Jul 01, 2022
Packers Reveal Key Motive for Drafting New Rookie Tackle
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Getty Zach Tom #OL53 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons speaks to reporters during the NFL Draft Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on March 3, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Green Bay Packers have a history of loading up on offensive linemen on the third day of the NFL draft, and we now know one of the big reasons why Wake Forest tackle Zach Tom appealed to them in this year’s fourth round.
Packers offensive line coach Luke Butkus spoke about Tom during his press conference with reporters during May’s OTAs and explained the team was largely drawn to him because of his shutdown performance against Florida State defensive end Jermaine Johnson during the 2021 collegiate season.
Tom was pitted against Johnson — who the New York Jets picked at No. 26 overall in the 2022 NFL draft — last September in Wake Forest’s third game of the season and completely denied the future first-round pick, allowing zero pressures at left tackle. Not only did his standout performance eventually force the Seminoles to have Johnson rush the right tackle instead, but it also checked every box for the Packers’ scouts.
“One of the big things when we watched Zach was that game versus Florida State, and blocking the defensive end they had who was highly rated and did a great job,” Butkus said on May 19. “How did he do it? You know, he’s competitive. He’s smart. And he’s athletic, he can move, he can bend. So all three of those things, we look for in our offensive linemen. That’s how he did it. You’ve got to have grit, you’ve got to have pads on and be able to hit as well. That’s all part of it.”
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Thanks to a persistent build-by-draft strategy, the Packers have a roster stuffed with offensive line talent heading into the 2022 season. The only trouble is the team currently has both of its top starters — All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari and Pro Bowl everythingman Elgton Jenkins — recovering from ACL injuries and are unsure whether they will be ready to play when they take on the Minnesota Vikings in Week 1.
If either one of them isn’t available, there could be an opportunity for the rookie Tom.
Tom played 1,055 snaps at left tackle during his final season at Wake Forest and finished with the highest pass-blocking rating in the FBS last year, according to Pro Football Focus. He also played left tackle (674 snaps) in 2020 after spending his entire 2019 season as the Demon Deacons’ starting center (1,030 snaps). Safe to say, he possesses a good amount of utility to the mix-and-match style of the Packers.Play
VideoVideo related to packers reveal key motive for drafting new rookie tackle2022-07-01T10:09:25-04:00
Scouts have argued Tom might be better off flipping back inside at the NFL level, but the Packers admitting his play at tackle is what drew them to him could suggest otherwise. After all, the Packers need a new right tackle after moving on from Billy Turner this offseason and only have two non-rookies — Yosh Nijman and Cole Van Lanen — to contend for the job in 2022 if Jenkins is unavailable.
Regardless of who is healthy for camp, keep an eye on Tom and where he lines up during camp practices. He could end up being a legitimate challenger at a few spots.
News Source: Heavy.com
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Jeff McNeil contending for batting title in final days of regular season
The Mets need these last three games against the Washington Nationals to stay alive in what seems like a futile NL East battle with the Atlanta Braves. But Jeff McNeil needs these three games to make Mets history.
The super utility player could become the first member of the Mets to win the National League batting title since Jose Reyes in 2011 and just the second player ever in club history. As of Tuesday, he leads all hitters in both leagues with a .326 average.
But Freddie Freeman of the Los Angeles Dodgers is only a single point behind McNeil. The Dodgers finish their season at home this week where it’s projected to be a balmy 82 degrees.
Rain or not, the two hitters should feast on some low-quality pitching this week. Los Angeles is facing the Colorado Rockies, who own the worst ERA in the league (5.08), and the Nationals have the second-worst (4.96).
A left-handed hitter, McNeil hits lefties and righties almost equally as well. His career slashline against left-handers is .296/.362/.394 and it’s been even better this season against left-handed pitching, .312/.376/.382 with a .758 OPS.
“In order to be a left-handed hitter and have a chance to win a batting title, you have to be good against left-handed pitching,” manager Buck Showalter said over the weekend in Atlanta. “He’s been a utility player for me from the standpoint I can hit him anywhere in the batting order and that is unusual. It’s really helped our batting order present challenges to the bullpens other teams have because being able to move him around really creates some stress on some bullpens.”
McNeil has often been described as a throwback hitter. He chokes up on a thick, knobless bat, makes contact and uses all fields. He’s the type of player loved equally by old-school scouts and the new-school analytics crowd.
Part of this hitting style can be attributed to playing college baseball at Long Beach State, where the fundamentals are stressed and using all fields is heavily emphasized. Blair Field, the program’s home ballpark, sits in the middle of the city only about a mile or two away from the ocean. The marine layer eats up fly balls so hitters have to find a way to drive in runs without hitting them out of the park.
The Dirtbags take a lot of pitches, draw walks and even drop down bunts. It’s a different style of play but has been effective in preparing players for the pro ranks, considering the program has sent 53 former players to the major leagues.
The first game of the series against the Nationals was rained out and the Mets are scheduled to play a doubleheader Tuesday and conclude the series Wednesday. But rain is still a threat in the forecast and possibly a threat to the batting title race as well.