Like everyone else, I was surprised that Spencer Havner was cut today. The flexible tight end had proven himself a reliable red zone target, and a favorite of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. However, the plethora of tight ends made Spencer's versatility less useful, and after apparently trying to shop him around, he was let go.
Interestingly enough, I cited Havner more than once last week in an article somewhat bemoaning McCarthy's fixation on interchangeability and players being able to do more than one role. Perhaps McCarthy is softening on that approach? Or better, maybe he's reading my articles! :-)
Interesting discussion with Packer Update on Twitter today...who is obviously not a Brady Poppinga or Frank Zombo fan. This goes back to my longtime irritation with putting scheme before talent. While I do like Dom Capers a lot, as I think he works hard to change his scheme to maximize the talent he has, there is (in my opinion) a fundamental flaw in choosing your scheme before you have the talent to match it. We've seen the problem with the ZBS, and to a degree, we still see it with the 3-4.
In essence, the Packers have gone from 2009 to 2010 with the same linebacking corps, substituting Aaron Kampman with Frank Zombo. Now, is Zombo an upgrade from Kampman in terms of pure talent? Of course not. Kampman was and is a hard-working force to be reckoned with for any offensive lineman. But the tough question is whether or not Zombo is a better 3-4 OLB than Kampman. Now, there are folks who can argue that point either way (and likely, quite passionately), but in the end Zombo has the potential to be more effective in that position than Kampman was.
Right or wrong, the Packers have lost one of their most consistent and productive players for an undrafted free agent, and it is all directly related to a scheme change in which the Packers are still searching for the right talent to fill the linebacker roles (Clay Matthews being the exception, obviously).
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Jason Chery looked like a deer in headlights the entire game. The game is obviously too fast for him, but he still has a lot of potential, especially now that, with the injury settlement with Will Blackmon, we're looking at very pedestrian (but reliable) returns from Brandon Jackson and Jordy Nelson.
I would try and sign the kid to the practice squad, have him work with the team on returns and slow the game down. Maybe midseason he could be a potential upgrade at the returner positions when he gets his legs under him and can see the field better.
My pleas for Quinn Johnson to make the club were heeded. I thought he did a great job against the Chiefs, especially in the fourth quarter when it looked like the team wanted to run the clock out and ran a traditional run game. On a couple of plays, he clearly gave the running back an additional 3-4 yards with his blocks. On a great play action play, the entire team followed Johnson to the right while Flynn came around and throw the ball to a receiver wide-open on the left.
Keeping Korey Hall over Kregg Lumpkin was interesting, though not surprising. I thought Lumpkin actually had a good game Thursday night, while Hall was rather nondescript. But, Lumpkin has a low ceiling, and he may have already hit it. Hall is the special teams guy, but I still think other than being able to run the ball, he gives you pretty much the same skill set as John Kuhn.
Speaking of which, the Packers are going with only two running backs and two quarterbacks. I would venture to guess we are the only team in the NFL with that notoriety. I thought Harrell had a chance to stay on as a third quarterback, but a lackluster performance on Thursday did not help his chances. In his defense, it probably wasn't as fair of a chance as it could have been, being they were rotating offensive linemen on seemingly every play, and the scrub wide receivers were dropping many (poorly thrown) passes.
Still, I don't think Harrell will make it past Week 2 without getting signed off the practice squad by some team. He's just too big of a name to sit there for too long.
So, wait...FOUR tight ends? Finley, Lee, Quarless, and Crabtree all make the 53-man roster? I wouldn't be surprised if something changes before kickoff, but it certainly says a lot about what the Packers think of this squad. If only our defense had this kind of depth.
Curious, though....you would think with four tight ends and three fullbacks our running game should be much improved this year. Right?
I think it pained Thompson to part ways with Breno Giacomini and Allen Barbre (Breno released under auspices of trade rumors, while Barbre placed on IR pending a possible settlement and release). In his six drafts, Thompson has brought in twelve offensive linemen, and of the ten drafted before this season, only four remain (Colledge, Spitz, Lang, and Sitton).
Giacomini simply didn't have the ability to take his 6'8" frame that I think the Packers drooled over and combine with with skilled technique. Sure, in college, you can be massive and take up space and do a good job, but in the NFL, defenders not only are comparable in size, but have speed and technique to go with it. Breno just ole'ed too many guys that out-speeded him and out-thought him.
Charles Dillon's two drops late in the game against the Chiefs looked pretty bad, may have cost Graham Harrell some consideration, and certainly didn't help his cause. But in reality, even if he makes both those catches, then snags a one-handed game-winning TD on that drive on top of it, he still would have been cut today.
My heart really goes out to him, because you like to see a kid go out firing. I get the feeling he's going to be spending a lot of time thinking about those two drops, when in actuality it didn't come down to that.
Talking with Alex over at the Packers Lounge on Twitter today, he re-established his long-standing belief that planning for injuries do not dictate your roster and you don't play to avoid them. Thus, he proposed that Tramon Williams return kicks/punts this year.
Perhaps in other years, I'd be inclined to side with him on that argument, but I am terrified at the depth in our defensive backfield. Tramon is a guy who is a spot starter forced into the job with Harris's PUP placement, and the players behind him (Sam Shields, Brandon Underwood, Pat Lee, and Jarrett Bush) are not guys you would even want to spot-start if you can help it.
Tramon, who had his own defensive holding issues last year, is out best hope to keep up with team's starting receivers. I keep him out of harm's way as much as possible, and dip into our positions of depth.
Incidentally, at safety, Morgan Burnett is going to have to grow up very fast as our starting SS, and it is fair to say he's going to have plenty of growing pains. Behind those two are Derrick Martin and Charlie Peprah.
Our passing offense can take us to the Super Bowl, but our pass defense may stand in the way.
Justin Harrell made the squad, and more power to him. Pretty much written off by everyone (including me), he looks like he's going to be in the rotation (and given the number of DL we kept, he's going to have to be).
I will give him this: if nothing else, this is a good story with the potential to be a great story. We all remember Jamal Reynolds, who was sent out of town after never making any good on his draft position, and Harrell has been tossed in that pile with Reynolds as a first-round bust. Not to say he's out of the woods yet, but this has redemption written all over it, not only for himself, but for the man that picked him, Ted Thompson.
When Mike Sherman was run out of two, Reynolds was one of the reasons often cited by fans as to why. While Thompson is in no such danger, Harrell's pick still stands as one of his few draft-day black eyes. Better late than never, and all Packer fans should be rooting for Justin to finally make good.
It ain't over til the fat lady sings. There's still plenty of time as the rosters across the NFL shake out that Thompson may be able to swing a deal, particularly looking for depth at linebacker, cornerback, and returner. A couple of guys may still be on the block, including one of the fullbacks, a tight end like Donald Lee, or an offensive lineman like Jason Spitz.
The Final 53 is kind of like that last hurdle before we get to enjoy the regular season...ladies and gentlemen, your 2010 Green Bay Packers!
Now, let's get it on! Next stop, Philadelphia!