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Aaron Rodgers, Packers have former Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer dreaming big again

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DeShone Kizer’s first phone call, once he finished the final day of minicamp with the Green Bay Packers on Thursday, was to Brandon Wimbush.

It was more business than social, and revolved around the parallel revivals Notre Dame’s former starting quarterback, Kizer, and current one are attempting to concoct this offseason. Even some of their fixes are identical.

Both, for instance, spent time with the Tom House/Taylor Kelly biomechanics-based 3DQB coaching group in Orange County Calif., at their own expense recently. and that’s where Kizer is headed to train again, between now and when training camp cranks up in late July.

“I’m going to do whatever I can to create some consistency within the things that I’ve learned,” Kizer told the Tribune in a phone interview. “Hopefully, I come back a better quarterback.”

This time Kizer does so armed with concepts he learned from Packers head coach Mike McCarthy in OTAs and from longtime Green Bay star QB Aaron Rodgers, the latter of whom was given a pass to skip minicamp but chose to show up anyway to tutor Kizer and the man the second-year pro will vie with for the backup quarterback job in the coming months, former fifth-rounder Brett Hundley from UCLA.

The Kizer-Rodgers union appears to be the most benevolent of many such positive wrinkles from a March 14 trade with Cleveland that the 22-year-old Kizer never saw coming.

“When you go 0-16, you do expect change,” said Kizer who played in 15 of those Cleveland losses and started 14 of them. “And we got that change during the season with a new GM.”

John Dorsey on Dec. 8 replaced deposed general manager Sashi Brown, who presided over the Browns selecting Kizer in the second round (52nd pick overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft and Kizer’s eventual installation as Cleveland’s 27th starting QB since the franchise reincarnated as an expansion team in 1999.

“You go out there and you try to feel out what the next GM’s going to do,” Kizer continued. “But when you’re finishing out the season, you don’t get that understanding of what the picture may look like.

“So I’m out training in Orange County, and I’m going through my whole Browns offseason checklist and you get a random call from a Cleveland number. It turns out to be your GM (Dorsey).

“He asks you how you’re doing and asks how you’re training’s going. and by the end of the conversation he lets you know you’re going to be shipped up to Green Bay.”

Green Bay shipped its first-round pick from the 2015 draft, cornerback Damarious Randall, to get its hands on Kizer. In 2017, Randall totaled 47 tackles and four interceptions in 12 starts before a knee injury ended his season.

The Packers, around McCarthy, experienced a seismic makeover following a 7-9 season, the first since 2008 in which they were bystanders during the playoffs.

Brian Gutekunst, the man who would trade for Kizer, was elevated to the role of general manager on Jan. 7. Three days later, McCarthy had a new defensive coordinator (Mike Pettine) and an arsenal of new offensive coaches, including a new coordinator (Joe Philbin), new passing-game coordinator (Jim Hostler) and new QBs coach (Frank Cignetti Jr.).

“I really didn’t consider whether the changes would even the playing field for me in my competition for the No. 2 spot,” Kizer said. “My mindset right now is more about the development of myself rather than looking at the competition and fighting for a No. 2 spot. That’s what training camp will be for.

“During OTAs and minicamp, the only goal for myself was to simply learn the playbook and to continue to perfect the footwork that they have in the system. You’re in no position to compete until you know what the heck is going on out on the field.”

Enter the 34-year-old Rodgers, the two-time league MVP and NFL career passing ratings leader who missed more than half of his 13th pro season, in 2017, due to a broken collarbone.

“For a guy who’s been in the league as long as Aaron and has proven himself, a lot of those guys don’t typically spend much time around the (training) facility during the offseason,” Kizer said. “He was there early and stayed late every day.

“That in itself is obviously a great trait to have, but within that I’ve been there with him and learning quite a bit about the smaller things within the game that I wasn’t really able to get without a veteran quarterback in my rookie year.”

Said Rodgers to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky regarding Kizer, “He’s obviously a big body, throws the ball well. He’s just trying to get accustomed to our language and some of the fundamentals we teach here, but he’s picking it up great. He’s fun to have in the meetings.”

Kizer has long admired Rodgers but didn’t study or emulate him until recently.

“I actually stayed away from studying him in the sense that his throwing style was something I couldn’t really understand from an outsider’s point of view,” he said.

“Anytime I saw him on film, when we were playing similar opponents, I’m looking at the defense and I’m looking at the way he was attacking them, but as far as mechanically throwing the ball and his footwork, looking with an outside lens, it would do nothing but confuse me.

“But now being able to see why he throws the ball the way he does and understand the way (McCarthy’s) QB school has put him in the position to throw the ball the way he does, it obviously allows me to look up to that awesome style of throwing that he has, that has led him to MVPs and Super Bowls.”

And a style that has Kizer — who was sacked 38 times, threw 22 interceptions to 11 TDs and fashioned a 60.5 QB rating as a rookie in 2017 — dreaming big once again in 2018.

“Starting with college, my whole career as a football player has been a bunch of highs and lows,” said the only ND football player ever to give up two years of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. “I’ve got to make sure I capitalize on a great opportunity with a winning program, a winning head coach, a great offensive staff and a great mentor (Rodgers), who has the ability to be an MVP ever year.

“He’s the best player on the field every time he steps out onto it. I’m going to do whatever I can to get myself to that level someday. I’m so thankful the trade gives me that chance.”




5 Burning Questions For The Green Bay Packers

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In every way imaginable, the Green Bay Packers went backwards in 2017.

Green Bay failed to reach the postseason for the first time since 2008. The Packers’ 7-9 record was the second worst of Mike McCarthy’s 12 seasons.

And after reaching the NFC Championship game in both 2014 and 2016, the Packers were eliminated from the playoffs by mid-December.

Green Bay could be poised for a bounce back season, though.

The Packers return nine starters on each side of the ball and addressed several positions of weakness in free agency. Most importantly, though, quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns after missing more than half of last season with a broken collarbone.


Green Bay finished its offseason program this week, one McCarthy called “one of our best offseasons, just as far as the amount of work we were able to get done, the quality of work.”

If the Packers are indeed to rebound in 2018, here are five questions they still must answer in training camp.

1. Has the market been cornered?

Green Bay set franchise marks for futility in 2017 in opponent’s passer rating (102.0) and completion percentage (67.8%).

So the Packers drafted cornerbacks Jaire Alexander of Louisville in Round 1 and Josh Jackson of Iowa in Round 2. Veteran corners Tramon Williams and Davon House were signed in free agency, and second-year man Kevin King could be poised for a breakout year.

The Packers need some combination of this group to step up and help fix a pass defense that’s been dreadful the last two years.

“We haven’t played very well the past two years, and it hasn’t necessarily been because of lack of talent,” said defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. “People have gotten hurt, or this or that or the third (thing), but that’s in the past. What we’re focused on right now are these men trying to play championship-style football.”

2. Who’s the No. 3 receiver?

Davante Adams, who signed a four-year, $58 million contract extension last December, and veteran Randall Cobb are the top two wideouts. But after that, this positional group is wide open.

The Packers drafted rookies J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown to potentially fill the void.

“All three of them have really flashed some nice skill sets, you know what I mean?” Packers’ offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said this week. “They’ve got some size, some range, good athletic ability, they can move.”

The rookies will battle holdovers Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis and DeAngelo Yancey for roster spots.

3. Where’s the rush?

Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are solid starters at outside linebacker. Matthews is the Packers’ all-time sack leader with 80.0 and Perry has 18.0 sacks in the last two years. But Perry has never played a full 16-game season, and Matthews has played 16 games just twice in a nine-year career.

If one of the two goes down — which has happened virtually every year — there’s little proven depth on the roster. Green Bay largely ignored the outside linebacker position in the draft, while holdovers Kyler Fackrell, Vince Biegel and Reggie Gilbert have proven little.

“Obviously, you look at the depth at the outside linebacker position, and it’s not that great,” Matthews said in May. “At some time I’m sure it will be addressed, but for the time being the guys we have here are the guys who have to hold up their end of the bargain.”

4. Will the safeties step up?

Green Bay’s safeties remain the most unsettled unit on the team. Veteran Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who’s in the final year of his rookie contract, should be the leader of the group now that Morgan Burnett left in free agency. But Clinton-Dix skipped the non-mandatory OTAs due to a family situation and his unresolved contract, which could prove detrimental down the road.

Second-year man Josh Jones is the frontrunner at the other safety spot. But Jones struggled mightily in 2017 and will be pushed by Kentrell Brice in training camp. In all, there are far more questions than answers.

“I'm just looking forward to training camp, when we can get all of our guys out there, in pads, and evaluate them playing real football,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said.

5. Does Aaron Rodgers have another MVP in him?

Two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers remains one of the best quarterbacks in football. But the Packers desperately need him to stay healthy to have any chance at making noise in the NFC.

Rodgers broke his left collarbone in 2013 and his right collarbone in 2017. Counting the games Rodgers was injured, Green Bay is 5-12-1 without its Pro Bowl quarterback.

Rodgers followed his injury-plagued 2013 season with an MVP season in 2014. If Rodgers can have a similar bounce back season, the Packers might contend for NFC supremacy once again.

“Obviously, I wasn’t there last year, so it was disappointing,” Rodgers said. “But there’s things you can control and things you can’t control. We’ll try to control the things to get myself ready to go and ready to play 16 games.”




Potential free agent targets for Packers to help pass rush

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Green Bay Packers rookies who could start right away, free agents still available the team could sign, and more in the Titletown Report.
Good morning and welcome to the Titletown Report for Sunday, June 17.

Happy Father’s Day! Also, happy Twelve-Weeks-Until-Football Day! That’s right, the Green Bay Packers’ regular season opener is now just 12 weeks away. Yes, I said just. I’m trying to stay positive over here.
As the players and coaches take a break for the summer, we continue here at Lombardi Ave. There is no offseason for all of us, the fans. And the excitement for the new season continues to build.

So let’s get started with the Titletown Report. From rookies on the roster most likely to start this season, to analysis on the defensive line, and free agents still available that Brian Gutekunst could sign, there are plenty of great topics in the report today.

Here’s a roundup of the latest articles from around the internet.

Packers news and notes from around FanSided
Three rookies who could start right away in 2018 (Lombardi Ave)

Which of Green Bay’s rookies have the best chance of becoming starters this season? Lombardi Ave’s Jesse Fry names the three new additions to the Packers’ roster he believes could start right away.
The Green Bay Packers defensive line is among the league’s best (Dairlyand Express – Adam Ziobrowski)

Mike Daniels. Kenny Clark. Muhammad Wilkerson. Dean Lowry. Yeah, that sounds good to me. Adam Ziobrowski of Dairyland Express writes about why Green Bay’s defensive line is one of the best in the entire NFL.

Three free agent pass rushers Green Bay can still sign (NFL Spin Zone – Randy Gurzi)

Under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, it’s expected Green Bay will focus on creating more interior pressure up front. But it’s still surprising how little work was done by new GM Brian Gutekunst to add more edge rushers. Randy Gurzi of NFL Spin Zone looks at three free-agent pass rushers still available that the team should consider signing.






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