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Green Bay Packers Notebook: Releasing Al Harris, James Starks Activation

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IOctober 21, 2016

Green Bay Packers Notebook: Releasing Al Harris, James Starks Activation

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The bye week is upon the Green Bay Packers, but that doesn't mean this week won't be full of news. 

    In fact, it's already been an eventful week on a number of different fronts in Green Bay. 

    In this new edition of Green Bay Packers Notebook, we'll take a look at the release of Al Harris, James Starks' activation, Clay Matthews and more. 

    (Speaking of the Notebook, I'd like to ask my readers how they prefer to have it. Would you rather read it in the slideshow format, as it is here, or in the original article form? Your comments on the subject would be appreciated!)

Releasing Al Harris

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    When the Green Bay Packers failed to activate cornerback Al Harris from the physically unable to perform list last Saturday, you sensed something was up.

    But did anyone really expect the Packers to cut the 35-year old veteran? 

    While the move caught many by surprise, including myself, it's not hard to see the reasons why general manager Ted Thompson wouldn't bring back Harris. 

    For one, as I mentioned above, Harris is 35 years old and a month away from being 36. You can search all you want, but the fact remains that very few cornerbacks at that age are productive. 

    Secondly, Harris is still less than a year removed from his horrific knee injury. At his age, and his position, an injury like that could really set back even the most gifted cornerbacks. Harris had clearly begun to show his age before the injury, so there's no telling how the knee was holding up. 

    Lastly, and possibly most importantly, don't you think if Al Harris had anything left to give the Green Bay Packers this season that Thompson would have kept him on the roster?

    Sure, he was practicing with the first team defense for the past three weeks, but isn't that even more telling then? The Packers' coaching staff had three solid weeks of practice to analyze what Harris had, and obviously, they couldn't find a reason to keep him on the team. 

    If we've learned anything this season, it's to trust the roster decisions that Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy make. And in this case, as sad as it is to say, I think they made the right move.

    General managers across the NFL make the mistake of holding on to veterans longer then they should, and Thompson isn't making that mistake here. 

    One last thing about Harris: isn't it telling as well that no NFC North team signed him? All three teams—Vikings, Bears and Lions—are thin in the secondary. And from what I read, both the Lions and Vikings were interested in taking a deeper look into Harris, and neither team made the move. 

    You'd have to believe his price tag was well below the $2.5 million deal he had when he cleared waivers, so money could hardly have been the issue for any team.

    Yet the Dolphins signed Harris today, and I'll be keeping an eye on how he performs in Miami. Something tells me he's going to struggle.

Activating James Starks

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    Scott Boehm/Getty Images

    Could anyone of guessed that the two players the Packers would activate from the PUP list would be Atari Bigby and James Starks? 

    The Packers have been high on Starks since they drafted him back in April, but most of what I read on him said he was most likely heading to injured reserve. 

    Instead, Starks is going to get a chance to show the Packers what they got in their sixth-round draft pick. But how much playing time will Starks actually get? 

    Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn have taken up the majority of the carries since Ryan Grant was injured, and for some reason, I can't see that changing much. 

    For one, Starks wouldn't seem NFL ready by any means. He missed his whole senior season of college, then the majority of OTA's and all of training camp. In total, that means Starks has about three weeks on NFL experience. Would it be realistic to expect much from him?

    And two, the Packers finally look like they've established a rhythm running the football with Kuhn and Jackson. It's far from perfect, but are they willing to mess with that rotation to get Starks some carries?

    Interesting questions to chew on with Starks. 

Matthews Taking Home More Hardware

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    For the second time this season, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has won NFC Defensive Player of the Week. 

    He's only the third Packer to win the award more then once (Charles Woodson, Reggie White), and with a league-leading 10.5 sacks, Matthews is surely the front runner for Defensive Player of the Year. 

    Sunday's performance against the Cowboys was arguably Matthews most complete game this season. He registered a sack, a crushing tackle for loss of Marion Barber, two pass defensed and a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown. 

    While his subsequent Lambeau Leap left something to be desired, his play between the white lines most certainly did not. 

Offensive Line Playing BIG

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    In the past three weeks, the Packers offensive line has probably played better then any other stretch during Aaron Rodgers' career.

    Against three quality pass rushing teams—the Vikings, Jets and Cowboys—the Packers only surrendered four sacks. That's an impressive run that Packers' fans couldn't even of dreamed of last season. 

    Actually, overall this season, the Packers' offense line has been markedly better. Green Bay gave up 50 sacks last season, but Rodgers has only been sacked 17 times this season. 

    Chad Clifton shook off a rough start to his season, and is now playing as good as Rodgers has ever seen him. First-round pick Bryan Bulaga has taken over at right tackle, and Daryn Colledge, Scott Wells and Josh Sitton have been tough in the middle. 

    Bulaga understands the importance of keeping defenders off Rodgers. 

    "Normally when there's sacks there's a breakdown of fundamentals," Bulaga told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I think we're just playing better, fundamental football, and when you do that, good things happen. If you keep Aaron clean, you make lots of plays.

A Vote of Confidence

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    Tom Dahlin/Getty Images

    One thing to take away from the Packers release of Al Harris: the confidence Thompson and McCarthy must feel with the bottom portion of the depth chart at cornerback. 

    Sam Shields, Pat Lee, Jarrett Bush and Brandon Underwood should all embrace that vote of confidence, because it's now up to them to make certain they hold up their end of the deal. 

    Shields played well Sunday against the Cowboys, but he was still beat for the only touchdown the Packers gave up. 

    Lee, Bush and Underwood are all untested should there be an injury. However, I'm sure their special teams value was one of the main reasons they are still on the team and Al Harris is in Miami. 

    Either way, the coaching staff obviously feels comfortable with that group to fill out the Packers' third, fourth and fifth corners spots.

    And because of the decisions both Thompson and McCarthy have made this season, they deserve our trust with this one as well. 

Collins' Wallet Is a Little Lighter

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Packers' safety Nick Collins was fined $50,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Cowboys' receiver Roy Williams Sunday night. 

    The NFL has made hits like Collins a serious issue this season, and he was told that he could be suspended if it happens again. 

    “It’s a sensitive issue right now in the NFL with them trying to protect players,” Collins told ESPN. “Unfortunately we were on the big stage (Sunday) and I was that guy. I wasn’t trying to do it, but it happened. It was a bang-bang play so I will live with it and move forward.”

    While replays showed Collins clearly led with his helmet, then made contact with Williams' helmet, he doesn't feel he did much wrong. 

    “At the end of the day I know I didn’t do anything wrong,” Collins said. “I wasn’t trying to hit the guy in the head.”

    In reality though, he did do something wrong. I don't necessarily agree with what the NFL is doing about this issue, but the NFL has told all players what they expect. And Collins clearly broke those rules, and he's paying for it now. Hopefully it doesn't happen again, and Packers' fans should be thankful the NFL didn't suspend him leading into the game in Minnesota on November 21. 

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