NFL Scouting Combine: Day 2 observations

Indianapolis – The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine continued on Thursday in Indianapolis. The offensive linemen and running backs were the position groups to meet with the media, as well as other various coaches and front office personnel.

With both Packers coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Brian Gutekunst addressing the media on Wednesday, things were relatively quiet on the Green Bay front on Thursday. That, combined with the thought that Green Bay won’t be too likely to select a running back or offensive lineman early in the draft, made for an uneventful day.

Three takeaways from Thursday in Indianapolis.

Gutekunst receiving praise

With Gutekunst taking over as the general manager in Green Bay many felt like it was a breath of fresh air that the Packers organization needed. Obviously, the Packers weren’t the only franchise this offseason to make a leadership change.

Roughly halfway through the 2017 season the Cleveland Browns hired former Packers Director of Football Operations John Dorsey as their general manager. Dorsey also hired a pair of former front office members of the Packers in Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith.

He did speak with the media on Thursday and was asked about Gutekunst due to the obvious history that comes with working together from 2002-12.

“Outstanding, I think Brian [Gutekunst] has done a nice job,” said Dorsey of Gutekunst’s career in Green Bay. “He will do a nice job for the Packers moving forward.”

Dorsey also shared the story of giving Gutekunst his start with the Packers back in 2002.

“Brian Gutekunst was a GA at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. I had called up Roger Harring, who was a legendary coach at Wisconsin-La Crosse. I said we were looking for a young intern. He said ‘I’ve got this guy Brian Gutekunst who would be really good.

“We sat and talked about it and then next thing you know I call [Gutekunst] up on Friday night. I said ‘[Gutekunst], it’s about eight o’clock,’ – and I think he’s working at some country club trying to put some extra cash in his pocket – ‘this is John Dorsey from the Green Bay Packers. You got the job. Just be here at 7am Monday morning.’ Then I hung up the phone.”

Interest in Quenton Nelson

Notre Dame offensive guard Quenton Nelson is widely regarded as the best offensive linemen in this draft class. There are some who believe that he may be the best player available. With that being said, it’s very rare for an offensive guard to be drafted as high as he is projected to go.

It’s likely, according to most, that Nelson will be drafted before the Green Bay’s first selection at No. 14 overall.

That didn’t stop the Packers from having an official meeting at the combine with Nelson, he said.

While it wasn’t expected that the Packers would be in the running for not only an offensive lineman early in the draft, trading up for Nelson cannot be ruled out now.

Green Bay’s wide receiver situation

The Packers have decisions to make at wide receiver with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. That’s no secret. The team extended the contract of Davante Adams late this season, despite issues with concussions during the year.

Adams’ agent, Frank Bauer, told ESPN’s Rob Demovsky that there are no long-term concerns surrounding the health of Adams.

Adams suffered a pair of concussions in the 2017 season. One was caused on a head-to-head blow by Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan that caused Adams to leave the game on a stretcher. The second concussion was due to a hit from Thomas Davis of the Carolina Panthers in Week 15, causing Adams to miss the remainder of the season.

NFL Scouting Combine: Day 1 observations

Indianapolis – The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is underway and the path to the draft is officially underway for not only the Green Bay Packers, but the other 31 teams in the NFL, as well. On Wednesday Packers’ general manager Brian Gutekunst and coach Mike McCarthy both met with the media.

Here are three observations from the first day of the combine:

Aggressiveness in free agency

There has seemed to be a renewed sense of optimism since Gutekunst was given the job as the successor to former Packers general manager Ted Thompson in January. The Packers, at times, thrived under the ‘draft and develop model’ that Thompson preferred. This past season it seemed as if the model failed the Packers, especially with the injury to quarterback Aaron Rodgers in early October.

In the absence of Rodgers there were few bright spots offensively. Wide receiver Davante Adams was tremendous with backup quarterback Brett Hundley, and the running back positon was solid with rookies Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Other than that, there wasn’t much to write home about.

Last offseason the Packers attempted to make a splash by signing free agent tight end Martellus Bennett. That move didn’t work out as Bennett underperformed and was waived after injury issues midway through the season.

Most of the renewed hope among fans is that the free agent market will be something that the Packers will be aggressive in this offseason. That was the talk of the day on Wednesday at the combine.

“Obviously, there’s limits on what you can do, but we’d like to be really aggressive and see what we can be in every conversation,” Gutekunst said of the upcoming free agency period. “Now, whether that leads us to signing a bunch or not, we’ll see. Like I said, there’s limitations there, but we’d like to be as aggressive as we can to try and improve our football team. At the same time, it’s a smaller market, it’s a little bit riskier market, so I think as my mentor and predecessor would say ‘you have to be very cautious as you enter that.’ But I think we’d like to look at every option we can.”

“We like the word ‘aggressive,’ but I think it’s like anything, you have to be in touch with reality of the process,” McCarthy said. “The process of veteran free agency is different today than it was prior to Brian [Gutekunst] being the GM.”

Aaron Rodgers’ contract

Obviously, Rodgers is the quarterback of the present and future for the Packers. That’s not earth-shattering news to anyone that pays attention to the NFL in any capacity. Rodgers thought of by the Packers as the best player in the NFL. He’s currently on a contract that expires after the 2019 season. Both he and the Packers would like that to change as there have been talked between the parties of an extension.

“I don’t know if there’s pressure [to get an extension done], but we certainly would like to get it done sooner rather than later,” Gutekunst said. “When you have the best player in the NFL it’s not going to be inexpensive, you know what I mean? Obviously, Aaron is a high priority, he’s a great player. That should take care of itself at some point.”

The answer Gutekunst gave was sparked by a question about the salaries that other high-end quarterbacks are anticipated to receive in free agency. Rodgers’ track record proves that he deserves to be shown a payday. It will certainly be interesting to see the amount of guaranteed money he receives if and when a contract extension with the Packers becomes finalized.

New life on defense

After nine seasons at the helm of the defense for the Packers, defensive coordinator Dom Capers was let go following the season. The Packers struggled on that side of the ball and McCarthy felt that a change was needed.

“Obviously, the last nine years I felt that internally we were able to take the resources that we had, build the vision, the plan for the upcoming season,” McCarthy said of the defensive side of the ball. “Obviously, I felt differently this year and the result was all of the coaching changes.”

Green Bay hired Mike Pettine as the replacement to Capers. Pettine has had stops as a defensive coordinator with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. He also has two-year stint as head coach of the Cleveland Browns to his name.

While McCarthy shot down the idea of the hiring of Pettine being a total culture change, it is something that was needed.

“I don’t get too far away from the reality of how our operation is every day and that is the culture. Our culture is what makes it go. That’s how you sustain success. It definitely has been changed, on a lot of levels it has been adjusted, too.”

What Packers coach Mike McCarthy had to say at the NFL Combine

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy met with the media on Wednesday afternoon at the NFL Combine as the team begins preparation leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Here’s everything he had to say.

Q: Challenges of such a long relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers:
MCCARTHY: I think it goes all the way around. The way you interact with everybody in your program. Obviously, you have the 1 on 1 component. We’re both driven and focused on the same thing. As I watch Aaron now compared to his younger years, he’s the oldest guy in the locker room. It’s a different relationship for him in there then it was in the early years. Just staying in tune with that. From a pure football standpoint, as far as the scheme, just continue to grow that too. In specifics, what we’re going through now as an offensive staff is we’re spending a ton of time in the passing game particularly, doing a 12-year study, looking at his first six years compared to the last four, particularly the last three. Kind of breaking it down the first seven and last three and just seeing the differences in everything involved in that. Because this is the time when he goes away but when he returns in April, that initial meeting of these are the things we’ve done, here’s the history, the past, these are the changes and so forth. That part of it is always fresh for him. He likes a challenge so we make sure we continue to challenge him as we grow as a football team.

Q: Have you done similar studies in the past?
MCCARTHY: We have, I would say the last five or six years have been in the four-year realm. So, the chance to go back and take all 12 years, particularly the video of it and watch the origin of the concept, the original installation of it, how it evolved, what we got away from, what we stayed with. In this league, the evolution of scheme is the challenge and the focus that every coach goes through whether it be offense, defense, or special teams. The ability to stay on the front end of that curve and try to hopefully stay a step of so in front of your opponent in that particular challenge is where we’re always focused on. We have tremendous history with both Aaron and Brett [Favre] in ’06 and ’07. It’s really probably been as good for the coaches as it will be for the players when they get back. It’s brought us back to the basics in more ways than one.

Q: On the Free Agency plan for this upcoming period:
MCCARTHY: We like the word ‘aggressive,’ but I think it’s like anything, you have to be in touch with reality of the process. The process of veteran free agency is different today than it was prior to Brian [Gutekunst] being the GM. It’s a whole different breakdown and approach, really. That’s the first part of it, so you have the evaluation stage and then the application of it is really what it’s all about. It’s not just one thing that directly leads to another. We don’t want to lose good players, that’s something we’ve always focuses on, particularly our own. We’ve spent pretty much our 12 years here really focusing on improving from within but we need outside resources, we’ve determined that. At the end of the day it’s a market, it’s a market that every team is involved in and we’ll see what happens.

Q: How has the new front office structure been going?
MCCARTHY: It’s different, different structure, there’s meetings, communication is weekly. The reality of what I’m doing specifically, with new coaching staffs, predominantly, probably the last five weeks have been bunkered down with the offensive perimeter group going through the passing game and Mike Pettine has done the same with the defense. We’re kind of in a ‘year one format,’ kind of what you go through when you go into a place with a new staff. Unfortunately, we had an early start with a couple extra weeks before the Super Bowl. Our approach is the same. We’ve always made sure that when players get back on April 16th that we’re ready to go. Every minute that they’re available they’re our priority.

Q: Is the NFL Scouting Combine a fresh start no matter what happens the previous season?
MCCARTHY: I think more for the interaction for the media and the rest of the world, maybe. Really, you get a little time off, the assistant coaches had a little time off. Obviously, we were involved in staff changes. It really kicked off once we turned that first tape on and started to scheme evaluation for me. That’s really the day that the page is turned and you’re able to move forward. This is part of that new journey of 2018.

Q: On Mike Pettine’s scheme, 4-3 or 3-4?
MCCARTHY: Frankly, if you asked Mike if he plays the 4-3 or the 3-4 he’d say ‘yes.” That’s the reality of what a good defensive system is. The ability to utilize your players. We’ve never had that luxury of saying ‘we need this specific kind of player.’ I think when you’re picking where we’ve picked for as many years as we have, and with our prior focus on veteran free agency, we have to acquire good players. In our system, on offense, defense, and special teams we have to take advantage of those players and make sure we’re playing to their strengths and that’s no different with Mike.

Q: On the running back position and Ty Montgomery’s position:
MCCARTHY: First thing, Jamaal [Williams] and Aaron [Jones] did a lot of good things. Probably the most important statistic for me when evaluating players as far as you move forward to the next season is availability. I have a depth chart board in my office and it has their picture, original tag, number, and play time. Play time is a reflection of availability. None of our running backs this year were available for the whole season. That’s the first hurdle that they need to meet. In Ty [Montgomery]’s particular case, his availability the last three years has been his challenge. He’s a multi-positional player. He’s a running back, to answer the question, but he gives us great flexibility to use him so many different ways, so that won’t change. We’re going to need all those guys next year, so that’s going to be our approach.

Q: How can Mike Daniels benefit from a schematic change?
MCCARTHY: There will be some. It’s important for every coordinator through their positon coach, to play their scheme and more importantly their vision and make sure the play style is consistent. Mike’s playing style is a huge asset to not only our defensive line, but our whole football team. Schematically, I think you really just need to play to Mike’s strengths. Create the opportunities, and I think anytime you can get Mike in a one-on-one situation you’re probably going to see more production. I think it’s important. We’re not scorching the Earth or throwing out the baby with the bath water with our defensive approach. There’s some history there with our past defense that Mike [Pettine] will be able to carry over with his scheme. We’ll build off of that but the specifics of what he’s doing, but more importantly how he’s doing it, and even more importantly than that why he’s doing it, will make all of our defensive players, particularly Mike Daniels, better.

Q: On needing a culture change on defense:
MCCARTHY: I think that’s a big statement. I mean, culture change, I think you have to look at more of the definition of it is, from my perspective, my approach is you have an evaluation that you do each and every year. You have filters that you run your data, conversations, and all the input that you take from within, or even outside the organization in some small level. With that you assess. Obviously, the last nine years I felt that internally we were able to take the resources that we had, build the vision, the plan for the upcoming season. Obviously, I felt differently this year and the result was all of the coaching changes. I don’t get too far away from the reality of how our operation is every day and that is the culture. Our culture is what makes it go. That’s how you sustain success. It definitely has been changed, on a lot of levels it has been adjusted, too.

Q: Assessing Brett Hundley and his evaluation from 2017:
MCCARTHY: I think when you look at Brett [Hundley], like anything, you look at what he was able to accomplish. Now his live reps are on video. We felt that he could have been better prepared as far as our whole operation. You look at the evaluation as far as where he started, how he ended his season. He definitely improved throughout his opportunities there. I feel very good about that. I believe in Brett Hundley. I do fully recognize that he has a lot of football in front of him. He has a big upside and our structure and our coaching staff, we need to make sure that we maximize that. We also need to learn from the other parts of the offense that we didn’t do as good as we would have liked. We’ll learn from that and apply it forward. I do believe that Brett as a big upside and looking forward to getting back to work with him.

Q: On the health of Aaron Rodgers:
MCCARTHY: I can’t answer that. I feel confident that he’ll be ready to go. I had a short meeting yesterday with Dr. Pat Mackenzie and his assessment of everything is that everything looks good.

Report: Packers set to bring back former assistant

Mike McCarthy is getting the band back together — sort of.

ESPN’s Rob Demovsky is reporting the Green Bay Packers are expected to bring Joe Philbin in as their new offensive coordinator. If the name sounds familiar, it should, as Philbin was a member of former coach Mike Sherman’s staff for three years, before serving as McCarthy’s offensive line coach in 2006 and as offensive coordinator from 2007 to 2011.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has spoken glowingly of Philbin’s time in Green Bay, which came to an end when he was hired as the Miami Dolphins head coach in 2012. He spent four seasons there before being let go and ending up with the Indianapolis Colts as their offensive line coach and assistant head coach the last two seasons.

In Philbin’s final year in Green Bay, the offense was nearly unstoppable. They led the league in scoring at 35 points per game, were third in total offense and Rodgers threw a career-high 45 touchdowns and earned his first NFL MVP award.

The move follows the news from Friday night that Indianapolis tight ends coach Jim Hostler had been hired as Green Bay’s wide receivers coach.

The Packers still need to find a new quarterbacks coach, and it’s possible they look to an old assistant as well for that job in the form of Ben McAdoo, who was fired as the New York Giants head coach during the season. McAdoo was Green Bay’s tight ends coach from 2006 to 2011 and the quarterbacks coach for two seasons after that.

Report: Packers extend coach Mike McCarthy’s contract

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has had his contract extended.

According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, the team extended his deal by one year and it now runs through the 2019 season. The extension, according to Demovsky, happened during the season and has no connection to the news that general manager Ted Thompson’s tenure is over.

McCarthy has won six division titles, been to the NFC title game four times and won the Super Bowl in 2010. At 7-9, this season was the first time the Packers had missed the playoffs under McCarthy since 2008, and it’s just the second time in his 12 years they’ve had a sub. 500 record.

The decision to extend McCarthy’s deal does not guarantee he’ll be the coach in 2018. It’s possible, and potentially likely, that the new general manager will want his own coach. However, if the new GM comes from inside the organization, that could end up being a good things for McCarthy’s chances of sticking around.

Reports: Packers fire DC Dom Capers

Dom Capers is out.

As first reported by Rob Demovsky of ESPN, the Green Bay Packers fired their longtime defensive coordinator following Sunday’s 35-11 loss to Detroit. It brought an end to Capers’ 9-year tenure with the franchise to an end, a tenure during in which he had success early but was often unable to consistently put a good product on the field.

Though injuries were certainly an issue throughout this season, especially in the secondary, Capers’ unit finished No. 22 in total defense and No. 26 in scoring defense.

This is just the second time coach Mike McCarthy has fired his defensive coordinator since taking over the team in 2006. He also sent Bob Sanders packing following the 2008 season, which also happened to be the last time — before 2017 — the team failed to make the playoffs and had a losing record.

Reports indicate more coaching moves could be coming on the defensive side of the ball.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy says QB Aaron Rodgers is ‘making really good progress’

It was just some jogging and taking snaps with a trainer, but it was also a glimmer of hope for the Green Bay Packers.

On Wednesday, two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers was back out on the practice field for the first time since undergoing surgery to fix a broken collarbone last month. He didn’t practice or even throw a ball. And yet, he had all eyes on him, with both the media and his teammates taking note of his presence.

“I was peaking over there, looking at him, too,” wide receiver Davonte Adams told reporters. “He looked good so far. Once he gets healed up, I know we will be excited to have him back.”

The work on the field, which didn’t include him throwing a football, was just the latest step in Rodgers recovery from a broken right collarbone, an injury he suffered against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 15. He remains on injured reserve, meaning he’ll be out until at least Week 15 when Green Bay travels to Carolina. But Rodgers can start practicing in two weeks and Wednesday could serve as a sign that it’s possible he’ll be healthy enough to do that.

“I think he’s making really good progress,” coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday morning. “I know the training staff and the strength and conditioning staff are very pleased where he is. He’s moving right along.”

Report: Packers WR Davante Adams could play this week against Dallas

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams took one of the most brutal shots to the head that you’ll ever see in a football game, but the fourth-year pro could very well be back on the field this Sunday when the team travels to Dallas to take on the Cowboys.

According to ESPN’s Adam Shefter, a source told him that he believes Adams will play this week.

Adams took a vicious hit to the head from Chicago Bears linebacker Danny Travathan in the third quarter of last Thursday’s game, left the field on a stretcher and spent the night in the hospital. He was placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol, but Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Friday morning that Adams was rambunctious and ready to move forward.

This wouldn’t be the first time Adams has bounced back quickly from a big hit to the head. Last season, he was knocked out of a game against Dallas, but cleared the concussion protocol and played on a short week against the Bears. He ended up catching 13 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns in that game.

As for Trevathan, he was suspended two games for his hit on Adams, but he plans to appeal.

Packers 35, Chicago 14: 2-minute drill

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Chicago quarterback Mike Glennon turned the ball over four times, while Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdowns in what turned into a 35-14 blowout win for the Packers on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

Play of the Game

Green Bay led 7-0 after its first drive and the Bears were looking for an answer. They didn’t get it. Instead, outside linebacker Clay Matthews came off the edge on Chicago’s first snap and knocked the ball loose from Glennon. Linebacker Jake Ryan recovered at the Bears 3-yard line, and three plays later the Packers were in the end zone to claim a 14-0 lead.

Game Balls

Offense: Offensive line

A patchwork group that had Lane Taylor playing left tackle for the first time ever, an undrafted free agent in Lucas Patrick making his first career start at left guard and another undrafted free agent in Justin McCray getting the nod at right tackle, the Packers were able to get movement in the running game and kept Rodgers upright for most of the night, allowing just two sacks. It was a dire situation the line faced and they held up.

Defense: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Clinton-Dix had one of the two interceptions that Glennon threw, and finished with eight solo tackles. On a wet field that could have proven disastrous for the defense, Clinton-Dix and company got the job done in forcing a total of four turnovers.

Special Teams: Justin Vogel

The rookie punter had a fantastic night in tough conditions. He punted five times, and finished with a net of 46.2 yards. He dropped one inside the 20 and never allowed the dangerous Tarik Cohen to burn them in the return game.

In their own words

Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams took what many are calling a clear cheap shot to the head by linebacker Danny Trevathan in the third quarter. It sent Adams’ mouth guard flying, and he ended up being taken off the field on a gurney and to a local hospital.

While Adams was said to be doing fine and all early signs were positive, the fallout from the hit poured into the locker room, where Trevathan was engulfed by reporters. He reportedly told them that while he was sorry that Adams got hurt, it wasn’t intentional and he doesn’t believe he should be fined or suspended.

In the Green Bay locker room, most of the players wouldn’t comment on whether the hit was dirty or not, but the one guy that always speaks his mind — tight end Martellus Bennett — let everyone know his feelings on the matter.

“I thought it was f**ked up,” Bennett said. “No matter what team they’re on, you don’t want anyone to go through that situation. They have families and things like that.

“What we thought was f**ked up was he was celebrating that play. You’re getting your ass kicked, you take a cheap shot and then celebrate when a guy goes down. That’s what really pissed us off.”

In Case You Missed It

— During the national anthem, both teams lined up on the sideline with arms interlocked in a show of unity. However, the call by Rodgers during the week for fans to join them went largely unanswered. Bennett, who sat during the anthem on last Sunday, told reporters he could hear someone in the crowd yelling at him.

“Some motherf**ker yelling, ‘Put your hand on your heart.’ That’s all I heard,” Bennett said. “Someone just kept saying, ‘Put your hand on your heart! Put your hand on your heart!’ I’m like, my arms are locked, back the f**k up.”

— Play was suspended at the end of the first quarter due to serve weather in the area. The delay lasted 46 minutes.

— Green Bay was hammered by injuries, including losing starting running back Ty Montgomery early in the game. It was reported by the NFL Network that Montgomery sustained broken ribs and will be out an undetermined amount of time.

Other injuries:

Blake Martinez (concussion | returned)
Josh Jones (back — returned)
Jamaal Williams (knee)
Joe Thomas (ankle)

— Cornerback Damarious Randall was benched after allowing a touchdown late in the first half and was replaced by Josh Hawkins. Randall spent the first part of the second half with arms stretched out sitting on the bench. He later walked back to the locker room by himself and the team said he was not injured. Asked afterwards about Randall, coach Mike McCarthy said, “That’s an internal matter that we’ll keep internal.”

Inside the Numbers

75 — That’s the number of sacks Matthews has in his career — now the most in team history.

24 — That’s the total number of yards that Aaron Rodgers’ last seven touchdowns have traveled.

4 — That’s the number of offensive line combinations Green Bay has used through the first four games of the season.

3 — That’s how many pass deflections that Hawkins had in what was essentially two quarters of work.

What’s Next

Green Bay (3-1) will travel to take on the Dallas Cowboys (2-1) Oct. 8. at AT&T Stadium.