Friday, March 28, 2008

Brady Poppinga: Can You Feel The Love Tonight?

Last week, I wrote a blog article about the reason Brett Favre so polarized his fan base was because he became such a personal entity to the common man, which for some people, was about as comfortable as a straitjacket. We tend to be fickle fans, cheering a name and wearing a jersey one minute, and quickly moving on once that player starts to fizzle.

No one may be personifying that more than linebacker Brady Poppinga, who is seeing what was once a groundswell of fan support quietly disappear into the night. This morning, I opened the Green Bay Press-Gazette to see a fan poll as to which veterans should get their contracts extended this season. Brady Poppinga received only 5.2% of the vote, trailing Ryan Grant, Atari Bigby, and "Someone Else".

This is a far cry from the excitement he generated after starting one game as a rookie in 2005, before suffering a somewhat serious ACL injury. The fourth-round draft pick was high on everyone's list for 2006, with fans and media alike citing his "good motor" and "high intensity". He was, by all definitions, Ted Thompson's best example of "Packer People".

He was also perhaps the best-suited physically for playing the strong-side linebacker, at least given what we had on the roster at the time. In 2006, rookie AJ Hawk was slotted in on the weak side, appropriate as he was a bit shorter and stouter (6'1", 247 to Poppinga's 6'3", 245). The strong side linebacker lines up over the tight end, has to fight off his blocks, and is the one who needs to cover him on pass plays. The former defensive lineman, Poppinga, seemed best suited for the job.

But this "good motor, high intensity" guy, who makes you fall in love with his style in play just hearing him talk about it, couldn't meet the expectations that we may have set for him after that one-start 2005 season. After starting 12 games in 2006 and 15 games last season, his play has remained average. In fact, he saw his tackles drop by almost 20% and didn't get a sack all season in 2007.

But most glaring has been his deficiencies in pass coverage--somewhat of a Achilles' Heel for many on the Packer defensive side of the ball--as opposing tight ends repeatedly burned the Packers through the air. As a former DL, Poppinga has struggled to make that transition to a coverage linebacker, and it has cost us repeatedly.

So much so, that Ted Thompson's only investment thus far in the free agent market was for 6'3" Brandon Chillar, a linebacker from the Rams whose claim to fame lies in the area that Poppinga's doesn't: pass coverage. The announcement that Poppinga's job was the first one targeted for competition got a collective non-reaction from a fan base and media that once loved the "good motor, high-intensity" linebacker.

Ted Thompson has stated that Poppinga "is our starting SAM", but acknowledges the fact that Chillar brings competition to the position. In contrast to Brady's shrinking tackle totals, Chillar has recorded totals of 27, 52, 56, and 65 the past four years (Poppinga had 60 in 2006, 50 in 2007).

Scott Linehan, the Rams coach, called Chillar "assignment-sure", and the linebacker has actually played at all three linebacker positions.

If nothing else, it can now be stated that our linebacker depth is that much better than last season, when there was little along the second string behind the starting three. The question is who is going to be the depth, Chillar or Poppinga?

If Poppinga returns to a reserve role, or a specialist role (allowing Chillar to come in on passing downs), he will likely become the special teams demon that got people excited about him to begin with in 2005, where a "good motor, high intensity" player is served best of all.


Anonymous said...

Whether Poppinga starts or not he will have a long career barring injury.

The Chillar signing answers alot of questions... on paper.

Among them some you mentioned and oa coupla others.




It also takes off pressure off the draft.

Gives TT leverage in new contract negotiatians with Poppinga.

TT will not engage in a bidding war if doesnt have to.

But Chillar wasnt cheap according to the Salary Cap list:

I hear alot about higher-paid FA being bad for the locker room.

And is often given as an excuse for TTs lack of moves in free agency.

Here we have one in the top 12 of Packer players who has never played a down for them.

I mention this becasue TT is always droning on about taking care of his own.

Only two TT acquisitions, one draft pick one FA signing, will make more according to the above link."

#1 pick 5th overall LB AJ Hawk.

And former Raider #1 pick CB Woodson.

All the others are pre-TT players.


Plus Poppinga is just the first in a coming huge bow wave of players seeking new contracts.

Not to mention at a time TT will likely have to replace two Pro Bowl caliber CBs and Tackles.

The consensus is that this will somehow be no problem.

Hope so.

rickusn said...

Didnt mean to be anonymous.

The above post is mine.


LosAngelis said...

Don't know, Rick. My personal opinion is that the constant trade-downs have brought a lot of picks on this team (23 picks still on the roster at this point), but very few of those are starters (7), and none of them are approaching Pro Bowl levels as yet (Rodgers, Colledge, Moll, Jennings, Hawk, Poppinga, and Collins).

I think there is some pressure on Thompson to do some drafting for solid players. For the first time last season, he didn't trade down on the first day (and didn't necessarily get any better talent by staying put).

Its going to get harder to take care of your own if "your own" is mediocre talent.

rickusn said...

Couldnt agree with you more LA.

But beware those who are still blaming Sherman for all Packer shortcomings and are having a love affair with TT(ie All but one WI Sportwriter and 99% of the fans".

They will crucify you if they read your remarks.

By "pressure" on the draft I really menat picking a LB who could possibly push Poppinga/add depth at LB LB wont be so crucial.

And while TT should be under "pressure" to bring in more than "mediocre" talent I dont see it.

In TTs defense he has drafted reasonably well but this season will really be telling IMHO.

His 1st and 2nd round picks(1st and 2nd picks usually make up about 1/2 of a teams starters) really need to bring it to a new level this season.


TT also has had two picks fall to untimely injury.:

#2 Murphy
#4 Underwood

And his 3rd through 5th round picks while many have contibuted are IMHO in a make it or break it year.

In particular Coston, Hodge, Blackmon, Moll.

Spitz, Jones, Rouse, Barbre to a lesser extent.

^6th and 7th rd picks still around run the gamut of potential from great to soon out of football.:

Jolly, Crosby, Hall, Montogomery. Bishop, Wynnn, Culver.

The other pick still on the team Poppinga we have dicussed.

Much has been made(over-played about the Packers youth IMHO.

This really is a well balanced team in having dratf pick starters from every rd. and undrafted FA's.

Plus being well represented in all year groups R-11.

Idy and Polian have provided the pattern TT has followed and is following now along with many other teams.

Although the basic framework on how to build a team started way before Polian also.

A look at how Lombardi built the Packers would be most instructive.

It takes four key areas to leverage:

Existing players

Players picked up from other teams ie FA, Trades, Waivers

College Draft Rookies

Undrafted Rookie Free Agents

Being a GM is NOT rocket scientist work.

And TT is neither "unique" or a "genius".

Hes merely an acolyte and clone of others and in particular Polian.

rickusn said...

BTW Moll is not a starter.

But Spitz and Hall are bringing the number to 8.

About average.

With Jolly, Harrel, Rouse and Barbre very possibly being starters this season.

That makes twelve in three years which would be far above average not counting possible starters coming out of this draft.

LosAngelis said...

I stand corrected on the Colledge/Spitz one. Frankly, I think all three of them are average and interchangeable, and certainly, there is room for upgrade over all of them. Guard play is still one of our struggles, and will be more and more evident with Rodgers taking snaps.

Hall is there, though I thought they liked Kuhn a lot, too. I agree there is some room for competition, but again, there is also room for upgrade.

I don't see Rouse or Barbre truly contending for a starting spot unless there is injury in front of them. Rouse plays the same style of physical ball as both Collins and Bigby, and I don't see Barbre supplanting either Clifton or Tauscher this season.

I guess the thing that I look at (and was just planning to write an article about) is that of these starters, most of them are there by default. Who else is around to challenge Rodgers? Or the guards? Or even Collins and Poppinga?

rickusn said...

I think we agree pretty much.

Look forward to more articles.

TT is over-rateed.

Depth on this team is over-rated.

Competition on this team is over-rated.

Youth on this team is over-rated

God forbid a starting T or corner go down.

"mediocrity" seems to rule.