Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Interview With Brewers' Michael Garza

Player Profile

Full Name: Michael Alexander Garza
Born: March 11th, 1990
Birthplace: San Antonio, Texas
College: Georgetown
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 195 lbs.
Throws: Right
Bats: Right
Position: Thirdbase
Affiliate: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Me: Born in San Antonio, Texas, what was the team you grew up on and cheered for as a child?

Michael: To be honest I wasn't really a die-hard fan for any professional baseball team, however, if I did root for one team over another it was for the Florida Marlins, now the Miami Marlins. My parents spent most of their lives in Miami and I lived there for a few years when I was younger so that was team. Interestingly enough Craig Counsell was part of that World Series Championship team and I have been fortunate enough to meet him a few times within the Brewers organization. It was a really awesome experience to get to interact with a player that you grew up watching and cheering for.

Me: Being only 2 months younger then myself, we grew up watching the same players in baseball. Who was your favorite player and someone you looked up to who inspired you to play baseball?

Michael: That is definitely a tough one. I'd have to say that I was a huge fan of Rey Ordonez, shortstop for the New York Mets. He was just a smooth middle infielder who got the job done defensively. I was also a big fan of Chipper Jones because I always felt that as a young kid I needed to emulate the way he played the game, hard-nosed, not afraid to get dirty, and a day in and day out player. The fact that he could play as hard as he did and as well as he did for so many years, including this year was something I truly admired about Chipper and was definitely the kind of player I wanted to be like as well.
Me:  How old were you when you started playing baseball? Were you playing other sports?

Michael: I must of been about 4 or 5 years old when I started playing organized baseball. My parents always tell me that since the time I could walk I had a bat in hand and loved to swing it all around the house. I don't think it made my mom very happy but I loved doing it. Growing up though I played a couple different sports, I gave soccer a try but I just wasn't too into running around a humongous field kicking a ball around, so in high school I stuck to football, basketball and baseball, but baseball was definitely was true passion.

Me: You are listed as a 3rd baseman, but I'm sure you've played other positions. What are you most comfortable in and what did you play as a little leaguer?

Michael: I am a third baseman now, but I pride myself in being a versatile player. Growing up I played every position, but the two main ones were shortstop and pitcher. In high school and college I was both a pitcher and shortstop but after my sophomore year I began to focus solely on playing short. Third base is a little knew for me but my comfort level there is as high as ever and I am continuing to try and pick up little things here and there that will help me master that position. I've had a lot of help from the Brewers with the little things coming from great coaches like infielding coordinator Bob Miscik and other coaches like Don Money and Matt Erickson. Like I said earlier though, I try to sharp at all the infield positions as I would like to be known as someone who plays third base exceptionally well, but can be used anywhere on the diamond if needed. 

Me: What are some of your favorite memories playing for Georgetown. Also, before you played there, what other colleges scouted you?

Michael: There were so many great memories that I don't know if I could pick just one. To narrow to a smaller list though I'd have to say playing the Washington Nationals in Spring training was pretty cool, as well as getting to meet some awesome speakers and athletes like Dave Winfield (MLB Hall of Fame) and Jim Craig (1980 Olympic Hockey Team Goalie) at various baseball banquets. Those conversations and experiences were a once in a lifetime opportunity and I will definitely remember those forever. As far as other schools, I actually attended Stanford University my freshman season before transferring to Georgetown, but I had interest from schools like Notre Dame, Harvard, Princeton, Brown, Yale, Miami, LSU, Clemson, Kansas and Kansas State.

Me: What did it feel like when you found out you were drafted by the Brewers?

Michael: Finding out I got drafted by the Brewers was indescribable. It was definitely a surreal experience for me to know that now I had a chance to pursue my Big League aspirations. I knew I had some interest from a few teams but I can't thank the Brewers organization enough for giving me this opportunity and I have every intention of doing everything in my power to make sure I play in Miller Park as a Brewer in the near future.

Me: Explain your experience in your first few games playing for the Helena Brewers and how it felt to start your path to the Bigs.

Michael: Helena was great. Coming in I didn't really know what to expect from pro ball and the atmosphere surrounding the team but it was awesome to get to be a part of that with other guys who had also been recent draft picks. And you obviously feel a bit of anxiety to get going. We had practice for about a week before the games started and in your head you had a countdown because all you wanted to do was step foot on that field and start playing and pursuing your dreams.

Me: Describe the confidence boost of quickly being called up the the Timber Rattlers.

Michael: Having the opportunity to play in Wisconsin my first half year of pro ball was great. I wouldn't say it was confidence boost as much as it was an opportunity to gain experience at a different level of pro baseball. As is true for any sport, the higher up the ladder you climb the better the competition is and the more adjustments you have to make, so getting the opportunity to experience Low A baseball in the Midwest League my first year I think is something that will inevitably help me as I plan workouts and approaches to this offseason on through next season. 

Me: If you are still on the Timber Rattlers roster next season, how much are you looking forward to playing a game at Miller Park?

Michael: Playing at Miller Park would be amazing. I was fortunate enough to be able to workout there during a pre-draft workout in late May and it was a phenomenal experience. To be able to play a game there would truly be something as well and I think would give you just a small taste of what the Big League experience is like.

Me: Describe the feeling of winning a Championship your first year in the minors.

Michael: Wow. That's really all I could think when it happened. Anytime you have win a championship at any level it is an unforgettable experience, but to be able to share that will the guys on the Timber Rattlers roster and the wonderful city of Appleton whose fans supported us better than any other team I could think of is truly remarkable. I couldn't be happier that I was part of a championship team my first season, but I plan on making that a year to year thing within the Brewers organization. It's all about winning championships and I hope to be able to help the Big League bring some back to Milwaukee in the future.

Me: Chipotle or Qdoba?

Michael: Definitely a Qdoba guy. I am a little biased though because we had a Qdoba near Georgetown that offered half priced burritos on Mondays so it gave Qdoba an unfair advantage over Chipotle. Oh, and they have queso!

Me: It's the bottom of the 9th, tie game, 2 outs. You're up to bat with the game on the line. Who is the one pitcher you don't want to face?

Michael: Honestly, I don't know that I have an answer for that one. I think if I'm in that situation I'd be so locked in and ready to go that it really wouldn't matter who was on the hill.

Me: If you could meet any player in MLB History for lunch, who would it be?

Michael: Hmmm, that's another tough one. I think I'd have to go with Chipper Jones for this one. What he does on the field and the intangibles he brings to the Atlanta Braves are attributes that I would love to pick his brain about. Chipper is a tough ballplayer and in today's baseball terminology we would label him as a "grinder", someone who gets on the field day in and day out and gives it everything he's got. I'd love to be able to be emulate how he plays the game and the success he has on the baseball field.

Me: As a player in the Brewers' organization, how do you like the direction of the team?

Michael: I think the Brewers are doing a great job, from the minor leagues to big leagues. The big league club has shown that they can compete with any of the teams in Major League Baseball and the players in the minors are doing so as well. I am excited to see what the future holds for the Brewers organization and I'm excited to be a part of the winning tradition that is felt all throughout the organization.

Me: Are you ready for your first Wisconsin winter?

Michael: No. Plain and simple. But when that umpire yells "play ball" its time to get after it and win a ball game. Both teams have to play in the cold so you just have to suck it up and get the job done.

Me: If you didn't play baseball, what would your profession be?

Well, seeing as I haven't given any thought to what my life would be like without baseball, I'm not entirely sure. I plan on playing this game for a long time so another profession is most definitely out of the question at this point. But to give you a fair answer, I wouldn't mind getting into some front office stuff once my playing career is over. And if not that then I'll probably find myself working within the government in some capacity.

And that will wrap it up! Thank you Mr. Garza for your time and good luck to you next season with the Brewers!

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Bucks Sign Marquis Daniels

Tuesday, the Milwaukee Bucks announced that signed free agent shooting guard/small forward Marquis Daniels. Here is the official press release from the Bucks: 

"The Milwaukee Bucks have signed free-agent guard-forward Marquis Daniels (6-6, 200), General Manager John Hammond announced today. Terms of the contract were not disclosed in accordance with team policy.

Despite going undrafted in the 2003 NBA Draft, Daniels, 31, has carved out a nine-year NBA career with stops in Dallas, Indiana and Boston. The Auburn University product has averaged better than 10 points per game in a season on two occasions (10.2 ppg with Dallas in 2005-06; 13.6 ppg for Indiana in 2008-09), and he owns career averages of 8.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 489 games (113 starts). Daniel’s best statistical season came in 2008-09 when, in addition to the 13.6 points per game, he added 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 steals while starting 43 of the 54 contests in which he appeared.

Daniel’s teams have advanced to the postseason in five of his nine NBA seasons, where he has averaged 4.3 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 62 career playoff appearances. Daniels appeared in 20 playoff games with Dallas in 2006 when the Mavericks reached the NBA Finals before falling to Miami in six games."

Daniels plays extremely hard, and is a reliable player. He'll give you everything he's got on the basketball court. On February 6, 2011, while the Celtics were playing against the Orlando Magic, Daniels collided with Magic guard Gilbert Arenas and suffered a bruised spinal cord. Daniels lay motionless on the floor for several minutes before being taken away on a stretcher. He gave the Boston crowd a thumbs up sign, and after arriving at a Boston Hospital regained movement of his arms and legs. On February 24, 2011, Daniels was traded to the Sacramento Kings along with cash for a protected 2017 second-round draft pick. This trade helped the Celtics reduce their luxury tax and also helped the Kings increase their salary cap to go over the league's minimum. The trade also gave the Celtics a trade exception and a roster spot. He never played any games for the Kings, and became a free agent on July 1, 2011. 

Daniels takes a lot of pride in the art of ink on his body. The tattoos range from a detailed map of Florida that covers his entire back, a caricature of a man blowing his head off with a shotgun on his lower right arm, and Chinese characters on his other arm which were intended to represent his initials, but translate to English as "healthy woman roof". Also, he has an entire bible verse on his chest, which he used to read to his paralyzed grandmother

It's likely that, much like everything the Bucks do, the fans wont like this acquisition. I however, do. He's a high energy guy who can do a little bit of everything. He's a good defender and can play the 2 or 3. His presence will somewhat threaten other Bucks, which will likely make them work harder for their minutes. He gives us great depth, which is something the Bucks haven't had in years past, minus last season. Hopefully he can get involved in our offense and be apart of some big plays this season. 

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My Reaction to "Touception"

Not many things in NFL have been much worse than what occurred on Monday Night Football last evening in Seattle. The use of replacement players might honestly be the only thing that ranks higher. The final play of last night's game was not the only bad call during that game. There were plenty of them, unfavorable to both sides equally. Pass interference calls both called and not called, roughing the passer, a no call running into the kicker call. It was a complete mess from start to finish. And that play was only the beginning to the nightmare that was last night.

When you have players openly bashing the NFL who weren't even playing in Monday's game, it should really be a sign of the frustration levels of all the players as a whole. The fact that Golden Tate couldn't openly say he caught the ball should say something about the play. When ESPN's color commentators call this the most embarrassing call in NFL history, you would think it would raise a few eyebrows. However, the silence of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says everything that needs to be said. He doesn't care about the fans. He doesn't care about the players. He doesn't even care about the legitimacy of National Football League name. If he did, a statement would have been released. There would be no such thing as replacement referees this season.

First of all, Pete Carroll and Golden Tate should be ashamed of themselves for thinking they remotely came close to winning it fairly. What should have happened during their post game interviews should have been something along the lines of:

"Pete, what are your thoughts about the last play?" - ESPN

"Well, it looked like a close play. Could have gone either way. But what are you going to do? Game is over. Things happen." - Pete Carroll

But, that's not what happened. Pete Carroll made an absolute fool of himself. What was said (via Carroll's Twitter):

"WOW!!! What a game!! Love our guys for battling all the way to the end and never giving up! Our fans are incredible!!! Thank you 12s!! SEA!!!! HAWKS!!!!" - Pete Carroll

Golden Tate was far worse then anyone else on Seattle during interviews. When asked about the questionable no call of pass interference, he exclaimed "What are you talking about?" When asked about the play itself, he iterated "I just love to compete. I went up for the ball and came down. I didn't hear a whistle so I kept fighting for it...I don't know where my left arm was at the time."

So, let me get this straight. Golden Tate was credited for a touchdown catch, yet he was "competing" and "fighting" for the ball and didn't know where one of his two arms were? Okay, that makes sense.

On the other side, many Green Bay Packers voiced their opinions on the situation. Many of them, including Greg Jennings, Tom Crabtree, T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton, and Jermichael Finley, took shots at the NFL, the integrity and manhood of the Seattle players, coaches, and fans, as well as sarcastic comments suggesting the fine money they will be hit with should go to paying the real referees. There are going to be a lot of fines and possible suspensions handed out to many Packer players. Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers kept it as clean and censored as possible during their post game interviews, so I wouldn't expect to see any fines handed out to either of them. Rodgers did shove a camera guy, but I don't that will cost Rodgers.

So where do we, as fans go from here? Boycotting the NFL would be something to look at. But, in order for it to work, you would need full participation. And that is unlikely to happen. Let's look at realistic things that could happen that we can control, and what the players can control without starting a player's strike.

1. Season ticket holders mail their remaining tickets to the Commissioner's office at the NFL HQ. This would send a serious message to Roger Goodell and the owners. If people don't go to the games, there's is no money to be made other then what they used to buy the tickets. No food, no beverages, no parking, no merchandise. Nothing. Like the saying goes... hit 'em where it hurts...the pocketbook.

2. Fans abandon televised games during Week 4 and on if need be. If ratings are down, that means the checkbooks are being hit just as much as returned tickets. Imagine the missed opportunities with sponsorships for teams and the NFL as a whole. This will grab the attention of all parties involved. The ball would get rolling in talks with referees if this were to occur.

3. Players give no effort in games until something is done. Look, the game is already a partial mockery with the replacement refs. The NFL isn't putting out a quality product for the fans. So, why not? Players line up for the play, ball is snapped and they just jog around the whole game. This would assist in my first two suggestions. Fans would turn the games off and season ticket holders wouldn't want to go to games were this would be going on.

Finally, I want to make a point about the overall performance of the Packers. Should they have even been in that situation at the end of the game? Absolutely not. We played God awful the first half. Defense gave up 8 sacks. Offense was, again, out of sync. We failed to score in the first quarter for the third straight game. There's no excuse for that. But, Seattle played a great game. Their defense was lights out. I have no problem with them as a team at all. I just want to see someone mad up out of that organization and say that they didn't win that game cleanly and that the refs made the wrong call. That's all I want and I will be satisfied.

Here's what I saw from the last play: Golden Tate pushed the Packers defender out of the way, which was an uncalled pass interference, and the game should have ended right there. Anyways, MD Jennings jumped up in the air, put two hands on the ball, along with one hand of Tate's. Tate fell underneath Jennings, which insued a small scrabble. At one point of the scramble, Jennings clearly has sole possession on the ball with both arms tucked to his chest with the ball in hand. Meanwhile, Tate has his right arm wrapped around Jennings' neck area, and his left arm isn't clearly visible. One referee signaled touchback, the other signaled touchdown. The right call was made by referee deepest in the endzone.

If you want to act on the event from last night, or anything for that matter that has bothered you about the replacement referees, you can call the Commissioner's office to voice your opinion at (212)-450-2000. Call Roger Goodell and leave him a calm, proper opinion on what you think of his handling of his company and his product. Until then, all you can do is be the judge.

"I want to apologize on behalf of the NFL, because we all know they won't do it." - Aaron Rodgers

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Monday, September 17, 2012

3 Keys for the Brewers to Make the Playoffs

A month ago, no one would have expected me to write a blog of this nature or of this magnitude. In a grand turn of events, however, the Brewers have played their way into contention and are just 2.5 games out of the second wild card spot. They trail only the Cardinals and Dodgers. They have moved above the Pirates in the standings after taking two out of three games against the Mets at Miller Park. While the chances of the Brewers actually making it to the post season remain slim, here are a few things they must keep up to even have a shot of achieving the path to the playoffs.

1. Our pitching needs to keep up the great, great work. Since August 20th, the Brewers have gone a miraculous 20-6. A lot is thanks to our pitching and more importantly our bullpen. After the year our pen has had, it's great to finally say something good about it for a change. John Axford has been the key standout in all of it. In those 26 games, Axford has had 11 saves in as many opportunities. He has only surrendered 5 hits and 4 earned runs during that time span, lowering his ERA from 5.22 down to 4.76. His ERA in September is a very crisp and clean 2.16 heading into our off day Monday. Fransisco Rodriguez is also in the middle of having a nice stretch of games, similar to his form from last year. Minus his one hiccup against the Cubs on August 30th, he has been lights out for the Brewers. Since August 29th, he has surrendered 8 hits (4 vs. Cubs on 8/30), 4 earned runs (3 vs. Cubs on 8/30), and only giving up 3 walks during that time frame. Frankie's ERA for September is a nasty 1.29. His batting average against is a 1.60, his ground out/air outs is a 0.67, and his WHIP is a 0.71 in September as well. Ron Roenicke has bounced back between Henderson and K-Rod as his set-up man recently, but seems to be favoring K-Rod again.

Not getting into stats, but can't go with out mentioning the fact that Jose Veras, Brandon Kintzler, and Jim Henderson have also done quite well for the Brewers as of late and deserve the recognition. Manny Parra and Kameron Loe are the only ones still who can't get it together. Loe had a decent August, but both Parra Loe have struggled in September. Livan Hernandez had on of the worst Augusts in the league. He was, for a lack of a better term, destroyed by hitters. Since then, Livan has a goose egg for an ERA in September. If our late inning pitching can hold leads for our exuberant offense, we will definitely has a chance to do some great things come October.

2. Our speed needs to support the power. Too many times this year have we seen our speed of Carlos Gomez, Rickie Weeks, Nyjer Morgan, and recently Jean Segura get caught up on the base paths by unintelligent, mental base running errors, which leaves Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart, and Jonathon Lucroy somewhat helpless at the plate when these guys aren't on base. Those errors on the path have lead to a few losses in our column where we have lost games by a run or two. Still, even with the baserunning misshaps, Braun-Ramirez-Hart have proven to be MLB's top 3-4-5 hitter tandem in baseball this year. Those three have combined for 266 runs scored, 91 homeruns, 272 runs batted in, and a combined batting average of .295. The only teams that have more home runs by trio of players is the Yankees of Cano, Granderson, and Teixeira (92) and the Rangers of Beltre, Hamilton, and Cruz (97) Imagine how those numbers could be altered when Braun has hit his solo home runs and Ramirez hit his empty base doubles. It makes you wonder.

3. The fans need to fill "The Keg" on our last homestand. As it was said last year, many have called Miller Park one of hardest places to win a baseball game on the road. Whether it's the fans being heard or it's us dimming the lights (eat crow, La Russa), Miller Park always has a great atmosphere when it's a full house. Last year the Brewers had the best home record in all of baseball, dropping only 24 out of 81 games played there (not including playoffs). This season, as of right now we have the 3rd best home record, only trailing the Reds and Rangers in that category.

I challenge you as Brewers fans to make an impact on the remainder of this season. Though you may assume it not be as magical as last year's, it has the potential to be the better story to tell. The extra support you give a team can go miles and miles into one's confidence. I invite you to go to Stub Hub, buy those dollar seats, and go enjoy a Brewers game. Depending on the outcome of our 10 game road trip, you could witness some very important baseball games, be there for unforgettable moments, and take in memories you will tell stories about for years to come. You may not take this seriously, but the Brewers are for sure taking it seriously. I mean, seriously enough where the Brewers sent out a press release about applying for postseason credentials. Yes, THAT serious.

And who knows, maybe I'm just buying in to all the hype and hoopla. We could get swept one series and be presumed eliminated. But, I'm a #BREWliever. (Thanks Curt Hogg for the awesome trend.) And there are many more like myself out there. (See below) Let's not have October 3rd be our last game of the season. Let's make what they thought impossible, possible.

Twitter follower Curt Hogg sporting #Brewlieve vs. Mets

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Green Bay Packers Week 2 Recap

There are some itchy “panic button” fingers out there

Week 2 came early for the Packers and as it turns out, it may have been very fortunate that they had a short turnaround.  After suffering a tough loss at home in their season opener to the 49ers just 4 days prior, the Pack put together one of their better all-around performances and beat a tough Bears team 23-10.  There were some questions, entering the game, as to whether the Pack would be able to bounce back so quickly after such a physical contest and against a very good 49er defense.  A few Packer players were dinged up and were not able to suit up against the Bears, including #1 WR Greg Jennings.  Still, much was made of the game and how important it would be for the Packers playoff hopes and to get them back on track after the loss in the opener.  Many were said to be hitting the panic button and called this team a “must win”.  Already in week 2?  Sure, the stats showed that teams who lose their opener have less than a 25% chance of reaching the post season since 1978.  Yes, it’s realistic to think that any team, great or not, will struggle to overcome an 0-2 start to their season.  But one thing that we have seen in the past 8 or so seasons is that teams can get hot late in the year and outplay their regular season records in the playoffs.  In fact, that’s largely how the Packers won their 4th Super Bowl title after the 2010 season.  There are many holdovers from that team still on the roster so if there is one thing fans can rest easy on, it’s that this team knows how to win and what it takes to rise up to a challenge.

The defense CAN stop the pass

In addition to all of the hype amongst fans and the media, the Pack had to game plan and figure out a way to keep standout Bear WR Brandon Marshall in check.  In week 1, Marshall had 9 catches for 119 yards and a TD.  It seemed, at least on paper, as though he would likely be a stiff challenge for the Packer secondary.  Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers and the secondary, it turns out, had a very solid game plan to blanket Marshall.  He ended up with just 2 catches for just over 20 yards and didn’t have his first grab of the night until the 4th quarter.  In the week leading up to the game, Bears QB and Marshall both were vocal about challenging the Packer DB’s to try and get physical with the big WR (6’4”, 230 lbs).  The Pack used several looks to cover the Bears multiple WR sets but most commonly, it was CB Tramon Williams on coverage and S Morgan Burnett with the help over the top that kept Cutler from looking much in that direction.  With pass coverage having been such an Achilles heel last season, many wondered if the Pack had even a remote chance of keeping Marshall under wraps.  They struggled all year long with WR’s who were big and could break tackles and at the outset, it seemed like the Bears planned to test the Packer DB’s all night long. 

One area that provided a solution to this easy “pitch and catch” between Cutler and Marshall was the Packers pass rush.  Nearly absent last season, there has been a bit of a resurgence this year and in the first 2 games, the Packers have amassed 10 total sacks.  OLB and pass rush specialist Clay Matthews already has 6.  One of the reasons that opposing teams were successful in throwing against the Pack was the time their QB’s had in the pocket.  Even average QB’s were able to take advantage of their WR’s being able to sneak away from Packer DB’s who were having to hold coverage for 5+ seconds.  This was a glaring issue in the playoff loss to the Giants as Eli Manning, time and time again, waited patiently for his WR’s to get open and marched downfield at will.  So far this season, opposing passers are 31/53 with 3 TD’s and 4 INT’s.  Now, that’s just 2 weeks worth of data but it bears watching.  That’s a 58% completion percentage, which isn’t mind-blowing by any stretch.  If the Pack can maintain that trend, it will be difficult for opposing teams to move the ball and points will come at a premium.  That only puts the ball back in the hands of reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers and we all know what great things can result from that.

It’s not all vanilla

With 2 minutes left in the first half and with the Packers up 3-0, the Pack were driving and had that drive stall when Rodgers missed a wide-open Randall Cobb on 3rd down.  They lined up for a FG attempt and it seemed they would head into the locker room up 6-0.  The Bears had won the initial coin toss and took a page out of the Packer strategy book as they deferred and would receive the ball to start the 2nd half.  With the game being a defensive battle thus far, it seemed wise to take the surest route to putting more points on the board.  The ball was snapped and suddenly, instead of watching the ball sail end-over-end towards the goal post, backup TE Tom Crabtree was running downfield untouched, ball in hand and into the end zone for a score.  A very gutsy call at that time and for a Special Teams unit that seemed to hang their hat on doing it conventional and with good fundamentals.  It paid off and the Packers got the look they wanted from the Bears FG unit.  Punter Tim Masthay flicked a perfect ball to Crabtree who pulled right and raced into the open.  The irony of the play is that the Bears have had a history of trying to pull some trickery of their own on special teams.  The most recent example that comes to mind in a contest vs the Packers was in 2009 in week 1.  They faced a 4th and 11 in their own territory and attempted a direct snap to the upback.  Fortunately, Packers ST’er Brett Swain saw it coming and was able to bring the ball carrier down to thwart the effort.  Another instance happened way back in 2002 when early in a game at a frigid Lambeau Field, the Bears faked a very short FG attempt and caught the Packers completely off guard.  A Bears backup TE took the ball in for a score but the Packers ultimately prevailed in that contest.  It seems whenever there is some trickery on the field, the Packers tend to come out winners.  Now, the TD to Crabtree was one play.  I can’t call it a trend by any means.  But it is something that could have opposing teams on guard and give them one more thing to have to worry about.  Head Coach Mike McCarthy has pulled a few tricks on special teams in the past few seasons.  During a game at New England in 2010, he had PK Mason Crosby kick short on the opening kickoff which stunned the Pats and the Pack were able to recover and steal a possession.  It hasn’t always worked.  Needing a spark in last year’s playoff loss to the Giants, McCarthy again called a surprise short kick but the Giants were ready and easily recovered with great field position at mid field.  If nothing else, whenever the Pack line up it will add a bit more mystery as to what they may do with the ball.

Packer rookies will contribute this year

The Packers took 6 defensive players in a row to start the 2012 draft.  On Thursday night, 5 of the 6 were on the field and all made significant contributions in the win.  In fact, 2 of those 5 started with 1st round pick and OLB Nick Perry starting opposite Clay Matthews and DE Jerel Worthy in for an injured CJ Wilson.  Before the night was over, DT Mike Daniels had a sack, S Jerron McMillian had an interception (could have had 2), and CB Casey Hayward had 3 tackles.  Worthy had a sack of his own too.  With that kind of production from these young players, the Pack could be primed for a dramatic improvement on defense from a dismal statistical performance in 2012 when they finished dead last in the NFL in total yards surrendered.  Perry struggled a bit and split quite a bit of time with OLB Erik Walden, but Perry will surely improve over time.  His biggest issue seemed to be disengaging his blocker and needs to work on his handwork.  He was dealing with a wrist injury that may have hampered his ability to get off blocks, but he will have to continue to work on his ability to close on the pocket.  This comes with time and he is coached by one of the best in the business in OLB Coach Kevin Greene.  Perry did show some decent coverage skills as he ran well with a few out and up routes.  This will become a point of emphasis as teams playing a 3-4 defense have to have success covering the pass with their LB’s. This was something the Pack did not do well last season.  McMillian showed some good closing skills as he drew in on a Jay Cutler offering and had it bounce right off his hands halfway through this past Thursday’s game.  Had he caught it, it may have gone the other way for a score.  Yes, he needs to make that play and hang onto the ball but there’s also a reason he’s a DB and not a WR.  It was good to see him around the ball and showing those great ball-hawking instincts that were advertised with McMillian was drafted out of Maine.  He will surely get his reps as the Pack move into and out of dime and nickel coverage several times a game.  DT Daniels got his sack by overpowering his man and driving straight into cutler.  Daniels has very good strength and if healthy, will provide a huge boost to the Packer D line rotation this year.  Hayward got some snaps in the team’s dime look and played his spot very well.  He, like McMillian, has shown some good instincts and figures to develop into a solid DB for the Packers.  This is key as they often have 5-6 DB’s on the field at any one time

The Packers can and will run the ball this year

It was 80 yards on 20 carries.  Nothing flashy and in fact, they had games last season that were more productive in the running game.  But what stands out about these numbers is how they did it and what it says.  Most of those 80 yards are credited to newly-acquired Cedric Benson.  After being stifled in the opener vs. the 49ers, the former Bear was able to keep the Bear defense off balance and help the Packer offense move the ball all night.  One play that stands out was a hard run for 4 yards with about 2:30 left in the Bears game.  It was 3rd and 2 and Benson rumbled his way forward for a first down and forced the Bears to use their last timeout.  It was something we rarely saw last year.  In that situation, it surely would have been Rodgers with a short throw or run to try and convert.  Speaking of Rodgers and rushing attempts, he officially had 3 for -6 yards on Thursday.  What the numbers don’t tell us is that none of those “rushes” were designed nor attempts by Rodgers to pick up yards with his feet.  They were purely his attempts to elude the Bear pass rush and a few of which ultimately resulted in sacks.  In week 1, Rodgers ran several times to pick up yards and he surely will again.  But it was good to see that the Packers have a back who can pick up tough yards on the ground.  While they haven’t lit it up by any means, the Pack have shown that they will run the ball and that Benson will take some focus off the Packer passing game.  Expect that to open up some big play action opportunities as the season moves along.  An effective run game will also help control the clock and give the Packer defense some much needed rest late in games.  It also keeps opposing QB’s and offensive weapons on the sideline.

As they head into a tough week 3 Monday Night game at Seattle, the Packers have some momentum to build on.  Their impressive showing against a good Chicago Bears team in week 2 could be the beginning of their reclaiming a hold on being one of the best teams in the league.  They will take the extra time to get healthy and game plan for the Seahawks who lost a tough divisional game at Arizona last week and who prepare to host a good Cowboys team this week.  With games at Seattle and back home to host the New Orleans Saints, the Pack have a big opportunity to silence the doubters and put to rest any question of whether they are still an elite team.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

 - Jason Perone (@WSB_Jason)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Green Bay Packers Week 1 Recap

Well, no, they didn’t get the win in today’s season opener but it’s worth a look at the “why”.  Overall the 49ers clearly were the better team today and made more plays.  The Packers weren’t completely outmatched coming in but it became obvious early on that they were facing an uphill battle.  Shortly after that, it became even more apparent that they WERE outmatched.  I don’t say that in haste or because they lost.  It’s just a fact.  The Packers didn’t beat themselves.  The refs didn’t hand San Fran the game.  The Packers simply lost and the 9ers won.  It’s an odd feeling and not one that Packer fans are too familiar with over the past 2 years.   Usually it is because of a mistake or something odd that happened or just an occasional off day.  Rarely is it because they weren’t the best team on the field.  But it happens, even to the best of them.  Here’s some bullet points to ponder after Sunday.

The Good

Tim Masthay – That we’re featuring the punter in this section isn’t necessarily the best sign.  But alas, Masthay  landed 4 of his 6 punts inside the 20.  One rolled into the end zone but he pinned the 9ers deep on multiple occasions.  Masthay has been regarded as somewhat of a perfectionist and he seems to already be on his way to earning that contract extension he just received.  While the Pack defense wasn’t able to create any turnovers and capitalize on the 9ers field position today, this will become important as the season rolls on.  If opponents are having to drive 90+ yards to score several times a game, it will wear them down and when the Pack stops, they are getting the ball near midfield. 

Clay Matthews – I’ll stop short of saying “he’s baaaaaaaaaaaaack” but a 2.5 sack performance after he dropped down to 6 total last year was an outstanding way to start the year.  That it came against a good 9er offensive line is even more reason to be optimistic.  Matthews was his usual active self today but he appears to be benefiting from shifting to the right side of the defensive front.  Nick Perry’s presence will likely continue to help as O lines will no longer be able to slide protection to Matthews on every down.

Health – As far as coach McCarthy indicated in the post game press conference, CJ Wilson suffered a groin injury and was the only major injury of the day.  Wilson started the game at RDE and with a short week, he will likely miss Thursday night’s game against the Bears.  The Pack kept DL Mike Daniels inactive today in favor of Philip Merling.  Daniels was a healthy scratch and could be activated to maintain the depth and rotation of the D line against Chicago.  With health having been an issue in years past and after playing a physical 49er team, the Pack should be encouraged that they will have all hands on deck to face the Bears.

The Bad

Tackling – 6 years later we are still talking about tackling woes in Green Bay.  At this point, it’s safe to assume the Packers will continue to struggle with this as long as this coaching staff is in place.  I’m not saying they’re doing a bad job and I’m not taking anything away from what they have accomplished, both coaches and players alike.  But it remains a truth that the Packers just don’t tackle very well and that’s a fundamental that is taught by. . . the coaching staff.  Last year it was one of the defense’s Achilles heels and was masked by a potent offense and MVP performance by Aaron Rodgers.  The Pack routinely put up points early in games and missed tackles weren’t as costly.  Therefore they tended to be forgotten when the game was over and we were analyzing the stats.  Today, a few plays stood out that caused me concern that this issue could continue to plague this team in 2012.  The first was a completion over the middle to Michael Crabtree.  Crabtree made a leaping catch on a hook route in front of LB AJ Hawk.  Hawk virtually stood still until Crabtree landed and turned with the ball in hand before approaching to make the tackle instead of approaching and driving through the play. 

It was almost as though the Packer defenders were so afraid to whiff that they waited for the first move to react and wrap up.  The second was on the Frank Gore touchdown run.  Safety Morgan Burnett approached Gore and threw a glancing blow which did nothing to change his direction nor slow him down.  That he’s a safety and often the last line of defense before the opposing players cross the goal line is concerning.  That he’s a safety and supposed to be one of the team’s biggest hitters is concerning.  This one made me miss Nick Collins.  By today’s standards, Burnett is still young but he’s in his 3rd year and should be stepping up and showing a better effort in a close game and near the goal line.  There were a few other plays where the 49er back appeared to be stopped in the backfield only to eek forward and pick up an extra 2-3 yards.  The Pack simply have to get the ball carriers to the ground.  It may be time to shift the scouting from faster cover backs to those who are more sure tacklers.  It’s obvious that this coaching staff can’t get the players to improve in that area.  And that’s just calling it as I see it.

Play calling to end  1st half – Late in the 2nd quarter, the Pack had the ball at their own 20 with :55 seconds and were down 13-7.  They were going to get the ball to start the 2nd half and had just stopped the 9ers on 3rd and 1 to force a field goal.  Just prior to that, they had scored their first TD of the day after a hard-fought drive.  San Fran was down to just 1 timeout at this point and would not have been able to stop the clock but once at most.  The Pack should have elected to run the ball and at least keep the clock running to avoid giving San Fran another crack with at the ball.  Instead, the Pack came out in the shotgun on 1st down.  They were forced backwards by Bryan Bulaga’s false start penalty on first down.  1st down was a quick incompletion.  2nd down was a 7 yard pass to Finely and 3rd down was another quick incompletion.   Total time taken off the clock was 23 seconds.  Masthay came in to punt and after the return, the 9ers were at their own 38 yard line with 32 seconds left.  The 9ers brought in backup QB Colin Kaepernick on 1st down.  Now I’m no football expert and X’s and O’s aren’t my forte, but I can tell you one thing:  it wasn’t Alex Smith.  Red flags should have been flying everywhere that something out of the ordinary was coming.  But before the Pack could blink, Kaepernick had scampered 17 yards to the Packer 45 yard line and with 18 seconds left.  2 incompletions later and there were 6 seconds left on the clock.  PK David Akers came on to attempt an NFL record-tying 63 yard field goal.  It proved to be a great call as Akers’ kick bounced off the cross bar and went over to add 3 points to the 9ers lead and give the 9ers a huge boost of confidence heading into the locker room at halftime.  Now, not many would have made that kick and call it luck if you want. . but that the 9ers were even within a sniff of a FG attempt and a chance to put more points on the board was the epitome of what was plaguing the Packers all day to that point.  They couldn’t take advantage of opportunities to minimize the damage.  A few running plays would have easily run out the clock and the Pack would have come out with the ball to start half #2 down just 13-7.  Instead they were down 16-7 and the 9ers feeling like they had the Packers reeling.

The Ugly

Penalties – The Packers committed 10 penalties for 77 yards today.  Last year, the Packers were tied for 1st with the fewest number of penalties committed (76) and 2nd in penalty yardage (591).  That’s an average of less than 5 flags per game.  Say what you will about the replacement refs and there were some questionable calls (both ways) today, but most of those flags were valid.  Charles Woodson was flagged for a hold on a 3rd down after what appeared to be a stop.  There was the delay of game penalty that is always untimely.  The roughing the passer call on Matthews was questionable but it’s no secret the refs are looking to protect the QB’s. 

The Pack have struggled in the past with laundry on the field and under coach McCarthy.  To see them take such a huge step backwards is concerning.  If it continues, it will fall under a coaching problem and it won’t be the first time.  Nothing is more deflating to a team or their fans than getting a stop on 3rd down only to keep the offense alive with a mental error or having a big play negated by a hold.  I’m sure coach M is just as frustrated as the rest of us are about the mistakes but we’re all growing tired of “we have to clean that up” in the post game pressers, win or lose.  A physical and fast Bears team comes to Lambeau this Thursday.  The Pack will have a big enough challenge winning as it is without having to overcome giving Chicago 2nd and 3rd chances.  This cannot become a trend for a team that still has legitimate playoff and championship hopes.

Aaron Rodgers INT – Every interception is bad so this goes without saying but often times, Rodgers INT’s are because a ball bounced off a receiver’s hands or maybe a DB just made a spectacular play.  Normally they wouldn’t even make this list.  This one did.  Troy Aikman can try and tell me all day and after 10 replays that Rodgers simply “didn’t see” LB Navarro Bowman lurking in the middle of the field as he tried to toss one to Greg Jennings.  I don’t buy it.  Bowman was in his spot from the snap until he simply leapt and snatched the pass that was thrown right in his direction.  A lot of QB’ing is anticipation and I can understand had Rodgers pump faked or if Bowman had begun shading to one side.  But he literally hadn’t moved.  He hunkered down to cover the middle of the field and Rodgers must have been suffering from momentary blindness.  It was a very untimely interception and the day’s only turnover.  As fate would have it and on the very next play, Frank Gore rumbled 23 yards for a 49er score to make it SF 30, Packers 15 (see above re: tackling).  The Packers never reached 23 points, which was San Fran’s total before the turnover so they may never have tied it anyway, but football is all about momentum and who knows what would have become of that drive had the Pack not turned it over.

Vernon Davis’ attempt to dunk the football after his 3rd quarter TD catch – This is purely in jest and obviously the more important thing was that the 9ers made it a 2 score game at this point.  But it’s never a good thing when a player misses a dunk.  Just ask Dominique Wilkins

The Packers will put this game in the rear view mirror and immediately begin prepping for a short week and a Thursday night game versus the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.  The Bears were impressive in their home-opening win against the Indianapolis Colts.  Hopefully the bitter taste of defeat motivates the Pack to come out swinging on Thursday.  If they start slowly again, they could find themselves in a big hole with an 0-2 record and with tough games at Seattle and home vs. New Orleans looming.  It’s only week 1 and this is a good Packers football team.  But “good” only gets them so far.  It’s the scoreboard and the W/L column that matter in the end.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

 - Jason Perone (@WSB_Jason)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

NFL Replacement Refs: The Clock is Ticking

For starters, I admire what the regular NFL refs are trying to accomplish, I really do.  After watching the players negotiate, stand firm and give up valuable practice and prep time in order to gain some additional concessions from ownership last year, the refs are trying to do the same this year .  To be honest, I didn’t even realize the refs had their own union until it was announced that they were negotiating their latest collective bargaining agreement with the league.  The negotiations have gone very poorly so far, as is evidenced by their absence as the 2012 regular season kicked off last night in New York. 

There were a few obvious blunders made last night, as would be expected.  There was a clipping call early in the game that was really just a block in the back.  Also, there was a non-call on what looked like pass interference against Victor Cruz in the 2nd quarter and with the game still scoreless.  That it happened at the goal line only magnified the mistake.  Former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira tweeted during the game that he thought the play was a defensive foul.  After watching the replay, I have to say it looked like a foul to me but at the same time, I have seen that go uncalled during past seasons when the regular guys were out there calling games.

 Overall, the crew tonight did a decent job and the talk after the game was about what the players did, not what the refs didn’t do.  As with offensive linemen, if a ref doesn’t hear his name during the game telecast, that’s a good thing.  With an acceptable performance in game 1 and assuming the weekend goes much the same, the regular refs should start worrying.  Yes, they probably deserve more.  What red-blooded American doesn’t think he or she doesn’t deserve more at the office?  But until the NFL’s hand is forced by some really bad officiating, they seem content to sit back and let it ride.  The league has already shown the bravado by putting replacement guys (and girls) out there in the first place.  They virtually didn’t even blink in training replacements before really spending a lot of time at the negotiating table.  Should there continue to be no officiating issues during the first few weeks of the season, everyone will start forgetting that these are not the regular refs.  At that point, the bargaining power belongs to the league and the refs aren’t getting paid.  I’ll withhold my total judgment until after the weekend but as of right now, the play clock is quickly running out for the regular officials to get back in action and return to work.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

 - Jason Perone (@WSB_Jason)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Top 5 Brewers That Should be September Call Ups

With the news of Eric Farris getting the call to the majors to replace the vacant infield spot on our roster that Cody Ransom left when Arizona claimed him on waivers, it got me thinking of who else I'd like to see and who I think we will see in the next few days. News around the club house is that in addition to to Farris, we will likely call up two starting pitchers, one outfielder, and one infielder. Following that criteria, here is my Top 5 Brewers minor leaguers who I think deserve a call up.

5. Eric Farris 2B - Since he got the call already, I'll go over why he got the call up. In Triple A Nashville, Farris is batting .286 with 7 HR, 31 RBI, 63 R, and a team leading 35 stolen bases. His 7 home runs puts him at a tie for his career high he set for himself back in 2009. Another stat that really sticks out is that through 131 games, he only has 56 strike outs. Farris was called up last year when Rickie Weeks went out with his ankle injury, and many thought that Farris had a chance to make an impact on the major league roster. However, the Brewers quickly acquired utility man Jerry Hairston Jr., which put Eric's chance to shame. This year, Weeks has been the only healthy player all year (knock on wood) so we haven't heard much about our minor league second basemen. Eric will likely be used in running situations near the end of games. Maybe see him for a pinch hit of two, but that's about it.

4. Wily Peralta SP - Wily has been on the radar for a few years now as a pitcher the Brewers would likely call up to join the rotation. That time could be sooner rather then later. With many question marks in the air about what our rotation will look like next year, Peralta might be someone with an answer for us. Now, many are going to question if he's ready. It's a fair question, considering his stats for this 2012 season. Posting a 7-11 record with a 4.66 ERA on the year, it's very likely that he''s just having an off year. Or, he may not be ready. But, you might as well test the waters now and see how he does as a starter in the Bigs. Over his last 10 games, he has gone 2-3 giving up 25 earned runs over 56.2 innings and accumulating 64 strikeouts. It seems like Peralta is one of those guys where when "he's on", he's untouchable. But when he's off his game, it's not fun to watch when he struggles. I think at this point he deserves a legitimate look in the rotation.

3. Tyler Thornburg SP - We have seen Tyler a little bit this year already when our rotation had some injuries with Marco Estrada and Shaun Marcum. Tyler struggled a bit during his call up, especially when he got behind in counts. He gave up a lot of home runs with fastballs right down the middle of the plate, which is something he'll learn to fix with more minor league experience. Tyler deserves a second look, especially with the way the Brewers season is looking. Tyler has risen in the ranks quite fast in the Brewers organization, and is honestly a few year away from being fully major-league ready. His record in the minors is around .500 and has a average ERA. With Mark Rogers being shut down for the year and possibly shutting Mike Fiers down as well, there will be spots that will need to be filled and Thornburg is likely to fill them, along with Peralta.

2. Taylor Green 3B/2B/1B - With the exit of Cody Ransom, who really was our utility infielder, it's very likely we call Taylor up to fit in that role to be the go to pinch hitter or be inserted around the infield when Corey Hart, Aramis Ramirez, or Rickie Weeks need a day off. Green was on our main roster a lot this year, but unfortunately sat the bench a lot unless he was called upon for a pinch hit. Since being sent down about 2 months ago, Green has hit 7 home runs for the Nashville Sounds. Green's numbers have been down from last year, where he put up enough numbers to be the Brewers 2011 Minor Leaguer of the Year. Once Aramis Ramirez's time is up for the Brewers, Green will likely be the guy to replace him. It's not a bad idea to get his major league reps in now.

1. Caleb Gindl OF - The Brewers were very high on Gindl during spring training, and he remains one of the Brewers top outfield prospects. Gindl has put up very promising numbers down in Nashville, posting 12 HR, 50 RBI, 54 R, batting .261. This Brewers would like to add a legitimate pinch hit option, even though Travis Ishikawa has done quite well in that role as of late. With Nori Aoki a little banged up and Nyjer Morgan going on too many hot and cold streaks, it would be a good idea to get a guy like Gindl up now to get him some major league reps.

Here are a few guys who deserve a call up, but are not on the Brewers' 40 man roster and would require their contracts purchased from the minor leagues:

3. Khris Davis OF - Davis started 2012 out the year playing for our rookie Arizona team, and quickly rose the ranks. He went to play for Huntsville after spring training and batted a monster .383. A few months back, he got the call up to Nashville, where he is still batting over .300 but not as high as .383. In Nashville, he's batting .313 with 4 HR and 24 RBI in 31 games. Combined in the 3 leagues this year, Davis is batting .350 with 15 HR, 52 RBI, and 53 R. Like Gindl, Davis would give the Brewers a legitimate pinch hitting option.

2. Claudio Vargas SP - Claudio Vargas came out of retirement this season and was quickly acquired by the Brewers during the middle of the season. I always like Vargas, and was pretty glad to see him back in our organization. And, he has come back with an absolute BANG! Since being signed, Vargas has gone 7-1 for Nashville in 20 starts posting a 3.69 ERA. Such success to me deserves a spot on our main roster. I wouldn't put him as a starter, but possibly a relief pitcher.

1. Hunter Morris 1B - This goes without saying, but Hunter is having an absolutely incredible season in Double A Huntsville. Morris is currently batting .303 with 28 HR, 113 RBI, and 77 R. Those numbers would put you into MVP consideration on the majors. He has been tearing the seams off the ball all year, and yes it might be early for a call up, but it is surely well deserved.

Other names to consider for call ups on 40 Man Roster:

OF Logan Schafer
SP Johnny Hellweg
SP Ariel Pena
RP Brandon Kintzler
SP Josh Stinson

That just about does it. Hopefully the gentlemen I listed get the call and produce for the Brewers for the remainder of the season. I just want to quick note that though the chances of the Brewers making the playoffs remains slim, they have been playing some hot baseball lately and are only 6.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. The 2011 St. Louis Cardinals can make any 2012 team a believer. Go Brewers!

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)

Analyzing the Packers' 53 Man Roster

The Packers trimmed down their roster to the mandated number of 53 players on August 31st.  Among those who were cut were notables Diondre Borel, Tori Gurley and Daniel Muir.  Gurley has already been signed to the Minnesota Vikings’ practice squad for this upcoming season.  Borel was signed to the Packers’ practice squad, where he spent all of last season as well.

Gurley was offered a spot on the Vikes’ active roster at the end of last season but turned it down to remain on Green Bay’s practice squad.  Entering camp as a hopeful to stick as a 6th wide receiver, Gurley was hampered by some injuries early in camp and never separated himself from the others to emerge as the clear favorite.  He did have several catches in the last preseason game vs the Chiefs but that was obviously not enough to help him earn a roster spot.

Borel, according to many who watched the teams practices, had jumped ahead as the top WR candidate to stay on until his play inexplicably dropped off in weeks 2 and 3 of the preseason.  He dropped passes and was very hesitant in the return game.  Borel was given plenty of chances to succeed, but was not able to capitalize on those opportunities.  The final straw that likely sealed Borel’s fate was the outstanding performance of Jarrett Boykin over the last 2 weeks.  Boykin ran better routes, stayed healthy and held onto the ball.  All sound simple but this proved a tough task for the WR hopeful’s as camp went on.

Daniel Muir was probably the most surprising of the cut down’s, in my opinion.  Muir was effective in his reps with the 2’s and 3’s and seemed likely to stick after final cuts were announced.  He was likely let go due to the blossoming talent on the D line in that of draft picks Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels.  Also in the fold are CJ Wilson, who reportedly has won the starting RDE spot in the 3-4 base, and Mike Neal who will miss the first 4 games as he serves a suspension for a positive test for PED’s.  They will join incumbent starters Ryan Pickett and BJ Raji.  The depth on the D line is a good sign for a team that lacked depth in this key area last year.  Health will be a big key and they will need much better production from Wilson on the right side than they saw last year with Jarius Wynn.

Also signed to this year’s practice squad were OT Andrew Datko,QB BJ Coleman, TE Brandon Bostick, DE Lawrence Guy, RB Marc Tyler, and OL Greg Van Roten.  The team can add a few more to this list and may be looking at some options over the next few days to round out the list.

As for the rest of the roster, two names that stood out of those who made the team were defensive backs Brandian Ross and Sean Richardson.  They join a very talented crop of DB’s that feature Charles Woodson at S and Tramon Williams at CB.  With Davon House still nursing his injured shoulder and with his timeline for return unknown, Ross provides some added depth at Corner.  He will likely see most of his action on special teams.  Safety Richardson had a stellar game 4 vs the Chiefs and did enough to beat out Anthony Levine, who spent all of last season on the Pack’s practice squad.  This infusion of youth is a continuation of the Packers’ strategy over the past several years of keeping a nucleus of able veterans while filling in the holes with young and hungry players.

Those young and hungry players join a very talented nucleus with a goal to improve on 2011’s performance and get back to the Super Bowl.  That quest begins one week from this Sunday as the Packers host the San Francisco 49ers.  It will be an immediate test of how ready the Pack are to push for elite status in the NFC.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

 - Jason Perone (@WSB_Jason)

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A Look at the NFL's New Injured Reserve Rules

The NFL and the NFLPA have agreed on a few new rule tweaks for the upcoming 2012 season. The first is that the trade deadline has been pushed back from its traditional spot after the 6th week of the season to the Tuesday after week 8. It’s only 2 weeks but it does raise speculation that some teams may be more apt to move picks or current players to make a move for a 2nd half push.  I doubt that we will see a large jump in the amount of trades that take place but it does add a bit of a new wrinkle.

The other rule change that has garnered a lot of attention as of late is the change to the injured reserve rules.  Under the previous rule, a player who was placed on injured reserve was not eligible to return and play that season. A proposed change that would allow each team to designate one player to return from the IR list before the season’s end was originally shot down when the 2 sides couldn’t reach agreement.  Today, they agreed on the new rule and it will take effect for the 2012 season.  Here are the particulars:

-  Only players with a major injury (defined as an injury that causes the player to be unable to practice or play football for at least six weeks from the injury date) who are placed on Injured Reserve after 4:00 p.m., EDT, on September 4, or anytime during the season, will be eligible to be reactivated at a later time.  Each team may reactivate only one player placed on IR after 4:00 p.m. EDT on September 4. That player must be "designated for return" at the time the club places him on IR, and such designation shall appear on that day's Personnel Notice.  The designated player is eligible to return to practice if he has been on IR for at least six weeks from the date he is placed on Reserve. He is eligible to return to the Active List if he has been on IR for at least eight weeks from the date he is placed on Reserve

Upon hearing this news, most Packers fans’ thoughts turned to the injured starting ILB Desmond Bishop.  Bishop, as you may recall, suffered a torn hamstring in the preseason opener at San Diego.  Bishop was placed on IR back on August 27th.  By the letter of the rule, Bishop would not have been eligible for this IR rule exception however teams were given the option to move a player already placed on IR back onto the active roster by 12pm tomorrow.  They would then have to move that player back to IR after Tuesday’s deadline to make him eligible to return.  While the Packers haven’t made an official announcement regarding Bishop, the word on the street is that he is not likely to be the player that the Packers designate to come back.  Whether that is more of a function of his likelihood to return from his injury or because the team wants to hold onto that “get out of jail free” card is not known. 

With the preseason officially over with, teams have until tomorrow afternoon to trim their roster down to the final 53 man squad they will enter the regular season with.  Fortunately, Bishop was the only major Packer player who suffered a major injury that will sideline him for the season.  Cornerback Davon House was also hurt in that game but is expected to return and play once his shoulder has had some time to heal.  The Packers open the 2012 season on Sunday September 9th at Lambeau Field versus the San Francisco 49ers.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

 - Jason Perone (@WSB_Jason)

Follow us on Twitter for up to date news on Brewers, Packers, Badgers, Bucks and more. Live in game commentary, breaking news, previews, and post game discussion. @WISportsBlog @WSB_Andrew @WSB_Nick @WSB_Brandon @WSB_Mike @WSB_Harrison @WSB_Jason. Finally, find us on Instagram! (wisportsblog)