 in front of 78,200 raucous fans, the largest crowd in Lambeau Field history.
The Green Bay running game was in full force once again, pounding out 180 yards on the ground against Detroit’s stout defensive line. Rookie running back Eddie Lacy, who was returning from a concussion he suffered in the Week 3 loss to Cincinnati, ran for 99 yards on 23 carries, falling just one yard short of giving the Packers their third different 100-yard rusher in three games. “We wanted to run it a bunch and give Eddie some touches,” QB Aaron Rodgers explained in his post-game interview. “For the most part it was very clean up front. The offensive line did a great job.”
As the Packers stumbled in the red zone, kicker Mason Crosby tied a franchise-record by converting five field goals, running his season total to a perfect 9-for-9. “Mason Crosby was on fire today,” said McCarthy after the game. “He was stroking, hitting the ball very well. He was one of our keys to victory today.” The Packers made big plays when it counted. Randall Cobb busted a 67-yard run in the third quarter, the longest by a Packer in nearly three years and the longest by a Green Bay wide receiver since James Lofton’s 83-yard touchdown run against the Giants on Sept. 20, 1982. “I’ve got to finish. That’s got to be a touchdown. It was a great block by the offensive line and I was able to get on the safety pretty fast, one-on-one. I was able to beat him and get up the sideline, but I’ve got to score there,” said Cobb. The biggest play of the game, however, was yet another Aaron Rodgers’ throw for the highlight reels. Rodgers found James Jones streaking down the sidelines and hit him in stride for an 83-yard touchdown in the third quarter, giving Green Bay some breathing room. The 83-yard catch was a career best for Jones, who finished the game with 127 yards on four receptions. “We were running deep, deep, deep, deep, deep all day,” said Jones, “we just got a couple of them in the second half… Once you get the ball in your hands, you go back to the park and you’ve got to zigzag. You’ve got to dive, you’ve got to spin, whatever you’ve got to do to get to the end zone.” Jones had his second TD reversed by replay late in the fourth quarter. As usual, Jordy Nelson made his weekly eye-popping sideline grab.
With All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson inactive with a knee injury, the Packers focused on containing explosive running back Reggie Bush, who has seemed to find a home in the Detroit offense. Green Bay held Bush to just 69 total yards on 17 touches. The defense recorded a season-high five sacks along with seven tackles for loss despite losing Clay Matthews to an injury for the second game in a row. Matthews left the game with a fractured thumb after a sack on Detroit QB Matthew Stafford. Initial reports say he will miss at least one month of action. Matthews’ replacement, Robert Francois, tore his right Achilles tendon and was placed on the season-ending injured reserve.
The win was the Packers ninth straight at home and the 22nd victory in their last 23 games at Lambeau. Green Bay’s total yardage through four games this season is 1,813 – breaking the franchise-record set in 2011 by 96 yards. Under Head Coach Mike McCarthy the Packers are 33-10 (.767) in NFC North games, with an astounding 19-3 (.864) mark at home. Green Bay has won 13 of their last 14 divisional contests. If you want chills, look no further than McCarthy’s locker room speech after the division win. Next week the Packers travel to Baltimore to face the reigning Super Bowl champions.
This was the 313th consecutive sellout at Lambeau Field (295 regular season, 18 playoff).
With Randall Cobb’s 67-yard dash and James Jones’ 83-yard grab, Green Bay became the first team with a 65-yard run and 80-yard catch in the same game since the Los Angeles Raiders accomplished the feat against the Bengals on Nov. 5, 1989 (Bo Jackson, 92-yard run; Willie Gault 82-yard catch).
Aaron Rodgers was 5-of-7 for 200 yards on passes thrown at least 20 yards, both career highs.
The Packers have now scored at least 22 points in 18 straight home games, the longest such streak in franchise history.
The Packers lost a featured player early on in their loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend. Tight end Jermichael Finley left the game in the first quarter after being knocked briefly unconscious by Cincinnati safety George Iloka, who was later fined $15,000 for the blow to the head. NFL protocol prohibits players from speaking with reporters after a game in which they were concussed. With those rules in place the media wasn’t able to hear from Finley until he posted a video on his personal website last Friday. The three minute clip can be seen by clicking here. In the video Finley describes seeing only Green Bay’s yellow pants on the sidelines after being hit, stating that “everybody was decapitated” and his “body was on fire.” As he continues, Finley describes the numerous phone calls he received from his worried wife and 5-year-old son, who pleaded with his father by saying, “Daddy, I don’t want you to play football anymore.”
At the time of the video’s posting, Finley had still not been cleared by doctors to play in this week’s game against division rival Detroit. However, judging from his comments, it seems like J-Mike will be ready to go come Sunday: “I’m not saying it’s a statement game or nothing like that, but it’s a must-win — it’s a game we should win.”
The 3-1 Lions come to Lambeau Field next Sunday, October 6, to try and defeat the Packers in Wisconsin for the first time since December 15, 1991, a span of 22 consecutive wins for Green Bay.
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers are a pass-first team. It’s an obvious schematic choice when you have the best player in the NFL at the most vital position in all of sports. Aaron Rodgers has given the Packers a pass offense which is rivaled by only a handful of organizations throughout the league. He has led the NFL in passer rating each of the past two seasons, recording the highest single-season rating ever in 2011 and the best for any two-year span in history from ’11-’12. It’s no wonder the run game gets overlooked.
In his time as a starter, Rodgers has seen ball carriers come and go as quickly as beer is guzzled down in the Lambeau Field parking lot before games: Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant, Ahman Green, Alex Green, Korey Hall, DuJuan Harris, Brandon Jackson, Quinn Johnson, Kregg Lumpkin, Dimitri Nance, Brandon Saine, and DeShawn Wynn have all seen time in the backfield with Rodgers since 2008. Perhaps that’s why Green Bay spent two draft picks in the first four rounds on tailbacks, something never seen before in the Ted Thompson era. The resulting crop of backs — Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Johnathan Franklin, and John Kuhn — may be the most talented bunch in years; and that doesn’t include the aforementioned Harris, who was pegged as the starter before a season-ending injury in the preseason.
James Starks, a sixth round pick from Buffalo, has proven to be a decisive, downhill runner when healthy. He grabbed the reigns and took over the ground game during Green Bay’s 2010 championship run, getting the nod at starting running back in Super Bowl XLV. Starks bullied the Washington Redskins in Week 2, putting up 132 yards on just 20 carries. When healthy he’s a menacing runner who can deliver a blow (just ask the concussed Brandon Meriweather).
Eddie Lacy, a second round draft pick by the Packers (61st overall), had his own title run at Alabama. Lacy was a member of three BCS National Championship teams during his four years in Tuscaloosa, finishing his collegiate career by torching Manti Te’o and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to the tune of 140 yards and two scores on his way to BCS National Championship Offensive MVP. Lacy recorded 1,322 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in 2012, earning 1st-team All-SEC honors. He left Alabama as the school’s all-time leader in yards per carry (6.8 average) among backs who had 300 attempts.
Johnathan Franklin, selected by the Packers in the fourth round (125th overall), terrorized Pac-12 opponents while at UCLA. He finished his career as the school’s all-time leader with 4,403 rushing yards on 788 carries (7.1 yards per carry), while also surpassing Maurice Jones-Drew to become the career leader in all-purpose yards with 4,936. His banner year came in 2012, when Franklin set UCLA single-season records for rushing yards (1,734), all-purpose yardage (2,062), as well as 100-yard rushing games (nine). Franklin was a Doak Walker Award finalist (nation’s best RB) as well as a semi-finalist for the Maxwell Award, given to the college player of the year. His 103-yard performance in the second half of the Cincinnati game has given Green Bay another reason to believe their ground game is back on track.
Finally we reach John Kuhn. A true fan favorite in Green Bay, Kuhn has been a staple in the Green Bay offense for years. Serving as Rodgers’ primary pass protector of third down, Kuhn has made a name for himself with his reliability and nose for short-yardage situations. No offensive player has played more games for the Packers since 2007 than Kuhn, who has suited up 92 times for the Green & Gold from 2007-2012. He was a star at Shippensburg, setting 27 school records including career rushing yards (4,685), touchdowns (53), all-purpose yards (5,300), carries (910), and 100-yard rushing games (26). He is the only player in the NFL to have scored at least one touchdown in the past four postseasons.
When all four horses are healthy, Green Bay has a very nice stable of running backs; each back with their own unique style, each bringing something different to the table.