Tramon Williams Jersey

If all goes right this offseason, veteran Tramon Williams will be back playing cornerback for the Green Bay Packers to start the 2019 season.

General manager Brian Gutekunst said Monday that the team views Williams as a cornerback first, although his versatility allowed him to fill in as a free safety to end last season.

“I think naturally Tramon is more of a corner, but he can do it all,” Gutekunst said, via Michael Cohen of The Athletic. “He’s such an unselfish player and such a pro that I think he’ll (go) wherever he fits in or whatever makes the team best. I think naturally he’s more of a corner. I think we all thought with Tramon’s skill set he was able to play the post, but we signed him as a corner.”

The next step for Gutekunst will be finding legitimate options to replace Williams at safety. The Packers signed Adrian Amos away from the Chicago Bears, providing at least one new starter, but Gutekunst must also find a capable free safety to team with Amos at the backend of Mike Pettine’s defense.

The roster just doesn’t have an obvious solution.

Josh Jones is much more of a strong safety/linebacker hybrid than a traditional free safety, and Raven Greene, Tray Matthews and Jason Thompson all lack game experience.

The position is in the middle of a significant transition. The three main safeties to start last season are all gone: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was traded to Washington, Jermaine Whitehead was released and Kentrell Brice signed in Tampa Bay.

Signing a veteran or dipping into the draft to find a new free safety to work with Amos makes the most sense.

If safety is adequately addressed, the Packers would have the opportunity to send Williams back to cornerback, potentially to slot cornerback. Bashaud Breeland, who ended last season playing mostly in the slot, departed this offseason, signing a one-year deal in Kansas City.

Williams would join Kevin King, Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson and Tony Brown in a potentially exciting young cornerback group to start 2019.

Gutekunst’s preference for moving Williams back to cornerback highlights the need to get another safety or two this offseason. Expect the Packers to be aggressive in finding one, whether it’s during the final stages of free agency or during the first couple of days of next month’s draft.

Antonio Morrison Jersey

Former Packers linebacker Antonio Morrison had a rough month of March.

A week before being released by the Packers, Morrison was cited for interfering with a flight from Milwaukee to Las Vegas.

Via Michael Cohen of TheAthletic.com, a flight attendant questioned passengers about the placement of a bag under a vacant seat. Morrison, who later admitted that he placed his bag there because someone else had placed a bag under his seat, initially refused to acknowledge whether the bag was his.

“F–k you,” Morrison allegedly said. “You don’t own this plane. I can do whatever I want.”

The pilot took the plane back to a gate at the airport, and Morrison exited to speak to a Deputy Sheriff.

“Morrison stated he did not feel he needed to explain why his bag was under an empty seat and thought the explanation [about] whose bag was good enough,” the police report states. “During this time Morrison was cursing casually with me and could not complete a sentence without the word f–k.”

Morrison arrived in Green Bay last year, via a trade with the Colts. He appeared in all 16 games, starting eight.

Cohen writes that it’s unclear whether the Packers knew about the citation before cutting him. A no-contest plea was entered last week.

Jermaine Whitehead Jersey

Jermaine Whitehead earned more than a slap on the wrist for his slap of a Patriot.

The Green Bay Packers safety was ejected from Sunday night’s game in New England after slapping Patriots center David Andrews in the face with an open palm in the second quarter.

Whitehead earned a personal foul penalty and Green Bay was penalized 15 yards. The Patriots were in the end zone three plays later.

Whitehead was filling in for recently departed safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who Green Bay traded to the Washington Redskins this week. He had played 14 snaps at the time of his ejection.

The Packers are replacing Whitehead with cornerback Tramon Williams and safety Kentrell Brice.

Whitehead (back) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Patriots, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Whitehead started the week not practicing but was able to put in limited sessions Thursday and Friday. If healthy, the 25-year-old should serve a key rotational role in the secondary that is now without the recently traded Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Tramon Williams is shifting from cornerback to safety, but Whitehead should still have a significant role defensively after playing 75 snaps against the Rams.

FOXBOROUGH – Packers safety Jermaine Whitehead was ejected in the second quarter of the Patriots game Sunday night after he slapped center David Andrews after a play.

The slap, which came in the aftermath of a 10-yard run by Cordarrelle Patterson, mostly brushed Andrews in the face mask. It was clearly unnecessary though not particularly dangerous.

“In #GBvsNE, Jermaine Whitehead was ejected from the game for striking the head of an opponent. The ejection was confirmed by NY,’’ the NFL explained on its officiating Twitter account.

Decisions to eject a player often come from the league’s refereeing headquarters in New York. Referee Brad Allen’s crew in Foxborough didn’t offer up the reasoning behind the ejection after it happened.

Za’Darius Smith Jersey

Za’Darius Smith is one of the new members of the Green Bay Packers and he’s expected to make a big impact in the pass-rushing department. But how many sacks will Smith earn in 2019?

Mike Clay of ESPN recently released his 2019 projections for the Packers and it looks like Smith will be one of the best defenders on the Packers roster. Here’s a look at the projected stats for Smith.

According to Clay’s projections, Smith will be the team’s leader in sacks which means they will not have a player earn double-digit sacks. However, the Packers are projected to get 40 sacks this upcoming season which should be good enough to rank them in the upper half of the NFL (Packers had 44 sacks in 2018).

The NFL Draft takes place on Apr. 25 and the Packers have 10 picks. Make sure you’re in the loop

Smith was drafted by the Ravens in the fourth round back in 2015. In his rookie season, Smith notched 30 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He took a step back in 2016, recording 20 tackles, four tackles for loss and one sack.

Last year, Smith had a breakout season, tallying 45 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of 71.7 which was the 33rd-best grade for all edge defenders.

The Packers getting Smith was not a real surprise since they were linked to him earlier in his career. Peter King of Pro Football Talk/NBC Sports mentioned the Packers tried to trade for Smith at one point, but they could not get a deal done.

“The Packers once tried to trade for Za’Darius Smith, the Baltimore edge rusher,” King wrote. “Now, with a crying need on the edge, Green Bay could be a match with Smith in free agency.”

The Packers were always high on Smith and it’s clear he was on top of their free-agent board. But it was one person who really sold the Packers on Smith. Milt Hendrickson, who is the Packers new director of football operations, was a longtime scout for the Ravens and he was able to be around Smith a lot. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst spoke to reporters about Hendrickson’s role in getting Smith and he talked about how Kentucky alum was in the locker room.

“(Hendrickson) knew him through and through, so he knew the kind of locker room guy he was going to be, he knew the character of the man,” Gutekunst said at the NFL Annual Meeting in Arizona this week (via Packers.com). “You worry about those things because when you sign guys to big contracts like that, (you wonder) what their motivation is and those kinds of things. Those things are important for us to know because you want to know what you’re getting.”

Smith and fellow teammate Preston Smith are taking over for Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. Matthews was signed by the Los Angeles Rams and Perry was cut by the team once free agency began.

Billy Turner Jersey

GREEN BAY – Billy Turner knew that entering free agency he’d probably be on the move again.

But now that he’s with his fourth team in six years, he’s welcoming the thought of potentially settling in somewhere for a while.

“It’s definitely a positive to this – having an organization behind you, backing you all the way and compensating you in a way that makes you feel comfortable to walk into the building every day and comfortable knowing that you’re wanted here…,” Turner said shortly after signing a free-agent contract with the Packers.

“So it’s definitely nice to be in a place where I’m wanted, and at the same time I’m not too far from home.”

The Minnesota native and versatile offensive lineman has played for both Miami and Denver in his career, with an ultra-brief stop at Baltimore in between. He has started games at four different positions in his career, but the majority have come at guard, where the Packers have an open starting spot on the right side heading into 2019.

Turner isn’t taking anything for granted as he joins the Packers. He’s focused on being one of the team’s “best five” linemen and taking it from there. But Green Bay also didn’t sign him at the dawn of free agency just for depth.

His film from starting the last seven games of 2018 for the Broncos at left guard generated interest early in the process, so he wasn’t on the market long despite the journeyman label.

The Packers’ head coaching change and Matt LaFleur’s offense definitely factored into Green Bay’s desire to bring him aboard. Coming out of North Dakota State five years ago, Turner clocked a 5.16-second time in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, impressive for a lineman weighing 300-plus pounds. It played into the FCS standout getting drafted in the third round by the Dolphins.

Turner remains the same big guy who can move, and he’s eager to show it in LaFleur’s outside zone run scheme that requires its linemen to move laterally in swift but powerful fashion. It’s the first blocking scheme Turner was introduced to as a pro in Miami, so he has established roots in it.

“I’m an offensive lineman, but I don’t think that I move like an offensive lineman,” Turner said. “I use my athleticism to my advantage, and it works well for me. So being able to move in space well and to run off the football and move guys around in the run game, I think, was part of the reason why Green Bay liked me.”

Adrian Amos Jersey

One similarity now shared by both Ted Thompson and Brian Gutekunst in year two as General Manager of the Green Bay Packers is that each signed a free agent safety to improve the defense. However, Green Bay hopes that the multiyear deal inked with Adrian Amos this past week results in a far greater outcome than the one signed in 2006.

That contract belonged to Marquand Manuel, and it was a five-year, $10 million deal that represented a significant investment when he signed it over a decade ago.

Manuel was coming off a 2005 season in which he started 11 games at free safety for the Seattle Seahawks. The number of starts for Manuel, paired with a Super Bowl appearance in a contract year, helped the veteran in free agency after bouncing around the NFL with two seasons in both Cincinnati and Seattle. Green Bay, looking to move on from a free agent bust in Mark Roman, became a possible destination for the former Florida Gator.

The glaring concern with the Packers’ keen interest in Manuel at the time of free agency was his lack of created turnovers, forcing just two fumbles and intercepting zero passes in his career to that point. Although Manuel did intercept one pass in a Packer uniform while posting a combined 81 tackles in 16 starts at strong safety for Green Bay in 2006, he allowed too many big plays in the secondary. By the time the next preseason rolled around, Manuel had lost his starting job to Atari Bigby. The Packers moved on, parting ways with Manuel after just one season.

While Green Bay has accumulated a number of draft picks and undrafted free agents at safety, Amos becomes the first major signing at the position since Manuel. Like Manuel, Amos has not forced a high number of takeaways, amassing three forced fumbles and three interceptions over his four seasons in Chicago. They also share a similar body size at six-feet and around 210 pounds and were drafted in the late rounds. However, unlike Manuel, Amos has been viewed as a reliable player who allows others to make plays. The sample size is also much larger for Amos, who started at least 10 games in every season with the Bears and brings plenty of NFC North experience to Titletown.

Preston Smith Jersey

The Green Bay Packers signed outside linebacker Preston Smith to a four-year, $52 million deal to start free agency, believing Smith is capable of being an impact player on the edge for Mike Pettine’s defense.

The numbers suggest Smith could be due for a breakout season in 2019.

As noted by Pro Football Focus, Smith has increased his number of total pressures each season for the last two years, going from 34 in 2016 to 39 in 2017 to a career-high 53 in 2018.

Next Gen Stats had Smith with the fourth-highest pressure rate (13.5 percent) among full-time edge rushers in the NFL last season.

His sack production has fluctuated, and he’s still never produced double-digit sacks in a season. He tallied a career-low four sacks last season, but the rest of his pressure numbers paint the picture of a rusher due for a big year taking down the quarterback.

For his career, Smith is averaging a little over 40 pressures and 15 quarterback hits per season. At some point, the sacks are going to fall in line with the rest of his pressure numbers.

On average, NFL rushers turn quarterback hits into sacks roughly 40-45 percent of the time. Last season, Smith produced four sacks on 16 hits, or a sack rate of only 25 percent. He’s getting there, but the finish of the play can be an inconsistent marker of success.

Think of a baseball player with a high hard-hit rate but a low overall batting average. That player would be expected to produce a much higher average the next season if the hard-hit rate stays high.

Hitting a baseball hard is generally a good way of creating hits and a high batting average, just as hitting the quarterback is often a good way of creating sacks.

Over the last two seasons, Smith has 37 quarterback hits, the 18th most among edge rushers. Of the 17 players ahead of him, 15 produced 15 or more sacks. Smith had only 12. (One thing to note: Za’Darius Smith, the Packers’ other edge-rushing addition, had only 12 sacks on 41 quarterback hits over the last two seasons, signaling he could be in for a breakout season sacking the quarterback, too.)

Smith may never turn into one of the NFL’s dominant sack artists, but he’s a far better rusher than his four sacks last season suggest. He’s ascending as a rusher capable of creating pressure, and his ability to consistently get to and hit the quarterback should mean a decent uptick in sacks is coming in 2019. If healthy and on the field as a full-time rusher next season, Smith should be fully capable of matching or beating his career-high in sacks (8.0) during his first season with the Packers.

Justin McCray Jersey

The Green Bay Packers are bringing back a versatile offensive lineman who has started at three different positions during the last two seasons.

According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN, the Packers have retained offensive lineman Justin McCray with an exclusive rights tender worth $645,000 in 2019:

An exclusive rights free agent is a player with an expiring contract and two or fewer accrued seasons in the NFL.

McCray, an undrafted free agent who signed with the Packers in 2017, has played 25 games with 13 starts over the last two seasons.

The 26-year-old became a versatile backup as a first-year player in 2017 and then won the starting right guard job in 2018. A knee injury suffered in Week 3 opened the door for Byron Bell to take over starting duties. McCray ended up playing 480 snaps on offense, mostly at right guard.

Although McCray may never be more than a replacement level starter along the offensive line, he has tremendous value as a multi-positional backup who can play both guard spots, center and right tackle in a pinch.

The goal now for the Packers will be creating more competition at right guard entering the 2019 season.

McCray will be eligible for restricted free agency in 2020 if he accrues another season in 2019.

Kenny Clark Jersey

“Whenever an Old Firm match is coming up, you always think I would like my name to be in the frame for this one. But that is the heart ruling the head, because when your name actually comes out, you start thinking ‘oh my God, why am I in the middle of all this’. I was always able to sleep the night before games, although I lost sleep after matches when things hadn’t gone too well. “It is an early start, which always adds a surreal element to it – it is never part of your normal routine to be up at 8am on a Sunday morning to be ready for the game. For Old Firm matches in Glasgow, you generally drive yourself to whatever hotel you are to meet up at. It was soup and sandwiches if it was a 3 o’clock kick off, but on this occasion what will be provided will be fresh fruit and cereal, that sort of thing, maybe a bit of toast. It will probably be a city centre hotel then they will be driven over in a people carrier to the stadium and straight into the underground car park.

“From then, while I don’t say there is a comfort zone as such, but there is familiarity to it, and Willie Collum is fortunately in that situation. He has done a number of Old Firm games and refereed at Hampden many times. I always took a comfort from looking at the team lines and thinking ‘I have been involved in more Old Firm games than that guy, that guy or that guy’.

“It is not a case of marking cards, but we as referees would not be fulfilling our responsibilities if we didn’t look ahead to games and think about the tactics which might be employed, both legitimate and illegitimate. Or where the flashpoints are likely to be. If I was looking at an Old Firm line up and I knew, for example, that Lorenzo Amoruso and Chris Sutton were going to be in direct contact with each other, then I knew I might have to alter my positioning slightly, be ten yards closer to them when the ball is played up.

“The same with Neil Lennon and Barry Ferguson or Alan Thompson or Fernando Ricksen. Referees have to be aware of that, or previous history between two players the last time around. You can’t go into games like this other than with your eyes wide open. If you don’t, you can be caught half a second short and that can make all the difference in an Old Firm game.

“You dump the bags in the changing room, then go out on the pitch to acclimatise, make sure all the nets and markings are in order. There shouldn’t be any issues at Hampden but you always have to check them just in case. You then check all the communications equipment, then an hour before kick off the match commander will come in to have a chat with you.

“For a cup tie it is always important to know what the arrangements are for penalty kicks, where they are going to be taken. Sometimes in the past I have had the two managers coming in, and they toss a coin, to decide what end the penalty kicks are going to be taken at. At Hampden at an Old Firm match it will almost certainly be at the toss of a coin in the presence of the match commander at 2pm.

“You go out and do the warm up, get stretched, and get used, a wee bit, to the crowd noise, then come back off, do the final preparations, get all the proper gear and equipment on, then check the boots. I always went into dressing rooms to do that but because Martin O’Neill gave people the cold shoulder treatment I know that Hugh Dallas and Stuart Dougal got fed up with it. They eventually wouldn’t go into the dressing room but I am a bit thrawn about these things and I would still go in – because I knew he didn’t want me to go in. And I wasn’t going to let him decide what I do and what I didn’t do. Going in and maybe talking to players is all part of establishing a rapport and I wasn’t going to have that undermined simply because Martin O’Neill wanted to play mind games with us.

Jamaal Williams Jersey

GREEN BAY – The Packers went into Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears optimistic about the difference Aaron Jones could make after he sat out the previous meeting between the two teams earlier this season.

Instead, the second-year running back exited with a knee injury in the first quarter and didn’t return, finishing with only four carries for eight yards and breaking his streak of five consecutive games with a rushing touchdown.

The eeriest part for Jones was the injury occurred under almost the exact same circumstances as when he injured his knee in last year’s game at Soldier Field after running to the left in the first quarter.

“Was going the same direction, first half, first quarter – it felt like deja vu,” Jones said.

With Jones out, the Packers turned to Jamaal Williams to carry the load for the remainder of the game. The 2017 fourth-round pick didn’t disappoint, rushing for 55 yards and Green Bay’s only touchdown on 12 carries.

Williams also finished second on the team with four catches for 42 yards, including back-to-back receptions for 34 yards on the first two plays after Jones left the game with less than two minutes remaining in the second quarter.

“Just be ready,” said Williams of his mindset. “Next man up, always stay prepared, stay mentally prepared like you are going to be the starter. Just go in and do your job.”

The Packers entered Sunday’s game with only Jones, Williams and fullback Danny Vitale on the active roster after Tra Carson was recently placed on season-ending injured reserve with a rib injury.

While Williams’ opportunities had been limited over the past month, the second-year running back had started the first five games of the season and served as the Packers’ primary back in the opener against the Bears when Jones was serving a two-game suspension.

In addition to his pair of catches in the first quarter, Williams also rattled off a season-long carry of 20 yards before halftime and scored a 10-yard touchdown in the third quarter. It tied the game at 14 after a successful two-point conversion pass to receiver Davante Adams.

The full extent of Jones’ injury wasn’t immediately known, with Jones adding he was set to undergo further tests on his knee with team doctor Pat McKenzie and the training staff.

Although Jones wanted nothing more than to be on the field Sunday, he was proud of how his close friend held the position down in his absence.

“I feel like he did a great job,” Jones said. “I told him, ‘Hey, we’re going to need you,’ and right after that, he scored a touchdown. I think Jamaal did a great job protecting, catching the ball and running the ball. It just shows what kind of back he is and what he can do.”