Yesterday was “Cutdown Day” in the National Football League as teams were required to pare their rosters to the 53 man limit.  Noteworthy among the moves for the Green Bay Packers were the releases of veteran defensive back/kick returner Will Blackmon and tight end Spencer Havner.  If Twitter reaction is any guide, the moves caught many Packer fans offguard but, under the circumstances, both were understandable. 

Blackmon has been the closest thing the Packers have had to a threat as a kick/punt returner but has rarely been healthy for any stretch of time in his tenure with the team.  Even now he was still suffering the effects of offseason knee surgery.  One assumes that the Packers felt they couldn’t count on him to be available on a consistent basis.  His release does leave the Packers return game up in air for the moment as fellow return candidate Jason Cherry was also released.  On the surface, that would appear to leave the return duties in the hands of running back Brandon Jackson and wide receiver Jordy Nelson, both of whom leave something to be desired in that role.

Havner, a fan favorite who became an unlikely ‘red zone’ target last year, simply got lost in a numbers crunch at tight end.  With the emergence of budding superstar Jermichael Finley, Havner didn’t figure to get as many opportunities this season.  Along with veteran Donald Lee and 5th round draft choice Andrew Quarless, the Packers were well covered with receiving talent at that position and opted instead for practice squad holdover Tom Crabtree, who demonstrated more potential as a blocker.  Havner’s chances may also have been hurt by a summer motorcycle accident, which prevented him from full participation in the offseason program, and by the Packers decision to carry three fullbacks on the roster.

Even with Saturday’s moves, I have to believe that General Manager Ted Thompson isn’t finished tinkering with the Packers roster because he has to see the same mess in the defensive backfield that everyone else does.  Veterans Al Harris and Atari Bigby are beginning the season on the PUP list, which currently leaves the Packers pretty thin and inexperienced in the secondary.  Thompson seemed to be counting on the development of youngsters Brandon Underwood and Pat Lee but the former is injured and the latter showed virtually nothing during the preseason.  As rookies, safety Morgan Burnett and nickel back Sam Shields will both be expected to assume prominent roles which will likely leave the Packers vulnerable at times.

At this point, the entire defense is one big question mark heading into next week’s regular season opener at Philadelphia as Harris and linebacker Clay Matthews have yet to play or even practice with the team.  Defensive coordinator Dom Capers will no doubt have some wrinkles in place for the Eagles game but his pass defense woes are compounded by the fact that none of the Packers linebackers are particularly proficient in pass coverage.

Given that the last image we have of Green Bay’s defense is them getting torched by retired Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner in last year’s playoffs, the prospect of heading into next week with a less experienced version of the same is unsettling to say the least.

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Unsettling would also be the word I would use to describe the University of Wisconsin football team’s victory over UNLV.  Despite dominating on the field against an overmatched team, the Badgers led by only 3 points at halftime thanks to two costly turnovers. 

After taking a 14 point lead in the first quarter, QB Scott Tolzien telegraphed a pass into double coverage in the right flat that led to a “Pick 6″ for the Runnin’ Rebels.  Later in the half, wide receiver Nick Toon fumbled as the Badgers were driving for another score.  UNLV returned the ball to the Wisconsin 16 yard line and the defense allowed them to score on the next play.

They may be able to get away with that stuff against one of the weak sisters in the Big West but it will put them behind the 8 ball once conference play starts.  If the Badgers hadn’t gotten a momentum changing defensive TD early in the second half, even this game might have taken on a different complexion.

The Badgers also got rocked off the field this week as the Big(12)Ten Conference announced its divisional realignments for football.  Instead of going with an East/West split that would have preserved the conference’s most important geographic rivalries, the powers that be decided to further mess with tradition by separating Wisconsin from Minnesota, Iowa, and Northwestern in order to “balance” the competitive level in the divisions.

It’s ridiculous that UW will play in a different division than the Gophers and Hawkeyes, not to mention the fact that Illlinois and Northwestern  and Michigan and Ohio St. will be separated as well.  Conference leaders threw the schools a bone so that one cross-division rival will meet every year insuring that such rivalry games as Wisconsin/Minnesota and Michigan/OSU will continue unabated.  Obviously they want to set up the potential for a Michigan/OSU championship game but since that game will be played every year anyway, it only serves to devalue the matchup.  Under this setup, Badger fans will be deprived of yearly contests with Iowa and newcomer Nebraska, which could have developed into another rivalry given UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez’s origins in that program.

I understand the desire for competitive balance; I just think the same thing could have been accomplished while respecting the conference’s most cherished tradtions.  Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one.

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This really has nothing to do with sports, although if you watch or listen to numerous sporting broadcasts (as I do) you are no doubt subjected to a number of these commercial advertisements.  I sometimes wonder if advertisers really comprehend the image they’re presenting to their potential customers in an effort to be clever or memorable.

Take, for example, the brand of shampoo endorsed by Pittsburgh Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu which promises “fuller, richer hair in one week ( over unwashed hair )”.  Great, so ”Head & Shoulders” is better than using nothing.  Or the GEICO  ads with the company’s presumed director of advertising interacting with its “spokes-lizard”.  Do you really want to buy car insurance from a company that has a moron in an executive position?  And then there is the Miller Lite spot where the doofus pushes his hot redheaded girlfriend out of the way to get to the beer and chips; as if that babe’s going to be hanging with this loser.  Isn’t the implication that idiots drink their beer counterproductive to what they’re trying to achieve?

Sorry, but this stuff’s been bothering me for awhile and I just had to get it off my chest.

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RANDOM SAMPLINGS:  Is there anything more pointless than the 4th NFL exhibition game?  All it does is confirm what coaches already know about their so-called bubble players.  I know the players and some other parties are concerned about the NFL’s plans for an 18 game regular season, so here’s a compromise.  Eliminate the 4th preseason game and go to a 17 game schedule with two ‘byes’.  I know it will be awkward with the odd number of games but they should somehow be able to stagger the bye weeks to make it happen………..When the Milwaukee Brewers moved Ryan Braun from 3rd base to left field it looked like his athletic ability would allow him to become a reasonably good defensive outfielder.  He does make plays from time to time but hasn’t seemed to develop any instinct for the position.  His weak throw to the plate in the 7th innng last night cost the Brewers a couple of runs and probably the game in Philadelphia………..Fans who take Thompson to task for failing to trade any of the Packers released players should consider that Arizona was unable to get anything in return for QB Matt Leinart………..The misadventures of outfielder Nyjer Morgan of the Washington Nationals this week revived the old argument about baseball’s unwritten rules.  Florida pitcher Chris Volstad beaned Morgan in retaliation for Morgan injuring Marlins’ catcher Brett Hayes in a collision at home plate the day before.  Morgan went on to steal 2nd & 3rd base in the 14-3 game, angering the Marlins further.  Apparently, baseball ‘etiquette’ dictates that you shouldn’t steal when the game is out of hand.  That’s totally bogus!  I’m no Morgan fan but c’mon!  If they choose to put him on base they need to live with the consequences………..The Minnesota Vikings put QB Brett Favre up on the lube rack this week and injected a grease-like substance into what is now being described as an arthritic left ankle.  It’s looking more and more unlikely that ’4′ will be able to make it through the entire season which makes the Vikes trade of backup Sage Rosenfels to the N.Y. Giants even more curious………I hope that somehow QB Graham Harrell and LB Alex Joseph can make it through to the Packers’ practice squad.  Both of those players may be able to help them down the road………..One more thing on the subject of Big(12)Ten football scheduling.  The Badgers are playing not one, but two NCAA Championship subdivision schools this year.  I understand the difficulties of scheduling but with conference expansion, there is no reason that the conference season can’t be likewise extended eliminating the need for such fillers.

Thanks for reading.  Enjoy the last weekend of “summer”.  Drive carefully and come home safe.

 

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  • http://pocketdoppler.com Dave Kerwin

    Happy B-day Bro. With the current Packer roster, get used to some fantasy football pleasing scores.

  • Chris

    No question–that fourth pre-season game is death. It is also a crashing anti-climax after the “dress rehearsal” game.

    Good to hear your peeves on those ads. Those GEICO spots blow (and, strangely) I was just noting that last night to anyone who would listen. While the Miller ad was funny the first time, I think we got the point: the guy is a loser with a drinking problem.

  • http://www.Twitter.com/RichWardJr Rich Ward

    His weak throw to the plate in the 7th innng last night cost the Brewers a couple of runs and probably the game in Philadelphia…..

    ————

    It sums up the entire season quite well. A dud.

    Happy Birthday brother, keep bringing it.

  • http://www.pocketdoppler.com BigSnakeMan

    If only I had more Packers on my fantasy roster to take advantage of the situation.

    Thanks to all for the b-day wishes.