Midterm report: Grading the transactions

Halfway through the season, PackerReport.com's Steve Lawrence grades GM Ted Thompson's 2006 transactions.

Eight games down. Eight games to go. By my math, that's the halfway point of the 2006 NFL season. You'll read enough midterm report cards surrounding the team. Here's my take on the moves GM Ted Thompson has made this year, and how they've impacted the team during the first half of the season.

Top transactions since the start of 2006 — Letter grade and synopses:

Jan. 12: Named Mike McCarthy coach — B-minus. McCarthy's gambling (first-and-goal pass, fake field goal, end-around on fourth-and-1 at Miami, among others) has overshadowed the improvement this team has made since the Week 1 thrashing against Chicago. If McCarthy sticks with the basics, he'll be fine. Certainly, he's not the worst coaching hire in NFL history, as one publication trumpeted.

Jan. 15: Named Jeff Jagodzinski offensive coordinator — B. Jagodzinski was brought here to implement the zone blocking scheme that has thrived in Denver and Atlanta. The improvement the past few weeks has been dramatic, and it's been successful regardless of who's been running the ball.

Jan. 21: Named Bob Sanders defensive coordinator — D. Sanders was hired to bring a sense of continuity after last year's defense thrived under Jim Bates. Bates was passed over by Thompson in the head-coaching search, then declined McCarthy's invitation to stay in charge of the defense. Sanders is a protégé of Bates, but he doesn't have the feel of the game or players or something. Unless the communication breakdowns in the secondary are fixed in a hurry, expect Sanders and defensive backs coach Kurt Schottenheimer to be out of jobs.

Feb. 7: Signed punter Jon Ryan — C-plus. The former CFL standout's leg is as advertised. He ranks sixth in the NFL in punting with a 45.9-yard average. He's in the bottom five, however, with a net of 34.8. Certainly, the coverage unit hasn't helped, but Ryan must work on his hangtime. Still, he seems like a good find.

March 7: Re-signed running back Ahman Green — B-plus. Looks to have plenty in the tank after missing most of last season after a serious thigh injury. He's on pace to rush for more than 1,100 yards. Not bad for missing two games, and a bargain with a cap figure of about $2 million. His 4.7-yard average is his best since 2003, when he smashed the franchise record with 1,883 yards. Take away three fumbles in his first three games, including a near-killer against Detroit in Week 3, and he'd get an A.

March 12: Re-signed defensive end Aaron Kampman — A. His cap figure of $6 million almost seems a steal with Kampman leading the NFL in sacks. Because of the way his four-year contract is structured, his cap figure will be less in coming seasons. Sometimes, a fat paycheck takes the hunger away from a player. Not so for Kampman.

March 14: Signed safety Marquand Manuel — D. In today's NFL, with teams passing more, and more and more fixated on spreading out defenses, signing a run-first safety like Manuel — even at a relatively modest price — just doesn't make sense.

March 15: Re-signed offensive tackle Kevin Barry — F. Barry didn't fit into the zone scheme and never would have played, even without suffering a season-ending injury during training camp. He counts $1.56 million against the cap.

March 15: Re-signed defensive end Kenny Peterson — F. Peterson made only a handful of plays in his first three seasons, so the Packers were foolish to think this season would be any different. Luckily, he counts only $5,720 against the cap.

March 17: Signed defensive tackle Ryan Pickett — B-plus. Signing Pickett was wise, especially when the alternative was an older, ornerier and fatter Grady Jackson. Pickett should be a fixture in the middle of the defense for years to come. He's a big reason why the run defense has been solid. The only knock is he hasn't made many big plays.

March 21: Re-signed fullback William Henderson — C-minus. Henderson opened the season as a starter but struggled a lot with the new zone scheme and lost his job. Was back in the lineup last week, however, and helped the Packers top 140 rushing yards.

March 21: Re-signed wide receiver Rod Gardner — F. Gardner didn't make a roster that was woefully short of decent, experienced receivers. Costing the Packers $155,700 against the cap.

March 23: Re-signed defensive tackle Colin Cole — B-minus. Cole, so strong against the run, gives the Packers superb depth at defensive tackle, and is a reliable if not stellar starter in a pinch.

March 28: Re-signed running back Najeh Davenport — F. With Ahman Green recovering from last year's injury, Davenport was given every opportunity to make the team and earn a prominent role. Instead, he flopped during another injury-prone preseason. Was picked up by Pittsburgh, compared playing for the Packers to working at Taco Bell after a decent game, and has gained a combined 17 yards in his three games since. He's costing the Packers $70,280.

April 6: Signed kicker Dave Rayner — A-minus. A huge question mark entering the season, but has been nothing but solid. In his first big kick, he buried a 49-yard, fourth-quarter field goal at Buffalo on Sunday. He's 12-of-15 on field goals, including 11-of-12 from inside of 49 yards. Kickoffs have been strong, too. Let's see how he does when the weather gets nasty.

April 26: Signed cornerback Charles Woodson — C-plus. This grade looked like it would be an F early in the season, but the veteran has stepped up his play in recent weeks. Already has more passes defensed (eight) than in any season since 2001 (nine). His career-high of 15 was set during his rookie season of 1998. His sure-handed and straight-ahead approach to punt returns has been a major bonus.

April 29: Traded Javon Walker to Denver for pick No. 37 of the 2006 draft — C-plus. Watching Walker tear apart the Steelers on Sunday, and looking at his stats — he's sixth in the league in receiving yards — and you'd think Thompson should be filleted for making this deal. But the Packers had no hope of getting equal value back for a player coming off a major injury. After a series of trades involving that original No. 37 pick, the Packers landed Daryn Colledge, Will Blackmon, Tyrone Culver, Johnny Jolly and Ingle Martin in return for Walker. Colledge is an impressive starter at an area of major need, and the Packers are high on Blackmon.

July 27: Released safety Mark Roman — C. The play of Manuel has made some fans long for Roman. Not that Manuel his lit the world on fire, but Roman isn't making an impact with San Francisco. If you can't be a regular starter with the woeful 49ers, then you're not very good.

Sept. 2: Released, among others, Davenport, Gardner and Peterson — A. Credit Thompson for cutting ties with a bunch of teases. I told you about Davenport already. Gardner has two catches with Kansas City and Kenny Peterson has played in one game, with no tackles, with Denver.

Sept. 5: Signed fullback Brandon Miree to practice squad — A. Thompson picked up a ready-made lead blocker for the zone scheme. As soon as Miree joined the lineup, the Packers' running game got going.

Sept. 11: Signed wide receiver Koren Robinson — C. The jury will be out until we find out whether Robinson can prove he can stay out of trouble. He won't be seen on the field until about one-third of the way through next season.

Sept. 13: Traded running back Samkon Gado for running back Vernand Morency — B-minus. Gado has done nothing with Houston — 24 carries for 77 yards; inactive the last two games — while Morency seems a good fit and change-of-pace back in Green Bay's zone scheme.

Oct. 3: Released cornerback Ahmad Carroll — A. Carroll had to go, and he is buried deep, deep, deep down Jacksonville's depth chart. He still hasn't played with the Jaguars.

Nov. 7: Signed center Scott Wells to contract extension — B. Giving Wells an extension now was a good use of leftover 2006 salary-cap dollars. I'm just not sure he's played enough games to prove he's an above-average player worth $15 million over five years. Certainly, though, he's a better bet than former starter Mike Flanagan.

Draft picks:

It's far too early to give any definitive grades, so I'll write these in very lightly with pencil.

Round 1: Linebacker A.J. Hawk — B-minus. Still waiting to see Hawk show that explosive promise on more than an occasional basis.

Round 2: Guard/tackle Daryn Colledge — B-minus. Handled his early benching by working harder. Looks like he'll be a fixture in the lineup for years.

Round 2: Wide receiver Greg Jennings — Has defied the odds that make most rookie receivers little more than first-year bystanders. With 26 catches, he has more grabs than first-rounders Santonio Holmes of Pittsburgh (22) and Chad Jackson of New England (seven).

Round 3: Linebacker Abdul Hodge — Incomplete. Showed promise during training camp but has been injured all season.

Round 3: Guard/center Jason Spitz — B. Has been a fixture in the lineup and could wind up being the best of the three linemen the Packers selected.

Round 4: Returner/receiver Cory Rodgers — F. How can one of the best returners in college not be able field a punt in the pros? He's out of the league.

Round 4: Cornerback Will Blackmon — Incomplete. Packers love his promise, but an injury sustained in minicamp kept him out for all of the preseason and has made him a non-factor. His time may be coming soon.

Round 5: Quarterback Ingle Martin — Incomplete. Barring an injury, he won't be seen throwing the ball until the offseason minicamps.

Round 5: Guard/tackle Tony Moll — C. Filled in nicely when Colledge was benched. Was supposed to be a project, but the Packers would feel comfortable with him playing now if necessary.

Round 6: Defensive tackle Johnny Jolly — C. Played a few snaps against Arizona and Miami and didn't embarrass himself. Plays a position that's the Packers' stronges, so regular playing time will be hard to come by barring an injury.

Round 6: Safety Tyrone Culver — D. Watching him feebly try to arm tackle powerful Anthony Thomas during his game-clinching TD run last week at Buffalo left a lasting impression.

Round 7: Defensive end Dave Tollefson — Incomplete. On the practice squad.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


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