Lombardi blog - March edition

Random thoughts on top concerns, Turkey Day game, compensatory picks, MNF, and free agency, the draft and more!

March 28, 2007

20 Questions
1. Can Brett Favre get it done for at least one more year?
2. Besides Donald Driver, who will Favre throw to?
3. Who will replace Ahman Green's 226 carries and 46 catches?
4. Who will replace William Henderson?
5. Will those young offensive lineman continue to improve, and will the zone-blocking scheme suffer from the loss of Jeff Jagodzinski as coordinator to Boston College?
6. How will Joe Philbin do as Offensive Coordinator?
7. Will Bob Sanders struggle as Defensive Coordinator again, or has he worked out the kinks in the system?
8. What impact will Winston Moss' elevation to Assistant Head Coach/Defense have on the team and the defense?
9. Will KGB be able to handle his reduced role on defense? Can Cullen Jenkins keep him on the bench?
10. Can Al Harris and Charles Woodson keep holding off Father Time?
11. Was Marquand Manuel's season a bad dream or is he as bad as he looked at times?
12. Will Nick Collins shake off his sophomore slump or did his rookie year give fans false hope?
13. Will the kicking game continue to be a non-factor in either direction, of will it help or hurt this team?
14. Has Bubba Franks lost it for good?
15. What newcomers will contribute this year?
16. Can Greg Jennings get it done for 16 weeks or more?
17. Who will be the third reciever.....Koren Robinson, Randy Moss or (insert name here)?
18. Can A.J. Hawk have a breakout season required of the fifth pick of the draft?
19. Can Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher stay healthy?
20. Can the Packers exceed last year's 8 wins?

All these questions will be answered in the coming months.

March 27, 2007

Thanksgiving
So the Packers will travel to Detroit and play the Lions in the morning edition of the annual Turkey Day game. There are two sides to this game. The first side is the tradition. Football and Turkey go together. I cannot remember ever missing a game on Thanksgiving. I spent my high school years in Detroit and it is a big deal there, even when the Lions stink, which seems to be always. I was always jealous of my friends who were going to the game.

On the flip side, it does require the teams that play in it, especially the visiting team, to operate under some onerous conditions. Football players are creatures of habit and the short week messes with that terribly. But they then have a long week to prepare for their next opponent and that should make up for the short week. Ultimately it should work itself out.

Thanksgiving and Football. I love it, especially this year because I have a vested interest now that the Packers are playing on the third Thursday in November.

Compensatory Picks
The Packers picked up a seventh round pick as compensation for losing free agents last year. It will be the 33rd pick in the 7th round, the 243rd pick overall. Not very exciting, but as I have long said, the more picks the better.

As of right now, the Packers have nine picks in the draft next month, with three of those being in the seventh round. The draft is like throwing darts. Most folks throw from six feet (I think?) - all the preparation is an attempt to move the toss line closer and improve the team's chances of a bullseye. And the more throws you have, the greater chance you have of hitting a winner. Ted Thompson has done a great job of accumulating extra picks the last two years and I expect he will work his magic this year.

His drafts have garnered multiple starters and contributors, but whether that is an indication of their ability or the dearth of talent he inherited is yet to be determined. Time will tell.

March 26, 2007

Monday Night Football
Word is that Joe Theismann will be replaced in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth by Ron Jaworski. It is about time. I have never been a big fan of Theismann. Too much of a 'me' guy. He tries too hard to not offend or take a stand on any issue.

I do not know if it is true, but they say he changed the pronunciation of his last name from Tees-Man to Theis-mann to rhyme with Heisman back when he was at Notre Dame. I was once told by a former player that while he was a player, he was the most hated guy in the league. I do not know him personally, but from what I have seen I have no reason to refute the characterization.

I like and respect Jaworski. He does his work in the film room and is very good at breaking down the game. I wish I could spend my waking hours watching game tape, but alas, it is not to be.

They should finish the job and add Dick Vermeil to the booth. He is the best analyst out there. I remember sitting in the back of the room while Vermeil did the questioning of the various players and coaches prior to doing the TV work sometime back. He knew more about our team than some of the coaches and he had only spent a week or so getting prepared. He is informed, knowledgeable and is easy on the ears, which is surprising for a "non-professional" broadcaster.

I like Tony Kornheiser on Pardon the Interruption, as a radio host and print columnist but no one measures up to Vermeil. I guess they are trying to find another Howard Cosell with Tony, but they should give up on that idea. Dennis Miller could not do it and neither can Kornheiser.

I gave up on the MNF games last year mostly because of the frequent celebrity pop-ins and ridiculousness of the broadcast booth. I will be tuning in this year and wishing for Vermeil.

Free Agency
Terrelle Smith, a free agent fullback, who visited the Packers last week, signed with the Cardinals on Friday. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Smith felt the opportunity in Arizona was better for him than if he signed in Green Bay. The Press-Gazette also reported that the Cards' offer was in the same ballpark as the Packers. I do not know anything about who the Cards have on their roster at the position (Obafemi Ayanbadejo, John Bronson, A.J. Schable) but the Packers only have one guy at fullback, Brandon Miree.

Smith played colllege ball at Arizona State and he knows his postion coach, Maurice Carthon from his days in Cleveland, but when was the last time anyone chose the Cardinals over the Packers? They have a new coach in Ken Whisenhunt, who is very impressive. (Bias alert - I know him from my days at Vanderbilt, where he was the tight ends and special teams coach). Arizona's offense has promise with Matt Leinart at QB, Edgerrin James in the I, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald on the numbers, but when was the last time the Cards did anything?

Let me get this straight: The Packers and Cardinals are after you. The money is about the same. Both teams have buzz based upon the Cards' promise and new coach, and the Packers' strong finish, but who takes the Cardinals when they have a chance to go to the Green Bay Packers?

I can see going with the Colts or Chargers or Bears, but the Cards? Isn't that team jinxed? I hate to beat a dead horse, but the Packers team is just not looking very attractive to the majority of the NFL.

The Packers have brought in six players for visits and have only convinced one, defensive back Frank Walker, to sign on. I do not want to be seen as negative, or that I am ripping the Packers, I am only observing what I perceive as a dangerous trend. I understand and agree that thowing money at marginal players is stupid and it is prudent to make good deals, but from reports, this one came down to personal preference and the Cards beat out Packers. Why is that? Maybe it is an anomaly? Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy had better hope so.

March 23, 2007

The Draft
ESPN's Mel Kiper, draft expert, has the Packers taking Marshawn Lynch, the running back out of Cal. Same with Todd McShay of ESPN. Peter Schrager from FoxSports.com agrees. Over on CBSSportsline.com, Clark Judge and Pete Prisco also see Lynch going to Green Bay. Pat Kirwan and Jamie Dukes on NFL.com are also on the Lynch bandwagon.

Derek Haper of NFLDraftScout.com, which posted on FoxSports.com, thinks the Packers are going to take Robert Meachem, wideout from Tennessee.

ProFootballTalk.com has Green Bay taking Leon Hall, a cornerback from Michigan.

So the consensus is that Lynch is the guy with some love for a receiver and a cornerback. These are obviously positions of need for the Packers. I bet that the Packers will not take any of the three. They could, but I doubt it. Conventional wisdom in the NFL is that running backs can be found later in the draft. Same with receivers. Corners are another matter, but I bet the Packers feel they are set for a year or two out on the boundary, so that is not a dire need today. My guess is the Packers do not draft for need, but rather take the highest-rated player regardless of position. Who that will be depends on who gets nabbed before them and if Ted Thompson makes a trade as is his way.

March 22, 2007

Scheduling Mumbo Jumbo
The NFL schedule usually comes out on or about April 1. We do not know when games will be played, but we do know who the Packers will play. Last year the Green and Gold benefited from a favorable schedule. The Lions (twice), Vikings (twice), Cardinals, Niners, Dolphins and Bears were the teams Green Bay beat in 2006. Only the Bears had a winning record and that win was in the last game of the year and the Bears had nothing to play for. That was Rex Grossman's 0.0% quarterback rating game.

This season will be different. Here are the Packers' 2007 opponents and their records:
Chargers (14-2)
Bears (twice) (13-3)
Eagles (10-6)
at Broncos, at Chiefs, at Cowboys (9-7)
Panthers, at Rams, at Giants (8-8)
Vikes (twice) (6-10)
Redskins (5-11)
Lions (twice) (3-13)
Raiders (2-14)

Each season has it ups and downs and prior performance does not predict future results. It is a given that some teams on the schedule may over- or under- achieve. It happens every year. Yet, based upon my estimation, the Packers schedule is harder in 2007 than 2006. The Packers may be better on the field this season, but may not win as many games.

Offensive Weapons
Is anyone comfortable with this lineup?

Wideout
Donald Driver - How long can he keep getting it done?

Greg Jennings - Was he hurt down the stretch, worn out or did other teams figure him out once they got some tape on him?

Koren Robinson - Will he make it back? What kind of player will he be after sitting out for a year?

Tight End
Bubba Franks - Is it too early to say he is finished as a receiving threat?

Backs
Vernand Morency - Showed flashes of ability in spot duty, but can he handle the full load?

Brandon Miree - Bye-bye William Henderson.

Quarterback
Brett Favre - He is not the player he was five years ago but is still one of the best. His ability, savvy, toughness and quick release made a bad offensive team look mediocre. Can he do it again?

Where are the playmakers? Where will the yards come from? Who will score points on this team? Are we to believe that drafted rookies will be expected to fill the void? Randy Moss, if they do acquire him, and he has not lost a step, and can behave himself may make the receiving corps better, but what about tight end and running back?


John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.


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