Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ruthlessly Editing Tyler Dunne, Part I

I hate Tyler Dunne, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, on the Green Bay Packers beat. I've never met him, I know nothing about him as a person, but based purely on his articles and columns, I hate him. He's a bad writer, he rabble-rouses with things that aren't real issues in order to get clicks, and he rarely provides any insight that wasn't cribbed from one of his Journal Sentinel colleagues.

But those are just empty charges. To illustrate how he's so terrible at his job, and how he could be better at it, I've taken a column of his from Packer Plus Magazine and gone through it pretty much paragraph-by-paragraph, writing corrections as if I were an editor speaking to Tyler. Normal font is Tyler's article, italics are mine. The article can be found here (in case you think I'm exaggerating some of his errors). It was published on August 19, 2014, in Packer Plus.

Pass rushers flew off the board, one by one, the night of April 26, 2012.

This is minor, but Tyler tends to have a lot of nagging flubs. The only way anyone gets drafted is “one by one”. 'Pass rushers flew off the board on the night of April 26, 2012' is perfect.

Bruce Irvin at 15. Quinton Coples at 16. Melvin Ingram at 18. Shea McClellin at 19. Chandler Jones at 21. Whitney Mercilus at 26. You can almost picture a bead of sweat dripping down the temple of stoic Ted Thompson with each selection. A pull of the collar, a chug of the ice water.

(Tyler loves poetic imagery as much as he loves agitating. Who knows if Thompson was actually sweating or drinking ice water or pulling his collar. That doesn’t matter. Tyler’s idea of journalism isn’t painting the picture for a reader, but painting a picture for the reader.)

And at No. 28 overall, the Green Bay Packers general manager settled on USC's Nick Perry.

He didn't draft Perry to be good. He drafted him to be great.

Three years later, Perry remains more placeholder than playmaker. Injuries are to blame.... to an extent. In two exhibition games, the 6-foot-3, 265-pounder hasn't merely blended in. Penciled in as the No. 4 outside linebacker, not much at all has separated Perry from the likes of Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer.

(You could strike “at all” here, maybe put in a little bit more about how injuries have wrecked his first two professional seasons after six and seven games respectively, but overall, this is solid. The “more placeholder than playmaker” line is a nice touch.)

Is his roster spot in peril? Maybe not. But the Packers must be asking themselves behind closed doors if there's still hope for their handpicked savior opposite Clay Matthews.

(No, no, no, no. This is rank conjecture, Tyler! This is rabble-rousing! You know damn well that nobody cuts a first-round pick after two injury-riddled seasons, especially now that we’re in the new CBA and it costs nothing to keep him. His base salary this year is a million dollars. That's pocket change. Why don't you mention that in this article? Oh, right, because it undermines your argument.)

Last week, both defensive coordinator Dom Capers and linebackers coach Winston Moss acknowledged the linebacker — who missed the entire off-season recovering from injuries — has played catch-up but were optimistic overall.

(The “acknowledged” is a small thing, but it rankles me. It introduces implications that don’t need to be there—like someone was banging on Moss and Capers’s door, trying to get them to confess. The perfectly adequate “said” is the journalistic standard, and it doesn’t assign intention.)

"In working with Nick over the spring in the classroom, working with him on the field, I think he has all it takes to be a really great player," said Moss. "So time will only tell. That's what I'm looking forward to."

Capers calls Perry a "strong guy" that can take on tight ends and "walk them back because he's got that strength."

Three days later, he wasn't quite that threat.

Outside linebacker may be the position that has coaches burning the midnight oil later this month. But Moss and Capers were sure to give Perry an extensive look at St. Louis. Chances are, they weren't impressed by Perry's 18 uneventful snaps. He provided minimal, blasé pass rush, was OK vs. the run and, all in all, failed to excite at a position that screams excitement.

(I quibble with “minimal, blasé”—Tyler loves stacking words for emphasis where one would do—but otherwise, aside from the “midnight oil” cliché, this is okay.)

Take it play by play.

Perry entered the game with 5:56 to go in the second quarter. All four of his drives, he operated on his favorite right side and worked predominantly against journeyman Mike Person, of Montana State, who has played one game in four seasons.

(“Operated on his favorite right side” is unnecessarily ambiguous, isn’t it? Couldn’t this sentence read something like “Perry spent all four of his drives at right outside linebacker, his preferred position, against journeyman tackle Mike Person”?)

On Series No. 1, Perry tackled Benny Cunningham, falling forward for four yards. Four plays later, on Mike Pennel's 9-yard sack, Perry tried to speed wide on Person and was swept away.

(On the one hand, it’s great that Tyler’s examining the plays; on the other, the lack of detail is maddening. How did he tackle Cunningham? Did he get off a block? Also, the sentence reads that Perry (the subject) fell forward for four yards, not Cunningham. Just say “Cunningham, who fell forward”.)

Coaches say Perry sets the edge, that he'll force action inside. Yet the next possession, Perry crashed down vs. the run and was taken out by the fullback, allowing Cunningham to skip by for nine yards. The ensuing second and 1 was Perry's best play of the night. He bench-pressed Person, veered the tackle inside, and tackled Cunningham for a loss of one — still this was created, first and foremost, by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix filling and forcing Cunningham to bounce.

(This one is just stupid. ‘Coach says this, but Perry did that.’ Well, perhaps Perry had a different assignment on that play? You know how players have different assignments at different times, Tyler? Also, “Skip by” should be “skip outside”. Also, besides the awkward sentence structure, you mention Clinton-Dix’s penetration like it somehow detracts from Perry’s good performance on that play. Yes. Cunningham had to move because C-D was there. That’s what happens in football. Players help other players make plays. Rarely does anyone do it by themselves.)

(Edit: Also, you fail to mention that Perry is getting pressure around the LT. With 1:19 remaining in the second quarter, he fakes inside, swats down Person's hands and whips around him to the outside; if Shaun Hill holds the ball another second, that's a sack-fumble.)

On Series No. 3, into the third quarter, Perry rushed right and tried to spin inside, instead slow-motion spinning right back into Person's waiting hands. The next play, he walked Person back for a solid bull rush and Shaun Hill got the ball out. The next, he again crashed down vs. the run and missed the back. And on third and 12, Perry tried taking Person inside, was blocked, spun and blocked again.

(Don’t say “right”. Whose right? Say “outside” or “inside”. This is what I mean by maddening detail—how did he miss the back? Did he get chipped? Have a shot at him and whiff? You’re paid to describe things adequately, Tyler. Do so.)

Series No. 4, Perry's final series, wasn't pretty.

When No. 3 quarterback Garrett Gilbert entered the game — not quite the Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan the Packers envisioned Perry tracking down — it didn't get any rosier for Perry.

(Tyler, I know you love stacking things for emphasis, but you only need one of these two sentences! Also, the Manning/Brees/Ryan thing adds nothing to the piece.)

On first and 10 from the Rams 41, the sixth-round pick from Southern Methodist carried out the run fake right and Perry (unblocked) crashed down hard. Gilbert pulled the ball, rolled left and easily hit Stedman Bailey for 14 yards.

(THIS IS GOOD. THANK YOU. Although, after saying “Series No. 4 wasn’t pretty”, you then mention only one play on the series—what about the others? This almost reads like “Series No. 4 wasn’t pretty” was left in by accident.)

(Edit: Oh, look at this, later in the series: here's Perry... setting the edge and forcing a run inside. Again, Tyler tells "a" story, not "the" story.)

After missing the entire spring, maybe Perry needs time to recharge.

He was not downright awful. This wasn't a Sean Hooey-like, dust-off-your-résumé performance. It was a plain, mediocre, invisible game from a player the Packers didn't draft to be plain, mediocre and invisible.

(Remove “downright” and the hackneyed Sean Hooey sentence, which appears only to be there for emphasis. Otherwise, this is fine, albeit making much of a meaningless preseason performance.)

Hope comes in the form of jarring memories. Moss brings up two plays specifically — 2012 at Indianapolis, 2013 at Baltimore. On the first, Perry demolished Andrew Luck for a Rated-R, sack-fumble that drew an iffy flag. On the second, Perry wasted Eugene Monroe for a sack-fumble.

(There are easier ways to say “violent” than “Rated-R”, Tyler. For example, “violent”. You so often reach for the absurd or overblown cliché, phrase or metaphor when one or two simple words would get your point across so much better! Also, not that I’m counting, but who the hell is Luck? Does he play a different position than Monroe? At the least, you could go “QB Andrew Luck” or “OT Eugene Monroe”. I may be reading a football supplemental, but I might not know these things—be good to your readers.)

Both plays were exactly what the Packers pictured in projecting this hot-and-cold defensive end at outside linebacker.

On paper, he offers a different element.

"He can bring a powerful body to dominate the point of attack vs. the run," Moss said. "He can give you powerful pass rush that's different from the speed, explosiveness, agility of Clay Matthews, the skill, experience and athleticism and talent of Julius Peppers, explosion of Mike Neal. The quickness and get-off of Mike Neal. All those guys feature different skill sets. He will be able to bring a power.

"Those type of very tight-line, in-line powerful moves that can overwhelm an offensive tackle, I think he excels at."

"Nick Perry is a great pass rusher," said his teammate, Palmer. "He's real explosive, real powerful. I can see that just in his bull rushing. I've seen times when he'll just collapse tackles. As far as what's going on with him, I'm not 100% sure. But I know that when he's at his best, he's one of the best we've got."

(This is good. Let other people talk.)

The 4.5 speed. The 38½-inch vertical. The 35 reps. All at 265 pounds.

(Tyler, you have an annoying habit of assuming we already know what you’re talking about. Would “35 bench-presses” really disrupt the flow of this graf in a way that “reps” doesn’t? Reps on what, the stationary bike? Tell us things.)

Even as Perry himself was hesitant about playing linebacker back at the NFL scouting combine, the possibilities were endless. Not many pass rushers are built like this. So far, it hasn't translated to the field.

The Packers could theoretically shop Perry. Thompson did prove he's not afraid to admit a mistake. Jerel Worthy was taken only 23 picks after Perry and was shipped off to the Patriots. With so much depth at the position — hello, Jayrone Elliott — it wouldn't be a shock.

(Are you seriously saying that the Packers might cut or trade a first-round pick, with less than one full season of experience at the new position he had to learn in the pros, because some nobody unrestricted free agent rookie linebacker had a great (PRESEASON) game against an awful tackle? I just want to be clear here. Is that seriously what you’re saying????

Look, even if what you're implying wasn't completely crazy, the Packers just had a season where they lost their No. 1 and No. 2 OLBs to injury, and their No. 3 guy had nagging injuries all season. They started an undrafted rookie in the wild-card round against Colin Kaepernick. Do you seriously think they’ll cut Perry because… because… because he’s only shown flashes after two injury-riddled years? Seriously? Say it with me: DEPTH IS GOOD. TEAMS NEED DEPTH.)

Moss probably put it best. "Time will only tell." As an injury-prone first-rounder, Perry has been afforded more time, patience. The Packers will want to capitalize on those athletic, physical traits.

Expect another round of 15-20 snaps against Oakland on Friday.

Eyes will be on No. 53.

(Oh my God. First of all: Nobody gives up on a first-round pick while he’s still on his rookie contract and has no character issues. Find me a first-round pick in the last decade or two who’s been cut before the end of his rookie contract based solely on performance. Even Bobby Carpenter got four seasons. So did Justin Harrell. Worthy was traded because the Packers were deep enough that they were going to cut him at the end of camp anyway. They’re not legitimately deep enough at OLB to discard Perry, especially with Matthews and Neal (both injury-prone) and Peppers, an unknown quantity, in front of him. Second of all: “Time, patience”. “Athletic, physical”. Pick one. Third of all: “Eyes will be on No. 53” somehow manages to be bad in two different ways. It’s banal and uninformative because yes, duh, people will be watching him. It’s irrelevant because it’s the third preseason game and Perry is not fighting for a roster spot with Andy Mulumba and Jayrone Elliott. Tyler, I don’t have much evidence to support my hypothesis, but you can do better than this.)

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