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We know nothing — an offseason reminder for the super fan

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We know nothing — an offseason reminder for the super fan

All I know is that I know nothing. 

Words that no doubt inspire confidence in a new writer for Cheesehead TV. Bear with me. 

This time of year, another season down with the best quarterback to ever play (yeah, I said it) and no championship to show for it, we Packer faithful try to piece together just what happened — and what’s needed to get over the hump. It’s a natural inclination for all fanbases whose cities don’t rhyme with Schmeveland, Schmufallo or Detroit, but the stakes feel higher for us. The window for a championship seems to be open only as long as No. 12 has legs and a right arm — and if the Packers are within a score and 65 yards of the end zone. 

But it’s worth remembering that football is a game of constant change. Clubs get just 16 chances, and then hopefully more, to prove themselves when it matters. All along the way the violence of the game claims victims left and right. Evolution in pro football occurs rapidly. What we know to be true one month seems like a distant, if ridiculous, memory a short stretch of games later. 

Remember when Aaron Rodgers’s struggles at midseason had him thusly written off by perfectly credible football minds and analysts? There were valid reasons to know what we knew then, but how’d the rest of the season shake out? Rodgers looked, again, otherworldly and put the skeptics firmly in their place with an impossible throw here, a Discount Double-Check there and another Hail Mary for the ages.  

The point here is to remember what we know is fluid and subject to rapid change. I invite us all to look back to what we confidently thought going into last season as well as we knew to be true a couple of months in. 

Let’s start with a non-Packer example. Did anyone in their right mind think Matt Ryan was even capable of the historic season he turned in? In every meaningful statistical category he improved monumentally from 2015 to 2016. He more than doubled his TD percentage (7.1% of throws from 3.4 in 2015) while halving his INT percentage (2.6 to 1.3) and took his QBR from 61.79 to a league-leading 83.3. Ryan threw for 353 more yards while attempting 80 less passing attempts. Matty Freaking Ice, folks. After averaging nearly 15 interceptions the past five seasons, Ryan threw for just 7 a season ago. Even if Ryan floated around top 10 status for much of his career, the consensus of those who thought he wasn’t elite — we got it wrong. Miracles can happen, if you don’t count the last quarter and a half in Houston. (Even as a supposedly neutral fan, that Super Bowl’s ending felt like being tied to a tree while watching an orphanage burn.) 

So what did we know, or at least what could we reasonably deduce, about the Packers going into last season. Here’s what I remember. 

Cornerback and safety were regarded as strengths of the defense.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett ended up turning in notable campaigns. The rest of the defensive backfield’s performance should prompt one to pour a stiff drink. (The exception being the on-and-off clutch play of Micah Hyde.) The unit finished 31st in pass defense and even the eight-game winning streak down the stretch was insufficient to erase the memory of how bad the unit was at giving up the huge play (always, it seemed, down the deep right sideline). 

Stand here and blame Dom Capers if you will, or blame Thompson for letting go Casey Hayward if you must. But wasn’t it Hayward who was thought of as consistently injured and undependable? Was there much chatter last August about Shields being one unfortunate collision away from possibly hanging it up for good? Was it our lack of perception or was the writing even on the wall? 

Should we have predicted substantial backward steps for the first two picks from 2015, first-rounder Damarious Randall and second-round pick Quinten Rollins? Both, after all, left the Packers with plenty of reasons to be excited about their sophomore seasons. Certainly no one predicted that LaDarius Gunter would finish the season as the team’s most reliable corner. Can Randall and Rollins turn the corner in year three? You tell me, but I’ll pose the following example as hope. 

Nick Perry is a bust.

A perfectly valid inference based on the resume of a player riddled by injuries his first four seasons. In those years Perry never consistently played starter minutes. He failed to register more than 4 sacks. In 2016, not only was he a wrecking ball setting the edge against the run but he turned in 11 sacks despite missing two games and playing several weeks with a Bernardo Harris on his left hand. Perry was, without question, the team’s best all-around linebacker. 

Datone Jones, another first rounder heading toward bust territory if you’d have polled Packer fans before the season, didn’t achieve the same statistical success but he more than made an impact in the pass rush. Meanwhile the aging Julius Peppers firmly outperformed Clay Matthews in big plays and overall impact. We know nothing, is all I’m saying. 

Davante Adams ain’t the answer, Jordy Nelson isn’t the same player and Jared Cook is the opposite of clutch.

To be fair, the above contentions came more from outside of Packerland than from within. But none were without at least some merit. 

The 31-year-old Nelson, coming off reconstructive surgery on his knee, maintained his nose for the end zone all season — but he didn’t really come into his own until the season’s second half. Adams followed a forgettable sophomore season with a knack for eye-opening grabs. He maybe missed too many of the easy ones, but we should all be excited for his continued growth. And Jared Cook, the bane of Titans and Rams fans for his unfulfilled potential and penchant for drops, hauled in the best catch of the season (one we can look forward to seeing for years should NFL Films choose to replay it). Cook was a go-to for Rodgers and down the stretch the team’s answer for a big play on third down. 

The O-line will regress without Sitton; the run game can’t survive without Lacy.

Sitton toiled in Chicago, which makes me sad. That sadness is offset by Lane Taylor’s solid season. Remember Taylor’s name being mentioned this year? Me neither. For a lineman, that’s usually a good thing. No one would argue Taylor was better or even close to Sitton in his prime, but that’s a hard bargain for a backup filling the shoes of a perennial All-Pro.

(And wasn’t D-line among the presumptive weaknesses with Raji’s retirement and Pennel’s suspension? Turned out not to be the case.) 

As for the run game, when Lacy went down and Starks looked instantly five years older — to say nothing of short-lived appearances by Knile Davis and Don Jackson — it seemed like the run game would never recover. Enter a slot receiver from Stanford donning No. 88. Ty Montgomery, arguably under-used down the season’s stretch, demonstrated vision, patience and occasional explosiveness. He’s in for a new number next season, and count this Packer fan amongst those who hopes he joins a re-signed Lacy as “lightning” to Eddie’s “thunder.” 

So what do we know going into next season? For a team predicated on a build-through-the-draft approach, we’re never really in a position to know. The perceived weaknesses are: cornerback, an impact at inside linebacker, and pass rush as Perry’s in a contract situation and Peppers could retire. If the same logic holds — the what we know now can change in an instant — those question marks could well be considered strengths a year from now. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (46) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Razer's picture

A very good perspective David. We all enter the season with high hopes and conceptions of the state of the team. You nailed most of them and pointed out how the tables can be turned in a weekend. By training camp 2017 I should be reset and right again for another run.

I don't know that I will be able to construct an optimistic view of our 2017 defense. I just don't know how we will fill the holes. I don't know what will erase the tape of 5 or 6 average to below average seasons. When the big games come next year will we have the talent and scheme to stop the better teams? Something must change in order for me to believe that things won't end the same.

Good article.

Savage57's picture

I agree with you. When I saw the lede, it enticed me to read and I was informed and entertained. If that's not why we all come here, what is?

There isn't a whole lot of upside to getting older, but I've come to appreciate one thing - realizing what I don't know outstrips what I do by an exponential factor.

phillythedane's picture

If I could give Savage a quadruple thumbs up, I would.

ILPackerBacker's picture

It is almost amazing to me how you must have cherry picked thousands of different blogs to find the material for this compilation of nothing written by one person.
Many people predicted the packer D to be worse based on the weak CB position and the REALITY of how Randall played as a rookie. the bad idea of returning CM3 to OLB where he refuses to play run or under control leading to injury, that fact that our two best INLB are burnett and CM3 meaning hundreds of snaps would go to players who were bench worthy (maybe) but definately not starter material. Many of us saw Raji leaving as a big improvement because hundreds of snaps would go to guys who would at least make the effort. every snap raji took hurt the team he should have been cut years ago and if ted did not protect his own draft choices he would have.

CJ Bauckham's picture

'Many people predicted the packer D to be worse based on the weak CB position'

Cb was widely regarded as a position of strength with good depth going into this year. Who are these 'many people'?

'fact that our two best INLB are burnett and CM3'

Unless I'm mistaken, it was this year that Morgan started predominately playing his hybrid ilb role. How did you know he was one of the best two going into this season?

I'll give you the Matthews moving back inside was a bad idea comment. I actually agree with that... I'm a proponent of RC's plan to move him back to a hybrid attack the qb role

dnicholson's picture

I'm glad to have almost amazed you.

Randall didn't have a bad rookie season -- he had an inconsistent rookie season. If you and others thought he'd fail in season two, was it based on great information, a hunch or both? That's the point of my post.

If for instance you predicted Nick Perry would turn in another pedestrian, uninspiring and not-living-up-to-first-round-billing season, who could have blamed you? But Perry went out and had, if not for injury, a Pro Bowl caliber season.

Also, it's possible that Raji didn't meet your eye test in 2015. As I recall, he got off to a great start and wasn't as much of an impact down the stretch. Production wasn't great, but he was a nose in a predominantly two lineman Nickel package. He was out there soaking blocks.

As far as Burnett at ILB -- he was deployed at that position in predominantly Dime passing situations and really came into that role this season. He wasn't listed as or thought of as a ILB entering 2016.

RobinsonDavis's picture

duplicate

Jersey Al's picture

Pretty obvious living in Bears country and listening to their fans has skewed your perspective. The only point you make with any accuracy is on Raji - I've never been a fan.

dobber's picture

A good read. Looking forward to more!

RobinsonDavis's picture

I think you need to be careful about painting all the different contributors here with a broad brush. Many of us had differing opinions than what you post, and a range of conviction behind those ideas. Although not always correct, there are a number of very astute individuals posting here, that DO know something about the game & tend to be correct more than the opposite.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Placing myself under scrutiny, I am one who felt the release of Sitton was wrong purely on the basis that they should have tried earlier to receive something for him (though I also admit that there may have been extenuating circumstances). Taylor played well, but let's not forget that Sitton still finiished THIS season ranked higher than Taylor, last I checked. Regarding, Adams... Yes, I was not a fan until the in-season game vs. the Falcons....2+ years of dropping passes, when other players were not getting a chance to play. But, I was a staunch defender of keeping Hayward (at the right price), pointing out that the previous year that TT could have had Tramon Williams for similar money AND his willingness to allow 3 of our top 5 corners at that time, leave. Perry, was another where I was cautious, but based on his post-season play, deserved a shot., again at the right price. I never thought what you stated about Jordy, but JORDY even stated that he needed to get back in playing-shape at the beginning of the year. Likewise, never did I think the CBs were our strength, frankly I did not beleive the defense was our strength, but was pleased with the start of the season in our run-defense. The rest is....well the rest. The reason for this rant, is to demonstrate that there are various agreements and disagreements with your preface, and I am only one example.

dnicholson's picture

RobinsonDavis, thanks for the comment. If your takeaway from my post is that I'm telling you that you don't know anything, I apologize for the miscommunication. Totally not my intent.

The idea for the post came from me thinking about where my mindset is every year going into the season. When that 53 man roster comes out, I'm not just a company man. I, like many fans, have my own (I'd like to think well-formed) opinions. And I'm always struck by how there are things I'm just sure of, and then the season plays out and there are surprises and disappointments.

I'm not going to stop doing that each year. But I'm going to also try and remind myself that first-round busts can have breakout years, slot receivers can become worthy backfield additions, and sometimes the loss of a perennial Pro Bowl player doesn't necessarily lead to catastrophe.

(None of those examples were used as some kind of "gotcha" to people who held differing views. This is the part that confuses me. I'm not sure where I'm making that claim beyond what was supposed to be a humorous device: I know nothing.)

Jersey Al's picture

Hard for me to believe you or anyone else would take this personally.

Tarynfor12's picture

We know nothing isn't the best way to start your first article in any context presumed. The argument of only those actually in the NFL, assumption,know anything and we who work in a toll booth know nothing is quite a statement since our head coach in early years knew more than some in the NFL before getting his chance....since showing that is what likely opened the door for him.
Save your knowing or assumption of such about others to yourself and those quickly willing to bow to that ideology.
One thing I do know is the intelligence of many here is a far cry from knowing nothing even in disagreement.

dnicholson's picture

Well it looks like I'm off to a great start.

I'm troubled by the notion that anyone could be offended by the post. If you get over the headline -- the only reference to a collective "we" -- then I'd invite you to point out where I make assumptions about others' knowledge.

The point was to point out that in the course of a season, what we (or I or you or some random Joe) thinks -- with reasonable certainty based on even a preponderance of evidence -- might not end up the case. Why? Because injuries happen, or maybe injuries don't happen for a player typically plagued by missing the field. Or maybe a career slot receiver gets tossed into the backfield and it turns out he's a heck of a player.

The post wasn't in any way meant to be insulting. Take again Ty Montgomery as an example. Sure, he'd seen time in the backfield even in 2015, but few if any could have imagined him being thrust into the running back role and succeeding.

That's all.

And here's another note: I will continue to make offseason prognostications. I'll continue to think critically about what I think the team needs or doesn't need. I'm not calling us all to quit being fans. Just pointing out the fun of it all is we're proven wrong, or proven right, or completely surprised by how things shake out.

Tarynfor12's picture

"We know nothing isn't the best way to start your first article in any context presumed."

The emphasis is on " in any context presumed."
Regardless of what may or may not be explained and presumptuous by you to be known by those whom you already insinuated as being clueless from the first words is perhaps. ...knowing nothing.

Bearmeat's picture

Chill, Taryn.

I, for one, very much enjoyed the article.

Looking forward to reading more, Mike.

Point Packer's picture

I for one knew that the James Starks contract was one contact too many. Many point to his great 2015 as a rational for the 3 million GB lit on fire when re-signing him for 2016. My rational for why it was such a lousy decision was based on the fact that he was never a physically gifted NFL RB and at 30, even elite RB's have massive dips in production. Starks game was to get get as much as he could out of the talents he had and accentuate it with massive on the field effort. Starks has been injury prone his entire career. Combine the two and it should not have come as no surprise that GB got next to nothing from an aging RB with an injury history who had found success be getting as much as he could out of the mediocre skills he had.

There is a reason great players often are in the League longer, sustained success is partially the result of utilizing talent to offset physical decline. A la Randy Moss. Jerry Rice. Tom Brady. Tim Brown. Charles Woodson. Reggie White. James Starks was one of the other guys, the majority.

In general, the NFL is hard to predict from year to year. For sure. The 2016 Packers being a prime example.

But to Taryn's point, folks do get it correct..... some times.

Bearmeat's picture

EDIT: I'm looking forward to reading more, DAVID. My bad man. You're too new and I'm too lazy to scroll up to the top of the article to check. Derp.

Donster's picture

I think your article was good David. There are always a few nitpickers around, that are always critical of what someone writes. I haven't been around this site for long, but have been jumped on like a starving cat on a frail mouse. Some just get their rock off doing that. If they have a legitmate opinion, that is great. We all learn from different opinions. But people don't have to be arseholes, hiding behind a keyboard and monitor.

Jersey Al's picture

Hear, hear!

Jersey Al's picture

One thing you will quickly learn, David, even the most benign statement will offend someone. Don't be concerned.

Bearmeat's picture

I'm offended by your disinterest in my offense Al!!!! :D

MarkinMadison's picture

CB - Shields didn't have his first concussion this year. He missed substantial time after a concussion last year. So yeah, I never quite bought into the "CB is the deepest position on the team," schtick.

I could pick at some more of these, but none of us were right on everything. And guess what, TT won't be right on everything either. But if we're going to get our undies in a bunch about what we "know" then you might as well shut down this site.

Razer's picture

Tough crowd... or sensitive at least.

mrtundra's picture

All I know is that I know nothing. That is me talking after one of TT's drafts! What I do know is that we won 5 of 6 NFC North match ups last season and I hope we win 6 of 6 this coming season along with a whole host of non NFC North games. I am hoping we have a good draft, maybe go after some play makers in FA, resign some of our own FAs and keep the injuries to a minimum throughout the season and play offs. GO PACK GO!

The TKstinator's picture

If you know that you know nothing, isn't that knowing something?
I know my head is starting to hurt...

jeremyjjbrown's picture

We don't know what is going to happen, sure.

Just because I don't work a 1265 doesn't mean I can't know anything. I know enough to not be surprised by how the Packers org works, what the results will likely be, and that goal #1 is Solvency over Super Bowl wins. I don't know they won't win a championship under the current model. But I will be surprised if it actually happens.

Free agent's picture

Ted get a couple of CB's who are smart enough to turn their head around when the receivers they are "covering " are tracking the ball with their eyes and extending their arms out to catch the ball. Preferably with NFL experience, yeah right. Maybe, get some coaches that will bench the CB's that don't learn from their mistakes. It's been happening repeatedly for many years.

Spock's picture

Definitely a tough crowd, but you'll (probably) get used to us! Nice to have a new article writer to critique! Hang in there!

cummings's picture

I liked the article. I'm not sure why people are upset. It was an interesting point of view and very true in many ways.
Too bad some people think they know everything and are more than willing to tell everyone how much they know. When they say many people predicted these things, I would like them to annotate their sources so I could look up what was said. Oh wait, it was just in their imagination.
Maybe when they get out of their mom's basement and quit playing Maddon, they can get a real life.
Sorry for being sarcastic. I think David should get some credit for a thought provoking article rather than trashing him for saying things that others don't like.

EdsLaces's picture

I just don't understand where these Datone stats come from. I looked and looked for him all year and yet minus a few of his stupid penalties ...never saw him.

Point Packer's picture

The stats are not there. That's why you can't find them.

CJ Bauckham's picture

He was a bit of a Mike Neal this year... a tale of almosts. Alot of pressures/qb hurries but no sacks.

Since '61's picture

David - I think a better approach would have been "You never know what can happen." Speaking for myself, the biggest surprise of 2016 was the slow start by Aaron Rodgers. He was off during the early season games and I do not expect that from him. On the other hand it felt great to see him return to form during the 8 game run. I think what you were trying to say is that no matter how knowledgeable a fan base may be (as you will see we have some very knowledgeable and diehard fans here at CHTV) none of us can predict how a season is going to play out. For myself, I'll say it right here, right now. Unless we bring some experienced defenders to our pass rush and CB corps I won't have much confidence again in our defense in 2017. We just don't have the players. Hopefully I'll be wrong and the Packers will win the SB because of the play of the defense. I'll be fine to be wrong with that. But the reality is usually that a position group or an individual player that we never expect or post about end up making the difference in a season, for better or worse. As for your contributions I'm confident that you will settle in and be fine. RELAX! Thanks, Since '61

Handsback's picture

The early season issues with the Packers were Rodgers slow start...his slump...and the running game taking a YUGE hit. The defense seemed to be OK, but then the routs started. Injuries in bunches to certain positions effectively wiped out the CB corp. So yeah, I'm with Since "61 in that this team has to learn how to be consistent and also add depth to the pass rush and CB positions.

al bundy's picture

I have a dream, first round corner and a good fa corner who can start immedately, runnng backs in round two, pass rusher in three and rb in four. Fill in whatevers the rest of the way.
Reality ted spends the bucks onperry datone lacy lang and has little left in the pot for quality. Mike thrilled we can keep everything the same so he has little to do.

BradHTX's picture

David, ignore the easily offended who apparently don't understand the concept of hyperbole. You are an excellent writer in addition to showing some creative thought and analysis, and I hope you will be regularly posting here. Your thoughts would be an asset to this website's content. Thanks and please keep it up!

Jersey Al's picture

Brad gets it! +100

BradHTX's picture

Thanks Al, and thanks for bringing in the infusion of talent.

On the off chance anyone at 1265 Lombardi Ave reads this, a certain white haired someone could take notes on roster management from OL' Jersey Al here...

croatpackfan's picture

David, you did excellent presentation. Only thing which may be to much for many of fans here is to remind them on their mistakes.
You'll find that most fans here do not like truth. Because, truth hurts.
You can see that from lot of posts how many of fans here knows everything. Nobody was considering CB as the position of strenght here. No, everyone knows we are in trouble with the position. I remeber that almost alone, Nick Perry was supporting Perry and believing in him... But today everybody was at least OK with that TT move...
Ridiculous...
Davis, keep going like you start and you'll become star of this site...
Thank God, there is archive for all those clever people that knows everything to check what they claimed 8 - 10 months ago!
And first step to knowledge is to accept and understand that I (you, we) know nothing!

Packmaniac's picture

I understood where you were coming from, David. I'm not a particularly defensive person therefore not prone to being reactive at the expense of being thoughful. Well done.

The TKstinator's picture

I wish GB's roster featured more defensive persons.

The TKstinator's picture

Or better ones.

Turophile's picture

Nice piece, David. A good lesson in how things change.

No need for getting the sledgehammer out here, your knees are safe !

NitschkeFan's picture

Every season has its share of surprises, good and bad.

Good article, don't worry about the losers who get upset about your wording for the above.

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