Scout's honor: Talent evaluator likes Packers' chances
GREEN BAY—The Green Bay Packers might have gone down in defeat last Sunday in San Francisco, but they gained an admirer in the scouting fraternity.
In fact, an experienced executive for a National Football League team bumped the Packers way up in his personal rankings after their opening setback.
“After watching that game I’d be shocked if the Packers don’t go 12-4,” the personnel man said last week. “I was guessing they were a 10-6 team before that.
“They were very consistent on offense, like they always are. But the difference this year from last year was the passion that the defense played with. I thought they played hard on defense.”
The Packers yielded 494 yards in the 34-28 defeat, but the scout didn’t appear overly concerned about that. He said the newfound strength of the front seven stopping the run and the overall aggressiveness of the defense overrode the leaks in a secondary sorely missing safety Morgan Burnett and nickel back Casey Hayward.
Plus, said the scout, the 49ers are the best team in football and were playing at home.
He’s picking San Francisco to defeat Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game. Then he likes the 49ers to beat Cincinnati in the 48th Super Bowl.
Once each year, this column is turned over to an expert for an assessment of the Packers and where they might be headed.
Our personnel man, selected on the basis of his expertise and success in the NFL, has studied the Packers this summer, this September and for years before that.
By his estimation, seven of the 32 teams have no chance for a winning season. At the same time, he ranked Green Bay among nine teams with a chance to win the championship.
“They’re a good team with an exceptional quarterback and a difference-maker on defense,” the scout said. “They could become a great team.
“They have to show the ability to run the football, which will open up the passing game and make the quarterback even more lethal. The tight end has to show that he is reliable and consistent. The offensive line has to open holes in the run game.
“Defensively, they have to keep playing hard. With Mike Neal rushing opposite (Clay) Matthews, it will just put more pressure on the quarterback. They’ve got to get an inside push, and they need improved play from the safeties.”
He said it was reasonable to assume that the Packers could accomplish all of those things and be in position to win their second Super Bowl in four years.
In many ways our personnel man said Green Bay was the envy of the league given its stadium, facilities, money and supportive management. He called the general managing of Ted Thompson and the coaching of Mike McCarthy “very efficient.”
Parity among teams is no more pronounced than normal, he said.
What separates teams in the NFL today?
“Leadership, from the top down,” our scout said. “How many organizations are truly invested in terms of winning? I mean, truly in the arena to win? Some talk it, but do they truly believe it?
“It’s probably three quarters are and one quarter isn’t. I’d say Green Bay is in the top three in the league.”
Here is a position-by-position look at the Packers’ players through the eyes of our personnel man:
“They have three very qualified players. All can run. All can catch.
And all can run after the catch. All of them have the ability to be very productive in that offense. I think some teams have caught up to them in terms of the three receivers. What made Green Bay exceptional in the past was they had four receivers and the tight end. Now they have three and a tight end.”
“You have some uniqueness. (Jermichael) Finley’s unique in his ability to catch the ball. (Andrew) Quarless is a combination guy who can block and catch. Ryan Taylor is really a complement third tight end who can play special teams. And (Brandon) Bostick is your guy you’re trying to develop because he may have receiving skills at the end of the day. I think they’re solid.”
“The questions going into the season were the outside guys. Could they handle the pressure? Could they handle the game? I thought they fared very well in the first game. I thought (David) Bakhtiari did well against the 49ers. The three guys are solid guys in the middle. (Evan) Dietrich-Smith is solid. The two tackles have to continue to grow, show that they can grow. At the end of the year they should be a solid group if they can all stay intact. By NFL standards they’re probably middle of the road. (JC) Tretter has a chance to be pretty good. (Marshall) Newhouse wouldn’t be starting in many places. He’s a good backup. I think (Derek) Sherrod will be back the second half of the season. It all depends how (Don) Barclay hangs in there. Barclay’s going to beat you. He’s got enough balance, he’s incredibly tough and he looks incredibly smart. He’s going to win you over.”
“(Aaron) Rodgers is the best quarterback in the game. He has exceptional feet. He’s got great arm talent. He’s a very accurate thrower. He’s still mobile. He’s beginning to build a legacy now. They’ve kind of lost their direction a little bit in terms of taking a young guy and developing him. They picked the wrong guy. B.J. Coleman. They have to get back on that track. (Graham) Harrell stinks, too. They basically were replacing a negative (Harrell) with a negative (Seneca Wallace).”
“This is an anomaly. Nobody really knows. You’re asking a rookie, a rookie and a guy you can’t depend on to be your guys. I don’t think they know what they have yet. (DuJuan) Harris was a loss, but Eddie Lacy could come in and light the world on fire. He looked big against the 49ers. He did a couple nice things. He gives you a big guy who really does have nice feet. (John) Kuhn is just a cult hero. I see lack of size in (Johnathan) Franklin. Inability to pick up the blitz. I don’t (see any excitement).”
“I think it’s better than it was last year. You have a healthy Mike Daniels. That really helps. He never stops. He’s got quickness, strength and he’s learning how to use his hands. (Johnny) Jolly helps. Yeah, he looks fat, but he still has the knack to bat balls down. He plays the game with his eyes. His presence is felt. Now they’re building their depth. They have depth with C.J. Wilson, Josh Boyd, Mike Daniels, Datone Jones. That’s good depth. (Ryan) Pickett, (B.J.) Raji and Jolly are all cookie cutters. They’re all the same guys. You’d prefer more length, but a degree of athleticism helps them and saves them. They’re interchangeable where they can play nose or end. There’s some value to that as well. C.J. Wilson is consistent. I haven’t seen anything yet from Datone. Boyd flashes a little bit.”
“They have the benefit of having Clay (Matthews) on one side. With Mike Neal emerging with the ability to rush the passer, that could really help things. Matthews means you got an (expletive) kicker on your team. He was relentless in the 49er game. Everybody wants to see if (Nick) Perry can take his game and combine his power with more explosive quickness. A.J.’s A.J. He just lines up and plays football. He probably gives them a consistency, he probably gives them communication skills, he probably gives them veteran leadership. Brad Jones has earned my respect a little bit. I’d be nervous if (Nate) Palmer or (Andy) Mulumba had to go in and start. Francois is rock solid. All he does is go make plays. I thought (Jamari) Lattimore earned his roster spot.”
“They all got to get healthy and line up. Then they’ll be able to play. They’re missing Casey Hayward and Morgan Burnett. That’s the two keys. Those are very good players. I would say almost every team in the league would like this corner group. They’ve played a lot of football and there is a lot of potential in the back side, and the starters are true starters. The arrow is going down with Tramon Williams and it’s going up on (Sam) Shields. Tramon’s losing a step or two but he can still play. Hayward relies on quickness and instincts. Micah Hyde is just solid. (Jarrett) Bush makes his mark on special teams. They have good size. At safety, they’re in a little bit of a pickle. They have one safety that can line up and start. I’d take Burnett over (the 49ers’) Eric Reid. (M.D.) Jennings and (Jerron) McMillian are good backups, not starters. Jennings lacks overall size, doesn’t have great ability forcing the run and is always a step slow. McMillian needs to get his head out of his (expletive). Meaning, he’s not effective in the passing game.”
“They’re solid. Crosby’s OK. The punter (Tim Masthay) is very consistent, and his kickoffs are pretty good, too. (Brett) Goode never makes a bad snap. That’s what he’s paid to do. The return game is average.”
Bob McGinn covers the Packers for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel