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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Matt Flynn, Is He Worth It? - Sidney Crosby to Return Thursday - Urban Meyer Ready for Spring Ball

Flynn wants to prove small body of work as starter is no fluke

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Sitting in the LSU football special teams meeting room with Matt Flynn, watching the game of his life on tape: Green Bay 45, Detroit 41 -- Week 17, at a flurrying Lambeau Field -- trying to decipher whether he'll make a good starting quarterback for some team for the next six or eight years.
There's a play early in the game that catches my interest, a fairly important play. Detroit was up 9-0. Green Bay had a 3rd-and-9 at its own 33. Flynn came to the line, looking at a four-man rush. Nothing odd there.
The play-caller in the first half of this game was Aaron Rodgers. Yes, Rodgers, resting this game because the Packers had clinched their top playoff seed. And Rodgers had told Flynn Saturday that he'd be aggressive. So here, instead of just trying to get nine or 10 yards and move the sticks, Rodgers called for the three receivers -- two wideouts split out, tight end Jermichael Finley in the slot -- to all run vertical routes.
Flynn came to the line with 14 seconds left on the play clock. At 12 seconds, he began a hard count. "Getting the defense to show their hand,'' he said. Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch took a couple of steps back. In film study that week, Flynn had seen that Tulloch would likely be covering the tight end in the slot on this call, and that he always liked to give the tight end some cushion, maybe dropping to 12 or 13 yards and then coming in to try to separate the tight end from the ball.
At seven seconds, Flynn gave the three receivers an alert; he was changing Finley's route to a 10-yard curl. He snapped the ball with four seconds left on the play clock. Finley ran nine yards, turned around, and the ball was in his gut. First down, barely.
So Flynn had to combine his film study from the week, the stones to check off from a play Rodgers wanted to run, and the trust with his receiver to throw the ball to a spot before Finley turned around. It worked. It was one play in a long game. Instead of punting to the Lions there and maybe going down 16-0 to a hot quarterback on the next series, Flynn kept the chains moving.
"In the Green Bay offense,'' Flynn said with the tape on pause, "we're what you'd call a 'best-play' team. I've been in the system for four years, and I know how it works. You study during the week and know everything you can possibly know about the defense. You talk to the coaches about what you like and what you don't like. Then, you get in the game, and checks like that come easy. We've worked on plays like that one every day in practice. It's just reaction for me now; I know what to check to. You run the hard count, and you see what they're going to do, and then you just know -- you just know the best play to call.''
If that's all he did in the game, big deal. But we watched his 49 pass drops (44 passes, three sacks, two scrambles), and I was more impressed than I thought I'd be.
Forget the garish numbers, the 480 yards passing and six touchdowns. His decision-making, his confidence, his ability to go no-huddle and call the plays himself (which is what the Green Bay system allows when the quarterback is going no-huddle), and his accuracy ... all of those traits are NFL-starter quality.
He completed three deep balls in the game, two of them thrown perfectly and one slightly underthrown and saved by Jordy Nelson. Does he have the deep arm some pro-style schemes demand? I'm still dubious. But he completed three of the four deep ones he threw in this game -- 36, 40 and 48 yards in the air from the line of scrimmage.
"We're a pretty methodical offense,'' he said. "The home-run shots come when you least expect them.''
Flynn got lucky in going to Green Bay. Mike McCarthy and aides Joe Philbin and Tom Clements are all good teachers of the quarterback position, and Rodgers a giving mentor. Flynn outplayed fellow draftee Brian Brohm as a rookie (Brohm was a second-round pick, Flynn a seventh-) and won the backup job to Rodgers. They became fast friends. Whereas Brett Favre never went out of his way to help Rodgers, Flynn became Rodgers' confidant. "Matt has soaked up so much, from me and the coaches,'' Rodgers told me last week. "He has grown so much as a player. Without a doubt he is ready. He has proven with his opportunities he know what is necessary to win. Players love him. Somebody's going to get a great football player in Matt.''
Their relationship is so good that when Flynn ran off the field midway through the fourth quarter after his fifth touchdown pass, Rodgers knew that he had tied the Green Bay record for touchdowns passes in a game -- a mark that he, Rodgers, shared. Said Flynn: "And Aaron looks me in the eye when I come off and he says: 'If you get the chance to go for six, you've got to go for it.' Now, does that say a lot about Aaron's character or what?''
"Crazy. Humbling. Weird,'' Flynn said about the day he had against the Lions, and the touchdown record that Bart Starr, Favre and Rodgers never could reach.
Later that day we were in Flynn's truck, with his girlfriend. Lacey Minchew, and I asked him about the dilemma teams face analyzing him. He's started two games in four seasons in Green Bay. How can a team be expected to break the bank for him, even if he's a compelling figure because of how he played in those two starts?
"Totally understand,'' he said. "I know there will be people for me, and people against me, but you can't be defensive about it. I've always been a confident person about what I can do, and I am right now. Hopefully, I get to find that one team that wants me, and I can get to that team and prove to the 52 guys I share the locker room with that I'm worthy of being the guy they look up to as their quarterback. There's no question in my mind I can be.''
I asked: "What's more important for a quarterback -- arm strength or accuracy?''
"Accuracy, no question,'' he said.
From the back seat, Minchew piped up: "I could have told you that.''
Flynn laughed. "You're going to throw it deep maybe two, three, four times a game. You might have 40 throws in a game. Obviously you need the arm to get it downfield, but I've always felt the position is about knowing everything about the defense, about your game plan, about what's going to work when you make checks. I feel like I can throw a very good deep ball. I don't know where it comes from that I can't. The windows are so tight in the NFL that you're not going to survive if you can't make those throws, and I think I've proven I can make them.''
Flynn just wants to find a home. He's not sure where that'll be. Maybe Miami with his former coach, Philbin. Or Seattle, with the GM, John Schneider, who was in the Packer personnel department when Green Bay drafted him in 2008. But I doubt Flynn will break the bank. This is not the time for him to do that. The time for him to get big money is after he proves he's a top-15 NFL starter in a year or two. If I'm Flynn, I'm looking for an unquestioned starting job now -- even if the money's not the motherlode.
"It's been a long month or so,'' Flynn said. "I'm ready to be out of the dark and on a team.''

Sidney Crosby to Return Thursday
Following Tuesday’s practice, Sidney Crosby told reporters that he plans to play on Thursday. He then went into detail about how he feels and what his role in the game will be. You can check out the interview below.
One of the most noteworthy revelations that Crosby made – other than the fact that he plans on playing – is that he feels better prepared to return than he did during his first attempt on Nov. 21. He wants to make sure that he paces himself, although he passed on the opportunity to give a rough prediction on how many minutes he thinks he’ll play.
The addition of Crosby will provide the already surging Penguins with a big and immediate boost, even if he’ll be playing on the third line Thursday. That being said, what the Penguins really need is for Crosby to be 100% when the playoffs start. So it would make sense if Pittsburgh decides go out of its way to ease him into the lineup.
You can watch Crosby’s return on NBCSN. The game is scheduled to start at 7pm ET and will be against the New York Rangers, who currently sit atop the Eastern Conference.

Two-Minute Drill: Meyer Amped for Start of Spring Practice
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — With the NCAA Tournament tipping off this week in Dayton, and other sites around the country, basketball season is in full swing.

It won’t be long, however, before Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes hit the practice field for the first time since he took over the program back in November.

Meyer has not gotten a chance to see his guys doing much football stuff this off-season, but he loves the competition he has seen from his group during winter workouts.

Meyer Pleased with Off-Season Workouts

Meyer feels the Buckeyes have had an excellent off-season. "New weight staff has done phenomenal job."
The team looks a lot different to him than when Meyer got to OSU, especially on the offensive line. He was not pleased with the bodies of some of the linemen when he got to OSU. Guys look a lot different now.
Meyer thinks his team is where he thought they would be. "A lot of good, tough kids." Also said he has had zero resistance from players or the holdover coaches about all the changes.
Meyer watches drills to see how guys respond to losing. Doesn't care about much else.
Meyer hopes the off-season attrition is done. If a kid makes it through winter conditioning, now they get to go play football.
The Buckeyes had their last team meeting before spring practice this morning at 6 a.m. Meyer said his team needs this break after long off-season.
Looking Ahead to Spring Football

Meyer said the tempo of practice will be a shock to the players. "We're going to have a lot of contact. A lot."
Meyer confirmed that freshmen Taylor Decker, Luke Roberts and Se'Von Pittman are coming to OSU in March.
There will be a winner and loser every day in practice when they leave the field. Rewards for winners. Gatorades for winners after practice. Losers get hose water and running, including coaches.
Zach Boren said there is no on/off switch. Everyone will be going full-go every play in the spring.
Looking at Position Groups

Meyer said Kenny Guiton has had a great off-season. Meyer said he wasn't a fan of Guiton when he first got to OSU. Meyer said that Guiton is finally starting to act like a quarterback.
Meyer said the most impressive group to him right now is the TE. Three really good looking TE's.
Reid Fragel is “tinkering” with 300 pounds and Meyer said he looks great right now in his transition to offensive tackle.
Meyer said Fragel used to be lazy in the classroom. Expects him to have his best academic quarter.
Meyer and Luke Fickell felt Darryl Baldwin's best place to get on the field was on the o-line.
Finding Skill Guys on Offense

Meyer’s biggest concern is that he still doesn't know who is going to catch a pass. "There's no track record."
According to Meyer, Corey "Philly" Brown might have had the best off-season. He also mentioned Jake Stoneburner and Devin Smith.
Meyer said Jordan Hall had a "borderline great" off-season. Also said Hyde and Rod Smith have come light years.
Meyer thinks they will move Jordan Hall around on offense in the spring.

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