It’s not common for the Green Bay Packers to be active in free agency, but 2017 has been different.
Green Bay Packers
Best Pick: Round Three-Ty Montgomery-Wide Receiver-Stanford
It was another stellar trip to the National Football League Draft for the Green Bay Packers. Packers general manager Ted Thompson was able to find new players that he’s hopeful will be able to keep the machine in Green Bay going.
The first round saw the Packers drafted Arizona State safety Damorius Randall who will team with last year’s first round choice, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to give Green Bay one of the youngest duos as far as starting safeties in the NFL. The Packers would go on to select cornerback Quinten Rollins in the second round. Rollins spent the majority of his collegiate career at Miami (Ohio) playing basketball which shows you his athleticism as he was still selected by an NFL team. The Pack found good value in the third round when they selected wide receiver Ty Montgomery. At Stanford, Montgomery didn’t play in a pass oriented offense, but he will be good on special teams as far as returning kicks and he’ll develop into another viable option for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the passing game.
The Packers also got more value in the fifth round when they selected quarterback Brett Hundley. Entering the NFL Draft, Hundley and his representatives felt that he could go in the first round, but he suffered a long fall until he finally heard his name called. Hundley primarily played in the spread offense in college at UCLA and the Packers incorporate the spread into their offense. Hundley can learn from one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Rodgers and there won’t be any pressure on him.
This draft class should help the Packers make it seven consecutive trips to the postseason.
Best Pick: Round Two-Ameer Abdullah-Running Back-Nebraska
Since Martin Mayhew has taken over as the general manager of the Detroit Lions, the organization is finally getting it right as far as analyzing talent. The Lions are coming off of a postseason berth and they are hopeful that the upcoming season will be the first time since 1995 that they’ll make consecutive trips to the playoffs.
The Lions were expected to select a running back in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. But when running backs Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon were gone by the Lions turn to pick came around, the settled on guard Laken Tomlinson in the first round who will fill a void on the offensive line in Detroit. Tomlinson will be busy opening holes for his fellow draft class mate with the Lions, running back Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah was selected by the Lions in the second round after a stellar career at the University of Nebraska and he should be an impact player coming out of the backfield in Detroit.
The Lions and Mayhew were also able to find a steal in the fourth when they selected Auburn defensive tackle Gabe Wright who will be another athletic body on their defensive line as in order for them to win the NFC North this season, they must find a way to get to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
In spite of their losses in free agency, the Lions will still contend in 2015 as they picked up quality players and more importantly, character guys.
Best Pick: Round Four-T.J. Clemmings-Offensive Tackle-Pittsburgh
Under first-year head coach Mike Zimmer, the Minnesota Vikings showed improvements and a quality draft class could help them reach the postseason in 2015. I expected the Vikings to select wide receiver DeVante Parker in the first of the 2015 NFL Draft, but instead they opted for cornerback Trae Waynes. Zimmer built his reputation in the NFL as a defensive coordinator and he’ll coach up Waynes and make him a quality player in his system.
Inside linebacker Eric Kendricks had first round potential, but he fell to the Vikings in the second round and I won’t be surprised if he is starting when the regular season rolls around. The fourth round saw the Vikings select offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings. Leading up to the NFL Draft, Clemmings was looked at as being a player that could have been selected late in the first round, if not early in the second. Clemmings had injury issues while in college, but he is looked at as a player that can be a solid right tackle in Minnesota. The Vikings selected wide receiver Stefon Diggs in the fifth round. Diggs didn’t put up big time numbers in college which can be attributed to the fact that he didn’t play in a prolific offense at the University of Maryland. But it won’t take Diggs that long to realize that he is no longer in college as Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater won’t have a problem in getting him the football.
Zimmer and the Vikings are building a winning football team in the Twin Cities.
Best Pick: Round Four-Jeremy Langford-Running Back-Michigan State
The new regime for the Chicago Bears which consists of general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox used the 2015 NFL Draft to find quality talent. After trading wide receiver Brandon Marshall this off-season to the New York Jets, I expected the Bears to select another wide receiver early in the draft. And when the Oakland Raiders selected wide receiver Amari Cooper, it was a no-brainer that the Bears would select wide receiver Kevin White. at 6’3″, 215 lbs., White has freakish athleticism and he’ll be able to bully smaller defensive backs while providing a big body for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to lock in on.
Defensive tackle Eddie Goldman was teetering on the brink of being a first round selection, but the Bears were able to tab him early in the second round as Chicago is trying to stock up on bodies for their defensive line. The Bears already had depth in their backfield and they were able to add to it when they used the fourth round to select running back Jeremy Langford.
The Bears only had six picks in the NFL Draft, but Pace and Fox made the most out of them.
The Green Bay Packers have been playing football for nearly 100 years and they have seen their fair share of ups and downs. Under their founder and head coach Curly Lambeau, the Packers would win six National Football League Championships. After a down period in the late 1940’s and 1950’s, Vince Lombardi would become the Packers head coach in 1959 and Green Bay would dominate the NFL in the 1960’s including winning the first two Super Bowls. The Packers were an afterthought in the NFL during the 1970’s and 1980’s before they were resurrected in the 1990’s by head coach Mike Holmgren and quarterback Brett Favre as they would go on to win the Super Bowl once more in 1996. Since that time the Packers have been one of the most consistent winners in the NFL.
Mike McCarthy became the Packers head coach in 2006 and under him Green Bay has only had two losing seasons. The Packers have made six consecutive playoff appearances including winning the Super Bowl in 2010. But all of that will be tough for the Packers to take solace on after their loss this past Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. The Packers were heavy underdogs as they traveled to face the Seattle Seahawks who are the defending Super Bowl Champions. The Seahawks are also virtually unbeatable at home. But in spite of all of this it was the Packers that had a 16-0 lead over the Seahawks at halftime. And with about five minutes left in regulation, Packers strong safety Morgan Burnett intercepted Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson which appeared to put the game on ice as Green Bay anticipated heading to Super Bowl 49. But the Seahawks would strategically use their timeouts on defense as they stopped the Packers offense. Wilson and the Seahawks offense would get the football back and they finally were able to mount a scoring drive as they cut the Packers lead to 19-14 with just over two minutes left in regulation.
With the Seahawks expected to attempt an onside kick, McCarthy sent out his hands team. The ball would go right through the hands of Packers tight end Brandon Bostick and into the waiting arms of Seahawks wide receiver Chris Matthews. The momentum was now on the side of the Seahawks who immediately scored a touchdown which was further magnified on Seattle’s successful two-point conversion and they had their first lead of the game at 22-19.
But for Green Bay they still had quarterback Aaron Rodgers and he quickly moved the Packers into field goal range for kicker Mason Crosby who made his fifth field goal of the game to knot the score at 22 and send the contest into overtime.
The Seahawks would win the coin toss for overtime and when they accepted the football, they never allowed Rodgers a chance to get his hands on it. The Seahawks had dusted themselves off of the canvas and Wilson was now torching the Packers secondary that had frustrated him for the first 55 minutes of the game as they picked him off four times. Wilson would find wide receiver Jermaine Kearse who had beaten Packers defensive back Tramon Williams for the game-winning 35-yard touchdown reception that sent the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl while commencing the off-season for the Packers.
It’s an off-season now for the Packers that they will have to look in the mirror at themselves. This was not a game in which the officials, elements, or one single play was the demise of the Packers as they were never able to deliver the knockout punch to the Seahawks.
The Packers forced five turnovers by the Seahawks that only amounted to six points. After Rodgers was intercepted in the end zone by Seahawks Richard Sherman on the opening drive of the game, Green Bay’s defense stepped up and gave the football right back to their offense when rookie free safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix picked off Wilson and returned it to the Seahawks 4-yard line. But instead of the Packers having first and goal, they had to settle for beginning the drive at the 19-yard line due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on defensive end Mike Daniels. On the drive the Packers would be stopped at the 1-yard line and McCarthy would settle for a field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin would fumble and the Packers would recover. But just like the previous drive, the Packers had to settle for a short field goal. The Packers were leading 16-0 in the second quarter and they appeared ready to deliver the knockout when Rodgers was picked off by Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell. And when Burnett gave the football back to Packers offense with five minutes left in the game, Green Bay wasn’t able to put together a drive that would have made the Seahawks use their timeouts while also icing the game. For the game the Packers were only 3-of-14 on third down as they left some points on the board.
Defensively the Packers did everything right for the first 55 minutes of the game as they flustered Wilson while exposing the Seahawks passing game. But in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime, the Packers defense couldn’t stop Wilson from improvising with his legs and the impregnable Green Bay defense was now vulnerable.
The game should have never come down to an onside kick as the Seahawks should have been wiped out long before that, but the Packers were never able to drive the stake into Seattle’s heart.
Now instead of talking about a potential matchup of legendary quarterbacks in Super Bowl 49 between Rodgers and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the Packers can only think about what could have been. But luckily for the Packers they play in the smallest market in the National Football League which means that they don’t have to worry about a media barrage and instead they have been embraced by their fan base. Packer fans lined the airport in Green Bay to welcome their team back after Sunday’s loss and more importantly this was a team that didn’t point fingers. Nobody in the Packers organization threw Bostick under the bus, but instead embraced him because they lost as a team.
For McCarthy and Packers general manager Ted Thompson, they have a tremendous working relationship as they have kept the winning culture in Green Bay going. Rodgers is 31-years of age and he is in the running for another NFL MVP Award as the Packers will continue to build around him. Wide receiver Randall Cobb is set to enter free agency as he’s been a big part of the Packers offense over the last few years. Cobb is a system guy that Rodgers feels comfortable with and I can see Rodgers speaking up for him in the same manner that he did for wide receiver Jordy Nelson when it was his time to receive an extension last year. Some people are ready to can Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers following Sunday’s loss, but he has forgotten more about football that most people will ever know. Capers gave his defense a chance to win against the Seahawks; the players just failed to execute coming down the stretch.
The Packers have been the gold standard in the NFC North as the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings have been unable to overthrow them. The Packers will need some time to get this loss out of their system. But Green Bay has always been an organization that has been filled with character which will definitely be tested headed into next season.