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Complete Make-over of LB Corp is a work of art...

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Bruce, Dec 28, 2006.

  1. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Ted Thompson was a very solid LB in the NFL -- 10 years with the Houston Oilers. So it should not come as a shock that Thompson has done an outstanding job of remaking the Packers LB corp in just his 2nd year as GM of the Green Bay Packers.

    The Packers paid a steep price for the inexperience that they fielded early in the year after releasing former starters Diggs, Thomas and Lenon. However as a result of that heavy investment in a complete makeover, the Packers have established a very solid trio of LB who are coming on in a Big Way as the season heads deep into December.

    All three of the starters are young outstanding athletes. Hawk (22), Barnett (25) and Poppinga (27) bring eye-popping levels of speed, intensity and playmaking ability to the game – something that has been absent in Packer Linebackers for many years.

    Hawk and Barnett are cat quick and can fly all over the field from sideline to sideline, while Poppinga is a big body LB who is difficult to block and can get after the QB with his hand up or down. All three of these young LBs are capable of delivering big hits and making big plays. Even more exciting is the FACT that they have only begun to scratch the surface of their enormous upside potential.

    The team also seems to be developing young solid depth along the way in 24 year old Abdul Hodge (who will benefit from his struggles in ‘06’), 28 year old Ben Taylor (who may or may not be re-signed for ‘07’) and 25 year old Tracy White (who has been a beast on special teams), but more about them later.

    I guess the best place to start in evaluating the LB is in the premier spot among LBs – the WILL (weak-side) position which has been ably manned by the Packers 5th pick in the 2006 draft AJ Hawk.

    No one stepped on the field with higher expectations placed upon his shoulders than former Ohio State standout AJ Hawk. The Packers had not picked a player this high since T-Buck and everyone wanted/demanded instant success.

    Earlier on AJ’s play was sporadic – up one moment, down the next. Like Poppinga, offensive coordinators took advantage of his inexperience in pass coverage -- giving up five passes of 20 yards or more and a touchdown pass. Like for all rookies, adjusting to the NFL passing game was a major adjustment for Hawk. At times AJ seemed to vacillate between thinking too much and trying to do too much. After taking a bad angle or getting lost in blockers he would bounce back but was not the force we all knew him capable of being. If flying to the ball was Hawk strength, getting engulfed at times by offensive linemen who reach the second level was his weakness. The insertion of Jenkins at DE on early downs freed him to use the strength of his game Vs wait for coordinators to attack his deficits

    At a certain point somewhere around the middle of the season (before the change at DE) A.J. seemed to erupt. Hawk stopped thinking so much and began making big plays and disrupting opposing team’s offenses.
    [​IMG]
    "I just came off the edge," (the ever humble) Hawk said. "I got a decent jump, I guess."

    Hawk says, "I think my confidence grows every day, every rep." "I just think each game, not only for myself but for everyone, you feel a little more comfortable. When you repeat things and see plays numerous times it makes you feel better and you feel like you've seen things before."

    Mike McCarthy expresses his pleasure with his rookie LB quite clearly: "A.J. Hawk is everything that Ted and I thought he would be.” "His performance on the field will continue to get better, but I couldn't be happier with A.J. He was definitely the right pick for our football team."

    Perhaps what stands out most for Hawk is his love and passion for playing the game of football – he brings a Favre like passion to the defense.

    No one does a better job of describing this part of A.J. Hawk than his teammate Brady Poppinga:

    "Oh, he's off the wall, man," "He puts up a front, but underneath it all he's a crazy little man (little only in comparison to Brady). The hair flying in the wind. . . he looks like a blond Superman, flying around out there." "He's been under the pressure cooker.” "He's handled it beautifully. He's gotten better. All of us have gotten better. That's what adversity will do to people who are willing to face it head on. It will make you better, and you will be able to improve."

    Speaking of Poopinga, Brady is a great example of why it is a good thing that GM’s and coaches do not take their directives from impulsive fans or impatient talking heads.

    Coming back early from a serious injury suffered in his rookie season (which forced him to miss many reps through mini-camps, off-season training opportunities, voluntary workouts, early training camp...), Brady struggled with pass coverage. Early this season, many Packer fans and writers were calling for extreme measures – ranging from immediately cutting Poppinga, to benching Brady and firing the coaching staff for playing him.

    To his credit Popp never made excuses or ran away from his responsibility; and as a result the young man has improved immeasurably since the season opener, when he was exposed in the passing game and allowed Chicago Bears tight end Desmond Clark to catch five passes for 77 yards. As is true in the copy-cat NFL coordinators kept coming after him in the passing game until he stepped up and put a stop to it.

    "They came after me," Poppinga admitted. "They got me. I'm not going to deny that."

    But as the season progressed the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Big Man gained trust in his surgically repaired knee, and his intensity and speed re-emerged. Like Hawk, he stopped thinking so much and started exploding. He stopped being a liability in coverage, and added an explosive pass/blitz component that gave coordinators and QBs another thing to worry about.

    "It's not even close," Poppinga said when asked to compare his comfort level from the beginning of the season to down the stretch. "It's two different worlds."


    [​IMG]

    "It was a blitz. Nobody blocked me. I hit the guy with the ball, and I tried to put my face right on the ball, and it popped out," he said. "It was a good play."


    I let Brady describe Hawk in his own words, so it only fair to give A.J. the same opportunity to describe Poppinga:

    "Brady's great." "Everything about him tells you how intense he is and what he brings to the table. He's a guy that loves the game. You love to have him on your team. Brady's also a lot better athlete than some people even know. He's so big and he's so fast and he can run and he can hit and he can cover people."

    Hawk also said he appreciated that the coaching staff stayed with Poppinga even though he was being criticized for early deficiencies in pass coverage:

    "It was good to see them not give up on him." "It gives you confidence in the coaches to know that they have your back. I also think the coverage stuff was blown out of proportion with Brady.

    [​IMG]

    The lack of appreciation for MIKE LB Nick Barnett leaves me and players, coaches and scouts around the league scratching our collective heads. For some reason there has always been a split among Packer fans (fed by ignorant talking heads and egotistical writers) that has kept Nick Barnett from getting the love he certainly should have been afforded based upon his play. For example, he set the franchise record with 194 tackles last year, playing with two guys that TT did not think worthy of bringing back for a second time.

    It is as if some resent him for not being Brian Urlacher – the bad news is there is only one Brian Urlacher, the good news is that Nick Barnett is close to the next best thing in the NFC. Once again players and coaches have selected him to be a Pro Bowl alternative, as they have every year Nick has been in the league.

    Thrust into the starting lineup since his professional debut in game one of his rookie season, he has made plays and been a leader who shows up to play at every practice and every game. Yet that did not stop those who were calling for Hodge to replace Nick before this raw limited rookie even strapped on the pads. The one game Barnett missed after breaking his hand finally quieted this “Abdul” chant, as we all saw what a disaster it was to throw Hodge who is clearly not ready for prime-time in to the role that Barnett has filled so aptly since joining the league.

    Surrounded with talented players on either side of him for the first time in his Professional career, the 25-year-old Barnett has been freed up to make more big plays. Nick was on a tear prior to breaking his hand - he had two sacks, two interceptions and nine defended passes in the first nine games, and that was before the young guys started to get their legs underneath themselves.

    A.J. does not hesitate to give love and respect to his teammate:

    "Nick does everything." "He's so underrated. Some linebackers are fast and they can run sideline to sideline, but they might lack the physical part of the game. Others might not step up to the hole and hit fullbacks when they need to. Nick's a guy that does it all. He's one of the best cover linebackers in the league and he runs down people because he's so fast. What I have a lot of respect for is that he also steps up and hits people. There's not a part of his game that's lacking."

    It's been many years since the Packers had starting linebackers with this much talent and potential. TT did a great job putting these guys together; his challenge now is keeping them together for the long haul.

    "When you have guys that can run and play (at linebacker), you don't have to do so much situational stuff for those guys," Thompson said. "Each one brings something a little different: Brady certainly has pass-rush skills. Hawk and Barnett have the ability to play all over the field and in coverage, so that helps us."

    Havel wrote back in November, “Nobody is ready to dub the Packers' linebackers "Snap, Crackle and Poppinga," but they're good. It is now December and I believe that they are much closer to being ready to live up to such a lofty handle – this trio has the POTENTIAL to rank among the best in Packer history.

    Here is what the young guys themselves weigh in on this important issue of staying together as a unit:

    Nick Barnett says:

    "This is the most consistent group (of linebackers) I've been a part of." "We've had a lot of talented linebackers come through here, but A.J. has been consistent since he's been here and Brady as well. You know what to expect out of those guys. You can just go out and play football. "That's what it's about." "When you've got three guys that can run to the ball, if I make a mistake, A.J. can cover it up. If he overruns it, I'm there to help him, and the same with Brady. You've got to have guys running to the ball and covering up for each other. It's starting to grow on the field, and we're starting to get in a groove." “…we're starting to establish our identity." "I think definitely, if they keep us all together, we could be something special."
    [​IMG]

    A.J. says:

    "We'd love to stay together," "I know that's hard in the NFL today, but it's something everyone here would love to see happen."

    Perhaps the the best assessment can be found in the sage words of future Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre:

    "A.J., what a great pick for us." "Nick has been a rock there and has continued to get better. To say Brady's high-strung is an understatement. Guys like that bring energy to the team."
    .
     
  2. all about da packers

    all about da packers Cheesehead

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    Great read; the pieces you write are always a worth while reading.

    Mind me asking, are you a professional writer Bruce?
     
  3. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    that pic of barnett ripping johnsons head off is kinda sick...i like it.

    its a good Lb group, no doubt. Poppinga 'needed time' and 'experience' and teams picked on him...now hes a very good LB. Growing pains are part of rebuilding. You have to take the bad with the good.

    Good times ahead.
     
  4. all about da packers

    all about da packers Cheesehead

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    I am still surprised at Popp's speed, he plays WAY faster than his 40 time would indicate.

    Also, I think we gotta gve some love to Winston Moss. Whatever this guy is doing, it is working; no wonder his name is being thrown around as a DC.

    As for Barnett, I think it is a very sad thing for him to have played under 4 different DCs in 4 years. If this guy can get some consistency from a coaching and scheme standpoint, imagine the level he could play up to.
     
  5. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    another excellent post Bruce!!

    These 3 guys could be the ne 3 amigos ( that is if Brett, and Frankie dont mind)

    A while ago, I was very high on Poppy, just saw something in him that I loved..Then he made me go sour on him, but I am glad he is back to what I was hoping he would be..
     
  6. Zombieslayer

    Zombieslayer Cheesehead

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    Bruce - A nice contribution to PF. I enjoy reading your writing.

    I'm hoping we keep Barnett. Not sure when his contract is up, but I've always liked him. Hawk's a pleasant surprise. There was a lot of hype right after the draft, but the last time there was that much hype I remember was Tony Mandarich and we all know what happened there. So I take hype with a grain of salt.

    Hawk's going to be solid for years to come.

    I'm content with Poppinga as well.
     
  7. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    Next year is Nicks last year under contract...Or so I thought...Found this.....

    This was in jsonline dated summer of 2003


    A National Football League source said the Oregon State linebacker agreed to terms on what is essentially a five-year, $6 million deal, including a $3.2 million signing bonus.

    The deal will go in the books as seven years, $7.7 million, but a two-year option makes it almost guaranteed that the sixth and seventh years won't be realized.

    ~~~

    so sounds like 2008 would be his last real year? unless they re-do it in 2007?
     
  8. Tiger

    Tiger Cheesehead

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    great article Bruce, really enjoyed reading it, Brady is a sports writers dream, he always provides good quotes.

    Snap, Crackle and Poppinga, hehe i like it!
     
  9. GakkofNorway

    GakkofNorway Cheesehead

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    Don't put too much weight in the 40-time for a position like LB, their acceleration is more important than how fast they run 40 yards, cus they usually don't run 40 yards and they are bound to lose against WRs and RBs in the long run.
     
  10. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    Good article, and I especially enjoyed the comments on Nick Barnett, who is vastly underrated by many Packer fans.
     
  11. HatestheEagles084

    HatestheEagles084 Cheesehead

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    Poppinga was one of my favorite picks by Thompson...he dropped in the draft, I belive, because of him being overaged...he was solid on special teams, rebounded from hsi broken leg, and now with ben taylor not panning out, he's starting
     
  12. Schmitty

    Schmitty Cheesehead

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    We defenatly need to get Barnett a contract extension this off season. He is an excellent mike LB and with Hawk in the picture now we can have a dominating line backing corp. I know the Packers want Barnett to stay, and I think the fact that we have Hawk will help convince Barnett to resign with the Pack.
     
  13. porky88

    porky88 Cheesehead

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    I think one thing that has gone unnotice in the last couple of week is Poppinga's improvement. He's done so much better in the pass and he's coming up and filling holes when needed. He's done a great job. That has been overshadowed by A.J. Hawk's emergance and Charles Woodson's big plays but make no mistake Poppinga is here to stay for a while. I think Green Bay is set for their 3 trio of LB.
     
  14. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    Wasn't Ted Thompson a LB during his playing days?

    If it's one area he knows its defense, if its one area he knows very WELL, it is the linebackers.
     
  15. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Pssst! Trom, he whispers, "the first paragraph of the article reads:

    Ted Thompson was a very solid LB in the NFL -- 10 years with the Houston Oilers. So it should not come as a shock that Thompson has done an outstanding job of remaking the Packers LB corp in just his 2nd year as GM of the Green Bay Packers. :thumbsup:
     
  16. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    cmon, Bruce, you know I can't read.

    how long have you known me here, I figured that would be apparent.
     
  17. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Late in life, my father (a WWII and Korean War Vet) had hearing problems, however, on occasion I would notice a little grin and a wink that told me a good part of it was selective hearing.

    That is what I always thought at worst about your trom -- selective reading and selective understanding :thumbsup:
     
  18. Zero2Cool

    Zero2Cool I own a website

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    I'm not sure how you conjure the energy for these electric posts Bruce. It's amazing. Full time job, sure you have a family and what not, then to keep pumping out these above regular journalists articles is great.

    Thank you.
     
  19. tromadz

    tromadz Cheesehead

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    yeah where do you get these quotes. every time i call nick barnett or tap on poppingas bedroom window, they chase me off or call the police.
     
  20. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    You're welcome Zero2Cool. Thank you for your kind words.
     
  21. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    Cuz those arent the real players...they been faking you out
     
  22. millertime

    millertime Cheesehead

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    anyone think GB should play the 3-4???? think... pickett could be the nose tacke. jenkins and kampman on the ends. poppinga and hawk on the outsides and hodge barnett in the middle! i think they should incorporate some 3-4 into the defense. mixing up the defense works well for new england and baltimore.
     

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