Green Bay Packers Positional Report Card
It’s report card time! Depending how smart you are (or in this case, how good you are at professional football), report cards could either be your best friend or worst enemy. For the Green Bay Packers, it’s clear which side of the ball the grades favor.
When Aaron Rodgers played, the performance earned an A+. The problem is, he only played half a season. Matt Flynn also exceeded expectations in his four-and-a-half games of play, posting an 86.1 passer rating and going 2-2-1. The only hiccup was the three-game stretch that featured Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien, but even then, Tolzien was moving the ball and putting up numbers. Overall, it was a very satisfying performance when you take into account Rodgers only playing half a year.
Running backs: A+
Quite simply, Eddie Lacy is the man. He alone could earn the entire unit an ‘A’ ranking. But he wasn’t the only one contributing to the Packers’ 7th-ranked rushing game. James Starks blossomed and was finally able to stay healthy in his backup role (5.5 yards per carry), and even Jonathan Franklin contributed 5.6 yards per carry and a 100-yard performance at Cincinnati. And as always, John Kuhn did John Kuuuuuuuuuuuuhn things.
Wide receivers: A
Despite all the turnover at quarterback, the receivers stepped up big-time all season. Rodgers only played half the year, yet the Packers still ranked 6th in passing yards, in large part thanks to the receivers. Jordy Nelson posted career highs in catches (85) and yards (1,314), James Jones did the same in yards (817), Jarrett Boykin had a break-through performance for an undrafted player in his second year (49 catches for 681 yards) and Randall Cobb looked like he was on pace for a 100-catch year before going on short-term Injured Reserve.
Tight ends: B-
Going back to the second half of last year, Jermichael Finley looked like he was finally putting it all together and fulfilling his potential. Then, the dreadful neck injury happened, which of course hurt the production from tight end (Best wishes in your future, whatever it may hold, Finley). It seemed like it was a great opportunity for Brandon Bostick to show off why the Packers have been so enamored with his talent, but either they were wrong, or he needs more time to blossom. Andrew Quarless came on strong with two consecutive games of six catches for 66 yards and touchdown, but then he struggled again. Over the final three games, including playoffs, he only caught four passes for 58 yards and no scores.
Offensive line: B+
I didn’t really know what to expect from the offensive line this year, with the whole switching sides thing followed by Bryan Bulaga tearing his ACL. Turns out, it wasn’t so bad. Lacy was the biggest factor in the Packers’ new rushing attack, but offensive line helped in that aspect too. Left tackle David Bakhtiari didn’t play like a Pro Bowler, but he looked mighty impressive for a fourth-round rookie who is still very raw.
Defensive line: C
The 1,000-pound wall of Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji started out so well. At one point, Green Bay was a top-5 team in terms of rushing yards allowed per game. Then it all went south. The Packers finished the year 25th in that stat. Rookie first-round pick Datone Jones didn’t contribute very much as a pass-rusher either. The lone bright spot was Mike Daniels, who was dominant both against the run and rushing the passer. Still, he was only a rotational player.
Inside linebackers: C+
Yet another position starting strong but finishing weak. A.J. Hawk looked to be having a career year, then he fell back to mediocrity about halfway through the season. Robert Francois looked promising, then he went on IR. Jamari Lattimore was impressive when he first came off the bench, then he looked like just another guy. Brad Jones wasn’t bad, but he had a couple nagging injuries.
Outside linebackers: Inc.
In a year filled with injuries, no unit had more trouble staying healthy than the outside linebackers. Clay Matthews began the year with his seasonal hamstring problems, then broke his thumb. He returned after a few games, but it was clear he wasn’t fully healthy. Then he re-broke it and subsequently missed the rest of the year. Nick Perry once again missed a lot of time due to injury. And while Mike Neal played in every game, he almost never practiced during the week, making me wonder how healthy he really was. With none of the top three guys at the position healthy, I don’t think it’s fair to give a grade. The only two other guys were rookies. One was a sixth-rounder, and the other was undrafted.
Tramon Williams and Sam Shields went the opposite way of the defensive line and inside linebackers. After a slow start, they finally found their way late in the season to become a strong duo of shutdown corners. Rookie Micah Hyde showed a lot of promise as a youngster, although he may be better suited for safety going forward. Davon House had maybe the most inconsistent year for anyone on Green Bay’s roster. He had games where he would look like Deion Sanders, then he would barely play the next. It’s a shame Casey Hayward was hurt all year. This could’ve been a really special group with him in the fold.
Some units started hot then cooled off, and some units struggled at the beginning but came through late. The safeties, however, were awful pretty much from start to finish. Jerron McMillian? Cut after 12 games. Chris Banjo? Way too underdeveloped as an undrafted rookie. M.D. Jennings? Only kept starting because there was no one else to start. Sean Richardson? Missed 10 games because of his neck injury, but wouldn’t have got much playing time anyways. And Morgan Burnett? Didn’t nearly play up to his $24.75 million extension. Ted Thompson has some work to do at this position.
Special teams: B-
This one was kind of a mixed bag.
The good: Mason Crosby had a career year. Tim Masthay turned in another superb year of punting. The Packers ranked 7th in yards per punt return.
The bad: Green Bay finished 30th in yards per kick return, 29th in both punt and kick coverage and dead last in opponents’ starting field position.
I say the good slightly outweighed the bad.